Notes: This story is very different in tone from the other two. The series continues, but if you're here for "just the sex, ma'am," you may be disappointed. Blame Killa; she encouraged me. :) Actually, blame Jim and Duncan, who basically ganged up on me and browbeat me until I agreed. Kady, Kat and Melis - thanks for the extra hand-holding.
Warnings: Angst. A Plot. Actual Conversation. And yes, Jim and Duncan do the horizontal mambo during the time Jim knows Blair. You have been warned. If you can't handle that, then please don't read this. If you choose to read it, please don't give me a hard time about it later.
One Last Look [NC-17]
I have some memories that I pull out late at night, when I can't sleep. I suppose we all do that. A day when everything went right, a case where all the pieces just fell into place. These days, a lot of my insomnia remedy comes from sifting through memories of days -- and nights -- with Blair. Camping with him. Sitting in the truck for hours on end on a stakeout. Playing Scrabble on rainy afternoons. Seeing the look on his face when I touch him in just the right spot.
Sometimes I roll over and poke him and we make some more memories I'll be sifting through some day. Sometimes I let him be and try to align my breathing and heart rate to his, and by the time they match, I'm usually asleep.
It isn't really anything I feel guilty about -- it happened long before Blair Sandburg talked his way into my life -- but when it's dark and I'm tired, I sometimes find myself replaying in my mind those two nights with Duncan MacLeod. Especially if it's a day like today, when I've been working on the kind of case that used to bring that hard, sharp, sarcastic bastard who lives inside me to the surface. I've learned to corral him now. I don't come home after a day of interrogating and fuck my roommate blind over the couch.
Not unless he asks me to.
Blair helped with that too, the corraling, the way he's helped with so many things over the past few years. He looked straight through what stopped most people cold. None of my masks worked with him; none of my defenses. He noted all the different faces I wore, chalked them up as scientifically interesting but personally insignificant, and set out to love me as if it were a race and he fully intended to finish in first place.
I've never been loved like that. Never before, and probably never again. I think he loves me more than I love him, just because I'm not sure my heart came equipped with the same capacity as his. I love him to the best of my ability, beyond any limits I tried to set, beyond what I thought love was and into something new and entirely different. I do what I can and I hope it's enough.
Sometimes, it's almost too much, being loved without reservation or limit. I wonder if he can keep up this kind of intensity. I wonder how long I'll be able to accept it. I've always been kind of a loner, and now each decision I make affects someone else. This kind of thinking is what landed us in a mess of trouble last year. Us. Both of us. He ended up needing artificial respiration and I needed a swift kick to the head, which he gave me once we'd solved the mystery of Alex Barnes as much as we could.
That rattled our chains; I'm not saying it didn't. But he loved me enough to go through the mess and come out the other side with his head and heart intact. And I loved him enough to be bone-deep relieved by that.
It isn't his fault I sometimes get ... scared. It isn't his fault I sometimes just want to back off a little, stretch my arms out wide and not hit him with them, he's so close. It's not his fault I sometimes lie awake at night and remember with affection and appreciation just how uncomplicated it was to be with Duncan MacLeod.
This is probably arrogant to say, but I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders sometimes. Even before my senses kicked in, and before Blair started looking at me like the sun rose from my feet and set in my head, I felt responsible. Now I'm the Sentinel of the Great City. I take that title pretty seriously. Too seriously, maybe. I'm the Sentinel, and I'm Blair's Blessed Protector -- another title I take as seriously as a heart attack -- and there are days when I'd just like to cash in my 401K, move to Seacouver, teach some self-defense classes in a dojo I know of, and just be Jim for awhile.
Just Jim. I can hear Duncan now, with a little Scottish burr and a smile in his voice: "Jim."
Blair moves a little in his sleep, nudging closer. He loves body heat; especially mine. We might start off on our own sides of the bed, but by the time I get to sleep, he's usually got half my pillow and he's nuzzled his way up half under me. He's a comfort. A big hairy security blanket that I tuck under my chin and stroke. I tell him this stuff sometimes -- I don't hide my fears and worries like I used to, before he almost died because we weren't talking to each other about the right things. I can almost watch his brain working out computations, deciding the best way to approach me. His eyes light up, and he'll start nodding, and he could be an ad for active listening because he'll repeat back to me what I've just told him, and then he'll find some way of making it sound better.
It's one of his gifts -- turning my fears and worries into something we can get over, or leave behind, or muddle through. Half the time I think he's full of shit, and tell him so, but he takes that well, too; takes the cuffs to the chin and the bear hugs and lets me change the subject so I'm not squirming anymore.
He reminds me sometimes of Duncan, and what he said to me that night -- that just because you find some things hidden inside, it doesn't mean that's who you are. He was the first person to tell me that. Blair's the last. It's one of the many things I love about him. Like Duncan, he can cut right to the heart of what's bugging me, and make it seem better, or if not better, at least manageable. He's been doing it since the day we met. He found me when I was a stranger, out of control, and he calmed me down.
Just like Duncan did.
Five years ago this month, I walked into a club because I liked the music I heard coming out the door. I walked in because I wanted to get drunk and forget myself for awhile. I didn't get drunk, but the forgetting I managed. I purged some demons on the willing, pliable body of a man as strong as I was, and when I came back for more, he let me be the one who yielded.
After that first, almost-silent encounter, we had one more night. One night in the Clearview Hotel. One night where the idea of "top" and "bottom" got thrown off with stained clothes and damp towels. He reached me in places that no one had ever touched before, and while in part I do mean his fingers pleasuring me from deep, deep inside, I also mean he opened up something inside me that I'd kept locked down tight. He let me not be strong. He even absolved me of the responsibility for his satisfaction by touching himself and letting me take my own pleasure sucking him.
We had one final night - ten hours - and we made every minute count. We talked some, and emptied the mini-bar of everything chocolate and salty; paid the price of the seven-dollar Michelob and split it. We even dozed from time to time.
But mostly I touched him and he touched me. The room became a dark, warm cave where tomorrow couldn't intrude and yesterday didn't matter a damn. I learned the fit and feel of his shoulders and arms; he counted out the muscles in my stomach, one by one. Under the covers, in the nest of the bed, he became a smell, a feel, a taste. I ran my fingers through the tangled length of his hair, pressed my fingers into the strength of his thigh, buried my face between his legs and tasted him. He opened for me, denying nothing, encouraging everything. He told me what he wanted, and then showed me. "You first," he whispered. "Then me."
When the room started to lighten, I woke up for the last time, still wrapped around him, my dick still nestled between the cheeks of his ass. I made myself look at the clock. Six a.m. Two hours left. He stirred against me, flexing back, pushing his hips into mine. Like a signal my body had been trained to answer, my penis started to fill yet again. Involuntarily, I pressed against him, and he moaned a little, moving onto his stomach and spreading his legs, lifting his arms up to wrap around his pillow.
My heart flipped. I thought I might be sated. I thought maybe we'd wrung ourselves dry. Apparently not. I didn't wait any longer. Couldn't wait. I've never felt urgency like I did with him. Never felt like the world might end if I didn't get inside him right then, right at that moment. He trained me to take what I wanted, when I wanted it. He trained me well.
Using only the night's leftovers, I pushed my way inside him. He gripped the pillow tight when the first few inches bruised their way in, and I stretched myself out on him, spreading my weight on him, holding him down. "God," he mouthed into the pillow, and he flexed his ass, drawing me deeper. Without the usual finger-stretching, his ass felt like a hard, tight fist. I forced it, coerced my way in and I might have found an instant to regret the force if he hadn't spread his legs wider and groaned underneath me; a long, luxurious groan that said whatever he felt, it wasn't forced.
We fit, Duncan and I. My erection fit solidly inside his ass. Our arms were the same length, and I stretched them out and hooked my fingers in his. I'd wanted Duncan MacLeod spread-eagled on a bed, and the reality of it was better than my mind could have imagined. Inside, he throbbed; the muscles rippling up and down the length of me like clutching fingers. My chest fit perfectly into the breadth of his back. We fit like we'd been meant to do just this, just like this.
I don't know how long we stayed like that, slotted together, pulses racing, breathing hard, determined not to move, determined to enjoy it, to remember it. Longer than I would have said I could control it, given the heat and pressure of him. We let it build without moving, urgency stretching and deepening into insistence, then necessity.
When his fingers started trembling in mine, I thrust a little. When he tried to buck up, to get on his hands and knees and take me deeper, I pressed myself down on him, hard, forcing him to be still, and gave him that extra length, that harder thrust. He wriggled underneath me, his own control starting to go, muttering, "Fuck me. Do it. Now."
Whether it was his words or the sudden motion of his body, or the combination that did it, I can't tell you. All I know is that we snapped at the same time. I pummeled him. I drove him into the bed; put all my weight on him, my chest and shoulders pushing down on his, my arms trapping his beneath us, leaving him totally vulnerable to whatever degree of demand I could muster.
I let go. I let everything go. Rough, primitive, even brutal -- I let it all out in long, strong thrusts, my dick feeling like it got both punishment and reward each time I shoved my way back deep in Duncan's body, compelled to return to the heat the instant I withdrew. I felt huge, hard as steel, stroking like a piston into him. He took it, took me, relaxed his body, stopped fighting me, and accepted each thrust with a whispered, "Yes."
He curled his hands under mine and brought our arms in close to our bodies, changing the leverage, changing the angle. The next thrust made him inhale sharply, his body tensing under mine again. I pulled out and propelled back in, harder and faster, hitting the same angle, crushing his fingers in mine and spreading his legs open even wider with my knees. I could feel sweat dripping from the back of his neck and I set my face there, drinking it, licking him, my hips moving mindlessly now, out of my control.
For being so slow at the start, the finish came hard and fast. One deep thrust made all the muscles in his back coil up, his neck taut under my mouth, arching first away from me, then back toward me. He mashed his hips into the sheets and I could smell it when he came; feel the grip on my dick tighten even more, a grip like a heartbeat, rhythmic and regular. I threw myself in one more time, going as far as I could, wanting to crawl right up inside his body. I held him down and shook, feeling his muscles clench down on me, feeling myself swell inside him and then explode, wave after wave of shaking pleasure, feeling goosebumps on my arms and back and between my legs.
We used the better part of the last hour just recovering, remembering how to breathe, getting our hearts sorted out -- his in his chest, mine in mine -- back where they belonged. We took a shower. I loaned him a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. We bagged breakfast in favor of sitting on the bed, talking some and touching some more.
However short the time we had, I can look back and say we made the most of it.
And when eight o'clock rolled around, I stood up, wrapped my arms around him and hugged him tight. I didn't give him a business card, or a phone number. He didn't give me his. What he did was kiss me, long and deep; kissed me like someone who knew me well.
What he didn't do was say goodbye. He just smiled at me, touched the center of my chest with his hand, and left.
That was five years ago, give or take a few days.
I remember it well, and often.
It's not an exaggeration to say I haven't been the same since I met him. Whether the turning point would have come without him, I don't know. What I do know is after those two brief, perfect nights, I started to look more closely at who I was, and who I wanted to be.
I'd like to thank him for that.
If only I could find him.
I would never abuse the privileges of being a police officer. Oh, all right, I've put on lights and siren a time or two, just to get out of snarled traffic. But I wouldn't put my feet on the fine line I've seen so many of my colleagues walk -- it's obvious that that particular tightrope is as slippery as a high-paid defense attorney, and I still love my job.
So I haven't let myself use the database resources Sandburg can play like a piano to try to track down Duncan MacLeod. He offered, if you can believe it, that night I worked too hard, stayed up too long, got too sappy and ended up sitting cross-legged on the bed with Blair, telling him all about it. Not all about it. But enough that he got the picture.
You have to understand something about Blair. He doesn't know who his father is. His mother has been in one consecutively monogamous relationship after another. Blair himself could have used a Rolodex to keep track of his various romantic entanglements before he hooked up with me. Exclusivity is a word he can spell, but not really relate to. In the time we've been together, we've both fallen under a spell or two, but at the end of the day, or at least by the next morning, we're back in our own place, in our own bed.
And to be honest, I'm the one who usually finds himself waking up in a bed full of perfume and shaved legs wondering how in the hell I got sucked in by one more tale of woe. Blair's amazingly tolerant. He's well aware of the unpredictability of human lust, so he's not surprised by it, and he doesn't let it worry him much.
Yes, it's just one more thing I love about him.
I hardly remember what I told him, but it must have intrigued him enough that he offered to do a little cyber-reconnaissance for me. I thanked him, gave him bonus points for not showing even a hint of jealousy, and then I rolled him on his back and slurped at him until he stopped asking questions and started giving directions.
I've been back to Seacouver two or three times in the past five years, and each time I've stopped in at Joe's. Every time, only Mike, the manager, has been there. Apparently, Joe and Duncan both live in Paris for part of the year. Mike gave me the address of the dojo and I've driven by it a couple of times, but it's always closed up, empty.
I finally filed Duncan under the insomnia remedy file, and moved on.
So you can imagine how surprising it is to walk into the bullpen on an ordinary Tuesday morning, trailed by my babbling partner, and see Duncan MacLeod standing in front of Simon's office. After spending hours last night savoring the images of the time we spent together, it feels like maybe I conjured him up from desire alone. I stop so fast Blair plows right into me.
"Yo, Jim, what the hell?" he says, steadying himself with handfuls of my jacket.
"Sorry, Chief," I say, but I'm distracted, not paying attention.
Duncan looks like shit. He doesn't look a single day older, but he looks about a decade sadder. Something's happened. Something bad.
Simon sees me come in and points to me, and Duncan turns to face me. I'm already moving toward him, with Blair right on my heels. His eyes look dead. They brighten just a little when they meet mine, and he smiles, though it looks like it hurts him to do it. I put my hand out, taking his in both of mine.
"Duncan." There's more I have to say. I know there is, but nothing's coming out. I let myself look him over. He's pale, and looks leaner than he was. He's cut off his hair. Even dulled as he is, the man's a walking pheromone. It doesn't surprise me that I reacted to him with such aggression and determination when we first met. He literally couldn't be any sexier to me. If Blair is spice, Duncan is musk.
"Hello, Jim," he says, and his voice is so familiar it makes my heart turn over. "It's been a long time."
"Too long," I tell him, still holding his hand, not wanting to lose the connection just yet.
We're standing in the middle of the chaos of a working police precinct, staring at each other. I finally make myself let loose his hand. Blair's disappeared, and so has Simon. They deserve lunch on me for that.
"What happened to your hair?" I ask him, looking at the shorn strands. It's wavier without the weight of length to it.
"I was about to ask you the same question," he says with a ghost of a smile, and I rub my hand over my hair, or what's left of it, grinning at him. He can't hold the smile. It drops off his face and he looks tired again, the momentary spark extinguished.
"Come on in here," I tell Duncan, putting a hand on his arm, leading him into Simon's office and shutting the door. It's quieter, and with the blinds closed, it's as private as a police station gets.
He drops into one of Simon's awful wooden chairs, his hands lax on the arms of it. He's staring at his knees. I don't even know where to begin. I haven't seen him for five years, but he's stayed right in the front of my brain, where I can remember his voice and what his hands felt like on me.
Blair's shown me that I've had my senses all along; I just didn't know it. It makes me wonder if I catalogued Duncan in those few hours we had together -- mapped his smell and taste, imprinted him. It makes me wonder if I somehow knew he was coming and that's what made me think about him so hard last night. Maybe I knew.
We never were much for words, but I've got to at least try.
"It's good to see you," I tell him, bracing myself against Simon's desk, standing about three feet from him. "But I take it this isn't a social visit?"
"I don't really know what it is," he says, his voice flat. "I just got back to the States. I'm selling the dojo and I've spent the last few days taking care of that."
He pauses, and takes a deep breath. "And then this morning, I had to get away. I just got back; I shouldn't have left so soon. But I just got in the car and started driving, and ended up here."
He sounds like he's talking to himself. There are some big chunks missing: What brought him back? Why is he selling the dojo? When did his life become something he had to get away from?
I've asked the question before I can stop it. "What happened, Duncan?"
He flinches, then leans forward, covering his face with his hands. "I thought it would be better once I sold the dojo," he says. "But it's not."
I go crouch in front of him and put my hands on his knees. He's not really a stranger. He's not really a friend. I don't know what he is except a man who looks like he's headed straight off a cliff, and if I can stop him, I will.
"Duncan, you have to tell me what happened." I'm as firm as I can be without going into cop mode.
Richie. The red-headed kid from Joe's. The one whose hair Duncan ruffled.
"How did it happen?" I ask him, flexing my hands on his knees.
"I ... " He pulls back, rubs his hands on his face and looks at me, struggling for control and finding it somewhere. "An accident."
"When?" He's talking; I've got to get as much information as I can. Once the seal breaks, you have to go for it. Okay, so I'm in cop mode whether I want to be or not.
"Almost a year ago," he says, and I'm surprised it's been that long. His grief is so fresh, so sharp, it wouldn't have surprised me to hear he'd died last week.
"Do you want me to look into it for you?" I ask, probing a little.
He looks aghast, and bolts to his feet, pushing me back. He goes to stand by the window and I can see his jaw working. "No," he says finally. "We know what happened."
"How can I help?" I ask him, my heart clenching at how different he is from the Duncan I met all those years ago. That Duncan's control came from self-confidence. This one seems to be holding on out of necessity, as if he'd crumble to the floor if he bends, for even a minute.
"I don't know, Jim," he says, still looking out the window. "I don't even know why I'm here. I drove by the Clearview, and I thought of you, and it seemed like the thing to do. Dumb, really."
"Not dumb, Duncan," I tell him. "Not at all. I'm glad you came."
A knock on the door interrupts us. Blair pokes his head in. "Sorry, Jim, but Simon wants his office."
I motion him in. "Blair, this is Duncan MacLeod. Duncan, my partner, Blair Sandburg."
They meet halfway. Blair's half Duncan's size, with twice his energy. Blue eyes meet brown, two strong hands clasp briefly, polite introductions hang in the air. Blair's looking him over like he has Sentinel sight, and Duncan looks first at him, then at me, then back to Blair again, focusing more sharply on Blair's face than he has on anything since he came in.
"Jim, I'm headed to the U. Bring Duncan for dinner, okay?" Blair's already halfway out the door, ducking under Simon's arm, perpetual motion with vocal cords.
"What recipe is Sandburg massacring tonight?" Simon says as he comes in, looking at Duncan, but talking to me.
"I heard that," we can hear from down the hall, and it makes us all laugh. Here I've been worrying, wondering how to help, and Blair knows exactly what to do -- bring him home and feed the man. Simple, but effective. Just like Blair.
I introduce Duncan to Simon, explaining him away as a friend from Seacouver, and Simon makes all the correct responses, then shoos us out of his office with a "Don't you have work to do?"
At that, Duncan closes up tight. Nothing I say can convince him he's not intruding, taking me away from my work. Well, he is, but I'm fine with that. It's not every day a two-night stand reappears from the blue. I don't want him to leave without at least trying to figure out what's going on, so I repeat Blair's invitation for dinner and he nods. It doesn't seem like much, but I guess it's something.
I don't know what I can do for him, but I'm willing to try.
"Where are you staying?" I ask.
The question seems to surprise him, and he just shrugs a little. I realize then that he came straight to the station -- that he's not thinking past the next hour, the next step in front of him. I know what that feels like. One foot in front of the other is a place I've been too many times.
"Come on, let's get out of here," I say, picking up my jacket, leaving the piles on my desk to collect dust for one more day.
Work can wait. I'm not sure Duncan can.
I can smell dinner cooking as we come up the stairs a few hours later. Lasagna. The loft smells wonderful, like melted cheese and crushed tomatoes and Blair's soap. On the floor in front of the door is his sleeping bag, a backpack and his laptop case.
He comes out of what used to be his little room, which we now use for storage, with his good weatherproof coat on.
"What's up, Chief?" I ask, because I don't have to have enhanced senses to realize he's about to do a disappearing act again.
He breezes by me, says, "Hi Duncan!" and buries his head in the fridge, talking all the while.
"Anthro Club wants to camp out tonight. Some weird harvest moon ritual they've decided to re-enact, and they need a chaperone. Like I'm really chaperone material. I don't think so, but I do know how to confiscate beer, which was not part of the original harvest moon ritual, by the way, although grain beverages did tend to play a part in traditional ceremonies, depending on the culture and the availability of grain. Just not, you know, Budweiser."
Duncan looks bemused. I forget what it can be like for the uninitiated, that first barrage of Blairspeak.
"So anyway, sorry to bail on you. The lasagna needs a few more minutes, and there's bread. Oh, and I'm taking the salad. Sorry, but you just eat it for me anyway, don't you? A whole lasagna for you, one measly Caesar salad for me. Fair enough, right?"
We're both nodding. He could probably tell us he's just established e-mail contact with the planet Neptune and we'd still be standing here, nodding. I'm used to him and it still feels like somebody put a quarter in him and wound him up. I imagine Duncan's reeling a little bit.
"Good to meet you, Duncan," Blair's saying now, shaking Duncan's hand while he shrugs on his backpack. "Come back anytime."
"Thank you," Duncan says, smiling that warm smile I like so much. It's the first time I've seen it in five years, and it doesn't surprise me at all to find it directed at Blair. Blair'll do that to you -- open you up, warm you up. Maybe I should go camping and leave Duncan in Blair's capable hands. But unfair as it sounds, I am the jealous type, and I'd just as soon keep Blair to myself and Duncan to myself, and not let them loose around each other. I'm selfish. Sue me.
"How about some help here, Jim?" Blair asks, pointing to the sleeping bag and laptop. He could get them himself, so he wants to say something to me in private. Damn, he's good. We walk down to his car and toss his things in the back. It's just twilight, the gray time of day. I lean on his car and he stands in the open driver's door.
"You find out why he's here?" he asks, lightly running his key up and down my arm. It's something he does -- always keeping in contact with me.
I nod. "Sort of. He lost a friend in an accident about a year ago."
"Bummer," he says, and the word sounds more flip than the tone he uses to voice it. "Does he want you to look into it or something? Did he die in Cascade?"
I'm shaking my head before he's done. "No, that's not why he's here."
"Well, it's not a chance visit, Jim. He must want something. Or need it," Blair says. "I figured it'd be easier to get into it if I found someplace else to be."
"Blair, you don't have to ..."
He cuts me off. "Besides, a little breathing room's good for you now and then. Talk to someone else, see a new face across the table. Come on, admit it; you get tired of this mug every once in a while."
"Never, Chief," I tell him, but he just gives me that shit-eating grin of his and says, "Uh-huh, right, never ever."
I have five enhanced senses. Blair has one -- his sense of me is tuned to perfect pitch. I think he knows how I feel sometimes before I do, and he's certainly able to articulate it better. A little breathing room. A new face across the table. But he's wrong about my being tired of his mug. His face is the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see at night and that's just how I like it. I'm as accustomed to his face now as I am my own.
As much as I say I'd like to stretch without hitting him, I think my arms would wonder what to do with all that air.
Twilight has dropped to true dark while we've been standing there, and I have a sad, sorry friend waiting for me upstairs, so I lean over and kiss that generous mouth, open it up and lick inside, just our mouths touching, nothing else. He leans forward, angling his head so we can dive deeper and we stand there, not touching, making out just with our lips and tongues and teeth. He hums a little as he pulls away, and I can see the flash of his eyes and his bright smile in the dark.
I love him so much I ache.
"I need to do this, Blair," I say. "I owe him one."
"I think you actually owe him two," the little snot says, leaning in for one more breath-stealing, lip-licking kiss.
"Give him whatever he needs, Jim," he says, his voice low and certain.
"Even if it's me?" I have to be sure he knows what we're talking about.
"It won't change anything," he says, putting a hand on my stomach. "I mean, with us, you know? The indisputable we. That's a whole different thing."
"How can you be so sure?" I ask him.
"You're kidding, right? I know you, man. Mr. Compartmentalize. Nothing's gonna touch us."
His assurance wears off on me, just as he intended, I'm sure. Blair must have stood in line twice when God was giving out generous spirits. He's a big believer in karma -- everything that goes around, comes around. He's convinced there's a very good reason why Duncan MacLeod came back into our lives right now, and he wants me to find out what it is.
Am I really going to rationalize tonight by saying I'm doing it for Blair? No. But not hearing any doubts in his mind eases the few left in mine.
When I close the loft door again behind me and see Duncan standing at the kitchen counter, patient and resigned, with none of the vivid life I want to see in him, the rightness of the decision we made settles over me. I owe Duncan. Whatever he wants, whatever he needs, I'm going to give it to him. He came into my life at a time when I needed something I couldn't even describe, let alone ask for, and he gave it to me without hesitation.
I can do the same for him.
He's on my turf now, in my home, getting ready to eat my food. A little bubble of contentment simmers to the surface at the thought. He's too good a man, and the time we spent meant too much to me, for him to just disappear without a trace. It's good to see him. It's been too long. I'm glad he's here. All those things that sound like platitudes have real meaning when I use them to talk about him.
I'm not kidding myself that a good meal, an evening's conversation and whatever else we end up doing will erase his grief. Only time can do that. But maybe I can give him back a little of the life-force he shared with me. Maybe I don't need it anymore. Maybe I don't need it as much as he does.
I don't want him to wonder about me, about us. So before I do anything else, I go over to him, put my hands on his shoulders and bring him in close. As good as he felt five years ago, he feels even better now, hard and warm against me, his smell and the feel of his back under my hands so familiar. He makes a little sound and holds himself away for an instant, then melts to me, his arms coming under mine, wrapping around my waist. I bury my head in his neck, in the hollow the tendons make just above his collarbone. When I snuffle in there, he chuckles and I can feel the sound under my mouth.
"I think we'd better eat," I tell him, smoothing my hands down his back one more time. "Otherwise, I might just start chewing on you."
That makes him smile, too, and I'm glad I did that; acknowledged what's still there between us. It will make everything much easier if we don't dance around the fact that I can't be near him without getting a hard-on.
We've got some strange wired thing between us. I don't think it would matter if fifteen years had passed. I'm not even sure it would matter if I'd still been married to Carolyn and had a passel of kids. I think anywhere, at any time, I could meet Duncan MacLeod on the street and be naked on top of him within fifteen minutes. All he'd have to do is say the word.
He probably wouldn't even have to do that. He'd just look at me, and I'd know. I'm keeping my eye out for it, for that look. I think he's too beat up, too strung out, too far from himself at the moment to even think about it, but that hasn't stopped my body from responding to him.
We make ourselves comfortable. I take off my shoes and socks, and encourage him to do so, too. Blair taught me that. Being barefoot makes company feel like family.
The lasagna's good. Good stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. Duncan's eating like it's been a week since he saw food, and even though I wasn't the cook, I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing him enjoy it so much. Three helpings later, he's got more color in his cheeks and his eyes aren't quite so dead. He finally pushes his plate away with a groan, rubbing his stomach. "That's it. No more," he says, reaching for his wine glass and finishing the last swallow.
He comes with me to the kitchen with his plate, reaching for a dish towel and we stand at the sink; one washing, the other drying, a well-oiled dish-cleaning machine. While I'm putting things away, I say, "What made you decide to sell the dojo?"
He pauses, his hand stilling on the glass he's drying, and I smile a little at seeing the familiar gesture. We seem destined to end up with dish towels when we're together. I think for a minute maybe I rushed it, but he answers eventually, his hand taking up the motion on the glass again.
"Too many memories," he says quietly, and I nod.
"I guess coming back brought it all up again?" I say, tiptoeing a little. I don't want to push him too hard.
"More than I thought it would," he says, pressing his lips together. "We had a lot of good times there. Richie was just a pup when I met him. An obnoxious, small-time crook with more attitude than promise."
"What happened?" I ask.
"He settled down," Duncan says, then he snorts. "A little. He could still raise hell with the best of them. Always in one scrape or another. I can't count the number of times I bailed him out."
"You sound like his dad," I say, and he drops his eyes, turning back to the sink.
"I felt like his dad," he says softly, then turns the hot water back on, letting it run over his hands.
I go over and stand behind him, putting my arms under his, taking his hands, feeling the warm water stream over our fingers. I prop my chin on his shoulder. I'm not always the best with words, but Blair assures me nobody cuddles like I do, and I can't think of anybody who needs it more than Duncan MacLeod.
"Accidents happen," I tell him, letting my chest and hips lean into his, then pulling him back so he's the one leaning.
"I know," he says, and I feel what he says more than hear it. "But it was my fault."
That sinks straight into my heart.
He reaches over and turns off the water, and I miss both the sound and the warmth of it. He dries my hands first, then his own. He's still standing at the sink, bracing his palms against the edge. I have my hands outside his, not letting him break the connection, wanting to stay close.
"I know how that feels," I tell him.
He turns on me so fast I stumble back. "How could you know? How?"
"I know, Duncan. It's happened to me twice. Twice."
He's still, breathing hard. I like the fire in his eyes, so much more than the apathy he's shown until now. I won't deliberately provoke him, but I'm not letting him retreat again, either.
I hold up one finger. "1988. The helicopter carrying a troop of Army Rangers -- my Army Rangers -- crashed in the jungles of Peru. One man out of eight survived. One man," I say, pointing the finger towards me. "It was an accident. It wasn't my fault, but that doesn't mean I didn't feel responsible. They were my men."
He closes his eyes, but I want him to see me. I want him to hear this and hear it well.
"And Blair died last year."
His eyes fly open, sharp and intense, colliding with mine. "Blair?" he asks, holding his hand to about his shoulder, where Blair's head would fit.
I nod. "Because I fucked up. That was my fault. So yes, Duncan, I know how it feels. It feels like shit. It feels like you'll never get over it."
He's shaking his head, but I know he agrees. "He ... Blair ... what happened?"
"An insane woman cold-cocked him and dumped him in a fountain. He drowned."
"But you got him back."
"Yes, I did," I say, and the warmth and satisfaction and relief I felt at that moment is still there in my voice. "It was incredible. One minute he was gone, and the next he was back. Unbelievable."
"I can imagine," he says, with a strange dry tone.
"He forgave my part in it," I say, reaching out, putting a hand on his shoulder again. "But forgiving myself was a lot harder."
I catch him when he drops and we end up on the floor, leaning against the cabinets. He's shaking.
"I hate this," he mutters, crossing his arms over his chest, trying to hold himself in, it looks like. "I hate being like this."
I've got my shoulder against his, trying to be solid for him. "It'll get better."
"I thought it was better," he says.
"It's bad now because you just stirred it all up again," I tell him, sliding even closer, putting one hand on his arm. "And no, maybe you won't get over it. But you'll get through. You will. It just takes time."
He sighs and drops his head back onto the face of the cabinet. "I've got plenty of that."
We're quiet for a minute, with only the hum of the refrigerator and our breathing breaking the silence. "It just seems so wrong," he says. "He's gone, and I'm still here."
"That's right," I say firmly. "You're still here."
He turns his head, and suddenly his face is right there, right there for me to reach for, but I want him to make the first move. He uncrosses his arms and turns toward me. It's hard to catch my breath with him this close. He's there again, fully occupying his body, not the shell I found in the police station. He's warm again, opening up.
"Do you know why I came here?" he asks, one hand grazing my thigh.
I shake my head. I have an idea, but I'd like to hear him say it.
"I wanted to just forget it all -- Richie, the dojo, everything. You can make me do that. That time I spent with you? Nothing else mattered."
I think my head might explode. It's not what I expected, which shouldn't surprise me so much because nothing about this man has been predictable, but to hear the intensity in his voice; to hear what he's saying. I'm hard in an instant, throbbing all over. "Jesus, Duncan," I whisper, and then his mouth is on mine, hard and slick and urgent.
He pushes on my chest, a big strong hand flat on me, pushing me over and I grab at him as I fall, tangling my legs with his and bringing him down on top of me. He weighs a ton. The floor's cold and hard against my shoulder blades and the back of my head, but his tongue is hot against mine, and he's squeezing the breath right out of me. He puts both hands on the sides of my head and tilts me up into him, angling over me, diving back into my mouth over and over until I'm reaching for him as he pulls away, following his mouth blindly, needing it.
He has me. A minute in, and he has me. I would follow him anywhere, do anything he asked, as long as he keeps doing what he's doing. His hands are already burrowing under my shirt, scratching my skin, drawing circles around my nipples, and I can feel his erection swell between his legs, against my hip. "Do it again, Jim," he pleads against my mouth. "Please."
Oh, yes. He doesn't have to ask. He never had to ask. I send my hands straight to his ass, take hold and lift my hips up into his. I'd weld them together if I could, and it feels about like that; like we're stuck together now, like we're stuck with each other. We're rocking together on the kitchen floor, out of control shockingly fast. He's breathing hard into my neck, already moaning, already trying to get closer. He presses down on me, flattening me even further, then tucks his knees up and sits up on me, grinding our dicks together, rocking harder. His hands are busy with my shirt and when he's got all the buttons undone, he spreads the sides open, and there's the look. The one I've been waiting for. He's here, all right. He's just here, nowhere else. Nothing else matters.
The pads of his fingers trail from my sternum right down into the waistband of my jeans. He's dipping in, ducking under the elastic of my boxer shorts, sweeping through the hair there, just barely touching the head of my dick on the way by. I lunge up, wanting more, but he presses firmly on my stomach, pushing me back, holding me down. He's working there, unbuttoning, unzipping, pulling both jeans and boxers over my hips, and I have a momentary flash of what we must look like, there on the floor, him straddling a half-naked, half-clothed, completely erect me, and I have to close my eyes, because even just glancing down at us makes me want to come.
"Look at you," he murmurs, and I have to laugh because once again, he knows. "Look," he insists, and I open my eyes again and look first at his beautiful face, at how much he wants me, and then I look down at myself, at the clothes bunched around my thighs, and my open shirt, and my desperate, leaking erection. While I'm watching, my dick spits out a little stream, a clear streak that burns my belly.
"You're something else, Jim Ellison," he purrs, his eyes hot. "Touch yourself," he says, but I'm already shaking my head.
"Can't," I get out, squirming under him. I can't be still. I can't touch myself. I need him. I need him. "Can't."
I'm reaching for him, reaching up, pulling his head down to my lap and he bends to me, stretching his legs out around mine, pushing my thighs closer together when every instinct makes me want to spread them wide. My balls get trapped between my legs and I can feel it start already, can feel them start to draw up tight. "Do something," I say, trying to hold him by his short hair, missing the length I could wrap my hands around. He hovers over me, breathing hot air on my stomach and groin, pursing his lips and blowing right on my dick, right in the slit. "God, Duncan, no more, no more."
I thought this was supposed to be about him. I thought I was supposed to be providing him comfort and oblivion, but instead he has me reduced to a melting puddle supporting seven inches of aching muscle. It's both better and worse when he takes my dick in his mouth. Better because I'm seconds away from screaming in frustration and his mouth is tight and hot and the relief is overwhelming. Worse because I'm going to last maybe ten seconds, especially if he ... oh, fuck me ... especially when he opens his throat and takes me all the way down. I'm going way, way down; he's going way, way down on me. He's got his hands under my ass, and he's doing the fucking, he's making me fuck his mouth; I'm just lying here twitching in his hands, in his mouth, my hands at my sides, giving up on coordinated motion.
He's sucking me hard and deep; I can feel the ridges of his teeth on the trunk of my dick, feel his tongue pressing hard against the vein. I use my last bit of strength to lift my head, to see what it looks like, to see my wet dick stroking in and out of his mouth, impossibly far, impossibly hard. I can see the strain in his jaw, the flare of his nostrils as he tries to breathe. I'm choking him and neither of us cares. I manage to get one hand on his face, touching his cheek, feeling it fill with me as I jab in one more time. I try to warn him, but the sound is as strangled as my dick and instead I just drop back again, feeling my dick swell tighter inside his throat. At the very last instant, when I'm already losing it, he pulls me out and starts jerking me off, pumping me like a porn director looking for a come shot, catching the fluid in his hand.
While I'm still gasping for air, he lifts himself off me and tears off my jeans and underwear with one hand, then spread my legs wide. He undoes his pants with the same hand, pushing them down just far enough to let his angry dick get some breathing room. Then he dips his fingers in the palmful of come he's harvested and I can feel them, slick and cool, pushing inside me. He's not as gentle as he was that other time; I don't want him to be. I want him to take what he wants. I want him to take me.
It's so good it scares me. He's big, and rough, the blunt force of his penis stabbing up in me, opening me wider than his fingers ever could, going deeper, plunging farther. I love feeling this when I'm already satisfied; I love being able to concentrate on how it feels, and what it's like for him. I'm not having any trouble keeping my eyes open, but he's losing his way already. He pushes on my knees, opening me up more, pressing down on me more, holding all of his weight on the palms of his hands, thrusting harder, no finesse, just driving, staggeringly rough lunges. I couldn't be any more relaxed and I just let him open me, let him in any way he wants, reaching around to feel the clench of the muscles in his ass, the sway of his balls slapping against me. "Inside," he chokes out, and I shove two fingers inside him. He's dry, and tight, but he nods and bites his lip, and he backs himself up onto my fingers, then forward inside me again. I rummage around inside him and when he lets me know I've hit the right spot, I don't bother brushing against it; I just dig right in, hard as I can.
"Christ!" he shouts, dropping his body down hard on mine, his ass clenching on my fingers and his dick jerking unsteadily inside me. We're wet with sweat, both shaking. He stays hard inside me for an immeasurable time. When he finally slips out, I can feel little rivers of come snaking out; his, and mine, probably, hot and sticky.
He wanted to forget. He wanted nothing else to matter.
I'll ask him if he got what he wanted. As soon as I remember my name.
I should have remembered that with Duncan, the word 'awkward' just never enters the picture. But look up 'suave' in the dictionary, and I think you'll find a little pen and ink drawing of him next to the definition. Maybe it should have felt strange, getting fucked on my own kitchen floor by a man I haven't laid eyes or hands on in half a decade. A man who is not the man who shares that kitchen, or the bed we found ourselves in a few minutes later.
But Duncan's got a sure way about him I envy. I could live to be a hundred and I'd still put my foot in my mouth, trip on my shoelaces and embarrass the hostess on a regular basis. Not Duncan. He's just one smooth move after another. Awkward? Not likely. It doesn't even feel strange to climb in the bed I share with Blair and find a much bigger man taking up the other half.
He's sitting up in bed, completely unselfconscious about the fact that he's not wearing a stitch and he's already half hard again. He makes this big show of looking me over in the light from the skylights, checking me out from top to bottom.
"What are you looking for?" I ask him, not entirely comfortable with being looked at that closely. I've done some aging in five years; he looks just the same except for the hair, and the couple of pounds he could put back on in a week if he stayed in scarfing vicinity of Blair Sandburg's cooking.
"Your edges," he says, with a little smile.
I grin back at him. "Blair keeps those pretty well sanded down these days."
"And he'll be all right with this?" he asks, his big hand sweeping out to include the bed, and the naked us in it.
I nod and settle back on the pillow, enjoying the play of light on his skin. "Blair's an unusually open person."
"So it was a case of opposites attract?" he says, and I like it that he's comfortable enough to mock me, even if I'll make him pay for it sometime later, preferably with his body.
"I'm sure it looks that way," is all I say.
"You've mellowed," he says.
"I'm happy," I reply. "Amazing what a difference it makes. I didn't even know."
He nods, but he looks pensive. I didn't mean to rub salt in the wound and I prop myself up on one elbow and reach for him, touching his breastbone.
"Duncan ..." I start to say, but he puts his hand on mine.
"It's all right, Jim," he says. "I'm glad you're happy. You deserve it."
"So do you," I tell him, but he drops his eyes and doesn't answer me.
Time for a change of subject. "How's Joe?"
I thought it was a reasonable enough question, but he pulls away from me and sits up in the bed, giving me his back. What the hell?
"I don't know," he says quietly.
"You don't know?" I repeat, surprised. More than surprised.
"I haven't seen him since the night Richie died."
Well, knock me over with a feather. You don't trust just anybody with your bar, or your office, or your keys. Duncan and Joe were close, I know that. Of course, given the little I saw, so were Richie and Joe.
"Does he blame you?" I have to ask.
"I don't really know," he says, his voice distant.
Damn. I didn't mean for this to happen. I didn't mean to drag it all up yet again. He came to forget, not explain himself to a virtual stranger. But it's eating him up. Maybe he needs more than he's willing to admit. We've been here before, Duncan and I, on the opposite sides. Fair enough.
I move in behind him, kind of like we were in the kitchen, but this time I straddle my legs outside his and put my arms around his waist. He leans back immediately, and I'm so glad I followed that instinct. He's soft again, but I cradle him anyway, holding his balls lightly in one hand and his flaccid penis in the other.
"Do you remember how it was, that time in Joe's office?" I whisper in his ear.
He moans a little and nods, his short hair tickling my cheek.
"You were the first close human contact I'd had in over a year."
He stiffens against me; his back, his arms, and his dick.
"How long has it been, Duncan?"
"A year," he whispers back. "I haven't ... until tonight. I couldn't."
"Shhh, I know, I know." I'm rubbing my chin on his shoulder, holding his growing erection in my hands. "Duncan, you can't live like that. It's too easy to let one day fall into another and next thing you know the only thing that matters is work and that won't keep you warm at night."
He's shaking his head.
"Yes, Duncan. I know what I'm talking about. I didn't know what I was missing until I tripped over it."
He laughs, the sad little sound traveling through his back, vibrating on my chest.
"It's not good to be alone. It's really not," I say, pressing on. "As hard as it can be sometimes to feel responsible for somebody else, it's still better than trying to make it all by yourself," I tell him. Well, preach it to him. That's a testimonial, my friends, from someone who's been there.
The words sort of hang in the air and repeat themselves back to me. I hope I can remember them the next time I have insomnia and feel like the sky's falling in and my two hands are the only thing holding the roof on. The next time I lose my half of the blankets to the boy wonder. The next time I contemplate the desire for an uncomplicated life.
I had an uncomplicated life: It bored me. It made me ornery as shit. It made me grab a stranger with both hands because he looked at me wrong. Or is that right? Actually, those two nights were about the best that uncomplicated life had to offer; that's probably why I remember them so well.
"Shutting out the people who care about you isn't the answer," I say, and that's all I'm going to say. He didn't come for a sermon. Or at least, he didn't just come for a sermon.
He puts his head back, rubbing against me, and the motion slides his erection in my hand. I fist it, holding him hard, then releasing him, then doing it again until he's thrusting more than sliding.
"I know," he bites out. "I know, I know."
I don't know why he came to me. I don't know why I went to him five years ago. I just know it works. He helped me bridge a gap; maybe I can help him do the same thing.
"Do you know why I went back to Joe's the next night?" I ask, curling my tongue in his ear until he groans.
He shakes his head.
"Because I thought you were a good man, and I hadn't met very many of those," I say, and he shudders under my hand, my mouth. "I was right then, and I'm right now. You're a good man, Duncan MacLeod."
He's shaking again, harsh trembles that start in his midsection and radiate out. He's breathing hard, and his body's hot against me. I'm holding him, and it's both sex and something more, something ... warm. His penis in my hand is sex. His body in my arms is warmth. Five years ago, I couldn't have made the distinction. Five years ago, I wouldn't have cared.
I care, now.
"Come here," I tell him, pulling back on him until he's laid out on top of me, with all of his weight on me. I'm the bed now; I'm the cradle. I tuck my erection in the small of his back, trap it there, between my belly and his back.
"You've done the hardest part," I say, smoothing one hand up his chest to his chin, tilting his head so I can kiss his throat. "You're halfway there."
He doesn't say anything, but he relaxes against me, heavier than ever, crushing my penis between us, which should hurt but instead just makes me want to stop talking and start doing. He doesn't say anything, but he moves against me, dropping his hands down to my hips and rubbing down my flanks.
The equality of our size works with us as we sway there on the bed. When he twists, I can reach his mouth, and I shut the hell up and kiss him hard. He opens wide for me, sinking down, sinking back, letting me in. I'm thrusting up against his back and he rolls his hips against me, still holding my hips in his hands. Makes me wish we had a mirror overhead instead of a skylight. I'd like to look down on him, all hard and heavy on me, his dick standing up and leaking, his hands down my sides. What a picture that would make.
I settle for how it feels instead of how it looks. I settle for the weight of his erection in my hand and the feel of his groans against my chest. I keep one hand pressed hard on his chest, keeping us glued together and we rock and we rock and we rock until it's all one motion; two people, one motion. I feel his fingernails in my flank when he comes, feel him stiffen and jerk above me, feel the hot streaks splash on my hand, and I hold him even harder, thrusting into his back, his broad, strong back.
The heat of him, the hardness of the muscle and bone, the slick sweat that eases the path; it's all too much on top of the smell of him. I spread my legs wider, put my feet flat on the bed and almost lift him with a few final, desperate lunges; the trap feeling like a vise on the head of my dick, squeezing me hard. I think it's good that he's holding me down when I come, because it feels like I could just float right out the skylight and keep going.
He's keeping me grounded. I hope I lifted him up a little.
I told Blair I needed to do this.
I didn't tell him how much I'd enjoy it.
The bed has clean sheets, the windows are standing open, and only I can still smell that Duncan was here. I smell it on the hand towel he used in the bathroom. I smell it on the orange juice glass he left in the sink. I'll probably be finding pockets of Duncan smell for a few days. On top of that thin layer of Duncanscent is the pervasive smell of Blair. In the clean sheets and clean towels, on the cushions of the couch; my home smells like Blair to me.
And yes, I mopped the kitchen floor. I'm anal for a very good reason.
Duncan left a little while ago. He's flying to Paris tonight. He made plane reservations from the loft, flirting the sales rep into a discounted first class seat. If I'd tried that maneuver she'd have hung up on me. Too bad he can't stay longer; I bet I could learn a lot.
He still doesn't have the vibrancy of the Duncan I met across the bar at Joe's, but the air around him is lighter, his step firmer. He smiled more this morning, and his eyes looked brighter. It'll take time, but he'll come through.
When he left, I walked him down to his car, gave him a big hug and stuffed my business card in his shirt pocket. "Come back anytime," I told him, hearing an echo of Blair's voice as I said it, and he thanked me. As he drove off, I used my Sentinel sight to take one last look and my eyes collided with his in the rearview mirror.
Bright, dark eyes.
Now the loft feels empty. Once upon a time, it always felt like this. I look at the little piles of Blairdetritus on the coffee table, at the canisters of whole grain pasta and raw sugar on the counter, at the ratty sneakers he left at the bottom of the stairs, and I send up a little prayer of thanks for my complicated life.
I hear Blair's decrepit old car snorting its way into a parking place, and the trip of his feet on the stairs. He's humming a little, and he sneezes just outside the door. I go let him in and he comes right to me, hugging me tight for a minute, letting me breathe all of the outdoors on him.
"Duncan still here?" he asks as he heads up the stairs. When I shake my head, he asks, "How's he doing?"
"Better," I tell him, following close behind him, and he grins at me over his shoulder.
"And how are you?" is the next question.
"Good," is all he says, then he dumps out his backpack on the bed and starts making a pile of his dirty clothes.
I'll be surprised if he mentions it again. It's probably already been filed in the "Over" folder. I'll try to do that, too. I'll try to reroute those memories from insomnia remedy to nostalgia fodder. Whatever the dark thing was that Duncan helped me purge five years ago, that space now seems to be filled with Blair, and the light he throws in my dark corners.
Being with Duncan didn't change anything, except that he got some comfort, and I got a chance to repay a debt in the most pleasurable way imaginable.
It didn't change what I have with Blair.
It didn't change the indisputable we.
That's a whole different thing.