The first time they met, one of them was half naked, the other in stolen clothes. Stripped bare: hiding behind a disguise.
Blair thought it set a pattern.
Because Jim had secrets, sure he did, but he wasn't secretive. There was a difference. And Blair soon discovered that there was nothing he couldn't get Jim to tell him about once he knew there was treasure under the X, not gritty, hot sand.
That was how he found out about Jim's speeding ticket, given to him by an overly zealous rookie traffic cop (embarrassing, but Jim, stalwart defender of all that was good and true, ponied up the fine instead of getting the ticket buried the way anyone else would, and if word leaked out and Jim's desk was littered with toy race cars for a day or two, well, he took it placidly enough).
It was also how he found out about Jim's crush on his football coach at the age of fifteen (male), first lover, two years later (female and eight years older than him; hello, there, Mrs. Robinson) and, with Jim a little less forthcoming than usual but not entirely taciturn, discovered that Jim wasn't, quite, entirely, completely, use him as a ruler, straight.
Which Blair had known for a while without realizing it, a higher truth absorbed rather than revealed in a moment of truth; sunburn, not a scald from a boiling kettle. Jim had given away a lot to a man whose obsession revolved around observing him.
Staring at Blair's ass a lot -- and, yeah, when it came to a gaze trained on that part of his anatomy, Blair really did have eyes in the back of his head -- wasn't the first, best, or only clue.
Blair, who was deeply secretive to the point where he didn't give away anything without needing to, starting with his favorite color (red but he always claimed it was green) up to, including, and beyond his true feelings about guns (control them? Hell, yes. And any time his dick wanted to stop getting hard when he was forced to use one, was fine by him), envied Jim his comparative openness.
Blair always babbled cheerfully, indiscriminately, trying to be wide open, his petty deceptions transparent, amusing, his confessions of vulnerability earnest and appreciated, valued as a strength not a weakness.
There are lies, damn lies, and Blair Sandburg.
It started so far back that he could barely remember it; a tale told in a schoolyard to ward off a bully. Except, he'd told at least four therapists that, and somewhere between number two and number three, he realized his age, the school, and the bully's name had changed each time and it most likely never happened.
It didn't really matter. Jim generally got told the truth, or worked it out by himself, which saved Blair the hassle of confession, back-tracking, or just plain lying again. Jim never commented when a lie of Blair's was exposed, flopping like a hooked fish on a hot rock; he just noted the truth somewhere in his head, and filed it away in an orderly fashion (Blair had watched him do it and could have sworn he heard a filing cabinet thunk closed). Then Jim was infuriatingly kind for an hour or two as if Blair had committed a terrible faux pas and Jim was too much of a gentleman to rub his nose in it.
It was almost enough to make Blair contemplate coming clean and telling all. Almost.
He lied about being straight because he was both lazy and eager to please. Society preferred men with women. He'd long since decided that tolerance of gays amongst the straight liberals he worked with was as knee-jerk a reaction as saliva production after biting a lemon slice, rather than genuine acceptance. Not always, no, but mostly. Rainier wasn't as progressive as it liked to think it was. Blair found himself preferring outright hostility to that superficial, uneasy approval. Not that he knew what it was like to identify as gay, with all that it entailed. People assumed, sure, but they seemed to accept his assurance that you're wrong, man, hey, it's just long hair, okay? Don't judge a book by its cover.
Blair made it simple for himself and those around him and chased women, dated women, fucked women (when he couldn't avoid it) and sometimes fooled himself into thinking he could do this forever.
Meeting Jim kind of killed that hope dead.
Jim was the first man he'd met that Blair wanted enough to be honest about his desire, even to himself. If Jim asked him to, Blair would blow him in the middle of the bull pen, or bend over Jim's desk, ass up and ready. Or, because neither of those were remotely possible requests from the James Ellison he knew, stand beside Jim, loyal friend and true, when Jim told Simon the good news that they were fucking. At which point, Simon would explode, leaving a faint dusting of cigar ash on his desk and a lingering echo of a bellowed 'Sandburg!' as Simon would be sure to blame Blair for seducing Jim off the straight and narrow.
Jim could crook his finger and that's all it would take.
Blair was sure that Jim knew that.
Blair knew that Jim knew that.
Blair hated that Jim knew that.
"Mmm? Yeah, while you're standing there."
"What?" Blair looked at the fridge. "No, I wasn't offering to get you another beer and save your feet the endless trek across the dusty veldt of the living room."
"If it's dusty, it's your fault," Jim said placidly. "I leave my shoes at the door."
"Dust isn't anyone's fault," Blair argued. "Dust happens. Dead skin cells are shed at a rate of --"
"Thanks, Chief, but spare me the lecture. I can see what's in dust and it isn't pretty, but I try not to think about it or I'd stop breathing and that wouldn't end well."
Momentarily distracted -- Jim in a playful mood was something Blair loved; he'd trained Jim to banter with him, rewarding him in subtle ways, encouraging the man to let his guard down -- Blair grinned. "It'd end with me on top of you giving you mouth-to-mouth and I had garlic shrimp for lunch."
"Ooh, so tempting. Brush your teeth, and then we'll talk osculation."
"Nice one," Blair said approvingly. "But I know it, so no point for you."
"Define it," Jim said and smothered a yawn. "Rules say I can challenge if I think you're bluffing."
Blair got them both a beer to give him time to think -- no way he was losing this round of the word game they'd invented on a stakeout and resurrected from time to time as the whim took them, no way -- and sat down next to Jim.
"It means to kiss," he began.
Jim sucked his breath in sharply. "I feel a point to me coming on," he said, the suggestion of a crow in his voice.
"What?" Blair put his beer down and poked Jim in the shoulder. "It does." His hesitation had been due to a brief fantasy about Jim's mouth, not any lack of knowledge. "Osculation. The art of kissing."
Jim's beer bottle clinked down next to Blair's and then his hand, cool from the glass, came to rest lightly against Blair's jaw, tipping Blair's face up. "You talk the talk, Chief, but for this one, I want a demonstration."
Jim's face was so close. Blair breathed in Jim's used air, and wondered where all the oxygen had gone. His palms were sweaty, his head light. Fuck. No wiggle room left, no place to hide. Read 'em and weep time. Cards on the --
"Show me what it means," Jim murmured, the words pleading, his voice shaking, his assurance lost.
A man in need of guidance. Instruction. A man who needed showing more than how to kiss another man.
Oh, I can do this…
"I've never done this before, Jim," he said huskily and closed his eyes, inviting Jim to plant one on him.
"Mendacity," Jim snapped, the quiver ironed out of his voice. The fingers on Blair's face clamped down hard before disappearing, which hurt more. "And if you want me to define a liar, it's you, Sandburg."
Blair opened his eyes and blinked. "What?" Where did the kiss go?
"Just once, will you trust me with the fucking truth?"
Whoa. Not asking much, are we? The truth, the whole truth and nothing but would leave Jim packing up everything that belonged to Mr. BS and tossing it over the balcony. Blair wet his lips and hazarded a weak, "Jim?"
"Save it," Jim said stonily. "You're into men, but you never kiss them? Just fuck them? Is that really what you want me to believe?"
"I want -- I --" Blair tried again. "Jim, man, this is hard, okay?"
"So was my dick five minutes ago," Jim muttered. "Ah, forget it. All of it." He stood. "I'm going to bed."
'Alone' hung unspoken in the air like a persistent smell.
"Wait." Blair reached out and grabbed Jim's hand. "I didn't know you knew." Shit. Another lie. Sort of.
"Well, I did." Jim sounded moody. Depressed. No wonder; he'd just talked himself in and out of getting laid in about thirty seconds; had to be a record.
"And now that I know that you know, well --"
"You'll lie about something else."
"Probably," Blair admitted. He brightened and gave Jim's hand a tug. "See? I was honest about lying! That's progress, right?"
For a moment, it hung in the balance and then Jim smiled, a grudging curve upward of his lips. "If you say so."
"I do say so." Blair hauled himself up, using Jim as a climbing frame and gave Jim's mouth a swift, hard kiss. "That, my friend, was a demonstration of osculation."
"That," Jim said, taking Blair into his arms and glaring down at him, "was pathetic. You can do better than that."
"Oh, I can," Blair told him and watched Jim's mouth start to smile again. "I can kiss you better than you've ever been kissed, blow you until you forget your own name, fuck you until your ass thinks it's in heaven -- and that's the truth, I swear it." He gave Jim a beseeching look. "You believe that, right?"
"Sure," Jim said after a long pause. He grinned. "But you've still got to prove it."
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