Special thanks go to Lilguppe and debraC for betaing this puppy for me.
Written for ysone, as a birthday present.
"Hey, Simon," Blair called after the captain. "Do the words 'pot' and 'kettle' mean anything to you?"
Simon Banks stopped dead in his tracks, turned and frowned at his police observer. "Do the words 'not a cop' mean anything to you, Sandburg?"
Blair released an explosive gust of air and hit his chest with both hands before waving them away from his body. "I am so sick and damn tired of that old song and dance, man." But before the older man could speak, Blair continued, "You can't have it both ways, you know? Either I'm out or I'm in. Either I'm qualified for undercover operations or I'm not. But you can't keep changing your mind whenever the mood strikes."
Simon straightened, his own anger rising, as he moved back and towered over the smaller man. "Are you telling me how to run my department, Sandburg?"
"Does it sound like I'm making comments about your department, man? I'm talking about me." Blair put his hands on his hips and glared at the taller man. "You okayed this operation. Logan was taken down, legally, I might add. No one was hurt, maimed or killed. So what in the hell is your beef?"
"You're treading on shaky ground here, boy?"
"And that's the crux of the problem, isn't it?"
Simon frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"I'm twenty-six years old, Simon. I'm not a boy. I'm not a teenager. I'm a man. I--"
"Then start acting like one."
Fury coursed through the grad student, making him shake. "If you weren't Jim's boss..."
"You'd what? Kick my ass?"
"You think I couldn't?"
"I think you better walk away before you say something you regret."
"I'll do you one better." Blair sneered as he unclipped his observer's badge and tossed it at the captain's chest. "I'll simply walk away."
"Sandburg, get back here!" Simon shouted after the retreating figure. "SANDBURG!"
"Do you have a moment, Simon?" Joel Taggart asked quietly.
Simon looked up from the reports spread out on his desk and saw his friend standing in his doorway. He frowned slightly, knowing instinctively what Joel wanted to talk about and not wanting to deal with the issue just yet, but also knowing he didn't really have a good reason to deny a fellow captain's request.
"Sure," he conceded. Simon waved his hand toward a chair. "Have a seat."
Settling his bulk into the chair, Joel smiled gently at him. "How are you feeling, my friend?"
Simon blinked, not expecting that particular question. He opened his mouth to reassure Joel that he was fine, but closed it again and sighed. "A little out of sorts," he finally confessed.
Joel nodded in understanding.
"Logan had a gun pressed to the base of his neck, Joel. I... I..." Simon took off his glasses and rubbed both eyes wearily.
"Was terrified that he'd pull the trigger."
"He was taunting me, tightening the trigger whenever I got too close."
"Yes, but you gave Jim time to circle around and attack from the rear."
"It was a sound operation, Simon. No one got hurt."
"I know that, too, Joel."
"But he's a police observer."
"A grad student."
"And he shouldn't be put in harm's way," Joel said quietly.
"No, he shouldn't."
"Because it would destroy you if that boy was harmed."
Simon took a deep breath and released it slowly. "Yes."
"But he's not a boy."
"I know that, Joel. I know that."
"'Cause technically, he's only ten years younger than you."
"Eleven," Simon automatically corrected.
"Eleven," Joel conceded, then added, "He hasn't been in for twelve days."
"Fifteen," Simon corrected again.
"It's starting to affect Jim's performance."
"He's not Daryl."
"I know that, too."
"It's not pride, Joel."
Simon shook his head. "Since he's been an observer, he's been kidnapped by drug lords, a serial killer, a rogue CIA agent, and two completely different groups of renegade militia soldiers. On at least two separate occasions he's been hunted by assassins. He's been shot twice and dosed with enough golden to kill most men; that doesn't even take into account how many times he's been grabbed and used as a hostage because he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Joel nodded in understanding. "Granted. The Logan situation, however, was under control the entire time. Logan isn't a murderer, we both know that. He was trapped, and while a man with no viable escape presents its own set of problems, no one believed he'd actually pull the trigger. It was just a matter of talking him down, which you and Sandburg did quite admirably. In fact, you two make a great negotiating team."
"He could have died, Joel."
"But he didn't."
"Yes, but how long can the kid keep bucking the odds?"
Joel sighed softly, then scooted to the edge of the chair and laid his clasped hands on the edge of Simon's desk. "He's where he wants to be, Simon. He's where he needs to be, where Jim needs him, where you need him to be. You're going to have to deal with your feelings, Simon, because I guarantee it won't be any easier if Jim takes a bullet because Sandburg wasn't there to help him."
"What are you saying, Joel?"
"I'm saying, I don't know the exact reasons why Blair has had his observer's pass longer than anyone in the PD's history, but I do know that it has something to do with Jim, not his dissertation." He sat back in his seat and raised his hands to ward off his friend's protest. "I don't want to know. Okay, that's a lie. I don't need to know, but you can't deny that they're the best team you have. You're crippling Jim, hell, you're crippling the entire department with this rift between you and Sandburg."
Joel pushed himself to his feet. "Fix it, Simon, before things get any worse than they already are."
Pushing the play button on his tape deck, Blair spun his chair toward his desk as the tribal music began to boom around him. He gasped in surprise the second he became aware of the figure standing silently by the door.
"Simon!" He twisted back around and slapped the player off. "Jim?" His agonized whisper filled the now silent room as he turned back to face the captain.
Simon raised his hands, trying to calm the student. "Jim's okay. He was busy writing reports when I left him in the bullpen twenty minutes ago."
Blair released his pent-up breath and rubbed both hands over his face before he looked at the captain again. "What can I do for you?" he asked in a much calmer and cooler voice.
The captain tilted his head inquiringly toward an empty chair and sat in it when Blair nodded. He fidgeted for nearly a full minute, not quite sure how to start the conversation.
"I became a patrol officer in early 1982, a year after Daryl was born." He swallowed hard, but Blair simply nodded at him to continue. "I was twenty-four, and so green that the other patrol officers called me Clover for a while. My partner was a man named Robin Sanderson, twenty-nine, Irish and the most people oriented cop I've ever met in my entire life. My being black never came up in conversation until I had ridden with him for nearly three months. I asked him why he didn't seem to have a problem with my being black. He just laughed at me and said that being as green as I was he figured I was Irish at heart."
Blair gave him a warm smile, but said nothing.
"We had a pretty spectacular record for patrol cops if I do say so myself. If there was action on the streets, we were usually in the midst of it. Our antics made Joan nervous and she wanted me off the streets before I could get hurt. In 1985, after discussing it with Rob, we decided to apply for detective's positions."
Simon swallowed hard. "On our last day as patrol officers, we were called in to help cordon off an area. It was supposed to be fairly routine. All the chatter had the suspect running north, not south. One moment Rob was giving me trouble about having burned the hamburgers the weekend before, the next the perp had a gun buried in his neck."
Blair's eyes widened with understanding. "And he was..."
"Shot right in front of me despite all our negotiating with him."
"No, you don't see," Simon said angrily. "Rob was the closest thing I had to a brother and you're practically a..."
"Son?" Blair asked in a whisper.
"I'm not that old, Sandburg," Simon snapped irritably.
It was too late; Blair was already smiling at him, although he sobered fairly quickly.
"I can't lose--"
"You won't," Blair tried to reassure him.
"You can't promise that."
"Are you prepared to take Jim off the streets then?"
"No." Simon sighed. "Are you ready to become a cop yet?"
"Then we seem to be at a stand still."
"We seem to be." Blair swallowed hard and idly rubbed his right thumb over his left thumb knuckle, never looking at Simon. "If you were to ask anyone who knows me, they'd tell you I was a people person."
"And this is a newsflash?" Simon quirked an eyebrow at him.
"No, I suppose not. However, being friendly and having friends are two separate things." Blair looked up shyly at the captain.
"My friendship with Jim, while not easy, began almost immediately. It had to in order for him to survive."
Simon nodded, not quite sure where the grad student was going with his comments.
"Joel is... well... Joel."
Simon continued to nod. Anyone who had ever met Joel Taggart, and gotten to know him, liked him.
"My... friendship with you has been hard fought. No one in my adult life has made me work harder for a friendship than you have." Simon started to open his mouth, but Blair cut him off. "Don't get me wrong. It's... all the more precious to me because I've worked so hard for it." He pushed his chair back and ran both of his hands through his hair. "But, I'm not Robin. I also know there are no guarantees on the streets. Being by Jim's side is where I belong, Simon, and you know it. I've proven myself to you time and time again, haven't I?"
"Yes," Simon admitted quietly.
"So, there you go."
"I can't face your mother if anything ever happened to you."
"Nothing's going to happen to me. Besides," he said, cutting Simon off again, "life can happen anywhere. Weren't you shot in a bank?"
Simon frowned at him. "Yes, and you were shot in the leg."
"Only after you managed to get yourself kidnapped."
"I... uh... yeah, well, you were put in quarantine by renegade militia men."
"Only because you insisted we follow Jim to the lake."
"Well, I... uh..."
"And didn't you have some troubles at a high school reunion?"
"Yes, but at least I wasn't shot by an international assassin."
"True, but I was wearing Kevlar. I'm always prepared. Unlike a certain police captain who took his son to Peru."
"It was a jungle, Sandburg."
Blair smiled. "Face it, Captain, you need me around to keep an eye on you."
"I... I... now see here... If we're going to compare what happened to whom..."
"You're right." Blair stood, walked around the desk and held his hand out to the Captain.
Without thought, Simon shook the proffered hand. "I'm right?"
"Of course, you're right." Blair pulled the larger man to his feet and walked him toward the door. "It's obvious to me that you should be keeping a closer eye on me as well and you obviously can't do that from across town. So, why don't I come down to the precinct, say around," he looked at his watch, "around three?"
"I will need my observer's badge though."
Simon handed him the laminated plastic.
"Coolness. I promise to take my job very seriously, Captain."
Simon raised to his full height. "See that you do."
"And try not to get yourself taken hostage anymore often than absolutely necessary, okay?"
"Okay." Blair grinned at him. "Maybe you should put out a memo to that effect."
"Maybe I will." Simon started to leave, then turned back toward the grad student. "Sandburg."
"Don't 'sir' me, you suck up."
The grin on Blair's face exploded.
Simon let loose a much put upon sigh, grabbed the police observer by the shoulders, hugged him tight, then released him and spun to make his escape down the hallway. "Three o'clock, Sandburg. Don't be late."
"I won't be," the amused voiced called out after him.
Simon jogged up the stairs, then strode with purpose out the front doors of Hargrove Hall before he slowed to a stop and smiled, pleased with the outcome of the meeting.
"Okay, Rob," he said softly to himself. "I accept the fact that Sandburg is going to be in the line of fire from time to time. He's too much like you not to throw himself in harm's way for an innocent, but there's no way in hell I'm letting Daryl become a cop. You had better start talking to your superiors and figuring out a way to fix this current obsession or there's going to be hell to pay." He moved down the stairs. "If you don't, I'll sic Sandburg on you. I may have been green at one time, but I'm no dummy. You just make sure he's around to be a thorn in my side for a long time to come, you hear? A long time to come."
~* End ~*
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