Many thanks to T Verano for beta reading.
Blair pushed the front door closed behind him and called back an answer. "Hi, Mom. Be right with you, I just have to --"
"I just want to give you a hug," Naomi said reproachfully, meeting him at the door to his room. Her gaze went down to the plastic bag he was holding. "You've been shopping?"
"What did you get?"
Blair resisted the urge to put the bag behind his back and say "nothing" the way he had when he was eight, smuggling in a GI Joe, complete with rocket launcher, that he'd bought with his birthday money. "Just some stuff, nothing important."
For a moment, he thought she was going to push for an answer, maybe even make a playful grab for the bag he was gripping so tightly that the plastic was slippery and hot against his hand, but she patted his face and turned away. "I'm on the balcony with a bottle of wine if you want to join me."
"Sure. Just give me a minute."
She paused and glanced back. "Blair? What happened to your overnight bag?"
Crap. "I, uh, I left it…"
Naomi smiled knowingly. "At Jim's."
Yes, but it hadn't been deliberate, the way her smile implied; they'd just left in a rush, and when he'd mentioned it, Jim had smiled and shrugged, before murmuring, "So?" which seemed to say it all really.
Naomi hummed, sounding amused, and continued walking. She was wearing a plain linen tunic over matching, tailored pants today; elegant but business-like -- for Naomi, anyway. She was going to be asking questions. Blair couldn't blame her; he'd given her a lot to think about when he'd introduced her to Jim, and then left immediately, but it didn't mean he was looking forward to her gentle, remorseless style of interrogation.
He got safely inside his room and sighed as he tossed the bag onto his bed. The cover was rumpled, and he smoothed his hand over the red blanket and remembered Jim lying down on the bed watching him, his eyes promising everything Blair had ever wanted. It didn't seem like less than twenty-four hours had passed since then.
Everything was moving really fast.
He sat on the bed, took a deep breath, and emptied the bag. After Jim had gone back to work, Blair had gone shopping. Cascade had plenty of stores that sold sex toys; cheap, tacky places, with blacked-out windows and the letter "X" featuring heavily in the store name. It also had a discreet, somewhat classier place aimed mainly at women, tucked away down a side street but still close to the main shopping area. Blair had browsed their catalog online a few months before, but had stopped short of ordering anything.
There hadn't seemed much point in buying something he needed a partner to use, and everything that had caught his eye had fallen into that category back then.
That afternoon, riding the confidence that came from the sting and burn of his ass with every step he took, he'd been ready to walk in through the front door. He'd taken out some cash, he knew exactly what he wanted, and if Jim could probably have supplied it for him, well, he wanted to do this himself.
He'd walked around the store, half-hard, his face flushed, his gaze flickering from one sight to another. The room he'd spent the afternoon in had been an eye-opener, but Jim had been there to make it all seem reasonable, even normal. Solo, his assurance was ebbing with every aisle he walked down.
Salvation had come in the shape of an assistant, a woman in her mid-twenties, bleached hair short and spiky but looking soft enough that Blair was reminded of a baby hedgehog. If hedgehogs went in for multiple piercings, that is. She'd been matter-of-fact and sympathetic, which he'd appreciated, and had encouraged him to spend one hell of a lot of money before whisking him up to the checkout and dealing with him herself.
He looked at what he'd bought, spread out on his bed, and hoped she got paid commission, because she'd earned it. New lube -- he made a mental note to throw the old bottle away -- nipple clamps, the closest he could get to the ones Jim had used, and two dildos designed, as Anna had told him while nonchalantly smacking one gently against her palm, for anal play.
Play. That sounded innocent, fun. Blair stared at the dildos, one finger-slender, the other much thicker, and swallowed a moan. God, this was just -- He gathered it all up and put it back in the bag, then locked the bag in his desk.
He paused, his hand on the key. He shouldn't have to lock it away. He shouldn't have to worry that it would be found.
"I want my own place," he said aloud, tasting the words. He'd fooled himself into thinking that that was what he had; that with Naomi away so often, with the house so large, he had independence. He paid rent, he contributed toward the bills…
He remembered Jim's loft down in the city, and felt a sudden pang of longing for somewhere like that. He was never going to be able to invite Jim to stay the night here; never going to feel relaxed when Naomi could walk in on them or overhear them.
He could hear Jim saying that he wanted to hear Blair scream. Not going to happen here.
He put the key in his pocket and went to find his mother.
A breeze was ruffling her auburn hair and the late-afternoon sun was streaming across her face, upturned to the sky, her eyes closed. "Help yourself to wine," she said, her voice languid, contented.
He poured a glass and sat down at the table, glass and copper, the metal weathered to green, matching the thick glass top. A friend of Naomi's had made it, a young girl, with vacant, dreamy eyes. Blair hadn't thought of her for a long time; the table was just there, part of the house.
"Naomi? What happened to Sandy?"
Naomi's eyes fluttered open. "Who?" Blair tapped the table and her eyes widened. "Oh… I don't know, sweetie. Why?"
He sipped his wine while looking out at the valley, and wondered if the eagle Jim had seen was out there circling. Every time he swallowed, he felt a frisson of arousal, recalling the way the muscles in Jim's legs had quivered against his hands as Jim had come, the unfamiliar taste that had lain heavy in his throat.
He was sitting with his mother, half-hard, fantasizing about giving a near-stranger head. God. He escaped to the railing, his back to Naomi, and broached the subject that was hanging in the air in the hope that he could control the direction it took.
Okay, that probably wasn't the most decisive opener.
"He's lovely," Naomi said warmly, sincerely. "So good-looking and so well mannered."
Wait for it, Blair thought silently.
"How old is he?"
Oh, there it was. "He's about seven years older than me, Mom. It's nothing."
"No, of course not." Naomi laughed, the rich ripple of amusement that hadn't changed in all the years he'd known her. "Blair. A man… I sometimes wondered --"
"Did you?" It came out flat and accusing; he hadn't intended it to, but it did.
"Well, darling --" She came over to join him and slipped her arm around his waist. "I'm truly just glad to see you happy. Even if this Jim isn't the one, if he's opened your eyes to what --"
Blair wrenched himself out of her loose embrace. "Why do you say that? Not the one?"
"You've only just met him."
Her gaze was unwavering. "Where did you meet him?"
He didn't allow himself the telltale of a steadying breath. "By chance, in a hotel. I was supposed to be interviewing someone for my book and they didn't show. We got to talking, and arranged to see each other again. Which is why he was here last night."
All true; all lies. For a man who'd supposedly been brought up by a woman with whom he could be completely frank and open, he was good at twisting the truth.
"So you don't really know him at all," Naomi murmured, her eyes thoughtful.
"I know I like him and I want to keep seeing him," Blair said.
"What does he do?"
He'd known that question would be asked at some point.
Shame he and Jim hadn't gotten around to deciding on what to give as an answer.
"I'm thinking of -- no, I'm getting a place of my own."
The journey of the salsa-loaded chip on the way to Jim's mouth came to a standstill and the salsa began to drip. Jim caught the drip, shoved the chip in his mouth, and after some crunching and a gulp of beer, licked his hand clean.
That would have given Blair enough time to draft an Oscar-acceptance speech, but when Jim finally replied, it was only to repeat Blair's words in a reflective tone of voice. "A place of your own."
"Yeah. Here in the city."
"You don't think it's a good idea?"
Jim shrugged. "Sure."
"I'm thirty. You don't think I'm a bit old to be living with my mom?" No one was as good at putting Blair down as himself.
"I think you've been too old to be living with her for the past twelve years," Jim said with a frankness that verged on brutal but still didn't sting, lemon juice in a paper cut, the way Naomi's obliqueness and hesitations had. "Are you going to keep on using your birthday as an excuse to do stuff you've always wanted to?"
Blair absorbed that dig and then sighed. "No. But I'm on a roll now; might as well keep up the momentum."
Jim smiled slightly, his attention back on the TV. The Jags were winning, which Blair only cared about because every time they scored, Jim had given him a delighted grin or touched him; a squeeze of his arm, a pat of his leg, a ruffle of his hair.
Blair liked basketball, but a lifetime of being picked last for the team had left scars. He wasn't even all that bad at it, if he was playing with people, not giants; he was quick on his feet and stubborn, which were assets of a sort.
"Then you should do it," Jim said a few minutes later, resuming the conversation. He picked up the remote and muted the TV as a commercial break began. "What does Naomi think about it?"
Blair winced. "She said I was the one point of stability in her life and she could travel with a light heart knowing I was watching over the house, always there when she got back."
"Ouch," Jim commiserated. "Hell of a guilt trip. Maybe you just picked the wrong time to tell her?"
"No," Blair said, shaking his head. "I picked the perfect time; she'd just asked me what you did."
"I told her you were ex-Army and you'd gone into business with your former CO --"
"You make it sound so respectable."
"Yeah… and when she opened her mouth to ask for more details, I hit her with the moving deal."
"You're living dangerously, sport." This time, he got a one-armed hug that ended with him close to Jim, breathing in the light, expensive scent of his aftershave and the catnip-addictive combination of a dozen other smells that added up to Jim. Blair sighed, and tentatively stretched his hand across Jim's broad chest to hold onto his arm. Jim murmured something that sounded approving and turned his head. This close, the blue of Jim's eyes was startlingly bright. Blair blinked, dazzled, and watched Jim smile at him.
The game had started again, had to have, but Jim didn't seem to care. Their lips met in a kiss with an inevitability Blair didn't want to fight. Jim's mouth was warm, moving slowly, gently, to meet Blair's, encouraging Blair to kiss him back, his hand threaded through Blair's hair and holding him in place.
"So when are you going to start looking?" Jim said a few moments later, his words slurred against Blair's throat like syrup-sticky fingers dragged over it. "God, I want to bite you just here, but it'd show…"
"Do it," Blair said. "Do anything you want to -- uh, right away? Before I change my mind. Which you've got to stop me doing, okay?"
"No," Jim said. "Not where it shows. I don't want anyone else seeing it but me…." He bit down, anyway, the flash of pain arrowing through Blair to his cock; which jerked, expectant, delighted. "Stop you? Right. You try to move back in with Naomi and I'll cuff you to my bed."
Blair grinned and let Jim push him back until they were lying on the couch, Jim's weight supported partly by his elbow, partly by Blair. "You know, as threats go…"
Jim chuckled. "I'll try and dream up something more effective, don't worry." His hand slid down to cup the side of Blair's ass. "How is it? Still tender from yesterday?"
"Umm…" It was ridiculous to be blushing, but he was. "Yes and no."
"Clear as mud, Chief." Jim's hand moved and began to tickle Blair's ribs with a merciless accuracy. "Tell me in English, or I'll look for myself. If I was too rough on you --"
"You weren't," Blair said quickly, squirming and trying to get the words out between yelps and gasps for breath. "God, stop. Please! I don't like it."
Jim dropped a kiss on the end of Blair's nose. His hand had, Blair realized, already been moving away before Blair had spoken. "Sorry."
Blair caught his breath and gave Jim a grateful look. "You know, you're the only person I've ever met who's stopped when I've told them that. Most people think it's hilarious and keep on going."
"I was about to stop anyway," Jim told him. "Because unlike those jerks, I can tell when someone's enjoying themselves and when they're not." He raised his eyebrows. "Well?"
Confession time, because Jim might have stopped tickling him, but he didn't look as if he'd lost interest in getting an answer to his question. "I -- yesterday, I went shopping after -- and I got some stuff, and I tried it, them, out, and I, maybe I -- overdid it."
"Oh." Jim looked as if he was filling in the blanks between the stuttered words without much difficulty. "Blair, I could have given you anything you needed; top floor of each house, there's a supply room with duplicates of everything in the rooms themselves." He shrugged. "Sometimes, clients like something and want to buy it to take home."
"Thanks, but I wanted to do it myself, you know?" Blair found himself, not for the first time, losing his embarrassment in the face of Jim's utter lack of that same quality. "I got this assistant to talk me through what I needed, and she told me to start off with something small, so I got this one about finger-sized, in silicone…"
"Yeah?" Jim's voice was a little too perfectly neutral but Blair continued.
"And it was, whoo! God, I just --" There was enough room between their bodies now for Blair to be able to clap his hands together, the sharp crack echoing. "Bang."
"Sounds like you had fun."
Lots of room…
"No kidding. But I guess I should have left it at that, because I tried the bigger one, too, and, yeah, think I was pushing myself a bit with that one --"
Blair tried to remember, but the dimensions, like the strangely chemical smell of the silicone and the wet slipperiness of the lube, had been lost in the haze of pure sensuality. He'd lain on his bed, in the darkness, lightheaded with tiredness, his body demanding more, nothing mattering but the pursuit of one more ecstatic shudder, one more climax. God, he hadn't come that often, that close together, for years…
"It's dark purple and it does this vibrating thing. Three speeds."
Jim started at him, opened his mouth, closed it again, and then put his forehead against Blair's chest and began to laugh. After a while, Blair kicked him to make him stop. "Cock-sized," he said coldly. "Smaller than me."
"And me," Jim said, lifting up his head and giving Blair a look that just dared him to disagree.
"Well, duh," Blair agreed, giving Jim's face a placating pat. "Because you're a giant among men, a mighty stallion, a --"
Blair wriggled. "Do we have to? The bed's more comfortable, and I think the game's over."
"Stay here while you look for a place," Jim said, enunciating each word clearly. "It makes sense."
It didn't make much sense to Blair, but then, people inviting him to be their houseguest was as new as last night's activities had been.
Jim sat up and Blair propped himself up so that he was less horizontal himself. "What can you afford?" Jim asked.
"Nothing like this," Blair said, gesturing around the loft. "But I can afford something a step up from student digs."
"Places like that will go fast," Jim said. "You need to be here, on the spot, so you can go to see them. Don't rush into putting down a deposit, but you do need to make sure you don't miss out on something good because you're stuck in traffic trying to get down from your mountain."
Blair bit his lip. "Jim -- I move out and I can't go back. I'm not saying Naomi's not going to let me; she'd love it, it's just that it'd feel like failure and I probably wouldn't try again."
"I can see that. So?"
"So, if I don't find somewhere fast, well…" Blair gave Jim a smile he knew was anxious. "I'd be imposing on you."
"I don't think so." Jim shook his head and leaned over, giving Blair a kiss that left him feeling like ice cream in the sun. "A week or so, Blair; come on. Go home tomorrow, grab what you need, and come and stay here while you find the perfect place."
"A week… Jim, that might not be long enough…"
"If it takes longer, it takes longer." Jim kissed Blair's collarbone, pushing back his shirt. "God, I think I'm turning into a vampire. Stake me now."
"Very funny. Jim --"
"No." Jim glanced up. "If you don't want to, just say that, and I'll drop it. But believe me when I say I want you here, okay?"
"Okay," Blair said, his voice shaking. "Okay. Tomorrow. I'll come and stay. It's just --"
Jim bit him for those last two words and then glared at him. "Just what?"
"Are we moving a bit fast here?"
Jim chuckled easily. "Blair, within thirty seconds of meeting me, you got to see me strip to the waist. I'd say we started out at a sprint and we're slowing down."
"I told you to put your shirt back on," Blair said, remembering.
"Yeah…" Jim stretched. "You did."
"I wouldn't do that now," Blair told him.
"No? What would you do?"
"I'd tell you to take it off." Blair swallowed, a dark excitement filling him, coming from nowhere, summoned by the husky, murmured invitation in Jim's voice and the heat blazing in Jim's eyes. "Do it. Remind me."
Jim grinned, a quick flash of teeth, before his expression changed, closed down. He slid to his knees beside the couch, his body forming an L-shape, and began to undo the buttons of his shirt with a slow, teasing twist of his fingers. Blair watched the smooth planes of muscle and skin ripple as Jim shrugged out of his shirt, making it look easy, making it look like another invitation; to touch, caress, taste.
Jim held Blair's gaze and then lowered his eyes submissively. "Sir?" he murmured.
Blair scrambled off the couch and landed on the ground facing Jim, in a less exact copy of Jim's pose. "You want me to do it that way?"
Jim shook his head, relaxing. "Takes years of practice, babe. In my dreams, you do it that way, but for real? Don't see it."
"You are so full of it."
"Yeah… and you could be so full of me --"
"If I hadn't overdone it last night," Blair said glumly. "What is it when it's green light but it's still not going to happen?"
Jim laughed and wrapped his arms around Blair in a hug. "A pain in both our fucking asses, but don't worry about it."
"Thanks," Blair said, realizing that he hadn't gotten around to saying that. "For asking me to stay, I mean."
"Got some rules," Jim told him.
"Oh?" His knees were aching, so he leaned back against the couch, taking Jim with him. "Like what?"
"Clothes." Jim ran his hand under Blair's T-shirt and up to pinch a nipple. "You wear too many."
"I, uh, got some clamps as well," Blair confessed. Those, he'd really left on too long…
Jim shoved Blair's T-shirt up high enough to be able to survey the damage. "Jesus. Look, Blair, will you do me -- us -- a favor, and stop experimenting solo?"
"It's my body," Blair objected, more to see what Jim would say than because he disagreed. "I need to find out my limits."
"You need to take better fucking care of yourself!" Jim growled. He licked the ball of his thumb and pressed it against the red, swollen flesh around Blair's nipple. "God, that feels hot."
"It did last night, too," Blair said, in a feeble attempt to lighten the atmosphere.
"Upstairs," Jim said ominously. "Naked on the bed. Now."
"What are you going to do?" Blair asked, the words "to me" unspoken but audible to both of them.
Jim's scowl deepened. "I'm going to take care of you, since you did such a fucking bad job of it yourself. And then you're going to stay there and sleep, because you look like you need it."
"Oh." Blair digested that and then nodded meekly. "Okay."
Jim smiled, the frown vanishing. "Agreement? Without too much argument? Excuse me while I savor the moment as you get your ass upstairs."
"Asshole," Blair said and did as he was told.
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