by Kass

Somehow I seem to have forgotten to post this to my webpage, and it's months since I posted it to SXF. Whoops. Well, anyway, here it is!
The boys belong to Petfly, the words belong to me.

Midnight. Jim is keeping vigil, awake as usual, listening. Tonight he's indulging himself. Because so is Blair.

Nights when it's not possible, half of him is glad; if Blair's not touching himself, Jim can't listen in. The other half of him misses it, relishes the opportunity when it comes.

Being a Sentinel has perks: he can be a voyeur without watching. He can hear the escalation of Blair's heartbeat, smell his pungent salt. He knows Blair's face better than anyone else could know it, he can picture Blair in ecstasy, and he does picture him - over and over, in the secrecy of his upstairs room, listening to Blair jerking off downstairs.

Tomorrow morning, in the shower, Jim will laugh at himself. He'll tell himself he's turning into a psycho. He'll tell himself this is unhealthy. He'll tell himself it has to stop.

But even in the light of day, some part of him will know that he's not really going to stop. That next time he snakes his hearing down the stairs and hears the hitch in Blair's breath, the slide of skin on skin, he'll listen again. He'll join in.

At best it's an invasion of privacy; at worst it's a kind of assault. Jim knows this.

Blair would hate him for it. He hates himself for it. But he does it anyway.

Six in the evening and Jim's climbing the stairs to the loft two at a time. Finally out of work. Finally out of traffic. Finally home.

The minute he walks in the door his senses put him on alert.

Sandburg. Sandburg is in the apartment and something is wrong. His breathing's erratic and his heartbeat's off the scale. Is he sick? Is he hurt? Jim doesn't stop to think, just runs for the kid's room and pushes the doors open - and stops short at the sight of his partner curled on his bed, arms wrapped around himself, crying.

Crying silently, awful racking sobs. Desperate sobs, made more desperate by the hope that no one will hear them.

For a moment Jim is frozen. Then he sits down at the edge of the bed and cautiously puts a hand on Sandburg's back, wanting to be comforting and not exactly knowing how. Sandburg doesn't shrug him off, doesn't make any motion at all, so Jim lets his hand describe small circles on his back, acting on some ancient muscle-memory. Slowly the tension lessens, the arms unclench, Sandburg starts to uncoil.

"I thought I was being so quiet," he offers finally, with half a laugh, as if he senses Jim's embarrassment.

"You were," Jim says. He pauses. "I, ah," clears his throat, "your heartbeat was fucked up. I thought you were hurt."

Blair slowly sits, hugging his knees to his chest. He raises his eyes to Jim's. "You listen to my heartbeat?"


Yes, Jim almost says. I listen to your heartbeat all the time. I dream about your heartbeat. I make myself come listening to your heartbeat.

"You sounded upset," Jim explains, as if it were an answer, and Blair sighs.

"Naomi called this afternoon."

Jim waits.

"Bad news."

"You want to tell me about it?" Jim's voice is tentative. Not for the first time he wishes he had Blair's way with words.

Blair's voice is subdued. "A guy named Steve died. About six months ago. There was a notice for the memorial service, someone sent it to Naomi, but you know how she is, hard to find, whatever, so it didn't reach her in time to let me know." Even his hand gestures are half-hearted.

"I'm sorry, Chief," Jim says, quietly. He hardly has time to wonder who Steve is - was - before Blair answers the unasked question.

"He was my first boyfriend."

Some part of Jim's heart and brain stop.

First boyfriend.

Over the course of their partnership Jim's built an elaborate set of mental walls to keep from really dealing with this whole set of issues. It was hard enough coming to grips with the fact that he had fantasies about his male room-mate; the fact that said room-mate was a) clueless and b) straight only made things harder. And now said room-mate doesn't seem so straight after all.

To borrow a phrase from the Sandburg lexicon, Jim just can't process.

He realizes Blair has fallen silent. Probably waiting for him to freak out.

Jim's not sure what to say. There are too many declarations hammering at the edge of his voice like rushing waters. Words feel unsafe. So he changes the subject.

"You need to be cheered up."

Blair looks at him, eyes shutting down. "Jim, look, that's really sweet, but I can't handle some kind of macho poker-with-the-guys thing tonight," he starts, and Jim shakes his head.

"Give me some credit, will you, Sandburg?" he asks, mildly. "I'm not a complete Neanderthal."

Blair blushes.

"What I was *going* to say was, you shouldn't be alone with something like this. So why don't you go take a long hot shower, and I'll make us some dinner. Come on out of your cave. It'll do you good."

Blair looks surprised. "Thanks, man."

"I've lost people before," Jim says, and Blair nods. Jim stands, starts for the door, then stops. "Um. If you want to talk about Steve later. Telling stories helps."

He leaves fast before Sandburg can respond.

Forty minutes later they're sitting on the sofa, bowls of yakisoba in their laps. Jim thought about making them eat at the table like normal people, but one look at his partner curled into the corner of the sofa and he couldn't say the words. So they're eating on the sofa. With a lot of paper napkins.

Sandburg is eating with chopsticks, and Jim comes dangerously close to zoning on the flash of black lacquer moving towards his partner's lips.

Zoning on his partner's lips is not okay. Although maybe someday it will be. The thought ripples through his insides.

"Hey, Jim?" Blair's voice is tentative.


"Were you serious? About telling stories?"

Jim nods and slurps a noodle. "Yeah. Makes it easier."

Blair stares into his bowl for a minute. "We met when I was fourteen," he says.

"Naomi and I spent the summer in a commune. She was doing some kind of yoga intensive, meditating before breakfast, the whole nine yards. There were kids' classes, but I opted out after about an hour. So I basically had the run of the place."

"Yoga for munchkins wasn't your speed, eh?" Jim is trying not to smirk, imagining a young Sandburg with an even shorter attention span than the adult one has.

Blair rolls his eyes, but Jim can tell he's grateful: their familiar banter defuses the conversation a little. "Most of the commune kids were littler than me. Steve was a year older. So he stood out from the start."

Blair smiles, a little absently. He seems to be looking for his reflection in the dappled broth.

"We started off hiking together, right? And I'd come home at night and tell Naomi all about my new best friend, how much I admired him, how smart he was. After a while I started thinking I really admired how strong he was, I'd walk behind him and watch his calves move. I guess I had a thing for him, but I didn't know it."

He looks at Jim. "Sounds stupid, huh?" he asks, his mouth twisting a little.

"No, Sandburg, it doesn't."

"Anyway. It was hot. After a while we got into the habit of going swimming. Which led to skinny-dipping. Which meant I had plenty else to admire." Blair chuckles. "One day we were talking about sex. We were both virgins, which was a really big deal, at the time. And then he kissed me."

There is silence for a minute. The fire crackles. Blair drinks the soup from his bowl, places it on the floor next to Jim's.

"The rest of the summer we were basically dating. We'd hold hands, kiss behind the porch swing, all that stuff," Blair says. "We made love under the trees after sunset, when we thought nobody knew we were there. Naomi thought it was adorable."

"I'll bet," Jim says, dryly. He fights down a vivid mental image, keeps his face neutral.

"September we moved away. Steve and I wrote letters for a while, then we lost touch. I hadn't heard from him since. And now he's gone."

There is a pause. "I'm really sorry, Chief," Jim says. Inadequate, but he's trying.

"The worst is," he starts, "I didn't even know when he died," and he looks so miserable that Jim can't help pulling him close. It seems like the thing to do, and Sandburg doesn't seem to mind.

Some small part of Jim's brain is focused on the feel of a shaking Blair in his arms, wishing Blair were trembling for a different set of reasons entirely. He tries to keep that thought boxed away: getting hard while holding his partner is not something he needs to explain.

After a time Blair pulls away, retrieves his paper napkin, blows his nose loudly.

"Twice in one day," he says, his voice a little shaky. "Man, you must think I'm a real wuss."

His tone is light, but there's something underneath.

"Nothing could make me think less of you, Sandburg."

A rare moment of Sandburg silence. He takes a long breath.

"Not even knowing I'm bisexual?"

That's what's underneath. That's what Blair means. That's why he looks so scared. And God, I come across as straighter than an arrow, don't I? No wonder he's nervous. He's afraid of me. And he has no idea...

Blair drops his head and rubs one eye with the heel of his hand. "Fuck," he mutters. He starts to unfold from the couch.

"Wait! Chief, hang on," Jim says, hastily. "Blair. Sit. Please."

Still looking wary, Blair waits.

"That's not why I was quiet. I'm sorry. Christ, no, knowing you're bisexual doesn't make me think any less of you," Jim says. He takes a deep breath. "I was quiet because I'm trying to figure out how to say something."

Blair leans forward slightly, his flight impulse evidently forgotten.

"I guess I'm...kind of jealous," Jim says finally. "The whole thing with Steve. Kissing on the front porch. Holding hands." Jim feels like he isn't getting quite enough oxygen. He wonders if this is how an incipient panic attack feels.

He tries to take a deep breath again.

"My first time with a man wasn't like that at all," Jim says.

To his credit, Blair doesn't show any surprise at all.

"What was it like?" Blair asks, his voice low.

"I was a cadet," Jim says. "It was part of the academy. Kind of like hazing. It was something the new boys had to learn. We did pushups, we ran stairs, we gave blowjobs."

He raises his eyes to Blair's, half-expecting to see some kind of condemnation - if not for the substance of his disclosure, for the fact that in all the time they've been friends Jim has never found a way to say any of this before - but Blair just looks interested, absorbed, completely present.

Jim laces his fingers together, needing to do something with his hands.

"Every once in a while they'd be looking for somebody to fuck, and it was *how much do you love this army, boy?*, and..." He shrugs, remembering the smell of standard-issue blankets, the distant sound of his own response. "It wasn't intimate, it didn't mean anything. It was just..." His voice trails off.

"The act," Blair fills in, and Jim nods.

"I don't know what it's like to make love with a man," Jim confesses.

There is a pause that seems to last for hours.

"Have you been with a man since then?" Blair asks. His voice is calm.

Jim shakes his head.

"Have you wanted to?"

Well, that's the natural next question, isn't it? Jim inhales, exhales, then takes the plunge. "Not at first, not for a while," he says. "But since Caro and I broke up, yeah, I've thought about it."

That's a half-truth. He hadn't thought about sex with men for years; he's definitely thought about it lately. But the divorce wasn't the precipitating factor. What made him interested in men was Sandburg.

But now is *not* the time to say so.

Blair doesn't seem to want to let this one drop. "Thought about it in a general sense, or thought about someone in particular?" he asks.

Briefly Jim considers denying that he's thought of anyone in particular, but realizes that the longer he delays answering, the more his answer is obvious anyway. "Someone in particular," he admits.

"Does he know?" Blair asks. Obviously not, Jim thinks, and he almost laughs, and he shakes his head again. "Why not?"

"Well, until recently I thought he was straight," Jim says, carefully. Blair nods. "And I guess I've been scared."

"Of...?" Prompting, now.

"Of fucking up our friendship," Jim says. He dares a glance and there's something new in Sandburg's eyes. "Mine and his, I mean, not mine and yours, obviously," Jim rushes, and then realizes the game is up. He's protesting too much. Blair's figured it out.

He closes his eyes, unable to face his partner. "I'm sorry," Jim whispers.

"Why?" That's Blair's soft voice, closer to his ear now, and despite himself Jim shivers.

"You're grieving, you don't need this shit, I shouldn't have said anything," Jim says desperately. He wants to kick himself.

Jim hears the soft exhalation of a sigh. "Jim," Blair says.

He doesn't move.

"Jim. Open your eyes."

He can't help himself; he opens them.

"Yes, I'm grieving," Blair says, softly. He's closer; he's moved halfway across the couch, and the intensity of his gaze is searing. "But what I'm grieving for is all the chances I missed. I'm grieving because I never talked to Steve again, because I let him leave my life and I never understood how important he was until it was too late." His voice is mesmerizing. "That's all the more reason not to make the same mistake again."

Blair reaches for Jim's hand, strokes his thumb over the back of it, then raises his eyes from their hands to Jim's face.

"If you want to know what it's like to make love with a man, all you have to do is ask," Blair says.

Somehow the evening has slipped out of Jim's control.

He had planned to listen to Blair reminisce, feed the kid some noodles, maybe offer him a whiskey if it looked like he needed it, and then put Blair to bed. Alone.

He had planned, in some unarticulated way, to sit up late in the living room and watch the fire leap and think about the possibility that some day he could see if Blair might be interested in him too.

The possibility, he had thought, was more than enough for now. Blair wasn't straight after all: this had been his mantra while he put the wok on the stove, sautˆ©ed the soba noodles, poured in the jar of mushroom broth, lit the fire, readied bowls and chopsticks and spoons, absently tidied the living room.

But the evening has spiraled out of his hands. Now he is sitting on the sofa with Blair, his secret revealed, and Blair is holding Jim's hand in his own, and Blair's voice has just cut through the air between them like a fiery katana.

Jim forces his throat to work. "You're not angry?"

Humor and concern war in Blair's eyes. "Why would I be angry?"

Because I've been hiding things, Jim thinks. Oh, God, I've been hiding things. He shrugs, mutely.

"Okay, I'll guess," Blair says. "Because I've had a total thing for you since the day we met, and we've been wasting all this time?"

"You have?" Jim's heart quickens. "No, that's not it. I've been...unfair," he forces out.

"Unfair how, Jim?" Blair's voice is gentle. Jim pulls his hand away, feeling burned by Blair's tenderness.

"I've used my senses unfairly," Jim confesses. This is hell, but he makes himself continue. "I listen to your breathing. I listen to you touch yourself when you think I'm asleep. I lie in bed and listen to you come." He can't look at Blair: he's gone too far, Blair's going to be angry, Blair has every right to be angry. He waits for the explosion.

When it doesn't come he raises his eyes.

Blair is looking at him in a way he's never seen before: eyes dark, lips wet. "I think that's the most erotic thing I've ever heard," Blair says, low.

Blair is looking at him like a starving man looks at a feast.

Jim can feel his control slipping. "I took advantage," he says, almost pleading.

"You didn't, Jim," Blair says, firmly. He's starting to blush now. "I, ah," and his voice trails off, and he's smiling.

"What?" asks Jim, curiosity winning out over shame.

"I wasn't exactly fair, either," Blair admits. Jim looks confused. "It occurred to me you might listen." The heat rising from Blair is almost palpable. "I kind of wanted you to."

His words fly with a zing! straight to the part of Jim's brain that controls his cock: sense-memories are flooding in, the sound of Blair, the scent of Blair, combined with the new knowledge that he *wasn't* taking advantage, that Blair *wanted* him to listen.

"What are you thinking?" Blair's voice is quiet.

Jim's not sure what he's going to say until he opens his mouth and hears the words: "Come upstairs?" He's surprised by how shy he sounds, how shy he feels.

Blair's smile is incandescent.

A kaleidoscope of sensory fragments. A long kiss at the top of the stairs. His skin becoming sensitive, shirt almost chafing. Blair's hands skimming his chest. An ache, almost electric, in his nipples. Blair's rich voice. "Oh, man. Look at you." Talking to himself. "Fucking beautiful."

All their clothes gone now. Flat on his back. Blair kneeling, hair loose over his shoulders, dark hair and pale body and glint of nipple ring. Blair bending, his mouth on Jim's skin, impossibly hot. The tingling trail Blair draws down Jim's throat, his chest, his waist.

Jim close to incoherent. Is he making those sounds? Lips brush past his cock and he trembles. Knees nudge his thighs apart. Blair tosses his head once, hair out of the way, then pulls Jim into his mouth.

He can feel the pleasure everywhere in his body, his legs, his fingertips. Groaning. Too fast Blair pulls away, Jim gasps, body rebelling.

"There's so much I want to do with you." The intent in Blair's voice is like honey over Jim's tight nerves. Finger and thumb close around one nipple, Jim arches, Blair smiles. "So sensitive."

"Surprise," Jim manages. Laughter's familiar warmth replaces the ache, the hunger, the fire. Then the fire returns, Blair's mouth on his throat, the question pressed into his skin.

"Tell me what you want."

Images flash through his mind, his private night-time slide show, the illicit fantasies. "You inside me."

Gratifying, Blair's intake of breath, the way his color rises.

Sensations more intense. A kind of synaesthesia: Jim can feel Blair's breathing, his helpless moan, as if the sounds were imprinted in his skin. Jim on his belly, brush of cotton sheets torturing his cock the way noises surprise the ear. The rasp of tongue along his ass, impossible little thrusts melting his insides, the pleasure like colors swirling.

Senses tangled like crossed wires. Blair's hand caressing his cock, the taste of the richest caramel. Blair moving up for a kiss, the sound of waves.

Fingers. Slick. Blair murmuring.

Then it's new, not like anything ever before. Being filled. Blair's unconscious sigh like fireworks up Jim's spine. Pulls out, glides back in, Jim's mouth is open, someone is groaning, a stream of sound.

He's been reintroduced to his body. So this is what it's for, he thinks, and he sees his tight knuckles clenching the bedspread, and every hair on the back of his hand looks new. He pushes back, Blair's gasp a reward. They are a perfect see-saw, dipping into pleasure, rocking.

"Come for me," Blair whispers. Helpless, Jim's body obeys. He is aware of a last muted "Oh *God*" as Blair ripples inside him, and then everything goes white.


He opens one eye and can't help laughing: Blair is propped up on one elbow, hair everywhere, skin still flushed, and he looks terrified.

"I'm here," Jim says. Throat slightly raspy. Was he screaming?

"You scared the shit out of me, man. I've been calling your name for five minutes, here."

Jim stretches, feels his spine pop, can't seem to stop smiling.

"Can't have been five minutes, Chief," he says. "Your heartbeat's still up."

Blair looks like he's trying to glare, but isn't quite pulling it off. "Fine, more like a minute or two," he admits. "But I was worried. Hell of a time to zone, Jim."

"Nothing's ever...felt that good."

Blair gives up on angry and just looks pleased. Like the proverbial canary-eating cat.

"Really?" He sounds delighted. "Wow." Jim can see him composing himself. "Well, good," Blair says after a minute, with finality. Flops down on the bed.

There's a pause.

Jim reaches over, strokes the curve of Blair's back and hip. Like art, he thinks, but alive.

Blair hums quietly. "Mm. You have exactly thirty minutes to stop that."

Jim chuckles, moves closer, uses both his hands. Thumbs pressing along Blair's shoulder blades. Backrubs are old territory, but nakedness is new. As is afterglow. Jesus, Jim thinks, I'm still grinning.

Blair closes his eyes, pillows his head on his arms. Radiating contentment. It occurs to Jim that he doesn't seem to be grieving any more.

"You sleepy?"

"Uh-uh," Blair says. "Enjoying this. But not sleepy."

"Me neither," Jim says. It is night and he is wide awake.

For once, it makes him glad.

The End