What ties two people together?.
This is for Alyjude, in gratitude for opening the doors of the loft to me.
With thanks and apologies to Pet Fly, Dan Fogelberg and Mark Twain, and proceeding under the assumption that forgiveness is easier to ask than permission....
CAPTURED ANGEL ~ Dan Fogelberg
We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs ... and discuss whether they were made, or only just happened. ~ Mark Twain
"Your own handcuffs, Chief?"
"Come on, Jim. Just help me out here."
"Your own handcuffs?"
"You don't have to make me feel more foolish than I already do."
"Well, that would be pretty hard, I guess." Jim rolled his eyes, shrugged out of his coat and hung it up, then pulled his key ring out of the basket where he'd just tossed it. "How'd you get cuffed in your own ... here." He found the cuff key, pulled it away from the others on his key ring and held it up for Blair to see.
"Not so fast, Houdini. First, I want to hear this story."
"Give." He jingled the keys and leaned against the kitchen island, grinning.
"Stand and deliver, Chief."
The grin grew broader. Ellison had "no quarter" clearly written across his amused face. Blair knew the look, sighed, and swallowed his pride.
"I was ... practicing."
"Practicing. Practicing what? Self-bondage?"
"Hey, I did have the foresight to cuff my hands in front of me, man," Blair grinned. "But no ... I was trying out something that Henri told me about. How you can get out of a pair of these things without a key, if you jiggle them in a certain way."
Jim laughed outright. "And you believed him? What a rookie. I'll bet you've been on a few snipe hunts in your day."
"What's a snipe?"
Blair glared at him. Jim smiled and shrugged innocently.
"Never mind. I'll show you how to hunt snipe the next time we go camping, I promise." He stepped forward, shook his head and reached for Blair's hands. "Why didn't you use your own key to unlock these things?"
Blair mumbled something that even Jim couldn't quite hear.
"I couldn't quite hear that, Chief."
"I said, I lost it."
Jim stopped, key ring in one hand and Blair's wrist in the other.
"You lost it?"
"Well, not exactly. I know where it is ... pretty much. I just can't get it."
Jim felt the pulse in Blair's wrist increase, and knew that this had to be the best part of the story.
"'fess up, buddy."
"Well...." Deep breath. "I got it out of my pocket which was hard enough with two hands stuck two inches apart but then I dropped it and I tripped when I bent to pick it up because I can't balance too well with my hands cuffed in front of me and I kicked it by accident and it went under the door and when I opened the door to get it I tripped again and kicked it again and it went down the hall and through the crack in the elevator doors because they're still not fixed and they still don't close all the way and it fell down the elevator shaft." Another deep breath, and an embarrassed glance at Jim. "So I know where it is, like I said, but I just can't get it."
"I see." Jim sighed in an exaggerated manner. "Only you, Sandburg."
"Yeah, right. Just take these things off, will you?"
"All right. Hold still."
Chuckling, Jim lifted Blair's hands and guided the tiny key toward the lock. Blair trembled slightly, and Jim tightened his grip on one wrist.
"Settle down. Only take a second."
But the hands still shook, the movement controlled but unmistakable.
"What the hell is the matter with you, Chief?" Jim muttered. And regretted it ... because suddenly, he knew.
He could smell it. And when he looked down, he could see it too ... the soft cotton of Blair's sweat pants lying in awkward folds where....
"Blair?" He looked up, and in the moment before the young man dropped his head, the dark shadows of embarrassment and regret in those blue eyes were unmistakable.
"Aw, man...." The voice was low, and a slight stutter marked the hesitant words. "J-Jim ... look, just unlock the cuffs. D-don't ... say anything. Please. I ... I n-never meant for you t-to ... oh damn." The smallest whisper then; "I'm sorry. I ... I'm sorry." Fighting Jim's instinctively tightened grip, Blair tugged his hands downward until they covered the revealed secret. "I'm sorry."
Jim swallowed hard. What to say? So many words warred for release; words that he'd vowed he'd never speak, and now wondered if he could finally loose after all. Embarrassed himself, and afraid, he did what he usually did in such straits.
"So, it was bondage." It sounded lame the moment he said it.
The anger hit him like a physical blow. "Just a joke, Sandburg," he defended weakly.
"I'm not in the mood to joke about this, Jim."
"But we joke about stuff like this all the time."
"You joke about it. I play along. Not exactly the same thing."
"No." Blair sighed. "Look, Jim, I'm sorry. Please, just unlock these things, and forget about ... about.... Look. I promise it'll never happen again. You know," and Jim recognized, with pain, the effort behind the change in tone, "It's my night to fix dinner. How about I trade you chicken breasts with real gravy and mashed potatoes from scratch, for that key and some selective amnesia?"
The sad hope that colored Blair's plea fed a sudden wild elation and a surety that refusing that plea would grant a greater wish. Jim tightened his grip on Blair's wrist, wrapped his strong fingers around the nickel plate and the flesh it girded, and felt Blair's racing pulse leap even higher.
"No," he said quietly.
Blair threw his head back and stared up at Jim, and a hundred tones of blue and black raced beneath the clear cabochons of his too-bright eyes. Hypnotized, Jim fell into the mirage-like shimmer of expressions ghosting across that face. Desperately he searched through the mortification and the desire for that most necessary emotion. And there it was, shining through every effort Blair made to hide it.
"No," Jim said again, giving back with his voice all that he saw beneath the sadness in Blair's face. And he pulled Blair's hands forward and held them for a moment against his heart, then led them down his body to where his own confession stood waiting to be made.
The hands froze, and then turned in their shackles and only a Sentinel could have heard the small gasp of hurt as metal rubbed chafed skin. Then palms were pressed against him, warm through the denim that held his own heat, gentle but insistent. Jim looked up and saw, clear and unrestrained this time, the love in that face; married now to desire in a lenticular display of feelings that shook him to his core.
Suddenly appearing in rear-projection on a small screen in the back of his brain, the words of an old quote ... something about the stars ... had they been made or only just occurred, products of some cosmic accident? And was this moment...?
Then Blair's hands moved again, and all thought was caught up and swept away with his blood to that place on his body where Blair was touching him. Jim dropped the key ring to the floor, where it fell with a harsh clatter that neither he nor Blair noticed, and brought the now-free hand up to tangle in Blair's hair. The cat was loose in Jim now; the feral being that lived within the part of him that only Blair truly understood rose up and took full possession of Jim's body and, in doing so, fired that body into an obsessive need to possess the body before it.
If Jim had been capable, he might have been touched at the immediacy of Blair's understanding; at the absolute acquiescence with which he responded to the urgency of Jim's hands, the lightness of his steps as he moved quickly toward the stairs. And he might even have felt the slight shiver of tension....
But Jim missed all these things. Too long this last rift had lain between them, acknowledged by both but never spoken of by either, apart from that one brief and indirect exchange in the hospital so long ago. It had never narrowed, had in fact widened with time. Now, impossible and unlooked for, a bridge had been conjured between them, and the Sentinel was irresistibly taken by the helplessness of his Guide, his desires fired high by the need to protect, to control ... to claim.
Together they ascended, in synchronous tandem, Jim's fingers still locked around Blair's cuffed wrist and tangled in his hair, his chest pushing into the curve of Blair's back, his belly registering the play of muscles in Blair's buttocks as they moved beneath the cotton sweats. He allowed no hesitation when they reached the top, but propelled Blair on to the edge of the bed and then down onto it, held him there on his knees, released his hair and reached for the hem of the t-shirt.
Blair lifted his arms and the shirt rose easily over his head. His curls spilled out when the collar pulled free and Jim let the cloth fall over Blair's shackled hands, then slid his palms down Blair's sides to his hips and hooked his thumbs into the fabric gathered there. A fierce tug freed him from that clothing too, and Blair leaned forward and stretched out on the bed and waited.
Jim lost his breath. He was on his feet, clothed and in control, while Blair lay face down and naked, wrists and ankles bound by steel and cotton, and yet Jim felt more helpless than his captive. He struggled with his shirt and slacks and shoes, and left them on the floor where they fell. The air chilled his hot skin and he went to the bed, lifted one knee and set it outside Blair's, placed one hand on the tensed shoulder and ran it up the outstretched arm, and slowly lowered his body onto the one stretched beneath him with restraint that tested his control to its limit.
The heat that rose to meet him finally broke that control. With a growl he pressed himself with force of love and lust against the pale body extended beneath him. Flashes of images from dreams held deep inside for too long now strobed behind his eyes and were dismissed. The skin against his now was real and warm, the panting breaths too, the hair scented and bright, the movement beneath him vital and actual. He threw himself into the sensation of touch, cheek and chest and belly and thigh, hands and fingers running undirected where dream memory led them to turn imaginings into truth.
Blair breathed harder and sighed, but not passively. Jim rolled slightly to one side, taking Blair with him, as his fingers continue to discover the unexplored fascia of his partner's body. They swept over the dark hard nipples, tenderly and then less so, and followed the swirls of soft hair around them downward across flesh and muscle that quivered at the stroking, and further still until they reached the suede-over-steel sensation that was Blair's wanting cock.
The name was lost in the folds of the bedspread as Jim pressed Blair downward. The cat was in full control now, its ferocity tamed only by the same love that fueled its passion. The redoubt of repression protecting Jim's heart fell before the assault of that desire, each small breach created over the years by moments of trust, of nurturing, of friendship, now split wide apart by the onslaught of naked lust and answered love. The mightiest of forces could not have stopped the Sentinel in that heady moment. But the smallest of sounds, the tiniest of shivers, did.
Jim froze and withdrew his fingers from Blair's body, untangled them from Blair's hair, and whispered, "What?"
Blair's effort to steady his breath was evident and gave the lie to the words that followed.
"It's okay, Jim. Don't stop." And he turned his face away and lifted his hips again. But Jim rolled away until they were touching each other in no place at all.
"No." Jim knew that heartbeat too well ... knew when it raced with joy or excitement ... or fear. "You're...."
He didn't ... couldn't ... say the word, not even to himself; but he withdrew further as his desire faded in the face of bitter insight.
"You've done this before. And it wasn't good."
"No. Tell me."
"It doesn't matter. It was a long time ago."
"It hurt you. It scared you. Or both."
"I wasn't with you."
Jim got up from the bed and looked down at the glistening skin of Blair's back expanding and contracting with each labored breath, at his hips still shifting in search of Jim's touch, at the tight folds of Blair's t-shirt where his hidden hands gripped it from within. And at the glint of steel around his wrists.
He turned his back and headed down the stairs. He could smell the brine in Blair's eyes even from the bottom step, and heard the whisper from above.
He bent and picked up his discarded key ring.
The loft seemed quiet as he walked slowly back up the stairs, but he could hear the broken breathing coming from the bed. The sweat of lovemaking cooled on his skin as he climbed, but his gooseflesh came not from the chill in the air, but from fear. Three steps from the top he paused and closed his eyes for a moment, gathering courage, before he turned and faced the bed.
Blair lay there still, as Jim had left him, legs splayed and arms stretched over his head. His body seemed almost without animation. Jim shivered as stillness and the pallid shades of skin in the fading light reminded him of another terrible moment that lay behind, but still between them.
Slowly and without words he knelt on the bed. Blair remained silent as well. Jim knew that whatever he did now, Blair would allow; the question was what he could do that Blair would welcome.
He said a silent prayer that for once in his life he might get something important right and stretched out next to the man he loved. Gently he turned Blair onto his side so that they faced each other, and pulled Blair's cuffed hands into the space between them. With slow and studied care, he tugged the crumpled t-shirt from the clench of Blair's fingers and freed one wrist from the tangle of cloth. He steadied the metal circlet there with one hand, while the other brought his key ring up, fumbled for a moment, and then inserted the key. With a quiet snick the lock opened, and Jim pulled the cuff away from the reddened wrist.
A smile broke his tension as he realized that the amazing vocabulary of the man he lay next to had been reduced for the past half hour to only his name. This could be salvaged ... they would be all right. He fixed his eyes on Blair's, broadened his smile, and with another small sound closed the open cuff around his own wrist.
Blair's eyes widened.
And he pulled Blair to him and took his first real kiss from those lips, an act that he'd longed for but forgotten in the unexpected rush of acts more intimate by definition, if not in emotion. He found those lips open in surprise but quickly opened wider in sudden eagerness and renewed desire. They tasted each other, slowly but not gently, and felt the passion of before, disturbed by emotions like jammed radio signals, suddenly find its frequency and arc strong and clear between them. The fingers of their cuffed hands intertwined and remained so, as their free hands caressed and cupped and clenched tight in other places.
His name again, breathed low and in a pleading tone, told Blair's lover that he had, indeed, finally got it right. The cat rose in him again as he turned Blair face down and mounted his body. He lifted himself slightly and slipped his feet between Blair's ankles, spread wide those strong legs and felt the crevice that marked their joining open beneath his cock. He rolled slightly to allow his free hand access and made his gentle preparations, and then slipped into the door that his lover relaxed and opened to him.
It was like praying then. But not for them, the gentle prayer of devout kneeling quietly in a darkened place before a remote deity. This was the fierce praying of a tribal dance, the frenetic celebration of life and all its gifts enacted by two bodies that were tied to each other by more than a construct of metal and plastic. All gentleness left them both as Jim rocked deep into Blair and Blair rocked back hard, reassuring him that this was what was wanted ... needed ... demanded and given and given back.
Breath blown on embers. Gasoline thrown on fire. The solar wind flinging ancient matter into collision with an invisible and unyielding atmosphere, bringing forth fiery light.
Jim, captured and held tight, hand and cock and soul, by Blair.
The chanting of his name told him that Blair had reached the zenith of his passion and he threw himself into the fiery arrest of his lover's body and held firm there, feeling the power of muscles capturing and captured as they convulsed together. Senses heightened by a cascade reaction of give and take, both Sentinel and Guide could hear the pounding of their hearts and feel the blood racing through their veins.
The proof of their pleasure anointed them with molten cool moisture inside and out. But a heat greater than fire or sex could ever generate fused them in places that neither could ever reach with mouths or fingers or cocks, and they knew it with a telepathic surety. But they kissed anyway, and even though the act was a pale reflection in physicality of the way in which their hearts had met, they lost themselves in it, holding each other tight where they still could while the rest of their bodies reluctantly released the last of the exquisite tension they had built together.
Many other kisses, smaller and gentler but equally loving, passed between them, and many small caresses as well, before they finally rolled apart. Jim fumbled through the rumpled bedclothes for his key ring, brought their bound hands to his easy reach and unlocked both cuffs. Still holding Blair's hand, he pressed his lips to the slightly chafed skin and laved it gently with his tongue before he released it to its owner and began to rub his own wrist, a bit ruefully. Blair smiled, picked up the open cuffs and dangled them playfully.
"So, you really liked that."
"Seemed like you did too, Chief."
"Well, I certainly enjoyed your reaction."
"I was reacting to your reaction, if you recall."
Blair decided that some misdirection would be politic at this point. "So Jim ... what was it? The control thing?"
"What control thing?"
"You have to ask?"
"Well, yes. The control thing. Your thing for control. Think back ... we've discussed this before. Control is important to you. I just didn't know that it spilled over into your kink file."
"Your kink file. In the red folder marked 'Urgent and Confidential'. See? 'Control slash Handcuffs'."
"Why weren't you ever that interested in filing when your room was knee-deep in paperwork, Sandburg? Anyway, I'm changing my kink."
"Changing your kink? Can you do that?"
"Sure. It's my kink, and I'm exercising control and changing it -- from handcuffs to gags. You've talked me into it."
Blair laughed out loud, and then rolled in close. His hand slipped behind Jim's neck and drew the deadpan face down to his own.
"Gag me," he said, and pressed his lips against Jim's.
And Jim did.
~ 30 ~