For Blair's birthday, the first since he'd been reborn, brought back, Jim wanted to do something special. They didn't talk about what had happened at the fountain, not directly; oblique, glancing references, sometimes jokes, but never a conversation about something too huge for Jim to feel that words, fleeting, spoken, gone could lasso and tether it within reach.
He didn't know who to say thank you to, either, which didn't help, as he felt it should be a major part of the conversation that would never happen; Incacha was silent now and Jim's animal spirit was a jaguar-shaped hole in the litter tray of his life. Thanking Blair for coming back, so that Jim didn't have to endure living without him, seemed egotistical in a way even Jim, who'd come to realize he had deep wells of self-centeredness, couldn't quite approve of.
So he pinned it all on Blair's first birthday, like a blindfolded child, spun dizzy, pins a tail on a donkey and hopes it hits the mark.
Discovering that Blair had a date that night was exactly, precisely like an extra step on the stairs, forcing him to stumble, body jarred and shocked, betrayed.
"A date," he repeated flatly. "Oh."
Blair peered up at him and then, seemingly satisfied with whatever Jim's expression had shown him, returned his attention to the book he was reading, his red shirt a splash of warm color against the couch. Jim was conscious of something painful going on and realized that he was gripping the back of the couch hard enough that his fingernails were white with the pressure. Letting go hurt even more.
He tried again. "Well, maybe we could go out for lunch?"
"We already are." Hope unfurled, a soft, pale green tendril of it, and then Blair doused it with weed killer. "Simon, Henri -- all of us. Megan booked the back room at Murphy's and she swears she hasn't hired a stripper or anything like that." He frowned and his lower lip pooched out, soft and sweet. "She hasn't, has she? Because I don't think that'll go down too well later on."
"With your date." Jim tried not to slather sarcasm on the last word and failed utterly, totally, miserably.
"Yeah." Blair closed his book with an emphatic slam. "Besides, they freak me out, man, when they're one on one like that. I never know where to look; not staring is rude, because, hello, they're performing and I'm the audience, but with Simon right there watching me watch -- God, no." He shuddered, watered-silk hair shimmy-shimmering around his face, mesmerizing Jim. All these years and he'd never once done what he wanted to and plunged his hands into that dense, complex mass, gathering it up and letting it spill down.
"Simon wouldn't care if you drooled," Jim said, and let himself get sidetracked into a conversation about how Blair's appreciation of the female form was never accompanied by slack-jawed wonder, because he was a man of the world who'd spent time with a tribe who habitually went naked between the hours of... Jim had heard that story before and the details got less believable every time. He stopped listening after the third time Blair used the word 'ceremony' when it was perfectly plain he meant to say 'fantasy'.
And he really had to close his ears when Megan, perfidious Megan, not only ordered a Strip-o-gram (tacky, over-priced, predictable), but ordered a male one. Mix-up, his ass. The squeals of delighted, verging on hysterical laughter from her and a blushing Rhonda as they slurped their way down a pitcher of bright pink frozen daiquiris, secure in the knowledge that it was Friday and they had the afternoon off, were deafening.
Especially against the frozen (but not pink) silence from every man in the room, apart from the stripper who was warbling his way through a rhyme as he tore off his police uniform. It took the man about ten endless seconds to realize that Blair wasn't going to play and to shrug and aim his (padded; Jim could see the outline of it) 'weapon' where it would be appreciated.
Blair, whose heartbeat had quickened, his breath catching, had given Jim a single, sidelong glance and strangely, had calmed down. Strangely, because Jim was absolutely certain his expression betrayed the fact that the low, snarling growl when the stripper had straddled Blair's lap had come from his throat.
When the man had left, all muscles and jiggling… parts, there was a collective head swivel as death glares were sent toward the two women, choking on laughter and alcoholic slush, but Megan shrugged, unrepentant. "Happy Birthday, Sandy!"
"Yeah. Thanks." Blair downed his beer, his face as sour as if it was lemonade without sugar. "Just what I always wanted."
And now it was eight and Blair was all dressed up and Jim was… still there. He should've gone out, he supposed. Not hung around to see Blair's date, making it clear that he lived there and wasn't going to make himself scarce now or later.
Should have. Wasn't gonna.
God, he was regressing. For an encore, he'd probably attach himself to Blair's ankle when he left, wailing, 'No! Mine!'.
Actually, that had possibilities… but the consequences were too horrible to contemplate.
He cleared his throat. "You look, uh, nice."
"Close your eyes," Blair said coldly.
"Just do it."
"Okay…. But if this is a test, only the fact that it's your birthday is making me cooperate."
"It's not a test. Well, not that kind." Blair sounded tired now. Well, no wonder. Hellish day. Just awful. "If I look so nice, what am I wearing?"
Easy. "You're in a pair of jeans and a shirt."
Shit. "Uh, blue jeans? And, a, uh, is it green?"
"Open your eyes and find out.
Red again. Fuck. But he stood by his 'nice'.
Eight-thirty came and went. Blair was fidgeting now, moving between the window and the door.
"Why don't you call her, Chief?" Jim said finally. "Maybe she's having car trouble?"
"He," Blair said absently.
"You heard me."
"You've got a date with a man?"
"What, you didn't see Officer Hard-on give me his card?"
"Now, wait just a -- oh. You're joking. Funny, Sandburg, real funny. So who is she?"
"He," Blair insisted and gave Jim a look so wounded, Jim flinched. He continued, each word distinct, sounding goaded, "I am waiting for a man to take me out on my birthday for a romantic date, with wine, and compliments, sure, and some non-work related conversation and one hell of a lot of kissing and if it feels right, some nudity later on back at his place, with clothes that come off slowly, with no Velcro involved, thank you very much."
"Whoa. Stop right there." Jim held up his hand and realized he looked like a traffic cop. "If this jerk can't even show up on time when it's your birthday, you make him fucking wait for sex, Blair, you hear me?"
"I'll remember you said that," Blair murmured.
"You do that," Jim said, fired up now and brimming over with indignation. "Shit, Chief, I had a great night planned for us, too, if only you'd waited."
"Yeah." Jim swallowed and felt the tips of his ears tingle the way they did before he jumped out of a plane. "It's -- well, it's your first birthday, looked at one way, and I wanted to make it special. Just to show you that I -- that it matters that you -- that I'm glad --" Wasn't there supposed to be a ripcord here somewhere? He pulled it and a plummet to his certain death became a gentle feather float to the ground?
"Wow." Blair had abandoned the window and was close enough to touch, which must have happened when Jim was watching the ground rise up to meet him. "I never thought of it that way. My first birthday. Okay, I can see that."
Jim's hand drifted up to palm Blair's cheek, briefly furious to find it smooth, freshly shaved. Blair had spent forever in that fucking bathroom getting ready for Mr. No-show, so that now, when Jim breathed in, all he could smell was clean skin and water and Blair, Blair, Blair…
"Yeah, I'm here," Blair said, and he was smiling now. "I'm right here, Jim, Jim, Jim."
"God, don't go out with anyone but me tonight, Chief," Jim begged, and it had come to this; that he could ask for something and not care that he was showing that he wanted it so much, not caring that he was revealing a weakness.
And it wasn't. Wanting Blair -- needing Blair -- loving Blair, made him stronger.
"You're my spinach," he said and knew Blair would get it, because this was Blair and Jim couldn't form a thought so off-beat and tangential that Blair couldn't turn it from cryptic to quick in a moment.
"Compliments -- check," Blair said softly.
Shame that it took Jim a full minute to work that one out.
"Me? I'm your -- You're waiting for me?" He jabbed a finger into Blair's shoulder. "I already did ask you out! And if you'd said yes back then, we wouldn't have missed the start of the game I got us tickets for!"
Blair shoved him back, the palm of his hand planted squarely on Jim's chest, burning through his T-shirt. "You didn't ask me on a date!"
"I would have if I'd thought you wanted me to!"
"Well, I did!"
"Then I will!" Jim slapped his hand over Blair's, holding it in place because he liked the way it felt there, with Blair's fingers idly, unconsciously stroking and petting him. "I want to take you out for your birthday. On a date. And when it's not your birthday, I want to do it again. And I want to keep on taking you out on dates."
"I'd like that," Blair said with a beautiful simplicity, which was good, because it meant that Jim could stop talking and kiss him, which was something else he wanted to keep on doing, because Blair tasted of heat and Jim hadn't realized how cold he was, and Blair tasted of happiness, and Jim hadn't known how sad he was.
He let this new Blair, the one he could kiss, the one who would kiss him, all tongue and sweet wickedness, get closer, strong arms around him, that firm, solid body wedged and fitted against his, and put everything he'd been feeling into one more kiss.
Then he paused, the echo of his words coming back to haunt him. "Don't make me fucking wait, Blair. Please?"
"Hey, it's my birthday," Blair told him, kiss-damp and flushed. "I can do whatever I want."
"And whoever I want…" Blair's hand slid down Jim's chest and kept on going. "I know who I want to do."
"Happy Birthday, Blair," Jim choked out as Blair's hand found its target.
"Yeah," Blair said and started to walk, his hand locked in Jim's, leading him, stumbling, unresisting, into his bedroom. "Happy Birthday to me."
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