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Jim was reading the paper when Blair barged into the break room, tugging open the staff fridge and rummaging around.

He smelled like leather and resin, sweat and gauze, but before Jim could ask him about it, he'd fished out a bottle of spring water and chugged it down in long, gulping swallows.

Jim waited until Blair was finished wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, and had tucked his hair behind his ears.

Even sweat dark at the temples, Sandburg's hair was the way he remembered it, curly and frayed and a lighter shade of brown. That greasy "wet look" shit had annoyed Jim enough that he'd eventually convinced Sandburg he was allergic to it, and Sandburg no longer went around looking like a drowned rat.

"So, Raging Bull, how'd it go?"

"It was really great." He dropped into the seat across from Jim and finished off the bottle. "Ever since Jamie healed up enough to head back to the gym, he's been helping out with this kind of boxing mentor thing? I mean, Jamie was never gonna go pro, but he really knows the ropes, so to speak. So he has three kids from the local high school come by twice a week. It's really... I mean, I'm proud of him, you know? It's so cool that he's gotten it together, that he's trying to give something back. I mean, there were a lot of things he could have done with the money from Roy's life insurance. It's just. It's just good to see something positive come from this."

Jim nodded. It was good. Jamie was a bright guy, and it was nice to see him come back from the death of his brother with more than shadows and bad memories.

"He still with Sharita?"

"They're getting married in the fall." Blair bobbed his head slightly, pleased at his own news.

"He's a lucky guy. And tell Sharita I said so."

"How about I tell Tina to tell her?"

"And who's Tina?"

Blair granted him his widest grin yet. All gums and little pearly teeth.

"Sharita's sister. And my date for the evening." He pitched the empty bottle into the recycling bin and stood up. On his way out, he patted Jim's shoulder and said, "Don't wait up."

@@@

Blair and Tina seemed to be hitting it off. He wasn't home much on the weekends, and he smelled like beeswax all the time.

He brought Tina around for dinner one night and she was a knock out, taller and darker than Sharita, with complicated hair, bleach blonde, divvied up into squares that ended in little twists.

That's what the beeswax was for.

For a while Jim had been thinking she had some kind of crazy hot candle wax dripping fetish.

And thinking about what his roommate was doing with his girlfriend on his own time wasn't something he wanted to spend a lot of time doing.

He got used to the smell of beeswax. Since Blair had a pile of meditation candles, it wasn't hard to integrate. It was even kind of pretty, relaxing. Also, there was the smell of a happy roommate who was getting laid regularly.

For Blair, that meant he smelled like fresh bread all the time.

The funny thing was, that ever since he'd flashed on the mental image of Sandburg with his shirt open, and his mouth open, making little gasps as fat drops of melted beeswax splattered his chest, Jim hadn't been able to really get rid of it.

@@@

Tina, a poli-sci major, moved to DC to get an internship.

A few weeks later, Sandburg took up with a woman named Tabitha who designed her own jewelry. They'd met her following up on a fence in town, and she was cute and wearing a cropped shirt that showed off her belly button ring. She and Sandburg had smiled at each other and compared piercings and etc., and then they were dating.

Blair puttered around the loft and the PD smelling like metal polish and hot copper and fresh bread, and Jim couldn't help but wonder if he smelled like metal polish all the time because this new girlfriend liked to lick his silver earrings.

@@@

Tabitha's ex came back to town and she decided to marry the guy, and Sandburg was free for a few random dates, and then he asked if Jim could stay out late on Thursday, since Claire had roommates, and he'd really like to spend a little quality time, you know what I mean Jim?

And Jim did.

He checked his watch again and decided he was going home to bed whether Sandburg was frenching her on the couch or not.

He parked, stomped up the stairs and messed with his keys for about ten years. He could hear them giggle and murmur and yank on various scattered articles of clothing.

They were actually covering their mouths with their hands by the time he got inside, looking like kids caught gossiping about who liked who at summer camp.

They both look mussed and they both smelled like sangria and... Some kind of chemical stuff. It reminded Jim of the Fotomat.

And Blair smelled like fresh bread.

He sighed and shook his head and Blair grinned at him, tugging on Claire's elbow. She gave Jim a little wave and he waggled his fingers at her, thinking, Toodooloo, sweetheart. Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

Sandburg made a phone call, and while he was dialing, Claire smiled at him and toyed with his loose ponytail. She was taller than he was, with short, flippy brown hair. She was wearing a pink leather silver studded cat collar around her neck. He knew it was an actual cat collar because he recognized the trademark minted on the buckle.

"Yeah, hey, Jim, uh, I called Claire a cab, and I'll wait with her out front."

Translation: we're gonna go down and neck in the stairwell 'til the cab shows up.

"Mr. Ellison, really, I just wanted to say, the loft is." She was tipsy and vivacious and her pulse beat fast and liquid beneath the narrow band of the cat collar. "Sooooo. So nice. And the stuff on the walls. I really like it."

"Uh, thanks. I think." 'Mr. Ellison'. Christ.

Blair rolled his eyes and they shambled out the front door, arm in arm. Jim was too confused and annoyed to forage for a beer, and instead he just flopped down on the couch.

The Fotomat smell was stronger there, but he figured it was just because Claire was a photographer and she'd been rolling around on the couch with his partner.

But there was a subtle tilt to the couch or something, and he slid around and the feeling got more pronounced, like tectonic shift on a model train scale. Finally, Jim stuffed his hand under the cushion and rooted around, figuring he'd come up with Claire's bra, since she obviously hadn't been wearing one when she'd left, or maybe Blair's probably-sticky boxers. And wouldn't that be dandy? But he was tired and determined and felt around anyway.

Eventually, he stood up and tossed the cushions off the couch and uncovered six or seven glossy, fingerprinted Polaroid snapshots of Blair and his girlfriend.

Glossy, fingerprinted naked Polaroid snapshots of Blair and his girlfriend.

They were grainy, too exposed, too colorful. Jim could make out half a laughing face, a swish of hair, a flash of armpit. There, a slice of nipple, her tan lines, a weird blurry whose elbow is that? shot and one of Blair's ass. Just an incongruously in-focus, white ass...

And Blair walked in, smiling and retying his hair into a ponytail, saying, "The cab stand must be across the street or something. The guy showed up in, like, seconds-- hey!"

And he looked startled, but before Blair could decide to be angry or embarrassed, Jim fanned himself with the splayed handful of pictures and gave a long, low wolf-whistle.

"Pretty racy, Chief." He held up the one that that framed Blair's bare white backside. "Nice ass."

Blair chuckled and tugged the photo out of Jim's hand and held the picture at arm's length, regarding it solemnly.

Then he waggled his eyebrows and said, "I'm gonna have this one blown up. Posterity!"

Jim sniggered on cue and surrendered the rest of the pictures, Blair helped him replace the couch cushions, and they each went to bed.

But Jim thought about the picture of Blair's ass. Really, it wasn't such a bad ass. Solid and smooth-skinned and well-shaped.

At least, it had looked that way in the picture.

@@@

And from time to time, he found himself thinking about it. Considering it, furtive glances while Blair walked across the office to get a report from H, half-hoping Blair might lose the grip on his towel on the short trip from the bathroom to his bedroom.

He used his sentinel sight to ogle Blair in the reflections of things; his computer screen, the backs of clean spoons, the filmy reflective surface of a plastic laminate report binder. Once, even in Blair's own glasses, set on Jim's desk.

Jim found himself getting half-hard if Blair lit beeswax candles for evening meditation, wondering what the tang of alloy in Blair's earrings would be like against his tongue.

Things got busy at work, and finals rolled around and Blair was working 80 hour weeks, and Claire left him because she felt neglected and Blair didn't date for a while.

Jim considered Blair's ass some more, and even considered coming clean to Sandburg, coming out to Sandburg, but then he came home smelling like pencil shavings and chalk and whiteboard markers, which in itself wasn't unusual. But the fresh bread smell was there again, too, and Blair was dating a TA in the Business college, and it was summer and Blair wouldn't be teaching until the B term started in mid-July.

@@@

It took Jim a few days to notice that nothing was tasting right, and then another day to figure out why.

When he had a beer, he could taste the metal of the cap on the mouth of the bottle. The plastic bottle taste was bleeding into the spring water. When he brushed his teeth, he could taste the calcium and lime and copper from the water in the pipes. Every apple and tomato had a strange, bitter undercurrent, and Jim finally decided it was insecticide.

"Sandburg? You stop shopping at Bryant's Organic?"

Blair looked up from where he was chopping up green and yellow peppers for a sauce.

"No. Why?"

"Lately. The food. It tastes like...bug spray."

Blair gave the peppers a speculative look, as if he could see the insecticide, then said, "I guess Julio could have changed suppliers. Someone less scrupulous. Huh. Well, I'll tell you what, I'll rinse these again, okay?"

And Blair took to automatically soaking the produce in a bowl of spring water with a tablespoon of vinegar.

The pesticide taste was still there, but duller, and overlaid with the sour, not unpleasant tang of vinegar.

Jim pretended it was better and made do.

@@@

He suspected that Blair would blame the mixed-up tastes on repression, and decided to at least approach Blair about this recent and unsettling awareness of Blair's sexual draw.

It wasn't anybody's fault, and nothing overtly disturbing had happened between them. No open leering, no groping. He figured Sandburg would think about it, and decide on some course of action.

He'd get it off his chest, and one way or another, he'd feel better.

Unless Blair didn't take it well and accused him of--

Jim went to Fitch's Co-op and picked up a preemptive peace offering for Blair, just in case.

@@@

Sandburg was sitting on the couch in his boxers, wearing an open light blue shirt rolled up at the sleeves. He looked distinctly pissed. His hair was rucked up and every now and again, he'd pitch forward and lean his elbows on his knees and wipe his curly hair away from his face.

He'd meant to say "Something bothering you, Chief?"

What came out instead was, "Why don't you get some clothes on?"

Apparently it was the right thing to say.

Blair laughed and flopped back against the couch cushion, spreading his bare feet further apart and visibly relaxing.

"This from the amazing Mr. Skin. Jim, you traipse around in your boxers all the time. When did you get squeamish?"

About the time I realized I wanted to lick the soft skin behind your knees. About five minutes ago. About three years ago when you sat on that couch smelling like sex and Christine Hong.

"About the time you decided to play nudist in the living room," he bitched.

Another chuckle.

"I'm wearing a T-shirt!"

"But you're naked under your clothes," and he knew the minute he'd said it, he was going to regret it.

"Jim... " He said carefully. "Are you smoking crack?"

"Huh?"

"What's up with you?"

"I was gonna ask you the same thing."

"Why?"

"Because you're sulking on the couch. That TA dump you?"

"She's a CPA now," he corrected. "Yeah. She dumped me. She said that since she couldn't seem to hold my attention, we should both move on. Actually, she told me she'd already moved on. She asked if I'd give you her phone number. Apparently you made quite the impression."

"Are you gonna give it to me?"

His eyes went wide.

"You want it!?"

Jim snorted. She was little and skinny and had smelled like staples.

"Hell, no. She's not my type."

"What about 'she's your ex-girlfriend'? What about solidarity? What about friendship?"

"Are you saying you'd be pissed if I dated her?"

"Hell yeah I would.... Uh. Well. I mean... if you really liked her. I mean... if it was true love or something." He threw his hands up in the air helplessly.

"Well, even if I liked her, I wouldn't do that to a friend. I was just messing with you, Chief." Of course, this theory didn't hold much water if Blair remembered his little fling with Emily...

He looked relieved anyway. Then he crossed his arms and said, "Glad to hear it. I guess I won't need to open that can of whoop ass after all."

"I'm shaking in my boots, here."

"You should be. I used to watch kung fu movies as a kid. I know the Touch of Death. You don't want to mess with me, man."

"I'll keep my distance, Bruce Lee."

But he didn't. Jim sat on a the couch beside him.

"Hey, Jim?"

"Yeah, Chief?"

"Any particular reason you're staring at me like that?"

"You don't wear that shirt too often."

"It's kind of my 'prelude to being dumped shirt'. I wear it and my luck seems to go sour."

"And yet you're wearing it."

"Well... I like it. I like it more than Virginia, for example." He tried not to look guilty about that, but it came off as smug.

Jim cocked his head, and gave Blair the once over. He smelled like sandalwood oil and ink. The scent of baking bread was conspicuously absent.

"You force her hand, Chief?"

"There may have been... some mixed signals," he admitted.

"Then why are you so pissed?"

"Because she wanted your number! That is a blow to my pride, my brother."

Jim nodded, and dropped a small box in Blair's lap. Then he took a deep breath and readied himself for the inquisition that was sure to come. Blair was distracted by a break up-- this was as good a time as any.

"Here. Now you can wash that girl right out of your hair."

Blair picked up the box and read the label.

"You bought me soap. Cool. Wait a minute. This is Wooster's Oatmeal and Almond soap. This is nine dollars a bar. You bought me nine dollar soap, man. I know you have issues with buying soap that's more than say, five bars for a buck. What's the deal? You're not terminal or anything, are you?"

And Jim just couldn't say it. But maybe he wouldn't have to. Maybe he wouldn't have to come right out and say, 'Blair, I think about the way you smell and the way you might taste and I've been picturing you naked.'

"I'm bi," Jim replied calmly.

"You're bi," Blair repeated, eyes wide.

"Yup." He studied the floor. Tobacco flakes from Simon's recent visit. Sand. Grit. Gasoline on Blair's shoes, laces tangled and heaped by the coffee table.

"So. Do you, uh. Do you have a lot of experience? Was it in the army?"

"Well... It's more like a theoretical bisexuality."

"Theoretical?"

"Yes. Theoretical. Jesus, Sandburg, it's like an echo chamber in here."

"So-- do you just do it when I'm not around?"

"Do what?"

"Check out other guys. I mean, that has to be the reason I never noticed before. I have to admit, Jim, I didn't think you had it in you to be so sly, man!"

"I don't check out other guys!" He sounded a little panicky, even to himself.

Blair's eyebrows climbed.

"But you said you were bi."

"Well... yeah. But... It's uh.... a more... a theoretical kind of bisexuality."

"So, you're 'theoretically' bi," Sandburg repeated cautiously.

"Yeah."

"Jim... I mean... How can you consider yourself bi if you don't find other men attractive?"

"It's like this, Sandburg... I just think about it. Sometimes."

"Well, everybody thinks about it, Jim! That doesn't make you bi."

"It doesn't?" he asked, skeptically.

"Well... Are you like... lying awake nights or something? Do you think about it as much as you think about women?"

"Yeah."

"Oh. So. I guess maybe you are bi."

"You think I'd make something like that up?"

"No! No, it's just... if you never look at guys-- and I've spent a lot of time with you and seen you give women the old up and down-- and I've never seen you give a guy the eye. It just seems..."

"Theoretical," Jim reminded him.

"Yeah."

"Well, that's because... it is."

"Okay."

"Do you... Do you want to talk about it?" And Jim was actually looking forward to whatever Sandburg was going to say on the matter.

"Uh. No. Not really. I could use a beer, though. You want a beer? And then... We could just sit on the couch. And drink beer. And not talk."

Jim stood up so fast he got a head rush and made his way to the fridge. He felt hot and cold and his hands were tingling, and he felt strangely disappointed in Blair for the first time since he'd thought that it might have been Blair leaking stories to the press about the activities of local serial killers.

"You want a Honeybrown or a Guinness?"

"A Guinness would be good."

They drank the beer.

The quiet was making Jim nervous. Finally, he turned the TV on and watched a Behind The Music special about Carlos Santana.

@@@

Things still tasted bad, but at least he'd tried.

The only other new thing was the covert glances.

He was catching Sandburg's eyes on him more than usual. He could hardly give the guys at the station the once over, so after a few days Jim decided to throw Sandburg a bone.

In the park on a Saturday, some big guy in a sweaty T-shirt stopped to tie his shoelace by propping his foot on a bench, and Jim checked out his ass, lingered for a second, long enough for Sandburg to catch him.

Blair looked... shocked. But when the jogger had chugged on his merry way, Sandburg shot Jim a grin and a thumbs up.

"You totally checked him out," he said approvingly, elbowing Jim in the ribs.

"Yup."

"Good for you. That you're, you know, embracing an alternative sexuality. I mean." He paused for a moment and set a hand on Jim's shoulder, squeezing gently. "I know it must have been hard for you to come out to me. And I just want you to know that I'm... honored. And that I totally support you, and I'm here for you."

And Jim almost said something, but Blair looked so soulful, and he squeezed Jim's shoulder again and Jim said, "What?"

"-- don't remember him? Joey Farrell? He's that guy we worked with on the Milsovec case. Tall as you, ex-Navy, I think he said."

"What?"

"Well. Maybe he's not your type. Do you have a type?" And he looked curious and bashful at once. "He's a nice guy. You could do worse."

"What?"

"Jim, are you having a stroke?"

"Let me get this straight, here. You wanna set me up on a date? With another guy?"

Blair had his hands up in a warding gesture, and he fell back a step.

"It's not like I'm buying you guys monogrammed towels or something, relax, okay? I just thought you could go to dinner, flirt a little, hell I don't know, whatever--"

"I don't need a social secretary, pal. And how do you even know Farrell is gay?" Jim certainly hadn't picked up on it, but then, until the whole beeswax thing--

Blair flushed slightly.

"He, uh, made a pass at me. I figured, you know--"

"Jesus fucking h. CHRIST, Sandburg. Just. What is this, the Sandburg Swinging Singles?" His righteous indignation lost a lot of its dignity when Blair cracked up.

In fact, he was laughing so hard his eyes watered, and eventually he got a hitch in his side and Jim had to help him hobble to a bench and patted his back while Blair wheezed and tittered and gasped, alternately.

@@@

Blair made no more attempts to set him up, and Jim read the paper and saw there was some kind of sale at the mall, and he figured he could use a few new pairs of khakis and maybe some black socks.

"Wanna go to the mall?"

Blair squinted at him like he was considering taking his temperature, but shrugged and said, "Sure. I could do with an Orange Julius."

So Jim bought three pairs of pants in the same cut and style, but in three different colors, and decided to skip the black socks. Blair threw a sweater at him, V-neck, dark red, and Jim bought it without even bothering to try it on.

While they were standing on the Orange Julius line, Jim let the bustle of the mall swirl around him and closed his eyes.

Something was tugging at his attention, but it took him a moment to place it.

Blair punched him lightly on the shoulder and Jim blinked at him.

"What's up? I'm not going to watch you take some shoplifter downtown."

"No-- it's" and he heard soft pleading squeaks and a teasing giggle, all couched in a fragrant, drifting cloud of mingled arousal. To Jim, it smelled like sweat and grapefruit and baby powder. "There's some girls making out in that stall."

Directly across from the Orange Julius counter was a place called Zaftig!, and Jim could hear the two of them going at it.

Blair's eyes were round, his expression intent.

"Seriously? Can you hear them? Tell me. Describe it. Bring out your adjectives, my friend."

"Sandburg! Jesus."

"What? They're making out, man, practically in public! It's not like I'm--"

"I can't believe that people really do that shit," Jim muttered.

"I've done it, " Blair smirked.

"I should take them down to the station."

Blair smacked him on the forehead.

"How are you going to explain how you found them, in a women's lingerie shop, without looking like the pervert that you obviously, secretly, are?"

Jim was going to ask how anyone could be obvious and secretive at the same time, but he felt his ears go red just thinking about the crap he'd noticed about Sandburg just lately.

Then the two girls tumbled out of the try-on stall and they weren't as pretty as years of intermittent Spice channel had led him to expect. One was a tall, horsy looking girl with a jet black crew cut and the other was a chubby little pigtailed blonde.

Jim jerked his head so he wouldn't be caught looking, but out of the corner of his eye, he could see the blonde wipe at her blurred lipstick with the back of her hand.

Blair, of course, was staring with open fascination, and sort of saluted them with his cup.

The horsy one blushed but the blonde touched her bottom lip with her tongue and crooked her finger.

Even lesbians want Blair, Jim marveled.

Blair, who had been sucking hard enough at his Orange Julius to hollow his cheeks, choked a little and sputtered.

The combination of sex in the air, and the girl wiping her mouth, and Blair with sherbet reddened lips made Jim's head hurt. Other places, too.

The three pairs of pants and the sweater in the shopping bag banged against his crotch the entire walk out to the parking lot.

@@@

As soon as he got inside, he headed for the shower, where he jerked off to every Blairlike detail he could detect in the loft, every sense memory he could conjure up.

Fuck it, he thought. And he constructed a particularly nasty and unlikely scenario where Blair was slicking himself up and trembling, awed by Jim's size and heft, and begging for it. In the fantasy, Jim jerked off on him and then made him fingerfuck himself, still begging for Jim's cock.

Then, lockjawed and ashamed, he brushed past Sandburg and stalked up the stairs to bed.

Unfortunately, Blair followed him.

"Jim. Jim?" He could tell Blair was at the foot of his bed. "You can't be asleep already."

"Shut up for five minutes and we'll see what happens."

"I really think. It's time to talk now."

Jim sighed and opened one eye.

"Took you long enough," he said. Blair made no move to speak, so Jim went first. "Blair. I'm a shmuck."

Blair grinned at him suddenly.

"Tell me something I don't know."

"I'm not bi."

"Huh?"

"I mean, I am, but-- Look. I'm tired of dicking around: I told you that, because I didn't want to tell you that I've been... I've been thinking about you."

Blair looked at him, face calm, waiting.

"Thinking about you," Jim clarified.

"Okay."

It was one thing to be accepting that your best friend was gay.

It was quite another to allow a guy to lick you just because he couldn't stop thinking about it.

"What the hell is wrong with you? I fucking want you, Sandburg. The naked way."

"I noticed."

"You-- what?"

"You think you're the only person affected by pheromones, man?" Blair sounded annoyed. "I'm no Sentinel, but I mean... it's been like the all-Jim sex show around here. Every time I look at you you're sitting with your hat in your lap, or flinching if my knee bumps your leg at the dinner table. The other day while I was brushing my teeth, I caught you in the mirror checking out my ass. You totally want me.

"And you're not the only one who gets to have epiphanies about sudden shifts in sexual orientation, you know," he said, kicking his shoes down the stairs.

He unbuckled his belt.

"I mean, you started noticing me and I couldn't stop noticing you noticing, and I was so fucking hot all the time, I couldn't get laid often enough."

"Yeah, logically you'd show your attraction to me by fucking every woman in the tri-state area."

"You came out to me. I thought-- this is good. This means there's. I had no idea what it meant, but it seemed like maybe there was a chance. And you came out to me, and suddenly it wasn't just me thinking you look hot in tight T-shirts. It was you, too. You think I have a nice ass," he accused. "What was I supposed to do, Jim?"

"How the fuck should I know?"

Jim tried to bunch up the sheets in his lap, because just the jingle of Blair's belt on the floor had him hard and aching.

Blair sat cross-legged on Jim's bed, with his hands relaxed on his thighs.

"You could start by, you know, touching me."

Gingerly, Jim reached out and lay a hand on Blair's forearm, near the crook of his elbow. Blair held his eyes, and made no move. Jim grazed the tender skin at the bend of Blair's arm with his thumb and Blair pressed his lips together briefly, swallowed.

"Not bad," Blair whispered. Then he cleared his throat and repeated himself in a more normal tone of voice.

Jim decided that licking the crook of Blair's elbow, where the blood rushed around dizzily just beneath thin, soft, pale skin, maybe wasn't the best way to start.

"Did you want-- Look. Eventually, I'm going to want to kiss you. And if you don't think that's a good idea, you'd better tell me now." And Jim stroked up along his arm and tucked two fingers underneath the snug cap of Blair's T-shirt sleeve and just that felt like sex, like the day when his first girlfriend reached in his pants and fished around, and Jim could feel the oils, the tiny chips of keratin blurring into skin, sheltered under cotton, and Jim was almost shaking.

Blair closed his hand around Jim's wrist and smiled.

"Hey. Take it easy." He knelt up and leaned over, and Jim shook his head, finding Blair's sudden tallness disorienting. Blair pressed his forehead to Jim's and said, "This is pretty trippy, huh?"

Jim didn't answer, he just tipped his head up, seeking, reaching up to kiss him.

Faint, faint, trace of citrus, the funny sour jangle of Blair's few fillings, the echo of mint toothpaste, cinnamon floss and then Jim's attention shifted to

--the wet slip of Blair's tongue, rough and smooth and spit slicked, tucking against the inside of Jim's cheek, painting Jim's teeth with his own mark, his own taste--

Jim fit his thumbs in the spaces behind Blair's ears, hanging on, the thud of Blair's heart like someone rhythmically beating him with a sock full of flour. He was lightheaded, drifting out of his own body, focused so much on the scents and textures of the man he held that he himself felt almost numb.

Eventually, Blair cupped his face and gently dislodged him.

Jim suddenly remembered his own tongue had been tracing the ripples of the roof of Blair's mouth, that he had felt the pleasant, swollen press of Blair's lips against his own.

"How you doin', Jim? You okay? You liking this?"

"I'm liking it just fine, Sandburg," and Jim kissed him again, knotting his hands in Blair's shirt to drag him closer, more than mouths touching, chests bumping together, and Jim could hear the hair on Blair's chest catching against the fabric of his T-shirt, feel the hovering, fragrant heat of Blair's crotch shifting closer, and Blair set his hands on Jim's shoulders for balance and his sturdy weight pleased Jim so much that he moaned against Blair's mouth.

Blair laughed, and pressed Jim backward, exerting a steady pressure even when Jim was prone.

"Okay, this is. Hotter than I thought it would be. I mean, I thought it would be nice to kiss you, but I didn't know it would be like--"

And while Blair babbled, Jim patiently worked at untucking Blair's shirt and skimming his hands up Blair's ribs, before setting his hands on Blair's hips and dragging him down so his full weight draped Jim's eager body.

"Oof, hey, watch it tough guy. Who's driving, here?"

Jim hadn't thought that far ahead. In fact, he couldn't really think about anything that didn't involve the texture of Blair's skin, the taste of his jaw, his shifting, lively weight against Jim's chest and thighs.

Blair nodded, petting Jim's cheek and whispering against Jim's lips.

"It's okay, I'll handle it, it's all good, yeah, settle down--"

"Your earrings," Jim said, licking the space behind Blair's earlobes. He could taste the oils from his own fingers there, and it was odd, like inhaling an echo, the doubled taste rang in his senses like a bell, because it was resonant, because it was right.

"Huh?"

"Your earrings," Jim felt weirdly disappointed. "You took them out."

"Yeah. I did. I had just cleaned them and I didn't want you to, you know, poison yourself--" and he sighed when Jim set his teeth against the flexible shell of Blair's ear, a pleased little humming sound that Jim wanted to hear again, so he tried the other ear, and then whispered to it:

"Will you fuck me?"

"What? No... Not this time. I mean. We don't need to go down a checklist or anything, it's not like, kissing doesn't have to lead to uh, penetration, I mean, you don't even have to take your pants off--"

"I, uh. I want you to."

"Well." Blair cleared his throat. "I will definitely take you up on that offer. But not today, okay?" And he started to suck on Jim's neck, hitching his weight against Jim's body.

"Why not?"

Sandburg looked a little dazed, his mouth was enticingly red and full, and he blinked at Jim twice before answering.

"I'm. Uh. Fresh out of condoms."

"I don't care."

Blair halted, and Jim tried to shift him back into a steady rocking motion again.

"I do."

"Jesus, Blair, you're clean. Fuck me."

"This was a special on Lifetime. 'Sentinels Who Love Too Much'," Blair shook his head and dropped a kiss on Jim's chin. "I'm not going anywhere. This isn't a one shot deal, okay?"

Jim felt the cold splash of reality as his mind finally caught up with his body. Blair was above him, Blair was promising him more than a frenzied lay, and Jim was going to have to recognize the consequences of fucking Blair sooner rather than later.

"Maybe we should. Stop," he muttered, and his voice sounded rusty.

"Not gonna happen," Blair said, even as he climbed off of Jim.

He shook his head again, looking amused, and he shucked off his jeans and rucked-up T-shirt.

"But we can slow this down. So. Just. You like my ass," Blair reminded, and stretched out, face down on Jim's bed.

Jim froze, staring at the slope of Blair's ass.

Eventually, Blair turned his head and waggled his eyebrows.

"Introduce yourself, man."

Jerking the sheets aside, Jim reached out and placed a hand between Blair's shoulder blades.

He tipped his head and looked down the line of Blair's back, as if it was a longboard he was planning to wax. He skimmed a hand along Blair's back, the rill of Blair's spine bumping against his palm, until his hand rested on the hill of Blair's left ass-cheek.

The skin was warm and fine-grained, fair and firm and everything Jim had thought it might be.

Eventually, he stretched out and rested his cheek against the small of Blair's back.

"Jim?" Blair murmured.

"Shh. I'm communing," Jim said.

And for five or ten minutes he merely let the sea-steady wash of Blair's breath rock him as he studied the curve of Blair's ass, the shadowed place where the back bisected and a shallow channel split Blair's ass.

Eventually Blair's fidgeting became distracting and Jim stroked his ass curiously.

Blair laughed.

"Are you done yet? I've gotta say, I'm starting to feel a little objectified, here."

"Oh, knock it off." Jim lifted his head and Blair rolled over. Jim fell to staring again, the swirl of hair on Blair's chest, the delicate pink of his nipples, the lax, potential strength in his sturdy, half-hard cock, and Blair poked him in the shoulder.

"Turn over," he said, and Jim shivered and obeyed.

Blair tugged Jim's boxers down his hips, and Jim shifted to help kick out of them, and then he was screwing his eyes shut.

"Yeesh. Relax. I'm not going to make any ritual incisions. It's just me. Nothing's gonna hurt."

And Blair ghosted his hands over Jim's body, and Jim felt his flinching muscles loosen.

Blair kissed the back of his neck, once, twice, then moved his hands and his mouth and kissed his ribs, then his shoulder blade. He suddenly licked a stripe along Jim's spine and then blew on it, and Jim lifted his head, squinting over his shoulder at the hunched Sandburg.

"What the hell are you doing?"

Blair shrugged.

"Feeling my way around. You don't like it?"

"I didn't say that," Jim griped and then re-settled his cheek on his folded arms. He didn't dislike it, but he wasn't sure what he was supposed to like. Blair petted his shoulder again soothingly, and then bent over to scrape his cheek against the small of Jim's back.

Jim heard himself make an approving sound, and Blair gave a little self-congratulatory chuckle.

"This is so intensely cool," he said softly, and Jim grunted in reply.

Eventually, the licking and kissing had Jim breathing harshly and rubbing into the sheets.

"Wait," Blair muttered. "Wait, don't let go yet." He set his teeth high on the back of Jim's neck, at the muscles at the back of Jim's skull, clenching his jaw gently and then relaxing his hold, only to tense his jaws and relax them again.

Jim lolled and moaned and Blair slipped his hand between Jim's thighs, his forefinger and thumb fitting-- god--- right in the slot between his legs, right behind his balls.

The broad pad of Blair's thumb petting, pressing, teasing his hole; there, there, and Blair bit him again and Jim shuddered, "oh shit--" and came.

Later, Blair stroked Jim's eyebrow with the pad of one finger.

Jim spoke up, "For a hairy little guy, your eyebrows are nothing to write home about."

"Were you hoping to make a monobrow joke, my mouthbreathing friend?"

Jim tumbled him, resting his full weight along Blair's body, and the younger man chuffed out a breathless laugh.

"You gonna make me yell?"

"Yes," Jim answered, and he hooked Blair's leg over his shoulder, kissing the inside of his thigh.

Jim poked his fingers into Blair's mouth. He licked them speculatively, one eyebrow quirking. When he started sucking them in earnest, his mouth smiling around Jim's fingers, Jim pulled them out and stroked them over Blair's hole.

Blair yelped gratifyingly, and then Jim decided to change tactics and bent down to mouth one of Blair's balls. It tasted just like he smelled.

It was strange to press his tongue inside that flexing little hole, but he was feeling experimental.

Blair's body twitched and shuddered, and Blair's left hand molded to Jim's skull, while his right clutched at Jim's and guided it to his thick, blood-dark cock.

He made some inarticulate gargling sound that nonetheless communicated his demands, and Jim gripped him and squeezed gently, even as he wiggled his tongue past the first hard ring of muscle.

Everything had a weird underwater sound to it-- Blair's thighs were pressed up against his ears, damp with sweat. Jim's ears got sealed against Blair's skin, and a funny plunger sound of suction tickled his ears as he frenched Blair's ass.

Blair's breathing was harsh and gratifying, and Jim was fascinated by it. He withdrew his tongue and prodded a finger inside Blair, and his friend bit his lower lip and shot, ropy streams of semen that hit Jim in the chest.

There was a little spastic flailing of Blair's limbs, and the last fascinating twitch of his cock as it petered out, before a lazy close-eyed smile graced Sandburg's face. His hands clenched and uncurled absently, his body shaking off the last pangs of orgasm.

"That was worth the price of admission," Blair declared, and he rubbed at the wet squib of semen on his belly.

Jim made a sound of assent, and he lay down, sniffing at Blair's crotch, seeking the scent of freshly baked bread, finding it radiated first from the dark tangle of his underarms. Eventually he nuzzled Blair's closed fist, picking it up and chewing on the heel of his hand, swiping his tongue against Blair's palm.

Blair's semen was thick and clinging and he scrubbed his tongue against his palate to clear the sensation away.

He must have been making a face because Blair was laughing at him again.

"Tastes weird, huh?"

"Nah. Not like-- it's not bad. It feels funny," he tried to explain, and the taste buzzed in his mouth, coating his tongue, a pudding of living, motile cells.

"Come here," Blair said.

And he looped his arms around Jim's neck, licking himself out of Jim's mouth with steady, thorough assurance.

Eventually he let Jim go and leaned back.

"Better?"

Jim, who felt clean, invigorated and alive, nodded and just stared at Blair's sweet, complicated face.

"I'm gonna go get some orange juice."

Jim just waited on the bed, his hands folded on his chest.

Blair came back and took a slug of orange juice from the cardboard container and leaned over, kissing some into Jim's mouth. His fingers were gentle at the back of Jim's neck, cradling his head.

Anyone else doing this, passing juice laced generously with saliva, to him-- Granted, he'd just had his tongue in the guy's ass, but the very idea of mouth to mouth OJ delivery, ordinarily would have made him shudder with revulsion, but this was--

Drinking from Blair's mouth.

He felt his dick twitch distantly, but mostly he felt tender, watered and soothed by Blair's kiss.

"Thirsty," he murmured, when Blair left him.

"Sit up," Blair said, and passed him the carton.

He felt Blair looking at him, a soft look, fond.

"You know, in some desert cultures, that kiss? That's a marriage rite."

"I do," Jim said casually, and leaned over to kiss Blair again.

@@@

"So. Now what?"

"We could sleep," Jim suggested.

Blair smirked at him. "It's two in the afternoon."

"You could make me lunch."

"You could make me lunch," Blair pointed out.

"We could go out. For lunch."

"We could take a shower. Try that new soap."

"We could slip in the shower and end up in the emergency room."

"I'm taking a shower. Then you're taking a shower. Then, you're taking me to lunch," Blair announced.

"Then we're going to the store. And then you're going to fuck me."

Blair flushed and nodded.

"You're a man with a plan."

@@@

Jim chose the restaurant, and ordered a medium New York Strip, and a baked potato with butter and sour cream and bacon, hold the chives.

Blair sighed and shook his head, but he told the waitress to double the order.

When the waitress set the beer in front him, he took a sip and then held up the bottle and stared at it.

"What's wrong?"

"It's... it tastes. Like beer."

"And that's surprising because...?"

Jim closed his eyes and thought back to the orange juice.

It had tasted like Blair, and orange juice. Not like bleached cardboard or wax or woodpulp.

When his steak came, he couldn't taste the knife or fork on the meat, not the grill or the cooking gas, either. Couldn't taste the dish detergent or the glaze on the plate, or the server's hands on the lip of the water glass.

He grinned at Blair like a fool.

"Jim?"

"Nothing tasted right. And now. It does."

For a moment, Blair only bunched his eyebrows at him, but then he put it together and gave a little two note laugh.

"So... It's good?"

"It's all good," Jim assured him, squeezing Blair's knee under the table.

Blair linked their fingers briefly, his dry palm chafing against Jim's, and ordered Jim another steak.