n. A radical and sudden shift in wind speed and direction that occurs over
a very short distance.
Jim tossed his keys into the basket and headed upstairs to change. He stripped down to his T-shirt and boxers and pulled on an old pair of jeans, hanging his suit up carefully. Court had adjourned early, and he was glad for the chance to rest. The last few weeks had been stressful ones; he still wasn't fully adjusted to his newly sensitive hearing, and when he was tired his vision still had an annoying tendency to glow faintly golden. Court was always a strain, but the Kolker case had garnered significant media attention; the swarm of press screeching questions and flashing cameras outside the courthouse had given Jim a throbbing headache behind his eyes. He wished Sandburg was home.
Jim went downstairs and checked the large calendar in the kitchen. Beneath his blue "court- Kolker" was a red "office hours 2-5" in Blair's loopy scrawl. Jim sighed; he had three hours before he could reasonably expect Blair home, hopefully armed with some sort of headache-relieving meditation exercise or esoteric tea. He might as well find something to do with himself in the meantime.
Getting a beer from the fridge, he settled down on the couch and picked up the remote, hoping to find something to watch in the morass of early afternoon TV.
Rosie... General Hospital... QVC... Judge Judy... Donny and Marie, God no... Days of Our Lives... Golf Channel... Judge Joe Brown... CSPAN... Animal Court... Divorce Court... People's Court... no more court shows, for crying out loud. What the hell was wrong with these people?
ESPN was showing professional bowling. Jim dropped the remote, defeated, and noticed a bag of what appeared to be video tapes on the floor next to the other couch. God bless Sandburg. Even one of his weird-ass art films would be better than that crap.
Jim snagged the bag with his foot and dragged it over to him, pulling out the tape on the top and glancing at the cover. "InsErection Adult Superstore Presents: CALIFORNIA CREAMING."
Jim upended the bag on the coffee table. All the videos bore the same lurid teal and fuschia logo: "Free My Willy." "Rescue 69-11." "Midnight in the Hard-on of Good and Evil." "Forrest Hump." "Rear End Window."
He hadn't realized Sandburg was that into porn. One or two tapes, he might write off to a whim, or to the fact that Sandburg was currently working toward a personal best for consecutive nights without a date-- twelve and counting. But this wasn't one or two; hell, this was a hobby. The bag was nearly full, and it was quite a fine selection, as these things went. Sandburg must have spent a fortune in rental fees. Maybe he was going to a bachelor party or something.
Jim grinned. Maybe he wouldn't need Blair to take away his headache. The more he thought about it, the more pleased he was. It was like a little gift, a spark of brightness at the end of a long crappy month. Losing his sight, his hearing gone crazy, Blair's terrifying episode with the Golden, and now the Kolker case that looked likely to drag on for weeks of legal nit-picking. But everyone's luck had to change eventually. Perhaps the advent of the Porn Fairy on this unremarkable gray Thursday marked the beginning of a change.
He glanced up at the TV in time to see two stocky, middle-aged men in ugly shirts high five each other. The decision was made. Bowling, for God's sake? Who the hell cared about bowling? Give him a slap-and-tickle filmfest any day over the riveting drama of a 7-10 split.
Jim picked up "Midnight in the Hard-on of Good and Evil" and put it in the VCR, forwarding over the FBI warning with an amused smirk. Comforting to know the rights of the porn industry were protected by official government sanction. God bless America.
He settled into the corner of the couch, largely ignoring the opening credits, not particularly caring whether it starred Honey Wilding or Caressa Savage. Finally, the cheesy music started, signaling all systems go. A tall blond man with chiseled features and a tan George Hamilton would have envied stood on the balcony of a large estate, remembering a torrid sexual encounter in all its flashback glory.
Jim shook his head. Nothing like cutting right to the chase. The bombardment of close-ups pulsed in time to the synthesized score. A damp neck, full lips, an erect nipple being laved by a wet tongue. Typical porn fare. He settled deeper into the couch as the flashback slide show continued. Bare limbs, clutching fingers, fully erect penises...
Jim blinked hard, and tilted his head to the right as if viewing at an angle would clarify things. Definitely penises. Plural. As in "more than one." The harsh groans and rapid panting of the two men on the screen seemed unbelievably loud in the afternoon stillness of the loft. Jim grabbed the remote, frantically trying to lower the volume. Satisfied when the television was nearly silent, he hit the fast-forward button, stopping when the sexual flashback ended and a buff, dark-haired man entered the room. He had a badge and handcuffs, and identified himself as a police officer. It didn’t take long to realize the man’s interrogation methods were suspect at best. Within two minutes, both he and the blond man -- now revealed to be a murder suspect -- were naked and negotiating their terms on every piece of antique furniture in the room.
Jim frowned. Were there any women in this thing? Maybe it was a three-way in waiting. Any minute now a tall, leggy blonde would walk in, introduce herself as some type of investigative reporter with a name like Genevieve LaRue, and strip down to her Pulitzer Prize-winning g-string.
Aaaaaaaaaany minute now.
In the meantime, Blond Suspect and Well Hung Cop were entertaining themselves on a Louis XVI settee. It was obviously sturdier than it looked.
By the time each man had climaxed twice, Jim had begun to suspect that Genevieve wasn’t coming. When they got up, got dressed and parted company at the front door, he was pretty certain. He fast-forwarded again, stopping at the next sex scene. And again, and again, until the film became one long continuous stream of men having sex without Genevieve, and then, suddenly, the credits rolled.
Well. That sucked.
There had been no leggy, blond Pulitzer Prize winner. There had, in fact, been no women at all. What sort of porn store was Sandburg patronizing these days?
Confused, Jim ejected the tape and picked up another case, scrutinizing the information in the credits. Not a single female name was listed. With a sinking feeling, he began rummaging through all the movies, looking for one that contained a woman-- any woman. None did.
That fact, Jim realized, cast significant doubt on his bachelor party theory. Then again, there was always the possibility that it was a gay bachelor party. Sandburg had a few gay friends and co-workers; perhaps one of them was tying the knot. The most obvious explanation, of course, was simply that he had a new pastime - one that involved naked men. It seemed like he should be disturbed by the thought, but he surprised himself with the realization that he felt more curiousity than anything else.
Blair and gay porn. It didn’t compute. He’d smelled enough women on Sandburg to know his exploits weren’t all talk. The kid scored more often than any guy had a right to. Hell, even H found his track record impressive. So why men? Why now? And why wasn’t he more bothered by the idea that Sandburg was apparently branching out?
Conflicted, he lingered over the pile of teal and fuschia boxes for only a moment more before pulling his gaze back to the television and jabbing the channel button on the remote. Professional bowling disappeared, replaced by Jerry Springer. The words at the bottom of the screen proclaimed, “I’m Cheating On You…With My Sister!”
Jim looked at the videos for a long moment, then back at the television. Surely "Rescue 69-11" held more appeal than that. As if on cue, the studio audience rose to its feet, howling encouragement as two rabid guests attacked each other.
The videotape slid easily into the VCR, and the farce faded to black as the FBI repeated its threats about illegal video use.
settled back into the cushions, resigned. What the hell, a skin flick
was a skin flick. So what if he had no real interest in watching men
have sex. It was either gay porn or Jerry Springer, and by God, Jim
Ellison would not be dragged into the seamy underbelly of daytime talk
shows. He had his standards.
“Rescue 69-11. What is the nature of your emergency?”
young man on the stretcher began moaning and panting in a truly gratuitous
fashion as the medical trio went to work. Their first order of business
was to divest themselves of their tear-away scrubs. Out of nowhere came
instruments and tubing and lotions and more hands than four people could
“Prep the patient for an invasive procedure.”
No bad puns. No stupid references. Just plain old “Tropical Nights.” Definitely worth a try. He looked at his watch. There were still two and a half hours before he could start looking for Sandburg.
He swapped the tapes, settled into the couch again, and for the second time in five minutes, the obnoxious talk show on his television disappeared in mid-uproar.
It was the music that first told him that this tape was not like the others. The outdated, synthesized sounds of back alley sex and seventies swingers' clubs were nowhere to be found. Instead there was rhythm, the undulating beat of jungle drums and tribal music. In a tropical-looking bungalow, two young men came together from opposite sides of a large bamboo bed while the camera watched from behind thick, white netting. With the pulsing sounds of the primitive night behind them, they caressed each other softly, moving gracefully in unchoreographed routine.
He watched, interested, as their mouths grazed each other, moving slow and teasingly at first, then with more assurance and unmistakable meaning. The kiss was hungry, deep and wet. Their lips met each other perfectly. It was a comfortable kiss, not at all like the ones he’d seen in the other movies. Those were scripted, porn movie kisses, designed to titillate by showing as much tongue-dancing as possible. This kiss felt oddly improvised, erotic and intimate, as if the men on tape were enjoying themselves in spite of the camera, not for its benefit.
He felt like a voyeur, and it excited him.
His body hardened until even breathing brought discomfort. That was a problem; much like the rest of him, his breathing was getting harder by the minute. The rise and fall of his chest beneath the thin cotton of his T-shirt was torturous, shivering over his skin, lightly grazing his nipples with each breath. In the back of his mind, his body’s response registered sharply, but he pushed aside the urge to question it. No doubt he would analyze it all later. Right now he could only concentrate on the two hard bodies intertwined on the screen and the feel of his own warm hand, moving beneath the thin Hanes barrier to stroke his chest and abs.
The scene on his television was progressing as well. Gone were the gossamer veils that had placed the action in soft focus. Softness was no longer an option, no longer needed or wanted. The two men were wrapped around each other in the center of the bed, kissing, licking, tasting, and sucking, their desperation spurring them on. Necks were offered up to hungry mouths like a sacrifice, taken and claimed.
Somewhere along the way, Jim Ellison had lost sight of the fact that the couple he watched was lacking in female anatomy. He was caught up in the eroticism of movement and music blending together. Toned muscles and graceful limbs danced sensually against one another and Jim watched the erotic scene before him, mesmerized by the images until he thought he could actually smell the scent of male arousal. It was a powerful trigger, and he felt his heart rate leap in response.
Their hands were everywhere, caressing flushed skin, trailing fingertips across sweat-slick bodies. He knew how that skin would feel. Hot everywhere, slippery and hard in all the right places. Not soft. Not yielding. He moved his hands, mimicking the movement on the screen, pulled up his shirt to caress himself as the men in the movie caressed each other. Flat palms skimmed the planes of his chest, fingers teased and pinched his erect nipples. He could feel his pulse pounding in his fingertips, could taste the salt tang of his own arousal in the air. He didn’t take the time to think; all he could do was watch, stroking himself, forgetting all about dials and control, letting the sensations carry him. It was everything; it was enough.
And then it wasn’t.
With fluid ease, the men pulled apart but didn’t separate. For a long moment, the dark-haired man smiled down at the slightly-smaller man beneath him. He didn’t speak, and finally, the distant sound of drums overtook him again and he began to kiss and nibble his way south. The blond man closed his eyes and moaned as the sheets were drawn away, exposing his aroused body to his partner's hungry gaze. A wide, sensual, masculine mouth closed around the bobbing penis, and reality crashed around Jim in unrelenting waves.
And he was watching.
He was responding.
He was fucking participating.
He could have turned it off; he could have just walked away, forcing the inevitable questions from his mind, and a nagging voice inside begged him to do just that. Leave it. Leave this door closed-- he wasn’t ready to know what was behind it. But he looked hard at the television and there were mouths, and tongues, and thighs spread wide. Full-throated moans, fingers clutching, jaws working tirelessly. The young blond man began to thrust, and oh--
The sound of his own groan in the quiet loft startled him, and he looked down to find his hand tight between his legs, pressing and stroking himself through thin, worn denim. He was tight and swollen, aching for release. Daylight was waning through the drawn blinds; he had no idea what time it was. If Sandburg came home now, he was going to get an eyeful-- but for the moment Jim didn’t care in the least. In front of him was a beautiful, dark-haired man, giving someone the blowjob of his life while his fingers explored and probed and opened. Jim’s hand was warm and tight against his own hard cock, rubbing and pressing, feeling way too much...and not nearly enough. Oh yeah. He was way past the point of stopping now.
The scene before him became even more intense. The drums, the rhythm, the breathing, all became more, needed to be more. Mouths weren’t enough now; gentle exploration wasn’t enough. It had to be harder. Faster. More. The action on the screen commanded it.
The man in the loft needed it.
The couple moved together at some invisible cue, pulling apart again and repositioning. The man on the bottom rose to his hands and knees and threw a smoldering gaze over his shoulder. He lowered his head to his forearms, presenting himself to his lover, poised and ready.
The larger man entered his lover slowly, steadying them both on the bed when his partner began to rock beneath him. The bed shook with their movements, adding its staccato rhythm to the primitive jungle beat.
Jim didn’t know how he’d gotten his jeans unfastened. He had no memory of buttons or zippers or thumbs hooked in the waistband. The urgency to cross the finish line was all-consuming and undressing was too much damn trouble. White-washed denim tangled around his knees and he grasped his now free cock, feeling pressure so intense that he began to wonder if he might zone.
Couldn’t think about that. Not now. Not when...
He matched his strokes to the tempo of the men on his television and surprised himself with the realization that he couldn’t wait for them.
He came hard and fast, heart thudding, ears ringing, oblivious to everything except the universe within his fist. When the shuddering finally ended, he was too wrung out to move. He came back to himself slowly, wondering in a moment of panic if he’d zoned. But his heart was still hammering in the aftermath, and his body temperature was still slightly elevated. No lost time, thank God.
No easy explanation for that one.
Winded, deflated, and sticky, Jim leaned his head back onto the couch. He could still hear a chorus of moans and grunts and guttural cries coming from the TV, but in the cold aftermath of what had been (dear God) a truly amazing orgasm, the noises seemed ridiculous and sordid instead of arousing.
He stopped the tape and pushed "rewind" so hard the button got stuck down. His hand left a smear of semen on the remote.
He stared down at it, watching in horrified fascination as its wet shine dulled into a gummy, incriminating fingerprint on the scuffed black plastic. His gaze slid off the remote still clutched in his sullied fingers, skittered over his cock, dangling limp and pathetic out of wrinkled boxers, danced over the heap of video boxes on the coffee table and settled on the VCR clock.
Sandburg's office hours would be over in thirty-seven minutes.
Jim tore his T-shirt over his head and scrubbed at his hand and the remote with it until they bore no trace of his recent activities. Kicking his jeans the rest of the way off, he picked them up and carried them into the bathroom, where he washed himself fiercely with a wet, soapy washcloth until the reek of sex had dissipated. Climbing the stairs, he wadded the washcloth and his clothes into as tiny a package as he could and stuffed them down into the bottom of the hamper in his bedroom.
Feeling strangely exposed in the openness of the loft, he dressed, pulling on sharply-creased khakis and a mock-turtleneck. The soft black wool felt comforting on his too-sensitized skin, covering him. He put on socks and loafers.
It was ten to five.
Hurrying downstairs, he gathered the tapes, making sure to replace "Rescue 69-11" in its case, and put them back in their bag. For a moment he pondered returning them to where he had found them, but he hadn't thought to note their exact position. Would Sandburg be suspicious if they were moved and Jim said nothing? Would it be better to try to play it off?
Yeah, that was it. He'd leave the bag on the coffee table, make a joke over dinner. Sandburg would have some outlandish explanation for the whole thing, full of six-syllable words and a tribe in New Guinea, and Jim would make a sarcastic comment about tribal rituals and everything would be normal.
Jim wiped his hands on his pants and went into the kitchen to start dinner.
Sandburg breezed in right as the oil got hot enough to add the chicken. The initial explosion of sizzles the meat made as it hit the pan drowned out the little coming-home noises he always made, the jingle of keys hitting the basket, the thud-slump of a dropped backpack, the rustle of a shucked jacket hung on its peg.
"Hey, Jim," he said cheerfully. "Smells great, man. Is that the thing with the squash and the..." Blair made a vague it's-right-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue gesture.
"Paprika," Jim said, feeling a tiny painful jolt of memory of a time before Sandburg when this dish had burned like poison in his mouth.
"Yeah, that's the stuff, man. Awesome." Blair wandered into the kitchen, brushing Jim's back as he got a beer out of the fridge.
"Whoa, hey, is that cashmere?" he asked, rubbing a finger lightly over the sleeve. Jim tensed. Had he washed thoroughly enough? He had no concept, anymore, of how much Blair could smell.
"Yeah," he said, forcing his voice to stay level. "Carolyn gave it to me for Christmas one year."
Sandburg nodded appreciatively. "Nice," he said. "I thought it might be new, I don't remember seeing it before."
"I don't wear it much," Jim said.
Sandburg nodded, moving into the living room. Jim held his breath, waiting for the questions that would start when Blair saw the bag on the coffee table, bracing himself to stay calm, to act normally.
Blair started digging through the bag, saying nothing.
Jim covered the skillet and went into the living room, watching as Sandburg sorted the tapes into piles according to some mysterious system of his own. Steeling himself, he picked up the closest video.
"Rear End Window?" he said, lifting an eyebrow. "You having a slumber party, Chief?"
"Hey, this is research, man," Blair grinned. "My friend Pinar- remember her, the one from Istanbul? She's conducting a media studies seminar on subcultural representations in film, and she asked me to do a guest lecture.”
“She asked you to lecture? Since when are you an expert in media studies?”
“I’m not an expert in media studies,” he grinned.
“Right.” Jim made a rolling motion with his hand, urging Sandburg to get to the point. “So...?”
“The seminar’s examining the film industry’s portrayal of various subcultures -- most notably, its depiction of homosexuality.”
“So this Pinar doesn’t think you’re an expert in film, she thinks you’re an expert on homosexuality?”
There was a momentary flash of something unreadable in Sandburg’s expression, then he blinked, and it was replaced by warm humor. “Yes, Jim. That’s it exactly,” he deadpanned, then launched instantly into Anthropologist Mode. “See, in many primitive cultures, homosexual behaviors were completely acceptable; for some, they were ritualistic and carried religious connotations. Yet today, the entire concept is reviled by the general public and exploited in seedy run-down theaters for eight bucks a ticket. That’s a societal change, not an evolutionary one.”
“So all these tapes...”
“...are exhibit A, man. I'm going to talk about the fact that film, as a modern-day artifact, is recording for posterity our society’s prostitution of cultural mores that are rife with historical significance. I've got to pick some key scenes from a couple of these and cue them up for the lecture next week."
Jim regarded him blankly. "They pay you for this?"
“Ha ha.” Blair’s reply was good-natured. “It’s not like some seedy double feature where I’m handing out moist towelettes afterward. I’m only showing selected scenes-- and we're going to look at some critically acclaimed indie films too. I just haven’t gotten those yet; they're a lot harder to find.”
Jim snorted, turning back towards the kitchen. "Whatever, Sandburg," he said. "You want rice?"
Jim moved around the kitchen, dishing out food and pulling the bread from the oven as Blair sifted through the videos. He heard the electrical hum of the television and VCR, and a tape being inserted for play.
“You want to help me pick?” Blair called from the couch. The question was light, almost teasing. “I can wait for you.”
“I’ll pass, Chief,” he answered evenly. “You go ahead, knock yourself out. Dinner in ten, though.”
“Okay, man. I just need to pick one or two of these to watch tonight.”
Jim busied himself with the food. Beneath the warm, spicy scent of dinner, he could smell the semen congealing on his wadded boxers upstairs.
As jungle drums began to play softly in the other room, he shoved the silverware drawer closed and carried the plates out to the table.