Buttoned Up



Blair watched the loose button slip free of the swiftly unraveling thread and fall to the floor, rolling out of sight in the way buttons did. He launched into a muttered litany of his grievances.  "Damn, last clean shirt, damn, can't wear this one now, damn…" He threw back his head and gave an inarticulate growl of sheer frustration.

"One of those mornings, huh?"

Blair spared Jim, neatly dressed, freshly shaved Jim, a glance that told him exactly what he thought of people who offered sympathy instead of something useful, like a time machine so he could start this morning over. "Yes, Jim, it is. And no, I don't want to talk about it, okay?"

He stripped off the shirt, threw it on the bed next to the one he'd spilled coffee down and the one he'd bled on when he'd cut himself shaving, and went to the bathroom because he'd forgotten to brush his teeth. His tongue, burned on the too-hot coffee, swiped at the fur on his teeth and he grimaced. Late, hung over, and about to go and plead a student's case with a woman who thought casual Fridays were an invention of the devil. Blair didn't believe that clothes made the man but he was all in favour of getting off on the right foot with someone hostile and he'd planned the ultimate sacrifice of wearing a shirt and tie.

Now, thanks to being too busy to do laundry, and too palsied of hand to manage perfectly mundane tasks with any level of success, he was down to plaid -- which she abhorred -- or a T-shirt with a slogan that would doom the student to a Mac job.

Jim had a closet full of pristine shirts but Blair knew, because he'd tried borrowing Jim's clothes before, that they'd be way too big.

He was screwed and so was poor Matt Taylor.

Screwed.

He came out of the bathroom, wondering if he could wash a shirt by hand and iron it dry, all in the ten minutes he had left, and found Jim sitting on the couch, squinting at something in his hand, his face all absorbed concentration, a slight frown furrowing his forehead. Across his lap was Blair's shirt and the missing button gleamed whitely on the coffee table.

"Jim?"

"Mmm? Got it," Jim murmured to himself, threading the needle with a decisive thrust.

Blair went over and perched on the couch arm, watching Jim deftly adjust the length of thread and tie a knot in one end. Jim could sew on buttons? Who knew?

He didn't offer to take over. There was something about the way Jim was settling the button in place with neat, swift stabs of the needle that told him Jim was enjoying this. And watching Jim sew was soothing away the panic and rush that was making his headache worse. Up, down; in, out… firmly attaching the errant button. Jim's hands were surprisingly graceful doing this, both the one wielding the needle and the one gathering the folds of the cotton shirt in a loose bundle that wouldn't crease it too much.

Jim set the last stitch in place, weaving the needle through to anchor the thread, brought the shirt up to his mouth and bit off the loose end with an economical snap of his teeth.

Blair found himself beaming at Jim, lost in a silent gratitude.

Wordlessly, Jim gestured him up and then stood himself, shaking the shirt out and studying it. It must've passed because he walked behind Blair, holding it so that Blair could slip it on, cool and light against his skin.

Then Jim turned Blair, large hands warm on Blair's shoulders, and began to button the shirt with more of those neat, deft, swift movements.

Blair felt cosseted, cared for. Still smiling, he let Jim finish the buttoning before stepping back to unzip his pants enough to be able to tuck the shirt in without bunching. Jim's mouth quirked in a grin. "Yeah, I think you can take it from here, Chief." He plucked the piece of Kleenex off Blair's chin and solemnly kissed a finger before dotting it against the abraded skin. "All better."

It was a question as much as an assurance and Blair treated it like one, considering his world, his state of mind, for a few seconds before nodding.

Jim pursed his lips and nodded back. "Good. And, Chief?"

Blair turned his head to watch Jim stroll away to the door. "Yeah?"

"Wear the red tie." Jim opened the door and threw Blair another smile, blandly innocent this time. "It matches your eyes."



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