Summary: When Jim goes undercover in prison, the hardest part is leaving the experience behind.
Warnings: Violence, h/c, angst, m/m, non-con
Note: I find odd things inspiring, like bad B movies set in Cellblock C. So this is really more a fantasy on the episode "Prisoner X" than anything else. Also, it is about prison. And prison life is just not pretty. So read wisely.
Out in the world, there were places to run. There were ways to hide. In fact, there was a whole range of camouflage to choose from--simple, garden variety sleight of hand, a mix and match wardrobe of masks and personae, the sanctuary of out-and-out lies. In the world, people mostly only saw what you wanted them to see, and that was something Jim Ellison had come to rely on, professionally, and often enough in his personal life, too.
But subterfuge and secrecy were the products of civilization. He had first discovered this truth in the jungle, where it had been impossible to keep his opaque surfaces intact. In the heart of darkness, there was a strange illumination. You could not hide from anything, not from other people, not even from yourself.
That had always been the most unnerving part of living among the Chopec, the way their attention always seemed to burn a whole in him, even in the most casual of glances. Their dark, knowing eyes turned his protective barriers into flimsy and useless little masquerades. His attempts to hide did nothing more than make his tribe smile at the foolishness of his outsider's ways.
In his months with the Chopec, he had never felt more splayed open, more bare or defenseless. Never had he been more seen through in his whole life. They knew everything there was to know about him--his strengths, his weaknesses, his joy, his shame. They saw him with the same sharp acuity that they noticed a storm gathering on the horizon or the telltale signs of a renegade jungle cat on the prowl. It was a matter of survival, after all. In the wild, precise knowledge was the only wedge between existence and extinction.
And now, here, it was the jungle all over again. From the first moment he'd stood outside the prison, in that long line of convicts, on the other side from everything he'd ever been, he had recognized exactly where he was, a hell of a long way from the civilized world.
He could have weathered the petty humiliations: the strip search and the waiting around half naked to see the doctor and the medical questions that reduced him to a column of neatly ruled checkboxes. He was inured to such things after the army and the PD and the bargain basement HMO the department had switched to last year.
What he wasn't used to was feeling puny. As he'd made his way down the long corridor towards his cell, he couldn't help thinking that he'd never seen such a preponderance of big and mean in his whole non-shrinking-violet life. As he walked past them, he could feel the sheer force of their hostility. Collectively, they churned enough jagged energy into the air to have powered a small city, if only there were a way to convert such smoldering resentment and rage into something useful.
He couldn't help comparing the perps he caught with the inmates who lined the hallway. The two images just didn't match up. He wondered what the hell happened to them in prison. What was it about being behind bars that turned them from incompetent, common-sense-impaired lightweights into serious, hulking thugs?
Please, God, please. Please, God, please. He could hear the man behind him babbling to himself under his breath, as if God could possibly hear him in a place like this. The guy was obviously scared to the point of hysteria--Jim could smell it, the fear roiling off him, a damp stench. He could hear the nervous patter of his shuffling feet, like a small, scurrying field mouse desperate to find shelter from the bigger, deadlier creatures.
It was pretty much how Jim had pegged him when they'd still been lined up outside--white collar crime, no street experience, just another idiot overcome by greed and bad judgment and the delusion he wasn't going to get caught. The big game prowling the prison would have a field day with him. And apparently, this fact wasn't lost on the guy. He could feel the man's gaze focused like a laser between his shoulder blades, as if by staring into Jim's back he could will him to go faster, so he could hurry to his cell and escape their prying animal eyes.
But Jim wouldn't hurry. He knew better, even if the other guy didn't. He kept his back straight, his eyes focused, his pace deliberate. Posturing was everything in the jungle. He wouldn't let the wild life cow him. He wouldn't let them see that he hadn't felt this vulnerable, hell, this small in years, if he ever had.
He realized now what a great luxury it had been always to know that he was more than a match for whatever came his way. He had relied on his strength, the edge his training gave him, his years of experience. But just like lies and make believe, these advantages failed in the absence of civilization. What man, no matter how clever, was ever truly a match for the cunning that came so naturally to beasts of prey?
He walked into his cell and started to make up the cot. Concentrate on the little necessities. That's what they had taught him in the Rangers to prepare him in case he ever became stranded in enemy territory. It was important to keep your head, to do what had to be done. It was imperative never to think too far ahead, not to picture yourself in the same dismal mess days or weeks into the future. Or worse yet, to imagine what would happen if you were captured. That could break a man's spirit, in just the same way this place could.
In fact, here it seemed best not to think ahead even a few minutes.
"What you think you doing?" a voice demanded, startling him.
A man stood in the doorframe, glowering like an angry, dark god. His cellmate, he presumed.
"I'm getting a bunk," he told the man, keeping it short, simple, hoping that would cool the other man's antagonism.
But it didn't.
"That's mine," his cellmate insisted, scowling at him.
The tone was clearly a challenge. The man was daring him to make an issue of it, and for a second, he thought about it. He could feel the pull of instinct, the same way he had in Peru, the call of the wild playing on the hidden nature inside him, urging him to answer his rival, to fight, to vanquish.
He was sure Sandburg would have been intrigued by this. He would have taken out that notebook of his and started scribbling things about Sentinels needing to defend their alpha male status within the tribe or whatever Sandburg-ese he'd use to describe it. To Jim, though, it was quite simply an issue of pride, a matter of honor.
"No problem," he finally conceded, his cop's judgment overruling his gut response.
That was something else they had taught in Ranger training. If you did get captured, you were supposed to hold onto yourself, to stick to your own code, no matter what your captors did. Of course, you had to do whatever was necessary to survive and hopefully to escape, but you needed to stay clear on what separated you from the enemy.
Never had this been more important than right now. He needed to keep his sights set on the ultimate objective, to do his job so he could get back to the land of the living, the safe geography of rules and polite considerations. So he could be anywhere but here.
"I've put down sixteen years here," his cellmate said, refusing to be mollified. In fact, his already stark face grew even bleaker. "You don't just walk into my crib and act all comfortable, punk."
Jim stiffened. "The name's Curtis," he said, his voice quiet as stone, calm and inarguable.
It was funny how that word "punk" could mean two such different things, how it could be trivial namecalling on the outside and the worst kind of threat on the inside. He sized the guy up and felt pretty sure he didn't actually mean it. It was more posturing, testing, the man establishing the boundaries. But Jim would still need to make it clear that his willingness to accommodate only went so far.
"You got a name when I give you one," the man spat at him.
"Look, man, I don't got any beef with you."
But the man was a glacier, hard and unflinching. "You get in my face?" he said. "We go to war."
The cafeteria smell assaulted him as he lined up to get his first prison dinner. Even to non-Sentinels, the stench had to be cruel and unusual. He picked up a tray and held it out to the matronly woman behind the line. She plopped a few indistinguishable, pale-covered piles of-- something onto the various slots, along with some kind of absolutely grizzly looking meat.
He moved down the line to the milk cooler. As he reached for a carton, someone knocked into him from behind.
"Hey, bitch. Outta the way," an overpumped, greasy steroid-victim barked at him.
"Wait your turn, man," he warned, refusing to back down.
"Oooh, big man," the Greaseball smirked. "Well, let's get something straight." He poked Jim in the chest. "My turn comes when I say it does, got that, punk?"
"The name's Curtis," he said tightly, his jaw clenched.
"Well, you know what, Curtis? You're a nice piece of tail. That's for sure," the guy said, looking him up and down. "I wouldn't mind getting me some. Why don't you and me make a deal? Huh? You let me take a ride on that nice, tight saddle whenever I want, and I'll make sure nobody messes you up. What do you say?"
"Won't that make your boyfriend back home awfully jealous?" Jim asked, straight-faced.
"Fucking..." The Greaseball started to take a swing at him, but then pulled his punch. "No. Huh-uh. Not going to do it. No sense getting sent to the hole when somebody else will do the dirty work for me sooner or later. 'Cause don't think they aren't going to see you for exactly what you are. One of those wannabe tough men who tries to hide how much he gets off on dropping his pants for other guys."
In Ranger training, they had taught him to lock up his reactions inside himself, as if he were a hermetically sealed vault instead of a person. That way, the enemy couldn't gain any information or a strategic advantage from some unguarded emotional response. But just for a second, one tiny fraction out of time, he slipped up and let his shock show through.
It was practically suicide, in such a place, with such a person, but he couldn't help himself. It was as if the Greaseball had forced open the locked windows of his mind, peered into all his unkempt rooms like a peeping tom, rifled through his secrets, shined a spotlight on all the things Jim tried never even to think about.
It was all just a fluke. That's what he always insisted to himself whenever he was forced to consider the question. It was simply an aberration. Each time. Some sort of anomaly. He'd been drunk or horny or something, somehow not himself.
He'd only been with other men because that was just easier under certain circumstances. There were fewer entanglements, less negotiation. Women needed to be wooed and won. They wanted to make love and cuddle and make plans for the future. And sometimes, that was fine, even wonderful, but there were other times when he just wanted to fuck. And then, he sometimes picked up guys, because guys liked to fuck, without asking a whole bunch of questions or needing to hear any promises or even wanting to know his name particularly.
"Maybe you even pretend to yourself," the Greaseball went on, as if reading his mind. "Tell yourself it was all some kind of fluke. But you know what? It wasn't. You're a natural bitch, born and bred."
But I was on top! a part of him wanted to protest. And he had been, always the pitcher, the fucker-er, not the fuck-ee, the one in control, the man. Always.
Well...almost always. There were just those few, few, fraught times when something inexplicable had gotten into him and he'd found himself rolling over onto his belly, spreading his legs, arching his back in that unmistakable gesture of: "have it, do it, fuck me, take it." In those moments, he'd felt like someone else entirely, begging some guy to give it to him, to do it good and hard and long. He'd been a virtual stranger to himself as those men made him scream like a baby with their big cocks. He hadn't sounded anything like the Jim Ellison he knew, or much like a man, either, for that matter, certainly not in control, not of his own body or his responses or most especially of his desires.
He had no explanation for it, really, other than the aberration theory. And that didn't exactly hold water when it came right down to it. It wasn't as if it had only happened once or twice or even half a dozen times. There had been enough occasions to count on two hands. And, really, if you were already into double digits could you honestly go on calling something a freak occurrence?
Even though it was practically a death wish, he couldn't help thinking all this as the Greaseball stood there and watched him. For a moment, it was as if he'd never even been in the Rangers. In the split second before he could turn his face into granite again, he was as translucent as someone who had never had anything to hide or to fear.
The Greaseball saw it all and smiled, cruelly amused. "There's no hiding in here, Curtis. Before long, you're gonna end up on your knees with a line of guys behind you. And when that happens, you think back on my offer. You can give it up to me, bitch, or to every guy in here. Choice is yours."
The Greaseball slapped him sharply across the ass, threw his head back and laughed raucously. Jim was truly relieved when the bastard finally headed back to join his buddies at a nearby table. He gripped his tray until his knuckles turned white, but he kept his pace slow and untroubled as he made his way across the room to a far table. He sat down and picked up his fork. He ignored the sick clutching of his stomach and forced himself to eat, calmly, without hurry. He refused to let his hand shake as he opened the milk carton and removed the paper wrapper from the straw.
He couldn't afford to let himself long for his real life or even to picture the accouterment of his old self, not his desk at the PD or the truck or his own kitchen where there would be something decent to eat.
Most especially, he couldn't let himself wonder what Blair was doing. In fact, he tried not even to think his name.
Lights out, finally, and he was bone tired. It was hard to believe that only the first day had passed, no more than twelve hours, if that. It felt more like centuries. He crooked his arm beneath his head and lay on his bunk, on top of the covers, staring off into nothingness. He could feel the insides of his eyelids, dry and scratchy. That's how exhausted he was. But his brain buzzed like a souped up engine. He couldn't sleep. Wouldn't let himself. It was tantamount to slitting your own throat to close your eyes in the jungle.
He hadn't slept in Peru, either. At least, not that he could remember. As the wakeful nights had begun to pile up, he had grown tired and then exhausted beyond imagining and then completely worn out, until finally he had reached some critical mass of sleep deprivation. Then he had stopped feeling anything at all, including his own weariness. For eighteen months, the longest year and a half in recorded history, he had trudged through his days like a well-programmed zombie--watch, patrol, guard, protect. That was his instinct, and his instinct had taken over his life.
He had truly meant it when he'd told the Army officer who rescued him that he was more than ready to be relieved of his duty.
As he lay on his bed, his senses began to drift, as they often did when he wasn't concentrating on anything in particular. Occasionally, he could catch snatches of conversation. It was hard to tune in anything very clearly, but he did hear something about a list, in a man's panicked voice. He filed that information away to follow up on the next day.
He tried to scan the building in an orderly fashion. But without being able to piggyback his hearing on his sight and without Blair there to guide him, it was difficult to be precise. Most of the building was quiet, with just the sounds of breathing and bed springs creaking and an occasional whispered snippet that Jim couldn't quite make out.
Please! The hushed terror in the voice instantly grabbed his attention. He knew he'd heard it before. And then he realized it was the man who'd been beside him in line, the one who'd been so panicked he'd tried to bolt to his cell, who'd been muttering "help me, God!" under his breath.
There were other voices, too, all talking at the same time, with the same taunting lilt. He couldn't follow any one thread in all the confusion, but he could make out certain words and phrases. Sweet piece...really gonna get it...can't wait to take my turn...fuck that pussy. It was more than enough to understand what was going on.
The scream was muffled, even to his Sentinel hearing. Someone must have held a hand over the man's mouth. Then Jim could make out the strained fabric sounds of clothing being forcibly removed, the metallic glide of zippers being lowered. Bed springs screeched loudly as a body was pushed down onto the mattress. There was a soft, clammy sound, like sweaty palms sliding against resisting flesh, like legs being forced apart. Or perhaps, that was merely his imagination filling in the details of what he knew must be happening.
But then he heard the muted sobbing of someone crying into a pillow, and he knew that wasn't just something he dreamed up. Before he could react and dial down his hearing, he caught the soft, unmistakable sound of rending flesh. It was accompanied by short, shrill screams of disbelief and pain, as someone who had once been a man was brutally unmade and refashioned into something else entirely.
He stomach violently flip-flopped inside his body, sick and empty. He forced his hearing down as far as it would go to spare himself the further details, but somehow, he couldn't close off his awareness entirely. He couldn't pretend not to know exactly how long the raping went on, that it lasted for what must have been hours.
He couldn't pretend not to understand, as chilling as it was, how the man could be gang raped in his own locked cell after lights out. He couldn't pretend not to know exactly who had let those animals get at him.
It was a stroke of luck that they put him to work in the metal shop. There was only one guard on duty, and the guys tended to talk as they soldered and molded the gutters and siding they were assigned to make. He kept his eyes on what he was doing, but his hearing tuned into what the other men were discussing, hoping to hear something that would help his case.
But most of the inmates were gossiping about the man he'd heard being raped the night before. Jenkins, that was his name. There were some muttered expressions of sympathy. Poor bastard!, he heard a few cons say. But most seemed to relish the story, passing it on with ghoulish delight, giving a blow-by-blow of everything the man had been forced to endure. It kept getting embellished, too. Some accounts said there were five guys who fucked him. Others said eight or even eleven.
The consensus, though, was that they'd used his mouth and ass for most of the night. Jenkins was fully turned out, fair game for anyone looking for a little entertainment. And from what Jim could hear, it seemed there would be any number of takers.
Jenkins worked by himself at the end of one of the long tables. He must have overheard everything they were saying about him, but he kept his eyes lowered and didn't react to anything. Fresh bruises marred his face, and his lip had been split. There was still some dried blood in the corner of his mouth. Jim could tell from the set of his body that he was in pain. He moved stiffly, and whenever he lifted something, Jim could see his hands trembling.
"I'm going to need more welding rods."
Jim turned his attention away from Jenkins in time to catch one of the inmates standing with the head guard by the entrance to the storeroom.
"Turn away," the guard instructed the con, before punching in the access code.
Jim zeroed in on the key pad and memorized the sequence. A tag hanging from one of the objects sitting on the shelf caught his attention. There was a draft causing it to flutter slightly. He looked more carefully and saw the grate to an air vent. Thank God. He quickly averted his gaze, so the guard wouldn't catch him staring. He didn't want to tip his hand. He had a funny feeling he might end up needing a Plan B for getting out of this place.
"Hey, baby. Somebody mess up your pretty face?"
One of the other inmates had come up behind Jenkins and stood so close to him that he was pressed into the workbench.
"Please, leave me alone," Jenkins pleaded.
The inmate rubbed against him obscenely. "My turn next," the man whispered into his ear, his voice low and feral.
And then he laughed and let Jenkins go, heading back to his own work station.
Jenkins' lip twitched, but he forced himself not to cry. He must have known--as well as Jim and every other guy in the room did--that it would happen again, whether it was with this guy or some other bastard, in the showers or in his own cell. It really wasn't a matter of if, only when.
The situation with Jenkins and his own encounter with the Greaseball and the whole feeling like a weakling thing sent him searching for the gym at the first opportunity. He thought Sandburg would have been proud of him for understanding his own cause and effect for once, something he was always prodding him to consider. Not that it particularly took an intuitive genius to connect the dots in this case.
He wandered into the weight room and looked around, getting the lay of the land. There were spotlights along the ceiling, the kind used to light a stage, and he wondered what the hell they were doing up there. He rather doubted the inmates had formed a theater troupe.
Someone was already using the bench--one big, bruiser of a skinhead, an absolute Rock, a special combination of mean and ugly.
The guy finished his last rep and stood up. As he toweled off his face, he caught Jim staring at him.
"What are you looking at?" the Rock demanded, quickly closing the distance between them.
Jim held up his hands. "I'm just looking to do some time on the weights."
The asshole crowded into his space. "You stare at me like that again? I'm going to put your eyes out."
Jim held his breath and waited for the guy to walk off. He was getting one hell of a headache from all the shit that went down in this hell hole.
"So, sweet cheeks, you making new friends?" an insinuating voice asked, pressed right against his ear, hot breath on his skin. "You know you're gonna end up somebody's bitch. Why don't you play nice with me and save yourself the same kind of trouble Jenkins got into. Huh, baby?"
Jim swung his elbow, viciously, without warning, and caught the guy squarely in the gut. "Get the fuck away from me!"
The Greaseball doubled over, his face bright red. "You're gonna regret that, cocksucker," he hissed. "I was going to take it easy on you. But not now. When you end up beneath me, punk, expect a workout. I bet you've got a sweet little ass and a nice mouth, too. Plenty to go around. And that's good. 'Cause I've got lots of friends, and I share what belongs to me."
The guy stormed off, but Jim knew it wasn't the last he'd be seeing of him. He just hoped he'd be able to find what he needed and get the hell out before the guy seriously came after him.
Jim had never felt even remotely self-conscious about his body. He had never dreaded the whole communal showering thing. After all the locker rooms and dorms and barracks that had populated his life, it was practically second nature to wander around naked in front of other men.
Not everyone felt the same way about it, of course. In the three years Sandburg had been living with him, he might have seen him naked once or twice, and then, only because he barged into the bathroom without knocking. Sandburg had a natural modesty which he had always found a little difficult to understand, not because there was anything wrong with it, only because it differed so dramatically from how he dealt with his own body.
But as he stood under the spray, listening to the slide of fingers and soap, trying to ignore the sensation of eyes on his skin, he began to have some inkling why Blair never came out of the bathroom with anything less than his bathrobe on, the belt always tightly cinched around his waist. It gave him a pang to think that perhaps he'd been looking at Sandburg with the same brazen hunger that these men were now directing at him, and that maybe this was why Blair felt the need to stay so covered up, even in his own home.
He quickly finished up, dried off and wrapped the towel around his waist. It was a relief to have this part of the day over with. He was just about to head into the dressing room, to re-armor himself with his clothing, when the Rock strutted into the shower. Surprisingly, Jenkins followed closely on his heels, carrying his own shower supplies, as well as the Rock's.
The Rock picked a spot under one shower head, and Jenkins took the one next to him. The skinhead gave the other man a meaningful glance, and Jenkins quickly handed him the bucket that held his soap and other toiletries. He began to wash, and Jenkins stood mutely beside him, eyes downcast, not beginning his own shower, just waiting.
When the skinhead finished bathing, he dried off and wrapped his towel around his waist. A nod from him, and Jenkins turned on the water and started to soap his own body. But then the Rock handed him a razor, and Jim finally understood what he was seeing, the signing of a contract, the relinquishment of liberty.
Jenkins began to shave all the hair off his body in jerky movements, carefully not meeting anyone's eye, struggling to keep his hand from shaking. Jim couldn't fight the cold sickness working its way through his gut at the sight of the man's chest and legs and underarms and crotch, denuded, as vulnerable as any baby's. The Rock made another gesture with his head, and Jenkins handed him the razor and turned around. He reached back and pulled his cheeks apart, his head lowered submissively, as the skinhead shaved his crack.
Only Jim could hear his whisper-soft sobs.
The Rock washed away the lather and ran a finger appraisingly along the bared cleft. "Nice and smooth," he said and grinned smugly. "Just the way I like it."
This time, Jenkins' whimper was audible to everyone.
The Rock turned the man back around by the shoulders, as if he were an inanimate object without a will or a say. He let his own towel drop, and his cock bobbed up in front of him, already hard. He gave yet another signal, and Jenkins quickly dropped to his knees.
Then the room went so completely still it was as if the very air molecules had stopped to watch the spectacle. Twenty pairs of eyes stayed glued to Jenkins' bobbing head. Twenty mouths hung slack-jawed, out of amazement at the Rock's audacity or perhaps out of envious hunger.
Jim watched, too, just like everyone else. But it was with the same appalled fascination that prompted people to stop and stare at traffic accidents. What turned his stomach most was the seeming enthusiasm with which Jenkins gave head. Ropey saliva hung from his mouth as he licked and suckled and swirled his tongue over the crown of the skinhead's fat cock. And the sound. It was like a kid devouring candy, his mouth smacking, making greedy little lollipop noises.
The Rock caught Jim's gaze just as he had in the weight room, only this time he grinned, showing his chipped teeth. It struck Jim less like a person smiling than a predator baring its fangs. The skinhead held Jim's eye, apparently not minding his staring, in fact, not wanting him to look away. He'd brought Jenkins to the shower room precisely for this reason, so there would be witnesses. So no one would make any mistake that this punk belonged to him.
It wasn't as if Jim didn't understand the truth of what he was seeing. It wasn't as if he didn't realize that Jenkins' seeming eagerness was actually terror, his heart racing so hard it sounded like it might explode in his chest. It wasn't as if he didn't know that the skinhead had undoubtedly threatened him that if he didn't make it convincing, if he didn't satisfy him, then he would find his ass back out on the open market. He'd be at the animals' mercy again, the endless target of gang bangs and beatings. It wasn't as if Jim hadn't been taught that a man should do whatever it took to survive.
It was just that watching Jenkins puff out his cheeks and stretch his lips around the skinhead's cock brought back to him the taste of the men he'd sucked off. His face went hot just at the thought of it, as if he were the one down on his knees giving head in front of twenty other guys.
As his orgasm approached, the Rock started to make noises in the back of his throat, loud and rattling, like a malfunctioning piece of industrial equipment. He grabbed Jenkins' ears and began to fuck his face in earnest.
Pictures flashed furiously through Jim's head, from a time back in college. There was another guy who was also on the football team, but older, tougher, the star linebacker. Jim, who was third string, just starting out, had followed him around like a lost puppy. Hell, he'd looked up to the guy like some kind of football-playing God or the older brother he'd always wished he'd had.
So the night when it was just the two of them in the locker room, he'd already thought up a whole list of questions, advice he wanted to ask. When instead his hero had taken out his cock, already hard and drooling and pushed him to his knees, and guided his head to his crotch without even asking--well, it had seemed easier just to go along with it. So he'd sucked his idol's dick, pretending he knew what he was doing, even though he'd never done anything like that before, never even considered it. Even though he'd always been taught that it was perverted and wrong and weak. Even though his stomach hurt in just the way it always did whenever he forced himself to do something he really didn't think was right.
He could remember so well the man's flexed biceps as he'd held his head firmly in place, mashing his face into his sticky groin, forcing him to keep going until he'd finished servicing him. He recognized the half-choked expression of shock and disgust on Jenkins' face as he struggled to get the skinhead's dick down his throat, not sure how to breathe, not certain if he even wanted to, like it might be easier just to pass out and remember nothing about the experience.
And then the most caustic hate blazed through him. Nice, baby, nice. Such a sweet mouth. Such a talented little bitch. That's what his famous college linebacker hero had said to him as he'd knelt there on the cold tile, the guy's dick practically suffocating him. Give me some more of that hot little tongue.
And he had. He had. He'd licked and tongued and teased and slurped, like giving head was his major, like he hoped to graduate summa cum laude in cocksucking. It was just the same way Jenkins now sucked the skinhead's dick. And he hated, hated, boiled over to the brim with unqualified loathing. But not for the skinhead, strangely enough. No. For Jenkins, for how quickly and willingly he'd surrendered his mouth and his ass and his manhood, for the way he practically gulped down his rapist's cum when the bastard eventually climaxed, for the white trickle of spunk he didn't even bother to wipe away from the corner of his mouth when it was all finally over with.
But most of all, for the stupid, scared eighteen year old boy who had continued to kneel there on the locker room floor while the teammate he'd so idolized zipped up his pants and told him that no whore had ever blown him half so well.
Memory and the moment mixed together, and the result was pure fear, dense and heavy. The weight of it quickly sank into the dark, nameless depths inside him. And there was something else down there, too, some primal wellspring, incendiary and waiting. The two things collided, not with a flint spark, but with nuclear impact, his own personal big bang event, unleashing a different, more rudimentary self.
Adrenaline flooded him. His heart raced. His nerves burned with the sheer electrical force of his alertness. Instinct drowned out memory and reason. The details of who he was and where he was and why fell away from him. All that mattered was the terrible, urgent sense of danger and the bellowing animal determination in him to fight, defend, vanquish, protect, prevail.
The skinhead finally let his new punk up from the floor, but he didn't allow him the dignity of a towel. He paraded him, still nude, out of the shower, back to the dressing room, to the loud catcalls and whistles of the other inmates.
Jim stared after them, his face immobile, his mind calculating, both his expression and his thoughts stark and primitive. In his fevered caveman's brain, he plotted how he would challenge the dominant male, beat him, take his prize, win the right to mount the bitch and relieve the terrible need that had begun to build inside him
"That get you excited, huh, pretty boy?" the Greaseball taunted, suddenly standing at his side, speaking breathily into his ear. "You wish that was you who just got turned out, faggot? Is that it? 'Cause I'd be happy to give these dickwads another show. Why don't you go ahead and drop down to your knees. And I'll fuck your faggot ass good and hard, like you never been fucked before."
Disconnected pictures flashed in his head: splashes from various missions he'd gone on as a Ranger, the dense underbrush in Peru, the mean streets of Cascade, all the life-and-death situations he'd faced. The endangered feeling superheated his muscles, charged his nerve endings. He moved so fast it could only have been a blur to anyone watching, reacting with the speed and craftiness of instinct. Before the Greaseball could even raise his hands to defend himself, his nose was smashed and his jaw dislocated.
Jim stared at him slumped on the floor, his face a pulpy mess, and all his swamped brain could make out was the pungent, unmistakable scent of blood. Somehow that fanned the overhot, primal force brewing inside him. He pulled back his fist, to finish it. He smiled to himself, in anticipation of the kill.
But someone grabbed his arm before he could dispatch the enemy. He wheeled around, itchy for another fight.
"Prison code means Slocum here won't say who beat the shit out of him. But you should get the hell out of here and clean up before the screws throw your ass into solitary for the rest of your natural life," a dark-skinned man told him.
He vaguely knew him as the man who shared his hut, someone who could be either an ally or an enemy, as yet undecided. Now, it appeared that he had made his choice, to align himself with Jim.
And so he finally nodded, accepting the advice. With one last contemptuous glance down at his vanquished foe, he made his way out of the crowded room. The other men parted to let him through, as if somehow they sensed the change in him and feared letting him get too near.
It was the sound of the voice that first grabbed his attention. He'd been holding his forehead in his hand, staring down at the notebook on the desk to avoid the overly bright fluorescent lights, trying to rub away the pain from between his eyebrows. But then that voice-- And the smell. He breathed it in and concentrated. It was familiar, no, beyond that, familial. He couldn't shake the sense that somehow the young man standing at the front of the room belonged to him in some way.
Voices droned on around him. Some automatic pilot on the surface of him reacted as if he knew or cared what was going on. He even found himself answering when the young man asked him a question. He really wasn't quite sure what he said. Something. Enough. The young man's attention turned to someone else, and he retreated back into the caverns of his psyche.
From that primitive distance, it was impossible to touch his own memories, so he was forced to wonder how this young man was connected to him. His instincts battled amongst themselves. There was a tender, cradling part of him that looked at him with protective eyes, that wished he could take him away from this dangerous place. Fractured pictures churned up from the lost well of remembrance: the young man smiling and talking a mile a minute with an innocent kind of joy, waving his hands in his excitement. And the nurturing part of his instinct claimed the young man as family, as part of his clan, someone under his care.
But the stark need clamored for him, too, and an entirely different scene flashed through his head: the young man naked and on his knees before him, the curly head pressed feverishly to his groin, and then his own hands on the young man's tight cheeks, parting them, thrusting inside. His conqueror self knew how easy it would be to defeat him and take him, mount him, satisfy the terrible need that burned him in the furnace of that sweet, tender body. Every muscle he had quivered at the prospect, and he had to battle to keep still, to prevent himself from acting on his desires, then and there. It took every shred of will he possessed to sit there while the voices droned on around him, the want throbbing in him, ferocious, threatening to careen out of control.
Finally, after all the talking stopped, the other men stood up and started to leave. He lingered, hoping the young man would come near, and he did, still asking questions. Again, the faraway part of him answered, while the rest of him focused on the young man's body, using his senses, exploring the wonder of him.
The heartbeat sounded like the soul of nature, like a fundamental cadence, like something that could rule him. The light in his blue eyes was a sky full of stars, pointing the way, giving him something to navigate by. And the smell. The smell. Up close, it nearly overpowered him. It was all things familiar: the bark of trees and the earth after the rain and the comforting smell of home.
And he wanted. He wanted. Only this time, he saw himself dropping to his own knees, taking the other's taste on his tongue, suckling at the source of his sweetness. He imagined himself lying on his belly, spreading his legs in surrender, not resisting, not at all, in fact, welcoming the possession, needing to be entered.
He blinked his eyes in surprise. The young man was talking, but all he could do was watch how the sunlight sparkled in his hair. If he laid down for him, he would no longer be a warrior, but suddenly, that didn't seem like such a terrible loss. There were others of his tribe who had crossed the lines, and the Chopec still accepted them. They were known simply as woman-men. They gave themselves to other men and acted as women did. They tended the crops and made the pottery and cooked the food. And strangely, he felt no shame at the notion of joining them. He could, in fact, readily envision it. He would go quietly about his tasks, all the while waiting for the other to come home to him at the end of the day. When night fell, he would lie back while the other moved inside him, and he would whisper "please" and "yes!"
It wasn't what he had expected, to say the least. After all the years of fighting for dominance, to want to give himself up to another he could so easily defeat flew in the face of nature as he had always understood it. And yet, here it was, a fact. There was a part of him that wanted nothing more than to belong to this man.
"Time to get back to your cell," a stony voice ordered him.
He turned to find the enemy standing there with his weapon and insignia and the usual sneer. And the blood lust bubbled up inside him, once more. He would surrender to the other, but not to anyone else. To all outsiders, he was still a warrior with his killer's instinct alive and well, especially when it came to the enemy. He found himself wishing he were one of the great cats, so he could slash the enemy to ribbons with a single, deadly swipe of the claws. So he could end all this and go be with his mate, to take or be taken, both appealing in their way.
"You'd better go, man," the other whispered to him, so softly it tickled his ears.
The surface part of him nodded and turned away and walked off. But the fierce part of him, the beast in heat, screamed "no!" in its silently raging animal voice, all the way back to his cage.
The rest of the morning passed in a blur. The enemy put him to work, making things he didn't recognize out of some kind of metal. The clanging and scraping rubbed his nerves raw, and he breathed in the heat until it stung his lungs. But he figured it best to go along with them, to find their weaknesses before he made his move.
He picked up the heavy sheet of metal and started to carry it to where the enemy had directed. A man stopped in his path, blocking the way. He had a weak chin and darting eyes, a weasel, if ever he'd seen one.
"I know who you are," the Weasel whispered. "Cop." The last word came out in a hateful hiss.
His outside self listened and responded, but the primal instinct in him just wanted to pound the Weasel into the ground and be done with it.
"What do you want?" he heard himself saying.
"I want out."
"I'll see what I can do when I get back to the station."
"No, now. I'm not stupid. You get me out of here by the end of the day, or I let everyone in here know just exactly who you are."
"If you don't, it's your funeral."
He watched the Weasel walk away. He could feel the distant fear of his outside self, the play of reason, the consideration of possibilities, all the while the animal seethed.
He kept his eye trained on the angle of the sun. They should already have come, the rest of his tribe. He had sent the signal quite a while ago. Something must have happened. They had failed to get it or had been captured or killed.
Whatever the case, it was clear he was all on his own now.
He could feel the uneasiness in the others, the agitated sense that something was about to happen. He had no doubt that his enemies were poised for attack, that they were coming for him.
And soon enough, he spotted the pack of jackals headed in his direction. There were too many of them, no matter how hard he fought. He began to back away, his animal instinct pushing him toward safer ground. But the jackals were closing in fast. Nowhere to run.
Then suddenly his fellow warrior, ally, stepped between him and the enemy. His ally had brought his tribe with him to make the numbers more even.
"We want him," the head jackal said, the dominant male whom he had watched claim his bitch the day before.
His ally shook his head. "Too late. We already got him."
He quickly retreated behind the safe lines of the tribe and moved with them out of hostile territory.
"I've got to get out of here," he heard himself telling his ally, once they were clear of the jackals.
"I've done what I could. You're on your own from now on, man."
He watched his ally walk away. The beast in him was not surprised. The jungle was a lonely place.
He waited until after night fall to make his escape. He knew the secret way out, and he quietly headed for it, keeping to the shadows and the deserted places.
He was almost to the hidden passageway when a hand grabbed his sleeve and whirled him around. His heart fell, thinking he had been caught, but fortunately, it was only the Weasel.
"You're not going anywhere, not without me, man."
His primitive self calculated the quickest, most efficient way to rid himself of the Weasel. He figured it would take only a second to snap his neck, a silent kill that wouldn't attract any unwanted attention.
"Keep your voice down," he heard himself saying. "And keep up with me. Or I leave you."
The Weasel did what he said and followed him into the work room. He automatically headed for a small square on the wall, and his fingers started pressing buttons. It was as if he were watching himself from a great distance. He had no clue what he was doing, but when he was finished, the door magically swung open. He and the Weasel rushed into the storeroom. Together, they pulled the heavy metal grate off the opening. They both squeezed through and took off running. The tunnel was filthy and dank and barely lit, but he could still easily see his way. Instinct seemed to guide the Weasel. He stayed on his feet and kept pace with him. As they neared the end, he could sense the air wafting in from the outside, fresh, clean, the smell of freedom. He ran faster, and the Weasel sped up, too.
They ran right up to the gate, which was chained and padlocked.
"Shit!" the Weasel cursed.
But Jim pulled out the tool he'd brought with him, knowing they would probably need it. He clamped it around the thick metal links of the chain and pressed hard. It snapped and fell to the ground. The gate swung open.
But then bright lights flashed in their eyes.
"Stop right there. Hands up."
The enemy with their weapons and insignias and sneers quickly surrounded them.
"Wait!" the Weasel pleaded. "There's something I need to tell you about this guy."
The enemy's leader shook his head. "Save it. Get out of here."
"What?" the Weasel asked in surprise.
"The river's that way." The enemy motioned with his head. "Go on before I change my mind."
The Weasel smiled, turned and started to run again. The enemy lifted his weapon, and it exploded. The Weasel's body jerked and fell, a bloody hole in his back.
Then the enemy turned to him. "You're going to work a little harder to die," he said, with the hard kind of light in his eye that Jim knew boded nothing good.
The hole was dark and cold. He sat on the floor, his knees pulled up to his chest. He could smell death in the air. His tribe would never arrive in time, he knew that now. The enemy would be coming for him soon.
The door to the cage opened, and he thought it was his time. But, instead, the enemy pushed his ally inside.
"They think you helped me?" he heard himself asking.
His ally nodded. "Yeah. I should never have messed with you, man."
"It doesn't matter what you did before. Only what you do now."
"Now, I'm going to pay. With my blood."
The lights hurt his eyes, and the roar of the crowd pounded against his temples. The enemy pulled him by the arm, pushed him inside another cage and locked it behind him. There was someone else there, too. He waited for his vision to clear, and then he saw that it was the dominant male, the alpha jackal.
"You're dead," his challenger said.
And then there was nothing but fists flying and sharp kicks and pain. The jackal was large and strong, and at first, Jim struggled to hold his own against the man's greater size. But then he thought of the prize, the bitch who would be his, if only he could win. In his head, he pictured long, curly brown hair and big blue eyes and a sweet, sweet, generous mouth. He imagined that mouth wrapped around his dick. He imagined that body opening up for him, taking him inside.
And he wanted. He wanted. And so he came out battling, like a jungle cat, not with claws, but with a determination that was just as deadly. He pounded and pounded and pounded until the jackal was slumped and bleeding on the ground. And then he continued to pound, because he was fighting for the right to mate and this bitch had to belong to him and not to anyone else, ever.
Eventually, they pulled him off the fallen jackal and dragged the man's prone body away. Then they shoved someone else into the cage. His ally.
The enemy thrust a knife into his hand and laughed. "Better get him before he gets you."
They armed his ally, as well, and then they left, locking the door behind them again.
"I'm not going to fight you," he heard himself saying.
Because he had already won, and he wanted his prize.
"If we don't fight, they'll kill us."
He threw down the knife. He had already fought. And now, it was time to rest. And then to mate.
The crowd's screaming thudded against his ear drums, but somehow, he still managed to catch the faintest trace of something familiar. His tribe. It had to be. Coming for him.
His ally lifted his knife, made a move, but then hesitated at the last moment, unwilling to cross the line of honor, to renege on an alliance.
"Drop your weapon! Drop your weapon!" an amplified voice commanded, as members of his tribe streamed into the building.
"Ellison! You all right?" His elder rushed to him.
"Glad to see you, sir. Just get me the hell out of here."
And then he caught sight of his prize. The young man also hurried to his side, taking hold of his arm. "Are you okay, man?" he asked.
"Yeah, thanks for coming," he heard himself saying, even though the young man's touch scorched him through his shirt, so distracting.
He couldn't stop staring at the soft hair and the shining eyes and that mouth, that wild, wild, lush mouth. And he was instantly hard, because he'd won. He'd won. He'd earned the right, and he wanted. He wanted.
The young man watched him, frowning. "Are you sure you're all right?" he asked.
His outside self nodded, but the primal part of him wanted to reach out, touch, take.
"I was losing it. Really-- I was just losing it," he heard himself telling them.
The elder nodded. "Let's get you out of here."
But the animal inside him rattled at its cage. He was hard and wanting, and he'd won. And his prize flashed in his eyes like a million suns.
The young man blinked at him, his eyes innocent, concerned.
He stumbled back a step. "I think I need-- I'm going to walk. Get some air."
And then he fled, because the animal just wouldn't stop raging.
The sky was turning pink and violet, and he had no idea where he'd been. Or even who he was, particularly. He stumbled along Prospect, not aware that this was the name of the street or that it was the way home, not in any conscious way, at least. Instinct simply propelled him along. He put one tired foot in front of the other, listening to its call, letting it guide him.
At last he came to a building that felt familiar somehow, and he let the rudimentary voice in his head steer him inside and up the stairs. He stopped outside the door marked #307.
"How the hell should I know where he is?" he heard a raised, angry voice coming from inside.
He waited and listened.
"I'm his partner. Not a damned mind reader. I told you we shouldn't have let him wander around out there-- Yes, I do know how hard it is to argue with him when he has his mind set on something. God knows I understand that better than anyone. But I'm telling you there was something wrong with him. And, shit, Simon, he's still wearing that fucking prison uniform. If cops see him, they might-- Fuck! I can't even think about it.
Prison. He was in prison. Images churned back up from the sediment of his memory: bars, grey walls, blood. But what was he doing out here? And what would happen to him if they caught him? Maybe he could slip back in before they even realized he was missing. He reached out for the door knob and tried it. It wasn't locked. He silently eased his way inside.
A young man stood in the middle of the room. The boy froze when he saw him and stared at him like he was an apparition or something.
"Oh, thank God! Yeah, he just walked in, Simon. Yeah, okay. As soon as he's had time to settle in. Sorry I kind of flipped out on you. Yeah, well, same to you, sir." He laughed. "Talk to you later."
The young man hung up the phone. Jim thought he must be new around here, the cellmate they'd stuck him with. And then he frowned. They were getting pretty lax with the phone privileges. Inmates were only supposed to be able to make calls for an hour in the evening.
"Man, am I ever glad to see you! Do you have any idea how worried I was?" the young man asked him.
He bristled and took several steps forward, invading the guy's space. "What? So now you're my keeper? I report to you?"
The young man back up instinctively, his eyes wide with surprise. "No, man. No. That's not how I meant it. I was just concerned. That's all."
He snorted. The kid had no idea what was in store for him here. "I wouldn't waste my time being worried about me," he told him.
"Okay, man. Whatever you say. I'm sorry."
"And what's with this place?" he asked, looking around the cell. There were empty glasses sitting around, clothes strewn, papers scattered.
The young man ran a hand through his hair. "Oh, yeah. Sorry, man. I meant to clean it up before you got home. I was just kind of going out of my mind, you know?"
Jim glared at him. "You come into my crib, and this is how you treat it?"
The young man stared at him. "I said I'd clean it up. And I thought by now this was our place."
He scowled. "Well, you thought wrong."
"Maybe we could talk about this after you've had a chance to rest, okay?" the kid said softly, sounding hurt.
He shook his head. "Nothing to talk about. Just clean this shit up. And I mean now!"
The young man held up his hands. "Okay, man, no problem."
Jim caught a whiff of anxiety coming from him. He was unnerving the kid. He smiled widely, and the other man swallowed hard. He took another step toward him, just to see how far he could push it.
"So why the hell are you still standing here?" he barked at the boy. "Get your ass in gear."
And then he could smell the anxiety transforming into fear. Oh, yeah. Easy. The kid was a pushover. And so very, very pretty. For once, those assholes had given him a cellmate he could appreciate.
"I'm going to put everything back just the way you like it," the kid assured him. "I just thought maybe you'd be hungry and would want breakfast first."
His stomach gurgled at him, on cue. He hadn't realized exactly how starving he was before the kid mentioned food. Along with his hunger, he could also feel a familiar warmth unfurling in his belly. The idea of this sweet, young thing cooking his meal and serving him was one hell of a turn on.
"Do it, then," he said. "Make me something to eat."
"Okay, Jim. Anything you want."
He smiled. That's the spirit, kid. Remember that tonight after light's out. The young man nervously headed for the kitchen, and he followed closely on his heels, making him even more nervous.
"So are eggs okay?"
The young man nodded. "Yeah. I know."
He grabbed him by the arm. "What the hell did you say?"
He could feel the slight trembling in the kid's body. "Just that I know you like your eggs scrambled. That's all. Honest."
"Don't ever presume to know me or what I want," he hissed at him.
"Sorry, man. Didn't mean to tick you off. It's just that ever since I've known you--"
He shook the young man hard. "Don't fucking talk back to me. You got that?" he yelled at him.
"Jim, man. Is something wrong? 'Cause you're really starting to scare me here."
"You stay out of my face, and there won't be any problem."
"Okay, man. Sure. Whatever you say."
"Damn straight." He let the young man go.
The kid rubbed his arm where he'd undoubtedly left a bruise. "Okay, so, scrambled eggs coming right up."
He tried to sound breezy, normal, but Jim could hear his heart thudding, the slight tremor in his voice. Maybe he wouldn't have to wait for the vultures to turn him out or to bother orchestrating a lesson in the showers. Maybe the kid would give it up to him without any real struggle. Steamy pictures pulsed through his mind: the boy on his knees sucking him, the boy on his belly ready to be fucked.
Maybe tonight after light's out he really would stake his claim.
The kid finished fixing breakfast and dished up the eggs and toast onto two plates. They sat down at the table and ate. Jim attacked his portion like a wild dog, and soon, it was gone. He pushed the plate aside, reached out for the boy's and pulled it over to his side of the table.
"What the--" the boy started to protest.
He grabbed the kid's wrist and squeezed painfully until he dropped his fork.
"Shit! Okay! God, all you had to do was ask."
Jim stared him down, daring him to make a move to get his breakfast back, but the kid just sat back in his chair and watched him, his expression both perplexed and frightened. Jim smiled at him, a vicious, feral show of teeth. Just to prove his point, he picked up the kid's fallen fork and began to shovel in the rest of his breakfast with it.
But that proved a mistake. The moment the metal tines touched his lips the kid's taste exploded across his taste buds, and he was rock hard in an instant. Erotic scenes flew through his imagination again. Only this time, he was the one down on his knees, greedily gobbling down more of the kid's sweet, sweet, salty taste. He was the one lying back, spreading his legs, begging for it.
He threw down the fork and leaped up from his chair, knocking it over. "What the fuck is this shit?"
The kid jumped up, too, startled by his outburst. He backed around the corner of the table, away from Jim.
"What do you mean, man?"
"You did something to the food."
He frantically shook his head. "No! You saw me eat it, too. It was good. I swear, Jim."
"You little bitch! You're fucking with my head."
"No! I'd never do anything to hurt you. You know that."
He laughed, an ugly sound, even to his own ears. "Oh, I know, all right. I know exactly want you'd do to me if you ever got the chance. And it's never gonna happen. You fucking understand that?"
"I got you, man. Just calm down. Okay?"
"What? So you can get me off my guard? Forget it, punk! If one of us is gonna wind up on his knees, it's not gonna be me. I promise you that."
"Do you mean-- Oh, fuck! What the hell did they do to you in that place?"
"I'm on top. You understand that? I'm the man, the fuck-er, not the fuck-ee. I'm in control! You hear me?"
"Yeah, of course, I hear you, Jim. I understand perfectly. I just need to-- I'm just gonna--"
The kid reached for the phone, but Jim intercepted him, grabbed his arm, yanked him away from it so hard it was a wonder he didn't dislocate the kid's shoulder.
"Jim, please," the young man begged. "I'm just going to call Simon. He can help."
"What? So now you're a snitch, too?"
The young man shook his head wildly. "No! I'm your friend. Your partner. God, don't you recognize me? It's Blair, Jim. Come on, man. You know me. You've got to snap out of-- whatever the hell this is," he said, desperately.
Jim's head pounded violently. Nothing made any sense.
"Shut the fuck up!" he screamed. "I'm not going to listen to your bullshit."
He grabbed the kid and pulled him roughly against him.
"I know exactly who you are. You're the little prick who wants to make me into a pussy in my own cell."
The kid shook his head. "No, Jim. No. It's not like that. You're not in prison any more. You're home now. You're safe."
But Jim tuned him out, too wrapped up in the sensation of the kid's hot, shuddering body pressed so close. He rocked his hard dick against the swell of his hip. The kid shook even harder.
"Feel that?" he asked, thickly. "I'm not going to be the one on my knees. I'm not!"
"Don't, Jim," the kid begged, his voice broken and shaky. "Please."
"Shut up!" he ordered.
He tugged sharply at the young man's hair to tilt his head back, and then he possessed his mouth, bruising the soft curves. God, so good. That's not what he should have been thinking. He dimly recognized that fact in the survivor's corner of his brain. He should have been glorying in his triumph, basking in his power, his dominion. Instead, he found himself succumbing, to the pleasure of the other man's taste.
At first, the boy fought, trying to kick at his shins and wriggle away. But as Jim softened the hard line of his mouth, as the touch of his lips grew less punishing, more exploratory, the young man's resistance ebbed. He stopped trying to push Jim away. He let himself be pulled closer. And then, finally, he began to kiss back, a little shyly, his tongue darting into Jim's mouth, lightly stroking in return.
Jim moaned in the back of his throat. Every touch of the boy's tongue seemed to lick a path of fire straight to his cock. He cupped the young man's bottom, used the leverage to bring them closer. Their thighs burned against each other. Their cocks teased through the layers of their clothing.
Their cocks-- A dim portion of Jim's brain registered that fact with a start. The boy was hard, too. The pictures started to flood his imagination once again, all the things the other man could do to him, take from him, in his vulnerable, desire-maddened condition.
He abruptly pushed the kid away.
"What--" the boy asked in a daze.
"Bitch!" Jim yelled at him, accusingly. "You god damned, conniving bitch!"
"Jim, man, I'm sorry. I thought-- But I shouldn't have. I shouldn't."
The kid fell back a step, his eyes still dilated, but with fear now, rather than want.
Jim took another step toward him. He put a hand in the middle of his chest and shoved him. "Let's see how you like it."
"Come on, man. I said I was wrong, and I am sorry. Just let me go. So I can get you some help."
"Yeah, right," he said, sarcastically. "Help. Sure. Like some of your friends to hold me down while you fuck me?"
"Shit, Jim! Are you-- Did they--" The boy's face paled. "I just want to help you, Jim. Not hurt you. I swear to God."
"I've heard that before."
"Okay, okay." The young man held up his hands. "I'll show you I'm no threat. You want me? You got me. I won't put up a fight. I promise." He went still.
But when Jim reached for him, he cleverly dodged and made a break for the door. Jim leaped and tackled him, and they both fell heavily to the floor.
"Ow!" the young man hollered on the way down.
Jim scrambled to turn the kid over, the primitive emotions driving him, both terror and lust. Fuck or be fucked. That was the law of the jungle. Now that he had the advantage, he couldn't afford to be a pussy about it. He had to finish it, show the other man who was in charge, once and for all. He trapped the kid's body with his own, pulled his arms above his head and held them their with one vise-like hand.
But then he noticed the blood on the kid's mouth. He must have bitten his lip when he'd fallen. The red glistening sight of it mesmerized him. He froze and couldn't look away.
"Please don't do this, Jim," the young man begged, his voice breaking. "Please don't hurt me."
He stared into the other man's wide, terrified blue eyes, and he could feel something surfacing inside him. He touched the man's hair, gently, stroking his fingers through it, concentrating. It was soft, springy to his touch, familiar. He breathed in his scent, and he knew that, too. He looked at him helplessly, not understanding.
"It's me, Jim. It's Blair."
The young man's chest heaved, and Jim shifted his weight to the side to let him breathe more easily. He ran his free hand gently down the man's arm, letting the sensations register. It was like swimming toward the surface from a very great depth under water. He could feel the blackness receding, the light and clear air getting nearer. He trailed his fingers down to the young man's wrist, and the thudding of the pulse flooded into him.
It jolted him the rest of the way back into awareness. He blinked his eyes, and it was Blair he had pinned to the floor. It was Blair, and it was the loft, and it was all so confusing. He realized he was holding Blair's wrists over his head, and he quickly let them go.
"Blair?" he asked, still dazed, his voice coming out in a croak.
"Jim?" Blair asked, sounding startled that he recognized him.
Then the rest of it hit him: the smell of blood, Blair's blood, the sound of his heart racing and the smell of his fear, the hard floor making his knees ache, the nagging pang of conscience, even though he wasn't quite sure what he'd done wrong, but something, for certain.
"Blair?" he said again, starting to panic.
"It's okay, Jim. It's okay."
God, it really was Blair. He put his hands on Blair's face, on his forehead and his cheeks and his chin, everywhere, trying to reassure himself. He stared into his Guide's eyes, looking for answers.
"Chief," he affirmed.
Blair nodded. "Yeah, man. It's me."
He gently touched the corner of Blair's mouth. Then he held up his finger and stared at it. Blair's blood. And then he remembered, like waking up from a nightmare, only it was real, too horribly real. And he couldn't look away from the red-brown smear on his hand, too appalled by what he'd done.
"Ah, shit!" Blair grabbed his arm. "Don't you do this, man. Don't you fucking zone out on me. You hear me, Jim?"
The insistence in his Guide's voice called him back to reality. And then his stomach lurched violently, without the comfort of oblivion to cushion the realization of what he'd been about to do to the person he most cherished. He jumped up from the floor and ran to the bathroom. His body shook alarmingly as he emptied his guts into the toilet, and his stomach just wouldn't stop heaving, even after there was nothing left to vomit.
Much to his surprise, Blair knelt on the tile floor beside him and rubbed his back soothingly. After what he'd done, what he'd been thinking, he would have expected Sandburg to bolt for safety at the first opportunity. That's exactly what anyone with any sense would have done, what Jim still half wished he would do, in case he lost his mind again.
Instead, Blair was trying to comfort him. "It's okay, Jim. You're okay, now," he said over and over again, in that low, calm voice of his that always resonated in Jim's head and his insides like some kind of acoustic wonder.
"I'm sorry, Blair," he said, when he could finally speak.
"I know. It's all right." Blair wrapped an arm around his shoulders.
"God, I'm just so, so sorry."
"Shhh." Blair hugged him and pressed his face against his shoulder. "I'm not hurt. There's no harm done. You didn't know who I was, did you?"
He shook his head.
"Or who you were, either. Or where. Or much of anything, I'm guessing. Right?"
"I was--" He shook his head. "I don't know even how to describe it."
Blair squeezed his shoulder. "That's okay. We don't have to figure out everything right this minute. Come on, man." He stood up and tugged on Jim's arm to get him to his feet, too. "Why don't you brush your teeth and get a shower? Okay?"
He nodded and let Blair guide him over to the sink. Suddenly, he felt so tired and heavy even the simplest movement took all his strength. He watched as Blair wet the bristles of his tooth brush and squeezed the tooth paste onto it. Blair pressed it into his hand, and he began to brush, mechanically, his body functioning on sense memory, his brain numb. After a while, Blair's hand stopped him and took the tooth brush back. Blair held the cup against his lips, and he automatically took a sip and spit it out.
"There you go, man. That's good. Okay, you hop into the shower, and I'll go upstairs and bring down something clean for you to wear. Your own clothes. That'll help you feel more like yourself. Okay?"
"Good. I'll be right back."