Silent Treatment

by Jane Davitt

Blair hasn't spoken to him for three days. Hasn't looked at him directly, hasn't allowed a single, fleeting touch, twisting away from Jim's outstretched, seeking hand with an economy of motion he takes care to make natural.

For Blair, Jim's ceased to exist.

And Jim can feel his senses closing down, click, click, click.

Without Blair's voice, he's deaf; without Blair's eyes seeing him, Jim's blind in return. Without Blair's warm skin against his fingertips, he's cocooned in cotton wool.

The world's turned gray.

It hurts. It hurts more than anything he's done to Blair (didn't mean it, Chief, didn't -- God, I'm so sorry, okay? Listen -- no, don't walk away again -- Blair!) and part of him is amazed, incredulous to discover that Blair's capable of this sustained cruelty.

Maybe even, deep down, in an abstract way, a little relieved, because the steel at Blair's core is oddly reassuring. Jim's always been dubious about Blair's ability to deal with the sickening shit that comes with Jim's job; the blood and guts, the abused, dead-eyed children, the ruthlessness of a drug lord faced with a threat, the panicked, lethal reaction of a cornered man with a gun in his hand.

For him, though, he wants Blair's tender side. Wants concerned blue eyes blinking anxiously at him when his head is aching, pounding, from a tap that's dripped all night, invading his dreams with the bullish insistence of a sledgehammer. Craves Blair's hands massaging away the Gordian knots a day of paperwork and Simon's snapped demands have made of the muscles in his shoulders. Would beg, if he thought it would work, for a smile, bright as a sunrise and a confiding, friendly, lean-in as Blair nudges him in passing.

Three days.

He's withering on the vine, dying by inches. Anger, resentment -- they've faded to nothing. He can't turn his guilt into an attack. He's failed Blair and this is, apparently, the price.

The single spark of light in the endless night that allows him to function in a way that passes for normal, is that Blair hasn't moved out, but it doesn't stop him holding his breath every time he walks into the loft, releasing it only when he sees the scatter of Blair's belongings still in place.

On the fourth day, it ends.

Jim's become accustomed to his remarks, decreasing in number every day, being met by indifference, but maybe they've been doing more than he realizes, because when he takes a beer from the fridge (organic ale, locally brewed, bought for Blair as one of a series of bribes that didn't work, and, without thinking, says, "Want one, Chief?", Blair answers him.

It's by storming across the room, snatching the bottle from Jim's hand, and draining it in a series of messy, greedy gulps, but it'll do. Beer foams up, spills down, and Blair's choking on the cold, fizzy liquid, his white T-shirt stained dark as it drips from the bottle and his hand. Jim watches, his mouth hanging open, meeting the fierce glare Blair's giving him with a bewildered look.

Blair's mouth releases the bottle neck, skin-warmed glass sliding free with an obscene, lewd pop. There's a sharp crack as the bottle's slammed down on the counter and then Blair swipes at the wet mouth and chin with a shaking hand and spits out, "Yeah. Thanks, Jim," his tone as bitter and dark as the beer.

Jim closes his eyes against a prickle-sting of tears that he's damned if he'll let Blair see, and then opens them to see Blair still glaring.

But talking to him again.

He supposes that this is where an argument should fit, one postponed for three days, stewed to a rank, powerful brew, but it feels like they've been screaming at each other for weeks.

His ears are ringing and his eyes are blurry, but he can hear, he can see again.

Now, he just needs to touch.

Moving forward slowly, purposefully, he places himself directly in front of Blair, close enough that he's kissing him with each exhaled breath, and watches for a sign that it's too soon and he should back off.

Blair doesn't move. Jim can smell him now; not the blank, hollow non-scent that's hovered around Blair for days, but a rich, vivid stink of sweat and anger, beer and salt. Blair's been crying. Not where Jim could see or hear him, but if Jim focuses just right, he can see the tracks the tears have left on Blair's cheeks, saline snail-trails. He wants to lick them off Blair's skin, draw his tongue over the marks and rasp them away, lapping, licking, absorbing Blair's distress and sorrow.

He feels Blair start to harden -- not his cock, but his resolve, rebuilding it, brick by brick, and no, no, no --

Neither of them can take any more of this and he puts his head on Blair's shoulder and nuzzles into the crook of Blair's neck, breathing a single, 'please', that's about all he's got to say.

It's an eternity before Blair's arms go around him, a cradle to rock him, but they do.

Strong arms.

"Asshole," Blair says into his ear, each syllable plangent, though they sound like a paean to Jim. "Why did you --"

"Because I'm an asshole," Jim murmurs thickly, his lips tingling from touching Blair's skin. "Now let me make it up to you."

"I meant me," Blair says and Jim lifts his head to stare at him. "You -- it's so fucking easy to hurt you."

"For you, it is, yeah," Jim admits.

"And you can't trust me not to abuse it," Blair continues, his expression bleak. "I could see what I was doing to you and I just couldn't stop -- but I'll never do it again, I swear"

"So what made you stop?" Jim's genuinely curious and this is Blair -- he's self-analytical to the nth degree and he'll know the weight and shade of the straw that broke him.

"Simon asked me what was wrong with you, because you looked like hell. And the only thing wrong with you was me and I knew it." Blair compresses his lips. "I'm supposed to watch your back, not stick a knife in it."

"I deserved it," Jim says ruefully.

"Yeah, well, next time, I'm just going to punch you, okay?"

Jim smiles, curving his lips upward for the first time in days. "I'm trained to fight back, Chief; maybe you'd better cuff me first. Even the playing field."

"Asshole," Blair says again, indignantly this time, and lands a solid punch to Jim's ribs.

"Ouch," Jim said, and winces theatrically, a wide grin spreading over his face.

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