Well, now that Blair's got his shield (in my AU, at least), there are a few other things he needs to do before he becomes really official. I wrote one that takes place after this one, and Wolfie said that she wanted to see Blair learn to kick butt. How can I refuse those adorable, sad, wolfpuppy eyes? Not me. Ask any animal. They all know a soft touch when they sniff one. Besides, look at the wonderful home she's provided for my hyperactive imagination! Thanks, Tonya. This one's all for you.
The disclaimers still apply. Not mine. No money. Please, don't sue.
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"All right, Sandburg!" Jim cheered as the tired young man crossed the finish line of the obstacle course. Blair staggered to a stop, put his hands on his knees, his head hanging down, panting. Of the group of men running the physical agility test, he had come in first. He had fallen a little behind at the start, trying to get over the six foot wall, but once past that, it had been easy. Running through the tires, across the monkey bars, the rope swing, the stairs, through the pipes, under the lattice, ending with a two mile run. Regaining his breath, he smiled up at his cheering section of one.
"Thanks, man. One down, two to go."
"You sure you want to do that today? You're not too tired?"
"Let me shower, change, have lunch. Then I'll be good to go." The sooner the better.
"Take it easy. I know that you don't really want to do this, Chief..."
"But it's part of getting that pay check. I know, Jim. It's just so uncomfortable. How do I do this again?"
"Easy." He stood behind the smaller man, reaching around him and closing his hands over his friend's, positioning them on the pistol, guide him through the motions of checking the clip and pulling back the slide to get the bullet into position to fire. "Now, try and relax. If you're tight, you won't do well. You'll be doing the modified combat course. Nothing too difficult. Paper target. Twenty-four rounds at seven yards. Most shootings take place within that range. All you have to do is point your gun like it was your finger. Don't bother trying to aim. Just point and shoot." He stepped back pushing the ear protection down over his partner's ears, and positioning his own protective muffs over his ears preparatory to helping his friend get ready to qualify. The rangemaster, the only other person around, saw that they were ready. He blew his whistle, indicating that someone was about to fire. Blair pointed the gun toward the target and pulled the trigger, repeatedly pulling the trigger until the magazine was empty. When he was finished, he stepped back, removed the clip from the weapon and pulled back the slide as he had been shown, to demonstrate that the gun was safe.
"Not too bad, Chief. A little off to the right. You're pulling to your strong side. Other wise, not too shabby." He took the weapon from his friend and replaced the empty clip with a full one. "Now, I want you to try again." Blair repeated the proper stance. "Try crouching, just a little. Yeah. Like that. Keep your back straight, relax down into your flexed knees. Shift your hips a little forward. Good. Bring up the weapon..." He signaled the rangemaster, who again blew his whistle. "Now, flex your elbows, easy. Loosen up through your shoulders. Right. Just like that. Go for it."
Blair was looking at the target, gun extended, ready. Taking a deep breath and letting half of it out, like Jim had told him to, he fired, again emptying the clip.
"Much better. Feel the difference?"
"Yeah. How come you don't aim?"
"Don't need to at this range. At fifteen and twenty-five yards you aim. One thing at a time. Do you really think that you can learn to shoot and qualify in one day?" Skeptical.
"No. But I want to try. If I can get down the basics, I can practice and maybe in a week or two I can qualify. What do you think?"
"I think that you have excellent hand-eye coordination. You're doing extremely well, considering your experience and aversion to guns. Is something wrong? You seem, I don't know, more uncomfortable with the gun. What's wrong?"
"Nothing, really. It's just really uncomfortable. Like it doesn't fit very well." Handing the empty and open gun back to his partner.
"Here. Let me see." He placed the gun properly in Blair's hand, closing the shorter fingers around the grips. "Huh." He took the gun back and took a good look at his friend's hands. Broad palms, relatively short fingers. Comparing their hands, Jim's were slightly longer, but Blair's were wider, especially through the palms. Jim had longer fingers, more slender hands. Blair's were like the man himself, on the short side, but broadly built, square.
"You might do better with target grips, Chief. They're bigger, might fit your palm better. We can find someone who uses them and borrow their gun for you to try. You also might do better with a revolver. You want to try my backup gun?"
Blair shrugged. "Sure. I wouldn't know the difference, anyway."
"Sure you would, Chief. A pistol uses a clip, is a semi-automatic, holds nine to thirteen bullets. A revolver has a cylinder, is double-action, meaning that you have to pull the trigger all the way each time you fire, and only holds six bullets. When shooting the course, you have sixty seconds to get off twenty-four rounds. Reloading as needed. It'll take some practice to get you up to speed on the reloading. Here." He brought out his revolver, handing it to his friend. "You press here, that releases the cylinder. You hold it by the backstrap, your fingers go through where the cylinder rests, when you're not about to shoot. Like having the clip in one hand and the slide open. So everyone can see the gun isn't operable."
"OK." Blair looked at the gun. Examining it from all angles. He was becoming less intimidated by it, as familiarity and, more important, learning the safety measures required, made the weapons seem less scary to him.
Jim went out to change the target. When he returned, he had Blair practice with the revolver. His accuracy went up dramatically with the different gun. He seemed more comfortable with the different shape.
"OK. At fifteen yards, you're going to have to aim. Don't close one eye. Try and keep both open. Sight down the centre of the gun, line up the sights..."
"Wait a minute. How can I do that with both eyes open?"
"Use your dominant eye. Are you right or left eyed, Chief?"
"I have no idea. How can you tell?"
Jim talked him through the process. Then adjusted Blair's stance to adjust for the distance, raising his hands so he could sight the target, straightening his elbows to steady his aim.
"Good job, Chief." Jim announced. "Ready to try for twenty-five yards?"
"Sure. Uh, how many and how fast do I have to shoot at fifteen?"
"Twelve rounds in sixty seconds. Just practice loading the weapon, Chief. You'll be fine."
"OK. Twenty-five yards. Twenty-four rounds in two and a half minutes. Plenty of time. Right hand barricade, left hand barricade, kneeling, or prone, depending on the rangemaster, and the last six offhand. Got that?"
"Um...OK. What's offhand?"
Jim chuckled. "That's what you've been doing. Both hands on the gun, facing the target head on. The hard part will be the left hand barricade. Most people don't shoot at all well with their weak hand." He positioned the smaller man behind the barricade, adjusting his stance and his hands, even the way he held the gun.
"Good work, Chief. You're a natural. Most people do poorly at this distance, but you've got a knack for it. Even your left hand barricade is good. You want to try it against the clock? Just for fun?"
"No. Against the clock. Against yourself. For practice under qualifying conditions. How about it?" His tone of voice daring the younger man.
There was no way he could approach his partner in competition, but he decided to try his best. Jim went over and asked the rangemaster to run them through the course, timed and all.
Ten minutes later, they went out and took down their targets. The rangemaster tallied their scores. Marking each target with a big, red marker. Catching Jim's eye, he shrugged.
"Let's do it one more time, Chief. OK?"
"Sure. It's not nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. I need to work on my speed at reloading, though."
"Uh huh. You sound like you might be thinking about carrying, Chief." Just a slight hint.
"Oh, no. Not me. Shooting at a paper silhouette is a big difference from shooting at a real person."
"You're right about that."
They ran through the course again. Again, the rangemaster tallied up their scores, pulled out his ledger and made some notations in it. Smiling, he folded up the targets and handed them to the two men.
On their way out, they thanked the rangemaster for his help. The man just grinned at them and replied "Any time."
"Well, aren't you going to see how you did?" Jim asked.
"Oh, uh, sure, I guess." Blair unfolded his first target, before he looked, he asked, "How did you do?"
"295. I missed one of the tens and got a five instead." He was anxious to see how his partner had fared. "Come on. What did you get?"
Blair finished opening the first target. "223." He looked at his friend. "Is that good?"
"Well, it certainly isn't bad; but you need 250 to qualify."
"OK. So I need to practice some more."
"Uh huh. What did you get for the second one?" He looked at his, "I got a 300."
"Uh." He finished refolding his first target and opened the second. He stared. "There must be some mistake."
"Well, the numbers are on it, add it up for yourself."
He did so. Lips moving silently as he counted up the score. He did it a second time, then a third. Shaking his head in wonderment, he finally looked up. "258. It's a 258." The realization suddenly hit him. "I QUALIFIED!" He whooped and started dancing around the truck. He didn't notice when the rangemaster came outside with a video camera and started filming his reaction. Jim laughed.
"Well, you said you wanted to do it all in one day. Seems like two out of three is better than you have any right to expect. You're still going to be coming down here at least twice a week for practice. See if we can't get you some better scores."
"Better? Hey, man. I think that qualifying with only one lesson is pretty darned good." A little indignant.
"I'm not saying it isn't, Chief. Only that you need more practice, to reinforce what you've learned. You have to qualify every month for your first year, Blair. We'll come down a couple of times a week and see how you do in a month with a full line of shooters. Then, maybe you can slack off a little. Don't forget, I've got twenty years of practice on you, and I still have to qualify, too."
Blair thought about it. "Oh. OK. You missed one, huh?" Smirking.
"Yeah. One." Smiling at his still jazzed partner. "So. Home? Shower, change, I take you out to celebrate?"
"You're on, man."
He couldn't believe the pain. There was no way he was going to put himself through that again. He stopped by the weight room. Looking and spotting his partner working on his bench presses. Without a spotter, again. Shaking his head, he headed over.
"Hey, Chief. How was the lesson?"
"Sucks, man. I can't believe how much I ache. That instructor must hate me. Fifteen guys in the class, and he picks on me. Every...single...time. Oh, man. I am like, so tired. Not to mention, sore."
Jim placed the weights on the rack and sat up. "Really? What did you do?"
Blair described the lesson he had just undergone. The instructor was a temporary one, brought in while their regular instructor was on maternity leave. "Well, give it another week, Chief. I'm sure you'll catch on."
Two days later, Jim watched quietly, out of sight, as Blair took his second lesson. He could now understand why his partner had been so discouraged. This guy really was picking on the smaller man. Using him as a punching bag, with Blair unable to really defend himself against the assaults. It was a perfect example...of what not to do. As the class ended, he made his decision.
"I don't care if they fire me. I am not going back there. The guy hates me."
"Do you trust me, Chief?"
"Of course. Why do you ask?" Confused at the sudden change of subject.
"Will you let me teach you to defend yourself?" Looking at his friend with concern.
"Really? You think you can? I mean, I'm not exactly Hercules, here, you know." His face brightening with the idea.
"First. Let's teach you how to fall, to roll. Slap the mat. OK?" They went back to the now deserted gym. First Jim demonstrated the forward, over the shoulder roll, right hand over his head, two quick steps and then throwing himself, right arm acting as the rim of a wheel, rolling over his shoulder, his right arm coming down as his head came back up and slapping the mat, rolling to his feet, in one, smooth motion. He did it twice more, so Blair could watch from different angles. Then it was Blair's turn. The first time, he hung up on his elbow, landing flat on his back, knocking the wind out of himself.
"Not quite, Chief. Here." Jim helped his friend up, positioned his arm correctly and helped him through the move, keeping him from going too far or too flat. Once Blair was able to do that move correctly, Jim demonstrated the left handed version. Blair caught on much more quickly, it being the same basic move as the first one.
"Hey, this is kind of fun, man." Blair admitted.
"Yeah, It can be. Now, backwards." He demonstrated, then helped his partner through the move once in slow motion. Soon Blair had mastered both the forward and backward rolls.
"What about sideways?" He asked, panting slightly from the exertion.
"Think about it. What do you think?"
"Uh, twist and turn it into a forward roll?"
"Pretty much. Just remember whether it should be a right or left hand roll. You'll be fine."
"OK. So, now I know how to fall. Think it will do any good the next time I trip on the stairs?"
"Well, it could keep you from smashing in your skull, I suppose."
"Cool. What next?"
"Next, we go home. We've been at this for a couple of hours. You were pretty sore to start with. You may not be able to get out of bed in the morning. Come on. Let's hit the showers and go home. We'll order something in. Pizza OK with you?"
Jim had been right. The next morning, Blair could barely haul his aching body from his bed. He couldn't believe how much he hurt. Jim smiled ruefully at him in commiseration. After work that night, Jim took pity on his friend and gave him a massage, leaving the younger man sound asleep on the couch. He gently spread a blanket across the prone young man. Letting him sleep.
Blair was feeling almost normal the next morning. He smiled when Jim asked him how he was feeling. "Much better, man. Thanks."
"You're welcome. After your class tonight, you want to practice some more?"
"Uh, I'm not going back." Meeting his partner's gaze, firmly.
"Blair, you have to have self defense. Simon insisted you be able to defend yourself. It would make me feel better, too."
"Fine. You teach me. You don't treat me like a punching bag, man. You show me what to do, you explain why. I'm learning from you...aren't I?" Suddenly uncertain and plaintive.
Jim smiled, gently. "Yeah. You're learning. OK. I'll teach you. But it won't be what you were learning from the department instructor. I learned self defense in the Army. We didn't care so much about style, only about getting the job done. What I'll teach you may keep some creep from hurting you the next time someone grabs you. You will bite, scratch, gouge, elbow, knee....whatever it takes to make them let go, then you'll follow through and take them down."
He demonstrated every move in slow motion. Teaching Blair how, and more importantly, why each move worked. The blocks and shifts were primarily using Aikido as a base. When a fist came at his face, Blair learned to reach up with one hand and gently deflect the blow, take hold of the wrist as the fist went by, hold on, turn and flip his opponent. The first time he did it at speed and threw Jim across the mat provided him such an adrenaline rush that he couldn't stop grinning for an hour afterwards. The first time he brought Jim to his knees with a 'come along' hold, brought him to his knees as well, worried that he might have hurt his friend.
For the most part, they practiced in slow motion, like Tai Chi. Memorizing the moves slowly, until his muscles could do the exercises without conscious thought. The night he left his office late, heading for his car, showed him just how much and how well he had learned.
It was dark. He had parked under a light, but the light was out. There were no other cars in the lot, this late at night. He never even looked twice at the bushes as he crossed the last of the lawn toward his car. He heard the sound of running feet and a body bursting through the bushes in his direction. He turned, dropping his backpack and books, his body automatically reacting as he had been learning over the past month. The pipe swung at his head and he moved out of the way; his hands moving automatically up to deflect the blow, grasping the wrist of his attacker with one hand as it went by. He shifted, bringing his other hand up, his body shifting toward his attacker, pushing the man's shoulder, jerking his wrist down and sending him flying, to land head first against the curb. He winced at the sound of the air being forced from the man's lungs. Ouch. He followed through, going over to the man and reaching down and handcuffing him. Sitting down on the curb beside his prisoner, he shook his head. Oh, man. Jim was going to laugh his head off over this. Suddenly realizing what he had done, Blair started to grin. Picking up his backpack and fishing out his cell phone, he called it in. "Yeah. Hello, Sergeant Ricci, isn't it? Yeah, hi. This is Blair Sandburg. Thanks. No, actually, what I need is a patrol car. Yeah. I was attacked. Attempted mugging. Nope. Took care of him myself. I'd just like to get him arrested and taken away. Uh huh. Yeah. Sure. Thanks." It was nearly an hour later before he finally got home. Jim was waiting up for him.
"Kind of late, aren't you, Chief?"
"Yeah. Sorry. Had a little run in at school."
Jim looked up from the news. "Run in? What kind of run in?"
"Some guy tried to mug me."
"You OK?" Shifting to get a better look at his partner.
"I'm fine. You did a pretty good job, Jim."
"I did a good job? What are you talking about, Chief. I wasn't anywhere around you tonight."
"Good job teaching me, man. I can't even remember what he did, oh, yes I can. He came at me with a pipe, the next thing I know, he's out cold on the ground. Your teaching me self defense really worked, man." Bouncing a little in his excitement. "I mean, I can't even remember what I did. I just did it. Just like you said I would. This is so cool, man. I'm like so jazzed over this. Anyway, I called it in and a couple of guys came and carted him away. I filed the charges, but let the patrolmen take the credit for the arrest. That is OK, isn't it?"
"Yeah. That's fine, Chief. You sure you're OK?"
"Yeah. I'm just so jazzed about this. It is like, so cool."
"Yeah. I guess it is." Jim smiled. For possibly the first time in his friend's life, he had not only survived an attack, but had taken down the attacker without getting himself hurt. He guessed he could manage to put up with the adrenaline rush. It was highly preferable to another night spent in an emergency room. Or even worse. No. This was preferable. Any time.
"So, you want to talk about it?" Grinning, as his partner started to tell his tale from the beginning, the class he'd taught earlier, the discussions, how late he'd worked in his office, how he'd been on his way home when he was attacked. Telling his story with his entire body, bouncing, shifting, moving in unconscious mimicry of the moves he'd made earlier when defending himself. Unaware he was even doing it. Jim just sat back and took it all in. Pleased with the results of their training program. Wondering, finally, if Blair was ever going to run down and go to sleep. Or at least calm down enough for Jim to go to bed for some much needed sleep. He glanced surreptitiously at his watch. He'd give him another ten minutes and then just get up and go to bed.
It was another half hour before Blair finally ran down. Jim stood up. "Good going, Chief. It's late. Why don't you go to bed. Get some sleep, OK? We'll talk about it tomorrow, well, later today. OK?"
"Oh, man. I'm sorry, Jim. You should have said something. I..."
"Forget it, Chief. It's OK. I'm just glad you're all right. Good night."
"Good night, Jim."
"Jim, this feels silly. Why would I want to do this?"
"Because, this will take down an attacker suddenly, without danger to you. Now, do it. Slowly." They choreographed the new moves. One where Blair practiced dropping to the floor and doing a move designed to knock the legs out from under his opponent. He couldn't imagine ever using such a move, but if Jim said he needed to know how to do this, then this is what he would learn. Besides, he got a perverse pleasure when he practiced and occasionally caught Jim off guard and managed to get one over on him. Jim wasn't looking, he dropped suddenly and swept out with one leg, as Jim had shown him; successfully knocking Jim's legs out from under him. Laughing when Jim hit the mat, bounced and came to rest flat on his back, glaring up at him.
"You're right, man. It is useful." Giggling and grinning down at the angry glare of his friend, who gave in and grinned back at him.
"Better be careful, Chief. Payback's a bitch."
"Beautiful Intelligent Talented Charming Human?" Still grinning.
"Nope." Bringing his legs around and knocking Blair down beside him, knocking the wind out of him. Laughing at the startled look on his partner's face. Blair glared at him, until he got his breath back, then joined him in laughter. Finding he enjoyed his self defense practice sessions with his partner. Knowing he was learning a great deal, and both men hoping Blair would never need it, but knowing that if he did, he was at least better prepared than he had been in the past.
Working on his doctoral thesis in the one subject that had fascinated him since he first read about it; having the subject of his thesis as his best friend; finding himself helping his friend, and at last even earning a paycheck for doing what he would have been doing anyway; could life get any better?
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