Something or Other

by Martha

"It was perfect, the golden solitude, the golden emptiness, Something-Or-Other, something surely humble."

-Jack Kerouac, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity

Sunlight dazzled him, sparkling golden through his half-closed lids, hot on the side of his face and his naked flank. Hotter still where Blair sprawled against him, his sweat-spattered breast plastered against Jim's back. One arm was over Jim's side, the palm of his hand splayed wide in the center of Jim's chest. Jim could feel the pulse in Blair's fingertips. Golden red like the sunlight, heat in every pulse. His arm was laid over Blair's, cradling Blair's arm to his chest, and the back of Blair's muscular arm felt silky and rough against the tender underside of his own.

Blair was panting softly, open mouthed, blowing puffs of air against the side of his neck that made Jim shiver despite the heat. Blair's heart was still galloping hard. Dazzled and slow as Jim felt, examining his stray thoughts as though they were ancient, golden-scaled koi rising slowly to the surface of a very deep pond, he imagined the hoofbeats of Blair's runaway heart thundering against his back, and smiled.

"Wha' is it?" Blair murmured, though he couldn't possibly see Jim's face.

Jim shifted against him in a tiny movement, the sheet coarse and wet under his hip. Blair gasped in pleasure, and Jim felt the long muscles in Blair's thighs tense hard, as did the ones in his forearm, locked possessively across Jim's chest. There was a greasy handprint on Jim's left hip, slowing drying and tightening, seeming to trap the heat of Blair's hand. In his mind's eye Jim could see the handprint glowing across the arch of his hipbone.

"I love you," Jim said matter-of-factly, speaking to the arm wrapped across his chest, to the golden hot body pressed tight against his own, to the quick, eager mind, quiescent now in a stupor of fading bliss, to the flashes of the generous and good soul that sparkled out like sunlight on the water. Blair shuddered and was still for a moment, but then he pulled back so he could press his forehead to the center of Jim's back, square between his shoulder blades. Jim felt a chill down his spine at their separation, but Blair's head was warm and heavy, and Blair was moaning softly, as if in pain.

"Jim," Blair finally said, breathy and hot against Jim's back. "Aw, Jim." He raised his head, the five o'clock shadow a bristly warmth up between Jim's shoulders all the way to the back of his neck. Blair stretched at the same time, uncurling his spine in slow increments, pressing his chest harder to Jim's back, straightening the leg that had been tucked close to Jim's, his kneecap pushed against the soft back of Jim's bent knee. He touched his lips to the side of Jim's neck, in the hollow below and behind his ear. "Love you too," Blair said voicelessly, so Jim felt the words in the heat of his breath and the movement of his lips. "I love you too, Jim."

Jim bowed his head on the pillow, unable to lie wholly still under that touch and those words. Blair sighed, smiling a smile Jim could feel in the curve of his lips and the way Blair's cheek bunched as he nuzzled his face against Jim's neck. The hand he had laid on Jim's chest moved up carefully, stirring again the sharp scents of their lovemaking. The bite of latex, the musky darkness of Jim's body, opened to Blair, the living smell of semen and the sourness of sweat. Jim inhaled deeply, and felt the ghosts of their recent pleasure flaring to life again. The hot ache between his legs made him shift restlessly. Blair kissed the back of his neck, murmuring wordless reassurance, and he eased his knee between Jim's sweat-slick thighs, bringing them closer, holding him tight.

Jim relaxed more completely into that possessive embrace, his eyes drifting shut. It occurred to him, as his eyes closed, that they had planned to go out this evening. See that foreign flick Blair wanted to catch at the Tivoli, then dinner at a steak and seafood place near the wharf, an obvious bribe to Jim for sitting through the movie. No matter what Blair said, Jim could never forget he was reading subtitles. The movie started at seven-fifteen, so they should get up, take a shower, throw these sheets in the wash.

Maybe in a minute or two. Or three. If Blair suggested it. He felt Blair's head drop heavily on to the pillow behind him, and the brush of Blair's lips at the nape of his neck. "It's like falling," Blair whispered. "Like rolling off a cliff, and then you never hit the bottom."

Jim smiled without opening his eyes. "Is that a good thing, Sandburg?" Every word was an effort, an active, half-desperate opposition to the sweet, sated exhaustion weighting every limb, every thought.

"It is," Blair said, in that lazy, thick voice of his. The same way he talked to Jim when they were making love. "It's the best thing in the world."

Ah, Jim thought, though he was drifting too far to manage to speak out loud. It is. It is the best thing in the world. Everything that had ever hurt him, the icicle daggers of every failure and every loss, they all melted away in the golden heat of Blair's love. He wondered sometimes, in the darkest hours of the night when Blair lay slumbering beside him, what he had ever done to merit such affection, but he didn't wonder now, not while every nerve ending still sparked and sang from Blair's touch. Blair's kisses. They had fallen everywhere Blair could reach, his shoulders, his back, the side of his face, his neck, his ears, over and over again, constant as the rain. He still felt the pressure of Blair's hands at his hips, steadying himself, not holding Jim. Even at the final extremity, when Blair wept and gasped behind him, he moved in Jim with slow tenderness, every stroke measured as though it might be the last they would ever share. There was no desperation or urgency in Blair's lovemaking. He moved tenderly, because it was the way he loved Jim, and Jim could see it every time Blair turned those naked blue eyes on him. So it didn't matter what Jim thought about himself. What was precious to Blair was precious to Jim as well.

And then while Jim drifted, exhausted, safe in his beloved's arms, Blair let his hand move across Jim's chest. The heel of his hand brushed Jim's nipple, and Jim felt rumpled, golden heat, the slight roughness of Blair's skin, the swell of flesh and muscle between Blair's palm and wrist. He felt the veins that rose over Blair's palm like heated silken threads, and the lines in Blair's hand like hot fissures rasping across his aureole. The fine whorls of Blair's handprint coaxed his soft nipple erect with only a touch. His hand came to rest with his fingertips at the center of Jim's chest, the smooth flesh of Blair's wrist soft over the suddenly swollen, newly tender nipple. The pressure of Blair's pulse beat against his body, gentle but ardent, a rhythm that reminded Jim of the slow roll and thrust of Blair's hips, and all at once, the golden wave crested within. Late afternoon sunlight flared in Jim's eyes. The bedroom was gone. Everything was gone but the easy pulse of life. It surrounded Jim, engulfed him. He was drowning in sensation more potent than pleasure, perfect in its timelessness.

It's here, Jim thought, dazzled and content, and let it take him. There was no flicker of movement, not a whisper of sound. He was blind and helpless, pierced through and through with a joy so profound it stopped his breath. He didn't even know if his heart still beat, and it did not matter to him whether it did or not. He was whole, made perfect and complete. Or perhaps it was the other way around, and nothing of himself was left, just a dazzling pattern of hope answered and love returned, moving endlessly and without diminution past the ruddy gold horizons of his very soul.

Then time started again. He felt it first in the ache in his lungs. His mouth opened and he drank in a greedy breath of air that was heady as wine. He could see again too, sparkles and flashes out of the corners of his eyes, and once more he could feel his flesh, sweat cooling on his body, the yield of the mattress under his shoulder and hip, Blair's wrist still laid gently over his breast, fingertips tracing small careful circles over his sternum. Sound returned. The rasp of his own breath, and Blair's whispered, "Welcome back, man."

Jim blinked in the sunlight. "How --" he whispered, half gasping, "how long?"

Blair made a gentle sound, softer than laugher would have been, and more kind. He rubbed his cheek and jaw against Jim's back and told him quietly, "I don't know. A minute or so, not even that long. You weren't even breathing, were you?"

He didn't think he had been.

"How do you feel?" Blair asked at last, a whisper of concern coloring his voice.

He felt good. Very good. Punch drunk, but very, very good. He chuckled contentedly, thinking about just how good he felt.

Blair smiled against the side of Jim's neck and whispered, "I guess that answers that question." Soft tangles of hair fell curling against Jim's back as Blair nodded his head. He was still smiling, and Jim could feel that too. He arched into Blair's touch, hardly thinking at all, only needing. In the sweet warmth that followed their lovemaking, in the afterglow of the zone, it seemed all right to ask so hungrily for more. It seemed, in fact as though there were nothing else he could do but open himself to the gift of Blair's caress and the heat of his affection.

"Jim," Blair whispered, and Jim wondered why Blair's voice, so happy only a moment before, was now choked with tears. He tried to turn, but Blair's arm tightened around his chest, and he buried his head hard in the crook of Jim's shoulder. His other hand lifted Jim's head just enough to cradle Jim's cheek and jaw in the palm of his hand.

"Jim," he said again, a hoarse whisper of a voice, and then he was shifting and moving against Jim and carefully easing himself away. Jim trembled wordlessly as Blair withdrew his touch, and the cold air that seemed to have nothing at all to do with the heat of the summer afternoon rushed between them.

"It's all right," Blair told him softly. He bowed his head, hair falling on Jim's back and chest as he bent closer and touched a soft kiss to the point of Jim's shoulder. "It's all right. I'm not going anywhere, I promise." He raised his knee and cleared Jim's hip, straddling his thigh. One knee sunk deep into the mattress on either side of Jim, Blair knelt closer still, his chest pressing warmly over Jim's arm, his hands flat on the sheet on either side of Jim's head. Then Blair kissed his jaw. His lips were dry and soft, brushing over the whiskers just beginning to prickle there. Blair nuzzled closer, and Jim felt the heat of Blair's breath warming his throat before Blair pressed a second soft kiss to the corner of his mouth.

"Look at you," Blair whispered. He rubbed his scratchy cheek on Jim's, then raised his head. His hair fell across Jim's face and collected in soft tangled pools on his pillow. "Did you know you get this beautiful flush when you're getting close? Down the back of your neck, down your chest --" He curled over Jim, hair dragging over Jim's face and the side of his neck, and laid his cheek on Jim's chest. Jim felt surrounded and encompassed, practically cocooned in Blair. He blinked his eyes open and saw sunlight sparkling through a stray lock of Blair's hair that still lay over the bridge of his nose.

Blair sighed, almost wistfully, warm air blowing over Jim's nipple. "I think it makes me a little crazy, seeing you so beautiful, so happy. Like there's nothing I wouldn't do, if it made you feel that way." He smiled again, his head still deeply bowed and resting against Jim's chest. The last lock of hair on Jim's face slid away down Jim's cheek and curled against his throat.

Turning his hand and raising his forearm just a little, Jim was able to cradle the back of Blair's neck. The pulse of Blair's life beat against the palm of his hand, seductive, hypnotic. It would be the easiest thing in the world to slip back into the zone, Jim realized wonderingly. Just the touch of Blair's body was enough to overwhelm his senses. Like being held close by eternity, and it was peaceful and golden and warm as Blair himself.

"I was thinking," Blair murmured, and Jim wondered with a private smile why Blair felt the need to announce it. After all, if Sandburg was breathing, he was thinking. His own gentle, fierce, beautiful Blair, who loved him so much. "I mean, it's been a long time, hasn't it?" Blair went on doggedly, shifting position as he spoke. His inner thigh dragged across Jim's hip. He bent his arm until his elbow was on the mattress, easing himself down over Jim until he was curled next to him, his head on Jim's pillow, their foreheads almost touching. Once again Jim felt the phantom cold where Blair's flesh was no longer pressed to his own, but then Blair reached out and curved his hand around the back of Jim's neck, a mirror image to the way Jim still held him.

"Since you zoned, I mean," Blair said, his voice very soft. "It has been a long time, right?" He sounded so cautious, suddenly, like a man venturing out beyond the sight of land. There was something important he wanted to say, Jim thought, and he wasn't sure how.

As for himself, Jim would have been happy enough to lie here without words forever. He couldn't do that with Blair, of course, and there would be no point without him, so he raised his head and kissed Blair's lips in reassurance. "It has been a while."

"Um, last April, wasn't it? You were on the balcony, watching a white sail way out on the bay."

Jim almost laughed. "April? You have that written down somewhere?"

Blair didn't laugh. He blinked solemnly and a little sadly at Jim. "You know I do, man."

Jim flinched. And does this get written down too? he thought. He didn't even need to say it out loud. Blair knew, and he didn't speak either. Faint, rose colored bruises were blooming on his throat from Jim's kisses, the dark flush on his face from their shared passion only beginning to fade. Blair wouldn't apologize, Jim knew. Not for who he was, not for the way he watched Jim. He was watching Jim now, trembling just a little as he held his silence.

He was so brave, Jim thought ruefully. So foolish and stubborn, and so wise and so brave. He touched Blair's face with his fingertips, feeling the warmth of the receding blush, then touched one of the marks on Blair's throat. "I'm sorry about these," Jim said, regretting only the marks themselves, not how Blair had cried out with pleasure, his body moving under Jim's, his hands stoking restlessly, desperately over Jim's head. "You'll be wearing a turtleneck the rest of the week."

The corner of Blair's mouth quirked up. "That's only if I want to hide them."

Jim laughed out loud and drew Blair's face nearer. He kissed Blair's brow, his cheeks, the end of his nose, his closed eyelids, his smiling mouth. He made every kiss slow and thoughtful, wanting each one to be as tender as his love. He rubbed his thumbs restively over the line of Blair's jaw, and Blair's mouth opened under his with a hungry sort of whimper. So beautiful, Jim thought helplessly. And so gentle and so good, and most of all here in his bed, accepting Jim's love like it was some kind of treasure. Like it meant as much to Blair as Blair's love meant to him.

He wanted to give Blair more. He didn't want Sandburg to have to ask for anything. "There was another time," he said suddenly, breaking the kiss and closing his eyes, a little frightened now that he had said the words.

"Another time?" Blair asked, his voice gently amused. "Another time what?" He kissed the tip of Jim's nose, and then realized what Jim was saying. "Oh. Another time since last April. A zoneout."

Jim nodded, and then realizing his eyes were still shut, he felt ashamed of his cowardice and opened them, meeting Blair's.

"And you didn't tell me about it." Blair's voice was still gentle, and he was trying to keep the sadness at bay. Jim could hear it anyway. "Where were you, Jim? Why wasn't I there?"

"You were there," Jim said. He put his hand on Blair's face again, softly stroking Blair's cheek.

"And I didn't even notice? Geez, man." Blair's mouth twisted downwards, but the touch of Jim's hand seemed to calm his emotions, and he seemed more rueful than sad. "I'm sorry. Must have been preoccupied. Probably happens a lot more than you ever tell me about, huh?"

"No, it doesn't." Jim craned his neck to kiss the corner of Blair's mouth, then went back to caressing Blair's face, watching the way Blair relaxed into his touch, even the half-rueful expression fading. "This one time was in that antique place over on Market Street. You were on the other side of the store from me."

"The antique store?" Blair closed his eyes for a moment, trying to remember. Then his eyes flew open again, an expression of melting tenderness and awe in them. "The antique store. Oh, Jim."

"You were at the counter, the guy had handed you a necklace, I think, or a bracelet, I can't see it exactly now."

"Naomi's birthday," Blair whispered, remembering. "I was looking for something special."

"I was watching your hands. Sunlight was coming in through the front window, and reflecting on the glass counter, and on that gold chain you were holding. It slipped through your fingers -- I was watching -- and you caught it and turned your hands and let it slip through again --" Jim trailed off, unable to find the words.

"Jim." Blair breathed his name, beginning to tremble.

"I just -- the way your hands moved in the sunlight. Everything slipped away for a little while, like the chain going through your fingers, and it was peaceful, and so -- complete."

"And that's why you -- Jim, when we got home. And you kissed me." Blair's lower lip was trembling. "The first time you kissed me."

"Yes," Jim said plainly, his last secret given over to Blair's keeping.

"I didn't know." Blair swallowed hard, as if he were trying to keep from crying. "You never told me."

"I didn't know how to." But perhaps that wasn't the complete truth. "Blair, I didn't want to talk about zone outs or any sentinel stuff," he said, still fighting for the words. "That's always like I'm talking about someone outside myself, some stranger I barely know."

"I know," Blair whispered. A tear slipped out of the corner of Blair's eye, sparkling in the late afternoon sunlight, rolled over the bridge of his nose and fell to the pillow.

"No," Jim said. He stroked Blair's face tenderly, catching the second tear as it fell. "Please don't."

"But it's OK," Blair insisted, his voice choked and small. "It's OK. I do know. Analyzing you, chopping you up so you'll fit under the microscope. I know how much you hate it. I know."

Jim couldn't deny it, but regret shook him. Somehow he must have gotten it wrong. He'd given Blair his most treasured memory because he wanted Blair to be as happy and certain as he was, and instead he was breaking Blair's heart.

"There was always more," Jim said hoarsely, not stopping to measure his words any longer. "There were always the things you didn't say, that you let me have for myself."

Blair blinked at him, his luminous eyes going wide. "Did you know? " he whispered. "Did you know all along?"

He wasn't sure he understood what Blair was asking, so he told Blair what he did know. "You gave me a place where I could be safe."

Blair moaned as though something were hurting him, and he put arms around Jim's neck and hugged him hard. He laid his face on Jim's shoulder, his hair spilling across Jim's face, and said in a voice that was still choked. "But that's what I wanted, Jim. That's what I wanted so much."

"I know," Jim said, stroking Blair's back, feeling Blair's hot breaths snuffling against his neck. "How could I not have known that?"

He'd known it that afternoon after the antique shop. Blair had finally decided on a present for Naomi, a large amber broach that glowed golden when he held it up in the sunlight. The light in the loft had been just that color, too, an hour or so before sunset. Blair had been doing breakfast dishes which had been soaking in the sink all day -- trying to get the kitchen clean enough to make dinner -- and Jim was catching up on paperwork at the dining room table. Attempting to catch up on paperwork. Mostly he was listening to Blair, who kept saying, "I know you're trying to work, I'll be quiet," and then happily talking on anyway.

Jim didn't mind. The golden contentment of his earlier zone still seemed to enfold him. He felt comfortable and safe, happy that Blair was close to him. He watched Blair's hands as he squeezed water from a sponge, a froth of soap foam coming up, a few suds dripping from his fingertips. He picked up a juice glass and swiped around the rim with the sponge. The late afternoon sunlight sparkled on the incised diamond pattern around the base of the glass. Then Blair closed his hand around it, and the sunlight shone golden on his wet fingers as he dunked the glass in the rinse water. The surface of the water rippled, and reflected sunlight moved in waves across wall over the sink, shone on the glass shelves, on the spice bottles, and shimmered across Blair's downturned, smiling face.

"This whole birthday thing," Blair was saying. He knocked the faucet on with his elbow, rinsed the glass a second time in running water, and then set it on the drying rack. Jim thought, not for the first time but never before, perhaps, with such a sense of foolish, possessive pleasure, that Sandburg was far and away the most inefficient dish washer he'd ever seen. "I used to have this theory. Naomi never remembered birthdays, not mine, not her own, family, friends, nobody. But most people are so hung up on birthdays, you know? It was always so weird to me, the way birthdays seemed to matter to everybody else, so I finally decided celebrating birthdays must be some sort of collective guilt offering. A chance to make up for ignoring someone or not being as nice as you could have been to them the rest of the year."

Sandburg probably wasn't completely off base there, Jim thought ruefully, remembering the elaborate birthday parties of his childhood.

"But you remember, Jim, just a few months after I'd moved in here? It was my birthday and you gave me that Foucault book. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe you'd remembered."

This was a very old conversation, and one Sandburg evidently enjoyed revisiting. For the first time, Jim thought he was beginning to understand why it was so important to Blair. "Why wouldn't I remember?" Jim said, giving his line in the expected deadpan. "You'd told me when it was."

"Well yeah, but I didn't think you'd remember remember, you know?" Blair picked up one of the heavy ceramic plates, swiped at it with the sponge and then, looking at it a second time, scraped at something on the plate with a fingernail.

"I don't know about these levels of memory in your world, Sandburg," Jim said dutifully, trying to ignore Blair's dishwashing techniques. "You remember something, or you don't. Is it really that complicated?"

Blair grinned, waving one hand dismissively in Jim's general direction. Water droplets scattered through the air. "You know what I mean. Plus, you remembered me saying I really ought to finally get around to reading Foucault's prison study since I was riding around with a cop these days, and you actually went out and found the book! You could have knocked me over with a feather." Blair was beaming at the memory.

"Too bad I didn't try," he said, smiling back at Blair. "What's the matter, Sandburg - did you think a cop wouldn't know his way around a bookstore?"

Blair laughed out loud. "Nah, I just figured a cop wouldn't know how to spell 'Foucault.'"

A very, very old conversation. The two of them were getting to be like an old married couple, weren't they? The idea made Jim smile as much as the old conversation. Blair was grinning broadly, too. If he'd been in range, he would have elbowed Jim in the ribs or pretended to throw a punch, since that was the way this discussion always went. Being elbow deep in dishwater, he only said, "Now if Naomi ever breaks down and sends me a card on my birthday, that's it, man, time to get right with God 'cause the end is near." He chuckled and set the dubiously-washed plate up on the dishrack to dry. "I think it tickles her, though, getting birthday presents from me these days. She always kind of laughs, like she wonders what's gotten into me. I think she'll like that broach, don't you?" He stopped half way through another glass and looked back to Jim for approval. The sun was slowly sinking, the light through the clerestory windows and the skylights growing ruddy.

"I think she will," Jim said softly, thinking about the afternoon, and the way Blair's hands holding a gold chain had surrounded him with such peace, coaxing him into that luxurious, sun-drenched zone. A timeless instant, outside all the concerns of Jim's ordinary, workaday world, almost outside existence itself. The magic of perfect ease and utter contentment. He remembered coming back to himself in the antique shop, the way the first breath of air felt, how golden the light was. And there had been Blair Sandburg still, right in front of him on the other side of the shop. He seemed oblivious, but that was because he had done his work so well. He had taken Jim's fear away, leaving Jim free to accept the shimmering, transcendent moment when it came.

"Earth to Jim," Blair said, an amused tone in his voice, his hands splashing softly in the rinse water. "You mind looking in my room to see if there are any dirty dishes I didn't get?"

Jim laid down his pen tolerantly and got to his feet. Blair flashed him an unrepentant smile. There were times, Jim had to admit, when he truly wondered whether it was all an elaborate act designed to prove to him that Blair's doing the dishes was more trouble than it was worth. He stuck his head in the bedroom door. Sure enough, a juice glass was on the desk, a coffee cup on the bookshelf, and a plate with crumbs on the floor by the bed. Jim gathered everything up and carried it back to the kitchen, where instead of thanks, Blair rolled his eyes and said, "I thought I was almost done here."

Jim set the plate, the cup and the glass on the counter beside the sink. Blair's eyes were alight with amusement as he waited for Jim's retort. The late afternoon sun shone red-gold on his face and on the freshly washed, still wet dishes in the rack. A transcendent, golden eternity, and Blair Sandburg's breakfast dishes, Jim thought, almost laughing. What more could a man ask for? He put his hand on Blair's warm cheek. Blair's eyes were puzzled, but he turned his face into the embrace instinctively all the same, and Jim lowered his head and softly kissed Blair's mouth.

He heard and felt a sudden, startled intake of breath, and felt Blair's murmur of surprise humming against his lips. Jim reluctantly raised his head, still feeling the warmth of Blair's mouth, but he let his hand linger against Blair's face for a moment more. Blair's eyes were wide and startled, and he was breathing hard. Jim started to lower his hand, but Blair caught his wrist and held on fiercely. He planted his other wet hand in the center of Jim's chest, dishwater soaking through Jim's shirt, bringing the heat of his palm to Jim's flesh.

"Hey," Blair whispered hoarsely, his voice shaking. "Do that again."

So Jim bent his head and kissed him again. A sound escaped Blair as Jim's lips brushed his, not quite laughter, just a gasp of joy. Then he flung his arms around Jim's neck, arching his body up into Jim's embrace, opening his mouth under Jim's. Blair had begun to tremble and his heartbeat was thundering against Jim's chest, counterpart to Jim's own racing heart. Jim slid his arms around Blair's shoulders, pulling him nearer, wanting to feel the heat and strength of Blair's body pressed to his own. His eyes were open as he kissed Blair's mouth, and he could see the darkening gold of the setting sun glitter for a fading instant in Blair's eyes, also open wide, as though watching over Jim even now. At that, Jim let his eyes drift shut, giving himself over to the sweetness of that kiss and the strength of Blair's encircling arms, a beginning that was its own completion, timeless and eternal, the perfect solitude of being alone with his heart's true joy.

And it had been an afternoon like this one, the setting sun gilding everything in the loft. He eased Blair back so he could look into his face. Blair's tears were still fresh on his cheeks, but there was a sweet, tentative smile on his face. "You've always been safety to me," Jim said, and maybe it wasn't very romantic sounding, but some things were more important than romance. He crooked his forefinger and wiped a golden tear from Blair's cheek with the side of his knuckle. "You've always been home."

He caressed Blair's hair, stroked the top of his head, kissed the last traces of his salty tears from his tremulously smiling face. "Lie back," he whispered, and Blair, bright-eyed, did as he asked, allowing Jim to ease him onto his back, his body pliant and warm. Jim crawled over him, supporting himself on one knee and elbow, enjoying looking down for a moment at the beautiful man sprawled beneath him in a puddle of fading gold light. He curled one hand over the top of Blair's head and then gently eased himself down until his head lay at Blair's breast. He slipped his other hand between them, carefully parting Blair's thighs to cradle Blair's soft cock and balls in his hand.

"Let me show you what it's like," Jim whispered, and the heat of his breath was enough harden the brown nipple only inches from his mouth. The way Jim was feeling, he believed he truly could show Blair the magic of those golden zones, if only he loved him carefully enough. He couldn't give him the instantaneous moment, but he could give him its timelessness.

"This is what you gave me," Jim said. As he closed his lips around Blair's softly peaked nipple, Blair cried out and shuddered against his hands and mouth, so Jim made his touches and kisses more gentle, until Blair could only tremble, voiceless save for his sighs. The golden light eventually faded from the loft as he touched Blair, and for a time everything was wrapped in an enfolding gray gloom. When the moon rose and shone through the skylight, silvery white, he was still holding Blair. They were moving against each other with breathless slowness, and just before Blair's lips found his once more, he said Jim's name, his voice clear and low and lost, and Jim spoke to him, finding him in the golden emptiness to tell him, "I know. I'm here. I know."

Blair flinched in his arms like a man on the verge of sleep, then came without a cry.

August 2002

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