The west wing gallery was an impressive place. Turn of the century architecture, tastefully renovated in the late eighties.
<Nice to know they did *something* tastefully in the eighties,> Blair thought, as he looked around. Six giant canvases were covered with heavy cotton sheets, and fitted with gold tassels for the unveiling.
Blair wandered through the exhibits, breathing in the familiar scents of old books, paintings and the smell of cleaning fluid, used to gently tease the layers of grime from the ancient artifacts, that the earth and time had preserved so well.
"Man, I love the smell of old things," he said wistfully, <Probably what attracts me to Jim,> he thought with a grin.
One of the exhibits attracted his attention. An African warrior, standing, alone, looking into the distance. The sculptor had captured the sheer loneliness of a ……sentinel. Blair had to hold back from reaching out and stroking the statue, as though by touching the effigy, he could touch the real thing.
"Everything okay, Chief?" Jim called.
"Yeah, the shutters are on the windows, all the locks are still intact," Blair answered, taking one last look at the figure before rejoining his partner.
The crowd was gathering for the unveiling. Jim stood with his back to the exhibits, watching the throng of people come together. Further along, Rafe was performing the same task. Brown and Simon stood at the main door, and Taggert checked the people's passes as they filed in.
Farrington swept in like a monarch, granting his loyal subjects an audience. "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome," he said pompously.
Blair looked up at Jim's face, seeing the familiar expression brought about by the use of his highly developed senses. Jim was sweeping the crowd.
"Our first exhibit, is from a very talented young man who is studying here in Cascade thanks to the Farrington Foundation. Miguel Sanchez's 'Cityscape'," Farrington swept the cover from the painting, the crowd applauded politely.
Blair looked around, he could see Simon's unhappy visage in the distance, glaring at a photographer who snapped away oblivious of the angry cop nearby. The same cop who had requested that no one with equipment like cameras was to be allowed in, only to be shot down by Farrington.
On the platform, Miguel was receiving his prize, a six month study trip to Italy. The young man beamed with pride. Farrington puffed out his ample chest for the official photographs.
Blair's gaze returned to his Sentinel. Jim's clear blue eyes were still roaming the crowd.
<I want those eyes to roam over me,> Blair thought desperately, <along with the hands, mouth and any other damn part capable of roaming,> he sighed, <Sandburg, what are you? Mmm? The word jellyfish leaps to mind> Blair saw Jim's eyes follow someone across the room, standing on tip-toes, he peered across the gallery. Jim was watching that pretty brunette waitress. <The bastard!> Blair thought angrily. He stepped forward to speak to his partner, 'accidentally' standing on his foot.
"Sandburg!" Jim grunted.
"Sorry, " Blair said giving Jim the 'someone just shot Bambi's mother' look, "Do you see anything *interesting*?" he asked, stressing the last word with a degree of venom.
"Nope," Jim answered.
<Liar, you just spotted a thirty eight D cup on legs,> Blair thought, with murderous intent, "Good," he said sweetly.
Two more of the prizes had been issued by the time Blair was paying attention again.
"This portrait is by one of Cascade's brightest young star's," Farrington announced, "Monica Shaw's 'Life Study'"
As the cotton cover began to slide down the canvas, Jim's eyes found Blair's, and a look that was a disturbing mixture of horror and realization, passed between them. The gasp from the crowd, quickly followed by a thunderous applause, almost deafened Jim. Blair looked up at the painting, his mouth dropped open, and he almost lost all bodily functions. There was James Ellison, in all his naked glory, almost seven feet high and in glorious technicolour.
"Oh my God, who *is* that?" a woman's voice gasped.
"Chief?" Jim said in a harsh whisper. When his guide did not answer, he reached out and gave him a shove, "Blair!"
Blank eyes blinked twice, Blair tried to focus on the sound of someone calling his name. It was Jim. The *real* Jim Ellison. "W…what?"
"Chief, tell me that's not what I think it is?" Jim said sickly.
"Oh, man. It's *gorgeous*!" Blair exclaimed. Jim shot his friend a shocked glare. "Oh, God, I wonder if they have prints?"
Jim grabbed his partner by the lapels, dragging him forward, pulling Blair into his face, "Will you get a *grip*, Sandburg," he hissed, "Will….will anyone recognise it as me?"
"The question you should be asking is, 'will I get out of here with my life'. Oh, man," Blair had developed a silly grin on his face.
"Sandburg!" Jim released Blair's jacket, and slowly turned around.
Several people in the crowd were by now pointing at the cop and whispering. Blair sniggered at the sight of his friend, partner and Sentinel, trying to slide through the cracks in the floor.
"Hey, Jim? You never told us you had a second job?" Brown's voice broke into Jim's stupor, "Or was this a freebie? You know, working for the 'community'?"
"Was it cold?" Rafe grinned.
"An' is it to scale?" Brown hooted. This set Blair off in a helpless attack of the giggles.
"Hey, Ellison, great likeness though….the face I mean," Rafe said trying to keep a straight face, but failing dismally.
Jim still stared.
"Oh, Jim," Blair gasped through sobs of laughter, "Don't zone on me now, man, I couldn't handle it."
"Oh, shit," Jim said in a small voice.
Suddenly, from behind, there was a familiar sound. "Rafe, Brown, what in God's name is going on?" Simon's voice bellowed, "Why aren't you in position?" There was a silence; "Holy shit, what is *that*?" he gasped, his deep, chesty laugh echoing through the hall, "Oh dear lord in heaven!"
"Hey, Jim. It's not *so* bad. It's very 'tasteful'," Blair said, choking back tears of mirth.
"Yeah, man. It's….artistic," Brown sniggered, "Hey, Rafe. We're working with a celebrity. "
"Is…er…is there something you want to tell me, Detective Ellison?" Simon grinned.
Jim still stared uncontrollably at the painting, "It..it's so…big," he mumbled.
Brown and Blair succumbed to hysterics, holding onto one another for support, while Rafe attempted to remain cool and detached.
Simon's grin spread across his face and almost engulfed him, "What is, Jim?" he sniggered.
"The goddamned painting, what d'you think!" Jim roared. Blair and Brown looked up together, just in time to see Jim's face turn an interesting shade of maroon.
"Sandburg? Whatever you do to keep him calm? I'd do it now," Brown whispered.
Blair nodded. He moved in close to his partner's side, pulling slightly on his lapel, he began to speak calmly, "Jim? Hey, come on, man. Look at me. You have to calm down, you don't want to zone here, it would be embarrassing."
Jim suddenly looked down at him, "You mean more embarrassing than *this*?"
"Potentially, yes," Blair said trying to reign in the smirk fighting to surface on his face.
"That is it," Jim threw up his arms, "Rafe? Brown? Just *shoot* me and put me out of my misery," he growled, pointing to the spot between his eyes, "Jeezus, what more can possibly happen to further humiliate me here?"
Blair gritted his teeth, "Jim, man. Calm down!"
Jim grabbed the hapless little anthropologist, pulling him close once more. His face was flushed and the veins in his forehead bulged and pulsated, "No. I don't want to calm down….what I'd really like to do is *kill* something!" he snarled.
In the background, Rafe and Brown backed off nervously, trying to blend into the wallpaper to escape detection by the angry cop, in case he should still be hungry after he'd eaten a civilian.
Blair slapped Jim's hand away as if swatting a fly, "Will you pull yourself together," he hissed, his voice tinged with annoyance. Brown gave an involuntary 'oh', as he prepared himself for the sight of blood. "Just be cool about all of this and no one will take any notice. Man, that portrait is a *beautiful* work of art, you should be *proud* of it," he said forcefully.
Jim Ellison stepped back, "Sorry, Sandburg," he said quietly, "this just threw me a little, you know?"
"Of course I know. Now just take some deep breaths," Blair breathed deeply to demonstrate, "and think calm thoughts. Now go back to work as if nothing had happened."
"Yeah," Jim sighed, "you're right. I over reacted," he said trying to compose himself. Suddenly he looked up at the two other cops who still stared inexorably at the interaction between Jim and his partner, "What? You two not got enough work to do?" he said with a growl.
"Hey, we're gone," Brown held up his hands in surrender, as he and Rafe slid away. "Man, you have *got* to admire that Sandburg!" Brown whistled.
"Yeah," Rafe replied, "It's like watching one of those horse whisperers with a wild mustang. You know, I read a book about horse whisperers…."
The award winners were gathering for the group photograph along with Farrington, who, for all the world looked like a benevolent school principal on prize giving night. He stood in the center of the group, his arms slung around the shoulders of Miguel Sanchez and Monica Shaw. He beamed for the camera, another slice of good publicity to balance out all those wicked rumors about his more nefarious activities.
The flash lights crashed around Jim, he turned his head away from the crowd momentarily, and saw something catch the light in Miguel's hand. Acting on pure instinct, Jim reached for his gun, just as Miguel stepped back and brought a slim knife to rest at Farrington's neck. The crowd backed off urgently.
"Don't move, Officer," Miguel said nervously, "Or I'll kill him!"
Jim moved forward slowly, "Don't be silly, kid. You'll never be allowed to leave this building with him," he said.
"I don't want to. I just want all of these wealthy and 'respectable' people to know who he is," the young man's hands visibly shook, "His corruption destroyed my village. His illegal land deals stripped our resources and bankrupt my people."
"The boy is deranged!" Farrington blustered.
"Shut up! See, he isn't even man enough to own up to how he really makes all of this fine money," Miguel pushed the knife a little further in.
"Where did he get that damn knife?" Jim hissed.
Blair, who was standing behind him, looked along the now cowering row of award students, "They gave them as prizes, Jim. It's a paper knife," he said incredulously.
"Oh, great, we do a weapons sweep, so Farrington supplies his own," Jim whispered.
Simon Banks stepped forward, his hands raised, "Come on, son. Put down the weapon and walk away," he said softly. Miguel looked nervously at all the guns pointed his way and shook his head.
"The Captain's right, kid," Jim began, "Don't waste your talent and your life on this worthless piece of shit!" he gestured to Farrington, who shot him a stormy look, "You're a talented artist, who can bring such beauty to the world, don't allow his death to taint that. You don't want to be remembered for killing this jerk, when you can be remembered for creating beauty instead."
Blair watched his Sentinel with immense pride. Hell, Jim's words would have convinced him.
Miguel's face suddenly softened slightly, "Hey, cop?" he said, "You the guy in the painting?"
Jim groaned slightly, "Yeah, kid. That's me," he said.
"Oh, man. That painting is really awesome! You are a pretty cool guy to do that, you know?" the young man smiled.
"Thanks, I'm glad you liked it," Jim said with a shy smile.
"Oh, yeah. Man, I wish I had your body," Miguel gasped.
<Hell, that's just what I was thinking,> Blair thought, <just not like you mean, kid>
"Thanks," Jim replied.
"Man, do you work out? Of course you do. What exercise program do you use?" Miguel asked.
"I'll tell you what," Jim said with a smile, "You put down that knife and come down here and I'll tell you all about it."
Miguel studied Jim for a moment, before glancing sideways at Farrington. With a shove, he pushed the large man away, "You ain't worth it," he said, before handing Jim the knife.
Jim holstered his weapon, and pulled out the handcuffs, "Sorry, kid. I have to arrest you, you do understand that don't you?" he said sadly, "But I'll see what I can do about getting a deal worked out with Mr. Charisma here. I get the feeling he doesn't exactly want his dirty washing aired in public."
"Yeah, man. Thanks. This was *so* stupid," Miguel shook his head, "Now what were you saying about your work-out routine?"
Blair watched as Jim walked away, his arm around Miguel's shoulder, giving him tips on how to build up his body. <Yeah, he gave me that lecture once,> he thought, <those exercises made me so hungry, I gained twenty pounds!>
"Well, Captain Banks," Farrington said with a degree of annoyance, "Despite allowing the danger to occur in the first place, I suppose I should be grateful to your officer for saving my life."
"Yes, Mr. Farrington. You should," Simon growled, "Since it was you who failed to notify us that a *weapon* was to be given as a prize, I think you should be *damned* grateful."
"Your officer was very rude by the way, but I suppose under the circumstances, I should let it go."
"Well, Sir. My officer isn't a politician, just a damn good cop. And considering he just prevented a major catastrophe here, I'd say that you damn well should let it go!" Simon said barely containing his anger.
Farrington grunted, "I hope you throw the book at that damn kid," he sneered.
"If that's what you wish, Sir, certainly. Of course, we do have a problem at the moment, with these type of grossly sensationalized stories being leaked to the press. I've ordered an internal inquiry into the matter, but you know how *difficult* it can be to keep secrets these days?" Simon smiled.
Farrington eyed him suspiciously, "Indeed," he said.