Summary: Blair's first day back at the station after the Golden incident.
Spoilers: Blind Man's Bluff
Disclaimers: While Petfly and Paramount weren't looking, I borrowed everyone in Major Crimes. Unfortunately, no money was made while I was playing with them and I put them back -- relatively unharmed. This story is not intended to infringe on any copyrights belonging to the PTBs.
Thanks to: IrisWilde and Mpala77 for betaing this piece for me. Iris is queen when it comes to the technical (and area I sore lack in) and Mpala does wonderful things for the ego. Many thanks to both of you very kind ladies. However, all errors are my own.
"You sure you won't change your mind, Chief?" Jim asked quietly as he accepted the plate of eggs and toast from his partner.
"I'm sure, man. I have a ton of papers to grade. Nothing like being in the hospital for a week to throw your whole schedule off kilter. Why? Do you need me?" Blair asked suddenly, an earnest look of concern flittering over his face.
"No. Simon still has me on desk duty."
"How's your vision?"
"About ninety-eight percent."
"Still getting the golden glow around the fringes?"
"Occasionally. It's happening less and less now, but Simon won't sign off for field duty until I've been clear for a whole week."
"Are you keeping busy?" Blair asked as he pushed the eggs around his plate with the fork.
"Yeah, I have enough paperwork to last me a month."
The anthropologist grinned at him. "Ahh. Now I see why you're so anxious to have me come in."
"Well, the DA's office is complaining about my reports again."
"As well they should, man. There's brevity of words and then there's Ellison."
"Hey, I resemble that remark." Jim grinned and took a bite of his toast.
"If you want," Blair said in a more serious tone of voice, "you can bring a few files home tonight and I'll clean them up and modem them in tomorrow morning."
"Why don't you just stop in after your last class? Everyone's been asking about you."
Jim didn't need to be a sentinel to see the color drain from his partner's face. Blair quickly looked at his watch even as he pushed away from the table. "Oh, man, I'm going to be late."
"Sandburg," Jim said quietly, deciding to push the subject, but his roommate never stopped moving, dumping the remaining food into the trash and quickly placing the dish and utensils in the dishwasher. "I should be home around seven-ish. I'll do stir fry."
"Blair," Jim tried again, softer.
"See you then, " the student called out as he grabbed his backpack and bolted from the loft.
A sharp rap on his office door caused Blair to blink as he looked up from the stack of blue books discussing, rather poorly, the religious rituals of the Zuni Indians.
"Come," he called out, putting the finishing remarks on the book before him.
"Simon," Blair said in surprise but grinned a welcome at the captain. Then realizing his friend was alone, the smile disappeared. "Jim? Oh God, is he..."
Simon watched the emotions flit across the young man's face and realized the obvious implication of his coming to see Sandburg on his own. "No," he growled, slightly annoyed. "Jim's at the station buried under a stack of papers not much smaller than yours."
Blair laughed with relief at the thought of Jim grousing about reports. "Maybe I should just bring a WonderBurger home tonight to appease the grumpy sentinel god." Remembering his friend had shown up unexpectedly, he asked, "What can I do for you, Simon?"
"Beverly Sanchez still needs to go over your statement. She's expecting us at 3:00 p.m."
"I'm sorry, Simon," Blair apologized, shaking his head and raising his hands, almost as if warding the captain off. "But as you can see, I'm swamped. I promise I will be in as soon as I'm caught up, probably later this week."
Simon took a deep breath, hating what he was about to do but seeing no other choice. "I'm sorry, Sandburg. There seems to be some misunderstanding. I seemed to have given you the impression that this meeting was optional. It's not. Gather up your things and come with me."
Blair considered another assault but stopped before he began. He watched the captain gather in energy around him as he chewed mercilessly on his cigar. No, this was not a battle he had any hope of winning. Silently, he acquiesced and begun stuffing blue books into his backpack.
Simon released the breath he was holding. Damn, but he felt like he had just kicked a wounded puppy. A part of him argued that the anthropologist was nothing more than a student and had no business being in a police station. However, the other, louder, part acknowledged that his department needed this brash, outspoken young man. Not only had Jim's solve rate skyrocketed with this unconventional neo-hippie witchdoctor at his side, but the morale of the bullpen had never been better. Since the golden incident, though, that special Sandburg spark seemed to be missing. Simon knew Blair was embarrassed about his behavior and was dreading the reception he might receive at the station. Well, the quicker he found out, the better, was Simon's way of thinking.
Blair walked beside Simon out to the parking lot like a man walking to the gallows. There was no bounce in his step, no chattering a hundred miles a minute. Simon was tempted to give the kid a big hug and tell him everything would be okay, but knew that would only succeed in making the kid feel worse. Stick to what you know, Banks.
"Sandburg, where are you going?" Simon demanded when the anthropologist veered off into another direction.
"May I drive my own car, Simon?" came the subdued response.
"I'll meet you there," Simon growled. "Fifteen minutes, no later."
Blair made a special point not to park in the underground garage, but instead in the public lot across the street from the police station. He reached over and picked up his backpack and held it to his chest for a moment for comfort. Then taking a deep breath, he gathered his keys and headed for the main entrance. Flinging the door open, he stepped inside, head down and barreled toward the elevators.
Blair stopped and looked up at Joel Taggert and realized the man had been trying to get his attention for several moments.
"I'm sorry, Joel. I guess I was a little preoccupied."
"Not a problem. I've been waiting for you to show up here for a week now."
"Why?" Blair asked softly, almost afraid of the answer.
"Well, my wife and I are having an argument."
"She's been trying out that chili recipe you gave her, but it's just not tasting the same," the bomb squad captain said as he put his arm around the anthropologist and guided him to the elevators. "She's using all the ingredients on the card, but I don't think she's letting it simmer long enough. I mean, you cook it for what... three hours?"
"Four, actually, at very low heat."
"See, that's what I told her. She's whipping it up and serving it within an hour and a half. She's not giving the spice enough time to blend." Joel grinned broadly as he pushed the '7' button.
"So why are you grinning?" Blair asked.
"Because I won the bet."
"I'm afraid to ask, but..."
"Hold the elevator," a voice boomed as a slim figure slipped between the closing doors.
Joel grinned. "Hey, Pener."
"Captain. Sandburg. Hey Blair, I've been looking for you all week."
"For what, Dave?"
"Brian used the memorization technique you showed him and won the school spelling bee. He's now heading for the district meet and has been asking me everyday if I've invited you to come yet," the SWAT sniper said with obvious pride.
"Can you come on the fifteenth at seven-thirty? They're holding the contest at Rainier."
"I wouldn't miss it."
"Oh, and if you don't mind, can I bring him by the station on the fourteenth? I think he's going to need a pep talk. You're usually here on Thursday afternoons, right?"
"Yeah, at least this semester."
"Great. Thanks, Blair," the sniper said as the elevator doors opened on his floor. "Winning this competition has made all the difference in Brian's confidence, and I owe that all to you, buddy."
"Hey, Brian did all the work. You've got a great kid, you know?"
"Don't I know it," the man laughed. "See you around."
The doors closed and Blair whispered, "See you around."
The doors opened slowly to reveal the seventh floor. Blair took a few faltering steps, then hesitated. Seconds later, his shoulders were once again wrapped by his friend's arm. Without giving him a moment to think, Joel guided the young man through the doors and into the bullpen.
A festive banner hung from the ceiling declaring "Welcome Back Sandburg." The room burst into applause as the young anthropologist stopped, struck mute at finding himself surrounded by detectives and office staff.
"It's about time you showed up, Hairboy," Henri exclaimed, clapping the student on the back.
Rhonda stepped forward and gave him a quick peck on the cheek and handed him a muffin. "Welcome back, Blair."
"The place hasn't been the same without you, Blair," Joel said quietly to the young man beside him.
Jim broke through the crowd, a Cheshire grin adorning his face as he handed Blair a small wrapped package.
"What's this?" the observer asked nervously.
Blair waggled his eyebrows. "Read the card and open it."
Blair fumbled with the card, opened it up and read aloud, "The first annual Can't-Hit-A- Brick-Wall Award is presented to Blair Sandburg."
A hush fell over the room as the observer tore open the package to reveal a pair of thick lens glasses.
"Oh man." Blair grinned goofily as he shook his head.
The detectives around him howled with laughter and began chanting "Put them on" over and over again. Being a sport, Blair made a big show of opening the glasses and slipping them on, which only made the crowd scream louder with laughter.
"Thanks, guys," Blair chuckled, joining in the merriment.
"What's going on in here?" Simon barked over the din.
The sea of people parted to reveal the anthropologist and his new frames. Simon took one look and burst out laughing.
As the room grew quieter, Joel stepped forward again and said in a voice which could be heard by everyone, "And for being the unofficial taster for Major Crimes, you have our undying gratitude, Blair."
The crowd murmured their assent as everyone reached out to touch the observer again.
"Welcome back, Blair," Henri said quietly. The sentiment echoing around the observer, touching him deeply.
"Okay, everyone, let's get back to work," Simon blustered. "Sandburg's got to meet with Sanchez, and I know several of you have reports due on my desk by the end of the day."
The crowd dispersed and Blair found himself standing by his roommate.
Jim grinned cheekily. "The glasses are you, Sandburg."
"You think?" Blair asked, cocking an eyebrow. Chuckling, he took them off and held them in his hands.
"Yeah, definitely makes you a babe magnet."
"Thanks, Jim... for everything."
"Welcome back, Chief."
"Sandburg, do you need an engraved invitation?" Simon barked from the other side of the room.
"Well, I wouldn't want to be a bother, sir," Blair said innocently, then handed the glasses to his partner and turned toward the captain. He was back... to stay.
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