A Deal's a Deal
by Laura Picken

Summary: Jim's put it off long enough: Blair finally gets him into the lab. (A response to the Guide Posts "Smarm Non-Owie" challenge.)

Notes: All right, as all of you know, this one has been in the works for a while. I was going to write it as a sort of 'epilogue' to Blinded by the Light, but when the challenge came up, I just couldn't resist. This one's really short, folks, but the smarm factor is going to be quite high. And yes, folks, no owies are allowed within ten miles of this one! (I'm saving up my owie quotient for Search and Rescue-consider yourself warned).

Disclaimer: Jim, Blair, Simon, and the gang from the Cascade PD do not belong to me, unfortunately. They belong to Pet Fly Productions and Paramount. As you know by now, though, Diane McPherson and Sharon Driver are mine. You can play with them, but you have to ask me first, let me know what you want to do with them, and promise to play nice.

And now, on with the show…

The sound of two sets of footfalls echoed down the corridors of the Rainier University Physics Building Laboratory wing. One of the men, though, didn't hear those footfalls at all. He had agreed, after much pleading, prodding, and losing several bets, to a test of his senses. After the Golden incident, he didn't see why it was necessary to perform another test where he was deprived of both his sight and his hearing, but he had realized for some time that when it came to controlling his senses, the young man leading him down the hallway knew a lot more about what he needed than he did. And so Jim Ellison turned down his hearing to the point of almost total deafness, and agreed to let his partner, Blair Sandburg, put a blindfold on him.

Before they walked into the building, Blair had directed him, "Okay, Jim, I want to see how far you can extend your tactile senses. There is a room in this building that is heated several degrees higher than the rest of the rooms in the building. Your goal is going to be to lead me to that room."

So now, here he was, searching an empty hallway for a hot room. He could sense Blair following closely behind him, and he could feel the breath patterns that told him the anthropologist was talking excitedly into the tape recorder he used occasionally to take notes on Jim's experiments. He wondered briefly what his friend could be taking notes about, then he decided it was better he didn't know.

And he did owe Blair a lot. Before he had met the younger man, he thought he was going crazy. Even after he met Blair, he almost wished he simply were crazy. When his senses first emerged after he came back to Cascade, he figured that he could just go to some doctor with a string of degrees of his wall who would give him a simple explanation of what was wrong with him, give him some sort of shot or pill or something, and life would return quickly to 'normal'.

Never in a million years did he expect that the only person who would understand what was going on was some sort of long-haired neo-hippie anthropology grad student who saw him as some sort of quasi-superhero. The minute he saw that the kid actually had some idea what he was talking about, Jim had realized that his definition of 'normal' would never be the same again.

And it wasn't. But Jim knew, without a doubt, that he wouldn't want to go back to 'normal' again for all the money in the world. Even when he had been given the choice to give up his senses in Peru, he knew, deep down, that it wasn't really an option. Having these abilities gave him a perspective on the world that forced him to appreciate even the smallest of details. Together, he and Blair had been able to bring criminals to justice who would have literally gotten away with murder were it not for his ability to pick up on things that no one else would have been able to catch. And his relationship with Blair had grown from one of apprehension and disdain to complete friendship and trust. To him, Blair had become a student, teacher, mentor, kid brother, and best friend rolled into one. He couldn't picture his life anymore without the involvement of the chatterbox standing behind him.

He just wished he hadn't traded his evening for Blair's promise to clean the loft spotless, top to bottom, for the next three months. It was his birthday, for cryin' out loud! However, he didn't have any real plans for the evening, and the idea of Blair putting so much time and energy into helping around the loft was just too good to pass up. He hadn't even dropped any hints that his birthday was coming up, figuring the best present he could get would be a weekend fishing trip, by himself (or maybe just himself and Sandburg), for some true rest and relaxation. There hadn't been enough of either in their lives lately, and he was looking forward to the trip they had scheduled for the following weekend. So, resigned to his fate for the evening, he pressed on.

The Sentinel's philosophical musings ended quickly as he picked up on his target: a room, about twenty feet in front of him on his right hand side. Even from where he was standing, he could easily feel that the temperature in the room was higher than all of the other labs. He walked to what he could only assume was the front door of the lab and declared, "this is the one, chief. Now what?"

Blair took off the blindfold and Jim saw that his expressive partner was grinning from ear to ear. He let his hearing return to normal so he could ask, "chief? What's going on?"

Blair didn't answer. He simply opened the door to the lab…

...and ducked.

"SURPRISE!" [Image] Jim gawked in amazement at the huge crowd of people in the lab. It seemed like everyone he had ever known had come out for what was, evidently, his surprise birthday party. He then turned to his partner, who had an even bigger smile on his face than he did just before he opened the door. "This whole thing was _your_ idea?!"

Blair nodded. Jim then whispered in Blair's ear, "and the experiment?"

Blair spoke, but in a voice only the Sentinel could hear, "how else would I have been able to pull off a surprise this big on the one person who could hear the heartbeat of every person in this room?"

Jim had to suppress a laugh. Blair did have a point.

Blair continued, loud enough so that the few people around them could hear, "and you should have seen your face, man! It was priceless!"

By this point, Simon, Diane, and Sharon had made their way up to the door to greet the guest of honor. Knowing that the group around him would know the full meaning of the question, Simon asked, "so were you _really_ surprised?"

Jim smiled himself, "believe it or not, I was, sir."

Simon slapped his hand to his forehead in disbelief. "Incredible. Another Sandburg miracle. Where is the kid anyway?"

Jim noticed that Simon had distracted him enough to give Blair time to slip away from Jim and into the crowd. Jim was about to start scanning the room for the younger man when he jumped up on a table, microphone in hand, beer in the other, asking for the attention of the crowd. After a few minutes, the group quieted down enough for Blair to be able to speak.

"Most of you know me, but for those of you who don't, my name is Blair Sandburg. I'm an Associate Professor here at the University, and I do some consulting work for the police department. Most of you also know that if I'm here, the guest of honor, Jim Ellison, is here also." Applause, hoots, and cheers erupted from the crowd. Once they calmed down again, Blair continued, "most of you have drinks in your hands already, but in case you don't, you might want to go grab one now, since we're going to have a toast to the guest of honor."

[Okay, now this is embarrassing,] thought Jim. He started to move toward the table to pull Sandburg down when he felt Simon's restraining hand on his shoulder. "C'mon, Jim, enjoy it. What are the chances someone's going to be able to surprise you like this again?"

Resigned to his fate, Jim stood still again, all the while praying that whatever Sandburg had to say was going to be quick and not too humiliating, or else the kid was going to be scrubbing the loft for the next six months instead of just the next three.

Blair addressed the crowd, "I have been working with Jim Ellison for the past two years now. I have learned more in those two years than I had in the previous twenty-four, and I can honestly say that the majority of those lessons were taught either by Jim, or learned indirectly through getting the incredible opportunity to be around him both on and off the job. Most of you know him as a great detective, a dedicated, top-notch police officer, and a trustworthy and loyal friend. I've also had the chance to be his roommate and partner on the force, which has allowed me to see his generosity, honesty, sincerity, sense of responsibility, and sense of humor. About the only people who wouldn't say that being around Jim has been good for me would be my health insurance company."

As laughter echoed in pockets around the room, Blair looked past the crowd straight into the eyes of his friend and concluded, "I consider myself a very lucky man to call Jim Ellison a friend, and I hope that luck, at least, never runs out. Happy Birthday, man."

As the crowd raised their drinks in a toast, Jim wiped a tear from his eye, mouthing a silent "thank you" to his Guide.

Blair then addressed the crowd again, declaring, "okay folks, enjoy the rest of the party!" As the crowd started to mill about the room, Blair made his way back to his partner and the rest of their private circle of friends.

Jim spoke up first. "Chief, this is great! I didn't get to have many birthday parties as a kid, so this is the best present I could have gotten. Thank you."

Blair smiled. "You're welcome."

"I just have one question, chief. Why have the party here? Why not just have it at the loft?"

In reply, Blair simply smiled even more and pulled out a remote control. He commented, "this place, my friend, has a _much_ better sound system." He hit a button on the remote, and Jim's favorite Santana tape started to echo through the room. The volume was just loud enough for everyone to enjoy the music, but not so loud that is hurt Jim's sensitive ears. It was perfect.

Seeing the smile on Jim's face, Blair decided to seize the opportunity. "So does this mean I don't have to worry about cleaning the loft for the next three months?"

As Jim started to make his way into the party, he replied, "oh no, you're still cleaning the loft. After all, my friend, a deal's a deal."