Thanks to Shelly Knepley for beta-reading.
by Susan Monica
Jim came awake slowly as warm fingers of sunlight, filtering through the lofts skylight, caressed his naked back. Rolling his shoulders slowly and turning his head, he squinted at his alarm clock. Nine-thirty and the sun was shining on this glorious December morning. He rolled onto his back and stretched cat-like almost purring. He smiled tohimself as he recalled Simon's orders to him yesterday, before he left the station to pick up Sandburg. "Veg out Ellison!"
Daryl must have been with him again this weekend. Simon always came in with these new catch phrases, when his son Daryl stayed with him for the weekend. What was it last month, oh yeah, "Chill Man Chill". He couldn't help smiling at the look on Sandburg's face when Simon had come out with that one.
"Veg out"-actually it sounded good. He didn't have to be in court to give his testimony on the Jenkins home invasion case until 11 o'clock and Simon seemed to know when one of his detectives needed a little down time.
This new drug case they had just been assigned was going to need all his attention. In addition, they would be cooperating their efforts with Narcotics. Simon knew Jim hated working cases like this. There were too many ways for information to leak out with more then one department working a case like this. Tempers usually got hot, especially if one department didn't feel it was getting enough information from the other. Simon knew Jim was absolutely close mouthed about sharing information. So the best thing he could do was make sure Jim was relaxed coming into this case.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee wafted up to him from the kitchen, making his nose twitch. Oh man, Sandburg's making
breakfast Rolling out of his warm bed, he grabbed his robe from the chair. Sliding his arms through the sleeves, he headed
"Hey, Jim." Blair poured some coffee then pushed the cup into his partner's hands. He grinned at the picture Jim made. Black eye shades pushed up on the top of his head, his robe hanging open, bare-chested with his trusty plaid boxers riding low on his slim hips.
Closing his eyes, he inhaled the aroma of coffee, and then swallowed half the cup in the first long sip. "Ahhh. Man, that hits the spot."
Shaking his head, Blair continued adding peppers and onions to the western omelets he was making.
"Breakfast in l0, Big Guy."
"Mmmmm." Taking his coffee with him, Jim headed into the bathroom for his morning ritual.
Nine minutes later, freshly showered and dressed, Jim came sauntering into the kitchen as Blair was sliding the omelets onto their plates. Refilling his coffee cup, Jim poured one for Blair and put it on the table. Blair pulled warm corn muffins from the oven and put them in front of Jim, then sat across from him.
Oh man, I've died and gone to heaven." Jim reached out and put a muffin on his plate. Splitting it open and slathering it with butter, he opened his senses and almost swooned from the smell of hot corn bread, and the pungent taste of peppers and spices in his omelet as he slid some into his mouth. He opened his eyes to see Sandburg staring open-mouthed at him trying not to laugh. Geez Jim, it's scrambled eggs."
"No Sandburg, my cooking is scrambled eggs. This, this is a little bit of heaven."
Shaking his head Blair took a sip of coffee and started eating.
Jim pushed his chair back from the table when they finished breakfast. He took his dishes to the sink, rinsed them and placed them in the drainer to dry.
Blair watched as he walked over and slipped on his jacket. Careful not to look in Blair's direction he said, "Hey Chief, are you coming in today? I was hoping you'd look over the reports Suzanne sent over."
"And do your paperwork," Blair muttered softly as he got up from the table and put his plate in the sink.
Keeping his head lowered, Jim seemed to find zipping his jacket took all of his concentration.
"Oh. Well yeah. I mean if your not too busy. Simon has been bugging me for those reports on the car heist from last week."
"Geez Jim, I can't believe you didn't finish them up."
Glancing over to look at him, Blair saw Jim grinning.
"Oh sure, why should you. You knew I was coming in. Man, you are too much!"
Blair shook his head ruefully. "Okay, I need to run some errands so I should be in by l2: 30 or 1:00."
"Great, how about bringing me some lunch when you come in. Cheeseburgers, oh and some of those curley fries."
"Oh man, I can hear your arteries clogging from here. How about turkey and cheese with a nice salad on the side?"
"Rabbit food. I need those burgers to keep up my strength to fight crime Sandburg. Rabbit food doesn't cut it. I need something I can sink my teeth into."
Blair watched as Jim opened the door to leave. Raising his hands in mock surrender, he said, "Okay, but one of these days I am going to make you try a soy burger."
"Not in this lifetime Junior," Jim said laughingly as he walked out the door.
Jim was pacing in front of Simon's desk, running his hand through his short brown hair.
"Simon, I don't want to work with him, he is a real hard ass. I don't care how good he is, you saw him with Blair. I can't work on this case and be a referee for God sakes!"
"Listen Jim, cut him a little slack, we're all on the same team. Besides, Sandburg works hard on that look and he has to expect some fallout. You saw him egging Steele on, flaunting those hoops!"
Simon snorted in exasperation.
"Yeah, I did. Cocky little rooster, isn't he?" Jim was grinning at Simon.
"Oh I knew this case was going to be trouble!"
Simon sighed as he got up and walked over to look out the window. Rolling an unlit cigar between his fingers, he turned towards Jim and leaned his hip against the edge of his desk.
"Listen Jim, Steele has a good reason for his attitude and this information doesn't leave the room Mister!"
"Yes sir, but Captain…"
"No. You listen. Marcus was with the Los Angeles Drug Enforcement Department for 10 years. He had just been promoted to gold shield detective, when the case he was working on for 4 months blew up.
He had been working on a lead to find the scum selling drugs on the Los Angeles University campus. There had been 3 drug related deaths already, and he finally tracked down the supplier.
It was a rich college kid by the name of William Benton III. Benton was working for a small time hood by the name of Vinny Green. Mob connected of course and trying to move up the old corporate ladder.
Marcus managed to catch Benton red-handed selling drugs to some students."
"So it was an open and shut case?"
"No. The problem was, Benton's father was a large contributor to the governor's office. Hell, he got the guy elected! Benton's family is old money and there is only one child, William. Spoiled rotten.
Benton used every connection he had to get the case thrown out. They called it entrapment. Marcus managed to turn one of the students he caught buying drugs to testify against Burton."
"So what happened?"
"He was bought off. The kid told the court Marcus gave him the drugs to plant on William. Money talks and everyone walked. Steele was called on the carpet and they threatened to take his shield if he didn't leave. He asked for a transfer the next day and ended up here in Cascade.
Glancing out of Simon's office, Jim saw Blair coming into the bullpen. Rafe stopped to speak with him as he took off his jacket and hung it neatly on the coat rack.
Simon's deep rumblings recalled him to their conversation.
"Uh, what was that sir?"
"I said… oh hell, never mind what I said. Just talk to the kid and settle his ass down or I'll bring him in here for a little chat."
"Yes, sir, anything else?"
"No, just get out of here so I can get some work done."
With that, Simon leaned back in his chair and carefully lit his cigar, grinning at Jim's departing back.
Blair had his Styrofoam box with his tofu salad carefully balanced between the computer screen and Jim's notes. Jim was contentedly eating his Wonderburger, watching Blair log in the information from his cases. Every once in a while, he would stop to munch on some lettuce or pieces of sesame tofu, then continue his typing. Blair's hand unconsciously strayed towards Jim's curly fries and he yelped when they were promptly rapped with a ruler.
"Hey man that hurt!" Blair stuck the offending members into his mouth.
"Hey yourself Junior, keep those digits out of my fries."
Jim pulled his fries closer then popped some into his mouth.
"Mmmmm. Oh they are sooo good. But hey, I'm doing this for your own good Sandburg. All the grease and salt. Why it would go straight to your little arteries. I'm eating the lunch of champions." Grinning at Blair's face, Jim stood and patted his washboard stomach. Grabbing up his crumbled burger wrappers, he turned away and tossed them in the trash.
Blair rolled his eyes and groaned.
"Oh please, spare me. By the way, I need to go over to Rainier to drop off some books and check to see if the new class schedules are in yet. I'll see you later at home. My turn to cook right?"
"Sure Chief, no problem. I'm meeting Steele downstairs at 2. He said Buddy James gave him a few names of local hoods. I want to see if we can link any of them to Denton James. I'll see you later."
Pulling on his jacket, Jim looked down at Blair's salad. "Yum. Exactly what you need Darwin. Grass, twigs and what the hell are those little white squares?"
"Hey, hey it's brain food Ellison. Something you would know nothing about."
Blair ducked the swat aimed at his head as Jim walked passed him, and headed for the elevators.
Blair was standing in the University parking lot unlocking the Volvo's door, when he heard his name called. Looking up, he smiled at the vision approaching. Sonja Everclaire. The girl was as lovely as her name. Long blonde hair, big blue eyes, she stood eye level with Blair. Standing next to her was another girl, and a tall thin man in his late twenties. Longish black hair, slicked back away from his too thin face. Small dark eyes set a little too close together. He was wearing expensive clothes and glanced at his image reflected in the Volvo's window.
"Hi Blair. How are you? I miss not being in any classes with you."
Blair could feel his heart racing. She was soo sexy-looking. They had both attended a class last semester on the primitive Chimu Indians of Peru.
She never had a problem turning down his advances during that time. Now she was standing in front of him chattering away like his new best friend.
"You know Melody. She was in our class, and this is Ritchie Branis."
Shaking hands with Branis, he smiled at Melody's softly murmured greeting. She was a pretty girl, but standing next to Sonja she faded into the background.
"Hey, we were just going over to the Pub. Come join us."
Shit, shit, shit. Jim will kill me.
"Oh, uh, gee Sonja, I'd love to but I've got a few errands to run."
"Oh pooh. You can run errands anytime."
With those words, she linked her arm through his, snuggling close.
Looking into those blue eyes he was lost.
What could happen? One beer…. what could happen? Besides, Jim was way too overprotective. One beer and he would leave… right.
Two hours later, Blair was still trying to convince her to say yes to a date. The smoke in the pub hung like a thick blue cloud over their heads. The noise level had increased in the last hour, as more and more students and a few of the younger faculty members drifted in.
Two more couples had joined them at their table and introductions were made. JJ and Patti were friends of Sonja. The other couple, Janet and her boyfriend John were a little older and knew Ritchie. Blair noticed they were all smokers. There were packs of cigarettes strewn all over the table. JJ had a lit joint cupped in his hand. He took a deep drag and swallowed every once in a while.
Sonja kept her face close to his, speaking softly to him; rubbing his arm and gently tickling the palm of his hand. He sat mesmerized watching her play with his hand. He so wanted to be alone with her, but she kept up the teasing laying one hand on his thigh and squeezing gently. She smiled wickedly, when she saw him blush. Blair didn't notice the way she glanced over to Ritchie every once in awhile as if seeking his approval.
Ritchie had bought both rounds of drinks. He was sitting with his arm around Melody, while he talked to Patti. The other couple seemed to be drinking a little more heavily, ordering rounds of rum and coke. JJ was sitting next to Sonja. She leaned across him and grabbed his joint. She took a deep drag and tried to push him away, when he grabbed her hand and took back his reefer.
Blair suddenly realized how young Sonja's friends were. The girl, Patti, was sitting on JJ's lap. She had straight brown hair and was wearing tight jeans and a belly shirt. Two gold pierced belly rings glistened when she moved. JJ was thin and had stringy blonde hair. Patti held her drink in both hands. Every once in a while, she would lean down to take a deep drag of JJ's cigarette. Blair noticed he kept it slightly hidden in his lap. He was leaning towards Ritchie listening to him speak, but Blair could see his eyes were vacant.
He's stoned. The thought came unbidden into his mind. Once it was there, it started taking root and Blair started to notice everyone at his table except Ritchie looked a little stoned.
Shit, when did that happen? Blair realized Sonja had asked him a question and was pouting at him because he hadn't answered. Looking into her eyes, Blair could feel himself drifting. He leaned closer to her and heard her whisper softly to him.
"Baby, don't you feel fine?"
"Uh, yeah Sonja. What is it?"
"Oh baby, it's the best around. Ritchie gets it for us. Do you want one baby? JJ has one joint left."
"Sonja, I don't smoke pot."
Blue eyes widened slightly. She leaned closer and he watched fascinated as she wet her lips with her tongue before she spoke.
"Oh baby – stop kidding. Look at you. Ritchie says he is sure you must be supplying the faculty. You're always chatting up to Professor Johnson and I know he does. He tried to score some from JJ last week. I thought maybe we could help each other, lover."
Blair was busy watching those soft wet lips so close to him. Her message finally sank in. They thought he scored pot for the faculty. Blair looked across the table and saw Ritchie staring at them.
Oh geez, now what? Okay, okay be cool.
"Well, uh. I don't know. I mean the guy I deal with is pretty reliable and getting it is never a hassle."
"Oh Ritchie! Blair baby needs to be reassured." Ritchie leaned closer to Blair.
"Blair, man it's cool. Anything you want man. I've got some fine Columbian Gold. Very smooth. Anything you need man, uppers, downers. As many joints you and your friends need. I'm the man, babe. Lets talk"
"Cool man. Uh, the only problem is, I don't have the time right now."
"Sure babe, sure. How about tomorrow? About six o'clock. Right here. Me and Sonja honey will be waiting."
Blair tried to smile as he stumbled to his feet.
"Yeah sure. Right here, tomorrow at six. No problem."
Blair managed to get to his feet and maneuver his way through the crowd and out the front door. He fumbled with his keys and couldn't seem to get them into the car door lock.
Oh please, please let it open. Leaning against the car to steady himself for a moment, Blair breathed in the sharp, cool air. His fear caused a rush of adrenalin and his head started to clear.
Breathing deeply, he pushed the key in the lock, pulled the door open and quickly slid into the front seat. Thank you, thank you. Glancing at the clock on the dash, he started up the Volvo and headed back to the loft.
He pulled into his parking space and breathed a sigh of relief. He beat Jim home. Okay, think man. Blair grabbed his books and raced into the building. Standing in the elevator, he jiggled from foot to foot trying to think of what to tell Jim.
Unlocking the door, he dropped his books on the floor, and tossed his jacket on top. Oh shit. Jim is going to smell this! He held his sleeve up to his nose and sniffed. There was no way Jim could miss the sweet sickening odor of pot. The big guy had a nose like a bloodhound. Okay, that was it. That was the answer.
Grabbing his jacket and racing into the kitchen, he pulled open the drawers looking for a black garbage bag. Finding one, he started pulling off his clothes on the way to the bathroom. Stripping to his boxers, Blair crammed his clothes into the bag and tied it shut. He turned on the water, dropped his shots and jumped into the shower.
I can do this! I can do this! Chanting under his breath, Blair soaped his hair and body, rinsed and poured his herbal shampoo onto his washcloth. Scrubbing himself with the rag, he rinsed off again and pulled some of his curls to his nose to smell. Yeah, that's good
He turned off the faucets and grabbed a towel to dry himself. Glancing into the mirror at his reflection, he paused uncertainly. Calm man, you gotta be calm. Jim will hear your hear racing and it will be all over.
Leaning over the sink, he tried to slow his breathing. Think calm thoughts. Yeah, right. Jim is going to calmly kick my ass around this apartment. Calm. Cool. Collected Taking one more cleansing breath Blair grabbed the garbage bag and walked into his room. He opened his closet and pushed the bag into the back.
Pulling on clean shorts, he snagged a tee shirt from the pile on the foot of his bed. One quick sniff to make sure it was clean enough to wear. Grabbing his sweatpants off his chair, he pulled them on, hopping from one foot to the other as he made for the kitchen. Okay, think. He went out on the balcony and saw Jim's truck pull up. Oh man, I need more time.
He ran into the kitchen, pulled out a frying pan and put it on the stove and turned the flame up high. He grabbed a jar of diced tomatoes from the closet and poured a small amount into the pan. It started splattering, when it hit the hot pan. He glanced up as he heard the elevator in the hallway ping.
"Come on! Come on!"
He tossed some garlic salt into the tomatoes just as it started smoking. He ran and jumped over the back of the sofa, picking
up a pen and grabbing a book just as he heard Jim's key in the door.
Jim pulled up to the loft and saw Blair's Volvo parked. Oh thank God, Blair's cooking
He was beat and the thought of cooking dinner was way down on his list of "to do". A hot shower and a cold beer were right at the top.
He was standing in the hallway putting his key in the door, when he realized Blair's heart was beating a mile-a–minute. What the...what is up with this kid. He couldn't still be mad about their teasing at lunch.
Just as he started to open the door the harsh odor of something being burnt assailed his nostrils. He stepped into the loft and saw smoke pouring out of the kitchen.
"Sandburg, what the hell are you burning?"
"Whoa, Jim. Man you scared me." Blair jumped up and saw the smoke billowing out of the kitchen.
"Hey, hey, what the hell are you burning in there Chief?"
"Oh shit!" Blair ran into the kitchen, grabbed the pan and flung it and the burnt contents into the sink. The smell of burnt garlic and tomatoes was overpowering.
"Oh man, I'm so sorry. I was just catching up on some work and I guess I forgot I had it on."
"Smokey, you are dangerous in the kitchen. Sighing, Jim pulled off his jacket and went to hang it up.
"Hey no problem Jim. I'll just call and order some Thai food from Mr. Lee."
Blair was pushing Jim towards the stairs to his bedroom as he was speaking.
"You look beat, why don't you just go have a nice shower and dinner will probably be here when you come down."
Jim stopped suddenly and Blair banged into him losing his balance. Grabbing Blair's shoulders to keep him from falling backwards, he slid one hand up through his curls to tilt his face up to him. Anxious blue eyes met Jim's. Jim rolled his eyes and tried not to breath through his nose.
"Sandburg, what are you up to?"
Blair looked up into those blue lasers, but couldn't keep eye contact.
"Me, nothing man, nothing."
Jim held him in place a moment longer, and then let him go with a gentle pat on his cheek. Letting himself be turned towards the steps, he listened to Blair's nervous chatter.
"You know you are way too suspicious. A little burnt dinner and you think something is going on. Chill man. Dinner will be here in a few minutes and then we can catch the Jags on TV tonight. A nice relaxing evening at home. Just what the doctor ordered."
Starting up the steps to his room, Jim smiled down at him.
"Yeah right Chief. How about opening some windows down there, that smell is killing me."
Jim lay down on his bed with his hands clasped behind his head to relax for a few minutes. Oh well, so we eat Thai instead of Italian. Hmmm, at least I think it was Italian. Blair was right. Some dinner and a Jags game was just what he needed to chill out. Whatever the kid was up to could wait until tomorrow. He was too damned tired to deal with the Sandburg Zone right now. Besides, how bad could it be? It was fortunate that Jim couldn't see Blair at that minute. He would have lost his moment of calm. Blair was staring blankly at the mess in the sink.
That was close. I've got to figure out a way to tell Jim. One that won't have him coming after my ass. Now this is going to call for all of my talents in the art of obfuscation.
Go on to Wednesday
Comments, criticism, suggestions? E-mail Susan Monica.