Catching On - Lily

Blair kicked some dirt with his shoe, half-listening to Simon’s family’s raucous laughter and bullshitting as they sat around the campfire. The other half of him was focused on his partner, who sat next to him enjoying nighttime in the forest.

The two men exchanged knowing smiles when Simon started telling a story to his brothers about a woman he’d met while on a case, exaggerating the attributes of the woman as well as his own heroism. Neither of them interrupted, though. It was nice enough to just sit and be in the moment.

Someone poked at the firewood with a stick, sending sparks leaping into the air, cascading down like hundreds of tiny burning stars, and Blair glanced over at Jim to make sure he wasn’t going to zone out on them.

He wasn’t zoning, and Blair received a wry smile for checking. He shrugged in response, inexplicably embarrassed for being caught doing something that was his job.

“You two are awfully quiet over there!” thundered out Simon, who was working on making the next morning’s hangover a big one, thanks to the flask of Bacardi making its way around the circle and a case of beer that was already half gone.

Everyone heartily agreed, and someone passed the flask down their way. Blair held it in his hand, studying the decorative engravings on the container. He didn’t drink often, and almost never indulged in hard liquor. Still…he could use a drink after the week that he’d had. A week of too many near misses. Blair almost being strangled by a psycho before Jim saved him, Jim almost being killed during a zoneout. A week of dreams where Jim rescued him from every kind of horror his subconscious could dream up.

Even in the dreams, Jim always saved him.

Taking a deep breath, he tipped back the flask and swallowed, taking a second swallow at the urging, whistling and whooping of his friends. Even though his throat was on fire, he fought the urge to cough as he handed it over to Jim. Damn, how could anyone like this stuff?

Jim swallowed a large amount smoothly without blinking, and though it won the admiration of everyone around them, Blair frowned at him through narrowed eyes. “I’d like to see you try that without dialing down, you cheater,” he mumbled.

“It’s not a competition, Chief,” Jim replied innocently, and Blair elbowed his partner in the ribs in response.

The flask kept coming around, and Blair accepted each time, noticing that Jim didn’t always partake. It didn’t taste that bad, anymore, Blair thought after the fifth passing, before something occurred to him- Good God, maybe I’ve managed to dial it down somehow! A choked burst of laughter escaped him, and when he turned to his left to see if Jim had noticed.

He had.

“Feeling pretty good there, Sandburg?” He asked in a low voice, and the intimacy of his words and tone made Blair’s stomach clench.

“Uh…” Their knees bumped together, as they had so many times that night, but it felt odd this time, it went right through him, and then he realized what Jim was talking about.

“I think I’m drunk, Jim,” he whispered, leaning in as though he needed to do that for the Sentinel to hear him.

“Don’t worry about it, buddy.” Jim’s arm came around Blair’s back to steady him, large hand squeezing strongly on his shoulder. “I’m surprised that Simon is still upright at this point, and Thomas just spewed his beer all over his cousin over something that wasn’t even funny. You’re in good company.”

Felt good. Felt warm. Jim was wearing flannel, too, which was a rare sight and mighty…Blair searched for the right word…warm . That was it. It was a warm Jim. Warm Jim. Warm Jim. That sounded funny, like some kind of dish at Denny’s, so he said it out loud.

“What, are you cold?” warm Jim was asking softly, smiling with his warm-looking lips. No one was paying any attention to them, and the night was too seductive for Blair, giving the illusion of privacy through darkness.

Blair shivered. Cold was definitely not the word. Everything was good, great, and certainly warm enough. Everything buzzed softly at the edges, he loved everyone here, he loved the fire, loved the Bacardi, and he wanted—his eyes roamed around the campsite, then back to Jim, over his partner’s hiking boots, jeans, and back up to his familiar face. He wanted…

To kiss Jim.

Blair stole a hesitant glance over at his partner. It wasn’t that unreasonable, really. People kissed all the time, and he’d kissed people that he’d known for less time than Jim. What would Jim’s mouth feel like, he mused. Probably warm and dry at first, then incredibly hot and wet. And Jim would be the type to make pleased groaning sounds, telling him when to take it deeper, take it further…Oh yeah.

He lazily moistened his lips with his tongue, unaware of what he was doing. So easy, to just lean into his partner’s embrace a little more, clear his throat, and when Jim turned his head to look down at him, he’d part his lips and-

“Jesus Christ, Sandburg, what the hell are you doing?” Simon slurred loudly.

Blair froze, horrified, realizing that he’d done everything that he’d been fantasizing about, and was caught, swaying just inches away from Jim, his eyes heavy lidded, mouth open with anticipation. “Um.”

“You gonna kiss Ellison?” Someone whooped, and laughter erupted around the circle. Thomas puckered up to make smooching faces at Simon, batting his eyelashes coquettishly until he fell off of his seat, and the moment was forgotten.

But Blair couldn’t forget. His face burned with humiliation, confusion. If only he were sober he’d be able to wrap his brain around what had just happened, what he’d done, assess the damage, what Jim’s reaction was. He did, however, have enough presence of mind to notice that the warm arm had dropped from his shoulders. Duh.

For the next hour, Blair kept his eyes focused intently on two things: the fire and the ground, both safe choices. His mortification about what he’d almost done felt huge, alive, a scar that would never go away. Finally he couldn’t take it anymore and stumbled to his feet, mumbling something about the call of nature and escaping into the woods, still a little tipsy but not nearly as much as he’d like to be.

Once he was there, he kicked at a pile of leaves, leaning his forehead against a scratchy tree trunk. Fuck. What the hell had happened back there? If only he could remember exactly what had happened in that split second error of judgment then perhaps he could come up with some kind of explanation for Jim.

He sighed. No one was going to forget this. Playing around was one thing, but tomorrow everyone would look back on tonight uncomfortably, without the buffer of alcohol to make it seem funny, or weird. He’d embarrassed Jim, embarrassed himself; and for what? For a whim.

“Sandburg!” Jim was calling for him and he knew it would only be a few seconds before he was found.

He emerged tentatively, in the faint moonlight outlined in silver. Something only a Sentinel can truly appreciate.

“Yeah,” he answered, afraid to look at Jim’s face, afraid of what he might see, so he studied the leaves that covered his shoes. “I’m here,” he added foolishly.

“The guys are pretty much winding down for the night. Thought I’d let you know…”

“Thanks.” Blair took a step forward, but Jim didn’t move. They stood for endless minutes, until Blair had no choice but to look to Jim’s face for answers.

His answers weren’t there- just a hard expression that concealed whatever his friend was really thinking. His eyes dropped again, and he slid back into regret.

“Blair,” Jim said, and surprised Blair by moving not away, but a step closer, until Blair had a new point of focus, the buttons on the front of Jim’s shirt.

“Yeah?” His stomach lurched, surely Jim wouldn’t be this cruel, wouldn’t be this communicative that he’d want to talk about what had happened right now.

Jim’s hands came to rest on Blair’s hips, holding him there, wanting him to stay- not run. Poor kid…he’d shocked the hell out of Jim tonight, but shock didn’t always mean disapproval. Sometimes it was just…enlightenment.

Blair’s eyes grew wide when one of the strong hands moved to his back, rifling around, seeking bare skin under his many layers. Gentle fingers brushed the smooth expanse of his back, across, up and down. He suddenly felt terribly naked, too vulnerable, primed for some kind of juvenile prank.

But Jim wouldn’t do that, would he? It was like junior high all over again, teetering on the edge of potential humiliation, uncertainty, shame…fear…

“Blair,” and this time Blair felt a hand under his chin, not pushing but ever so slightly nudging upwards until he lifted his gaze, blinking, letting Jim see that vulnerability through his eyes.

“Is this what you wanted to do?” Jim asked huskily, his voice as soft as the hand at Blair’s neck. And he was the one taking the risk this time, bending to touch his lips to Blair’s passive, lax mouth.

For a horrible second, it seemed to Jim as though he’d misread what Blair had been doing at the campsite, after all the kid had been pretty blurred. But he tried again, bringing his hand from the fluttering pulse in his neck to stroke along his jaw. A strategically placed prod of his thumb did the trick and Blair slowly opened up.

“Yessss,” he breathed his answer into Jim’s mouth, losing anything else he might have wanted to say in the rush of being where he was, doing what he was doing.

After a few minutes of exploring, testing, each of them being ever so cautious not to scare off the other, Blair grew bolder, impatient, and he gasped for air, grabbed for Jim. He pulled him closer, trying to convey what he wanted--more wetter, rougher, closer- and Jim went with it, because he was ready, too.

The moment that their heat inevitably broke through the thread of careful restraint, Blair groaned. Because apparently, for Jim there was low gear and high gear and nothing in between, and he was clearly in high gear now.

The hand that had made its way into Blair’s hair tightened thrillingly, hinting at the passion that was just waiting to be released. Both men forgot about technique, about their friends only a few meters away, about everything but the way their mouths kept coming together, again and again for more. What had been tentative nibbles turned to ravenous tasting with thrusting tongues and semi-gentle bites to lips and eventually necks, and anything within reach until Jim pulled away, leaving both of them panting.

“Simon’s coming,” he said, his voice rough with lust and disappointment. Still, he held Blair closely against his body. He didn’t know if it was for himself or Blair, because he couldn’t tell which of them was trembling more.

The end.

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