Blair: All right, there is something. I mean, we work together every day, right? I'm staying at your place, and still you're like this enigma.
Blair: Yeah, an enigma.
Jim: What do you mean?
Blair: That thing with the bikes today, the Harleys. You're an expert.
Jim: I was into bikes in high school.
Blair: Why didn't you tell me?
Jim: You never asked. This was supposed to be a academic relationship. Next thing I know, you're gonna want the pin number to my ATM.
Blair: 3840. Your parents' birthdates, remember?
From Becky's transcript of 'Payback'.
It was a week later, when Akiko's kiss had faded to a memory, that Blair brought up the biker thing again. Jim had been half-braced for it. If he had to pick a word to describe Blair, 'tenacious' would be top of the list of ones he could share without Blair bouncing a wok off his head.
Blair curled up next to him on the couch, comfortable enough in his intrusiveness to make it seem normal to both of them. Jim made way obligingly and didn't really mind when Blair's feet migrated from a cross-legged position to nudging Jim's thigh. Blair's feet, cozy in mismatched thick socks, were on the endearing side poking up like that, one socks shades of blue stripes, the other a plain white, slightly too big for him.
"Is that one of my socks?"
Blair wiggled his toes. "Might be. I always lose a few on laundry day." He grinned. "Gallant foot soldiers, going to the great dryer in the sky."
"Ha-ha," Jim said. He felt a undemanding peace fill him at the prospect of a quiet night in. "Want to watch that movie we taped? The bank robbery one?"
"Maybe later," Blair said and yawned just a little too casually. "So…you were into bikes, huh?"
Jim chuckled and then laughed, unable to help himself. "I knew you wouldn't let that go," he said by way of explanation when Blair's eyebrows went up. "Yeah; what teenage boy isn't? I thought they were cool. I never got one of my own, but I borrowed a friend's a few times. Loved it." He closed his eyes, memories surging forward. The air holding him, pushing at him, the trusting tilt of his body as he cornered the bike, the raw growl of the machine between his legs… "I smell leather and I start to pick flies out of my teeth."
"That's quite a visual," Blair said dryly. His lips pursed. "You in leather hmm, yeah…that's another. Nice."
Jim felt heat rise in his face and hoped that the room was dark enough to hide his blush. Dusk was settling over the city and shadows were gathering in the corners of the room. Jim liked sitting in a room lit by the reflected glow of a thousand windows and cars. "Leather's the best -- safest -- thing to wear on a bike, Chief."
"I know," Blair said. He cleared his throat. "I, uh, I had a Triumph, Not for long. I, well, I crashed it, but it was fun while it lasted."
"You had a bike?" Jim realized that his surprise wasn't flattering and patted Blair's stripy foot apologetically. "Sorry. No reason why not."
"Tell that to Naomi. She freaked. Hauled out all these statistics about deaths and people getting their skin torn off, breaking their necks."
"Yeah, my dad did that, too," Jim said. "I think he was more concerned about the way it would look, though. His son riding around on a bike…just wasn't good for his image."
Which had been a small part of the appeal of getting one, of course.
Jim pinched Blair's big toe between a finger and thumb and wiggled it. "So how come I couldn't afford a bike and you could? Lots of yard work? Saturday job?" He frowned. "No, you were at Rainier by then…"
Blair met Jim's gaze calmly, but Jim could feel the tension thrum though him, even though the only point of contact between them now was Jim's grip on Blair's toe. "One of my anthro lecturers was going away; research in India. He...liked me and he said I could use his bike while he was out of the ountry; said he didn't want it just sitting there and he knew I'd take care of it."
"And you crashed it?" Jim winced. "Bet that took care of your teacher's pet status when he got back."
"He didn't get back," Blair said. "He died of snakebite. He was walking across a field -- he had a really strong reaction to the venom and he just -- there wasn't time to save him."
"I'm sorry," Jim said after a moment when he realized that the jerkily spoken brief words were all that he was going to get.
Blair nodded. "Yeah. It sucked. Chris was a really nice guy." He bit down on his lip. "I hated seeing his bike like that. Just twisted metal, everything scraped and dented."
"What happened?" Jim asked, closing his hand around Blair's ankle both to reassure and to keep him in place until Jim's questions had been answered. The bump of ankle bones though the sock were like nudges, telling him that he was holding on too tightly. He gentled his hold, running his fingers in a slow circle on Blair's foot.
Blair sighed, sounding impatient -- with himself, not Jim, though, going by the exasperated shake of his head. "Oh, man…talk about stupid! I got the news about Chris and I just bailed. Didn't have a helmet, I was wearing this thin jacket with a hood…I got on his bike and just rode off like a --"
"Bat out of hell?" Jim suggested with a faint smile.
Blair smiled back. "Yeah. Just as melodramatic as the song. I was lucky, though; I took a corner too fast and I went one way, the bike went another, and I landed on grass and leaves. Broke my arm, had bruises that were spectacular for weeks, but nothing worse than that." He rolled his eyes. "Naomi had this idea that I was trying to kill myself because of Chris, but I wasn't."
"Well, of course, you weren't," Jim said more sharply than he'd intended. "You were friends. You were upset. That doesn't mean you were ready to -- do that."
"We were getting close to being more than friends," Blair said and effectively silenced Jim, robbing him of breath for a long few seconds. "Maybe when he got back we'd have taken it further -- I don't know. Ethically, it was a minefield, so I guess we might not…"
"How old were you?" Jim demanded, his voice harsh.
"Old enough," Blair said and glanced down at his foot. "Jim? Ease back there, will you?"
Jim realized how tight his grip had become and released Blair's ankle with a muttered apology, still too shaken to trust himself to say anything useful. Blair and another man.. Blair racing off, hair streaming behind him, his face twisted by grief and loss and then the scream of metal as the bike skidded…God.
"You wanted the crash," he said slowly, piecing together the scraps. "You didn't want to hurt yourself physically, but you didn't -- you didn't want the bike. You'd been looking after it for him, keeping it clean, and he'd never see what a good job you'd done. So you destroyed it."
Blair made a muffled, protesting sound and Jim looked at him and saw the tears glazing his eyes. "Sorry," Jim said again. "Ignore me, I'm just being a detective. It was an accident. They happen. I-- I'm glad you walked away from it, though."
"I wasn't," Blair said, his voice dull. "Not for a long time. God, I was so fucking stupid --"
Jim slid off the couch and went to his knees in front of Blair, wrapping his arms around Blair's shoulders and hugging him tight. It never occurred to him not to offer Blair a place to cry.
"Stupid -- it was years ago -- stupid crying now --" Blair said, the words choked out against Jim's shoulder. "Sorry."
Jim moved back up onto the couch, working them into a more comfortable position, one arm still around Blair, the other stroking his damp hair back off his hot, wet face. "Sometimes stuff can come back and bite you on the ass when you least expect it."
"Yeah." Blair sniffed wetly and patted Jim's chest. He took a deep breath and then another. "Okay, I'm good, I'm centered. I'm letting it go. Thanks. Let's watch that movie, huh?"
Jim nodded and stood, giving Blair some space to pull himself together. He had some thinking to do, some conceptions to rearrange, but he wasn't going to be doing any of that tonight, not when another man was filling Blair's thoughts.
Not that it hurt to make your position clear.
"I've still got my leather jacket," he said when he'd brought Blair a beer and made a bowl of popcorn for them to share.
Blair brightened. "Really? I'd love to see you in that."
Jim tossed a few pieces of popcorn into his mouth. "Mm-hmm. And some gloves. Gauntlets, I guess you'd call them. And the pants, of course, though they'd probably be a bit tight…the boots still fit. Interested in seeing me in the whole outfit?"
Blair dug into the popcorn and grinned, his eyes clear of distress now, full of amusement, just how Jim liked them. "Only if you promise to let me help you wriggle into the pants."
"You can help me take them off," Jim said and added casually, "that was always a two-man job."
Watching Blair choke on popcorn and turn darkly red was more entertaining than the movie.
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