**Inspired by my own hectic experiences with major university papers. :) ** *Smarm Challenge*


What Friends Are For

by Wendy Myers


Blair jerked at the booming voice, sending papers everywhere. "Huh? What?" He looked up, blinking the sleepiness from his eyes. The person that spoke was Jim, standing before him like a strong tower. Blair felt the head of embarrassment rise as he quickly realized where he was. He had fallen asleep at Jim's desk. Again. "Oh, man," he groaned. He knelt down on the floor to gather the papers and folders that had been knocked to the floor. "I'm sorry, Jim," he apologized.

Jim had noticed his partner falling asleep at his desk as he went for a refill of coffee. This had been happening a lot this week. What was happening that was making Blair so tired? He had also noticed the long hours the young man had been keeping lately. Now here was his partner, cleaning the mess on the floor like a kid afraid of further reprimand. Jim knelt down next to his partner and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Hey," he said softly. Blair stopped and looked at the detective. For a moment, Jim was taken aback by the exhaustion on the young man's face and the lost puppy look in his eyes. "I'm sorry I startled you," he apologized. "I didn't mean it." He helped Blair gather the fallen papers and replace them on the desk. "You should get more sleep, Chief," he said with a grin. "These long hours you've been keeping..."

Blair cut him off. "I said I'm sorry, Jim," he said, his voice rising. The buzz in the office stopped for a moment. Blair paused and looked down at the desk. "Sorry," he said softly. He looked up and glanced at the clock. Suddenly he cursed under his breath, grabbed his jacket and backpack and bolted out of the bullpen, heading for the elevator. "Sorry," he apologized over his shoulder to a surprised Jim and left.

"Wait!" Jim called after him. But it was too late. The young man was gone. He started to follow him when Simon called him into his office. Jim hesitated, stealing one more glance towards the elevator before heading to the captain's office. They would definitely have to talk later.


*Chug* *Splutter*

"No,no,no," said Blair despairingly. "Not now." The car rolled to a stop and died. Blair draped his arms on the steering wheel and dropped his head on top of them. He took a few deep breaths then pulled out his cell phone. He grimaced. No power. He checked the battery. Dead. "Great," he muttered. "Just great." He cursed silently and tossed the cell phone back into the backpack.

He got out of the car and pulled out his backpack. "Well," he said to himself. "Better walk to the bus stop." Hefting his backpack onto his shoulders, Blair started walking.


Jim got home later to an empty loft. Where was Blair? He looked at his watch. 8:30pm. He walked to the phone and saw the message light flashing. *That'd better be you, Chief.* He pushed the button. Blair's voice filtered through the machine.

"Jim! It's about four o'clock and I thought I'd call before you freaked. I'm at the University. I'm sorry I ran out on you today but I had a class to go to and I was late." His voice took a dejected tone. "I was late anyway. The car died on the way there and I had to walk to the nearest bus stop. Had barely enough for the bus, so I have none for a cab or bus home. So..." *Here it comes.* thought Jim. "...if you get home in time to hear this, I'll be in the library doing research...." his voice took a hopeful tone, "...if you want to come and pick me up. Thanks, Jim." *Beep*

Jim stared at the machine. Blair was at the University attending classes. Sometimes he forgot that his partner was still a student and had a duty to the University. He suddenly felt guilty about Blair's late hours. No wonder he's tired! Jim looked again at his watch. Blair should be in the library now. *Gotta talk to Sandburg about this.* he decided and left.


The librarian Jim talked to directed him to the anthropology section of the library. Jim thanked her and went there. As he reached the anthropology section, he noticed a table loaded high with thick books and a small light illuminating the table. He didn't see Blair sitting at the table because of the books, so he opened his Sentinel hearing. That's when he heard a pen scritching on paper. As he neared the table, however, he noticed that the scritching sound slowed, followed by a soft thud. When he reached the table, Jim was greeted with a soft snore. Jim smiled at the sight. In the midst of the tall stacks of books, pen still in hand, head resting on an open book, mass of curls falling over the book and papers, was Blair, fast asleep.

Not wanting to startle the young man like he did earlier today, Jim gently laid a hand on his partner's shoulder. "Blair?" he said softly. Blair stirred, raised his head, took off his glasses and blinked sleepily. When he saw the detective standing there, he jerked upright. The movement caused the books to fall. Some fell on the floor with a resounding Wham! What didn't fall on the floor, fell over onto the table. Jim winced at the loud sound of the books landing on the floor, then winced again as he heard the sickening sound of glass cracking and breaking as several books landed on the anthropologist's glasses. Then he sank down defeatedly in the chair and cursed under his breath. "Now how am I supposed to finish?" he said softly, running a hand through his hair.

"I'm sorry, Chief," Jim apologized. "When is your paper due?"

Blair sighed. "Tomorrow afternoon." He waved a hand over the mess on the table. "I was finishing up some final stuff before typing."

"How come you didn't do this earlier?" Jim instantly regretted his words as soon as they left his mouth.

Blair jumped up, indignant anger coursing through him. "I tried! But you needed me for the last case because you zoned out three times. Then there was paperwork..." His voice echoed in the empty library. "And then I had to teach several classes..." His voice trailed off as he realized how upset he was getting. He continued, his voice softer and he dropped his gaze to the floor. "I'm sorry, man. I didn't mean to jump down your throat."

Jim was speechless. The guilt he felt earlier about the juggling of both worlds resurfaced. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked quietly.

Blair shrugged and maintained his gaze at the floor. "Not your problem," he replied.

Jim was flabbergasted. *Not my problem?* Here stood a young man, who had solved many of Jim's Sentinel problems and even helped Jim on the job. Now he stood here and was telling Jim that this was not his problem?! He sighed and laid both hands on his partner's shoulder. Blair continued to look down. Jim wanted to address this confusion here and now, but didn't think that this public area was a place to do it. They would have a long talk when they got home. So instead he said, "Why don't you go to the truck? I'll join you in a minute." Blair looked at the detective with confusion in his eyes, then nodded defeatedly and left. Jim watched him leave, his heart going out to his partner as he left. Blair looked so much like a puppy who had been whipped and expected more later. Jim decided he would just have to show Blair what would and wouldn't be his problem. With that decision in mind, he smiled secretively to himself and started to clear the table.

Blair sat out in the truck, waiting for Jim to come. Now what was he gonna do? Without his glasses, he couldn't sit all night typing this paper. He neede his glasses to read his own notes. But he would have to try. The paper was a major grade for this course and Professor Vaskell had already given enough extension to get this done that he could. Blair wouldn't get another shot at this.

He stared out the windshield and noticed it had started to rain. Blair sank lower in the seat. The rain just seemed to fit his current mood. He didn't even say anything when Jim finally came out of the library and got in the truck.


When they got home, Blair headed straight for his laptop. Glasses or no, the paper needed to be done. But as soon as he got the laptop on the table, two firm hands were on his shoulders and steering him towards his bedroom.

"What are you doing?" Blair asked incredulously, trying to turn around and head back to the table.

Jim didn't stop until they reached the bedroom. "You are going to get some sleep, Chief."


"'But' nothing," Jim insisted. "Bed. I'll get you up tomorrow morning, ok?"

Blair pondered that for a moment, then nodded reluctantly. He looked at Jim, and asked skeptically, "You'll wake me?"

Jim smiled. "I'll wake you. Get some sleep, Chief. OK?"

Blair tried to stifle a yawn and failed. "OK."

Jim patted his shoulder and left.


The next morning, Blair awoke to the smell of coffee floating in from the kitchen. He rolled over sleepilly and looked at the clock. Then he sat up with a start. It was nearly noon! Why didn't Jim wake him? Now the paper wouldn't get done in time. Blair scrambled out of bed and into the kitchen to find the place empty. His laptop on the table where he left it. Maybe, if he got to it right now, he could possibly squeeze it out in time. He sat down at the table to start typing, then saw a note laying on the top of the computer. Blair picked up the note and began to read it, recognizing Jim's handwriting.

Had to run some errands. Will return shortly. You rest. Don't worry about paper.


Blair stared at the note, trying to process the last sentence. Don't worry about the paper? What did he mean by that? He looked at the table and reached out to flip open the laptop when he saw it --- next to the laptop, in a nice, neat pile, were his notes. He stared at the stack of papers before flipping on the computer. Scanning the files until he found the one he was looking for, Blair clicked open the file and found his paper, all typed and saved. Blair swallowed against the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat as he realized just what Jim had done. While Blair slept, the detective had typed his paper for him. Blair smiled and blinked at the sudden moisture in his eyes.


Jim returned a little after noon to find Blair curled up on the couch, fast asleep. He didn't mean to stay gone quite as long as he had, but the other errand took a little longer than he had anticipated. He walked over to the living room and stopped as soon as he got there, amazed at the sight. Blair was curled up on the couch, sleeping. The detective smiled as he watched the young man sleep. Blair looked so small and vulnerable in his sleep.

His thoughts were interrupted by the soft rumble of a purr. Jim looked up to see his Spirit Guide, the panther, curled up on the back of the couch, its paw resting possessively on Blair. The panther blinked sleepily at Jim and yawned, swishing its tail, then returned its gaze to its sleeping charge, still purring. Jim returned his gaze to his sleeping partner. After a few moments, Jim looked up to see the panther had vanished. Then Blair stirred.

"Jim?" Blair said sleepily. He raised a hand to rub the sleepiness from his eyes.

Jim shook himself out of his thoughts and smiled at the young man. "Yeah, Chief. It's me. How're you feeling?" he asked.

Blair sat up and stretched. "Better. Much better." He looked at Jim. "Where've you been?" He remembered the paper. "Jim! The paper...Did you...?"

Jim raised a hand to interrupt. "The paper's a done deal. I handed it in this morning first thing." When Blair relaxed, Jim reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, flat, oblong case. "And I got this." He handed the case to Blair. "For you."

Blair blinked and hesitantly accepted the gift. A gift? For him? It wasn't even his birthday. he stared at the case. It was a small, hinged case, the outer lining feeling like hard-bound leather. He ran his fingers over the small silver engraving on the leather --- Property of Blair Sandburg. He looked up at Jim, confused.

"Open it," said Jim, a sly grin crossing his face.

Blair slowly open the case. Resting on soft velvet inside the case were his glasses, repaired and looking brand new.

Jim smiled as he watched the look of surprised shock on his partner's face. "I take it you like it?" What happen next surprised even him. He wasn't prepared for the reaction as Blair leapt from the couch and threw his arms around the older man's waist, burying his face in the bigger man's chest. Jim chuckled softly as he returned the hug. "I take that as a yes."

After a few long moments, Blair pulled back and wiped at his eyes. "Thanks, Jim. Really." he said. "No one's ever done this for me before." He looked at the glasses.

"Put 'em on," Jim said, still grinning.

Blair put on the glasses and was amazed. It was as if they had never been crushed. He blinked and looked at Jim. "But how...?"

Jim shrugged. "I just took the broken pair down to the optometrist and had them fixed." He pointed to the hard-bound case. "I got that so you have a place for your glasses other than your pocket, or table, where they can get lost or damaged." He placed a hand on Blair's shoulder, getting the young man's attention. "Listen," he said seriously. "Next time you have to do something like this paper again, or anytime you're having problems, tell me, ok?" He paused. "My cases are important, but not as important as you, ok?" The detective looked into the young man's expressive blue eyes for understanding. When Blair nodded, he said, "Good." He patted Blair's shoulder, then headed to the kitchen.

Blair took off his glasses, placed them inside the glasses case and closed it, once again running his fingers over the hard-bound leather and his engraved name. He couldn't believe it. It was the nicest thing he had ever received. "Blair suddenly felt fuzzy warm all over. Why? ~~It's about friendship.~~ echoed in his mind as the reason sank in. Jim had done it all for friendship. Blair smiled.

"Where do you want to go for lunch, Chief?" asked Jim.

Somewhere in the corners of the loft, the deep sound of purring echoed, unheard by human ears.


qThe Endq

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