Love Hurts



"You're holding back, Chief." Jim danced around Blair, jabbing his fist forward a few times, his bare feet alternately slipping and gripping on the wooden floor of the loft. The pushed back furniture observed them in silence and Blair's breathing was agitated only by emotion; the kid hadn't even broken into a sweat.

"This is hard for me." Blair didn't sound like he was apologizing. His hands were loose by his sides, the sag and bag of his sleeveless T-shirt echoed in his slumped posture. "Jim, I don't want to learn how to fight, okay? If I did, I'd have done it years ago. It's not my thing."

"You ride with me, it should be," Jim said firmly. "Chief, I can't always be there to watch your back and I'd sleep easier knowing you knew the basics of self-defence at least." He squared up to Blair and jerked his head in encouragement. "Come on; try and land one on me."

"Why?" Blair shrugged, his hands held up and out, fingers loose and curved, harmless. "I won't be able to unless you let me, and if you let me, what's the point?"

"You want an incentive?" Jim thought briefly, doubtfully, about ways to get him mad but it hadn't happened that often since they'd met, so he wasn't sure what Blair's triggers were. Passionate, yes, but angry? Not really Blair's style.

"I'd need one to hurt you." Blair reached up to tuck a stray piece of hair behind his ear, the movement easy, relaxed, even when it was exposing half a dozen vulnerable spots. Jim couldn't have done that. Even knowing it was Blair facing him and there was no real threat, his guard was up and he was tense, aware.

Ready to fight.

"You won't hurt me," he assured Blair, realising a moment too late what he'd said.

Blair chuckled dryly. "You know, I'd worked that one out on my own."

"Blair…" Frustrated, Jim blew out, a sharp, impatient huff of air. "You punch me; I block; you observe, which is one of your strengths, and then I try and punch you and get nowhere because you block me. It's easy. You can do it." He gave Blair a bared teeth grin. "Make me proud."

The snort he got back was suitably derisive but Blair did finally get in the game to the extent of raising his hands, doubled now into fists, and feinting with the left before punching with the right.

"Well, all right…" Jim said approvingly, catching the blow on his forearm and using the momentum behind Blair's punch to guide it off to the side, leaving Blair's stomach exposed. He limited the consequences to a tap, barely a push of his knuckles against Blair's midriff. Felt through the weave of cotton, Blair's skin held a mild warmth, a distant hint of muscle.

"Ow." It sounded ironic and Jim frowned.

"You want me to do it harder?"

"I don't want you to do it at all."

Jim scratched at his bare knee, adjusted the way his shorts were riding on his hips -- they were old, the elastic was going, and as soon as this was over he was tossing them out -- and didn't take his eyes off Blair the whole time.

"What's it going to take?"

"Huh?" Blair gave him a puzzled look and Jim sighed.

"Carrot or stick, Chief? Incentive or penalty?"

"Neither!" Blair made an impatient sound, his gaze going longingly to his laptop, safely stowed away and out of reach. "Jim, I wanted to spend the afternoon catching up on stuff."

"Fine; give me, oh, ten minutes of your undivided attention and you can."

"I don't see why I have to bargain with you." Blair glared at him and then smiled smugly with the ultimate comeback. "You're not the boss of me."

"No, but I'm the man you owe twenty bucks to," Jim reminded him.

Blair's smile faded and Jim felt a slight twinge of shame. It wasn't like he expected that twenty back and he didn't want Blair to feel bad about it… On the other hand, he genuinely wanted Blair to learn a few moves given that when he went into dangerous situations the man was a step behind him, breathing in his ear.

"I said I'd give it to you back. In fact, why don't I go and get it now?" Blair snapped.

"Work it off," Jim said. He began to circle Blair again, noting the musculature on display. Blair was reasonably fit, and pretty fast on his feet, but he needed toning up. Too many hours spent sitting. "Cook for a week and we're quits. Or since you're so fond of gambling, let's make this interesting. I hit you, we add a dollar; you land one on me, we take one off. We set the egg timer gadget for five minutes; it'll feel longer, trust me."

"You'll own my ass in five minutes," Blair said dryly.

Jim stared at the subject of discussion thoughtfully as he worked his way around to face Blair again. Nice ass. Especially when Sandburg left the bathroom wearing nothing but water and it was all pink. He knew that ass well; he'd slapped it in a friendly way, kicked it once when there were bullets flying and Sandburg just wasn't hitting the deck fast enough -- and been made to look at the boot-shaped bruise by an indignant, ungrateful Sandburg at least once a day until it had faded. "Yeah, I would, wouldn't I? It's tempting, Chief, but I think we'll even the odds so I can live with myself." He grinned. "Will it make you feel better if we turn it around and make it a test of my senses?"

"How?" Blair sounded intrigued and Jim kept his triumphant smile on the inside. Got you…

"I'm blindfolded when we do it."

"Too easy," Blair said immediately.

No fooling him, was there?

"I'll put those white-noise generator plugs in. Blind and deaf."

"You're really determined about this, aren't you?"

"Just want to protect that ass of yours from getting pounded on again, seeing how much you fussed about it last time."

Blair absently rubbed his backside. "Yeah… but all the self defence in the world wouldn't have helped against those bullets."

"True, but --" Jim shook his head. "Oh, no. No. You. With the talking and the distracting… no. Come on; I'll be blind and deaf; good enough?"

"One hand tied behind your back."

"Want one foot in a bucket, too?"

Blair actually looked like he was considering that, the little shit, but he shook his head eventually. "No. Just the hand."

"Fine."

Jim ran lightly up the stairs to his bedroom, as Blair went to get the timer, stripping off his T-shirt and dropping it on the bed; it was getting warm in the loft with the sun streaming in through the windows. He picked up his sleep mask and the ear plugs and grabbed a tie he wasn't fond of.

Blair gave him an odd look when he passed him the tie. "I'm reconsidering the bucket," he muttered.

"Huh?"

Blair's gaze dropped to Jim's bare chest. "You're displaying yourself, your muscles. It's an aggressive act, designed to intimidate --"

"It was getting hot!" Jim protested, interrupting before Blair brought up baboons with red asses or something else Jim would be forced to take offence at.

"You're not even warm," Blair said, reaching out and running his hand down Jim's arm.

"Hey!"

Blair pursed his lips and shrugged. "Fine. You're hot."

Jim tried to decide if Blair had meant more than the obvious by that -- or which obvious to choose -- and couldn't. Blair could be inscrutable sometimes. Baffling, even. He wouldn't turn his back to let Blair deal with the knotting of the tie, making Blair be the one to move behind him. That felt like less of a surrender. He was starting to feel a prickle of panic, not much, just enough to make his skin break out in a shiver. Voluntarily weakening himself before a fight… it felt weird.

Blair knotted one end of the tie around Jim's wrist and then hesitated. "How do you want to do this?"

"Normally you'd attach it to my belt…" Jim thought about it and then shrugged, unable to come up with a creative way of hobbling his arm. "Oh, take it off; I'll just keep my hand behind me; you trust me, right?"

Blair rolled his eyes in all the answer Jim was getting and picked at the just-tied knot. Jim let him, even though he could have done it himself, breathing quietly, sinking into a zone of sorts, a place of absolute concentration.

On Blair. Opponent. Threat. Except… Blair, so not really…

On Blair's hands, one cupping his wrist, finger curled lightly, supporting it, the other working the knot. It took seconds; Blair really hadn't tied the knot that well, but Jim had noticed before how time could stretch when it wasn't empty.

And when he was concentrating, it never was.

Each second was packed tight with information that needed processing and he wasn't built to let any slip by. He catalogued each sound Blair was making, the scratch of his short fingernails on the silk tie, the tiny tears of the silk, the way the fibres were twisting, snapping… The obvious sounds; breathing, heartbeat, words, he left until last; they were simple. Blair was taking too long, his skin of his palm, where it touched Jim's hand damper than it should have been, his gaze not on the task at hand but Jim's chest.

Blair's tongue slicked his lips and Jim watched its movement across the full, heavy lower lip with a distant appreciation for the gloss it left.

"Okay." Blair held the strip of silk in his hand for a moment, drawing it through his fingers, and then tossed it aside. "Suit up."

Jim stepped back and took one last look at Blair, sweeping his gaze over him as Blair flushed, shifting his bare feet restlessly, their sound a hushed slide against the wood.

Then he blinded himself and cut off his hearing, tucking one hand -- his left, no need to shame Blair by making this too easy for him to win -- behind his back, hoping he could remember to keep it there. When he'd fought like this in training it'd been easier; leather cuffs, soft enough not to damage, sturdy enough to keep his wrist and belt connected. And he'd still ended up with his left wrist chafed and his shoulder aching because he kept trying to free himself and fight the best he could.

Good practice, though. He'd once taken out two men with his left arm hanging useless, a bullet in it, blood dripping hot and thick.

For Blair, he'd settle for the guy being able to throw a punch without hesitating.

Blair's hand tapped his shoulder in a signal to begin and he nodded, skipping back a pace and feeling the faint breeze against his bare skin as Blair's fist swung wildly and missed.

Another reason to do this bare chested. He pictured Blair's face if he'd taken it one step further and left his shorts upstairs, too, and grinned. The distraction cost him. Blair's other fist, from the direction the blow landed, struck his shoulder, rocking him back.

One to Sandburg.

Jim focused, letting his skin be his eyes, trying to track his opponent through reflected heat. It wasn't easy… Blair had got a clue and, now that Jim wasn't watching him, maybe, had lost his self-consciousness enough to start moving, bouncing on his toes from the vibrations Jim could feel travelling through the floor.

Relying on surprise, his size, and Blair's possible over-confidence, Jim stepped forward fast, driving his fist in front of him, two solid punches, bam-bam, pulled just a little. The first connected with Blair's arm, the second missed.

Even, now.

He inhaled, filtering out the immediacy of his own sweat, and 'saw' a roughly man-shaped source of a smell as familiar as his own.

That was easy, but holding onto and interpreting the data from his sense of touch and smell as he moved, struck out, was less simple. It was like juggling knives.

Blair's fists found him three, four, times as he found the internal balance needed to fight effectively, the blows themselves making it hard to concentrate. Blair was hitting him harder than he'd expected, which wasn't really all that hard, but still…

He was avoiding places that would hurt, though, and, for some reason, avoiding Jim's face. Jim knew that there were better places to hit someone than the face; too many bones, too easy a target to move, although most people would flinch, raise their hands, leaving themselves exposed, so it wasn't a bad place to pretend to hit… He just wasn't sure that was Blair's reason for going, over and over again, for his chest, his arms.

Then there was a sudden swirl of air and he spun, too late to stop Blair's fists from drumming a hard, fast tattoo on his back, pointless blows, that left the skin over his shoulder blades smarting but no more.

Pointless, but plenty of them.

Well, damn. The kid was winning. Which Jim didn't mind -- but Blair wasn't winning anything but the game; he just wasn't dealing out any effective punishment at all here. In a real fight, he'd be down on the floor by now, giving a demonstration in how to bleed from various places and whimper at the same time.

Time to get Blair's dander up. Jim made a mental note to ask Blair what that meant when this was over, nursery rhymes about geese running through his head.

He stayed still, ignoring a hit to his side and an open-handed slap on his ass that he was going to fight to the death to get disallowed if Blair tried to count it, and waited for Blair to get back in front of him again.

He'd been counting and keeping track of time. Blair only owed him five dollars now.
There were ninety seconds left.

He focused, letting everything that wasn't Blair go away. Behind the sleep mask, the darkness took on a faintly blue tinge and he blinked uselessly before filling his nose with a deep, slow breath of air.

There. And now there and -- He lunged forward, pivoting to the side, presenting a smaller target, his balance shifting as his foot lashed out, catching Blair above the knee and making him cry out, the sound a distant whisper through the plugs. He backhanded Blair across the chest, feeling his knuckles graze ribs, his forearm press against hairy skin.

Skin? Blair had taken his T-shirt off, too?

For a moment, they were close, Blair's panted breaths overlaying the salt and musk from his body with a citrus tang. Jim flashed on the orange Blair had been eating earlier, peeled, segmented, each juice-beaded piece slipped past those full lips, to be bitten and chewed. Blair's sticky, stained fingers had been licked clean, droplets of juice trickling down his wrist and the smooth, pale skin of his inner arm as Blair chuckled and chased them with his tongue.

All's fair… He couldn't hear, not well, though maybe more than Blair thought he could, but Blair's ears were working just fine.

And taunting someone was sometimes a good way to get them worked up, get them reacting, not thinking. It shouldn't work as often as it did, but in a fight the primitive emotions tended to swim to the surface and take big, bloody bites out of cool logic's ass.

Not that Blair was at that stage, though, and Jim didn't have time to get him there. But he had time for this --

His hand flicked out, the back of his fingers dragging over Blair's open mouth, just barely hard enough to qualify as a hit, but carrying with it the suggestion of something else; a dare, a challenge, a come-on. He felt Blair recoil but when there was no answering hit, he went lower, repeating the flick and managing, by instinct, memory, and a little luck, to target Blair's nipple. It was hard, despite the temperature in the loft, and he couldn't resist repeating the flick on the other nipple but that attempt was blocked and his arm was left tingling from a wild, powerful sweep of Blair's arm.

He couldn't help it. He grinned. "Bring it on," he murmured provocatively. "Show me what you've got, Chief."

Blair came in close, on Jim's vulnerable side, and -- ow!

"Biting is not -- hey!" Jim rubbed his shoulder and then broke that off to locate Blair and hook his arm around Blair's neck, hauling him in.

Which, if he didn't cheat and kept his left hand out of it, left him only one weapon…

Blair's mouth tasted of spit and blood and fury. And he kissed Jim back with teeth that chewed and stung and a tongue that thrust inside Jim's mouth without waiting for an invitation.

Jim dimly felt a rain of token blows, distantly heard the buzz of the timer, lost in the kiss.

When it ended, he tugged out the earplugs and then took off the mask, tossed them aside and stared at Blair.

"Blair…"

A fist smacked into his nose, landing with a sharp crunch and leaving him blinking away tears of pain and sniffing back a salty trickle of blood.

"You owe me five bucks," Blair said, his chest heaving as he caught his breath. "And you're getting blood all over the floor."

"Yeah," Jim said, the words thick and snuffled. "I am."

"Want me to apologise?"

As it sounded like hell would freeze over first, Jim shook his head, wincing as the blood splattered in an arc. "Ice would be good."

"You're an asshole."

"Maybe." Jim grabbed Blair's T-shirt and used it to catch the drops of blood. He could smell Blair on it and it made his head spin pleasantly. "Do I still get the ice?"

Blair's hand smacked against his groin, cupping the result of -- well, a lot of things -- and squeezed gently enough to make Jim's resultant growl more pleasure than protest. "For here?"

"Cold shower's more traditional."

Blair grinned at him, his thumb describing an interesting, if frustratingly short, semi circle. "But less direct."

"Bite me." Jim smirked at him. "Oh, wait; you already did." He glanced at his shoulder where the dents Blair's teeth had left were pinking up nicely. "You're an animal, Chief."

"But you love me." Blair sounded certain about that and Jim smiled.

"Come here."

"Not until your nose stops --"

Sometimes Jim felt no guilt about using his superior reach and strength. He got Blair where he wanted, up close, and tapped Blair's chin. "Open up. I want to see what I did. I tasted blood."

"Oh." Blair relaxed. "It's okay. Cut the inside of my lip when you hit it."

"Blair…" Jim dropped the softest, lightest kiss he could on the already swelling lip and got a knuckle dug into his ribs. "Ow."

"Right back at you. No kissing. And you're all messy." Blair gave him a not unkind shove. "Clean up and I'll get the ice."

A short time later, wounds dealt with, beer in hand, they sat down, still dressed in nothing but shorts.

"I was going to blow you when we'd finished," Jim remarked, carefully not looking at Blair. Much. He sniffed experimentally. "Nope. Still can't breathe. Guess that's not going to happen."

"I thought you were going to let me work."

"You'd sooner study than get a blow job? Especially one from me?" Jim shook his head sadly. "Chief. Wounded here." He took a sip of beer. "Besides; what's two more minutes?"

"That long?" Blair snorted -- he could; his nose wasn't stuffed up and swollen. "Either you're overestimating your skills or underestimating my staying power."

"Blow job," Jim said. "From me. You love 'em and you pop like warm champagne every time I get my tongue doing that little curl around thingummy. And I don't kneel on a wooden floor for longer than two minutes for anyone. Two minutes tops."

"Theoretically," Blair said pointedly, "as I'm not getting one."

"Neither am I."

Blair fingered his lip. "I think we can say that's a given, even if I wasn't pissed at you."

"I'm just trying to --"

"I know. It's the only reason I didn't hit you harder." Blair sighed. "Jim… did it ever occur to you that if I wanted to learn self-defence, you're the last person I'd get lessons from?"

Not that was really insulting. Before he had chance to express his feelings, Blair's hand patted his leg. "Not a reflection of how well you fight, Jim. You're good. Too good to teach a beginner like me, but that's not what I was getting at. It'd be a disaster because I can't see you as a threat and I've got no desire to hurt you." He gave a soft, disgruntled snort. "Not when it leads to us both in no state to get off."

"I wouldn't say that…" Jim looked at him. "Was it really that hard to hit me until I pissed you off?"

Blair nodded. "It just wasn't… it didn't feel right."

"Some sort of conflict with you getting my back?" Jim waved his hand around vaguely. "You know; a Sentinel no-no."

"Could be." Blair hesitated and then blurted out, "I signed up for lessons at the Y. Start next week. With a guy named Andy. He said I could join the new session for novices."

Jim fought back a flare of possessiveness and took his time replying. He'd go with Blair. Make sure this guy knew what he was…"Andy? Andy Grayson? Big guy, red hair, freckles just about every place he's got skin?"

"Yeah; you know him?"

"Went to school with him," Jim said. "I heard he was working there, just didn't know what he was doing. Well, well… old Andy…" He dwelt pleasurably on Andy's probable reactions to Blair's take on things. "Tell him you know me."

"I don't think so." Blair looked suspicious. "Was he a friend of yours or someone who gave you swirlies?"

"No one gave me swirlies," Jim said easily. "Friend, yeah, but he had this practical joke thing going and there was this one time he --- oh, never mind." He looked at Blair. "I still do."

"Still do what?"

"Want to get my mouth on you."

Blair gave the close to imperceptible shiver that meant he'd gone from a guy sitting drinking beer to a guy who wanted sex. Jim approved. "It's the stripping and the fighting, right? Aroused all your primal instincts."

He could have done without Blair analyzing it to death, though. "Ugh."

"Very funny."

Jim took their beer and put it on the table, meeting no resistance from Blair, probably because the bottles were both almost empty. "Yeah, it did. And it was working for you, too, but if that means you're going to need a chaperone with Andy--"

Blair stared at him, his face flushing. "Shut up, get the lube, and bend over the couch," he suggested.

"Make me," Jim said, lounging back and spreading his arms along the back of the couch he was going to be fucked over very soon, if he was lucky. His dick was hard, visibly so, and he spread his legs wide just to make sure it was framed nicely.

Blair sighed and shifted over so that he was kneeling beside Jim. He bent over and spoke clearly and softly in Jim's ear. "I'm going to fuck you, Jim. I'm going to make you bend over and spread your legs just as wide as they are now. Going to look at you until you start to shake and tremble and bit your lip trying not to beg me to touch you…"

Heat and lust lapped and poured over Jim in syrup-heavy dollops. God, he loved it when Blair did that. Loved the feeling of being on display, admired. With anyone else, he'd have felt ridiculous -- hell, anyone else and he wouldn't have done it -- but with Blair there wasn't much he wouldn't do.

"And you won't go and get what I need? Won't get the lube so I can get my fingers in you, deep and hard, hold them there while you fuck yourself on them, slowly, rocking yourself getting them in, squeezing your ass around them… it's too much trouble to walk upstairs, is it? Maybe it's going to be too much trouble for me to get my dick in you. Maybe you don't want to --"

"Okay." God.

"Sorry, Jim? Did you say something?"

"I said, I'll fetch it," Jim ground out. "And you'd better be good, Sandburg."

Blair's tongue slid wetly around his ear before biting it. "Yeah? Think you can take it? Maybe I'd better be just mediocre…"

Jim started to laugh, losing the ability to keep the joke going, Blair joining in, their heads bumping as they giggled . "God, you're such a --" He paused.

"A what?" Blair prompted.

Jim shook his head and kissed Blair's nose before dragging him up off the couch and walking with him over to the stairs. The lube was up there and so was the bed. He had a feeling they'd end up using that to fuck on the way they usually did. "They need to invent a new word for you, Chief."

Blair began to speculate on that, up until the moment they both got naked, but Jim didn't pay much attention. He'd been less than truthful; he already knew what word described Blair best as far as he was concerned.

Mine.

He sniffed. Damn. His nose was starting to bleed again…



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