Disclaimer: No they are not mine. They belong to Pet Fly, UPN & Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.
Thank you: Thank to Bobbie and StarWatcher for your doing such a quick and expert beta on this story. All mistakes, as always, belong to me. Thanks also to wolfpup for giving my stories a home.
Notes: Written for my SA dues. Feedback: email@example.com
Simon Banks stood quietly, unseen and undetected, simply observing.
Observation: it was an ability he prided himself on, and a skill he'd mastered with some proficiency over the years. Cataloguing and taking note of people's mannerisms and behaviours was a task he'd been doing long before joining the police department. Knowing and understanding what made people tick, what got them motivated and what pulled them down, was an intuitive instinct that he'd had for as long as he could remember.
Looking out through the partially-closed blinds of his office, Simon wondered if any of them had the slightest clue how good he was. He wondered if they even realised how carefully he managed all of them. His eyes came to rest on Henri Brown -- a good cop, but not exactly the most focused person he'd ever met. Henri was a man who needed stringent guidelines to work by if he were to reach his potential; anything less and he'd take advantage, with the bullpen deteriorating into his own personal circus. Shifting his attention away from Henri, Simon focussed on Rafe, the youngest and most inexperienced of his detectives. Hiding beneath the Italian suits and the patent leather shoes was an intelligent, but shy individual. Often overshadowed by the exuberant nature of his partner, Rafe needed a softer, gentler approach. A guiding hand with quiet words of encouragement and the time taken to show an interest his in life outside the workplace was what seemed to work best with the young detective.
Adjusting the blinds to a more discreet angle, Simon turned his attention to perhaps the most difficult personality he'd ever had to manage -- Detective James Ellison. Self-assured and confident, Jim was a brilliant detective with one of the best analytical minds he ever seen, but Ellison was not the easiest man in the world to get along with. To get the most out of the detective, Simon had learned when to push and when to back down. When they'd first meet, Jim was very much a loner and, to a certain degree, a loose cannon; he couldn't and wouldn't be told how to do his job. Annoyingly enough, nine times out of ten he was proven to be right, but Jim had still needed to learn that Major Crime was not Vice, and that his independent investigative style needed to be adjusted. It had been a mammoth task, and not without frustration, but with careful management and gentle coercion, Ellison, whether he fully realised it or not, had finally come around. Jim had slowly begun to work as part of the team -- a member of Major Crime -- and was now not only sharing his expertise, but actively seeking out the experience that his fellow officers had to offer.
Wrapping both hands around his coffee mug, Simon's eyes finally drifted across to the person who had brought him to the window in the first place. Blair Sandburg. I'm observing the observer, he reflected, amused slightly by the irony. He'd been watching discreetly for the past couple of days now, observing Blair and seeing a behaviour that wasn't exactly in keeping with the normal character of the young man. Simon was aware that it was nearing the end of term and Blair was probably juggling more balls than he could keep in the air, but the kid, even under pressure, usually still managed to exude a certain amount of positive energy. But at the moment, Sandburg was displaying an attitude of defeat and failure and, by the way he'd been popping aspirin it was obvious that the mental pressure Blair was under was starting to manifest itself in a physical way. Glancing briefly at Ellison, who was nose deep in a pile of witness reports, Simon decided it was time to take matters into his own hands. Jim was normally pretty astute when it came to the kid, but the detective had been under a mountain of stress himself and, somehow, Blair had managed to slip under the Ellison radar.
Moving away from the window, Simon pulled open the door and stuck his head out into the bullpen. "Sandburg, can I see you in my office for a moment, please."
Blair startled, clutching -- almost hiding -- the folder he'd been bent over. He looked over at Jim and while Banks' physical presence hadn't attracted any undue interest, the 'please' he'd tacked on to the end of his request did have several detectives giving him their attention. Even Jim looked up before casting his eye toward his partner and shrugging his shoulders.
To Simon's silent amusement, Sandburg read Ellison's body language perfectly. The kid raised his eyebrows and mouthed a whispered, "What have I done?"
Jim shrugged his shoulders again and flicked Simon a cursory glance before going back to his paperwork.
"I don't have all day, Sandburg." There was just enough gruffness injected into Simon's voice to keep up the bluff he'd so expertly mastered.
"Um, sure," Blair answered. He glanced at Jim, then tucked the folder under his arm as he dragged himself somewhat wearily to his feet.
A light touch to the kid's shoulder had Blair rounded up and ushered through the door. "Take a load off," Simon said, pushing the door closed with a definite click. "Coffee?"
"Um, yeah, I suppose... thanks," Blair answered, cautious but also a little curious about what Simon wanted.
"So," Simon inquired, settling behind his desk.
"So," Blair drawled back, still wary.
"So, how are things going at the university?"
"Um, good." Blair blew the steam from his coffee, his eyes never leaving Simon's face. "Why do you ask?"
"Just taking an interest in the people I work with." Simon settled back more comfortably into his leather chair. "How've you been sleeping lately?"
"As well as I always sleep this time of year."
"Which, I gather, is not a lot."
Blair shrugged his shoulders. "I managed to get in a couple of solid hours Monday night."
"Sandburg, it's Thursday," Banks deadpanned.
Unable to accurately read the expression on Simon's face, Blair decided that he had nothing to lose by cutting straight to the chase. "Simon, have I done something I shouldn't have done?"
"Now why would you think that?"
Simon's smile reminded Blair of a crafty Cheshire cat rather than a man offering an open invitation of friendship. "I'm in your office, for starters." Blair narrowed his gaze. "And why all the questions?"
The smile fell from Simon's face. "Because, something's bothering you."
"There's nothing bothering me. I'm fine."
All it took was a little fine-tuning of his expression and Simon had Blair back-peddling.
"Okay, okay," Blair relented. "So I've been stretched a little thin lately, but it's nothing I can't handle."
"Sandburg, how exactly do you think I got to be Captain?"
"Um... because you know how to bellow," Blair answered, trying to inject a touch of humour into his voice.
Simon's smile was back. "I know people, Blair, and just like you, I observe." Leaning forward, Simon patted his pocket in search of a cigar. "Sandburg, you might think this job's just about administration, with a little detective work on the side, and to some extent it is. But what makes a good captain -- what makes me a good captain -- is knowing my people. Knowing how they think, how they work, and knowing how to get the best from them, no matter what the situation." Resting his elbows on his desk, Simon clasped his hands together. "It's also about knowing when something is troubling them."
"Simon, there's nothing troubling me."
"Blair, having your mind somewhere else can be a dangerous distraction in this profession."
"Yeah, I know, but I'm not exactly a cop."
"Yes, but Jim is."
Just as he'd expected, Simon now had Blair's full attention. He watched silently as Sandburg hesitated, pulling a folder from under his arm and staring at it before extending it forward. "What's this?" he asked, as Blair handed it over.
"It's my paper."
Opening the folder, Simon was a little surprised by the scrawl of red pen all over the front page. He quickly scanned the less than encouraging comment in the margin. "So you got a C," he said. Closing the folder, he leaned back again in his chair. "But it also says you've got the chance to resubmit."
"Resubmitting is not the point, Simon."
"Then what is?"
"The point is that I don't get C's. C's are just simply something I don't do." Blair scrubbed his hand through his hair in frustration. "And I know that just sounded like I'm an arrogant schmuck, but Simon, even at my worst, the lowest mark I've ever gotten is an A-minus."
Simon had to force himself not to roll his eyes. "Sandburg, while I realise that to your boy genius brain a C is unthinkable, you've gotta remember that to the mere mortal, a C is nothing to be ashamed of. It's still a pass and maybe this just proves that you're human like the rest of us." Simon glanced at the title of Blair's paper. "And maybe the study into the 'Dethroning of Epistemology by Neurobiology' is not your forte." He slid the folder across the desk to Blair. "How the hell do they think up these topics, anyway?" he muttered.
"Simon, you're missing the whole point, man. This is not a C paper. I gave it to two of my other professors for their input and they both assured me that it is an A-grade submission."
"Well, if that's the case, you must have some recourse open to you."
The look on Blair's face assured Simon that his intuitive instinct had once again hit a bulls-eye. "Okay, Sandburg, what exactly did you do to rub this professor of yours the wrong way?"
"It's what I didn't do," Blair muttered quietly. Sinking back into his chair, he palmed his temples with enough pressure that even Simon winced. Despite taking more painkillers than he should have been taking, the headache he'd been carrying around for the past few days just wouldn't budge. If anything, it was getting worse.
Banks didn't miss Blair's last comment, but decided to shelve his curiosity for the moment and concern himself with the kid's physical state. "Headache, or beginnings of a migraine?" he asked.
"Headache," Blair answered. He closed his eyes briefly. Even the gentle light in Simon's office was boring painfully into brain.
"Headache-slash-migraine would be my guess," Simon corrected. "What have you been taking for it?"
"Just Tylenol." Blair sighed heavily and sank down further into the chair.
"Maybe you need to try something stronger."
Sandburg shook his head. "Can't, anything stronger and they'll knock me out."
"Well, maybe that's not such a bad thing."
"Oh, no, that would be a very bad thing." Picking up the folder that contained his paper, Blair thumbed through pages of a handwritten draft . "I have to get all this typed up, proofread and submitted by five today."
"Well, Sandburg, you're not going to get very far with black spots dancing across your vision." Simon pulled out a small medical kit he kept in his bottom drawer. "I've got some tablets that should help."
"Simon, I can't." Blair pushed the packet away without even bothering to read the label. "They really do knock me out, man."
"They're not that strong," Simon assured. "And besides," he said, waving his hands at the draft. "It's barely nine, and it doesn't look like that will take more than a couple of hours to finish. Probably even less with a clear head."
Blair sighed heavily. "Maybe you're right." He felt completely drained, and he'd finally reached the point where even talking seemed to be just too much effort.
"No maybes about it, kid." Simon picked up the tablets and popped open the blister packaging. "One should take the edge off."
Reluctantly Blair accepted the pill, nearly dropping it to the floor when Jim burst through the office door.
"Sorry to interrupt, Sir," Ellison apologised hastily. "But something's come up. He looked over at Blair. "You ready to roll, Chief?"
"Just hang five, detective." Simon folded his arms across his chest. "When a door is closed, it's usually a sign that a person should knock before entering."
"Yeah, sir, I know, sorry, but this is kinda urgent." He moved further into the office and tapped Blair on the shoulder. "Chief, come on, we gotta go."
"Jim, you're not going anywhere until I know what's going on."
"It's one of the witness reports, Simon. I knew something was off about Underwood's statement, but I didn't put a finger on it until now." This time Ellison latched onto Blair's sleeve and tugged. "Chief, today if you don't mind."
Squinting against the light filtering through the open door, Blair started to get to his feet.
"Actually Jim, I need Sandburg's help with something I'm working on. Take Brown with you."
"But Simon," Ellison began, but stopped as soon as Banks held up his hands.
"Not negotiable, detective." Pushing back his chair, Simon got to his feet and pulled himself to his full height. "It's also good manners to close the door when one leaves a person's office."
Ellison looked over at Sandburg with a perplexed look and Blair responded with a shrug of his shoulders. Losing precious time, Jim called over his shoulder, "H, looks like you're with me." He left the office, leaving the door wide open behind him.
"Simon, I really should go with him."
"Blair, he's a big boy and whatever it is he's chasing, I'm more than sure he can handle it with Brown."
Simon rounded his desk. "Look, I have to head downtown for a couple of hours, so you can use my office while I'm gone." He patted Blair on the shoulder. "I'll go get you some water for that tablet."
By the time Simon returned, Sandburg was settled on the sofa with his laptop on his knee. He accepted the glass with a small 'thanks'.
Simon nodded with a smile and left Blair alone, secretly hoping that the tablet would at least give the kid a few hours of pain-free rest. Heading over to Ellison's desk, he booted up the computer. Blair's comment regarding his professor niggled at him, and he'd been in the game long enough to never let a hunch go by without at least doing a little digging.
Shutting down the screen he'd been looking at, Simon cleared the history files on Jim's computer. While he hadn't uncovered any specific details directly relating to Blair, he had discovered that the professor did, in fact, have a jaded past. If Ellison happened to stumble across the open files and link the teacher's obvious propensity for his students back to Blair's youth, then he knew the outcome wouldn't be a pretty one.
Sliding back the chair, Simon made his way toward his office, undecided as to whether or not he was going to broach the subject of Professor Montgomery with Blair. Pushing open the door, he realized that the decision, for the moment, had been taken out of his hands; Blair was dead to the world, stretched out over the length of the sofa. With a small smile of satisfaction, he crouched down and eased both the laptop and the folder away from Blair's chest. Pausing, he waited to see if Sandburg was truly down and out for the count. When the kid didn't stir, he plucked his overcoat from the stand in the corner and laid it over Blair's body. Well that was easy, he mused, glancing at the clock on his desk. With Blair's computer and draft still in his hand, his decision regarding Professor Montgomery had just been reached. While he wasn't exactly a speed typist, Simon was confident that he'd get the rest of Blair's draft down, proofread and printed out, and still leave himself plenty of time to deliver it, in person. Harassment wasn't on his agenda and he had every intention of being diplomatic, but he did intend to exploit his authority for all it was worth. Yep, he thought, taking one last look at Sandburg, I wonder if you know just how good I really am?
Simon's arrival back in the bullpen was greeted by two separate scenarios. Rowdy celebrations were taking place on one side of the room. On the other side, a bleary-eyed, but extremely anxious-looking anthropologist was standing in the doorway of his office. Figuring that scenario number one was taking place because Jim must have finally made a breakthrough on the case, Simon moved quickly to intercept scenario number two before Ellison's radar came back online. "Here," he said, hooking Blair by the elbow with one hand and reaching for a chair from a nearby desk with the other. "You better sit down before you fall down."
"I lost my computer." Blair paled, turning such a stark shade of white that it had Simon wondering if the kid was actually related to a grub worm. "I won't make my deadline."
Simon pulled up another chair and sat down in front of Blair, taking a moment to study blue eyes that weren't really all that focussed. "It's okay," he assured, not consciously aware that his hand had reached out and was now resting on the kid's forehead. "It's been taken care of."
Blair swallowed hard and Simon shot a quick look around the room, looking for the nearest trash can.
"How?" Blair breathed.
"I finished typing it up and submitted it for you."
Blair looked completely perplexed. "Why?"
Simon smiled warmly. "Just taking an interest in the people I work with, Sandburg."
"Oh," was all that Blair managed to get out before quick-paced footsteps pulled up behind Banks.
"Chief?" Jim's hand shot out, knocking Simon's out of the way as it vied for a position on Blair's forehead. "What's wrong?"
Blair swallowed heavily again. "Headache."
"Migraine," Simon corrected. He looked up at Jim. "And it's good to see the radar's working again, Ellison."
"Huh?" Jim said, his focus fixed too firmly on Blair to decipher Simon's comment.
"Nothing," Simon replied. Getting to his feet, he once again took Blair by the elbow, encouraging him to stand. "Jim, take your partner home and put him to bed." He re-adjusted his overcoat, which was now hanging precariously from Blair's shoulders. "And I do not want to see him in here tomorrow."
"That's one thing I can guarantee you, sir." Jim placed a supportive hand on Blair's back. "Chief, where's your laptop and the rest of your stuff?"
"Lost," Blair muttered.
Simon added his hand to Blair's back. "It's in my office." He gave Blair a gentle push to get him moving. "Go, take him home. I'll drop it off when I come by to see how he's doing."
Jim raised his eyebrows, and Simon's 'Cheshire' smile was back. "What? You think you're the only one with radar?"
"Guess not," Jim answered, still not having the slightest clue what Simon was talking about.
As Jim ushered Blair toward the door, Simon shook his head. "Absolutely no idea," he muttered.
The dawn of a new week brought with it the birth of a brand new Blair Sandburg. Recovered and revitalised, Blair entered the bullpen with a smile on his face and a familiar bounce in his step. He dumped his bag near Jim's desk. "Hey H. Where's Jim?"
"Down in records," Brown replied flatly. "And given that he's been down there for the past couple of hours, I can't say I'm really looking forward to his return."
Brown's comment was water off a duck's back to Sandburg. Life was good and even Jim's inevitable crappy mood wouldn't be able to put a dark cloud on that. "Hey, is Simon in?"
"Yeah, as far as I know."
Blair's lively step took him quickly to Simon's closed door. Knocking loudly, he didn't wait for an answer before swinging it open. "Hey Simon," he smiled.
Banks didn't take his eyes off the paperwork he was working on. "Funny, I can't recall saying come in."
Blair bounced, ignoring the comment completely. "Hey, you'll never guess what!"
"Both you and your partner have signed up for etiquette classes."
"My paper was reviewed."
Looking up, Simon threw down his pen, finally giving Blair his full attention. "And let me guess. You got an A."
"An A-plus, to be exact."
A broad smile broke out across Simon's face. If nothing else, Sandburg's energy was infectious.
Blair perched himself on the edge of the desk. "But the weird thing is that it wasn't just resubmitted, the original was reviewed by the board."
"You don't say," Simon responded.
"Yep, and it seems mine wasn't the only one. Apparently quite a few of Montgomery's students had their papers reviewed and their original marks overturned." With pent-up energy bursting to get loose, Blair drummed his hands against his thighs. "But that's not the best news."
"It's not?" Simon replied, already knowing what Blair was going to say.
"No, the news gets way better than that."
"Well, come on, spill it before you leave a puddle on my floor."
"Montgomery has apparently decided to retire."
"Now that certainly is news." Simon leaned back in his chair with a measure of satisfaction. His inquiries into the professor's interest in his students, both past and present, had set the wheels in motion and, while there hadn't been enough evidence to press charges, at least some distance had now been placed between the professor and the objects of his desires.
"Hey, Simon," Blair said, drawing Banks from his thoughts. "I was wondering if you'd like to grab some lunch?" Blair fidgeted, still not one hundred percent sure of what Simon actually thought of him and his role in the captain's life. "My treat, of course. I mean, it's the least I can do, considering all the trouble you went through to get my paper submitted on time."
Studying Blair as the kid fiddled with a loose thread on his jeans, Simon suddenly realised just how much the young observer still needed to learn. Blair was good, there was no doubt about that, but the understanding that came along with observational skills went hand-in-hand with experience, and experience came with age. Blair really was still so young and had a lot of life to live and knowledge to gain before he'd finally master that unique skill of being able to look a person in the eye and confidently know what they were thinking.
"Mexican or Italian?" Simon finally said. Blair's company usually came with an Ellison accompaniment. It would be nice to spend some one-on-one time with the kid; as well as to try and speed up the learning process and help bring Sandburg that one step closer to the fact that he was seen as a friend and not just a geeky college ride-along. Getting to his feet, Simon reached for his jacket. "Why don't you make a dash for it before Jim comes back and I'll meet you down in the garage in five."
Blair's smile was back, making Simon laugh. Yep, he thought. If nothing else, the kid is infectious.
As Simon watched Blair leave the room, he realised that he did, in fact, have one failing when it came to observation; he'd failed to observe himself. He had delved into Professor Montgomery's past for one reason and one reason only -- a kid who had managed to grow on him. If a sixteen-year-old Blair had been on the receiving end of the professor's lurid attentions, he was pretty sure that his professionalism wouldn't have stood up to the test. "Lord help me," he muttered, closing his office door behind him. "The kid's turned me into Ellison's evil twin and the worst part is that I have absolutely no idea how or when it happened."
Taking a final moment to stop and observe the members of his team, Simon smiled at the irony. I wonder if any of them have a clue as to how managed I really am. He let out a small laugh. Managed by a curly-headed anthropologist with an obscene amount of energy and one ridiculously infectious smile.
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