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OK usual stuff: Their not mine. I just borrow them.

This is for Angie, hope it helps with your smarm fix, and anyone who has ever suffered through finals week.

Not Betad. * indicates thoughts

Study Break

By Lila R. Kulp

Jim lay in his bed staring at the ceiling. He couldn't sleep. Blair was staying up late again. This was the third time in as many days that his roommate had foregone sleep for the sake of school. It wasn't the constant scratching of pen on paper or the clicking of the keyboard on Blair's laptop that kept the Sentinel awake. It was the knowledge that his Guide was trying to stretch himself past his limits.

This happened every semester. As finals got closer Blair would stay up later, eat less, and gradually lose his bounce. After three years Jim could easily recognize the signs. Even the guys at the station noticed. They would give Blair more space, bring him coffee without being asked, and do more of their own paper work. Even Simon eased up on his gruff façade.

Jim tried to do what he could to help. He made sure that his roommate at least ate on a regular basis. He didn't want a repeat of the first year where Blair had collapsed in the bullpen from exhaustion and hypoglycemia. He didn't pressure the kid to come to the station, and even avoided discussing cases with him, hoping that his friend wouldn't worry and feel guilty about not helping as much as he thought he should. Still, Jim felt like he should do more, but short of handcuffing the kid to his bed so that he'd get some sleep, the detective didn't have a clue.

With that image in his head, Jim finally drifted off to sleep.

Jim woke with a start. He quickly scanned the loft and found his Guide still grading papers, though the pen was not scratching a furiously as it had earlier. The Sentinel then turned his thoughts to what had caused him to wake up so suddenly. Remembering the dream, he wondered, not for the first time, why was his spirit guide so damn cryptic. Was it a spirit guide thing or a cat thing? Probably both. Maybe after a shower and breakfast it would make more sense. It was almost time to get up anyways.

Jim was standing under the hot stream of water, letting his mind and body relax, when the pieces of his dream clicked into place. Blair needed a study break. He quickly dried off, eager to put his plan into motion. The first step was a call to Simon.

Blair looked up from the paper he was trying to grade. His tired mind took in the rising sun and the numbers on his bedside clock. He had hoped to be done with these papers an hour ago so that he could take a nap before starting on his own term paper. As it was now, he wouldn't get any sleep and would need to grade at least one paper every two minutes just to keep his self imposed schedule, and that wasn't likely.

He sighed tiredly and resumed his previous analysis of the paper in front of him. The grad student heard his friend moving around on the on the other side of the french doors and felt a twinge of guilt that he hadn't spent as much time at the station as normal. * I'll just have to make it up to him later, * he thought to himself. He glanced at the clock again and noticed that, so far he's spent four minutes on just the one paper and wasn't even done yet. Once again he heaved a tired sigh and returned his gaze to the paper in his hands and resumed his grading.

Blair had just gotten through the introduction, for the umpteenth time, when the doors to his room flew open and Jim rushed in.

"Come on Chief. We don't have much time." The police detective rushed up to his partner, took the pen and paper from his hands, and began pulling him off the bed, all the time keeping up a running monologue. "I know you have papers to grade and stuff, but this is important. It's something that can't be put off any longer." Jim was now guiding the young man down the hall to the bathroom.

"But Jim…," protested the grad student once his groggy mind was able to grasp what had just happened.

"Nope, not a word Sandburg. Just get in the shower. I've got breakfast started. I'll explain later."

Blair tried again as he was shoved into the bathroom, "I don't have…"

"I don't hear the water running." Jim was already headed back down the hall towards the kitchen.

Blair just stood there for a moment, his tired mind trying to focus and process. * Maybe a shower would help clear my head. *

Once Jim heard the shower, he returned to Blair's room and retrieved a clean set of clothes an deposited them in the bathroom where his friend would find them. He then quickly packed all of the papers and text books that his partner had scattered on his bed into the ever present backpack. Quickly scanning the room, he added a couple of Blair's notebooks and laptop and placed the backpack by the front door.

Blair had to admit that after the hot shower and dressed in clean clothes he felt immensely better. With that thought in mind he headed back towards his room ready to dive back into his grading. Before he reached his destination, Jim appeared in his path.

"Uh-huh Chief. Breakfast is ready and on the table." Jim took Blair by the arm and steered him towards the dinning room table. He again kept up a running monologue not giving his Guide an opportunity to weasel out of what the Sentinel had planned. "And don't give me that look. You've got to eat something. Would you rather take fifteen minutes to eat a delicious breakfast or spend half the day at the hospital with an IV stuck in your arm and the doctors ranting about low blood sugar levels?"

Now that Blair thought about it and could smell the food, he realized that he was hungry. * I'll just have a quick bite now. Then I won't have to take a break later. * Without offering any resistance the grad student sat at the table and ate the food that was placed in front of him.

Jim kept an eye on his roommate as he ate. When he noticed that Blair was almost done with what was on his plate, another pancake would appear, along with more juice and toast.

Blair noticed Jim's surveillance and the convenient timing of the additions to his plate, but decided to humor his roommate. He know that Jim tried to give him extra space during finals, but he also knew that Jim Ellison could only stand by and watch for so long before his mother-hen-mode kicked in. Hopefully now that he had indulged the older man he could get back to business and Jim could stop hovering for awhile.

"That was great Jim. Thanks. It really hit the spot." Blair got up and put his dishes in the sink. He turned towards his room and grading when once again Jim blocked his path. This time directing him towards the front door.

But this time the grad student was in better condition to resist.

"What's going on Jim?"

* Oh great now comes the hard part.* "I don't have time to explain now Chief. I'll tell you everything once we get there." Jim tried to keep his voice urgent but not desperate.

"Dammit Jim. I don't have time for this. I've got papers to grade, as well as a paper of my own to write. And as if that wasn't enough I have an exam this afternoon. What is so damn important that I have to drop everything?" Blair could hear the irritation in his voice, but he didn't care. Surely Jim understood that now was not the time to push his buttons.

The Sentinel pulled himself up to his full height and took a deep breath in preparation for playing his trump card. He looked his Guide in the eyes, trying to judge the young man's reaction. "Chief, do you trust me?"

* What? What does that have to do with this? * Blair answered almost without thinking, "Of course, but…"

'No buts. Do you trust me?" The Sentinel's gaze never wavered.

* Why are we doing this now? I don't get it. He knows I trust him with my life. That no matter what kind of trouble I get into, he'll get me out. But this isn't some psycho killer. This is finals. Yeah, finals suck, but that's how the life of … a … student… Ah hell! He had to pull out the big guns didn't he.*

Blair looked up into the eyes of his best friend, "Yes Jim, I trust you."

Without another word, Jim handed Blair his jacket and ever present backpack, and followed his young friend out the door.

Once they were in the truck and on their way to some unknown destination, Blair tried again to find out what was going on. "So, Jim, can you give me a hint here? Does this have something to do with a case you're working on?"

"Nope."

* Well that was a lot of help. * "Is it something to do with your senses? Man, I'm sorry I haven't been able to help much lately. You should have told me."

"No, nothing like that, Junior. My senses are just fine."

"Then what?"

"You'll see."

* Arrgh! He can be sooo aggravating. *

The rest of the ride was quiet. Blair was trying to sort out just what his partner was up to

and Jim, well Jim doesn't talk much.

Fifteen minutes later, the familiar blue and white Ford pickup pulled up in front of the Cascade Botanical Gardens. It was originally some rich widow's own private indoor park, but now it was open to the public.

Blair turned to ask Jim why they were here, but Jim was already out of the truck. He had grabbed a bag out of the back and was headed towards the entrance.

Halfway to the door, Jim turned around and saw his friend still sitting in the truck with a blank expression on his face. "Are you coming Chief?" The kid just blinked and began to climb out of the truck. He couldn't help smiling to himself, * When finals are over I'm going to hide all his books and handcuff him to his bed. *

Jim led the way into the building and along the paths that wound around groups of plants of various types and colors. Blair, as always, was looking around, trying to see everything at once. He even stopped a few times to smell some of the flowers.

Finally Jim stopped. They had reached a large grassy spot that had been set up for picnickers. He opened the bag that he had been carrying, pulled out a blanket, and spread it on the grass. "You've been working hard lately," he started as he sat down on the blanked and motioned for his partner to join him. "So I figured you could use a study break. You know, a hot shower, a good meal, and some fresh air."

"This is great Jim, and I really appreciate it, but we can't stay long. I have to get back and finish grading those papers so I can work some of my other stuff."

"Look in your backpack." The detective was ginning from ear to ear.

"What?"

"Did I stutter? Look in your backpack."

Blair did as ordered and felt his face turn bright red. Jim hadn't been dragging him away from doing his schoolwork after all.

"I figured a change of scenery couldn't hurt. Plus I've got the day off so I'll hang around and keep you on task." Jim explained and reached out to ruffle his friend's hair.

Blair's grin was as wide as Jim's. He said a quick thanks and resumed the grading that had been interrupted an hour and a half earlier.

They spent the rest of the morning at the gardens. Jim read a book while Blair worked on various projects for school. Whenever the grad student fell asleep with his face in a book the detective would wait thirty minutes then wake him. When Blair's focus wondered they would take brief breaks walking through the park or just talking. Jim had even packed sandwiches for lunch.

Blair quickly finished grading his student's papers. And by the time they had to leave for the university so that he could take his exam he had a large chunk of his own paper written.

While Blair was taking his test, Jim ran the recently graded papers over to the Anthropology department so that the grades could be posted and the students could pick up their papers.

"Hey man, today was great! Thanks." Blair was practically bouncing as he and Jim clean up after dinner. He'd managed to not only get his work done, but he hadn't wiped himself out doing it.

The older man just shrugged his shoulders, "What are friends for?" Then drying his hands on a towel he continued, "So how much more stuff do you have to do before finals are over?"

Blair took the towel from Jim and dried his own hands, "I just have to finish up my own paper and turn it in the day after tomorrow." He grabbed his backpack and headed towards his bedroom. "If I work on it some tonight I can probably have it finished and turned in by tomorrow afternoon though," and disappeared behind the french doors.

A wide grin spread across the Sentinel's face as he reached for his handcuffs and followed his Guide into his room.

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