Blair Sandburg looked on with satisfaction as the last of the men took their seats. They’d had a pretty good turnout, although some attendees obviously had less enthusiasm than others. When he saw Jim come through the doors and close them behind him, Blair knew that the last of the stragglers had been rounded up. It was time to get started.
“Good morning, everyone,” Blair spoke into the microphone. Luckily, he’d already stationed himself at the podium at the front of the rented banquet room and adjusted it to his less than average height. “And thank you for coming.”
There was a spate of chuckling from his choice of words and Blair grinned. He’d expected the reaction, just as he’d anticipated Jim Ellison rolling his eyes at his antics.
“Get your minds out of the gutter,” Blair teased his audience and then he got down to business. “Seriously, guys, tomorrow’s a day that can be hard for a lot of us.” There was a few titters at his choice of words and this time Blair chose not to acknowledge them. “Tomorrow is Fathers’ Day and, whether you’re a Trouble Magnet or a Defender; are a father yourself or simply a son; you’re likely to have father-related issues.”
Blair paused and gave the audience his best ‘professor gaze,’ the one designed to quell trouble before it started. “And I’m talking fathers here and not Daddies. A Daddy is a whole other issue and is not something we’ll be addressing today.”
He felt some of the tension leave the room and Blair let himself relax a little. He had a feeling that’d been a concern to many present and was glad he’d chosen to reassure on that point early on.
“Here’s what’s going to happen today,” Blair went on to explain. “We have breakout groups this morning and, unlike many of our other sessions, each group will be a mix of TM and Defenders. There’s just too many father-related topics to have separate gatherings.” He waggled a finger at the audience. “Defenders, that means you have to make an effort to participate, even though emotional issues aren’t your favorite topics. TMs, you have official permission to poke at them until they do, although keep in mind that baiting a Defender who’s already on uncomfortable ground has to be done carefully. Especially if he’s not your Defender – and since we’ve made sure to split up couples for this, it’s pretty much a guarantee not to be your Defender.”
That last point had nearly scuttled the whole day. Defenders didn’t want to be separated from their TMs while the TMs discussed a sensitive subject, but had ultimately been overruled. Blair felt strongly that a Defender would be far more likely to open up if his TM wasn’t there to witness it. Thankfully a couple of Defenders had backed him up on that point, mainly David Rossi and Walter Skinner. Even so, Blair looked around the room, making sure he had heads nodding agreement before he continued.
“You’ll be reunited with your partner here at noon for lunch,” Blair continued. “After lunch, we’ve invited some famous dads to join us for a panel discussion on fatherhood. I hope you’ll help me in welcoming amateur sleuth Dr. Mark Sloan, famed author Richard Castle, former CIA agent Bryan Mills and former city planner Alan Eppes.”
There was some stirring of excitement in the room and Blair let it settle down before he went on. “In the afternoon, we have some hands-on opportunities for you to choose from. You can either head on down to the Big Brothers Center to interact with city youth in need of some paternal-like guidance or you can visit one of the nursing homes we’ve chosen so you can brighten the day of a father whose children might have forgotten him.”
The room buzzed as TMs and Defenders both starting discussion their options. Blair cleared his throat a couple of times, but it was Jim putting his finger in his mouth and whistling loudly that brought the room to order.
“One last point, fellas, I promise, and then you’ll find out which breakout group you’ve been assigned to,” Blair told them. “Because father issues can loom pretty large and not just for our little corner of the universe, we’ve allowed some guests into the morning sessions and I hope you’ll make them feel welcome. Defenders, this goes double for you. If you see a strange face, don’t jump to conclusions, all right?”
Blair didn’t wait for any answers. Instead, he pulled out his glasses and perched them on his nose. He half-expected some heckling, but Jim cleared his throat loudly at the back of the room. With the Sentinel’s implied threat, everyone remained quiet and Blair grinned. Jim had his back.
“Okay, the ‘I Had an Abusive Father” group is in Meeting Room 1A and the facilitator is Aaron Hotchner,” Blair looked at the FBI agent. “And, Hotch, no profiling the other participants, all right?”
Hotchner nodded, solemnly; Blair had expected no less. He had yet to see the man crack a smile.
“In Meeting Room 1B we have the ‘Legacy of My Dead Father’ group and Derek Rayne will be heading up that discussion,” Blair held up a warning hand. “And, no, despite Derek working for the Legacy, no pun was intended, so you can stop smirking now, Dean. Besides, that’s your group.”
Blair chose to ignore Dean Winchester’s glare and kept on reading. “The ‘My Father the Drill Sergeant’ is across the hall in Meeting Room 2A; Nick Boyle will be heading up that discussion.” Blair looked over his glasses at the younger Winchester brother. “Sam, you’re assigned that one. We couldn’t have you and Dean in the same group, even though you have the same father.”
Sam nodded his understanding and looked faintly relieved. Blair smiled in understanding; the brothers might have had the same dad, but they had very different relationships with him.
“The ‘I Don’t Know Who My Father Is’ group will be in 2B, headed up by yours truly,” Blair grinned and touched his own chest. “Richard Castle will be our special guest. In 3A, we have “My Father the Criminal’ which will be facilitated by Van Ray.” There was a murmur from the audience, which Blair had expected. Van might seem an odd choice to head up a discussion, but on this particular subject, Blair couldn’t think of a better candidate.
“Next door, in 3B, we have ‘My Dad is Great’ group, which will be led by Steve Sloan; in 4A is “Parenting Your Parent” with discussion leader Jack Malone; and in 4B we have ‘Fatherhood 101,’ headed up by Cal Lightman.” Blair grinned at the audience. “If you’re assigned to that one, I advise that you not try to bullshit the man. Trust me, he’ll know if you are.”
Blair cleared his throat and made sure all traces of amusement were off his face. “Downstairs in the Pulitzer Room, we have the ‘Loss of a Child’ group, which will be chaired by Jethro Gibbs. Absolutely, under no circumstances is that group to be interrupted or intruded on.”
The warning was probably unnecessary, but Blair was glad he’d said it. He was also glad that the meeting room for that group was removed from the others; the participants would need the extra space. Blair had personally seen to it that it was stocked with plenty of tissues, although he wasn’t sure that they would get used.
“Okay, that’s it. Jim’s posted lists in the back of the room that have the group assignments and the room numbers in case you’ve forgotten,” the Sentinel had been busy while Blair had been talking. “And remember, guys, emotions can be our friends, as long as we don’t allow them to overwhelm us.”
Blair stepped back from the podium and watched with satisfaction as the other men got up from their chairs and started wandering towards the back of the room. He was glad to see Dean Winchester approach Steve McGarrett, introducing himself before leading the newer member of the organization off to the group about dead fathers. Similarly, Neal McCaffrey joined special guest Raylan Givens, who had been invited to participate in the group about criminal fathers. Blair smirked; Neal no doubt admired Raylan for his hat, even if it was a cowboy hat and not something more urban. In the corner, Tony DiNozzo gave Gibbs a hug and even from where he was, Blair could see the concern in Tony’s eyes. Defenders weren’t the only one in a pair who could be protective.
“Good job, Chief,” Jim praised Blair as he approached. “I know the board wasn’t entirely supportive when you brought up this idea, but you’re right. We needed something like this.”
“I know,” Blair nodded. “Dads are important roles in our lives; it’s time they got their due.”
Jim raised one eyebrow. “Even when you don’t have one?”
Blair grinned. “Oh, I have one, I just don’t know who he is. Besides, that meant I could choose my own father figure, without feeling guilty to my blood dad.”
“Well, it was his loss,” Jim said firmly, wrapping an arm around Blair and pulling him in for a kiss. “Any man would be proud to have you as a son.”
After indulging himself by leaning into the embrace, Blair reluctantly left it. “I gotta go, got a group to run.”
“Yeah, you do, Professor,” Jim smiled down at him fondly. “I’ll keep an eye on things while you’re busy.”
“No, you won’t,” Blair informed him. “You’ve been assigned to the ‘My Father, the Drill Sergeant’ Group.”
Jim stiffened. “What? Organizers don’t participate.”
“This organizer does,” Blair poked himself in the chest. “And so do you - don’t think I didn’t figure out you volunteered for us to head up this thing just so you could get out of small group discussion, either. I know you too well.”
It was kind of funny to watch Jim open and close his mouth a few times as he tried to think of a retort. The older man’s response, when it came, was rather weak. “But, Blair, my dad’s not in drill sergeant, he’s a businessman.”
Blair snorted. “The title isn’t literal and you know it. Your dad was hard on you when you were growing up, pitting you against your brother all the time. William may have mellowed a little with age, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was rough on you when you were a kid. Why else did you not keep in touch for so long, despite living in the same town?”
Jim deflated. “You’re right.”
“So, you’ll go?” Blair pressed the older man. “And you’ll actively participate, not just sit there like a lump?” When Jim frowned, he was quick to make a clarifying statement. “Gorgeous or not, a lump is still a lump.”
Seemingly in spite of himself, Jim’s lips twitched. “Gorgeous, huh, Chief?” When Blair nodded his head enthusiastically, Jim let his mouth grow into a full-blown smile. “All right, I’ll go and I’ll emote all over the place. Happy?”
Blair rocked back on his heels, trying hard not to look as smug as he felt. “Ecstatic.”
Jim bent down and kissed Blair quickly. “I’m glad you use your powers of persuasion for the good guys, Chief. I shudder to think of what you could accomplish as a criminal.”
“But you’d still love me, right, Jim?” Blair asked, eyes twinkling. He knew the answer, but wanted to hear it out loud anyway.
“Absolutely,” Jim kissed him again before turning towards the door. “And now I gotta go, got some inner feelings to get in touch with – and you’ve got a discussion to lead. Would look bad if you were late, Professor.”
“I’m on my way,” Blair replied, grinning. Jim was a Defender down the core and would never give up on trying to keep Blair punctual, no matter how futile that effort was.
The couple split up and there was a definite bounce to Blair’s step as he headed towards his assigned rooms. Today’s sessions would help a lot of people – including the Defender who was nearest and dearest to Blair’s heart.
Who needed a father, after all, when he had a Defender?