Blue Eyed Soul
"You are something else, Sandburg," Jim smiled and whispered to the back of Blair's head as they lay inches apart, the slate blue light of dawn creeping silently into Blair's bedroom. He stared at him for a while and sighed, resting a hand on one sheet-covered shoulder. "I wish I could really tell you how I feel about all this, but I don't think I could put it into words. Who'd have ever thought, Chief?" he mused aloud and skimmed a finger down the loosely bound ponytail. "Who would have imagined that we'd fall in love?" Jim stopped as he noticed Blair begin to wake up. He shot a guilty glance at the clock. 4:52.
Blair turned over groggily and mumbled, "Jim, 'r' you talkin' t' somebody?"
Jim smiled and kissed his forehead, "Yeah," he whispered into his hair, "you."
"Shut up and go to sleep," came the slurred response, followed by a fleeting smile as Blair dozed off again.
Jim chuckled quietly and watched his partner for a few moments before shutting his eyes to the steadily growing light. I give him a kiss and he's still bossing me around! he thought as he drifted back into sleep.
At the slightly more humane hour of 6:48, Jim woke up again to find himself alone. The residual shock of his whereabouts gave him pause as he blinked at the window, noticing the sharp eastern slant of the sun through the printed fabric that served as a curtain. He moved his eyes around the room, really studying it as he thought about the novelty of seeing familiar things from an unfamiliar angle - that of being horizontal in Blair's bed. He looked at the photos, masks, statues and books surrounding him and knew he'd made the most wonderful and terrifying decision he'd ever make in his life.
He lay there, replaying in fast-forward the events of the night before and subsequent hours of the early morning - those quiet hours when people say and do things they'd never dream of any other time. He thought about what it felt like to kiss Blair for the first time, and then how it felt to continue kissing him for a good hour or so after that. He turned his head into the pillow and inhaled deeply, listening to the quietness of the loft as he wondered idly where Blair had gone. He smiled as he heard the timer on the coffee maker go off, heralding the creation of a fresh pot and the hour of seven. He stretched and yawned, then slipped into vivid dreams, filled with the scent of Blair and Columbia.
Blair returned with a white bakery box and two cellophane bags with a slightly distorted 'have a good day' emblazoned on them in red. He balanced everything on one arm as he inserted the key into the lock and opened the door, then looked up to find Jim exiting the bathroom, chased by a cloud of steam and wearing a buttoned terrycloth wrap around his waist.
"Hey," Blair called, smiling as he shut the door behind him.
Jim gave him a slow grin and made his way toward him. "Hi," he said as he relieved his friend of the groceries and then paused, feeling distinctly off kilter. He wondered when the desire to kiss Blair would stop feeling so odd. Last night felt great, but daylight made everything different. It made it more real, and by default, more bizarre. He leaned down, only to be stopped by the neatly tied box he still held between them.
Blair grinned and rubbed the spot on his chest where the box poked him, "Smooth, Jim," he teased.
"Damn," Jim laughed with an embarrassed shake of his head. "This is just too weird, Chief."
Blair, sobering slightly, took the box from Jim's hand and held it at his side. He raised his free hand and lightly fingered the nape of Jim's damp neck. "I know," he said, and pulled him into a brief, sweet kiss.
They went into the kitchen where they quickly unpacked the bags. "When did you leave?" Jim asked as he put away a half-gallon carton of orange juice and a block of sharp cheddar.
Blair put some soup cans and boxes of pasta in the pantry and then topped off the sugar canister. "Mmm, about six thirty or so. I wanted to get to Marjorie's when they opened and I figured I'd pick up a few basics while I was out."
"You went to Marjorie's?" Jim asked with raised eyebrows as he started upstairs. Marjorie's was one the best bakeries in town, and Sunday morning doughnuts were a hot commodity. "Remind me to declare my love for you more often," he called down.
Blair felt his stomach do a little flip and he answered, "If I have anything to do with it, you won't need reminding." He got them both some coffee and heard Jim laugh. "What kind of doughnuts do you want?" he asked, speaking as if Jim were right next to him, "I got an assortment and they're still warm."
Jim pulled on a pair of old cut off sweats and smiled. "Surprise me," he said.
Blair put the entire box on the table, next to a prepared fruit salad. He laughed quietly as he brought the steaming mugs to the table, spiking his own with milk and sugar and popping a strawberry into his mouth. "Count on it, Jim."
Licking icing off his index and middle finger, Jim sighed happily after polishing off a chocolate old- fashioned doughnut and looked at Blair through pleasure-slit eyes. Blair took a bite of his cruller and a sip of coffee and laughed at the display, feeling happy and overwhelmed. The man across from him - his research subject, his friend - was now someone he knew the taste of. Just that particular concept sent a not unwelcome shiver down his spine. He wondered, as the two of them sat at the table in slightly awkward silence, if they were both entertaining the same thought: What the hell happens now? They'd spoken of love and shared lengthy kisses, whispered and caressed, slept side by side. He'd been through this - or at least versions of this - with various girls at various points in his life, but nothing had meant more to him than this. Nothing had prepared him for this. Loving Jim was something different altogether.
He didn't really feel much different, though. The change was subtle and immeasurable, the kind of bone deep "click" that he couldn't even begin to explain, except to say he just felt right suddenly. He felt calm and focused, secure in the knowledge that he and Jim had entered into this with clear minds and the full understanding of what they wanted and expected, not only from each other, but also from the relationship itself. Blair knew a romantic partnership with Jim would be challenging, funny and adventurous, and he had a good indication from last night that it would be pretty sexy, too. He continued to smile just thinking about it. As he watched Jim eat a piece of cantaloupe, he reached out and stroked the back of his hand and shared the smile. He then took that hand, got up from the table and wordlessly led him upstairs.
A huge grin crossed his face as he turned Jim's back to the bed and stuck his hands under Jim's t-shirt. "You have icing on your face," he said, before he leaned forward and placed a slow, firm lick to the side of Jim's mouth.
Jim's eyes closed as his mouth opened and he sighed, bringing his hand to Blair's shoulder. His tongue stroked Blair's just outside his lips, then slid against it as his mouth closed in on Blair's in a kiss, wet and deep and bringing Jim to the conclusion that, daylight notwithstanding, he would be getting over that odd feeling very soon.
Blair began to pull Jim's shirt over his head and Jim laughed softly, breaking the kiss. "I just got dressed, Sandburg," he said, pretending to be annoyed but raising his arms anyway.
"Yep," Blair murmured against Jim's neck as he dropped the shirt on the floor. "What's your point?"
Jim tilted his head and exhaled a quiet moan. "My point is," he said in a low voice, "that I didn't need to get dressed if you wanted me naked."
It was Blair's turn to laugh as he gave Jim's mouth a lush kiss and then moved forward, indicating to Jim to get on the bed. He took his shirt off, got into the bed on top of Jim and aligned himself slowly. "I don't want you naked," he whispered next to Jim's lips just before he kissed him again and settled between his legs, "I want you shirtless. We'll get to naked soon enough."
Jim smiled and nodded and brushed his thumbs across Blair's lips. "We've got time," he said.
Blair rested on his forearms and looked down into Jim's face. He felt like he was really seeing him for the first time and was simply content to lie there and absorb everything. He took his finger and stroked a line from the top of Jim's forehead down the center of his face to his chin, his touch feather light, as if it were a thought caressing Jim's skin and not an actual part of his body. When Jim closed his eyes, Blair traced the contours of them, stroking the lashes and following the arch of his eyebrows. He drew around the fanned laugh lines at the corners and then kissed them softly, making Jim smile and bring them into sharper focus.
"You are such a handsome man, Jim," he said, giving Jim's face slow kisses down one side. "I never told you because I knew you'd totally freak," here he smiled and he felt the muscles in Jim's face flex into a grin while Jim's hands trailed up and down his sides, "but you are. It's really kind of amazing how attractive you are. I think we'd have gorgeous children."
Jim laughed at that and dug his fingers into Blair's hair. He turned his head and pulled Blair into a kiss, laughing right through it.
Blair moved his arms to lie above Jim's head and laughed with him. "Don't you think we would?" he managed to ask with a grin, causing Jim to laugh even harder.
"Blair?" Jim sputtered.
Jim kissed him firmly and murmured, "Shut up, okay?" as his laughter began to die down. "I think you could find something more useful to do with this." He traced around Blair's lips in illustration.
Delivering an effective leer, Blair clearly agreed. "I think you're right," he said, licking a trail from Jim's chin directly into his mouth.
The laughter ended and left in its wake an easy joy. They found themselves smiling often as they kissed, enjoying each other while they eased into this next step in their relationship. Blair shifted slightly to the side and ran a gentle hand down Jim's torso. He made an appreciative hum in his throat and continued to touch him with slow admiration as he wrapped his legs more firmly around Jim's thigh.
"Oh, wow," he whispered, a tone of wonder coloring his voice.
"Hm? Wow, what?" Jim asked.
Blair hesitated. "You're so... solid. Hard."
Jim gave the slightest tilt of his hips and smiled, "Nothing gets past you, Chief."
Laughing a bit breathlessly, Blair answered as he continued to kiss him randomly, "I wasn't talking about that. I mean you're hard. It's... I'm not used to it. It's wild." He kissed his cheek and ran his palm over Jim's abdomen. "You're not... you know... soft and curvy, you're just...." He leaned down and placed an open-mouthed kiss where his hand had been. Jim's sigh spurred him on, and he touched him with his tongue. "You're just...." he started again, working his way back up Jim's body and ending up at his mouth again.
Jim wrapped his arms around him and began to rub his back with firm, needy strokes. "It feels good, doesn't it?" he asked, warming under Blair's hands and mouth and thoroughly turned on by his words. "It's strange, but it's good. I keep expecting to find breasts."
At this, the building sexual tension was thrown off again just slightly, as Blair countered, "You will, they'll just be a little flatter than what you're accustomed to. Although, I've seen some of your dates."
More laughter came but was stopped much more quickly as they shifted again, Jim's legs widening as he pulled Blair once more between them and rotated his pelvis.
"That is a pleasant surprise, I have to admit," Blair said near Jim's ear and anchored himself on widespread knees, tucking his thighs under Jim's.
Jim grabbed Blair's ass and squeezed it, pulling as Blair pushed down and hissed. "Yeah, it's nice," Jim responded as he kissed Blair's neck, then whispered thickly, "I love how you feel against me, Blair."
Blair became slightly unglued at that and kissed Jim roughly, grinding his hips slowly and clutching several layers of bed linen in the process. His mind's eye provided a nice, clear image of what they were doing. His sense of touch was describing the curve of Jim's buttocks and the tight, sturdy lines of his penis under him, providing an unerring, delicious stroke against his own. Almost instinctively, he let go of the sheets with one hand and reached between them quickly, pressing against himself and Jim simultaneously.
He was kissing Jim when he came, moaning and gasping into his mouth, feeding him a message of love and satisfaction that Jim would soon give back to him. After a period of breath catching and heartbeat slowing, Blair started snickering, building into a full on laugh.
"Do I even want to know?" Jim asked.
Blair composed himself enough to answer. "Something else that's different," he said cheerfully, with a kiss to Jim's lips. "I know for a fact you didn't fake it!"
Jim sat at one of the few scattered tables in the dark, briny cavern of the Silver Fin, staring at Blair as he tuned his guitars and checked the amp levels one final time. He let his eyes wander over him and felt a rush of pride and warmth, among other things. He'd been watching Blair since the reunion three weeks ago, and had noticed a change. The most obvious, of course, was how he related to Jim. For example, Blair looked at him differently now. Where a look and a smile used to convey simple messages, they now spoke volumes. But, Jim saw that he also seemed to be more focused. Blair - as many ultra-intelligent people are known to be - was a bit of a scatterbrain, possessing an endless amount of information, but always having to sort through the mental (and physical) detritus to locate it. Music somehow tidied up that clutter. It didn't eliminate it, but it eased Blair in a way that Jim noticed immediately. And when Blair realized that playing in the loft didn't bother Jim, he played as often as his schedule allowed, and Jim loved that. It made him feel that much closer to Blair, more a true part of his life.
The theme for this show was called Where in the World are The Undergrads?, the premise being that each song had to have - either in its title, band name or lyrics - the name of a specific city, state or country. The band was having a great time with the audience, churning out songs with a diversity that reflected the crowd. Before the reunion, it had been nearly ten years since they'd all played together and the return of the "theme" energized them. Blair had said that while open requests were fun, the real excitement came from seeing what kinds of songs people would come up with using a single idea. They'd decided that Sweet Home Alabama would start the show off nicely, knowing that Lynyrd Skynyrd's music almost always got the crowd going.
Requests came in for obvious bands like Chicago and America, and some off-the-top-of-your-head songs such as Philadelphia Freedom, but Jim really enjoyed it whenever songs he hadn't thought of got picked out of the Hat, like Crosby, Stills and Nash's Woodstock or Come Monday by Jimmy Buffett. He was also hearing songs by newer bands, some with strange names like Better Than Ezra (although, when he thought of it, many bands had unusual names. The Who came to mind), who he'd never heard of, but who he listened to avidly that night because of Blair. He discovered that he was only vaguely familiar with about half of what the band was playing, and thought maybe he should start paying attention to popular music again.
The highlight of the evening, however, came when the band launched into The Girl From Ipanema, doing a version that Jobim himself would've been proud of, but which was no less hilarious for its authenticity. Jim laughed in an I-must-be-in-the-twilight-zone way as Blair crooned the words in Portuguese (did he actually know Portuguese, Jim wondered, or did he just know the words to the song?). He then joined the rest of the audience in applause and laughter as Charlotte took over in English, straightening her tone in Astrud Gilberto-like fashion and playfully interchanging all the pronouns in the verse, mixing up gender and sexuality at whim, rewarding everyone with a coy smile. The crowd loved it.
As ridiculous as the whole thing was, and as lounge-lizard hokey as the associations with that particular song had become, Jim had to admit that he found it a little sexy. The song did conjure up images of endless sandy beaches, small bathing suits and tanned bodies. He imagined flying off with Blair to some barely inhabited island with dramatic sunsets, and long, lazy days spent lying in some rough-hewn dwelling devoid of telephones, televisions or walls. He fantasized about kissing Blair's sun-warmed skin, slick and fragrant from the sea and the heat, exploring with him, loving him as if they were on some tropical honeymoon. Jim wondered how much vacation time he had coming.
When it came to the section of the song where the saxophone had a solo, the audience, while still in good-humored shock, had begun to move to the insistent Bossa Nova rhythm. It was a guilty pleasure, Jim realized. People laughed, but Jim was willing to bet, as he saw hips and shoulders swaying subtly, and one couple actually doing a makeshift Samba, that at least half the bar at that moment was mentally sipping a Tequila Sunrise, slathering on the tanning lotion and watching the world go by on an ocean wave. Blair caught his eye and winked at him, strumming his guitar and smiling as if he knew exactly what Jim had been thinking, right down to the little vacation fantasy. Jim nodded and grinned, feeling nostalgic, serene and thoroughly in love.
He applauded heartily with the rest of the audience when the song was finished, and sipped his beer as he waited anxiously for the next tune. He sat back in his chair and glanced over the crowd while Blair rifled through the Hat, taking notice of the wide range of age, race and type of people represented there. He thought it was appropriate that the audience would encompass such a variation of people, given how different the members of the band were. His attention turned back to the stage as Blair began talking about the request he'd just drawn.
"All right, who put Lights in here? You know that doesn't count!" He accused, holding up the offending slip of paper.
Laughter rippled throughout the bar and the stage. "Oh, come on!" said a pleading female voice from near the back of the room. "We all know they're talking about San Francisco! It's a great song, guys!"
"Yeah, it is a great song, but it still doesn't count! How long have you been comin' to see our shows, anyway?"
More laughter erupted as Blair tossed the paper over his shoulder and put his hand back in the Hat, stirring the contents vigorously. Suddenly, he stopped and turned to Frank, saying something the audience couldn't hear. The band seemed to be conferring on something, but Jim didn't bother to listen, instead he just waited until Blair turned back to the microphone.
"Okay, Sarah, we've come to an agreement. Since you're such a loyal fan, and since I did pick your request, we've decided to go ahead and do some Journey for you." He smiled at her elated whoop and continued. "However, since Lights does not technically mention a city, we're gonna do one that does.
She shrieked and clapped, and was joined immediately by the audience in a similar fashion as Frank and Trevor began the intro of Don't Stop Believin', and though Jim was not a big fan of Journey, he tapped his fingers on the table and mouthed along with the familiar chorus when the time came. He was surprised to see that Charlotte sang the song instead of Blair, and wondered whether or not Sandburg could sing in the same range. Of course, he'd heard him sing More Than a Feeling once, so if he could sing that, he could probably sing pretty much anything. Jim thought Boston was okay, but always thought that guy sounded like he was going to strain something. The idea made him laugh.
"Jim, how do you feel about going out after this?" Blair called to Jim while he packed up his guitars, having retrieved the cases from behind the drums. Jim wasn't that far from him, and had been walking toward the stage when Blair had asked the question. He stood near a footlight and a small amp, and experienced the rare sensation of looking up at his partner. "A friend of mine has invited all of us to her place over on fourteenth for drinks and dancing. You wanna go?"
"Fourteenth? I didn't think anything was still open over there after they shut down the factory."
Blair stepped off the stage and came around it to stand in front of him. "Yeah, Trenna just opened it a few months ago, but the place is getting some great word of mouth and it's becoming the place to go on Tuesday nights." He took his jacket from Jim and put it on. "She gave us passes for the band and our guests."
"She's only open on Tuesdays? What about the weekend?" Jim asked.
Blair laughed as they walked toward the door. "Well, everybody goes out on the weekends. The trick is to get people to your place during the week when it's usually slow. Tuesday at Trenna's is called Basement Party..." he was interrupted by someone saying goodbye.
"Hey, you going to Trenna's?" the voice called from several feet away.
"Not sure," Blair answered, walking backwards slowly. "Maybe I'll see you there, okay?"
"Okay, cool. Take it easy if I don't see you!"
Blair raised a guitar in a salutary gesture, "All right, man. See ya later."
Jim held the door open for him and stepped in line behind him as they left the bar. "Basement Party, huh? What kind of stuff? Give me an example."
"It's all soul music. We're talkin' everything from Motown to 70's funk to contemporary stuff," Blair answered animatedly. "I mean, like, everybody from Al Green to Erykah Badu to Sam Cooke. Only soul, though, with maybe some spill over into jazz or blues, like Ramsey Lewis or Quincy Jones, but no hip-hop or rap. Unless it's Blondie," he finished, laughing at his own joke.
"Blondie?" Jim laughed with him. "Blondie isn't soul or rap, it's rock."
Blair raised his free hand and wagged a finger at Jim. "Well, technically, it's not rock either. I mean, Blondie was this major amalgamation of all these different genres and no one really knew what to call them back when they were first starting out. But they were credited as the first group ever to have a rap song played on top forty radio. Remember Rapture?" At this, he started dancing around and singing the lyrics to the song, causing Jim to laugh even more and shake his head. "Tell me you remember Rapture, Jim!"
Jim toned down his laughter as they reached the truck. "Of course, I remember it, I wasn't completely under a rock, even when I was in the Army. Besides, that was disco."
Blair put his guitars on the floor and got in, shutting the door carefully. "It was still considered a rap song, disco or not," he smiled. "What do you think? Are you up for it?"
"Let's go. It's been a while since I heard some decent music."
Blair smacked him on the arm, "Hey!"
Jim pulled out of the parking lot and chuckled.
Ow, she's a brick... HOWSE
She's mightay mightay,
Jus' lettin' it all hang out…
"I feel like I'm going into a wedding reception," Jim observed as the classic Commodore's record blasted through the open front door. About fifteen people stood in line outside of the bar, most of them smoking and chatting, and a couple of them were talking to the tall, stocky, black-clad bouncer. A few people glanced curiously at Jim and Blair, clearly wondering if they might be in the wrong place.
Blair grinned. "I doubt this will be like any reception you've ever been to, Jim. Somebody's party you broke up when you were a beat cop, maybe, but not a reception."
Jim answered as they approached the short velvet rope, "You don't think so? Don't be too sure, Chief!"
"Really?" Blair said with a laugh as he fished out the brightly decorated postcard Trenna had given him at the Silver Fin, "Whose weddings were you going to?"
The bouncer continued his conversation as he glanced at the card and unhooked the rope simultaneously, granting them entrance. "She'll give you wristbands inside for your drinks."
"Thanks, man," Blair said.
Jim nodded to the bouncer and followed Blair through the door, realizing immediately that the source of the music - although audible by speaker, really did come from the basement. The entry way was small and unremarkable, though black velvet covered the walls and there was a crystal chandelier hanging from the molded ceiling. In the center of the room, there was a tall bar with the insignia of the club painted on the front of it, and on top sat a cardboard box of bright orange plastic bracelets, next to a cashbox and a rubber stamp with an inkpad. Behind it sat a young woman with silky black cornrows and dangerously large hoop earrings, her Native American cheekbones dusted lightly with glitter, lips painted in a glossy nearly-clear pink. Jim and Blair stood in the short line and waited until it was their turn.
"Hi," she said when Blair approached with the card. "Could I have your right wrist, please?"
Blair raised his arm and was quickly cuffed with the too-long fluorescent accessory. He smiled his thanks, and moved aside for Jim, looking around the little room to break the speculative gaze she was giving him. He soon felt a light pressure on his back, indicating that Jim was ready to go downstairs.
"Have fun," the girl called out, giving Blair a once over from under her delicately long false eyelashes before turning back to the people in line.
As they descended the green shag-carpeted stairs, Jim asked, "Just how old are the people who come here?"
Blair turned and smiled up at him, taking his hand. "You'll see."
When they got into the room, Jim saw an abundance of afros. Afros, dashikis, bell-bottoms, halter tops, slim leg trousers, mutton-chop sideburns.... He felt like he'd stepped into a time warp, but he wasn't sure what year it was. There were many people in contemporary dress, too. Although, he reflected, since much of contemporary dress included variations of old styles, there really wasn't that much of a discernable difference.
There was something else interesting. Several people danced individually, but the majority of the crowd was dancing as couples, with body-to-body contact, the way everyone did before disco introduced freestyle dancing. A couple in what looked to be their fifties danced energetically as Brick House segued into an Ashford and Simpson song, and Jim smiled, getting his question about age answered in spades. He stood with Blair for a minute or two, running his thumb absently along Blair's fingers, taking in the scene of people dancing, laughing, eating, drinking and more than a few making out on discreetly located couches, and he understood why it was called Basement Party. There was even a deep blue light reflecting off the mirror ball in the middle of the room. Jim had heard about parties like this, but had never actually been to one.
"Come on," Blair suggested with a light tug, "let's get a drink."
They were eventually joined at the bar by Charlotte, who they hadn't seen their entire time in the club. Having come by herself, she'd been dancing for a while and came over for a beer.
"I can't believe I haven't seen you guys all night! How long have you been here?" she asked, sliding into a barstool next to Jim.
Jim looked at Blair and shrugged, before looking back at her. "About an hour or so?" he said. "You've been dancing all this time?"
She beamed and took a sip of her just-arrived bottle. "Yeah, I love coming here. The music is so fantastic, and there's no pretense, no smoke, and I don't feel ancient! What more could you want?"
Jim suddenly recognized what was so different about this club, and it took Charlotte to bring it to his attention: no smoke. This was one of the first bars to open under Cascade's new smoke-free law. What a difference it made. He'd gotten so used to being in smokeless environments - with the exception of Simon's office - he hadn't even noticed the unusualness of a bar without smoke. That also explained the number of people smoking outside when they'd arrived. He nodded at her.
"Yeah, it's a pretty great place."
Just then, clear piano notes sounded and the place erupted in scattered applause. The lights got a little lower, the mirror ball slowed just slightly, and couples gently morphed into single beings. Blair looked at Jim with wide excited eyes.
"Jim, come dance with me."
Jim shot a surprised glance at Charlotte, who held her beer by the neck and looked slowly from one man to the other and back again. She smiled.
"*What*?" Jim replied quickly with an awful mix of horror and amusement on his face.
Blair tilted his head and stared at him, a warm smile coming gradually to his face. He took his hand and repeated, slowly and carefully, "Jim, come dance with me."
He looked again at Charlotte, Blair looked at her, too, and she in turn looked once more at both of them and just sipped her beer. "It's a good song," she said finally, simply, with a shrug of her shoulders.
He slipped off the stool and followed Blair's lead out onto the dance floor, squeezing between the couples and finding a spot just off the center. Blair stopped and turned, slipping his arms around Jim's neck and moving close to him. He smiled up at him and leaned close to his ear.
"When was the last time you slow-danced, Jim?"
Jim smiled and gave a short laugh. "My wedding," he answered.
Blair tilted his head back and looked at him, "Are you serious?"
"'Fraid so," he said.
Blair leaned back in, placing the side of his face on Jim's shoulder. "Wow. So, how does it feel? Is it all coming back to you?" He asked, grinning.
Jim took a moment to answer, then replied hesitantly, "Well, to tell you the truth, it feels a little strange. I mean, the last time I danced...."
"You danced with a woman," Blair finished and tilted back again. "Jim, do you want to stop?" he asked.
Jim's eyes widened and he shook his head once, "No, of course not! It's just... new. Like what we've talked about a million times before. Different."
Blair looked at him levelly. "You're not ashamed, are you?" His face was clouded with worry as he asked it and he dimly realized he'd stopped moving.
"No, Blair, I'm not ashamed," Jim responded gently. "I'm just feeling a little self-conscious, that's all. A little... awkward."
Blair brought himself against Jim's chest again and spoke into his neck as he began to move. "You promise?"
Blair's thumbs stroked his neck. "You love me?"
Jim's hands clenched Blair's shirt involuntarily and he answered through deep emotion, "Yes, Blair. So much."
Blair sighed and pulled Jim closer to him. "Then I want you to relax, okay? I want you to close your eyes and feel. Feel the music. Feel me. Nobody's looking at us, Jim. Hell, the only person who can see anything in here is you!" He felt Jim laugh through his whole body and he sighed again, deeper this time. "Relax and let it all move you." He rubbed the nape of Jim's neck and kissed his shoulder. "Let it go and just move. Yeah, that's it...."
Jim rubbed Blair's back slowly and closed his eyes. He realized that they were dancing to a song by Luther Vandross, a song he recognized from the radio, but one he hadn't heard in a while. It was slow and romantic, and the couples around them swayed slowly, paying attention only to each other, bodies pressed together in variations on the same theme. He dipped his head down and inhaled slowly, filling himself with the scent of his partner, getting a breathy laugh in response. He kissed Blair's neck softly, then his ear, and slowly moved his face around his, hovering, touching his skin with his lips giving the lightest caresses. He breathed him, almost discovering him all over again but in a new context. The room was dark, steamy and sexy, the world blanketed in a dim blue haze that cast cool unearthly light on their skin. They danced in a dream as he traced a line down Blair's forehead with his nose and kissed his eyebrow, feeling a fine shudder move through Blair at the touch. "Jim," he heard him say, so quietly, meant for his ears only. Spoken with gratitude and desire, Jim cherished the sound and brushed his lips across a cheekbone. Blair applied pressure on the back of Jim's head and pulled him, tilting up just enough to connect their mouths. The mood of Jim's touch clung to the kiss, moving them slowly together as they rocked back and forth, tongues and lips skewing the tempo slightly. They broke apart, shaking, Blair's hand in Jim's hair, Jim's holding on to Blair's shoulders. Blair rested his head against him again, and they danced that way for a few beats until he moved back to Jim's mouth, kissing him as if he couldn't stand to be without it for too long. By the time the next ballad was halfway through, they were on their way to the truck. It was time to go home.
"Fuck," Blair whispered urgently as one of Jim's deep, rolling thrusts hit him just the right way. They sat in Blair's bed with Jim leaning back on the pillows against the wall and Blair astride him, clutching his shoulders and riding hard in the spillover light from the living room. They didn't bother to go upstairs because that would have taken too much time - time that could be spent doing exactly what they were doing.
Jim groaned in reply, pushing, pulling, sitting up once to latch his mouth onto one of Blair's nipples and getting a nice, throaty response for his trouble. "You're so good, Blair... so good like this...."
Blair rocked forward and threw his hands on the wall, letting it and the other wall known as Jim Ellison move his body between them feverishly. He moaned richly as sensation began to overtake him, and when Jim's hand slid once up his dick, he lost it completely. He became a livewire of spasms, jerking in Jim's arms as Jim's own orgasm threatened to join in and shake them both apart. When it did come, Blair pulled his arms back and wrapped them around him, holding him until the shudders stopped. Blair leaned down afterwards and kissed him deeply, then began the process of disengaging himself from his lover.
"You have to be at work in five hours, Jim," Blair said sleepily as he sunk into his pillow.
Jim made himself comfortable in Blair's small bed and smiled in his direction. "I may not sleep for long, but at least I'll sleep well," he said, kissing Blair's shoulder and then quickly nodding off.
Blair was already snoring.
A bleary-eyed Jim looked at the calendar on his desk and wondered where the time had gone. Blair's birthday was coming up soon, and he had yet to begin to make plans for it. Last year, Blair mentioned offhandedly that he'd always wanted a surprise party, having never had one, and Jim decided then and there that he'd throw him one the following year. Now, with just under two months until the big day, he needed to not only start making the calls, he still needed to buy the gift. He originally intended to buy at least two gifts, but decided on one special one instead. The thing was, it required time and canny planning - both to find it, and to keep Blair from seeing it.
When he began the task of calling the invited guests, he started with the most obvious - those at the station. He sent discreet interdepartmental e-mails to people who knew and liked Sandburg and who Blair would likely enjoy seeing at his birthday celebration. He sent special messages to the members of Major Crimes, needing accomplices to help him keep Blair away from the loft while people assembled there. The plan was to take Blair out for drinks after work, and since Rafe volunteered to be the one to receive the guests as they arrived at the apartment, as well help with the minor decorating and food setup, he would say he wasn't feeling well and go right to the loft from the station. Jim contacted some of Blair's colleagues from Rainier as well as his reunited band members, calling upon a few more people to help out. To avoid the extra expense of catering or trying to somehow sneak food into the apartment, he also asked that people bring a dish of some sort, figuring that Blair would appreciate the eclectic and communal nature of sharing food, and knowing that he himself would appreciate the lack of major cleanup afterwards.
Jim had never had so much fun planning anything before, not even his wedding. *Especially* his wedding, in fact. That had been such a headache - between the battle over how many guests to invite, to deciding what the flavor of the cake should be, and then to have it end in divorce anyway seemed such a waste of time and money. Getting friends and acquaintances together now for his partner was a pleasure, as were most things that he associated with Blair.
The thought of pleasure made his mind drift back eight hours and settle in Blair's bedroom, sense memory recalling the scene in vivid detail. He was mildly surprised that in three weeks, they'd gone from kissing and fully clothed cuddling to fucking each other for nightcap quickies. He closed his eyes and remembered the sound of Blair's voice, the heat and satisfying weight of his body, and decided that he needed to stop that train of thought immediately. Things were still so new and intense between them, arousal came easily, and the bullpen was not the most ideal place for him to test it.
Jim's head snapped up, eyes popping open and looking into the equally startled ones of his lover.
"Wow, man, where were you?" Blair asked, hanging his backpack on the chair.
Jim gave him a slight smile and a significant look. "With you, actually," he answered quietly.
Blair quirked an eyebrow and smiled back saucily, taking his coat off slowly. "I slept pretty well, myself, you know."
They stared at each other as Blair put his hands on the desk, leaned forward fractionally and grinned. Jim laughed and ran his hand across the back of his own neck, and with a resigned shake of his head, he opened the files and filled Blair in on the progress of their latest case.
Blair's hand flew to his mouth as he took a startled step backwards, right into Jim's chest. His head turned quickly, taking in the sight before him of a few dozen of his closest friends, cheering, applauding and generally causing a wonderful racket, all for him. His mind soon became overwhelmed by trying to catalogue people he hadn't seen in months, people he'd just seen a short while ago and people he saw everyday, and he laughed. They were all there for him; he was stunned to the core. "Oh, my god," Jim heard him say, then Blair turned to him, several emotions scattered across his face and whispered, "Holy shit, Jim, did you do this?"
Jim's own feelings stirred as he nodded. "Yeah," he smiled. "Happy, birthday, Chief."
He shook his head, "Oh, man, you are -"
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Bla-air, happy birthday to you!"
Blair ran a hand through his hair self-consciously, as someone brought to the dining table a large birthday cake with lit candles and a green Volvo done in icing. As the song ended, he blew out the candles and the guests broke into applause again. He turned and playfully punched Jim in the arm and stood close to him. "You will pay for this," he said with a smile.
Jim grinned. "I hope so."
Blair laughed and turned to his friends as they assaulted him with hugs, kisses and handshakes. Jim stood with his arms crossed over his chest and watched, pleased with himself for a job well done.
"I do believe, Sandburg, you said something at the bar about dinner and gifts?" Simon called above the noise as he gestured grandly to the massive spread of food on the counters, and the modest sized pile of wrapped bundles on the coffee table. "As a wise man once said, be careful what you wish for!"
"Speech!!" someone yelled.
The request was echoed by a few other people and Blair finally yielded. "All right, all right!" he said, raising his hands. "I can't believe you guys are all here! What, you didn't have anything else better to do tonight?" Chuckles floated through the crowd as he continued. "No, really, thank you for this. I'm so glad to see all of you, so... thanks. This is amazing!" At the applause, Jim ruffled his hair from behind and Blair finally gave in to his desire to hug him. He kept it short, aware of all the eyes on them and said simply, "Thanks, man," into his ear. When he released him, he turned back to the room. "Okay, so come on! Eat, drink, etcetera!" He was so happy that he thought his heart would burst.
"Oh, look at this!" Blair enthused as he thumbed through the oversized, highly detailed and brightly colored world atlas. "I've always wanted one, but - "
"You probably couldn't afford it! That thing nearly broke me!" Simon said with a wink. He and the other members of Major Crimes had actually chipped in for the gift, softening the blow of the hefty price tag.
"Yeah, exactly! I knew if I waited long enough, though, someone would buy it for me!" Blair laughed. "Thanks, guys, this is really cool!"
After he'd opened a number of small gifts and put aside a stack of birthday cards to open later, he saw Jim go into his room and return with a large, shallow rectangular box with a ridiculously small bow on it.
"What is that?" Blair asked, "and how long has it been in my room?"
"This is your gift from me, and it's been hiding in plain sight in your room for about 2 weeks," Jim smiled as he set the box gently on the floor.
Blair looked astonished and intrigued. "Are you serious? Where did you have it?"
"Under your bed."
Blair continued to stare at it, dumbfounded.
"Well," said Frankie, "you gonna open it, or just look at it? Because I think I might know what that is, and I want to see if I'm right."
Blair kneeled next to the box and stuck the silver bow on his shirt. He was nervous about opening a gift from Jim in front of everyone, but he assumed that since Jim had given it to him to do just that, it couldn't be too private. He had a guess about what the gift was, too, but he was convinced he was wrong. He leaned over with damp palms and began to open the glued flaps, then ripped up the top of the box and froze.
He saw the telltale heavy-duty black nylon case that could only mean one thing was in that box. He held the case down firmly and pulled the box off and away from it, tossing the cardboard quickly to the side.
"I knew it!" Frankie said, among whispers from some of the other guests.
Placing his hands on the zipper, Blair whispered, "Jesus, Jim, what have you done?" He unzipped the case slowly and pulled back the cover, gasping in shock. He barely heard the comments from his friends, most notably his band mates who knew immediately what they were looking at. Inside the case was a brand new Fender Stratocaster, its marbled, dark teal body gleaming against the black fabric. He caressed the graceful curves reverently, stroked the sleek neck and fingered the taut strings, fighting back the urge to weep at the sight of such a beautiful instrument.
Kevin let out a low, impressed whistle. "Damn, Blair, you must have been really good!"
"Yeah, but I didn't know I was that good!" Blair replied softly, taking out the guitar and looking over it lovingly.
The room laughed and Simon shot a quick glance at Jim's face, expecting him to be joining in. What he found instead was a man who wasn't laughing at the expense of his partner, or even at Blair's good-natured comeback. Jim was laughing all right, but with a knowing expression that struck Simon as odd. He continued to watch as Blair stood slowly and went to Jim and threw his arms around his neck, while Jim's arms automatically folded Blair up in a way that made Simon inexplicably want to avert his eyes. Most people were still too awestruck by the guitar to notice the embrace, but Simon watched and felt as if he were witnessing something far more intimate than he was meant to see. He turned away, but not before he saw Jim stroke Blair's hair affectionately as they pulled apart, saying something that only Blair could hear. He took a sip of soda and went for a slice of cake.
I close my eyes
Only for a moment,
And the moment's gone.
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes, a curiosity.
Some of the band members had brought instruments in case anyone was in the mood for an impromptu birthday jam session, and Jim sat and listened to the stripped down version of Blair, Kevin and Charlotte do a nearly to-the-letter version of Dust in the Wind. Jim smiled at the memory of the first time he heard Blair singing that song, and he thought quickly of all that had transpired since then. He winked when Blair made eye contact, and then he leaned back in the chair and floated on the joy of hearing that voice.
They ended up doing a number of songs that lent themselves well to acoustic guitars and violin - and eventually saxophone and flute as well. When they began the epic American Pie, it felt almost like a scaled down Silver Fin audience, with plenty of participation and appreciative applause at the end. Some guests milled around snacking or talking, but the majority was gathered in the living room, enjoying the free performance.
Feeling the need for some fresh air, Jim unobtrusively slipped away from the group and went out onto the balcony, taking a deep breath as he shut the door behind him. Shortly afterwards, he was joined by Simon and the two chatted for some time while Simon lazily smoked a cigar. Jim rested on his forearms on the short brick wall and looked over the bay, listening to the water gently slapping against the boat hulls in the distance.
Jim blinked once and continued to face forward, enjoying his reverie. "Yeah?" he answered quietly. He heard Simon's sigh of resignation and turned his head to look at him.
"What's up with you and Sandburg?"
Jim didn't move. He barely breathed. His mind worked furiously, trying to figure out how Simon figured it out and what he should say to him. He and Blair had only touched briefly on the subject of coming out to their co-workers and friends, and they had tentatively decided to just wait. They'd come to the conclusion that they should work out their own insecurities before bringing in anyone else's. Jim didn't expect to be faced with it so soon.
"What are you talking about, Simon?"
To his surprise, Simon chuckled and took a puff of his cigar. "Jim, you don't do obtuse very well, so give me a break, huh? There's enough of a current between you two to light up this whole building. So, I'll ask again. What's going on? Better yet, since I think I already know the answer to that, when were you planning to tell me about it?"
"Excuse me?" Jim raised an eyebrow, shocked into irritation by Simon's presumption. "To be quite honest, Simon, I really didn't think it was any of your business."
Simon shut his eyes slowly and nodded, raising his hand to ward off Jim's anger before it got a chance to really get going. "Okay, okay," he said gently. "You're right, I'm sorry, that was out of line." He sighed and put his left hand on the wall that Jim continued to lean on, while the right skated through the air as he spoke, the cherry of the cigar making orange streaks from between his two fingers. "Let me just say this, then, and that'll be the end of it. I don't care what you and Blair do privately. Obviously, it's not affecting your jobs, and as long as that continues to be the case, I have no problem with it. I don't have a problem with it period, though I still find it a little... curious," he smiled when he saw Jim's mouth twitch. "I just can't help but wonder if I should be feeling stupid for not noticing earlier or frustrated because you didn't trust me enough to tell me. I know it's not my business, but... I mean, we're friends, Jim. This is a pretty major thing, here!"
"That's exactly why we haven't told anyone, Simon!" Jim answered earnestly, but with well practiced restraint. "You think it's major? How do you think we feel about it?" He looked down at the wall and sighed. "Simon, I'm sorry, but I don't want to discuss this right now, all right? This is just... not the time."
"Okay," Simon replied. "Fair enough. But I'm going to say this to you, and I know you understand it, but I think it bears repeating. Keep your personal life out of the building and off the clock. That's from your captain, as well as your friend. Understood?"
Jim turned and looked once again at the bespectacled man, then stood and turned to him completely. They stared, each weighing the words of the other, until Jim finally gave a small, acknowledging nod. "Understood," he said.
Finally, after lots of singing, eating and guitar ogling, the last guests said their goodbyes and left. Jim leaned against the wooden beam outside the kitchen and took a deep breath, reveling in the sudden silence of the loft. Mirroring his posture against the front door, Blair looked at him and smiled.
"I can't believe you threw me a surprise party and got me a fucking Strat, Jim." He spoke softly and slowly; his words were tinged with equal parts amazement and exhaustion as his head rocked back and forth against the door. "I'm not sure what I did to deserve you, but I'm glad I did it."
Jim smiled and yawned, then laughed and ran a hand through his hair. "Come over here," he said.
Blair hauled himself off the door and walked over to him and stood between his legs. Since Jim's legs were slightly outstretched, the men were of equal height and Blair put his forehead against Jim's for a few moments until Jim kissed him. He put his hands on the pillar just above Jim's head and kissed him slowly, feeling his nerves tingle as Jim's hands slipped around his waist.
"Thank you," he said between kisses.
Jim kissed his chin and rubbed his back. "You're more than welcome, Blair," he said affectionately.
Blair hugged him tightly for a long time, then, unsure what exactly tipped him off, he sensed something was not quite right.
"What's wrong, Jim?" he asked as he stroked Jim's hair.
Jim sighed deeply and pulled back enough to look into his partner's face. "Simon knows," he said simply.
Blair wanted to make a joke about that comment, but the look on Jim's face squashed that impulse immediately. "What did he say? How did it even come up?"
A shrug and an almost shy smile appeared as he answered, "It seems we're not as subtle as we think!" He laughed and Blair kissed him. "He asked what was going on - even though he obviously already knew, I told him it was none of his business and that I didn't want to discuss it with him, and he told me - us - to keep it out of the office and off the clock." Another shrug. "Case closed."
"Except it's clearly not," Blair said, seeing the distress on Jim's face. "Do you have doubts about this, Jim? About us?"
"It's a little late for that, isn't it?"
Blair cocked his head and narrowed his eyes very slightly. "You didn't answer the question."
Jim slipped his thumbs into Blair's belt loops and sighed, thumping his head against the pillar and shutting his eyes. "No," he whispered, then said louder, "no. If there's one thing in this world that I have no doubts about, Blair, it's you. And us."
Blair studied him and squeezed his shoulders. "Are you sure? Because, Jim, I love you more than you could possibly imagine, but you need to be seriously invested, you know? I need you to be sure this is really what you want."
"This," he passed his hand between them, indicating them as a couple, "is all I've ever wanted. Okay? There's no question here, Chief. Simon says he's fine with it, but not everyone is going to happily rush out to buy our wedding gifts. It's just a little tough, sometimes, being reminded that this relationship is, has been and will continue to be a shock - to everyone - and not always a pleasant one." He ran a finger down the front of Blair's body and delighted in the slight shiver it caused. "The conversation just... kinda messed me up a little, that's all."
Blair looked at him soberly. "I'm sorry, Jim."
"Hey," he said softly, stroking a slightly stubbled cheek, "we've faced worse, right? We can handle this."
Blair nodded, and then leaned in and kissed him hard and deep, using the zero-angle of Jim's face as leverage to practically pin him to the beam. His emotions were on edge, and he was determined to push Simon out of Jim's head as soon as possible. "Are you married to the idea of cleaning this place up just now?" he asked, skimming his hands under Jim's shirt and mouthing his neck.
Jim smiled, and then laughed quietly. "No, I think it can wait a day. Or a week."
"Mmmm, good answer," Blair said with a smile as he pulled him off the pillar and pushed him up the stairs.