The bed had been stripped to the mattress and the bedding stuffed into the hamper. Fresh sheets waited to be spread, stacked on a chair. Jim turned to Blair.
"Stand there," he said and pointed at a spot. "Watch."
Blair swallowed, and felt his heart rate speed up; kick-started by the way Jim had spoken to him. Calm command, Jim in total take-charge mode, the way he had been since he'd said --
"So what do you want for your birthday, Sandburg? Or do you want me to surprise you, in which case, start dropping hints."
"Oh, anything, Jim. You know me. I'm easy."
"So I've heard. There's nothing you want? Really?"
"Sandburg. Did I mention that I can tell when you're lying?"
Jim shook out a sheet, the ironed-in creases sharp, distinct. Blue, dark and plain. He let it billow out and settle, repeating the crisp snap of fabric twice more before beginning to smooth the sheet out, using the palm of his hand.
Blair closed his eyes.
"Watch," Jim said without turning.
"Okay, there's something that I've always wanted -- but you don't want to know."
"Chief, you might like flapping your mouth to make a breeze, but me, when I ask a question, it's because I want an answer. Spill."
"You'll freak. You won't like it -- shit, just get me a gift card, like last year, and I'll buy myself a book."
The corners of the sheets were tucked in with -- big surprise -- military precision. The mattress thudded back down, trapping the aligned, folded fabric, once, twice -- with Blair's breath catching each time -- three times, four…
Jim studied the bed with a frowning intensity and bent forward to pinch at something Blair couldn't see; a thread, maybe, or a scrap of lint. Jim was dressed in a tight black T-shirt, the short sleeves circling arms that were all muscle and shadow, and a pair of faded jeans. Against the new blue of the sheet, washed three times for softness' sake, but never slept on, the black looked darker, the jeans paler, but Jim was the same as always, even now.
"A gift card. I don't think so. I don't like repeating myself, which is why I'm going to ask this once more and then we're done here, Sandburg. What do you want from me on your birthday?"
Jim looked hot. His bare feet on the wooden floor were doing things to Blair that bare feet shouldn't. Toes, heels, bones and bumps and smell; feet weren't sexy. Jim's were. The arch of his instep was a strong, supple curve that Blair wanted to trace with finger and, yeah, tongue. Jim's feet would be as clean as the rest of him. The man wore white socks. White. Never grayed out; always white, pure, pristine, thick and soft. Clean.
"I want… I want -- I -- shit, I can't tell you!"
The pillows were next. Jim pushed them into pillow cases with a ruthless efficiency, subduing them, controlling them, then stacking them on the bed, all four of them, two yellow, two blue. They looked high and soft, waiting for heads to rest on them and dent the glassy perfection of their crease-free surfaces.
"You can't tell me, then you can't tell anyone. Is that the way you want it to be?"
"Sandburg, without going all mushy, I owe you. I don't tell you that often -- ever -- because… because you're not the only one with trouble communicating, but I do, and I know it. If there's something you want that I can give you, it's yours. Unless it's illegal, in which case, I'll go with the gift card."
Watching Jim wrestle the quilt inside its cover would have been vaguely amusing -- even Jim Ellison had to practically crawl inside it to get the quilt aligned just right -- but Blair, dry-mouthed, breath loud in his ears, was past smiling. He watched Jim's body twist and lunge, little and forceful; tracking the deft movements of Jim's hands.
Watched Jim's ass flex and curve as he bent over and patted out a recalcitrant bulge.
Getting the quilt mirror-smooth took time but Blair's impatience to get this started, to get past this endless hell of waiting, nerves on edge, had disappeared, like water on hot sand. This wasn't waiting; this was it. This was part of it. It was happening right now and he was inside the picture, part of the scene, not just thinking about it, indistinct images forming in his head as his hand moved on his body, coaxing the bright burn of his arousal to a blaze.
"I want a birthday spanking."
"God, I knew it was going to be that, I just fucking knew it. Blair, are you sure?"
"I am. Now I am. Please, Jim?"
Jim looked at the bed and then Blair and arched his eyebrows in a silent question. Good enough?
Blair nodded. Perfect.
Jim stripped off his clothes and put them on the chair where the bedding had been. He lay down on the bed, on his stomach, his head pillowed on his arms, his long legs spread slightly, a relaxed but carefully precise positioning that spoke of familiarity.
Blair flexed his hand in a nervous curl and stretch and walked over to the bed.
Let me do it to you? Just once? Let me spank you, Jim."
"What are you --?"
"God, I'm sorry, look, forget it, okay, dumb idea, dumb, I just --"
"Can I finish? What with?"
"What would you use on my ass?"
"Just answer the fucking question, Sandburg."
"My hand. Just my hand. I won't hurt -- I mean, I won't --"
"I know. Okay."
"Okay? You mean… Jim, are you sure?"
"You're starting to piss me off, Chief."
"I'm sorry. It's just -- do you have any idea how long I've wanted to do this? It's not something you can ask someone to do on the first date and I never really get much past those…"
"We're not dating."
"I know, I know --"
"You might not like it."
"Yeah. But I'd know."
"You could lose a fantasy."
"Jim, sometimes you've got to take a chance."
"I wouldn't be."
"I know I'll like it -- but something tells me that's not exactly a shock to you. Is it?"
"Uh… Oh, come on, Jim; you think I'd have asked you if I hadn't kind of known you were into it? There's taking chances and there's jumping out of planes without a parachute."
"You found my porn?"
"You have spanking porn? Really?"
"I swear I just wanted to borrow a sweater."
"The only reason I'm letting you get away with that is because this is one present I won't have to shop for or wrap. Fine. Your birthday. My ass up for grabs. When? Where?"
"You don't have a clue, do you? I'll take care of all the arrangements. You just… you'll know when it's your turn to take charge. Okay?"
"Put a pillow under me. Cover it with a towel. Over there, top shelf. That's it… Okay, now, pick a number, so we both know when this is going to end. If I think it's too much or not enough, I'll tell you. Just your hand and I'm not tied -- it's not going to go past my limits, but if it does, I'll just move out of the way. You're sure you don't want me over your knee?"
"Maybe next time." The idea was appealing, but Jim that close, in his lap…too much to deal with.
"You think there'll be a next time? You might not like it."
Blair looked down. He'd gotten hard every time he'd even thought about this and now, with Jim stretched out, waiting, ready, Blair's fingers tingling from where they'd brushed against Jim's cock, as he'd positioned the pillow -- now, he was at the point where moving was tricky. Hell, breathing was starting to seem dangerous.
"I'm liking it too much already," Blair confessed. "I'm so turned on… God, Jim, you look -- fuck, you look good like this."
Jim didn't turn his head or acknowledge the compliment, but he stretched, a subtle arch of his back and a tensing of his muscles; a ripple racing through him that made Blair moan, helplessly appreciative. "Then take care of it before you start. There's a box of Kleenex by the bed. Take the edge off. You'll have to do it at some point; might as well be now."
They agreed to no sex. Jim had shrugged and added that it would probably happen at some point now they'd come this far and he wasn't going to fight it --
"Three years of ignoring the way I've been drooling over you isn't fighting it?"
"I'm just saying, this is separate. One thing at a time. I want to know if you like it and then we can -- it'll make a difference where we go from there."
"You mean, if it doesn't work out, we don't stand a chance in a sexual relationship?"
"No. I just want to know if I'm going to be getting a gift card for my birthday or a paddle."
"Shit, Jim --"
"Are you hard? Just from that? One word?"
"Shit. Yes. And my zipper's digging in -- ow! Stop laughing!"
Blair eased down his zipper and edged over to get a handful of Kleenex. Jerking off standing up, in front of Jim -- well, Jim wasn't watching, but he was right there --
"I don't think I need to anymore."
"I can always hear you. Doesn't matter how quiet you are. Listening now won't be anything new for me." Jim turned his head enough for Blair to see an expression of tender amusement on Jim's face, wholly unfamiliar. "And you look like you do from here." The tenderness became hunger. Jim actually licked his fucking lips as he stared, and Blair yelped as his balls tightened in warning and then came, fucking the hastily formed circle of his fingers and trying to keep on his feet. Come jerked out, pale streaks of it, splattering the bed and Jim's skin because the Kleenex had fallen, fluttering, to the floor, forgotten in that gut-punch of lust.
Jim made a sound like the bastard son of a whimper and a growl and reached back to touch wet skin with shaking hands.
Blair went to his knees by the side of the bed and put his hand on Jim's ass. "Oh, fuck, oh, Jim, God, God --"
"Clean me up," Jim said in a whisper that was a forceful as a sergeant-major's scream. "I can't -- you spank me with your come on my skin -- on my ass and I'll lose it. I want to come from your hand on me, hard, I want to come from that. From being spanked by you. Get it off me."
Blair nodded, though Jim's face was averted now, a babble of apology and understanding loud in his head, unvoiced and understood. He reached for the crumpled Kleenex and then paused.
"Maybe you need to take the edge off, too."
His come, cooling now, oddly glutinous and clinging, didn't taste good, but the act itself was enough to make Blair's cock, still half-hard, throb with a renewed interest. Jim had started to move away, but Blair's hands held him in place, a gentle pressure that wouldn't have popped a soap bubble, and with the first long drag of Blair's tongue over goose bump-prickled skin, Jim caved and held still. Blair cleaned Jim with his tongue, only pausing to let Jim come, his hand moving in soothing sweeps as Jim sobbed out his name, his body rigid, quivering, before returning to his self-imposed task.
When Jim's back and ass were wet with nothing but spit, and the towel under Jim had been exchanged for a clean one, Blair took a deep breath and zipped up his jeans.
Jim started to speak and then coughed to clear the huskiness from his voice. "Thirty?"
"And one to grow on."
Jim chuckled, the sound welcome, familiar, and settled down into position, which, from Blair's perspective, looked a lot like Jim wiggling his ass at him. "Sounds like you know what you're doing."
Blair eyed Jim, all of him, from smooth, dark hair, to that ripe, tight ass, to those elegant feet, the toes curled in anticipation. His hand felt warm, the muscles in his arm limber and loose. He was aroused, but not to the point where he couldn't appreciate what he was looking at and what he was about to do.
"It'll change things, you know. Between us. Are you ready for that?"
"It already has. Do I look like I mind?"
"Stop talking now, Jim. Make all the noise you want, but stop talking."
"Okay. When you're --"
"Three words. That means you get thirty-three. Are you going to do as you're told now?"
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