Clueless by Kerensa

Clueless - Kerensa

Jim's eyes popped open as soon as he heard the coffee maker click on. It was set on a timer that started a pot brewing at 6:30 a.m. every morning, unless either he or Blair turned it off the night before. At 6:31 Ellison turned back the covers and climbed out of bed. By 6:33 his bed was made—with corners sharp enough to be cut on—and he was heading down the stairs to take his shower. At precisely 6:43, the ex-Ranger was drying his short, still mostly military style haircut. He headed back upstairs and dressed in quick, economical movements, having picked and laid out his clothes the night before. At 6:47 he was standing in the kitchen pouring himself a cup of coffee.

~~~~

Blair hit the snooze button on his alarm clock—for the third time—and laid there for a couple more minutes. He finally rolled out of bed at 6:48. He almost literally rolled out of bed, but didn't when he realized at the last moment how close he'd gotten to the edge in the middle of the night. Staggering into the bathroom, Blair could smell the coffee that was brewing, but his eyes were so bleary that he couldn't have told you who, if anybody, was actually in the loft. He used the facilities, brushed his teeth and fixed his hair, which was way harder than it sounded, and exited the bathroom at 7:03.

"Chief, you're gonna be late," Jim's voice rang out.

Blair wagged a hand at him. Jim was always so worried about their schedules. Blair knew how long it took to get to Rainier, even with potential traffic problems and knew that he had oodles of time left.

In the bedroom he gave the unmade bed a brief glance before looking around for something to wear. He decided that his jeans from yesterday were fine—he had left them spread out on his bookcase to air out the night before—and slipped them on. Okay, really he'd just tossed them across the room and they had luckily landed on the top shelf, so they weren't too wrinkled. He quickly added a fresh t-shirt and picked out a random flannel shirt from his pile of clothing. He looked under the edge of the futon and found his tennis shoes and pulled them on.

Giving the bed another glance, Blair sighed. Jim would have kittens if he didn't do something with the bed. Taking hold of the top most blanket, he pulled it up over the rest of the bedding, patted down the worst of the lumps, and called it good.

"See, Jim." He held his hands out to the sides. "Ready to go, and I'm on time."

Ellison rolled his eyes and handed a travel mug, which he had filled with coffee for the younger man, to Blair, along with a toasted bagel.

"Ri-ight," the Sentinel drawled out. He didn't consider leaving—he glanced at the clock and saw that it was 7:28—with two minutes to spare being on time, but that was Blair for you. He ran 40 different directions at once and always managed to be where he was supposed to.

"So, have you decided? Are you going to do it?" Jim asked as they jogged down the stairs—the elevator was something both men avoided if they could, for obvious reasons.

Blair shrugged one shoulder, managing not to dislodge his backpack, spill his drink or lose his bagel in the process. "I'm not sure, man."

Jim nodded. "I'll see you later?" he half asked, half stated.

"Yeah, I should be at the station by 1:30," Blair told him as he opened the door on his Corvair.

"Good. Be careful, Chief," Jim told him as he climbed up into his blue and white, 1969 Ford truck, which was parked right beside Blair's car.

"I will," Blair said. Amusement could be heard in his voice. "Geez, Jim, I'm going to the station, not the jungles of South America."

"Huh, same difference with you," Ellison muttered. Not being a Sentinel, Blair failed to hear the comment on his propensity of finding trouble. Or rather, trouble finding him.

With a wave goodbye, Blair drove off to the right, down Prospect St., while Jim turned in the opposite direction.

~~~~

Ring. Ring.

Blair hesitated when he heard his office phone ring. He had just locked the door and wasn't sure if he should go back inside, or ignore it for now. He was already running late, because a record number of students had come to his office hours, worried about their research papers that were due in three weeks.

Ring.

Sandburg glanced at his watch. It was 1:11. If he ran to his car, drove like a bat out of hell and boogie butted up to Major Crimes, he might make it on time. If traffic wasn't too snarled.

The prospect of facing a pissed off Sentinel cinched it. Blair took off down the corridor, letting the phone ring in his empty office.

He had almost made it to the safety of his car when someone called out, "Professor Sandburg!"

Internally, Blair cursed. It was little interruptions like this that made him late. He couldn't ignore the voice though, although he wanted to, because it might be one of his students, and Blair would face Jim’s wrath to help one of the kids.

Sandburg stopped at the edge of the roadway and turned, looking for the speaker. A young woman, Carrie, who was in his Anthropology 102 class waved enthusiastically at him. With a tolerant smile, Blair waved back, sighing in relief, because she obviously just wanted to say hello.

A loud bang startled Blair. One hand still raised in mid-wave, he turned to see a large, big butt car coming straight towards him.

Everything slowed down, just like you see it in the movies. Blair could see the fear and horror on the face of the young man who was desperately trying to drive his out of control car. He could see the vehicle jerking back and forth on the road and realized that the loud sound he’d heard was one of the back tires blowing out.

It was almost funny, really. What with all the time he had, since it had gone into slow motion, you would have thought Blair could have jumped out of the way in time. But, in reality, what Blair saw lasted only a fraction of a second and he was frozen in shock, right in the automobile’s path.

The heavy car hit Blair head on, despite the driver’s best efforts. The grad student hit the windshield and was thrown twenty feet over onto the grass, where he landed with a bone crunching thud.

Luckily for Blair, he was unconscious from almost the first impact, so he didn’t know it when various parts of his anatomy broke. He didn’t hear Carrie screaming, or feel her soft, but careful touch on his shoulder. Blair was out.

~~~~

Captain Simon Banks barreled through the Emergency Room’s automatic doors, barely allowing them enough time to open. He was headed to the Admittance desk, one hand on his ID as he plastered on his fake, diplomatic smile, ready to tap dance if need be to find out what was happening with his observer. To his relief—and that of the nervous clerk who had been eyeing the very large and very determined man bearing down on her—Simon spotted Jim first. He veered over to where his good friend was leaning against the soft drink machine.

“Jim,” he called out a soft greeting. Simon was relieved when Ellison turned a dazed look on him; at least he wasn’t zoning out.

“Simon.”

“What happened? I heard that the kid was injured, but that’s it.”

Simon placed a friendly hand on the Sentinel’s shoulder; Jim was so tense that it felt like he was touching a stone statue. “Let’s sit down,” he suggested as he pried Jim off of the pop dispenser and over to some of the visitor chairs in the corner. No one else was in the immediate vicinity—again, big and scary win the day—so they were afforded some semblance of privacy.

“He was hit by a car,” Jim stated wearily.

Banks sat up straighter, his dark eyes widening. Hit by a car was more than an accident. “How bad is it?”

“Bad,” Ellison stated baldly. “One of the uniforms said that he was thrown over 20 feet.”

The captain paled and gave the E.R. doors a quick look. “Oh crap,” he stated succinctly.

“Yeah. I can hear them talking in there,” the Sentinel nodded towards the closed doors. “They are sure that both legs and his right arm are broken. He has a concussion, they aren’t sure how bad yet and he has some back injuries.”

“Do they think his back is broken?” Simon winced. He couldn’t imagine Blair confined to a wheelchair, or worse.

Jim shook his head. “No, they don’t think so, but they are waiting on the x-rays to be sure. The trauma doctor thinks that his back is sprained.”

“Geez.” Sprained was bad enough, even without the other injuries. “Do you know what happened?” What Simon was really asking was whether this was an accident or a murder attempt.

“A tire blew out on some kid’s car. From the eye witnesses’ accounts he tried his best not to hit Blair, but he couldn’t control the car.”

“Witnesses, not the young man himself?” Simon asked.

“No, the driver hit a parked car and was killed instantly,” Jim informed him.

“Shit,” Simon said softly. Naturally, Jim heard him and nodded in agreement. Two lives had been forever altered today; one in death and the other…well, it would remain to be seen what happened with Blair.

~~~~

Blair pushed up with his left arm and tried to shift his butt into a more comfortable position; not an easy task with both legs in casts, as well as his dominant arm. The younger man looked down at his body and grimaced.

"I look like a big blue plaster factory," he thought wryly.

The last time he'd had a broken bone, which until now had been the only time, was when he broke his arm falling out of Mrs. Danbush's tree when he was a little kid. The cast then had been a white, heavy plaster that all of his friends had signed. Nowadays, the casts could be in any color a person chose. He couldn't even have people sign his casts, leaving strange and possibly lewd sayings, because of the material that the braces were made of.

Jim had been a tremendous help. In fact, Blair didn't know what he would have done without the Sentinel.

Yes, I do, Blair thought to himself. I would have ended up in some nursing home or a rehab center for God only knows how long.

So far, it had been four months and he still couldn’t even hobble around on his own. Things had improved; the casts on his legs were confined to the lower half instead of all the way to his thighs, like they had been at first, and he was supposed to graduate to walking casts in the next couple of weeks.

Still, he was confined mainly to the couch and when not there, his bed. Poor Jim was being run ragged taking care of him. The detective had taken a leave of absence for the first month after he got home and since then they had an aide that came in during the day to keep an eye on Blair while Jim worked. Luckily, Jamil Hamid —the unfortunate driver of the car—had good insurance.

The doctor had told Jim and Blair that the grad student needed to take at least another couple of months off. Sandburg had arranged a sabbatical from the university and was taking the opportunity to finish his dissertation, with—surprise, surprise—Jim’s wholehearted approval.

Ellison had actually been the one to suggest that Blair work on the diss. Blair wondered if that was more an act of self preservation than anything. He had to admit that sitting around all day was boring and he knew that when he was bored, he was a cranky, pain in the butt.

So, Blair talked into a hand held tape recorder during the day and Jim typed what he’d said, in the evening. That way, the Sentinel knew what Blair was saying about him and the anthropologist could explain any problems that Jim had with what he meant. Of course, Blair being as verbose as he was, Jim wasn’t able to type all of each day’s notes every night, so Blair typed some himself. But typing one handed, with the wrong hand was slow going. Between the two men, they managed to keep Blair’s dissertation going along at a good clip.

~~~~

Muffled applause filtered through the closed doorway. Ellison sat on a bench outside of the conference chamber, a soft smile on his face.

The door opened and he looked up. The first person out wasn’t the one that Jim was looking for, but Blair was the second. Jim recognized the older gentleman who was holding the door as Eli Stoddard, Blair’s mentor.

Sandburg swung through on his crutches, a happy smile on his expressive face. “Thank you, Dr. Stoddard.”

“You are most welcome, Dr. Sandburg. I am very proud of you, my boy.” Eli smiled and patted Blair gently on the shoulder before going back inside.

“Thanks,” Blair said to his mentor before turning to Ellison, who was now standing. “Jim,” he greeted his Sentinel. The younger man was bouncing up and down as well as he could while using a set of crutches.

“Congratulations, Dr. Sandburg.” Jim wasn’t the first to say it—he knew because he had shamelessly been listening in as Blair defended his dissertation—but he could tell by the look on Blair’s face that his was the acknowledgement that he wanted most to hear.

“Thank you, Jim.” Blair semi-bounced again.

“Let’s sit down,” Jim strongly suggested. Blair didn’t complain, though.

He had gotten the walking casts alright, although they were several weeks later than planned, but the strain on his right leg had been too much and he had been downgraded to using the crutches. One good thing was that his arm had healed up just fine, but six months after the accident, he was still unable to get around.

“I’m so proud of you, Chief,” Jim stated. He pulled the grad student, no, doctor now, into a tight hug. Blair was stunned by the public display of affection from his rather formal roommate, but he enthusiastically reciprocated.

“Thank you, Big Guy. I couldn’t have done it without you.” Literally. Ellison was both the subject of his paper and his main typist.

Ellison had stopped worrying about his secret getting out when Blair had handed Jim a two-inch thick folder, full of official documents. There were several secrecy clauses, ensuring that the subject of Blair’s dissertation would never be disclosed, unless agreed to by both Blair and said subject. Also, the diss itself was to be sealed, after the defense, for a minimum of 100 years, again unless both men wanted to do otherwise.

Jim was a little sad that no one, at least in the foreseeable future, would see Blair’s beautifully written work of art. That didn’t stop him from being glad, but he was still sad about it.

Another change had come about in their lives, one that neither man was happy about, but it had been inevitable. The bones in Blair’s legs were not healing at a rate that the doctors liked. Also, there had been considerable soft tissue damage to his lower extremities. All of this added up to the unmistakable conclusion that Blair would not be able to ride along with Jim anymore.

Blair was still going to live at the loft and work with Jim on his senses, but he had been offered a full-time professorship at Rainier. It was hard to accept, but Blair’s injuries were going to keep him from coming back to the station as anything other than an observer; one that strictly observed.

The observer hadn’t fully accepted his reduced presence at the station, yet. He hoped that with physical therapy and a lot of work he would be able to be back by Jim’s side out in the field. Jim, on the other hand, wasn’t going to risk Blair’s mobility, not after all he had been through trying to recover. Ellison vowed to keep his Sentinel senses on a low keel unless Simon was around to prevent a zone out. He had been a good detective before the senses and he could be a good one without them.

“Come on, Chief. We have some celebrating to do.”

Jim slid a hand under Blair’s elbow and helped the younger man to stand. Sandburg wobbled a moment, before he got his crutches firmly under his arms. Sentinel and Guide headed out to meet friends of Blair from the university and the station who were throwing a party for the younger man.

Life was good, if different than before.

The End.

Clueless: Version 2

Jim's eyes popped open as soon as he heard the coffee maker click on. It was set on a timer that started a pot brewing at 6:30 a.m. every morning, unless either he or Blair turned it off the night before. At 6:31 Ellison turned back the covers and climbed out of bed. By 6:33 his bed was made—with corners sharp enough to be cut on—and he was heading down the stairs to take his shower. At precisely 6:43, the ex-Ranger was drying his short, still mostly military style haircut. He headed back upstairs and dressed in quick, economical movements, having picked and laid out his clothes the night before. At 6:47 he was standing in the kitchen pouring himself a cup of coffee.

~~~~

Blair hit the snooze button on his alarm clock—for the third time—and laid there for a couple more minutes. He finally rolled out of bed at 6:48. He almost literally rolled out of bed, but didn't when he realized at the last moment how close he'd gotten to the edge in the middle of the night. Staggering into the bathroom, Blair could smell the coffee that was brewing, but his eyes were so bleary that he couldn't have told you who, if anybody, was actually in the loft. He used the facilities, brushed his teeth and fixed his hair, which was way harder than it sounded, and exited the bathroom at 7:03.

"Chief, you're gonna be late," Jim's voice rang out.

Blair wagged a hand at him. Jim was always so worried about their schedules. Blair knew how long it took to get to Rainier, even with potential traffic problems and knew that he had oodles of time left.

In the bedroom he gave the unmade bed a brief glance before looking around for something to wear. He decided that his jeans from yesterday were fine—he had left them spread out on his bookcase to air out the night before—and slipped them on. Okay, really he'd just tossed them across the room and they had luckily landed on the top shelf, so they weren't too wrinkled. He quickly added a fresh t-shirt and picked out a random flannel shirt from his pile of clothing. He looked under the edge of the futon and found his tennis shoes and pulled them on.

Giving the bed another glance, Blair sighed. Jim would have kittens if he didn't do something with the bed. Taking hold of the top most blanket, he pulled it up over the rest of the bedding, patted down the worst of the lumps, and called it good.

"See, Jim." He held his hands out to the sides. "Ready to go, and I'm on time."

Ellison rolled his eyes and handed a travel mug, which he had filled with coffee for the younger man, to Blair, along with a toasted bagel.

"Ri-ight," the Sentinel drawled out. He didn't consider leaving—he glanced at the clock and saw that it was 7:28—with two minutes to spare being on time, but that was Blair for you. He ran 40 different directions at once and always managed to be where he was supposed to.

"So, have you decided? Are you going to do it?" Jim asked as they jogged down the stairs—the elevator was something both men avoided if they could, for obvious reasons.

Blair shrugged one shoulder, managing not to dislodge his backpack, spill his drink or lose his bagel in the process. "I'm not sure, man."

Jim nodded. "I'll see you later?" he half asked, half stated.

"Yeah, I should be at the station by 1:30," Blair told him as he opened the door on his Corvair.

"Good. Be careful, Chief," Jim told him as he climbed up into his blue and white, 1969 Ford truck, which was parked right beside Blair's car.

"I will," Blair said. Amusement could be heard in his voice. "Geez, Jim, I'm going to the station, not the jungles of South America."

"Huh, same difference with you," Ellison muttered. Not being a Sentinel, Blair failed to hear the comment on his propensity of finding trouble. Or rather, trouble finding him.

With a wave goodbye, Blair drove off to the right, down Prospect St., while Jim turned in the opposite direction.

~~~~

Ring. Ring.

Blair hesitated when he heard his office phone ring. He had just locked the door and wasn't sure if he should go back inside, or ignore it for now. He was already running late, because a record number of students had come to his office hours, worried about their research papers that were due in three weeks.

Ring.

Sandburg glanced at his watch. It was 1:11. If he ran to his car, drove like a bat out of hell and boogie butted up to Major Crimes, he might make it on time. If traffic wasn't too snarled.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Ring. Ring.

Cursing, Blair re-opened the door to his office and raced over to the phone; his innate sense of responsibility wouldn’t let him do otherwise.

“Hello,” he answered breathlessly.

“Hello, Mr. Sandburg?”

Blair smiled and shook his head. Who else would be answering his phone? “Yes.”

“This is Misty Calhoun.” Predictably, it was one of his students asking a question about her upcoming research paper. Blair had no idea why people waited so long to start the darn things, but the students, especially the younger ones, always did.

Pop! Bang!

Blair jumped at the loud sound. He hurried over to look out the window. Sandburg was just in time to see a gas guzzler car slam into a parked car with another loud crash. His mouth hanging open, Blair hesitated in shock for all of two seconds.

“Misty, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I have to go. There has been an accident outside.”

“Oh, that’s terrible. Of course, sir. I’ll talk to you later.”

The grad student nodded automatically and said goodbye. He hurried out of his office, not even thinking about locking the door, and down the stairs. He hit the quad at about the same time as the students who had witnessed the accident snapped out of their shocked stances.

Sandburg raced over to the car, silently acknowledging that being chased by all of those bad guys had done some good. He stumbled to a stop by the wreck and swallowed the bile that crept up in the back of his throat. Blood was everywhere, inside and in some cases, on the outside of the car. There was no used checking for signs of life, because the dead man’s neck was at such an angle that there was no hope.

“Okay, stay back, people,” Blair said, turning and waving his hands at the approaching group of bystanders. He hoped that he could keep some of these kids from seeing the gruesome sight.

“I’ve called the police, Professor Sandburg.” Blair recognized Carrie, a girl from one of his classes.

“Thank you, Carrie,” he said with a half smile.

“Is there anything we can do?” One young man asked. From the look on his face, it was apparent that he was hoping Blair’s answer would be no, but that he would help if it was needed.

“I’m afraid not,” Blair admitted. He saw more than one person look at the car. The front end was crumpled back, almost to the windshield, which wasn’t there at all. “Those of you who saw the accident can wait for the police, though, to give a statement.” Most of the crowd nodded reluctantly. “How about if you wait over there.” He pointed back to the steps of Hargrove Hall. The nods were more enthusiastic this time.

The anthropologist glanced back at the face of the young man pinned in the car. His face was vaguely familiar, but Blair didn’t have him in any of his classes, so he didn’t know his name.

“What a waste,” Blair said sadly, after the others had gone off to wait. In the distance he could hear the sounds of approaching sirens, both police and ambulance.

~~~~

Jamil Hamid.

That was the dead boy’s name. Blair had learned it from one of the eyewitnesses who knew him from class. His father was a well known Middle Eastern diplomat. In fact, the man was so well known because of his stance on human rights policies and all the death threats he had received because of them.

I’m glad to know his name, Blair thought.

Blair casually leaned one shoulder against the wall of the elevator, because he didn't want the other occupants to see how shaken he was; Blair got little enough respect from the people at the station on a good day.

The observer had seen dead bodies before—Susan Fraser sprang immediately to mind—but the violent, immediate death of someone so young had thrown him. Jamil looked like so many of his own students, young and ready for life; life which had ended so abruptly.

The doors opened onto the 7th floor and Blair stepped out into the hallway. The door to Major Crimes was right in front of him. Taking a deep breath to bolster himself, Blair pushed the door open and walked inside. People were working diligently at their desks, talking on the phone, writing reports or clicking on a computer, like nothing had happened.

And for them, nothing had. A tragedy had happened today, but it didn't touch these people at all, which was only natural. But it drove home to Blair how fragile life was and pointed out to him that he could die tomorrow and a few people would be upset, but life would keep rolling along.

"Hey, Hairboy," Brown greeted the observer with a smile and a wave of his hand.

"Hi, H," Blair returned the greeting. He smiled at the folically challenged man, who had his phone jammed under his chin, most probably on hold.

Blair walked wearily over to Jim's desk. He opened his mouth to greet the detective, but never got a chance.

"Where the hell have you been?" Jim snarled out the question. Blair got a look at his pale blue eyes and saw that they had hardened to pieces of ice. "You were supposed to be here almost two hours ago. What happened? Meet some busty student and get a little behind the tool shed?" he continued with a curl of his lip.

Sandburg's eyes widened in surprise and hurt. "Jim. I..." Again, he was interrupted.

"You promised me that you would be here by 1:30." The Sentinel glanced at the clock on the wall, as if he needed to see the numbers to confirm the time. "It is now 3:15. I know that a promise probably doesn't mean much to you, but here, where we work, being on time is of utmost importance. I swear, Sandburg, there are times when you are so inconsiderate."

Blair felt a stab of pain in his stomach when Jim questioned his work ethic. The stab began to burn, spreading out from his abdomen to the rest of his body. It burned and then it turned to ice.

"...getting your rocks off..." This time it was Blair who did the interrupting.

"Shut up." Blair didn't have to speak loudly to get his point across. As a teacher he was used to projecting his voice, without being overly loud

The words stuck in Jim's throat and his mouth fell open in shock. All around the room, Blair could see people staring at him in surprise. Even Simon, who had come out of his office to see what was going on, was amazed. Blair knew that he had a reputation for being meek and mild, for letting Jim run all over him and taking it. They were about to be shocked.

"Where the hell do you get off talking to me like that?!" Jim bellowed.

"You attacked me the second I walked through those doors," Blair pointed out with a glare. "I have the nerve to speak up for myself, because in case it's escaped your attention, detective, I don't work for the police department. I work at the university." Ellison opened his mouth to make a disparaging remark, but Sandburg blew right over him. "And in case you think my job is nothing, why don't you try teaching 60 bored students at a time."

Jim shut up at that. A few people, ones that he knew had children, nodded their heads in agreement.

"Heaven forbid that you actually ask why I'm late. Oh yes, I know, I'm always late, according to you. Which is bullshit, Ellison. You generalize everyone and everything. Oh, and by the way, I didn't promise you jack. I said I would do my best to be here by 1:30, barring any emergencies. Like, oh, I don't know, being inundated by students during office hours, or say, witnessing a car wreck!" He finally lost his cool and shouted the last few words.

The Sentinel folded his arms across his chest and scowled, thinking that Blair was speaking rhetorically. Blair shook his head at the ex-Ranger's stubbornness.

Blair spun around to leave. He got two steps before he turned to face the Sentinel again. "Oh yeah, by the way, I have never had sex against some building, you inconsiderate asshole! I respect my lovers." Blair turned to leave, as he got to the door he turned back for one more parting statement. "Oh, by the way, before you start casting out slut stones I have one word for you, Laura."

Blair snorted at the embarrassed look on Ellison's face as he remembered the red headed—naturally—jewel thief and how he had let her abundance of pheromones take control of him over. If Blair hadn’t accidentally walked in on them making out, at a crime scene no less, the two of them would most likely have ended up having sex—against a wall.

~~~~

Simon heard a commotion in the bull pen and sighed. Sometimes, I think I captain little kids, he thought. With another weary sigh, Banks heaved himself out of his chair and went to the door to investigate. It was Ellison and Sandburg. What a surprise. Not! Jim had a tendency to take his frustrations out on the grad student and, to be fair, Blair oftentimes pushed and prodded at the Sentinel, trying to get him to open up about his feelings, until the older man exploded.

Banks stood in the doorway and watched the two men. Normally, the younger man was all smiles and good humor for the detective, no matter what Jim might say or do, but not today. Blair was standing in front of the ex-Ranger, his hands clenched into fists at his sides and a determined look on his face. Jim had his arms crossed and a faintly superior look on his face. Simon had seen that look on both men's faces before and that only meant one thing; someone had said something hurtful—most likely Jim—and wasn't going to back down. The captain decided that for once they were going to act like the mature adults they really were and handle this themselves.

"...get off talking to me like that!"

The captain of Major Crimes was about to revise his earlier determination, because instead of calming the waters, as he usually did, Blair wasn't taking any guff from Ellison today. Jim wasn't used to people standing up to him, especially not his younger friend, and wasn't dealing with the aggression well. Before Simon could step forward, things went from bad to really bad and Blair walked out of the bull pen.

Silence fell onto the room like a heavy fog blanketing the desks. Everyone was looking around, but no one was looking at Jim. The tension was literally pouring off of Ellison and no one else wanted to face his ire. Banks sighed again, making the Sentinel's head whip around.

"My office," he said in a quieter tone than was usual. No one questioned who he was talking about and Jim walked, very stiffly, into the office. Simon was not looking forward to this.

~~~~

"Stupid, jack ass," Blair hissed quietly.

He paced to the French doors and then back over to the balcony doors, where he stood and stared out of the windows without actually seeing anything; his mind was too busy replaying the day's events. Flashes of the wreck at the university and then the fight at the station kept getting intermingled with one another.

"I am really sick of being treated like his dog. His really stupid dog," Blair amended.

Ring. Ring.

Sandburg flinched at the sound, which reminded him of his office and seeing the wreck outside.

Ring.

Blair snatched up the receiver before it could make any more noise. "Hello, uh, Ellison residence."

"Blair, my boy. Is that you?"

"Professor Stoddard?" The anthropologist was surprised; he hadn't heard from his mentor in more than a year, not since he'd offered Blair a chance on his team to Borneo; a chance that Blair had turned down for Jim.

"Yes, my boy. How are you?"

The next few minutes were filled with the two men catching up. Blair found out more about the Borneo expedition and Eli heard a lot about Blair's exploits with Jim. Then the older man got to the point of his call.

"I have a proposition for you, Blair."

Blair raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Oh?"

"Yes. I am gearing up for an expedition to study the Muzambe Tribe in Eastern Africa."

The anthropologist sat down abruptly. "Wow, that's great!" he enthused. "The Muzambes are really isolated."

They were so isolated, in fact, that they were considered to be one of the true pure people left on Earth. They had had little contact with the outside world, so their customs were that of people from several hundred years ago. It took a lot of persuasion and clout to get permission to observe the Muzambe and even then you had to do it from afar, through binoculars, etc., so as not to disrupt their lives.

"I am calling you, Blair, in the hopes that you will join our expedition. It would be a great boon to your career."

The grad student's mind was racing in a million different directions at once. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The last people to study the Muzambe were a Princeton group from the 1950's; odds are that another expedition wouldn't take place in Blair's lifetime. But then, there was Jim to consider. He had made a commitment to help the Sentinel and even though they were having problems now, Blair still thought of Jim as his friend.

"I, uh, I'd need to think about it." Sandburg bit his lip. Inside, he wanted to yell, Yes! I'll go, but there was still Jim. Blair was also afraid for his career and his relationship with Dr. Stoddard. This was the second time that Eli had asked him on a prestigious mission. Because of the older man's advancing years, and the wealth of eager students, Blair was worried that his old mentor would give up on him.

"I understand, my boy. I know you have a great many other commitments to think about. There is still plenty of time for you to decide, because I just got the approval from the Tanzanian government today. We won't be leaving for another two months."

Just after the semester ends, Blair's whirling mind supplied. He was thinking so hard that he almost missed it when Stoddard resumed talking.

"...call me at 555-6897."

Blair hastily wrote the number down. "I will, Professor, no matter what I decide."

"That's fine. For my part, I would love to have you with us, but I will understand if you feel that you can't make it," Eli stated, encouraging Blair, while at the same time reassuring him that their friendship would remain intact, no matter what.

The front door opened and Blair turned to see Jim standing in the doorway and glaring at him. Sandburg frowned at the detective.

“I need to go now, Professor. I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”

“Very good, my boy. Take care now.”

“Thank you, sir. You too.”

Blair hung up the phone. He jumped when the front door was slammed, a definite no-no in the Ellison abode.

“Already jumping ship, huh. Figures, you are a Sandburg, after all,” Jim said nastily.

“And what the hell is that supposed to mean?” Blair asked, his own temper flaring.

“Well, when the going gets tough, the Sandburgs take a hike,” the Sentinel said with a smirk.

“Oh, I see. You mean like how I’ve stuck around for almost three years.” Jim narrowed his eyes and Blair pushed on, not wanting to hear how Ellison had saved him from being homeless and starving—Not! “Or how I’ve slacked off from my obligations at the university…for the last 13 years!”

Ellison looked away, as if denying what Blair was saying. The younger man thought for a moment and came to an inescapable conclusion.

“At least I don’t eavesdrop on people’s private conversations,” he stated. “Or jump to conclusions. Of course, you jump to conclusions so much of the time that I’m surprised you’re not part kangaroo.” The detective glared at him for that statement. “Did you hear all of my talk with Professor Stoddard?” he asked.

Jim shrugged one shoulder. “Not all of it,” he admitted.

“But you decided that hearing part of it told you the whole story. Heaven forbid you actually get the facts straight.”

Ellison held one hand out and waggled it back and forth. “I don’t want to discuss it with you anymore, Sandburg; it’s not worth it. I’m going for a walk.”

“What?! You’re just…” Blair stopped when Jim ended the discussion by walking out the door.

Blair thought about what Jim had said, both here and earlier at the station. He realized that he was sick of Jim’s paranoia and his crappy attitude. Sandburg wanted to write his dissertation on Sentinels, but he didn’t need to be treated like shit to do so.

~~~~

When Jim finally came home, late that night, he smelled like cigarette smoke and beer. The older man was obviously tipsy and stumbled as he came in. It never dawned on him that Blair didn’t come out to investigate, not because he was such a sound sleeper, but because he simply wasn’t there.

The next morning, a very hung over Ellison found the note on the kitchen cabinet.

Jim,

You have been a good friend to me for several years, but I think it is time for me to find my own place.

As you heard last night, Eli Stoddard has offered me a place on his next expedition. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet. I am not abandoning you, S-wise or at the station, but it seems to me that we need to take a step back.

Your friend, Blair

Ellison crumpled up the note in one hand and threw it as hard as he could at the kitchen wall. Being made of paper, it didn’t satisfy his urge to do damage, but the idea was there.

~~~~

“Leave a message at the beep.”

Beep.

“Step back, my ass, Sandburg. Go ahead and run; I always knew that you would. As for the S-business, don’t worry about it. I survived before you came along and I’ll sure as hell make it without you following behind me and writing everything I do or say down in your little notebook. Don’t bother coming back to the station; I don’t want you there either.”

Beep.

~~~~

The next day, Blair called Eli and accepted the position as his assistant on the expedition. The older man was ecstatic.

~~~~

Blair called Simon, who had already had an earful from Ellison. He talked Blair into meeting at a nearby coffee shop. The captain seemed sincerely upset that the observer and his best detective had had a falling out. The observer gave Simon his pass and shook the older man’s hand. They parted amicably.

While Jim was at the station, Blair came by the loft with a few of his friends and loaded up his valuables. He left his key on the table and walked out, with a lot of regrets and more than one tear in his eye as he walked away from the burned bridge his life had become.

~~~~

The guys at the station gave Blair a Bon Voyage party at Cody’s, a local hangout. Everyone from Major Crimes was there, from Rhonda to the donut girl, who had a secret crush on the observer. People came from all different departments of the police station, with one noticeable exception.

Jim Ellison refused to attend.

Simon tried to talk him into it. He pointed out that the fight was Jim’s fault. Blair had seen the accident at Rainier and had been trying to help, which was the reason he had been late.

Jim just glared at the wall and refused to budge. Inside, he knew he was being unreasonable and that if he just apologized, Blair would probably stay, but his pride and his father’s voice in his hear telling him that real men don’t apologize kept the Sentinel silent.

The Sentinel determinedly and deliberately suppressed his enhanced senses. As with any ability, if it isn’t used, it atrophies. Jim was no longer a Sentinel.

~~~~

Sixteen months later

A triumphant expedition returned from the tiny village they had been observing in Africa. Blair Sandburg had spent the better part of that time perched in a tree or hiding behind camouflaged shelters, watching the unsuspecting people. He wrote his dissertation on The Affects of Modern Society on Ancient Cultures, contrasting the Muzambe people and their pure, unaffected culture and the Fritane peoples of Outer Mongolia, who had been corrupted by modern society.

Dr. Blair Sandburg was hailed as a genius. His dissertation became required reading for all upper level anthropology majors. He moved to California, which was much warmer, and became a teacher at UCLA.

Despite trying to talk to his old friend, Ellison refused to meet with Blair. After a few times, Sandburg stopped trying.

The End, Version 2.

Clueless: Version 3

Jim's eyes popped open as soon as he heard the coffee maker click on. It was set on a timer that started a pot brewing at 6:30 a.m. every morning, unless either he or Blair turned it off the night before. At 6:31 Ellison turned back the covers and climbed out of bed. By 6:33 his bed was made—with corners sharp enough to be cut on—and he was heading down the stairs to take his shower. At precisely 6:43, the ex-Ranger was drying his short, still mostly military style haircut. He headed back upstairs and dressed in quick, economical movements, having picked and laid out his clothes the night before. At 6:47 he was standing in the kitchen pouring himself a cup of coffee.

~~~~

Blair hit the snooze button on his alarm clock—for the third time—and laid there for a couple more minutes. He finally rolled out of bed at 6:48. He almost literally rolled out of bed, but didn't when he realized at the last moment how close he'd gotten to the edge in the middle of the night. Staggering into the bathroom, Blair could smell the coffee that was brewing, but his eyes were so bleary that he couldn't have told you who, if anybody, was actually in the loft. He used the facilities, brushed his teeth and fixed his hair, which was way harder than it sounded, and exited the bathroom at 7:03.

"Chief, you're gonna be late," Jim's voice rang out.

Blair wagged a hand at him. Jim was always so worried about their schedules. Blair knew how long it took to get to Rainier, even with potential traffic problems and knew that he had oodles of time left.

In the bedroom he gave the unmade bed a brief glance before looking around for something to wear. He decided that his jeans from yesterday were fine—he had left them spread out on his bookcase to air out the night before—and slipped them on. Okay, really he'd just tossed them across the room and they had luckily landed on the top shelf, so they weren't too wrinkled. He quickly added a fresh t-shirt and picked out a random flannel shirt from his pile of clothing. He looked under the edge of the futon and found his tennis shoes and pulled them on.

Giving the bed another glance, Blair sighed. Jim would have kittens if he didn't do something with the bed. Taking hold of the top most blanket, he pulled it up over the rest of the bedding, patted down the worst of the lumps, and called it good.

"See, Jim." He held his hands out to the sides. "Ready to go, and I'm on time."

Ellison rolled his eyes and handed a travel mug, which he had filled with coffee for the younger man, to Blair, along with a toasted bagel.

"Ri-ight," the Sentinel drawled out. He didn't consider leaving—he glanced at the clock and saw that it was 7:28—with two minutes to spare being on time, but that was Blair for you. He ran 40 different directions at once and always managed to be where he was supposed to.

"So, have you decided? Are you going to do it?" Jim asked as they jogged down the stairs—the elevator was something both men avoided if they could, for obvious reasons.

Blair shrugged one shoulder, managing not to dislodge his backpack, spill his drink or lose his bagel in the process. "I'm not sure, man."

Jim nodded. "I'll see you later?" he half asked, half stated.

"Yeah, I should be at the station by 1:30," Blair told him as he opened the door on his Corvair.

"Good. Be careful, Chief," Jim told him as he climbed up into his blue and white, 1969 Ford truck, which was parked right beside Blair's car.

"I will," Blair said. Amusement could be heard in his voice. "Geez, Jim, I'm going to the station, not the jungles of South America."

"Huh, same difference with you," Ellison muttered. Not being a Sentinel, Blair failed to hear the comment on his propensity of finding trouble. Or rather, trouble finding him.

With a wave goodbye, Blair drove off to the right, down Prospect St., while Jim turned in the opposite direction.

~~~~

Ring. Ring.

Blair hesitated when he heard his office phone ring. He had just locked the door and wasn't sure if he should go back inside, or ignore it for now. He was already running late, because a record number of students had come to his office hours, worried about their research papers that were due in three weeks.

Ring.

Sandburg glanced at his watch. It was 1:11. If he ran to his car, drove like a bat out of hell and boogie butted up to Major Crimes, he might make it on time. If traffic wasn't too snarled.

Ring. Ring.

Cursing, Blair re-opened the door to his office and raced over to the phone; his innate sense of responsibility wouldn’t let him do otherwise.

“Hello,” he answered breathlessly.

“Hello, Mr. Sandburg?”

Blair smiled and shook his head. Who else would be answering his phone? “Yes.”

“This is Misty Calhoun.” Predictably, it was one of his students asking a question about her upcoming research paper. Blair had no idea why people waited so long to start the darn things, but the students, especially the younger ones, always did.

Pop! Bang!

Blair jumped at the loud sound. He hurried over to look out the window. Sandburg was just in time to see a gas guzzler car slam into a parked car with another loud crash. His mouth hanging open, Blair hesitated in shock for all of two seconds.

“Misty, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I have to go. There has been an accident outside.”

“Oh, that’s terrible. Of course, sir. I’ll talk to you later.”

The grad student nodded automatically and said goodbye. He hurried out of his office, not even thinking about locking the door, and down the stairs. He hit the quad at about the same time as the students who had witnessed the accident snapped out of their shocked stances.

Sandburg raced over to the car, silently acknowledging that being chased by all of those bad guys had done some good. He stumbled to a stop by the wreck and swallowed the bile that crept up in the back of his throat. Blood was everywhere, inside and in some cases, on the outside of the car. There was no used checking for signs of life, because the dead man’s neck was at such an angle that there was no hope.

“Okay, stay back, people,” Blair said, turning and waving his hands at the approaching group of bystanders. He hoped that he could keep some of these kids from seeing the gruesome sight.

“I’ve called the police, Professor Sandburg.” Blair recognized Carrie, a girl from one of his classes.

“Thank you, Carrie,” he said with a half smile.

“Is there anything we can do?” One young man asked. From the look on his face, it was apparent that he was hoping Blair’s answer would be no, but that he would help if it was needed.

“I’m afraid not,” Blair admitted. He saw more than one person look at the car. The front end was crumpled back, almost to the windshield, which wasn’t there at all. “Those of you who saw the accident can wait for the police, though, to give a statement.” Most of the crowd nodded reluctantly. “How about if you wait over there.” He pointed back to the steps of Hargrove Hall. The nods were more enthusiastic this time.

The anthropologist glanced back at the face of the young man pinned in the car. His face was vaguely familiar, but Blair didn’t have him in any of his classes, so he didn’t know his name.

“What a waste,” Blair said sadly, after the others had gone off to wait. In the distance he could hear the sounds of approaching sirens, both police and ambulance.

~~~~

Jamil Hamid.

That was the dead boy’s name. Blair had learned it from one of the eyewitnesses who knew him from class. His father was a well known Middle Eastern diplomat. In fact, the man was so well known because of his stance on human rights policies and all the death threats he had received because of them.

I’m glad to know his name, Blair thought.

Blair casually leaned one shoulder against the wall of the elevator, because he didn't want the other occupants to see how shaken he was; Blair got little enough respect from the people at the station on a good day.

The observer had seen dead bodies before—Susan Fraser sprang immediately to mind—but the violent, immediate death of someone so young had thrown him. Jamil looked like so many of his own students, young and ready for life; life which had ended so abruptly.

The doors opened onto the 7th floor and Blair stepped out into the hallway. The door to Major Crimes was right in front of him. Taking a deep breath to bolster himself, Blair pushed the door open and walked inside. People were working diligently at their desks, talking on the phone, writing reports or clicking on a computer, like nothing had happened.

And for them, nothing had. A tragedy had happened today, but it didn't touch these people at all, which was only natural. But it drove home to Blair how fragile life was and pointed out to him that he could die tomorrow and a few people would be upset, but life would keep rolling along.

"Hey, Hairboy," Brown greeted the observer with a smile and a wave of his hand.

"Hi, H," Blair returned the greeting. He smiled at the folically challenged man, who had his phone jammed under his chin, most probably on hold.

Blair walked wearily over to Jim's desk. He opened his mouth to greet the detective, but never got a chance.

"Where the hell have you been?" Jim snarled out the question. Blair got a look at his pale blue eyes and saw that they had hardened to pieces of ice. "You were supposed to be here almost two hours ago. What happened? Meet some busty student and get a little behind the tool shed?" he continued with a curl of his lip.

Sandburg's eyes widened in surprise and hurt. "Jim. I..." Again, he was interrupted.

"You promised me that you would be here by 1:30." The Sentinel glanced at the clock on the wall, as if he needed to see the numbers to confirm the time. "It is now 3:15. I know that a promise probably doesn't mean much to you, but here, where we work, being on time is of utmost importance. I swear, Sandburg, there are times when you are so inconsiderate."

Blair felt a stab of pain in his stomach when Jim questioned his work ethic. The stab began to burn, spreading out from his abdomen to the rest of his body. It burned and then it turned to ice.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“Ellison! Sandburg. My office, now,” Simon’s voice rang out, effectively stopping the fight in its tracks.

Banks had heard the argument—Jim’s voice certainly carried—and had come to the doorway of his office. Almost immediately Simon saw that the situation was getting way out of hand, especially when Jim, who always talked about what a hard worker Blair was, all but called the observer a slacker.

“Have a seat, gentlemen,” the captain strongly suggested.

Blair collapsed into one of the soft chairs, like his legs wouldn’t hold him. It was easy to see how upset he was by the devastated expression on Blair’s expressive face. Simon had to give Jim one of his trademark glares, but the detective finally sat down.

“Care to tell me what’s going on?”

“Sandburg was supposed to be here almost two hours ago,” Ellison stated, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Uh huh.” Simon looked at Blair, who resembled a kicked puppy, albeit a pissed off kicked puppy. “So, what happened, kid?”

“There was a wreck,” Blair muttered. He was vacillating between the hurt and anger. So much so, that Blair didn’t know what he felt.

Simon leaned forward in his chair. “What hap—” he started, before being interrupted.

“Are you alright, Chief? Where are you hurt?”

Ellison was at Blair’s side immediately. Jim went from mad to worried so fast that it made everyone’s head spin. Blair stared at the Sentinel, with his mouth hanging open. Just a few minutes earlier, Ellison had been accusing him of being a slacker and now he had whipped into a hyper version of the Blessed Protector mode.

“Uh, yeah, I’m fine.”

“I’m glad.” Jim took a deep breath and looked Blair squarely in the eye. “I’m sorry. I jumped to conclusions and acted like an ass. I know that you wouldn’t blow off your commitments. I was worried when you didn’t come in like you had planned and I…”

“Overreacted,” Blair finished for him.

“Yeah,” Ellison admitted ruefully.

“I forgive you,” Sandburg stated quietly. He smiled up at his good friend, who smiled back as he ruffled Blair’s hair.

Simon watched the scene silently. Banks smirked behind his cigar, knowing that he had averted another crisis. “So, what was the damage to your car?” he asked, breaking the tension in the room.

“Oh, it wasn’t my car that was wrecked,” Blair reassured them. “It was a student at Rainier, Jamil Hamid. He died at the scene.”

“Hamid? Ahmed Hamid’s son?” Simon asked.

Blair nodded his head, making his cinnamon colored curls bounce. “I think so. I know his dad was some high muckity muck in the Middle East.”

“Damn. That’s going to cause a big stink,” Simon stated.

The grad student nodded again. “That reminds me. Jim, I was wondering if you could check the scene out for me.”

Ellison nodded his head. “Sure, Sandburg. What’s on your mind?”

He related what had happened in his office and how he had heard the tire blowing out. “But right before that, I heard another, softer popping sound that has me worried.”

“If it’s alright with you, Simon, I’ll check it out.”

“That’s fine,” Banks agreed. He knew that Blair was a very intelligent young man and if he thought the situation warranted further investigation then it probably did.

"So, have you decided yet, Sandburg?" Simon asked, changing the subject. He glanced over at Ellison and the two older men exchanged a grin. They already had a pretty good idea of what the observer's answer was going to be.

"Yes, I have and uh, yeah, I'm going to do it."

Or maybe they didn't know. Both Jim’s and Simon's mouths fell open in stunned surprise. "You are?" Jim asked.

"Yes." Blair shrugged one shoulder negligently. "It's for a good cause, after all."

The two other men didn't quite know what to say. The Cascade Police Department Annual Calendar was open to anyone who worked at the police station and was very sought after when it came out. The pictures ranged from modest to some downright risqué ones. Blair, who everyone admitted was a very good looking man, had been offered a spot on the calendar as a lark, because no one really expected the body conscious younger man to take them up on it. Apparently, altruism won out over modesty.

"That's great, Chief." Ellison had been offered a photo shoot on several different occasions, but had always turned them down.

"Should be interesting," Blair said with a smile.

~~~~

"Thank you for the generous offer, Dr. Stoddard."

"But?" Eli prompted his favorite protégé.

"But, I'm afraid I have commitments that I can't leave." Blair bit his lip, worried that the older man would be mad, since this was the second expedition that he had been offered and turned down.

Eli chuckled. "I had a feeling that that would be your answer, my boy." Blair relaxed at hearing the affectionate nickname; Eli couldn't be too mad if he was still willing to call him that.

"So, you're not disappointed?"

"Oh, I am definitely disappointed," the anthropologist admitted. "I'm disappointed that you won't be with us, but I understand and applaud your determination to stick with your other commitments. I would expect nothing less of you, Blair."

Blair smiled and blushed at the compliment. "Thank you, sir, both for the offer and for saying that."

"You're welcome, my boy. I will see you when we return."

"Goodbye, Eli."

Blair hung up the phone with a lot of regrets, because the expedition would be ground breaking, but content with his decision. Jim and their Sentinel studies were more important.

~~~~

Downstairs, Jim sat in his truck, a blue and white, 1969 Ford affectionately known as Sweetheart, stunned and touched by what he had inadvertently overheard. Ellison had pulled into the parking lot and, as he always did, automatically dialed up his hearing to see if Blair was home and alright; Jim always checked out his territory and his Guide when returning home. This time he had tuned in and heard the tag end of Blair's conversation with his mentor. Even though he wasn't a scholar like Blair, Jim knew a once in a lifetime offer when he heard one.

"I can't believe he turned a trip like that down for me," Jim muttered. He looked up at the balcony doors, through which Ellison could see the lights from the loft.

"Home," he admitted. Before Blair came to live with him, the loft had been a place to live and nothing more. Even living there with his then wife, Carolyn, hadn't seemed as homey as it did with one hyperactive grad student.

The Sentinel dialed up his senses of smell and hearing. Blair's heart was beating a little faster, but it sounded more like residual excitement than distress and he smelled happy. Jim knew that probably sounded odd, but people put off different scents when they were happy, sad, upset or excited and Jim knew each and every one of them, especially when it came to his Guide.

Jim wasn't sure how to feel; no one else had ever put him above themselves as consistently as Blair did. There was a warm feeling in the Sentinel's chest, one that spread considerably lower. That did surprise Ellison.

"Is it possible that I feel something more than brotherly or buddy buddy?" Jim decided that he needed to think about this new feeling for a while. The friendship he had with Blair was much too important to risk on what might be a passing fancy.

~~~~

"So, how did the session go?" Henri asked Blair, a big, knowing grin on his dark face.

"It went great," Blair said, grinning back. H and Rafe looked at one another in surprise; they had figured that Blair would chicken out at the last minute.

"What kind of pictures did the photographer take?" Joel Taggart walked over and asked.

Sandburg shrugged. "Well, she wanted something that showed my scholarly side," he said seriously.

Joel gave a little nod, even as he frowned, trying to relate something bookish with the bare all, or at least, bare as much as you can, calendar. "That sounds interesting," he lied, because Blair was his friend and he didn't want to hurt his feelings. Henri and Rafe were trying their best to look supportive, because they obviously also were doubtful of how well received a scholarly picture would be.

The observer, who hadn't earned the moniker without a reason, nodded back at them. Inside, he was laughing his ass off, because Ellie's idea of scholarly and theirs were obviously worlds apart.

Yes, the photographer was a woman. A very beautiful young woman with white blond hair, cut in an uneven angle that accentuated the curve of her heart shaped face. Eyes the color of cognac had sparkled with mischief when she arranged Blair for his photos and added the props. The guys were going to be surprised when the calendar came out.

~~~~

A month later

"Another date, Chief?" Jim asked redundantly, as Blair walked out of his little bedroom dressed in something other than his standard attire of jeans and a loose shirt. The anthropologist was 'dressed to the nines' in a nice pair of beige chinos and a red, raw silk shirt that Naomi had given him for his birthday.

"Yes," Blair admitted with a happy smile on his face. "I'm taking Ellie to the Shumake exhibit at the museum."

Jim looked over his shoulder. "You are taking her to an exhibit about mushrooms?" Ellison asked, his nose wrinkling up.

Blair laughed. "Shumake, Jim, not shitake." He grinned. "The Shumake were an ancient and very rare sect of the Japanese society. These people were exclusively artisans; they painted urns, vases, things like that."

Ellison nodded. "Ah, that should appeal to both of you."

"Exactly, man."

The Sentinel watched his young friend getting ready for his date. "This will be the fourth date this week," he observed. "The two of you seem to be getting pretty close."

Blair tucked his hair behind his ear with the corner of his thumb; Jim could see a dusky rose color spreading across the younger man's face and cursed his own cowardice in not approaching Blair when he'd realized his feelings were more intense than that of a friend.

"Yeah, we are," the grad student admitted. "Really close."

Jim swallowed down his disappointment and conjured up a smile for the younger man. Ellison was happy that Blair was happy and he sincerely hoped that he and Ellie could make a go of it. Still, he felt that hole inside of him was going to stay empty forever; the hole that his Guide would have filled.

"I'm glad, Chief. Don't stay out too late, now."

"No promises, man," Blair said with a laugh, as he walked out the door.

~~~~

"Do you think wedding bells are in the future?" Simon asked half joking, half seriously.

"Yes, I do," Jim admitted quietly.

Banks gave him a quick look; Jim saw it as a slight movement out of the corner of his eye. Simon knew how the Sentinel felt about Blair, because he had confessed one night after the weekly poker game, over one too many beers and leftover onion dip.

“I’m sorry,” the captain told his friend.

“Thanks.” Jim gave a deep sigh. “It’s my own damn fault for not speaking up when I had the chance.”

Simon didn’t contradict him, because they both knew it was true. Blair had admitted years earlier that he was bisexual and Banks had seen the looks that the younger man gave the ex-Ranger when he thought no one was looking. If Jim had admitted his feelings, Blair would have responded. Of course, Blair could have said something as well, but Jim hadn’t been watching Blair, so the anthropologist probably figured that any approach on his part would end up in a busted jaw.

~~~~

That fall

The calendar came out on a Monday morning. By noon, everyone in the PD had seen it. Before the sales office closed that evening, all copies of the calendar had been sold and they had been inundated with orders for more. The 1999 Millennium Blowout Calendar ended up selling more than triple any other years and most people agreed that Mr. July was the reason. Or rather Dr. July.

Blair's picture was indeed scholarly, as he had told Henri months ago. The background of the picture looked like a library, complete with shelves and shelves of books. Blair was sitting on an antique, dark oak desk, with a stack of books situated between his slightly spread legs. A very short stack of books...and nothing else, except for his little wire rimed glasses which were perched on the end of his nose; he was peering over the top of them. Dark swirls of chest hair and a shiny silver nipple ring stood out prominently. More than one person was heard to lament the fact that they weren't the wood on that desktop, which was cradling his obviously bare butt.

Most of the people who knew Blair were shocked. The anthropologist was, or at least seemed to be, very body shy. It was decided that Ellie was either a great photographer, and therefore able to get her subject to do most anything she wanted, or Blair had fallen in love at first sight, and again, did whatever it took to please her. Both instances were true. Ellie had been able to cajole Blair into losing more and more of his clothes as the session had worn on, but it was also true that Blair had taken one look into her golden brown eyes and fallen hard.

Ellison had been shocked with the rest of them and more than a little turned on. He had smiled and been happy for his best friend when sales went out the roof. Jim had looked on in pride as Rafe turned red in the face with jealousy, because the dapper detective had posed for the calendar the year before, and while sales had been great, they had by no means reached the stratospheric heights that the one with Blair did.

The Sentinel watched as the romance between Blair and Ellie blossomed, keeping his own desires and disappointment to himself. That December Jim was the best man when Blair Jacob Sandburg married Eleanor Louise DuChard. Blair and Ellie moved into another loft at 852 Prospect; close enough that Jim's senses—which Ellie knew all about—remained stable, but far away enough to give the newlyweds some much needed privacy.

Ellison sat in his lonely apartment with his senses ruthlessly dialed down, so as not to inadvertently 'sense' anything, and mourned the life that he and Blair had and what might have been.

The End, Version 3.

Clueless: Version 4

Jim's eyes popped open as soon as he heard the coffee maker click on. It was set on a timer that started a pot brewing at 6:30 a.m. every morning, unless either he or Blair turned it off the night before. At 6:31 Ellison turned back the covers and climbed out of bed. By 6:33 his bed was made—with corners sharp enough to be cut on—and he was heading down the stairs to take his shower. At precisely 6:43, the ex-Ranger was drying his short, still mostly military style haircut. He headed back upstairs and dressed in quick, economical movements, having picked and laid out his clothes the night before. At 6:47 he was standing in the kitchen pouring himself a cup of coffee.

~~~~

Blair hit the snooze button on his alarm clock—for the third time—and laid there for a couple more minutes. He finally rolled out of bed at 6:48. He almost literally rolled out of bed, but didn't when he realized at the last moment how close he'd gotten to the edge in the middle of the night. Staggering into the bathroom, Blair could smell the coffee that was brewing, but his eyes were so bleary that he couldn't have told you who, if anybody, was actually in the loft. He used the facilities, brushed his teeth and fixed his hair, which was way harder than it sounded, and exited the bathroom at 7:03.

"Chief, you're gonna be late," Jim's voice rang out.

Blair wagged a hand at him. Jim was always so worried about their schedules. Blair knew how long it took to get to Rainier, even with potential traffic problems and knew that he had oodles of time left.

In the bedroom he gave the unmade bed a brief glance before looking around for something to wear. He decided that his jeans from yesterday were fine—he had left them spread out on his bookcase to air out the night before—and slipped them on. Okay, really he'd just tossed them across the room and they had luckily landed on the top shelf, so they weren't too wrinkled. He quickly added a fresh t-shirt and picked out a random flannel shirt from his pile of clothing. He looked under the edge of the futon and found his tennis shoes and pulled them on.

Giving the bed another glance, Blair sighed. Jim would have kittens if he didn't do something with the bed. Taking hold of the top most blanket, he pulled it up over the rest of the bedding, patted down the worst of the lumps, and called it good.

"See, Jim." He held his hands out to the sides. "Ready to go, and I'm on time."

Ellison rolled his eyes and handed a travel mug, which he had filled with coffee for the younger man, to Blair, along with a toasted bagel.

"Ri-ight," the Sentinel drawled out. He didn't consider leaving—he glanced at the clock and saw that it was 7:28—with two minutes to spare being on time, but that was Blair for you. He ran 40 different directions at once and always managed to be where he was supposed to.

"So, have you decided? Are you going to do it?" Jim asked as they jogged down the stairs—the elevator was something both men avoided if they could, for obvious reasons.

Blair shrugged one shoulder, managing not to dislodge his backpack, spill his drink or lose his bagel in the process. "I'm not sure, man."

Jim nodded. "I'll see you later?" he half asked, half stated.

"Yeah, I should be at the station by 1:30," Blair told him as he opened the door on his Corvair.

"Good. Be careful, Chief," Jim told him as he climbed up into his blue and white, 1969 Ford truck, which was parked right beside Blair's car.

"I will," Blair said. Amusement could be heard in his voice. "Geez, Jim, I'm going to the station, not the jungles of South America."

"Huh, same difference with you," Ellison muttered. Not being a Sentinel, Blair failed to hear the comment on his propensity of finding trouble. Or rather, trouble finding him.

With a wave goodbye, Blair drove off to the right, down Prospect St., while Jim turned in the opposite direction.

~~~~

Ring. Ring.

Blair hesitated when he heard his office phone ring. He had just locked the door and wasn't sure if he should go back inside, or ignore it for now. He was already running late, because a record number of students had come to his office hours, worried about their research papers that were due in three weeks.

Ring.

Sandburg glanced at his watch. It was 1:11. If he ran to his car, drove like a bat out of hell and boogie butted up to Major Crimes, he might make it on time. If traffic wasn't too snarled.

Ring. Ring.

Cursing, Blair re-opened the door to his office and raced over to the phone; his innate sense of responsibility wouldn’t let him do otherwise.

“Hello,” he answered breathlessly.

“Hello, Mr. Sandburg?”

Blair smiled and shook his head. Who else would be answering his phone? “Yes.”

“This is Misty Calhoun.” Predictably, it was one of his students asking a question about her upcoming research paper. Blair had no idea why people waited so long to start the darn things, but the students, especially the younger ones, always did.

Pop! Bang!

Blair jumped at the loud sound. He hurried over to look out the window. Sandburg was just in time to see a gas guzzler car slam into a parked car with another loud crash. His mouth hanging open, Blair hesitated in shock for all of two seconds.

“Misty, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I have to go. There has been an accident outside.”

“Oh, that’s terrible. Of course, sir. I’ll talk to you later.”

The grad student nodded automatically and said goodbye. He hurried out of his office, not even thinking about locking the door, and down the stairs. He hit the quad at about the same time as the students who had witnessed the accident snapped out of their shocked stances.

Sandburg raced over to the car, silently acknowledging that being chased by all of those bad guys had done some good. He stumbled to a stop by the wreck and swallowed the bile that crept up in the back of his throat. Blood was everywhere, inside and in some cases, on the outside of the car. There was no used checking for signs of life, because the dead man’s neck was at such an angle that there was no hope.

“Okay, stay back, people,” Blair said, turning and waving his hands at the approaching group of bystanders. He hoped that he could keep some of these kids from seeing the gruesome sight.

“I’ve called the police, Professor Sandburg.” Blair recognized Carrie, a girl from one of his classes.

“Thank you, Carrie,” he said with a half smile.

“Is there anything we can do?” One young man asked. From the look on his face, it was apparent that he was hoping Blair’s answer would be no, but that he would help if it was needed.

“I’m afraid not,” Blair admitted. He saw more than one person look at the car. The front end was crumpled back, almost to the windshield, which wasn’t there at all. “Those of you who saw the accident can wait for the police, though, to give a statement.” Most of the crowd nodded reluctantly. “How about if you wait over there.” He pointed back to the steps of Hargrove Hall. The nods were more enthusiastic this time.

The anthropologist glanced back at the face of the young man pinned in the car. His face was vaguely familiar, but Blair didn’t have him in any of his classes, so he didn’t know his name.

“What a waste,” Blair said sadly, after the others had gone off to wait. In the distance he could hear the sounds of approaching sirens, both police and ambulance.

~~~~

Jamil Hamid.

That was the dead boy’s name. Blair had learned it from one of the eyewitnesses who knew him from class. His father was a well known Middle Eastern diplomat. In fact, the man was so well known because of his stance on human rights policies and all the death threats he had received because of them.

I’m glad to know his name, Blair thought.

Blair casually leaned one shoulder against the wall of the elevator, because he didn't want the other occupants to see how shaken he was; Blair got little enough respect from the people at the station on a good day.

The observer had seen dead bodies before—Susan Fraser sprang immediately to mind—but the violent, immediate death of someone so young had thrown him. Jamil looked like so many of his own students, young and ready for life; life which had ended so abruptly.

The doors opened onto the 7th floor and Blair stepped out into the hallway. The door to Major Crimes was right in front of him. Taking a deep breath to bolster himself, Blair pushed the door open and walked inside. People were working diligently at their desks, talking on the phone, writing reports or clicking on a computer, like nothing had happened.

And for them, nothing had. A tragedy had happened today, but it didn't touch these people at all, which was only natural. But it drove home to Blair how fragile life was and pointed out to him that he could die tomorrow and a few people would be upset, but life would keep rolling along.

"Hey, Hairboy," Brown greeted the observer with a smile and a wave of his hand.

"Hi, H," Blair returned the greeting. He smiled at the folically challenged man, who had his phone jammed under his chin, most probably on hold.

Blair walked wearily over to Jim's desk. He opened his mouth to greet the detective, but never got a chance.

"Where the hell have you been?" Jim snarled out the question. Blair got a look at his pale blue eyes and saw that they had hardened to pieces of ice. "You were supposed to be here almost two hours ago. What happened? Meet some busty student and get a little behind the tool shed?" he continued with a curl of his lip.

Sandburg's eyes widened in surprise and hurt. "Jim. I..." Again, he was interrupted.

"You promised me that you would be here by 1:30." The Sentinel glanced at the clock on the wall, as if he needed to see the numbers to confirm the time. "It is now 3:15. I know that a promise probably doesn't mean much to you, but here, where we work, being on time is of utmost importance. I swear, Sandburg, there are times when you are so inconsiderate."

Blair felt a stab of pain in his stomach when Jim questioned his work ethic. The stab began to burn, spreading out from his abdomen to the rest of his body. It burned and then it turned to ice.

“Ellison! Sandburg. My office, now,” Simon’s voice rang out, effectively stopping the fight in its tracks.

Banks had heard the argument—Jim’s voice certainly carried—and had come to the doorway of his office. Almost immediately Simon saw that the situation was getting way out of hand, especially when Jim, who always talked about what a hard worker Blair was, all but called the observer a slacker.

“Have a seat, gentlemen,” the captain strongly suggested.

Blair collapsed into one of the soft chairs, like his legs wouldn’t hold him. It was easy to see how upset he was by the devastated expression on Blair’s expressive face. Simon had to give Jim one of his trademark glares, but the detective finally sat down.

“Care to tell me what’s going on?”

“Sandburg was supposed to be here almost two hours ago,” Ellison stated, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Uh huh.” Simon looked at Blair, who resembled a kicked puppy, albeit a pissed off kicked puppy. “So, what happened, kid?”

“There was a wreck,” Blair muttered. He was vacillating between the hurt and anger. So much so, that Blair didn’t know what he felt.

Simon leaned forward in his chair. “What hap—” he started, before being interrupted.

“Are you alright, Chief? Where are you hurt?”

Ellison was at Blair’s side immediately. Jim went from mad to worried so fast that it made everyone’s head spin. Blair stared at the Sentinel, with his mouth hanging open. Just a few minutes earlier, Ellison had been accusing him of being a slacker and now he had whipped into a hyper version of the Blessed Protector mode.

“Uh, yeah, I’m fine.”

“I’m glad.” Jim took a deep breath and looked Blair squarely in the eye. “I’m sorry. I jumped to conclusions and acted like an ass. I know that you wouldn’t blow off your commitments. I was worried when you didn’t come in like you had planned and I…”

“Overreacted,” Blair finished for him.

“Yeah,” Ellison admitted ruefully.

“I forgive you,” Sandburg stated quietly. He smiled up at his good friend, who smiled back as he ruffled Blair’s hair.

Simon watched the scene silently. Banks smirked behind his cigar, knowing that he had averted another crisis. “So, what was the damage to your car?” he asked, breaking the tension in the room.

“Oh, it wasn’t my car that was wrecked,” Blair reassured them. “It was a student at Rainier, Jamil Hamid. He died at the scene.”

“Hamid? Ahmed Hamid’s son?” Simon asked.

Blair nodded his head, making his cinnamon colored curls bounce. “I think so. I know his dad was some high muckity muck in the Middle East.”

“Damn. That’s going to cause a big stink,” Simon stated.

The grad student nodded again. “That reminds me. Jim, I was wondering if you could check the scene out for me.”

Ellison nodded his head. “Sure, Sandburg. What’s on your mind?”

He related what had happened in his office and how he had heard the tire blowing out. “But right before that, I heard another, softer popping sound that has me worried.”

“If it’s alright with you, Simon, I’ll check it out.”

“That’s fine,” Banks agreed. He knew that Blair was a very intelligent young man and if he thought the situation warranted further investigation then it probably did.

"So, have you decided yet, Sandburg?" Simon asked, changing the subject. He glanced over at Ellison and the two older men exchanged a grin. They already had a pretty good idea of what the observer's answer was going to be.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Blair didn’t disappoint them. The grad student rubbed at a scratch on the arm of the chair and avoided looking at Jim and Simon. Even though his hair hung down in his face, both men could see the flaming red of his cheeks.

“Yeah, I’m not gonna do it,” he admitted. “I know it’s for a good cause and all, but posing, uh, semi-clothed is not my thing, man. Maybe I can do something else, like hand out the calendars or something.”

Simon nodded. It was hard not to laugh at the look on Blair’s face, but he made the decision to downplay the younger man’s discomfort, because, quite frankly, he couldn’t see himself posing either; not now or when he’d been younger.

“Don’t worry, kid. I’m sure they’ll find a substitute. Maybe Rafe can do it again; he’s always a good draw.” The calendar benefited the Widows and Orphans fund for the families of fallen officers and was definitely a good cause.

“That’s true,” Jim admitted. He could tell how disappointed Blair was in himself, even without the use of his senses, and like Simon, chose not to say anything. “So, Chief, how about if we go check out that possible crime scene,” he suggested, neatly changing the subject.

“Cool.”

Blair gave Jim a blinding smile and the older man felt his body stirring, as it had been of late when Blair ventured closer. The ex-Ranger felt a brief pang of regret, because he would have loved to see any picture that was taken of Blair, especially a suggestive one.

“Let’s go,” Jim suggested. He put a hand in the middle of Blair’s back and swept him out of Simon’s office, which had the added benefit of giving the Sentinel a prime view of the younger man’s jean clad ass.

~~~~

“This tire is shredded,” Jim pronounced later at the impound lot where Jamil Hamid’s car had been towed.

“Yeah,” Blair agreed. There wasn’t much left of the right front tire; the rubber looked like it had been chewed by wild animals and then set on fire.

“But not from a blowout,” Jim added.

Blair looked up in surprise and then back down to the tire. “What do you mean? What caused it then?”

Ellison reached inside the shredded strips of rubber and pulled out a metal fragment. “The tire was shot out,” he stated, holding the piece of bullet in his palm.

Sandburg gasped and then let his mind wander back. “I did hear a popping sound, right before the bang of the tire blowing.” He glanced back down at the tire and then looked over the rest of the car, especially the bloody front seat. “Why would someone want to kill a college kid?”

“Remember what you said earlier? Hamid’s father is someone high up in political circles, which makes any and all of his father’s family potential targets.”

Blair shook his head sadly, making his curls woosh against his shoulders. “That is so wrong,” he stated. “Jamil’s life is over before it ever even began, all because somebody didn’t like his father’s politics.

Ellison nodded sagely. He agreed with what Blair was saying, because it was definitely wrong that Jamil had died so young, but being a little more world savvy, Jim knew that life was rarely fair. He hated it that Blair was learning to face that hard truth.

“Let’s go, Chief. I’ll let Forensics know about the bullet. They might be able to piece it together, but…” The Sentinel shook his head.

“But they probably won’t get enough to make a match, even if they knew who to look for,” Blair completed for him.

“I’m afraid so, Chief. And, since Hamid was a foreign national living in America and was killed by an act of terrorism, the FBI will most likely take over the case.”

Blair’s shoulders slumped at the injustice of it all. He wasn’t quite as naïve as Jim thought he was—after all, Blair had lived in a lot of different countries before he was even 16—and knew that any justice for Jamil would probably come from an attack in an alley or another sniper’s bullet.

“Thanks for checking it out for me, Big Guy.” Blair smiled up at Jim. He leaned closer to his friend, who put his arm around Blair’s shoulder.

“I was glad to, Chief,” he admitted. The Sentinel took a deep, but discrete, breath and savored the pure, clean smell of Blair. “I’d better get back to work,” he admitted with a pang of regret, because he didn’t want to let go of the younger man.

“Yeah, and I’m going to head on back to the loft; those papers won’t grade themselves,” he said with a grin. Blair too seemed reluctant to walk away. “I’ll see you in an hour or two?” he questioned.

“Yeah, I should be home early; I just have some paperwork to finish up on the Vogel case.”

“I could stay and help you,” Blair offered.

Jim tapped him lightly on the end of the nose, making Blair wrinkle up his nose in a twitch. “Thanks, Chief, but I know that if you do you’ll end up staying up half the night grading papers when you should be sleeping. I think I can handle the paperwork on my own for a little while.”

“Okay.” Blair’s offer had been genuine, but he was glad of the opportunity to finish up his grading at a decent time tonight instead of burning the midnight, one o’clock and so on oil. “See you later.”

~~~~

Ring.

“Hello.”

“Hello, my boy.”

“Professor Stoddard.” Blair smiled happily; he hadn’t heard from his mentor in quite a while, not since he’d invited Blair to go with him to Borneo.

Blair smiled. In a way, he regretted not going on that expedition, but staying with his Sentinel was worth the sacrifice. Staying with his friend, Jim, was worth it too.

“I have a proposition for you.”

~~~~

A few minutes later

"Then perhaps...you could come over for a short expedition. Of maybe, a month or so?" Professor Stoddard's voice held a note of hope.

"I, uh, that would be great," Blair stuttered. A few weeks might be doable. "I can't promise anything though," he reminded the older man.

"I understand, my boy. Just keep the offer in mind; we won't be leaving for a few weeks, so you have time to decide."

"Thank you, sir." Blair smiled at his mentor’s consideration. Most scholars would have been mad as hell that he had turned down one expedition and never even offered him the second chance.

"Goodbye, Blair."

"Good bye, Eli, and good luck."

Blair sat down at the kitchen table and let his mind wander. It went all the way around the world to Africa and that tribe of pure people that he would love to study. He was startled out of his reverie when the front door opened a few minutes later.

"Hey, Jim," Blair greeted his roommate.

"Sandburg." Jim nodded.

Blair was too preoccupied to see how tense the older man was, which was a good thing, in this instance, because Blair would have rightly guessed that Jim had listened in on his conversation. The younger man would have erroneously concluded that the Sentinel was mad, when he really wasn’t in this case. Jim was worried, not about himself or Blair leaving him, but what turning down these kind of opportunities was doing to the anthropologist’s career.

Jim had some planning to do.

~~~~

Ellison walked into the loft the next night and cast out his senses; Blair wasn't home yet, perfect. The older man sat the carryout box on the table and began to lay out the dinner that he had brought home from Blair's favorite restaurant. Personally, the ex-Ranger wasn't all that fond of vegetarian cuisine, but he had to admit that Angie's lasagna was out of this world.

After he had everything arranged, Jim hurried upstairs and got a clean change of clothes and then took one of his super quick, five minute showers—as opposed to the outrageously long 10-minute ones that he took in the morning. Grinning, the Sentinel placed an envelope underneath Blair's plate and sat down to wait. His patience was rewarded just a few minutes later when he heard the unmistakable clang-thunk of the Volvo's engine pulling into the parking lot.

"Hey...Jim." Blair hesitated in the doorway when he saw that the table was set for two people. "Uhm, am I interrupting something?" he asked, because Ellison usually told him if he was bringing a date home, so that Blair could find his own entertainment for the night.

"Nope." Jim stood up and smiled. "I just thought we should have a nice dinner."

Blair, who had been becoming depressed over the idea of having to go back out again, perked up and came all the way into the loft. "Cool." He took a deep breath, savoring the smells permeating the loft. Jim took advantage and enjoyed the look on Blair's face and the way that his chest pushed out when he took a deep breath. The Sentinel could just barely see the outline of Blair's nipple ring through the fabric of his shirt.

"Is that Angie's lasagna?" Blair asked with a huge grin on his face. Jim decided then and there to do whatever it took to see that smile more often.

"It sure is," he admitted. "Along with some of her garlic-cheese bread, a salad for each of us and some of her Raspberry-Truffle cheesecake."

"Oh man, that sounds wonderful!" The look on Blair's face was almost orgasmic, another look that Jim wanted to see repeated as often as possible.

Blair came back out of his bedroom where he had gone to change clothes. Unlike Jim, who had chased a suspect through some really nasty alleyways, Blair didn't need to take a shower. At Ellison's insistence, Blair sat down at the table and Jim served the food that he had been keeping warm in the oven.

"What's the special occasion, man?" Blair asked as he dug into his salad.

Jim shrugged and was about to hum haw around but decided that he wanted to see some more of that happy, orgasmic Blair, so he relented. "Look under your plate," he instructed the younger man.

With a puzzled frown, Blair did as he was instructed and found a white envelope, the kind that usually contained a greeting card. His mind raced with the possibilities; it wasn’t his birthday or a holiday or any anniversary that he knew of.

“Just open it, Darwin, before you strain something trying to read it through the envelope,” Jim said dryly.

Blair grinned at his good friend. Ellison knew him so well. The anthropologist used his finger to tear open the edge of the envelope and pulled out a card. On the front side was a picture of a garden with numerous birds flying around. He looked over at Jim in puzzlement and the older man shrugged.

“It was the closest I could find…” Blair wondered what he had been trying to find, even as he opened the card to read inside. “…to a jungle,” Jim finished. Blair’s cerulean eyes snapped up to Ellison’s face and back to the writing.

The anthropologist read in silence for a while. When it was apparent that he had re-read the card and was reading it for the third time, Jim interrupted.

“So, what do you think?”

“You want me to go on the expedition with Dr. Stoddard,” Blair stated uncertainly. Ellison nodded his head in the affirmative. “And you want to come with me?” That was definitely more of a question. Again, the Sentinel nodded, this time adding a reassuring smile to his handsome face.

Blair was speechless, not an everyday occurrence and Jim decided to enjoy the display while it happened. The younger man kept glancing from the detective, to the card and back to Jim again. The Sentinel could hear Blair’s heartbeat speed up, but was it from anxiety, excitement, or what?

“What about your job, man?” Blair swallowed nervously.

“Chief, I have so much time saved up that I could easily take,” Ellison paused and pursed his lips, “six months, a year…even more, if I wanted to.”

Blair’s mouth hung open as the enormity of what Jim was offering sunk in. A smile quirked at the corner of Blair’s mouth. “I don’t think you’ll need to take quite that long,” he offered back. “A couple of months, maybe.”

“Whatever you need, Chief.”

“Thanks, Jim,” Blair said, his voice choked with emotion.

“No, thank you.” The younger man’s answering smile was thanks enough.

Ellison stood up and stepped closer to the grad student; Blair stood up as well and the two men hugged. And they kept on hugging. It wasn’t long before Jim realized that their hug had gone on a lot longer than necessary; longer than two good buddies would allow. Jim had let his true feelings out.

Jim didn’t want to let go of the moment, or Blair, so he turned his head to look at Blair. At that same moment Blair turned his head toward Jim. Their faces were close. The Sentinel and Guide stared at each other for an endless moment, before Jim leaned down those few necessary inches and kissed Blair.

Almost immediately, fear reared its ugly head. Jim pulled back, worried that he had gone too far and messed up their friendship. Blair, who feared very little, grabbed Jim’s head and pulled him back down. Their lips met and mashed together, just a little too hard and Blair’s breath smelled more like oregano than it did the wine they’d had for dinner. These little imperfections helped to keep the Sentinel from zoning on the feel, touch and taste of his Guide.

Jim began walking Blair backwards. He only dimly noted it when his hip bumped into the table and only then because he absentmindedly noted that nothing spilled or was knocked over. The fastidious Sentinel was glad, not only because of the mess potential, but also because he wasn’t about to let go of Blair’s mouth for anything, not after he’d finally found the courage to do something.

Sandburg helped guide them—no pun intended—to the couch where they sat, side by side. All of this walking, sitting and thinking didn’t intrude on their kissing one iota. Blair finally let go of Jim’s mouth and immediately began kissing his chin. The anthropologist followed the line of the Sentinel’s jaw and then down the side of his neck where he began to make serious inroads on a hickey.

Ellison was somewhat amused to find himself on the bottom of their necking pile. He would have thought, if he’d ever allowed himself to think about it, that Blair would have been the more passive partner.

Jim moaned as Blair sucked and laved on his neck. Passive, hell, he thought with amusement. Damned aggressive. He grinned. Thank goodness.

~~~~

Things didn’t go quite as Jim had proposed. It took a while to arrange several months off for Jim—and boy howdy, Simon had a fit—and almost as long for Blair to work out his own schedule.

Eli headed out to Africa, sans Blair, but with the promise of the two men joining the expedition before the end of the year. Blair took the summer off and finished his dissertation on Closed Societies and the Impact on Police Departments. Several of his friends in Major Crimes read, or at least tried to read, the dissertation and they were all very proud of their doctor.

Blair became Dr. Blair Sandburg and because his dissertation was so well received, he got quite a few job offers, including a teaching job at Rainier. Before meeting Jim, continuing on the way he had been, as a teacher, had been Blair’s greatest ambition. However, things had changed in the past several years, so Blair accepted the offer to become a paid consultant at the station, with the proviso that he didn’t have to start until January. The Commissioner was so thrilled to have Blair working full time, that he didn’t balk at the delay. However, Blair still loved to teach, so he accepted an offer to teach a couple of night classes each semester. Again, starting in January.

Blair and Jim spent almost four months observing the Muzambe tribe from afar. Thanks to Jim’s enhanced senses, they were able to hear things that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Eli took the extra information in stride; after all, he’d heard Blair talk about Sentinels since he’d first come to the university at 16.

They’d come back from the jungle, tanned and very happy. Jim had found a hitherto unknown affinity for anthropology. Their close quarters in a small tent might have had a slight bearing on Jim’s liking for that field of study; nobody knows for sure.

Blair continued to live at the loft, only now he went to the station every day with Jim. On a couple of nights a week he taught classes at the university, which were filled to capacity almost as soon as they were offered. Everything was more or less the same, with one small exception, Blair moved upstairs to the big bedroom.

And they lived happily ever after. (Except for, you know, Jim dropping his gun, Blair either being kidnapped or getting a concussion. But that’s another story.)

The End.

Bonus points if you get the movie reference in the last line.

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Notes: Beta'd by Bobbie. I have to admit that the title has little bearing on the story. It is my tribute to a wonderful movie, Clue, which gave us three endings to the movie. My story is going to be similar to that, as it is going to start as the same story and veer off in a different direction at some pivotal point. Thanks to the following people who generously bid on this story at the Moonridge Auction: Debbie, Terry, Carla and Merlin. Thanks to my mom for all of her generous suggestions.