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Life Lived Like a Mentos Commercial

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Life Lived Like a Mentos Commercial

by Mallory Klohn

Author's disclaimer: "The Sentinel" and the characters of Jim Ellison, Blair Sandburg, and Simon Banks are the property of UPN and Pet Fly Productions. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made from their use.

nudity, we got coarse language the likes of which would humiliate the original Popeye. Explicit Homo-erotic Content (tm). The author shows little or no consideration for the feelings of others, and there is absolutely no Hallmark-caliber sap. There's only one really terrifying pun, but that's all a matter of perspective, isn't it? Criminal self-indulgence. No dead folks, no sexual assault, no harm, no foul. Etc. Lyrics have been shamelessly appropriated from "Rocky Raccoon" by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and "Birthday Cake" by Cibo Matto (who by the way are tops when it comes to screaming crazy women, but you didn't come here to read that...) Before you read this, I want you to repeat this mantra for me: suspension of disbelief... suspension of disbelief...

One More Thing: Lose twenty pounds in twenty minutes with the Amazing Chinese Miracle Soap! Oopsie! Sorry, wrong plug. This story was written for SL, fresh new friend and reluctant co-conspirator, who bid on it for the big letter auction. That it turns out she'll write letters for fifty cents and a bag of Cheetos is of little portent in matters such as this. SL stole the idea for this story
wholesale from a popular film, the title of which I can't reveal without spoiling the story, but for those of you who are remotely like me, I will say it's not "Titanic." At any rate, I get to blame SL for everything, because she hasn't written to me in months and is therefore unable to defend herself.


Jim's day began in much the same fashion as they always did: at exactly 5:30 am, his alarm clock sounded. It was a complicated machine, equipped to play whatever early morning music Jim had on cassette that week. Though Blair was more than happy to prepare for the day's events to a soundtrack of some guy with a monobrow screaming about how his girlfriend was a "skanky bitch whore", Jim preferred a mellower accompaniment, be it Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, or Patti Smith. This Monday morning, for example, Jim woke to Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer". Stretching extravagantly, he rolled out of bed and headed downstairs for an early morning preventive cleaning. His theory-- as yet unproven-- was that, like flu shots, he could save his home from certain death if only he went that extra mile before the dreaded Sandburg Disease hit the air supply. Odds were, the place would be demolished before the last bagel was toasted anyway, but Jim was prepared to make the effort.

Quickly, quietly, methodically, Jim cleaned, until the last water spot disappeared from his kitchen spigot, until the last scuff mark on his linoleum was eradicated. Pillows fluffed, crumbs vacuumed, mirrors buffed, the loft shone once again, however temporarily. One day, Jim hoped, Blair would understand that-- like money-- cleanliness wasn't just magically imported into his life. He would see that Hygiene and Order were things to be worked at, not two of the Muses. Then-- and only then-- would Jim sleep soundly again.

He was about to quickly, quietly, and methodically use both his and Blair's supplies of the hot water when Blair's own alarm sounded. Jim froze. Busted. Before he could recover, Blair exploded out of his bedroom, hair and terry cloth flying around him. Jim hit the wall with a thud as Blair shoved past him, muttering "late, late, late" under his breath before disappearing into the bathroom. The detective blinked. It had taken less than fifteen seconds, an attack as quick-- and as brutal-- as the back-alley mugging of a senior citizen on Welfare Wednesday. And Jim was left just as stunned and helpless, a cold shower his certain reward for all his hard work. Well, that and a bathroom that looked as though it had been used to hose off some circus animals.

In a perfect world, he and Blair could solve this problem by showering together. Jim snorted. In a perfect world, they could solve any number of problems by doing any number of things together. That most of those things involved a significant amount of gratuitous nudity was beside the point. In a perfect world, Blair would have been up as long as Jim had been, either helping him clean or reclining on the sofa, naked, like Jim's own personal carrot. In a perfect world, Blair would only be late now because he'd been up all night, helping Jim put the U back in "Kama Sutra." The reality, of course, was that Jim's world was far from perfect. Some might even have said it was seriously flawed. As if on cue, Exhibit A erupted from the bathroom in a cloud of steam, not even slowing down as he tossed Jim a tired grin, snagged his keys from the basket and a banana from a bowl on the counter, and ran out the door.

The detective shook his head. "They never call, they never write..." Grimacing at the thought of the wreckage that lay ahead, he trudged toward the bathroom. The totality of the destruction Blair had wrought put the detective's fears to shame. The shower curtain had been half-torn from the rod, Jim's "Irish Spring" soap was in the toilet, and the only towel that wasn't lying in a crumpled heap by the window was sitting, still folded, in a pool of water on the floor. And the sink... the sink! The entire bowl was covered in a fine layer of shaving cream and beard stuff. Jim's expression of pure horror was reflected back at him through a little patch on the mirror where Blair had wiped away the condensation. He couldn't have insulted Jim more if he'd scrawled "FUCK YOU JIM" on it instead.

"He did it to get my attention," Jim muttered. "He did it to get my attention." Looking away from the sink, Jim slumped on the toilet seat, burying his face in his hands. "Aw, who the hell am I kidding? He did it because he's a pig. He'd dry his socks in the microwave if he didn't think I'd kill him for it."

With a heartfelt moan, Jim weighed his options. He could take the time to clean up before heading into the precinct, but he doubted "You should have seen the sink, Simon!" was going to wash with his boss. He could leave the mess as it stood, and spend the entire day brooding about it, knowing that no matter what else happened, be it paperwork, gunplay, or arson, that unholy mess in the bathroom would still be there when he got home-- assuming he survived. He could drive down to the U and see what he could do about getting charged with felony manslaughter-- and god knew Simon would probably be more lenient if Jim explained he was late because he'd had to beat the shit out of his partner-- but again, it just wasn't practical. And he'd already squandered half his shaving time griping about it. Unwrapping a fresh bar of soap, Jim took one look at the ruined shower curtain, shuddered, and started a bath.

"Hey, Jim. TNT run that 'Miami Vice' marathon again last night or something?"

Jim rounded on Argent, spilling a little of his coffee. "Unless you'd like to explain to emergency how you got that donut shoved up your ass, I suggest you think carefully before you speak again."

Argent held his hands up. "Hey, don't hurt me, I give to Farm Aid."

"Just... go... away."

The detective dug in his pocket and handed Jim a dollar. "There you go, buddy. Next one's on me," he said, disappearing as quickly as he'd come.

"Goddamned Robbery pin-head," Jim muttered. Scanning the area for predators, he slunk down the hallway and into the squad room, head down, hands steady. He felt grimy without a shave, always had. All hyper-sensitive skin considerations aside, he knew it was impossible for him to be feeling each individual hair growing on his face, but now that he'd drawn attention to himself, he felt like one of the little men from the Play-Doh barber shop. He was just about to settle in his chair when the next attack hit.

"I'll be damned," Brown said from across the room. "It's the Marlboro man."

"No way," Rafe called back. "That... is the Man With No Name."

Jim sipped his coffee carefully. "Are you done?"

"If he dressed in black, he could be The Punisher."

"If he hears one more word out of either of you," Jim said evenly, "He could be the last thing you see before you go back to hell, where you belong."

"Woo-hoo," Rafe grinned, "Sandburg's been talking about putting you on an all-decaf diet, but I never thought he'd be stupid enough to do actually do it."

Jim was silent.

Brown approached him cautiously. "I think you look kind of..." Jim pinned him with a look. "Shit, we've got to get going," he said, looking at his watch. "We've got that..."

"That thing," Rafe said, nodding gravely.

"Gentlemen," Jim murmured when his friends were almost gone. They turned back, wearing identical expressions of dread. "Don't forget to check your brake line. You never know when one of those babies is gonna fail."

After they'd gone, Jim eyed the massive stack of files in his box warily. For the first time in his life, he found himself wishing somebody would just go ahead and die, in as suspicious a fashion as possible. If he spent the day filling out forms and filing reports, his hand was going to be bent into a hideous claw by five, and there was no way he'd be able to maim Blair like that. And that was his beacon, his shining light, the only thing he had to look forward to. He could see how his day would unfold as surely as if he'd consulted JoJo's Psychic Alliance on his way to work. The world was full of masochists, and every damned one of them was going to tempt fate by going out of their way to aggravate him. The bathroom fiasco wasn't an isolated incident, it was a harbinger of things to come.

"Ellison." Simon stalked across the squad room. "You too good to answer your cell these days, or what?"

Jim blinked. "Shit." A quick pat-down confirmed what he already knew. "I must have forgotten it," he bit out. "I ran a little late this morning."

"Did you happen to remember your gun, detective, or am I going to have to send you home with a note for your mother?"

"I've got it," he said, scrubbing his face. "Shit."

"What's with you, Jim? You look--"

"I don't want to talk about it. What have you got for me?"

"Sergeant Morrison is out with the flu," Simon announced, giving Jim a significant look.

"Who the hell is Sergeant Morrison?"

"She's in Robbery, just received a commendation for bravery, drives a Miata-- look, all you need to know is she was supposed to do the Safety Dog demo today."

"Excuse me?"

"Safety... Dog." He pointed across the room, where a giant poster depicting Safety Dog and the motto "Safety Dog Leads the Attack on Crack" could be seen.

Jim swallowed. "What... what does this have to do with me?"

"You don't have anything in the hopper right now."

"Neither does Anderson."

"I sent him out on a domestic an hour ago."


"He's on a homicide with Carroll. Look, Jim, you know I wouldn't ask you if I had somebody else."

"Safety Dog," he muttered. "I'm never going to hear the end of it."

"Just be grateful I don't make you wear the costume," Simon smirked. "You look like a thug."

"If I'm not wearing it, then who..."

"Ready to go?" Argent rounded the corner, carrying the Safety Dog head in one hand and a box of donuts in the other.

Jim closed his eyes, his entire being wracked with agony. "This can't be happening."

"Did you read the handbook that came with this thing?" Argent asked. "No swearing. No obscene gestures."

"That must be quite a letdown."

"You're telling me. I don't mind wearing this getup, as long as I can, like, make the Secret Devil Sign, or flip somebody off."

"In a kindergarten class?" Jim gave Simon an imploring look, but the Captain had taken advantage of Jim's distraction to make good his escape. "Captain!"

"I'm a busy man, Jim."

"Did you ever see 'Old Yeller'?"

"Don't even think about it, Detective."

"I just want to say that this is--"

"Ellison, get off your bony ass and go tell some goddamned kids they shouldn't talk to strangers."

"Unless they're wearing dog costumes," Argent said.

Simon glared at the pair of them and stalked into his office.

Jim sighed heavily and looked up at Argent. "Are you ready, or do you need to pack some more jelly rolls?"

"I should load up on water, now that you mention it. I'm only supposed to be in this thing for twenty minutes at a time, and we're going to be at it all day."

"Whatever," Jim grumbled. "I'll meet you in the parking garage."

By mid-afternoon, Jim was willing to make good on his 'Old Yeller' threat and put Argent out of his misery before he became a danger to others. It had taken the detective a good three hours to put his finger on what bugged him about the guy, but when he had, there was no doubt in his mind. It was as if Satan had created a second Sandburg, but this time around, he'd left out the redeeming qualities and dumped about three tons of Super Gro on the things that made him most aggravating. Where Blair was impudent, Argent was obnoxious. Where Blair was irreverent, Argent was openly blasphemous. Where Blair is sexy, Argent is sleazy. There was no end to the potential comparisons between the two of them, but by God, Jim was looking for one.

Blair talked enough for three normal people, and he certainly took the scenic route, but he did eventually get to his destination. Argent, on the other hand--


Jim glared at Argent. "So what?"

"You live with Blair."


"How do you like it?"

"He's been with me for almost three years," Jim said by way of reply.

"Huh." Argent was blessedly silent for a moment, but then: "He's not big on commitment, hey?"

Jim frowned. "He's committed to Starbucks."

"You know what I mean. Every time I see his notebook, it's got somebody else's name all over it."

"You've been snooping on my desk?"

"No! Well, occasionally, but--"

"Well, don't. I don't know how that works on your planet, but--"

"Is he seeing anyone now?"

"Why, you looking for a date?" Jim snapped.

Argent flushed and turned to stare out the window. "No," he said finally.

"Well, you're barking up the wrong tree on that one, Scooby. Blair's not into boys."

Argent gaped at him.


"Never mind."

"If you've got something to say, you might as well--"

"Pull over at that Wonder Burger, man. I am starving."

"If you think I'm going inside with you--"

"Aw, Christ, Ellison, what difference is it going to make now? You've already warped half of today's youth with me. The least you can do is help me eat my salad."

Jim rolled his eyes. "Nobody goes to Wonder Burger for a salad, Argent."

"Come on. You're hungry, too. You know you are."

Jim finally relented, only tugging a little too hard when he was obligated to help Argent out of the van. The younger man led the way into the restaurant, his Safety Dog head left in the van, and Jim couldn't help but wonder how many of the aforementioned warped children would witness the headless dog scarfing a chicken salad and bandying about the f word over lunch with the 'rents. He squinted up at the menu board with barely concealed passion.

"What do you want?" he snarled. "Let me guess-- ham and cheese salad, and what, Diet Coke?"

"Iced tea."

"Riiight." Just as Jim was about to move to the head of the line, he heard the unmistakable sound of a revolver being cocked. "Get down," he muttered.


"All right," somebody screamed from the back of the restaurant, "nobody move, this is a robbery!"

"Of course it is," Jim sighed.

"So then," Argent gushed, "Jim gets up off the floor, and he looks this freak right in the eye."

"What did you say?" Brown asked Jim.

"It's not important," he hedged.

"Important? It's fucking classic, man! He says 'look, dickhead, I'm hungry, I'm tired, and I've just ruined my favorite shirt. If you don't give me that fucking gun right now, somebody's going to get hurt, and it's probably gonna be you.'"

"Woo-hoo! Jim! Looks like I was wrong about that Man With No Name thing. We're looking at Dirty Harry, here."

"Go away," Jim pleaded. "I have work to do. Legitimate police work," he added louder, casting a glance at Simon's office.

"Come on, guys. That wasn't even the end of it," Argent crowed, dragging Jim's friends away.

Jim buried his face in his hands. How long? How long will it be before they're calling me Rambo McDonald? And that wasn't even the worst of it. When Sandburg found out he'd eaten lunch at Wonder Burger, his life wouldn't be worth his glove compartment full of gas station coupons. Of course, to be absolutely correct, he'd only eaten lunch near Wonder Burger, after the shootout, the fistfight, and the arrest, but Blair wasn't going to see the senseless violence or the heroics. He was only going to see the implied "May Contain" sign over the door. And when that happened...

For the second time that day, Jim spread paperwork out on his desk with a heavy heart. There was no question in his mind that every horrifying event of his future would be measured for terror against the Safety Dog incident, but that didn't lessen his pain in the present. Simon had been right, though. The only thing that could possibly have made his day worse than it had been would have been if he'd been forced to wear the Safety Dog costume.

He was halfway through his statement from the Wonder Burger bust when he stopped, blinked, and looked up, a smile already in place. Somewhere in the building, Blair was annoying someone. Jim knew it. And it was only a matter of time before he was the recipient of Blair's... charms. By this point, the ruined bathroom was the least of the detective's concerns. All he cared about was that Blair was coming to see him. It was like getting a tax refund. It was like the sun on his back, or a favorite movie on the late show. That it happened regularly in no way lessened the impact.

Jim's guide rounded the corner in Full-On Sandburg Rant Mode, actually bumping into the detective's desk when he came to a halt. "Jim! You'll never guess what happened!"


"Somebody shot Celine Dion!"


"Because You Loved Me," Argent said, appearing behind Blair. Ah, Jim thought. It's like finding out a favorite movie is on the late show, only, it's been edited for language and content.

"Hey!" Blair cried happily. "Mike! That's pretty sexy, man," he said, gesturing at the Safety Dog costume.

"Why are you still wearing that?" Jim complained.

"Listen, Blair, you got a minute?"

"How about it, Jim, you're not ready to go yet, are you?"

Jim gave him an incredulous look. "Sandburg," he said tiredly, "I'm just getting started."

"All right, man, see you in a few." With that, he left Jim in Paperwork Valhalla and bounced out of the squad room with Argent.

"I hate you so much," Jim muttered.

He'd been chipping away steadily at his mound of paper for better than an hour when he finally noticed that Blair hadn't come back. What _is_ a minute in dog years, anyway? It didn't really matter. He'd already had the day from hell, and he was damned if he'd have the night from hell right along with it. Sandburg himself was responsible for a great deal of Jim's current misery. If nothing else, he had a moral responsibility to do the rest of Jim's paperwork while the detective played solitaire.

Rising painfully, Jim limped out of the squad room, already scanning the building for some trace of his guide. Little bastard probably went to a movie. With this in mind, he picked up his pace, interrogating everyone he saw as to Blair's whereabouts. By the time the third person said "He's in the Witness Protection Program, if he has any sense," Jim was frustrated to the point of homicide. He could have finished another quarter of his work in the time it had taken him to dig up nothing more than a cavalcade of wiseguys.

He was about to give up his search and plan the bombing of Blair's car when he heard it: a laugh, as distinctive and unique to Jim as a fingerprint. Only one man on the planet laughed like that, and before much longer, not even he would do so. Jim followed the sound of that voice, growing angrier with every step. It was bad enough that Blair had done a runner and left Jim with enough paperwork to cripple a man half his age. Worse that he'd gone off with Argent, who was certainly the most annoying person Jim had ever seen since Susan Powter stopped the insanity. Worst of all, though, was the change in Blair's voice, every trace of laughter erased from his voice as he moaned words Jim had hoped never to hear Blair speak to anyone but him:


In all fairness, no words were actually spoken. The general idea was clear enough, however. Blair had bashed around any number of theories as to why Jim strictly forbade any form of sexual activity in his home. The early favorite had been a certain squeamishness on Jim's part when it came to things like socks on doorknobs and shoes in the hallway. It had also been suggested that Jim was just jealous of all the action Blair got, action Jim had suspected was somewhat overblown, before this very moment. The truth was a lot less complicated, and less unflattering. When it came to Kinky Anthropologist Sex, Jim wanted no part of it as long as he remained no part of it. He didn't want to hear it, he certainly didn't want to see it, and he didn't want to drink his morning coffee, thinking about it, and trying to tune out suspicious squeals emanating from his guide's bedroom. No. Nada. Niet.

Waves of revulsion washed over Jim as he stood there, panic mounting. His hearing was dialed only slightly higher than average; if he could hear Blair and his special friend from God alone knew where, then whoever was remotely near Blair's actual trysting spot was certainly getting an earful. He was torn. But it was more than that, he was stretched naked on the rack in high summer, slathered in baby oil. He wanted to get as far away from Blair's pleading, purring voice as possible. He wanted to put a stop to the whole thing before somebody decided to give the Mayor a tour of the building. He wanted to bring the Mayor there himself. He wanted to whale the tar out of whoever Blair was with. He wanted to join them.

In the end, cold-blooded logic won the day. If he let things run their course, Blair was going to be caught, with or without Jim's interference. For reasons he preferred not to dwell on, Jim himself had whiled away more than one frustrating evening looking for somewhere, anywhere within the Cascade Police Department offices that wasn't already occupied by some joker with a cup of coffee and too much time on his hands, and people often did what they could to avoid getting anywhere near Jim. Blair could pack a room if he offered to head a discussion on "Potatoes I Have Eaten." As things stood, there was every chance Jim would have to intercept more than one bootleg recording of this event come morning. From a purely detached point of view, the facts were that Blair was going to get caught, and Jim needed him. Period.

Listening carefully, he managed to place Blair and his unidentified molester in the evidence room. Isn't this charming? I've got Demon Blair saying 'You can do it, man' in the back of my head, and I've got Kinky Anthropologist Blair doing... Christ, I don't know who he's doing... Jim strode toward the elevator, fuming. God gave me heightened senses so I can listen to my best friend act out 'The Best of _Deliverance_' from a distance of roughly ten thousand feet.

By the time Jim reached the evidence room, he was ready to throw open the door and commit random acts of violence. Rocky had come/equipped with a gun/to shoot out the legs of his rival... This close to the action, Jim could hear nothing but Blair's cries and the wet slap of flesh against flesh, a sound Jim had never before found this disgusting.

Lil and her man/who called himself Dan/were in the next room at the hoedown/Rocky burst in/grinning a grin/and said "Danny Boy, this is a showdown." Jim tried the doorknob and found it unlocked, much to his indignation. Opening the door, he got a perfectly framed view of Blair bent over one long table, naked and gasping, his head held back by a familiar hand tangled in his hair. The mouth attached to his guide's neck was familiar, too, as was the body attached to it, rutting against Blair and not quite divested of the Safety Dog costume.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph havin' drinks at the Hilton...

Jim stood in the doorway, utterly stupefied. Time could stop, nations could crumble, and still he would be there, the world's least titillated voyeur. He might have stayed there through mutual orgasms, through the subsequent mopping up of bodily fluids, the tender final kiss before they parted... And then Blair would head back to Jim's desk and launch into some fantastic tale about elderly women and disgruntled postal workers. But before any of this could come to pass, Blair's eyes opened to slits, and then, much wider.

"Oh my God!"

"Yeah..." Argent moaned.

"No!" Jim shrank from the room before Blair could scramble free. Shutting the door behind him, he struggled to swallow, his heart pounding coldly in his throat.

After a moment, he felt safe enough to take a moment to catch his breath and collect his thoughts. One by one, the tumblers in his head slid into place, opening the doorway through to enlightenment. Not only did this event fit in nicely with the rest of Jim's day; it also cast a new light on his seemingly incomprehensible conversation with Argent in the van that afternoon. Every new angle from which Jim regarded the situation was like another kick in the gut. Blair certainly did like boys, he'd been dead wrong about that. He just didn't like Jim. There was a melodramatic Dead Girlfriend song in there somewhere.

"Jim!" Blair swung the door open and skidded into the hallway. "Thank God you're still here."

"I don't think God had anything to do with it, Sandburg." He cast a pained look toward the evidence room. "This... this is offensive for so many reasons."

"I can explain."

"You can't even dress yourself properly," Jim said, gesturing at his guide's open fly.

Blair flushed, and zipped. "Listen, Jim. I--"

"This isn't a good time." He risked a look at Blair, and immediately regretted it. Hair in total disarray, skin flushed, lips swollen, his shirt still half untucked, he was the kind of wreck Jim himself would have liked to be responsible for. He'd thought the destruction of his bathroom was as much heartbreak as any man could be subjected to, but this was something else. That Blair could prefer Argent to him was akin to the trials of Job. "Look, I've still got a shitload of paperwork to do. I'll see you later."

"Wait a minute!"


"I just wanted to say..."


The door opened again, and Argent appeared, his Safety Dog costume safely fastened. He blanched when he saw Jim. "Hey."

Jim raised his hands in supplication. "I'll be upstairs," he said wearily. "Working."

"Just give me a minute and I'll help you, all right?"

"Forget it, Sandburg. I'll manage."


The detective turned. Blair was the picture of dejection, the only person Jim had ever met who could turn on a dime from the embodiment of one emotion to the embodiment of another, with no transition between the two. If Argent hadn't been there, if Blair's eyes weren't glazed, if the moon hadn't been in Capricorn, Jim might have said something. Instead, he shook his head, turned, and walked away.

Never try to wait out an insomniac. It was one of the iron-clad credos by which Jim lived, and it had been a hard lesson to learn, but once he had, he'd never forgotten it. The best he could hope for, pitted against Sandburg the Sleepless, was that Blair would be so preoccupied with whatever he was doing that he wouldn't notice Jim's return. And that wasn't much hope at all.

It was after one when Jim finally came home, and though Blair had classes in the morning, he was camped out on the sofa, not quite watching the late show. "Hey, man," he offered when Jim tossed his keys in the basket. "How's that carpal tunnel problem?"

"The doctors say there's no reason why I can't still lead a normal life. What the hell are you watching?"

"Haunted Castle of the Cannibal Biker Chicks."

"Wasn't that a Hardy Boys book?"

"Jim, are we going to talk about this or not?"

"No," Jim said easily. "We're not."


"I'm so tired, Sandburg," Jim groused. "And I still have to clean the bathroom."

"I did that," Blair said.

"The hell you say."

"I did. Take a look, man, you could have a cocktail party in there."

Jim narrowed his eyes.

"It's not a trick, Jim. I value my life."

The detective crossed the room slowly, afraid to believe even as the smell of cleaning solvent became impossible to ignore. True to Blair's word, the bathroom was restored. The shower curtain and Jim's Irish Spring had been replaced rather than repaired (thank God) and Blair had placed the new issue of "Betty and Veronica's Double Digest" on the toilet tank. "Nice going, Sandburg. Looks like you live to smite another day."


"Yeah, whatever," he muttered, scrubbing his face with both hands. "Good night."

"I should have said something," Blair said quietly.

"It's none of my business."

"It is," he said, following Jim up the stairs. "You're my partner, you're my roommate, you're my best friend, you're--"

"I'm God, Sandburg" Jim cut in. "That's why I sleep upstairs and wash my sheets every Sunday. You sleep downstairs," he said, looking pointedly at the foot of the stairs, "and just buy new sheets whenever Sears has a White Sale. You, Sandburg," he said, poking Blair in the chest, "are Satan."

"I prefer 'Beelzebub,'" he smirked.

"Every criminal has an alias. Now go away."

"I need to know you're okay with this," he said, meeting Jim's eyes.

Like the man said: I'm pretty fucking far from okay. "I'm fine. I'm great. I'm relieved, in fact. After three years of Sandburg's Bimbos On Parade, I was beginning to think you were flighty."

Blair examined him. Standing so close to him, thoroughly disinfected, he was impossible to resist. And it must have shown on Jim's face, because Blair enveloped him in a bear hug before he had a chance to back away. "I love you, man."

"Yeah, well, bring on the pork rinds, Sandburg, I think we're having a sharing moment."

Blair released him. "I'll let you get to bed."



A hundred possible sentences flitted through his mind, ranging from the indignant--"Safety Dog?" to the Abba-esque--"Take a chance on me." to pure, elemental Jim--"If I ever catch you fucking that guy again, I'll neuter him myself." Finally, he opted for hip, yet practical. "Next time, lock the door, all right?"

Blair gave him a strange look. "Sure, Jim."

Jim collapsed on his bed as soon as he heard Blair close his bedroom door. Well, Jim, it's official. Your truck looks like a leftover from the Beverly Hillbillies auction, you live in an apartment, you're reviled by your coworkers, you can't sustain a long-term relationship, you're losing your hair, you _still_ don't know all the words to _Stairway to Heaven_ and now, yes, it's true, the target of your unwholesome yearnings would rather fuck a man in a dog costume than you. James Joseph Ellison, you _suck._


"Aw, Christ," Jim moaned, glaring at his alarm clock. After the day he'd had, he'd had no intention of getting up early again. Blair could sleep in his own filth for one day, if it meant that much to him; Jim just didn't have the will to stop him. Some part of Jim's mind clearly disagreed, however. Though he'd been sure he'd set the alarm for 6:30, 5:30 it was. He was at home with his bull-headedness; though he was awake, though he knew he would remain so, he refused to get out of bed until he felt like it. Rolling onto his back, he flung his arms wide and let his mind wander.

It was no trouble at all to reinvent Blair's escapade in the evidence room, and even less to place himself in Argent's position. Apart from the Safety Dog get-up, it was a familiar scene. If he'd had any lingering doubts as to whether Anthropologist Sex was really all that Kinky, they'd been erased the night before. All that energy, all that enthusiasm... Was there a man alive who had never dreamed of one night, just one night, when he could lie back and let his partner do all the work? He pictured Blair riding him, hair flying, throat working, sweat beading on his chest, chanting Jim's name with every stroke. His hands would use Jim's chest for leverage, his legs would grip Jim's waist, and Jim... Jim would just take it all in, playing Tilt-a-Whirl to Blair's sugar-high ten-year old.

True to form, Jim was erect before his imaginary Blair could even toss out a ticket and yell "I wanna go again!" He stroked himself cautiously through his boxers. Oh... yeah. He was good to go. He did it to himself every damn time, just let it go until he was on a hair trigger and he found himself looking at produce with unhealthy interest. Picturing himself fucking Blair hadn't exactly been the height of intelligence, either, not when picturing himself buying paint with Blair could do this to him. Squeezing himself gently, he tried to think. Blair didn't have office hours, that was something. Jim had spent so many years in Covert Ops that he could even be tortured quietly, that was something else. And he still had some time before he had to get up. The decision made, Jim let his mind wander back to a better place. A naked place. He rocked his hips minutely, giving himself up to the fantasy entirely. Blair's mouth slid a hot, wet trail down Jim's chest. His hands were gentle, his ass perfection, and the soft, broken sounds he made with Jim inside him were enough to make Jim believe in a higher power. Jim bucked up into his hands, unable to suppress a moan. He was so close, so close...

And Blair's alarm sounded.

"What the hell..?" He released his cock immediately, as if an angry nun was standing over him with a yard stick. Before he could clear his head, he heard Blair thunder out of his room, muttering "late, late, late," under his breath as he headed for the bathroom.

"Sandburg?" Blair ignored him. "Chief!" The bathroom door slammed. Grumbling to himself, Jim abandoned all hope of getting off and wrapped himself in his robe, thumping down the stairs as he did. The bathroom door shook on its hinges when Jim pounded it.

"What?" Blair called, turning off the water.

"Aren't you forgetting something?"


"Who had first shower yesterday, Sandburg?"

"You did, man."

"Excuse me?"

"You left me with all the cold water, and then made some lame joke about how you were doing your part to save the world from an army of little Sandburgs. Remember?"

This last was said with such irritation that Jim couldn't help but smile. "That was Sunday."

"Right," Blair said slowly, as if Jim was particularly stupid, "and today... is Monday."

"Today's Tuesday, Blair."

"Whatever, man. I don't have time to argue with you, all right?"

"Well, actually--" Blair turned the shower on again, effectively drowning Jim out. He blinked, unable to find it in himself to get pissed off. Nobody needed a cold shower more than Jim did, after all, and Blair would pay for this slight when he finally realized he'd gotten up at the crack of dawn for no apparent reason. Then Jim-- who was generally credited with more nobility than he possessed-- would rub Blair's little pug nose in it, probably while singing "Dumb dumb, dumb dumb, are you ever dumb..."

The coffee had just finished brewing when Blair burst out of the bathroom, heading for the door at speed. Jim tossed him a banana, Blair Elvis Stojko'd his keys out of the basket, and the freakiest person Jim knew was gone again. Sighing, Jim poured himself a cup of coffee and shuffled off toward the bathroom. When he finally reached the door, jaw and mug dropped in unison. "That lying, cheating, Safety-Dog-fucking little bastard!"

With the exceptions of the spilled coffee and the shards of ceramic from Jim's mug, the bathroom looked exactly as it had the previous morning, right down to the torn shower curtain and the soap in the toilet. Of all the people Jim had ever met, only Blair was smart enough to be able to recreate this catastrophe so flawlessly. Of all the people Jim had ever met, only Blair was insane enough to have done this to Jim twice. The detective gazed dully into his ruined sink, too stunned yet for thoughts of homicide. God, grant me the strength to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference. Sighing heavily, casting one last, pained look at the bathroom, Jim backed down the hallway and hunted down his cell.


"Captain, it's Jim."

"This better be good, detective."

"I'm going to be a little late, sir. A-- uh, a personal matter came up--"

"Before seven in the morning?"

Jim smirked. "When have you ever known me to have a crisis at a decent hour?"

"Yeah, yeah. How long do you need?"

"An hour?"

"Remind me to start having you take care of my personal matters, Jim. One hour."

"Thanks, Captain." Simon hung up, and Jim dialed again.

"Blair Sandburg."

"I'm going to find you, Sandburg, and when I do, you're going to wish your parents never met."

"Uncle Ned?"

"You killed my bathroom, Sandburg. Prepare to die."

"Listen, Jim, I--" Jim ended the connection and snapped his phone shut, throwing it on the sofa on his way back to the bathroom. Before he'd even yanked his rubber gloves in place, he'd already devised more than twenty ways to kill his guide with a "1000 Flushes" disk, many of them involving embarrassing psycho-sexual connotations. It was a welcome distraction.

When he finally walked into Major Crimes that morning, he felt he'd started the new day in a much better direction than the last. Clean-shaven, secure in the knowledge that his bathroom was once again a safe haven for the unclean, Jim was this close to whistling the theme song from "The Andy Griffith Show" while he waited for his coffee to finish pouring. By the time he'd taken the first sip, he felt confident that he'd exhausted every just possibility for torturing his best friend, from a savage beating with the toilet brush to shaving his head to being forced to wear Jim's after shave (Aqua Velva) instead of his own (CK "Be.")

"Detective Ellison!" Simon stomped toward him, his posture so threatening that Jim actually took a step back.


"You're sure as hell not the smartest man I've ever met, so you must be the luckiest."

"Actually, that's debatable, too," Jim said, sipping his coffee again. "What's up?"

"I had to send Brown out with Argent on the Safety Dog thing," he growled. "If you'd gotten here five minutes sooner--"

"This is more appropriate," Jim assured him. "Trust me." Wait a minute... "Why is he going again?"

"What do you mean, again? You think I'd do this to one of my men twice?"

Jim smirked. "If he had it coming. Listen, Simon, I told you not to use CoffeeMate anymore. I just went out with Argent yesterday. Even he doesn't deserve to do it two days in a row."

"When did you have your last urine test, detective?"

"Isn't that kind of personal?"

"Argent wasn't Safety Dog yesterday. Christ, he wasn't even here yesterday. He was still at the Peach Festival in Penticton--" Simon said with a roll of his eyes-- "as everyone in the office knew by eight this morning."

Jim opened his mouth to speak, then closed it abruptly. Sandburg trashes the bathroom, Argent goes into heat... Jim knew better than to ask Simon what day it was. "Peach Festival," he said, laughing weakly. "That's the pits."

Simon gave him a pained look. "Get out of my sight before I send you in for a psych evaluation, detective."

Moments later, Jim slumped in his chair, staring at his page-a-day calendar in shock. Among his many personality quirks, he made a point of tearing off the calendar pages at day's end, folding them neatly before throwing them in the trash. Even if he hadn't had that moment burned into his mind from the day before, the result of being particularly happy the day would never come again, he would have known he'd done it. He never missed a day. Even so, Monday stared him in the face, once again, and Jim was reasonably sure it would be well-nigh impossible to locate a second copy of his "365 Pigs" calendar in the middle of May. If this was deja vu, it was the most vivid, most detailed, and most unwelcome deja vu Jim had ever experienced. Frowning deeply, he picked up the phone and dialed.

"Blair Sandburg."

Jim paused. This was further proof he didn't need. By now, Blair should be tooling home, muttering to himself about how Jim was a stubborn, mean-spirited ass who'd let him leave without telling him he had the day off. Instead, he was in his office.

"I'm wearing a blue flannel shirt and an old pair of Levi's," Blair said in a bored voice. "Can I hang up now?"

"Pop quiz, Chief," Jim said. "Cranky dead guy who did a lot of pissing and moaning about how we're doomed to keep fucking up our lives, over and over, forever."


"I'm serious, Sandburg."

"So am I, man. That guy was a real downer by the time he finally kicked it. No, it was Nietsche, man. That theory you've mangled is his theory of eternal recurrence."

"What do you think?"

"I'm sticking with Elvis. At least he knew how to have a good time. Look, Jim, you have to look at it this way: if you keep reliving your life, you relive the good as well as the bad, right?"

"But you can change your future."

"Theoretically, sure, assuming you had prior knowledge of how it was going to go if you acted a certain way. But Nietsche wasn't talking about a narrow window. You know, "if I had this to do over again," whatever. He was talking about an entire life, start to finish. That he figured you had to keep repeating."

"That's just fucking great."

"What is this about, man? Not two hours ago you're threatening my life, and now you want to talk philosophy?"

"Forget it. I'll talk to you later." He hung up the phone and buried his face in his hands. They're trying to drive me insane. That's the only explanation. The thought of calling Blair back and asking him who it was who'd said dreams were real and daily life was a dream was an uncomfortable one. Jim was a short step away from being dragged along to Blair's weekly poetry readings as it was.

It wouldn't be that hard to find a second "365 Pigs" calendar, now that he thought of it. It would be really easy if Blair had bought it during the big Christmas shopping season, when he'd bought Jim the one he'd already given him. But that... that indicated a degree of foresight and premeditation that bordered on the psychotic, and no matter what else Jim thought of Blair, he couldn't picture his guide wielding a chainsaw. Frowning, he picked up the phone again and dialed '0.'

"Operator. How can I help you?"

"Can you just tell me today's date?" he asked in a low voice.

"Could you speak up, please, sir?"

"What day is it?" he said loudly. One of the dispatch women gave him a look.

"It's May 25th, sir."

"Yeah, but what day?"


Jim hung up. Blair could have rigged Jim's calendar, and if he tried, he could have convinced Jim's coworkers to help him gull his friend, but no way could he have enlisted the help of the telephone people. If he had a hard time getting them to give him a phone number without also giving him an explosive sigh and an offer to send him a copy of the Cascade white pages, a prank involving their entire staff manning the phones 24/7 was a bust, for sure. Jim was stupid even to consider it. But then, he was apparently living in an alternate dimension, so what the hell, right? Monday. Again. _This_ Monday again, yet. I've died, and even though I always wear clean underwear and hold the door open for little old ladies, I've gone to hell. How many times would he see his bathroom defiled? How many times would he have to sleaze his way out of driving Argent around town? God, how many times would he have to watch Argent fucking Blair?

Jim looked at his watch. When had he and Argent gone to Wonder Burger? He sprang out of his chair. No matter what other insanity took place today, Simon was never going to send back-up to the restaurant based on Jim's supposedly clairvoyant say-so. Argent had been useless the last time the thief had pulled a gun; there was no reason to believe he was going to turn into the Terminator now. And the gunman could empty his gun on Argent for all Jim cared, but nobody was shooting Brown, whether this was a dream or not.

"Jim! I came as soon as I heard! Are you all right?"

"I'll live," Jim said, leaning against the wall for effect. The Wonder Burger bust had been a disaster, with Jim arriving just in time for the thief to open fire on him. He'd still been apprehended, and nobody else had been hurt, but the only thing everyone seemed to agree on was that Jim deserved to be shot in the leg for walking out on his mountain of paperwork for a quick burger. It hadn't occurred to him to attempt to explain himself. Still, it was worth it, all of it, to have Blair fawning over him while they waited for the doctor to sign off on Jim's release.

"I can't help but feel partly responsible," Blair said, touching Jim's shoulder.

"What the hell for?"

"The bathroom," he said, shame-faced. "You've been obsessing on it all day, am I right?"

"No," he said defensively. "Look, Chief, I know you've got some weird ideas about me, but I'm not some kind of obsessive-compulsive clean freak, all right?"

"Will you use my toothbrush tonight?" Blair asked, batting his eyelashes. "It'd really reassure me that you're okay."

Jim was appalled. "What am I, some kind of barbarian?"


"Right nothing. That's disgusting, Sandburg."

"Wait a minute," he said, squinting.


"I think-- yes, yes, I am. I'm developing a whole new theory about your pathetic sex life, man."

"Fuck you, Sandburg."

He grinned. "Listen, Jim, I have an idea."

"What?" he asked with dread.

"Hey, I thought I heard you two bickering out here," Argent said, rounding the corner.

"Mike! How are you?"

"Ah, a little shaken up, but Jim got the worst of it. Your timing really sucks, by the way, Jim."

"Thanks. Thanks a lot."

"You know I'm just kidding, don't you, buddy?"



Jim froze. For the second time that day, Simon was charging down a hallway toward him, looking like a month of days like this one. "Captain," he said weakly.

"How's the leg?"

"Still in one piece."

"I'm so happy for you," he bit out. "Can you spare a minute, or are you suddenly dying for a Slurpee?"

Jim closed his eyes. "Sure," he said. Simon dragged him into one of the examination rooms and shut the door behind them. "Now you listen up, and you listen good, Detective" was the last thing Jim heard for a solid fifteen minutes, apart from his own name. When they emerged, Brown and Ryf were standing in the hallway where Blair and Argent had been, moments before.

Jim blinked. "Has anybody seen Sandburg?"

"Jim, you've got a hole in your leg. The only problem Sandburg has is split ends."

"That was a cheap shot," he said, smiling grudgingly. "Come on, he's my ride."

Ryf and Brown exchanged a look.


Brown shook his head. "Forget it, buddy. Argent said something about showing Blair the Safety Dog costume."

Jim scowled. "That's a long walk."

"You could always... oh, I don't know... wait for the guy, Jim. Or we could probably scare you up a wheelchair."

Jim brandished his cane at the two men. "I'm not afraid to use this."

"You don't know how to use that," Ryf snickered.

"Never mind," Jim grumbled. "I'll find him myself."

"Why don't I just walk you down, Jim?"

"Because I have a feeling that could be pretty embarrassing," Jim muttered, staggering toward the elevator. Blair, Argent and the Safety Dog costume were a combination Jim had hoped never to have to consider again. Why he'd remembered the hold-up but not the single most terrifying spectacle of his life was a matter best left to trained professionals. How much trouble can Sandburg get into in the hospital?

He had his answer when he finally found the van, giving its shocks a good workout as it rocked spectacularly in the hospital parking lot. Rolling his eyes, Jim limped toward it, the mingled sounds of Blair's sex noises and the van stereo blasting some unidentified techno-garbage that had undoubtedly come from Blair's ever-present backpack growing louder with every step.

It was hard to say what was more painful for Jim, knowing Blair was fucking Argent again, or knowing he was doing it in the full realization that Jim was a wounded man. He didn't have the strength to pound on the side of the van until one or the other of them heard him, and he certainly didn't have the stamina to go back inside. Jim, you are a stupid, stupid man. He had no choice but to rest against the car beside the van and wait them out. From the sound of things, it was going to be a long wait. Argent was right, buddy. Your timing really sucks.

Jim tried to imagine himself consenting to this, in Argent's place. A hospital full of cops, any of whom could leave the building at any moment, all of whom would recognize the Cascade PD van on sight, and Blair and Argent couldn't wait another fifteen minutes for a slightly more private place to do... things that didn't bear thinking about? Then again, these were the same randy bastards who'd fucked each other cross-eyed in the evidence room with the door unlocked, the day before. Or, if you looked at it a slightly different way, the same day. Damn it. Maybe it was a dream. Jim was willing to believe he could turn stupid on a moment's notice, but he had a harder time believing it of Blair.

Blair's cries were getting to Jim now, regardless of who was responsible for them. Maybe it was the painkillers, maybe the fatigue, but Jim found himself opening up his senses, immersing himself in Blair as much as he could with another man standing between them. A smile bloomed on his face, and he left it there, listening carefully to the changes in his guide's breathing, the variations in his voice between one caress and another, whatever they might be. It had disgusted him to see this before, but he regretted that now. What would Blair look like when he came? Jim imagined the play of muscles, Blair undulating beneath him, his hair springy with sweat, his eyes bright and unfocused. The fantasy came to the same place it always did before long, with Jim aching and irritable, imagining Blair chanting his name.

"Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim..." The van rocked, and Blair's voice got louder and louder until it choked off suddenly, followed by a keening, rasping breath. Ooh, just what I've always wanted. Jim slumped to the ground, heedless of the pain in his leg. His final thought before he passed out was that he had the vapors, and nobody would ever let him live it down.

"It's not as if I've made a big secret out of it or something," Blair said, his first words to Jim or anyone since he'd staggered out of the van to find the detective sprawled on the pavement. Through it all-- dragging Jim back into the hospital, waiting for the doctor to re-stitch his wound, the release, the trip to Jim's truck-- Blair had remained utterly silent, which fact was more disturbing to Jim than anything else that had happened that day, including the fact that this appeared to be the second time he'd lived it.

"Out of what?" he asked, staring moodily out the passenger side window.

"Out of what," Blair said, snorting derisively. "I'm not exactly the poster boy for straight America."

Jim blinked. "The gay thing? I don't give a rat's ass about that, and you know it."

Blair was silent.


"What did you think I meant?"

"Nothing," Jim said, too quickly.

"Come on."

"Hey, cut me some slack, here. I'm tired, I'm delirious, and I've had the worst day of my entire life. Again."

"I'm not even touching that, man."

Jim sighed, slumping further into his seat. It just figured that the day he finally heard a fantasy come to life was a day that was clearly a figment of his imagination. Hell, he didn't know for sure that Blair had been calling his name. In Jim's current state, Blair could have been calling Mussolini's name and the detective wouldn't have known the difference. Further to that, calling a guy's name during sex was certainly no guarantee that you'd actually have sex with that guy, if the opportunity presented itself, which it wouldn't as long as Jim's leg was lame. Yes, he'd had a fantasy come to life, to some extent, anyway, but it meant nothing. Nothing.

"Why didn't you tell me you knew?" Blair asked quietly.

"Because I didn't know, Sandburg. Jesus, you think the only way I can take something like this in stride is if I've been waiting for it for three years?"

His guide smirked in the darkness. "Do you want me to answer that?"

"Maybe I'm just an enlightened, nineties kind of guy."

"Sure, Jim. You're so enlightened it doesn't even show." He glanced at Jim. "You really didn't know."

"I didn't know."

"It was a hell of a way to find out, then," he snickered.

"I could have done with a little less enlightenment," he admitted.

"Casually leaving copies of _The Advocate_ lying around," Blair said.

"A rainbow sticker on the back window of your car."

"Inviting you to march with me in the Gay Pride parade." He grinned. "I can't believe you're okay with this, man. I thought for sure you'd--"

"Stop smacking you and start saying What's that supposed to mean? when you tell me I need to get in touch with my feminine side?"

"More like rip my lungs out through my nose and donate my corpse to science."

"That's nice, Sandburg, that's real nice."

"Come on, Jim, don't be like that. I mean, look at you." Jim looked. "Strong, tyrannical father figure, no mother, military background, it all sets you up for the sort of homophobic, knee-jerk reaction in a guy that says 'Back off, nancy boy, I don't go for no queers,' see, and then, with your marriage failing, and the whole sentinel thing, it's going to make you question your identity, your choices--"

"See, you know what I hear when you start going on like this?"

"Ooh ee, ooh ah ah, bing bang, walla walla bing bang?"

"That's about right. And I'll tell you something else, Junior--"

"Wait," Blair said, stomping on the brakes.


"Look." He pointed at the Hasty Mart across the street. A man with a gun sprinted to a blue Civic and leapt inside. "I'll call it in."

"Screw that," Jim said. "No time."

"Jim, maybe you can make Old MacDonald here push past twenty, but I can't, and you're not driving."

"God damn it," he muttered.

"Call in the plate," Blair said reasonably, watching the car disappear. "Then we go home, and you can be the ever-vigilant watchman of our tv for one night. All right?" Jim was silent. "All right?"

"Yeah, yeah. Fine."

"Hey, if we hurry, we can still catch the tail end of _Ally McBeal_."

Jim moaned.


"Un-fucking-believable," Jim snarled, glaring at his alarm clock. In one final stab at sorting things out, he'd deliberately set his alarm for 7:17 the night before, figuring there was no way he'd be able to confuse it with 5:30. He supposed Blair could have sneaked up the stairs and reset it, but not even Blair was sadistic enough to do something like that to a wounded man. Then again, Jim wasn't a wounded man anymore, which was about the only good thing that had come out of this sorry mess so far. Any other time, he'd have been pleased to go to bed with a gunshot wound in his leg and wake up whole, but there were limits to what he'd do for such a windfall, and this was one.

Rolling onto his stomach, Jim closed his eyes and tried to organize his thoughts. First came the demolished bathroom. There had to be some way to stop that from happening to him again. There just had to. Next, he would be ordered to drive his nemesis around town in a dog costume, in the midst of which event he would be called upon to prevent a robbery. If there was a way to get out of chauffeuring Argent and prevent the robbery, he'd be laughing. Finally, Blair would sneak off with Argent at some moment that was guaranteed to be doubly detrimental to Jim's happiness. He could definitely do something about that. But then what? Go home, wake up, and do it again?

Concern for his bathroom won the day, and he rolled out of bed with a groan, wrapping himself in his robe as he descended the stairs. After he's started the coffee, he stalked down the hallway to Blair's room and threw open the door. His guide was lying in an abandoned sprawl in the center of his tiny bed, naked but for a pair of boxers. Jim watched the even rise and fall of his chest for a full minute, mesmerized. He was loathe to wake his friend, but letting him sleep was a sure road to heartbreak.

"Hey," he said, shaking Blair roughly. "Sandburg. Wakey-wakey."

Blair smacked him with surprising strength. "Fuck off," he mumbled.

"No can do, Chief. It's time to get up."

"No, it's not," Blair said, rolling to his side. "It's... Shit. What time is it?"

"Never mind. You can get up on your own steam, or I can help you out."

Blair's eyes opened a crack. He managed to steal a look at his clock before Jim could get in the way. "It's not time, Jim. Don't make me," he pleaded.

"I'll tell you what, Sandburg: In the entire time I've known you, you've never given yourself enough time to get ready. You stay in bed to the last minute, then trash the loft getting ready, and no matter what, you're still late. So today, I'm doing you a favor out of the goodness of my heart. I'm giving you back time you would never have had again, because you're my friend and I want you to be happy. Now haul your ass out of bed before I tear off your arm and use it to beat you to death."

"God damn it," Blair snarled, shoving Jim aside. "I get first shower," he said, stalking out of his room.

"Not so fast," said Jim, grabbing his arm.

"Jesus, what?"

"That bathroom had better be immaculate when you're done with it, Junior. I mean it."

"Jim, I could clean the Washington Monument in the time you've given me, all right?" Yanking his arm free, he stomped down the hallway and slammed the bathroom door behind him. Smiling in satisfaction, Jim poured himself a cup of coffee and helped himself to a bagel, his eyes never straying far from the clock.

About forty-five minutes later, Blair emerged from the bathroom with a less sincere scowl on his face "It's all yours, man,".

"Let's just look together, shall we?" Jim handed him a mug of coffee and led him back to the bathroom.

"What is your problem today, Jim? Are you freaking out on inhalants or something?"

"I'm just protecting my interests," he said mildly. Shoving the door open a crack, he peered cautiously inside.

"Oh, for Christ's sake," Blair said in disgust, pushing past him and flicking on the light. "Look. It looks better now than it did last night."

"Yeah, it does," Jim agreed, sipping his coffee. "And what have you learned from this?"

"How about that I live with a mean-spirited, anal-retentive, self-involved lunatic who's a hop, skip and a jump away from wearing little plastic bags on his hands when he has to open doors?"

"Don't you think you're overreacting just a tad, Sandburg?"

"I'm entitled," he growled, picking up his keys. "I didn't get much sleep last night." With that, he left the apartment, slamming his second door of the day.

"Huh," Jim said. "That went better than I thought it would." Hesitating only fractionally, Jim picked up his cell phone and dialed Simon's number.


"Captain, it's Jim. I'm sorry to disturb you at this hour, sir--"

"No, you're not. What do you want?"

"I'm going to be a little late this morning," he said.


Jim winced. "It's a personal matter."

"Jim, unless you have a very good reason for being late today, I will personally fire your ass the second your balding head shows up in my bullpen."

"It's kind of embarrassing," he said, stalling. This isn't how this was supposed to happen. I say I'll be late, you say something rude and hang up.

"Do I sound sympathetic to you, detective?"

"Ants," Jim said weakly.

"Excuse me?"

"Hundreds of 'em, Cap. I noticed them on my way past Sandburg's bedroom. I keep telling him not to leave food under his bed, but no no no--"



"I don't care."

"But Captain--"

"Take care of the ants, Jim. And for god's sake, do something about the grasshopper."

"Thank-you, sir." Simon hung up, and Jim slumped against the wall. I just sold out my best friend. And best of all, I did it not fifteen minutes after he left the loft in a snit. This... is not conducive to a romantic environment.

"Ellison, in my office, now!"

The detective did as he was told, meekly shutting the door behind him. "What's up, Captain?"

"Ants," Simon said darkly. "Was that the best you could come up with?"

"I don't know what you mean, sir."

"If you'd gotten in five minutes earlier, you'd be doing the Safety Dog demo right now," he said. "Are you going to stand here and tell me you knew nothing about that?"

"Jeez, Simon, who am I, Dionne Warwick? How was I supposed to know you wanted me to do Safety Dog?"

"You had no idea."

"I had no idea. Come on, Captain, when have I ever lied to you to get out of doing your dirty work?"

Simon regarded him silently for an uncomfortable moment. "All right," he said finally. "Get out of here."

Jim played clock-watcher all morning, waiting for what he'd determined was the ideal time to head down to Wonder Burger. He knew he was going to have a tough time explaining himself; maybe even worse than the day before, but it would all be worth it in the end. I hope. Just after one o'clock, Jim paged himself and loudly faked an emergency phone call.

He'd been waiting in the Wonder Burger parking lot for less than ten minutes when he spotted the gunman climbing out of a Chevy Impala. "Excuse me," he said, following the man across the pavement.

"Yeah, what?"

Jim flashed his badge. "Cascade PD."

"I didn't do anything, man."

"I see you have a gun," Jim said. "That's a concealed weapon. And I bet you don't have a permit for it, do you?"

The gunman reached for it, and Jim spun him face first into the truck. He was just about to cuff the guy when Brown and Argent pulled up in the van.

"What the hell is going on here?"

"He's got a gun," Jim said.

"Him and half the citizens of Cascade," Argent snickered.

"Are you going to give me a hand, here, or--" Jim grimaced and looked to Brown. "Well, how about you?"

"Sure, Jim," he said. "Read him his rights and I'll clear out the back of the van."

"Since when do you stake out fast food joints on the off chance that someone might walk by carrying a gun, detective?" Simon stood against his office door, arms crossed.

"I got an anonymous tip," Jim said lamely.

"An anonymous tip," he repeated.


"About a hungry man with a gun."

"That's about the size of it, sir."

"And in spite of the fact that I have scores of uniformed officers out on the streets dinging people for broken tail lights, you felt this required your personal attention?"

Jim shuddered. Until that moment, it had never occurred to him that an eternity of this Monday meant he would be taking shit from Simon every day for the rest of his life. No matter what Jim said or did, his Captain would never cheer up, never turn down that sixth cup of coffee, never have gotten laid the night before. He was doomed to day after day of sarcastic, eye-rolling remarks, day after day of being maligned, day after day of--

"Jim, what's going on with you?"

He frowned. "I don't know what you mean, sir."

"The erratic behavior, the cheesy lies, the defensive remarks-- Jim, I'll level with you, it's starting to worry me."

Jim took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Now was not the time to fly off the handle. "I don't have burnout, I'm not on the rebound, and I'm not freaking out on inhalants, all right? I'm just having a bad day. Again."

Simon sighed. "Right. Listen, Jim, I'm your friend. I don't want to make trouble for you. But if you have a problem, I have a problem."

"I can't believe I'm hearing this. Do you want me to submit to a drug screen?"

"Not yet," he said.

"Can I go back to work?"

"Sure. Jim," he said when the detective was almost out the door. "I meant what I said. I am your friend." He said it with such sadness, such compassion, that Jim barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes. Great. Simon and Sandburg are going to have an intervention for me now.

Jim checked his watch on the way back to his desk. Blair should have been there by now. "Has anybody seen... Sandburg..." His voice drifted off when he saw Blair's backpack on his chair. "Aw, Jesus!"

"Jim," Ryf said, alarmed, "What's going on?"

"More of the same," said Jim, speed-walking out of the bullpen. He knew he was risking a zone-out, releasing all his senses so completely, but he would do it, he would do anything, to keep Blair away from Argent, just once. With Blair's instruction burned into his subconscious, Blair's sex life providing his motivation, and Blair's anger that morning making Jim doubly desperate to locate him, the detective tracked Blair and Argent, finally turning up outside the copy room on the sixth floor. Jim tried the door, only to find it locked, the only change for the good he'd noticed so far that day. Hammering on the door, he tried to console himself with the knowledge that even Blair couldn't have found a new love machine and gotten naked with the guy in the fifteen minutes since he'd arrived at the station. The door swung open abruptly to reveal his swollen-lipped but fully-clothed guide.

"Jim! What are you doing here, man?"

"What the hell am I doing here?"

Blair smiled sheepishly. "Okay, okay. Pot and kettle. You, uh... that is..."

"Get rid of the Kennel Club," Jim said. "I need to talk to you."

"I don't know what you..." He broke off when Argent shoved past him and stepped into the hallway, still wearing the Safety Dog costume.

"Ellison," he said.

"Is this some kind of kink for you or something?"

"Jim, man, this really isn't a good time," Blair said weakly.

Jim shoved him back into the copy room, slammed the door and locked it. Before Blair could ask him any more questions, Jim pinned him to the wall, sealing their mouths together with a wet, searing kiss. Oh God, I could die right here. The taste of Blair, the feel of his mouth, the texture of his hair, all of it went straight to Jim's gut. He pressed closer, dug his hands in deeper, plunged his tongue further, until Blair was squirming against him and he didn't care why. "Choose me," he said roughly when he finally broke away to kiss Blair's throat. "Be with me."

And now he was responsible for the swollen lips, the tousled hair, the glazed eyes. It was a hollow victory, though; he was also responsible for the flare of anger in those eyes when his guide managed to insinuate his hands between their bodies well enough to pry Jim off him.

"What the hell is the matter with you?"

"I don't--"

"You've been acting weird all week, Jim, and now this? Where is this coming from?"

"I'd have thought that would be obvious."

"No way, man, it's not that easy. This isn't Queen for a Day here, Jim, this is my life, all right?"

Jim shook his head. "You are so out there with this, it isn't even funny, Chief. This is me," he said slowly, "Wanting you."

"Uh-uh, Jim, it doesn't work that way. You never had a same-sex thought in your life that didn't come with its own jar of Rolaids."

"And here I thought you'd be pleased to discover we finally have something in common," Jim smirked.

Pleased? You thought I'd be pleased?"

"Maybe not pleased, exactly. Listen, I'm not asking you to get used to this right away. I'm not asking you for anything-- Okay, maybe suggesting," he amended at Blair's skeptical snort. "All I'm saying," he purred, pressing himself tightly against his guide once again, "Is consider it. And stay away from Rin Tin Tin."

Blair tilted his head back, opening his mouth to Jim's kiss before the detective even offered it. He moaned softly when their lips met, a deep, throaty moan that Jim read acres of subtext into with a will. He kissed his guide gently now, exulting in his victory and more confident that everything had finally been settled between them. He pulled back slightly and stroked Blair's chest, squeezing his guide's breast happily.

"Wait," Blair gasped.

"I'm not going to do filthy things to you in the copy room, Chief," Jim assured him. "I'm saving that for later."

"You're leering at me?" He shoved Jim away a second time, glaring at him. "That is so gross, man. This whole situation is--"

"If you say gross, I'm going to kill myself."

"Not gross," he said, "but definitely not kosher, you know? This is like making out with a buddy."

"I hate to burst your bubble, Sandburg, but it's not like making out with a buddy..."

"You know what I mean."

"Besides, I happen to have some pretty fond memories of making out with buddies."

"Cut it out, man, that is the grossest thing I've ever heard."

"Who do you make out with, Junior?"

"I don't even want to have this conversation with you, man. Shit!" He shook his head, then looked up at Jim abruptly, as if he'd suddenly remembered the impact what he was saying might have on his friend. "Look, this is too weird, all right?"

"All right," Jim said equably.

Blair blinked. "All right?"

"Yeah. Look, Sandburg, I know things happen a little differently in your country, but where I come from, you make a pass at someone, and if they turn you down, you don't spend the next six years pissing and moaning about it, you get on with your life."

"Uh... sure. Okay," he said, looking anything but. "Good."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, sure."

"All right. Now come on," he said, cuffing Blair upside the head. "I have paperwork coming out the yin-yang, and I want to try and fit a workout in tonight."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Blair said quickly.

Jim rolled his eyes. "It's supposed to mean I get to say Thank-you, Thigh-Master the next time I have to haul ass to save yours, all right?"

Blair furrowed his brow. "Sometimes I don't get you, man."

"I guess you don't," Jim agreed.

When Jim got home from the gym, he found Blair in his favorite real-life BlairPose: open-shirted and sitting cross-legged on the floor, bathed in candlelight. The expression on Blair's face was one of absolute contentment, absolute peace. A faint smile played around his mouth, but Jim couldn't believe it had anything to do with the music Blair had chosen for the night's meditation, another spoken-word monstrosity involving a lot of strange, shouting women.

Shut up and eat/too bad no bon apetit/shut up and eat/you know my love is sweet

Eighteen months in the jungle hadn't taught Jim to laugh in the face of opportunity. So naturally, watching Blair, the only wholly-formed thought in the detective's mind was that it would be so easy just to casually knock that shirt from his guide's shoulders, and consequently so much easier to kneel down beside him and take one of those oh-so-inviting nipples into his mouth. Blair had taught him that meditation had its place in the scheme of things, but experience had taught him there were a lot more pleasant means of achieving contentment.

Jim sighed. It just figured. This was his personal best. No matter what, there was nothing he could do to improve this day. So, in addition to being ridiculed and debased, he could also look forward to being rejected daily by the one person on earth he would give up red meat for, come to that. That, or he could say nothing, and look forward to seeing Argent half-naked in that goddamned Safety Dog costume as he fucked Jim's guide in every public venue in the city.

"Blair," he murmured.

"Jim," he said sexily. His eyes snapped open. "Jim!" he covered with a quick smile. "How was the workout?"

"Tiring," said Jim. "I didn't mean for you to come out of it, I just wanted to say goodnight."

"Oh," Blair frowned.


"Nothing, I guess. Goodnight."

Sparing one last look at Blair, Jim trudged up the stairs to his bedroom, stripped off his clothing, and collapsed on the bed. As he lay there, listening to Blair's breath as it gradually evened out again, he thought about setting his alarm, but finally decided it would be a waste of time. The irony was lost on him.

"Jim," Blair whispered. "Jim."

"Why are you whispering, Sandburg? Who are you going to wake up besides me?"

"Damn me for a considerate bastard, man. I think it's still a hangin' offense in some states. I was just--"

"What time is it?" he groaned, rolling onto his back.

"Please, Jim, a little decorum," Blair said, yanking Jim's sheet up to the detective's neck.

"This from the man who was going to make the beast with three backs in the copy room with the Amazing Dog Baby? And are you going to answer my question?"

"We were just kissing, man, we weren't going anywhere with it. It's a little after one-thirty."

"Why are you waking me up on a school night, Sandburg?" Jim asked, aggrieved.

"I can't sleep," Blair said.

"Ah." Jim sat up in bed, careful to protect Blair from his nudity. "You blame me?"

Blair sprawled on his back on Jim's bed. He still wore the shirt, still open, but he'd lost his pants somewhere along the way. "Supposing we did it," he said.

"Yeah," Jim said slowly.

"Supposing we liked it."

"Still following, Chief."

"Would we have to do it again?"

Jim gave him an incredulous look. "I was kind of banking on that, Sandburg."

"You know what I mean. I mean, there are friends, and then, there are friends, right? Special friends. It's two different camps, man. It's not natural."

"Look around you, Chief. We're two grown men with a genetic predisposition to drink beer and shoot the shit together for the rest of our lives who live in the same apartment, double date, and take time out of our busy schedules to manage my hyperactive senses and swat each other's asses. Where the hell are you seeing natural?"

"God damn it," Blair said.

"Go to bed, Blair. I can't talk this out tonight."

"Could I just--" He raked his hair, giving Jim a searching look. "I want to try something," he said finally.

Jim grinned. "Help yourself," he said.

Slowly, so slowly, Blair took hold of the edge of Jim's sheet and inched it down his chest to pool in his lap. By the time he was done, Jim's nipples were hard, his breath a little harsher than it was before. Blair smiled delightedly. "Christ, you're cut. I think you have the best body I've ever seen, in person." Jim's grin widened impossibly. Blair looked astounded that he'd just said what he'd just said, astounded that he'd gotten away with it. He reached out a hand, fingertips just brushing Jim's skin. The detective gasped softly.

"For all my kidding, I've thought about it, you know," Blair said in a hushed voice. "The way sex must be, for you. I figured, you know, if you can come in your pants from wearing silk underwear, imagine an orgasm! Every nerve in your body sort of going woo-hoo! at once, but, like, ten times what other people have."

"It's all right," Jim admitted.

"Man!" Blair looked up at Jim suddenly. "I just--" Tentatively, he rolled Jim's nipple between his fingers.


"Look at that," he said softly. "Would it hurt if I pinched?"

"Depends on how hard you pinch," Jim gasped. Smiling mischeivously, his guide squeezed Jim's nipple harder. Jim's back arched against the headboard.

"This is too cool,"said Blair, standing.

"Don't tell me you're leaving now," Jim complained.

Blair circled the bed, his eyes roaming Jim's body freely now. Every trace of his earlier contentment was gone, replaced with an expression of deep, lustful concentration. Jim had the uncomfortable feeling he was being appraised, judged.

"I'd like to try something else," Blair said finally.


Without warning, he climbed on top of Jim, straddling his thighs. The awkwardness of the situation was illustrated in every twitch, every squirm, as Blair tried to find a comfortable position. Either that, or he was deliberately tormenting Jim, but the detective still clung to his fantasy that Blair had no mean streak to speak of. When he finally settled on Jim's legs, he grinned at the detective and tore off his shirt, tossing it carelessly on the floor. Jim winced.

"Ah-ah-ah," Blair said, stroking his jaw. "Are you trying to spoil my mood?"

"If that's what you wanted to try, Sandburg, you might as well just go outside and key my truck right now."

"That's not it," he murmured. "You're doing it again."


"In the copy room, when I pulled back. You followed me."

"I didn't have that far to go, Chief."

"No, you followed me," he said, his mouth less than an inch from Jim's now. "I pulled back," he said, demonstrating. Automatically, Jim strained his neck to encourage the kiss. "And you followed."

"That's great, Sandburg," Jim muttered. "Maybe you can rig me so I get a hard-on whenever I hear Bob Saget's voice, too."

"Don't you?" he asked innocently.

Growling, Jim anchored his hands in Blair's hair and pulled their mouths together. Blair moaned into his mouth, cooperating totally, and now Jim understood that he'd finally won, he'd finally reached that nameless pinnacle he'd been seeking all his life, he'd finally had that definitive kiss, that definitive touch, that definitive person. If there was a part of his mind that argued the basic wrongness of making a goal of one's soul mate, Jim wasn't listening to it. All he heard was Blair, whimpering, and the harsh sound of his breath when Jim released his mouth to trail kisses down his chest. All he knew was that he was the last word in Loser, but he'd still gotten the babe in the end, and nobody was revoking him now.

Blair scraped his chest against Jim's, his hair firing nerve endings the detective hadn't known he had. He squirmed beneath his guide in a wordless plea for more, and Blair supplied it, slithering down Jim's legs to stand on all fours, covering him. He kissed Jim softly, licked the detective's lips, then bent his head to take a nipple in his mouth. Jim cried out, fighting to keep from tangling a hand in his guide's hair. By the time Blair was satisfied enough with his work to start in on the other nipple, his hand had snaked beneath the sheet to stroke Jim's cock, urging Jim to try harder, feel more, need more.

"It's been a while since somebody gave me one of these," Blair said. "I'm in a quandary, here."

"You really are Satan, aren't you?"

"Now, hold still, here, Jim. I mean, don't move at all. Can you do that?"

"Do I look like I can do that?"

Blair yanked the sheet down to Jim's knees. His eyes widened minutely, eyebrows shooting up to his hairline.

Jim smirked. "Nervous, Sandburg?"

"Yeah, Jim, I'm terrified here. Closin' my eyes, thinkin' of England. It's just-- it's different when it's somebody else's, you know?"

"No, I don't know. And I don't want to."

Blair bent to take Jim into his mouth, but stopped when he noticed the detective's hands rhythmically squeezing his sheets. Without another word, he took Jim's hands and dug them into his hair. Jim's cock slid down his throat on the first try, and the detective moaned extravagantly. It was so hot, so tight, and he couldn't help thinking that Blair's ass would be hotter, tighter. He rocked his hips shamelessly, trusting Blair to be able to defy both Jim's hips and Jim's hands to keep from choking to death. Head thrashing on his pillow, he began using his grip on Blair's head to push himself still further in, to hold his guide in place. Heat and sensation coiled in his gut, and he was close, almost over the edge, when Blair pulled back, releasing Jim's cock and yanking his hair free.

"Jesus, Jim," he said, rubbing his head. "I give you an inch, and you tear me bald, man." Jim rose to his knees, and Blair's scowl vanished. "Hey, you've got, like, a full-body following thing happening here." The detective lunged, and Blair landed on his back at the foot of the bed with an indignant squeak. "Jim--" Jim kissed him hotly, shoving Blair's thighs apart and settling between them. He broke off the kiss on a gasp the instant their cocks made full contact, heat and sex spiraling outward from his gut. He fastened his mouth to the underside of Blair's jaw and began to rock.

"Jim... oh..." Blair clawed his back, his legs twining around the detective's hips. "Jim..."

Jim slipped a hand beneath the small of his guide's back, and Blair began the mythical undulating, the thought of which had kept Jim awake on many a night.

"Jim." All it would take was a particularly heartfelt Jim and the detective would be over the brink. All thoughts of taking it slow and biding his time were brushed aside in the need to get inside Blair just once before Monday began again. Who knew how long it would take for Jim to find this combination of events again? For all he knew, his decision to sing "Cupid" in the shower instead of "Ramblin' Man" had been crucial to the outcome of the day. Resenting every instant, Jim detached himself from Blair and sat up, panting.

"Jim, you're not zoning on me now, are you?"

"Just give me a minute," he muttered. He closed his eyes, but by that time, it was too late; Blair's image was burned into his mind. There was nothing to do then but open his eyes. Blair lay sprawled on the bed, knees slightly drawn up, one arm thrown over his forehead. Glazed eyes, third-degree whisker burn, terrifying hair... at last Jim could take credit for the complete wreck that was his sweet baby. Add to that the heat that poured from Blair in waves and a scent so overwhelming it became a taste to Jim, and Monday or not, Jim was guaranteed wet dreams for the rest of his life. Blair jacked himself lazily, his hips coming ever-so-slightly off the bed with every pull.

"Stop that."

"Kiss me."

Jim put a hand over his heart. "I think my arm's getting numb."

"Come on," he coaxed. "I'm getting bored now."

"I'll start keeping magazines up here for you."




The detective gripped Blair at shoulder and hip, rolling him onto his stomach. Though Jim's blanket had already left bedding scars on Blair's skin, it in no way lessened the overall effect of the view. Blair pillowed his head on his arms, looking sideways at Jim through a curtain of hair and clearly doing his best not to laugh.

"What?" Jim demanded.


"Sandburg," he warned.

"I just didn't expect you to be all gruff in bed, too, that's all."

Jim settled between Blair's thighs once again, this time laying himself along the length of his guide's back without apology. "No ceremony, no preamble," he muttered, shoving Blair's hair aside to lick his neck. "Just a little of the old rumpy-pumpy and you go back downstairs to get loaded, listen to some bad Sade songs and have a good cry, is that it?"

"Hey, I don't listen to Sade," he said indignantly.

"I'm sorry," he murmured, kissing his way down his guide's back. "That wasn't fair of me."

Blair squirmed beneath him, rubbing his ass against Jim's cock, and his own cock against the mattress. "And I don't--" he broke off on a gasp.

"What, Chief?"

"I don't want to talk about cheesy eighties music, man," he moaned. "Not right now. Not ever."

"So who's talking?"

"You-- ohh... Jim..." Jim smiled, nuzzling his guide between his shoulder blades. Hot and slick, his fingers met with very little resistance as they prepared Blair to receive him. Whether testament to Blair's Herculean sex life or his comfort level with his partner, Jim didn't care. He only wanted to get inside, and to hell with anyone who'd been there before.


"...jim..." he whimpered.

"Blair, listen. Whatever happens after this--"

"I'll always be your little love monkey?"

Jim snorted. "No, Sandburg," he muttered. "Well, yeah, but more than that, I--"

"Jim, I swear to god, if you say your heart will go on, it's gonna totally trash my mood, man." He sank his teeth into Blair's neck and entered him with one smooth thrust. Blair threw his head back, bucking hard. "Oh, yeah..."

Bracing himself against the bed with one hand, Jim inched the other beneath his guide and began a slow, fumbling rhythm with both hand and cock. Streaks of near-painful pleasure shot through Jim, plunging him into almost a fugue state, everything he knew redefined sexually. Flashes of memory came to him at odd intervals, a hand turning a page, a private smile, a violent argument. Everything was a turn-on to him now, even the demolished bathroom, even the look on Blair's face when he'd seen Jim seeing him with Argent. Everything.

He thrust harder, surer now that Blair was ready for him, eager. The hand was reclaimed so he could brace himself easily, crushing his guide into the mattress so he could move faster, faster. Blair howled beneath him, trying (and failing) to get enough leverage to counter-thrust. "Please," he gasped. "Please."

It was a reflection of Jim's own singular remaining thought. Please, please, don't let this be the only time, please, please... Blair's cries broke on a harsh, keening breath, his internal muscles closing tightly around Jim's cock, squeezing him. His own orgasm hit him then, a hot, heady wave of pleasure that caved in his arms, causing a welcome collapse on top of his guide.

Jim kissed Blair's neck weakly, his hips still thrusting minutely, greedily. "Blair," he murmured.

"Jim, no offense, man, but you're dead weight right now."

"Sorry," he said, rolling to his back. Blair lay where he'd fallen, face-down, eyes closed, barely even breathing. "Chief, you okay?"

"Mm. Really, really okay."

Jim grinned, stretching hugely. "You want something to drink?"

"If I do, do I have to go and get it?"

"I'm trying real hard not to be smug, here, Sandburg, and you're not helping." He mumbled indistinctly into Jim's pillow. "What?"

"I said, I never thought you'd be the one to finally take the ants out of my pants."

"That's more like it," said Jim, kissing Blair's shoulder before he got out out of bed. "What do you want, papaya juice?"

"Can I have apple juice?"

"You can have anything you want."

Blair opened one eye. "Yeah, well, you better go now, because this is starting to get cute or something."

Jim left. By the time he returned with the juice, Blair was asleep. Sighing pitifully, Jim drank both glasses and climbed into bed beside him. As soon as Jim had settled into a comfortable spot, Blair curled himself around him, making contented noises.

Too fucking cute. Oh well. Nobody has to know.


"Jim! God damn it, wake up!"

He came to gradually, blinking owlishly at the unexpected light beating at him from all sides. Blair knelt on the bed beside him, shaking him. "Cut it out, Sandburg, Jesus."

"You're awake?"

"No, Sandburg, this is all part of an elaborate dream sequence that--"

"You don't have time for that now. Get up."

"What time is it?"

"Eleven thirty, Jim," he said tightly. "We slept in to eleven thirty."

Jim squinted at the clock. "Why didn't my alarm go off?"

"You're the detective, Jim. Get up!"

"Why didn't somebody phone?" Blair looked away guiltily. "What?"

"They, uh, they did," he said. "I sort of turned the ringer off. And, uh, turned off your cell. And... my... cell."


"Well, really, if you want me to go into detail, it's not so much that I turned them off as I forgot to turn them back on, but I realize that's not going to be much of a comfort to you now, this being, uh, eleven thirty-four and everything..."

"Why didn't anybody stop by to check on us?" he demanded.

"They did," he said, shame-faced. "Simon, uh..."

"Simon what?"

"He sort of slid a blank employee termination form under the door. But he didn't sign it, Jim, that's something, right?"

"Goddamned cocksucking motherfucking son of a bitch," he snarled, rolling out of bed. He was about to leap down the stairs when he finally took a look at Blair. "Why are you naked?"

Blair paled. "Aw, Christ Jim, you told me you--"

Jim reached him in two steps, gripping his shoulders tightly. "What day is it today?"

His guide regarded him with wide, frightened eyes. "Uh, Saint Immacolata of the Sacred Pop Tarts?"

Jim blinked. "...What?"

"I'm just guessing, here, man. Help me out, all right? We slept together last night, and now you're, like, freaking out, which is kind of making me freak out, okay? I don't need this. I--"



"What... We slept together?"

He must have looked as pleasantly surprised as he felt, because Blair grinned hugely at this when anyone else would have been looking for a chainsaw. "Yeah, man."

"What day is it?"

"Jim, are you feeling--"

"Just humor me, Chief. Answer the question."




"What time do you think Simon came by?" he asked, backing Blair toward the bed.

"I don't know. The last message was around nine thirty, though, so..."

"So another half an hour isn't going to make a big difference?" Blair fell on his back, legs already spread before Jim climbed on top of him.

"He gave you a... termination form... oh..."

"He didn't sign it," said Jim, kissing him hotly.

"He didn't... Jim."

End Life Lived Like a Mentos Commercial.