Naomi, Jim noticed, smelled damn good. Better even than Laura, but better in a different way. It wasn't a I-want-to-nail-you-to-the-nearest-available-surface way; it was more like a warm buzz, a pleasant sort of lust that lived in his thighs and stomach and groin. She just smelled good, and it didn't hurt that he could see his friend in her, see Sandburg in her cheekbones and her laugh and her pushiness.
Despite the sage and the way she'd rearranged the furniture, despite the fact that Sandburg obviously came by his bulldozing style of human interaction honestly, Jim liked her. She smelled like the kind of woman he'd like to keep around for a long time, not like all the women he dated once or twice and who didn't smell familiar, like home and sex, and who didn't make him think of fat round blue-eyed babies.
But Sandburg didn't want them flirting, so he settled into a kind of distant abstract attraction to Naomi, because he didn't, he really didn't, want to be Sandburg's stepfather. Sandburg was fine without a father; he was a good kid who took things in stride, but this would be pushing it. Naomi seemed to feel the same way, and from some mysterious Mary-Poppins-esque location she pulled photo albums of Sandburg as a kid, and Jim admired the pictures, and listened to the stories, and realized that the fat round blue-eyed babies he'd been thinking of looked exactly like Sandburg had at about six months.
And he joked about tongue and esophagus when Sandburg came up the stairs, and grinned when Sandburg seated himself on the bed, leaning lightly against Jim's legs and sipping wine as Naomi told even more embarrassing stories about him. Eventually, as Sandburg made his way through his third glass of wine, he started joining in, but he was inclined to giggle. They ran out of tongue and Jim went downstairs to bring up some crackers and cheese, and when he got back upstairs, Sandburg had fallen asleep.
He took the cheese and Naomi downstairs, and let Naomi sleep in Sandburg's room and slept on the couch himself.
The next time she came to visit, she brought a boyfriend, and treated Jim like family, and he enjoyed her smell intensely and viscerally and didn't let himself think about it too much, except when he was alone at night, puzzling over why she smelled so damn good. He learned that he could bring himself off quickly if he thought about her (long legs, red hair, that incredible smell) while stroking his dick.
Sometimes, unbidden, it would occur to him that Naomi really was exactly his type, usually when Sandburg was telling him some wild story or other, and he would suddenly want to look at Sandburg and study him intensely, seeing Naomi in him--highlights in his hair and that disarming grin and his way of invading spaces.
Sandburg never objected when Jim looked at him like that. If he noticed, he tended to smile a little and the tips of his ears would turn pink.
Sandburg, Jim noticed, smelled a lot like Naomi: good. He didn't make Jim think about fat round blue-eyed babies, exactly, but he smelled intensely of home and (in a more abstract way, Jim told himself) of sex. Not that Sandburg and Jim and sex were at all likely to occur together, but more like Sandburg was the kind of guy who had a healthy drive, like he was the kind of guy who inspired a nice warm buzz of lust in whoever he might happen to be grinning at, which, a lot of the time, was Jim.
Jim tried not to pay too much attention to the way Sandburg smelled, but then there was Alex, who smelled both wrong and right, as though she might once have been right but had been skewed somehow. When they got home from Sierra Verde, he stood in the empty loft and all he could smell was Sandburg, and he reached out and grabbed Sandburg's arm and said, "God, I can't stay here--can we get a hotel, Chief?"
That night, he listened to Sandburg breathing and watched dust motes in the dark, and when he was sure Sandburg wouldn't wake up, he slipped a hand into his boxers and tried to think of Naomi and failed, because it was her son's scent all over the room. Jim realized then that it wasn't her scent that had turned him on, not really; it was just that she smelled so goddamn much like Sandburg.
He sighed, wondering when his brain was going to get better about not repressing things like this, and stood up and went over to the bed Sandburg was in, and leaned over. "Blair. Hey, Blair."
Sandburg raised his head and snuffled in surprise. "Jim? You OK?"
"Move over," Jim said, tangling the fingers of one hand into Sandburg's hair.
And Sandburg moved over, and Jim got into the bed and pulled Sandburg up close to him, fitting him tightly against his side.
"Hey," Sandburg said, "you smell good."
And Jim kissed him and ran one hand down inside of Sandburg's sweatpants and said "Yeah, you too".