This is a sequel, of sorts, to Brushstrokes.

"Don't do it." It's as close as he's going to come to pleading. Except this is Blair and Blair's always taken his boundaries, his self-imposed lines, rigid, straight, and bent them, softened them, shaped them around possibilities not certainties. "Please?"

Blair bites down on his lip, teeth digging in harder than Jim's ever do. "Man, I don't know. When it's time, it's time, you know?"

He can't do this here on a crowded street with people watching -- at least he thinks they are, peripheral vision giving him a handful of curious glances to sift through with one part of his mind, the rest of it focused on Blair.

"I'll wait out here," he says, turning abruptly and heading for the truck, parked a few yards away.

Blair hesitates but before Jim's hand closes around the door handle he's heard the jangle of the bell and knows Blair's gone inside.

It's twenty minutes before he comes out and Jim's a wreck. He's come close to zoning on a ball bounced by a tall kid, dark face split in a grin as a pretty girl coos up at him, his hand busy, easy, knowing. The ball turns into the sun, rising, setting, falling, falling down -- and Jim's gone, lost, until the bell sounds again.

He gets out of the truck and meets Blair on the sidewalk. Blair's hair's skinned back and he can't tell --

Then Blair turns and he sees the mass of hair, constrained, confined, at the nape of Blair's neck.

"Told them to take an inch or two off," Blair says softly. "Tidy it up. That's all."

He can't risk touching Blair, not here, not now. He wouldn't be able to stop at a pat, a hug. He allows himself a smile as Blair glances back over one shoulder and when Blair walks past him, heading for the truck, he breathes deep and murmurs a thank you, soft enough that he only knows Blair's heard him when the hair tie is tugged off and Blair's hair, damp still in places, falls free.

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