by Jane Davitt

A/N This story can be interpreted many different ways. For me, it's not a deathfic.

It's been three days since Jim was declared presumed dead and Simon's starting to learn his way around the loft, no longer turning left to reach for the cutlery drawer, and with his toothbrush in the holder beside Blair's.

Jim's toothbrush is in a drawer. Simon can't bear to throw it out, though Jim was probably close to doing so; the bristles are starting to curl, worn soft by vigorous use.

Simon's own home feels like an empty shell, cold, unwelcoming. He goes there to get fresh clothing, or a book; to check the answering machine and collect his mail.

Then he goes back to the loft and Blair, returning to a different bleakness, a different chilled emptiness.

The memorial service is on hold; Blair won't agree to it and the one William Ellison arranged -- well, Simon didn't go to it and he doesn't know anyone who did. He'd intended to, needing to find some comfort in the ritual of mourning, but Blair had -- he couldn't leave him.

Tomorrow, Simon has to return to work. He's as anxious as a mother leaving her baby for the first time. The table is littered with scraps of paper; phone numbers Blair already knows, Simon's schedule, messages of sympathy and condolence that Blair needs to reply to and won't. He's promised to call Blair throughout the day, wrung an answering promise from Blair that he'll pick up the phone, yes, dammit, he will --

He thinks he'll make time to come back at lunchtime so that Blair will eat.

Blair hasn't cracked, hasn't cried. The stony rejection of the truth is the only emotion he's shown apart from the anger, ice-cold and frightening, when Simon, black tie carefully knotted, walked toward the door on his way to the service.

Simon's flinched back before from a beaming Blair, arms outstretched to hug him, but that was for show, a shielding of his own vulnerabilities. Stepping back, his hands rising to ward off a threat of violence, had felt like a waking nightmare. Blair's face, sharpened by sorrow, blade-brittle bones pressing up against pale, sun-starved skin, had been feral, vicious.

Simon had tugged the tie from around his neck, a gesture of apology, placation, and watched Blair's expression smooth out and return to the icy impatience of a man kept waiting.

Waiting. For the late Jim Ellison.

The pun unfurls in Simon's head and he bites back laughter that he knows will shame him by leading to tears he's yet to shed.

Night comes, and Blair hesitates and turns his head, looking up at Jim's bed. Simon, his back aching from too many nights on a too-small couch, hasn't dared suggest that he use the bed that hasn't been changed since Jim left it that Thursday morning.

He's not sure that he wants to.

Blair drifts to the foot of the stairs, his head still tilted back, his gaze fixed, expectant, as if he thinks that he'll walk up those stairs and find Jim, long body spread like butter over the bed.

It's not Blair's bed up there; Simon knows that now, persistent, nudging rumors laid to rest. The grief Blair's holding at bay is not a lover's anguish. Blair's empty hands cradle no keepsake; his mouth shapes no rambling account of shared memories, precious moments. He's lost something, everything, exists without a future, but he hasn't lost that.

Simon clears his throat. "Blair --"

As if the broken silence has shattered Blair's doubts, Blair walks up the stairs and a moment later Simon hears the muted thud of Blair's clothes hitting the floor, followed by the creak of the bed as Blair slides between the sheets.

Simon puts his hand to his face and finds his cheeks wet with tears that have escaped, slipping, hurrying, while he was distracted. He sits down heavily and lets them seep out, hiding his face in his hands and trying not to make any noise as he weeps.

The quiet of the loft is an enemy he can't defeat. He has memories of walking into this space and finding it filled with the smell and sizzle of food cooking, music playing, Jim and Blair squabbling, circling each other with the perfect timing of jugglers, clowns.

Jim's absence has killed each sound, deadened each scent, dulled the bright colors to a bled-out sepia.

It's a web now, this place, sticky-stranded and impossible to escape. Simon can't imagine leaving it -- leaving Blair -- for long. The hours he'll have to spend at work appear in his head like blank walls to climb over, each taller than the one before.

The jagged edges of his grief are being smoothed dull, bright scarlet emotions sucked out of him. The tears are already drying tight on his face, puckering his skin. Blair won't permit tears or sympathy or a single consoling touch. Betrayals of hope, all of them.

Blair had invited, incited a blow once, on the second day, but Simon, whose hand had curled into a fist, driven to indulge Blair in this, craving the sharp, satisfying pleasure of striking out, had pictured Jim's face (shocked, disapproving, hurt) and turned away, ignoring the bitter, savage spit of spiteful words that followed him so that he didn't have to forgive them.

Upstairs, in Jim's bed, Blair cries out, a soft, stifled sound, pillow-muffled, and Simon goes to him without thinking past the hope that, like a yawn, tears are catching.

It's good to cry. People have said that to them until the triteness of the words rasps them both raw and Blair's mouth, thin with resentment that Jim's taking so long to return, turns ugly. It hasn't helped Simon; his eyes feel sandy, his nose stuffed up, and his head aches.

Blair isn't crying. Naked, he lies where Jim's body has lain, lies still, his hand busy, merciless, working his cock. It's not an erotic act, but a desperately cruel one, a desecration that reminds Simon of crime scenes, homes tainted by shit and piss, smeared and splashed on walls, crude signs of contempt.

He feels himself harden. Not just his cock, though that reacts to the sight in a way that disgusts him, filling with secretive, furtive pulses, stiff and heavy in moments, but all of him. The ice that's encased Blair for days is around Simon now. He moves jerkily, unwillingly, to the bed and strikes Blair's hand away from the reddened, flushed spike of flesh as he would have struck Daryl's hand away from something dirty, foul.

Blair hisses at him and then arches his hips, a blatant invitation for Simon to join him. The interval between that thrust, that beckon, and the first shock of his skin on Blair's is a blur, a blank, forgotten in a breath.

Blair's nails claw at Simon's skin, his teeth bite, and his breath, sour and acrid fills Simon's lungs as Blair's tongue stabs and slithers inside Simon's mouth. Lank, greasy hair falls around Simon's face as he goes to his back and lets Blair ride him, possess him with hands and mouth and finally, painfully, fuck him, bare and dry, and it doesn't matter, he doesn't care --

He's bleeding when Blair comes, blood welling up from a dozen split-open places on his body, his ass burning, stretched, insulted, filled (hollow).

Simon's climax is an afterthought, scrabbled for by Blair, forced upon him by Blair, Blair's mouth wet and teeth-filled closing around his waning erection; a demanding clash, a painful suction. Simon comes, a weak spurt, a loss, not an achievement, and flings his arm over his face, hides in the darkness descending over them both.

Blair sighs and leaves, the soft pad of his feet as he moves away followed an eternity later by his return with soft cloths, warm water, salve. Simon stares at him as Blair wipes his come from the twitching cringe of Simon's hole, and Simon's where it lies in a creamy spatter on his stomach, beading the dark hair there. Watches as Blair tends to him with a meticulous, practiced care that poisons every scratch because Blair's eyes are still dry, and this has changed nothing, ruined everything.

Blair sets everything aside neatly and looks at Simon. "Don't cry again."

It's an order, a threat, a warning.

And Simon closes his eyes as Blair curls around him, limpet-close, and tries to believe, like Blair, that Jim's alive --

(no body. Show me a body, Simon!)

will return

(his board washed up, not him; he's safe, he's out there, I tell you, man, he's not dead!)

will rescue him

(suicidal? Jim? No fucking way! Why would he do that? Simon, he'll come back, he will.)

Simon knows he won't.

Wherever Jim's gone, he's not coming back.

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