This is my very first attempt at any sort of fiction (other than those horrible short stories we all had to write in English class), so please be kind! I got the idea for this one while I was watching "The Girl Next Door" and took a good look at Blair's Volvo.

Feedback can be sent to Nickerbits@nni.com

A special thanks to my betas, Lora, TAE and Ellenore - without your kind words and encouragement I never would have had the courage to post this.

Disclaimers: No money. They were mine once, but my husband wouldn't let me keep them so I had to give them back.

Rating: G Spoilers: (kinda) Sweet Science


IDLE MUSINGS



Nickerbits






Looking up over the crowded Major Crimes bullpen, Blair pondered the same thought that had stuck in his head so many times. It had been three years now, and none of them had figured it out. He didn't think anyone even suspected. Was it a tribute to his skill in hiding the truth, a reflection on the lack of detective skills in the department, or was it just that no one cared enough to have noticed the clues scattered about for all to see?

He sighed, reflecting that try as he might, there were times it was very difficult to keep up the facade of poor broke grad student when, in fact, he and Naomi probably had more ready cash available than the rest of this building combined.

It wasn't surprising that no one had heard of the great Sandburg millions. The money had been amassed many years earlier by several previous generations of the family. A couple of quietly backed strip mines here, several blocks of crumbling tenements there, mixed together with a generous helping of questionable stock market dealings and before you knew it, boom - instant family money.

Of course, the nature of those investments did go a long way toward explaining Naomi's ambivalent attitude, lingering sense of shame and almost manic desire to keep her wealth a secret. The first thing Naomi had done upon inheriting the family riches was to liquidate all those objectionable holdings into good old cash, which suited her tender sensibilities much better. The second thing Naomi had done was to cede half of her newfound fortune to her only son.

Thus, instead of the hand to mouth existence most people imagined, Blair's vagabond childhood had actually been spent in comparative luxury. Never flaunting the money, of course, that was one of the first lessons Naomi had taught him. Money tends to cloud people's perceptions of the true, inner you.

"Honey," she'd lecture, "if all these folks knew about the money they wouldn't look deep enough to see the beauty of your soul. All they'd see would be dollar signs and how they could get their hands on some of them. They'd never be real friends and the greed would cloud their karma."

Blair supposed there was a lot of truth in her preachings. He also suspected that at least part of her concern was the fact that great wealth just did not jibe well with Naomi's self image as a free-spirited citizen of the world, unfettered by material possessions. If several million dollars did not count as a material possession, Blair didn't know what did. By pretending the money did not exist, Naomi wasn't really bound by it, was she?

Of course, there was the first clue everyone had missed. Flower child Naomi, traveling the world at will, always attending spiritual retreats and New Age festivals, yet never actually working anywhere. How did people think she financed this lifestyle? Maybe everyone just assumed that since it dealt with nature and granola and meditation it must be cheap. Blair smiled mirthlessly at that particular notion.

Truth be told, though, Blair supposed he didn't really have a lot of room to think of his mother as a hypocrite regarding her wealth. If anything, he was even more of one about his.

He hadn't worried too much about how he was perceived as an individual until he'd started college at Rainier. Before that, he'd always been an extension of Naomi. Now, for the first time, people were looking at Blair as an individual, without their conceptions of his mother to color the picture. Since he was only 16, an almost impossible gulf from the normal 18 - 19 year old freshmen, he'd been desperate to blend in as much as he could. Starting out as the boy-genius-millionaire didn't seem to be the best way to do that.

So, he'd learned to play the part of the struggling, hungry student as well as anyone. He'd scrimped and saved along with the rest of the students, eaten at crummy pizza joints and lived in well-worn clothes like the rest of the students. He'd also managed to finagle his way onto every anthropology expedition he possibly could.

Luckily, no one seemed to realize that although meals and lodging were covered at base camps, each student worker had to finance his or her own transportation to the site. When traveling to the far reaches of the globe, that could be a rather expensive proposition. Also, a summer spent at a dig was a summer that couldn't be worked to earn extra money for school. In order to explain his continued liquidity without such outside employment, he'd 'won' more grants and exaggerated the amount of his scholarship. Blair'd always felt a little bad stretching the truth like that, but it was necessary, right?

He'd been drifting along happily in college student then grad student mode for several years when he'd met Jim Ellison. In the beginning, he didn't know the man, and had been taught by Naomi not to trust the police anyway, so he kept up his starving student routine. Actually, looking back on it, he was surprised that Jim hadn't figured out something was going on almost from the beginning. Or, at least as soon as he'd seen the warehouse.

Sure, $850 a month was a really good price for 10,000 square feet, but how many penny-pinching college students could afford that kind of rent without several roommates to split the cost? That didn't even count the horrendous expense of lighting and heating such a huge, cold, dark space. Blair had never taken any of his college friends to the warehouse - they would have figured out there was something going on immediately. Blair wasn't sure why he'd invited his new cop friend over. Maybe he'd been hoping Jim would figure it out - that, finally, there'd be someone he didn't have to pretend around.

Blair sighed and ran his fingers through his hair as he continued his idle musings. He wished now that he'd just given in and told Jim. How was he supposed to break it to him now, after three years? Hey, Jim, did I forget to mention to you that I'm rich? Oh, yeah, that would go over real well...

There had definitely been no question of just telling the stationhouse as a whole about his true financial status. It would be enough of an uphill battle to gain the respect and acceptance of this group of tough cops as it was. Knowledge of his wealth would have just made that impossible.

A large portion of the force had decided on first sight that he couldn't possibly do the job - he'd just get Jim or some other officer killed. They'd dismissed him as a longhaired, smart-ass with no police training who would fall to pieces at the first sign of trouble. He had also heard from some friends at the U that Vice had conducted their own, quiet investigation of him soon after he'd started. After all, with his looks, background, and the fact that he'd lived next door to a meth lab, for crying out loud, drugs were almost a forgone conclusion. Jim Ellison used to be one of Vice's own, after all, and they'd just wanted to protect him from such a glaring error.

Add wealth to this already shaky mixture and things would have just fallen apart completely. The first thing it would have done was to call into question his dedication. Why would anyone with so much money want to risk his life tagging along with a bunch of cops? He'd be labeled a thrill seeker, a dilettante, a spoiled rich brat out for kicks. Add to that the subconscious envy this group of men and women living paycheck to paycheck would definitely feel, and Blair did not even want to consider going there.

Of course, there was always another crime related reason for not telling, Blair reflected. Even he was aware that he seemed to attract weirdos, serial killers and just plain trouble at an alarming rate. Add wealth to that equation and the kidnappers and psychos would probably be lined up six deep waiting their turns. Definitely not something he or his Blessed Protector needed.

Consciously, Blair forced his mind back to happier thoughts - his Volvo. He had really been sure that someone was going to see through that one. His pride and joy was supposedly a junker, a barely running lemon. Blair snorted quietly at that thought. For a cheap junker, the vintage Volvo should have been suspicious to anyone with a pair of eyes.

The vehicle's paint job and body were absolutely perfect inside and out. Given the combination of copious rain, salt air from the nearby sea and just plain salt used on the roads in Cascade, what were the chances that a neglected clunker would retain it's original showroom luster? For that matter, why would anyone believe that the prior owners would pay such obsessive attention to the finish and interior of the car and completely ignore what was under the hood?

The Volvo had been a calculated risk, Blair thought. He'd always liked classic cars, but how to explain being able to afford one on his "shoe string budget"? So, he'd found the car, which was in tattered condition inside and out at the time. He'd quietly bought it, taken it to a good restorer and had the worst of the mechanical problems repaired. He'd then taken Jim to see and 'buy' his fabulous find. Now, he was fixing the rest of the mechanical faults bit by bit as his imaginary student budget would allow. When Blair was finished, he'd have his mint condition classic with no one being the wiser.

Blair really thought he'd blown his cover with Jim when he'd first introduced him to Sweet Roy. A shadow of sorrow crossed Blair's expressive face at the thought of his friend. Roy had known the truth about Blair's money. It had seemed kind of silly trying to plead poverty while shelling out $400 cash for the shopkeeper's broken window.

In the joy of reliving old times with his friend, Blair had laughingly recounted the story of their first meeting - the street fight, the broken window, the large bill that followed. Luckily, Jim hadn't seemed to realize that $400 was a huge outlay for a broke grad student.

He also hadn't expressed surprise at the fact that not only had Blair not tried to collect Roy's half of the debt from his well-to-do friend, but that he'd forgotten about it entirely. Most poverty stricken students did not just 'forget' that someone owed them $200. To Blair's amazement, Jim never did question him about that. All he could figure was that it had been forgotten in the excitement of Sweet Roy's murder and the investigation that followed.

Roy's brother, Jamie, had nearly given Blair a heart attack when he'd referred to him as a "rich white boy". Sweet Roy had promised he'd never share Blair's secret with anyone - had he been unable to resist telling his own brother? After the initial panic passed, Blair had realized that Jamie was just mouthing off. If he'd truly known, Jamie would have continued to push the issue, would have thrown it up in Blair's face at every opportunity, would have been sure to tell Jim... God, it was tough trying to keep this secret sometimes.

Of course, it was fortunate that he did most of the grocery shopping. So far, Jim hadn't compared the price of ostrich to beef or organic produce to it's commercially grown counterparts--

"Hey, Chief," Jim's voice snapped Blair out of his reverie. "You want to go get some lunch?"

"Sure, Jim, sounds great! Oh, guess what? I got that grant I was hoping for. I'm celebrating - I'll buy."

As they walked to the elevators in companionable silence, Jim glanced at his partner and friend. I wonder when he's going to stop this silly charade and just tell me the truth? Only a blind man could have missed all the clues...

fin

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