Swimming in the Dark by Caro Dee

Swimming in the Dark - Caro Dee

"This was an excellent idea." Blair sighed happily, popping open his second can and taking a gulp of the frosty cold beer.

"I've been known to have a few," Jim pointed out modestly, stretching his long legs in the sunshine and reaching over to close the cooler lid properly.

"Uh-huh," Blair said, waving a hand dismissively. "But this was a really excellent idea. After the month we've had, this time off was practically medically required. I'm pretty sure Simon was afraid you were going to explode and do something stupid. He couldn't get us out of there fast enough."

"A reputation for a hair-trigger temper can come in handy," Jim said casually.

"Oh, man," Blair sat up and stared over at Jim admiringly. "Do not tell me you planned this. I would bow down and kiss your feet if you actually planned this."

Jim smirked and shifted to swing one foot up to Blair's face. "Kiss away, Chief."

Blair batted the foot away indignantly and Jim rolled over on the grass laughing. Blair glared at him for a moment, mouth twitching, then burst out laughing himself. "You're such a liar, Ellison."

Jim just raised an eyebrow and refused to respond, merely reaching for his can. The two men sat there companionably, drinking their beers and soaking up the wilderness beauty of the small lake near their campsite.

Staring at the crystal clear water, Blair made a decision. "I'm going swimming." He stood up and began off his T-shirt. "You coming?"

Jim shook his head. "I'm not in the mood. You go ahead though."

Blair tried to persuade him, but Jim was adamant and he ended up swimming alone. The water felt great, cool but not cold, and as Blair floated on his back, hair swirling around him, staring up at the clouds sweeping along the bright blue sky, feeling the heat of the sun on his face and chest, he went into a state of nature bliss that lasted quite a while.

When he finally got bored of drifting and looked around, he noticed that Jim was nowhere in sight. It was a little odd that Jim had left him alone without a word, but a few minutes later, Jim showed up carrying a paperback. He waved it at Blair and sat down at the water's edge to read. Blair smiled and swam ashore.

Climbing out, he shook his head vigorously, then grabbed fistfuls of hair to squeeze the water out.

Jim watched the procedure with interest. For some reason, Jim found the rituals of grooming around Blair's hair fascinating, though he'd crack enough jokes about it. Blair's loudly and frequently stated rebuttal was that Jim had a bad case of hair envy.

"Careful there, Chief, don't get any of that on me. I don't want to smell like a wet dog."

Blair recognized fighting words when he heard them and the next few minutes consisted of chasing Jim around the shore line trying to shake water on him, until Jim turned around and wrestled him to the ground. Realizing he was only moments away from being noogied into submission, Blair laughed and gasped out, "Uncle!"

Jim grinned affectionately down at him and gently pulled a clump of wet hair away from Blair's eyes. Then he rolled up into a standing position and reached a hand down to pull Blair up as well. Letting go of his hand, Jim rubbed his fingertips against Blair's chest. "More sunscreen," Jim said briskly and turned away.

"Yes, mother," Blair agreed and walked over to pick up his T-shirt to dry himself off with. Then sat down to apply another layer of sunscreen. Jim was focused on his book. "What are you reading?" Jim held the book up for Blair to read the cover. "In Search of the Warrior Spirit: Teaching awareness disciplines to the Green Berets. Is it any good?"

Jim shrugged. "Some of it's interesting. He keeps being surprised that the soldiers are smart, decent guys underneath the 'macho military trappings'. Gets old after a while."

"Major culture clash, right? I run into that with my students all the time. I keep telling them that the first step is to see the common humanity underlying the different customs. No matter how strange it seems to you, there's always a reason. If you can't make that breakthrough, you can't be an anthropologist." Blair said. "I want to borrow that when you're done."

Jim nodded and went back to reading. Blair lay down on the grass and worked so diligently on getting tan that he fell asleep.

***

Someone was nudging him. "Hey, Sandburg. Wake up."

Blair grimaced and opened his eyes to stare up into Jim's face as he stood over him. "What?"

"You're getting a sunburn. I'm heading back to camp to fix lunch and I don't want to leave you here asleep."

"Okay, okay. Give me a minute and I'll follow."

Jim nodded agreement and left. Blair yawned and watched him walk off up the trail carrying his book. Just the book.

"Hey!" he yelled. "What about all our stuff? Take some of it with you."

Without turning around, Jim lifted a hand to wave. "You snooze, you lose. If you don't hurry, I might even eat your lunch."

"Lazy bastard," Blair muttered in mock annoyance. He yawned again and scratched his head vigorously for a couple of seconds. Then, with a sigh, he got up and began folding the blanket and gathering the empty cans, dumping them in the cooler. He'd separate them out back at camp.

After one last look to make sure he was leaving the spot as pristine as they'd found it, he began walking up the trail back to the campsite. This was a beautiful park and remarkably uncrowded in the middle of the week. They'd really lucked out on this trip. He was soaking up the scenery until he caught a glimpse of something white among the trees off to the left. Shaking his head at the bad karma coming to people who littered in the wild, Blair put down the cooler, grabbed the garbage bag and went in to pick it up. Just as he thought, it was crumpled tissue dumped there by a thoughtless hiker. He stepped carefully in case the hiker hadn't bothered to bury his waste.

Blair frowned. It wasn't the best place for a hiker to stop for a dump. Less than a yard away was a pretty big clump of poison ivy. Bending down, he saw a deep impress of footprints in the dirt. Somebody had stood there leaning against this tree for a while. Straightening up and looking back towards the lake, it was obvious there was a clear line of sight to the clearing and part of the lake he and Jim were using. Somebody had been watching them. And that wasn't all, Blair discovered to his disgust. The blob of semen on the tree that hid the watcher from view made it clear what the tissue had been used for.

Indignant, Blair headed back to camp to inform Jim they had a pervert prowling around. When he arrived, he saw Jim bent over the campfire, carefully coaxing the flames into a blaze. "Jim!"

"Hey, Chief." Jim threw him a relaxed, lazy grin over his shoulder and turned back to the fire.

Blair was just opening his mouth to announce their peeping tom, when his eyes caught sight of shreds of bark along the back of Jim's T-shirt and the implications stopped him cold. His jaw dropped, and his heart started hammering so fast that Jim look up in concern.

Blair bent over, pretending to cough frantically. Drawing in huge gulps of air, he gasped out, "Bug! Caught in my throat."

Jim jumped up and pulled a bottle of water out of the cooler. Twisting the top off, he held it out to Blair, who grabbed it and drank, mind working furiously.

"You okay now?" Jim asked, frowning in concern.

Blair nodded and cleared his throat. "It was just that I couldn't breathe for a second."

"I've had that happen to me." Jim grimaced and then said, "I'm thinking the beef stew for lunch. That all right with you?"

Blair hesitated. "Actually, Jim, I think I'm going to go for a hike. Maybe meditate. I'll just grab a couple of bananas."

Jim looked a little disappointed but shrugged. "All right. Yell if you run into trouble."

Blair nodded, sidled over to take some bananas and a fresh bottle of water from the cooler and took off, his stride an elaborately casual saunter until he'd gone past the bend in the trail and was pretty sure Jim couldn't see him anymore. Then he started to run, frantic to burn off some of this nervous tension. What the fuck?

Refusing to thinking about this until he had some distance and a chance to calm down, Blair concentrated on not tripping on the uneven trail . After the first burst of energy, Blair slowed down to a jog but kept on moving. The trail had developed a noticeable downward slope but it wasn't until he'd left the trees and hit sunny meadow that he realized he'd reached the valley between the mountain they were camping on and the next one over. Having most of a mountain between him and Jim right now seemed like enough distance and he slowed down to a walk.

The meadow was lush and green with knee-high grass and sprinkled with clumps of yellow and blue wildflowers. Blair wandered off the trail until he hit a cozy spot and flung himself down, panting. The grass was high enough to shield him from view and Blair stared up at the sky and listened to birds for a while. It was very peaceful.

Then he realized how much this felt like floating on his back in the lake earlier and that reminded him of Jim and with a sigh he rolled up into a sitting position. Time to process.

So. Jim. A voyeur. A voyeur into Blair. At least he thought so. It was possible that Jim just liked to look at people and Blair was handy today. Blair gnawed his lip, uncomfortable with that idea.

Although come to think of it, voyeurism seemed an obvious kink for a sentinel to have. Living in a large city, people were constantly having sex all around him. Blair winced, thinking of all the times he'd jerked off in his room, just assuming Jim was turning down the dials to give him privacy, but his senses had been all over the place in the beginning and maybe Jim had found it a turn on before he had control?

So was it the kink or was it Blair? And why did it matter? Anyone else and Blair knew exactly what he'd do. Sit them down and talk about crossing boundaries without permission in his best 'your kink is totally cool but not my kink' manner. Then he'd either extract a promise to stop it or he'd move out.

Move out of the loft? Leave Jim? Hell, no. Blair took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself. Okay, moving out was clearly not an option. So he could either ask Jim to stop, with no way of knowing if he did or not, or he could live with it, pretending he didn't know it was happening. If it was just the kink, that was the safest choice.

But if it was even just a little bit about Blair...

He'd lived with Jim Ellison's mixed signals -- the affectionate touches and the subtle flirting that never went any further -- for over two years. Originally flattered until nothing happened, Blair had had to accept that it was Jim's manner and he wasn't really all that into him. So he'd processed the disappointment philosophically and embraced the friendship instead.

If he had a second chance at Jim, would he take it? Blair pondered the risk to their friendship and then dismissed it. Jim got along fine with Carolyn after the divorce. The most he was risking was Jim turning him down because he wasn't interested and Blair had survived embarrassment before, he could do it again.

Decision reached, Blair grinned cheerfully and peeled one of his bananas. He ate it while considering his strategy. After all, if Jim wanted to look at Blair, all Blair had to do was give him something to look at. Piece of cake.

He finished the second banana and the bottled water. Then stood up and headed back in a leisurely walk, enjoying the beautiful scenery that he'd completely missed on his run out. The sunlight that broke through the leaves began to slant and turn orange as the afternoon wore on.

Jim wasn't at the campsite when he got back and neither was his fishing gear. With any luck there'd be fresh fish for dinner. Blair poked at the soggy ashes in the stone circle.

By the time Jim returned, triumphantly bearing three good-sized, cleaned fish, Blair had the fire going again and the skillet and seasonings ready. "Give them here, Jim. I'll take care of the cooking."

"You were pretty sure of me. What if I hadn't caught anything?" Jim asked as he handed the fish over.

"I had faith in you," Blair said, smiling up at him. Jim snorted but looked pleased anyway. He started putting away his gear, and Blair took the opportunity to slide his eyes appreciatively down the long muscular back, smiling at the lone, tell-tale shred of bark still caught in Jim's shirt. Then he turned his full attention to producing an edible meal over a campfire.

The fish was delicious, especially paired with cold beer, and Blair didn't know when he'd enjoyed a meal more. The sun had begun to set during the meal and Blair watched the firelight flicker over Jim's smiling face as they talked and joked. I could love you, he suddenly thought. I could love you so much.

Blair swallowed hard, aware now that he was risking more than embarrassment if this didn't work.

"Hey, what happened? You just got all serious," said Jim.

Blair shrugged. "I just realized something. Nothing important." If tonight didn't work, then he'd try again tomorrow or back in Cascade. He smiled into Jim's concerned eyes. "So go on with your story. What did Simon do then?"

Jim laughed. "You won't believe this, Chief, but..."

Blair looked up at the patch of night sky visible through the tree tops. He could see stars but no moon. It was going to be a dark night. Not yet, he thought. Wait.

He listened to Jim and laughed at all the right places and then offered up a story of his own. After a while the conversation started to die down and they sat in companionable silence, staring into the fire until Jim yawned and said, "Time to turn in."

Now.

Blair stood and stretched. "You go ahead, Jim. I feel like going swimming." He walked over to their packs and squatted, searching for the flashlight.

"No, you're not. It's dark out there."

Ha! Found it. Blair stood and flicked the flashlight on. "I'll be fine, Jim. Don't worry about me."

"Blair..."

"Oh, c'mon. It's two minutes away. What could happen?"

"I don't want to know," said Jim. "With your luck, you'd stumble over an animal trap or an abandoned well."

Blair grinned, but shook his head. "I'm going. If you're that worried, you can come with me."

Jim grimaced, but Blair continued with growing enthusiasm. "Yeah, you should come. You missed your chance this afternoon and it's even better at night." He waggled his eyebrows. "You know, skinny-dipping? Letting your boys swing free? I'm sure you've done that in your time, old man."

"Hey!" Jim reached across and bopped Blair across the head. "Watch who you're calling old man, junior. Of course, I've gone skinny-dipping. As a teenager and I seem to remember it mostly involved sneaking peeks at naked girls."

"Rite of passage, man," Blair agreed, nostalgically. "But that's not all there is to it. It's all about throwing off the trappings of civilization and getting primal with Nature."

"As a cop, I'm all in favor of the trappings of civilization," Jim pointed out drily. "We arrest people when they get too primal."

"Yeah, yeah," Blair muttered, rolling his eyes. "I'm going swimming, not raping and pillaging. Are you coming or not?"

Jim glared at him for several seconds and caved. "Fine. We need to put out the fire first."

Yes! Blair grinned triumphantly as he watched Jim grumpily pour water all over the fire and stir the hissing ashes carefully to make sure all the coals were out. Once he was satisfied, Jim stood up and demanded the flashlight. Blair handed it over without his usual protests since Jim was being a good sport here.

Jim led the way and Blair followed, grabbing hold of the waistband of his shorts. "Watch it, Sandburg!"

"What? It's really dark out here, and you've got the flashlight. How am I supposed to avoid any abandoned wells if I can't see anything?"

There really wasn't anything Jim could say in the face of that logic and he just snorted and kept on going, Blair grinning behind him all the way.

Once they reached the lake and the open sky, Blair was relieved to see that the quarter moon gave off just enough light that he could at least make out shapes around him. He'd been worried it would be too dark for even that much. He let go of Jim and walked across the small clearing without help.

"Jim, can you find the log over on the right?"

"Yeah, I see it."

"Go ahead and prop the flashlight there so we can see it from the water. That way we'll know which way shore is."

Jim and the flashlight veered over to the right and while Jim was busy, Blair shucked his clothes off and waded into the lake knee-deep. He stood there staring up at the stars until he realized Jim had stopped making any sounds. He turned around, peering blindly in the flashlight's general direction and called out uncertainly, "Jim?"

"Yeah?"

Blair flung his arms out and threw his head up to laugh at the stars. "What are you waiting for, man?"

Holding the pose, he walked backward out into the lake until the water was waist high and deep enough to fall backwards and roll underwater to push his feet against the bottom and leap upwards out of the water. He whooped with joy and shook his head, sending water spraying in all directions. "Jim! C'mon."

There was no answer and for a few long moments Blair was worried that he'd overplayed it, then the beam of light was broken as Jim, in all his natural glory, passed through it and walked into the lake.

Blair waited for the dark figure to reach him, then splashed him full in the face. Jim sputtered in outrage and Blair darted to the side just in time to avoid a retaliatory grab and dunk. "Too slow, man."

"You think you can get away with that, Chief?" Jim's voice was all silky threat and Blair widened his eyes in mock alarm. Then Jim launched himself forward and Blair was running -- well, more accurately, lurching and staggering through water -- for his life. He turned and twisted, laughing breathlessly as Jim followed, splashing him in the face again and again until Blair cried, "Okay, okay, enough. You win."

There was an abrupt silence and Blair stopped wiping the water out of his eyes. "Jim?"

Blair turned in the water, peering into the darkness. There was no head breaking the dark surface of the water. Jim was nowhere he could see. Realization dawned and Blair had just enough time to draw in a quick breath before he was grabbed around the knees and pulled under.

Normally he would have struggled, maybe even kicked a little, to get free. This time, he relaxed as Jim rolled over him, using his body weight to hold Blair down. All Blair had to do was let natural buoyancy lift his body to slide along Jim's, the cool water lending a slipperiness to the sensation of skin dragging on skin. Startled, Jim let go and, now freed, Blair gave a leisurely kick that moved him away from Jim but not before his cock had skimmed the length of Jim's torso.

Blair broke the surface ten feet away, checked for the flashlight on the shore and turned to swim out to deeper water. Let Jim have a moment to mull that over. It had certainly had an effect on Blair. He replayed the sense memory of Jim's skin on his and growing sexual excitement gave extra energy to his strokes. He wanted Jim so bad right now and he couldn't afford to lose his head.

He came to a stop and treaded water for a while. The lake was different at night, silent, mysterious, the solitude pressing in on him. He looked toward the shore and realized he couldn't see if Jim was still in the water with him. Driven by a sudden need to see Jim, Blair turned and headed into shore, not stopping until he became aware of Jim not ten feet away, doing a leisurely breaststroke toward him.

Blair stopped. "Hey," he said, waiting for Jim to reach him.

Jim stopped a few feet away. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Blair said. "Just... all the space, you know? It got a little overwhelming. Like I was the last person on Earth."

"I know what you mean," Jim said. They treaded water silently for a while. "This was a good idea."

Blair smiled in the dark. "I thought you'd like it. With the relative darkness and quiet, it's almost like an isolation tank, so you can relax the tight control on your senses. Plus the water feels really nice, even to me. Can you feel the currents along your skin?"

Blair watched as Jim thought about it. Yeah, feel the water sliding over you, Jim. Let yourself enjoy the sensuousness of it. Let go.

"Yes," Jim said quietly. "I can feel it." Then he shook his head. "I'm not comfortable spending too much time this far out."

"Sure. Let's head closer in," Blair agreed.

They swam side by side until Jim reached a point where he could stand and touch the bottom. That was still too deep for Blair to stand but that suited his plan just fine.

"So tell me about the time you went skinny-dipping and staring at naked girls."

Jim chuckled. "That was a long time ago. My best friend in high school, Charlie, had a girlfriend whose cousin was visiting. We double-dated and ..."

Blair listened while idly circling around Jim. His continual movements sent a constant swirl of current against Jim's hopefully-sensitized skin and he carefully drifted in close to Jim without touching and then further out again, letting Jim feel subliminally comfortable with his nearness.

Blair knew that Jim could see much more clearly than he could in the darkness and he used that as well: the flash of limbs almost white in contrast to the black water, the occasional shallow dive that brought his ass to the surface, and once, just once, a careful roll onto his back that lifted his erection into view for a few seconds. Jim's voice stumbled to a halt and Blair finished the roll, diving deep to hide his relief from Jim. That was the first indication he'd had that his plan might actually work.

He popped up about twenty feet behind Jim, but wasn't surprised to discover Jim's head turned towards him. He'd suspected Jim could see through the underwater distortion even at night. 'That's it, Jim,' he thought triumphantly. 'You want to watch me? You go right ahead and watch all you want.'

Blair dove again, surfacing closer to Jim. He looked up at the stars and said, dreamily, "I'm really enjoying this."

"Me too," replied Jim.

Was Jim's voice a little husky? Blair decided it was. That was good. Let Jim 'enjoy' himself just a little while longer. He returned to the aimless swimming, noticing out of the corner of his eye how Jim's head followed his movements.

Now that the moment of truth was coming up, Blair's nerves were acting up. What if he were wrong? He wasn't, but what if he was? He licked dry lips and told himself the risk was worth it, so stop it.

He took a steadying breath and started drifting closer to Jim. He reached the invisible boundary of Jim's comfort zone that he'd spent the last hour establishing and crossed it before Jim realized.

"Hey, Jim," he said quietly and placed his hand on Jim's shoulder, recognizing the rhythmic muscle shifts that told him he was right -- Yes! -- and let his feet drift down toward the bottom of the lake, held up only by his grip on Jim.

Jim froze, then there was a subtle motion of his arm that Blair read as Jim pulling his hand away from his cock.

"Oh, don't stop on my account," Blair said breathlessly and reached under water with his other hand to wrap his fingers around Jim's hard cock, giving it an experimental stroke.

Jim jerked and tried to step back, unsuccessfully since Blair's grip pulled him right along. "What the hell do you think you're doing, Sandburg?"

Jim's cock was solid and warm against the coolness of lake water. It felt great sliding through Blair's fist.

"What am I doing?" Blair said in a quiet, contemplative tone. "Well, fascinating as this whole 'watching from a distance' business is I'd rather get up close and personal if it's all the same to you." Blair pulled himself in closer until his chest bumped up against Jim's. He brought his legs up and around Jim to bring his groin in and let go of Jim's cock just long enough to tighten his fist around both of their cocks, grinning as Jim drew in a sharp breath and his hands moved to grip Blair's hips, holding him up in the water. As a reward for Jim's cooperation, Blair began pumping his hand steadily and found it was his turn to gasp. Man, that felt great.

"See," he moaned, "this is already working better for me."

"So your merman display tonight. That was for my benefit, I take it?" Jim said in a dry, sarcastic tone. Blair felt a moment of doubt flare up about Jim's willingness, but decided the way Jim's hips were suddenly rocking against him was a more accurate indicator that Jim was genuinely interested.

To answer Jim, Blair let go and leaned back to drift in the water, only his legs holding him close. He spread his arms out in conscious imitation of his first unspoken invitation to Jim, closed his eyes and bared his throat, open, vulnerable to Jim's gaze. "Oh, absolutely for you, Jim. Totally for you."

"Fuck," Jim breathed, his grip tightening painfully on Blair's hips, then he was moving, pushing through the water, shoving Blair in front of him. Blair opened his eyes and just looked up at Jim, passively letting Jim move him wherever he wanted him until they reached waist-height water, Then he loosened his legs from around Jim and stood up, cooperating as Jim kept him moving backwards.

Jim shifted his grip to Blair's arms, lowering him to the sand at the water's edge, then followed him down. "God, Blair," he muttered into Blair's hair.

Blair brought his hands up to turn Jim's face towards him. Jim stared down at him for a second, then leaned forward and they were kissing, Jim's mouth demanding and Blair surrendering eagerly.

Jim broke the kiss with a moan and lifted straight up on his arms to gaze down at Blair. Blair missed his mouth already but if Jim would rather look, Blair would give him that.

Jim shifted over, straddling one of Blair's thighs. "Touch yourself," he urged hoarsely. "Let me see you."

Blair slid his hand down and stroked himself slowly. Jim shuddered. "Do it again!"

He sped up his strokes and gasped Jim's name, staring up into the shadowed contours of Jim's face, trying to meet his eyes despite the absence of enough light. The tilt of Jim's head told him that Jim was looking between their bodies at Blair's busy hand. "Yeah, Blair, that's it. Damn. Keeping doing that."

Blair began hyperventilating as the pleasure grew. The wound up tension he'd felt all evening, the worry and the growing sexual need, suddenly released as his orgasm shook him. And all through it, Jim hovered silently over him, watchful as a hawk.

When it was over, Jim whispered, "Perfect. That was perfect." Then he lowered himself back down, burying his face again in Blair's damp hair, and began thrusting urgently against Blair's thigh.

Blair lay beneath him in a happy daze, grinning up at the beautiful stars and tightened his arms around Jim, murmuring encouragement until Jim came.

After a few seconds, Jim sighed, rolled over and sat up. He brought his knees up and folded his arms over them, staring out over the lake silently.

Typical guarded Jim response. Blair suppressed a sigh and sat up as well, shifting himself over to lean against Jim's shoulder. He thought he detected a slight relaxation.

"This whole swimming thing was deliberate, wasn't it?" Jim asked, voice so unemotional that Blair winced.

"Yes, it was."

"How did you know?"

Blair gently bumped Jim's shoulder. "Sloppy hiker's etiquette."

"What?"

"Pack it in; pack it out, my friend. No littering. You dropped a tissue where you stood in the trees this afternoon."

"I don't even remember that," Jim said ruefully. "I was in a hurry."

"See how much better things are when you take your time?"

Jim's head turned towards him. "How can you... You think this is funny?"

"No!" Blair said. He chose his words carefully. "I like you looking at me, Jim. You can look at me whenever you want."

Jim stared at him without speaking a long time. Blair waited patiently. No matter what Blair wanted, Jim had to choose for himself. He turned to gaze out over the lake.

Finally, Jim slowly leaned in and kissed the side of Blair's head. It was a tentative kiss, a question. Blair smiled and dropped a kiss on Jim's shoulder in answer. Yes.

Then he laughed. "I'm telling you, Jim. Best vacation ever."

The end

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Acknowledgments: Thanks go to Mab for the heroically fast beta, and a HUGE thanks to Akablonded for the use of her gorgeous Jim art.