Originally printed in Sentry Duty #11

Standard fanfic disclaimer: not my characters, just borrowed, purely non-profit, yada yada yada.

Rumors

A prequel to "Graduation" in Sentry Duty #10

Susan M. M.

"PC 187," Blair Sandburg announced. The curly-haired police cadet sat on the couch, surrounded by six of his fellow cadets.

"Murder," Felipe Pereda called out triumphantly.

"PC 211," Blair asked. He was a dark-haired man in his late twenties, older than most of the others in the room.

"Armed robbery," said Ben Lawrence.

"What about 261A?" Blair asked.

Tamika Johnson spoke up. "Attempted rape."

"PC 459?"

"Burglary," announced Felipe and Todd Napier simultaneously.

"OK, guys, good job," Blair congratulated his study group. "But it's getting late. I think we ought to call it a night."

The other cadets agreed.

"Classes start too early," Erica Rice complained. "Why can't the academy start at nine, or better yet, ten?"

"Crime doesn't punch a time clock," Roger Jeter pointed out. He looked like he stepped down from a police academy recruiting poster: tall, muscular, curly blond hair, green eyes, and a face that made grown women drool. "What are you going to do if you're assigned to night shift once you get your badge?"

"Sleep all day," Erica retorted.

The others laughed and traded good nights.

"I'll help you clean up," Roger offered.

"Thanks," Blair said. "I appreciate it."

Together they gathered up the empty soda cans and the potato chip crumbs. Since Blair's roommate/landlord, Jim Ellison, was out on a stakeout, Blair had dared to break the house rule of no food in the living room. Now he and Roger had to clean well enough to hide all the evidence from a sentinel whose eyes could spot the smallest crumb and whose nose could smell the slightest scent of chips and soda. Blair wondered if he should light some scented candles to distract Jim.

"Thanks, Roger," Blair said when they finished. "It goes a lot faster with two."

"Actually, I stayed after because I wanted to talk to you in private."

"Oh?" Blair sat down on the couch and gestured to Roger to do likewise. "Something about class?"

"No, but I appreciate the study sessions and the tutoring." The younger man grinned wryly. "I don't dare ask a question in class for fear of wreaking the Jeter image."

Blair nodded. The Jeter family had been the Kennedy family of the Cascade Police Department for four generations. Roger's great-grandfather had been chief of police. His grandfather was currently deputy chief. His father was a captain, and most of his uncles, aunt, and cousins were decorated officers. Roger was doing very well in his academy classes, but Blair was one of the few people who knew how hard he had to work. Most of their instructors and classmates just assumed it came naturally to him, as part of the Jeter legacy.

"I've heard rumors about you and Ellison," Roger said quietly.

"Hey, I told you guys when the academy started, I don't want to talk about the sentinel thing. No comment, OK? The whole thing …was a mistake," Blair lied.

"Not that. The other rumors." Roger laid his hand on Blair's knee. "Are you and Ellison …exclusive?"

Blair's blue eyes widened a second as he realized what Roger was asking. He gave his classmate a sad smile. "I'm not monogamous, but I am exclusively heterosexual. Sorry."

Roger shook his head. "Damn. I'm sorry, Blair, I can usually guess better than that who …." His voice trailed off, and he removed his hand from Blair's knee. "I hope I haven't – that I didn't –"

"I'm not offended, and I'm not embarrassed," Blair assured him. "But you and I can never be more than friends."

"Are we still friends?"

"Of course. Just not," Blair remembered the current euphemism, "not friends 'with privileges'."

"You're – you're not going to say anything about this, are you?"

"Nobody else's business," Blair told him. "But it's nothing to be ashamed of."

Roger sighed. "Tell my parents that. My father can't understand why a son who's macho enough to play football and lift weights is gay. My mother still thinks I'll get over it if I meet the right girl."

Blair nodded. "Parents can be a real drag, can't they?" He loved his mother, but she could drive him crazy at times. A half-smile crossed his lips as he mused that Naomi Sandburg would've had no trouble with him being gay, but it had taken her a while to get used to him being friends with a 'pig,' let alone becoming one himself.

"Well, now that I'm done making a fool of myself, I guess I better go." Roger ran a hand through his yellow curls.

"You didn't make a fool out of yourself," Blair reiterated. He remembered a line from Blake's Seven –"Those who trust can never be betrayed, only mistaken" – and wondered if Roger would appreciate the quote. "It's copasetic. But it's getting late. I'll see you in class tomorrow."

"Bright and early," Roger agreed.

"Early, yes. Bright, I can't promise." Blair was not a morning person.

Roger smiled. "Good night."

"G'night." Blair walked him to the door. "And don't worry. I won't tell anyone else –" About your preferences? That you're still in the closet? " – what you told me."

"Thanks. And I won't tell anyone that you lied about Ellison … Guide." Roger shut the door behind himself.