In The Eye Of The Beholder: Photography
Disclaimer: Nothing's mine but the words; everything else belongs to Pet Fly. No infringement is intended, and I'm not makin' a dime. (Who needs money when you've got love?) (Well, *okay*, but I'm still not making any money!) Please go away if you're under 18!
Notes: "Photography" is the second story in the "In The Eye of The Beholder"
series. I figure, two starts a series, right?
He was late as always: late again. And when he was late, he rushed, and when he rushed, he got sloppy — he knew that, but Blair Sandburg could never bring himself to slow down, even if it did make everything take twice as long.
So he had a hand on the doorknob when he remembered that he didn't have his keys, and of course they weren't in the basket by the door, so he dropped his backpack and went into his room and fumbled around on his desk, pressing down on the messy piles of papers with splayed palms, feeling for the clump of metal: not there. Not there.
Pocket of yesterday's jeans? No. Pocket of yesterday's shirt? Of course not: too simple. Panic was beginning to grow in the pit of his stomach as he rechecked his jacket pockets, as he ran back outside and shook his backpack, listening intently for the familiar jingle. Finally he dropped the backpack and stood at the door, bouncing nervously. <I came in,> he thought, squeezing his eyes shut. <I opened the door,> and he extended his arm, acting out the gesture, <and — yes! Yes! I had to pee!> and he ran into the bathroom and there were his keys, sitting on the ledge above the faucet next to the soap dish, and he scooped them up and shoved them into his pocket and ran back for the door — skidded, stopped.
Back to the desk, and, of course, now that he had already searched it once, the directions to the doctor's office were no longer sitting where he had left them, on the top of the pile, and he sorted through the papers quickly, looking for the address — ah! got it! — and door, backpack, shoulder, knob —
— and then it occurred to him that he would probably have to wait a while for the doctor to see him, and if he didn't want to spend the entire time reading about Leonardo di Caprio's ten favorite desserts (which he *didn't*) he had better bring something to read, and so he turned and went back to the door of his room, but it looked like a tornado had hit it, and so he thought, "Well, the hell with that," and turned and went over to Jim's bookshelf, where Jim, bless his heart, kept his books filed in fucking alphabetical order.
Despite what Blair considered an over-fondness for the Beats, Jim had a pretty decent collection of reading material, and Blair scanned the authors — Chandler, Dickens, Fitzgerald — vowing to put whatever book he took — Ginsberg, Hammett — back in its exact alphabetical position — Nabokov, Orwell, Proust —
Blair grabbed the first volume of A La Recherche du Temps Perdu and turned, back to the door, hand on the knob, and then it occurred to him that he would probably be asked to pee again, and of course he just had, and he hated peeing under pressure, and so he darted into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and pulled out a large, clear plastic bottle of spring water, which he figured that he could drink in the car on the way over, and then back to the door, but between the bottled water and the book he now didn't have a free hand for the knob, and so he put the book into the crook of his arm, and reached for the door, and of course he dropped the book, which crashed to the floor —
— and seemed to explode like a hand grenade, scattering photographs every which way like so much paper shrapnel.
"Shit!" yelled Blair, dropping to his knees and dropping the backpack and sweeping the photographs together roughly, intent on cleaning up the mess quickly, gathering them together as if they were a deck of cards, hands nimbly compressing, forcing them into a pile.
And when they were all pretty much one on top of the other he picked them up and tapped them on the floor so that they would align properly into a stack, and then he picked the photos up and grabbed the book and opened it and was about to stuff them back inside —
— when the picture on top caught his eye.
"Shit," said Blair, more softly this time, as he stared at the photograph.
Wherever it had been taken was clearly a very beautiful place — the sand was white and clean, the ocean deeply blue, the beach deserted. Lovely.
And even though he couldn't see the face of the figure sleeping on that beach, the face that was hidden underneath the pulled-down army-green visor of a cap, Blair knew instantly that it was Jim. He knew the body. He had dreamed of that body, and now, here it was, lying unselfconsciously in the sun on a beach, wearing nothing but a very, very small bathing suit, much smaller than anything he himself would ever have dared to have worn — but then he didn't have that body.
Perfectly sculpted, covered in oil, the skin dark, glistening in the sun. The muscles of the graceful neck, sliding down to the incredible broad shoulders, the taut, hairless chest, the small, hard nubs of nipples. The ultra-defined musculature of the abdomen, the lines of muscle there outlined so firmly that they looked drawn on his body, two hard muscular lines curving, carved into him, leading down and disappearing into that tiny, tiny excuse for a bathing suit.
"Shit," whispered Blair, sitting down firmly on the floor.
Because that bathing suit didn't leave much to the imagination. And while Blair Sandburg had a very good imagination, he was, when push came to shove, a scientist. And scientists preferred hard data, if possible.
And, well, this data was pretty hard. Because, as Blair scrutinized the picture, it did in fact seem that even though most of Jim was sleeping, at least a part of him was wide awake, straining against the silky black fabric of that tiny, tiny bathing suit. and wait! was that a reflection? or was that the head of Jim's cock peeking out of —
"Shit," breathed Blair Sandburg, and he closed his eyes.
And he felt a shudder of lust, and he felt a shudder of jealousy, because whoever had taken that picture had known the picture he or she was taking — not a picture of a bud or a pal or a brother or a captain — but a picture of a hard-bodied man, an object of desire, and the desire of the photographer had been etched into the shot along with the sand and the ocean and Jim.
Eyes still closed, Blair slid the picture to the back of the pile, knowing that the image was forever imprinted on his memory. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes to look at the next photo.
Still on the same beach, but now Jim was awake, and leaning back on his elbows in the sand, looking up at the photographer, and Jim looked, well, sunny, with his cap pushed jauntily backwards and his young face split in a warm grin. Blair looked at the picture and felt an answering smile breaking across his own face; he smiled down at Jim, he felt like waving. Except they were separated by time, separated by distance, and Jim had never smiled like that at him in all the time they had known each other.
Still smiling, he turned his attention to the next photograph, which wiped the smile from his face. Again, it was a picture of Jim sleeping, but he was on a bed this time, and he was naked, and his tanned skin stood out in sharp contrast to the cheap, rumpled hotel sheets. An involuntary moan escaped Blair's lips as his eyes slid over the image of Jim, asleep on his side, his head resting on one bent, muscular arm, one leg slightly drawn up. Blair's heart pounded as he took in the sculpted muscle of a bicep, the smooth skin of a hip, the firm, pale roundness of Jim's ass, the shadowy area where his penis lay softly against his thigh.
Blair's mouth was dry, and his own erection throbbed to the pounding of his pulse. He wanted to touch that body. He wanted to kiss that body. He wanted to kiss that body everywhere. It was the body of his fantasies, the body of his dreams. It was the body of a pure, male animal, maleness incarnate, unselfconscious and beautiful and perfect.
It was Jim, and he loved Jim, he wanted Jim, all of him. He wanted the man, he wanted the body — he wanted to make love to the man inside the body, to make love to the body that housed the man.
And there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that he'd ever do it.
Pain contorted Blair's features: not a chance. However much he tried, he simply could not put himself in the picture. He was short, he was stocky, and too much study and not enough exercise had left him a little soft. His curly chest hair grew in what he personally thought was a peculiar pattern — he would look ludicrous lying next to Jim, his faults highlighted when compared to Jim's physical perfection.
(But he would be enthusiastic — god, he would love — he would love with eagerness and intensity and adoration, with all that he had — if Jim only knew — )
But that was just it, Blair thought, slamming the lid quickly on that line of thought. He wouldn't know, couldn't know, couldn't ever know. Ludicrous. He wouldn't ever be in the picture, he was lucky just to see the picture, he was lucky just to be near to Jim.
He was just an observer, and he had better not forget it.
And he had seen enough — he had seen, possibly, too much — and he reached again for the book, intending to carefully tuck the pictures back inside, to place the book back on the shelf. The book opened up easily at the place where the photographs had been, and Blair frowned, noticing now that there was a small, ragged envelope tucked into the pages there. The envelope had stayed in place when the heavier photographs had tumbled to the floor. It had evidently been used to send the photographs; it still bore the creases which marked their shape. It was addressed to James Ellison, at an address which was not this one, and it bore no return address. And within the ripped envelope there was still, clearly, a slip of paper.
He fought with himself for a moment, telling himself in no uncertain terms that he had no right to look, no right at all — but he was still, irrationally, jealous. He wanted to know who he was up against, he wanted to know who the photographer was, he wanted to know who had made Jim smile like that.
"What the fuck makes you so special?" he thought bitterly, angrily, and riding the wave of anger he snatched up the envelope and withdrew the note and read it.
It was brief.
"You're not the man I thought you were. I'm sorry. — R."
Bitch! Bastard! Fuck you! and he felt like ripping the letter into pieces, felt like punching a wall. How dare you! Motherfucking bitch bastard! You fucking scumsucking piece of shit!
The letter fell from his hand; he felt ill. He had expected endearments, had steeled himself for sweet nothings — now he felt as if he had been punched, the coldness of the note piercing him like an icepick between the shoulder blades.
R. had been an asshole, for Christ's sake! To send back those photographs, with that note, to — to Jim! His Jim! R. had seen Jim naked, had made Jim smile, had had everything that Blair had ever wanted and had tossed it away like so much rubbish —
He discovered that rage tasted metallic, and with shaking hands he folder up the letter and slid it back into its envelope and managed to get it and the photographs safely tucked away again. He forced himself to his feet and took the book back to the bookcase. It took a little bit of adjusting, but soon it looked like it had never been moved.
He pulled his jacket off and angrily slung it on the couch; he had missed his appointment, and he couldn't care less. He felt too sick to go to the doctor's anyway, he felt like his head was full of hardening concrete, and he decided to lie down, to sleep, to be unconscious, to fucking not be there and why hadn't Jim destroyed the letter? why hadn't he ripped it into pieces? had he actually loved this asshole, this bimbo, this gigolo? this *R.*? Blair went into his room and slammed the door and threw himself down on the bed, and the RRRRRRR in his head was like a the purr of a running engine and he fell asleep to the rocking rhythm of it.
When he woke up it was dark, and Jim was sitting on the side of his bed, one cool hand pressed to his cheek, and Blair swallowed and felt his face heating up under Jim's touch.
"I came in to yell at you," said Jim, one lip curling at the side, "but you don't look so good."
"I don't feel very well," answered Blair, and that much, as least, was true.
Jim moved his hand to Blair's forehead. "You're a little warm," he murmured, frowning. "Weren't you supposed to go for a check-up today?"
"Yeah, but I didn't feel up to it," Blair replied.
"Mmmm," said Jim, and then he got up and left the room. Blair swallowed and kicked his shoes off and pulled his comforter up around him loosely, as much to hide his burgeoning erection as for warmth.
In a minute Jim returned, carrying a glass of water and a small bottle of aspirin. "Here," he said, sitting down again on the bed, "take a couple of these." Blair obligingly extended his hand, and Jim shook two of the tablets onto his palm. Blair put them in his mouth, chased them down with a gulp of water. "Drink the rest of it," directed Jim, "you look a little dry," and Blair obeyed, drinking the rest of the glass down.
"Thanks," Blair said. Somehow being here with Jim now was making his face burn — which was good in a way. Certainly he wouldn't have to fake being sick.
"Why were you going to yell at me?" Blair asked.
Jim cocked an eyebrow at him. "You want a list?"
Blair laughed. "Sure," he said, feeling that this was much safer ground. "Sure, I can take it."
"Well, first," said Jim, ticking off the point on his finger, "you left your backpack and a bottle of water right in front of the door. I nearly broke my neck when I came in."
"Oooh," said Blair, cringing. "Sorry."
"Hm," said Jim. "Second, you left your jacket on the couch. You've got to — "
" — hang my jacket on the hook, I know, Jim, honest, it's just that I wasn't feeling real well," said Blair, sincerely.
"Okay, all right, I accept that," said Jim. "Third," he began, and then he stopped, and looked at Blair hard.
"What?" Blair asked.
Jim sighed, reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a photograph. Blair felt his eyes bugging out of their sockets, felt his chest grow painfully tight. "Put it this way," said Jim wearily. "If you're going to snoop through my things, at least have the decency not to leave naked pictures of me lying around on the floor."
Blair opened his mouth to deny it, to apologize, to say "Just kill me now," but all that came out was a brief, choked sound.
"You missed one," explained Jim, shaking the picture between his fingertips. "You're such a slob."
"I...Jim, I...Jim, I — " sputtered Blair.
Jim looked down at the picture in his hand. "A long time ago, this," he said, frowning. "Hell, I wasn't half bad looking in those days."
"Jim, I just wanted to borrow the book," Blair managed to choke out, finally.
At this Jim laughed. "Yeah, I figured that," he said, and his voice was full of friendly warmth. "Only you would actually want to read Proust. I mean, I didn't think you wanted to see naked pictures of me or anything," he teased, but this joke was so close to the truth that Blair's face blazed red, and he thought that his jackhammering heart was actually going to leap straight out of his chest — it was loud in his own ears, certainly audible to Jim's.
Certainly audible, because Jim's face suddenly changed, going strangely blank, and Blair averted his eyes, unable to look at him any longer. "Oh god, please let him chalk it up to my being sick," Blair thought desperately. "Oh god, please, please, please."
"I mean," Blair heard Jim say slowly, "You *didn't*, did you?" and Blair squeezed his eyes shut. "Blair?" Jim said softly. "Blair, look at me."
"Go away," Blair begged raggedly.
"But Blair — " whispered Jim.
"Please — you'll ruin everything," gasped Blair.
There was a moment of utter stillness, and then Blair trembled as Jim took his hand and pressed the photograph into it, and closed his fingers around it, and brushed Blair's cheek with his lips in a whisper kiss, and then the bed shifted, the world shifted, as Jim got up and walked out.
And Blair sat there for a moment, eyes closed, clutching the photograph — and then, with a Herculean effort, he pushed away fear and he pushed away insecurity and he pushed away R. —
— and he cast off the blanket. and left the room, and, finally, finally, entered the picture.