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Room to Breathe (Air to Breathe Stop Motion Overdub)

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He'd been sleeping for days, weeks now. In Sierra Verde, as soon as it was clear Ortega's cronies wouldn't arrest them, and during the plane ride back to the States, and even on the car trip from the airport to 852 Prospect. His bruised, battered, half-drowned body had fought exhaustion with sleep. And he was still tired.

None of that seemed to matter. Blair Sandburg was wide awake.

He swung his feet over the side of the bed, and got up. The doctor had given him a lot of prescriptions and Jim had filled them. He'd tossed them all in his duffle but only taken the antibiotic and the cough suppresant so far. Maybe there were sleeping pills, too.

He unpacked the whole duffle bag. No sleeping pills and no sleepiness appeared. If he was going to be up anyway, he might as well keep unpacking. Jim had boxed up everything in the loft. Putting it all back was going to be a big job.

He pulled out the first box, was relieved to discover that Jim had been organized in this as he was in most things. Blair recognized everything in the box as having been in the floor space between the foot of the futon and his bookshelf. Most of this stuff had to do with ANT 258, and a little bit was the cross-cultural development of youth music paper he was working with Greg Stevens.

He was trying to separate graded and ungraded bluebooks, when the door opened.

"You're grading papers now, Sandburg? Naked?" said Jim.

"No," said Blair. He tried to compose his face, make it neutral and blank. When it was as good as it was going to get, he looked up. "I'm unpacking. You put the whole loft up, and it's going to take days to put back."

Jim raised an eyebrow and Blair felt his hold on his expression slip. He looked away. "When I'm sick, I sleep nude. And I tried, but I can't sleep. I guess a couple weeks of solid sleep made up for the past couple of years' deficit." He dug in the box, hoping Jim would leave. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jim rub his forehead.

"Just the past couple of years, Sandburg? More like the past twenty-five." The words were teasing, but the tone was tentative, too soft.

"Maybe," Blair said. He winced internally at his flat tone. He wanted things to be right with Jim, but he didn't know how to play along. Blair tried to pull out a friendlier tone for his next words. "Is it going to keep you up if I unpack my room, man? There is no way on Earth I'm going back to sleep, but I'm behind on reading and grading. I can dig out a nice stack of blue books in a couple of minutes and be quietly occupied for hours."

Blair looked up at Jim and immediately noticed his white-knuckled grip on the door.

"What's wrong, Jim? Tell me you're not overloading or whatever the hell happened to Alex." Blair stood up, but stopped at Jim's negative grunt.

"I'm fine, Sandburg." And that sounded almost normal, would have been reassuring if Jim's hand had relaxed.

"So, what's up?" Blair didn't like the set of Jim's jaw either. He should have been too tired and too relaxed from the shower to be this tense. Whatever it was must be pretty big. Fuck if he had the energy for big.

"You don't have to stay, Blair."

Blair shook his head. The words didn't make sense to him."What? I don't—. You—. What?"

"I kicked you out with no warning, I abandoned you in the jungle, I nearly fucked your murderer on the beach. And you're pissed as hell; I can see it, I can smell it." Jim's face was neutral, controlled. The blankness meant he was upset, but Blair couldn't tell why. Didn't particularly care why.

"You're throwing me out again because I'm pissed?" Blair was pretty pleased he'd gotten out a complete sentence that didn't include the words, "Drop dead, motherfucker."

"No! I'm saying, I'm saying we're quits, Sandburg. You've more than fulfilled whatever obligation you have to me as guide or shaman. As a friend. You must have enough raw data for three or four theses. You don't have to stay." Jim was blank, but also still, and usually that meant he was hurting.

"I don't have to—?" Blair blinked, once, twice. "Yes, I am mad. I am furious that you nearly did the nasty with Alex on the beach, that you abandoned me in the jungle, that you threw me out. But none of that was something you would choose to do when you were yourself, and I don't blame you for any of it." He stepped closer to Jim, put a hand on his arm, squeezed the solid muscle under his fingers. "You can't apologize for it because none of it is your fault. I just, I've got to work through this myself."

Jim looked at Blair's hand on his arm. Blair could see Jim's pupils dilate, like a cat's in the dark, long seconds of silence. Then Jim looked up, looked Blair in the eye. He stared at him for two, three, four heartbeats. "You don't want to leave?" he asked, voice quiet and disbelieving.

"Jim, this is my home. You're my best friend in the world. I want to stay."

Jim reached out with his free arm and grabbed Blair, hugged him tight to his body. Blair, in turn, wrapped his arms around Jim, ear pressed to the taller man's chest. He could hear the too-rapid thump of Jim's heart. He turned his head, pressed his face in Jim's robe. "I love you, man," he muttered. "I'm not going anywhere."

Jim relaxed his grip, then backed up slowly. He hit the doorframe and stopped. "I know. And, me, too."

"Then we're good?"

"I don't know." Jim's voice was quiet again, almost shy.

"What's left?"

"My visions. Our visions."

"You wanna do that tonight?" Blair could hear himself whining, mentally took himself in hand. "I mean, it's the middle of the night. I'm not mad at you, but I'm still pissed. And don't you have work tomorrow?"

Jim pursed his lips, put his hand on Blair's jaw, fingers curled under Blair's chin. Lifted his face to look him in the eye. "I don't have work tomorrow. You don't have to go back to the university yet and you're not going to sleep. And most of this mess came from ignoring the, uh, the mystical aspects of the whole sentinel thing."

Blair let his voice go sharp and deep. "You shot me down in the hospital. And I'm mad at you for that."

"I'm sorry."

"That's not enough."

"I love you," Jim whispered.

"That's not enough."

Jim's next answer was even quieter. It took Blair a minute to understand the words. "You're in love with me? Is that supposed to make everything okay?" His whole body shook, and he frowned. His body was still not under control, and now Jim was changing the complex web of their relationship with no warning.

Loved him. Jim was in love with him. Two weeks ago, nothing would have made him happier. A week ago, it would have made things easier. Now? Now he was going to take what he wanted while he could.

He reached out to Jim, slow enough that the taller man could see what was coming, could have stopped Blair from wrapping his arms around Jim's neck and kissing him. He kissed Jim hard, teeth clacking, pushing his tongue in Jim's mouth, sucking up Jim's air until he had to back off, had to catch his breath. He placed his head on Jim's shoulder, leaned in further when he felt Jim's hands on his shoulders, pulling him in closer. "I've been in love with you since we took down those other drugdealers in the rainforest, you fuck."

"I've felt this way since—a long time. But I didn't know what to call it until that last vision in the Temple."

Blair looked away, to their feet, lined up hairy, smooth, hairy, smooth. "Where are we going with this, Jim?"

"I'm following your lead, Chief. I've helped out guys in the trenches, and Incacha, he and I—"

"Shhh," said Blair. "I don't need to know." He wrapped his fist in Jim's lapels. "I don't need to know where you've been. Just want to know where you're going." He looked Jim in the eye, started walking backward.

"I'm following your lead."

Blair's knees hit the bed and he sat down, pulled Jim next to him. "This can't be just one night, Jim." He touched his fingers to Jim's temple, brought them down to that strong jaw. It felt solid under his fingers, sure and still. Jim twitched and closed his eyes, breaking their connection. "You have to be so ready for this. It'll be bad for me if we do this and you freak out. We can stop if you're not ready."

Jim's eyes snapped open. "I've been working my way to this for two years, Blair. I can't get more ready. As for morning." He stopped, and his eyes took on the flat, unseeing expression he sometimes got while listening to his fullent extent. Then Jim flashed back to awareness. "I won't shout, and I won't decide anything while I'm, um, upset. Is that enough?"

Blair swallowed and blinked slowly. He was not at all sure this was a good idea, but, "Yeah, Jim. It's enough for tonight."

There was a pause then, a moment neither of them seemed to know what to do. Then Jim leaned forward and Blair followed his lead and they were kissing again.

It was gentler this time, Blair's anger buried and banked, Jim a more active participant. Then a thought occurred to Blair, and he pulled back. "I don't bottom."


"I've tried sticking things up my ass; it's never more fun than a prostate exam. I don't bottom."

Jim made a derisive sound, somewhere between a chuckle and a snort. "I don't, uh, top? I don't top. It's too much with the senses."

"How. Convenient," said Blair as drily as he could manage.


"Yes, Jim."

"Stop talking." Jim's mouth came back down on Blair. Blair felt himself wrapped in Jim's arms, pushed ever so gently down towards the bed.

They kissed a long time, what seemed like hours, learning the taste of one another's mouths. Blair let Jim have the lead at first, let him lick at lips, suck on ears, scrape teeth over skin.

Then Blair pushed at Jim, pushed the bigger man onto his back. He opened Jim's robe, pushed it off, and ran his arms down Jim's, from shoulder to fingertip. He was fascinated by the hardness of Jim's body, the planes and angles of it. He'd never wanted a body like that for himself. Pushups and weightlifting seemed unnecessary, almost unhealthy, to a man who had grown up with yoga and ritual dancing and a smattering of martial arts. The lines and edges of Jim's body looked impossible. Blair found himself running his hands, then his lips, then his tongue over Jim's muscles, over the straining tendons of his ankles, the solid bones of his ribs. He moved up from Jim's ankles to his knees, then down from his shoulders to his navel.

Jim never said a word or made a sound, and Blair found that the silence fascinated him as much as the body, as Jim's taste and smell and feel. He wanted to force Jim to make noise. He licked and sucked at the usual places—joints, ear lobes, fingers—and nothing happened. Then he dragged his teeth around Jim's navel, dug his fingers into Jim's thighs, and finally heard a tiny sigh.

He smiled into Jim's stomach, then kissed his way down to Jim's cock.

Jim's legs spread wide and Jim bent his knees, put his feet flat on the bed. Blair licked around the base, stopped to suck Jim's balls in his mouth. He smoothed them around with his tongue for a minute while he considered Jim's cock. It wasn't very long, but it seemed to be on the thick side, and Blair wasn't sure he could keep it in his mouth. He wrapped a hand around the root, let the head peek out between his fingers.

He licked it, sucked it, pressed the edges of his teeth into it with infinite care. He relaxed his grip, and licked up and down the sides. He sucked on the sides of the shaft and snuck a finger up Jim's ass.

Jim's orgasm followed almost immediately.

Blair sat up, pleased with himself. He hadn't done that in at least five years. It felt good, to touch Jim, to take that big, strong body and make it move, make it feel. Make Jim feel.

Blair's, well, his lover now, opened his eyes after a moment. Blair could see why Jim's spirit totem was a cat. For the first time in Blair's memory, Jim was sprawled with every muscle in his body relaxed and a tiny, knowing smile on his lips.

Jim reached one hand towards Blair, and Blair took it. Jim brought him down against that big, hard chest. Jim kissed Blair again, then flipped their bodies over.

Blair was suddenly, painfully aware of his own erection, of the need he felt, the desire. He pushed up, his cock thrusting between Jim's thighs. He let himself disappear in the rhythm and the heat of it, in the safety underneath Jim's body. He felt protected for the first time in a long, long while.

His orgasm took him unexpectedly. He shook and shivered with it.

Jim collapsed onto Blair, kissed him again, lightly, quickly. Then he rolled off of him and half off the bed.

Blair stared at the ceiling. His mind was restfully blank, wonderfully peaceful.

He felt Jim's fingers pull and tug in his hair. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Blair turned his head and nuzzled Jim's palm.

"I'm too tired to move tonight." Jim rubbed his thumb along Blair's cheek. "But tomorrow, we'll sleep upstairs. Okay?" Jim closed his eyes.

"Okay," said Blair.

Jim rolled onto his side. He pulled Blair close to him.

Blair was encircled by Jim's body all around him. The cage of Jim's arms had felt like safety before, but now they felt like a trap. "Jim, man, you have to let go of me."

"Why?" Jim's voice was soft with sleep.

"Because we're sticky and gross. Let me get a towel."

Jim said nothing, but he let go. Blair sat up and stretched. "I'll be back in a minute."

He got up, put on Jim's bathrobe, but left it open. He didn't want to get anything on it.

He went in the bathroom and ran some warm water on a washcloth, wiped himself off. When he rinsed it out, he caught sight of himself in the mirror.

He still looked awful, skin sallow, bloodshot eyes, and a bizarre, sour expression on his face. How on Earth could Jim want someone who looked like this?

He realized, suddenly, what he'd done. He'd told Jim not to freak out, but he hadn't stopped to consider his own reaction. He'd made a vow, a commitment with his body tonight. To a taciturn, anal-retentive, hypersensitive control freak.

He shook, with his whole body he shook, and then his eyes started watering. No, really, he was crying. He could admit that to himself, but he couldn't let Jim hear. He tried to keep his breathing normal. It was futile; the best he could manage was a sort of huff.

He didn't cry very long, stopped shaking soon after that. He promised himself that he'd work though it all, his anger, his fear, his still unnamed and unsorted emotions. Tomorrow, he'd start with meditation. Tonight, he'd be with Jim.

He wiped his face, went back to the bedroom, and carefully folded the robe, put it on top of a pile of boxes.

Jim startled him by lifting up the sheet. He crawled under, pressed his back into Jim's front. Jim wrapped an arm around him and pulled him close, dropped a kiss on Blair's ear.

"If you need to be mad or freak out, you can do it in front of me. I'm not afraid of you, I'm not afraid you'll leave."

Blair snorted. "I know. I'm not—I can't deal with my emotions now, so I'm just going to hang with you tonight. Okay?"

"Okay," said Jim. "Good night, Chief."

Jim hugged Blair, a little too tight. Blair squirmed and chuckled uncomfortably.

Jim relaxed his grip. He fell asleep almost immediately. Blair listened to Jim's breathing: soft, even inhales and exhales. The steady rhythm put him in a near hypnotic state.

He was warm, and comfortable, and safe, and serene. Sleep snuck up on Blair.