Picture This



Jim wandered around the video store feeling a familiar depression descend. The movie he and Blair had -- finally -- decided they could both stand to watch was, inevitably, not available and the low-voiced, vehement bickering that had broken out had been… not all that dignified for two grown men. He regretted it. Yeah. Little bit. He might even apologise for some of what he'd said always supposing Sandburg was still around and hadn't gone storming back to the loft.

Some of it. Not the part where he pointed out the folly of paying to watch a movie Sandburg could quote from start to finish. And what was wrong with car chases, anyway? People liked them. They wouldn't spend so much money on them and shoehorn them into every possible… okay, maybe Sandburg had a point…

He rounded the corner where Drama met Foreign Movies, and heard Blair say reverently, "Oh, man," from the discreetly tucked away section featuring the Adult Movies.

The porn.

Sandburg was -- ? Oh, why was he even pretending to be surprised by anything Blair did?

He got up close behind Sandburg -- really close, the back of Blair's coat brushing his arm -- without getting any reaction at all, giving a guy browsing a cold, unfriendly look when the man smirked a little knowingly. Tapping Sandburg on the shoulder got him an abstracted, "Hey, Jim," as Sandburg continued to study the back of a video, the plastic wrapper torn, the lurid photographs promising way more than the contents would deliver.

Some places, it was the other way around. Not here. It was all relatively tame, and why the hell Sandburg was so absorbed in some cheesy piece of porn that he'd even forgotten they were fighting was starting to bug Jim.

"Chief? If you want to watch a movie with dogs, there's always the Lassie section."

Blair turned fast enough that Jim had to put his hand out to steady him, his face flushed. Indignation, not embarrassment. "I want to watch this," he said. "It's got a friend of mine in it. And Sherri -- she was nice, okay? not a dog, and I expected better than that from you, Jim."

Jim pursed his lips, re-evaluating the situation and discounting Blair's dip into righteousness. He was damned if he was going to get lectured on his behaviour by a man clutching a porn movie. Not that he had any rooted objections to porn; it was just… inappropriate.

Sherri. Not a name Blair had mentioned before, which meant nothing. The man picked them up, did whatever he did to them, and moved on, no regrets, no backward looks. If Sandburg had a little black book -- which he didn't as far as Jim knew -- it'd be the size of the phone book.

Nice. What the hell did that mean? He started to think about how a woman like that could be nice to a man and felt himself shrivel under the salt-tang of self-directed disgust. 'A woman like that'? It wasn't the label he'd slapped on as much as the automatic, unthinking way he'd done it. Thinking like a cop.

Jim took the video from Blair, needing to tug a little harder than he'd expected, and gave it a cursory look. Standard soft-core crap, cast of about five, all of whom would probably end up fucking each other, in a sublime disregard of plot or probability. One of the three women looked like someone Blair just might have known, her face less vapid than the others, her breasts reasonable enough a size and firmness to be real. Jim tapped a finger against her photograph. "Sherri?"

Blair nodded. "It was the movie she was working on when I met her. I've never seen it…"

"Friend of yours, you said?"

The man browsing snickered and muttered, "In your dreams, kid."

Jim held out his hand, badge gleaming from the shelter of his cupped palm, without even bothering to look over at him. There was a pause as a video got put back with a clumsy clatter and then an empty space where the man had been. Jim found himself dwelling with a certain grim satisfaction on that bit from the Bible about the guilty fleeing where no man pursueth -- except if they were guilty, he damn well did pursue them.

"Yeah. Used to be. We lost touch. I think she moved to L.A. Look, Jim, you don't have to watch it, but I'm still going to rent it, okay?"

Sandburg looked determined. Jim sighed, tucked the movie under his arm, and headed for the checkout, not even bothering to pick up another video to hide the porn under.

So he wanted to rent 'Dark Desires of the Amazons'. So?

And he'd never liked this video store anyway. Never going back to it after Sandburg had returned the tape would be no hardship at all.

***


When they got back to the loft, Jim put the video on top of the TV and went to get drinks and snacks. He wasn't keen on what Sandburg could do with a bowl of popcorn -- he'd be vacuuming it out of the sofa cushions for days -- but it'd make Sandburg happy and he'd seemed a bit down recently for some reason. Plus, if they were really going to watch porn, a big bowl in the lap might be useful. It wouldn't normally be an issue, but it'd been months since he'd done more than jerk off and some reactions were hard -- difficult -- to control.

Even for him. Hey, Sandburg; you know you're always wanting to coach me? Help me out with my senses? How do I get this boner to go down?

Yeah. Not going there.

He wondered why the idea of porn and Sandburg was disturbing him. It wasn't as if he hadn't done this before with another man. Men. God, no. Maybe it was that he'd done it too often, and was sick of the need to top crude comments with cruder until it all got just that little bit pathetic.

Maybe it was that he didn't want to do that with Sandburg and he really didn't want to hear Sandburg's oddly innocent appreciation of women take on a darker, dirtier edge.

Or maybe it was just that like everything he did with Sandburg, it wasn't going to be what he was used to, and he didn't like being unprepared.

How would Sandburg be? Talkative, a little uneasy? Hiding any arousal or flaunting it? No; not his style.

He gave up thinking about it and got down some bowls just as Sandburg came out of his room, his heavy sweater exchanged for a green shirt worn open over a white T-shirt. Guess he thought it was going to get hot…

Blair slotted the tape in place and looked as if he was about to settle down on the couch for the duration by the way he was arranging the cushions. Jim frowned, feeling put-on, as if Blair had asked him to do something when he hadn't, it had been Jim's own idea, all of it, down to the good beer, the cold beer, the strong beer. "You could give me a hand with this," he called out.

"What?" Blair turned his head and jumped up, coming over to join him. "Oh, hey, Jim, sorry. I didn't see what you were doing."

"Too busy watching Sherri strut her stuff?"

He had to stop that. He wasn't even sure why he was getting in so many digs at the woman. His time in Vice had left him with a queasy, wrinkled-nose knowledge about what people did to get off that he could've happily lived without, but he'd never felt much antipathy for the people making porn as long as they stuck to the rules. It was a job, and if it left some dead-eyed and diminished, he knew others who genuinely didn't care that they were opening their bodies wide for an indifferent, bored partner and, ultimately, an audience, as long as they were paid in cash. Some who were proud of it, insisting on being called actors, even if their lines could have been written on the back of a napkin and their direction consisted of demands that they twist and writhe and whimper with a bit more conviction.

Blair was looking at him with disappointed eyes. "It hasn't started yet."

It had; music, with a deep, grinding beat, was already leaking out into the loft. It didn't sound very Amazonian and Jim pointed that out, his finger stabbing hard at the microwave as he started off the popcorn.

"No…" Blair's forehead wrinkled. "That's a shame after all the research I did. They must have gone with the original score."

Jim absorbed that for a while, trying to be tactful and still get his curiosity satisfied. "I didn't know they usually shelled out on researchers for films like this, Chief."

That didn't sound too judgmental, did it?

"Oh, they didn't pay me," Blair said cheerfully.

Didn't think so.

"You were just helping out of the goodness of your heart?"

Blair grabbed a beer, twisting the top free and then playing with it for a while, frowning at it with the absorbed attention of a cat with a mouse until Jim flicked it out of his fingers and dropped it in the trash.

"Hey!"

"I want to know --"

"Well, no offence, Jim, but I don't see why I have to tell you." Blair took a swig of beer, choked on it, and swiped at a trickle of foam heading over his chin and down his neck. "Now see what you did!"

"Me?" Jim felt like choking himself. Pissy little brat… He picked up a cloth and tossed it at Blair, a little harder than necessary, and went to deal with the popcorn. "For the record, Blair, you don't have to say a word. In fact, I'd kinda like that for a change."

"Sorry." Blair gave the most insincere smile possible. "Forgot you superheroes get off on the whole Fortress of Solitude deal. Guess something like an actual, normal conversation is asking a bit much, huh?"

"Bite me."

"Oh, no." Blair's smile grew teeth. "'Cause then you'd scream like a girl and screaming's noisy."

They ended up side by side, the popcorn between them, beer in hand, not speaking to each other in a very loud way.

Jim was so annoyed, rehearsing a dozen different snappy comebacks he could've used, that it took a moment or two for what they were watching to sink in.

Not Amazons in a jungle; a lot of men in a dimly lit bar.

And no Sherri in sight.

He turned his head, biting back a comment when he remembered they were fighting, and met Blair's equally puzzled eyes. They exchanged glances, communing silently, and then Blair's expression hardened and he took a handful of popcorn, scattering kernels all over the place, and turned back to watch the movie.

Right. Blair was a sulker. Good to know. Jim grabbed the bowl -- his popcorn, bought, made, and paid for, and his fucking bowl -- and did the same.

Still no women, naked or otherwise. Lot of skin on display, though. And leather. Jim chowed down defiantly on more popcorn than he really wanted to eat, feeling his face flush as the men on screen got down to it without bothering with anything like a plot.

I'm watching gay porn and until he says something, I'm not going to -- oh, that's just gotta hurt…

Jim had watched movies like this before, rougher, much, much rougher, but that'd been work-related, and he hadn't had Blair next to him, his breath stuttering in agitation. What the fuck was the matter with him, Jim wondered irritably. The movie might have been put in the wrong box but it wasn't much more explicit than the Amazon one would have been. There were some sloppy blow jobs, two guys on their knees in front of two men leaning back against the bar, their legs spread, someone was getting fucked over the pool table -- way to wreck the cloth, asshole -- and yeah, off in the corner a guy was getting his ass spanked, the camera going between the three scenes in such a way that you missed all the good bits.

Standard stuff.

Jim washed down a salty, buttery mouthful of popcorn with a long, slow swallow of beer and yawned. Blair's breath quickened. His heartbeat was thudding away, irritatingly just out of sync with the soundtrack. Maybe to distract himself, maybe as a challenge, Blair reached over into the bowl on Jim's lap and scooped out some more popcorn, his eyes still on the TV.

Jim automatically slapped at Blair's hand at the exact moment a hand descended on a scarlet ass, the two flat smacks coming simultaneously. Blair yelped, and retreated to the corner of the couch, curling his feet beneath him and leaving a scatter of popcorn to mark his trail.

Blair was upset. Jim sighed inwardly and abandoned the grudge match. Maybe, for all his in-your-face liberal views, Blair wasn't that comfortable with alternative lifestyles when they were in his face. Jim wasn't that crazy about the close-ups himself, reminded of the time when his sight had gone wild and he'd been zooming in on some girl's zits, caked over with concealer, bleeding from being picked at. He'd nearly lost his lunch.

"Want to see if we can catch the basketball highlights?" he offered as a peace offering, along with the depleted popcorn bowl. Couldn't stand to see the kid this way… although Blair biting his lip, cheeks stained pink wasn't that hard on the eyes…

"What?" Blair flicked him a panicked glance. "Uh…Jim, this isn't what I expected we'd be watching…"

"I know, I know." Jim smiled at him, delivering a reassuring pat to Blair's foot. "Look, we'll -- I'll take it back and complain, okay? And kick up a fuss until they track down the one you want to see with your friend in it."

There. Not even a pause between 'your' and 'friend'; he was improving.

"Jim…"

"Mmm?" Where was the remote, dammit?

"This movie… it's uh, it's by the same people who did Sherri's."

"Yeah?" Could have sworn it was on the table…

"And I'd kind of got to know the crew…"

Jim closed his eyes. "Chief, are you telling me if we keep watching I'm going to see your ass on screen? Because if so, I'm not opening my eyes until you've killed the TV, okay?"

Blair snorted which was enough to get Jim peeking again. "Jim, you've walked in on me in the bathroom often enough --"

"I keep forgetting you're there," Jim apologised. "And, you know; barracks life… it isn't that big a deal for me. Sorry."

Not a total lie.

"It's not a big deal for me, either," Blair assured him. "I spent a summer at a nudist colony with Naomi when I was --"

"Stop right there." Jim winced. "I don't need to know that you know what your mom looks like naked, Blair."

"You need to get out more," Blair said. "Out of the gutter, anyway. And I was a kid, okay? But it… well, it's just skin, you know? See enough, for long enough, and it stops mattering."

"Which is why you were drowning in drool that time we were at that strip club?"

"That was different," Blair said without embarrassment. "That was skin being sexy. And going back to what I was saying; you've seen me naked; you can't seriously think I'd be in a porn movie."

Jim considered what he recalled of a naked Blair without needing to take long over it because he remembered every detail. "No. You're not the type."

"No," Blair agreed placidly. "You are, though."

Jim swallowed hard. "Uh… thank you?"

"Welcome." Blair nodded at the screen, back to normal, as far as Jim could tell, whatever had upset him no longer mattering. "I worked behind the scenes."

Jim frowned. "They can't have needed you for research on this one, Chief."

"No… I was, ah…" Blair gave him a considering look, as if he was wondering if Jim could take it, which was just too fucking funny considering who was the ex-Vice cop and who was the anthropology student. Jim took another drink of beer. Beer helped. Especially as he still couldn't find the remote and the grunts and exhortations were coming over loud and clear. "Jim, do you know what a fluffer does?"

Beer sprayed over Jim's knees, the sofa, and, because there was justice in this world, Blair's socks.

"Yes, Sandburg, I do," he said when he'd finished mopping ineffectively at himself with his hand, the bottle set down safely. "And that's not fucking funny."

"Didn't pay well, either," Blair said. "But it got me access to the craft services."

"Oh, my God."

"Hey, I was a growing boy," Blair told him. "I wasn't into starving in an attic, you know?"

"But you were into... that?" Jim shook his head in bewilderment. "Sandburg, do you know how risky --?"

"Back then, no, I didn't. None of us did," Blair said succinctly. Jim did some rapid mental arithmetic and worked out how old -- young -- Blair would've had to have been and felt vaguely shocked. "But it was safe enough. I didn't -- it was just hand jobs. Mostly."

"Mostly," Jim repeated flatly.

"The idea wasn't to get them off," Blair explained. "It was to --"

"I know," Jim interrupted before Blair went into details. "Chief, I worked Vice, okay? I know. And you were lucky your ass never got busted."

"It wasn't like that," Blair protested. "And I knew them." He gestured at the screen. "That guy there, on his knees? That's John. Collected stamps and had three kittens he'd rescued from a garbage can. We used to smuggle tuna salad out in bags for them."

"Okay, Chief, I get it, they were a bunch of saints …"

"He could only get it up if I talked dirty to him, but he didn't like anyone knowing about that." Blair eyed him. "Safe enough sex for you? Me talking? Or is my mouth off-limits for that, too?"

"Chief…"

"And the one getting spanked, well, yeah, he liked that scene and the director knew it. Sean was kind of sleazy, I won't deny it, but he wasn't stupid and he knew it'd come over good on film so he always let Tony do that if the script called for it."

"'The script'?" Jim shook his head. "Oh, Chief…"

"Hey, you think it's just strip and fuck?" Blair demanded. "No way, man. I'm not saying it was Oscar material but there was more to it than you think." His eyes were challenging. "You ever watched porn and it didn't work for you?"

"Sure…"

"You ever watched it and it did?"

Jim squirmed a little. "Mmm, yeah, sure…"

"So we've established that some is better than the rest? It's not all the same?"

"Jesus, Blair, give it a rest, will you?" God, sometimes… "If it worked for me, it was because I got off on the action or who was starring, okay? Don't expect me to send the director flowers because it's not about that."

"Fine." Blair was nodding his head so hard it was about to fall off. "So what about this one?"

"What about it?"

"What is it that's got you hard about this one? Tell me, 'cause I'm curious."

And just like that, Jim realised they were still fighting, hadn't stopped, because that, that was a body blow.

"I'm not --"

Blair reached over and cupped Jim's erection -- when had he got hard? When? And let it be before Blair announced his former job, please, God -- and ground down gently enough to pull a moan out of Jim, not a scream. "You feel pretty hard to me, Jim."

"We're watching porn," he managed.

"Gay porn," Blair countered.

"It's the principle of the thing," Jim said, his voice a husky whisper because Blair's hand… his hand…

Blair moved even closer, getting between Jim's legs and pushing Jim to his back, his hand still doing that remorseless squeeze 'n grind. Jim found himself stretched out on the couch, staring up at a pissed off Blair, all glittering eyes and scary as hell.

"So it's just watching sex that gets you off? You don't care who's having it?"

"I didn't say --" Jim exhaled as his parted legs let Blair run his fingers down behind Jim's balls, pointed, stiff fingers, probing, searching, jabbing in. He wasn't wearing enough layers to make it remotely possible to ignore those fingers, right there. A suit of armour wouldn't have been enough.

"I'm starting to think there's a lot you didn't say."

"Look who's talking," Jim countered. It made more sense in his head but he had to say something… and speaking of which… "Did you really get that guy hard just by talking to him?"

It wasn't that Jim didn't think it was possible; had to be, or phone sex lines wouldn't be such a popular way of burning money. It was just… Blair? Blair who could talk, yeah, whose voice could be this persuasive lilt in your ear telling you -- making you -- do all sorts of things you didn't want to until he dreamed them up but that was -- that didn't mean -- they were just tests, not sex. Nothing to do with sex.

The shrug Blair gave was just arrogant enough to be provoking. "Sure. It's easy. You just talk until you see you've hit a nerve and then keep on hitting that spot. Variations on a theme, man."

Jim opened his mouth, more to make Blair stop talking than because he had anything to say, and then closed it again when he couldn't force out a single, coherent word.

Blair smiled down at him, an easy, confiding, friendly smile. "If you weren't already hard, I'd show you." Jim felt his body react to that threat as if it was a fist coming at him, or a bullet zinging overhead; a prickle of sweat, a lurch as his heart skipped a beat, a silent calm settling over him suddenly. No room for fear when the stakes were this high.

"You think you know how to turn me on?" Game on, Chief. He relaxed back into the cushions, lifting his hips a little and rubbing against Blair's invasive, invading palm. "I can get harder than this. A lot harder. Take your fucking hand off me and do your best with your mouth instead." Could have been phrased better, but Blair knew what he meant. Always did. And then, because he was an idiot, because he was certifiably insane, Jim added recklessly, "Hell, make me come in my pants if you think you're that good at talking."

"You don't?"

"I think you're full of it, Sandburg," he murmured. From this angle, Sandburg was all curls and curves but no softness; his jaw was clenched, his lips squeezed tight. He looked furious.

And then Blair smiled again and his hand moved away, leaving a palm-sized patch of lingering heat soaking down into Jim's pants. Blair settled down, kneeling between Jim's spread legs and forcing Jim's foot to slide to the floor to make room. Which spread his legs wider and put him on display. Blair's thigh was brushing the inside of Jim's, but other than that incidental touch, they weren't in contact.

Jim took a steadying breath, pinned on a supercilious smile, and waited.

"Are you doing that on purpose?" Blair asked after a moment, his voice so normal that Jim didn't realise Blair'd started the game until his brain caught up with the frantic signals his body was sending out. Husky voice, Blair leaning over just enough that his exhalations were something to be felt warmly against Jim's face. "Showing me what I can't have? Teasing me? You'd think I'd be used to that by now, but I'm not."

Jim started to reply but Blair tapped a butter-slick finger against his lips. "No talking." The finger slid around to Jim's earlobe and was joined by a thumb, tugging reprovingly. "Just listen, okay?"

And it wasn't going to be filthy crudities, suggestive and dirty, was it? Because Blair didn't need to play around until he found Jim's weak spot, his vulnerabilities. He already knew.

"I'm never going to get used to you, no matter how long I stay here. Never going to stop getting hard when you walk out of the bathroom, towel sliding off you, skin wet because you never dry yourself off properly. Do you do that on purpose? Because you know how good you look when you're wet? One of these days I'm going to be waiting right outside that door, Jim, and I'm going to be thirsty. Going to lick every drop off you while you stand there. You ever want that from me, all you've got to do is look and I'll come over and do it."

Jim heard himself make a choked, desperate sound of pure shame because he had done it on purpose, not always, but sometimes, wanting to see something in Blair's eyes; admiration, envy… something.

"Ssh…" Blair's hand hovered, patting the air soothingly. "'S'okay, Jim. I jerk off to that time your towel dropped and you didn't bother picking it up, all the fucking time. It's okay, I don't mind."

Blair's voice was pitched low enough that it was barely there. It didn’t matter that Jim could still hear it, every syllable; it was the aura of intimacy that counted. "Don’t mind any of the things you do to me, even the ones that hurt."

This time the grunt was one of protest, because he'd never -- not intentionally -- had he?

"You touch me, Jim. All the time. Your hand in my hair, tugging it around your fingers, your hand on my back, my ass, pushing me out of rooms, putting me behind you where I'm safe… hand on my face…" Blair fell silent for a moment. "That's the worst. I can feel you, skin on skin, and it's never for long enough, and it's so damn hard holding still for you so I don't do something stupid where people can see, something… yeah."

He wasn't turned on by this. He wasn't. He was swallowing salt and snot and he just wanted to give Blair what he wanted, all of it. Give Blair his body and let Blair have him, if that was what he wanted. Hell, where had Blair been that he didn't know he could have had Jim for the asking for months now. Months.

"And I would hold still for you, Jim. If you told me to. Hold still if you bent me over any piece of furniture in the place, though I'm not sure I could once you were in me." Blair laughed, without sounding amused. "I'm not that good."

Jim wasn't looking at anything but Blair's face but the pictures slammed into his skull, just as Blair must have known they would. Pale, curved ass and the tight, tense muscles in Blair's legs trembling as he ran his fingers over them, rubbed the front of his thighs against them as he got in close… over this couch, this very fucking couch, taking Blair hard and sweet and deep until he was crying out, body jerking, captive, held in place by Jim's carefully cruel hands.

He wondered what Blair was seeing as he stared down at him; how much his face was giving away because he was hard now, yes, he was. Not close to coming, but hard enough that he wanted touching by more than the impersonal press of clothing. There was nothing of triumph in Blair's expression so maybe Jim was safe.

"I want you," Blair whispered on a sigh. "Want to get closer. Sick of lying under your bedroom, trying to sleep when I know you're up there. You think I can't hear the sounds you make? That close, I don't need to be like you to know what you're doing. You're so quiet, Jim, but you can't be quiet enough. I leave my door open and the little sounds you make -- God, you trying to come in silence gets me every fucking time, Jim. Every -- "

He was shaking his head now and if he'd been able to speak he'd have been begging Blair to stop because he was lying here open, flayed, and it hurt.

"I can smell you in the morning when you walk by my room. Sweat and come, and if you think I want my mouth on you when you're clean, you don't want to know what I'd do to you when you're dirty. I'd eat you alive, Jim, I'd leave you wet and bitten and licked and let you come on me, get me dirty, too."

"Stop it." His voice was thick with tears that weren't ever going to get near his eyes. "Blair, you've got to --"

"Come for me," Blair said, his face jammed close to Jim's, his words spat at Jim, like a scream after the barely audible murmur. "Just once will you fucking come and it be because of me?"

This close all he could see was the dizzying blue of Blair's eyes, pupils huge in the dim light. "It's always you."

Blair blinked.

"Always."

Retreated.

"You know that!"

He was struggling to sit up now, his hand scrabbling at the back of the couch (where Blair's hand would be when he was being fucked, holding on, holding tight, he could swear the fabric was hot there). He made it and gathered Blair's shirt in his hands, shaking him until Blair's head snapped back, his throat exposed. "You can't tell me you didn't know that! We can't both be this fucking stupid --"

Blair licked at his lips, unresisting, passive in Jim's grip. "Guess we are."

It was too much. Jim put his head on Blair's shoulder and hid his laughter, painful, uncontrollable, unwanted laughter, in the soft, clean cotton. They rocked together, wordless, not quiet; hiccupping sobs coming from Blair, that rusty creak of laughter from Jim.

Stayed like that until the credits rolled and the hiss of the empty screen filled the loft.



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