I was re-watching Siege the other day, Ok, it was last July, and the seed for this story was planted in my brain. I got to thinking -- What if Blair hadn't been bluffing? Also, in The Killers he never admitted to not knowing how to use a gun, he merely (emphatically) stated he wouldn't carry one. So this is what I came up with.
I forgot to put this on my first two stories, but I don't own anything except my truck, which I finally got paid off after over two years. Well, actually Major Haskins does also. I mean no harm and no foul. Or if you prefer, the standard disclaimer applies to this and all my stories.
Just to let you know, I know very little about the military action before and during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. I also know nothing about the awarding of medals and other things military. If I got things too wrong, consider this AU where it could happen this way. I mean no disrespect to anyone who served in this/these or any such operation/war.
Thank you very much to Rona, who kept me from making some major mistakes with this story. Especially the military parts. As I said, I know almost nothing about these things.
"Thank you for the help with the Newton extradition, Captain. The Army appreciates the co- operation you've given on this matter," Major Bruce Haskins commented as Simon Banks escorted him into the Major Crimes bullpen.
"I just wish all our extraditions would go this easily," Simon replied. "Oh, there's the detective responsible for Newton's capture," he added as he steered the Major over towards Jim Ellison's desk, where he and Blair Sandburg were working on a report.
"Jim, this is Army Major Bruce Haskins. This is Detective Jim Ellison," Simon introduced them. "And Blair Sandburg, he's an observer with the department."
Jim and the Major shake hands. "Good work, Detective," the Major told him. Turning towards Blair, he stopped for a moment as Blair stared open mouthed at him for a couple of moments. "I don't believe this," the Major said in surprise. "Squirt? I almost didn't recognize you with all that hair."
Blair grinned in delight as the two of them hugged. "Hey, Flash. How ya doing? Man, I haven't seen you since you were reassigned. That was, what? August of '94?"
The Major nodded. "Yea, you were about to get out and were talking about going back to school for your doctorate."
"Got out?" Jim looked as confused as Simon did. "Got out of what?"
Haskins shrugged, "The Army, what else? You're looking at one of the best Apache pilots in Operation Desert Shield."
"Wait a minute," Simon stopped him. "Sandburg served in Desert Shield?"
The Major nodded proudly as Blair blushed and tried to hide behind him. "Yes, Sir. He flew over 1200 hours and was shot down twice."
"Why wasn't I told about this?" Simon growled, glaring at Blair.
"Don't look at me Simon...um...Sir," Blair backed up further. "It's all in my file down in personnel."
"You said you had no experience with guns," Jim added feeling both hurt and angry at the thought he'd been lied to.
"No, Jim," Blair quickly reassured him. "I never said that. What I said was that I wasn't going to carry a gun. I never said I didn't know how to use them...'Sides, I saw enough of them in the Persian Gulf to last me a lifetime."
"Our Hairboy was in the Persian Gulf? During the War?" Brown asked surprised.
"In the service?" Rafe added.
"That's right, gentlemen. Seems our pacifist observer here isn't such a pacifist after all." Simon glared at Blair again.
"And I suppose that Alvin C. York wasn't a pacifist?" Blair countered.
"That was a movie, Hairboy," Brown told him.
"No, Sargent Alvin C. York was a real person. He really did take out all those Germans single-handedly. And he was a pacifist," the Major explained in Blair's defense. "Besides, Squirt defied his mother and everything he was raised to believe in to sign up." He turned to Blair. "Didn't you, Captain?"
"Captain!" echoed the room, causing Blair to blush bright red.
Simon moved next to Blair, towering over the younger man, looking upset. "I'm sure Captain Sandburg will be happy to fill us all in." He leaned down into Blair's face. "WON'T YOU!" He yelled.
Fed up, Blair looked angrily back up at Simon. "No, I won't. If you're so hot to find out, you can go look in my personnel file, not that you've bothered to look in it before." He backed up and grabbed his jacket and backpack. "Or maybe, if you asked him nicely, Bruce will tell you. Not that asking me ever crossed your minds... I'm leaving, I have a class I have to get to."
They all watched in stunned amazement as Blair stormed out of the bullpen and disappeared down the stairs. The Major shook his head. "I see 'The Sky Squirt' hasn't lost his temper." At the baffled looks, he shrugged. "He always did prefer being asked instead of being told, although he takes reasonable orders very well. And he was telling you until the Captain got into his face about it."
Shaking his head, Jim commented bewilderedly, "I don't get it. Why didn't he tell me he was in the service? That's just one more thing we have in common."
"Because he promised his mother he'd never trade on his experiences in the service. 'Sides, that is the most embarrassed war hero I have ever met."
"Sandburg is a war hero?" Rafe looked even more stunned than before.
"Our Hairboy?" Brown asked.
"Yea," The Major nodded. "But I think you should get the whole story from Blair."
After a moment or two of stunned silence, Jim invited everyone to the loft that night for dinner and to find out the whole story. They all accepted.
Blair sighed as he trudged up the last flight of stairs to the loft. He knew there was about to be a major scene with Jim. He figured he was about to be read the riot-act for yelling at Simon and acting like a spoilt brat and storming out of the bullpen, even though he did have a class and knew Jim knew about it.
He had no idea how bad the lecture was going to be about keeping his service record a secret. Blair honestly felt embarrassed about his time in the Air Force... especially after that stupid argument with Naomi.
Oh well, Time to face the music, Blair thought to himself as he reached the door. Maybe Jim's asleep, he mentally laughed at himself. It wasn't even 7 o'clock yet.
Opening the door, Blair dropped his keys in the basket and hung up his jacket without ever looking towards the rest of the apartment.
"You OK, Chief?" Jim asked.
"Yea, I'm OK, Jim..." Blair's voice died as he turned and saw Major Haskins, Simon, Brown, Rafe and Taggart sitting in the living room munching on Chinese food.
"What's going on?" he finished, his voice wary.
Standing, Simon moved over towards him. "We want to... I want to apologize for earlier. The news took us all by surprise, and I'm sorry to say my temper got the better of me. Now I am asking, nicely, will you please explain how you ended up a Persian Gulf War hero?" Simon looked at him earnestly.
Scanning the other faces in the room, Blair easily read the open sincerity on all of them. Except on his old friend's. On the Major's face, he saw anticipation and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
"You told them I was a war hero?" Blair shook his head in disbelief. "All I did was survive, man."
The Major nodded sagely. "Yea, and helped 15 other guys survive at the same time, including me."
Blair shook his head again. "All I did was keep my Swiss army knife hidden from the Iraqis who captured us. And I was a Warrant Officer, not a captain, Flash."
"You received a battlefield promotion before that second crash Squirt."
"Very funny," Blair countered. "There is no such thing anymore."
"Wait a second." Simon waved them both to silence. Looking at Blair he continued, "How did you end up in the Army? I thought you and your Mother were anti-military and anti-violence."
Blair sighed as he sat on the floor next to Jim, who handed him a plate of food. "We are, or rather she is..." He took a deep, calming breath then continued. "Ok, you know I started college when I was 16. That was back in '85. By '89 I had not only graduated, but had completed my Masters."
"Then, why were you still working on you doctorate when we met 5 years later?" Jim asked concerned
"Because I ran out of money and couldn't continue until I got those loans paid off," Blair explained.
"What about scholarships, grants and loans?" Rafe asked.
"Yea, but there aren't a lot of those in anthropology on a graduate level. 'Sides, I was a very stubborn 20 year old and a friend had just gotten out of the service and had all of his schooling paid for. So I started looking into it. Then Mom came for a visit..."
"She didn't take it well?" Taggart asked.
Blair shook his head. "She freaked and almost went ballistic. She forbade me to even think about joining up and told me I was going on a retreat with her to Montana to cleanse my karma."
"Oops," Jim grinned, knowing Blair's temper.
Nodding, Blair continued. "Yea... well I blew my top and stormed out, straight to the recruiting office."
"Not a smart thing to do in a fit of anger," Simon observed.
"No, it isn't," Blair agreed. "However, I already had all the terms I wanted in writing and the recruiter and his superiors had already agreed to them all and had signed it. The recruiter insisted I cool off before he'd let me sign anything. So I put a copy of the terms into my safety-deposit box and crashed at a friend's place."
"What were your terms?" Taggart asked.
"Oh, um..." He thought for a second. "I join the Army, as a pilot and that I prefer flying helicopters over planes. I actually ended up being commissioned as Warrant Officer. I was also either a pilot or as office support I didn't want any ground combat. I wanted money to pay off my schooling; they doubled every dollar I put in. When I got out I paid off everything I owed and had enough left to pay for not only a year towards my Ph.D., but to rent that warehouse where I lived when I first met Jim, for a year."
"Wait a minute," Jim put his hand on Blair's shoulder. "You had only been out of the service for a year when we met in '96?"
Blair shook his head. "No, I'd been out 18 months." He grinned, "Not even my hair grows that fast. I got out in August of '94, just in time to start back at Rainier that year. And I had been able to let my hair start growing out that last year."
"Since when are you a pilot?" Brown asked.
"And what about your fear of heights?" Simon added.
"I learned to fly when I was 14," Blair told them. "One of Naomi's boyfriends was a pilot and he taught me to fly. I soloed at 15 and got my license for both fixed wings and helicopters. And yes, I was afraid of heights then too, unless I was flying. That started after that second crash back in Iraq."
"Second crash?" Rafe asked.
Blair sighed as he set his plate down, realizing that he wasn't going to get a chance to eat anytime soon.
"OK," he started. "After I got out of basic training and flight school, to learn combat flying, and officer's training, it was '90. I was assigned to fly air support..." He started blushing. "For a Special Forces covert ops unit in Saudi Arabia."
Jim's jaw dropped as Simon and Joel's eyes went wide. Rafe looked impressed as Brown uttered a startled "Whoa."
Blair grinned sheepishly. "Yea, that was Flash's unit. The first time I crashed, well, actually I was shot down; we were over Iraq on a recon and pick up mission. I managed to get us within about ten miles of the border and we walked out."
"How many of you were there?" Jim asked.
"About 12, three us from the crew and nine of the guys we picked up," Blair replied.
"We carried out the three who didn't make it and the two of us who were badly injured," Flash informed them. "Squirt did a fantastic job keeping that ship up and going until it almost literally fell apart around us. He made sure we were all out and that we had the emergency supplies and the first aid kit before the ship blew. Not bad for a first mission, huh?"
The others were shocked at this news. After a moment, Jim grinned. "Ok, I guess it isn't just working with me that gets you into trouble."
Blair grinned back. "No way, man. I've been a trouble magnet most of my life. But, we made it back in one piece, and the two guys who were hurt made it. And those 1200 hours Flash mentioned were all before the war started...well except for maybe ten of those hours."
"That's when you were shot down for the second time?" Jim asked.
"Yea. We had just made a run to do a pick up near Baghdad, when we were hit by anti- aircraft fire. That ship dropped like a stone. Of the ten aboard, six of us survived the crash. We were captured within minutes of the crash. We were taken to an interrogation center and questioned." A shudder ran through Blair's body. Jim's hand squeezed his shoulder sympathetically.
"Somehow," Blair shook his head in wonder. "With all the strip searches and everything, I managed to keep my knife."
"The one you got for your bar-mitzvah?" Jim asked.
"Yea." Blair nodded. "Most of that time is a blank, so I don't know how I did it, especially since they never took me back to the same cell. The same hot box? Yes. The same cell? No."
"Hot box? What's that?" Rafe asked.
"It's a metal box about three foot by three foot by three foot, that's on legs and left out in the sun. It can get to over 150 degrees inside during the day. And it never really cools down at night, unless they either open the top or pack it in ice," Flash explained.
"Which they never did," Blair added. He chuckled. "Maybe that's why I have trouble with the cold so much."
"How much time did you spend in that thing?" Jim asked quietly.
"Twenty-four hours in, with forty-eight hours out is how it worked out," Blair answered.
"Our captors figured since he was, not only the smallest of all of us, but also looked like he was about 14 or 15 and Jewish, that he'd be the easiest to break. But he never did. They'd beat him before they put him into the box. Every-single-time. They broke this boy's... no, this man's jaw, seven of his fingers, four toes, five ribs, and crushed his nose. God only knows how he survived, let alone escaped and frees three of us. We freed the others, then Blair managed to fly the chopper we stole and got us back to friendly territory, since the other pilot hadn't survived the crash. He passed out not two minutes after he landed us safely at our home base," Flash told them.
"He flew with broken fingers?" Brown was shocked. "I tell you, Hairboy, that's one of the bravest things I ever heard of..." He thought a minute. "You know, I think I remember hearing about that while I was over there... Wait a second... I heard the pilot responsible received a Congressional Medal of Honor and the highest UN Medal too."
"No, I didn't. I received a Presidential Cluster from Jordan, which has a king, and the Medal of Honor. But nothing from the UN. 'Sides I don't even remember meeting the President, I honestly don't think I did," Blair confessed. "My first really coherent thoughts, after the escape, were sometime in early '92. I was at Walter Reed Hospital."
"How did you loose so much time? Almost a year?" Rafe asked.
Blair shrugged. "Part of it was my injuries. Turns out I had suffered a severe concussion and had ended up in a coma for a couple of weeks. I also had to go through several surgeries to reset my fingers and toes and they had to completely reconstruct my nose."
"Ha! I knew that nose was too good to be true," Brown laughed. The others joined him.
Blair laughed also, then nodded to a picture on a shelf behind Rafe. "That's a picture of me as a teen-ager. This is my nose. They used a couple of pictures of me to do the reconstruction. They had crushed it a couple of times... So between my injuries, the surgeries, physical therapy and counseling, it was 1992 before I really cared about where and when I was."
"How long were you in the hospital?" Jim asked, his hand still on Blair's shoulder.
"They released me in August of '93, but I was assigned to an army base, right there in the D.C. area, so they could keep an eye on me. I retrained, but I couldn't bring myself to fly again. It was now a full-blown panic attack-inducing phobia. It was so bad I couldn't work up in the tower. So I was assigned to the auxiliary tracking station, which was on the ground level. I also had trouble with small enclosed places," he grinned. "Lucky for me, my room at the Bachelor Officer's quarters was on the first floor. By the time I got out in '94 I was physically, back to normal. I had also managed to control my fear of flying. I still can't pilot, but I can handle flying in a plane, no problem. I still have problems with helicopters, though."
"How did your Mom handle your capture and injuries?" Joel asked.
Blair grinned. "When she got word I'd been captured, I'm told she tried to storm the Pentagon. Somehow, she got to Kuwait and in to Schwartzkauf and demanded he personally do something to find me. He turned her over to the Army, who turned her over to the Red Cross, who turned her over to Hadassah, who turned her back over to the Army. Of course, by that time we had escaped. She accompanied me every step of the way until I was released from the hospital." He chuckled. "She even tried to get me discharged."
"She also gave the President an earful when she received your medals for you," Flash laughed.
"I'm surprised I didn't wake up in the guardhouse, Blair grinned as the rest laughed.
"So that's why she was going on about your hair and how '60s it looked that first time she came to visit," Jim commented.
"Yea." Blair nodded. "The last time we'd seen each other, it was winter and my hair was tucked up into my hat, and she was only here for about an hour between planes on her way to Japan, I think."
He looked at Jim, hopefully and continued, "I'm sorry I never told you... but..."
"I understand Chief. It has to be a hard memory for you," Jim assured him.
"Thanks, man," Blair sighed in relief. "Any other questions before this topic gets buried forever?" He asked looking at the others.
Simon cleared his throat and leaned forward, "Yes. How did you get the name Sky Squirt?" He smiled widely as Blair blushed a bright red.
"They called me Indy back in flight school, but Flash changed it to Sky Squirt," Blair mumbled.
"Why?" Simon pressed.
"Because Indiana Jones was an archeologist and Blair here is an anthropologist. 'Sides, I had to ground him for a week while I checked him out and made sure he was at least 18. Like I said, he looked about 14 or so. I started calling him Squirt. By the time he was cleared, the guys were calling him The Sky Squirt."
"That's right Mr. Flash-in-the-Pan Haskins," Blair replied cheekily. "It's all your fault. I would've been happy with Indy, but Nooo, you've got me sounding like an air born water gun," Blair playfully ranted.
The Major grinned, "At least it's better than Hairboy."
Blair nodded, "True."
"But that one does fit you better now." Flash grinned evilly.
"Awe man, I am never gonna live this down now," Blair moaned.
"Yes, you will," Jim assured him with a warning glance at the others in the room. Then grinned, "At least until next Veteran's Day."
Blair moaned as the others all laughed. He joined in a moment later.
Later, after everyone had gone home, Blair nervously approached the silent figure on the balcony.
"Are you mad I never told you about being in the service?" he asked timidly, fearing a blow up.
"No," Jim informed him. "Major Haskins explained about what you had promised Naomi. I understand that."
"Then what's wrong?" Blair asked.
Jim looked at him a moment, then smiled gently. "Nothing really. I've just been trying to add all this into what I already know about you."
"I'm still the same guy I was yesterday, before you found out," Blair told him earnestly.
"I know," Jim agreed. "It just proves to me what an amazing person you are Chief."
"Thanks man," Blair replied a little self-consciously. "So, are we OK, Jim?"
Jim grinned again. "Yea, Chief, we're OK." A mischievous twinkle came into his eyes. "You wanna compare medals?"
Blair stared at him for a second before they both burst out laughing.
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