New Arrivals
Author-ElaineH
Titles

Lollipop 3
by ElaineH

Summary: The tables turn and Blair has to care for his friends.

Disclaimer: Jim, Blair, Simon, and The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly, UPN, and Paramount and no copyright infringement is intended.

Notes: Thanks to my beta, Judy. Feedback welcome.

Simon poured a cup of coffee and gave it to Jim.

"Here you go, Jim. Blair, are you sure you don't want any? Just got this today from my cousin. He said it was some sort of almond extract flavor. Certainly smells good." Simon closed his eyes and sniffed his cup of coffee appreciatively.

"No thanks, Simon. I had a jumbo size latte before I came to the station today. It'll be a miracle if I get any sleep at all tonight."

"All right. Your loss."

"This smells really good, Simon. The almond flavor is pretty strong though," said Jim with a frown.

"Dial your sense of smell down then, Jim. Even I can smell it and it does smell good," said Blair.

"Good idea, Chief."

Simon and Jim savored the coffee and the conversation switched to their plans for the evening.

"Boy, I can't wait to go to Alioto's. Everybody is raving about it," said Blair.

"Yeah - well you've helped us out a lot the past couple of weeks. We figured we owed it to you."

Blair just looked at Simon and Jim incredulously.

"What?" said Jim.

"I've helped out all the time and you never took me to anyplace like this before. What's going on?"

Simon and Jim exchanged an uncomfortable glance.

"I bet I know why," said Blair smugly. "You feel guilty about making me call and apologize to Misty."

"Well, Sandburg, we may have been a little hard on you ...," said Simon in a conciliatory tone.

"A little hard! You guys made me call her on your speakerphone and sat with me while I talked to her! You even wrote down what I was supposed to say to her!"

"Well, if you hadn't lied to her in the first place ..."

"Obfuscation! Not a lie - it was just a little clouding of the issues ..."

"Blair, you told her Jim and I were lovers! And that I was a cross-dresser on the weekends!"

"Hey, I just got a little carried away. Besides, I was in pain, man ... she was the love of my life, had just dumped me and wanted to date you two! You SO have no idea how much I was hurting at the time." Blair put on his most piteous expression and placed his hand over his heart as if in pain.

"Riight," said Simon dryly, narrowing his eyes at Blair.

Jim broke in. "Anyway, Chief, you really have helped us out and we probably should have done this before. Simon, can I get another cup of this, please?" Jim reached across Simon's desk, handing him his coffee cup. As Simon turned his back to them, Jim added to Blair in sotto voice, "And if I were you, I wouldn't bring up the 'Misty' incident any more tonight. Not unless you want us to start remembering it all over again ..."

"Um, yeah - uh, what are you guys going to have?" asked Blair, quickly changing the subject. "I heard their eggplant parmesan is out of this world."

With the topic of conversation safely changed, the three men discussed their plans further for the evening.

"Blair, you're the designated driver and we'll take my car. Jim and I will fit more comfortably in it. I'll drive there and you drive us home. You can bring my car by my house tomorrow. I have the day off and no plans to do anything but relax at home so I won't need it right away."

"Oh cool! I get to drive your car?" Blair bounced with enthusiasm in his chair.

"Yes, and don't make me sorry I'm doing this, understand? Driving my car is a responsibility, not a privilege," Simon said sternly. "Which is why Jim is not driving tonight."

"What's wrong my driving?" Jim said in a hurt tone.

"How much time do we have before we leave?"

"Hey! I'm not THAT bad!"

"Do I need to remind you about the car chase incident at the airport?"

"And when you drove Simon's car when you were blind. And you have totaled 3 cars in the last 12 months. He does have a point, Jim," said Blair earnestly, eyes wide, nodding his head in agreement with Simon.

Jim reached over and put his arm around Blair's neck, pulling him over to him. Grinning, he mussed up Blair's hair and said "And who asked you, Short Stuff?"

"Ahhhh, Jim! I just got my hair perfect and you've destroyed it!"

"If that was perfect, I think you need a new mirror."

Laughing at their antics, Simon told them it was almost time to leave. He and Jim finished their coffee while Blair was grumbling and trying to smooth down his hair. Finally, when it met his approval, they left for the parking garage.

Arriving at the restaurant without incident (a "damn miracle," proclaimed Simon, since they did have their "trouble magnet" with them - Blair took no offense at the title - even reveling in it just a little), they were seated and ordered their meals. Jim and Simon had also ordered a bottle of wine and were sipping their drinks as the conversation turned to recent cases and progressed to past, memorable cases, most of which were quite humorous. Blair enjoyed listening to his friends reminisce about the old cases that had occurred before his tenure at Major Crimes. As dinner proceeded, Blair noticed that the two older men were gradually getting louder and more raucous as they told their tales.

"And when they opened the closet door, Barton and Delgado fell out and, with the whole department looking at them, Delgado said 'I don't suppose you'd believe we were just comparing old war wounds, would you?'"

Simon and Jim laughed hysterically, pounding each other on the back and attracting the attention of the other diners.

"Hey guys, tone it down, will you? People are starting to look at us."

The laughter died down to stifled chuckles and then Jim leaned back in his chair, gasping for breath.

"Look," said Blair, looking askance at them, "I don't know what's wrong with you two, but we'd better finish up here and go home. I think you both had too much to drink or something."

Both men smiled indulgently at Sandburg, but said nothing. Blair was beginning to get a really bad feeling about this. *I need to get them out of here,* he thought. Sandburg tried flagging the waiter for the check, but he hurried away without seeing him. It was a busy night at Cascade's newest restaurant and they seemed to be short-staffed.

*Great!* thought Blair. *If I want that check any time soon, I'd better go chase him down.* He looked dubiously at Jim and Simon who looked innocently back with grins on their faces. They looked a more than a little loopy to Blair, but that could be his imagination, he thought.

"Don't you guys go anyplace, understand? Stay right here. I'm gonna go take care of the check."

Simon waved him away. "Go ahead, Sandburg. I'll take care of everything here."

Jim slung an arm around Simon's shoulders. "Just like you did on the Nielson case, right?"

Jim and Simon again burst into loud laughter. Blair silently groaned.

"Stay here!" he said, putting up both his hands as he backed away from the table. Deciding that making a dash for the waiter and then getting Jim and Simon out of here as soon as possible was the only way to handle this, he turned his back to them and almost ran away, seeking out the waiter.

When he finally settled the bill, with a large tip for the waiter, and returned to the table, he realized that Jim was gone.

"Simon! Where's Jim? I told you two not to leave the table."

Simon had leaned back and taken out a cigar that he was chewing on.

"Calm down, Sandburg. Jim didn't leave. He's right here."

"Whaddaya mean he's right here? Where?" Blair was beginning to get a little panicky, looking in different directions for his errant Sentinel.

"Don't tell him where I am, Simon!" came a loud whisper. Blair looked in surprise at the table. It sounded like that came from the table ... or under it. Oh God.

He picked up the tablecloth and peered underneath the table. Jim was quietly sitting cross-legged and hunched over under the table as if he often did that when they went out to a restaurant. *What the hell ...*

"Jim," said Blair as calmly as he could. "Why are you under the table?"

"Shhh," said Jim, putting his finger to his lips. "I'm playing hide and seek with Sandburg. I thought up this test myself. Isn't it a good one? We'll see if he can find me."

"Oh, Geez." Blair put down the side of the tablecloth and sat down on his chair with his face in his hands. *He's hammered!* he thought.

After a few seconds, Sandburg lifted the tablecloth again. "Jim, it's me, Blair. Our tests don't work like that. YOU'RE supposed to use your senses to figure things out, not me!"

"Oh. Well. In that case, let Simon see if he can find me." Jim sat back calmly as if that made perfect sense, flicking the tablecloth out of Blair's hand and disappearing from sight again.

"Oh man, oh man, oh man." Blair put his head in his hands again. "How am I going to get him out of there?" he mumbled to himself.

He felt a hand on his head, patting his hair. He looked up at Simon.

"What's wrong, Sandburg? Can't you find Jim?"

"What? I can find him, Simon, I just don't know how to get him out from underneath the table ..."

"Oh, that's easy. Just do what you always do."

"What?" He seemed to be saying that a lot tonight. "What do I always do?" he asked with a puzzled frown.

"Oh here, let me do it." With that, Simon nonchalantly lifted the tablecloth and stuck his head under the table and bellowed "Jim! Sandburg's not feeling well and needs you!" Then he immediately sat back up and quickly pushed his chair away from the table, which instantly erupted.

"Chief!" The table crashed over on its side, plates, glasses and silverware going in every which direction as Jim surged to his feet, frantically grabbing Blair by his shoulders and lifting him up in the air.

"What's wrong, Chief?! Are you OK? Talk to me, little buddy." He looked worriedly into Blair's face.

"I'm ... I'm fine," said Blair, in shock. "Everything's OK, Jim." He glanced over to Simon who was still sitting in his chair, chewing on his cigar, with a smug, satisfied smile on his face.

"Listen, Jim, put me down; I'm fine. We just need to go home now, OK?"

Jim lowered Blair to the floor, brushing him off (several leaves of lettuce were clinging to Sandburg's hair) and patting him all over to make sure he was OK.

"OK, Chief. Let's go home now. You sure you're all right?"

Blair nodded his head, noticing that every eye in the place was turned on their table.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, Jim. Let's just go," he said in a whisper.

"Simon, you take his other arm, I'll take this one."

Simon and Jim each grabbed one of Sandburg's arms and started to usher him from the room.

"Guys, guys! Let me go, I don't need any help!" Blair's entreaty fell on deaf ears as they practically carried him into the lobby. Blair started to struggle, trying to extricate himself from their clutches and finally they let go quite suddenly at the same time and he staggered away from them.

"Sir! Are you all right?" A waiter, passing by, hurried up to Blair and reached out to steady him on his feet. But before he could touch Sandburg, he found his arm in an iron grip.

"My Guide! No touching - get your own freaking guide!" Jim bellowed, pushing Sandburg behind him protectively and glowering at the waiter.

"Jim, Jim! It's OK, he was just trying to help me not hurt me," said Blair frantically, trying to pull Jim away from the frightened waiter. Simon stood there with his hands on his hips, glaring fiercely at the waiter.

"I'm so sorry," said Blair, finally managing to loosen Jim's grip on the unfortunate waiter. "My friends are not quite themselves, tonight. We're leaving right now." The waiter looked at him in trepidation. "And we're not coming back," said Blair. The waiter looked a little more relieved. Sandburg shoved some bills into the waiter's hand and pulled Jim and Simon out the door with him.

"Man, what is wrong with you two? Blair scolded. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were both hammered. But I know you didn't have more than two drinks apiece. Come on, let's get in the car."

He led the way and Jim and Simon followed. He got them in the car with surprising ease. As he pulled out of the parking lot, he realized that he didn't feel comfortable leaving Simon alone at his place, so he told his Captain that he would be staying the night at the loft. That got surprisingly little comment from either Simon or Jim other than an "OK, Blair. Whatever you say." Sandburg was so astonished at Simon's easy compliance that he almost ran off the road as he looked over at his Captain. Simon calmly reached out an arm and steered them back on the road as Blair suddenly realized what he was doing, and took control of the wheel again. Once his heart stopped pounding so hard, he sneaked a look in the rear view mirror at Jim. Somewhere, Jim had found some bubble gum and was practicing blowing bubbles. Huge, pink bubbles.

*Oh my God,* thought Blair. *I am definitely dreaming - or on another planet. They're like aliens from Jupiter or something - Or maybe we're in a different dimension - what the hell is going on?!* Muttering under his breath all the way home about 'Lunatic Sentinels' and 'Deranged Police Captains' and 'Why me?' he made it to the loft without further incident.

Blair finally pulled into a parking spot right outside the loft. He opened the doors to the car and ushered Simon and Jim over to the door to the building. They walked in and Blair noticed the "not working" sign on the elevator.

*Great!* he thought. *Well, OK there's still the stairs.* He turned to his two charges.

"Ok, guys. The elevator is out of order so we're going to have to use the stairs. Follow me." He made his way over to the stairs and started up with Jim and Simon close behind.

"Auugh!" Blair clapped his hand over his butt and whirled around.

"Jim! Did you just pinch me?!" Jim just looked innocently at his roommate and blew another large, pink bubble. Blair looked over at Simon speculatively. *Nah,* he thought to himself. He backed up a step still staring at them.

"I think you two should go ahead of me," he said, moving to the side to let them go ahead, keeping a wary eye on both of them.

Jim shrugged and moved ahead with Simon close behind. Then Jim whispered something to Simon and they both raced up the remaining steps. Blair just stared after them. *This is just too weird,* he thought, trudging up the stairs after them. As he came up to the top step, he heard a commotion in the halls.

Jim and Simon were standing innocently at the door to the loft and the neighbor's doors were all open with the neighbors standing in them.

"What the hell?!"

"What's going on ..."

"Who rang my doorbell?"

Blair rushed forward. "It's all right, everybody. This is just a test. Yeah, uh ... a test! Some of the doorbells weren't working earlier and we were just testing them to make sure they're all in working order. You can all go back in - looks like everything works now."

"In accordance with the prophecy," boomed Jim, holding his arms out to his sides, as if in benediction. And then he blew a great big pink bubble. Simon snickered.

Everyone just stood there looking at them in bewilderment. Blair stared at Jim in astonishment and Jim grinned innocently at him as the bubble deflated. Blair narrowed his eyes suspiciously. He was getting pretty sick of that innocent grin. The neighbors started to edge cautiously back into their apartments.

"Thanks for your cooperation," said Blair waving to everyone as he fumbled the keys out of his pocket.

"Yeah, whatever ..."

"Buncha weirdos ..."

"Why does our building always get all the crazy ones?"

Blair hurriedly opened the door to the loft, pulling Jim and Simon in as swiftly as possible and shut and locked the door behind them.

Jim promptly headed for the stairs.

"Jim! Where are you going and what are you going to do?" Blair practically shouted.

"I'm gonna go change."

"Oh, OK." He can't possibly get into any trouble doing that, Blair thought.

"Simon, why don't you take off your coat and have a seat in the living room," said Blair, going into the kitchen to make some coffee.

Simon did as Blair told him and took a seat on the sofa in the living room, quietly engrossed in chewing on his unlit cigar. Blair puttered around in the kitchen, preparing the coffee and muttering to himself as he tried to figure out what was wrong with his two friends. When the coffee was finally ready, he poured a cup and took it in to Simon. He sat down in the chair and sipped at his cup. Jim had still not come down. Blair looked at his watch. It had been 20 minutes since Jim had gone upstairs! Blair hurriedly put his cup down on the coffee table, stood up, and called upstairs "Jim! What's taking you so long?"

There was a mumbled reply from Jim.

"What? I can't hear you!" Blair yelled back.

Another mumbled reply issued forth from the loft bedroom. It sounded like Jim had his head in a box. Blair looked over at Simon. He was now enthralled with the tip of his cigar and was looking at it closely, picking at it with one long forefinger. Blair figured Simon would be safe enough for a few minutes.

"Simon, I'm going upstairs to get Jim. You stay right here, OK?"

"Um hmmm," replied Simon, still peering closely at his cigar as he turned it every which way.

Blair looked at him for a minute, and then sighed and muttered under his breath "This is so weird," and hastened up the stairs. As he came even with the top of the stairs, he saw no sign of his friend.

"Jim! Where are you?"

" 'M over here," came a mumbled voice from the vicinity of the closet.

Blair peeked around the bed and was treated to the sight of his roommate's boxer-clad butt. The upper half of Jim's body was lost in the closet as sounds of rummaging could be heard.

"Jim! Where the hell are your clothes, man?"

"They itched too much, Chief," said Jim in a muffled voice.

"They itched ...Hey - just what are you doing in there?" he asked as Jim continued to rummage around in the closet.

Jim pulled back to his knees and turned around to face Sandburg, keeping his hands behind his back. There was a short white stick protruding from his mouth.

"What's that you've got in your mouth ..." A look of horrified realization came over Blair's face.

"Ohmigod! Those are the suckers that made me drunk! I thought you threw them away!" he squeaked in dismay.

"Nope," Jim said around his sucker. "We didn't have any dessert. Thought I'd try these." Jim took the blue sucker from his mouth and looked at it. "They're really good!" He popped it back in his mouth.

"Jim!" Blair practically flew around the bed and pulled the sucker out of Jim's mouth. "You can't eat these! Don't you remember what they did to me? I got really drunk on these because of the kava-kava juice in them. How many have you had?"

Jim shrugged his shoulders. Blair looked frantically around the room and saw 3 white sticks on the floor near the closet. He bent down and picked them up.

"Three! And this one makes four! Geez, Jim. You're already acting pretty strange - these are definitely not good for you right now. No more, OK?"

Jim quickly put both hands behind his back and assumed the innocent look once again. "OK," he said.

"Jim," said Blair, eyes narrowing suspiciously, "What have you got in your hand there?"

"Nothing!" said Jim, a little too quickly.

Blair tried to peek around Jim's back, but Jim swiveled so Blair couldn't see.

Blair grabbed Jim by his arm and swung him around. Above the waistband of his boxers, a white stick was poking up. Jim pulled out of Blair's grasp and turned back around quickly with a guilty look on his face.

"Jim - you give me that sucker RIGHT NOW!" Blair said sternly.

Jim slowly pulled the sucker out of his waistband and handed it to Blair with a little pout. "Oh, all right."

"You can't have any more of these, got it?" said Blair gingerly taking the sucker between two fingers, keeping in mind where it had just been.

Jim sighed slowly and nodded his head, agreeing with Blair. Just to be on the safe side, Blair knelt down in front of the closet and pulled out the bag of suckers that Jim had stuffed in his duffel bag during their last camping trip to keep them away from his roommate. He stood up, intending to store them in a safe place downstairs, when he realized Jim was not in the bedroom anymore.

"Jim...!"

"He's down here!" came Simon's voice.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Blair bounded down the stairs with his bag of suckers. As he walked past the living room towards the kitchen, he noticed that Jim was still wearing only his boxers.

"Jim, man, you've got to put some clothes on," said Blair, gesturing at his roommate.

"Why?" asked Jim in puzzlement.

"Yeah, Sandburg. Why?"

"Well ... well ..."

"It's not like we're going anywhere ..."

"And it's not like you haven't seen me in them before ..."

"And aren't you always telling us that the body is nothing to be ashamed of - that shame is just societal conditioning?"

"OK, OK," said Blair in defeat, groaning inwardly. Who knew Jim was listening when he was giving him that lecture? "Just don't leave the loft unless you put some clothes on first - wait, strike that - let me know first if you leave ... no, no I mean don't leave the loft at all, OK?"

"Sure, Chief. Isn't that cute Simon? He wants to keep tabs on me." Jim put an arm around Blair's shoulders, pulling his partner over to him and pinching his cheek fondly.

"Yeah. Cute," said Simon, chewing on his cigar.

"Stop that, Jim!" said Blair pushing him away with a glare and rubbing his cheek. He rapidly backed up until he was out of Jim's reach.

Jim just grinned and turned his back to Blair. He took a few steps away, bending slightly to scoop something up off the couch, and then he quickly turned around again with a "Hey, Sandburg - heads up!"

Blair, who had headed back for the kitchen with the bag of lollipops, turned around.

"Wha...! Ooomph!"

Sandburg went down like a dead weight, curling up into a fetal position on the floor as Jim's football hit him,

"Oh my god! What did you do, Jim?" yelled Simon in horror.

Jim ran to his roommate and dropped to all fours next to him on the floor with a terrified look on his face.

"Simon! I think ... I think I broke the Guide! I didn't mean to, honest!"

"Jim, Jim, Jim ... when are you gonna learn not to play so rough with him? Move over, I know CPR. I'll save him," commanded Simon in his "take charge" voice. He then shoved Jim aside and knelt next to Blair.

"Wait a minute! I know CPR too - I was an Army Medic, remember? Let me do it - I'm the one who broke him ... C'mon, Simon, it's my turn to save him ..." whined Jim.

"I do believe it's my turn, Jim, now move over willya?" And they began to grapple for a spot close to Blair.

Muffled words came from the huddled lump on the floor.

Simon and Jim stopped in mid-grapple and looked at each other and then down at Blair.

"What did he say, Jim?" asked Simon.

"I'm not sure," said Jim with a frown, staring at Sandburg in concern.

"I said I don't need CPR! <groan> don't even think of trying ... unhhhh" came from the lump.

"Where does it hurt, Sandburg?" asked Simon "In my ... in my ... <groan>".

"What did he say, Jim?"

"I don't know. He's still mumbling. Where does it hurt again, Blair?"

Another muffled reply issued from Sandburg.

"Sounded like he said 'grind'," said Simon, perplexed.

Jim frowned. "What the hell is your 'grind' Chief?" asked Jim, scratching his head. "You mean your hind?" He reached around Blair and ran his hand over his behind searching for bumps or bruises.

"Not my grind, you idiots, my GROIN! I'm dying here! And getcher hand off my butt, Jim!"

"Your groin? You mean your stomach?" Jim tried to roll him over on his back to check his stomach.

Blair rolled his eyes. "No Jim, My gr ..." Blair started to point to himself and felt a little foolish doing that. He closed his eyes tightly again. "My favorite muscle, OK! Get the picture now?" Groaning, he opened his eyes, and slapped Jim's hands away from him as he reached for the front of his pants.

"Ahhh, it just hit him in his favorite muscle," said Jim, nodding sagely. He stood up after slapping Blair reassuringly on the butt, which caused another groan to issue forth from the miserable heap on the floor. "Poor baby. Don't worry, you'll be fine, Chief. I'm sorry I hit you, but I never heard of anybody dying from being hit there, although there was that one guy who was playing Rugby whose grapes exploded after he got hit ..."

"Jim, dammit!" Blair glared at his roommate.

"But don't worry, he's fine now, Sandburg," Jim continued earnestly. "Help me get him up on the couch, Simon."

With Simon's help, the two cops manhandled Blair up onto the couch.

"Shouldn't we do something else to help him?" asked Simon.

"I know! Ice! I'll get some ice for his little boo-boo." Jim stopped and tousled Sandburg's curls. "Do we have any boo-boo peas in the freezer, Chief?"

"Boo-boo peas?" asked Simon with an arched eyebrow.

"Yeah, that's what Naomi used to call them when Blair was little."

Simon frowned. "He's still little." Then he grinned, realizing that he had just made a joke.

"Hey, I'm in serious pain here and you guys are standing around making jokes! Just get the damn boo-boo peas, willya!" hissed Blair testily with his eyes still closed and hands clutching his groin.

"OK - Simon you stay here and watch him, I'll get the peas." Jim trotted off cheerfully, catching himself as he stumbled over his own feet once. He came back quickly and gave the frozen peas to Sandburg who placed them on between his legs. "I'm gonna see if we have any aspirin," Jim announced.

"It's in my room - I used it last night," said Blair as he put his arm over his eyes. He started to relax as the pain receded. Before he knew it, he jerked awake, realizing that he had drifted off for a few moments. He looked around - no Jim or Simon. Starting to panic, he yelled "Jim! Simon! Where are you?!"

"We're in here," came Jim's voice from Blair's room.

"What?! What the devil are they doing in there?" he mumbled to himself. He pulled himself unsteadily to his feet, dropping the peas on the floor, and made his way to his room where he saw Jim and Simon rummaging around in his nightstand drawer.

"Hey! What are you guys doing in my drawers?" He said, a little disgruntled.

"Well, Chief, we were just wondering - don't you think "Super Jumbo" size is a little bit of wishful thinking?" Grinning, Jim held up a package of neon-colored condoms that stated they now came in the new super jumbo size.

"Give me that!" said Blair, blushing bright red. "These were a gag gift from the other TAs at a party they gave for me, before I left the country on a field trip."

"Yeah, right, Sandburg," said Simon with a snicker.

"Uh huh, sure, we believe you Chief," chortled Jim.

Blair blushed even hotter and stuffed the box of condoms back into the drawer, closing it with a hard shove.

"All right, I think you guys have had enough fun at my expense. Out into the living room - GO!" He raised his voice on the last word when it looked like they had no intention of moving. To his immense surprise, both Jim and Simon leapt to their feet and rushed out to the living room. Blair stood there for a moment with his mouth half-open in surprise. He scratched his head with a puzzled frown on his face and then joined his friends in the living room.

"OK," he said. "Just sit down for a minute." He wracked his brain for something that would keep them out of trouble for a little while so he could figure out what was going on.

"Sandburg?"

"What?" Blair snapped.

"We were going to play cards, remember?" said Simon.

"Oh right, yeah, that's what we were going to do tonight." *That ought to keep them out of trouble for a while,* he thought. Blair got the cards out and gave them to Simon.

"I'll join in later. I just need to make a phone call first, OK?"

Both Jim and Simon just nodded, intent on deciding what game to play. The phone rang at that moment and Blair rushed over to it, yelling "I got it!"

"Hello?"

"Sandy, is that you?"

"Yeah, Megan. I was just going to call you. What's up?"

"I'm so glad I got you! Someone from Captain Banks' family called earlier and we've been trying to get hold of you all night. You must have turned your cell phones off, because we couldn't get any of you. You didn't happen to drink any coffee in his office, did you?"

"No, why?"

"The coffee his cousin sent him was recalled. Turns out that the almond flavor had way too much alcohol put in it by accident."

"Oh my God," said Blair in a whisper.

"What? What's wrong?"

"Something weird is going on with Simon and Jim tonight. It's almost like they're really stinking drunk, only I know they didn't have enough to make them that way. But they both had 2 HUGE cups of that coffee before we left for dinner. And then they had wine on top of it! No wonder they're all loopy! Oh shit!"

"Are you all right, Sandy?" asked Megan, concern in her voice.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I'm just going to have to stay with them tonight. They're kind of like big puppies. Every time I turn my back they get into something they shouldn't. They are really goofy and I'm getting kind of tired of following them around, keeping them out of trouble."

I'm coming over, you shouldn't have to handle this all by yourself, announced Megan.

"Uh ..." Blair somehow thought that Simon and Jim wouldn't appreciate it, once they were sober, if Megan was witness to their drunken behavior. And he knew whom they would blame for that the next day. "That's OK, Megan. I can handle them. It might be best this way. No, really, I'm sure. But you could come by tomorrow morning. I'm sure I'll be ready to get out of here by then. Maybe we could have breakfast together?" This last was said hopefully. Might as well get a date out of this whole thing, thought Blair. She probably wouldn't go for it, otherwise, but the sympathy angle often worked. He hoped he sounded pitiful enough over the phone. Without being able to use the "lost puppy" eyes, he was working without a net.

"Right, Mate. I'll be by to pick you up in the morning. Don't let them gang up on you too much, and call me if you need anything, Sandy - got it?"

"Got it, Megan. Thanks. See you tomorrow morning. Bye." He hung up, feeling inordinately pleased with himself. Then he noticed Simon and Jim were not in the living room anymore. But he did hear the water running in the bathroom.

"What the hell - why are both of them in there at the same time," he mumbled to himself as he hurried to the bathroom door. As he walked in, Jim and Simon both were bent over the bathtub. They straightened up quickly and faced Blair, neatly hiding whatever was going on in the tub.

"What're you doing?" asked Blair suspiciously.

"Nothing!" said Jim, a little too quickly. Simon just tried to look innocent. It was not his best look. Blair pushed between them and looked in the tub. There was a bucket full of ...

"Jim! Are you making water balloons?" asked Blair accusingly.

Jim looked speculatively at Blair for a second. "Maybe," he said.

"Oh man! Where did you get the balloo ... Hey! These are my condoms!" Blair held up one super jumbo-sized, neon purple condom full to the bursting point with water.

"Guys, what were you going to do with these ..." Both Jim and Simon looked guiltily at the balcony.

"What? You can't do that! Don't you know someone could get hurt? We're up way too high - these could give someone a pretty good-sized headache," said Blair sternly.

Jim looked thoughtful. "So you're saying, Chief, that if we dropped these from so far up, someone could get hurt?"

"You're darn right, someone could get hurt! That's the most irresponsible ..."

"But," Jim interrupted, "If we weren't so far up it wouldn't hurt anybody, would it?"

"Well, you'd have to be pretty close to the person ...," said Blair, confused by the sudden change in subject.

"Like this?" Jim suddenly produced an neon orange, water-filled condom from behind his back, held it over Blair's head and let go. As the water-filled sack burst over Sandburg's head, Jim and Simon also burst into guffaws.

Blair glared at them through his dripping wet locks. Who knew that a condom could hold so much water? "That wasn't funny!" he said, trying for a dignified stance. Which was hard to do when water kept dripping into your eyes and you had the remains of a tattered orange condom stuck in your hair, not to mention a few straggly leaves of lettuce left over from the exploding table at the restaurant. He sighed.

Simon and Jim both were sitting on the bathroom floor holding their stomachs as they laughed and guffawed.

"You know - that was not nearly as funny as you think it was," said Blair sourly with his hands on his hips.

"Yes, it was," said Jim and Simon at the same time. They looked at each other in surprise, which set off another round of laughter from the two loopy cops.

"Hmph, well let's go play cards. That ought to keep you two occupied for a while. C'mon, get up and go into the living room. Both Jim and Simon still sat on the floor, grinning and wiping their eyes, as if they hadn't heard Blair. Blair had had enough. His frustration point, ordinarily very high, had just been reached.

"Now!" he shouted, pointing to the living room, and then stared in surprise as both Jim and Simon leapt to their feet and high-tailed it for the living room, almost knocking him over as they whizzed past him. Blair was flabbergasted. *They usually NEVER listen to me!* he thought. Recovering from his astonishment, he followed them into the living room and got them settled (they insisted on sitting on the floor to play) and found the cards.

"Here, you guys decide what to play. I've got to go dry off a little." Blair handed them the cards and some paper and pencils to keep score and went back into the bathroom to dry his hair, keeping the door open so he could hear if they got into trouble. As he towel-dried his hair, he kept up a mumbled, one-sided monologue. "... Like a couple of overgrown kids ... damn TROUBLE magnets - that's what they are ... feel like their freakin' babysitter ... this must be what it's like to have kids - really NAUGHTY, really OBNOXIOUS kids! ... MAN, are they gonna owe me when this is over ..."

Blair was so intent on his grumbling and getting back to the living room before his charges got into more trouble, that he never looked in the mirror and didn't realize he still had pieces of lettuce and the condom stuck in his now frizzy, out-of-control locks. He threw the towel to the floor and hurried out to his pie-faced buddies again. Simon was sitting propped up against the couch staring into space with a profoundly thoughtful look on his face as if he was pondering something quite serious, and Jim was lying on the floor on his stomach writing intently on a sheet of paper.

"Whatcha' doing, Jim?" asked Blair. There was no response from Jim as he continued to concentrate on his sheet of paper.

"JIM," said Blair a little louder. "What're you doing?" Still no response. Blair looked in puzzlement at Simon, as he sat down next to him on the floor and leaned back against the couch.

"You have to call him by his nickname for keeping score," he whispered to Blair.

"Nickname for keeping ... what the hell are you talking about?" Blair whispered back, even more confused now.

"You know. When we keep score at cards, we choose nicknames."

"We do?" This was news to Blair. "What's your nickname?"

"I don't know yet. I'm trying to decide between "Big Sexy" or "Dragon Lord." They both fit really well, you know," whispered Simon with the thoughtful look coming back to his face. "I'm just having a really hard time deciding." He looked earnestly at Blair, a frown quickly coming over his face. "Blair? Are you all right?" he asked urgently, reaching out to place a large, dark hand on Sandburg's forehead, as if checking for fever. Blair's face had turned bright red and he looked as if he was choking.

"I ... I'm fine, Simon," Blair choked out as he tried to keep from bursting into hysterical laughter. He took a few deep breaths, but every time he thought of calling Simon "Big Sexy" he turned bright red again as he tried to keep from going into hysterics. He finally recovered his composure after a couple of minutes and wiped at his wet eyes.

"So what's Jim's nickname?" he asked, still whispering.

"Well, at first he liked Mad Dawg or Man Candy, but he settled on Rock Hard."

Once again, Simon feared for Blair's state of health as he doubled over holding his stomach.

"Hey, kiddo, you eat something that disagreed with you at dinner tonight?" Simon reached out and put a hand on Blair's shoulder in concern.

Blair held up one hand. "N ... no, I'm f ... fine, Simon. Just a little gas is all," said Blair trying very hard not to let loose the belly laugh threatening to erupt from him. Finally controlling himself, he sat up straight again, exhaling in relief.

"Uh ... Rock ... Rock Hard, what are you doing over there?" asked Blair as he tried to keep a straight face.

This time, Jim responded immediately. "I'm making our score sheet, see?" Jim held up the sheet of paper that was divided into three sections by two wavery, vertical, pencil lines. At the top of the first column the name "Rock Hard" was scrawled. "Simon, did you decide on your nickname?"

"Yeah. I think I'll go with 'Big Sexy.' It's the most like me." Jim nodded approvingly and returned to writing intently on the sheet of paper. "OK, we're ready to play."

"Wait a minute," said Blair with a hurt look on his face. "What about me? Don't I get a nickname, too?"

Jim sat up and grinned at him, reaching over to ruffle his hair. "What? You don't like 'Chief'?"

Blair dodged his hand and said "I want to choose my own name just like you guys did."

"OK. Let's see, maybe we should give you a few suggestions - how about Frizzy Lizzie?" He reached out a hand again to grab a lock of Blair's hair, but it was quickly knocked away.

"Or how about Munchkin?" said Simon with a grin.

"I know, 'Little Toilet Hair'," said Jim with a snicker. Or maybe 'Jelly Belly'." Jim scooted closer to Sandburg, poking him lightly in the belly. Both Jim and Simon roared with laughter.

"Oh, go ahead, laugh it up - but I can think of a much better name," said Blair.

Oh yeah? Let's hear it, said Jim with a last snicker.

"'The Love Doctor,'" said Blair smugly. "You know - the ladies love me and I'm studying to get my doctorate. It's a perfect fit!"

"Just like those condoms, huh Chief?" asked Jim with a grin.

"I told you, those were a gag gift ...," said Blair, blushing a little.

"Uh huh, and we believe you, Mr. "Looove" Doctor," said Jim teasingly.

"All right, Shecky, just write it down and let's play cards," said Blair a little grumpily.

"That's "Rock Hard" to you - and don't forget it. "

" 'Rock Hard,' yeah right ... rocks in the head maybe," Blair grumbled under his breath.

"What was that, Sandburg?" asked Simon innocently.

"Nothing. What are we playing?"

"Oh," said Jim. "It's a new game - you've never played it with us before. It's something Simon and I played in the service. It's called ... uh ... uh ... "

"Fizzbin," said Simon.

"Yeah! That's right, it's called 'Fizzbin'."

"Fizzbin?" said Blair, scratching his head with a puzzled look on his face. "It sounds familiar, but I can't remember from where."

"Everyone who's ever served in the military knows how to play it," insisted Jim. "Especially if you served on the Enterprise under Kirk," he murmured under his breath as he shuffled the cards.

"What's that, Jim? I didn't catch the last thing you said," said Blair.

"I said it's especially fun because the winner gets a prize," Jim said smoothly, smiling sweetly at Blair. "How much money do you have on you?"

Blair fished around in his pockets and came up with 15 dollars and some change.

"Is this enough?"

"That's plenty." Jim took the money and pocketed it.

"Jim! I thought that was supposed to be the prize!"

"Oh right, right." Jim took the money from his pocket and added 20 dollars to it. Simon added another 20 and they put it in a bowl on the coffee table.

Blair looked suspiciously at them. "Are you sure you guys know the rules to this game?"

"Of course we do, Chief. Just trust us. We would never steer you wrong."

"Oooh yeah, I trust you two. About as far as I can throw a ..." Jim cut him off. "I'll deal. We'll explain the rules as we go along - it's much easier to learn that way. Just remember that you want to get a "Fizzbin" - that's the object of the game."

"OK. I can remember that, but what's a Fizzbin?"

"You'll find out in a minute, now let me finish dealing." Jim finished dealing and then asked "How many cards does everybody have?"

"I've got seven," said Blair.

"I've got six," answered Simon.

"I've got six, too, so we're ready to play," said Jim.

"Wait - wait a minute!" said Blair. "I've got seven - why do I have one more card than you guys?" he asked with a frown.

"Because you're sitting to my right."

"What?!"

"That's right, Blair. The person sitting to the dealer's right gets seven cards, and that's actually an advantage," Simon broke in quickly.

Blair looked at his cards with a frown. "Oh, Ok I guess. What's next?"

Jim had placed the remaining cards face down in the center of the circle they made sitting on the floor. He reached over and turned one card up, hesitated and then turned another one over.

"Jim! You can't just turn another card over if you don't like the first one," said Blair huffily.

"No, no, Sandburg. It's not Tuesday."

"Tuesday? What's Tuesday got to do with it," asked Blair in confusion.

"You turn a second card over except on Tuesdays," said Jim triumphantly.

Blair looked at Simon, who nodded his head. "He's right Sandburg. That's the rule. It's a military "thing," he added at Blair's incredulous look.

"Well, it's a STUPID rule if you ask me ..."

"No one's asking you. Now go ahead and discard, or pick up the card I turned over," said Jim impatiently.

"But, I still don't know what's the best thing to do! You've got to tell me more about the rules before I can make informed decisions here," spouted Blair in frustration.

"OK. Here's the deal: two Jacks are a half-Fizzbin, but any player with three Jacks has a "shralk," and is disqualified, except if it's Thursday - and if you get a Royal Fizzbin, which is extremely rare, then you ..."

"Oh damn!" shouted Blair throwing his cards down and crossing his arms over his chest in a sulk.

"What's wrong?" asked Jim.

"I had three Jacks in my hand and it's not Thurs ..." suddenly Blair stopped in mid-sentence. "Heeey, wait a minute - I think I remember this game." He closed his eyes for a minute in concentration. An "ah ha" look passed over his face and his eyes popped open.

"This is a made-up game from that old Star Trek episode with the gangster world in it!" He glared accusingly at his charges, who were both red-faced and hooting with laughter now, lying on the floor trying to compose themselves. Blair sat with his arms still crossed over his chest and shot them dirty looks while they laughed, thinking that he was in danger of becoming as loony as them for agreeing to play their stupid game.

"I'm not gonna play any more of your STUPID-ASS card games!" he growled.

Jim sat up, wiping at his eyes. "I can't believe you fell for that!" he exclaimed. Simon sat up, still grinning at Blair.

"Well, listen up! We're going to play gin now and no more making up moronic rules that are just plain asinine! I'll deal," he said grimly, grabbing the cards away from Jim. He dealt the cards with lowered brows and vaguely threatening whispers under his breath, using words like 'demented' and 'lunatics' and 'insane asylum.'

He finished dealing the cards, and Jim said "Gee, buddy, you seem a little upset - where's your sense of humor? You know we still love ya. C'mere." Jim threw his arm around Blair's shoulders and pulled him up close next to him. He ruffled his hair and planted a loud, playful smooch on his cheek. Blair did not take kindly to the attention and fended him off as well as he could, pulling away and knocking Jim's hands away.

"Geez, Jim, will you leave me alone! I'm not some KID, ya know!"

Jim just grinned and picked up his cards. They played a round of gin that Simon won, and which put Blair in an even worse mood. As they played a second hand, a sly look came over Jim's face. Sandburg's stockinged foot was stretched out and lay on the floor within Jim's reach.

Simon, he said casually. "Did you know that Blair is ticklish?" Simon looked up at Jim the same time Blair's head jerked up from perusing his cards, and caught the devilish glint in Ellison's eyes.

"Why no, Jim. I did not know that," said Simon with false sincerity and an evil glint in his eye.

"Jim! You promised you wouldn't tell anybody, dammit!"

Jim snagged Blair's foot and pulled. Blair let out a squeak and fell backwards, then rolled to his side and tried to scramble out of Jim's reach, to no avail, as Jim dragged him back by his foot.

"Aaaah! Quit that, Jim!"

"See Simon, it's this spot right below the ball of his foot." Jim held up Blair's foot and showed the spot to Simon.

"I'm not sure where, Jim. Can you demonstrate for me?" said Simon, trying to hold back his laughter.

Jim looked at his partner, flat on his back on the floor, caught his round blue eyes, wide with trepidation and said "Sure. It's right ..." He hesitated, prolonging Sandburg's torture. " ... HERE!" And Jim lightly stroked the spot he was referring to with his finger.

"Aaaah ha, ha, ha, ha, ha - no ... stoooopppp!" Blair gasped and with a jerk finally succeeded in pulling his foot from his big roommate's grasp as he rolled up onto his hand and knees.

Simon and Jim sat grinning at him.

"Ohhhh ... you are SO going to pay for that!" said Blair threateningly from his hand and knees.

"Awww, he's threatening us, Simon. Isn't that cute?" Jim reached out again to pull Blair into a hug.

"Oh no you don't, said Blair sliding quickly out of reach. And if you don't quit it, I'll tell Simon where YOU'RE ticklish."

The grin was quickly wiped off Jim's face at that comment.

"Um, let's finish our card game." Jim picked up his cards. "It's your turn, Simon."

"Wait a minute, Jim. I wanna know your ticklish spots, too," said Simon evilly.

*All RIGHT!* thought Blair excitedly. *I finally got one of them on my side.*

"Yeah, Jim. Let me show Simon where you're ticklish. Turnabout is fair play, you know," said Blair smugly.

"If you do that, I'll tell Simon what really happened on our last stake-out," said Jim, a little smile playing around his mouth.

Blair's jaw fell. "Oh man! You can't - we had an agreement!"

"What?" said Simon. "Whattaya mean - what did he do this time?" Simon put his cards down and glared at both of his friends.

"NOTHING!" said Blair a little too quickly. Seeing the look on Simon's face, he amended "That is, nothing you'll have to pay for this time."

"Yeah," said Jim. "I took care of it."

"SANDBURG! What did you do? I swear if you burnt down the room again, like that other time ..."

"Well geez, Simon, I was just trying to relax! After all, we were staking out a serial killer ... I was just a little nervous."

"There's a difference between a little meditation and burning down the room.'

"I told you that was really not my fault. Jim had been eating Mexican and you know what THAT does to him ... I had to open the windows and then the bicarb of soda I ordered for him came, and when the door opened it made the candles flare, and I didn't know I'd left that one candle so close to the curtain and ..."

Simon held up his hand. "Enough! We already covered that ground more times than I cared to. What did you do this time?"

"I swear, Simon I did NOT know we were parked right in front of Jackie's house ..."

"Wait! Who's Jackie?" asked Simon in puzzlement.

His ex-girlfriend. "You know - the one before Misty," said Jim helpfully. "They broke up under ... uh ... less than amicable circumstances."

Blair glared at Jim. "Anyway - you can't expect me to remember where ALL my old girlfriends live, man ..." Jim and Simon both looked at him. "OK, OK. Well she was still a little mad about, well about my other girlfriends at the time we were dating, and she saw the car and recognized me and came out. So we were talking and ..."

"She ripped open the door and pulled him out. She was built like a Norse Goddess, Simon. She had muscles bigger than mine." Jim used his hands to illustrate a massive but feminine form.

"Hey, I was just going through this phase where big was beautiful when we were dating, OK? Long story short ..."

"Wait just a minute," said Simon. "Where was Jim during all this?"

"Well, we had taken a car from the motor pool because Jim's truck was in for repairs, and the Volvo's heater wasn't working right ... anyway, the car we took had locks that kept sticking. Jim accidentally hit the lock button with his elbow, after she pulled me out and slammed the door, and he couldn't get out of the car. I decided the best thing to do was to get away from her because our conversation was getting pretty 'intense,' so I decided to cross the street to get away from her ..."

"Yeah, and 'cause she looked like she was going to beat the crap out of him. She grabbed his arm by the shirt when he tried to get away and he wiggled right out of it and ran across the street," Jim informed his boss, helpfully.

"I was NOT running - it was just a ... a fast stride, that's all. Anyway she took off after me," said Blair glaring at Jim. "Then Jim finally gets a clue and rolls down the window to get out of the car."

"Then our perp comes out of the building across the street and accidentally gets between Blair and his girlfriend ..."

"EX-girlfriend! She was getting really ... 'tense' ... at this point ..."

"She was getting ready to bitch-slap him when our perp got in the way, and she knocked him on his butt," Jim clarified.

Blair shot another frown at Jim. "So Jim collared the perp and everything turned out just fine - nothing to worry about, see?" he said placatingly.

"What happened to Jackie?" asked Simon, curiously.

"I threatened her with arrest for obstructing an investigation and she backed off. She has quite a mouth on her, though. Must have served in the Marines at one time."

"The WACs, but that's another story," said Blair.

"And she took Blair's shirt with her."

"Yeah," said Blair, a mournful look on his face as he remembered.

"We got it back, though. She burned it and sent the ashes to him express mail."

Blair looked even more mournful. "It was my favorite shirt."

Simon just looked at both of them for a long moment. "OK," he said. "Let's finish the game."

Blair's jaw dropped. Simon was definitely hammered if he was going to let this one go. At the very least he expected a few biting comments on his 'mildly' chaotic love life. "Mellow" Simon was kind of freaky, but he wasn't complaining, tonight. He couldn't believe Jim had told Simon that story. Although Blair always had to hide a little snort of laughter every time he remembered Jim frantically trying to get out of the car, in major Blessed Protector mode, and finally sliding out through the window head first, he was really sweating it out when they confessed to Simon. He was feeling a little exhausted from this whole conversation. He was starting to feel like he was in "Bizarro World," - the upside-backwards planet of Superman comics, where everything was the reverse of that on Earth. It was draining.

"I'm gonna lie down on the couch for a while and you two can play cards," he said tiredly, lying down on the couch.

"OK, Chief," said Jim. They gathered the cards together and started playing gin rummy. Blair turned on his side and watched them for a while. They were certainly enjoying the game - and definitely adding some rules he had never heard of before. He tried to follow along but his eyes got heavier and heavier. Maybe if he closed them for just a half a minute that would help - and his eyes drifted shut finally. He drifted for a little while, half-listening and half-sleeping. Then he felt something tickle his nose. Damn flies. They were everywhere you looked lately. With his eyes still shut, he reached up to smack the fly away.

Urp! "What the hell ..."

Blair sat straight up and looked at his hand. It was filled with a fluffy white substance. He touched his face with his other hand and discovered the same substance all over his nose and cheek. He took a tentative lick from his finger and realized it was whipped cream. He looked up and into the eyes of his two friends who were shaking with stifled laughter. And Jim was holding a feather.

"All right - I've HAD it! You two have gone too far! Now SIT DOWN!"

Jim and Simon stared at him in surprise, evidently shocked by Blair's anger.

"NOW!" he said, pointing to the sofa. They both quickly plopped themselves on the couch and looked nervously at Blair.

Sandburg started to pace in front of them, muttering and wiping his hand on his jeans and then running it through his hair, not realizing he was leaving little streaks of whipped cream in its wake.

Jim elbowed Simon in the side. "Grumpy Guide," he whispered. Simon nodded in agreement.

"I am NOT grumpy!" Blair yelled crossly. Then he stopped and looked at them in surprise. They had actually listened to him when he yelled at them to sit on the couch. They were doing a lot of that tonight.

But they usually NEVER listened to him, he thought once again, in confusion. His mind raced as he tried to put this little piece of the puzzle in place. They were drunk, he thought. Probably more drunk than they had been in years. Certainly since he'd known them. What does drunkeness do to a person? It releases their inhibitions! They must be inhibited from listening to him when they were sober. Could be that they thought they knew better than he did because they were older and more experienced, and thought of him as a kid. They would probably do what he told them tonight, if he just sounded authoritarian enough. Hmmm - there must be some way to turn this to his advantage. An idea started to form in his mind. He turned to his two buddies.

"Listen, why don't we have a contest?"

"A contest?" said Simon.

"Yeah. You like contests, right?"

"Yeah!" and "Oh, yeah!" came from both of them.

"What's the prize?" asked Jim.

"The prize ... the prize ... uh, whoever wins gets a dozen doughnuts, my treat!" said Blair, putting as much excitement in his voice as he could. To his immense surprise, they both nodded. Doughnuts and cops - of course they'd agree. *Oh man, this was going to be so good,* he thought to himself, tingling with anticipation.

"OK, the first part of the contest tests your rhythm. I'm going to put some music on and you each get to try out some dance moves. I'll be the judge and keep score."

Jim and Simon nodded eagerly.

"Oh, oh, me first, me first!" shouted Jim with his waving his hand energetically in the air. Simon gave him a dirty look.

"All right, Jim, but wait just a minute. I want to get my camera so we can preserve your talent on film." Blair hurried into his room and brought back the Polaroid camera and his new 35mm that Jim gave him last Christmas. *Honest to God,* he thought, Jim was actually preening. This was going better than he had ever hoped for.

Blair hurried over to the CD player, found the right disk and put it in the player. It was the theme from 'Saturday Night Fever.'

Two hours later, Blair looked at his two sleeping friends wearily with a satisfied grin on his face. Jim and Simon were on the floor snoring away, each with an arm around the other. Blair snickered softly. He had arranged them quite artistically, he thought, for that last picture, before he covered them up with a couple of blankets. The two big, buff cops looked so precious. He yawned and scratched his head. He needed to get some sleep, too. He stared at his companions for a moment. He didn't feel comfortable going to his bedroom and leaving them on the floor by themselves. What if one of them woke up and decided to leave the loft in the middle of the night? That just wouldn't do. Simon seemed to just be quite drunk - he probably wouldn't wake up with anything more than a hangover. But, Blair just wasn't sure what Jim would do if he woke up. The alcohol in the coffee, the lollipops, and the wine seemed to have a strange effect on him - not exactly drunk, but more like he had reverted to childhood, or at least adolescence. There was nothing for it - he was going to have to sleep out here. He went to his bedroom and grabbed two pillows and a couple of blankets. He decided to sleep in front of the door. They would never get past him without waking him up first. He made a nest out of the blankets and pillows and tried to get as comfortable as possible. It wasn't long before he fell asleep in his warm huddle.

Two hours later:

A car sped past the loft, emitting a backfire that sounded very similar to a shotgun going off. Jim jerked awake and sat up. He scratched his head and looked blearily around. The familiar red flag that went off in the back of his mind whenever there were indications of danger, was waving frantically. What had awoken him? He got to his feet and stretched out his senses. Sandburg wasn't in his room! Jim looked around and spotted his roommate asleep in a pile of blankets in front of the door.

Jim walked over, squatted down in front of Blair, and studied him. His hair was sticking out in various odd directions, and a piece of lettuce as well as a tattered, neon orange condom were stuck in his hair. Jim reached out a long finger and stroked Blair's face where the whipped cream had dried on it.

"Messy Guide," he murmured to himself. Blair gave a little huff in his sleep. Jim put his fingers under Blair's chin, lifting his head to see his face better. Blair, still asleep, pulled his chin away and turned his head to the side, muttering something unintelligible. He tried to snuggle deeper into his nest of blankets, goose bumps appearing on his skin. Jim's head snapped up as he heard some neighbors enter the building, chatting loudly with their friends, and then a door slammed loudly, sounding very similar to the car backfiring earlier. The red flag signaling danger went on alert in Jim's head. He seemed to make up his mind about something then and, reaching out, pulled Sandburg up and over his shoulder.

"Wha ... ! Whass goin' on ..." Sandburg spluttered, waking up dazedly, and realizing that the loft was upside down and his head was bumping against someone's butt - Jim's butt!

"Jim, Jim! What's going on?"

"Cold Guide ... have to protect ... take care of you ..."

Sandburg reached out and grabbed the back of the couch, causing Jim to come to an unexpected halt.

"Put me down!"

"Have to ... protect ... the Guide ... Jim grunted as he forcibly pulled Blair away from the couch. "Gotta start you onna ... diet t'morrow ..."

He walked over to the stairs leading to his bedroom, Sandburg still protesting over his shoulder, and started up.

"Jim ... Will you cut it out? ... This isn't funny!"

Blair grabbed one of the stair railings and held on tight, forcing Jim to stop once again. Blair started to slide off his shoulder and then he felt Jim turn around, grab his legs, and tug.

"Jim, you don't have to protect me - will you just put me down, dammit?!"

Jim grunted as he tugged harder on Blair's legs trying to get him to release the banister. Finally, realizing he was losing the battle, he gently let Blair's legs down on the steps and tried to pry his partner's fingers from the railing.

"Do too have to protect you ... trouble magnet ... cold ... my job to keep you out of trouble ..."

"I'm not IN trouble, for Pete's sake!" yelled Blair trying to bat Jim's hands away with one hand still grasping the banister.

Jim stopped working at Blair's hand and just stared at him in silence for a minute. Blair stared back uneasily, and then Jim's hand shot out and went right for Blair's tickle spot directly below and in front of his left armpit.

Blair shouted, let go of the banister, and before he knew it he was over Jim's shoulder again, headed up the stairs.

"Oh man, that was SO not fair! I knew I should never have told you that story about the girlfriend with the tickle fetish. C'mon, Jim. Put me down, OK?"

"OK." Jim settled him on his feet next to the bed, but kept one of Blair's arms in a firm grasp. With the other hand he pulled back the covers on the bed and then Blair found himself in the air again as Jim swung him onto the bed and pulled the covers over him. Blair immediately rolled to the other side of the bed and tried to leap out. Jim just reached across the bed, grabbed him and tucked him under the covers once again. This little game went on for a few minutes in silence, Blair trying to roll out of bed and Jim grabbing him back, and then Jim stood up with his hands on his hips and roared in frustration "Stay, Guide!" Blair, in the middle of rolling to the opposite side of the bed, froze. There was something in Jim's tone and the look on his face that made it clear the game was over. Sandburg put up both hands in an attempt to calm Jim down. "OK, OK! I'll stay here, Big Guy, just calm down. See? I'm not going anywhere." Blair lay back on the bed and watched as a satisfied look came over Jim's face. Then Jim began to take his roommate's shoes and socks off.

"What the heck are you doing?" yelled Blair, kicking his feet away from Jim. Jim just gave him that "look" again and Blair immediately subsided.

"Oh man, you have really got that "authority figure look" down pat!" Blair said disgustedly. *Well, what could it hurt? It's not like he's taking ALL my clothes off.* Just as he finished that thought, Jim reached up and unsnapped the front of Blair's pants.

"Oooh no, no, no, no, no. You are NOT going to take off my pants, man!" Blair tried to bat Jim's hands away, however it quickly became clear who was going to win this argument. Blair finally gave up after a brief struggle, throwing his hands in the air in defeat and lying back on the bed. But when he realized that Jim was pulling his boxers off along with the pants, he sat up rapidly.

"OK - this is where I draw the line, Jim!" said Blair, frantically tugging his boxers back up to his waist. "I NEED these boxers - they ... they keep me warm!" This seemed to penetrate whatever universe Jim was currently living in, as he tilted his head in thought and left Blair's boxers alone. Blair slumped back in relief and then Jim reached out and tried to lift his sweater over his head. "OK, you win," muttered Blair wearily, raising his arms. Jim removed his sweater taking his t-shirt with it and carefully folded his clothes, laying them neatly on the chair in the corner. Then he came back over to the bed and slid in to sit beside Blair. Blair looked up at him in defeat.

"This is really weird, man," Blair said, not able to keep a little bit of a whine out of his voice. Jim completely ignored him and fussed with the covers, tucking them gently around Sandburg.

"You know, you're givin' me a headache, Jim. I hope you remember all this tomorrow morning - you're gonna owe me big time." He rubbed his forehead to try and relieve a little of the tension. Jim's hand instantly replaced his and gently rubbed his head. Blair looked up in surprise at Jim. It was like Jim knew exactly which spots to rub to relieve the tension. Before he could say anything further, he was suddenly pulled over to and positioned with his head in Jim's lap and a pillow under his head as Jim continued to massage his head, stroking his hair occasionally.

Blair started to loudly protest, and then stopped suddenly in mid-word. It felt REALLY good. And he REALLY liked having his hair stroked. And he was REALLY tired. And it wasn't very often that he was pampered like this. Although it was a little embarrassing, it was actually kind of nice too. But, that wasn't something that he would ever admit aloud. And hopefully, Jim probably wouldn't remember any of this in the morning. Maybe he should just lay back, relax and enjoy this while he could. Blair started to drift off drowsily, but after a few minutes his brain kicked into gear. Now, Blair was nothing if not addicted to talking, especially if he thought he was teaching someone something. And he had a truly captive audience in his overprotective partner, right now. How could he pass up an opportunity like this? He couldn't. He decided to try his newest lecture out on his partner.

"Hey Jim, did you know that there's a tribe where the men engage in milk-drinking contests to get fat. The culture in this tribe promotes the notion that being fat is considered a virile, manly thing." Jim gave a little grunt, all his senses on alert as he constantly scanned for any threat to his guide. "Well, nobody really knows how this concept originated - it's been lost over the eons. Which is especially odd since it's quite dangerous - often the men drink so much milk that their stomachs explode and then they die! But they're not considered to die in vain - it's considered a good death ..." and Blair went on and on. It was rare that he had Jim's sole attention for so long and he reveled in it. After a half-hour of lecturing Jim on obscure tribes, he finally started to wind down.

"Well enough from me, what about you? Remember that night you came home all cranky after your date with Heidi? What really happened?"

There was no response. Blair wasn't really sure that Jim had been listening to him all along (although that didn't deter him from talking - he was sure that Jim's subconscious would pick up all the wonderful information Blair shared with him). Jim's head was cocked in the all-too-familiar "listening" pose that indicated that he was extending his senses to check for danger. But he had not stopped stroking Blair's head the whole time.

An idea struck Blair suddenly. *Tests!* He'd venture to guess that he could get Jim to agree to some tests that he had refused recently. Better yet, he could have him sign a note agreeing to do the tests, since Blair wanted him in his right mind for any tests, so that meant they had to be conducted later.

"Hey, Jim - hand me a notepad and pen." No response from Jim. He seemed to still be totally involved in scanning for any dangerous activity that might threaten his territory and his guide.

Blair tried to reach for the requested items and realized that he'd have to get up to get them. He bounced to his feet and ran around the bed to retrieve the writing pad and pen next to the phone. Then he ran back and jumped into bed, snuggling under the covers and plopping his head on the pillow on Jim's lap once again. Jim, who hadn't changed his position, except for stopping the stroking of his roommate's head, resumed stroking and pulled the covers snugly around Blair with his other hand.

"OK," Blair put the pen in Jim's hand and positioned it on the pad of paper. "Just sign your name riight here, no, no, a little lower ... perfect! Ok there's this one test that I haven't even mentioned because I knew you would head for the woods once you heard the first sentence and speaking of woods ..."

A half-hour later, Blair had outlined several tests and when they would take place on the page that had Jim's signature at the bottom, agreeing to the above. He sighed blissfully. This was turning into a really great night. He could hardly wait to begin the tests tomorrow. Throwing the pad of paper and pencil to the floor beside the bed, he snuggled under the covers a little more. He was really starting to get tired. Right on the brink of sleep, he felt Jim slide down in the bed, pulling them both into a spooning position, with Blair on the inside and Jim's arm around Blair.

"Night, Jim," said Blair drowsily.

"Night, "Love Doctor," Jim replied sleepily. Blair's eyes popped open and he turned his head awkwardly, trying to see Jim's face.

"What did you say?" His only reply was a rather loud snore, right in his ear. Blair settled back down under Jim's arm. Even asleep, his partner could be obnoxious, he thought as he sank back into sleep.

An hour later, a really loud snore in Blair's ear woke him up. Jim was really sawing wood. Blair sat up and Jim's arm fell off him as the Sentinel rolled to his back, still snoring away. *Well that's enough to wake the dead. Time to get back into my own bed,* he thought. Blair rolled gently out of bed, checking to make sure he didn't disturb Jim. His partner didn't move, and the snoring didn't miss a beat. Grabbing his clothes and quickly slipping into them, Blair tiptoed downstairs and over to his pile of blankets in front of the door. He still felt that he had to protect his two friends, especially Jim who was still unpredictable until the alcohol and lollipops wore off. In no time at all, Blair was ensconced in his nest and was dreaming happily about the tests he planned to torture Jim wi ... er, put Jim through.

7:00 am the next morning:

The sun hit Jim's face as he rolled to his side in bed and woke him up. He sat up in a daze. He usually woke up immediately in the mornings. Right now, he didn't remember even coming up here last night. In fact, the events of last night seemed hazy at best - and he had a slight headache. Rubbing his hands through his hair, he struggled out of bed and to his feet. He padded down the stairs and looked down in surprise at Simon snoring away on the floor in front of the couch. *What the hell ...?* A snortish/snuffle over by the door caused him to find his roommate sprawled in a pile of blankets and pillows in front of it. Jim walked over and squatted down in front of Sandburg. He looked awful. A condom and some lettuce were stuck in his hair. The whipped cream had dried to a white, cracked film on his nose and face and his hair was doing a "Sideshow Bob" imitation. *Well, you must have made quite a night of it, buddy - wonder who she was?* thought Jim. *Well, he can't sleep here.* Jim slid one arm under his partner's legs and the other under his shoulders. He managed to pull Sandburg to him and stand up. Blair didn't stir through all this - just continued a light, steady snoring. Jim shook his head in amusement and carried him into his bedroom, dumping him onto the futon bed. He pulled the covers over Blair, who was still sleeping soundly, and patted his cheek. His partner looked about 15 years old and terribly innocent when asleep. Jim grinned to himself. He knew better. Then he went into the kitchen to start the coffee. Jim retrieved the newspaper from the hall while it was brewing, not noticing that the door didn't swing all the way shut when he came back in, and took his first cup of coffee into the living room, stepping carefully around Simon to sit on the couch. He sat his cup on the coffee table and something fluttered to the floor as he did so. Jim put down the newspaper and picked it up. It was a polaroid picture. He looked carefully at it. It was a picture of Simon, caught in the middle of a pose that looked suspiciously like something Britney Spears would do. He snorted in amusement. He threw it back on the coffee table and noticed that there were several more scattered about on it. He picked up another one. It was of himself - in just his underwear, doing the classic "Saturday Night Fever" pose, made so famous by John Travolta. What!! With rising dread he grabbed the other pictures. There was one of him and Simon sleeping on the floor with their arms across each other and their heads tilted toward one another. Oh my God! Each picture was worse than the other. Jim leapt to his feet. Last night was beginning to crystallize in his mind.

"Sandburg!!!" he bellowed loud enough to wake the dead. Simon started awake and the door to Sandburg's room flew open two seconds later. Blair stood in the doorway, looking like something the cat dragged in.

"Jim! what's wrong? What the hell are you yelling about?! It's too early to be doing that - I was sleeping, dammit!" he said rubbing his eyes and holding onto the doorsill to steady himself.

"I'll tell you what I'm yelling about - these, that's what!" Jim yelled, shaking the pictures in his hand at Blair. Blair stopped in mid-whine, his eyes getting bigger and rounder.

"Oh those," he said with a fainthearted, little laugh. "Listen man, I can explain those pictures. It's not what you're thinking ..."

"I'm thinking that the only use you could have for these is blackmail material!" Jim yelled.

"Oh - well, maybe it is what you're thinking, but listen man there's a good explanation for those ..."

Simon, who had risen to his feet and was looking in horror at the remaining pictures on the table, reared his head at Blair's words.

"You had better have a pretty, damned good explanation for these, Sandburg," he said darkly. They both closed in on Blair, towering over him as they waited for his next words.

Blair looked up at his two irate friends and cleared his throat nervously. "Well you see ... it's like this ... I needed something just in case I ever got into a "Misty" situation again, 'cause I SO don't want to you two to put me in that sort of situation again ..."

"US ... put YOU ... You're the one who ...!" spluttered Simon.

Jim held up his hand suddenly, never taking his eyes from his roommate. "Wait a minute, Simon. I just thought of something - where's your 35 mm camera, Sandburg?"

Simon looked at Jim in alarm. "Oh my God - he has negatives?"

They both looked at Sandburg in trepidation. Blair smiled smoothly, knowing that the tables had just turned in his favor. "I just REALLY think I might need to hold on to those negatives, don't you?"

"Sandburg!" Simon bellowed in frustration.

Jim reached out to grab the front of Sandburg's shirt.

"Just what the bloody hell is going on here?!" came a loud, snappish voice from the vicinity of the front door. All three men whirled around to find Megan Connor standing in the doorway with a disapproving glare on her face and her hands on her hips.

""I could hear you from all the way down the hall." She looked at Blair. "Sandy, are they bullying you?" Before Blair could answer, she looked at Simon and Jim. Jim, who still had a handful of Blair's shirt, let go immediately. "Because they know better than to pick on someone half their size, am I right?" She aimed her scowl at the two big cops.

"Well, of course we wouldn't actually hurt ..." Jim said a little taken aback by the accusation. He was cut off by Connor again.

"Sandy - go wait for me downstairs. I'm taking you out to breakfast, remember?" she commanded.

"Uh, yeah, right, sure ..." Blair sidled quickly over to the door and away from his two tormenters in relief, grabbing up the sneakers that he kept by the door, as he went. As he darted through the door, he took a moment, with a devilish glint in his eyes, to flash a triumphant grin at his two friends. The door shut behind him and Megan strode all the way into the loft, facing down the two men who were looking somewhat shamefacedly at her.

"You both got right shickered last night because the coffee sent to Captain Banks by his cousin had a mistakenly high alcohol content. How Sandy was able to get you home all by himself, I'll never know. I do know he took care of both of you last night, in spite of what I'm sure was your drunken, adolescent behavior. He didn't want you to hurt yourselves or anyone else. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves for trying to intimidate him, both of you!"

"Yeah, but ..." Jim started defensively.

"Don't you 'yeah but' me. He kept watch over you like the loyal friend he is. YOU owe HIM a big apology!"

"But, he ...!" Jim began in frustration.

"I know you two bullies teased and tormented him all night." Catching the looks on their faces as they glanced guiltily at each other, she added "No, he didn't say anything to me about what you got up to, like the gentleman he is. I know he was afraid you'd be too embarrassed when you sobered up. But, I can read the handwriting on the wall - I've got a good idea of what went on - I do have four brothers, you know. You took advantage of his good nature!"

"Connor, you don't know what he ..." said Simon trying to get a word in edgewise.

"I know that you owe him a debt of gratitude for last night. And the least you can do is clean up this pigpen. Really, Jim, I thought you were much neater than this," she said, looking around with a revolted look on her face.

"Now, just a damn minute, Connor ..." said Jim indignantly.

"I'll be bringing him back after breakfast, so hop to it, lads," she said imperiously, as she walked over to the door and out into the hall. They all heard Blair yelling something up the stairs.

Both Jim and Simon stood gaping at her exit.

"How the hell does he do that?" asked Simon angrily, turning to Jim. "HE'S blackmailing us and WE'RE the ones that get into trouble. She's like a mother tiger defending her young!"

The door to the loft flew open once again and both men watched as Megan walked back into the loft.

"Sandy forgot his wallet because I rushed him out of here so fast," she said giving a look to Jim and Simon that clearly indicated whose fault she really thought that was. "It's in his nightstand drawer, next to his bed," Jim said reluctantly.

She marched over to Blair's bedroom and opened the doors, disappearing inside as they closed gently behind her.

Suddenly, Jim perked up and a slow smile crossed his face.

"What are you so happy about?" asked Simon grumpily.

Jim held up a hand, his head cocked in his standard "listening" position. "Wait for it. One, two, three, four, five - now!"

The doors to Blair's room flew open and Megan appeared in the doorway. However, this Megan, far from the righteous, slightly bossy, Sandburg-defending tigress of a few minutes ago, resembled a fire-breathing dragon, ready for battle. Two bright red spots of color were visible on her cheeks and Jim swore later that he could see steam coming from her ears. She stormed over to the door and let herself out, slamming the door behind her. Jim could hear her stomping down the stairs, muttering angrily to herself.

"Now what the hell was that all about?" asked Simon with a frown.

"How about some coffee, Simon?" asked Jim, nonchalantly strolling over to the kitchen.

"Seems to me that's what got us into this predicament in the first place," Simon sighed, running his hand over his head. "But yeah, coffee does sound good right about now. Just what the devil was wrong with Connor, Jim? You know something, don't you?"

"How much do you remember about last night?"

"Bits and pieces keep coming back to me, but it's like a puzzle and I don't have all the pieces fitted together yet. Enough to know that we really did give Sandburg a hard time last night." He said the last with a rueful, little smile on his face. "And that it was hard to tell the caretaker from the ones in need of care," he laughed.

"Well, you remember when he fell asleep and we were looking for a feather?"

"Yeah," said Simon in a puzzled tone.

"While I was in his bedroom looking, I did something." Jim looked at Simon with a devilish glint in his eye. *Uh oh,* thought Simon.

Jim gave his boss a cup of coffee, walked over to the balcony, and opened the doors.

"You may not have noticed this, Simon, but Blair has a little crush on Connor."

"Oh yes, I've noticed," said Simon dryly. "Kind of hard not to. He gets all flustered and gets this kind of goofy "Connor-worshipping" look on his face when she's around. The other day, she complimented him on his sweater. Said it was a beautiful color, matched his eyes. When I walked by him a few seconds later, he looked like he was hard at work reading one of your case files. Except the whole thing was upside down."

"Well, I admit I've been teasing him about it for a couple of weeks now. So I got this bright idea last night when I was looking in his drawer for that feather. I took one of the neon condoms and wrote a note on it with a permanent marker and left it on top of his wallet in his drawer where I knew he would eventually see it."

"What did you write?"

"'Reserved for Megan Connor by Blair Sandburg, the man who will make her into a real woman.'"

Simon's eyes grew wide as he looked at Jim, awed into silence. Just then a loud, angry, female voice drifted in through the open balcony doors. And then they heard Blair's voice yell "JIIIIIIM!! HELLLLLP!! Jim - I'm SO gonna get you for this! JIIIIM! HURRY!"

"Ah - that's what I was waiting to hear. I think we may have some negotiating room for that film, now," said Jim, putting down his cup of coffee and heading for the door.

Simon smiled.

End