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Jim rubbed his face with both hands, grimacing when they came back damp. Sandburg was making him sweat it. And that wasn't very nice.

"Look, it's not a real complicated question, Chief. Do you want me that way, or not?" Jim kept his voice even, but his heart was thumping more than a little crazily.

Sandburg halted his pacing and threw him a disbelieving look. "Not complicated? Not complicated?" He waved his arms furiously. "It's like—man, the most complex question in the universe! We're talking the mysteries of human attraction, chemistry and pheromones, not to mention the ultra-complexities of love and friendship. And then you pile on the whole Sentinel plus Shaman plus partnership thing and it's like, whoa, brain-spin, man. Total chaos."

Jim blew out a sigh of pure frustration. "Fine. It's complicated. But you're a pretty smart guy, Sandburg—"

"You can't just throw this at me after four years of friendship, Jim!" Blair tugged at his hair. "I need to meditate," he said abruptly and dropped down into lotus position in the middle of the floor.

"Jesus Christ." Jim stomped up the stairs and threw himself on his bed. It was that or punch a hole in the wall. And Sandburg wasn't worth the sunken knuckles. Or the new sheet rock.

Fucking Sandburg and his fucking thinking all the time. I should have just laid one on him. Grabbed him by that hair of his and taken his mouth. God, that sweet mouth...

Jim's stomach hurt. He'd spent all afternoon high in his room prepping himself for this, getting the balls up to approach his partner with this weird attraction he'd started feeling, and for what? He should've known Sandburg would make everything dramatic. Jim rolled over and buried his face in his pillow, grateful for the cool against his flushed cheeks. He let himself zone a little as an escape.

"Jim?"

Jim twitched, startled. Damn, the kid could move quiet when he wanted to.

"You're in my space, Sandburg." He didn't try to raise his head from the pillow, so his words came out muffled.

"Just tell me—is this something new? I mean, you and guys? Or have you been hiding your sexuality from me all these years—?"

Jim growled and spun over. "How the hell could I hide anything from you? You're in my face twenty-four seven with your damned microscope—"

"I thought maybe when you were in the Army—"

"Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in the Army fucked each other for kicks," Jim grated out. "Some of us were busy trying not to get our asses shot off."

"Okay, okay!" Blair raised his hands in surrender. "It's just—what, I'm some huge exception or something? I mean seriously—"

"You think I was making a joke?" Jim gritted his teeth. "You think I'd just say something like that to get a rise out of you?"

"It's not outside the realm of possibility—"

"Yes, it is." Jim sat up and braced his hands behind him.

"Look, Jim, I know you know I've swung that way before—"

"Yeah, I do, Sandburg. So, seeing as you haven't jumped into my arms, I'm going to have to assume here that incredibly good looking guys just aren't your type."

The sad thing was, Jim knew he wasn't Blair's type. Sandburg tended to pick up dark-haired, skinny, androgynous men—artists and poets and computer brainiacs. Not a big, dumb cop in the bunch.

"Well..." Blair chewed his lip.

"Fine. That's fine." Jim pushed himself off the bed and turned his back. "See? It wasn't that complicated after all. I got my answer." And, Christ, it wasn't what he'd been hoping for. He couldn't believe his shit luck when it came to his love life. Sandburg was just the latest in a long, bad run.

"Jim, it's not that I don't think you're an attractive guy—"

"Don't throw me any bones, Chief. Just drop it. Forget I said anything."

He heard the nervous squeak of Blair's sneakers on the floorboards behind him. "But—is that what you want?"

"It's what I want. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to get changed." Jim reached into his closet and started pulling together an outfit for going out on the town. If he couldn't have what he wanted, he'd find someone else to work out his frustration with. Maybe he wasn't Sandburg's type, but there had to be some woman out there who'd be willing to take him home tonight.

And, God, he needed to get laid. Desperately.

But Sandburg still hadn't left. And he'd been quiet a little too long. Jim turned and caught him with a weird expression on his face. Before Jim could identify it, Blair ducked his head.

"You're going out tonight?"

"Hell, yeah." He'd find himself a redhead, tall and breasty and with legs to Arizona and back.

"But Jim—"

Or maybe a man. Now that he'd let himself consider the option, Jim wondered if maybe there was another guy who could turn his crank the way Sandburg did. It would be a unique experience, anyway, and Jim was all for being flexible if would up his chances for getting lucky. He really, really needed to get laid.

Since Sandburg still hadn't left, Jim turned his back and started changing. "Maybe you can recommend a club...someplace not too sleazy? I'm looking for a...a mixed atmosphere."

"Mixed?" Blair's voice was abnormally high and strained. Jim turned and pulled on his tightest black T-shirt.

"Yeah, mixed. You know what I mean."

"You mean...you mean mixed as in straight and—"

"And not-so-straight. Got it in one."

"Jim—"

"Someplace not too loud, but with dancing."

"Dancing?" Blair's voice piped even higher, and Jim gave a grim smile.

"You think I can't dance?"

"Well—"

"I can dance, Sandburg." Deliberately, Jim dropped his khakis and reached for his jeans. They were old, pale blue and soft as butter, and just a little too tight in the crotch. Jim hadn't the first clue how to come on to a guy—obviously, if Sandburg's reaction was any indication—but he knew guys liked it showy. So Jim would show off what he had and hope for the best.

"Jim, I'm not so sure this is a good idea." Blair was actually rubbing his hands together nervously. Jim tightened his lips and pulled on his jeans. He tucked his T-shirt in and pulled up the zipper with some difficulty—he was still half-hard.

Sandburg's eyes dropped to his groin and then hurriedly wandered away.

Guess the jeans are a go, then.

"Look, Sandburg—I really don't care what you think about it, all right? I'm a big boy. I worked Vice. I saw what goes down in places like that, and I'm sure I can handle the action. Assuming I can get any, considering."

That brought Blair's head up. "Considering what?"

"Nothing," Jim muttered. Considering I'm obviously not what the young, hip bisexual is looking for these days. "Look, will you give me a club name, or am I gonna have to cruise around until I find a place?"

Blair's shoulders slumped. "You could try Enrico's. On Third and Kingston. They have a dance floor and a pretty good DJ. Drinks aren't too pricey."

"Great. Thanks." Jim put on his shoes, palmed his wallet off the dresser and pulled out some bills and his ID, which he stuck in his front pocket.

"You're not bringing your gun?"

Jim gave Blair his very best eye-roll. "I'm not planning on shooting anyone." At Sandburg's doubtful look, Jim added, "I promise to stay out of trouble." Or, at least, I'll keep to the right kind. Speaking of which—Jim went to his bedside table drawer and grabbed a couple of condoms to shove into his other pocket.

When he looked up, Blair was staring at him with wide eyes.

Jim clapped his hands together. "All set. You have a good night, Chief." His heart was about three pounds lighter as he passed Sandburg and trotted down the stairs. I'll get laid. Get naked with someone, and by tomorrow this thing I have for Sandburg will be on its way to being cured. He's not the only guppy in the ocean.

But as soon as Jim grabbed his keys and closed the door behind him, his heart started sinking right down to his shoes again. He wasn't used to going out without Blair. Hell, he wasn't used to going anywhere alone anymore, from grocery shopping to doing the job. Blair was always right beside him. Or Jim was beside Blair. They were together, was the thing.

Except we're not. We can't be.

><

Enrico's was just as Blair had advertised. The music wasn't too loud, and though the place was a little crowded, there was a good mix of thirty-and-forty-somethings, and some single-sex pairs on the dance floor along with the straight couples. And a nice pack of lookers hanging out by the bar, where Jim found a seat for himself and settled down with a microbrew. He turned in his stool so he could watch the people on the dance floor.

A lot of them were awfully pretty, and Jim felt old and out of touch watching them. Some of them were dancing in trios, bumping hips and groins. Two incredibly beautiful young men were making out on the dance floor, dancing close in spite of the fast-paced music. They looked completely unselfconscious, and something in Jim's heart gave a heavy twinge. Maybe if he'd been born ten years later...

He wasn't sure where the envy came from. Before Blair, he couldn't recall being attracted to any guys, and he'd spent most of his time in the company of men. Sure, he'd always appreciated a fit form—but that was a visual appreciation. Aesthetic, Blair would say.

Of course, Blair would then call him on being in denial.

But Jim had never really ever considered it before, never wanted to get close, skin on skin, with a man. The idea was too dangerous. Women were a mystery he could get into—never quite understanding them, but enjoying the struggle.

Men, on the other hand, were—like me. The thought was a little shocking, and Jim took a sip of his drink, considering it. Too much like me, and too hard to hide from.

He became aware of a presence next to him and turned his head. A good-looking blond guy, maybe thirty, was leaning with one hand on the bar beside Jim. His eyes were trained over Jim's shoulder, but his body was tilted toward him and he was standing a little too close for chance, especially considering the seat behind him was empty.

"How's the beer?" The guy asked him, his eyes flicking to meet Jim's.

Jim cleared his throat. "It's pretty good."

"Is that the pale ale?"

"Yep." Jim's hand felt slippery on the glass all of a sudden. He straightened and leaned back against the bar, then deliberately spread his legs, feeling a little foolish as he did it.

The guy's eyes moved toward Jim's crotch and stayed there for a moment. Jim felt himself smile.

"I'm Jim," he said, offering his hand.

"Adam," the blond said. His hair was longish, and a thick shock of it hung almost magically above his forehead. "I'd ask you if you come here often, but I would've noticed if you had."

"Yeah?" Jim took a sip of his beer and looked out at the dance floor to hide his sudden nerves. Could it really be this easy? And did he want it to be? Sure, the guy was good-looking, but he had none of Blair's appeal.

Still, when it came down to it, a warm body was a warm body. And Jim needed it tonight.

Beside him, Adam turned toward the dance floor. The music had changed to something with a really heavy bass beat, and the bones in Jim's ears were throbbing. Automatically, he tuned down his hearing.

"Folks are really digging this music," Adam commented.

"Looks like they're getting in touch with their primitive natures," Jim said.

Adam gave a short laugh. "What?"

Jim shrugged. "Just something my partner would say. He studied anthropology."

Adam frowned. "Partner?"

Oops. Great going. "Business partner," Jim said carefully. "Just business."

"Good. I mean..." Adam seemed suddenly embarrassed. "What kind of business?"

Nice save, Romeo. "Look, you want to get out of here?" Jim blurted, and then felt himself flush. Smooth move. What the hell was he doing?

But Adam seemed glad. "Don't you want to dance first? Take the old primal side out for a spin?"

Jim couldn't help grinning. If only this guy knew just how primitive he could be. Maybe he'll get a chance to find out. For the first time, Jim felt a twitch of arousal. It shocked him almost as much as the first time he'd caught himself staring at Blair's ass.

Guess I'm not as straight as I thought I was. But he knew that, anyway—otherwise, what was he doing here? Was it just to prove a point to Sandburg?

Jim felt a sudden, reckless desire to take this as far as it could go. See what the hell he was capable of.

He nodded and stood, then led the way to the dance floor. They'd just reached the dance area and were turning toward each other when the bass beat segued smoothly into a slower, heavier groove. Adam gave Jim a lopsided grin before stepping closer.

Shit, he wants to slow dance. Jim froze for a moment, uncertain how he was supposed to proceed—was he expected to lead? He had an inch or two on the guy and approximately fifty pounds, but was that how guys decided those things?

Fortunately, before Jim could make any stupid moves, Adam slid closer and put his hands on Jim's waist. Jim reciprocated automatically, and suddenly he had his arms full of the slender blond man. Adam tilted his head and brushed his cheek against Jim's neck for a brief moment before pulling back and grinning.

"I think we're supposed to move around a little, just for sake of appearances," Adam said.

"Oh, right." Jim started to sway with him, at first feeling awkward but then shifting into the shared rhythm. He felt Adam's hand moving down his back to rest on his ass.

Jim's hard-on, which hadn't really left since he'd propositioned Sandburg earlier, took a decided upswing. Feeling bold, he slid his hand into the back pocket of Adam's jeans and pulled him a little closer until their groins touched.

It felt...nice. Just like it would if he were holding a woman, the only difference being there was a matching hardness pressing against his thigh. Jim was surprised he didn't feel more weirded-out by it.

He let his sense of touch go up a couple of notches, felt the flow of Adam's breath against his neck and the rub of his jeans against his crotch. Not bad at all. Not who he really wanted, but who got what they really wanted, anyway?

So, he was relaxed, and a little high on the new sensations, and grooving on the feel and the music, and that was why he was completely shocked when, a few minutes later, hard hands grabbed his shoulders and yanked him backward.

"What the hell?" Adam yelled indignantly.

Jim spun and identified his attacker, one Blair Sandburg, anthropologist and sharp-shooting partner—looking about as enraged as Jim had ever seen him.

"You'd really go through with it, wouldn't you?" Blair said, spitting the words out over the music.

"Sandburg, what the fuck are you doing here?"

"Watching out for your stupid ass," Blair responded, trying to pull Jim away.

"Hey, do you mind?" Adam took Jim by the other arm, and he suddenly felt like the flag in a ridiculous game of tug-of-war.

"Yeah, I mind," Blair said. Jim watched, amazed, as Sandburg got right in the taller man's face. "My partner's about to make an idiot out of himself."

"Fuck you, Sandburg." Jim stiffened and pulled out of Sandburg's grasp.

"Yeah, fuck you, asshole." Adam tightened his hand and started to lead Jim away.

Jim twisted out of his grip as well. "You don't talk to my partner like that."

"He's a fucking homophobe." Adam's skin was flushed an angry red. "Last time I checked it was a free fucking country."

The crowd dancing around them had pulled back, and Jim found himself in a circle of curious eyes. Not a little anger was directed at Blair.

A bubble of absurd laughter rose in Jim's throat. "Sandburg's not a—look, I don't know why he's kicking up a fuss, but it's not about that, and it has nothing to do with you, all right?" He could feel Sandburg jittering angrily behind him, and Jim took a step forward and put his hand on Adam's shoulder. "I'm sorry," Jim said in his ear, "but I'm going to have to straighten this out. Maybe some other time?"

Adam looked ready to argue, so Jim gave him a little push toward the bar. "Thanks for the back-up, but it's gonna be fine."

"One second—let me give you my number." Adam reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card, which he stuffed into Jim's hand. Blair made an angry noise at Jim's shoulder, and Adam shot him a last glare before stalking off.

Jim waited until he was sure it was over and everyone had gone back to dancing, and then he stuck the card in his back pocket and headed for the exit, fully expecting his partner to follow.

Once they were outside, Jim treated Blair to a hard stare. His partner still looked completely enraged. Some of his hair had escaped from its ponytail and his face was flushed, his blue eyes glinting.

But Jim had more than a little anger of his own. He'd been enjoying himself, damn it, and Blair had fucked up his one and only chance of getting laid that night.

It was obvious they'd both better cool down before they talked, or they could end up saying some stupid shit they couldn't forgive. "I'll meet you back at the loft," Jim clipped out. Not waiting for a response, he walked toward his truck.

On his way home, he tried to get a grip on his anger. What the hell had Sandburg been doing there? What the hell did he mean Jim was making a fool of himself? Just because he wasn't experienced didn't mean he didn't know what to do with his dick.

Or maybe he's worried about me being seen, my rep in the P.D. It was the only explanation Jim could think of—that Blair was concerned about him taking a walk on the wild side and maybe getting into trouble on the force.

Jim parked and charged up the stairs, still buzzing with anger and excess juice. He cracked open a beer and sat down to wait for Sandburg.

Who died and made him king of my dick? After five years in covert ops Jim knew how to be fucking discreet. Jim doubted a single one-night stand with a stranger would have done any harm. Hell, Blair did it all the time.

And it wasn't like people weren't already talking about the two of them—had been for years. Jim had always felt a sort of secret glee about it, as if they were even closer than they were.

Jesus, maybe he'd been wanting it all along...

Of course, as usual it didn't matter what he wanted. And apparently Blair wasn't even going to let Jim have a consolation fuck, either. He could still feel the individual prints of Blair's fingers on his shoulders. He'd probably have bruises there in the morning.

Sandburg. Goddamned Sandburg with that hair and those freakin' blue eyes of his that always saw everything, and that tight, perfect ass— Jim had thought about that ass more than once. So solid and round and just a little bit furry. He'd caught himself wondering what it would be like to rub his cheek against it. That was when he finally clued in he maybe had a thing for Sandburg, because he didn't find himself daydreaming about Simon's ass.

Though Simon's ass wasn't half bad, either—

Shit. This isn't helping. He was supposed to be ticked off and all he could do was moon over Sandburg's ass. An ass Jim would never get to see outside of the occasional bathroom towel accident.

It seemed like forever before he heard Blair's car—the distinctive sound of the Lamborghini that Sandburg had bought to replace the Volvo—and Jim put down his beer. Blair's footsteps were slow and heavy on the stairs. Guess he realizes he fucked up, Jim thought with a savage bite of satisfaction.

When Blair pushed open the door, Jim was waiting with his arms crossed tightly against his chest. He felt his anger pooling in his fists.

"So." Jim said. He had his little speech prepared, all the words lined up in neat little rows, but he couldn't get his jaw to unlock.

"So," Blair said, sounding tired and pissed.

What right does he have to be pissed?

"So, you wanna tell me what that little dance was about tonight? 'Cause I'm all ears, Sandburg."

"All ears," Blair muttered sarcastically, hanging up his jacket. His ass looked really good, if clenched a little tight.

"Yeah. All ears. You mind telling me why you screwed up what was shaping up into a pretty good evening?"

"You call that good?" Sandburg spun around, his hair swinging wildly. He shoved his hand in it to tuck it behind his ears. "You were about to make a really stupid mistake, Jim."

Jim's blood started to boil. "Oh, yeah? It's a mistake for me to get laid? Because you seem to do it all the time."

"Not like that. Not like I'm out to get a piece with a complete stranger just because I can."

"News to me." Jim stalked toward Sandburg, but the pipsqueak slipped past him and headed to the kitchen.

Blair pulled a beer from the fridge and said angrily, "You always joke like I'm such a dog, but at least I know someone for five minutes before fucking them."

Jim was reminded why it never worked to fight Sandburg with words. Little bastard could manipulate any conversation. Time to get back on track. "That's not the point, Chief. It's my stupid move if I want to make it. So why don't you tell me why you fucked up my play?"

Blair took a sip of his beer and said slowly, "You're a cop, Jim."

"No kidding. So were you, last time I checked."

"Yeah, but I'm...me. No one would blink if they knew I liked to mess around with guys." Sandburg sounded like he knew what a lame argument it was.

"That's pretty weak. And anyway it's my risk to take. You're still not answering the goddamn question."

"Which is?" He looked ready to blow. All he'd need was a little push.

"Who the fuck do you think you are? What business is it of yours where I point my dick?"

Blair dropped his beer in the sink and stomped over to Jim. He raised one finger and poked Jim in the sternum, hard.

"You made it my business when you came onto me," he said hoarsely.

The blood rushed fast in Jim's ears, and he snatched Sandburg's hand, bending it and forcing him to take a step back. "And you turned me down, bright eyes. So what the fuck—"

"I didn't turn you down!"

Jim blinked. "Did so!"

"I did not!" Blair was fairly dancing on his toes.

"You're deranged," Jim said incredulously. "I mean I know you've always had a little trouble with reality—"

"You didn't give me a chance to turn you down, Jim—"

"—but this is some new psychosis or something. You stood right over there and told me—"

"I said it was complicated. I didn't say—"

"And anyway, you're always picking up pretty boys, so what am I supposed to think when you get that look on your face like I'm crazy for even bringing it up—?"

"Four years I've been putting this away and you expect me to just jump into your bed—"

"You made it totally clear—"

"—you stupid shit."

Blair's face looked more panicked than angry, and Jim hauled up short, sudden confusion swamping his anger.

"What do you mean you've been 'putting it away'?"

Blair turned his back, but not before Jim saw the wince. "We can't do this, Jim."

"Do what?" Jim swallowed tightly. He can't mean—"Do...it? You mean you actually want to? With me?"

Shaking his head, Sandburg headed toward the couch. Jim trailed behind, trying to get his thoughts in gear. He wasn't pissed anymore, just confused as hell and a tiny bit relieved not to be ready to tear Sandburg's head off. He hated it when he was angry at the guy. It made his gut hurt.

"I thought you didn't want me." He spoke to the crown of Sandburg's head, which was turned down, his hair hiding his face.

"Never said that. Just that it was complicated."

"Well, what the hell isn't? Short of being dead, it's all complicated, Chief."

"But I hate complicated. You don't even know if you want me like that, you just think you do. And if it doesn't work out we're screwed, man."

"You think I have to try something to know whether I want it or not? Believe me, the idea works for me, Sandburg. It's worked just fine every morning in the shower and every freakin' night when I'm alone in bed and you're out boffing some bimbo. So don't tell me what I want, okay?"

Blair shrugged, but still didn't look up.

"So, if that's not it, then what? You afraid it won't work for you? I know I'm not your usual type—"

Blair's head jerked up and he looked furious. "You moron. You have no idea how hard it's been finding guys I like who are just the polar opposite of you."

Jim chewed on that. "You mean you were doing it on purpose?"

"Well, duh. You think?"

Jim flushed.

"Little slow on the uptake there, Jim."

"Well how the hell should I know what you like and don't like? You sure didn't let me in on the mysteries of Sandburgian Attraction."

"Yeah, and I was real happy keeping it quiet until you decided to get bent all of a sudden."

Get bent? The phrase did interesting things to Jim's dick, which was still patiently waiting for action, as unlikely as that was.

Except Sandburg wanted him. He'd as good as confessed.

"You really ruined my play tonight, Chief."

"Yeah, so what?" Sandburg said belligerently.

"So—you owe me a blowjob or something."

The effect on Sandburg's face was priceless. His jaw dropped, showing the edges of his lower teeth, and his eyes went unbelievably wide. Then his tongue came out in a nervous lick, but he must've caught the smirk on Jim's face because he finally clued in.

"You shithead. That's so not funny."

Jim laughed. "You're wrong about that. I think it's hilarious." He bent to pick up his beer, which was disgustingly warm. Taking a swig anyway, he eyed Sandburg, who seemed to be recovering.

"This isn't going to happen, you know. You and me." Sandburg sounded determined, but Jim listened hard and caught the nervous thump of his heart.

"Says you. You think I'm gonna back down now that I know you have the hots for me? Just tell me what other hang-ups you got. Because you really do owe me. And I plan to collect."

Jim tried to suppress a grin when Blair shivered.

But then Blair bounced off the couch and started waving his hands. "Jesus, you're arrogant. That's exactly the problem with you."

Jim sat down with a sigh, recognizing the signs of Sandburg working himself into a good rant.

"See, I knew all along there was no way, because you're so goddamned alpha all the time, especially on the job, but even just washing the fucking dishes. And I thought once we were partners we'd be equals finally, but shit, Jim, it's like you still expect me to stick behind you. And you keep throwing yourself on the grenade all the time, never giving me a chance to—you realize since we've become partners you've been in the ER five fucking times? To my big fat zero? It's like you're worse than when I was just an observer! Simon jokes we should just install an IV pole by your desk. I can just see what a putz you'd be in bed—"

"Hey!"

"What, like you'd ever give me a chance to drive?"

It was Jim's turn to shiver a little. The image was startlingly appealing. "You're such an idiot, Sandburg."

Blair's eyes narrowed.

"That's exactly what I was planning on doing tonight." Jim reached into his back pocket and pulled Adam's card, fingering it thoughtfully. "Maybe it's not too late. Think Adam's still up?"

Sandburg's eyes went wide again. "You were going to let blondie—? Your first time?"

Jim shrugged. "I was planning on trying everything." He raised his eyebrow. "Thought I'd start out slow, maybe suck his cock."

"Shit." Blair blinked, then his hand dropped to his crotch and he spun away.

Jim grinned. "Could've all been yours, Chief. But you didn't want it."

"Shut up," Blair muttered.

"Hand me the phone, would ya? It's early yet—"

"Shut up!"

Suddenly Jim was assaulted by one hundred and sixty-odd pounds of frenetic, squirming fury. His arms were pinned to his sides by Sandburg's legs, and Blair grabbed Jim's head and planted his lips on Jim's mouth.

Make that squirming, kissing fury.

Sandburg's tongue was in his mouth. A totally unexpected development, but Jim wasn't in the mood to question, because suddenly the hard-on in his pants started throbbing in time with his heart, which was pounding against the wall of his chest as if it wanted out. Now.

Oh, God...I can taste him... The one sense he'd never put to use on his partner, and now Jim was glad he'd never had the opportunity, because he wasn't sure he could ever stop. He sucked on Blair's tongue, felt and heard the moan that tore through Sandburg's body, and then Jim was pushed flat against the arm of the couch and Sandburg was trying to hump him through to China.

"Don't believe it...Jim, oh, man," Sandburg muttered between kisses.

Jim identified what felt like a bar of hot iron as Blair's cock plunging against him just west of his zipper, and his own cock attempted to lurch sideways to meet it. Jesus...Jesus...Jesus... he chanted in his head, wishing his arms weren't still pinned so he could get two handfuls of the soft hair curling around his face and neck. But Sandburg wasn't letting him do anything but helplessly kiss back.

He'd never been pinned down by a lover like this—Blair was no lightweight, and he was using all his strength to keep Jim immobile...and Jim was surprised to find he liked it.

He wants me. Sheer proof, right there. Hot, thick proof grinding against him.

Suddenly Blair reared up on his knees, his shins still trapping Jim's arms, and started unzipping his jeans. Jim tilted his head down and got his first look at Sandburg's thick, angry-looking hard-on.

Blair's dick. Pointed straight at his face.

Jim looked up and caught Blair staring at him with a challenging look.

"Yeah, okay," Jim got out.

Blair's grin turned completely, shockingly feral, and Jim's pulse picked up in response. It was wild, what they were doing. What Jim was about to do.

And then he didn't have time to think anymore, because Blair was leaning over him, both hands planted by Jim's head and his big cock just shy of Jim's lips. Jim took a deep breath, tilted his head, and opened his mouth just as Blair's hips moved forward. And suddenly Jim had a mouthful of cockhead.

Good Christ. The taste was totally unfamiliar; Jim had tasted his own pre-come once or twice, and Blair's was sweeter somehow. It shot across Jim's taste buds and zinged straight to his crotch, which throbbed heavily.

Blair made a strange, pleading noise, and Jim moved his tongue, sweeping it around and then down so he could rub the rough patch just below the head. Always drove him nuts when Caro did it, and it seemed to have the same effect on Blair, whose wrists pressed against the side of Jim's head, supporting him as Jim worked him with his mouth.

He liked this—liked the weight of Blair's cock in his mouth, liked the hard, velvety feel, but most of all he liked the way Blair started making such helpless sounds, little whimpers and groans. Jim was doing that to him—making Blair crazy with it.

He pulled away to ask, "You like it? You like my mouth?"

Blair's response was a pitiful moan and a thrust demanding that Jim take him back in, so Jim did, opening wider, curling his lips down the shaft. He wiggled his arms, trying to free his hands, but Blair was having none of it. He just kept rocking with minute jabs as if he was afraid to go too deep.

Jim was glad he was being careful. He wasn't sure how much he could handle, and didn't want to wreck the mood by gagging. Instead, he concentrated on working the flat of his tongue beneath the crown until Blair suddenly gasped and pulled away.

"Wait. Wait." Blair was panting.

Jim licked his lips and grinned.

"Bastard," Blair said, his voice disbelieving.

"Don't you want to come in my mouth?"

"Jesus Christ." Blair reached down and grabbed himself tightly. He sat back and gave Jim a penetrating look. "Not this time. I have other plans."

Jim felt a flutter in his gut. Suddenly his cock was burning. He took advantage of Blair's distraction to slip his hand free so he could adjust himself.

Blair slid one leg down off the couch and stood. "Take your clothes off." He started in on his own shirt, unbuttoning a couple of buttons and then pulling it off in one quick move, along with his thermal undershirt. Jim watched, dazed, and a little intimidated by how fast things were going.

We're really gonna do this.

Blair gave him an impatient look and scratched his fingers across his furred chest. His pants were still open and gaping in a vee that drew Jim's eyes to his heavy cock.

Holy shit, he's really hung.

"You with me or what?" Blair said.

Jim forced himself to nod, and sat forward to remove his tight T-shirt. His chest and arms were sweaty and he had to struggle to get it off. He heard Sandburg make a noise and figured he was being laughed at, so his face was a little flushed when he finally freed himself.

Blair's face was red, too, but there wasn't a trace of amusement on it. His eyes were half-lidded, locked on Jim's chest, and he made that noise again, an abbreviated gasp and swallow that made Jim's nipples perk right up.

"The rest...take off the rest," Blair muttered, and pushed off his pants. But Jim couldn't move, could only watch as the sturdy thighs were revealed, as Blair stripped for him.

This is so weird. Blair and I are getting naked together. But Jim's dick didn't think it was weird. Jim's dick was trying to expand within the impossibly tight crotch of his jeans, and he grunted and arched back to unfasten them and give himself some needed room.

He was preoccupied with getting his jeans off when Blair walked away suddenly.

"Where're you going?" Jim said, wincing at his anxiousness.

Blair was muttering and clunking around in the kitchen. He returned carrying a dishtowel and a small bottle of olive oil. Extra virgin, Jim read on the label, and his blood started pounding in his neck.

"You've got to be kidding," he croaked out.

Blair's face cracked in that same strange smile, and he shook the bottle a little. "Do I look like I'm kidding?"

Jim's brain did some acrobatics, back-flipping through images of Greek cucumber salad, eggplant caprese, and settling on the impossibility of removing olive oil from velour upholstery. All to avoid thinking about the actual purpose of said olive oil, which was, obviously, to use on Jim.

So Blair could fuck him.

Jim shook his head, rattled. Blair took a step forward and, before Jim could react, was once again seated on Jim's lap, bottle and towel set aside so he could grab Jim for another kiss, his tongue taking possession of Jim's mouth so he tasted nothing but Blair, Blair, Blair, the thoughts in his brain melting under the heat of the wet, nasty kiss.

When he came back to himself Blair was urging him to turn over and kneel on the cushions so his chest could rest on the low back of the couch. He felt the rough kitchen towel being tucked beneath him between his knees.

Jim shifted a little, spreading his legs wider so the irritating material wasn't touching him. He heard Blair gasp, and realized Blair must be staring at his ass.

No one had ever ogled his bare ass before, at least not with serious intent. Jim flexed experimentally and smiled when he heard Blair suck in a ragged breath. Then Blair's rough palms cupped his butt cheeks, and Jim twitched.

Blair's hands froze. "You sure you're ready for this?" All of the heat seemed to have been sucked from Sandburg's voice, cold uncertainty filling the vacuum.

Jim growled, "Tell me you didn't get me into this ridiculous position just to chicken out on me, Sandburg." He flexed again and deliberately lowered his head, relaxing as well as he could, still feeling vaguely ridiculous. But his cock was hard, so hard and sensitive he could feel the heat of it reflecting off the back of the sofa.

Shit, we're gonna need another towel— His thoughts halted with a jerk when he felt Blair's hands on his ass cheeks, spreading him open. Air touched his damp skin with tickling fingers, making a line of goose pimples race up Jim's spine and down the backs of his thighs. He could almost feel Blair's eyes on him there, and Jim flushed, suddenly overwhelmed with an embarrassed arousal so powerful it put him into a state of heightened shock.

The couch shifted as Blair got off and moved down behind him, lower, so his breath was teasing across Jim's cheeks.

"Jesus, Sandburg, what're you doing?" His voice was too hoarse; he could barely understand himself.

"Shh," Blair said. His hand rubbed soothingly down to Jim's thighs and then up again, spreading him wider. A light scrape of stubble was all the warning Jim got, and then Blair's tongue was on him.

He tightened and moaned in disbelief. That's...that's...not sanitary, his thoughts stuttered, and then the soft slip of tongue swept over his tender hole and his body went limp on him, boneless, as if every muscle had turned into overcooked squash. Or maybe eggplant. He couldn't think. He couldn't breathe. He could only shiver, repeatedly, as Blair's tongue did things to him that cut his brain loose from his spine.

From far away he heard a low keening sound, and he knew it was his own throat making it, but he couldn't care. Blair sucked in a breath, cooling him oddly, and then pressed his tongue inward.

"Ahh!" Jim's cock twitched and he felt a heavy bubble of pre-come welling out, beading over and tickling his crown. "Jesus...Jesus..."

Blair ignored him and continued as if it were the most natural thing in the world to kneel behind your best friend and tongue-fuck him up the ass.

Thank God Sandburg was a natural kind of guy. Because he was making Jim fall apart. He couldn't control his arms or legs, and lay sprawled, the couch back digging into his chest and roughing his nipples with every heaving breath. He kept making those hoarse sounds, and Blair pulled away every so often to whisper encouragement, telling Jim he was beautiful, so sweet, the kind of talk that would make him shudder with embarrassment if he were in a normal frame of mind, but he was so far from normal that Blair could be speaking in Swahili for all he was registering the words.

Finally, Blair gave him one last parting stroke with the flat of his tongue, and stopped.

"I bet I could have made you come just from that," he whispered.

"Oh." Jim was panting a little too hard for any comeback.

Blair moved behind him, doing something, and then he suddenly slid two oily fingers right up Jim's ass.

"Ohh..." Jim tried to flinch, but he was too relaxed. 'Jesus, Sandburg, your fingers are up my ass', he wanted to say, but that was obvious, wasn't it? Besides, he had a feeling Blair knew what he was doing. A strong feeling, because Blair's fingers were moving efficiently, stroking in and out, spreading him open further—a weird, stretchy feeling that felt good somehow. Hell, everything Sandburg was doing felt beyond good, and Jim decided in that moment that Blair could do whatever he wanted with him.

As if his body hadn't already decided that ten minutes earlier.

"You're handling this really well," Blair said, his voice soft and encouraging. His guide voice. Jim felt a tremor deep inside, someplace so deep he didn't even have a name for it. Blair's fingers were there, inside him. Blair was inside him.

Jim squirmed once, suddenly eager to get on with it, and he heard Blair give a breathless laugh. Then Blair was shifting up behind him, his fingers still buried.

"We should've talked about this before," Blair said, leaning over and resting his chin on Jim's shoulder. "But...I'm clean, Jim. You?"

It took a second for Jim to get his meaning. "Yeah, of course. I mean...oh, right. We—"

"Yeah. So..." Blair's fingers twisted, and a sharp flare of pleasure shot right into Jim's balls, making him moan.

"What the fuck is that—?"

Blair did it again, and Jim's whole body shuddered.

"Jesus Christ." His Army physicals were never like this.

"So, condoms or no?"

"Wha—? No, just, Jesus. Jesus, Blair."

Sandburg chuckled softly in his ear. "Never heard you say my name quite like that before, Jim." Blair nibbled at his earlobe. "Big Jim." His fingers kept moving.

"Fuck. Sandburg!"

"Okay, okay. Jeez, you're easy."

Jim didn't know if he was easy or not. Did four years count? All he knew was if Sandburg didn't shut the hell up and do something, soon, Jim was going to take a stab at fucking himself.

He didn't have to, though. He smelled the slight bitterness of more olive oil, and then the tip of Blair's thick cock was pressing against him, popping in, sliding through, into him. Jim took in a shocked bite of air and froze. The stretch turned into a burn.

He didn't care. He honestly didn't care, but his body was arguing the point.

"Breathe, Jim," Blair said. He'd frozen, too, except for his warm hands, which crept around Jim's waist to rub his belly. "C'mon, big guy..."

Jim forced himself to take one quick breath, then another, his stomach expanding under Blair's fingers. The tight ache started to ease. He felt trapped, caught—he needed Blair either to get in deeper, or pull out all the way. Jim took in a breath and pushed back.

Pleasure flashed through the burn. Hesitantly, Jim pulled away then pushed backward again, just a little, just enough—it felt so goddamned good, like nothing he'd expected.

The third time he cautiously shifted back, Blair thrust in to meet him.

"Oh, God." That was even better. "Do-do that again—"

Blair did it again. And again and again, moving smoothly now in a rhythm Jim recognized—the rhythm of a good, slow fuck. Blair was fucking him. Jim was being fucked.

Being fucked was good, really good, he discovered as he moaned softly at the floor behind the couch, feeling Blair's strong hands on him, moving him, pushing and pulling and then tilting his hips somehow so—Oh, God—almost every stroke delivered a zing of heat tight behind his balls.

"Yeah, Jim. So good—" Once Blair had him where he wanted him, he fixed his hands next to Jim's on the back of the couch and started pumping a little faster.

"Please...oh, God," Jim heard himself whisper.

Blair's breath panted in his ear. "What, Jim? What do you need?"

"Just...just..."

"You want it faster?" Blair thrust. "You want it harder?"

Jim swallowed. "Please," was all he could say.

Blair laughed again breathlessly. He pulled back and then thrust, hard, his groin smacking against Jim's ass.

All the way in. He's taking me all the way. Christ. Can't—

"God, Jim," Blair muttered. He pumped in and out, over and over, fucking Jim deep. "Jim...Jesus, you're such a sweet fuck."

Jim's cock twitched and leaked where it was rubbing against the back cushion, a teasing brush that wasn't enough, but when Jim tried to unclench his hands from the top of couch he couldn't make them behave, couldn't touch himself, couldn't do anything but arch his back and meet Blair's pumping hips.

And groan. Over and over. Blair's rhythm was relentless—supple and forceful. His breath was hot on Jim's back.

When it came, Jim's orgasm surprised him, growing suddenly from somewhere strange, flushing his chest and stomach, tingling his spine before his balls got with the program and tightened up high—he felt the pleasure rising unbelievably before peaking so hard he had to clench his jaw against a scream. And then he was coming, shooting wads that splattered back against his stomach and slicked his cock where it rubbed against the couch. He tightened up and felt Sandburg's cock shift inside him, hitting that spot just right, and he peaked again, shaking, and couldn't suppress the long, low moan that wound out of his throat.

Blair was whispering behind him, and one hand was on the back of Jim's neck, soothing him. The other hand was rubbing over the slickness on his belly, dipping down to cup his softening cock. Jim shuddered and went limp, melting under the continuing rhythm of Blair's hips, each thrust forcing an echo of pleasure. Jim made a huge effort and pushed back a little, instinctively tightening down on each retreat, and Blair shouted something, pulled back, then thrust hard and deep, his cock beginning to jerk inside of Jim's ass.

Jim slid one hand over Blair's and held on. He could feel the warmth of Blair's come pulsing from the shaft. He could feel the minute shake of Blair's pulse pounding inside his skin. It was freakish and good and they'd just finished, but Jim wanted to do it all over again.

Next time would have to be on the big bed upstairs, though, because his chest was going to have permanent ridge marks from the damned upholstery.

After a while Blair gave a shaky moan and lifted himself off Jim's back. Jim's ribs gave a big hooray and uncompressed. Blair's cock slipping out of him was the strangest thing Jim had ever felt. His ass was still tingling, and every nerve ending recording the final farewell.

"Jim," Blair whispered. Then he dropped a shadow kiss between Jim's shoulders, and the skin there grabbed all of Jim's attention. The hair rose on the back of his neck.

That wasn't a 'thanks for the terrific fuck' kind of kiss. That kiss said something, more than Jim had expected to hear. More than he'd hoped for from Table-leg Sandburg, he with the cast of thousands, harem boy to an entire population of grad students.

The tremor inside started up again, ocean deep, dark and a little terrifying. Jim battled it, but it swelled, traveling outward to shake his arms, his legs. He pressed his forehead against the couch and tried to breathe.

"Jim...Jim? Oh, shit."

Jim pressed down harder until his neck bowed.

"You're freaking, aren't you? You're having some kind of sexual identity crisis." Blair's hands glanced lightly along his back and then disappeared. "Shit! I knew this would happen. I fucking knew you'd do this to me."

If only it were that fucking simple. "Sandburg." Jim paused to clear the gravel from his throat. "I'm not freaking out."

"Sure. Sure, Jim, that's why you're shaking like the San Andreas Fault."

Jim forced himself to pull it together and pushed off stiffly to drop down onto his butt.

Ouch. Bad idea. Bad. "Blair. Hear me—I'm not freaking. I liked it, okay?" Jim winced and shifted.

Blair must have misinterpreted the wince, because he suddenly loomed in Jim's face and put both hands on his shoulders. "Jim," he said, his expression serious, his voice a little rushed, "This is a partnership. I'm happy to reciprocate any time. It goes both ways, okay? I don't expect you to be my ass monkey."

A laugh caught Jim by the throat and he choked on it, chuckling until his eyes teared up. "Ass—ass monkey?"

Blair smiled cautiously in response.

"I'm not worried about that, Chief. It was great. You were great. Give me an ice pack and I'm ready for round two."

Blair's smile started to grow, but then dropped into a frown. "So what's with the shakes? I thought you were losing it."

Jim closed his eyes and felt his jaw stiffen.

"Oh, don't you dare. No way, man." Blair's fingers poked at Jim's cheeks and eyebrows, forcing his eyes open.

"Hey!" Jim glared his affront.

"No hiding. No backing out, not now. You owe me."

"I owe you?"

"Yeah. Yeah, you do. 'Cause you fucking blew my mind, man. This—" Blair waved his hand at the spunk-covered cushions, and Jim winced, thinking we'll need serious stain remover, "—this is so out there, so beyond where we were, you can't just ditch me now and go back to the Fortress of fucking Solitude to hang up your goddamned cape."

Jim couldn't help it—he started laughing again. It was the accompanying hand-gestures that did him in. "Fortress—" he had to suck in some air, "of fucking—"

"Solitude. Yeah."

"—Solitude." Jim's laughter stopped on a dime.

Blair cocked his head.

"Sandburg..." Jim rubbed his sweaty face. He felt like he'd been here before. In fact, he had been, as recently as four hours ago. Only now his question was so much more complicated.

So much more dangerous.

Blair was waiting, though, patiently. His hand had found Jim's thigh and was rubbing it slowly. It was strange—they were both naked, and here Blair was doing his usual thing, his poor-fucked-up-Jim thing, and Jim was pissed at himself, tired of the clutch in his throat that just stopped him dead most times. He focused on the spunky mess, on the gooey feeling under his ass, distracting himself just long enough to trick himself into saying it.

"Blair, I want it all."

Sandburg frowned, his lips pursing.

"I want what you said—reciprocal. But not just—I want...I want to—" Predictably, Jim's tongue hung him out to dry.

"What, Jim?" The frown deepened. "You want...you want to fuck me?"

Jim shook his head, then nodded. Then smacked himself.

"Hey, stop that."

"Blair. Damn it. This isn't about sex!"

Sandburg's eyes went comically wide. "It isn't?"

Too wide. The little fucker. Jim's irritation loosened his tongue.

"Well, yes, it's about sex, but that's not all this is, or it better not be because, I swear to God, Sandburg, I've had it with your bouncy little TAs and your cute, bubble-gum drug-runner girlfriends and your disenfranchised, grungy bass-players—"

"Jim, whoa, there—"

"—And your Abstract Fatalism boys that smell like paint-thinner and deep, irredeemable fucking angst—"

"Okay, already—"

"—Because they mean jack shit to you, anyway, they're like popcorn for dinner or something, bad for your health, right? And anyway it's supposed to be just me. Goddammit."

"You." Blair was smiling now.

"Yeah. Me."

Blair's grin grew wide. "You want to be my ass monkey."

Jim covered his eyes. "Well, duh."

"Sorry, Jim. I'm just a little slow on the uptake."

"Could've told you that," Jim muttered.

Blair tugged his wrist, pulling Jim's hand away from his face. Jim opened his eyes cautiously. The grin was still there, a little softer, just like the blue eyes that stared into his so damned happily.

"Come on," Blair said, standing and pulling Jim to his feet.

Jim dragged his heels. "Where're we going?"

"Upstairs." Blair bent to retrieve the bottle of olive oil. "We need to seal this deal with some, uh, reciprocity."

Jim went a little unwillingly, his eyes dragging back to the mess on the couch.

Blair convinced him, though, with hot kisses, and distracting fingers on his nipples, and halfway up the stairs Jim had already forgotten about stain remover and cucumber salad, and after using Blair thoroughly—for a muscular guy Blair was pretty damned limber, and gave Jim the perfect angle to pound his ass until he whimpered—Jim was too wasted to even mind the damp, oily spot under his left hip.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled into the curls next to him on the pillow.

"'Bout what?"

"The grenade thing. Not letting you take the lead. I'll do better."

Blair turned in his arms and gave him a clear look. "I know you will."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." Blair's hand came over Jim's hip to cup his ass. "Or I'll have to take it out in trade."

Somehow, Jim thought, that didn't seem like much of a threat at all.

........................
2007.10.02