Point of Contact

Part Six

Grateful thanks to T Verano for beta reading.

Blair seemed to like being kissed. If Jim moved his mouth away for a moment, just to catch his breath, maybe pull the back of his hand across his lips to dry them because he loved the drag of skin on skin and the spit made it all too smooth, too easy, Blair gave a disappointed whimper that had Jim's mouth back on his a second later.

Kissing wasn't something he did at work, not often. Sometimes, sure, if they looked like they expected it, but mostly they didn't. Your fingers inside them, your cock deep and hard, yes… but they didn't want a kiss. Too romantic.

This wasn't work, though. Jim wanted Blair's mouth and it was scaring him how close he'd come to begging for it.

He ran his hand down Blair's back, distracting himself from the warning throb and tightening in his balls -- too much waiting, too much wanting -- with an exploration of the curve where Blair's back became his ass. Which was more of an added spur than a distraction, but it split his attention so that he wasn't totally focused on how it felt to have Blair's tongue on his, sliding over and in, warm and friendly.

Blair tensed, caught between Jim's body and his hand. Jim felt him pull back instinctively, pressing his ass against Jim's palm, which had moved down an inch or two, and then jerking forward which gave Jim's cock something to butt up against, blind and hungry.

"Blair?" Jim solved Blair's dilemma by shifting his hand to Blair's hip, holding him in place with a little piece of empty space between them.

It took the novelty of Blair's silence to spark understanding.

"I told you I wouldn't do that until you were ready."

"Yeah. And you said you wouldn't mention it, but you have and I didn't stop you, did I? I might even have let you think I was down with it -- and I'm still not sure…"

Jim sighed, resting his forehead against Blair's. Blair had sounded sure in the heat of the moment, but that wasn't really the point. "I did, didn't I? I'm sorry."

Want to be fucked on the floor…? Christ, it'd just slipped out, sincere, yes, but a line he'd used before, other men, other times. It wasn't something he should have said to Blair. Blair deserved new words, freshly minted and bright.

"I don't mind you saying it."

It was the first time he was sure Blair had lied to him. Jim closed his ears to the insistent beat of his own arousal and tried to salvage the situation.

"When I said I wanted to bend you over the couch, it wasn't so I could fuck you."

"Then why would you want to --?" Jim raised his hand and let it fall with a soft, emphatic smack against Blair's ass. "Oh! Oh, right…Spank me like that." Blair squirmed restlessly, his cock twitching, hardening against Jim's leg. "God…"

"But I did forget later. Downstairs and here in bed." Jim chewed his lip, the confession hanging like fog between them, more words needed to dispel it. "Okay, I blew it. I wouldn't have done it, I wouldn't have touched you; you don't need to worry about that. I just got… carried away talking dirty to you. If I do it again, call me on it. Hell, feel free to do some bending over couches of your own."

Blair chuckled, relaxing against Jim, snuggling close. "That's not my thing, man. Or yours. And I'm not ruling it out for ever, okay? Not even close. I've just got a lot to process here."

"I get that."

Blair stroked his hand over Jim's chest, then scratched it lightly, abstract patterns heading south. "So talk about it -- about fucking me -- all you want. If you want. And put your hand back where it was. I like it there." Blair's hand went lower and a single fingertip, with a short, blunt nail scored a line from the root of Jim's cock to the crown. "And tell me what you want me to do with this."

Jim rolled away to his back, staring up the slanted ceiling. His empty hands closed around the sheet beneath them, gathering it up, crushing it until his fingers ached in protest.

"Jim?" Blair's uncertainty was showing in more than his voice; Jim turned his head enough to see Blair's hand hovering and his face twisted with concern. "Did I hurt you?"

He shook his head and let his cramped fingers relax, reaching for Blair's hand and bringing it down, cupped in his, to rest against his chest. "No. That didn't hurt."

"Then tell me what to do," Blair demanded. "You're not going to just jerk off again, are you?" He pursed his lips, clearly giving that possibility some consideration. "I want to watch if you do."

Jim smiled, getting back a measure of control over himself and the situation. "You're going to do more than watch."

"Okay…" Blair flexed his hand within Jim's in a question, a promise. "Just tell me."

"No." Jim put his hands behind his head again and spread his legs in invitation. "Do what you like. I'm close enough that you won't have to work at it, so just… have fun."

"Isn't that a little one-sided?" Blair objected, his hand already trailing down Jim's stomach, the back of his knuckles blunt points of welcome pressure.

"Maybe. But it's how I want it, so unless you've got any objections…"

"No," Blair murmured, leaning over and kissing Jim's stomach with a precision that had Jim squinting down at the kissed spot wondering why Blair had picked it. "I can do this."

He sounded sure of himself and, remembering that little trick with the water, Jim wasn't inclined to doubt him. Blair was an unpredictable mixture of bold and shy but he didn't seem to mind experimenting. Curiosity would tend to drive him harder than arousal.

"Right now, a stray breeze could do the job," Jim said by way of reassurance and warning. "Feels like I've been hard for hours." He rolled his eyes. "Hell, I have."

"And you're not used to that?" Blair's hair was hanging down, obscuring his face. If Blair decided sucking Jim was something he enjoyed, Jim was going to have to choose between making Blair tie it back so that he could watch Blair's mouth get round and wet and filled or having it stay loose, a silky tickle against his skin.

Or he could put Blair on his back, kneel over him, and have both the view of industrious mouth and the hair, spread over the pillow for his hands to tangle in.

Choices, choices… but that last one might be more than Blair was ready for.

"Not really. Good at waiting, but even I have limits, and I'm close to passing them."

"Oh?" Blair laid down a line of kisses that took his mouth close to the head of Jim's cock. Force of habit made Jim murmur, "Wait…" twisting to fumble for a condom in the nightstand, but to do that he had to turn towards Blair, arching his hips, and that was all the invitation Blair needed.

Jim's bare cock slipped into Blair's mouth like a key into a lock, sliding home with an easy familiarity.

Shock took the edge off Jim's response, freezing him in place when he wanted to push deeper, but his erection was way past the point of paying attention to anything that led it away from a climax. As Blair's tongue darted out, flickering across sensitised skin with a delicacy born of inexperience that managed to feel like the most calculated of sophisticated teases, Jim felt himself start to come, that final hardening, the lurch of excitement and anticipation, because it was always good but sometimes it was special and maybe this time, maybe --

Blair's hand clamped down on Jim's ass, holding him in place, his upper leg kicking out wildly as he tried to rub off against Jim, caught up in a renewed arousal.

Jim struggled to break away from him and got a graze from Blair's teeth that hurt enough to break through the dark haze of his approaching orgasm. His growl of pain was loud enough to do much the same to Blair and his cock slipped out of Blair's mouth, spit-wet, thick and heavy. Too late to be safe now, really, already too late, but he didn't care; Blair wasn't getting what he wanted. Not like that. Not when Jim had told him --

He got Blair pinned to the bed with a move that his body had never quite forgotten after years as a civilian, straddling him, his knees grinding into the inner crooks of Blair's elbows.

That could hurt if he chose to let it but he had most of his weight elsewhere and Blair did no more than grimace a protest he didn't voice.

"I told you not to do that," Jim said, his voice cold and steady, need screaming through him.

Blair's head moved in an indeterminate way that didn't translate as a yes or a no and he licked at lips that were a shade darker than usual, glossy and lush. Jim could picture them streaked with come, his come, and knew Blair would lick them clean just like that, with calculatedly slow sweeps of his tongue.

Blair had the capacity to be one sensual little fuck, given the chance.

"I'm going to come now," Jim told him, "because if I don't I'll do something stupid like punching a wall, and you're going to lie there and be come on and I don't want you to move or say anything unless it's your word."

He was breathing hard now, voice a savage growl by the end. Losing it. Totally. Blair under him, a small frown creasing the skin between those dark, uneven eyebrows, a flush staining his cheeks -- Blair not struggling at all, not from the moment Jim had laid his hands on him and positioned him with an economical, thorough use of force.

Blair submissive without true comprehension or a sensible fear, waiting --

And he had to punish him; by any rules of this game that was a given, but he couldn't think of how to do it. This wasn't a game he played often and never with someone so fucking new.

He thought about Sam, which helped in more ways than one. She wouldn't have let Blair get away with a disobedience this blatant and she would have found a way to deal with it that would be a true penalty… he was damned if he was going to do less for Blair than she would have done.

So. Hurt him, but not physically, no. No spanking for Blair, no gratification, no straws he could spin into gold. And even with disappointment in Blair chilling him, he rejected the thought of the cruelest, simplest method which was to give Blair his clothes and kick him out.

I want to watch if you do.

Well, okay.

Ignoring the puzzled look flashing across Blair's face, Jim got off him, rolled Blair to his belly and grinned, a tight, savage grin, as Blair's ass lifted an inch or two, an inviting, revealing response, and then tensed, the muscles bunching, as Blair's mind caught up to his body. Part of him was glad that Blair trusted him enough not to struggle, even though Jim knew, hating that he knew, that if he'd wanted to fuck Blair, there wasn't a lot Blair could have done to stop him. That made him move fast, giving the best reassurance he could, kneeling across Blair's back, not between his thighs, high enough that most of the tension left Blair. Jim shoved one hand through Blair's hair until he hit skull and then pushed down, making sure Blair's mouth was clear of the pillow but applying enough pressure that Blair wouldn't be able to turn his head.

He wasn't going to give Blair the chance to disobey him again. That had been a mistake -- another one, shit -- and it was on his head, not Blair's, which might buy Blair some forgiveness in a few minutes but right now, oh, right now nothing mattered but the hair and bone against his fist and the hot jerk and spit of his cock as his hand closed around it and stripped it, worked it, made it give it up.

When he'd finished and his come lay in thick streaks on Blair's back, there, on the flat wing of a shoulder blade, with some spattered drops against Blair's hair, he let his clenched jaw ease, and allowed himself a single grunt of relief with very little pleasure in it. Blair answered it with a plaintive, questioning murmur, rolling his shoulders as if he thought he could shrug off the cooling wetness marking him.

"Don't ever do that again," Jim said with a sort of tired finality.

Blair moved. Moved with raw determination and surprising strength, bucking Jim off and twisting to his back, which, Jim supposed, going with trained, never forgotten speed from a sprawl to kneeling up, took care of the mess. Well, transferred it to the sheets, anyway.

"I won't get the chance, will I?" Blair snapped.

"Okay, one, you weren't supposed to move --"

Blair sat up with a jack-in-the-box jerk. "Until you came on me. Which you did. Which means I can move now if I want to."


"Two, you don't get to be angry." Jim smiled thinly. "I'm the one who's angry."

Blair looked lost and totally confused, his aggression melting away. "I don't see why. You said I could do anything I wanted and I wanted to do that. I thought you'd like it."

"And three," Jim said, his hands on Blair's shoulders, gripping them, shaking him once, a sharp shake that Blair rode out, his gaze fixed on Jim. "You're staying and eating those fucking pancakes and if I've calmed down enough to spank you, you'll eat them standing up because your ass is going to be raw, dammit."

Blair's lower lip, full and curved, strong curves, ones Jim wanted to bite blurred, pushed out in something close to a pout. "Forget it. I'm not in the mood now."

Jim's hands fell away from Blair, still warm from Blair's skin for long moments afterwards. "Fine. No sex. So what do you want to do? Watch TV? Eat? Can I get you a drink?"

He was just the perfect fucking host, wasn't he? Unwillingly, he remembered the last date he'd had, who'd come here, sipped chilled Chardonnay as she lectured him on a play they'd just seen -- it hadn't come close to being a conversation -- and then continued to bore him when they'd made their way up to his bed. He'd been courteous, considerate and made her come with easy, smooth, well-practiced moves, her control cracking for a single, brief instant as her climax shattered it. And her cat-green eyes had still glazed over with dismissal as soon as she'd finished getting dressed, because whatever she'd been looking for, she hadn't found it in him.

He'd fallen asleep in a freshly made bed, smiling sourly as he wondered what she would have asked him for if she'd known what he did for a living. He'd followed her verbal instructions and let her ride him, her full breasts filling his hands -- and overlooked every cue that she wanted, well, more or less what Blair did, because she'd irritated him in half a dozen petty ways.

Blair didn't irritate him. No. Blair was just driving him insane with baffled lust, confusion and an anger he couldn't sustain when Blair was looking at him with that much hurt astonishment in his eyes.

"A drink? No! I want to find out what the fuck I did wrong."

"Huh?"

"What did I do wrong?" Blair repeated, his voice tight enough that the words sang like a twanged wire. "If you tell me, I'll try not to do it again, but, man, you've got to tell me, not just go off on me like that. I didn't like it, okay? Anger's a really negative emotion."

"I told you if you did that we couldn't do it bare," Jim said, wondering why Blair, who came over as scarily intelligent in some ways, was having trouble working out what he'd done to piss Jim off.

"Yeah, and we agreed I'd wear one but I was willing to take the chance when it came to you," Blair said impatiently. "Is that it? God." He gave Jim an exasperated look. "You really are a --"

Jim cut him off because he didn't want to hear Blair's opinion of him right then. "No, we didn't."

"Yes, we did."

He abandoned the pointless back and forth and stared hard at Blair. "Tell me what you think happened when we discussed it."

Blair shrugged, the movement dismissive. "Sure. You said you could get me off if I was wearing one and I said, okay, but when it was me doing it to you, I'd do it without, and you said…" He screwed up his face in thought. "Yeah. You said something about me never stopping and I said it was what put people off and you said --"

"Enough." Jim held up his hand. "Okay. You think that was me giving in? It wasn't. It was me commenting on your water on stone technique."

"Oh." Blair fell silent and then tentatively offered a way out. "We were both right?"

"No, we were both wrong," Jim told him wearily. "Failure to communicate, and I don't like that when we're doing this kind of scene."

"You still pissed then?" There was a studied calm about Blair that didn't quite ring true.

"No. It was my fault. I didn't make it clear back at your place, and I didn't give you chance to explain just now." Jim took a moment to brace himself and then said stiffly, "I'm sorry."

"Wow," Blair marveled, his voice edged. "That was hard for you to say. Is it that big a deal for you, apologizing to someone?"

"How big an asshole am I, you mean?" Jim said wryly. "No, it isn't. I wouldn't have said it if I didn't want to. I am sorry, Chief. I just…" Blair's clear-eyed gaze hooked the words out of him until they lay, wriggling, writhing, dying of shame. "I say it and it means I fucked up. I don't like doing that. The fucking up, not the apologizing."

Never had. He hadn't been brought up by a man who viewed failure as forgivable and the army hadn't been all that tolerant of it, either.

"Fucked up implies unfixable and hey, we fixed it, so it's not. Just a mistake, that was my fault, too."

"Is it fixed?" Jim tilted his head questioningly. "Have you changed your mind?"

"No." Blair smiled at him. "Stubborn, remember? Either I don't do it at all, or I do it my way. You choose. It's your dick on the receiving end and it's not such a big deal now, after all."

That didn't make a lot of sense, but Blair seemed to think it did, so Jim left it for the moment. "Well, it still leaves us with options, but they're getting limited." He sighed, resigning himself to nothing much but hand jobs and rubbing off for the foreseeable future and trying not to let Blair see more than the surface layer of frustration. It wasn't pure selfishness by any means; he'd been looking forward to reducing Blair to a state of speechless and sated bliss and having fun doing it.

He still could. It was just going to be more of a challenge. That lifted his mood. He didn't mind those.

Blair frowned. "It's only for one night, Jim, and we've already come once, so..."

"You think I'll change my mind by the morning?" Jim shook his head. "I'm stubborn, too. Maybe in a few weeks… but don't count on it."

That got a reaction. Blair closed his eyes, muttered something that Jim was suspiciously certain he'd learned from his mother because it sounded flaky and foreign, and then said softly, "Jim. If we're dealing with miscommunications, I have another I'd like to mention. When you made this a date -- it's just for tonight, right? A date. Or did you plan on a few more until, well, until the usual happens and we go our separate ways?"

"I planned on as many as it takes. Can't say I had a set number in mind." He gave Blair an incredulous look, letting some hurt show deliberately. "You're breaking up with me? After a couple of hours? I think that's a personal worst for me."

It wasn't, but Blair didn't need to know that.

He overplayed it enough to coax a smile from Blair. "You know I'm not. I just didn't… I wasn't sure. Mostly sure, but I still feel like you're doing me this huge favor."

"I'm not." Favor? Favor? Jim shook his head. "Blair, I know dating was your idea, and, yes, it's kind of an insane one, but I could have said no. I didn't. Which makes me insane, too, but we don't have to tell anyone that. And if you think you're some sort of fucking charity case for me, forget it."

Blair stared at him, looking a little astonished. Hearing the echo of his vehemence in his head, tinged with the last of his anger, maybe, Jim wasn't surprised by that.

"Okay." Blair licked his lips, looking a little uncertain. "I still think I'm getting more out of this than you, but, okay." He smiled awkwardly. "We don't have to do anything besides the sex -- I mean, like going out for dinner and all that stuff."

"We've got to eat," Jim said reasonably. "Doing it together, in public or here, isn't a problem, is it?"

"People might think…" Blair's voice trailed off. "Jim, come on. Look at you." He gestured at the custom-built wardrobe that ran along one wall. "I bet that's full of designer suits, silk shirts. I bet you know all the right places to go, all the right people --"

"Yeah," Jim said. "I know some of them really well. It doesn't mean they wouldn't get indigestion sharing a table with me. Blair, I'll take you anywhere you want to go and trust me, I'll fit in anywhere you take me. I'm good at doing that."

"Good at faking it?"

Jim smiled without warmth. "The best. So start thinking about where you want to go on our second date, if we're counting them."

"I don't really go anywhere," Blair said. He pushed his hair back off his face and laughed. "God, that sounds pathetic. It's just -- I'm busy, you know? I get writing and it's like the world disappears and that really pisses people off when I'm supposed to be somewhere." He looked at Jim, frowning. "That wouldn't bother you, though, would it? You work weird hours and you probably get to go out a lot when you're seeing clients."

"I told you, I don't see many nowadays, but eating in a restaurant or going to a club isn't that much of a treat," Jim admitted. "And, yes, the agency's open twenty-four hours, seven days a week. Simon, Rhonda, me, a couple of others you don't know… we work eight-hour shifts, try and arrange a day off every five…"

"And I bet there's not much happening in the day?"

Jim laughed. "You'd be surprised. No, the graveyard shift's the third one, two in the morning to nine. Gets busy at the start and the end, not so much in the middle."

"I'm usually still writing around four," Blair said. "Don't ask me why, but I seem to do my best work then."

"You should come and keep me company next time I'm on that shift," Jim said. "The place is dead after three and it's all I can do to stay awake. Plug your laptop in and write away."

"I'd love to," Blair said, his face lighting up. He gave Jim a mischievous smile. "It's a date."

"Ha-ha."

A silence fell, comfortable enough that Jim didn't try to break it. Blair fidgeted a little and Jim reached out instinctively and ran his fingers through Blair's hair, untangling it as carefully as he could until he hit a snarl and Blair murmured, "Ow," and stopped him.

"So…" Blair said. "This condom issue…"

"Blair…"

"We're clean, Jim. And I don't see more than one person at once -- not that I've ever had a choice about that, but I think it's a pretty shitty thing to do and I wouldn't even if I could --" Jim wondered how many people had used Blair as a fallback date, dropping him when something better had come along, for him to sound that bitter about it. "So if you stay clean, which you would for your clients anyway, I don't see why I can't --"

"Fine," Jim interrupted, giving in and knowing it was guilt-prompted and he'd regret it. "God, just stop talking, okay? You can do it."  

"What? Really?" Blair's eyes widened.

"You bite me again, and I'll double-bag it," Jim threatened him and watched Blair's face glow with satisfaction, though he had the sense not to gloat. Testing the waters, he added, "And I suppose, until I see another client, I might as well do the same with you."

Blair looked pleased but didn't react to the mention of Jim seeing clients. Curious, Jim pushed a little harder. "I don't spread myself around when I'm dating, either --" He didn't need to. They didn't last long enough for him to get restless. "But if an emergency comes up -- like you a few weeks ago, well, you've got to understand…"

"I know. It's cool. It's your job." Blair's head bobbed in a quick nod. "It's not the same as seeing someone else. I'd never make a fuss about that."

Jim couldn't help leaning in and kissing him, quick and soft. He back-pedaled a bit. "Clients when we're fully-booked, well, I'd usually pass them on, not deal with them myself. Simon doesn't think it's good for the agency's image to have the boss out there working, and I agree, but that night when we met was just chaotic." He flicked Blair's chin lightly. "It turned out okay, right? And the few I still see… nothing's arranged for the near future. Don't worry about it for now, okay? If something happens and I have to take a client, I'll tell you and I'll let you decide how you feel about it then."

With a cynicism based on past experience, he gave Blair credit for good intentions but guessed that the reality of knowing your date was fresh from fucking a stranger would put a chill in the air. They could deal with it when it happened. Or Blair could; Jim didn't need to. He'd been able to see his job as just that from the start.

It wasn't that likely Blair would still be around the next time one of the people on his personal list got to missing him, anyway. Jim had listened to Blair's litany of woe about his love life and very carefully bitten back the, 'You, too, huh?' that had risen to his lips. Different reasons, maybe, but since his divorce he'd found himself discouragingly unable to get any momentum going when it came to relationships. No shortage of candidates, though, and it wasn't as if the sex was terrible, it just wasn't worth the effort.

He couldn't even remember the face of that last woman, not without making an effort. Green eyes, long red hair… that was about it.

Okay, he was getting old. Had to be.

Blair cleared his throat. "Moving on…You owe me."

"An apology? You got one. Two's a bit excessive."

"More than just an apology. Restitution." Blair sounded definite. "You admitted it wasn't my fault, right?"

"I suppose…" Jim said cautiously.

"But I got punished, anyway." Blair looked flushed but resolute. "That's why you came that way. You weren't letting me watch because I'd said I wanted to."

"Oh, shit, Blair…" Jim wondered how the hell Sam did this, because he felt like a complete bastard. "If I say I was doing it for a lot of good reasons, will that help?"

"No."

"Well, I was."

"You still need to make it up to me." Blair rolled his shoulders. "Start by scratching my back, will you? It's itching as it dries and it's driving me crazy."

"Want to take a shower?"

"Maybe later." Blair flopped onto his stomach. "Scratch me."

"Yes, sir," Jim murmured, lying on his side next to Blair, propping himself up on one elbow, and starting to pick at what was left of his come, pale flakes of it stuck to skin. "This is on the gross side, you know."

"Hey, you put it there." Blair shook his head, his words muffled. "It sounds hotter than it is. Well, no. It was hot when you were doing it, even though I was kind of freaking out because I didn't know why you were so pissed, but now I know what the clean up's like, I'm wondering if it was worth it."

"It wasn't your call," Jim reminded him absently, abandoning his chore and starting to play instead, writing words on Blair's back and waiting for Blair to get what he was doing. "It was mine."

He'd got to the 'h' of 'pushy' when Blair snorted with laughter. "Yeah, I am. Guilty as charged."

"Then I guess I need to hand down a sentence."

Blair gave him a look over his shoulder, the mood turning sultry just like that. "Or you could ignore what I said about not wanting to get spanked and we could pick up where we left off at my place."

Jim nodded, pleased with the shift back to familiar ground. Flirting, he could do. "Yeah. We could. If we're done talking."

"We're dating, oral's cool without latex, my ass is off limits unless you're turning it red, and you still owe me but I'm thinking about how you can make it up to me." Blair stuck the tip of his tongue between his teeth and grinned, looking impish and cute. "I'm done."

Jim was still feeling mildly guilty himself -- though it was wearing off fast -- but that didn't stop him landing a crisp slap on Blair's ass, the sound followed by a yelp as Blair bit down hard on his tongue. "Yeah? I'm just starting. Don't move."

He took the flogger out of the bag and some quick-release straps, sparing a grateful thought for whoever invented Velcro. They wouldn't work for a lengthy session, because the unlined leather would chafe, but he didn't plan on using them for long.

And he wanted to see leather wound around Blair's wrists and ankles.

Blair's gaze tracked between the flogger and the long straps before he raised his eyebrows questioningly.

"I'd like you held in place," Jim told him. "It's safer. You move suddenly, and you might get hurt more than you want to be. I don't want that to happen and I don't trust you to stay still yet. Okay?"

Blair nodded, his words dried up, his throat working as he swallowed. Jim watched him and smiled. Blair was lying on his stomach but Jim would put money on him being mostly hard again already.

"Roll over."

And if he wasn't, he would be soon.

"Huh?"

"No, Blair," Jim said, delivering another hard, open-handed smack on top of the earlier palm print. "When I tell you to do something, you just do it. Or you can say, 'yes, Jim,' if you're not gagged."

"I just -- I thought you were going to --" Jim sighed and raised his hand and Blair turned over fast. Oh, yeah. Hard.

He let Blair wait for a while, until Blair was fidgeting, his legs close together, his fingers flexing, small, quickly halted attempts to cover himself that left Blair's hands flat on his thighs, framing, not concealing.

Jim smiled, put the flogger where Blair could see it, and drew the straps across his hand, enjoying the feel of them, the weight and the smell. He liked leather. Call him a traditionalist, but there was nothing quite like it. "Tell me what we're doing here, Blair."

"Not much," Blair muttered. "Waiting?"

"You," Jim said, letting three of the straps drop to the bed, "might be waiting. I've already started."

"Watching me is something you like?"

"I guess," Jim admitted, automatically keeping his voice low so that Blair had to listen, had to concentrate. "And what we're doing is finding out what works for you, remember? And you haven't figured it out by yourself, so let me try, will you, and stop holding back. Stop being clever. Stop… watching yourself and analysing it." He flicked the end of the strap against Blair's leg and noted the quiver that ran over Blair and the throat-caught moan. "See? It's simple. I do stuff, you react, I find out what does it for you."

"What about you?" Blair was still too restless for a man who had a dozen candles and a meditation mat in his bedroom. "Tell me something that turns you on. Don't make this all about me. I feel… exposed here."

Jim considered that obvious truth and decided to indulge him. Up to a point. "Stay still, and I will. Because I like looking at you naked and you need to get used to that."

"It isn't easy." Blair put his hands flat on the bed. "Can't you… can't you just tie me up first?"

"If we were in a rush, I might, but we're not." Jim felt his mouth quirk up in a smile he couldn't contain. "And it might distract you. Fun over fast. It did last time."

"Are you laughing at one of my kinks?"

"No." Jim shook his head, serious now. "Never."

"Just at me."

"Not even that." Blair had relaxed as they'd talked, his palms turned up, fingers curled loosely, gracefully, his legs parted, his breathing regular. Jim moved to the head of the bed and attached the strap to a railing. He missed having proper anchor points, but he'd never really needed them here. "I just get a kick out of the way you react to all this."

"Huh." Blair didn't sound too impressed by that, but he subsided, not even turning his head to watch as Jim attached all four straps to the bed, using its legs for the ankle tethers, grateful that the straps were long ones.

His hand wrapped around Blair's ankle, Jim said slowly, groping for the strap, searching for the words he wanted to share, "You know, this isn't my kink, not really. I like it enough that I can do it and do it well, but I don't need it the way you do."

Blair stiffened in alarm. "Hey, don't do it if you don't want to! I mean it, Jim."

Jim squeezed Blair's ankle. "Calm down. I said I didn't need it, and I don't, but there's a big gap between that and not liking it. I just want you to be aware that I'm not Sam."

"Done," Blair said with a fervor that made Jim decide to read Sam's report again. "No danger of mixing you up. Really."

"She's good," Jim said patiently. "This isn't just her job; she lives it, 24/7. When she isn't working for me -- and we don't always have clients for her, because we don't specialise in this, but that's the way she likes it -- she's down at Club Z. She might even be one of the owners… she's not big on sharing and I never asked."

"That club was on the list you gave me." Blair sounded intrigued. "Is that somewhere we could go some time? Just to… I'd like to just see what it's like."

"I don't know. Maybe." Jim tried to put Blair against the background of the club, plaid against leather, and grimaced because it just didn't work. They'd let him in, though. He'd mention Sam's name, mention Jim… they'd take one look at him and see that mouth, those eyes, that need blazing off him…. God.

"If you don't want to take me, I could go by myself," Blair offered meekly.

"I'll take you, if you promise me you won't go within a block of it without me."

The meekness disappeared. "Jim, I don't need a babysitter, okay? And I might find someone there I could interview --"

"Chief, they're not there to talk to outsiders. They're there to watch, show off their toys, play and be played with… and you go there and that'll be you, too. You'll be part of it, not looking on, and you're not ready for that, but I said I'll take you and I will. Just -- don't go there by yourself, okay?"

"I -- okay. I won't. But will you tell me a bit about it?"

Jim fastened the first strap around Blair's right ankle and put his hand over the leather until it was warm. "Later, Blair. Later. How does that feel?"

Blair stared down at his ankle without answering and tugged at the bond. It held. Jim did a visual check on the strap, told Blair to tug harder, and checked it again, by touch. It was worrying him how easily he was falling into the routine but he'd done this so many times…

He drew his thumbnail over the sole of Blair's foot, got a protesting murmur and did it again, slower, harder, marking the tough skin fleetingly, his eyes on Blair's.

Blair swallowed and was silent. He didn't move his foot into position but when Jim took hold of it to slide it across the bed to the waiting strap, there wasn't even a slight resistance.

Jim stroked the shallow hollow at Blair's anklebone with the tip of his finger, then leaned down and traced its shape with his tongue, feeling the skin go taut as Blair's toes curled hard. He gave the damp skin a kiss and glanced up.

Blair's hands were above his head, wrists crossed, his teeth digging into his lip.

"If you want it to hurt when I kiss you, keep doing that," Jim said. Blair eased his lip free and licked at it reflexively. "And if you want me to kiss you, just do that again."

Blair grinned and did it. "You like that."

"Yeah." Jim crawled up the bed and onto Blair, one hand resting on Blair's wrists, the other taking enough of his weight that Blair could breathe. "Like watching." He brought his hand down and cupped Blair's cheek, then rubbed Blair's mouth dry with his thumb before licking it wet again. "Like doing it, too."

Blair moaned, a startled, eager sound, his lips pushing up to meet the return of Jim's tongue as it lapped over, dipped between, his hips arching strongly.

"Stay still," Jim murmured, the answering thrust of his own hips making it impossible. "Or I'll make you."

Blair's crossed hands moved apart instantly, reaching out for the straps, his fingers grasping blindly.

Jim reached out lazily and snagged one of the straps, holding it up. "Want this?"

Blair's gaze flicked from the strap to Jim's face, his breathing uneven as he nodded.

"Should have stayed still," Jim said, not unkindly, tossing the strap out of reach. "Now you'll have to earn it back." He got off Blair and the bed, doing it smoothly, performing, because he didn't know how to turn that off, not really. This deliberate distancing after close contact, this prowling stalk around the room as his client -- partner -- watched -- it was theatrical but effective.

He didn't let himself think about how much he wanted to be back on the bed, Blair's body strong and warm under his. Simple. When had it last been simple?

After placing the bag onto the bed between Blair's spread legs, he rummaged through it and took out a single tweezer clamp, the ends encased in black rubber. He tossed it in the air and caught it. "Ever use one of these?"

Blair eyed it warily. "No."

"Let's change that. Hands by your side for now."

Blair obeyed him but his expression was doubtful. "I'm not sure I want -- uh, yellow?"

Jim nodded and dropped the clamp onto Blair's stomach. "Okay. Sit up. Look at it. See how it works. Try it out on your hand, if you like."

Blair struggled up, his hand closing around the clamp as it began to slide off him. "Don't they hurt?"

"That's the idea," Jim said, tapping Blair's fist until it opened, the black and silver of the clamp winking up at them, catching the light. "You can control it. See this ring? Push it in and it grips tighter."

As Jim had thought he would, given the chance, Blair began to experiment with the clamp, his eyes bright with interest now. "How long would you leave it on me?"

"For moving?" Jim considered that and then shrugged. "A minute, maybe."

"Oh."

Guessing from the slightly disappointed tone that Blair had been expecting much longer, Jim grinned. "You'll want me to take it off by then. And it hurts after it comes off, too."

"You do it first," Blair said firmly, holding out the clamp. "Show me."

"What?"

"I want to see."

"You want to see," Jim repeated flatly.

Blair reached out, his fingers brushing lightly over Jim's right nipple. "That one."

"Blair, I'm not going to--" Jim took a deep breath as his nipple hardened, tingling slightly. He got out a second clamp, holding it up and raising his eyebrows. If Sam found out about this, she'd freak…"How about we both do?"

"That could work," Blair said approvingly. Little shit. "Okay. Green."

"You do realize you'll pay for this -- all of this -- later, don't you?" Jim said blandly, putting the clamp on and pushing the ring in as far as it would go, feeling the clamp bite down. It had been a long time since he'd used one on himself but the breathtaking jolt of pain felt familiar. He let Blair see how much it hurt, not hiding it, and then took the other clamp from Blair's hand.

"Tell me what it feels like." Blair reached out, tracing the pinched, reddening skin with one finger, his eyes intent, his touch gentle.

"At first? Hurts like hell. It's vicious and sudden and it doesn't stop…" Jim took hold of Blair's wrist and drew Blair's hand up to his mouth. He licked a broad stripe across Blair's palm and then pressed it against the clamped nipple, grinding skin against metal and gasping through the wave of sensation radiating out.

Blair looked worried, his face crumpling with distress but before he could speak, Jim tugged Blair's hand down until it was against his cock. "And it's got me hard again, see? Because you can take that pain and use it."

"To do what?" Blair whispered, his fingers exploring in maddeningly tentative touches, his attention mostly on Jim's chest. "How can you even think about anything with it on?"

"It's not that bad," Jim said, shrugging and regretting it instantly. "These are light clamps and they're adjustable. And you use it to… focus. To lose yourself. To… hell, I don't know, Blair. What do you use a candle for when you meditate?"

"All of those," Blair said absently. "Mm. I get it. Okay. I'm ready."

"Lie back, then," Jim said. "And… I'll take it off if you tell me to, but give yourself chance to get used to it, okay?"

He waited for Blair to get into position and then crouched over him, licking and sucking until Blair's nipple was a slippery, solid bump against his tongue. Then he attached the clamp and tightened it just enough to make it grip, catching hold of Blair's hands as they rose off the bed and pinning them down until he stopped struggling.

"God --" Blair was panting, his eyes wide and startled. "Fuck."

Murmuring encouragement and ignoring the constant throb from his own squeezed flesh, Jim licked around the clamp, blowing on the wet skin to cool it, reaching over to tease the other nipple and finding it hard.

He didn't bother counting seconds but when the clock in his head told him it'd been about a minute, he drew back. "Going to take it off now. Want to feel it, first? Tight as it gets?"

"Yeah…" The single word was an exhalation and then Blair cried out, his next breath catching in his throat, his eyes closing, as Jim moved the ring inward in one smooth, relentless push. He held it there as Blair fought to stay still, battling, Jim guessed, not the pain, but the arousal threatening to take him over. He had one leg thrown across Blair's and the wet-tipped cock nudging his hip was reassuringly hard but he took a moment to press a sympathetic kiss on Blair's chest before taking the clamp off.

Blair whimpered then, as the crushed flesh protested the inrush of blood. "Fuck… ow. Hurts."

Jim unfastened his own clamp and grunted an agreement, resting his forehead against Blair's shoulder. "Wish you'd stayed still."

"Is that a question or a statement?" Blair gritted out. "Okay, that wasn't -- wasn't exactly like I'd imagined…"

He'd pinched and tweaked them, Jim guessed, picturing it idly and deciding he wanted to see Blair do that for him sometime, but he doubted Blair had ever done it hard enough to come close to the impersonal bite of a clamp. It was difficult to hurt yourself, no matter how much you wanted to.

"You liked it. And, yes, that was a statement."

"Mmm." It sounded like agreement and Blair's mouth was curving in a smile.

Nipple clamps, check.

"Now tie me up." Blue eyes narrowed. "You promised."

"I said I would," Jim corrected him. "It wasn't a promise. But I will."

"So do it." Blair reached out and poked Jim's arm. "Jim -- come on! Do it, man."

Trying to picture the fallout if Blair had poked Sam like that occupied -- and amused -- Jim for long enough to make his next words calmer than they would have been. "Do you know what the two most important factors in a relationship like this are?"

"I know you're about to tell me what you think they are."

"Respect and trust," Jim said, meeting Blair's grin with a cool stare until it faded. "And until you give me both, you're getting nothing."

There was a sticky silence and then Blair flushed. "I do that," he said, his voice low. "Mouth off when I'm nervous. I'd say ignore me, but --"

"I can't ignore it," Jim said. "It isn't doing you any favors if I do and why the hell should I? I get why you're doing it but that's not going to stop me dealing with it."

"Would it help if I said I was sorry?"

"Try me."

Blair transferred his gaze from the ceiling to Jim's face. "I'm sorry, Jim. Really."

"Okay," Jim said, a moment later when Blair still hadn't looked away, his face embarrassed but resolute. "I guess it did."

He reached out for a strap but Blair stopped him, putting his hand on Jim's leg. "Do you get those things? From your clients, I mean?"

Jim threaded the strap through his fingers. "Sometimes. Not always." Not often.

"Do you give it? I mean; people like me; don't you see us as losers?"

Jim captured Blair's hand and fastened the strap around his wrist. "No." The half-truth didn't make it past Blair's radar judging by the snort. "Sometimes," Jim snapped, goaded into it. He finished tying Blair down and got off the bed to admire the sight. "Not always, and what is this anyway? I feel like you're interviewing me for your fucking book, Chief."

"That's something I want to do." Blair smiled at him. "In fact, if you want to make it up to me for earlier --"

"I never said I did --"

"You can let me interview you."

"Forget it."

"Jim, it would be a really good way for me to get to know --"

"I said, no."

"Please."

Jim already knew that Blair could put a lot of appeal and persuasion into a single word but this one was stripped bare of artifice, devoid of demand. It was close to the way Blair would sound when he was brought to a place where that word was all that was left for him to say.

He picked up the flogger and walked from the foot of the bed to the head, trailing the wide, soft strands over Blair's body as he went, watching the skin tense to meet it and flush with warmth as it passed.

When the leather lay across Blair's mouth like dark fingers, he bent over and kissed him through them, and murmured, "Okay. But later. Not now."

"What happens now?" Blair said, still without any force behind the words, as Jim stood again, the handle of the flogger fitting snugly into the curve of his palm, his thumb rubbing against it.

Jim looked him over. "Try and get free."

Blair tugged, gently at first, then hard enough that the muscles bunched in his arms and legs. "I can't."

"What happens now, Blair?" Jim asked gently, kindly, smiling.

"I guess that's up to you."

"Right answer," Jim said approvingly and let the first stroke land on the tender, pinched-red nipple.

"Can I -- can I talk?"

"What do you want to say?" Top of Blair's thighs.

"Harder?" Blair followed it with a twitch of a smile.

Jim paused. "How long do you want the marks to last?"

"You're the only one going to see them, no matter where you put them."

"Not planning on swimming? Sunbathing? Wearing shorts?"

"No."

Jim relented. "This won't leave marks, Blair." It could, it just wasn't going to. "None that will be there in the morning."

Stomach, low enough down that one edge of one strand flicked the tip of Blair's cock, making him gasp. Jim put the next one on Blair's cock, and the next and the next, light strokes with nothing but the weight of the leather behind them, barely pinking the skin.

Blair was still making shocked little whimpers, trying to twist away. Location, location, location…

"Trust, remember?" Jim told him. "They're not hurting you. Accept that. Trust me. Lie still for three of them and I'll turn you over and you can see what this feels like on your ass. Harder."

Indecision twisted Blair's face. Jim watched him reason himself to calmness, which took less time than it would have taken Jim in a similar situation, and then nod and relax.

Better than an apology.

The three strokes wouldn't have popped soap bubbles but Blair was shaking by the time the last one landed.

Shaking but not moving.

Close enough.


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Part Seven

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