"Here we have....the 'teind' (tithe) to Hell,.... the rescue from Fairyland by holding fast, the shape-shifting of the captive, and the essential ill-will of the Fairy Queen."
From the entry on 'Young Tam Lin', "A Dictionary of Fairies", by Katherine Briggs, published by Alan Lane books, 1976.
"You got that last part right."
The above text, as annotated (by hand) by Blair Sandburg.
Blair opens his eyes. He flicks his gaze to the doors of his room, and yes, there's a shadow there. The doors open, silently enough, because Jim would never countenance a noisy hinge. They open, and there's a darker shadow standing in the doorway, lounging against the jamb as if he owns the place. But then, he does.
"Get up, Blair."
Blair sits up in bed, startled, and - interested - by the raw silk of Jim's voice.
"Come on. Chief. Get over here."
So he does, takes those few steps across his room. Jim steps back from the door, and Blair gasps. Jim is naked. Jim's cock is hard. He looks like every avatar of male power that Blair has ever heard of.
"Come here." Jim gently grasps the front of Blair's throat, lifts his hand, pressures one side of Blair's jaw with his thumb to lift and tilt, and then bites, not hard, against the skin that becomes accessible in that movement. He licks and kisses Blair's throat, and Blair grabs at Jim's arms, at the support that he needs.
A hand travels down Blair's back, pulls briefly at the tank-top and boxers that he's wearing. "Take these off."
So, Blair does. He stands there, heart pounding, desperately aroused, and he prays that Jim likes what he sees. Presumably, Jim does, because he looks for a long time and then he takes Blair's hand and leads him to the stairs, Zeus conducting Ganymede to Olympus. Jim's voice is rough.
"Walk up the stairs ahead of me. Not too fast. I want to enjoy the view."
Blair tries to say something, but he can't talk. In a panic, he shakes his head.
"It's okay," Jim says soothingly. And it is, it must be, and Blair proudly walks up the stairs to Jim's bed. He can feel as much as hear the tread of Jim's feet behind him. He shouldn't really feel Jim's gaze on him, but he does, as it travels over him sensuous as sun's warmth. He reaches the top and lies down, and Jim covers him, loves him with lapping kisses, buries his face in Blair's hair and skin.
Blair tenses when Jim kisses his anus. It's not that it's not pleasurable; it's beautiful. But Blair never knew that he wanted this, never knew that Jim wanted this. Jim's hands are gentle, but determined. He spreads Blair's thighs, kisses and licks, while Blair shivers in pleasure and anticipation. Jim moves back over him.
"Dare ya," he taunts gently, and Blair lifts his head and kisses Jim, tastes the musky- earthy taste of his own body. Jim draws back a little, tilts Blair's hips up with strong hands, and pushes into him. It burns, it hurts, but not enough to say no to. And then Jim is all the way in him, moving, and it doesn't hurt any more. Blair wishes that he could say something; isn't it wrong that he can't say anything, not even 'thank you' for this beautiful thing that he never knew, never admitted, that he needed. He arches, and Jim takes Blair's cock in his hand.
"Feels good, Blair. God, it feels good." And all the while that he moves, he strokes Blair's cock knowingly, until Blair can't hold on any longer. He comes, and in the almost darkness of the bedroom he knows that Jim is watching it greedily, desperately, stoking his own pleasure with it. Blair shuts his eyes, and...
Blair opens his eyes. He's alone. He's in Jim's bed. He's in Jim's bed.
"Holy shit! What the fuck was that!"
He jumps out of the bed as if it's poisonous. What the hell has he done? The room stinks of sex. Panicked, he checks the sheet and yes, there's a damp stain there. God. If Jim came home and saw this - hell, for all Blair knows he would have sleepwalked his way into Jim's bed even if he had been home.
But Jim isn't home. Jim has been spending so much time with Mara Grogan that the loft isn't much more than a place to store his clothes. And after two weeks of wishing Mara Grogan to hell, Blair prays that Jim will stay away long enough for him to wash and replace the damning sheets, the cotton mattress protector as well. And, oh god, the pillow cases. He strips the bed. He shakes out the comforter and drapes it over the railing. Maybe it's time to burn some incense, even though Jim hates it. But Jim may not even notice it, because Jim is hardly ever home. He bundles all the laundry into his arms and heads for the stairs. At the bottom, he stops, and lifts his arms to hide his face in the crumpled linens. Not as if you wouldn't like to be upstairs at Jim's invitation, he sneers at himself. Could he be more pathetic?
Jim is late to the PD, and when Blair sees him come in the door, he blushes, hot and painful, and panics in case anyone sees or comments on it. Nobody does. That's because Simon comes out of his office almost as soon as Jim walks in the door, and all of a sudden everyone is very busy with their work, or doing what Blair is doing, which is pretending to work while watching Jim and Simon.
Simon's voice is quiet, not his normal bark. "Jim. I need a word."
It's a very lengthy word. Jim exits Simon's office with a long, jerky stride that suggests barely contained anger, and drops hard into his chair.
"So," Blair asks quietly. "What was that?"
"Not that it's any of your damn business, but that was the lecture on getting my brains out of my pants. What the hell would he know?"
Jim gets up and leaves, and Blair follows behind. That's the problem. Simon doesn't know, and Blair doesn't know, and Jim isn't talking. All day, they talk to people, check information, and Jim does it all, but with a look that suggests that what he really hears and sees is just out of reach, just around that corner, just somewhere else altogether.
"You coming home tonight? I've got all the stuff for that special stir-fry of mine, the oyster sauce, the good one."
"You enjoy it, Chief. Mara and I have plans."
"Come on, man, I can see that it's love and all, but you never know when you might need your friends. One night away from the beautiful Mara isn't going to stiff the relationship."
"Jealousy doesn't suit you, Sandburg." Jim's face is serious, not angry, maybe even a little sad. "Go home." And he turns away, gets into his truck to drive to her. And Blair goes home, but he doesn't make that special stir-fry. He's tired, so tired, and pissed off at Jim, and quite unable to forget one of the most disturbing and pleasurable wet dreams he's ever had in his life.
Blair opens his eyes, and runs across the dunes, the rising sun a gentle glare in his eyes. Jim is standing nearly at the water's edge, and when he sees Blair he smiles at him and puts out his hand. Blair reaches him, and Jim pulls him close and kisses him, warm body, warm mouth comforting the slight chill of the breeze that comes off the sea. Blair drags the shirt from Jim's shoulders, strokes his hands over the strong body beneath the white cotton under-shirt. Jim smiles, and then presses down on Blair's shoulders. "Please," he says. So, on that beach, not so far from the town, in very nearly full daylight, Blair drops to his knees in front of Jim, and he undoes Jim's pants, and he takes Jim's cock into his mouth. He loves that; the heft and weight, the smoothness of the skin, not suede or velvet but something all of its own, the taste, the noises that Jim makes as Blair touches him with mouth and hands.
Out the corner of his eye, Blair sees someone coming up the beach. Alex. But he doesn't stop. If anything, he grips Jim even more possessively, hands firm on Jim's ass, throat relaxed to take Jim as far down as he can, to hold him. He knows that Jim is looking at Alex, dismissing her with a look, sending her on her way. He sees her go, not with a flick of black shirt, but in a swirl of green. And Jim comes, and so does Blair, without a touch, a stroke, a sound.
And Blair opens his eyes, his heart pounding, in his own small room, thank you, thank you, not Jim's bed. But he still needs to change the sheets. That dream. He's uncomfortably amused by his dream-self's assured technique; but what really bothers him is his silence, and that swirl of green at the edge of his vision. It's wrong, out of place.
He sees Jim at the station. He couldn't say that Jim sees him, Jim's eyes are on his papers and his computer screen. But Jim has a suggestion.
"Hey, Chief. I thought about what you said. How about a compromise? Come and have dinner with us this evening. I have to go home to change, pick up a few things and then we can go together."
Blair agrees, even though the thought of watching Jim and Mara Grogan together is unpleasant. He's seen Jim enamoured before, the single-minded focus, the tender caresses, and he is jealous. Jealous that Jim has no more time for him, jealous about a lot of things that don't stand attention in the cold light of day.
They head back to the loft after work. Blair gives special attention to what he wears. Dark dress trousers, a loosely draped wine-coloured shirt, a Maori bone carving on a woven flax cord. He's dressing to impress, and the person he wants to impress is Jim. He checks himself in the mirror, decides to leave his hair loose. The carving nestles coolly below his throat, gleaming against the olive tones of his skin. He grabs his leather jacket and declares himself ready, and they go to the truck. Jim looks him up and down once, but there's no joking banter that Blair cleans up nicely, or even teasing questions about Blair's intentions towards Mara.
It's an expensive apartment block in an expensive area. Jim's truck is ridiculously out of place here, even simply parked on the street. The doorman waves them up, and the elevator takes them to the seventh floor. Jim's jaw is jumping, he's nervous. Blair worries even more that this is the last stage of some sort of weird courtship ritual - hey Mara, this is Blair, he'll be my best man. They walk along a quiet hallway, and Jim takes out a swipe card, runs it through the electronic lock at the door. He taps in a code and the lock clicks and they enter.
There's a sizable anteroom, and Jim leads Blair to a door on the left. 'Salon' is the word that comes to mind, a gracious room decorated in white and blue. It's a fit setting for Mara, slim and queenly in a silky dress of pale green, her blond hair loose and flowing. She's very beautiful. She steps forward, hand outstretched. She's tall in her low-heeled pumps, as tall as Jim.
"Jim. And this must be Blair. I've heard such a lot about you." She kisses Jim, shakes hands with Blair. Her smoothly manicured hand is claw-like in Blair's, and he resists the urge to wipe his own hand against his pants when she releases it. Her eyes are bright and malicious. She likes Blair, he realises, just as little as he likes her.
"A drink?" she asks sweetly.
"Beer if you have it."
She smiles. "I can provide practically anything." She gives him a bottle produced by a small local brewery. When they passed their local liquor store earlier, Blair had remembered buying it as an experiment, how much Jim and he had enjoyed it. It tastes just as good as he remembers, better even. Jim sips his beer also, his eyes watching Mara as she gracefully offers hospitality. Talk is desultory. Blair certainly doesn't feel in the mood to exert himself. As he'd feared, the conversation is continually interrupted by little touches, little looks between Mara and Jim. But Jim's jaw is still jumping, and Blair sees a tremor in his hands now and again. It scares him. Something is wrong.
Mara walks across the pale blue carpet to Blair and leans down to gently run a finger around the stylised fishhook of his bone carving. She never touches any skin. There is just the pressure of her finger pressing the bone against Blair's body.
"Did you know that these people have legends about pale skinned supernatural beings? They thought the first Europeans they saw were fey." She laughs, as if pleased with herself.
Blair shakes his head, trying to be pleasant, but he feels very uncomfortable at Mara flirting with him like this right under Jim's nose.
Jim's voice is forced. "Nice to know that you don't know everything, Sandburg."
Mara is still amused. "I'm sure that he knows enough where it matters." And she runs her hand down Blair's torso and gently gropes his crotch. Blair can't get out of his chair fast enough.
"What the hell is going on here? For god's sake, Jim..." But Jim is sitting on the cream couch, his head bowed, and he doesn't look up.
Mara answers him. "It's what it's always been, Blair. Glamour, geas, - influence. Appearances, rules, power. Are you ready to play the game?"
And he is so angry, and scared. Jim won't look at him, at anything. Jim's head is down, as if in despair.
"What game, bitch?"
She begins a slow circling walk around him. "It's always the same. I can have whoever I like, but there's a geas on me. Whoever I like, so long as there's a beloved. Are you surprised? He didn't tell you? Such a restrained man. Sometimes." And her smile curves up as she purrs her innuendo.
"They always shine so brightly when you see the dreams, the loved ones. And they're always so disappointing when you see them in the flesh. You're pretty enough, but not much more than a mongrel pup. Did you like the presents I sent you? Well, I picked them out, but they're really from Jim."
She stalks around him, circle, circle, circle. Blair feels dizzy.
"He's a challenge. He fights me so hard. Lovers should share their fantasies and dreams, don't you think? I thought that there were others that you would have enjoyed better. The true dreams, the ones you have to drag up from the unconscious," her voice caresses the last word, " they always sparkle. I particularly like the one where the two of you rut and howl like animals. Very arousing. Or the one where the wolf mounts him and he sobs with the pleasure of it. Very - moving."
Blair can taste bile. This bitch, this thing, has raped Jim every way that she can. He pushes past her, stumbles to the couch where Jim sits, silent, acquiescent, the way that Blair was silent in the dreams.
"Jim, it's okay, it's okay. Come home with me, come on."
"He's nearly mine, and nearly is quite good enough. If you think you can take him back, feel free to try. Jim would welcome the effort. He does love you so. Don't you, Jim? Show Blair how much you love him."
Jim stands up, his face set in stone misery.
"It's okay," Blair whispers. Jim reaches for him, wraps his arms around him. Blair can feel Jim shivering. "It's okay," he croons. Jim puts a hand under Blair's chin, and tilts up his head. For the first time in too long, Blair sees his friend looking at him, desperately unhappy, but his friend, not some absent or irritated stranger. And it's the friend who bends his head and kisses Blair's mouth. Blair worries that he must taste sour with his distress, but Jim keeps kissing him, so he kisses back, trying to transfer strength and comfort through the touch of his mouth.
Jim's hand reaches down to cup Blair's groin. It doesn't disturb or repulse him the way it did when Mara touched him that way. There's even an element of protection in it, as Jim rubs gently at Blair's hardening cock. Blair sighs into Jim's mouth. He knows that Mara is watching, but he feels that this is somehow just for them. But they have walked into the middle of the room, and it's only an illusion of isolation, as Mara circles them both.
"Let me see. No secrets, Jim. Let me see."
And it all goes wrong, as Jim gently turns Blair in his hands and draws him back, Jim's chest to Blair's back. Jim's hands undo Blair's pants, adjust his clothes enough to draw out Blair's cock, hard now, red. Jim holds it, strokes it, revelation and concealment both in the movement. Blair leans his head back against Jim's shoulder in horrified pleasure. Jim whispers in his ear, "Sorry, Blair, I'm sorry, sorry, sorry," but the sure, milking touch never stops. Jim's other arm is clamped around Blair's chest, holding him up, and Blair comes, biting his lip hard to keep silent, his semen spattering onto the immaculate blue carpet.
Mara applauds ironically. "Very nice, but we mustn't keep you any longer, Blair. It's been lovely though." And Jim lets go, and Blair stumbles forward, to the entrance area.
But before he's completely gone, he hears her say, "Here, you'll need these. He won't." And she throws Jim's keys at him. They strike him in the face, but he catches them before they fall to the ground. "Jim, Blair has to go, so really I think that you'd better clean up that mess." And before Blair can bolt for the door, he sees Jim go to his knees, and lean forward to lap at the marks on the carpet. He wrenches open the door to the outside hall and slams it behind him. He tries to do up his clothes, but his hands are shaking. He leans against the wall and shakes and shakes.
Buildings like these have excellent soundproofing. When Blair hears Jim's anguished cry of pleasure he tells himself that he's imagining it.
Somehow he drives Jim's truck home without crashing. Halfway there, he realises that he's left his jacket behind. Blair doesn't sleep that night. Instead, he sits hunched over his computer with a blanket about his shoulders. Every now and again, little shivers run through him. He ignores them. He needs knowledge, and he needs the comfort of something normal. He searches for Mara Grogan on the net, in the on-line archives of the local papers. He finds a few references, mainly society pages. Every now and again there are other names associated with hers. He takes note of them. One is a Tania Buchan, whose 'gloriously serene' apartment appears in the home and living supplements.
He goes to the PD. Jim has called in sick. Simon calls him in to his office.
"Blair, do you know what's going on with Jim? Because I don't, but whatever it is, I don't like it."
"It's not a sentinel thing, Simon. I'm not Jim's personal fixit-man for his private life. If you have a problem with Jim's behaviour, you should address it to Jim, not me."
Simon's expression is shrewd, and worried.
"And what about you, Blair? Do you have a problem with Jim's behaviour?"
"I'm coping, Simon. But as long as my private life doesn't affect my professional life, then it's not your concern, is it now?"
"Let me know if there's anything I can do. I'd rather act as Jim's friend now than be forced to act as his boss later. You know what I mean?"
Blair nods, and leaves. He does a little more searching, using the databases of the PD. There were a couple of unexplained deaths, suspected drug overdoses, at Tania Buchan's serene apartment, and by the time Blair has searched those records, he's found that Mara Grogan is part of a coterie of nine people, some of American origin, some apparently of British and European extraction, who've all come to Cascade over the last couple of years. Something about the names bothers him. He does another net search, this time on folk-lore sites. What he finds makes him smile in grim amusement.
On an impulse, he checks addresses, sights them on a map of Cascade. If you define the word loosely, their addresses form a rough circle on the map. Blair spins his finger around that circle and thinks. At the approximate centre of the circle, there's a small park, a green oasis for the wage slaves of downtown Cascade. How symbolic, he thinks. The bitch will love it.
He asks Simon for a personal day. Simon scowls and grants it, muttering that Blair needn't think that he won't get the blame for any jump in the crime stats. Blair just grins and goes home. That day and the next, he prepares every way he can. He purifies himself. He fasts. He purges. He meditates. And the evening of the next day, he walks around the bay to the centre of Cascade. It feels right to walk there somehow. It's night when he reaches his destination. The park is up a little slope, green grass looped with old fashioned gravel paths that crunch under Blair's feet.
He steps onto the grass. The buildings opposite are partly lit, duller in the upper stories, bright below at the street level, the pavement and road dark and gleaming. Blair lies down on the grass under a tree, among grey and subtle shadows. His arms lie in line with his body on the grass, palms turned to the sky. It's time, man, he tells himself. Put the theory into practice. Dream a little dream. He takes a deep breath and he shuts his eyes.
He opens his eyes, wolf eyes, keen enough, but not so keen as his nose. Not really a pretty place this. Glamour has no place here, that's a toy for outside. Blair pads forward, searching. Panther or Jim, whether he finds one or the other, it's all the same. He hunts a long time. A tall thin woman, her cheeks too broad and her chin too pointed, smirks at him. Tania Buchan. "You're wasting your time. She holds fast, and if he disappoints her, there's always the teind. There's more to value in him than a strong back in bed." She giggles, and then tries to grab him by the ruff of fur around his neck. He dodges her easily, but she's following him.
There are others, a dwarf with black hair surrounding his leprously pale face, a small, raggedy brown man. They all try to trick him, and he escapes them all, but they are all following him. But he can scent Jim now. Soon, he can hear the panther snarling.
He sees Mara, not beautiful, no; very, very tall, her skin and hair and eyes all grey, and she bends stiffly, her arms outstretched. "Stop him!" she shrieks, but he ignores her. The panther sees him, and it runs. But it's wounded, limping and Blair leaps on it, opens his jaws wide to grip the back of its neck.
It wails and spits at him, twists in his grip. He loses the grip of his mouth, but never quite loses some touch with it. The panther rolls beneath him and reaches up its back legs to rake, razor claws extended. In desperation he goes for the throat, grips, tries to block its breath, subdue it without wounding. His belly is on fire as it rakes again and again. And then it changes, not the panther, but Jim, dressed as the warrior that Blair saw in Peru. Jim is armed with a knife, long and wicked and he stabs again and again at the wolf, but Blair sinks in his teeth and doesn't let go.
And then his mouth is filled with copper wetness. Jim is under him, naked, still, and the taste of Jim's blood is sweet-fresh and disgusting in Blair's mouth. Nearly, nearly, he draws back, and then appalled at his stupidity, he grips harder. And then Blair feels Jim's hands reach up, stroke through the wolf fur, caress the wolf body that he wears. "Chief, it's okay, you've won, it's okay." And he almost loosens his jaw, and draws back, almost but not quite, and then he curses himself, as hands grab and try to pull him away, and Jim screams his name, and Blair shuts his eyes...
Blair opens his eyes. He can hear the rustle of the wind in the leaves of the tree. It's raining, a very fine drizzle. Autumn soon, and soon he'll know. He is very, very tired. He will just lie here a while, even though he's also very, very cold. There is the noise of a discreetly expensive and beautifully tuned car engine, the slam of a door. Blair can hear the gravel paths crunching under someone’s steps, and then silence as the walker steps onto the grass. There is a shadow across him now and he turns his head.
"Blair?" Jim's voice is hoarse. He has a jacket draped across his shoulders, the edges of it drawn together in his hands, Blair's jacket. He kneels down beside Blair. "Oh my god, Blair." Jim lifts him up in his arms and Blair leans against him. He can see down the slope, as an extravagant looking car pulls away from the kerb, the revving of its engine a snarl of fury. Jim helps him to his feet. Jim is exhausted and sickly looking, and even in the dull glow of the streetlights and security lighting, Blair can see tears on his face.
Blair puts his arms around Jim. There are other circles of power, after all. It's a long walk home, but they can do it together.
Written in 2005.
Thanks to EE and Tesserae for thoughtful comment. I even listened to some of it. The dictionary is a real book and very fun it is too.
Thanks to EE and Tesserae for thoughtful comment. I even listened to some of it. The dictionary is a real book and very fun it is too.