IN DEFENSE





Simon Banks curiously looked around the loft as he sat down on the couch. "I figured Sandburg would be hard at work practicing for his dissertation defense." He looked over his shoulder into the kitchen where Jim Ellison was arranging nachos, dip, and beer bottles on a tray. "He's not here, is he? He didn't have to leave! We could have watched the game at my house!"

Jim grinned as he brought the tray to the coffee table then sat on the opposite end of the couch. "It's okay, Simon. He needed a break anyway. Besides, as I understand it, he's engaging in a specific ritual."

"Do I dare ask?" Simon grunted.

Jim shrugged. "All I know is that it involved a group of Blair's friends and fellow ABD's, food, booze, music, and...well, frankly, I didn't want to know anything else."

"Three days before the defense?" Simon dipped a nacho in the bean dip. "I thought the partying happens AFTER the successful defense."

"Then, too," Jim solemnly nodded. "This is just to let him blow off some steam and get his mind on something else. He’s been stressing this defense ever since his committee allowed him to change topics to the one about closed police societies." He shook his head. "I swear, I think his brain was starting to go around in circles."

Simon grunted a second time. "So what's new?"

Jim chuckled. "I've got a phone number to track him down if necessary. And he promised to call for a ride if he drank too much. He'll have a couple of days to get over it and give his brain a rest. Not to mention giving ME a break."

-------------------------------------

The Jags played hard and looked to make the fourth quarter an honest game. Both Jim and Simon were looking forward to the close game when the front door opened.

"SHHHHHSSHHHH!!!!! Jim's sleepin'."

Both men looked over their shoulders to see Sandburg trying to shush two young men. He wasn't having much success because each young man had one of his arms slung over their shoulders.

"C'mon, Blair. Let's walk to the chair, okay?"

"SHHHHSHHHH!!! Told ya....oh, hey Simon! Jim's sleepin', ya know."

Simon tried not to smile. "Actually, Sandburg. Jim's sitting right here. We're watching the game."

"Oh." Blair's blue eyes blinked in Jim's direction. "You sure? 'Cause that doesn't look like Jim."

Jim sighed. "Well, I'm sure, Sandburg. How much did you have to drink?" He glared at the two men who were helping Sandburg fall onto the chair.

”Uhh….well, we gotta go now. Good luck, Blair."

"You betcha!" Blair tried to snap a salute at his two friends but wound up smacking himself on the forehead. "Owwww," he muttered.

"I hope whoever's driving is sober?" Simon growled.

"Yes, sir. We always have a designated driver." The two men began quickly walking towards the exit. "Night!"

Jim shook his head and walked across the loft to lock the door.

"Easy, Simon! Cheryl's driving." Blair leaned forward and nearly fell out of the chair. Catching himself, he continued, "She never drinks. She's got somethin' wrong with her lil' tummy. Can't handle alc'hl. One drink and she starts spewin'. Like in the Ex'cist."

"Now there's a pleasant visual," Jim muttered as he walked back towards Blair. "Come on, Sandburg. Let's get you to bed."

"No! Wanna see the rest of the game!" Blair defensively curled up in the chair.

"Let him stay, Jim," Simon softly murmured. "He'll be out soon. I'll help you get him to bed."

Jim reluctantly nodded. "No shoes on the furniture, Chief."

Blair kicked his shoes off and wiggled into a more comfortable position on the chair.

Jim winced as Blair's shoes hit the wood floor with a double 'thump'. He slowly sat down and tried to relax.

Halfway through the fourth quarter, Simon heard Blair begin to mutter under his breath. Trying to ignore the younger man, he attempted to focus on the game.

Hearing the same mutter, Jim sighed. "Here we go again."

Simon glanced at his friend. "What?" Then he looked at Blair.

The young anthropologist was uncurling himself and waving his hands in the air.

"The dissertation defense," Jim softly identified. "He can't let it go."

"Maybe if we let him practice it," Simon suggested with a glance at the television. "After the game."

"He's practiced it for days, Simon. Trust me, I've heard it so much that I could probably give it," Jim groaned.

"Too dry. Too dry. Gotta find a way to spice it up. Carlos had some great ideas on how to do that,” Blair babbled.

Jim glared at his roommate. "Why don't you sleep on it, Sandburg? I'm sure it'll come to you tomorrow...when you're sober."

"No...no...no..." Blair waved his right index finger in Jim's direction. "I can 'member it. I gotta a good memory!"

"You've got a great memory, Sandburg," Simon soothed. "But maybe you just need to give it a rest."

"Huh? Rest?"

"Yeah, a rest," Jim quickly added. "So you'll be sharp for the defense."

"Sharp...sharp...no that wasn't it," Blair frowned. "Why can't I 'member, Jim?" He stared at his partner in shock. "Oh, my God! I'm losing my mem'ry!"

"Sandburg..."

"Well, that's it!" Blair slammed his hands down on the chair's armrests. "It's all over! I can't defend my disser...dissert...I can't defend if I've got am'esha!"

"Sandburg, you don't have amnesia!" Aggravated, Jim snapped the television off.

"I don't?" Blair blinked his blue eyes. "Really?"

"Really! I'm sure you can remember it if..." Jim suddenly stopped speaking.

"I just need to go over it again! Great idea, Jim!"

Jim looked at Simon. "Run while you have a chance, sir. I'm done for. It's our home, and I can't leave him alone in this condition."

"It can't be that bad," Simon bravely answered. "Just relax. After all, I haven't heard it."

Jim glanced at Blair who had gotten to his feet. "As you say, sir."

"Simon, Jim's a little irr't'ble. I don't thin' he's gettin' 'nough sleep," Blair hissed. He knelt on the floor next to the coffee table. "Can I ask your adv'ce?"

Simon tried not to laugh at either Blair's earnest expression or Jim's scowl. "Of course, Sandburg. Ask away."

"The diss' my future, man. A 'flection of my 'bil'ty. Should I check ID's and ask for a cov'r charge?"

Both Simon and Jim stared at the younger man.

"I mean, I don' wan' anybody hear'n this who shouldn't, ya know?"

"I understand, Sandburg. But wouldn't the professors know if there was an unauthorized presence in the room?"

Blair blinked twice in rapid succession, then enthusiastically nodded. "They should! So if they're doin' secu'ty, no cover charge!"

"Excellent reasoning," Simon gravely nodded.

"What about charg'n for coffee? Ya know, just to cover my costs?"

"I wouldn't bring coffee," Jim grunted. "You wouldn't do that when you testify in court, would you?"

"Hmmm....no. But it might make the judges a little nicer," Blair pointed out.

"Can't argue with that, Sandburg. But Jim's right. No coffee."

"Tea?"

"No!"

Blair glared at his roommate. "No need to shout, Jim! It's late! You'll dist'b the neighbors!" He ignored Jim's sputter and looked at Simon. "How ‘bout if I make my d'fense inter...interac...inneractive!"

"Really?" Simon questioned with interest. "How?"

Blair clumsily got to his feet. "Mus'c'l accomp'nment! By Fiona Apple!"

Simon shook his head. "Too distracting. They'll be too busy listening to her rather than you."

"Yeah, they might miss something you're saying," Jim added.

"Yeah," Blair slowly nodded. "Guess that leaves out Hendrix, too, huh?"

Jim nodded, then glanced at Simon and muttered, "I can't believe you're going along with this."

"You'd rather argue with him?" Simon muttered in reply.

"Puppets!"

The two men on the couch looked at Blair in surprise.

"I can use puppets to vis'ly dem'nstrate my points!" Blair scratched his head. "Wond'r where I can get some good lookin’ puppets real fast?"

"No puppets," Jim hurriedly spoke. "You can't control enough of them to make all your points."

"And you don't want anyone there who shouldn't hear your defense, remember?" Simon added.

"Oh, yeah. Woulda been fun, though." He hopefully looked at the two other men. "Mime?"

"NO MIME!" Both Simon and Jim shouted.

"SHHHHSHHHH!! Man, the neighbors'r gonna call the cops!" Blair warned, waving his hands in front of him. "Hey! Hey! What about leadin' them in the WAVE whenever I make a good point?"

"Too juvenile." Simon tried not to chuckle. "You want them to take you seriously, right?"

"Oh, yeah! Abs'lutely, man!"

"Are all these suggestions from your friend, Carlos?" Jim asked, rubbing a hand across his forehead.

"Yep! My buddy, Carlos. But he did have one bonehead idea."

"Just one?" Jim muttered.

"I am NOT gonna charge the mound when Prof'sr Bourne asks me a stupid question." Blair firmly shook his head. "Nope, not gonna do it."

"Good decision," Simon nodded approvingly.

"But I WILL ask 'say you call THAT a quest'n? Who'd you screw for them to make ya a profes'r?" Blair attempted to put his hands on his hips but would up smacking himself in the stomach. "Owww...that hurt, man."

"I think you should maybe think about rephrasing that one, Darwin," Jim suggested, smothering a laugh.

"I know! I know! Man, not even Carlos thought a-this one!" Blair's eyes widened in pleasure. "Interpretive dance!" He tried to stand on his tiptoes, but overbalanced.

"Sandburg! Watch..."

*CRASH*

"Owwwwww..."

Both Jim and Simon helped Blair to sit back in his chair. Blair glared at the coffee table and rubbed his left shin.

"No interpretive dance, Sandburg," Jim firmly ordered in a no-nonsense tone of voice. "You will present yourself to your Committee, and you will defend your dissertation in an adult professional manner. Is that understood?"

Blair slowly looked up at Jim's stern face and nodded. Then his blue eyes sparkled. "I gotta a new intro." He cleared his throat. "In protest of our government's systematic and brutal oppression...AWKKKk!"

Simon sighed. "Jim, I don't think Sandburg can breathe with your hand over his mouth like that."

"On the contrary, sir," Jim calmly disagreed. "If he's getting enough oxygen to be able to wave his arms around like that, then he's getting enough oxygen to breathe."

-------------------------------------

"Thanks for coming with me, Jim." Blair nervously played with his tie.

Jim calmly moved Blair's hands away and straightened the tie. "It's not a problem. You'll do fine. Just take some deep breaths and center yourself."

"Trying to tell the master how to do his job?" Blair feebly joked even as he began to breathe deeply.

"Whatever works, Chief. Whatever works."

"Blair Sandburg."

Both men turned to look down the hall at the open door and the associate professor who had called his name.

"Knock 'em dead, Sandburg. You can ace this one."

Blair grinned at Jim's quiet encouragement. As he slowly began walking down the hall, Jim heard him whispering his opening.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your time today."

Blair glanced over his shoulder to see Jim watching. With a grin, he continued, "As I dim the lights, please hold hands and concentrate so that we may channel the spirit of Jerry Garcia." He chuckled at the shocked expression on Jim's face.

The Sentinel then ruefully shook his head and sat down on the bench in the hallway. He watched Blair hesitate at the open door, then walk into the room with his usual enthusiastic bounce.

Then Jim began softly laughing. "Whatever works, Chief. Whatever works."



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