Devon Hannon, police psychologist and undiscovered modern day saint, sighed deeply as he looked at the slightly puzzled faces arrayed before him and prayed for some patience. "Look, try and understand where I'm coming from here." The faces didn't look any less puzzled, just moved into slight wariness. "I'm just saying that you might want to consider spending a little more time apart, pursue other interests and relationships outside of the department." Various sets of eyes narrowed suspiciously and darted around the room to gauge other reactions before settling back on his face. "It's good that you all have such obvious affection and respect for each other, but it's also good to explore other avenues of connecting with people." The faces moved from suspicion into outright doubt and Devon's precarious hold on his patience snapped. "For god's sake, other departments aren't like this! The people in Vice barely speak outside the office."
One of the large black men in the room snorted and exchanged looks with the slim young man in the neat suit sitting at his side. "Ri-ight. Vice." The younger man grunted in acknowledgment and murmurs spread from person to person around the room that more than adequately expressed opinions of Vice and the people that made up *that* department.
Devon ground his teeth and turned to the man that ran the department he was currently interested in. "Captain Banks, you've been in the service a long time now, surely you can see what I'm saying?"
Simon Banks chewed thoughtfully on the butt of the unlit cigar between his teeth and looked sidelong at the unfortunate man who had been landed with performing the annual moral and psychiatric evaluation of his department. He shrugged. "Sure." He slyly checked his watch and noted it was nearly time for lunch. "Point taken. We'll spend more time at home and not at the office. Thanks for your time."
"No, no, no!" Devon waved his hands as the assembled cops all began to get to their feet. "This isn't over."
Simon chomped on his cigar again. "Really? Feels over to me." He turned to the large, silent man at his side that had so far avoided saying a single word during the hour-long session. "What about you, Ellison?"
"Yeah." Jim Ellison stood, stretched his bulging muscles a little more pointedly than was strictly necessary and jerked his head towards the door. "I got someplace to be."
"Me too." Megan Connor accepted the helping hand from Joel Taggert as she heaved herself out of Simon's overstuffed couch and quickly moved to Jim's side. "We've got a suspect to interview." She added privately in her head that if a suspect was inconveniently absent when they escaped from Simon's office then they would damn well keep looking until they found one.
"Sit down!" Devon clenched his fists and glared at the cops making for the door, and tried to pretend that his five foot nine, woefully out of condition frame actually stood a chance of stopping them if they ignored him. "I have to submit my report to the Commissioner on you people and I haven't finalised it yet. I don't want to write that you were defensive and unhelpful but I will if you don't sit down and discuss this situation before it gets out of hand." He forced himself to remain standing and not dive for cover behind the desk when the cops that regularly had the criminals of Cascade quaking in their shoes all turned and looked at him like a pride of lions looking at a particularly defenceless antelope. "I have been asked to make recommendations to improve the performance of each department and I really don't want to have to suggest alternative postings for any of you."
"I think you're over-estimating the weight of your opinion, Doctor Hannon." Simon took his cigar out of his mouth and glowered at the smaller man. "My team has one of the best clear-up rates in the state, there's no need to split us up."
"Well, I think there is." Devon gave into the urge to get to cover as the big Captain glared harder at him and the attractive woman exchange officer actually snarled. He waited until he had Simon's desk in between him and the tense detectives and tried to ignore the fact that they seemed to be spreading out into some kind of a holding pattern before him. "The relationships that have been formed between some members of your department could almost be considered unhealthy." He cleared his throat uneasily and hoped he wasn't about to have it ripped out. "For instance, Inspector Connor has been here for over a year now and she freely admits that she has formed no friendships outside of the inner circle of Major Crimes and that she has no female support network."
"I've been busy." Megan scowled and jerked her head at the men she worked with. "We've all been busy."
"But in your own country you had friends of both sexes?" Devon shoved his hands in his pockets and tried to look calm as Brown and Rafe moved to flank their friend, obviously unhappy at the implied criticism. "I read your file from your last Australian evaluation and it states there very clearly that you had a wide and varied social life with many friends and interests."
"I still do." Megan slapped her hands on her hips and glared harder. "I go fishing, swimming, to the gym, play poker, the movies..."
"All with your co-workers." Devon blinked at the poisonous looks he received from both Megan and the said co-workers and wondered if the paper knife on Simon's desk would make a reasonably effective weapon when they decided to go with their instincts and beat him to a bloody pulp. "You're a young attractive woman, surely you want more out of your life than just work and fishing?"
Looking a little surprised there *was* more to life than work and fishing, Simon and Jim exchanged glances and then looked down at Megan who was looking a little startled herself. She chewed her lips thoughtfully for a moment and then nodded slowly. "A new gun might be nice. The grip's getting a little worn on mine."
Rafe and Brown hurriedly turned their backs to hide the sudden attack of laughter at Devon's pained expression and Joel smiled down at his feet while Jim and Simon nodded approvingly. That was their girl. Megan looked even more thoughtful. "Perhaps a slightly faster car as well?" Her face cleared and she shot a sly smile at Simon. "Can I have a truck like Jim?"
Simon snorted and wasted no time in shooting her down in flames. "No, Connor, you may not. Not even Ellison is allowed a truck by the department; he buys his own cars and then replaces them when they get totalled. Until you do the same you'll make do with a sedan like everyone else."
"Nuts." Megan scowled and folded her arms. "But I can have a new gun, right?"
Simon nodded wearily. "Yes, Connor, you can have a new gun." He looked at the psychologist behind his desk. "There, you happy now? The needs of my staff are met and all is once more sweetness and light in our world." He ignored the petulant muttering from Megan about the denied request for a truck of her very own and gestured hopefully towards the door. "And now we're done."
"No we are *not*!" Devon likewise ignored the muttering from Megan and the slightly annoying whine from Rafe when his own request for a new gun was turned down and pointed emphatically to the chairs so hurriedly abandoned by his reluctant audience. "Please take your seats." He refrained from gulping as six pairs of eyes spat fire at him, but only because he had no saliva left with which to lubricate his throat. "Now."
Jim snorted at the terrified croak from the smaller man but before he could say anything a movement out in the bullpen caught his eye and he suddenly had a very evil idea. He nudged Simon in the ribs and jerked his head towards the window. His captain, never slow on the uptake or to share his load of misery around, glanced through the window and smiled a smile that would have had the Hooded Claw weeping with envy. "Oh, Rafe, would you be kind enough to call Sandburg in here, please?"
Rafe looked surprised at the honeyed tone of his boss' voice and then sniggered in understanding at the look of unadulterated glee on Simon and Jim's faces. "Sure, Captain." He was nearly knocked flying as Megan and Henri rushed to re-take their seats but managed to pull open the door and bellow across the deserted room. "Hey, Sandburg, the captain wants you."
Devon looked on in confusion as the previously uncooperative cops all re-took their seats with what could only be called anticipation as a small, sturdy looking man bounded into the already crowded office and beamed cheerfully around the room. "Hey guys, what's up? Oh, Jim, I'm sorry I'm late, man; but my office hours overran by, like, a whole hour and the damn car just wouldn't start and then there's been some kind of accident mid-town and I just couldn't catch a break in the traffic. Megan, I got that recipe you wanted, gotta tell you I had to sweat blood to get it out of Janice. Rafe, buddy, *nice* duds! Looking sharp, my man. Hey, Brown, any chance we can hold off on catching that movie tonight? I totally need to get a jump start on my grading, buddy, and tomorrow night would be so much better for me. Joel!" With what could only be called a bounce the small man crossed to the much larger man's side and poked him playfully in his ample stomach. "Looking good, man. I knew introducing you to that new deli would pay off." Joel chuckled affectionately, but before he could reply, the younger man turned to the captain of Major Crimes. White teeth flashed as blue eyes twinkled fearlessly up at the Simon Banks --the man Devon had privately decided would be making guest appearances in his nightmares for many months to come-- and long brown curls danced on broad shoulders as they shook with mischievous laughter. "Now if I can only get our esteemed leader on a low salt and sugar diet, my work here is done!"
"In your dreams, Sandburg." The growl had Devon shaking in his shoes, but just seemed to have the effect of making the blinding smile stretch even further across the good looking face. Simon clasped one flannel-clad shoulder and pointed towards his desk. "I want you to meet someone. This is Dr Devon Hannon; he's the police psychologist that's been assigned to evaluate the department's health and productivity. Dr Hannon, this is Blair Sandburg, Major Crimes' observer. He's conducting a study on closed societies for his doctoral thesis and has been partnered with Detective Ellison for the duration of his time with us."
Devon actually rocked back on his heels as the man, Sandburg, shot towards him with a hand outstretched and his mouth going a mile a minute. "Hey, how ya' doing? Man, that's one tough job you got there." The psychologist could do nothing but gape as his hand was seized and pumped enthusiastically up and down and six much happier cops sniggered in the background. "I gotta tell you, it's tough enough to get these guys to say good morning some days but to actually get them to open up and talk about their *feelings*..." Friendly eyes rolled and Blair sighed dramatically. "You have to be some kind of *genius* to pull that off, man."
"Uh." Devon tried to extract his hand from the surprisingly strong grip Blair had on it. "Thank you. I, er..."
"Seriously, I mean these guys scared me spit less when I first came here, but once you get to know them they're just teddy bears, right?" Devon stared incredulously past the guileless face raised to his at the 'teddy bears' who all stared back. With much baring of teeth and feral narrowing of eyes.
Then he blinked as Blair released his hand and turned back to face the room and the hardened cops visibly softened and radiated nothing more than tolerant affection as the observer moved back into their midst. "So, you guys are all in touch with your inner-child and stuff now, right? We should all get together at the loft some night and I'll show you some yoga moves. Nothing like learning to wrap your ankles around your ears to bring inner-peace and calm to the troubled mind. " Devon stared in astonishment as Blair carelessly shoved his way between Ellison and Banks and elbowed both men until they made room for him to perch his butt between them on the window sill. Even more astonishing was the fact that he didn't immediately have his arms ripped off and clubbed repeatedly around his curly head, but received nothing more than an annoyed grunt from his Captain and a swift cuff to his ear from his partner. "So, Si...er, Captain, what do you need?"
Simon and Jim exchanged smug looks over the top of Blair's head and felt a brief twinge of guilt over what they were about to do, but got over it pretty quickly when they remembered the very real possibility of their dysfunctional little family being split up. In war you made use of every weapon you had and a loaded Sandburg was worth his weight in bullets in this particular battle. "Blair, Dr Hannon was just expressing his concern over the inter-personal relationships within the department." Simon looked down into wide blue eyes and fought not to smile at the look of concern there. "He feels that..."
"Oh man, I *know*!" Blair was back on his feet and pacing around the limited floor space before Simon could even finish his sentence. Rafe sighed contently as he recognised the signs of a truly spectacular lecture in the offing and briefly wished he had time to go for popcorn. "Believe me, man, I have tried, tried and tried again to get these guys to loosen up and realise that there's nothing wrong with showing a bit of appreciation for their friends but there's only so many hours in the day, y'know? We've been trying to get a weekend free for months so all of us can just take off and re-establish our bonds and relationships with each other but the bad guys have just been, like, on a serious power trip lately and frankly it's all we can do to grab the occasional night out or poker game." Blair's hands were flying in frustration around his head and he barely acknowledged Megan's supportive pat on his tush as he passed her. "I mean, even the tribal warriors back in the day recognised the importance of downtime and connecting with the tribe and stuff, but these guys take the whole 'above and beyond' thing to a whole new level and we're all a little frayed around the edges, but the foundation's pretty solid and I think we just need sometime to re-group and maybe shore up the old defences again, right?"
Devon sucked in a hasty breath before the wired man used up every available scrap of oxygen in the room and tried to speak. "Actually, that isn't my most pressing concern."
Blair nodded fast and furiously. "I know, I know. It's their people skills isn't it?" Blue eyes swept the room sternly and Devon was left gaping as every person the eyes rested on cringed a little and looked slightly ashamed of themselves. Especially the man called Ellison who had a particularly ferocious reputation both within the PD and out on the streets. "Guys, c'mon, we talked about this. You have got to start *listening* to people. There's a time and a place for yelling and waving guns and there's a time and place for *conversation*. I shouldn't have to keep going over this with you, you're all college graduates for God's sake."
To Devon's ever increasing bewilderment Captain Joel Taggert -former head of the *bomb* squad for chrissakes-- was actually toeing the carpet as he ducked his head in shame at the gentle admonishment. Detectives Rafe and Brown were carefully studying the ceiling and avoiding looking at anyone and Megan Connor -a woman who Devon knew for a *fact* had tossed a perp through a plate glass window the previous week and laughed while she did it-blushed and started to chew her razor sharp talons.
Nails, he meant *nails*!
"Chief, c'mon, you know how it gets out there. There's not always time to have a nice chat over a cup of coffee when some nut job's off his face on the drug of the week and his buddies are all trying to grab you..." Jim broke off when he got an angry finger waved under his nose and his colleagues muttered in agreement. "What?"
"That had better be 'trying to grab you' in the sense of angry junkies converging on your testosterone-laden-cop-self and not in the sense of grabbing the helpless little anthropologist who needs his big, brave buddy to save him, or your ass is toast when we get home, Ellison." Blair narrowed suspicious eyes as Jim looked incredibly guilty for a moment and then smoothed his face into an expression of careful blandness. "Ellison?"
"Of course that's what I meant, Sandburg." Jim cleared his throat and ignored Megan mouthing 'Good save!' behind Blair's back. "What's with you today?"
"Hmm." Blair stared at his friend for another long minute before swinging around to fix the rest of the room with a gimlet eye. Only Joel flinched, the rest of his friends very sensibly made sure they were studying the floor or ceiling. "That goes for the rest of you, right? The last thing I need is my karma being affected because I have an army of Jim Ellison wannabes blazing a bloody trail through the darker side of Cascade in my name."
Devon later swore his jaw actually hit his knees at the chorus of coughs and hasty denials that rang through the room and he staggered back until the back of his knees hit Simon's chair and he sat down with a heavy thump. The big, tough, scary cops actually sounded anxious to *please* the small curly haired man.
Blair eyed his friends for few more uncomfortable seconds and then turned back to the speechless psychologist. "Okay, so you're pretty impressed with them, right?" The stern look on his face faded and an indulgent smile spread across his face as he looked at his partner. "They're a pretty cool bunch, aren't they?" Devon blinked furiously in disbelief as all the cops perked up under Blair's renewed approval and Jim Ellison positively *preened* at the warmth of his friend's smile. "I tell you, man, I am so lucky I joined this department, they really make a guy feel welcome." Blair laughed and shook his head fondly as he hitched his butt up on the corner of Simon's desk and made himself comfortable. "It's become almost a home away from home."
Devon belatedly realised it was time to try and take back control of the situation. "Yes, that's actually part of the problem, Mr Sandburg." He made himself meet the curious blue eyes suddenly fixed intently on him and ignored Detective Brown who for some inexplicable reason had started to hum the theme to 'Jaws' under his breath. "Before Captain Banks summoned you I was expressing my concerns to your colleagues that they are becoming too emotionally invested in their jobs and their personal relationships with each other to the detriment of their lives outside this station." Devon scowled as Megan Connor shook her head sorrowfully at him and Detective Rafe, who was now sporting a really big smug grin, picked up the 'Jaws' theme. "And I don't mean to be disrespectful but I don't really see what any of this has to do with you, observer to this department or not. You obviously aren't a paid employee of the PD or I would have spoken to you in an official capacity and...and..." Devon eased back in his chair as Jim Ellison and Joel Taggert loomed up behind Blair and glared coldly at him. "Can I help you, detectives?"
"Blair is as much a part of this department as any person here and we don't like people saying differently." Joel cranked up the wattage on his glare but still laid a restraining hand on Jim's tense arm. "You'll talk to him with respect."
Jim was even briefer and just curled his lip in a fierce snarl. "He's my partner."
Blair defused the situation with an exasperated snort and reached around to slap Ellison's arm lightly, hoping that his flush of surprised pleasure wasn't as obvious as he thought. "Yeah, Jim, he gets it. Now go sit down and stop scaring the man. Go on, shoo!" He snorted again when Jim failed to move and this time slapped both men. "Jeez, guys, get a grip. Go sit down!" When the older men stepped reluctantly away Blair grinned disarmingly at the pale-faced psychologist. "First lesson you learn around here, man; you do *not* tease the animals this near lunch." He wriggled into a slightly more comfortable position on the desk and folded his arms companionably. "And I realise it looks a little weird me being called in on this session, but like Captain Banks mentioned, I am the official observer for this department and I am meant to be observing all aspects of the workings of the department and that includes reviews on productivity and mental well-being. So, why don't you just run through your findings again for me." Blue eyes flickered down to the desktop where Devon's hands were fiddling nervously and then Blair was reaching out carefully with soothing fingers. "Why don't I just take that letter opener for now, huh?"
"He wants to spilt us up, Sandy." Megan was resumed chewing on her nails and glowered at the unfortunate psychologist. "Thinks how we behave with each other is unprofessional and emotionally self-destructive."
Blair slipped the letter opener into the back pocket of his worn denims and looked down at Devon with the most disappointed eyes it had ever been the older man's misfortune to see. "Really? Man, that's cold." Blair shook his head and his hair fairly crackled with indignation. "These people risk their lives for you and this city on a daily basis and in gratitude you make a judgment call like that?" He glanced back over his shoulder at Rafe and Brown -still delightedly humming the 'Jaws' theme-- and frowned briefly. "Guys, knock it off with the shark music, okay? I'm trying to have a conversation here." He turned back to Devon with another toothy smile. "Let's talk."
Henri nudged his partner delightedly as they stopped humming. "Hannon's gonna need a bigger boat, baby. He's so out of his depth now he can't even see bottom."
Simon leaned into Jim. "Twenty bucks says the kid has this guy tied up in knots and this little problem resolved in under five minutes."
Jim grinned as he watched Blair square his shoulders and prepare to do battle. "I say ten minutes and he offers to write the guy's report for him." They shook and Jim folded his arms comfortably across his chest. "And that Blair leaves Hannon so punch drunk, he agrees."
Blair ignored the byplay from the peanut gallery behind him and concentrated all his considerable charm and natural friendliness on the unfortunate Dr Hannon. "So, exactly what concerns do you have about this department? Obviously you're disregarding the lack of social skills and observation that I've futilely spent the last three years trying to drum into their Cro-Magnum skulls."
Devon looked past Blair as Jim snorted in amusement and then back at the anthropologist. "Mr Sandburg, I can see you have great deal of affection for your colleagues, but I'm not sure that you're seeing them as police officers rather than just as people. While the police department encourages strong ties between co-workers and demands respect and toleration in all it's departments there are limits and these people have reached them. I have spoken to all the officers here in both one-to-one sessions and in groups and, without exception, when asked about their off-duty activities they continually refer to time spent exclusively with each other. Not one of them has a stable, long-term relationship or even gives any indication of wanting one. That just isn't healthy."
Blair nodded slowly. "Oh. So this is about sex then?"
"What?" Devon felt his jaw drop and his skin heat as Blair eyed him with amusement. "Of course not. Officers' personal lives are their own affair and how they attend to their natural needs in their own time is their own business. I'm talking about real emotional connection with someone who will support them and that they allow within their defensives. Someone to go home to at night and share their lives with."
"I see." Blair tucked a wayward curl behind his ear and looked politely puzzled. "But they have that. I mean, sure, the dynamics between individuals vary, but they all have someone to confide in that way." He turned and pointed out Rafe, Megan and Brown. "Take these guys. Megan's just started rooming with Brown because the place she was letting got taken over by a new landlord and she couldn't afford to stay there anymore and he needed help making his rent. They have a really nice place in the same building as Rafe and they're in and out of each other's places all the time. Rafe and Brown have been together as partners for a long time now and Megan's been here a year now and they have an excellent relationship. Supportive, understanding, non-judgemental...I tell you, we should all be that lucky."
Megan, Rafe and Brown all grinned smugly at Devon and straightened their shoulders proudly.
Blair hopped off the desk and began to pace up and down as he warmed to his theme. "Just because they're not boffing Megan's brains out every time she turns around, doesn't make their relationship any less valid." Expressive hands weaved through the air as Blair continued to speak earnestly to the psychologist. "I thought that in this day and age we were past all this conformist, establishment thinking, man. It's just so *limited* to define a healthy relationship and lifestyle by your sexual partner."
Devon took his eyes of the pacing man and glanced around at the previously tense room, that seemed to be actually relaxing more and more as Blair worked himself up into an outraged frenzy. Jim Ellison in particular seemed to be actually entering some kind of trance as he swayed lightly from side to side with the younger man's words and the expression of peace on his face was completely at odds with his usual tense manner. "You know, back in the day, warrior cultures were actually encouraged to become as close to their brothers-in-arms as they could, man." Devon started guiltily as he realised he had started to let his mind drift as the deep voice wove through the air in the over-crowded room and he hurriedly refocused his attention on Blair. "It was imperative for the safety of the tribe and their protectors that the warriors knew each other on every level they needed. I mean, think about it, we're out on the streets every day, trusting our lives and the lives of the public to each other; there has to be that bone deep, instinctual knowledge that we can rely absolutely on each other to provide back-up."
"I can certainly see the need for a certain degree of trust, Mr Sandburg, but I think what these detectives have for each other goes beyond that." Devon blinked hurriedly to try and orientate himself as blue eyes seemed to take over his field of vision and he had the alarming sensation of being sucked into a whirling vortex. "For instance, what if they had to chose between the safety of a member of the public or the safety of one of their colleagues out on the street? Is their any guarantee that their duty to the public would come first over the desire to protect a loved one?" The moment the words left his mouth, Devon knew he had made a terrible mistake. Blue eyes that had been the warm, soothing blue of the Caribbean sea now hardened and mutated into chips of sheer ice as Blair sucked in a breath.
"What?" Strong hands slapped down on Simon's desk and the anthropologist shoved his face into the shocked one of Devon. "What did you say?"
Jim moved hurriedly away from his perch on the windowsill and placed a warm hand on Blair's tense shoulder. "Chief, c'mon, he didn't mean it the way it sounded." His mouth dropped open as his hand was shaken off and Blair's hands clenched into fists. "Er, Sandburg?"
Blair ignored the voice of his Sentinel and leaned further over the desk. "Have you ever been out on the street in a fire fight, *Dr* Hannon? Listening to people screaming or dying around you, trying to stay alive long enough to help the people that can't help themselves? Forcing yourself to ignore the voice in your head that's screaming for you to just RUN and get the hell away from the madness and keep yourself alive just a few minutes more?" One short, thick finger poked sharply into Devon's chest as the man leaned back in his chair trying to get away from the furious face hissing into his own. "Well, I have. Far too many of them, on an almost daily basis and do you know the one constant in all of these exciting scenes, despite the ever changing locations and bad guys?" Blair's finger poked sharply into the man's chest again. "The one constant is that these people -my friends-always, ALWAYS, put the public and other officers before each other and themselves. I have lost count of the times I've watched them use each other as bait or get shot or pull yet another crazy assed stunt trying to save the life of a fellow officer or member of the public and NOT ONCE have they ever tried to put each other first if it comes down to a choice between them or someone else."
Jim tugged on Blair's arm and tried to pull him away from the stricken psychologist, darting a worried look back at Simon and the others. "He knows, Chief, he was just doing his job. Come on, back off a little now."
"Trying to do his job my *ass*!" Blair was practically vibrating with fury as Jim dragged him back and he barely registered the soothing pats on his back. "No one has the right to come in here and say that to you guys, *no one*. It makes me so mad, Jim. You shouldn't have to put up with that shit."
"I know, buddy, I know." Jim kept edging Blair back and briefly wondered if he'd have to pull out his cuffs to restrain his friend. "You told him though, right?"
Devon stifled a very unmanly yelp as Blair scowled menacingly in his direction. "Yeah, I told him. And you know what else I'm gonna tell him?" The grad student strained briefly against Jim's prudent arm across his chest and then settled for just glowering as forbiddingly as he could across the room. "I'm going to write my own report and submit it to the Chief and the Mayor and let them know just why using out-dated methods and theories to evaluate their personnel is the fast track to getting their asses sued for as many discriminations as I can think of between now and when I press print on my laptop." Blair ignored the outraged squawk from Devon and raised his hand to start ticking off his points. "Sexual discrimination, cultural discrimination..."
"CULTURAL DISCRIMINATION?" Devon heaved himself out of his chair and gaped at the younger man. "I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my entire life."
Blair snorted and waved an encompassing arm to indicate his friends. "They're an cultural sub-division whether you want to admit it or not, man. They have their own traditions and culture and *you* are demonstrating an offensive intolerance to their way of life and freedom of choice." He fixed the spluttering man with another glare. "Sounds like discrimination to me."
Simon hid his own smirk as Joel hurriedly turned his bark of laughter into a hacking cough and Rafe and Henri started humming the 'Jaws' theme once more. Megan grinned foolishly at Jim as he beamed delighted pride down at his partner's bristling head and mentally started planning their victory dinner. Blair folded his arms across his chest and ignored the rest of the room as he stared in challenge at Devon. "Should I go on or do you just want to be surprised when I send you a copy of the report?"
"You'll never make it convincing." Idly Devon rubbed a hand over his torso and wondered whether it was possible to have a heart attack when it felt like the organ had left it's normal location and taken up residence in the pit of his stomach. "You'll need supporting evidence, documentation to back up your findings..."
Blair snorted. "I'm an anthropologist, man; I've got thousands of years of historical documentation to back me up and all the supporting evidence I need to prove you wrong is available within this station in our clear up rates and those of other departments. I'm also willing to orally debate our separate findings before a board of city representatives and the Mayor if I have to." A faintly evil look settled on his face. "Just imagine what I can come up with if I have a couple of weeks to prepare properly. The handouts, the charts, the irrefutable evidence that you're outdated and out of touch with modern thinking...." Blair trailed off and waited for the capitulation he could almost taste in the air. He leaned back slightly into Jim's hand on his back and lowered his voice to it's normal soothing tone. "All you have to do to avoid that is let us alone, man. Just forget all about us and let us keep on doing what we do. I don't care what you say about the other departments, they aren't my concern, but I will take you down if you touch mine."
Simon roused himself from his slightly stunned state and stretched out a hand to pat gently at Blair's arm. "Okay, Sandburg, that's enough. Ah!" He held up a warning finger as Blair tried to protest and glared warningly. "I said that's enough. Now, why don't you go and sign off on those statements on your desk and let us finish up with the good doctor, okay? Go on now." He watched as Blair hesitated and then finally stepped towards the door with a suddenly nervous look back at Jim.
Ellison smiled reassuringly, listening to Blair's elevated heart beat as the student realised he might have crossed the line in defence of his friends and ruffled the curly hair. "I'll be right out, Chief. As soon as those statements are signed off we'll go for lunch and we can try and figure out what's wrong with your car this time, alright?" Blair nodded slowly and then with one more look at the speechless Devon left the room to head for Jim's desk and the paperwork that awaited him. Jim watched his partner settle himself and then turned to face the psychologist with grim eyes. "You finished now, Doc?"
Devon looked between Jim's face and the bent head of his partner out in the bullpen. "What the *hell* was that?"
Rafe stretched his arms over his head and flexed his shoulders until they popped. "That would be our secret weapon." He lowered his arms and linked his hands behind his head. "But don't tell anyone. If word gets out everyone will want him."
Henri, Joel and Megan all stopped smirking and suddenly looked worried at the thought of Blair being taken on by another department. Simon and Jim didn't look worried; they just exchanged smug glances and for once gave thanks for the Sentinel problem that kept their favourite observer linked inexorably to Major Crimes. "So, Doctor Hannon, do we have a deal?" Simon tried very hard not to gloat, but he didn't get many opportunities to put one over on the higher ups and it was pretty much a lost cause from the get go. "You don't file a recommendation that we get separated and we swear not to let Sandburg loose on you."
Devon took another incredulous look through the picture window at Blair bent industriously over his paper work and muttered unconvincingly, "He'll never make it stick."
Megan snorted and got to her feet. "You don't know, Sandy." She pulled Brown to his feet and stuck her hands in her pockets to check for her wallet. "That man can make you do anything he wants if he puts his mind to it. Right, Ellison?"
"He hasn't got me drinking the green gunge for breakfast yet, Connor." Jim flashed a wide smile and rocked back on his heels happily. "And I don't eat tofu for anyone."
"Oh please." Joel slapped his friend on the shoulder and chuckled. "He's had you eating it for the last two years, you fool. What do you think he puts in that casserole you like so much?"
"That's lamb!" Jim's eyes narrowed as Joel laughed outright and his eyebrows drew together ominously. "It's an old Morrocan dish that he picked up when..." Joel laughed harder and Jim's mouth dropped open in betrayal. "The son-of-a-bitch! SANDBURG!" Jim spun on his heel and stormed through the door towards his partner. "What the *hell* have you been feeding me?"
Rafe grinned as Blair looked up and hurriedly bounced out of his chair to scoot away from Jim and around the desk separating them. He nudged Henri. "C'mon, we'd better go save Hairboy."
"The hell with saving him, I'm gonna help Ellison hide the body." Henri marched out the door cracking his knuckles ominously. "He fed me that shit last week!" Rafe rolled his eyes and followed his partner out the door to help corner the laughing Blair as he nimbly dodged Jim's grasping fingers.
Joel caught Simon's pained eye and tugged Megan's arm. "I think we'd better go get the kids under control." He sighed as the Australian automatically reached for her gun. "*Without* shooting them." A yelp from Blair signalled his capture and the start of a truly vicious noogie from his now laughing partner. "Jim, stop that, you're going to pull all his hair out!"
Simon watched with a jaundiced eye as some of the best cops it had ever been his privilege to work with began to squabble over the ruffled anthropologist in their midst and sighed a heavy sigh. Before Sandburg life was just so much more *dignified*. He found himself smiling as Jim Ellison, former hard ass and all around ice man, broke up into a fit of what could only be called *giggles* as Blair made good use of his Sentinel's heightened sense of touch and ruthlessly tickled his way free of his head lock. Dignified was highly overrated.
"This is blackmail, you know." The petulant mutter from behind Simon's desk had the big Captain dragging his attention from his bullpen and back to the thoroughly routed psychologist still in his office. "I could report you."
Simon cranked up the wattage on his best glare that was normally scary enough to silence even Blair for short periods of time and curled his lip for good measure. "Yeah, you could." He cast another quick look at his team still arguing and shoving against each other in the outer room and then crossed his office in quick strides to loom forwards over his desk. "But you won't. Do you want to know why?" He jerked his head in Blair's general direction and smiled a wide smile with absolutely no humour in it but with a generous amount of teeth showing nonetheless. "Because next time it won't be Blair we send after you, it'll be his mother."
Devon scrambled back as Simon leaned further forward and seemed to block all the light from the room. "His mother?"
"Yup." Simon fished a fresh cigar from his pocket and rammed it into his mouth to chomp happily on it in lieu of Devon's neck. "She taught him everything he knows and then some. Don't make me call Naomi, Hannon, it will get very, very ugly."
Devon swallowed uneasily as he stared from the dark brown eyes boring into his and then out to the rowdy crowd in the other room. He swallowed again and did the only thing possible under the circumstances - he stuck out his hand and nodded firmly. "Captain Banks, you have yourself a deal."
"I can't believe you lied to me." Jim watched his partner as he moved around their kitchen getting dinner later that night, and scowled as he heard a distinct snort of amusement come from Blair's direction. "All this time. I took you into my home, I feed you, keep you warm, damn near clothe you..."
Blair rolled his eyes and picked up the two plates he had just finished piling high with Jim comfort food. "Ellison, I fed you tofu not arsenic." He moved to the dining table and plunked a plate down in front of his friend. "Let it go, buddy. Move on. Process your anger and then set it free." He picked up his knife and fork and narrowed his eyes at the scowling detective opposite him. "In other words- shut the hell up already!"
Jim scowled harder and then poked his laden plate with a suspicious fork. "I'm just saying how can I trust you? The loft is the one place that I can dial down and just be normal, you're the one person I trust to not lie to me." He glared pointedly at Blair's exasperated face. "Or you *were*. How can I ever believe anything you tell me ever again? I mean, what is this really? I know what you *told* me it was, but how can I believe you now?"
Blair laid his knife and fork very calmly down on his own plate -thus removing the temptation of stabbing his beloved Sentinel in his mistrustful eyes with them-and rested his chin patiently on his cupped hands. "Jim. It's two lamb chops, some sweet potatoes, a pile of carrots and some fresh green beans." He looked down at the plate and then back up at Jim, still poking the food doubtfully. "Tofu isn't like modelling clay. It doesn't come in all colours of the rainbow and it doesn't allow you shape it into stunningly good representations of various meats and vegetables. It is what it is, man." He rolled his eyes as Jim poked the food again. "For God's sake, Ellison! The only way I could possibly provide you with fresher and more convincing chops is if I dragged the damn animal into the loft and slaughtered it in front of you." He snatched up his knife and fork again and cut a healthy chunk off one of his own chops. "Just dial up, sniff the goddamn thing and eat it already!"
With great dignity -and extremely pointedly-Jim stopped poking and bent down to sniff deeply at his food and then, ignoring the annoyed hiss from Blair, he grudgingly allowed himself to cut into a chop and start eating his cooling dinner. As a favour to his Guide. Despite the three years worth of trust that had been so wantonly squandered by said Guide. The weasel. "So. You did good today, Chief."
Blair grinned around a mouthful of carrots. "Yeah. Thought I went a little overboard there towards the end, but basically okay." He swallowed his mouthful and sipped at the iced water sitting in a glass by his plate. "Although I think the poor guy had some valid points."
Jim raised an eyebrow and shrugged. "Wouldn't know. I stopped listening about the time he shut the door behind us and said good morning." He directed a baleful look at his partner. "Then I found out my partner had been lying to me for two years and everything else kinda faded away."
"Jim. I know where you sleep. Let. It. Go." Blair punctuated the last three words with emphatic stabs of his knife and held his Sentinel's eyes for a long moment before both men's faces crumpled with mirth and they went back to their dinners. "Seriously, he had a good point about us maybe branching out into other social areas. Meeting new people, getting new interests."
Jim looked thoroughly alarmed. "No he didn't!" He choked down the sudden bitter mouthful of lamb chop that had turned from succulent to ashes in his mouth and stared at his friend. "We're fine as we are."
Blair eyed Jim thoughtfully for a moment and then reached again for his water. "Well, sure, but don't you sometimes feel a little stifled? Like you just want to break away from the same-old-same-old?"
Jim looked around his comfortable, familiar home and then at his comfortable, familiar friend. He gave careful consideration to the idea of not being right where he was and being able to enjoy the comfortable, familiar routine of dinner and then a session of protracted squabbling over who got custody of the remote control that night and then firmly shook his head. "No." He stabbed an innocent carrot more harshly than was warranted and watched the abused vegetable leap off the plate and fly across the table to join Blair's dinner. He glared at the escapee and then up at Blair's amused face. "And I ought to run you in just for saying that."
Blair -looking more amused by the minute-cocked his head to the side and blinked. "Excuse me? You want to arrest me for saying that we might be getting a little stale?"
Jim nodded and abandoned his half eaten dinner. "Uh-huh. I could get you for reckless endangerment at the least." He stifled his own sudden urge to smile and Blair choked back a laugh and snagged his own drink. "Look, Chief, think about it. At the moment we all stick pretty close together, right?" He paused for Blair to nod in cautious agreement and then continued with the air of a man who knew what he was about to say was the very height of wisdom and rationality. "Right. So, think about all the crap we've all been through the last few years, all the psychos and whack-jobs who've come after us and all the shit that we've had to put up with because of the job. Now think about how much worse that would have been if there had been other people outside of the department that could have been involved in that. Wives, girlfriends, husbands, kids..." Jim took a swig of his water and directed a look filled with heroic self-sacrifice at his equally heroic buddy. "We're doing the world a favour keeping the insanity contained to just the seven of us. We should be given *medals*."
Blair -unwillingly fascinated by Jim's theory-leaned forward and folded his arms. "You're actually saying that you think we've allowed ourselves to become so contained that we're unconsciously trying to protect the other members of the tribe by drawing danger towards ourselves?"
Jim nodded. "Yup." He grinned at Blair's bellow of laughter and leaned back to fold his arms over his chest in a self-satisfied manner. "Like I said, should be medals all around."
"You are *so* weird." Blair swiped a hand across his watering eyes and tried to get his laugh attack under control. "So, so weird."
Jim froze for a moment but then looked at Blair's eyes that were shining with nothing more than mischief and affection and smiled warmly. "You know it, buddy." The smile stretched into a wide grin as Blair continued to snort and chuckle. "Besides, with all the worrying I do about you I don't think I have the energy to worry about anyone else." Blair stopped laughing and started to look belligerent instead. Jim cringed. "Not that you need me to worry about you! You can look after yourself just fine." Blair's eyes narrowed. "Brilliantly, in fact."
"Hmmph." Blair eyed Jim for another minute before cracking a grin. "And don't you forget it, Supercop. You finished eating?" He waited for Jim's nod and rose to clear the table. "Come on, I'll give you a hand with the dishes and then we can watch that documentary on ancient China on Discovery I wanted to see."
Jim stopped himself from whimpering, but only just. "There's a game on."
Blair began scraping off the plates and smirked to himself at the plaintive whine from his friend as Jim began filling the sink with hot water. "There's always a game on, but as you made me watch that dumb series of cop films all weekend you can now join me in viewing the mysteries of rural Chinese life in the thirteenth century, thoughtfully encapsulated into just under two hours for your viewing pleasure by the powers that be."
Jim didn't know what horrified him more, the fact that he would be stuck watching a programme about Chinese peasants and their mud huts for the next couple of hours or that Blair had just dismissed Charles Bronson --possibly the greatest cinematic cop of all time-as dumb. "And you call me weird."
Blair picked up a cloth to dry the plates as Jim started to scrub and leaned comfortably back against the counter Jim stacked the soapy plates to drain a little. "Hey, man, I'm not the one freaking out about us spending a little less time together." He slanted a look up at Jim's suddenly shuttered face. "See, there you go again, looking all grim and twitchy."
Jim stopped scrubbing the skillet the chops had been cooked on and stared down at the bubbles in the bowl. Not at all grimly and the tiny muscle spasm at the corner of his jaw was because he had an itch, not because he twitched. "I'm not freaking out." He twitched again. "I'm just saying if it isn't broke, why fix it?"
Blair raised an enquiring eyebrow and reached absently for a plate to dry as he watched Jim with a speculative gleam in his eye. "And the fact that neither of us have had a date in the last six weeks is...?"
"Not a problem." Jim scrubbed energetically at the skillet and didn't realise that he was taking off the Teflon coating in his agitation. "We've hit a slump. We'll get over it."
"Uh-huh." Blatantly unconvinced, Blair put his plate down and then thoughtfully rescued the skillet from Jim's increasingly aggressive cleaning techniques. "I'll wash, you dry." He waited until his friend had moved off and then ruefully examined the now ruined skillet. He really had to stop getting Jim all uptight when he was washing up, so far that year it had cost them three plates, one -whoops, make that two-expensive Teflon cooking devices and a rather charming serving platter that had bitten the dust when he had tentatively approached the idea of maybe moving out now he had a small wage after being made 'official' at Major Crimes and Jim's hands had slipped as he stood at the sink and dropped the bone china plate on his foot.
Checking to make sure that Jim wasn't handling anything remotely breakable or expensive, Blair shot his friend a look and tried to get a handle on what was making him act so screwy. "So, you're happy with the way things are?" He stifled a smile at the annoyed grunt from Jim as the older man paid strictly more attention than was needed to the forks he was drying in his hand and tried again. "I mean just the two of us here on our own."
Jim tugged open the drawer where the silverware was kept and dropped the forks in with a clatter. "Sure. Aren't you?" He snuck a quick glance at Blair's face and wondered briefly what he would do if the answer was no. Disembowelling himself with a butter knife seemed like a reasonable option.
"I guess." Blair opened the drain and watched the dirty water swirl away. "We're great and everything, but I do get a little lonely at times. Y'know, just for someone to get warm with between the sheets."
Jim nodded and tried very hard not to be sick at the thought of Blair leaving him someday for some nubile young thing and the loft becoming nothing more than an empty space that held his belongings and broken heart. "Yeah." He cleared his throat and leaned back against the counter as he folded the dishtowel he held in his hands into a tiny square. "But it's like you said to that Hannon guy, not all great relationships have to include sex." He cleared his throat again and forced himself to continue. "And I think ours is a pretty great relationship."
The wide, surprised smile from Blair was all the reward Jim needed for making himself dive into the murky waters of his emotions. "Yeah, man, me too." Blair leaned back against the sink and copied Jim's pose. "The best I've ever had." He swallowed, suddenly nervous, and made himself meet Jim's smiling eyes. "Of course the physical relationship needs a little work, but mostly we're pretty good here."
The silence stretched out between them as blue eyes stared into blue and then Jim flushed slightly. "What kind of work?" He shuffled his feet and tried to ignore the fact that his knees had suddenly turned to jelly at the suddenly inscrutable look on Blair's face. "Going to the gym more? More fishing?"
Blair tipped his head to the side and studied Jim for a moment before taking a deep breath and stepping away from the counter at his back. "If you like." He took another step and then ground to a halt. "Or maybe something else."
"Give me a hint." Jim moved forwards and stopped inches away from his friend, breathing in Blair's scent and hoping fervently he wasn't about to make a complete ass of himself. "Starting jogging in the mornings?" His arm drifted forward and his hand found Blair's. "Maybe a little basketball?"
Blair released the breath he wasn't even aware he'd been holding and silently called down untold blessings on the head of Devon Hannon, unknowing matchmaker, sure that the unfortunate man was responsible for possibility of him suddenly gaining his most secret desire. "Yeah, that too." He studied Jim for a moment and then leant forward and tilted his mouth upwards, allowing his lips to part in invitation. "Whatever you want, Jim. Just ask, man."
Jim looked down into the face raised to his and opened his mouth to speak but the words stuck in his throat. He shook his head unconsciously and then found himself grabbing at Blair as the other man read the movement as rejection. "No!" He carefully laid one hand against Blair's face and then keeping his eyes fixed on his friend's the whole time, bent down and brushed his dry lips over Blair's half-open mouth. When Blair didn't try to shove him away in disgust he tightened his hold around the sturdy body leaning against him and smiled slightly as he bent down for a more intense kiss. For a few seconds they stood and process the feelings of unfamiliar hardness and stubble as their mouths rested together and then Blair's arms wound around Jim's waist and pulled them tightly together as his mouth opened and his tongue darted out to trace the line of Jim's lips. Mouths slid wetly against each other as tongues battled and stroked and Jim's hands took on a life of their own to roam hungrily over Blair's body before finally settling on his ass and lifting and squeezing his cheeks through the worn denim the student was wearing.
Long, long minutes later Jim lifted his head and was almost surprised to find that Blair had still remained Blair despite the staggering tangent their relationship had just swerved off into. That morning they had left for work buddies, roommates and partners and now his Guide had somehow morphed into the persona that flitted secretly in and out of Jim's dreams but rather wonderfully he could still see the man who was his best friend in the glazed blue eyes blinking at him. A slow, delighted smile spread across Jim's face and he gave the butt in his hands another squeeze. "We okay?"
Blair smiled back at him. "Oh yeah." His hands drifted down from Jim's waist and found a butt of their own to play with. "We're great."
Jim stepped back until he leant against the counter and pulled Blair in between his spread thighs. "So, what was that you were saying earlier about not needing sex to define a relationship?"
Blair snorted and pushed his groin firmly against Jim's as he leaned in for another hard kiss. "Oh please, I'm an anthropologist, not a freakin' psychiatrist. What the hell do I know about healthy relationships? Most of the people I study are dead." He pulled back as Jim gave a surprised shout of laughter and grinned happily as his butt got squeezed again. "But I won't tell if you don't."
Jim buried one hand in the wild mop of hair tumbling over Blair's shoulder and lowered his mouth again. "My lips are sealed, buddy."