Fuck. He'd known it would happen eventually, given the way Sandburg played the field, but the wounded, accusing look in Sandburg's eyes as the loft door was slammed by his departing date still hit hard.
Because there were rules.
Not Sandburg's weird rules about windows and forgiveness and all that shit, but proper rules, guy rules, rules Jim could see shining brightly in letters a foot high.
One of them being, "Thou Shalt Not Call Your Roommate's Girlfriend By The Wrong Name."
"I don't believe you did that!"
"Look, I'm sorry, Sandburg, but --"
And he was. Little bit, anyhow. More because of the rule breaking than the results, because Sandburg was really fucking pushing it here.
The words spilled out despite his best intentions. "Dating her best friend, Chief? You really thought that was going to end well?"
"I wasn't dating --" Sandburg pushed his hands through his hair and took a deep breath. "Thanks, Jim. Thanks for fucking up tonight. Thanks for making me look this big in front of someone I work with and see daily, and thanks for assuming I'm an asshole."
"Well, aren't you?" Jim asked. Okay, he was on a roll here… "Dating her, I mean, not an…" Hell with it. "You know what, Chief? You are an asshole! You've got Susan --"
"Whatever. You've got Susie panting at your heels, hot to trot --"
"Man, and you wonder why you haven't scored lately."
"And she's nice, okay?" Jim steam-rollered on, ignoring the all-too-true jab. "Brain-dead for taking a shine to you, but nice, and you blow her off to chase her friend because it's like this big game to you, right? And you think you can get away with anything, abso-fucking-lutely anything because you're cute."
He put enough venom into the final word to make it taste bad in his mouth and gave up. Blair was Blair and what did he care anyway? He headed for the door.
"I'm going out."
"You're not going anywhere."
Jim turned back and discovered that Blair had crossed the room really fast and was crowding him up against the closed door. What the fuck?
"Sandburg… do we have a problem here? Hey!"
His head hit the back of the door as Blair shoved him hard, and he winced. Okay, that had hurt. Not as much as Blair would have wanted it to, judging by the look in his eyes, but enough. And the finger drilling into his shoulder was another source of pain.
"She's gay, Jim. Got that? Not Suzanne, her friend. You know her name, right? Yes, you do, don't you?"
"Sarah," Jim supplied glumly, already filling in the blanks.
"And she's got this… this thing for Suzanne and it's never going to happen." Blair sounded definite about that. Jim supposed he'd know. "And, yes, it's slightly weird trying to get at Suzanne through me and I'm well aware of that weirdness, but I wanted to help. And now -- oh, man, I gotta call her…" Blair's finger stabbed at him again. "And you? You can stay; I'm not done with you yet."
"Fine." Jim held up his hands in surrender. "I'm sorry, okay?"
"Save it." Blair picked up the phone, called Sarah, and began a low-voiced conversation Jim didn't try to listen to after that first anguished wail of horror echoed down the line. By the time Blair hung up, Jim's skin was crawling with embarrassment.
"Is she really planning on moving out?"
Blair sighed. "I'm going over there," he said. "And if your ears start burning, you know why."
Jim winced as the door slammed. Okay. Not his most shining hour but Blair could be pretty convincing at times. If something could be salvaged from the wreck, he'd manage it…
Blair was gone long enough for Jim to have gotten slightly drunk, swallowing the beer initially as a melancholy duty, a wake to shot-to-pieces relationships, and later because it spread a pleasant numbness through the squirm of guilt.
Which dissolved when Blair came through the door at midnight, looking dejected and tired.
"Man, I've talked and talked," he said without preamble.
Jim stood, swayed, and got himself together. "Wouldn't listen?"
"Oh, they listened." Blair gave him a narrow-eyed look that managed to count all the dead soldiers on the table. "You're going to hate yourself in the morning."
"Already do now."
Blair pursed his lips, looking puzzled. "You know, Jim, you're a nice guy, but you're taking this to heart more than I'd have expected. What gives?"
"I spoiled things," Jim said heavily. "For you. With…" He couldn't remember the name of the girl Blair had been dating but he knew he wouldn't be able to say anything beginning with 'S' without slurring. "Her. Both of them."
That got him a dismissive hand wave. "Oh, they're fine. I left them crying."
"Crying? Chief, that's… that's awful." He hiccupped, which made him feel drunker than he was. Because he wasn't. Was he?
"Nah; girls like crying." Blair shrugged. "They'll probably end up snuggled in bed, eating ice cream."
"What?" Jim considered what Blair had said, wondering if a sentence or two had gone astray between Blair's mouth and his ear. "No," he said aloud. "'M a Sentinel. I don't miss stuff."
"No, you don't." Blair appeared at his side and eased him down onto the couch. "Who said you did?"
"I don't know," Jim said. "I think it was me."
"You're way drunker than you should be, you know." Blair frowned at him. "Tomorrow, we're going through everything you've eaten, touched… I'm thinking some sort of reaction --"
"No." Jim shook his head and forgot to stop shaking it until Blair's hand smacked the side of it and jolted him out of the mesmerizing rhythm. "Just feel… guilty. I made you miss out on a date. Got you in trouble." He stared at Blair. "Sorry, Chief."
"Doesn't matter." Blair hunched one shoulder dismissively. "I'd have spent more than I could afford on a meal and had sex wondering if Sarah could hear us. Not a big deal."
'Sex?" Jim blinked. "You were going to have sex?"
"Well… yeah." Blair grinned. "Do I need permission?"
"No, no, of course not, no, no, not at all." Jim took a deep breath. "No."
"Glad we've got that cleared up."
"Why would they be in bed together?" Jim asked abruptly.
"Women do that," Blair said, sounding sure of himself. "They do this snuggling, giggling thing and they sleep together because they don't want to stop talking. Plus, they were arguing and crying and they want to reaffirm their bonds as friends. Did I mention Suzanne gave me the let's be friends speech?"
It didn't sound very likely to Jim, but Blair was an anthropologist and he supposed the guy knew about stuff like this. He thought about offering some sympathy about the break up but what the hell; it happened to Blair all the time. The guy had to be used to a brush-off by now, giving and getting. "We don't do that. Snuggle and cry."
Blair snickered. "Well, no…"
"We're men," Jim said, tapping Blair's knee to get the point across. "We fight and we just… stop and get back to normal."
"Something like that."
Blair didn't seem able to stop smiling, but Jim didn't mind. Blair looked… what had he called him earlier? Cute. Yeah. Cute, with his eyes twinkling and his lips curved up. "You look cute."
"Whoa there, buddy."
Jim waved his hand, dismissing Blair's protest. "No, we're friends, I can say that." He gave Blair a questioning look. "I can, right?"
"Sure," Blair said agreeably. "Knock yourself out."
"And I'm going to make this up to you," Jim went on, fuzzily determined to do what he could. Breaking guy rules… that was bad. "Tomorrow. Take you out to dinner. On me. Somewhere nice."
"The sex, well…."
He hadn't known Blair's voice could get that squeaky.
"No, Chief, relax. I'm not offering." He smiled and realised he was patting Blair's knee now. "Not really equipped, am I?"
"Well, you've got a mouth and two hands," Blair said matter-of-factly. "And a -- no, we'll just leave it at that. But you could." He gave Jim a seraphic smile. "I just don't want you to."
Jim would always blame the allergic reaction he didn't have for what he said next. Or a stung pride. "Why not?"
Blair leaned in and gave him a hug. "Because you're very, very drunk, Jim," he whispered in Jim's ear, his breath warm. "And when I said you were going to hate yourself in the morning, I want it to be because of the hangover, not the disastrous sex with me."
"It would be a disaster, wouldn't it?"
That got him a sigh that tickled his ear and then Blair drew back. "With you this drunk? Sadly, yes. Although your inhibitions would be down… hmm…no, it wouldn't be fair."
"I meant --" Jim floundered to a halt. "Sober. Drunk. Still guys, Chief." That hadn't always been an issue for him, but Blair…
"It's not a problem for me."
Jim couldn't think of anything to say that didn't start with a splutter and include the word 'what' too many times to leave room for anything else.
"I didn't. Know. Didn't know that, Blair."
"You do now," Blair said. He stood up and held out his hand to Jim. "I'm going to crash and you should, too. Come on."
Jim let himself get hauled up, his mind dizzy with beer and trying desperately to re-examine every single thing Blair had ever said or done in the dazzling light cast by six casual words. He took one step, still holding Blair's hand, tripped over the edge of a rug, and went to his knees with a thud.
"Oh, man…" Blair muttered from a long way up.
Jim leaned his forehead against Blair's thigh. Warm and solid under a thin layer of denim. He exhaled, feeling the air leave his mouth, and sink into the barrier of fabric and skin like an extension of his fingers. His breath damped the denim down and the next breath he took tasted of Blair, richly complex and male in a way he couldn't label indefinable because he could break it down if he tried, but why bother when it was easier to just turn his head a little and nuzzle curiously against the source of the smell…
Blair's fingers tightened painfully around Jim's. "Stop it. Please, Jim. Not a good idea." He sounded breathless, all amusement fled.
Jim mouthed and bit at the compressed, soft squash of Blair's balls. These jeans were too tight. They were the ones Blair wore to show off an ass Jim had always found eye-catching. They were doing a good job of highlighting other assets, too.
"Jim!" The strangled protest became a moan and Blair swayed in place, pushing forward a crucial inch or two and not moving back because Jim's free hand had gone, instinctively, to cup that showcased ass and he was trying harder to keep Blair in place than Blair was trying to escape.
"Let me make it up to you," Jim said, the words tangled because his tongue was tracing the column of Blair's cock, trapped and angled awkwardly. His senses were fluctuating wildly, sometimes off the scale, sometimes switched off, so that when his tongue reached the tip of Blair's cock, all he could hear was the rasp of his drying tongue on denim, nothing else, and all he could taste, for a single, frustrating moment, was the soapy tang of detergent.
He growled, feeling the vibration in the back of his throat, and tried very hard to get Blair's zipper down with his teeth, which proved beyond him.
"Easy, Jim." He felt Blair's hand caressing his head and the side of his face. "I want to, okay? You can see that for yourself, can't you? Man, am I going to kick myself if you've changed your mind tomorrow, but I can't. You're just out of it."
Jim sighed and rocked back on his heels, staring down at Blair's socks and following the weave of the wool, losing himself in it. Loop and purl and knit and --
The socks disappeared from view as Blair got down on his knees and kissed him, his mouth gentle enough that Jim surfaced gradually, smoothly.
"Bed," Blair said. "And by that I mean sleep."
"Sleep with me," Jim said. He saw Blair's doubtful expression and shook his head. "Just sleep. If you're there when I wake up, it'll be easier. I want it to be easy. Want this. Want you."
"You'll feel like hell," Blair prophesied gloomily. "And you'll bite my head off as soon as I open my mouth."
Jim ran his finger over Blair's mouth, feeling the shape of it, learning it. "Depends what you're opening it for."
Blair's eyes widened and then he grinned, a sunrise grin, a happy grin. "Okay. It's a date."
Jim struggled to his feet. Blair managed it in half the time, still grinning.
"I don't want it to be a date," Jim said when they reached the bathroom.
"You've changed your mind, already?" Blair picked up Jim's toothbrush, carefully not looking at him, and anointed it with a squeeze of paste.
"No. You date someone and they're history, you're gone." Jim opened his mouth and let Blair shove his toothbrush in, though he took over the actual brushing himself. He wasn't that drunk. "I don't want you gone."
He waited for Blair to say something reassuring but got silence instead. He spat and rinsed and turned his head. "Blair?"
"It's the toothpaste," Blair said, pointing at an ingredient list written so small he had to squint. "Jim, you bought this, not me. Didn't you check it? It's got cinnamon in it!"
"It was on special," Jim said weakly.
Blair snorted and dropped the tube in the trash. "Well, it's getting into your bloodstream as we speak and getting really friendly with the alcohol."
"Friendly's good, Chief," Jim said, fishing blatantly, because he had a horrible feeling that Blair was right and he was running out of time before he passed out. The bathroom was doing a carousel imitation.
"Friendly's good," Blair agreed, steering them toward the stairs. Which were undulating gently. "But I know something that's better."
"Me making it up to you?"
"You're still bothered about that?" Blair's hand slipped down a crucial few inches and patted Jim's ass. "I'm not."
"Doesn't matter," Jim said firmly, back on solid ground again. "Rules are rules."
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