New Arrivals
Author-Sherrylou and Author-LindaS
Titles

Just Hanging Around
Part One
by Sherrylou and LindaS

Summary: With Jim away, Blair has big plans for the weekend. Rated PG-13 for a few very bad words.

Notes: This story is based on my first dues posted to the SA list five years ago. It was a four-page short story titled Just Hanging Around. Anyway, my listsibs asked for the *whole story.* So after persistent nag... er... cheerleading from a select few...who will remain nameless... here it is! Thanks to our wonderful cheer... oops... beta reader, Lyn. ~grin~

Disclaimer: Not ours.

Blair scrambled from the Volvo, grabbing two small bags of groceries, before kicking the car door shut with his foot. "Oh man, oh man," he said grinning, thrilled with the prospect of having the loft all to himself for the evening. In fact, he had the loft for the next four days. This morning he'd dropped his roommate off at the airport to catch a flight to Portland for the Western States Police Conference.

The police observer chuckled as he recalled his partner's grumbling. Jim had no desire to go, but it came down from above as an order. The wily detective had tried to snag Blair into suffering with him, however, one of Sandburg's professors had needed by-pass surgery and the anthropologist had been asked to cover the professor's classes. Due to the inordinate amount of favors he had called in because of his unofficial position with the police department, there was no way he could find a substitute on such short notice. So Jim, not one to endure long-winded speakers and boring seminars alone, had done the next best thing and convinced Simon Banks, Captain of the Major Crime Unit, to suffer along with him.

Blair laughed to himself as he thought back to the airport lecture Jim had bestowed upon him.

"Chief, in no uncertain terms are there to be any wild parties held at the loft in my absence -- and I expect the loft to be in the same neat and clean condition as I've left it."

"Yes, Dad," he had cheekily responded, ducking in time to avoid a playful cuff to his head. *Yeah, right, as if I'd ever have a party at the loft.* Blair had been ready to agree to anything as long as Jim got on that plane. *No party, but I do have a few other events planned.*

A date with Sharon Miller, a graduate student and teaching fellow at the university, was number one on his list. Twice his dates with her had fallen through, mainly because of police work, but tonight would be different. He planned to pick her up at seven, take her to the Bogart festival playing at the Cascade Cinema, then back to the loft for a late-night candlelight dinner to be followed by.... "Oh, Sharon," Blair sighed as he imagined the evening's possibilities.

Chuckling once again, Blair entered the building, arms loaded with groceries. Too excited and anxious to begin his roommate-free weekend and wait for the elevator, he enthusiastically tackled the steps by two's. Upon reaching the third floor, the winded young man leaned against the wall, gasping for much-needed air and willing his heart to stop pounding. *Whoa, better start taking those morning jogs with Jim.*

With his breathing slowing down, Blair juggled the bags as he wiggled the key into the lock. Nudging the loft's door open with his foot, he quickly deposited the groceries onto the kitchen counter, and then tossed the keys into the basket by the door.

~~~~~

Hunched behind a dumpster, Bobby Parillo watched the parking area and waited -- waited for the right opportunity to make some easy money like a quick purse snatching. Years of scraping and just getting by made him hard, old before his time. Misfortune had him out on the streets again -- kicked out of his apartment, his possessions held for back rent.

It had been a day and a half since his last fix, and he didn't know how much longer he could go without scoring. His hands shook as he moved from the shadow of the alleyway closer to the door of the apartment building. Wiping the sleeve of his dirty shirt across his runny nose, he wondered about the man walking away from the Volvo. The guy was no Conan, and he was sure he could take him. Staring hungrily at the bags of groceries, Bobby quietly followed the longhaired man into the building. If nothing else, at least he'd get some food out of the deal.

Silently, he crept up the stairs until he reached the third floor, and then watched as his prey entered the dwelling. Walking up to the door, Bobby was pleased to find it ajar. This was going to be easier than he thought. Momentarily pausing at the threshold, he withdrew a knife before stepping in to face his victim.

~~~~~

Blair smiled as he pulled out the two rib-eye steaks. The grad student knew Jim would be aghast that he had voluntarily bought red meat after all the lectures he'd given on the evils of the vein-clogging beef. However, Blair had to admit that he did occasionally enjoy a good steak, and he knew that it was one of Sharon's preferences. Oh, what one did for love!

He put the meat into the refrigerator and then remembering he hadn't locked the door, turned around to do so.

"What the...?" Blair found himself face-to-face with a wide-eyed kid brandishing a knife. The youth, who couldn't be more than twenty, reached behind and closed the door, turning the deadbolt with a resounding click.

Blair closely studied the intruder. Dirty, shoulder-length blonde hair fell about the kid's narrow face giving him a waifish appearance. His clothing, soiled and wrinkled, consisted of a ragged, long-sleeved tee-shirt and jeans, which hung too loose on the thin frame. The grad student watched passively as the kid's deep-set, gray eyes nervously darted around the apartment, apparently scanning the loft's layout and possessions. Keeping an eye on the knife shaking in the kid's hand, Blair wondered whether this was the first time for the youth or if the kid was strung-out on drugs.

Holding up both hands in a placating manner, Blair spoke calmly, "Hey, man, I don't want any trouble. If it's money you need, I have some here." He motioned with his one hand to his shirt's front pocket. The kid nodded an okay. Blair cautiously pulled out five crisp twenty-dollar bills he had withdrawn earlier at the ATM in preparation for tonight's date.

Like a hungry dog, the kid snatched the money from Blair's hand and then after a quick look at the cash, stuffed it into his jeans' front pocket. Without saying anything, the boy motioned with the knife for Blair to move. The police observer stood his ground, hoping somehow to persuade the kid to leave.

"Look, I gave you all that I have. Why don't you go? Listen, leave now and I won't call the cops."

The boy smirked at the remark, his face taking on a harder edge.

Blair still held his ground. *If Jim were here, he'd probably have disarmed the perp by now with a swift kick to the wrist... maybe... just maybe...?*

The thought of any such action was quickly dismissed as Blair realized that such an attempt by him was probably doomed to fail. He had neither the experience nor training to disarm the kid. *Gee, Jim, you should have pushed more for those self-defense classes you kept saying I needed to take.* Falling back to the one thing he felt comfortable with, Blair decided to talk his way out of the situation.

"I'm sure you don’t want to hurt anyone. Just tell me what you want." Blair watched the young man's eyes, trying to gauge any reaction. Instead, they remained lifeless and cold, unaffected by Blair's remark.

"Move," the kid said with authority, pointing his knife toward the living area.

Blair took a few steps in the given direction. He could scream, but who would hear him? Their one neighbor, Mrs. Denato, was eighty years-old, half-deaf and generally spent the weekends with her son. The couple across the hall was in Arizona for their daughter's wedding.

The kid motioned for Blair to continue walking. Retreating further away from the door and a possible escape, Blair decided to make a break for it. Darting sharply to his left and past the surprised kid, he was almost to the door when he glanced over his shoulder and saw the boy pick up an award sitting on the bookcase. The object was hurled toward him with such accuracy that he thought absurdly as he ducked out of the way that the kid had given up a great chance to play for the majors. The trophy smashed harmlessly into the door, and a crashing thud echoed loudly throughout the loft.

Frantically, he scrambled the last few steps, feeling freedom now so near. As one hand grasped the doorknob and the other reached toward the deadbolt, Blair felt a sharp explosion in his head before falling into darkness.

~~~~~

Blair's head was ringing. "Please stop," he moaned. But the ringing persisted until he realized it wasn't his head, but the phone. As he struggled to get up off the floor, he found that his hands were cuffed behind his back. In the meantime, the answering machine had kicked in telling the caller to leave a message at the sound of the tone. Jim's voice filtered through the machine.

//Sandburg?//

*Jim!* Blair thought, half-excited at hearing his roommate's voice He paused in his struggle as the loft spun dizzily around him and sour bile rose from his stomach, burning his throat. Gagging, Blair steadied his breathing and rested his forehead against the cool planks of the floor.

//Guess you're not home.//

Groaning both from the pain and the futility of his situation, he closed his eyes. *NO -- no, I'm home, Jim! Why can't sentinels have a sixth sense?*

//Look, I'm staying at the Hilton, room 522. I left the information with the phone number on the kitchen counter. Simon and I are going to head down to dinner. Give me a call later.//

He rattled his cuffed hands. *I would really like to -- really!*

//See you Tuesday night -- and Chief, don't forget the house rules.//

The call ended with a click that seemed to reverberate around the loft. With the nausea subsiding and the pounding in his head lessening to a muted bass drum, Blair wiggled himself into a sitting position and glanced around the room. The living area was pretty well trashed with books and knick-knacks pulled from the shelves. *So much for those house rules, Jim.*

He struggled with his cuffs, wondering if he was now alone. He hoped so. Maybe he could work his way over to the phone. A noise from above caused him to look up and there, standing above him in Jim's room, was the kid leaning over the railing.

"So what does your friend do?" The boy held Jim's spare gun and then snapped in a clip. He walked down the steps, addressing his captive, "Found the gun and those cuffs. Is he a cop or are the two of you into something kinky?"

Getting no response, the kid walked over to Blair. He leaned down and grabbed a handful of shirt, tugging Blair closer to him, then jammed the tip of the gun under Blair's chin. "I asked you a question."

"Yeah, he's a cop," Blair replied sharply.

The kid tugged again and pulled Sandburg to his feet. Nudging him toward the stairs, the kid removed the handcuff key from his pocket and ordered: "Turn around." Blair complied and the boy unlocked one of the cuffs. "Now turn back around and place your hands over your head."

Unsure what was happening, Blair did so, watching warily as the young man held the gun on him. The kid walked up the stairs until he was directly above him. Kneeling and holding the gun close to Blair's head, he then reached with his other hand and grabbed the loose cuff, pulling it up over the steel beam between the two risers and fastening it around Blair's previously freed wrist.

"Easy there," Blair protested, wincing at the tightness of the cuffs. The position allowed for very little movement from side to side. Blair realized he also had to maintain a standing position in order to keep the weight off his wrists.

The kid leaned over and tapped the gun against Blair's cheek. "That should keep you in one place."

Blondie, as Blair now decided to call the kid, started to wander around the loft again. Squirming, trying to find a comfortable position with his hands over his head, Blair called out, "Man, you’ve obviously been through the place and found what you wanted. Why don't you just move on?"

"Why should I? Didn't your roomie, the cop, say he wouldn’t be back until Tuesday night? I'm like so tired of sleeping on the street. Got evicted from my last place. This is nice." Flopping onto the couch, the kid set the gun on the table and picked up the remote. "Do you have cable?" Without waiting for an answer, he turned on the television and started to flip through the channels.

Blair had the uncomfortable feeling that the intruder was settling himself in for the long haul. Things had just gone from bad to worse to the unthinkable. "Listen, just because my roommate is out of town doesn't mean I won't be missed. I have a date tonight at seven." Blair paused to look at the clock in the kitchen, now noticing it was just a little before six-thirty. "I should be heading out soon."

"Well, I guess that your date will just have to be stood up by you, lover boy. Hey, are there any good pizza joints around here?"

Blair shook his head and released a frustrated sigh. It looked like it was going to be a long night. He watched as the kid sniffed the air, then sniffed his underarms and scrunched up his nose.

"Whoo-wee! It's been a while since I showered. You don't mind if I clean myself up?"

Alone. He'd be alone for a while. Perhaps he could figure a way out of the cuffs. "Hey, it's not like I can stop you," Blair offered, adding a touch of sarcasm so he didn't sound too eager, then jiggled his cuffs for an added effect. "Just make yourself at home."

"I think I'll just do that." Getting up from the couch, the kid walked back over to Blair and with one hand grabbed Blair's chin, his fingers digging painfully into the skin. "Now, don't you go anywhere," he hissed and then chuckled, seemingly pleased with his own joke. "Don't go anywhere, that's a good one." He released the chin, then patted Blair's cheek. "Behave." The word was said lightly, but the eyes flashed darkly.

Blair watched as the kid disappeared into the bathroom, and then waited anxiously for the water to start. Licking his lips, he closed his eyes and slowed his breathing. *Calm. I am calm.* Another deep breath. In. Out. *Think. Think, think, think!*

He'd been in this situation before -- first with Isabel on the train, and then on the oil rig. Each time he'd been successful. *A key would be great. Anything to pick a lock?* Looking around, then realizing there was no way he could even grasp anything with the way his hands were situated above his head, he sighed.*Guess I'll have to do it the hard way.*

Steadier, feeling more centered, Blair rotated his wrists back and forth and felt one cuff slightly looser than the other. Maybe.... Biting his lower lip and concentrating, he twisted his thumb, attempting to dislocate it and slip his hand through the cuff. However, after indeterminable and frustrated minutes of trying, he realized that his wrist and fingers were now too swollen, and he'd only succeeded in rubbing his skin raw.

Resigned to his fate, Blair's head snapped up at the sound of the bathroom door opening, surprised that he hadn't even heard the water shut off. His eyes followed his captor's movement as he thought dejectedly, *Time's up!*

~~~~~

Unpacking the last of his clothes, Jim stowed the suitcase in the closet and sat down on the side of the bed. Picking up the phone, he quickly dialed his home number and waited patiently for his roommate to answer. He was surprised when he heard the answering machine instead of Blair's voice at the other end. "Sandburg?" He paused, hoping Blair would pick up. "Guess you're not home. Look I'm staying at the Hilton, room 522. I left the information with the number on the kitchen counter. Simon and I are going to head down to dinner. Give me a call later." As an afterthought, he added, "See you Tuesday night -- and Chief, don't forget the house rules."

Jim set the receiver down, his brow creased in worry.

"No answer?" Simon called from the bathroom.

"No," he confirmed. "I know he has a big night planned with Sharon -- movie and a dinner -- but he wasn't picking her up until seven, and she only lives a few minutes away."

Walking back into the room, Simon picked up his suit jacket. "Come on, you know how the kid operates. Change of plan is SOP for him. Sandburg probably got an early start. Speaking of which, it's time for us to get down to the reception and dinner. You wouldn't want to miss out on the cru de tat?

The detective cringed at the thought of what he considered rabbit food and added sarcastically, "Oh, and let's not forget the rubbery green beans and overcooked beef either." He slipped on his sports coat and straightened his tie. "It's just that I'd heard him on the phone making plans with Sharon all week."

"Eavesdropping, Ellison?"

At that remark, Jim felt his face heat and turned his eyes away from Simon, afraid of revealing too much. Heck, the loft wasn't exactly the Taj Mahal. Privacy wasn't easy to come by and sometimes his hearing just had a mind of its own.

"Look, if it'll make you feel any better, call Sandburg after dinner. Interrupt his little romantic interlude with Sheila --"

"Sharon," Jim corrected, just now realizing how overprotective he sounded. Plans changed all the time like Simon said, and Sandburg wasn't conventional by any means -- a free spirit, spontaneous, impulsive.

"He's a grown man, capable of taking care of himself. Come on, let's go make nice with the other cops." Simon secured his nametag and tossed Ellison his. Picking up the evening's schedule, he gave it a quick read-through. "Look, tonight's speaker, Dr. P. Browne, is lecturing on 'Chemistry and Crime: An Informative View of Forensic Science Today.' Sounds like an interesting topic."

Jim snorted as he fastened his nametag. "Yeah, fascinating." He imagined exactly what Dr. P. Browne would look like. A balding, old man with spectacles and a droning voice that would put a speed addict to sleep. Picking up the keycard, he took one last look at the phone by the bed, willing it to ring; however, the phone remained silent. Shaking his head in slight exasperation at the unfounded apprehension he felt, he followed the captain out the door. Simon was right. What was he -- Sandburg's keeper? Blair could certainly take care of himself.

~~~~~

It felt great to be clean again. Finished with drying off, Bobby wrapped a towel around his waist. Not wanting to put on the same dirty clothes, he wandered into the small bedroom. A pale blue sweater lay on the bed, and he fingered the material. *Mmmm. Nice.*

Slipping it on, he went in search for clothes for his lower half. Once he finished dressing, he admired himself in the mirror, finger-brushing his damp hair away from his face.

"Bobby, my man, you are one fine looking dude. Just wait until Candy gets her hands on you." He ran his fingers appreciatively across the soft wool.

Strutting back into the living area, he barely gave a look to his captive. What he was going to do with him, he wasn't sure, but there was still plenty of time to figure it out. After all, he had the whole weekend. Happy to be clean and in decent clothes, he plopped onto the couch and stretched out, hands folded behind his head. Yeah, life was good!

~~~~~

As the kid entered the living area, now freshly showered and dressed in Blair's favorite blue cashmere sweater and a pair of jeans, Blair realized the kid wasn't as young as he'd first thought -- probably closer to his age -- and that he actually cleaned up pretty nice. His eyes followed Blondie's movement. The kid cast no more than a casual glance at him -- probably checking to see that he hadn't made a quick escape -- and then settled on the couch.

Blair couldn't help staring at the kid, stretched out on the couch like he hadn't a care in the world, wearing *his* clothes. "Nice duds," he remarked, barely keeping the sarcasm out of his voice.

"Yeah! Pretty cool, huh?" Blondie ran a hand over his chest, smoothing out the sweater, and then looked over at his captive. "How'd ya like them?"

"Better on me," Blair muttered. "Hey, now that you had a turn... how about me? I need to use the bathroom" *Yeah, kid. Let me loose. Come on.* Maybe this could be his chance to get free. Taking a chance and overpowering the kid was sounding better and better, because there was no way in hell he wanted to spend the weekend with Blondie.

"What'cha want me to do about it?"

"How about undoing these cuffs and let me use the bathroom. I don't think you want to spend the next few days smelling my urine-soaked pants."

"I could take care of that problem," the kid offered. Getting up from the couch, he found a cup, then walked over to Blair. As he reached for Blair's fly, he laughed freely as Blair jerked back. "Oh, man, if you could see your face. Well, don't say I didn't offer."

Tossing the cup aside, he walked back to the sofa and sat down. "I've lived in worse places and I've smelled things that would have you puking your guts out in ten seconds flat." Blondie chuckled, and then looked around. "Now, where'd that phone go?"

Somehow the kid found the phone and the phone book lying among the mess scattered around the floor. Blair listened as Blondie first ordered an anchovy pizza and then made several other phone calls. One was obviously to a girlfriend and the other sounded like a buy. As the kid -- no, the kid had a name now, he heard him use it while making the calls -- as Bobby hung up from his last call, the phone rang. Letting the answering machine kick in, Blair cringed as Sharon's firm and angry voice filled the loft.

//Blair, you are now an hour and a half late. I tried to call several times and your line was busy. You might as well forget about the date tonight. I don't want to hear any excuses like the last time. I don't care if it was for police work. I have had it -- and don't bother to call back!//

Blair sighed. *Guess she won't be sending out a rescue party for me.* The laughter from the couch drew the grad student's attention.

"Man, oh, man, she shot you down in flames." The kid continued to laugh. "So, now you won't be missed by either your roommate or your girlfriend." Bobby walked over to Blair -- the amusement in his eyes turning into gray steel. "What did she mean by police work? Are you a cop, too?"

Judging by the look on the Bobby's face, Blair was sure he didn't like cops. "No, I'm an anthropology student at Rainier University studying police sub culture. I'm just an observer." He maintained eye contact with his jailer, wondering which way the conversation was heading.

Bobby opened his mouth to say something else when the doorbell rang.

*Please be someone beside the girlfriend or dealer,* Blair thought. *Wouldn’t it be nice if someone from Major Crimes paid me a surprise visit right about now?*

"Yeah? Who is it?" the kid called out and picked up the gun from the coffee table. Slowly he approached the door.

Not exactly the help Blair had hoped for when he heard "Scottio Pizza," nevertheless, the pizza man presented a good alternative. Deciding now would be a good time to call for help, Blair let loose a yell. "Hey! Hey, out there! I'm being held hostage. Help! Help me! Call the cops! You hear me out there!"

Bobby pointed the gun at the door and then looked over his shoulder at Blair. Immediately Blair stopped his screaming, getting the unspoken message. He didn't want the death of the pizza delivery kid on his conscience.

Tucking the gun into the back of his jeans' waistband, Bobby angled his body in front of the door and opened it.

"What's all that screaming about?" the delivery boy asked, handing the box over to the kid.

"Oh, just my roommate, man. He's pissed at me 'cause I ordered anchovies. Here you go -- keep the change."

"Wow! A ten-dollar tip. Thanks, man. Thanks a lot!"

Closing the door, Bobby carried the pizza over to the kitchen counter and tossed the box down. Crossing quickly to Blair, he grabbed the grad student by the throat, pressing his body close to Blair's. Blair could feel the kid's warm breath as he spoke through clenched teeth. "Don't try any... anything like that again. It wouldn't take much to slit your throat, however, I don't want to share this room with a corpse for the next few days. So don't try my patience. Got it?" At the end of the statement, Bobby slammed Blair's head back into the steel beam.

Blinking back the tears of pain, Blair watched through blurry eyes as the kid walked back to the kitchen.

~~~~~

"The meal wasn't that bad," Simon remarked earnestly. A waiter poured him a cup of coffee and he offered a soft, "Thank you," to the server.

"Yeah," Jim conceded, "but tonight's entertainment's just getting started." He nodded toward the podium.

The captain looked in the indicated direction at the heavy-set man speaking. The man's bald head glistened under the spotlight's beam and his glasses reflected the light's glare. Full, ruddy cheeks flapped pompously with each expressionless word uttered.

"Captain Harrington seems to enjoy the sound of his own voice."

"Tell me about it," Jim grumbled. He sighed as he took a sip of his coffee and wondered what Sandburg was doing. The lucky stiff. Probably cuddled up to a soft, sweet body right about now, with lights low and romantic music.

He longed to be back at the loft. Heck, he'd even willingly submit to some of Sandburg's tests. Anything was better than listening to the mind-numbing, long-winded air bag speaking right now.

Taking another sip, he surreptitiously glanced over the rim of the cup, noting the double doors at the far side of the large banquet hall. Now that the meal was over, he wondered if he could slip out without being noticed. The monotone voice of the speaker droned on and on: first with acknowledgements of thanks, then announcements of upcoming events and tomorrow's seminars, and finally an over-inflated introduction of the keynote speaker.

"Ellison." The warning tone in Simon's voice let the detective know that his clandestine casing of the exits had not gone unnoticed. "I'm not going to have to handcuff you to that chair, am I, Detective?"

Jim rewarded Simon with a surly glare. God, this was so boring. What had he done to deserve this -- this -- punishment? He had real work waiting for him back in Cascade. There was the Kingston case just ready to crack, and he had a good lead on the O'Reilly murder. He placed the cup back onto the saucer and picked up an empty sugar packet. Flicking it several times with his fingers, he then preceded to fold it over and over until it was a tiny square. A round of polite applause brought his attention back to the dais. *Great!* he groaned silently. *Time for the floorshow.*

A shapely redhead in a hunter green wool suit got up from the head table and approached the podium. *Well, hello,* he thought happily as he sat up straighter, his eyes lighting up. The night had just gotten more interesting. He heard a soft snort from his captain, apparently amused by his sudden about-face. Jim chuckled. Dr. P. Browne? No balding, old man here. Nope. Before him was a green-eyed beauty with a sparkling smile. He quickly checked the bio in the program, P. Browne -- Pamela Browne, and then watched as she thanked the previous speaker for the gracious introduction.

Slipping a pair of reading glasses from a small case and putting them on, the woman arranged several sheets of paper in front of her and then began to speak. "In 1910, Dr. Edmond Locard, a French criminologist, proposed what is now known as the 'principal of contact' that set the standard for trace analysis. He simply said, 'Every contact leaves a trace.' That includes all of you, too. So remember the next time you're out at a crime scene: don't be a fool, cover your tool." She snapped a latex glove onto her hand to emphasize her point.

Light laughter and a few groans traveled throughout the room, apparently recognizing the safe-sex slogan. Pausing, she smiled in acknowledgement and removed the glove.

"Seriously though, since most crimes involve physical contact, the analysis of trace evidence is an essential part in the crime scene investigation. New analytical methods are constantly being developed, such as solid-phase microextraction for arson analysis, emphasizing the importance of interdepartmental cooperation and communication."

Rearranging his chair for a better view, Jim allowed her melodious voice to wash over him. The words seemed to dance from her full lips, and he wondered what her plans were for breakfast. Better yet, maybe late-night drinks.

~~~~~

Soon after the pizza arrived, came the girlfriend and then the drugs and then more friends. So much for Jim's rule about no food on the couch -- it was on it and in it. He doubted that Jim would ever be able to get out the pizza stains and the smell of stale beer. Heck, forget beer... what about the lingering smell of sex? Not only on the couch but up in Jim's room. What could he say -- they liked the king-size bed. The blaring of the stereo barely covered the grunting from above.

//Oh, yeah, baby. Just like that.//

//Mmmm. Oooooh. Harder.//

If the situation wasn't so serious and he was into kink, he would've been in voyeur heaven. *And now, from Prospect Productions comes their latest venture: 'Midnight Delight, Morning Terror.'* Blair chuckled as his mind skirted along the absurd. Was he getting punch-drunk now? Nah, just punched. He chuckled again at his pun.

As quickly as the momentary high had come, just as fast it disappeared. Blair choked back a sob and hung his head. Shifting from foot to foot, legs trembling with exhaustion from the strain of holding his body upright, he searched for relief. Damn! He gasped as fiery tendrils of pain traveled up his arms to his shoulders. Twisting his body, he tried resting his throbbing head and burning right shoulder against the riser. He could still feel his fingers -- just barely -- thick, numb, disconnected.

*Jim, oh god, Jim. Wish you were here -- or I was there. Yeah, there. That'd be good.* Right now the Western States Police Conference sounded like the place to be for him. He enjoyed seminars of all types and always seemed to gleam some useful information. Good conversation, after dinner drinks, a... soft bed.

If the grunting and harsh panting sounds from above were any indications, round two had just started. At least Bobby and his playmate would be occupied for a while. And the other couple in his room was holding their own sex marathon -- he hoped the futon could take the abuse.

~~~~~

With the lecture over, Jim walked up to the podium and stood off to the side, watching as Dr. Browne answered questions from several attendees. When a break in the conversation opened, he leaned in and offered his hand.

"Fascinating lecture, Dr. Browne."

"Thank you." Accepting the hand, she smiled and titled her head in a disarming fashion that made Jim catch his breath.

"Jim Ellison, Detective, Cascade PD."

"Pleased to meet you... Jim Ellison, Detective, Cascade PD. How about we're a little less formal and I just call you Jim and you can call me Pam?"

Her honey-toned voice was warm and soothing, and he liked the way her nose crinkled when she smiled. He felt his face break into a big grin. "I'd like that, Pam. If you don't have any plans for the rest of the evening, would you care to join me for drinks or some coffee and we can talk some more?"

"Oooh, you want to talk about microextraction... or perhaps your story or mine would be a more fitting topic?" She linked her arm through his.

As Jim escorted her out of the banquet hall, he placed his hand over hers and answered, "Oh, your story... definitely, your story"

Passing by his captain, he heard Simon call out, "Jim! Jim, weren't you going to call Sandburg?"

His eyes never left her face as he answered, "He's a big boy, Simon. He can take care of himself."

~~~~~

The loud bass of a band, Blair would normally have enjoyed listening to, reverberated throughout the loft. He could literally feel the beat through his feet. The volume of noise even caused the metal stairs to vibrate, rattling the handcuffs, which put more strain on his hands and shoulders.

Blair sighed. His arms ached and his shoulders burned from their overhead position, the right one cramping off and on, and he was tired of standing. He moaned softly as his head throbbed, the pressure building behind his eyes and pulsing with each beat of the music, and rested it back against the cold metal beam.

As noisy as the loft was with the loud music playing, just as quiet now were the unwanted occupants. While Bobby slept upstairs with his girlfriend, during the pauses in the music Blair could hear the other couple's soft snores filtering through the French doors. Sleep. That sure sounded good to him right now. Bone-weary, he looked longingly toward his room.

A noise from above distracted him from his private pity party, and he directed his eyes upward. Looking between the steps, he watched as long legs teetering in black heels clicked down the stairs. Candy. It was Candy who he'd seen earlier wearing the black heels with the form-fitted jeans and tied top.

As the figure descended the stairs, Blair saw that his assumption was right about the girl... well, right, except for what she was wearing. Now her ensemble consisted of black thong panties with her tied top totally untied. As she moved, the shirt hung loosely open, every so often revealing her large firm breasts, compliments most likely from a plastic surgeon rather than Mother Nature.

Candy sashayed up to Blair, her hips swaying, matching the rhythm of the music. Her hands gently cupped his face before she lightly ran her fingers across his cheek and down his neck... and then lower.

"Bobby's asleep, and so are Kevin and Suzie and I'm bored." She giggled as her hand slid beneath his shirt.

Shit, he thought. One look at her dilated eyes and he could tell that she was high. There was no way he wanted to be her boy toy -- not with Bobby upstairs -- that is unless he could...

"I could perhaps find a way to entertain you," Blair husked out, flashing her a disarming smile. Man, did those words just come from his mouth?

"You could," she replied.

Heck, was that a question or a statement? Blair had no time to think because suddenly Candy began to undo his shirt buttons and then tugged the shirttail out of his jeans.

"Yeah... I mean if you could undo the cuffs?"

The request was either not registering or not important as Candy lost herself by rubbing her hands across his chest, apparently fascinated by the feel of the hair.

*Great! The one time I'm not wearing a tee shirt.* "Look, if you just loosen the cuffs."

Candy continued to ignore him as she moved her hands lower to his belt buckle.

This was so not good. Blair tried to move away, but had no place to go. The steel riser was behind his head and shoulders as Candy pressed up against him.

He wasn't sure what had happened first: the doorbell ringing or the fact that Candy was no longer in front of him, having been replaced by a furious Bobby.

The doorbell rang again, followed by some knocking, and then shouted words Blair could have died for.

"Police... open up!"

Candy, sitting on the floor where Bobby had flung her, squealed.

"Shut up, bitch. You," Bobby said menacingly, emphasizing the word by removing Jim's gun from his waistband and pointing it at Blair, "are going to answer the door." He reached around and unlocked one side of the handcuffs, permitting Blair to drop his hands to his side. "And you, sweetie, are going along with him as his girlfriend. You play along and no one will get hurt... otherwise you or maybe that cop will end up dead. Understand?"

Blair swallowed convulsively and then nodded his understanding. Cautiously he moved toward the door as Candy scampered to his side and Bobby moved next to the door.

"Open up," the shout came again.

Blair rubbed his wrists, working some sensation back into his deadened fingers, before reaching for the doorknob. He wondered what he was going to say and prayed that words didn't fail him now. He had no doubt that Bobby would carry out the threat, but maybe he could drop a clue... a word... or movement... something that might get him help.

Swinging open the door, Blair pasted on his best smile. Before him stood not one, but two police officers; one of which he knew was Officer Todd Anderson and the other he thought was Officer Roland Peters.

Both officers took only a brief look at him, Blair noted, realizing what he must look like with his shirt hanging open and bare-chested, before their eyes fell upon the girl standing next to him, clad in panties and an open shirt.

Officer Anderson cleared his throat before shouting loudly, "Uh... sorry to disturb you, Sandburg, but we received a complaint about the noise. The stereo's blaring all the way down to the street."

"Sorry about that, Officer." Blair turned his head and smiled at Candy. "Sweetie, will you turn it off?"

No sooner were those words out of his mouth than Blair realized that the request had been a mistake. As he took the opportunity to jerk his head several times toward where Bobby hid behind the door, Candy took every advantage of her fine body and the scanty coverings. She turned and made the most of her walk over to the stereo before switching it off. Blair's attempt at attracting the cops' attention was to no avail. Both officers were grinning like lovesick puppies as Candy returned and draped herself over Blair.

"Sandburg, we'll leave you to your company. Just keep it quiet and by the way..." Anderson smirked. "Those aren't departmental issued handcuffs, are they?" Anderson motioned to the cuff dangling from Blair's one wrist. "You know how unauthorized use is frowned upon."

Blair could hear both cops laughing as Bobby pushed the door closed. He paused, indecisive, his one chance walking away. Scrambling for freedom, he threw himself toward the door. "Wai --" he managed to cry out before strong arms grabbed at him and, in a matter of seconds, he found himself in a chokehold with the gun pressed firmly against his temple. Damn, the kid was strong!

"Now, why'd you go do that?" Bobby growled as his arm tightened around Blair's throat, increasing the pressure with each word. "Maybe it's time to wake up Kevin and have a little fun."

"Don't hurt him too much, Bobby." Candy pouted. "He's kind of cute."

Bobby looked back at his girl; a hint of anticipated evil glimmered in his eyes. "Don't worry, baby. I won't hurt him too much -- just enough."

Keeping Blair in a chokehold, Bobby half-pulled, half-dragged him back to the staircase.

Struggling against the ever-tightening pressure on his neck while gasping for air and the fear of being cuffed to the steps again, Blair stilled as he felt Bobby's hot breath skirt across his ear, and the kid whispered menacingly, "Now where did I see that bat?"

~~~~~

Officer Anderson followed his partner down the hall, chuckling all the way to the elevator. Stopping suddenly upon hearing a muffled yelp coming from inside the loft, he turned toward Peters and asked, "Did you hear that?"

"You want to go back and investigate?" his partner replied.

Anderson grinned at the thought of getting another glimpse of Sandburg's girlfriend. She was quite a looker, especially in her current outfit.

The whirring of the elevator's motor filled the small hallway, and then the doors opened with a clunk. He shook his head and shrugged a shoulder. "Nah. Let Sandburg enjoy the moment. He's going to need the good memories once Ellison sees the condition of the apartment."

Peters chuckled in agreement and with that, the two officers entered the elevator.

~~~~~

Oh, god. Oh god, oh god, oh god! He had just spent the night in hell. He knew it. He'd been to hell and back. No -- not back yet -- he was still there or here or wherever! Bobby had found the bat and made good his word -- using Blair for batting practice. It had been only through Candy's pleading that Bobby had stopped after three swings.

The kid had shouted, "Three strikes... you're out!" and Blair nearly was. Gasping, choking on the blood from his bitten tongue, sure the next swing would be aimed for his head, Blair had waited for the end, his mind focusing on his life, his friendships... Jim... Jim. What was Jim going to think... finding his body? No guilt... please, no guilt... no one's fault. Life happens... death happens... life goes on.

But a loud, whiny, "Booooobbbby," had halted the Blair bashing. For the next half an hour, Bobby and Kevin then had amused themselves by playing baseball with assorted knick-knacks, Jim's Cop of the Year Award being the first to go. Cries of "Home run!" and "Foul ball!" cackled loudly as one by one, items were smashed against the walls. Finally they had tired of the game and had crashed for the night... and now Blair was alone.

His whole insides burned and his right knee throbbed painfully. The skin pulled so tight over the grossly swollen knee that he felt the entire joint would explode if he'd so much as bent it. Shifting his weight, Blair bit back a muffled moan as tears stung his eyes. He didn't want to wake them. Let them sleep. God, please let them sleep!

He could tell from the way the light shone through the balcony doors that it was early morning, maybe seven or eight o'clock. Was it only yesterday morning...a scant twenty-four hours...that he'd dropped Jim off at the airport? Jim. Now would be a good time for him to put in an appearance. A half-muffled sob escaped his lips.

The phone rang, interrupting the silence. No, no, no! Blair's eyes were riveted toward the phone, begging the infernal machine to stop its racket. After the fifth ring, the answering machine kicked in.

//Hey, Chief. Just touching base. There's a full day of seminars so I probably won't be able to call again until the afternoon break or sometime this evening. Hope your evening last night went well...catch you later.//

The call ended, and Blair breathed a sigh of relief as the soft sleeping sounds in the loft continued.

~~~~~

Simon poured another cup of coffee and grabbed a pineapple danish from the breakfast tray on the table. "Did you get a hold of Sandburg yet?"

"No, I thought for sure I would catch him this morning." Jim snorted. "Guess he stayed at Sharon's last night." Remembering Blair's luck with women, particularly Iris, part of him wished he had run a background check on this Sharon... or had at least met her. He couldn't quite shake the feeling that something was wrong. If only he could have spoken to Blair this morning.

"Well, can the father routine. Blair's a grown boy," Simon stated. "By the way, didn't you get in awfully late last night... er, morning, Jim?"

"What are you, my mother?" Jim snatched the carafe of coffee from the captain and topped his cup.

"No... just making an observation."

Jim sipped his coffee, trying to hide the smile on his lips. Realizing the captain's way of pointing out the similarities of his and Blair's evening, his thoughts turned toward his date. "Yeah, I did get back late. Pam told her story and then I told a bit of mine and then... Who'd have thought a police conference could be so... so stimulating?"

"So are you set for today?"

"What?" Jim straightened up, catching the last words from Simon. "Uh, yeah. I'm meeting Pam for lunch here and then I thought I take her out to dinner. I heard there's a nice Italian place nearby."

"That's nice, Jim," Simon replied, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms across his chest. "But I was speaking about today's seminar classes."

"Oh, uh... I got them right here, " Jim grabbed his folder from the table. "Something on firearm safety and new procedures." Spying a certain redhead leaving the banquet hall, Jim swiped the last donut from the tray. "Gotta go. I'll catch you later back at the room."

Making a hasty exit, Jim noted that he left behind one bemused-looking police captain.

~~~~~

Concluded in part two...