Gen.  Rated PG.  Someone takes an interest in Jim and Blair's friendship.     

Most heartfelt thanks to my beta, Trish.  I was the last one to read the final version, so any mistakes are mine.


(c) Dec 2004 by Charlotte Frost


When Cindy Shoemaker walked into his office, Blair decided to end his telephone conversation.  He noted her snug white sweater as he said, "Yeah, Sidney, I agree. Two freshman classes next semester should do it for me. Hopefully, both in the morning."  So I can be with Jim in the afternoons.

Sidney started in again about how he hoped the new textbook for Anthro 101 would be an improvement.  Blair smiled politely at Cindy as he composed his lie. "Hey, Sidney, I've got to run. A student just walked in."

That did the trick and Sidney ended the conversation.

Blair hung up and smiled widely at the TA who taught chemistry. He and Cindy had met last semester in the cafeteria. She had short, bouncy, dark hair, a chest that looked great in tight sweaters, and a petite body in Levis that called to him.

He'd answered that call numerous times since then. Sometimes he didn't even have to take her out first.

She liked him that much.

"Hey, Blair," she greeted with her cheerful smile, carrying her books and teaching materials the old-fashioned way, in the crook of her arm.

"What's up?" he asked, standing and then coming around his desk.

"Just thought I'd stop by and say hello. I'm meeting with my department head in about an hour. I know he had a conference first and those usually run over."

Blair leaned back against his desk, his hands in his pockets. "Did you want to get a coffee or something?"  Or maybe make use of the sofa in the corner?

She shook her head and plopped down into the nearest chair. "No, I just had lunch. I thought about watching my soap live, but I'm afraid I wouldn't get to my meeting in time."

Blair nodded but didn't comment. One of Cindy's odd quirks was that she was fanatical about a certain afternoon soap opera. She usually recorded it, but some days she could watch it "live" and considered that a special treat.  He'd occasionally joined her for viewing - live or recorded - and she'd fill him in on the background of all the characters and plotlines. Sometimes he felt a little funny about it, the way she'd get so passionate as she talked.

"I'm worried about Frederick," she said now, getting that intense look on her face. "He's good friends with Jeffrey, who used to be a big bully."  She pursed her lips. "I'm not sure that it's healthy for Frederick to be buddies with Jeffrey. Jeffrey pushes him around a lot - like Frederick is his little slave, and Frederick doesn't even seem to realize it."

"Well," Blair said cheerfully, trying to ease her seriousness, "I'm sure that they can handle their own friendship. If Frederick gets fed up, he'll break off his friendship with Jeffrey."

She looked up, as though pleased at his interest. But then the frown was back. "Sometimes people don't realize when they're being used. I think Frederick thinks so little of himself that he'd rather be pushed around by Jeffrey than lose the friendship. It's a dysfunctional relationship."

Blair couldn't help but grin. They're only make-believe, he wanted to protest. But that wouldn't make a dent with Cindy.

Suddenly the doorway was filled with one anxious Jim Ellison. "You ready, Chief?"  He glanced at Cindy and forced a smile. "Hi, there."

"Jim, you remember Cindy Shoemaker."  Blair was sure that Jim didn't - he'd only met her twice - so clueing him in as to her name saved Jim from any embarrassment.

Jim nodded at her. "Of course. Cindy."

"Hi, Jim."

"Sorry to interrupt," Jim said, turning to Blair, "but Blair and I need to be somewhere."

Blair picked up his backpack. "Let me grab a couple more books."  He moved to an end table with a stack of textbooks.

Jim's hand was on the door. "Come on, Chief. We're already late."

"Hold your horses." Blair let the stack fall to one side while he grabbed the book he was looking for. He glanced over his shoulder at Cindy. "Sorry to kick you out, but I have to lock this door."

"No problem," she said, getting up.  

"Chief?" Jim huffed while Blair rummaged through his bookcase for the book he knew had that nice little chapter on the symbolism of the Pueblo Indians. It would be perfect for the paper he was writing.  "We don't have time for this. Let's go."

"All right, all right," Blair relented. Wouldn't get to it tonight anyway. He threw the textbook into his backpack and started toward the door. He smiled at Cindy, who was still hovering near the doorway that Jim filled. "Catch you later."

She nodded, smiling back.

Finally, Jim stepped back and Cindy exited. Blair pushed the button of the lock and closed the door behind him, flinging his backpack over his shoulder.

"I expected you to be waiting outside," Jim said as they started down the hall.

"I was going to, but a student needed to talk to me, and then the phone rang and it was my department head...."


Puzzled, Blair paused and turned toward Cindy's voice from down the hall.

"See you around," she said, her expression now grim.

"Yeah," Blair called back, wondering what made her appear so serious. But Jim was striding ahead, so he quickened his pace to catch up.

"Student or TA?" Jim asked as they walked.

"TA. You've met her before."

"Hard to keep up with them all sometimes."

"Jim!" Blair mock protested.

"Not that I blame you," Jim went on with an admiring grin. "She's a looker."

"Yeah," Blair replied with enthusiasm.

They emerged into the sunshine of the afternoon. The pickup was double-parked with the motor running.

As he opened the door to the passenger side, Blair asked, "What's up that we're in such a hurry for?"

"We need to interview a witness before he leaves for his flight."

Blair fastened his seatbelt. "Then let's go!"

From a sociological standpoint, Blair thought soap operas were interesting - both in the way the characters interacted and in how viewers got so obsessed with the dramas.  

He and Cindy found themselves with free time late Friday afternoon, so he had agreed to come over to her apartment near campus to watch the video of that day's episode. Hopefully, things between them would get interesting afterwards.

Jim, in the meantime, had a required quarterly meeting with all the officers of the PD - something Blair had been more than happy to bow out of with a gleeful, "Since I'm not really a cop or employed by the PD...."

Blair sat two feet away from Cindy, careful to not touch as they watched the episode. This was her "thing" and she wasn't responsive to any personal attention from him. She did, however, make sure he was up on each new plotline and character introduced.

As she fast-forwarded through the final commercial break, she glanced at Blair and said, "See what I mean about how Jeffrey treats Frederick? He's like some dog for Jeffrey to kick around."

Blair had to think about that. He didn't have any particular feelings about Frederick and Jeffrey's friendship. He shrugged. "Seems like typical guy stuff to me."  He grinned at her, teasing, "Men behave differently together than women do, you know."

She snorted.

"Besides," Blair said, "Jeffrey is doing Frederick a favor by getting him a job at the firm and helping tutor him for his bar exam. He doesn't have to do that. Seems like a pretty equal relationship to me."

She didn't reply as she pressed the remote so that the final act between a quarreling brother and sister played out.

The credits rolled and Blair smoothly inched closer. Not caring that he wasn't being subtle, he reached out and put his arm around her shoulders.  "I've missed you."  He'd seen her around, but it had been at least a couple of weeks since they'd slept together.

She clicked off the TV and settled back against the sofa, making it easier for him to shift closer and tighten his embrace.

He leaned close and kissed her cheek, appreciating the mild application of her perfume, and nuzzled her ear. His breath got heavy as his body prepared for the score that was at hand.


Damn. She had that 'serious' tone in her voice that said her thoughts were churning.

He'd been with her enough to know that all he could do was wait for her mind to shut down. Trying to distract her only served to make her more disagreeable.

So he relaxed back, spread his legs to give himself more room, and massaged her sweater-clad shoulder with his fingertips. "What's wrong?"

She gazed at the empty television screen. "Your friend Jim...."


Blair's desire disappeared.  She'd only met a Jim a few times. Was she really interested in him?

"What about him?" he asked, struggling to keep the annoyance out of his voice.

She looked directly at him. "Last week, when he came to your office to get you  -- "


"The way he talked to you - he sounded disrespectful."

"What?"  He tried to remember the day she was talking about. He remembered Jim coming to his office to pick him up - they'd had to rush to question a witness before he left on a flight - but other than that, he couldn't remember any details about the day. "What about it?"

"The way he was telling you to 'hurry up' and stuff," she said with sincere concern. "He doesn't seem like a very nice person."

Blair sputtered. "Jim is an A-1 decent guy."  He forced himself to smile reassuringly at her. "I know he's sort of... grim and stuff.  He can be difficult to get to know. But he has a heart of gold."

She didn't seem impressed. "He was bossing you around."

Her determination to bad-mouth Jim gave Blair an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. What business was it of hers anyway?

He tried to recapture his feelings from a moment ago and brushed his thumb against her lip. He whispered, "I think there's a lot better things we could be doing than talking about my roommate."

But she was looking at him with the penetrating glare that said sex was the farthest thing from her mind. "Blair?"

He sighed loudly. "What now?"

Her eyes narrowed. "Where did you get that bruise?"

Blair's hand reached up to his right cheekbone and pressed. He was surprised there was still a bruise. Only someone looking at him closely would notice. "The other day, my face got in the way of another cop's elbow. He didn't know I was sitting in the chair right behind him when he stood up and moved his arm."  Simon had been so apologetic.

"Jim?" she asked knowingly.

Blair blinked. Now they weren't going to have sex because he no longer had a desire to.  "No, it wasn't Jim," he said tersely. "And what if it was? It was an accident."

He suddenly realized how he sounded, how he was falling into her trap. Wasn't that what physical-abuse victims always said? Their bruises were from accidents?

And what was he doing explaining himself to somebody who didn't know the first thing about himself and Jim?

He realized he'd shifted away from her. "Look, Cindy, I think you've gotten your soap opera mixed up with reality. Jim and I aren't Frederick and Jeffrey - not that there's anything 'wrong' with Frederick and Jeffrey's friendship that I can see."

Smoothly, she said, "You've got it backwards. I've been deliberately bringing up Frederick and Jeffrey to you because I was hoping you could see a parallel of some kind with you and Jim. I was trying to give you an opening to talk about it."

Her arrogance was one of the reasons he knew he could never fall in love with her.

He got to his feet and grabbed his jacket. "Talk about with you?" he taunted. "So you could 'save' me?"  

"If the things I've said are wrong, you wouldn't be getting so upset."

God, she could be such a stubborn brick wall. "You know why I'm upset?"  He realized his voice was rising and that irritated him more - that he was giving her a performance that she had manipulated him into. "I'm upset because Jim Ellison has saved my life more times than I can count on one hand. The last thing I need is to be saved from him."  He drew a breath. "How dare you dirty his name with your suggestions."

She looked at him as though he were pitiful. He headed for the door, but hovered, wishing he could come up with a final word to get through to her. And then was irritated with himself all over again for even stooping to defend Jim to her.

"Goodbye, Cindy," he said, slamming the door behind him.

Fuck. Jim took the plastic container of tuna fish out of the refrigerator. Holding his breath, he opened the lid and dumped the contents down the garbage disposal.

So much for his anticipated dinner. Maybe he should have stayed and eaten at the quarterly meeting. But he always hated all the phony socializing afterwards while everyone chowed down on the less-than-appetizing food brought in by cheap caterers.

The door opened and in walked an aura of anger and hostility.

Intrigued, Jim watched Blair drop his backpack to the floor and divest himself of his coat. "What's the matter with you?"

Blair hung it up and barely glanced at him. "I can't deal with you right now, man."  He headed for his room.

What did I do?

Just before reaching his room, Blair suddenly turned. He demanded, "What do you overhear people saying about me at the station?"

"What?"  Jim held up a hand. "Whoa, Chief. We have an agreement."  He was never going to tell Blair what women said about him and get in the middle of his love relationships.

Blair stepped closer to the kitchen. "I'm not talking about that. I want to know what other people say about me. The guys. I don't need to know specifically who said what, but I want to know what they're saying."

Blair's tone was so demanding that Jim found himself answering without considering whether he should or not. "They say... you're smart. Resourceful. Courageous. You talk too much. You're cocky. Your long hair is an overcompensation for your height."  Jim shrugged uncomfortably. "Some think all your womanizing is an act and you're really bi or outright gay. And... you know... I've overheard one or two say they think you and I are doing it."   Surely, Blair wasn't so naïve that such suggestions would surprise him.

Blair look relieved, which puzzled Jim all the more.

Jim reached into the refrigerator and took out two beers. "What's this about?"  He offered one to Blair.

Blair took it. "They don't see me as... like... your little pet dog or something?"

"What?"  Jim shook his head, putting his unopened beer aside. "Where is this coming from?"

Blair also set his unopened beer on the counter. He pushed his hair back and sighed heavily. "I'm sorry. I'm just pissed off."  He looked up.  "I was with Cindy. You remember - ?"

Jim indicated his chest. "The one with the - "

"Yeah, the one who looks incredible in sweaters."  Blair turned to one side, shaking his head. "She's got this whole fantasy built up in her mind that you're, like, abusive to me."

"Abusive!"  Jim realized that he'd nearly shouted. "Why didn't you just set her straight?"

Blair turned back to face him across the stove, looking angry. "Why should I have to? I mean," he abruptly deflated, "I was so caught off guard. It's like you go through life seeing yourself a certain way - and assuming others see you that way, too - and then one day you find out that other people really see you completely differently than you thought... and that way isn't very flattering at all. In fact, it's downright pathetic."  He drew a breath. "That's why I had to ask you that. I wondered if there's other people who see me as some little mutt dog you kick around."

Jim didn't know how to respond - then realized that what other people thought wasn't the issue. "Do you think I kick you around?"

"No!" Blair responded sharply. Then he waved a hand. "Sorry."  Another breath. "I mean, Jim, you can be a real prick to live with sometimes."

And you aren't?

Blair pushed his hair back again. "But, man, does she think I'm such a wuss that I'd let myself put up with you treating me in a way I wasn't agreeable to? Like I'm too weak to be responsible for my own decisions about whom I'm friends with?"  His jaw firmed. "It's so insulting."

"Why are you letting one person's opinion get to you like this?"

Blair suddenly looked sheepish. "Well, you know, I like being with her."  He straightened. "And she always speaks so confidently - like she knows what she's talking about."  Pause. "I only fell for it a second though."  His expression grew distant. "She's the one who's got some real problems. She's all worried about these two characters on a soap opera she likes."  He glanced at Jim. "She thinks one of them is 'mean' to the other, like you are to me."  Shrug. "They just seem like two ordinary guys to me. You know, bullshitting and hassling each other to show how much they care."  He presented a shy grin.

Now that Blair was smiling Jim reached for his beer and twisted off the cap. "I don't think women relate very well to male friendships. They don't understand that we treat each other differently than they do their friends."

Blair nodded. "Exactly."  He grabbed his own beer, this time grinning widely. "We don't go out shopping together to 'bond'."

Jim took a swig and then chuckled.

Blair also took a sip, then said quietly, "I don't think I can see her any more. Not with knowing that she sees me as some sort of pitiful wuss who's too stupid to realize that my mean ol' roommate treats me like shit."

Jim shrugged. "Maybe I'll make a play for her then."  She did look really good in sweaters.

Blair's face fell. "You wouldn't."

Jim grinned. "Sure. Why not? She can tell me how abused I am by my roommate."

Blair snorted, bottle poised at his lips. "Yeah, right."

"It's true, Chief." Jim leaned on the counter. "My senses have to deal with spoiled food left in the refrigerator; wet, clammy towels on the bathroom floor; gastrointestinal noises at a heightened volume. And speaking of volume, what about all the times when I tell you your music is bothering my hearing and you laugh at me?"  


Jim nodded, warming to his subject. "Remember when I had wax cleaned out of my ears and noises bothered me twenty-four hours a day? You thought it was fun. And whenever we approach a witness with loud music playing in their apartment, you're bobbing your head right along with it and think it's funny that my ear drums are being split apart."

Blair's face fell to such a degree that Jim wondered if he genuinely felt guilty. He hadn't meant to make him feel that way.

"Come on, Jim, it's not that bad. Besides, you can always turn down the dials."

Jim straightened. "All I'm saying, Chief, is that you're a prick to live with sometimes too."

The grin was back. Blair held out his beer bottle. "Then let's drink to the two pricks."

Jim clinked his bottle against Blair's. After sipping, he quipped, "Cindy sounds like the kind of person who might be agreeable to running a sentinel abuse program."

"Sentinel... abuse?"  Blair chuckled.

"Yeah.  Since I'm an abused sentinel, maybe you ought to be the first client in her twelve-step program. You can learn how to treat me right."

Blair shook his head, muttering under his breath, "What a baby."

Jim was willing to accept the rebuke since Blair had apparently worked out of his funk. He sipped his beer.

Blair glanced around the kitchen. "Did you eat at the meeting?"

"Just a little. I thought I'd put something together, but the rotting tuna fish you left in the refrigerator took away my appetite."

"Oh. Sorry."  Blair was thoughtful a moment.. "Want to try that new Cuban place on Eighth Street?"


They moved to the coat rack.

As Blair put on his jacket, he said, "Jim? Do you really think I'm insensitive when it comes to your hearing?"

Blair pulled his coat snug after getting out of the truck. The wind had a sharp bite that added to the unpleasant drizzle.  Securing his backpack around his shoulder, he said, "See ya," and slammed the door.

Jim waved and eased away from the curb.

Curling his fingers beneath the cuffs of his coat, Blair braced himself for the walk across campus to the library, where he was meeting with a couple of students who needed extra help.

He caught sight of a good-looking figure in the distance, her coat unable to hide the perfection of her shape.

She noticed him and started heading his way, her expression contemplative.

"Cindy," he greeted as pleasantly as he could with his body braced against the cold.

"Hi Blair," she said softly. "I guess I kind of blew it the other day, didn't I? I came on a little strong."

He felt better that she had made the first move, but it didn't soften his feelings. "Yeah, you did. My relationships with the other people in my life are nobody else's business but mine. And they definitely don't need 'fixing' or interference from anyone else."

She pursed her lips. Then, "Would you like to get a coffee?"

He nodded toward the library. "I have to meet a couple of students. Some other time."

She nodded, as though the firmness of his tone told her all she needed to know. "Guess I'll... see you around sometime."

"Yeah."  He started to move off, but then realized he had more to say. "Cindy."  He waited until she looked back at him, her expression hopeful.  

"Since you're so into unsolicited advice, here's mine:  When you start feeling like you know all about what's 'wrong' with somebody else's friendships, maybe that's a clue that you ought to be taking an extra close look at your own."  

She regarded him sadly. He wasn't sure if it was because he'd hit a sore point, or that she was sorry he didn't have anything more pleasant to say.

"See ya."  He moved off.

He was eager to meet his students at the library. Then his afternoon class after that... and then he'd be able to make the evening stakeout with Jim.



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