Disclaimers: Petfly and Paramount own the boys. This snippet is not intended to infringe on any copyrights belonging to the PTBs.
Acknowledgments: My thanks go to Lola and Lisa for giving the story a once over.
"Jim!" Jesse Austin cried out in a near shout as she turned on the overhead light and spotted the police detective sitting on the couch by the far wall.
The detective squinted slightly as the lights flickered on above him. "Hi, Jesse. Sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."
"What are you doing sitting here in the dark, hon?"
Looking vaguely embarrassed, Jim shrugged. "I'm just waiting for Sandburg to finish his lecture so I can take him home."
"Yeah, but that doesn't explain why you're in the dark," she said, laying a stack of graded blue books on Blair's desk, then turning toward the detective, waiting for an explanation.
"I guess I hadn't noticed."
Jesse closed the distance between them and sat on the arm of the couch. "Does the B-man even know you're here?"
Jim looked slightly uncomfortable. "Not really."
"You know, you really shouldn't be planning on jumping out of the dark at a man on crutches," Jesse teased.
But instead of smiling, Jim's frown intensified.
Understanding came to Jesse in a sudden flash. "Aw, hon, it wasn't your fault."
"Blair told us what happened, about how you saved him from being killed by Quinn. You realize he's painted you to be quite the hero?"
Jim snorted in bitter amusement. "Some hero. He got shot."
Jesse scooted down onto the couch and took one of the detective's hands in hers. "So he has another war wound. So what? He'll just add it to the collection and use it to impress some girl down the road."
Jim smiled wanly, then frowned again. "Add it to the collection?"
Jess shook her head in amazement. "Oh, Lord, hon, don't tell me he hasn't given you the geography lesson."
"The what? What are you talking about?"
Jesse rolled her head back on her shoulders and laughed, staring up at the ceiling. "Oh, man, maybe I shouldn't say anything." She patted his hand twice then stood, not really surprised when the detective scrambled to his feet and blocked her way back to the door.
"Withholding information from an officer of the law is a criminal offense," Jim said, trying for teasing, but coming across as too intent.
Jesse studied his worried face for a moment, seeing the true concern there, and gently cupped his cheek. "Okay. Let's sit back down. This could take a while."
Jim nodded, but waited until she had sat down before he took a seat next to her.
"Now, some of what I know is fact, having been there and all, but others are just stories that Blair has told me himself. And as we both know, B sometimes embellishes a bit."
Jim nodded encouragingly, but said nothing.
"The only reason I can think of to explain why he hasn't told you this himself is because he's probably afraid you'd think he's a trouble magnet or something."
Jim's bark of laughter echoed around the room.
She smiled at him. "Where to start? Okay, we'll start at the top. You've seen the scar on his hairline, right? The one on the left side, over his temple?"
Jim sobered, then shook his head. "No."
"Well, it's hard to spot if you don't know what to look for, plus it's probably more technically just inside his hairline," Jesse explained, as she pulled her own hair back from her forehead and showed him the approximate location.
"How did he get it?" Jim prompted.
"Well, he was scalped, or almost scalped."
"What?! How? When?"
Jesse chuckled at his reaction. Departmental rumors about Jim Ellison grew faster than bacteria in a petrie dish. He was said to be a hard-ass, a man who rarely smiled. There was even speculation that he could stare a confession out of a criminal. But Jesse knew better. She had seen his eyes light up when Blair walked into a room, had seen the concern in his eyes when his friend was injured. No, Jesse knew that Detective James Ellison was a big marshmallow, at least where his friend Blair Sandburg was concerned.
"Calm down, hon. He's okay now, ya know?" When the detective's eyes were a little calmer, she proceeded, "No doubt he's told you about his time with the Kambai Tree people of Irian Jaya."
"He told me that he was the first white man they had ever seen, and told me about their homes in the trees," Jim answered quietly, nodding.
"My guess though is that he failed to mention the Kambai's mortal enemies?"
Jim smiled slightly. "Tree people have mortal enemies?"
Jesse laughed. "Yes. The Morai. Anyway, the Kambai's medicine man was quite taken by Blair and they spent weeks exchanging information. At one point the shaman and Blair left the safety of the canopy to forage for roots. While there, they were attacked by a Morai warrior." Jesse saw the fear enter Jim's eyes, even though he remained quiet. "Now the Morai would never seriously harm a shaman unless they believed they could destroy the tribe in one fell swoop because that would be the equivalent of starting their version of World War Three."
Jim nodded and swallowed hard.
"But Blair was another matter all together," Jesse said quietly. "The first time I heard him tell this story was in a bar and he told it like a big adventure and boy wasn't he lucky sort of thing. But several weeks later, I caught him in a strange mood and asked him about this experience. He told me it was swift and brutal. One moment he and the shaman were debating the medicinal properties of some root versus a flower and the next moment he was flat on his chest, his head pulled back and a knife slicing into his scalp."
"Jesus," Jim whispered, rubbing both hands over his face. "What happened?"
"He had the presence of mind to curse his attacker."
"What?" Jim asked, startled.
"I know, by 'civilized' standards it seems crazy, but he cursed the warrior's first born son and his wife. As you know, jungle Indians are very superstitious, and this warrior was surprised to learn that not only did the man he was killing know his language, but was a shaman as well. He rolled Blair over and demanded that he remove the curse. Blair refused."
"He refused. He 'knew' his life was still in the balance. He apparently was able to scramble away and started to curse the warrior himself. He told me that the adrenaline was pumping through his system and he was as mad as hell." Jesse took a deep breath and released it slowly. "The warrior was young, probably no older than Blair was and immediately begged Blair to stop. If B had been up against a seasoned warrior, my guess is our little buddy would be very dead at the moment, but this warrior was scared out of his mind. Blair stopped the curse, but when the warrior asked him to remove the curse from his family, Blair refused again and demanded the warrior bring the child to him."
"I don't think he knew at the time. He was just looking for a way to escape, for time to get back up to the canopy. Anyway, the shaman was able to get Blair back up into the trees and bandage him up."
"So what happened?"
"The next day the entire Morai tribe was at the base of the Kambai tree. It seems the young warrior was the son-in-law of the chief."
Jim shook his head. "Only Sandburg."
"Yeah. Well, the chief wasn't too happy to learn that his favorite daughter and grandson were cursed."
"I can only imagine."
Jesse leaned forward. "Well, as you know, our Blair is very quick on his feet." When she saw Jim nod, she continued, "He ended up tying the curse into peace between the tribes."
Jesse laughed. "After making a huge production of thinking things over, Blair declared that as long as there was peace between the Morai and the Kambai, the curse would lay dormant, but the moment a Morai shed innocent Kambai blood, both daughter and grandson would die within twenty-four hours."
Jim shook his head in amazement.
"You want to know the crazy thing?"
"The crazy thing?" Jim laughed. "You mean crazier than this?"
Jesse nodded. "Caitlin Pinney and Jeremy Griffen went down last summer. The peace is still in effect."
"No. In fact it's one of the things they studied. You know, Blair's violation of the prime directive, if you will." Jesse chuckled.
A knock at the door interrupted any further thought as another grad student barged into the room. "Hey, Jesse. Hey, Ellison, right?"
"Cool. I'm Collin. Burg was supposed to give me his notes from last week's seminar. Any idea where they might be."
"Don't," Jesse shouted as she stood up, "touch anything. Let me look. In the meantime, you can tell Jim about the time you and B got caught in that coup in Sumatra."
"Oh, man." Collin shuddered, running his hands back through his short blond hair. "I've never been so scared in my entire life. If it hadn't been for Burg I would have been killed for sure. There we were..."
Blair Sandburg hobbled down the hallway on his crutches, trying not to think too much about the pain in his thigh. A part of him wished he had listened to Jim's suggestion of taking the next couple days off, but he knew, realistically, that he couldn't. He had too many obligations, bullet wound or not.
He briefly debated the practicality of taking a short nap in his office before he started grading the blue books from Friday's quizzes and decided against it. All he wanted to do was to get home, put his leg up, grade his exams and let Jim mother-hen him just a tad. The thought made him smile.
He fumbled for the door handle and moved awkwardly into his office, where he was engulfed in a giant bear hug. After an initial second of panic, he realized it was Jim holding him.
"Hey, buddy, what's up?"
His sentinel didn't respond, just simply continued to hold him tight. At first Blair remained stiff, but as time passed he gently melted into the embrace. The minutes ticked slowly by but the hold did not loosen.
"Jim. Jim, are you okay? What's going on?"
Blair could hear the older man sigh quietly into his hair. Although Jim didn't release his hold, he did answer. "Jesse came by with Friday's tests. She even graded them for you. All you have to do is enter them into the system. Collin came by and picked up your seminar notes. Janice dropped off your photocopies for tomorrow's lecture. Bobby dropped off a box of disks he said he owes you. Sharon wants her notes from Wednesday's seminar back as soon as you can find them, and Todd wants to know if you'll cover his 102 class on the eighteenth."
"That's not what I meant." Blair leaned back, and searched his friend's face. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Jim said, finally releasing him.
Jim simply nodded.
"Cause you look sort of pale."
"Speaking of pale, pot."
Blair laughed. "Yeah, well, since you're here, how about you take me home?"
"Sure, since I'm here and everything."
"Did you say Jesse graded my tests?" Blair asked, hobbling toward his desk.
"Yes. She said she had a few free hours last night. Although she did mention something about your owing her two now."
Blair chuckled. "Hell, with the way I feel right now, I'm willing to owe her three. But don't tell her that."
Jim took Blair's backpack. "Mums the word."
"Cool. Let's get out of here."
"And I'm never letting you out of the loft again."
"What?" Blair asked in startled laughter.
"Don't question it, just accept it."
Blair grinned brilliantly at his sentinel as he hobbled through the door. "Hey, who's arguing."
"I'm not kidding, Sandburg."
"Did I say you're kidding? I didn't say a word."
"I'm never letting you out of my sight again."
Blair turned and looked at him, and gave him a quirky smile. "Hey, I love you too, man. I love you, too."
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