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Summary: In the aftermath of Prisoner X, Jim is finding it hard to accept comfort of any kind.

Author's Note: Written for the Katrina auction, and dedicated to [livejournal.com profile] fingers, who won it. She asked for a slash epilogue to Prisoner X with Jim-hurt and Blair-comfort, and Jim, ahem, being the one 'done to'. She may have got more than she bargained for, since it took an uber-angsty turn... But then, this is me, so I doubt she's surprised ;-)

Category: NC-17, Slash.

Warning: If you can't handle the idea of Jim and Blair in an open (though angst-ridden) bisexual relationship, then look away now.

Photobucket
Winner: Episode Related (Slash)




Walls Within Walls
By Fluterbev

September 2006



Jim had told Simon he wanted to find a place without walls, but the best he could manage right now was a place bordered by a twenty foot high fence topped with razor wire. He couldn’t even see the stars overhead, thanks to the glaring spotlights which illuminated the place with stark, uncompromising light.

Starkville was currently in total lockdown while the authorities sorted felon from free man, friend (or, at least, those who were less of a threat) from foe. Jim, Simon and Blair were stuck here in the interim, because no one was being allowed out the gate just yet. That included those, like them, with demonstrable credentials, especially as all too many legitimate credentials had been used as passports for a gross abuse of power. The authorities who had taken over wanted to make absolutely sure that every single one of those responsible were in custody before permitting anyone at all to leave, with absolutely no exceptions.

The State Board of Corrections had brought in police officers from out of State to enforce the changeover of authority, and to take initial custody of the old regime. They were also to act as prison officers in the interim until new, qualified staff could be appointed. And Jim didn’t envy them in the slightest; it was no easy task to re-establish order when the men who had the expertise and knowledge to run this place were now counted among the prisoners.

As he stalked around the boundaries of the exercise yard Jim could hear the inmates, back in the cell block, clanging on the bars and shouting like the caged animals many of them were. Starkville was on the verge of a riot; the order of things had been overturned, and those contained by the system would no doubt try to exploit any weaknesses they could find while the interim administration fought to establish itself.

The sounds ate at him, chipping away at the hard shell of his fortitude just as the anger and the hate and the despair had done ever since he got here. He felt flayed by it all, as though the assault on his senses had scoured through his defenses, reducing them to a thin veneer and leaving him wide open.

And that was the crux of his current personal crisis. Jim was possessed of a strong code of personal ethics which, while it occasionally ran contrary to the strict letter of the law, was the reason he’d gone into law enforcement in the first place; he wanted to do the right thing, to make a positive difference. As well as that, he’d seen – and done – some pretty tough stuff in his life. He was no stranger to violence or making hard choices even when it came down to life or death, given certain circumstances. He had a reputation as a tough guy, a man who could look after himself, no matter what.

But this place and what had gone on here had shaken his view of who he was in a deeply fundamental way. The all-pervasive undercurrent of hatred and the threat of violence constantly simmering just under the surface had, ultimately, scared him like nothing had ever scared him before. Because, despite his strong moral compass, he’d found it all too seductive to slip into the same mindset and become one of them.

But, much worse than that, the visceral fear which had been simmering just under the surface of his emotions the whole time he’d been here had revealed to him exactly how close to the surface his soft underbelly really was. And that was a deeply uncomfortable realization for a man who prided himself on his ability to handle just about anything.

Now, as he paced under the bright lights, finding no shadows in which to hide under their glare, his whole body ached like an exposed nerve in a tooth. The damp coldness of the night seeped through the thin prison uniform that he wore, jarring his skin to tingling sensitivity, and he wrapped shaking arms around himself, willing the adrenaline-fuelled shaking in his limbs to cease before someone saw him like this.

“Jim?” The tentative voice of his partner warned him that time was up. It was a measure of just how messed up he was that he hadn’t heard Sandburg approach. “Are you okay?”

Time to pull it together. “I’m fine.” Clipped, businesslike. Thank God, he at least had control of his voice.

“Because,” Sandburg carried on, “You look pretty beat up, man. I think you should let someone take a look at you.”

“I said I’m fine.” Go, he willed Sandburg. Just leave me alone, damn it!

The hand on his shoulder startled the hell out of him, his skin screaming don’t touch me! He whirled on Sandburg, shaking off the tentative touch. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Sandburg backed up a step, his hands raised as if to ward off Jim’s anger. “Whoa, Jim! Hey, I’m just trying to help-”

“I don’t fucking need your help!” Suddenly, rage consumed Ellison, and he pushed Sandburg sharply in the chest, making the other man stagger backwards. “Get the hell away from me!”

He half expected Sandburg to turn tail and flee. But, to his surprise, Blair’s face hardened instead, and he took a step back into Jim’s personal space, too close for comfort. As Jim bristled at the continued intrusion, Blair said angrily, “Goddamn it, Jim, whatever went down here is not my fault, okay? Calm down, man!”

That did it. “Not your fault? It’s all your fault!” The bitter sense of betrayal, which had festered in Jim all day, surged to the forefront. “Why the hell didn’t you get me out, huh? What, you just carried my note around in your pocket, until you eventually felt like calling Simon?” Even as the words left Jim’s mouth, he realized that no way would Blair have done that. Something must have gone wrong, prevented Blair from getting the note; perhaps prevented Simon from responding.

But it was already too late for regret; the accusation was out there, an ugly and shameful thing that could not be taken back. “What the hell are you talking about?” Now it was Blair doing the pushing, and Jim reeled backwards, almost more in surprise than as a result of the force behind the blow. “All you did in your last goddamn note was complain about the food! What, is that supposed to be some fucking covert ops code for ‘get me out of here’? How the hell was I supposed to know that, man?”

“What are you talking about?” Jim’s fury was waning, and the words came out harsh with something other than anger. He raised his hands in parlay, wishing futilely that he’d not initiated the physical pushing and shoving that Blair now seemed all too willing to carry on. “I asked you to get me out of here. I never mentioned anything about food!”

There was silence a moment, Blair regarding him piercingly. Then, Blair voiced the inevitable deduction. “Someone must have swapped the notes.”

Of course they had. Jim’s cover had been totally blown, after all. “Miller,” Jim ground out. “It must have been Miller. I busted his brother years ago, and he recognized me. He was threatening to tell everybody who I was - that’s why I wanted out. He probably thought he’d have more chance of blackmailing me to help get him out, if I had to stay longer.” Not that it had done the guy any good, since he’d subsequently been fatally shot in the back by one of the guards.

“Shit.” The color, which had been high in Sandburg’s cheeks, had fled. “Is that why they put you that cage? Because he told them who you were?”

“I don’t know.” Jim ran a hand over his head despairingly, suddenly at the end of his rope. He didn’t think Miller had informed on him, given the guy’s reaction when they’d been caught escaping, but he wasn’t sure of anything anymore.

“God, Jim.” Blair sounded tired. “I can’t believe you’d think I’d…. Oh, man.”

Horribly ashamed of the assumption he’d voiced, on top of everything else, Jim couldn’t look at him. Instead, he focused his vision upwards, trying desperately to peer through the glare to the sky above. But even with his usual ability to see way beyond the norm, he couldn’t escape this agonizing confinement. All it did was make his already pounding headache ten times worse.

After a frustrating interval, during which Jim tried – but failed – to get an adequate handle on his sense of sight, Sandburg spoke into Jim’s silence, his mollifying tone indicating that his momentary anger had fled. “They said it’d be a while, man, until they make sure everybody is accounted for. Until then, we’re stuck here. Hey,” his voice brightened, clearly an attempt to banish the atmosphere which stood between them, “there’s coffee back in the governor’s office. Simon’s staying there until this mess all gets straightened out. How about you and I…?”

“No.” The thought of voluntarily venturing back inside the walls of this place horrified him. “I…can’t.” He was appalled at the depth of vulnerability in his voice, and the almost suffocating feeling of claustrophobia which tormented him.

“God.” Jim clearly wasn’t the only one appalled, given the tone of Sandburg’s voice. “Jim, please, man. Let me at least get a medic out here to look at you.”

Jim’s hands were still shaking and, to his utter dismay, his throat was tight with misery, only a hair’s breadth away from embarrassing himself and anyone who might come along to witness it. The rational man within recognized that he was still shocky after the fight; nothing to be ashamed of, just a normal reaction to the stress he’d gone through the past few days, not to mention the fact that his senses were currently on a hair trigger. But still… “Chief, I… I can’t see anyone, okay? Not right now.” It was bad enough that Sandburg was here. He didn’t need anyone else to see him like this.

“Oh, Jim.” The rueful words were infused with pity, which didn’t really help, under the circumstances. Thankfully, though, Sandburg made no attempt to touch him, which was a blessing because if he had, Jim feared he might lose it altogether and cry like a baby.

They stood in silence a while, Sandburg a constant, solid presence, shifting from foot-to-foot beside him in the cold. Jim was aware of the sidelong glances Blair kept casting toward him, but he didn’t acknowledge them. If he couldn’t have the freedom which existed outside these walls just yet, he would take what little space this location allowed him - just as long as it was unencumbered by small talk from Sandburg.

Gradually, anger took a foothold again, only this time it was at himself for reacting like this. He was a cop, for crying out loud. An ex-ranger. Sure, he’d gone through his share of emotional meltdowns over the years, which was hardly surprising, given the sometimes traumatic nature of his chosen profession. But never usually until after he was away from the scene of the crime, and always away from prying eyes. Jesus, not even Carolyn had ever seen him lose it, and he was not about to let Sandburg have that privilege.

To his relief, control gradually reasserted itself, the shaking of his limbs lessening and eventually dying away altogether. But the multitude of injuries he’d sustained in the fight were now plaguing him instead, as the adrenaline comedown ran its course, the natural painkilling properties of his spiking endorphins wearing off with a vengeance.

That was a relief, in a way. Pain, he could deal with as something familiar. He didn’t have adequate control of his senses right now to manipulate the growing agony by using the dials that Sandburg had taught him to use, and he was still feeling too raw to ask for help from that direction. So instead, he embraced the pain, welcoming the throb of aching muscle and bruised flesh as a cathartic reminder of his strength and resilience.

After a while, though, he found he even had limits as far as that was concerned. Swallowing pride finally, moved by necessity, he glanced at his partner. “Sandburg,” he growled.

“What is it, man?” Blair was instantly at his side, hovering.

“Go and see how much longer this is gonna take, huh?” Jim still felt oddly reluctant to ask outright for any kind of relief, either from Blair or a medic, so he tried a little misdirection instead, hoping that getting out of this hell would solve a large part of the problem.

“Sure.” Blair turned to go, and Jim heard his footsteps retreat. Then Sandburg paused. “There’s no shame in needing help sometimes, you know? You just gotta ask. It doesn’t make you less of a man.” And with that parting shot, he was gone.

Jim sighed long-sufferingly. In the panopticon of Blair’s regard, little could ever be kept hidden.

***


It was nearly one-thirty in the morning before the lockdown eased up, allowing the three men from Cascade to leave the prison. Thankfully, Maggie Chandler had shown her gratitude to the visitors by arranging four-star accommodation for them for the night in a hotel just a relatively short drive from Starkville.

Tomorrow all of them would be obliged to give their reports before heading back to Cascade, so they faced another long day in the area before their work here was done. But at least this day - and Jim’s undercover work at the prison - was finally over.

Jim had finally consented to the medical treatment he’d been offered, much to Blair’s relief. Jim had gotten off pretty lightly, considering the beating he’d taken. But the fact that he had survived and managed to avoid sustaining more serious injury was pretty cold comfort to Blair, under the circumstances.

It made Blair sick with misery to know that Jim had languished inside the prison for a whole day, knowing that his cover was blown and waiting in vain for backup that never arrived. He must have been frantic, watching the clock and dreading that Miller would inform on him, wondering all the time why the hell he hadn’t been pulled out yet. From the little Jim had said about subsequent events Blair now knew that Jim had tried to escape, and god, how desperate must he have been to attempt that foolhardy stunt, instead of simply laying low until he was eventually sprung?

Needless to say, Jim had been caught in the act. And then, the unspeakable had happened. He’d been locked inside a wire cage in front of a baying crowd, and forced to fight for his life.

Blair glanced at Jim, who was standing apart and aloof in the hotel lobby as Simon checked them in. Apart from their argument earlier, he’d not spoken to Blair beyond a few words, ever since they’d swooped into the prison to rescue him.

Blair was certain that Jim’s reticence was nothing to do with the accusations he’d flung in Blair’s direction. It had really pissed Blair off, he had to admit, when Jim had berated him for not acting on his desperate hand-written plea. But Blair knew that no way did Jim truly believe that he would have neglected to act like that. And Blair’s initial fury at Jim had utterly abated when, in the next moment after Jim had leveled the accusation, he’d witnessed something shockingly uncharacteristic in his partner’s eyes.

Sheer, helpless vulnerability, coupled with visceral fear.

Jim Ellison, the capable, assertive cop, had clearly suffered deeply on this assignment, over and above the obvious physical punishment he’d taken. He’d been thrust into a situation over which he had no control; deprived of freedom and autonomy alongside brutal men who would kill him without a second thought if they managed to learn his true identity. He’d done it alone, dependent on nothing more than his own inner resources. And, somewhere along the way, the experience had shaken to the very core the essence of the man he was.

Blair also had to wonder what toll the whole ordeal had taken on Jim’s senses. They’d proved on other occasions to be vulnerable to emotional turmoil, working – or not working – in unpredictable ways. And there was no doubt that Jim had suffered considerable stress during the time he’d spent undercover in the prison, given his current demeanor.

Right now Jim was staring off into space, his emotions firmly concealed behind an impenetrable wall, and his stance emphatically warning off any attempts Blair might make to get near. Blair watched him worriedly, then started when a heavy hand fell on his shoulder. “Take care of him, Sandburg,” Simon ordered, in a voice that was low enough not to carry, assuming Jim wasn’t purposefully listening in, of course.

That, it seemed, was a false assumption. “I can take care of myself, goddamn it!” Jim glared at them both furiously; an intimidating sight, if not for the despair in his eyes. “Get the fuck off my back, both of you!”

Jim’s loud belligerence had been sufficiently threatening in appearance to cause a ripple of unease back at the reception desk, and Blair hoped fervently that hotel security wouldn’t get involved. But, to his relief, the fight went out of Jim in the next moment when Simon barked, “Stand down, Detective! Remember where you are, and who you’re speaking to!”

Jim visibly deflated, responding to Simon’s authoritative tone instinctively. “I’m sorry, Sir,” he said. “I just… I…”

Simon ignored the fumbling apology, moving straight onto practical matters. “Here’s your room key, Jim. And yours, Sandburg. Let’s go.”

They had three adjacent rooms, it turned out, on the first floor. Blair would have preferred to share with Jim, under the circumstances. His friend was clearly at the end of his rope right now, which was all the more evident after Simon had burst his bubble, and Blair wanted to be available to give him the support he needed (whether Jim recognized that need himself, or not). But Blair also understood the wisdom of letting the guy have some space; especially since privacy was something Jim had been systematically deprived of for the past few days.

Blair’s room was in the middle of Jim and Simon’s. As Jim inserted the key into his own lock, Blair murmured, “If you need me, man, I’m right here.”

Jim didn’t look at him. “Goodnight, Sandburg,” he said, in a voice taut with over-wound control.

As Jim disappeared pointedly into his room and closed the door Blair shared a helpless look with Simon, before the two of them did likewise.

***


Nearly an hour later, clad in nothing but boxers and a robe bearing the hotel logo, Jim prowled the claustrophobic confines of his room like a caged animal.

Like a prisoner.

The nocturnal sounds of countless other hotel guests – snoring, dreaming, talking, fucking – plagued him like a swarm of dog whistles, invading his head just as the sounds of the prison had done. It was as if he was still there in Starkville, the dead-of-night noise pollution of concentrated humanity different in only one respect.

Unlike some of what he’d overheard in Starkville the fucking, in this place, was all consensual.

A shower had taken care of the relentless itching of skin that he’d suffered since being maced, while the painkillers he’d been given had brought the pain of his injuries down to a tolerable level. His vision had largely returned to normal, and his sense of smell – and the associated sense of taste – had been reined in and brought under control.

But goddamn it, his hearing stubbornly refused any effort he made to bring it back in line. And so, unable to relax, despite being way beyond exhaustion, he paced. And paced. And paced.

Next door, Sandburg was asleep. Jim could make out – couldn’t block out - the distinctive sound of his partner’s steady breathing, recognizable by its familiarity despite the jumbled mass of other auditory input. On the far side of Blair’s room, Simon similarly slept, his deep, window-rattling snores just one more irritant in the ointment.

Jim didn’t begrudge the two of them their sweet dreams. He just wished he could share a bit of their inner peace himself.

Breathing deep, the way Sandburg had taught, him Jim stood still for a moment, trying once more to establish the right frame of mind to wrench back control. But yet again he failed in the effort, too distracted by the overwhelming mass of noise to concentrate. And not just that, the sounds he could hear kept getting overlaid in his mind by other, less peaceful sounds: the roar of a crowd baying for blood, and the agonized cries of men forced to scrap like dogs for the amusement of true animals. Sounds he had heard in the distance night after night, lying awake in his bunk, until the final night – earlier this night – when he’d experienced it up close and personal.

In the end, Jim had to admit that there was only one recourse, only one possible way of easing his suffering, no matter how reluctant he’d been to face it. Slipping out of his own room into the corridor, Jim padded barefoot along to the room next door. He knocked, quietly at first, then louder when he got no response. “Sandburg,” he hissed, when he finally heard the occupant stir.

Inside, Sandburg muttered, “Just a minute.” Footsteps crossed the floor, the sound of nails scratching sleepily on a bristly chin as loud as sandpaper in Jim’s ears. The lock disengaged deafeningly, and the door opened a crack. “Jim, hey,” Sandburg said, in a voice still heavy with sleep. “Are you okay?”

Jim didn’t want to do this out in the corridor. “Can I come in?” he asked shortly.

“What? Oh, sure, man,” Blair agreed with a yawn, standing aside to allow Jim to pass.

Once he got inside, the room smelled, to Jim’s hyper-sensitive nose, of old sweat and, locating the source, Jim saw that Blair had been sleeping in his clothes. In fact, the smell was ripe enough that Jim suspected he’d been wearing the same clothes for longer than a day. “This room has a shower, you know,” he said pointedly.

“Yeah, yeah,” Sandburg retorted amiably, running a hand through hair which had scattered to the four winds in his sleep, clearly unperturbed. “I’m so tired right now, man, I can’t even smell myself. Sleeping in the car night after night will do that to you.”

Jim frowned; he’d assumed Blair had been staying at a motel while he’d been in Starkville. “Why the car?” he asked.

“I wanted to be close. Just in case anything happened,” Blair said.

That made no sense. “There’s nothing you could’ve done, even if it had,” Jim pointed out. “And anyway, how would you know?”

Blair shrugged. “That way, I could keep an eye on who was going in and out of the place. If anything looked suspicious, I could’ve gotten right on to Simon, and gotten you pulled out.” He grinned, a little ruefully. “I guess it didn’t work, huh?”

Touched deeply by Blair’s vigil, Jim felt pretty shamefaced. “I’m sorry, Blair. About what I said before. I never really thought you’d leave me hanging like that.”

Blair waved it off. “Yeah, you were an asshole, Jim. But I guess you had cause.” Intent eyes, the residue of sleep already banished from them, focused on Jim. “How’re you doing now?”

Time to swallow pride. “Not so good,” Jim admitted.

Another measuring look came his way. “Is it the senses? Or something else?”

“Everything,” Jim said. He allowed his fortitude to crack, finally. “All of it. I can’t block out sounds – I can hear everything in this whole damned place. And I can’t stop thinking about… about what went down there.” He cast a pleading look at Blair, allowing the opportunity for comfort to be offered. “It’s killing me, Chief,” he said miserably. “It’s like I’m still locked up in there.”

Blair hesitated for just a moment, as if measuring how receptive Jim would be. Then he held out his arms. “Come here,” he said gently. And gratefully, Jim drifted into the embrace with a sigh of relief.

***


Jim’s muscles were rock solid with tension under Blair’s hands. But at least he was here, accepting the comfort of Blair’s arms and that, Blair knew, was only to the good. “How about we take this to bed, huh?” Blair whispered, hoping that Jim would agree. “We’re both exhausted, man. I’m pretty sure I can help you relax, and get a handle on your hearing. Then we can go to sleep afterward.”

Jim didn’t reply straight away, and Blair worried for a moment that he’d pushed too far. He and Jim were occasional lovers; something more than fuck buddies, and something less than life-partners, both of them continuing to maintain separate dating lives outside their partnership (although, by choice, Blair tended to stick to women since he’d been sleeping with Jim). Their bedroom forays were usually sparked by roughhousing and mutual joshing; a good-natured meeting of equals, both of whom enjoyed the harder edge that a man’s body could provide. It was fun, pure and simple, overlaid with genuine affection and respect.

But this? This was something else. This was need, and vulnerability, and comfort. And Blair had no idea how accepting Jim would be of going to bed with Blair in these circumstances, or how he might feel afterward. After all, Jim Ellison was a proud man, an independent man. And not only that, he was a man who had informed Blair, in no uncertain terms, that anything more profound than the relationship they already shared, outside of their day-to-day partnership, was out of the question.

Blair had once made the mistake of telling Jim he loved him; a spontaneous, heartfelt outburst in the heat of passion. In response, Jim had growled at Blair, mock-jokingly, “This is as much of me as you get, Sandburg.” He’d been lying on his back, as Blair had driven deeply into him, sweat beading on his brow and a sardonic smile on his lips as he met stroke for stroke with powerful thrusts of his hips.

Blair had grinned back gamely, running an appreciative eye over Jim’s beautiful torso, gleaming and spread out below him. “That’s plenty, man!” he’d said. But even as he’d driven them both to explosive orgasm, Blair had felt a familiar, gut-deep sense of sorrow, his throat aching with words he could never again express. Because deep inside, he did want more. He wanted everything this man could give him, including everything he hid from others. And ultimately, he wanted it all for himself.

But for now, his own unrequited desires were not important. What mattered was helping Jim get a handle on whatever it was that had transformed him from the friend Blair loved, into a man on the edge of crisis. And thankfully, it seemed that, for the moment at least, Jim really didn’t care about the circumstances. “Okay, Chief,” he whispered into Blair’s hair. “Let’s do it.” And Jim’s lips stirred his hair in a kiss, his arms tightening around Blair briefly in a tighter embrace.

When Blair pulled back to look at him, Jim was watching him with an expression of gratitude and naked trust. The sight took Blair’s breath away and, more than that, it underlined the responsibility he had to do this right. Because it would be so very easy to take advantage of Jim’s vulnerability right now.

And so very easy to ruin everything they had together in the process.

Swallowing down every urge he had to envelop Jim with all the love he had to give, Blair got back to business. “Okay,” he said softly. “Get in bed, man. Get comfortable, and do some deep breathing, like I taught you. Then try to focus in on the sounds I make, and block everything else out. I’ll just get a quick shower so I’m not so ripe.”

Jim nodded, a faint smile on his lips. “Good idea.” Then, as Blair turned to head to the bathroom, he reached out a hand to grasp Blair’s wrist. “Don’t be long,” he urged, desperation adding urgency to the tone. His fingers were like a vice around Blair’s forearm.

Blair swallowed. “I won’t,” he promised, unable to look away from the gaze which had him pinned.

Jim was watching him unblinkingly, something in the intent gaze making it very hard for Blair to keep on track. But, after a moment, Jim seemed satisfied, and he let Blair go.

His heart in his mouth, Blair fled.

***


As he lay in the bed listening to the sounds of his friend in the shower, Jim sighed with relief. It was as if a switch had been thrown the moment he’d stepped into Blair’s arms. The sounds that had been plaguing him for so long had retreated to normal levels, audible now only if he sought them out.

It was a phenomenon he’d become aware of some time ago, and was the reason he’d finally given in and come in here. Something about Blair’s presence, Blair’s voice, Blair’s goddamn odor, acted like a balm to his overstretched senses. It was as if Blair was Jim’s safe harbor; the place he regrouped, healed, and rested in preparation for the next foray into god knew where.

That Blair wanted to be with Jim in a deeper way than their current relationship allowed was no secret to him; Blair was an open book, as far as Jim was concerned. In fact, the feeling was mutual, insofar as it went. But Jim’s dependence on Blair to help him control his senses was already something that galled his sense of self-reliance deeply. If he were to give in to their mutual, unspoken desire for a more profound, emotional consummation as well, then he’d be giving Blair everything. There was no way he felt able to do that; the risks were too great. It was far better that they maintain the status quo, and keep the sexual part of their relationship on a purely physical level.

The bathroom door opened, and Blair emerged in a flurry of steam, wrapped in a towel. He’d shaved quickly, Jim saw, a couple of tiny nicks on his chin testament to speed over accuracy. Wordlessly, Jim hoisted up the covers in invitation and, shedding the towel, Blair slipped sinuously in.

It was just sex, Jim told himself, as Blair lay down beside him, his skin still damp with droplets from the shower. Just two guys, two good friends, getting it on and making each other feel good. He could handle that much, at least. No need to ever let it become anything more than that.

Blair was keeping his breathing regular, trying to keep on track, but Jim could sense his arousal; and the fact that Blair found him such a turn-on was good for the ego, at least. “How’s your hearing now?” Blair murmured, his eyes gleaming in the semi-dark.

“It’s fine.” Jim decided a little white lie would do no harm; he really didn’t want Blair to know just how much he depended on him, or how his mere presence was sufficient to make everything better. “I, uh, I did the breathing exercises you taught me. Worked like a dream.”

“Wow, that’s great, man!” The honest pleasure in Blair’s voice at the achievement made Jim feel a little guilty. So, to allay any further discussion about how Sandburg’s exercises had ‘worked’, he tried a little distraction. Reaching out a hand across Blair’s chest, he pinched a pert little nipple, rolling it tightly between finger and thumb, the resulting gasp making it all worthwhile.

Blair was pretty sensitive there, as Jim had previously discovered so, ducking his head under the sheets, he unerringly zoomed in on the other one with his mouth. Sandburg writhed and moaned deliciously and, getting into the flow, Jim worked him for a while with teeth and lips and hands, holding Blair steady by throwing a leg across his thighs. He enjoyed the way Blair’s nipples peaked at the attention, and the way he squirmed, but didn’t protest, when Jim’s teeth grazed the nubs carefully with biting promise.

When Jim finally came up for air, Blair’s eyes were dilated with arousal, his lips parted moistly. But still, unfortunately, far too capable of rational thought. “Hey,” Blair said breathlessly. “You want to talk about what happened at the prison?”

“No,” Jim growled. That was the last thing he wanted to think about right now. He leaned in close to Blair’s ear, his puffs of breath making Blair shudder. “I want you to fuck me,” he murmured.

Blair inhaled sharply, finally getting with the program. “Okay,” he agreed, his voice shaky. “I brought some stuff, man. It’s in my bag…”

Jim grinned, and kissed him hard on the lips. “That’s my boy. I’ve never known you to leave home without it.”

“Yeah, well,” Blair rejoined, as Jim got off the bed and went to find Blair’s bag. “I never know when I’m gonna get lucky, man. Some babe might make me an offer I can’t refuse!”

Jim smiled, as he retrieved the condoms and lube in double quick time. This was good. This was how it should be, between them. This, he could handle.

Tossing the packets at Blair, Jim ordered, “Get me ready, huh?”

Blair’s eyes were wide with lust and laughter. He shook his head in amusement. “You’re so pushy, man.”

“Just do it.” Knowing how much it turned Blair on when he behaved like this, Jim got on all fours on the bed and, with his ass up in the air, placed his head right down on his arms. “I want it hard, Sandburg,” he growled, spreading his thighs.

“Oh, man.” Blair’s voice was weak suddenly, but the hands which touched Jim decisively were, thankfully, not.

This was what Jim loved about sex with a man. The strong, decisive touches, and the sensation of being confidently penetrated. And Blair – Blair was good at this. Blair knew what Jim wanted, knew how to give it to him.

Jim groaned happily as he was expertly stretched, his partner’s touch methodical and assertive. Blair was never tentative, never too soft. He pushed Jim, took him to his limits. And Jim loved every minute of it.

He was barely taking three fingers without resistance when Blair removed them. Without pause, Jim felt the head of his partner’s cock at his entrance. “Push back,” Blair ordered, and Jim complied, panting as he was relentlessly filled. He welcomed the slight pain as he was breached, welcomed the fact that Blair kept right on pushing, despite his sharp intake of breath.

After a few moments, Blair was fully sheathed, his pulse resonating deep inside as a tantalizing counterpoint to Jim’s own. Jim’s cock throbbed in tandem, begging to be touched, the sensation of fullness exciting him like nothing else ever did. He loved this; loved the feeling of being filled, being taken.

After a second of motionlessness, during which Blair panted like he’d run a marathon, Jim squeezed impatiently, making Blair gasp at the sudden tightness. A slap on Jim’s rump warned him to relax his grip. “Stop that, damn it!” Blair’s voice was hoarse with tension. “You do that again, and this is all over.”

“Think about something gross, if you’re too close.” Jim offered. “Just move, damn it!”

“Shut up.” Another slap made Jim jump. “Who’s on top here, man?”

“Ever hear of topping from the bottom?” Another stinging slap made Jim jump. “Ow! Hey, I’m injured, remember?”

Blair’s stern rejoinder was only slightly tempered by the barely-perceptible humor in his voice. “I’m warning you, Jim, you keep trying to run this show, and you are going to be in big trouble. As it is, I’m gonna make you wait for what you want. You don’t get to come until I tell you.”

This game, Jim liked. “Aw, come on, Chief,” he whined. “I’m dying, here.”

His reward was Blair pulling out completely. Baffled and a little disappointed, he looked over his shoulder, to see Blair pulling off his condom. “Hey!” he said, his hurt and confusion coming to the fore. “What’s going on, Chief?”

Blair looked back at him, his face intent. In a low voice, he said, “You want this, Jim, then we’re doing it my way. Lie on your back.”

Only slightly mollified that the game wasn’t yet over, as he’d feared, Jim had to ask. “Why?”

Blair shrugged. “You get off on being fucked. I know that, and I’ll give you that, I promise. But there’s more to this than fucking, for me. I want this to be a two-way street this time. Okay?”

That seemed fair, although Blair had never seemed to mind getting straight down to business before now. Shrugging his shoulders, Jim turned, moving languidly, giving Blair a show, knowing that the other man got off on looking at Jim’s musculature. “You’re the boss,” he allowed sardonically, as he turned around and lay back on the bed; aware of Blair watching him all the while with dark, calculating eyes.

***


Jim loved to be fucked, Blair knew. He’d made that fact clear over and over, so that more often than not it was Blair who pitched, and Jim who was the catcher. And Blair loved to oblige; after all, what man would pass up on the chance to top someone as gorgeous as Jim?

But as he’d pushed into Jim’s body a moment ago, and engaged in the usual joking battle for dominance that characterized their encounters, the marks of violence that had been left on Jim’s body after his undercover incarceration had stood out in sharp relief under his hands. And suddenly, seeing the evidence in vivid technicolor of the brutality that his partner had been subjected to, Blair had been consumed with the desire to not just fuck Jim this time, but to do something more. He wanted to take care of Jim, to do something tender, and erotic, and sensuous, which would touch the core of the man.

Goddamnit, he wanted to make love to him.

First on the agenda was to make sure that Jim was right where he wanted him, in a frame of mind where he would accept Blair running the show, because Blair doubted he’d get away with this otherwise.

And, as well as that, Blair really wanted to wipe the smug look off his face.

“Reach up,” Blair instructed. “Keep your hands above your head.” As Jim did as he was told, but with mocking challenge in every movement, Blair issued more instructions. “Spread your legs, but keep your knees straight, legs flat on the bed. Yeah, just like that. Now, close your eyes.”

“Get on with it, already,” Jim whined, as he complied.

In answer, Blair leaned right over, and quietly right into Jim’s ear. “Don’t move, don’t talk, and don’t open your eyes no matter what I do. Stay right there. And don’t…” he put a hand down to cup Jim’s balls firmly, “come until I tell you to.”

The instant stiffening of Jim’s cock, and the sharp intake of breath he uttered, spoke to how much he liked that scenario.

Blair smiled, taking in the sight before him. With nothing more than that order Jim had gone completely still, his petulant demands for immediate action silenced. Now, instead, he waited silently, a fine sheen of sweat beginning to break out across his skin in the warm room.

Jim’s compliance didn’t really surprise Blair; he had long suspected that one of the things Jim liked about gay sex was the opportunity it could give him to play the passive partner.

Blair moved his hand to grasp Jim’s cock, and began to stroke it lightly. The recumbent man stiffened, but otherwise didn’t move. “Good,” Blair praised softly, setting up a slow rhythm. “Now, we’re going to fine tune your senses a little, man. Don’t fight me on this,” he added, as he sensed a protest bubbling up in Jim. “This is not an experiment, okay? Call it a re-calibration, if you will. Your senses have been on overdrive, Jim, for days. A constant state of fight or flight. We need to flex them, and relax them, like any overworked muscle. And you’re gonna lie there and work with me on this, because you need it, man. And,” Blair’s hand speeded up slightly, “as a reward, I’ll give you what you want when we’re done. Okay?”

A barely perceptible nod was the answer, and Blair smiled. He slowed his strokes to a standstill (he didn’t want this to be over before it started) and pulled his hand away. A slightly disappointed sigh from Jim was the only response he got, so Blair praised him again. “Good, Jim. You’re doing great.”

Shifting on the bed, Blair straddled Jim, his thighs resting against the other man’s heaving sides. With one hand, he reached out, and circled one of Jim’s pert nipples with a finger. Jim’s pectoral muscle twitched, but otherwise he didn’t move. Speaking softly as he did the same on the other side, Blair instructed, “I want you to feel what my hands are doing. Focus in on them. Try to put everything else in the background, Jim. Just focus on my fingers.” Giving Jim back a taste of his own medicine, Blair pinched both nipples, and Jim gasped. “If it gets too much, man, or it feels painful, dial it back a little. Just keep your awareness in that area. Work your senses until you get it feeling pleasurable.”

Blair swallowed, awed at how readily Jim seemed to be following his instructions. Jim was gasping, frowning with the effort it took to stay still and bear what Blair was doing to him. Blair continued to croon reassurance. “That’s it. Good, Jim. Now,” he warned, “I’m gonna pinch a little harder. Work with me on this, man. Use the dial to keep this bearable, okay? Make it feel good, Jim. Make yourself feel good.”

Jim’s breathy gasps had turned to moans, and Blair had to squirm at the rush of intense arousal that flooded him. God, Jim was so hot like this, squirming under Blair’s hands, fighting to follow his orders.

It was time for more. Blair stopped pinching, and pulled his hands back to hover just barely over the skin of Jim’s upper torso. It was an effort to keep them there, because the rapid rise and fall of Jim’s chest kept trying to force them into contact. But gradually the other man’s breathing slowed, making it easier for Blair to maintain his position. Just as Jim began to shift impatiently, wordlessly demanding the next bit of stimulus, Blair spoke. “Okay, Jim. I’m not going to touch you, but I want you to work at feeling me, feeling my hand. Turn up touch just in the areas my hand is over, blocking everything else out, and follow where I go. We’ll keep it slow for now. You should be able to sense my hand by its heat, the movement of the air in between us stirring your skin, and by hearing the pulse in my wrist and fingers. Here we go.”

Blair shifted so that he was no longer straddling Jim and, using one hand, he began to slowly traverse Jim’s chest, the hand hovering a bare inch or so above the surface. Beneath him, Jim twitched with the effort to feel what Blair was doing, straining with his senses to locate where Blair was, and anticipate where he’d go next.

As before Blair guided Jim with his voice. “Okay, turn touch up a little higher, now. Really feel it, Jim. Now, down again, lower, lower… and back up, slowly, man. You feel that, huh? Feel a tingle, the heat? Feel me moving? I’m not touching you, man, but see how acute that is? Now, we’re going to take this somewhere else. Make this a little more interesting.”

Blair’s hand was hovering now over Jim’s flat stomach, a fraction of an inch away from the head of his cock. Decisively, Blair progressed downwards, to brush his hand down the entire length of Jim’s hardness without touching, and Jim groaned as if in pain. “If that’s too much,” Blair told him, “turn it down, Jim. I’m not gonna stop; how much you feel, how intense it is, is up to you. But remember, man,” Blair injected steel into his voice, “You’re not allowed to come. Not yet.”

Blair continued the brushing movement, down then up, down then up, and Jim’s cock twitched as if straining to bring them in contact, leaking all the while. His muscles quivered with the effort not to move, as he strove to keep the stimulation at a level just below that which would bring him to orgasm.

Blair smiled in satisfaction. He’d never imagined just how amenable Jim would be to this, or how incredibly hot it would be for him to be doing it.

Time to up the stakes. “Okay, Jim.” Blair’s hand lifted away. “I want you to bring everything back to normal, now. That’s it, just get it all back in balance, there. And once you’re there, I want you to turn over on your front, okay? Keep your eyes closed though, man, and stay quiet. And remember,” Blair injected some authority, “don’t come.”

Once Jim was ready to move, Blair helped arrange him, using pillows to raise Jim’s ass in the air, his cock positioned so that it was accessible and not pressing into the mattress. Moving in-between Jim’s spread legs, Blair told him softly, “Okay, we’re going to try something a little more complicated, now. We’re gonna give your sense of touch a real good workout. You’re gonna deal with two types of tactile stimulation at once, and keep it all in balance.”

As he spoke, Blair had quietly unwrapped a condom, and slid it onto himself in readiness for what was to come. Not giving Jim a chance to anticipate further, Blair uncapped the lube they’d gotten out earlier, and squeezed some out into his right hand. He discarded the tube with a flick of his wrist, and placed his left hand flat on the small of Jim’s back. “Okay, Jim,” he said. “The same as before, to start with. I’m gonna move my hand across your back, just above the surface. Push your sense of touch right up in the areas it goes, tracking its movement. I want you to keep it high, this time. Keep it just bearable, okay? I want you to really feel this.”

Blair began and, obeying his instructions without protest, Jim’s muscles shivered and twitched as the hand went on its path. Jim’s back, Blair had found before, was an erogenous zone for the man, light touches along his spine often setting off a chain reaction that zigzagged right to his cock. And, with this intense almost-touch, that sensation seemed to be magnified. Before too long, Jim was crying out helplessly. “Blair,” he pleaded, his voice reedy with arousal, discomfort, or a mixture of the two. “It’s too much… I can’t…”

Blair’s hand halted, still hovering just above the surface. “Yes, you can!” he said firmly. “If it’s too much, take it down a little, Jim. You can control this. You will not come!”

Blair kept his hand still, just over the middle of Jim’s back, giving him just one location to get control of. Under him, Jim breathed in gasps, as he wrenched his over-stimulated sense of touch back to manageable levels, and fought to maintain the control that Blair demanded of him.

Once he seemed to be more in command of himself, Blair started to move again, but this time, he brought his other hand into play as well. His lube-slick forefinger circled Jim’s asshole and, at the twin sensations, Jim cried out again, shuddering all over before finally stilling.

Blair didn’t stop, willing Jim to deal with it, to endure it. And he wasn’t disappointed. More praise was given. “That’s it, Jim. Focus on both my hands. Sort out the sensations, separate them out. Soft stirrings of air above your back, and firm pressure down here. It’s gonna get more intense now, okay? Keep control of yourself – don’t come. But keep your awareness of both sensations as high as you can. Here it comes.” And, with that, Blair pushed in two fingers, right up to the hilt, finding and rubbing Jim’s prostate as he did so.

Jim convulsed, his toes curling, and it must have been with a mammoth effort of will that he stopped himself from ejaculating right there and then. His own neglected cock throbbing with need equal to Jim’s, Blair kept the stimulation going, twisting his fingers in and out of Jim’s asshole in motion that nailed his prostate again and again, his other hand sweeping over the skin of Jim’s back, tantalizingly close, but not making contact.

Jim shuddered, crying out again and again, and Blair realized that too much more of this, with the prohibition on coming – which Jim was still masterfully obeying - would turn very quickly to torture. Pulling out his fingers completely, he barked, “Here comes more, Jim. Keep control – adjust it so it’s bearable.” Gripping both of Jim’s hips in a bruising grip, Blair drove forward, pushing himself deep inside Jim’s body in one relentless movement. He leaned over, plastering his weight right across the other man’s back in a confining embrace.

Jim shook underneath him, and Blair was not sure how quickly he’d managed to dial back his sense of touch to a manageable level – although the cries he emitted certainly sounded more akin to extreme pleasure than pain. Into Jim’s ear, Blair whispered, “Adjust it again, Jim. Push it to the limit. Make yourself feel it. Feel me inside you. Feel me filling you.” Blair thrust, once, twice – Jim was so fucking tight, he couldn’t take much more of this himself.

Beneath him, Jim’s cries were imperative, desperate, lost.

It was time to bring him home.

Blair thrust, again, and again. He reached around, took Jim’s slippery, hot cock in his hand, and yanked it in time with his thrusts. Under him, Jim keened endlessly, a wordless, frantic plea for release.

Then, came the permission Jim had been waiting for. “Come for me,” Blair ordered.

And underneath him, Jim flew apart.

***


Blair was everywhere. All around him, inside him, part of him.

The world started and ended with Blair. Nothing else existed, nothing else mattered.

As reality dissolved into a million pieces, ecstasy and Blair the entire focus of his universe, Jim allowed himself to be caught in strong arms, cradled and cherished.

And as he drifted into oblivion in the aftermath, he was barely aware of the murmured words that fell from his lips: “Love, you Blair. Love you so much. Only you… only you…”

***


Holding his sated, sleeping friend in his arms, the residual whole-body warmth of his own, incredible orgasm still resonating through him, Blair recognized the poignancy of Jim’s involuntary utterance. Because he knew full well that, once morning came, the words would be pushed away deep inside of Jim, and hidden forever within the dark place into which he constantly feared to look.

But deep inside Blair they would be jealously hoarded, like the richest treasure.

***


It was a relief to get back to the loft. After Blair had dropped off his rental car, Simon had given them both a lift back here. Blair disappeared off into his room, and Jim headed straight for the shower.

The ride home had been mostly conducted in uncharacteristic silence for the three of them. Jim had been a little worried that Simon might have overheard something the night before; he and Blair had hardly kept it quiet, after all. But other than a few measuring looks during the long day of giving statements and delivering their reports, his captain had kept his mouth shut on the matter. That was a relief, Jim had to admit. There were enough rumors about him and Blair as it was. The last thing he needed was any of it being confirmed; it was not as if they were actually a couple, after all.

As the hot water cascaded down bruisingly hard over Jim’s aching back and shoulders, Jim’s cock hardened at the sense-memory of Blair’s incredible hands moving on him, in him and around him, bringing him to heights of pleasure he had never imagined were possible. Blair was a hell of a bed partner, Jim had to admit. Truthfully, he had never, in his entire life, experienced anything as wild as they’d shared last night, it had been so intense.

The intensity scared him more than a little, however. Even though it had been, without a doubt, his best night of sex ever, the fact that Blair had brought Jim’s senses into play - using them to manipulate Jim’s responses in minute detail - unsettled Jim deeply. He wasn’t entirely sure, in fact, that he ever wanted to do that again; it had left him vulnerable in ways he didn’t want to think about too closely. Far better – far safer - to go back to how it had been before: simple, recreational sex between friends, with no ties and no promises.

He was defenseless enough against Blair as it was.

When Jim was coming down from his bedroom a short while later, pulling on a sweater as he went, Blair was just putting down the phone. He had his jacket on, and his keys in hand. “Hey,” he greeted Jim. “I’ll see you later, man.”

Jim looked at him sharply. “You’ve got a date, huh?”

Blair shrugged. “Yeah, well, you know. So many women, so little time.”

For once, Jim didn’t feel like laughing at the joke, or teasing him about his apparent need to hump everything in sight. Instead, a suspicion formed. “Is it Cassie?”

“What’s wrong, man?” There was a hint of challenge in Blair’s tone. “You jealous?”

“Of you, or her?” Jim moved into the kitchen, and grabbed himself a beer.

Blair shrugged. “That’s up to you.”

Jim unscrewed the cap, and took a swig. “I’m not your keeper, Sandburg,” he said. “Have a nice time.”

“I won’t go, if you ask me not to,” Blair blurted out suddenly. Something awful, something naked and raw, had come to the fore.

Jim looked at him, taking in for the first time the dark circles under Blair’s eyes, and the expression of desperate need, no longer masked. The clear invitation to take this to another level was there; Blair’s cat was out of the bag, and there was no stuffing it back in. And, if Jim was honest, the thought of Blair adding yet one more conquest to his history of unsuitable partners bothered him more than he wanted to admit.

But this was not what they were; not what he wanted them to become. Ruthlessly, Jim stamped down on the impulse to pull Blair into his arms and never let go.

Then, despite himself, he threw his partner a bone.

“I’ll be here when you get back,” he offered.

After a moment, Blair nodded. And, without another word, he headed out the door.



The End




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Date: 2007-08-05 10:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] klgrem.livejournal.com
Ah. No! How could Jim do that? *smacks him upside the head*
Wonderful story. Poor Blair. Of course Jim will be there. Where else would he be?
Hehe. Really got me riled with this one. :) Good job!

Date: 2007-08-06 08:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
LOL! ::pets Jim's sore head:: The poor baby is just scared to commit! :-)

Glad you enjoyed it! :-)

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