Author's disclaimer: No more disclaimers. They're as much mine as anyone else's, dammit. I, at least, give them snappy lines. So there.
Author's notes: Thanks to Lucy, Merry, and Miriam for betaing. If I paid attention to all of them, there would be no words left in this story at all (ducking and running...)
Moving on instinct, he had the phone to his ear before he ever registered hearing the ring, or even waking up. "Ellison," he said blearily, pushing his eyemask up onto his forehead.
"Jim?" The woman sounded deeply amused. "Are you still asleep?"
"I was." Jim groaned theatrically down the line at his ex-wife, and then he sat up in bed.
"You're getting soft, Ellison."
"I was on stakeout, Plummer," Jim retorted, grinning. "And why the hell are you calling me in the middle of the night?"
Carolyn laughed. "It's 11:00 in the morning."
Jim looked at the clock: so it was. "Whatever," he replied. "Feels like the middle of the night, anyhow."
"Listen Jim: I'm calling because I've got news."
"Oh?" Jim yawned. "Plummer family melodrama?"
"Yeah, in a way," Carolyn replied, and he could hear the suppressed excitement in her voice. "I'm getting married again."
Jim blinked. "Oh."
Jim stared at the wall opposite, feeling strange and empty inside. "Oh," he said again, shaking his slightly head as if to clear it. "Right."
"Why, thank you, Jim," Carolyn said with sudden, bright, weirdly-familiar anger, " — yes, I am very happy and his name is Dave Bruno and he's a research chemist with DuPont here in San Fran, since you ask."
"Oh," Jim said, yet again, feeling lost. He tried to recover, feeling recovery was necessary: "Hey, look, congratulations — "
"Thanks a lot," Carolyn snorted. "Look, I thought you should know, okay? I mean, it's only human goddamn courtesy, isn't it," and he opened his mouth to say something, only he didn't know what to say. "You needed to know, and so I'm telling you. And don't take this the wrong way," she added, suddenly, "but I'm not inviting you to the wedding. I'm sure you understand."
"Yeah," he managed to say. "Right. I under — " and there was a sudden click, and he was left holding the phone, and feeling stupid, and that was a real trip down memory lane, there, wasn't it? That was his marriage in a fucking nutshell. That was plenty familiar, goddammit.
He banged the phone down into its cradle. Good, he thought suddenly, savagely. Good. I'm glad you're gonna be some other poor slob's fucking problem from now on.
He exhaled a long breath, and leaned back into his pillows defiantly, crossing his arms. Best of luck, he snarled mentally, and closed his eyes.
But there was no sleeping now, no sleeping at all, and suddenly he became aware that there were words to the panicked thump-thump-thump of his heart.
Oh, goddamn it, he thought, and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes.
Goddamn it, it had been years, years already — he shouldn't be feeling like this.
And sleeping was pointless and impossible, now, and so he got up and thrust his arms violently into his bathrobe sleeves, cinched the belt around his waist, pulling the knot tight.
Goddammit, he thought, stomping down the stairs.
He felt a pang of guilt as he passed Sandburg's room. Sandburg was leaning exhaustedly against the door frame in his boxers and t-shirt; shit, he'd woken the poor guy up.
"Good morning," he mumbled in apology.
"Says you," Blair muttered, disappearing into his room again.
Jim sighed and went into the bathroom to shave.
Ok, so she'd moved on, that was a good thing, wasn't it? Of course it was. He cupped some shaving cream into his hand and began to spread it on his face. It wasn't as if they were ever really going to get back together — it wasn't as if he really even wanted them to, either. Face it: the marriage hadn't been successful. So he'd liked her, so she'd like him — so what? The marriage hadn't been successful, and it was over — it had been over for years.
If it had ever really begun, actually — there was a good argument that they'd never really had a marriage at all. That was probably his fault — he just wasn't any good at —
"Yo, Jim — you want eggs?"
— this relationship stuff. I mean, hell, he'd always worked better on his own. He just wasn't meant for this 'couples' thing — or for the 'team effort' — he was too independent for that. He just wasn't socialized that way — it was probably his fucking father's fault —
"Scrambled or fried?"
— for making everything a goddamned competition. And yet, hell, it had served him well all in all, in the army, and now, with the PD. He'd won medals — awards — Cop of the Year, for god's sake.
So maybe that was just how it was, he thought, rinsing off his razor and patting his now-smooth face dry with a clean towel. Maybe it was just a matter of facing facts. He studied his own face in the mirror. A matter of accepting who you are.
He ran a hand along his cheek, making sure he hadn't missed a spot. Let her get married. Carolyn deserved it, deserved to be happy, finally. This Bruno guy — he was probably good husband material. Whereas he wasn't — he just wasn't.
A man had to know himself, know his own personality, he decided, folding the towel neatly. And he — James Ellison — was a lone wolf.
"I'm a lone wolf, Sandburg," he announced, coming out of the bathroom.
Blair glanced at him. "Sure. Okay," he said agreeably. "You want coffee?"
"We don't have any — oh," Jim said, as Blair slid the milk down the counter toward him. "Yeah, okay."
Blair poured him a cup of coffee, slid that down the counter toward him too.
"So: why are you a lone wolf?" Blair asked, reaching for his own mug.
"I just am," Jim said, firmly. "It's just the way I am. A man's gotta know how he is, right? Right," he answered, before Blair could say anything. "And that's just how I am: a lone wolf."
Blair sipped his coffee and nodded sagely at this.
"There," Jim said, generously, with an expansive wave of his hand, "that's a freebee for you — you can put that in your dissertation."
"Gee, thanks," Blair said, rolling his eyes.
Jim grinned at him. "Hey, I just saved you some work, there."
"Riiiight," Blair said, miming scribbling in his hand. "Chapter 12: The Lone Wolf. Got it — don't know what I'd do without you, Jim."
"These for me?" Jim asked, looking at the plate of eggs.
"Yeah, there's bread over there somewhere," Blair said.
Jim took the plate of eggs and grabbed a slice of bread and sat down at the table. "Thanks."
"Listen," Blair said. "Are you going in today?"
"Yeah, probably," Jim mumbled, mouth full of eggs. "I'll probably check in."
"Drop me at school?"
"Yeah, sure — where's your car?"
"Shop," Blair said, sighing.
"Hmph. I'm not saying anything," Jim said, disapproval clearly written across his face.
"Hey, you've got nothing to say — you're a wolf, remember?" Blair smirked.
Jim tried not to smile; okay, that sounded sort of stupid, now.
"All you can do is howl at the moon, man," Blair added, heading for the bathroom. "Remind me to put a flea and tick collar on the shopping list."
"Oh, shut up," Jim said, grinning openly now, reaching for his coffee.
"I won't say another word," Blair said — and true to his word, he didn't, though Jim could hear him howling softly as he shut the bathroom door.
"Asshole," he muttered, shaking his head.
Still, Jim thought later at the station, there was a fine line between "lone wolf" and "selfish bastard", wasn't there? Carolyn had certainly seemed more inclined to characterize him as the latter. He sighed, looked up from his desk, and stared vaguely across the bullpen. And now she had moved on — she had found another partner, found someone else to share her life with.
And he hadn't.
"Research chemist," he muttered, saying it much the way he might have said, "Circus clown."
Dammit, he had to face facts: she had moved on and he hadn't. Sandburg was right — the whole "lone wolf" thing was just a defense mechanism, and a crummy one at that. Making a silk purse out of the sow's ear that was his life. His wife had found another partner, and he hadn't — now, that had to mean something, didn't it?
He wasn't sure he liked what that meant — what that meant about him.
But maybe he could learn — maybe you could teach a lone wolf new tricks — maybe today was the first day of the rest of his life. Maybe he hadn't found anyone else because he hadn't been looking, and maybe he hadn't been looking because he had gotten complacent — comfortable, somehow.
This was his wake-up call — his chance, maybe, to start over. And then his eyes focused and he saw Linda Richards coming out of Simon Banks' office, and she was tall and blonde and gorgeous and she looked over at him and smiled and sort of waved, and he thought, "Oh, what the hell," and got up and intercepted her on the way out.
"Hey, Linda, how are you?"
"Just fine, Jim," she said, looking pleased. "It looks like O'Donnell's going away for at least three to five."
"No," he said slowly, looking at her intently, "I meant with you."
"Oh," she said, meeting his gaze. "I'm fine, I guess. You?"
"Fine," he said softly, and smiled. "Busy," he added, and she nodded in sympathy. "But, um, I'm free right now — you wanna go grab a cup of coffee or something?"
She seemed surprised. "Coffee? Now?"
"Yeah," Jim said. "Come on, who's gonna miss us for a half an hour?"
Linda looked surprised, but accepted with a really stunning smile, and he put a gentle, guiding hand on her waist as he escorted her out of the bullpen.
And you know, he felt smug for all of about ten minutes, until they were seated comfortably in a dark corner in a little bistro down the block — and then he realized with a jolt that he had gotten her there — hoo-ray! — but now he actually had to have coffee with her, and listen to how she was buying a new apartment, and how rough it had been appearing before the co-op board, and how ADA Marshall was rumored to be having an affair with the head paralegal, and how she'd just been skiing and how she had the cutest little Pekinese —
God! he was falling asleep here, and he could see that she was trying to engage him on some subject or other, but he just couldn't seem to connect. So he nodded in the appropriate places, and pushed Sandburg's voice out of his head, the voice that had told him during myriad tests, "Hey, Jim — if you're bored, you're boring, man!" Hell, he wasn't boring — it was just — it was just that Linda was someone from work, and he should know better by now. When you worked with someone, often in close proximity — well, it led you to believe that you had things in common, when you actually didn't. He and Linda certainly didn't, anyway.
It was all too easy to be attracted to someone at work, and picture yourself together at home — except who wanted to bring their work home with them? Hell, that was one of the things that had gone wrong with Carolyn. Both of them bringing their work home with them. No, that was a mistake — he could never live with someone he worked with.
He glanced at his watch and mimed surprise at the time and paid the check and got himself the hell out of there.
Sandburg was at his desk when he got back to the station. "Hey," Blair greeted him. "Where were you?"
"Hey," Jim replied, cuffing Blair against the side of the head. "I went out for coffee."
"You went out for coffee?" Blair said, blinking, and then he was grinning. "With whom, may I ask?"
"You may not ask," Jim said primly, perching on the edge of his desk. Hell, the thing had been a disaster but he didn't have to tell Sandburg that. And it'd be fun torturing him with it.
"Oooooooo," Blair hooted, "the lone wolf is on the prowl!
"Shut up," Jim said, grinning, and made a grab for him.
"I'm hearing primal sounds — " Sandburg said, struggling within his grip, "I'm hearing jungle noises, man!"
"That's impending doom, that's what you're hearing," Jim said, swinging Blair into a headlock.
"Hey, c'mon, who's the wolf-ette?" Blair asked, wriggling.
"None of your business," Jim said, holding on.
"Linda Richards," said Henri Brown in passing, and Sandburg hollered in triumph.
"Henri, you bastard," Jim said, groaning.
"Linda Richards, eh?" said Sandburg. "From the DA's office?"
"Yeah," Jim said, letting Blair go.
Blair straightened his shirt, and turned to look at him, more seriously. "You went for coffee with Linda Richards?"
"Yeah," Jim said.
"Why?" Blair asked curiously.
"Because I wanted some coffee, Sandburg," Jim said grinning, hitting him over the head with a manila file folder.
"Stupid question," muttered Blair, making a face at him. "Forget I asked."
And he managed to forget about it for the rest of the day, forget it through dinner and the end of the game and the beginning of the news, forget that Carolyn was getting married, (getting married — getting married, Jesus!) — he managed to forget about it entirely until it was quite late, and the news was over, and there was nothing on, and he switched off the television and the loft was empty, dim, and quiet, except for the soft click-click-click of Sandburg typing on his laptop on the table behind him.
"Hey, Sandburg," Jim said, looking over him, "do you know any nice women?"
Blair looked up from the screen and blinked. "Um, yeah. Sure. Lots. Why?"
"I mean, nice women," Jim clarified.
"Nice or nice?" Blair asked, frowning.
"Nice. Like nice."
Blair sat back in his chair. "Nice like in, 'She's very nice,' or nice like in, 'Hey! nice — '"
"The former," Jim interrupted, glaring at him.
"Yeah. Sure. Lots. Why?"
"Someone...I dunno, marriageable," Jim mumbled.
"Marriageable?" Blair asked, looking sort of shocked.
"Yeah," Jim said, defiantly.
"Well...yeah, I guess. Why, are you looking?"
"Just asking," Jim said, staring down at his hands.
"I thought you were a lone wolf."
"I'm just asking, okay? Plus," Jim added heatedly, "if they're so marriageable, these women you know, why haven't you married any of them?"
"What — me?"
"Uh...cause I'm not looking to get married?"
"Why not?" Jim demanded.
"Yikes — what is this, the yenta police?" Blair raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. "Shit — no one told me there was gonna be a raid."
Jim sighed. "All right, all right, I'm sorry," he said, looking away. "As you were."
"What the hell is up with you, today?" Blair asked, staring over at him, work forgotten.
"Nothing," Jim said. "Nothing." He glanced back and saw that Blair was still staring at him, looking worried, and that was irritating as all hell. "I'm going to bed," he said brusquely, getting up.
"Um..." Blair said, looking lost. "Okay. Right. Good night."
"Says you," Jim muttered at him, climbing the stairs.
And he fell asleep quick, no problem — except that in the middle of the night he woke up alone in his room, alone in his bed, alone with his panic — mammoth fucking panic, and it was like the grave up there, it was still and quiet and cold like the fucking grave, and Carolyn was in bed with a research chemist and he was frightened, suddenly, because she had found somebody and he hadn't found anybody. He couldn't, wouldn't — wouldn't ever.
And in the darkness he knew with dead certainty that he couldn't start over. Unlike Carolyn, he wouldn't be able to move on with his life — because he couldn't let someone get that close again — he couldn't reach out — he was trapped — god, he was smothering —
— and before he knew what he was doing he was out of bed and down the stairs and he knocked, once, on the door to Sandburg's room, because Sandburg was there and he really needed to hear a human voice right now, needed to hear Sandburg's voice.
"Sandburg!" he hissed, and there wasn't any answer and so he cracked the door open and stuck his head inside. "Sandburg!" but there wasn't any movement, and he looked hard and let his eyes see and Blair was fast asleep in a huddle of blankets, hair pulled back into a ponytail. Jim crept in quietly and sat on the side of the bed and shook him gently. "Sandburg!"
Blair came awake with a start and sat up, nervously. "What? What?"
"Nothing," Jim whispered, touching Blair's arm reassuringly, switching on his bedside lamp.
Blair cringed at the sudden light, looking disjointed and confused. "Nothing? What nothing?" He looked around quickly as his eyes adjusted, then looked at Jim in befuddlement. "Jim, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," Jim said again. "I...uh...I just wanted...I just needed to talk to you."
"Now?" Blair asked, eyebrows flying up.
"Yeah," Jim said tightly, and his throat was blocked, and he couldn't speak, couldn't breathe, he was smothering again —
And Blair stared at him for a few seconds, blinking owlishly in the light, and then he frowned and reached out and slid an arm around Jim's neck, tugging him down toward his shoulder, and it was somehow just easier to go, to let his head be pulled down, and he closed his eyes and buried his face above Sandburg's heart, and he could feel Sandburg's hands on his head, stroking his hair, and Sandburg was muttering, "Hey, it's okay, man — whatever it is, it's okay."
"I'm fine," Jim mumbled into Blair's chest.
"Yeah, but — I mean — you've never — you've never come to me like this," Sandburg murmured.
"I'm fine," Jim repeated. God, it was hard to get the words out — why was it so hard?
"Shhh, I've got you," Blair said quietly, and he couldn't breathe, couldn't breathe, and Blair's undershirt was irritatingly wet under his face, and he felt Blair's arms tighten around him. "Shhhh. S'okay."
"Carolyn's getting married," Jim mumbled finally, feeling that if he was gonna lay in Sandburg's arms like this, he at least ought to tell him what was going on. He felt Sandburg drop his head onto his, felt more than heard Sandburg whisper against the top of his head, "Jim, I'm sorry."
"To someone else," Jim clarified, suddenly, stupidly.
"Yeah," Blair murmured soothingly into his hair. "Yeah, I know."
And Blair was weirdly wet but he was warm, and he found himself strangely comfortable, especially when Blair turned the light off again, and the last thing he remembered thinking before he fell asleep was that Blair Sandburg looked a whole lot bigger, close up.
He woke up with his face buried in Blair's side, and it took him a few seconds to remember where he was, who he was with.
Sandburg was heavy and sort of sweaty in sleep; god, he had totally imposed himself on the poor kid. He couldn't help himself; he reached forward and gently brushed aside an errant strand of hair or two that had come free from Sandburg's ponytail and stuck to his forehead. Sandburg's skin was smooth and soft, and he found that he liked touching it — he let his fingertips trail across Blair's face, carefully tracing his eyebrows, his cheekbones, the line of his nose.
He tapped Sandburg's nose with an affectionate finger and drew his hand away. The poor kid only had these couple of square feet of space to call his own, and he had just invaded them, just barged his way in in the middle of the night. Sandburg must think he was a basket case. Hell, he was a basket case. And yet, Sandburg hadn't made him feel that way. Sandburg had just welcomed him into his room, into his bed, even, and he felt absurdly grateful.
He watched as Blair opened his eyes.
"Uh, hi," Blair said, blinking up at him, and Jim smiled down at him and answered, "Hi."
"Um," Blair said, sort of noticing that Jim was lying there, in his bed, and then looking around his room. Jim didn't say anything; he just waited for Blair to process the situation. And hell, it was a weird one, wasn't it — yeah, all in all, a top-five weird one. "Um," Blair said again, sitting up. God, the poor kid looked so confused, and Jim felt oddly in love with him, right then. "I guess...I should go make some coffee," Blair said absently.
"No," Jim said immediately, reaching out and grabbing Blair's arm. Blair looked at him in surprise, and Jim felt suddenly mute, suddenly incoherent, because it was all crashing in on him suddenly, everything was, and all he knew was that he didn't want Blair to go, that he couldn't let Blair walk out that door. "Don't," he said, finally.
Blair stared at him for a second and then began to pull away again. "I really think I need coffee."
Jim tightened his grip. "Coffee's not good for you."
"Jim — " Blair began, and then he stopped, sighed. "Jim, just chill out, roll over, sleep for another hour or something, okay?"
"Stay with me," Jim said, and suddenly he knew, knew in his bones, that he was fighting for something important here, that this was a pivotal moment, that this was perhaps the pivotal moment, and god help him if he fucked up.
"No," Blair said quietly, yanking his arm away and standing up suddenly in his t-shirt and shorts. "Jim — just — just, no, okay? I can't — I can't go there with you, all right?"
Jim felt lost. "We can — um — go slow," he blurted, and that stopped Blair cold at the door.
Blair turned back to him and burst out laughing. "What do you know about 'going slow'? he asked, deeply amused. "I'll lay even money that you don't know what you're doing, fast or slow."
Jim swallowed. "Does that mean you do?"
"This isn't about me," Blair said, flushing.
"It is," Jim objected.
"It isn't," Blair repeated firmly.
"But you do know what you're doing?" Jim asked softly, and Blair sighed again.
"Yeah, I know," Blair admitted. "That isn't the point."
"Well, um," Jim said, "what is the point? Is it that — I mean — don't you — is it me, then?"
"Oh brother," Blair mumbled to himself. "Yeah, Jim," he said, loudly, sarcastically, "yeah, it's you, all right. You just don't — you don't know what you're doing, you don't really want this, you're just a mess, man. "
"I am not a mess," Jim protested, frowning. "And I do want it. I just — hell, I love you, Sandburg!"
"Hey, I love you too," Blair shot back. "I love you a ton — and what does that have to do with the price of beans in Guatemala?"
Jim was stunned. "It has every fucking thing to do with the price of beans in Guatemala! What kind of stupid question is that?"
Blair shook his head. "No, no, no, no, no," he said, crossing his arms. "I got one word for you, man — rebound. You are on the serious fucking rebound — "
" — I am not! — "
" — You are so," Blair insisted. "You're totally out of your mind — you couldn't find your own ass if I guided you to it."
"That's a nice thing to say," Jim snorted.
"You're a wolf, you're looking to marry a nice woman, now you're looking at me — man, you've never had a gay thought in your life, and now here you are," Blair said, waving his arm at Jim. "American Gigolo. Dude, you have to slow down."
"Blair, I want you," Jim said, quietly, firmly.
"I am not going to be your homosexual experimentation rebound fuck!" Blair yelled. "God, I need a cup of coffee!"
"You're not that," Jim said insistently.
"No one should have to wake up to this," Blair mumbled.
"You're not my — whatever you just called it."
"Homosexual experimentation rebound fuck?"
"Yeah, that. You're not that. You're — I really love you, Blair."
"I have a headache."
"Blair, I love you."
"You're full of it."
"No," Blair said.
"Come here," Jim coaxed.
"You love your wife," Blair said, turning away.
"I love you."
"You love your wife — I know you do — you came to me to cry about it."
"I came to you. I'll always come to you. Now come here. Come to me."
"You've always fucked with my head, Ellison — now you wanna fuck with the rest of me?"
"I love you, you little prick — and now I wanna try loving the rest of you even though I haven't the faintest idea how."
"Hah. Told you. You owe me a buck."
"Okay, fine, I owe you a buck," Jim said. "But let me try anyway, okay?" He held out his hand toward Blair. "Please?" And he saw that Blair was weakening, and he waited — and then Blair groaned loudly and took a step or two back towards the bed.
"I'm going to regret this," Blair muttered.
"You won't. You can't," Jim said seriously, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and sitting at the edge.
"Yeah, well, you've got rotten timing." Blair came towards him nervously, and Jim reached out and pulled him between his legs. "And my prick is perfectly proportional, fuck you very much."
"I know. I'm sure." Jim wrapped his arms around Blair's waist and buried his face in Blair's belly, and god, it felt good, it felt like coming home.
"I love you too, you know," Blair murmured, and Jim pulled back and looked up at him.
"I know you do," Jim said, sort of surprised that he did know. "I know. Can I kiss you?"
"Yeah, okay," Blair said, and Jim reached up and gripped Blair's shoulders and pulled him down and kissed him. And despite the bullshit he'd been spinning, he kept wondering if Blair's masculinity was going to suddenly jump up and bite him, whether he was going to have some last-minute heterosexual freak out or something, but Blair's lips were dry and sort of neatly textured and quite delicious, really. Even the morning stubble was sort of cool.
And then Blair pulled back and regarded at him curiously. "So far so good?" Blair asked, raising his eyebrow.
"Yeah," Jim said, grinning. "Fine. Great, in fact."
"No side effects? — dizziness, nausea — ?" Blair deadpanned, and Jim gripped the hem of Blair's gray undershirt and tugged upwards. Blair leaned forward and let Jim pull the shirt up over his head.
"This would be my chest," Blair said, gesturing toward it.
"Yeah, I figured," Jim said, reaching for the waistband of Blair's boxers. And Blair grabbed at his hands and gripped them tightly, stilling them, and Jim looked up at him. Blair looked incredibly tense.
"Too fast?" Jim asked.
"Um, yeah. Too fast. Downright speedy."
"Okay. Sorry," Jim said, pulling his hands away. "Can we go back to kissing, maybe?"
Blair took a deep breath. "Okay. Okay," and Jim pulled him down onto the bed and leaned over him and kissed him again — kissed his lips and his cheeks and his eyelids. And that was pretty good, too.
"Do you like this?" Jim murmured against Blair's throat.
"What's not to like?"
"Well, just — I mean, I'm obviously not what you would call — you know, experienced."
"Yeah, I know. In fact, Jim, you're not what I would call — you know, gay, but lets not split hairs here. You're doing fine, all right?"
"And what, you're gay?"
"I'm...uh, flexible," Blair coughed.
"Well, I can be flexible, too. I'm getting more flexible every day."
"So I see," Blair said. "Well, go ahead — you're doing fine."
Jim pulled back and looked down at Blair's face. "But — you're not kissing me back." Blair's eyes were clouded with an emotion that Jim didn't recognize. "You're letting me kiss you — but you're not kissing me back. God...you don't want to do this, do you?" he said, pulling back further. "Oh god...I'm sorry, Sandburg."
"Blair," Blair said quickly, reaching up for him. "Go back to Blair, please."
"Blair, I'm sorry..."
"Don't be. S'not you. It's just..." Blair took a nervous breath. "I'm just afraid. I'm afraid that if I start I won't be able to stop."
"So don't stop," Jim whispered. "You don't have to stop."
"Please tell me this isn't a rebound fuck," Blair said tightly, gripping Jim's shoulders hard. "Please tell me you're not on the rebound."
"I'm not on the rebound," Jim said, trying to convey the truth of it in his voice. "I'm not on the rebound. I — I've moved on, okay?"
Blair nodded slowly, stretched toward him and then kissed him, and he suddenly felt like his blood was on fire. Blair took his head in his hands and pulled him down, and suddenly it was different, all different, and he could see why Blair had resisted him, because suddenly Blair was yielding and Jim could feel the depths of love and lust and desperation in the man's kiss, and he kissed Blair back with passion, and hunger, and love.
This — this was what he had been missing — the sense of making love to a person, not just a body. And it had been so long since he had made love to a person — a person with known tastes and thoughts and desires — a personality, in fact. So very, very long — not since his marriage, in fact. And as he kissed Blair and slid eager hands up over his chest he found himself thinking that Carolyn liked strawberry ice cream, while Blair liked all these weird Japanese flavors like "red bean" and "green tea", and Carolyn had a weakness for late night talk shows, which Blair couldn't stand, and Carolyn drove a small, economical car that got good gas mileage, whereas Blair, despite a general tendency toward environmentalism, was devoted to style, and believed that there hadn't been a good-looking car made since 1972.
Blair rolled him over and got on top of him and started sucking his throat; he moaned and caressed Blair's back, and this time Blair didn't object when Jim's hands reached the waistband of his boxers. This time, Blair just moaned pleasure against his neck, and Jim held on to him and thought about Blair's glasses, and the strange, thick books he read through them, and what he liked on his pizza.
Except then Blair's hands were on the waistband of his boxers and that drove all thoughts of pizza from his mind — because Blair was pulling his boxers off, and kissing his abdomen, and moving lower, and shit, Blair did know what he was doing after all, Jim thought hysterically, feeling Blair's warm, wet mouth on his erection. God, Blair knew everything, didn't he? and in high school they said that only bad girls did this, only bad girls, and he had a sudden flashback to Jenny Roschek blowing him in the front seat of his car, Jenny's long blond hair in his lap and his head thrown back against the headrest, his juvenile cries of pleasure echoing weirdly back to him in that small space, from the hard top, from the windshield, and Jenny had freckles on her nose and liked vanilla ice cream cones with chocolate sprinkles and football and Led Zeppelin, which was weird for a girl in those days.
But Jenny wasn't a bad girl and it wasn't just bad girls anyway because here was Blair, Blair was doing it, and god, he loved it, he'd lay even money that there wasn't a man alive who didn't like it, and he was making those same weird-sounding pleasure noises, he could hear them in the stillness of Blair's room, he could hear himself gasping loudly, hear the sounds ripped right out of him but god, it was good to have someone's mouth on your dick, your dick in someone's mouth, really really good, and he wanted to do this for Blair, he would learn to do this for Blair, Blair who like classic cars and crossword puzzles and green peppers on his pizza.
And then the world was swimming and he listened to his own noises, loud in the quiet, and then he choked out a warning, " — I'm there — I'm there — coming," and tried to pull back but Blair stilled him with a strong hand on his hip, and tightened the fist that was wrapped around the base of his cock, and Jim groaned, because Blair was going to let him come in his mouth, come in that hot, wet space, and even Jenny Roschek hadn't let him do that. He reached down and took Blair's ponytail in one hand, and stroked the thick, pulled-back hair with his other, and pulled back a bit, and felt Blair's wet lips caress the head of his penis, and then he thrust back in between Blair's lips, and gasped, and came, blinding flashing yes this is good this works yes great good ohhhh.
When the shudders had passed through him he lifted his head and looked down his body at Blair, who was staring back up at him with intense, happy eyes and glistening lips — and then suddenly Blair winked at him, and grinned, and raised his hand to his mouth and breathed on his fingernails and buffed them against his bare chest. Jim laughed and rolled his eyes and grunted, "Smug bastard."
"Hey, come on — that was good, no?" Sandburg crowed.
"Yeah, yeah, that was good," Jim admitted, nodding.
"How good?" Blair pressed.
"It was the high point of my fucking life. Which, frankly, says more about my life than it does about your cocksucking technique."
"That's as may be," Sandburg replied, "and I'll take your lack of experience into account, though I'll have you know that my cocksucking technique, as you so charmingly put it, is top-notch. Ace, in fact."
"Would you like me to fill out a customer satisfaction survey?" Jim asked, folding his arms against his chest. "Or would you like me to provide you with some reciprocal sexual pleasure?"
"Gloating almost is a sexual pleasure ," Blair said, moving up the bed and flopping down next to Jim.
"Ah. That explains almost everything about you, really," Jim said.
Blair leaned over him and kissed him hard, then pulled back suddenly. "Kidding aside," Blair said, and Jim blinked and laughed. "No, really — kidding aside, Jim — I really, really wanted you to enjoy it. I mean — desperately wanted. Really. "
"I'm not on the rebound, Sandburg," Jim said, reaching out to tug affectionately at Blair's ponytail.
"I want you to be thinking that was the best thing ever and then some," Blair said with quiet intensity. "I want you to feel you can't live without it — without me."
"You're not hearing me," Jim chided.
"I put my heart into it," Blair continued, passionately. "Not just technique. My fucking heart. "
"Blair, shush." Jim took Blair's head in his hands and brushed Blair's lips with his own. "I got it," he murmured against Blair's mouth. "I heard you. It was the best thing ever and then some. I can't live without it. Without you. Okay?" Blair sighed and nodded. Jim kissed him once, softly, and then grinned. "Jeez," Jim added, eyes crinkling with laughter, "underneath that cocky exterior you're a complete mushball, aren't you?"
Blair laughed and flushed with embarrassment. "Yeah," he admitted. "Don't tell anyone, will you?"
"Yeah. Sure. For a buck," Jim said, smirking.
Blair rolled his eyes. "Cheap bastard."
"I am," Jim said, running his hands over Blair's nipples. "I am, in fact," he said, gently circling them with his thumbs. Blair began to breathe harder. "In fact," Jim added softly, leaning forward to lick at the now-erect flesh, "I want to ask you something."
"Shoot," Blair hissed, letting his head fall back and openly panting.
"I love you. I love your room. Can I move in with you?" Jim murmured, then tweaked a nipple with his tongue.
Blair inhaled violently. "Maybe. Yeah. Sure," Blair said, raising his hands to caress Jim's head, to hold Jim's head to his chest. "For a week, say," he added, and Jim could hear the smile in his partner's voice. "Just a week.
"Or maybe two."