By Hawthorn

Blair stared around the loft in surprise. He took a step back and checked the number on the door. Yep, it read 307. He stepped forward again, and just let his gaze rove over the dramatically changed loft. Crepe paper streamers swung from the railings, clusters of balloons bobbed merrily from various pieces of furniture, the cloth draped dining table was piled high with stacks of paper plates, cups, cutlery, and napkins, and the coffee table was awash with wrapping paper, tape, bows and other unidentifiable bits and pieces. All in all, it looked like a mad party-planner had run amok.

Suspiciously, Blair sniffed. Nope, no sage… but was that… another sniff confirmed it, his favorite veggie lasagna was in the oven. Okay, he thought to himself, I wonder where not-Jim hid the pod? Glancing at his watch, he flashed back to their conversation that morning. Jim had been weirdly insistent about finding out what time he'd be at the station. When Blair had admitted that he probably wouldn't make it, Jim had reassured him, 'that's okay, Chief, I know you've got to keep up your academic work, too. So you'll be home at seven, right?' Blair had agreed, then had agreed again that he wouldn't be late. Apparently, he should also have agreed not to be early… but that particular question hadn't come up.

Deciding that discretion was indeed the better part of valor, he beat a hasty and quiet retreat back down the steps, relieved to find that Jim's truck was still missing from its accustomed space. Seconds later, he was in the Volvo and heading back towards the U. Obviously his office was out as a place to kill a couple of hours, since the paint fumes from the corridor had driven him out in the first place, but maybe the library…

At the stroke of seven, Blair Sandburg exited the elevator and, taking a firmer grip on the backpack holding his laptop, opened the door to the darkened loft. Reaching for the light switch, he grinned inwardly as he wondered whether the dials would work for his hearing, then, as the lights sprang on…."SURPRISE!!!"


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