Notes: Set before Sentinel Too.
Disclaimers: All standard disclaimers apply. Pet Fly Productions and UPN own the characters and the series. No copyright infringement intended. No money was made in writing or sharing this story -- unless someone wants to pay me and then I'll talk to my lawyers about sharing *weg*
Many thanks to IrisWilde for consenting to beta this story for me. Any mistakes, however, are my own.
"And this is Bessie," Janice Wilson said with amused exasperation as her hand swept in front of the century-old looking copy machine like one of the models on The Price is Right.
"And it works?" Kirsten Robinson gasped in amazement.
Janice laughed. "Only for people who love her; and I'm here to tell you that Professors, TA's and Teaching Fellows don't. But for those who do, she will never fail to perform. Your most sacred duty while I'm gone is to keep her alive and in one piece."
The young woman nodded slowly, her eyes wide as saucers, realizing the enormity of the task being laid upon her.
"The reason we have old Bess in here instead of down the hall is so you can prevent violence from being done to her. You can ignore sighs, whimpers, crying and anguished wails, but the moment you hear cursing, you must come in here to protect her. Why, once I came in here to find a grad student pulling a knife on her."
Kirsten looked up into the face of the older woman. "You're pulling my leg, aren't you?"
"I wish I was. Bess is what keeps this place running and it's your sacred duty to make sure she keeps running."
Kirsten worried her lower lip with her teeth. "I had no idea a university temp job was going to be so complex."
"No, Sugar. Complex is learning all the idiosyncrasies of the inmates in this asylum. Treat the tenured professors with the respect due their positions, but remember most of them make the Absentminded Professor look organized by comparison. Treat them like helpless six-year-olds and you'll keep your sanity. Most of the teaching assistants and fellows are typical overachievers. They are involved in twenty different projects at any given time, trying to keep up their own studies, plus trying to earn enough money to stay here by teaching. They will always be on the ragged edge. Some of them deal with it with gracefully, others not so much. It's your job to be a calm presence."
Gulping, Kirsten repeated. "Calm."
Janice laughed. "And the most important thing to know is the point system for supplies."
"I don't understand," the younger woman said, shaking her head in confusion.
Hearing the doorknob to the office turn, Janice smiled in almost evil anticipation. "Watch and learn," she whispered.
Kirsten turned to see a young man in faded jeans and a blue flannel shirt slip through the door backwards. He shook his head and held up one hand in a "stay" position to someone out in the hall. Her breath caught in her throat as the beautiful long haired young man turned and settled the weight of his gaze upon her. Dear God, she thought, please let him be a TA.
The young man graced her with a brilliant smile before he turned his full attention to Janice. "Please don't tell me this is your last day, my priestess," he said, pouting playfully.
"I'm afraid so, Blair. The kids aren't going to wait much longer." Janice laughed as her hand smoothed over her enormous midsection.
Kirsten, feeling as if she were spending the day in the Twilight Zone, asked, "Priestess?"
The young man turned his gaze back to her; his face solemn, but his blue eyes twinkled with mischief. "High Priestess to the angry and temperamental Goddess Bess." Turning back to Janice, he asked conspiratorially, "You are teaching her all of the sacred rituals, right?"
"Well, I was saving the blood ritual for last. I didn't want to overwhelm the poor thing," Janice said with equal solemnity.
"Blood ritual?" Kirsten squeaked.
Blair nodded. "You know, blood of a virgin, hair from a hero, that sort of thing."
"The virgin blood is getting harder and harder to find." Janice laughed as she stepped forward and pulled a single strand of hair from the young man's head. "But finding the hair of a hero is never hard with this one around."
"Ow!" Blair complained, but the laughter in his voice ruined the effect.
"So what can I do for you, Blair?" Janice asked, all business again, although the smile on her face did not wane.
"Are my Anthro 102 tests copies done?" The young man's gaze flickered quickly to the room behind them and over to the gray metallic cabinet several feet to his left.
"Yes, we put them in your box earlier this morning."
"Thank you," the teaching assistant nodded distractedly as he wandered over to the window. "What was that?"
Kirsten watched in fascination as Janice moved on stealthy feet which belied her condition and stopped to lean against the supply cabinet. When Blair turned back from the window, it was to find a very pregnant secretary standing guard in front of the inner sanctum.
"Awwww, Janny," he whined.
"Blair Sandburg, the 'what's that' offensive hasn't worked in five years. I can't believe you would try something so lame on my last day."
The young teacher had the good grace to blush. "Well, I figured you wouldn't be expecting it."
Janice gently swatted Blair in the forehead. Kirsten melted as he gave the older woman a puppy dog look which just begged for forgiveness, but to her surprise the older woman was unmoved.
"What do you need?"
"The staple gun."
"Are you insane?"
"It's worth five hundred points."
"Well, you have been a little hormonal lately and it being your last day and all, the ante has been upped shall we say. They're going to start over once... ummm..."
"Kirsten," the young secretary supplied helpfully.
Rewarding her again with a smile that made her want to swoon, he continued, "Kirsten starts."
Janice sighed. "But you've been ahead for ages. Why such a big point item?"
"Because they knocked six hundred points off my score when Tim came on the scene. They figured I was getting preferential treatment. The staple gun will put me back on top and clench the contest for me."
"What are the stakes this year?"
"Dinner at Alberto's tomorrow. Anything I want off the menu."
"Tim?" Kirsten asked, hating not being able to follow the conversation.
Janice looked over at her, ignoring the pitiful quivering lip in front of her. "My husband. Blair introduced us." Looking back at the grad student, she laughed helplessly, then tried to be serious. "I suppose if I kill you, Tim would have to arrest me."
"And you do have to think of the children," he reminded her, grinning, holding his tongue between your teeth.
She sighed. "You are too thin."
"This would be a chance to fatten me up," he said solemnly, although the effect was ruined by his bouncing slightly on his toes.
"Where are they?"
"Around the corner."
"Yes!" He pumped his arm once in victory but stilled instantly when Janice bapped him in the forehead.
"That's for the hormonal crack. You can have it for twenty minutes. If it is not back in this office by that time, I'll put a hex on you and old Bess will never..."
"No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No," Blair rushed to reassure her as he held up his hands in supplication.
"I'm only doing this because it will stop the pilfering for the rest of the day and I can finish Kirsten's training."
"I understand," he said, nodding in excitement.
Janice turned slightly, opened the door and reached in with the precision of an eagle on the hunt and pulled out the grail. "How long?"
"Not one second longer."
"Not one second longer." He reverently took the stapler from her hands then leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek.
She sighed dramatically. "Get out of here, you bohemian."
Blair bounced to the door, stuffed the stapler into the back of his pants, pulled his shirt over it, then turned around, his hand on the knob. He cleared his throat slightly and nodded to the hallway.
To Kirsten's great surprise, Janice began shouting angrily at him. "And if I catch one more of you in here today, I swear I'll have Professor Killyan have you do the data entry for the next month. Do I make myself clear, Sandburg?!"
Blair winked at Kirsten before he shoved himself back into the hallway, raising his hands in supplication. "I...I...I..."
"GET OUT!" Janice roared. And with that, the graduate student stumbled out of the room as if the hounds of hell were on his heels.
"What," Kirsten laughed in shock, "was that all about?"
Janice held her stomach, laughing and gasping for air, then waved Kirsten toward the door. "Go on. Just make sure they don't see you."
Quietly, Kirsten followed the grad student but stopped before she reached the corner, listening to the voices just a few feet away.
"Got any skin left, Sandburg?" a voice laughed in dry victory.
"Awww, Blair. At least you gave it a shot," a female voice said in sympathy.
"What makes you think I failed?" Blair asked quietly.
The first voice laughed harshly. "Man, we heard her from here."
"Well, yes; but that's only because I got greedy and was going for the laser pointer," Blair explained.
"What are you saying, B?"
"I'm saying," Blair answered quietly, then paused for effect, "I should've been happy with just this."
"No way!" the first voice yelled in disbelief.
Kirsten backed down the corridor the way she came as other voices laughed and the sounds of back slapping and shoving echoed in the hallway. She shook her head in confusion as she slipped back into the office and sat down beside her mentor. "Care to explain what that was all about?"
"Blair's my favorite."
"I can see why. Oh my God, is he gorgeous or what?"
"That he is." Janice smiled. "Well, now would be a good time to fill you in on my favorite anthropologist."
"Oh yes, please do." Kirsten sighed dreamily.
"Hey, no drooling on the desk." Janice frowned at her. "And there's much more to Blair than just a pretty face."
Kirsten looked at her expectantly.
"Blair is doing his doctoral thesis on... closed societies and has been riding with a police detective from Major Crimes named James Ellison. Now, you want to talk about a hottie." Janice laughed, then had the good grace to blush. "And if you ever tell Tim I said that they will never find your body."
"My lips are sealed."
"Anyway, they've been partners for about two and half years."
"Partners? Isn't that kind of odd?" Kirsten asked in surprise.
"Don't try to understand it. Just accept it. There are, however, a few things you should know. First and most importantly, if Detective Ellison, Captain Simon Banks or any detective from Major Crimes ever calls, do whatever they say or give them any information they may be requesting as quickly as you can. No questions asked. I don't care what any administrator or professor tells you about policy. Just do it."
"In the time that Blair has ridden with Jim, he has been kidnapped by a serial killer, shot twice and poisoned by golden, along with other incidents which are just too numerous to recount." Janice frowned slightly as if remembering past calls. "Any information you give to the police must be done in a quick and efficient manner as Blair's life might depend on it."
"Oh my God, you're not kidding, are you?"
"No. I wish I were. I worry about him. One of these days Jim's not going to get to him in time."
"This Jim sounds like he leads a dangerous life," Kirsten said quietly.
"He does, but don't let that color your perceptions of him. He's a hard man to get to know. Oftentimes, he comes across as cold but efficient; that is, until you see him around Blair in full protective mode, and then... then you see what an old softy he is. He's a big brother and mother hen all wrapped up in one gorgeous package. And if you ever repeat that comment, I'll deny it with my dying breath."
Kirsten laughed. "So tell me how Blair came to be your favorite."
"Oh, man, do you have all day?" Janice laughed. "He's been at Rainier since he was sixteen, a child prodigy of sorts. He came the same semester I began working here. You see, I had just graduated and, of course, had big plans to go on expeditions and discover the next missing temple; but my mother became gravely ill. Her insurance was awful and I had to help her make ends meet, which meant I couldn't pursue any higher degrees." Janice sighed sadly for a moment, then brightened. "So I did the next best thing, I got a job as departmental secretary. Blair and I were both lost and looking for our place in a cold university system. I tried to look out for him when he was younger."
"So Blair's been with you every step of the way?"
Janice nodded. "Yes, it certainly seems that way. I watched him as he breezed through his bachelors and celebrated with him as he got hired on as a teaching fellow. He's made working here a joy. He always seems to have a minute to ask how your day is going or if you need anything -- he genuinely wants to know, and remembers everything you ever tell him. And I swear, every time I've ever had to work late, he's always been there to walk me to the car. He just has a way with people which puts them at ease. He's a great teacher; every single one of his classes has a waiting list. If popularity got you tenure around here, he'd be in like Flynn."
"So how did he introduce you to Tim?"
Janice shook her head for a moment and smiled ruefully. "I'd love to say our first introduction was romantic, but it wasn't."
"Last year I was running some papers over to Dr. Watson from Dr. Buckner." Janice paused for a moment.
"Are you okay?" Kirsten asked in concerned.
"Yes." Janice nodded with a small smile. "You see, I was the one who found Dr. Watson's body. She'd been murdered, although we didn't know that at the time."
"It really was. Anyway, I had to give a statement and as you can imagine I was a total basket case. I couldn't breathe. I was on the verge of a panic attack, when Blair seemed to appear from out of nowhere. He just held my hand as I told the detective everything I knew."
"Was the officer Tim?"
"Yes, but I didn't know that at the time."
"So, how did you two get together?"
"Well, Blair and Tim just kept showing up here. Oh, it was all under the pretense of needing a ride or information or some such thing. But funny thing was, Blair would suddenly disappear and there I was..."
"Alone with Tim," Kirsten finished.
Janice blushed. "Before I knew it. I was in love. Who would have thought it? Thirty-six and hopelessly infatuated with a homicide detective. We had a small civil ceremony and Blair stood by me, giving me away as my father had long since passed away."
Kirsten sniffed. "That's so sweet."
"Yes, well we need to get back to w... need to get back..." Janice gasped.
"I... I don't know." Janice gasped in pain, her arms going protectively around her stomach. "I think it's the babies."
"Oh my God. Oh my God!" Kirsten whispered in panic, shoving her chair back and desperately trying to figure out what she should do. University jobs weren't supposed to be this stressful, she thought frantically.
The door opened and Blair Sandburg sauntered in with a big Cheshire grin. "And with five minutes to spare, the conquering hero..." His gaze fell upon the scene before him and he ran to Janice's side, falling to his knees once he reached her chair. "Hey," he said with shaky, but cheerful voice. "What's going on?"
Janice whimpered. "I think it's the babies, Blair. Something doesn't feel right."
"Okay. It's okay," he said, then pressed a light kiss to her forehead.
"Is that your expert shamanic opinion?" Janice asked, attempting humor, but failing miserably.
"How... no, I'm not even going to ask," he whispered, gently laying his hands over her stomach and closing his eyes for a moment. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly then looked into the frightened woman's eyes. "You're past thirty-two weeks, right?"
Janice could only nod.
"I think, Janny, your kids are impatient to meet their mama." He stood and handed the stapler to Kirsten, who in a zombie-like trance returned it to the supply cabinet. Pulling his cell phone out from its holster on his belt, he pushed a series of buttons and waited a moment. "Jim, get Tim... No, meet us at the hospital... No, I don't want to wait for an amb... Yeah, I think we can get there bef... All available units, man, sirens wailing cause I gotta tell you, I missed the required shaman birthing classes... Laugh it up, Chuckles... I will... I will." Blair closed the cell phone then bent over until he was eye to eye with the secretary. "You ready to blow this pop stand, my priestess."
Janice just nodded, intent on her Lamaze breathing.
"Where's your purse?"
Janice pointed to the desk drawer and Blair moved swiftly to remove the leather satchel. "Hold on tight," he said, moving behind her chair and pushing it toward the door. "Kirsten, would you get the door?"
"What are you doing?" Kirsten demanded, even as she did what he requested.
"I don't want her on her feet any more than necessary." Blair moved the chair at a steady pace toward the backdoor of Hargrove Hall. "Keep breathing, Janny. You're doing great," he said in a soothing tone, devoid of any panic, but which demanded compliance.
When they reached the stairs, Blair turned to Kristen, "If you'll support her from that side, we should be able to get her out to the parking lot. Where's your car, Janny?"
"My car?" Janice asked in apparent surprise as she focused on the young man beside her.
"Unless you want to go in the Volvo?" he grinned cheekily at her.
"Over there. Professor Killyan insisted I take his spot -- said he didn't want me overdoing it."
"Who would have thought the Hardass of Hargrove was such an old softy." Blair laughed.
"Blair, I'll help him hide the body if you tell a soul."
Kirsten snickered. "She uses that threat a lot, doesn't she?"
Janice stopped abruptly and wailed as water gushed down her legs.
"We're okay," Blair whispered, even though he swallowed hard. "That's part of the normal process. It just moves the timetable up a bit, but we're not going to panic," he said as he started the trio toward the dark blue Buick. "Get her keys and open up the front door," Blair said to Kirsten, using his warm tone of voice again as he shifted his hold on Janice to accept more of her weight.
Kirsten hurried to comply and pushed the f seat all the way back. Blair gently lowered the panting older woman into the passenger seat, took the keys from the young secretary and shut the door before he jogged around the car.
"Blair?" Kirsten called out to the grad student as he opened the driver's side door.
"This isn't like a typical day for you, is it?"
"Yeah," he said with amusement. "It pretty much is." He chuckled as he got into the car, then put the keys into the ignition, looked at her again and grinned before he drove off.
Postscript: At 3:27 p.m. Timothy Blair Wilson was born. His sister Jamie Lee Wilson joined him at 3:45 p.m. Both children were born healthy and sound. Father arrived at the hospital in a blue and white Ford pickup at the same time his wife did. Confusion reigned for a short time as hospital staff tried to figure out what sort of emergency they were dealing with when a dozen police cars running with full sirens arrived in the emergency room parking lot. Mother and children are doing fine. Father hasn't been able to wipe the grin off his face in over a week.
The temporary anthropology department secretary, Kirsten Robinson, has garnered a reputation of being a dragon when it comes to supplies. However, teaching fellow Blair Sandburg has already seemed to have amassed one hundred and seventeen supplies points to date.
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