Jim left the break room, chased by the high, indignant wail of a baby who'd had enough of the faces thrust at it and the cootchy-coo fingers. He had a slightly goofy smile on his face, he could feel it, even if babies weren't really his thing… but little Anne was adorable and watching Rhonda's smile was worth…
He sniffed at his sleeve.
Okay, nothing was worth getting baby puke all down his fucking arm.
He could still feel the surprisingly solid weight of the baby, nestling against him, blindly searching for warmth, milk; a reassuringly familiar smell. He'd only been able to give her the first; no wonder she'd been upset.
He kept a change of clothes at work; they all did. Never knew when you might get called out. These days, for him, it was just the basics, but there had been a time when his section of the long wardrobe running across one wall of the supply room had included a varied selection, from a tux to leather pants. Would he even fit in those pants any more?
He shook his head, peeling off his shirt and throwing it at the laundry basket. He didn't regret giving up most of his client list. Not really. It took its toll on you after a while and those that mattered the most, well, he hadn't lost them…
Buttoning a clean shirt, he went back to the main office, still deserted, and checked that there were no lights flashing on any of the answer machines. He was on his way back to his own desk when Rhonda's phone rang.
"The Ellison Agency; how may I help you?" He snagged a pen and a piece of paper, waiting for the person on the other end to decide if they were going to go through with it or not. Often, the answer was 'not'. His agency did have a team of men and women who were escorts without any extras included; personable, intelligent, and capable of playing whatever role was required. Usually, though, the people who hung up were looking for something a little less legal and getting cold feet.
Diffident, hopeful… Jim found himself smiling as he identified the voice immediately.
"Blair -- Mr. Sandburg, I mean. How are you?"
"You got it right the first time," Blair assured him. "And I'm good, man. More than good."
"Glad to hear it," Jim replied, keeping his tone courteous rather than friendly with an effort. "How can I help you?"
And wasn't that a question he wished he could dictate an answer to. He let himself dwell pleasurably on what he'd tell Blair to beg for, his thoughts circling a central image of Blair kneeling, looking up at him, cock hard, hands bound, neck --
"Any chance of me getting a house call tonight? Or is this, like, way too short notice?"
Jim smiled, already shredding his plans to have Simon over for company while he watched TV. "I think that could be arranged."
"She's feeling better then?" Blair sounded puppy dog eager. "I waited a week or so because you said her shoulder was hurt…"
Thinking fast had saved Jim's life in the past and it wasn't a skill you lost but forcing something out fast so that Blair's words didn't echo against a sticky silence cost him.
"Sam, you mean? Oh, she's much better. And what time did you have in mind?" He winced. It was Sam's night off, which was why he knew she was free, but she wasn't going to be happy about this.
He'd keep her company.
"Nine? Sure… An hour? Perfect. Well, enjoy yourself, Mr. Sandburg."
"Jim?" Blair's voice caught and held him. "You sound… You told me she was who I should have had. Said she was good."
"Yes, I did, didn't I?" And I told my brother the dollar under his pillow was from the Tooth Fairy and I thought I was right then, too…
"And I need to just see… Before I try any of those places you told me about… I need to know what I want. Who I want."
He wasn't being fair. He didn't even know why he was taking this so personally, but Blair was a client and one who'd been fucked about enough already. Christ, he should never have stayed… got out, not let the charge go though, let Blair organise a second appointment himself, preferably with another agency.
But he hadn't. He'd drunk Blair's whiskey (and God, he'd have kicked the ass of anyone working for him who'd drank on duty) and he'd forced the guy to expose himself in every way possible and jerked him off when Blair wasn't sure how he felt about men, and let's not even go near that fucking embarrassing dash to jerk off himself because Blair had been so --
"Yeah. Yeah, you do and that makes sense. I'll… she'll be there, okay? And she's the best. Trust me."
He couldn't take much more of this. "Fine. Good bye, Mr. Sandburg. Thank you for choosing the Ellison Agency."
He put the phone down before Blair could protest his formality and took a couple of slow, deep breaths, the kind that were supposed to calm you down, but they never did, and went to find Sam and bribe, beg, and plead with her to do something he didn't want her to do.
Sam came into the office at four the next day, a folder tucked under her arm. Jim watched her walk over to her desk, eying her with an attention he didn't usually give her. Sam was beautiful, elegant, and cold. She made him think of steel and swords and blood and her habit of dressing in deep shades of red did nothing to change that.
He'd never slept with an employee and never would, but even if she hadn't been on his payroll, he wouldn't have approached Sam. Respect, yes, she'd earned that… but there was a wariness between them rather than the warmth he shared with say, Simon. They both wanted control too much, he supposed.
He let her get settled and clear some of her paperwork before cracking.
"Sam?" She lifted her head, giving him a polite smile. "Could I see you in my office? With Mr. Sandburg's file?"
He made sure to keep his voice pleasant but he saw her eyes widen. He didn't use his office much; sometimes a new client would come to the office in person and discretion demanded he interviewed them in private -- and they expected him to have an office of his own. Most of the time, though, he worked at his desk in the main office, enjoying the company.
Sam would be wondering if she was in trouble. Somehow, that thought didn't trouble him as much as it should. He chastised himself as he walked in and ushered her to a chair, choosing to lean on his desk rather than sit behind it.
"It's okay," he said immediately. "I just wanted to know how it went, that's all."
She stared at him. "Why?"
The single word was said with enough emphasis to make it clear that she wasn't going to let him get away with hustling her. He could have pulled out the boss card but that would only piss her off and she'd done him a favour the night before, after all…
"You know how we fucked up his first appointment."
"It was --" Jim sighed. "It wasn't just a standard assignment, Sam. It was his first. It was him trying to find out about himself. It was important and --"
"And you did a good job with him," Sam interrupted. One rounded nail, the red polish mirror bright tapped against the folder she'd placed in her lap. "I read your report. You handled him perfectly."
That report had been carefully edited so he didn't feel too gratified by her approval.
"Thanks. I still --" He met her eyes and caved. "I liked him, Sam, okay? I want to know how it went. I'll read your report but I want to hear it from you. In detail."
She gave him a level look and then nodded. "I arrived at his house at nine precisely." No surprise there. Sam was never late. "He lives on Mountainside; you know it?"
"Sure; which part?" Mountainside, unimaginatively but accurately named, was a road that curved and looped about a third of the way up the closest of the mountains ringing Cascade in. The views were spectacular; the houses an eclectic assortment of mansions and cottages.
"It took me twenty minutes to get there; it's about halfway up." She looked mildly amused. "It's not his; he lives with his mother."
That didn't seem to fit what he knew of Blair, but before he could comment, she continued, "She's never there, though; inherited it from her father along with a nice chunk of cash, I'd guess, and she spends her life… flitting." Sam made an indeterminate gesture with her hand which showed what she thought of a lifestyle that purposeless. "She's in Hampshire, England, meditating in a field where three ley lines cross and trying to avoid the cowpats."
"He told you all this?" Jim interrupted. "You went there to get him naked and get him off; what's with the exchanging life stories?"
Her eyes widened with affront. "Excuse me?"
He wasn't going to back down but he tried to be fair. "Did you encourage him to talk for some reason?"
"I was this close to hauling out a gag!" she snapped, holding her thumb and forefinger an inch apart. "The only thing that stopped me was that we still had a lot to get through. So, no, Jim, I didn't encourage him. He just told me. At length. In detail."
Jealousy wasn't an emotion he'd felt for years but it was unmistakable when it hit. Jim swallowed down a comment that would have had Sam walking out and said softly, "Do you think he was nervous?"
"It's possible," Sam allowed.
"What happened once you reminded him you were on the clock?"
"I would never do that." Sam raised the folder, her tone exasperated. "It's all in here, you know."
He twitched it out of her hand and dropped it on the desk. "Thanks. Don't stop talking."
"Fine." Sam rolled her eyes and settled back, her expression turning introspective. "He offered me a drink that I refused, asked where I wanted to go, and then took me to his bedroom --"
"What was it --?"
"Big, but…" Sam frowned. "Big… but full. Crowded. It was as if that was where he lived and the rest of the house wasn't his to use. It's hard to explain. Books. Lots of books. The bed was a double, though." She pulled a face. "Too small."
Jim tried to picture it; Blair inside a shell, crammed with all he owned, his space within a space…
"Once we got in there, I took control before I went deaf." She smiled, secretive, satisfied. "I told him to kneel and he did, but not without this pause… and you could tell he thought it was funny."
"He wasn't taking it seriously?" Jim felt a small stab of disappointment at that. Amateurs did that…
"I think he saw it as a little clichéd," Sam said thoughtfully. "And it's difficult for some people to go deep, to forget themselves… He was busy watching it happen, if that makes sense, not really applying it to himself as the subject."
"He didn't see the sense in kneeling to you when it wasn't real…" Jim remembered Blair's anguished words as they lay in bed together. "He thinks too much."
Sam shrugged. "By the time I was done with him he'd stopped smiling or thinking, trust me."
He took a slow, deep breath. "Oh?"
"Jim." It was amazing how much she could fit into that single syllable, that solitary word. "He's a natural sub. He didn't want to get away with it."
"I suppose," Jim said reluctantly. He knew he wouldn't have let Blair keep smiling, either, but he could just picture the mischievous, knowing, shared look of amusement Blair would have given him and it was hard to feel good about wiping that look away.
"I made him strip. Gave him some… encouragement. " Jim knew how. He'd seen Sam work, that slender, vicious crop of hers flicking and stinging vulnerable, bared skin. "By the time he was naked he was gone, lost."
His hand was hurting, the fist it had formed tight and hard. He felt as if the skin on his knuckles was about to split and bleed from no more than this relentless, self-inflicted pressure.
Blair. Not hers to see. Not like that.
Sam wasn't looking at him now, thank God, lost in a reverie. "He's so damn responsive," she said reflectively. "I'd love to work with him more, see how he dealt with, oh, being on display, or collared…"
Jim choked, swamped with emotion he didn't have time to break down into anything resembling logical thought. "You're joking. His second session and you're -- What did you do to him? Exactly?"
Sam gave another shrug. "Stripped him, made him stand there while I looked him over for a while -- he was shaking, about to break, just from that -- and then I --"
Jim held up his hand. "You know what? I'll read it in your report."
"Good idea," Sam murmured, standing at once and smoothing her skirt down with a careful hand. "Just don't assign him to me again."
"Huh? Why not? What happened to him being responsive and you being curious?"
Sam's scarlet lips pouted. "He wouldn't come for me and I didn't have time to make him. And besides…" A frown marred the smooth forehead. "He asked for me; he was expecting me, but --"
"When he opened the door, he looked… disappointed."
The door closed behind her and Jim walked around his desk to sit down, already reaching for Blair's file.
He didn't know what the hell she'd done to him but he was going to find out.
And then he was going to see Blair and do it again, and do it right, do it better.
Why --? Oh.
He'd got it wrong again.
"You're so going to pay for this," he muttered, flicking open the file, a grin he couldn't get rid of curving his mouth. "Your ass is going to burn, Mr. Sandburg."
He didn't even bother worrying about whether or not Blair would call again.
And this time Blair was getting who he needed, not who he'd asked for.
Sam's words came back to him… Blair, naked, standing, shaking, desperately trying to keep still and not turn his head, anticipating, dreading the merciless, teasing flick of the crop that would have left marks, ripening, quickly fading…
He shuddered, just as Blair must have done, close to picking up the phone and breaking every rule they had and calling Blair. All that kept his hand from reaching out was that it was busy pressing down hard, quelling his erection.
And he'd fucked up enough already.
He had to wait.
He just hoped Blair couldn't.
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