Dedication: OK, this one's for Angie Harrison, who's recovering from torn ligaments in her shoulder and asked for a story. Why is she punishing me like this? I don't even know the woman, but I hope she gets better I can twist her arm <g>

For Sale:
One Slightly (Mis)Used Anthropologist

(Fully Assembled, Accessories Included)
-- by Mackie

Jim Ellison had been inside the loft for all of five seconds when he noticed the glum expression on his young partner's face. "What's up, Sandburg?"

Blair looked up from the sheet of paper he had laid out in front of him on the table. "Hi, Jim," he said, not answering. "Dinner's almost ready."

"I didn't think I asked about dinner," Jim returned mildly, moving toward the table in hopes of catching a glimpse of the contents of the letter. He saw the masthead of Rainier University before Blair folded it abruptly and whisked it out of sight into his shirt pocket. "What's going on?"

Blair debated inwardly for a moment. If he refused to answer, Jim would just pester him all evening. Better to get it over with. "I'm being sold," he murmured, feeling a blush creep up his neck.

Jim didn't bat so much as an eyelash. "I knew the university was short of cash, but isn't that a bit extreme?"

"Very funny." From his tone, Blair was not impressed by the humor. "It's to raise money for next summer's expeditions. The students and faculty voted, and the top ten choices get auctioned off at a kick-off dinner next week."

"Sounds harmless enough," Jim commented, snagging a beer from the refrigerator before peering into the oven at the casserole bubbling merrily toward completion. Still, he thought a moment later, Sandburg had a knack for getting into trouble in the oddest places...but a fund-raising dinner and auction?

"Harmless?" Blair echoed, appalled to hear his voice rise to a squeak. He forced himself to calm down. "Jim, this is serious. There's someone -- a very rich someone -- who'll be more than willing to pay a high price for me."

Jim sat down at the table and took a swig from his beer. "Yeah? Anyone I know?"

Blair couldn't even say the name without blanching. "Agnes Hargrove."

"As in Hargrove Hall?" Jim asked.

"As in widow of said Hargrove," Blair admitted. "She's in her eighties now, and her endowments have been almost solely responsible for keeping the whole anthropology department in operation."

Jim chuckled. "How much trouble could you have with an eighty-something admirer?"

"You're punishing me for something, aren't you?" Blair challenged, amazed Jim couldn't see the pitfalls ahead. "Look, it wouldn't be so bad if she was just some kindly old lady. But she's not. She's the matriarch of Hargrove Hall; if I do something to offend her, she could pull her support -- " He snapped his fingers for emphasis. " -- just like that."

Jim nodded in understanding. "And then the anthropology department would heave you out on your offending little butt." It still didn't sound serious. "So charm the woman. I'm sure you remember how."

Blair gritted his teeth. "Did I happen to mention she's also a lech?" he ground out.

Jim almost lost his mouthful of beer. "Man, don't do that when I'm taking a drink," he complained after he'd managed to swallow.

Blair ignored the protest. "Jim, I'm telling you, she's got a thing for me -- and I've got the bruises on my ass to prove it!"

It just kept getting better. "She gooses you?" Jim asked in amazement.

"I swear, she pinches anything within reach," Blair retorted, knowing he was never going to convince Jim of the seriousness of his situation or live down his embarrassed confession. The fates were against him. "Oh, just forget it."

"I can't forget it," Jim said, feigning a serious expression. "My partner's got a problem, and I want to help solve it." Abruptly, he lost his battle against a chuckle. "For one thing, I can't compete against that kind of money, and for another, even if I could, can you imagine the rumors we'd start?"

"Hey, there's an idea," Blair said abruptly. "If I could convince her I'm gay -- "

"Don't go there, Sandburg," Jim threatened, only half joking. "Just remember who your roommate is."

"Oh, right. Sorry." The oven timer went off then, and Blair trudged morosely into the kitchen to retrieve the casserole. He brought the dish to the table and deposited it on a trivet before returning to the kitchen to shed the oven mitts and bring out the dinnerware.

Jim helped set the table before getting another beer for himself and one for his roommate. After he'd sat down again, he found he couldn't let go of the previous topic. "Come on, Sandburg, it's just for one evening. How bad can it be?"

"You have no idea," Blair moaned. "Some of the jokes she tells would make even you blush."

Jim frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means I've heard what passes for humor in the bullpen. And she's worse."

"She sounds like a fascinating woman."

"Then you go out with her."

Jim sighed in mock disappointment. "Sorry, my name wasn't on the list."

Blair brightened. "Maybe I could volunteer you," he suggested. "After all, a buff and brawny police detective is bound to fetch more than a scrawny, meatless little anthropologist."

"Forget it, Darwin," Jim drawled smugly, secure in his status as a non-contender.

Blair's eyes narrowed as he glared at his friend. Jim was enjoying this potential disaster entirely too much. As he forked up his first bite of casserole, he was already plotting his revenge.

The evening of the fund-raising dinner and auction found Jim attending his very first university function. Seeing Blair auctioned off to the highest bidder was entertainment too good to miss, so he'd happily handed over his $50 for a ticket and enjoyed a surprisingly good meal in the school's banquet hall.

There were probably four hundred people at the event, most of them middle-aged or older women, a few with their husbands. If the value of the jewelry on display was any indication, the guests were very well heeled indeed. Jim felt a little out of place as the only single male who wasn't part of the Rainier faculty, but the feeling quickly turned to alarm when he found himself sitting at a table next to the dreaded source of Blair's distress, the endowment queen herself, Agnes Hargrove. Instinctively, he moved his chair a safe distance away in case her pinching fingers longed for more than Blair's buttocks, but the woman just leered at him with a speculative gleam in her eyes. For the first time, Jim understood Blair's reluctance to spend an evening with this woman; she looked half demented. And the weight of the gems dripping off her stooped and frail frame was clear evidence she could afford whatever she wanted --

The auction was surprisingly lively and loud. The first candidates were awkward at first, but the whistles and applause soon had everyone mugging shamelessly for the audience. Bidding was fast and astonishingly generous. Jim sat back to enjoy himself, a glass of iced tea in his hand; out of the corner of his eye, he could see Agnes sitting with almost feral stillness, her little eyes glued to the stage, her hands never moving from the napkin in her lap.

He felt a presence behind him and glanced over his shoulder. "Guys, what are you doing here?" he asked the trio of detectives who had come up behind his chair.

Taggart grinned. "Sandburg let it slip out what was going on tonight, and we couldn't miss it."

"Yeah," Brown agreed. "Since we didn't buy dinner, they let us in for free."

"Wish I'd known that," Jim muttered. "I could have saved myself fifty bucks and had a burger instead."

"But then you would have missed out on -- " Rafe paused to peer closely at the remains of the meal on Jim's plate. " -- whatever that frou-frou stuff was." He flinched suddenly and almost fell into Jim's lap. Recovering, he turned bright red and moved hastily beyond the reach of Agnes Hargrove's questing fingers.

Jim almost suffocated trying to stifle a laugh. Next to him, Agnes beamed happily, mission accomplished.

Suddenly, it was Blair's turn on the auction block. If the whistles and applause weren't enough, the contingent from Cascade PD woofed and hollered like lecherous drunks at a strip-tease, which earned them several astonished looks from the auctioneer, the esteemed Doctor Sinclair, head of the anthropology department. Blair's entrance faltered when he heard his vociferous fan club, but after a moment, he resolutely ignored them and set out to make the best of a thoroughly humiliating experience.

Jim was proud of his partner. Blair looked totally cool and relaxed when he must have been feeling anything but; furthermore, he strutted back and forth across the stage, working the room, flirting with the women, putting on a thousand-watt smile that drove the cheering to new heights.

Just as Sinclair was about to open the bidding, Blair grabbed the microphone out of his hand. "Ladies and gentlemen, I recognize several of our more prominent benefactors here tonight. I'd just like to say, in consideration of your standing within the community, the lucky woman who wins a date with me will also get the services of a personal bodyguard..."

Jim felt his heart plummet to his toes. God...he...wouldn't...dare....

"...Detective James Ellison of the Cascade Police Department," Blair concluded, gesturing grandly toward Jim's table.

Before Jim could react, he was hefted to his feet from behind by his three colleagues, who were laughing uproariously at his red-faced embarrassment. "You were in on this, weren't you?" he grated out quietly.

Taggart could barely stop laughing as he answered, "Sandburg figured you'd be half way to the parking lot if we weren't here to stop you."

They turned him around like a prize side of beef, indicating his various attributes, while Jim only muttered, "You traitors." He was too stunned to think of anything more insulting. Maybe he could fake cardiac, Sandburg would only try to give him CPR.

There was nothing to do but smile graciously as the applause and wolf-whistles were turned in his direction. Never in his life had he felt more like shrinking into oblivion. Then he caught sight of Agnes Hargrove -- she was gazing at him as if she'd just found the candy store unlocked and was about to indulge in a little illicit bingeing.

She turned toward the stage. "Start the bidding," she ordered imperiously. The lady was ready to get down to serious business.

Resignedly, Jim wondered just how much these women would pay to buy the services of a cop for an evening. After several minutes of furious bidding, he knew.

As he slumped back into his chair in shocked disbelief, he knew two other things as well: these women were all crazy...and Sandburg was going to pay for his moment of revenge.

Big time.


Note: I couldn't help myself. I'm the crazy woman who paid a small fortune for Jim's badge and ID at the convention. And, yes, it was worth it...

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