UNDER CONTROL





Jim Ellison knew the moment he stepped inside the loft that something was wrong.

Wrong No. 1 - The loft was dark with only the reflected light from the street lamps on Prospect shining through the floor-to-ceiling windows to provide any illumination.

Jim slowly closed and locked the door behind him. Extending his hearing, he heard Blair's heartbeat behind the closed doors of the younger man's bedroom.

Wrong No. 2 - The loft was quiet. No television. No bopping-around-the-loft jungle music guaranteed to drive a hearing-sensitive Sentinel up the wall.

Jim hung his jacket on the hook beside the door and secured his weapon. Glancing into the dark kitchen, he spotted the third wrong.

Wrong No. 3 - Nothing being cooked for dinner. Blair had been talking for several days about preparing a special chicken dinner with a recipe from Naomi.

Jim had started to walk towards Blair's bedroom when he heard the fourth wrong.

Wrong No. 4 - Blair whimpered.

Frowning, Jim eased the door open. He spotted Blair curled up into a fetal position, huddled beneath a mountain of blankets. "Sandburg, what..." He stopped when Blair whimpered again. Reaching for the nearby light switch, he flipped it.

"AAAAARRRRRGGGGGG!!!!"

Blair's scream startled the older man. He instinctively jumped back, looking for whatever had frightened his partner.

"turnoffturnitoffgodhurtsoffoffoff..."

Jim immediately flipped the switch again, turning off the overhead light. Cautiously, he approached the bed and knelt beside it. "What's wrong, Chief?" he whispered.

"Bad headache," Blair whimpered in a soft voice. "hurtssomuchhurtsjimreallyhurts..."

"Shhhh..." Jim soothed. He carefully patted Blair's shoulder, careful not to move the younger man. "Been hurting long?"

"Uh-huh," Blair piteously whimpered.

"Take anything?" Jim spotted a bottle of pills on Blair's nightstand.

"Not working...can't take anymore until this evening," Blair sniffled.

"Hospital time?" Jim guessed.

"Don't wanna don't make me," Blair whispered.

"Sssshhhhh," Jim crooned. "How about I just sit here with you?"

"'Kay." Blair winced as he barely nodded.

Jim reached forward and slipped his fingers to either side of Blair's forehead. "Try to relax," he murmured. He gently began rubbing the younger man's temples. After almost 15 minutes, he felt Blair slightly relax.

"Sorry to be so much trouble," Blair whispered.

"Sandburg, you're a babe-magnet, a trouble-magnet, a hyperactive Energizer bunny, a great partner, a best friend, and a super Guide," Jim half-smiled. "But you're not much trouble to me. Okay?" He saw Blair squeeze back tears. "Hey, buddy. C'mon. It's not like you broke the stereo." Despite himself, he glanced over his shoulder into the living room.

"Promised to go on stakeout with you," Blair whimpered. "Promised to take Jerry's class…promised to grade Jerry's midterms."

"Where's Jerry?" Jim frowned.

"Dunno…owed him favors." Blair groaned as he took a deep breath.

"Easy easy," Jim soothed. "What about YOUR mid-terms?"

"Oh, man, I gotta grade 'em, too," Blair muttered. He shifted his weight to get up.

"Oh, no, you don't." Jim gently pushed him back down on the bed. "They can wait. They're not due next Wednesday, right?"

"Umm-hmmm," Blair slowly nodded.

"Then they can wait until you feel better," Jim decided. "Now...just try to relax." He began rubbing Blair's temples again. He didn't know if he was helping, but it seemed his touch soothed Blair's nerves if nothing else. He frowned, thinking that Blair seemed to be doing a lot of Jerry's work lately. "Listen, I'm sorry I've been dragging you away from school. I hate it you owe this guy, Jerry, so many favors."

Blair slowly reached out and patted Jim's arm. "S'okay, Jim," he mumbled. "Just let so many things get away from me. Didn't know I owed him so much."

Jim slowly nodded. "Just relax, Chief. Everything's under control."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two hours later, Jim gently closed the door to Blair's bedroom. He glared at the pile of bluebooks scattered atop the coffee table. A quick search revealed them to be from Jerry's classes. Telling himself that it would be Jerry's students who would suffer if he stuffed the bluebooks into the trashcan, Jim settled for neatly stacking them on the table.

Spotting the flashing light of the answering machine, Jim turned the volume to its lowest setting then hit the play button.

"This is not a sales call. I am an automated ----"

Erase.

"Hello, I'm calling on behalf of Cacade Visa ---"

Erase.

"Hey, Blair. This is Chrissy at the Library. Just wanted to let you know that book you ordered is in. But I can only hold it until Tuesday before kicking it back into circulation. Ciao, babe."

Jim made a mental note as he saved the message to ask Sandburg which Chrissy at which Library so he could go pick up the book. No way he was letting his Guide out until he was better.

"Jim, it's Simon. Rafe and Henri picked up Henderson at the hospital a few minutes ago so you're off the stake-out. Turns out the little weasel was hiding in his grandmother's attic. Poor old lady is blind and more than half-deaf. Had no idea he was hiding up there. She thought she had mice in the attic. The exterminator accidentally sprayed him with something. See you Monday morning."

Jim saved the message so Blair could replay it. They'd been after Henderson for several weeks after identifying him as the distributor in a kiddie-porn ring. He hoped the exterminator had used something extremely nasty. At least it got him off a Friday night stake-out and gained him a free weekend.

"Sandburg. Jerry here. Listen, dude, I've got to have those exams graded today. I'll be by this evening to pick them up. You can wait until the last minute to post your grades if you want, but I've got a reputation for posting them early. And my grades are supposed to be posted before Monday morning which makes me already late in getting them up. So chop-chop, man. See you at 7."

Jim very carefully pressed the erase button. He didn't want to break the answering machine. He glanced at his watch and smiled the smile that never failed to make Simon Banks shiver. 'Just past six. Excellent. More than enough time.'

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim timed it so he opened the door just before someone smelling of too much Brut knocked on the door. He saw a young man dressed in casual chic standing there with his fist raised to knock. "Jerry, right?" Jim pleasantly asked. "I'm Jim. Blair's roommate."

"Yeah. Right. Think I heard him mention you." Jerry's green eyes looked past Jim. "Where's Sandburg?"

"Oh, sorry. Where are my manners? Please, come in." Jim opened the door. "I think your bluebooks are on the kitchen table."

Jim's eyes narrowed as the young man arrogantly strode into the kitchen. He idly calculated how much hair spray, gel, mousse, or whatever was holding every dark hair on Jerry's carefully styled head in place. "Would you like anything to drink?"

"No, man. I just need to get these." Jerry absently fingered one of the bluebooks. "So where's Sandburg?"

"In bed. Bad headache." Jim sorrowfully shook his head as he placed a hand on Jerry's shoulder. His nostrils twitched for a second, then he forced a smile. "Please. Sit down. I'd like to talk about Blair for a moment."

"Just a moment, man," Jerry reluctantly agreed. He pulled out a chair and grudgingly sat down. "What about him?"

"He's really overextended himself lately, and it's been my fault," Jim began. "You see, Blair's doing his dissertation on closed police societies."

"Uh-huh. Must be fascinating." Jerry looked completely bored.

"Oh, it is." Jim knew if Simon had seen the smile on his face, his Captain would have been barking at him to settle down. "Actually, Blair's been riding with me."

"He...what?" Jerry now looked completely confused.

"Riding with me." Jim hesitated for effect. "I'm a cop." He saw Jerry's eyes widen. "I guess riding with me has just taken too much of Blair's time. But he's a stubborn cuss, as I'm sure you know. So I need your help."

"Help? In what?" Jerry thought about the bagged marijuana in his jacket pocket.

Jim eagerly leaned forward, letting his voice drop. "I need to convince Blair to cut back a little. Obviously, he can't cut back on his schoolwork, so I need to convince him to cut back riding with me." He leaned back in his chair and smiled once again. "That's where you come in."

"Me?" Jerry raised his hands defensively. "Hey, I don't know anything about cops!"

"No, no, nothing like that," Jim assured him. "I just need to know how many times you've covered for Blair so I can figure out how much time he needs to cut back riding with me." He saw Jerry momentarily look away. "After all, I just can't arbitrarily pick a time limit. I've got to have facts to back me up." He absently patted the stack of bluebooks on the table. "Did I mention how stubborn he is?"

"Hey, nobody keeps track of actual time, you know?" Jerry quickly babbled. "We just...you know...help one another."

"Uh-huh. Well, I spoke with one of the TA's I know. Cynde. She seemed to know how much she covered for Blair and vice versa." Jim chuckled. "Actually, she owes him." He suddenly stared at Jerry with cold blue eyes. "So...give me an estimate, Jerry. How much time does Blair owe you?"

Jerry managed to keep from squirming. "Who knows?" He tried to smile. "You said Sandburg was down with a headache, huh? Bummer, man. 'Specially on a weekend, you know?" He began picking up the bluebooks. "I'll just take these, and you tell him we're all square."

Jim leaned back in his chair and smiled. "Why, that's very kind of you, Jerry. I'll be sure Blair gets the message."

Holding the bluebooks close to his chest, Jerry got to his feet and headed for the door.

"Here, let me." Jim edged in front of him and opened the door. "Sure you don't need any help getting them to your car?"

"No, man," Jerry quickly assured him, thinking about the pills stashed in a bag under the front seat. "Not necessary."

Jim smiled as he stood in the doorway watching until Jerry entered the elevator. He chuckled under his breath as he listened to Jerry cursing all the way to the ground level. After closing and locking the front door, he walked into the living room. Grabbing the phone, he sat on the couch and stretched out his legs as he dialed a number.

"Narcotics. Evans speaking."

"Hey, Frank. Ellison here." Jim extended his hearing as he heard Jerry, still cursing, drive away.

"Well, Ellison. Long time, no hear. What did I do to deserve a call from you?" Evans chuckled.

"Now, now. Be nice," Jim suggested.

"Why?" Evans demanded. "Being nice generally gets you kicked in the..."

"I need you to look at somebody," Jim interrupted. "Grad student at Rainier by the name of Jerry Caldwell. Marijuana and probably other substances as well." He heard Evans writing the information down.

"Probable cause?" Evans asked after a moment.

"I ran into the arrogant little bastard while on something else," Jim carefully explained. "He's really not part of anything I'm working on."

"Pissed you off, huh?" Evans chuckled.

"Majorly," Jim agreed. "Listen, if possible, don't take him down for a week or so, okay? If you pop him now, it might compromise my contact."

"How is Sandburg, by the way?" Evans grinned. "Haven't seen him around much."

Jim rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Evans..."

Evans leaned back in his chair. It wasn't often anybody could get the better of Ellison. "Just asking. After all, ever since he tutored my boy in Science, the kid's been making the honor roll."

"Good for Jeff," Jim sighed. "Just wait a while, okay?"

"Unless this Caldwell guy is a major player, we'll quietly investigate for now," Evans proposed.

Jim snorted. "He hasn't got the brains to be a major player. But when you pop him, he'll roll over on anybody and everybody."

"Oh, goody," Evans chuckled. "I love those tough guys."

"Thanks, Evans. I'll tell Sandburg you were asking about him." Jim got to his feet as he heard Blair softly whimper.

"No problem. I might even enjoy this one," Evans laughed.

Jim replaced the phone and quickly went into the kitchen. Moments later, he walked into Blair's room carrying a bottle of water with a straw in it. Kneeling next to the bed, he gently touched Blair's shoulder. "You can take something more now," he quietly spoke.

Blair forced his eyes open to see Jim reading the label on the pill bottle. He winced as Jim tried to quietly open the bottle and shake out two pills.

"Sorry," Jim apologized.

"Not your fault," Blair whispered. He raised up on one elbow and took the pills.

Jim held out the bottle as Blair swallowed the pills. Slipping the straw into Blair's mouth, he urged, "Drink as much as you can."

After Blair had drunk half the bottle, he gently lowered himself back onto the bed. "This sucks," he groaned as he closed his eyes.

"Yeah," Jim agreed. He put the bottle of water on the nightstand with the pills. Rearranging the blankets over his friend, Jim sat on the side of the bed. "Sure you don't need to go to the hospital?"

"Yeah," Blair weekly answered. "I think it's starting to ease up." He blindly reached out for Jim's arm and wound up patting the Sentinel's knee. "I'll be okay. You need to leave?"

"Rafe and Henri got Henderson," Jim quietly answered. "Stakeout's been cancelled. I'm off the whole weekend." He gently patted Blair's hand then put it on the younger man's stomach. "I'll tell you all about it when you're better." He watched as Blair barely nodded. "Want me to rub your temples again? Did it help?"

"Yeah, it did," Blair softly admitted.

Jim settled himself on the bed next to Blair then began rubbing his Guide's temples. "How's that?" he asked after a few minutes.

"Good," Blair whispered. "I'm sorry, Jim. Just so much to do."

"Ssshhhh," Jim hushed. "Just relax. Sleep. Get well." He smiled. "I've got it all under control."



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