The Pull and The Darkness
Author's disclaimer: No profit but pleasure.
What the hell was that? Christ, ever since the kid moved into the loft, these weird things kept appearing . Facets — and light — and colors. The rough edge of glass, and colors. Flat shine — colors — jesus, how many colors were there in white, anyway? Pink and blue — there was red — purple — thousands and thousands of nameless...
"...carving? Is it the tapestry? Is it the dust motes, for god's sake?" Louder and softer and then louder — in his ear? Where was the voice coming from?
"Jim — what, already?" Yeah, it was next to him, Sandburg was next to him — no, behind him. He would have turned to look — but he didn't need to — Sandburg was ahead of him, in the crystal, small and far away, and vibrating. His hands were moving — the voice was louder now.
"The mask? Okay, not the mask. So... something in the kitchen, then? Hellooo, is it in the kitchen? Earth to Jim, Earth to Jim — in the kitchen? Fridge, stove, toaster — something in the toaster? Something cooking — what's cooking? Nothing's cooking. So what the fuck are you zoning on?"
A strangled sigh from Sandburg, from somewhere.... "C'mon, Blair, c'mon. You can do this. Think Sentinel. A sound or a smell — I don't smell anything, but then again I wouldn't, would I? A sound, what sound? Refrigerator humming, cars outside — is it outside, Jim? Fat lot of help you are. Ok, it's probably in here. I hope it's in here. It's in here, right? Okay, his eyes are open, he's seeing something. He's seeing something..."
The voice stopped and Jim watched the small figure sway in the reflection, so far away, and then there was green — the door — the bird on the door, and red — what was red?
"Hot or cold, man — c'mon, work with me, here. Warm? warmer? hot? I need a hint. Is it the tapestry after all? How many syllables, you asshole..."
The tapestry was there, too, on the wall, and Sandburg — back and forth, he was moving — or was the crystal moving? Moving, swaying....
"Dammit, Jim, this isn't funny anymore! Is it the — "
— crystal was gone. And there was Sandburg against the windows, a silhouette until he focused on him, and then he could see the fine silver chain of the crystal behind Sandburg, swaying, still.
And he almost blinked, almost moved, almost spoke, but Sandburg was opening his mouth — was already talking — was still talking —
" — just don't know. I really have no idea what the hell I'm doing here, Jim. Some help I am..."
And he had no idea what the hell Sandburg was talking about, like he ever did, but if he didn't move away from the goddamned crystal —
Look at Sandburg. Not the —
— sway of light, the light was a thing, solid, transparent, invisible. Sandburg's hands were moving through it, cutting through it, what the hell was Sandburg —
"... even know what a zone is yet..."
Blue. Red. Skin. Sounds and the color of Sandburg's voice — goddamned crystal, goddamned Sandburg.
"...what I'm doing..."
Damned straight Sandburg didn't know what he was doing — that was no fucking surprise, but it was sure nice to hear the kid say it aloud.
"... how to help..."
If he knew what he was doing, he wouldn't be filling the house with goddamned shiny objects, now would he?
"I'm struggling, here, man. Struggling, floundering, failing... "
Falling... the sofa cushions were dipping — but where was Sandburg?
The voice — next to him, but...
Where? In the window? Swaying light, in the glass. Sandburg, straight ahead — his hands skittering in the air — the light skittering — inside him — no, beside him — he was beside him — looking —
"... right here..."
Yes, there. On his leg, a hand — Sandburg's — warm and there, focus on that. Yes, focus on that.
"...want to help you, don't — "
Warm, slightly damp, a hand on his leg, rubbing back and forth, swaying — falling —
" — know how to help you... Jim?"
Yes. Here. Listen. Feel. Look away from — hear the sound of — Not there. Here.
The hand moved up — down? Where? Swaying, falling, and the sound of Sandburg's voice — the air moving — Sandburg was saying something — far away, but close — his leg, Sandburg's hand, so close —
"...safe here, but what if..."
So close... Sandburg was so...
Close. But —
Sandburg's voice, the desperation there: that was deeply satisfying — necessary, somehow. Necessary to know that he wasn't the only one feeling desperate.
"... scaring me, man..."
But it was safe, here, in the loft, with Sandburg, in the crystal — no, beside him — Sandburg was here — not there — the light — he could touch him, he could reach out, if he could only —
If he could just turn his head —
"... please, just let me..."
Blue light in the crystal, in front of the crystal? Lines of light — woven — fabric?
Cotton. Woven, and blue and red, and the light and the crystal were gone — finally — Blair, don't — don't move — don't look — finally — darkness — blue cotton and... and Sandburg — he could see Sandburg, now, so close — his hand rubbing, so close, too close — Sandburg's hand was —
Wet — the air — desperate air — a scent — sweat — he couldn't — can't — air, wet air, and pressure and the hand — mouth — Sandburg? What the —
Hand on his leg, rubbing, so close, too close, and that was too close, now. Sandburg's hand was — Sandburg's hand was — Sandburg's face was — hot breath against his, too close — smell of desperation —
Can't breathe — can't breathe — pressure on his mouth — Sandburg's hand was — the light was —
The bastard! The bastard — the bastard was touching him, kissing him, and he could feel the gentle scrape of beard stubble and he could feel Sandburg's hand and — geez! — Sandburg's hand wasn't supposed to be there.
" — can't stand this," Sandburg was murmuring desperately, "can't stand this — one day I'm gonna fuck up, and it's not gonna be here, it's gonna be somewhere bad. I'm gonna kill you if I keep you, if I keep this up — "
Well, he was going to kill the kid if he stayed, so Sandburg'd better hope he got a running start.
"I should just cut my losses — "
What was he now, a bad investment?
" — cut your losses — "
And such concern for him was a little out of place, wasn't it? considering that Sandburg was practically sitting in his lap now, his hands seemingly everywhere, touching him — touching and kissing him —
Sandburg's mouth was on him, and Sandburg's hands were on him, everywhere, drifting across his chest, sliding down to — down and up and goddammit, weren't there rules about this sort of thing?! Wasn't there an organization he could report Blair Sandburg to — a Board of Ethics for Anthropologists or something? because the slimy bastard was — was-
Sandburg was practically giving him a hand job, and he couldn't move away, couldn't move at all, couldn't even respond —
"...sorry, so sorry..." But Sandburg's apologies were just warm air brushing his face, meaningless words that Jim could barely hear, spoken open-mouthed against his face and neck, harsh breathing in his ear — Christ, Sandburg was getting off on this —
"I can't do this. I just can't keep doing this. I should go — go before I fuck up really bad and — "
So what — he's gonna leave now? Wham, bam, a fucking grope and he's gonna take off?
A last touch of Sandburg's mouth to his — a last, desperate caress — and then the kid was moving away, groaning and moving away from him. "I gotta find you someone who knows what they're doing," Sandburg muttered, and he was leaning forward, looking sick, his head in his hands. "I gotta stop faking it here — the stakes are too high, they're way too fucking high..."
Stupid kid! Jim thought, angrily. The stupid kid had been doing fine until he stopped doing his fucking job and turned into the Cascade Masher.
Not blinking, hardly able to breathe, he sat still and tried to think, to figure this out. Because this raised all sorts of horrifying questions, all sorts of questions he didn't want to think about. All sorts of questions. Like: had Sandburg done this to him before? Was this something Sandburg did? Did Sandburg — was Sandburg — what the hell was happening when he zoned, anyway? Was Blair Sandburg...god, there had to be a rule about this sort of thing; surely you couldn't be molesting your dissertation subject, surely that was crossing some line or other?
Beside him, Sandburg was making a small, tortured sound — hell, what the fuck did he have to be tortured about? Jesus H. Christ. And then Sandburg took a deep breath, and sat up straight, and reached out for him again.
He almost flinched, but he held himself still as Sandburg's hand landed on his arm. And it was the same as always — the same but not, because Blair Sandburg's touch was corrupted for him now (had Sandburg done this before? Jesus God, what had Sandburg done?)
"Okay, man — let's try this again, okay?" Sandburg was saying softly, hypnotically, and Jim recognized that voice; that was the voice Sandburg used to bring him out of zones, the first voice he usually heard when the world snapped back into its normal shape.
"Jim," Sandburg began again, patience smothering the underlying distress in his voice, "come on back, okay? Please? I don't know where you've gone, or what the fuck you find so fascinating, but you gotta come back now. Come on back, man. Please..."
And Jim supposed that it was time to end this, time to make his entrance. This was as good a time as any. He couldn't stand another minute of this — he just wanted to get up, get away, get the fuck off this sofa — get the fuck away from Blair Sandburg.
For a second, he worried, because he really didn't know what he looked like coming out of a zone. But then he decided that it hadn't happened often enough for Sandburg to have figured it all out either. And so he blinked a couple of times, clearing his eyes before looking hard at Sandburg.
There was a part of him that wanted to punch Sandburg — punch him hard — except that, well, the look of relief on Sandburg's face was so fucking palpable. And once he'd thought about it, it became premeditated assault, and so, of course, he couldn't do it.
Not that that had stopped Sandburg from —
"Thank god," Sandburg was murmuring softly, sinking back into the sofa. Jim found himself edging forward, fighting the dip of the cushions and the sense of falling that was still with him. "Thank god. Man, is it ever good to see you!" Sandburg added, flashing him a smile of heartstopping warmth.
Jim blinked again, fighting to reign in his anger. He felt confused — confused and violated — and he covered the emotions by rubbing at his face with his hands.
"Welcome back, Jim!"
Sandburg was on his feet, now, bouncing slightly — vibrating, he was so goddammed pleased to see him. And then Sandburg was heading into the kitchen, opening the fridge, getting him a beer, popping the top off. "You were really gone there," Sandburg continued, bringing the beer back to him. "What the hell was it? Where the hell were you?"
Jim took the beer in his hand; the bottle was blissfully cold. He raised it to his lips, took a long draught — his throat was dry. "Crystal," he croaked, finally, gesturing toward the balcony doors with the bottle, making a point of not actually looking at the damned thing. "In the window."
Immediately Sandburg was at the window, yanking the crystal down, cursing under his breath. "Goddamned fucking crystal," he was muttering. "I should've figured that — I should've figured that."
"It was the light," Jim explained. "It was — well, distracting."
Understatement of the fucking year.
Sandburg was nodding grimly, staring at the crystal in his palm. "You're telling me." Sandburg shook his head and clenched the crystal in his fist. "I'm really sorry, man," he added softly, looking away.
For a brief moment, Jim thought that Sandburg was apologizing for what had happened, for what he had done. "I should never have put the stupid thing up." Sandburg finished with a sigh, flashing him an rueful smile. "My mother sent it to me, and I just — " He shrugged, opened his palm, and let the crystal fall into the trash.
Jim stared at Blair's face and frowned. Shuttered: why hadn't he seen that Sandburg's face was so shuttered? Looking at him now was like looking at a different person; it was as if he had seen Sandburg naked, and now, still, he could see the man underneath. He hadn't thought there was anything underneath; he had, in fact, thought that Blair Sandburg was the most superficial man he'd ever met.
But now, looking at him, he saw depths — great, dark, bottomless depths — in the wide blue eyes. Sandburg had snapped back into his everyday persona — Sandburg had his normal puppydogish enthusiasm back on display — but there was more, there, now. He could see more there; he could see desperation in the blue eyes, the kind of desperation that made cornered animals dangerous.
Jim took another deep swig of beer and then stumbled to his feet. He'd been sitting still for so long his limbs ached. "Gotta go to sleep," he said gruffly, not sure he was a good enough actor to play his part in this surreal conversation. And he was more than a little freaked out that Sandburg wasn't even breaking a sweat. "Got a hell of a headache," he added.
Sandburg nodded in apparent sympathy and stepped closer. "Can I do something? I mean — is there anything — ?" Sandburg reached out with his hand again, and this time Jim did flinch. God, the desperation...
"Nah," he said, shaking his head. "Just — sleep'll do me," and Sandburg nodded sympathetically and squeezed Jim's arm — squeezed it and held on just a little too long.
Why the hell hadn't he noticed that Sandburg always held on a little too long?
"Night," he said, pulling his arm away, and Sandburg stepped back and replied, "Goodnight."
He couldn't sleep — how the hell had he ever thought he could sleep? Sleep was impossible; he was haunted by the evening's events, by Blair's touch, Blair's mouth, Blair's eyes...
He stared up at the ceiling and listened to Blair move about the loft. Blair rinsing out the beer bottle, Blair taking out the trash, Blair going into his room, changing into shorts and a t-shirt, going to the bathroom, brushing his teeth...
Not the slightest sign of guilt. Not the slightest indication that he'd done anything wrong. Brushing his teeth. Washing his face. There hadn't been any sign in Blair's face that he'd done wrong to touch him the way he had — Blair'd just been worried about the fucking zone. As if that mattered.
So what mattered, exactly?
He stared at the ceiling and tracked Blair's movements from the bathroom to the bed. He heard the rustle of sheets, the sound of Blair sliding in and adjusting the pillow. He heard a long deep sigh as Blair settled in and then there was just the sound of slow breathing. Blair Sandburg falling asleep as if this was just any night.
And maybe it was. Christ, maybe this was any night for Sandburg. Hell, who knew? They certainly hadn't talked about it, and it occurred to him, suddenly, that maybe this wasn't something you could have a conversation about. How could you have a conversation about this that wouldn't turn ugly?
"So, Chief — when I zoned out before, what did you think you were doing?" "So, Chief, do you feel me up when I zone out?" "So, Chief, when I zone out, do you get off on it?"
They weren't ever going have that conversation, were they? They might work together for months on this Sentinel thing but he would never —
Never find out what the hell Sandburg had been thinking. Feeling.
He blinked at the ceiling and rolled over onto his side. What had Sandburg been feeling?
Fuck that! What did he feel about it?
No, scratch that, too. What was he going to do about it? Was he just going to let Sandburg get away with it because he didn't want to talk about it?
Before he had made a decision, he was out of bed and standing at the foot of the stairs. He told himself that he didn't have a plan, that he didn't know what he was going to do, but that didn't fly by the time he'd reached the curtains blocking off Sandburg's space, by the time he'd pushed them open and stepped inside.
Sandburg was quiet, sleeping the sleep of the innocent, taking in deep breaths of air and letting them out in slow, peaceful exhalations.
Jim adjusted his vision until the room seemed light. He watched the rise and fall of Sandburg's chest, remembering the feel of Sandburg's hands, the strange softness of Blair's hands as they traced patterns on his chest...
A soft sound from Blair made him draw back, flattening against the wall, and then relax again. Once he was asleep, Sandburg wouldn't wake up unless the alarm went off, and sometimes not even then. Hell, he'd managed to sleep through the sounds of a drug lab next door.
And if the lab hadn't blown up, the kid'd still be there. And none of this would've happened.
But it had happened, and turnabout was fair play, wasn't it? Blair had invaded his privacy; it was only fair if he invaded Blair's. Silently, he stepped closer to the bed.
He took a deep breath, realizing he was crossing a line into premeditation. Hell, he was just crossing a line, period.
And he didn't want to think about that — didn't want to think about any of it.
So do it. Sandburg was asleep, his eyelids flickering, his mouth open slightly, his hands resting lightly at his sides, curled into fists.
And for a few more minutes, he could only watch, feeling paralyzed again. What the hell would this prove?
Maybe it didn't need to prove anything. Maybe it would just end it.
He forced himself to move, to sit carefully on the edge of Sandburg's bed, and held his breath, waiting for Blair to stir, to open his eyes. Sandburg was so close he could feel the radiant warmth of Blair's skin against his own leg — so close it felt like he was pressed up against Sandburg — and he inched away as far as possible, until he couldn't move away any more. He watched and waited, but Sandburg didn't move, didn't shift, and that gave him pause, because it meant that Sandburg was asleep, and vulnerable —
But that was the point. It was about trust, and he'd been vulnerable — hell, he'd been blind, numb, trapped inside a fucking prism, hanging from a goddamned chain —
And the anger was back, spurring him on, and he leaned forward, not giving it any more thought, and touched his finger to the tip of Sandburg's nose. Sandburg didn't react; his breathing stayed even, his pulse steady. He moved his finger and drew it across Sandburg's cheek, feeling the rasp of beard bristle under his fingertip.
Turnabout. Fair play.
He reached down and grasped the hem of the sheet covering Blair's body, drew it down slowly. Blair was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt; his chest was rising and falling in the rhythm of sleep. Dressed — Blair slept fully dressed — and it seemed right to violate his roommate's personal modesty like this.
Turnabout. Fair play.
He slid his hands across Blair's chest, touching Blair the way Blair had touched him. Softly, rubbing across and then down. But it was different, because he could feel Sandburg's skin through his shirt, the heat of him, the beat of his heart and the texture of hair that he followed with his hand, downward, until he was cupping Blair's genitals through the soft fabric of his flannel boxers.
And Blair was hardening in his hand, Blair was hardening — and he wasn't sure why that surprised him, because after all, he had hardened when Blair had touched him. He had hardened, too — he could admit that, now — he had to admit that, now, didn't he? Because that was a big part of all of this.
That had been the second betrayal. His body had betrayed him just as Blair had betrayed him — hell, it felt like his body and Blair were in cahoots. His body and Blair were apparently having a fucking relationship of their own, and nobody'd bothered to invite him, had they? Blair had touched him and taken it as normal; Blair had touched him and his body had taken it as normal — but it wasn't normal, dammit! There just had to be some sort of rule about —
"...jim..." Blair murmured, and Jim froze, terrified. Blair had woken up! How the hell had Blair woken up? But when he looked up at Blair's face he saw that Blair hadn't woken up. All indications showed that Blair was still sound asleep: sound asleep and still fucking talking....
Christ, his body and Blair's body were involved in some sort of wet dream now, and he still wasn't invited.
But Sandburg had said his name, whispered it. The way Sandburg had said his name...
— desperate —
— wanting —
— and the way Sandburg had looked as he'd touched him, as he'd put his hand over Jim's erection and stroked him — he remembered that look, now, because he couldn't not remember it — not with his hand wrapped around Blair's cock — Christ, the way Blair had looked at him —
— intense, wide-eyed, as if Blair had been just as scared, just as stunned by it, just as out of control.
So who was in control of this — this — thing ?
"...hmm..." Another small sound from Blair, and Jim responded, despite himself, leaning forward and bringing his mouth down against Blair's, wanting to finish this, somehow.
And Blair's mouth was soft against his, so soft and wet and sweet. He'd been too stunned to move when Blair had kissed him — too stunned to do anything but just stay still — but Blair seemed to have no such reservations. Because suddenly there was a warm hand on his neck, and there was another sliding against the small of his back, drawing him down, holding him down, and Blair's mouth was opening under his...
Well, if this was revenge, it had sure backfired big time.
But turnabout was fair play...
So his slid his tongue into Blair's mouth, tasting him, kissing him deeply, and dimly he heard the subtle change in Blair's vital signs as he speeded out of sleep.
Blair was awake, now.
"Oh, Jim," Blair was breathing into his mouth. "Oh, Jim...me, too. Me, too," and it seemed sort of churlish to mention that he hadn't particularly said anything that required a "me, too." But now, despite everything, he sort of wished that he had.
Because Blair was in love with him. How could he not have seen that? — clearly, he was just brilliant at not seeing things. Crystals — those he could stare at for hours. What was right the fuck under his nose — no, that he couldn't see.
No wonder Blair had chosen to conduct their relationship while he was practically unconscious — maybe if Carolyn had done that, they would never have gotten divorced.
"I want — " Blair began, but he cut off the end of that sentence with his mouth, because he knew exactly what Blair wanted.
But what if Sandburg only got off on this when he was out for the count? Maybe Sandburg was some sort of perverse necrophiliac-type. Hell, the kid had kept a chimp in a cage, had already tried to play doctor with him — who knew? Who was this kid, anyway? Maybe —
Oh, yeah. Blair wriggled under him, and suddenly it seemed like maybe he was making this way too complicated. Maybe Sandburg was kinky, but hell, he was the one stalking the kid in his sleep. He was the one with his hand down the guy's boxers —
— and the flannel was so soft, and Blair's skin was so soft, and damp, and Christ, one of them was going to come if he didn't ease up.
The moan seemed to come from far away, but he knew it was himself, moaning and making strange, suffocated sounds as Sandburg — Blair — -hell, he didn't know how to think about him now — devoured him, sucking all the air out of his lungs. Desperation? No, the smell of sweat was different — not so strong — and he pulled back to inhale it, moving over Blair's body and tasting, smelling, trying to take it all in. Not desperation, but heady, strong, sex and sweat and he couldn't tell where Sandburg ended and he began; it was all mixed up like it had been in the crystal — Sandburg touching him everywhere, his own hands all over Sandburg, grabbing, pulling, tearing at Sandburg's clothes, Sandburg's fingers digging into his sides and pulling his own boxers down.
All of it far away, all of it too damn close —
— he was too damn close —
Sandburg's scent was all around him, inside him, Sandburg was marking him with sharp scratches of his fingernails, and things kept appearing since the kid'd moved in — changing — the loft and — he hardly recognized the place — himself —
— stretching out over Sandburg — Blair — skin on skin, tasting him, caught in the threads of Sandburg's hair, the light sliding across it in red-brown arcs and the pull of Sandburg's curls against his skin, coarse and then soft, so soft, and the coarse-soft brush of Sandburg's chest against his, and the hot-wet-soft-hard of cock against cock —
"I — love — "
The words ended in a moan as he covered Blair's mouth with his own again — desperation. Why couldn't this just be about sex? Just —
"Jim — please — "
And the room was suddenly too bright, so he dialed down his sight again, not wanting to see Blair too clearly — Blair could see too clearly — not wanting to see any of this too clearly — and besides, he'd always had sex in the dark, liked it better that way — with a man —
— not wanting to see —
— with a man —
— the feel of cock on cock, the pull and thrust, the pull and the darkness — his eyes were closing — — closed — he couldn't keep them open, because it was dangerous to keep looking now — blue heavy-lidded eyes staring up at him, reflecting him, and and and the sense of falling — falling — falling — white heat falling-pulsing out of him — he was falling —
— and strong male hands were clinging to his back, holding and pressing him close — too close — not nearly enough — and then the wet plash of Sandburg coming under him, and he grabbed hold of the only thing possible — Blair Sandburg — here, there, beneath him, with him, inside him? Oh, God, yes, soon — tomorrow, tomorrow — yes, inside him, swaying together in the dark, and Christ yes, it was love after all.