There's a simplicity to it that takes it from the ritual to the routine, and it leaves a slow, relentless, distant beat of arousal drumming in his head.

Blair does that to Jim, always; enchants, disturbs, calms.

They can go weeks without Jim asking for this with a slow carding of his fingers through the hair at Blair's temple, pushing back until he meets resistance.

Blair never refuses. Other demands, yes; sometimes too much, too -- and Jim's tucked away a handful of fantasies, darkly glittering, with a pang, but this Blair always gives him.

He combs out the tangles with the brisk efficiency of a rushed mother, Blair's complaints loud, but when he picks up the brush, they both fall silent.

Blair's hair crackles, defiant, whipping around his fingers, each strand, each hair, a temptation, all Jim's senses engaged. He rides the edge of a zone with a skill the man at his feet has taught him and loses himself only in the rising numbers.

A princess gets a hundred strokes. He remembers that from childhood.

Blair gets twice that and then bends forward, silky, slippery hair sliding away, so Jim can kiss the warm bared nape in silent thanks.

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