P.A.F (Purple Alien Frogs)

Blair stared at his partner for a long moment. "What did you just say?" he asked, his voice husky with emotion and disbelief.

With a half-smile that threatened to become a grin, Jim repeated himself. "I was wondering if you wanted to get married."

After another long look a smile slowly spread across Blair's face and he answered, "Well, yeah." With an almost feral smile, Jim nodded. "I was hoping you'd say that." Silently Jim walked around to stand behind Blair, still seated in the kitchen chair. He rested his hands on Blair's shoulders, and squeezed gently. "This is gonna be perfect." His tone was very soft.

Blair reached up and covered Jim's hands with his own, tilting his head back to rest against his lover's body with a happy contented sigh. Jim cleared his throat. "Uh, Blair, since you've fond out my surprise a bit early... maybe you could help me with a few of the questions for the insurance forms?"

"Sure, man," he answered in a distracted tone, turning his head to the side and rubbing his cheek against Jim's hand. "Shoot."

"Well... I got most of the medical stuff from your records at the hospitals you keep getting admitted to--"

"You've been admitted almost as many times Jim," Blair pointed out. "I am *not* some sort of walking disaster area."

Jim laughed. "Easy, Chief. I'm just saying I was able to get some of the information I needed because you've already given it so many times already. But I'm missing a few important pieces," he continued quickly as Blair opened his mouth in response to 'so many times'.

"Like what?"

"Well, things like family history. I know you can't me anything about your father's side of the family," he said carefully. "But if you can fill out what you *do* know..."

Blair shifted uncomfortably. "I can't. Even on my birth certificate it says unknown."

"Well, that's not a problem. I mean, legally we'd just need a copy of your birth certificate and you can fill in what you know about Naomi's side of the--" he broke off as Blair suddenly stood.

"Well there's not a lot to tell there really. No major conditions or illnesses that I know of. Do you really need my birth certificate for insurance forms? Isn't that excessive paperwork?" Jim heard the younger man's heart start to speed up as Blair started to pace.

"The insurance company is pretty strict, Blair -- it's full coverage. If you're going to leave an entire section blank you have to provide documentation to show why. What's the matter, don't you have a copy of your birth certificate?"

"Don't be ridiculous. Of course I have a copy. Everybody has a copy of their birth certificate -- why wouldn't I?"

"Then we can photocopy it, and get this thing filled out."

"Okay fine. I suppose you want me to go get it right now?" Blair's tone was defensive and all his vital signs told that something had gotten him worked up.

Jim cocked his head. "Blair… it's just a simple bit of paperwork. Why are you getting so defensive?"

"Defensive?" Blair echoed. "I am *not* getting defensive. I just don't see the point to it all. I mean it's obvious I was born right? I mean I'm standing here. Why do they need to see a piece of paper to verify it?"

Jim grinned. "Not defensive, huh? Then why are you yelling at me about a 'piece of paper'? What's the matter, you afraid I'll find out what your footprints looked like when you were a baby?" Jim made a face like he was planning something nefarious.

"Who said anything about being afraid?" Blair shot back as his heartrate spiked again.

Stepping closer, voice dropping, Jim answered, "You *are* afraid." He sounded surprised -- then suddenly his tone changed. "This isn't your way of saying you're already having second thoughts?"

"*NO*!" Blair answered immediately, vehemently. "I love you Jim and I'd never have second thoughts about anything to do with us. It's just--" he broke off with a sigh, running a hand through his curls.

"Just what? Blair, what's the big deal about a birth certificate?" Jim had begun to sound placating, soothing. Then his eyes narrowed. "Unless you've been lying about something that'd be on the certificate. Like not knowing who your father is?" His grip on Blair's arm tightened.

Blair's eyes widened and he paled. He opened and closed his mouth a few times but nothing came out.

"That's it, isn't it?" Jim's grip tightened even further but he ignored Blair's protest. "You've lied to me, haven't you?" He was glaring, now, clearly angry.

Blair tried to pull out of the older man's grasp. "Jim, you're hurting me," he said in a small voice.

Jim responded by giving the other man a hard shake. "You did, didn't you?" He was nearly yelling. "You lied to me... what else have you lied about, Blair?" When there was no immediate answer Jim let go and stepped away in disgust. "What made me think I could trust you? Hell, I was going to *marry* you!"

"Was?" Blair repeated, his voice small and lost. He wrapped his arms around himself as he stood there shivering from reaction. "Jim, please, let me explain..." he pleaded.

Jim suddenly walked into the kitchen, opened a drawer and pulled out some rope. Silently he stormed back and faced Blair and without a word grabbed Blair's wrists and began wrapping the rope around them.

It took a few seconds for the younger man to find his voice. "Wha-What are you doing?"

"I'm going to teach you a thing or two about telling lies. A lesson I hope I won't have to repeat." With that he turned, got something from the fridge, and brought it over to Blair. It was long, black, and moving.

"Uhhh...Jim... " Blair began warily, moving backwards as Jim headed toward him. "Just what were you planning on doing with that- that-"

Jim placed the squirming thing on Blair's lap and stood back. Slowly it began to crawl along Blair's legs, then twined itself around to inch up Blair's torso.

Blair yelped and tried to shake it off only to have it twine itself tighter. "Jim! Get it off! Pleeeeease... Come on man, this isn't funny! JiiiiiiiiM..."

Jim began laughing as the worm crawled its way up Blair's body. "Look at you, Blair. Freaked out over a little mushroom?"

"Mu-mushroom?" Blair stuttered, eyes getting wider as the worm got closer to his face.

"Maybe you'd like a little protein with your veggies?" Jim asked, and held his hands out. There, sitting in the palms of Jim's hands, were two round, bulbous, purple frogs. The antennae on their foreheads bobbed, glowing faintly yellow and smelling of sulfur.

Blair eyed the creatures warily, worm temporarily forgotten. "Wha-What are those?"

Jim moved closer, and the small creatures bobbed cheerfully. There was a faint noise which almost sounded familiar.

"What are you planning on doing with those?" Blair asked, taking a step backwards, eyes never leaving the purple amphibians.

The soft sound grew louder as Jim raised his hands until the purple, slightly glowing things were nearly in line with Blair's eyes. The 'ribbeting' was clear, now. Jim smiled. "You're supposed to have all the answers, Darwin. You tell me."

"Come on man, this isn't funny any more." Blair took another step backwards and went sprawling as his foot caught on the edge of the carpet.

Jim stopped, and looked down with a distinct sneer on his face. He dropped the frogs and they landed on Blair's chest where they happily took up residence, ribbeting loudly now. Jim just shook his head.

The grad student yelped as one of the frogs hopped towards his face. "Jim?!" He could feel himself on the verge of losing it, feel himself start to hyperventilate as a full-scale panic attack began to take hold. That's when he heard the laughter. Stunned, he looked up at his lover. Jim kept laughing as he crouched beside Blair.

To Blair it felt like someone had kicked him in the gut. "Jim?" he asked in a small voice, the hurt at his lover's actions or lack thereof plain to read in his expression and tone.

"Blair?" Jim had stopped laughing and was just gazing at him.

Blair blinked in confusion as Jim's voice seemed to come from behind him. He closed his eyes, no longer caring about the strange creatures that were crawling over his chest; he was dealing with scarier things now. "I'm sorry Jim," he whispered. "Please, don't hate me."

"Blair? Love, come on, now." Jim held his mate tighter, rubbing one hand up and down Blair's arms, which the younger man had wrapped tightly around himself.

"...sorry... didn't mean to..." Blair murmured, pulling himself even tighter into a ball.

"Blair, sweetheart, wake up." Jim gave him a slight shake, hating the sound of desolation in his lover's voice. He leaned over and kissed Blair's cheek, resting his head up against Blair's own. "Love, it's all right. I don't hate you. Wake up, now."

Blair suddenly froze and two dazed blue eyes blinked up into Jim's. "Wha-" he started then stopped to clear his throat and tried to speak again. "Jim?"

"It's all right, Blair. Are you awake now?" Jim squeezed him tightly, worried at the look of fear and rejection he saw so clearly on Blair's face. He leaned forward and kissed his lips lightly, wanting to banish it.

Blair made a small sound in the back of his throat when Jim's lips touched his, then wrapped his arms around the older man tightly, holding on for all he was worth. Jim responded by easing himself gently into a better position to hold his lover, scooting one leg underneath Blair's. "It's all right, love." He continued to whisper softly until the shaking began to fade.

Finally Blair relaxed and released his stranglehold on his lover. "Sorry, Jim," he apologized, not meeting the other man's eyes. "Didn't mean to lose it like that." His cheeks were flushed with embarrassment at his reactions.

"Don't apologize, Blair. Anyone can 'lose it' when they have a nightmare." Jim made no move to let go of Blair. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Blair shrugged, pulling away and flipping over to lie on his back. "Man it was weird," he said, staring up at the ceiling.

Jim settled in again, staying close as he could and leaving both arms still wrapped around his lover. "Weird how?" He was glad the first word was 'weird' and not 'awful' or 'creepy'.

"Purple alien frogs weird. Or maybe they were mutants or something but they definitely weren't your garden variety frog."

"Purple alien frogs?" Jim looked down at Blair. "Blair, what--" he stopped himself, and went back to what he'd heard. "Blair... what do frogs have to do with you asking me not to hate you?" He said it carefully, as easily as he could... ready to hold onto Blair in case he tried to bolt.

A flash of alarm shone bright in Blair's eyes for a second before it was quickly suppressed. "I said that?" he asked, his heart rate spiking belying his calm exterior.

"Yes, you did. You said my name a couple times -- that's what woke me up. Then you said you were sorry, and asked me not to hate you." Jim stared directly into Blair's eyes, gone wide with denial.

"Weird," the grad student replied with a shrug. "Well, you know how dreams can be -- everything gets mixed up together. For some reason I had you mixed up with the frogs. I don't know why..." Blair sounded totally convincing, enough to fool almost anyone. Almost anyone who couldn't hear how his heart was racing as he spoke.

The Sentinel rested his head against Blair's, temple against the soft, badly-needing-be-brushed hair, and closed his eyes. "I love you, Blair. Nothing will ever change that. You don't have to tell me the dream if you don't want to."

Blair sighed, relaxing into his partner's touch. "It's not that I don't want to," he began hesitantly. "It's just, just..." He broke off as the rest of it rang in his head. 'You'll hate me.'

Jim held his lover close, hoping that he could figure out a way to convince Blair to trust him with this. Reassurances? Reverse psychology? Hold him upside-down over the railing? "Blair, I love you."

The grad student shook his head. "You don't know me," he whispered, not meeting his lover's eyes.

Confused, Jim asked, "Don't know you? Why do I have to know you? I mean, any more than I do now? I know what kind of person you are... isn't that enough?"

"I'm not Blair Sandburg." The words were said so faintly that only sentinel hearing was able to distinguish them.

"You're not Blair Sandburg?" Jim repeated the words, obviously not understanding why Blair would be telling him this. "You've kidnapped him and taken his place?" he ventured, hoping this would not turn into some horrible, gruesome plot.

"Just the opposite really." Blair took a deep breath and made his decision. "I was the one kidnapped."

Jim stared down at his lover for a moment, and realized that whatever it was Blair was talking about, he was serious. He considered getting them both out of bed and downstairs for some tea, so he could tackle this -- whatever it was -- with a clear, semi-objective head. Instead he gave Blair a strong cuddle, and asked, "You want to explain that to me?"

"Naomi isn't my real mother." He looked up and met the older man's eyes. "Jim, promise me you won't go off the deep end here, at least not until you've heard the whole story?"

"Why would I go off the deep end? Blair, what's--" He stopped as he felt Blair tense, and start shaking. He began rubbing his hands along his mate's back, trying to soothe him.

"Just promise okay?" Blair demanded in a shaky voice. "This is going to be hard enough without you going all judgmental on me."

"Okay, I promise." He avoided using Blair's name, suspecting that had been what had made him jump, before. He wondered, though, what could possibly be wrong that Blair would think he *would* be so... unless it was about his being a Sentinel?

Maybe he'd lied about it just being his thesis project? Jim tried to rein in the paranoia that threatened, telling himself that even if it had begun under false pretenses, their relationship *now* was honest. At least, he'd thought so until now....

Blair relaxed slightly once he had Jim's promise. Then taking a deep breath to steal himself, he began. "Like I said, Naomi isn't my real mother. She... well she says 'rescued' but you'd probably say 'snatched' me from my real parents. That's why we moved around so much, one of the reasons anyway."

In an instant Jim thought of all the possible reasons a child would have to be rescued, snatched, whatever from his parents. He found his arms tightening in his hold on his lover, wanting to protect him from the past he didn't even know. Yet. "I'm sure she had a good reason." He sounded calm, and he was surprised to find he almost felt calm. Naomi would not have stolen a child without a good reason. A reason which meant something awful for Blair....

"She did," Blair confirmed, knocked a bit off his stride by his mate's calm reaction. "They-- my real parents-- were into some really bad scenes. Drugs, guns, bombs, the works. I mean they weren't necessarily bad people themselves -- just chose the wrong way to make their points. Well maybe they *were* bad, they got people hurt and killed after all but at least they weren't doing it just for kicks or something. They really believed in what they were doing, even if it was wrong."

Jim let this information register. He knew exactly the kind of people Blair was talking about, the kind the Feds had task forces to track down.

Still not quite sure what this had to do with Blair, though, he asked. "So why are you afraid I'll hate you? You're weren't a part of it."

Blair shook his head. "Don't you get it, man? I've lied to you from the start. I've lied to everyone. I'm not who you thought I was. I've willfully withheld knowledge of a crime. Kidnapping. Mine. I know how you feel about things like that. Why shouldn't you hate me?"

Bewildered, Jim tried reasoning with his distraught lover. "Blair, why would I hate you? It sounds like your parents were dangerous people. Why would I be mad because you'd been kept safe from them?"

"You don't understand," Blair said, his frustration evident. "Naomi didn't take me to keep me safe from them, it was to save me from myself!" He sighed and looked downward. "I used to help them."

"You helped them?" Jim repeated, incredulously.

Blair nodded, still not meeting Jim's eyes.

"You mean... what do you mean?" Jim shook his head suddenly, and sat up, releasing Blair only slightly as he did so. He'd felt Blair's muscles tensing, as if to make an escape and he wasn't about to let Blair out of his grasp until this thing was explained. "So you helped them? Helped them do what, exactly?" He needed more facts before he could start figuring this out.

Blair shrugged. "I... used to deliver... things for them. Packages. Sometimes drugs, sometimes other stuff. At least once I think the package I delivered was a bomb. I was the perfect person for the job. I mean, nobody suspects a kid right? When Naomi took me, it was because my Dad was starting to teach me how to use a gun."

It wasn't at all what Jim expected. Twelve hours ago, all he had been thinking about was filling out some paperwork without Blair's knowledge so he could spring his surprise.

Now, he was hearing -- 'Am I hearing this?' he asked himself -- that Blair was not Blair Sandburg, and he had spent his youth as the lackey for activist parents. Violent, activist parents. Parents who would use a child to commit felonies for them.

"Blair, how old were you?"

"When Naomi took me? Eight and a half." He glanced up into Jim's shocked face for a split second before looking away again. "I was precocious, what can I say?"

"You were running drugs, learning how to shoot a gun, before you were even eight?" Jim couldn't believe it. He wanted to find these so-called parents and explain to them exactly the meaning of the word "parenthood".

"As I said, I was precocious." Blair's tone was bitter and he curled in on himself tighter, waiting for the inevitable explosion.

"God, Blair, no wonder Naomi rescued you." He pulled his mate in, trying to unwrap the tight ball he'd just put himself in. "What in the world were they thinking, putting a child in that kind of danger? What sort of 'point' did they think they were making? A statement on how not to raise a kid?"

"You-You're not angry?" Blair asked, stunned. He was sure that once Jim knew who he was and what he had done that everything would fall apart.

"Of *course* I'm angry! I'm mad as hell! If I ever find those two, I'll… I'll...." Jim tried to think of an appropriate method of dispatching the people who had done their best to corrupt their son. He realized what an amazing job Naomi had done, taking a boy already eight and turning him into someone as wonderful and loving as Blair. He'd have to call her the first chance he had, and thank her. Profusely. He looked at his stunned lover. "Blair? Blair, did you really think I'd blame you for any of this?"

"Why wouldn't you? I was responsible. I knew what I was doing. Hell, I *asked* to be allowed to help." He shook his head. "I didn't understand, man. About the people that got hurt. I just knew that I wanted to be like my parents."

Jim sighed, and prepared himself for a long, difficult talk. "Blair, love, listen to me. All kids want to please their parents. They think that, if they love their parents and their parents say they love them back, then whatever those parents tell them to do, is good. Do you remember what you told me, about my relationship with my dad?"

Blair nodded. "He set you in competition with your brother. It's not the same thing, Jim."

"But do you remember what you said to me? I was mad at myself for ever wanting to please him, for even trying. You said I had no choice, I was a kid and I loved him. That's the way kids are. Do you blame me for trying to beat Stephen, so I could get my father's praise?"

"No, of course not!"

"Well, why should I blame you for doing the same thing? Granted your parents were a lot worse than my father—"

It was gradually dawning on Blair that the explosion he was waiting for wasn't going to happen. "So… you're okay with this? This doesn't change anything?"

"What should it change?" Jim was back to being bewildered.

"I thought, if you knew the truth..." Blair shook his head, a slight smile coming to his lips. "Guess I was wrong."

Jim smiled, and gave his lover a kiss. "Blair, don't you know by now...." He shook his head, wondering if he ought to admit this.

"You could do anything, be anything. I'd still love you. I might find myself forced to tie you down to keep you out of trouble -- actually that's not a bad idea--"

Blair chuckled. "Maybe later okay?" He yawned and snuggled closer to his lover. "Suddenly I'm exhausted."

Jim gave him a squeeze, and leaned back to let Blair better settle in. "I'm not surprised. Go to sleep." He kissed Blair on the top of his head.

"I love you, you know?" Blair murmured against Jim's chest. "I'd never told *anyone* any of this before. I'm glad I told you..." His voice trailed off as sleep claimed him.

Jim didn't say a word as his lover fell asleep. He understood, now, the pain he'd heard in Blair's voice when he'd been dreaming. He didn't understand why Blair had doubted him -- but perhaps his parents had taught him not to trust.

He knew there was a lot more to the story that Blair hadn't told him, but it would wait. Glancing at the clock, he realized it was still only 2 in the morning and carefully eased Blair down, so he could lie beside him.

With another soft kiss to the sleeping man's forehead, Jim closed his eyes. Life with Blair had never been predictable... and it looked as though it would remain that way.

Previous Story: Discombobulate | Next Story: Times and Tides