Title: A Sweet Year
Summary: A celebratory dinner for the Jewish new year pushes Blair to deal with his feelings for Jim. Rated NC-17, eventually. (Takes a while to get there.)
Relevant Details: For the non-Jews in our listening audience, it's worth noting that Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year, and that it's traditional to eat sweet foods, especially honeycake and apples with honey, for a sweet year to come.
Disclaimer: Jim and Blair belong to Petfly. The story, however, belongs to me. Infinite thanks to Justine and Kelyn for beta-ing and talking me through my denial about writing fiction in the first place. The NC-17 rating on this one is entirely Justine's fault. It started off rated G, or maybe PG at best, and then she insisted it needed more kissing. And, well, this is what happened...
A Sweet Year
Less than a week until Rosh Hashanah, and Blair Sandburg couldn't focus. He wasn't getting a damn thing done. Come on, kiddo, he thought, these papers aren't going to grade themselves. He looked at the one on the top again, sighed, and put it back down. He didn't feel like facing freshman interpretations of Claude Levi-Strauss, not now.
Not with the High Holy Days practically breathing down his neck. He took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes, sighed. Then grabbed his jacket, let his heavy keyring jangle into his pocket, and headed out his office door. A walk would clear his head.
The High Holy Days had never been a big deal for Blair. Naomi was more into meditation than midrash, and although Blair had tried attending religious services as an adult, he always found himself deconstructing them, unable to gain personal access to what was inside. So what was bugging him this time around? He knew the answer to that without even thinking: the stupid dinner.
It had sounded like a good idea at the time.
"Don't you have a holiday coming up, Chief?" Jim had asked while making coffee.
Blair turned, slightly startled. "Yeah, I guess I do," he replied, surprised that Jim remembered. It must have showed in his voice, because Jim scowled slightly.
"Don't act like this is the first time I've ever looked at a calendar," he muttered.
Blair felt a wave of remorse. "No, no, of course, man. It was nice of you to notice. It's Friday night. Hey, do you have plans?"
Now it was Jim's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Me?"
Blair felt stupid. "Who else would I be talking to here, the aloe plant?" he tossed back, and turned to the pot of small green spikes on top of the refrigerator. (It was still missing a little chunk from the last time it was used, when Blair grabbed a hot skillet without a potholder; it looked like someone had taken a bite out, but it was healing.) "Hey, aloe plant, you want," he began, sarcastic, when something soft hit him in the back of the head. He turned. It was a dishtowel, wadded into a ball, and Jim was chuckling.
"Okay, okay, you're talking to me. No. I don't have plans. What's up?"
And that was how Blair suggested that they have dinner together at the loft, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, to celebrate the new year. Which he was now both dreading, and looking forward to, with every bone in his body. Oh, he thought, that makes infinite sense, kiddo. He must have made a face, because the student walking toward him veered abruptly left to avoid his path. Okay, Blair said to himself, let's unpack that last thought. Why am I conflicted about this dinner? We eat dinner together all the time. I even cook now and again. So what's the problem?
The problem, he answered himself, is that you're supposed to have a big family dinner on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. You're supposed to eat all kinds of special foods, symbolic foods, with your entire family. And I don't know how to cook this stuff, and Naomi never cooked any of this stuff, and I didn't even think about inviting her for dinner, she's off God-knows-where, which means Jim's the closest thing I have to family. And that, it seemed, was what was making him agitated.
A voice broke into his reverie. "Professor Sandburg? Are you okay?" He shook himself alert (what am I, zoning? he thought with a private smile), and noticed one of his Anthro 101 students standing in front of him. A little on the short side, glasses, dark hair, a flannel shirt. Penina somebody. She looked at him, a smile playing about her lips. Rosenbaum, that was it, Penina Rosenbaum, he thought.
"I'm fine, Penina, thanks," Blair said, realizing he'd been standing stock-still. "Just thinking."
She grinned (was she flirting with him? Blair couldn't tell) and pushed her glasses up on her nose. "Okay. See you Tuesday." As she turned to walk away, Blair was struck by inspiration.
"Penina, wait," he said, and she turned back, looking half-curious, half-impish.
"Yes?" she asked.
"Hey, I have a question..." Blair began.
The papers got graded somehow, and when Blair left class on Tuesday he had several sheets of notebook paper in the side pocket of his backpack. Pink notebook paper, which was unfortunate, but maybe he could keep his partner from noticing long enough to hide the pages in "The Joy of Cooking" or something.
Yeah, right. As if Jim ever overlooked anything. Blair let himself in to their apartment, dropped the coat and backpack on the floor, and as he bent to retrieve the coat Jim greeted him with, "Hey, there's something pink sticking out of your pack, Sandburg."
Blair's ears reddened. "Ah, thanks, Jim," he said, hastily grabbing the papers to stash them in the bag's main cavity. "They're from a student," he said by way of explanation, which turned out to be the absolutely wrong thing to say: Jim's eyes lit up, his face turned impish, and he moved quickly across the room to snatch the rosy sheaf from Blair's fingers.
"A student's writing you love notes!" Jim chortled. Blair's face paled. ,
"Give those back, man," he said, trying to sound stern, but mostly sounding desperate. Jim raised his arm as high as it would go and Blair stared up at him, horrified. "Jim, give those back," he said.
"Somebody's got a crush on Blair," Jim sang, laughing. Blair felt like a five-year-old, trying ineffectually to reach Jim's hand.
"Cut it out!" he said.
"Blair's got a crush on a student!" Jim sang to the same tune.
"Not on a student!" Blair heard himself say. Oh boy, kiddo, now look what you've done, he thought. The room seemed quiet.
"I, ah, thought you said these were from a student," Jim said easily. Good, Blair thought, maybe he didn't feel what I just almost said.
"They are," Blair replied curtly, and - noticing that Jim's hand had lowered slightly - made a successful grab for the papers. All but one, which stayed in Jim's hand.
Jim brought it down and looked at it, then looked up again, confused. "Chief?" he asked. Blair raised his eyes, not talking, still annoyed. "What the hell are...tsimmes?" Jim asked, fighting to get his mouth around the unfamiliar word. He looked so baffled Blair's frustration melted. He took the page from Jim, smoothed it with a palm, added it to the bundle.
"It's a food," Blair said. He sighed and felt his shoulders drop back to an ordinary level. "It's a holiday food," he clarified. "I asked one of my Jewish students for some of her mom's Rosh Hashanah recipes."
"Oh," Jim said. The room was definitely quiet.
"I brought home Chinese," Jim said, moving toward the kitchen. "Want to eat?"
"I'm not sure I'm hungry," Blair lied. "I think I might just go work on some writing." Jim looked at him, his face unreadable.
"Okay," he said. "I'm right here if you want some later."
Blair must have gaped. Did I just hear that? he thought. Oh man, he didn't just... Jim waved a hand in front of Blair's eyes. "Earth to Sandburg," he said, a little sharply. "Are you listening? I said, it's right here if you want some later," and pointed to the countertop. Four red-and-white Chinese food cartons rested there, and Blair could have sworn he saw their silver handles twinkling, as if they were laughing at what he'd thought he heard.
"Yeah, right," Blair said. "Thanks, man."
Thursday was a lousy day at the station. The paperwork was endless, Simon was grouchy, and Jim was in a bad mood by noon. Blair made academic noises and left by two, claiming he had to prepare for a class. Jim glared when he left, which didn't make the day any better.
Which is why Blair was surprised at how good it felt to go home to the loft and un-bag the previous night's groceries, which he'd left in a corner with a note reading "Don't peek!" Jim could see almost anything, but he couldn't see through brown paper bags, and even though he could probably pick out a lot of it by smell, Blair wanted their Friday dinner to be a surprise.
Blair grabbed the apron, tied it around his waist, and found himself humming as he measured flour, baking powder, cinnamon. Honey. Eggs. He paused at the coffeepot: the recipe called for a cup of day-old coffee, but he wasn't sure how old this coffee was. He sniffed it, recoiled, and decided it was plenty old enough.
When Jim walked in the door he stopped just inside, closed his eyes, and leaned against the wall. Blair was immediately concerned. "Jim, man, you okay?" Jim was breathing deep, his nostrils flaring. Oh no, Blair thought. The honeycake. Of course: the whole apartment was saturated with the scent of honey and spices and baking. It was strong enough to knock somebody out who didn't have heightened senses, much less somebody who did. "Hey, I'm sorry, I can get rid of the cake," Blair started.
"Don't," Jim said, the first word he'd uttered since walking in the door. Blair stopped.
"Okay," Blair said slowly, and waited. "You, ah, okay, man?" Jim opened his eyes.
"Yeah," he said. "It just smells good." Blair grinned with relief.
"I was afraid it was too strong," he said.
"Yeah, I know," Jim responded. "You're pretty transparent, Sandburg."
Tell me my heartbeat isn't speeding up, Blair thought, tell me that was a toss-off comment, a joke, tell me I'm not really transparent. Oh God, what if he can tell what I'm thinking? A combination of fear and excitement blossomed inside him.
He turned to the oven, all busy bustle again. "Well, it's for tomorrow night," he called over his shoulder, not looking at his partner.
"Mm," Jim said.
The table was beautiful. They didn't own a white tablecloth, and Blair remembered from somewhere that the cloth was supposed to be white, so he co-opted a bedsheet. Two plain beeswax candles (a scent Jim could handle) were lit in the center. A platter of Cornish hens and rice, a bowl of green beans, a tureen of sweet-spicy tsimmes, a plate of sliced apples, a bowl of honey, a round challah from the bakery near campus, and - Blair's tour de force - the honeycake. Penina's grandmother's recipe. Which looked and smelled like heaven.
And the dinner, to Blair's immense relief, went well. His early-day nerves faded in the frantic activity of getting everything ready in time, and by the time he and Jim sat down to eat he found himself ravenous and glad. They ate, they talked, Blair told a few wacky holiday stories from his childhood (the one about the shofar at the northern California zendo seemed to be Jim's favorite), Jim made appreciative noises about the food.
After they ate, and sat at the table resting, and finally stood up to move, Blair reached for a dish to begin clearing the table. "Don't do that," Jim said. "I can get it later. You've been cooking for two days."
Blair nodded. "Thanks, man," he said. They started for the sofa.
Okay, kiddo, just don't blow it now, Blair thought.
"Kiddo?" Jim said, a crinkle of amusement around his eyes. Oh God, Blair realized, I'm thinking out loud. He flushed red.
"It's just...what I call myself when I'm talking to myself," he said, defensive. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"Not at all," Jim said lightly. "Kiddo." Blair made a strangled sound in the back of his throat and before he knew it he was rushing at Jim, hands clenching. His equilibrium, worn thin by days of avoiding his growing awareness that he wanted to jump his room-mate, had snapped: Jim's tease sent him over the edge.
"I'm going to -" Blair began, threatening.
Jim stopped him by grabbing both wrists and holding them steady, and Blair flailed a little, which got him nowhere. "Come on, Chief," Jim said softly. "That's not how you want to start your new year."
Jim was right. Blair let out a sigh and felt his anger draining away. Jim loosened his grip but didn't let go of Blair's arms. "Damn it, Jim," Blair began. His brain continued silently, 'I'm a doctor, not a physician!' Blair let out a chuckle. Jim looked perplexed. "What?" he asked. By now Blair was giggling. He was laughing so hard he couldn't speak. He shook his head. He was sure Jim had never watched Star Trek, and wouldn't get the reference, but for some reason the idea of Jim Ellison as Captain Kirk just broke him in two. He laughed so hard his stomach ached. And slowly, infected by Blair's obvious mirth, Jim started laughing too.
When he could gasp out words again, Blair asked, "What are you laughing at?"
"You," Jim said. The word seemed important. Blair felt time seem to stop. Oh God, he thought, oh God, I'm going to ruin everything, I want to kiss him, it's going to ruin everything, and he was so busy thinking that he didn't have time to process Jim releasing his wrists, pulling him closer, and bending to him until suddenly Jim was kissing him.
Jim was kissing him. As gently and tenderly as he could imagine. And he was kissing Jim back. He heard a small whimper of desire that melted his knees, then recognized the voice as his own. Jim's arms were around him, Jim's hands on his back, he was holding Jim Ellison, they were kissing. When they broke, finally, Blair's brain seemed to have gone on vacation. Out for a cup of tea. Gone fishing, back soon. He couldn't put words together.
So he did the only thing he could do, which was kiss Jim again.
This seemed to bring Blair's brain back out of retirement, and he was dimly aware of it doing an endorphin-rushed dance of joy on the inside of his skull. "You know, Jim," he said, testing out his voice again, "some people say whatever you do on New Year's eve, you'll do a lot of during the year to come." He tried to sound light, tried to brace himself for the possibility that Jim would let him go, walk away, crack some joke.
Jim didn't do those things. His thumb stroked the younger man's jaw, and Blair shivered. "Would you like that?" Jim asked, his voice low. Time stopped again. Jim was asking, Jim was asking him! He wanted to shout "yes, yes, yes, I will, yes," like the end of "Ulysses," but he just said "yeah," surprised at the throaty catch in his voice.
"Yeah," Blair tried again, his voice stronger this time, "I'd like that. I'd like that a lot."
This time the kiss was slower, less surprising, but still delicious. Jim's fingers were splayed through Blair's hair, cradling the back of his head, and Blair felt that if his bones vanished completely Jim could hold him up. About then Blair realized they'd shifted to a wall, recognized the dim pinch at the back of his consciousness as a feeling of being bent slightly the wrong way. He broke the kiss. "You, ah, want to move somewhere more comfortable?" he asked, pointing to the couch with a jerk of his head. They disentangled, moved to the sofa, sat down.
For a moment Blair was terrified, scared by the space that separated them, unsure how to begin again. Then he looked at Jim. Jim, slightly flushed, lips still wet, shirt half-rumpled. And Blair took a deep breath, feeling like his chest might cave in with longing. "Come here," he whispered.
"You don't know how long I've wanted to do this," Jim confessed, and bent to his partner's chest, biting one nipple gently through the fabric. Blair gasped, the nipple stiffened, the temperature in the room seemed to rise. Jim moved his ministrations, bit the other nipple, raked over the first one with a thumb. He moved to reach Blair's neck, placed a kiss there.
"You don't know," he murmured into Blair's collarbone, "how many times I've wanted to touch you." Blair's eyes were closed, his mouth open, his breath slightly ragged. "How many times I've wished I could kiss you," Jim continued, soft. "I never thought you'd want me," he whispered in his partner's ear, taking the earlobe between his teeth. Blair was making small wanting sounds, little gasps, and his heart was pounding. He managed to open his eyes, to look at Jim leaning over him.
"Is this okay?" Jim asked. "We can stop if you want."
"Yes," Blair said emphatically. "I mean, no!" Jim looked confused. "Yes, this is okay," Blair clarified, speech returning to him, and Jim smiled, let a hand run along Blair's chest. "And no, don't stop," Blair said, quieter. Don't stop, he thought, don't stop, please don't stop.
Jim bent again, rubbed his mouth over Blair's nipples, Blair could feel the warmth of Jim's breath, he ached to feel it without flannel in the way. He tugged at his shirt and Jim obliged, unfastening, letting it fall open, touching Blair's bare chest. "Oh, God," Blair groaned. "I've been thinking about you all week," hardly believing he was saying this, hardly believing this was happening. "Ever since I asked you for dinner," Blair choked out, and Jim was kissing lower, words were harder to string together, "all I could think about was wanting you," and Jim was definitely kissing lower, and Blair lost words altogether when he felt Jim's response rumble through his jeans.
"I think I'm still hungry," Jim breathed, and Blair felt his world turn upside-down as the buttons came loose, the fabric was pushed past his hips, his erection sprang free. The jeans came off, and Blair registered cool air.
And then he was in Jim's mouth and oh, it was good. Jim's tongue was caressing him, Jim's mouth was pulling him in, and Blair was only dimly aware that he was crying out, that he was almost chanting "Oh, God, Jim," he only knew that the fantasy he'd nursed for months on end was happening, that he could hardly breathe, that he was half-naked and trembling and Jim was sucking his cock. Jim pulled back, Blair moaned at the loss, his moan turned to a gasp as his partner breathed gently over him and his erection became, if this were possible, even harder.
"Please," Blair managed. Surely Jim could hear his heart pounding like timpani, surely Jim could sense him quivering, surely Jim wasn't going to stop, he thought desperately.
"Please?" Jim repeated, smiling, eyebrow raised. "You like this?" he asked, wickedly, and drew a line with his tongue along Blair's shaft. Blair whimpered. The line became a circle, Jim's tongue running around Blair's crown, and then Jim pulled him inside again. Blair saw stars. He wailed. He came so hard it shook him. And Jim wrapped his arms around Blair's hips, and held him tight, and stayed there for a while.
Then he moved back up the sofa, and moved the boneless Blair so he could lie beneath, and held Blair on top of him. "God, Jim," Blair said, finally.
"You said that," Jim pointed out drily, and Blair could felt his almost-laughter where their bodies touched.
"Did I?" he asked, bracing himself on one elbow to look into his partner's face.
"A few times," Jim said.
"Okay," Blair admitted. "I guess so." He bent and kissed Jim, tasting himself on Jim's lips, and felt a stirring in his heart when Jim relaxed beneath him, settled into the couch, let his thighs roll open a little. Blair deepened the kiss, let his teeth graze Jim's tongue experimentally, and was pleased by the older man's slight sigh. Blair moved to Jim's jaw, sucking gently on the place where jaw meets neck, and was rewarded with an audible gasp.
"You're overdressed," he murmured, reaching for the bottom of Jim's t-shirt, and Jim leaned forward to let Blair pull the shirt away, and when he lay back Blair's breath definitely caught in his throat. "You're stunning," he said softly. Jim flushed slightly, Blair noticed, pleased.
"Nothing you haven't seen before," Jim tossed back, trying to sound gruff and failing.
"But not like this," Blair pointed out, his fingers closing on Jim's already-hard nipples, which turned to tiny cherry stones. Jim gasped again, his back arching slightly. "God, you're beautiful," Blair said, bending to pull one nipple into his mouth. Jim jerked beneath him, his body tightening, and Blair smiled into his partner's chest. I want to make him come a hundred different ways, Blair thought, moving to suckle beneath his partner's arm, drawing the fine sweaty hairs into his mouth, and Jim let out a cry. Blair pulled back, enjoying the sight of Jim beneath him. His Jim.
"May I?" he asked, hooking a finger inside the waistband of Jim's chinos.
"If you want to," Jim answered, a flicker of - was it insecurity? - in his tone, his eyes closed. Blair could have wept. And then he had an idea.
"Wait here," he commanded, and rose. Went to the table. Returned. Jim was lying perfectly still, his face half-guarded, his eyes still closed. Blair climbed upon him again, reached for Jim's hand, dipped it. And then pulled the dripping fingers into his mouth, licking the honey from Jim's hand as sensuously as he could.
"I have never," Blair said, then sucked a finger again, "in my life," let his tongue swirl over a knuckle, "wanted anything." Lick. "As much." Lick. "As I want you." Jim, he was happy to see, was responding well to this; his breathing was choppy, and his stiffness (which had faded slightly when Blair first moved to unzip him) was poking Blair hard in the thigh.
Blair relinquished the hand, unzipped Jim's pants, and carefully stripped them away. You are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, he thought, and then realized he was thinking out loud again when Jim's blush spread. "Blair..." Jim whispered.
"Yeah?" Blair asked, suddenly concerned. "What is it?" Jim was painfully red now.
"Would you..." Blair waited. No more words came.
"Tell me," he said softly, slipping into his Guide voice out of habit. "Tell me what you want." There was another pause.
The word, when it came, was almost inaudible: "honey..."
This, Blair thought, is delight.
He dipped two fingers in the honey bowl and slowly, carefully, let it drip onto Jim's erection. Jim moaned. "Open your eyes," Blair murmured. "Watch me." And Jim did: his eyes opened, his face tight with a pleasure that seemed almost like pain, and he watched Blair bend to lick the honey he had spilled. Blair's mouth was filled: with honey, with flesh, with the sweetness that was Jim. And as he sucked the honey from Jim's erection, Jim groaned, again.
And again. "Blair," he managed, and Blair hummed in response, and the hum seemed to drive him even crazier, so Blair hummed some more. And then Jim was coming in his mouth, and the taste of honey was overtaken by the taste of Jim, and Blair kept thinking, for a sweet year. For a sweet year. Oh, what a sweet year this is going to be.