Categories > Books > Mediator, The

Staring Down the Sun

by CerasiJ 2 reviews

I watched Jesse's eyes enlarge to the size of dinner plates. I stepped out of my teal Union Bays and dropped those at his feet as well. "There," I said shortly, "happy now?" [JS/Fluff/One Shot]

Category: Mediator, The - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Humor, Romance - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2006-04-07 - Updated: 2006-04-07 - 7888 words - Complete

Title: Staring Down the Sun
Author: Cerasi J.
Rating: PG-13
Summary: I watched Jesse's eyes enlarge to the size of dinner plates. I stepped out of my teal Union Bays and dropped those at his feet as well. "There," I said shortly, "happy now?" [JS/Fluff/One Shot]
Archive: FF.N, FanFiction Online, FicWad. If you want it, drop me a line and let me know.
Spoilers: The Darkest Hour
Disclaimer: Meg Cabot owns Suze and the Mediator and I own Jesse. Yeah, in my dreams. Meg Cabot owns Jesse, too. No money is being made from this story, etc, etc...

Author's Note: I want to give a big, special shout-out to the very best reader and Beta in the world, my Mom. W0rd!


So when I see you,
You know all the things I've done
Well I'm blinded
Like I'm staring down the sun

-/Blinded/, Third Eye Blind


Okay/, I decided as I painfully climbed out of Adam's car, /from now on, the beach is not for me. "Suze," Adam called after me, his handsome face etched with concern, "hey, are you sure you don't want to see a doctor or something?" I didn't turn around to answer him because I was already moving toward the front door, and I'd found out on the drive back home that doing stuff like turning around, breathing, talking and yes, even thinking, was just way too excruciating. So I just settled for yelling back at him as I hobbled toward the front porch, "Nope, I'm good, thanks for the ride!" He sat there, watching me shuffle up the walk and into the house.

It wasn't until I shut-okay, slammed-the front door that he finally pulled away from the curb and took off down the hill. I sucked in a lungful of air-which also hurt-and bellowed out my arrival. "Andy, Mom, I'm home!" I paused, listening for a response, puzzled when I heard none, but was too sore to care. They were probably hanging out on the back deck, you know, drinking Margaritas around their new hot tub and all that good stuff. I totally wouldn't blame my Mom, Andy makes excellent Margaritas... I know, because I stole a drink of hers once at dinner when she wasn't looking.

I slowly made my way across the foyer to the stairwell that lead up to my room. When I managed to make it to the first step, I gazed up the hall, thinking it looked like the Disney version of /Cinderella/, you know? The one where Cinderella's evil stepsisters lock her in the tower to keep her from meeting Prince Charming and the little mice in the hats have to drag the key to her room up like, five thousand stairs or something? Well, that's totally how I felt as I hauled myself up the vertical hallway. When I finally reached the landing, roughly ten minutes later-it felt like ten minutes, anyway-I pushed open the door to my overly girly and feminine bedroom and crossed the threshold.

The room was cool-blissfully cool, thank God, since I had left the big bay windows open that morning-and I paused there in the doorway for a moment to enjoy the crisp, salty air on my face. As I was taking pleasure in the fresh ventilation that was churning about my room, I dropped all the stuff I was carrying in a heap right around my feet-but more importantly-right in front of my door. I prayed there wouldn't be a fire, otherwise, I'd totally trip on my beach towel, iPod and purple Coach bag and kill myself trying to get out of my flaming bedroom.

Couldn't you see the headline in the Carmel Pine Cone/? '/Designer Coach Bag Factorable Cause in 16-Year-Old's Death.' I snorted at the absurdity of the mental picture in my head, you know, my little lavender tote with big, killer teeth like you see on those semi trucks sometimes. I giggled and a wisp of a smile crept to my cheeks, but at the last second, my brain remembered that my face totally killed and quickly turned my smile into a kind of "OOOH!" face-so the skin on my cheeks wouldn't like, crinkle, because of my smile-anyway, I'm sure I looked like I was drooling over a big, chocolaty cookie or an ice cream cone or one of those new Ford GTs, or, you know, Jesse. Mmm, Jesse...

Another puff of chilly air wafted its way through my windows and onto my face, which caused me to sigh happily. I liked the feel of the air on my blistering features; it made me think of a waterfall... a nice, tropical waterfall... I imagined myself standing under the sheets of cold, cascading water, wearing some sort of slinky hula girl outfit. This is nice, I thought, as I slipped deeper into my daydream. Maybe Jesse could be there, too, I decided. Yeah, that's a great idea. Suddenly, he was there with me, under that crystalline stream, running his hands all through my wet hair, his white shirt soaked and clinging to his rock-hard abs...

His hands moved from my hair to my face, and he ducked his head to look into my eyes like... like... well, like he was going to kiss me again. I leaned forward, just a little, hoping to encourage him. Jesse's eyes roamed my face, and finally landed on my lips. Yes! My heart did a little flip, and I prayed silently he would say something romantic to me, like maybe call me querida again. He leaned in a little closer-this is good-he opened his mouth-say it, call me querida! I thought desperately-and suddenly exclaimed: "¡Madre de Dios, Susannah!" My brief retreat to the tropics vanished.

My eyes popped open and instead of the chilly waterfall I'd been envisioning, I saw Jesse glaring at me from across the room, with something unidentifiable in his-expression-annoyance, perhaps? At least, I hope it was annoyance-and his jaw was set the way it always was when he was well... pissed off. Damn! This was so not going to be good, I thought. "What have you done to yourself?" He demanded, tossing down his book, /A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court/, and striding over to me. Did I ever mention that Jesse is well past six feet tall, so, with his long legs it only took him, like three steps before we were standing practically nose-to-nose?

Yeah, not cool, especially because he was glowering down at me. I swallowed, knowing immediately what he was referring too, it was so blatant I couldn't really hide it from him, anyway. "Well, you know, these things happen, Jess-..." I tried lamely to explain. Jesse, however, wasn't having any of it. "Susannah," he growled, his deep, sexy voice rumbling from his chest. Just hearing that vocal thunder so close to my ear made me want to swoon, so much so that I actually toyed with the idea of pretending to faint-like they always did on The Young and the Restless/, you know?-just so Jesse could catch me and lay me down on my bed, all dreamy like... maybe he could call me /querida a couple of times, too, that would be totally awesome.

Jesse, however, had other ideas, since he reached out to brush his fingertips along my shoulder-something that sent chills of pleasure down my spine. "Look at you," he continued, mercilessly, "you're a mess, how did you manage to do this to yourself?" He motioned at my body beneath my oversized white t-shirt. I wrinkled my nose, or, at least I tried, until the raw nerve endings in my face cried out in protest, that is. "Way to make a girl feel attractive, Jesse. Thanks for that," I snapped. He had the grace to flush-well; he would have, if he had blood-at this rebuke.

"I'm sorry," he said, his dark eyes roving over my burnt hide, "it's just that, you have such fair skin, and it looks so painful. I just want to help." He was referring, of course, to the hideous sunburn that now covered a good ¾ of my 120-pound frame. I looked down at myself, completely aware that I was now lobster-like in color and crispy-like in texture, something, I'm sure, Jesse would have known if he had bothered to touch the shoulder beneath the shirt. But on the other hand, I probably would have screamed in pain if Jesse had touched me. So, you see, it was just this big Catch-22.

My skin was practically glowing bright red and my whole body ached as if I had been shoved inside a sand blaster and been hosed to within an inch of my life. But wait a second, my sun-scrambled brain shouted; Jesse just said I had fair skin! Could that mean he thinks I'm pretty? Or at least a wee bit cute/, anyway? This was /way gratifying! I decided to cash in on his "I just want to help" remark. So, I did what any girl in my position would have done. I did the fake faint thing. Well, not exactly /faint, per sé/, I just sort of stumbled forward and slumped against him, saying, "You're right, Jesse, ow... it hurts so bad, I'm so stupid, I'll probably get skin cancer!"

Jesse's arms, I gleefully noticed, quickly snaked around my waist, (which was quite painful, I might add, because most of my hide under my t-shirt was like, totally singed and all), and he sort of leaned back so all-or most-of my weight was being supported by him. You could tell this totally surprised him-me throwing myself at him-because he quickly ran a hand over my head, as if to push the hair away from my face and started babbling, "Susannah, are you all right? Do you need a doctor?" Oh yeah/, I thought mischievously, /Doctor Jesse.

Instead, I moaned, "No... I just... need some ice or something..." I should point out right now, that one evening a couple of weeks back, Jesse and I had been sitting on the porch roof, gazing at the stars and I asked him what he had wanted to be when he grew up-when he'd been a kid, you know... since he's already pretty much grown up... and 'cause he's dead and all-and he confided in me that he had wanted to be a doctor. And after that, it had totally made sense to me why he was such an expert at bandaging up the wounds that unruly poltergeists inflicted upon me.

"No, ice is not a good idea for a burn this severe, it will put you into shock," he replied. See? See what I mean? He's total doctor material. I would have never thought of that! He stooped down to look into my eyes, which, you know, would have been totally romantic, except for the fact that I was pretty sure I had a major raccoon mask going on. But, I guess that's what I get for falling asleep on the beach with my sunglasses on. "What should I do, then?" I asked, shivering. Jesse noticed my shiver and placed his hand-which felt soft and cool against my flushed skin-on my forehead, like he was taking my temperature, "Are you cold?" Was I cold? Yeah, now that he mentioned it I was a bit on the chilly side.

But how could that be? I mean, I was beyond toasted. I was going to have some big time peeling happening later. "Yeah, a little," I said, goose bumps starting to pop up on my arms. I placed a hand on my forearm to gently scratch away some of the flakes of now super-dry skin there, when I realized my skin was hot, like feverishly hot. This alarmed me, how could I be sizzling to the touch on the outside, but feeling like I had been shoved in a freezer on the inside? I mentioned this to Jesse, who released me from his embrace, (sadly), and twisted and turned me about, trying to gauge, I suppose, how much of me really was burned.

After a few minutes of looking me over with all the detachment of a real, live doctor, Jesse said something would echo in my brain for years to come, "Are you wearing anything under this?" He asked, plucking at the sleeve of my XL Haines white tee. My jaw hit the bedroom floor. Oh, my God. Oh, my God! Was Jesse going to ask me to /undress/? I could hardly believe my good luck. Several feelings flittered around in my stomach: excitement, embarrassment, wariness. My brain yanked the wariness out of my gut and put it to use. "My swimsuit... why?" He cleared his throat, as if he was embarrassed, too. "Because," Jesse said, "I need you to take off your shirt."

"Jesse!" I gasped. I know, I know! Totally hypocritical of me, especially because I was the one who had just been daydreaming about him French-kissing me underneath a humid, tropical waterfall. But, I couldn't help myself, it was just something... I don't know; so, un-Jesse like of him to say. "I didn't mean it like that, Susannah!" He spat, looking exasperated, "I am only trying to help, what do you take me for, some sort of /pervertido/?" I didn't know what this word was, but I guessed it couldn't have been a nice one. Even still, I was-in spite of his brilliant doctoring skills and everything-totally shocked he'd asked me to /undress/; I was also a little peeved that he thought that I thought he was a perv or something.

So, I took a step back from him, angrily, grabbed the hem of my shirt and ripped it over my head. This caused me a great deal of pain, due to the fact that my skin was red, tight and stretched beyond all human comprehension. But, I refused to cry out, I was, after all, attempting to be defiant. Plus, I couldn't help but notice Jesse giving me the ole hairy eyeball. Empowered by his brazen stare I dropped the shirt at his feet and un-buttoned my shorts. Out of the corner of my vision, I watched his eyes enlarge to the size of dinner plates. I stepped out of my teal Union Bays and dropped those at his feet as well. "There," I said shortly, "happy now?" He was silent for several, long heartbeats.

I finally mustered up the courage to look at him and was glad I was red all over anyway, so he couldn't see me blushing. Jesse's dark, liquid eyes swept over me and my yellow bikini with red polka dots. And, I noticed with a massive amount of satisfaction, it him who was blushing, not me. After all, I was wearing a bikini, I was totally used to showing this much skin, particularly at the beach. But, you know, way back in Jesse's time, people were shocked and outraged by girls that showed their /ankles/. This was probably his first time seeing a girl wearing less than fifty pounds of clothing.

So, I figured, why not shake him up a little? He was the one, after all, who'd wanted me to take my shirt off. (Boy; that sounded /wrong!/) As I was looking at him, I took a step closer, you know, just for kicks, and was very pleased to see his eyes get larger, (if that was possible) and I'd noticed his breathing had gotten a little ragged. All over little-old-bright-red-me in a swimsuit? It was so totally /rewarding/. I watched him watching me and I dared to close the gap a little more by taking one more pace toward him. I started thinking, as I looked up at him, maybe if I let my mouth get all slack and stuff, he would kiss me again, like he did a few weeks ago. Jesse finally made eye contact with me, so I tried it. The mouth slack thing, I mean.

But, sadly, Jesse, being... well, Jesse, ruined the whole moment by rambling-loudly-in Spanish. "¡Nombre de Dios! Your mother lets you wear that out of the house?" He was saying, motioning at my butter-colored boy shorts, "That-that... 'outfit' of yours is completely inappropriate/, Susannah." I narrowed my eyes and almost snipped, "Well, /you didn't seem to mind it up until five seconds ago!" But, I refrained, instead, I said, "Not in this day and age, Jesse. Welcome to 2006." He narrowed his eyes right back and me and said, "Turn around, I want to see how badly you are burned." Aw, God/, I wanted to yell, /are we back to the burn thing again?

Apparently, we were, because even as he stated it, I was shivering once more. More so, now that I had fewer clothes on. I scowled at him and slowly turned in a circle so Jesse could see my sun damage. After a few moments of him scrutinizing my arms, legs and stomach-the area where the burn seemed the worst, because I had fallen asleep on my back-Jesse flicked one last evaluating gaze over my burnt body and finally declared, "You need to cool your skin down, if you let it go too long, you could get a fever and go into shock." For some reason, this annoyed me. I don't know why it did-annoyed me, I mean-I'm sure it was probably just because Jesse sounded so-matter-of-fact about this whole sunburn business or because he always seemed to know more about everything than I did. Not in an I-know-it-all way, either, but in a /he paid more attention than I did way/. You know?

I supposed it just irked me that a dead guy knew more about the world in general than I did. But, even after I thought all that, I couldn't stop the words that stupidly escaped my lips: "What is this shock thing with you, Jesse? God, it's just a sunburn, it's not going to kill me. I'm not stupid, I can take care of myself, you know." The whole time I was ranting this, I was waving my hands and stomping toward the window seat, hoping that if I could sit in the sunlight for a moment, it would warm me up. I plopped down on a cushion, which totally /hurt/; somehow the backs of my legs had gotten burned too.

Jesse sat watching me for a moment, before his handsome face cracked into a slight grin, "If you could take care of yourself, /querida/, you wouldn't be sitting there, burned like Christmas goose." I shivered again, not from the charred skin on my limbs, but because he'd called me that name again, that name I'd so come to crave over the last six months. "If you can take care of yourself, Susannah," he continued, taking slow deliberate steps toward me, "then why are you shivering?" He crouched down in front of me, smiling with those perfectly white teeth, good humor and wit dancing in his dark eyes. My heart stopped completely and wondered why I was being such a pill about this whole thing; he was, after all, virtually offering to take care of me. Deep down inside, though, I knew why I wasn't letting him. Take care of me, I mean.

It was the whole issue about my pride. Stupid, I know, but I've never really depended on anyone to take care of me my whole life. Well, aside from my mother feeding and clothing me for the last sixteen years, I mean, but where was she when I really needed her? Like when I was fighting Heather, or the RLS Angels, or creepy-ass Paul Slater? Or when I was trying so desperately not to fall in love with Jesse? So you see, the whole idea of depending on someone else, even if it was just to repair a sunburn, was too humiliating for me to endure. I had, after all, done this to myself, I should be the one fixing it.

I looked down into Jesse's eyes-down, because he was on his knees in front of me-and even though I was lost, drowning in the depth of his shimmering, chocolate orbs, I managed to retort, "I'm shivering because you made me take all my clothes off." He did something surprising then; he literally threw back his head and laughed. It was a full, deep laugh, the kind that comes from the very core of your soul, the kind that you mean with every giggle, chuckle and guffaw that escapes your lips. I'd never seen Jesse laugh like that before, never in the whole time I had known him. It was a truly beautiful sight to behold. I mean it; really, it almost brought tears to my eyes.

Or it could have been the fact that the pillow beneath me was sort of chafing my burned thighs that brought tears to my eyes. It had been kind of hard to tell at that point. After Jesse had finally calmed down-it had taken him a few minutes, too-he grinned at me, his expression still filled with mirth. I, however, was not as amused. I was really starting to hurt now. My skin felt like all the moisture had been sucked out and I was one of those nasty shell-like beings left over, like in The Mummy Returns/. I felt weak and shaky, like I'd gone too long without water. /Why was I hurting this bad? I wondered, and why couldn't I get warm? I was sitting in full-on sunshine for crying out loud; my skin was cooked to past the Over Done setting on the thermometer.

Jesse must have noticed my discomfort, because he reached out and put a concerned hand on my bare leg, something I'm sure, that would have had him hanged back in 1850. But to me, it felt super nice because his hands were cool against my over-heated body. "Susannah," he murmured, no trace of humor left on his features. "Are you all right?" He put the back of his hand against my forehead. "Jesse," I heard myself saying. I actually sort of gasped it, I think. I can't really remember, though, because I was getting kind of dizzy... geez; it was just a sunburn, what was up with me? All I could think about was how uncomfortable I was. It was like I was hot and cold at the same time. Kind of like you feel when you are sick and have a fever?

Yeah, that's how I felt; only a hundred times worse. "Enough of this," he said, gravely. He climbed to his feet and grabbed me by the hand, the only part of me, I suppose, that wasn't burnt to a crisp, and started tugging me toward the bathroom. As soon as he'd dragged me from the window seat and I was hidden from the wrath of the sun in the shade, I felt a little better, so I asked him, "What are you doing?" In answer, he yanked back the shower curtain and turned on the water. I watched him fiddle with the faucets, trying to get the right temperature. When he found it, he turned to me and said, "Get in."

My eyes widened in surprise and I dropped his hand, even though I really liked the feel of his fingers entwined with mine. I started backing out of the bathroom, the blue tiles delightfully freezing under my blistered feet, holding my hands up, going, "Uh, Jesse, you know, I like you and all and I understand we're roommates and everything, but, you know, I'm just not comfortable taking a shower with you-..." I didn't get to argue much further, however, since the door behind me slammed shut, the lock clicking firmly into place. The little brat had used his kinetic ghost superpowers to lock me in my own bathroom! I wasn't sure what Jesse was up to-oh sure, I mean I was curious, no doubt about that-but I was sort of weirded out by the whole being-locked-in-my-bathroom-thing. So I did the only thing I could think of, given the situation.

I spun around on my heel and tried to make a break for the door. Jesse said, quickly, something that sounded like, "Oh no, you don't!" And he grabbed my hand again, reeling me back toward him, like a fly fisherman would reel in a 50-pound King salmon. I tried to squirm away, but I suppose Jesse knew all my tricks by now, having been living with me since January and occasionally helping me on ghost busting missions. He must have decided that he needed to be a tad faster, because he knew I was stubborn and wouldn't go down without a fight. But he didn't really play fair, if you ask me. Once he had me firmly back in his grasp-a place I can't say I really minded being-he clutched me to his chest with his left arm, looked me in the eyes and said, "This is for your own good, /querida/, trust me."

While he was saying this, his right arm suddenly came out of nowhere and swept behind my knees, knocking me off my feet, /right into his arms/. My heart started pumping wildly, /Jesse had picked me up/. Like I weighed nothing at all. He picked me up like I was a delicate little flower, like they did in all those corny Western movies. I was totally giddy with excitement at being this close to him, so I took full advantage of it while I could. I snuggled up against his chest and let my forehead rest against the bare skin of his neck. I sighed contently, and had to resist the urge to skim my fingers along his jaw line. I was so busy trying to get cozy with him, that I didn't realize what exactly he was doing until it was too late.

And what he was doing, was totally evil in my opinion. Before I had a chance to cry out in protest, Jesse had swung me around and deposited me, on my feet, under the cool spray of the showerhead. The cold water was already streaming over my shoulders and torso before it registered with my nervous system what was happening. When it finally did register, all of two seconds later, I let out a scream of surprise so loud, it made that chick in Jurassic Park I envious. And really could you blame me, for screaming, I mean? This water was like, being piped in from the Arctic Circle or something.

Jesse, however, must not have been prepared for my shrieking, because he was still fairly close to me in proximity-in fact, if it hadn't been for his strong grip on my elbow, I probably would have slipped and fell from the shock of the cold water-so, when I shouted out my displeasure about being unceremoniously dumped into my bathtub, he promptly released my arm and clapped his hands over his ears, bellowing, "Jesús Cristo, alto gritando!" So, I stopped yelling, because, when someone starts babbling at you in another language, you have tendency to halt and take notice.

Jesse, who'd lowered his hands from his ears, must have taken my surprise at the cold water the wrong way because he started rambling, "I'm sorry, Susannah, I'm sorry I had to put you in the water, I didn't want to have to use force, and I knew you wouldn't listen to me. I've watched my sisters play in the sun and burn themselves too many times to stand idly by and let you suffer, I'm sorry."

I stood, cowering under the fine spray as it all but sizzled and hissed against my broiled flesh, staring at Jesse with wide eyes, thinking: He never apologizes like this, he never rambles, what is his problem? Is he nervous about seeing me in a bikini or something? "I-its okay, J-Jesse," I managed to get out. Did I mention my teeth were chattering like one of those wind up toys? Yeah, it was way annoying...

What was even more annoying, though, was the fact that Jesse made me stay in the shower for nearly /twenty minutes/. And he stood there with me the entire time, too, with the curtain pushed back, like I was an escapee from the loony bin who was going to hang herself from the shower rod with the loofa or something. The only time he left was for less than a minute and when he returned it was with a towel to mop up the mess of water that had sprayed out of the tub. He must have felt uncomfortable standing there, watching me drip, because he talked almost nonstop the whole twenty minutes I was being drenched. Seriously, I've never heard him talk so much at one sitting.

He talked about the time three of his five little sisters had been playing in this lake all day long and when they came home they had been so sunburned that one, I think he said her name was Marta, had gotten very sick with sun poisoning. He said that was why he shoved me in the shower, to cool me down, so my body could heal the sunburn properly. As he talked about his sisters and family-something he rarely did-I noticed something strange. The water that was beating down on me was finally getting warmer. I wondered if a step brother had flushed a toilet somewhere in the house.

But I didn't think that was it, so I brought up the now warm water to Jesse, who just grinned and patiently explained that my temperature was returning back to normal and the water had been warm this whole time. What a kicker, and all this time I thought he'd stuck me under a cold shower as punishment for showing off my J. Crew bikini to him, seeing as how he was dead and couldn't take one himself-a cold shower, I mean. When he decided I'd been soaked long enough, he reached into the shower-his fingers brushing past my hip in the process-and turned off the faucet. I had stopped shivering, which was a huge plus; I was starting to feel like I was having seizers or something. I wrung the water from my shoulder-length hair, noticing I could now move my arms and legs without feeling like someone was ripping my skin off.

Jesse held out his hand to me, which I took and he very graciously helped me out of the tub and onto the lilac-colored bathmat. He'd found a large, fluffy blue towel in the linen closet, which he produced within seconds of me immerging from the spray. He draped it around my shoulders, taking great care not to press hard on my burns. I looked up at him, watching as he busied himself drying me off. He was very careful to stay away from anywhere near my chest, thighs or butt... much to my disappointment. Not that I am that type of girl, mind you; I don't want every cute guy I see touching me. Just Jesse.

I shook my head to clear away the sudden flood of indecent thoughts and gibbered, "Thanks for fixing me up," I said, "It wasn't your responsibility, but you did it anyway... and... well, thanks is all." He didn't reply, which sort of worried me, he just kept staring down at his feet. So, I looked down at my feet, too, thinking, What is he staring at? Is the floor bleeding or something? But while I was looking down, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, two, strong brown hands grasp the ends of the towel I was wearing. I suddenly found myself being pulled into Jesse's chest, his arms wrapping around me protectively. "Please forgive me for yelling," he was murmuring into my wet hair, "a gentleman should never raise his voice to a lady, I had no right."

He squeezed me a little tighter and I had to turn my face away to hide my grin; this was so cool! Well, cool, you know, considering I was dripping on him and everything. I had to get sun burnt more often! I sighed happily and nuzzled my red cheek against his neck. Hey, he smelled really good/, I thought, /I didn't know ghosts had /smells/. But Jesse did, he smelled like fresh air and sandalwood soap-the really fancy kind they put in the bathrooms at the Pebble Beach Resort.

I turned my head so it rested on his shoulder, my nose against his neck. Wow, he really did smell good, it wasn't just my imagination. "Susannah?" He asked, his tone sounding a little anxious. I realized; he was clearly waiting for a reply or some sort of affirmation that he was in the clear for jabbering at me in Spanish. And here I was, not paying the least bit of attention, smelling him up like I was a perverted dog or something.

I snapped to attention, and pushed away from him, trying to put a little space between our bodies, "Jesse," I replied, looking up into his dark eyes, "of course I forgive you." He heaved a sigh of relief and flashed me a totally genuine smile that made my insides go all squishy. "Good," he breathed, suddenly back to business. He dropped the ends of my towel, turned me and gave me a little shove out the door, "Go get dressed, Susannah, something cotton if you have it... and make sure you don't cover up your burns, they need to be exposed to air in order to heal."

The sudden switch in conversation had me confused as I stumbled out the door. I shook my head anyway and started toward the door, trying mentally to reel through my wardrobe, but kept finding my thoughts back in Jesse's arms. Sense finally returned to me as I was pulling open the closet doors and I whirled back to face the hot Latino in my bathroom, "Jesse, where am I supposed to change?" He was, after all, occupying the space I normally use for changing.

Jesse, however, just sauntered toward the bathroom door, leaned onto the frame and smiled at me. "I will wait here, call me when you are-... what is the word? Oh, yes, decent." Still grinning, he slid the door shut with a click. For a moment, I could only stand there, staring at the space Jesse had filled just seconds before, my face flaming. I shrugged off my discomfiture and scurried back over to my closet to search for something cotton.

I shifted through drawers and tubs and boxes, (can you believe I still had stuff left in boxes from the move? I did... seriously.) I picked through the ton of garments hanging up. I had Betsy Johnson, Stella McCartney, Prada... but do you think I could find any Cotton, The Fabric of Our Lives? No, of course not. After a few minutes of my hair dripping on the carpet, me grumbling and cursing as I dug through the drawers, I finally pulled out a pair of plaid-/cotton/, booya!-boxer shorts and a green tank top. The tank was actually a cotton/polyester/spandex blend, but, I figured I would keep this little tidbit to myself, what Mr. de Silva didn't know, wouldn't hurt him.

I shoved all the underwear and other things back in their respective hiding places before I let the towel fall around my ankles and very carefully, twisted to remove my bikini top. I paused for just a second, praying Jesse wouldn't pick that very moment to fling open the bathroom door, shouting, "Ready or not, here I come!" and catching me in my altogether. The mental image caused a fresh wave of embarrassment to wash over me, so I stayed perfectly still for a long moment, watching the door and waiting for it to come crash down. After a minute of pause and standing shock still, I was satisfied that Jesse wasn't going anywhere until I gave the word.

I quickly peeled myself out of my clinging swimsuit and carefully slipped into my boxers and tank top. I towel dried my hair, and then rolled the bikini up in the soggy, blue fabric. Finally, I called out, "Okay, I'm decent." The door creaked open-man, I was going to have to get Andy to spray that sucker with WD-40 or something!-and Jesse exited, armed with what looked to be a bottle of lotion. Could Jesse have been testing out my skin care products while I was changing? This had me curious, so I asked: "What is that?" While pointing at the bottle.

"Its aloe lotion," he said, flipping it over in his hands and reading the label, oh, so it wasn't my Clinque moisturizer he was holding. Jesse was still talking, "It says it helps relive 'the irritation and discomfort of sunburn'." Huh. I don't remember ever buying any aloe vera lotion... "Where did you get it?" I asked, turning around to close the closet door. "I found it in the cupboard," he replied, absentmindedly as he continued reading. I gawked at him; he was in my cupboards? /Not/ the same cupboard, I hoped, where I hid my tampons. That would just be too humiliating for me. I sidled past him to drop the towel into the hamper next to the day bed.

I was still a little dazed from the whole I found it in the cupboard comment. Um, hello? What was this these guys from the 1850's, anyway? They got all huffy over girls in bikinis, but thought it perfectly acceptable to go snooping through their bathroom cabinets. The bathroom cabinets where they hid their tampons no less. Honestly. I racked my brains, trying to remember if it was me that bought the aloe lotion or my Mom, who'd pretty much had my bathroom stocked before I'd arrived in January. I couldn't remember purchasing it, so my curiosity was seriously spiked as to where he'd found the bottle.

Please don't let it be under the sink/, I pleaded. So I darted back into the bathroom under the guise of combing my hair. But in reality, I just stood in front of the mirror, pretending to be super busy detangling my messy tresses, and just letting my eyes bounce all around the room, thinking, /Oh my God, what cupboard, what cupboard is he talking about?! Just as I was about to dive for the cabinet beside the bathtub Jesse poked his head back in the room, "What are you doing?" I halted mid-lunge and snatched up my brush from the sink, "Just combing my hair!" I tittered.

He narrowed his sharp eyes at me, the way he does when he knows I'm up to something. Usually something no good. But, thankfully, he let it go and only requested, "Come here, please." Feeling like a puppy that'd been caught chewing on his master's $500.00 Gucci loafers I slinked out of the bathroom to stand in front of Jesse. "Sit," he commanded as he pointed to the window seat. Geez/, I wanted to say, /awfully bossy for a dead guy, aren't you? But, I didn't say that. Instead, I just sat down by the window like a good little Suze. I turned my gaze to the sinking sun and the ocean in the distance, mesmerized by the brilliant colors that splashed over the landscape. In the fading light, the normally muddy red dome of the Mission looked almost crimson.

I was so entranced by the shades and shadows of the sky that I gasped and jumped a little when Jesse sat down beside me, asking, "How are you feeling?" I turned to face him, my heart sliding back down my throat where it belonged. How was I feeling? Truthfully, I was feeling confused and a bit bewildered as to why Jesse was suddenly acting this way toward me. He kisses me, all but ignores me for two or three weeks, and bam/, it was right back to him being the teacher, me being the simple Padawan. I couldn't decide if it was unnerving or flattering to see Jesse all hot and bothered over my sunburn. I chose to go with flattering, because of the way he looked at me when I took my over-shirt off was /very flattering.

But, anyway, I think he was asking me how I was feeling /physically/. So I replied, "Better." Which was true, thanks to him and his whole shove-the-mediator-in-the-shower thing, I felt loads better. "Good," he said, "I'm glad." And before I had a chance to be a smart ass and say, "I'm glad you're glad." He did something very surprising. He reached out and took my hand. Seriously. Sort of like he had when he'd dragged me from this same window seat not a half an hour earlier, only, not so forcefully.

I sucked in a breath and held it tight in my lungs, because I feared if I let it out, he would let me go and this pleasant dream would come to sad end. But, it didn't matter anyway, because Jesse didn't let me go. Instead, he gently pulled my right arm toward him until it was fully extended and draped across his lap. I raised my eyebrows at him, too stunned to form any coherent words. "This is probably cold," he mumbled as he squeezed a thin line of green tinted aloe lotion along my arm, from shoulder to wrist. He was right; it was cold, but only for a moment as the heat of my injured skin greedily gobbled up the pleasant chill.

I finally let out the breath I'd been holding as I stared down at the arm he was grasping, enthralled by the way his touch grazed tenderly over my skin. No one had ever touched me with such care before, I realized, like I was fragile a porcelain doll that would shatter and break under the slightest scrutiny. I watched as he made slow, circular motions with the tips of his fingers, soothingly massaging the lotion into my thirsty skin. He continued this until he'd reached the palm of my hand; he carefully returned my right arm to my side and I eagerly thrust the left one at him.

Jesse smiled and repeated the motions on the other side of my body. It was a long time before either of us spoke, but ultimately, it was him who broke the silence: "You never did explain to me how this happened." His face was expressionless, but his eyes were twinkling in anticipation of hearing my mortifying tale. I looked up at him, feeling all tingly because he was still rubbing my arms with lotion. It was way distracting, too, I noticed. It was so relaxing and nice that my eyes kept getting heavy and occasionally my head would dip toward my chest. I wondered what Jesse would say if I suddenly fell dead asleep and crashed face-first into his lap?

I'd suffered so much humiliation today I figured one more incident wouldn't matter. It took me a second to find my voice, what with all the massaging of limbs going on. I replied, rather sheepishly, "I fell asleep in my beach chair... and when I woke up I was only a little over-done." At this, he smiled, carefully pushing aside my left hand and motioning for me to turn around. I looked at him, quizzically and he explained, "Turn, Susannah, so I can put this on your back." He shook the lotion bottle at me. A back rub? All right!

I hurriedly twisted myself about and sighed in delight as he smoothed the cream on my back, under my tank top. The boldness of him reaching up my shirt startled me, but as his soothing hands started working their magic on my shoulders, all my concerns evaporated into the night air. His touch was just as soft and tender as it had been on my arms, only more so; his finger tips barely caressed the odd angles of the bones in my shoulders. I was enjoying this whole event immensely, but, all too soon, I found myself yawning and my head was trying to find its way back to the middle of my chest.

"Tired?" Jesse asked, removing his hands from my back. Disappointed at the absence of his touch, but suddenly exhausted beyond all belief, I decided it was time to throw in the towel. "Yeah," I replied, rolling my head back a little to work the kinks out of my neck. "Do you think it's time for bed?" I turned my head, just so I could see Jesse out of the corner of my eye, wondering if he'd purposely intended for that question to be as loaded as it came across.

I didn't mention this to him, however, I just righted myself so my feet were planted firmly on the floor and I forced myself to stand. "It just might be," I said, stifling another yawn. "You were right about everything else; you're probably right about bed, too." I crossed the room and pulled down the dimmer switch, the light in my room softening. "What was I right about?" He asked; plopping his feet on the area of the window seat I had just vacated. "You know; the shower and the lotion. And all that stuff." I kicked my beach bag-which was still lying in the foyer of my bedroom-over toward the closet, reached for my bed and yanked the covers back.

I gave Jesse one last, lingering look, but he didn't seem to be paying attention, in fact, he had picked up his book again. I didn't really mind, though, he'd just spent all afternoon babying me. I was, however, highly unsatisfied in the kissing department, but he sadly didn't seem to notice that, either. I just shrugged and said, "Good night, Jesse." I clapped out the lights and slid beneath the sheets, sighing as the cool fabric kissed my torched skin.

I had only been laying there-uncovered because I was still hot-for just a few minutes before I felt myself sliding off into sleep. The day had been long and draining, and I wasn't planning on waking for at least eighteen hours. As I was drifting, I had sort of forgotten I'd left Jesse sitting on the window seat reading Mark Twain. So, when he snuck over to my bed and covered me up with something silky, I was roused just enough to see he'd found the silk lounging pajamas my mother had given me. /How sweet/, I thought as he tucked the cooling fabric around me. "Sleep well, /querida/," he whispered in my ear.

"Sleep well, Jesse," I replied, even though, you know, he's dead and doesn't sleep. Whatever. Even as I was starting to dip toward unconsciousness, I was smiling. After everything that had happened to me today, the burns, the humiliation, the raccoon mask, and, eventually, the peeling, just seeing Jesse act so protective of me... seeing him act so... well... /alive/, it made me think that, for today, staring down the sun just might have been worth it all.

The End.


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