Maybe, Maybe Not 3
Rating: R for some language and frank discussion
Notes: Last in the series, goes from angst to schmoop, enjoy! Those paintings really are quite inspirational.
"It had to start raining since we parked so far away," Jim groused, dodging a puddle as he trotted towards the truck.
When Blair didn't answer, Jim realized his partner had lagged behind.
He turned and spotted Blair standing a few yards back, peering through a store's display window, apparently fixated on its contents despite the drenching rain.
Curious to know what was so interesting that Blair would willingly stand in a downpour, Jim bit back an impatient shout and silently moved to his side. They were alone on the sidewalk, everyone with any sense being indoors - like they should have been, Jim thought wryly.
Blair was staring at a painting; a man, sitting on what looked like a sea wall, gazing out over the ocean.
The detail was extraordinary, satisfying Jim's sentinel eyes with its meticulous attention to shade and color. He thought at first it was the undoubted visual appeal of clear day and calm sea that had drawn Blair's attention.
Then Jim noticed the sadness on Blair's wet face, reflected in the hunched shoulders of the man in the painting... loneliness, grief, and regret expressed in every line and curve.
"Oceans between us," Blair whispered, one hand lifting towards the window.
"It's the name of the painting," Blair explained without looking at Jim, voice so hoarse and tight Jim didn't need to smell the saline proof of tears, so well hidden by the crying sky. "It's how I feel, like there are oceans between us, and I don't know how to fix it. I love you, Jim, but I can't go on being what you don't want."
"Blair," Jim hesitated, torn by his relief that Blair still loved him, the horror he felt at the depths of Blair's sorrow, and his absolute confusion about what he'd done to cause this.
What could he have possibly done to make Blair feel unwanted?
Not knowing what else to do, he pulled Blair into his arms and held tight, automatically giving Blair as much shelter from the weather as possible. This close, it was impossible not to feel the breath that hitched in Blair's chest, painfully strangled into submission.
He couldn't bear it and gasped against his own tears.
"Baby, how can you think I don't want you?" He asked thickly. "I love you. You're- you're all that I want."
A harsh sob ripped free of Blair's control, too audible despite being muffled in the base of Jim's throat. Needing to see, Jim pushed Blair back and moved his hands to Blair's head, tipping Blair's face into view. Some part of him noted the rough-soft rasp of emerging beard on his palms, but his focus was on Blair's unhappy eyes, seeing in them the same confused swirl of hope and despair that he battled inside.
"I love you," he repeated helplessly, wishing he knew what else he could say, wanting those eyes to smile at him again.
"Then why- why won't you-" Blair seemed to catch himself and withdrew, sliding his gaze away and trying to step back. Jim refused to let go, moving his grip to Blair's shoulders instead.
"Jim, we're on the street. This isn't the place-"
"I wouldn't care if we were in the middle of the sports arena at halftime, Chief. Nothing is more important than having this conversation right now. Please tell me what's bothering you."
"I don't know if I can," Blair whispered, more to himself than to Jim. He didn't want to hurt Jim any worse than he already had, and nothing sucker-punched a man like a complaint about his sexual technique.
He ought to know, given how terribly inadequate he'd been feeling lately.
He never used to feel that way with women, his mind unhelpfully supplied, harping at him like a cartoon devil on his shoulder. Stifling that thought, he concentrated on internalizing Jim's words.
Now that he knew Jim really did love him- and he believed Jim meant it, he could see it in Jim's eyes -that should be enough, shouldn't it?
Surely he could simply... adjust?
The questions brought fresh tears to his eyes and Blair cursed himself silently for being a weak-willed pussy.
"Come on," Jim grabbed his hand and pulled, relentless, until they were both inside the cab of the truck. With the sheeting rain all around, it felt like they were the only two people in the world, creating an oasis of privacy despite their public location. Pulling a blanket from behind the seat, Jim wrapped it around his shoulders then started the truck. When the engine had warmed up, Jim turned on the heater, moving at last to take his hands.
"Talk to me, Blair."
Blair looked at Jim, surveying the ruffled wet hair, the pale skin damp over flawless cheekbones, the desperate anxiety in those eyes, and felt an incredible rush of shame. Jim gave him everything he'd ever wanted in life; a home, a best friend, a sentinel, and a lover. Why couldn't he just be satisfied?
But that was the point, his mental devil insisted. He wasn't satisfied, was he?
"This is so goddamned difficult," Blair muttered irritably, surprised when Jim tipped him a rueful half-smile.
"At what point did we reverse roles, babe?"
"Good question. Okay, I can do this. Act in harmony from my values instead of reacting from habitual emotions. I-messages. Self-disclosure. Connotative and denotative meanings. Get the facts, reach a consensus. Okay, here I go." Blair took a deep breath. "I love you. I believe you love me. I don't want to fuck this up and I don't want to lose you. I want to be with you forever. I want to feel able to talk to you about everything. Effective communication, that's essential in any relationship. I've been saying that for years-"
"And I've been listening. Breathe, Chief, and start slower," Jim said, one hand briefly covering his mouth. Blair gave in to the urge to kiss those long fingers, startled when Jim quietly gasped.
"You do want me? Physically, I mean?"
Jim clamped down on his initial reaction to Blair's doubtful question, suppressing the urge to roar "ARE YOU NUTS?" Instinct told him this was a pivotal issue for Blair. Taking a deep breath of his own, he curled his fingers around the back of Blair's warm neck and spoke plainly the facts he'd assumed were self-evident.
"I want you every way there is. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, for the rest of our lives and whatever comes after."
Blair's eyes closed on a long sigh as he turned his face into Jim's forearm.
"Then you don't fuck me from behind because you secretly wish I was a woman and you don't want to look at me while you do it?"
Rushed and mumbled, the question was accompanied by the acrid scent of Blair's fear. Jim felt as if he'd been zapped with a taser, the shock jolting loose his memory of Blair hesitantly asking him about other positions.
The changes he'd noticed in Blair's response to him had started soon after that, he realized now, pained at that understanding.
Christ, he was stupid.
So was Blair, for that matter.
"Chief, I think you overlooked some basic facts, here. You were the virgin to gay sex, not me. That means I had sex with other men before you. I told you that. Granted, it was a long time ago, but I didn't want them to be women and I don't secretly want you to be a woman, either. I make love with you because you're the one I love. I love being inside you because I just... love being inside you." Jim straightened Blair's head and locked their gazes.
"It's okay not to like being penetrated. Not everybody does, not even every gay man. I'm still going to love you even if we never do it like that again. And just so you know, I'm not trying to dominate you or feminize you when I take you from behind. It really is the least physically painful position for you and I can't stand to hurt you, Blair. I can't hurt you. I think the question is, are you having a self-image problem from being penetrated?"
He watched the lightning flash of thought in Blair's eyes as Blair processed everything he'd just said, wanting to cheer when those eyes brightened.
"I'm an idiot," Blair announced - like it was news - and gave Jim a sheepish grin. With forbearance that he mentally resolved to remind Blair of at least annually, Jim laid a light kiss on that perfect mouth then leaned their foreheads together.
"You're not an idiot. You're just trying to make a huge adjustment to something that changes the way you see yourself on a very basic level. I expected you to have some problems with it, but you've got to promise me you won't keep it bottled up inside to the point of making yourself crazy."
"I'm not having some heterosexual freak-out, Jim, honest. I just- I want to be able to see you and kiss you and hold you. It's important to me," Blair said softly, his warm breath making Jim's lips tingle.
"Then we'll figure something out together, okay?"
"I think I'm going to like being the uncommunicative surly bastard in this relationship." Blair was clearly teasing, and Jim let his relief bubble out of him in a low laugh.
"Don't get too used to it, Chief."
"What if I- what if I said I want to be inside you?" The bravado behind that tentative question made Jim smile.
It was about time.
"Then I'd say, I've been waiting for you to ask, and can we go home now?"
That answer won Jim a lapful of excited Blair.
It took a while before the truck pulled away from the curb.
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