This one's Karen's fault. She informed me that Mable needed to get out more, since she's re-entered the real world. I can do that. Of course, I have no idea where it's going to go from here. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we? I'm supposed to be finishing 'Equality'. But I keep getting messages that give me ideas, that insist on being written. I will get back to the other one, honest. Soon. Just as soon as I finish taking care of the muses bashing me. Really, I will. Honest. (You think I'm protesting too much? Hmmmmm. Me too. J) R.I.Eaton All the usual disclaimers apply. The only one I own is Mable. The rest of them, well, most of the rest of them, anyway, belong to someone else. I acknowledge their proprietary rights to them. I'm just borrowing them for a little exercise. I won't make any money from this, so please don't sue me over it. Not that I have very much anyone would want anyway. J
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"Good morning, class. My name is Blair Sandburg, and I'd like to welcome you to Anthropology 101. This is an introductory class. In it we will cover..."
As he continued his usual opening speech, he was looking at his class. He always started his perusal at the top of the amphitheater and worked his way down. As usual, there were few empty seats. He'd barely glanced at the roster, only enough to see that he had forty-five students this semester. It was going to be another long, hard job keeping track of them all. Helping the ones who, inevitably would need more help than usual. His eyes tracked through the class, working their way down. As his opening spiel ended, his eyes reached the front row. Off to one side, near a door, sat a woman in a wheelchair. He did a double-take as he recognized her. She made eye contact with him and smiled. He blinked, forced his eyes away from her and asked his usual ending question.
"OK. Any questions? Problems? Any of you in the wrong place?" His eyes scanned the class again. Noticing that it seemed like a pretty apathetic bunch. Disappointed that there wasn't much enthusiasm out there. It wasn't like this class started at eight in the morning, after all. It was noon, darn it. He glanced back at the woman in the wheelchair who was smiling at him. He sighed. Well, at least there was one enthusiastic student. He started talking again, giving them the reading list, the textbook information, all the myriad information on the requirements for the class. When he was through and there were still no questions, he dismissed them.
He was gathering up his paraphernalia when he heard the whir of an electric motor. He looked up and broke out in a smile.
"Hi Mable. What brings you here?"
"I signed up for your class, why else?" She returned his smile. "I mean, I've seen you with the boys, I was curious as to what kind of teacher you are, as well." She glanced around the empty classroom, "Most of them were still suffering from the morning after the night before." Offering up an excuse for the rest of the class.
"Maybe. Maybe not." Blair sighed. "I hope they perk up some, otherwise it's going to be a looonng semester."
"If anyone can do it, it's you, dear."
"Thanks, Mable. You know that I can't give you any special treatment as a student, don't you?"
"Of course, dear. I'm not worried about grades or anything. I just decided that it was time to do a little more. Something just for me." She reached out and patted his hand. "Don't worry, dear. I'll try to not embarrass you."
He laughed out loud. "You could never do that, Mable. I do it all the time on my own, without any help."
She joined in his laughter. "Well, I, for one, am looking forward to your class. No matter what the rest of them do." She smiled again. "I'll see you on Wednesday, Teach." Turning to go.
Blair couldn't seem to wipe the silly grin from his face for the rest of the day.
Luckily, Mable had been correct in her analysis of the class. They were all a lot perkier on Wednesday, asking the questions they hadn't asked on Monday. He gave his lecture, answered questions and gave them a reading assignment. Mable disappointed him by not stopping by after class to chat. He was surprised at his reaction, having only the one previous encounter. He was still bummed out when he got to the station later that day.
"What's up, Chief?" Jim asked, noticing the glum expression on his Guide's face.
"Nothing." Blair mumbled in response.
"If it's nothing, why do you look so glum?" Jim asked reasonably.
"It's silly. You'll laugh."
"Well, considering some of the stuff you've said in the past, I can't, well, I won't promise. But I can try to not laugh. Now, what's the problem?" Leaning back in his chair and giving his full attention to his guide.
"It's my new Anthro 101 class"
"OK. What about it?"
"Mable Taggart's in it."
Jim looked surprised, "OK. Is that a problem? She's not throwing spit wads, or anything like that is she?" He grinned.
"No. Nothing like that. It's...It's just that she stopped by to talk to me after class on Monday and..." His voice faded almost to nothing, "and today she didn't." He was blushing.
OK. What's wrong here? Think Ellison. Think. She stopped by after the first class and talked to him. OK. She didn't today, after the second class. Why would that be a problem? "Uh, Sandburg, did you give her a speech about not being able to give her preferential treatment on Monday, by any chance?"
"Maybe she's trying to keep her distance a little, just to avoid giving the appearance of a conflict of interest. You think that could be a reason?"
Blair looked up, considered the possibility and his face blossomed into a huge grin. "That's good. That makes sense. OK." Bouncing, back in a good mood.
Jim just shook his head in amusement and handed his partner the reports that needed inputting into the system.
Mable was a great student. She made Blair glad he didn't use the old Bell Curve Method of grading, as she would have skewed the average horrendously. The lady was smart. She asked intelligent, pointed questions; and saw right through any BS. He was forced on several occasions to admit to not knowing something and then have to research it to give an adequate answer. Finally, he suggested she research one of the questions and give a report to the class. She smiled and agreed. She was making him really enjoy the class.
Unfortunately, their classroom discussions tended to resume during the weekly poker game at the Taggart home. On several occasions, one of the players would suggest they take their debate elsewhere, as they were trying to play poker. Of course, it didn't help that each time someone made the suggestion, Blair had just managed to win a big pot. Without ever breaking off the thread of debate. It was frustrating for the other players that he was able to beat them without even seeming to pay attention to the game.
He handed out the results of the midterm exams. He was pleased with how well the entire class was doing. He wished his other classes were doing as well. He realized that it was partly due to Mable's influence. She simply asked good questions and got the rest of the class interested and involved. He had just announced the available topics for term papers, when a group of armed, masked men burst into the lecture hall, firing their automatic weapons into the air. The students started screaming and ducking. Mable, at her usual spot by the lower door, quickly slipped out during the commotion and went at high speed down the hall and around a corner. She had managed to catch Blair's eye as she did so. He relaxed and tried to calm his remaining students. Confident in Mable's ability to go for help.
"What do you want?!" Blair shouted at the interlopers.
"Shut up! Everybody shut up and sit down. You!" He pointed at Blair. "Get up here with the rest. Stay quiet and nobody dies, you got it?"
Blair nodded and made his way into the seats. He chose to sit with a bunch of female students who were all crying hysterically. Striving to calm them.
"Joel." She said excitedly into the phone.
"Hey, baby. I thought you were in class this afternoon?" He leaned back in his chair, pleased, as always when his favourite person called him.
"Joel, eight men just burst into Blair's classroom and started shooting up into the ceiling. During the commotion, I managed to slip out, but they've got everyone else hostage. We need you boys down here on the double."
By the time Mable finished her announcement, Joel had placed the call on the speakerphone and everyone had gathered around to listen in horror. Jim's jaw had torqued down so the muscles stood out in sharp relief against the sharp planes of his face.
"OK, Baby. How did it look?"
"They fired into the ceiling. Blair saw me leave and nodded for me to call you. There are eight men. They're wearing ski masks. All of them are white. Not military, too sloppy looking. Blair's the only one who noticed my escape." She trailed off, knowing that Jim, at least had to be in a near panic over the safety of his partner.
"We're on our way, Baby." Joel told her. "Are you out of the building?"
"Not yet. I..." There was the sound of a fist striking flesh and the phone was cut off.
The men of Major Crimes looked at one another. "That was a mistake on their part." Rafe growled, rage showing on his face; the same rage visible on the faces of his fellow detectives.
"I've called Thompson. The SWAT team will meet us there. Let's roll, men." Captain Banks announced.
Jim reached out and touched Joel's arm. "You're with me." He announced. His eyes daring Simon to stop Joel from going. Simon looked into the blazing blue eyes and nodded. He wasn't foolish enough to argue. Not on this.
"Mable?" Blair whispered, gently stroking the unconscious woman's cheek. "C'mon, Mable. I need you to open your eyes and tell me you're OK. Please, Mable." He prayed she'd at least been able to get a call for help out. He saw her eyelids flicker, then open. She quickly closed them again, moaning softly.
"Shhh. It's OK. Did you get the call out?" Relieved when she nodded slightly.
"They're gonna be pissed." She whispered, squinting her eyes open and straightening up in her chair. "I was talking to Joel when they hit me. He had the call on the speakerphone and I'm sure everyone was there and heard them." She smiled, grimly. "They better hope the SWAT Team gets them, instead of Major Crimes." There was an unusual glint in her eye, one Blair had never seen, and hoped to never have directed at him.
He was shocked. He had never heard anything but sweet words from this woman. Pissed? She actually said that? At the angry glint in her eyes, he shivered.
She looked around, seeing the frightened students shrunken in their seats. Flinching any time one of their captors walked past.
"Blair, what do they want?"
"I don't know. They haven't said."
Mable looked around, spotting a girl trying to disappear into her seat. She nudged Blair and indicated her. "I think she knows them." She leaned toward the girl.
"You know those men, don't you, dear." She didn't phrase it as a question.
The girl flinched away and looked around frantically. Finally meeting the concerned, warm brown eyes of Mable, she nodded fractionally. "It's my boyfriend. Well, my ex-boyfriend. I left him a couple of months ago. When I found out that he was part of one of those white supremacist militia groups." She glanced furtively at their captors. "He doesn't know that I'm Jewish. That's one reason I left." She looked at them, hopeless, guilty. Blaming herself for the predicament they all found themselves in.
Mable patted the girl's hand. "That's all right dear. It isn't your fault that your ex-boyfriend is a fool. Unfortunately, it does explain why they hit me so hard." Her head ached and there was a ringing in her ears, but she wasn't about to complain and add to Blair's worries.
Blair was already worried. He had checked her eyes while she was unconscious. They weren't quite equal. She had also been unconscious for at least ten minutes, no telling how long before they had brought her in. He reached over and gave her a comforting hug, leaning his head on her shoulder; she hugged him back, giving comfort as well as receiving it.
"Isn't this cute. A nigger and a jewboy. You two an item or somethin?"
They straightened up and stared at their captor. Then Mable spoke softly, "Have you ever noticed that the more ignorant the man, the louder he speaks?" Blair almost choked on his laughter, even though he knew it wasn't a good idea.
"As a matter of fact, I have noticed that. They always seem to think that the louder they are, the more people will listen to them. Sad, isn't it?" A number of his students were looking at him as though he had lost his mind. He smiled at them, and winked.
"You got a big mouth, Kike."
Blair just raised his eyebrows at the thug. "You will also notice that their vocabulary tends to be limited to slurs and swear words. Also denoting a low intelligence. There is nothing wrong with being unintelligent, the problem arises when you combine a high level of ignorance with it. Now, if you look at students in general, and I do mean general, you will notice that there are a number of you who have to work really hard for your grades, others manage to skate by without ever cracking a book. Who learns better? Often it is the..."
"SHUT UP!" Blair scowled up at the big bully.
"Often it is the student who has to struggle for his, or her, grades who actually retains the information. Now..."
"I SAID SHUT UP!" He moved to hover menacingly over the much smaller man.
"Point taken." Blair replied mildly, and stayed quiet. One of his brighter students, he could recognize the voice, laughed. Several others joined in. It was part hysteria, part genuine amusement.
"You got balls, Prof." Came the voice of one of his students from the midst of the crowd.
The man menacing Blair and Mable was suddenly shoved away by another member of their group. He glared down at Blair.
"Are you crazy or somethin?" he snarled.
Blair smiled beatifically up at the big man. Smaller than Jim, he thought. Brown eyes, he noted. "No. I'm an Anthropologist. I study people. In fact, I'm working on my Doctoral Thesis, it's on closed societies. It's fascinating. You might be interested to know that there is a group that I'm studying right now, very exclusive. Their entrance requirements are really hard. Most of you probably couldn't pass the exam to even get started." He turned back to his class. "You'd be amazed at how these closed societies work. The one I'm studying is paramilitary in organization. Now I know that I'm not very big," The class tittered. They couldn't help but listen, his voice and manner treated their captivity like it was all part of the curriculum. Even their captors were paying attention.
"Yeah, I know. I'm really pretty small compared to a lot of you. But globally, I'm actually pretty average. Anyway, this group that I'm studying," He stood and moved back to his podium, unmolested by the gun wielding goons. "These guys, there's not a one of them under six feet tall. In fact, I don't think any of the specific unit I'm with is under six foot two, except one." He smiled at Mable. "Their leader is, in fact about six foot five or six. Huge man. The one I'm studying directly is a good six foot three, built like a swimmer. Real broad shoulders, narrow waist and hips. Ladies, stop drooling," He admonished with a chuckle. The class joined him in his laughter.
"Now, back to this group I'm studying. You can't imagine how hard it was to get into. I don't fit any of their criteria." More laughter. "Except one." There was silence. "Any ideas what the one thing I might have in common with them might be? Anybody?" His eyes scanned the audience. "No one?"
"Come on, people. Think. What could I, Blair Sandburg, Anthropologist, Jew, short, long curly hair. What could I possibly have in common with a bunch of oversized, powerful, paramilitary types? Someone must have an idea? How about you?" He looked at the guy who had been calling names. "No? Why am I not surprised?" He looked around again. He sighed, lifting his eyes to the ceiling, where he noticed the movement of some of the tiles. He quickly brought his gaze back down. He looked at Mable and smiled. "Now, Mable. You must have some idea. You don't fit any better than I do. The criteria for the group, I mean. But we both fit in with the group. Can you tell the class why?"
She looked at him, puzzled. "Well, I'd say intelligence, but Joel says you've got everyone spooked by how much smarter you are than any of them, so that must not be it."
"Gee. Joel said that?" Blair burst in, surprised. "Really?" He started bouncing in excitement. "The guys think I'm smarter than them?" He shook his head. "I don't know about that. I just don't think like they do." He turned back to the class. "I don't have their mindset. It's another thing that sets me apart from the group I'm studying. When they look at a problem, they see it from their paradigm, don't you just hate that word?" He smiled and received a few smiles in return. "So, when they look at a problem, and I open my big mouth and say something, sometimes; well, lots of times, they stop and stare at me. It's a case of fresh eyes. Since I don't have their point of view, I may see it from a different perspective. I've actually helped them on occasion." He looked back at Mable, trying to convey the message that help had arrived with his eyes without letting anyone else in on it.
"Come on, Mable. Think. Why do both you and I fit into the group even though we don't fit the criteria?"
"Well, in my case, it's probably because I'm married to Joel. Accepted by association."
"Well, that and your cooking and the poker nights at your house. But aside from that. There is one thing we all have in common. That lets me fit in, that let's you fit in, even without Joel. Think hard." He moved over to her. He could feel the draft from the open ceiling tiles. He was trying to keep his students attention. Warn them when the time came.
One of their captors happened to glance toward the ceiling and saw the gaping holes in the tiles and the swarm of uniformed men filling the openings.
Major Crimes arrived even before the SWAT Team. Jim had checked out the lecture hall. There were four classrooms in the building. Four amphitheater style classrooms. With fifteen foot ceilings. With crawl spaces above the ceiling tiles. Jim was aware of all this. He got the security people to give him a key to access the crawl space. When the SWAT Team arrived, Major Crimes had already figured out a battle plan. Thompson wasn't very happy about it, but had to agree with them that it was their best chance.
Jim was silently removing ceiling tiles and placing them aside, preparatory to their assault on the hostage situation. Blair's voice carried clearly to everyone up in the rafters. He captured Blair's eyes when he looked up. Pleased when Blair managed to look back down to his class without giving away what they were doing. He winced and cast a glance at Simon when he heard Mable suggest Blair was more intelligent than they were. Simon glared at him. He shrugged and smiled in insincere apology.
They were in place. Blair had moved back over to his students, close to Mable. Joel was outside the door nearest his wife, with half a dozen SWAT Team members. Thompson was at one of the upper doors, and Brown was at the other. Rafe was up in the rafters with Jim and Simon and another dozen SWAT officers. Jim just happened to be looking when one of the perps looked up and saw them.
Everything happened at once. Blair yelled for his students to get down. The police opened fire on the perps, who scrambled around for cover and returned fire.
Blair not only yelled for his students to take cover, he launched himself at Mable and knocked her out of her chair and covered her with his own body to protect her.
It didn't take very long. It seemed, from the captives' point of view, to take forever. Finally it was quiet. Well, relatively quiet. The gunfire had stopped. The only sounds were the soft moans of the injured. Blair slowly lifted his head to look around. A large hand pressed against the back of his head and encouraged him to stay down.
"Jim?" Blair whispered.
"Yeah, Chief. It's me. Stay down, OK?"
"Yeah, Chief. It's that bad. You stay here. Don't look. I'll be back for you in a few. OK?"
"OK. Are you all right?"
"Yeah, Chief. I'm fine. How are you feeling, Mable?"
"I've got a headache, is all." Was her soft reply. She kept her eyes closed.
"She's got a concussion, Jim." Blair added. "She was out for at least ten minutes. Her eyes weren't equal when I checked. Haven't been able to check since she woke up."
"Tattle-tale." Mable growled gently, a note of humour in her voice.
"Yes, Ma'am. Joel would kill me if I didn't."
"You got that straight." Came Joel's voice from above them. "You OK, Baby?"
"I'll be fine. Get the mess cleaned up so we can get up, Sweetheart. Not that Blair doesn't make a nice blanket..."
"He better mind his manners!" Joel growled threateningly.
Blair raised his hands, "Hey, man. I was just trying to keep her out of the line of fire. You'd kill me even faster if I hadn't. Right?" He felt a meaty hand pat his back.
The students stayed down as ordered by the police. Once the bodies had been covered, they were helped up and escorted out, being kept as much as possible from seeing the carnage. Blair and Mable were the last.
"OK, Chief. You can get up now." Jim's voice gently informed him. His hands helping his smaller partner to his feet. Joel was right there picking up his wife and returning her to her chair.
"How you feeling Baby?" His worry and concern only obvious.
"I'm fine, Sweetheart. How are everyone else?" Jim and Blair exchanged smiles. Always thinking of others. That was Mable.
"We're fine. The bad guys are all dead." He shook his head, sadly. "They never had a chance. There were only ten of them and about forty of us." He looked at his wife. "None of the students have been hurt, but they're all pretty shaken up. We've got councilors over at the clinic and Student Union to talk to them. Do you need anything?" He was relieved when she smiled at him.
"She's got a concussion!" Blair called out from his seat a few feet away. They exchanged glares. She broke first, her head hurting too much to fight.
"OK. My head hurts." Leaning into Joel's caress as he tried to ascertain the extent of her injury.
"We'll just have to take you to the hospital to have you checked out, OK?"
She sighed, capitulating. "OK."
It was late before any of them were able to go home. The reports had been finished, signed and turned in. Joel had brought Mable with him to the station after she was checked out at the emergency room. She'd gotten a fairly clean bill of health. She had a slight concussion, so she wasn't to be left alone for a day or two. Just in case. Other than that, none of the students had been injured. The councilors, however had very full schedules for the next few weeks, helping the victims deal with their ordeal. The girl who's boyfriend had been behind the entire mess had been killed during the rescue, along with his brother and the other eight members of the group. The parent organization disavowed any connection with them. Much to the relief of everyone involved. The members of the Major Crimes Unit were sitting around the bullpen discussing the day. It was Simon who brought it up.
"OK, Sandburg. I give up. What is the one thing that makes you fit in with this 'paramilitary sub-culture'?" He stood before the grad student, hands on hips, unconsciously threatening.
Blair just looked up at him. A slight smile on his face. "You mean you don't know?"
"No. So, what is it?"
Blair looked at the others who were watching curiously, wondering. His smile broadened.
"You really don't know?"
"NO! What is it?!" Simon was getting frustrated.
"Nobody has it figured out?" There was nothing but head shaking for a response. "I'm surprised. Actually, I expected Mable to get it in class. Are you sure none of you knows?" Nearly unanimous negative head shaking. Blair sighed in disappointment, then his eyes lit on his partner's pensive expression.
"What do you think?" Crystal blue eyes met darker turquoise.
"I think it's the need to help people, Chief. I think that's the one thing we all have in common." His correct answer was rewarded with the blindingly bright smile of his Guide.
"Right." He looked at the others. "It's the one thing that we all agree on. We all want to help others. Service before self. That's an unwritten credo we all live by. We just don't often think about it.
They thought about it. Shifted in their chairs, weary, suffering from post stress letdown. Ready to call it a night. But they thought about it anyway. And all came to the same conclusion.
As they filed out on their way to their homes, they were quiet, contemplative, content in the company of the others. They were a team. With peripherals. The two who didn't belong but did. A perfect adjunct to the power and strength of the squad; the heart and soul to their body. And they wouldn't have it any other way.
OK, Karen. It didn't turn out quite as you may have envisioned it, but here it is. It's not fair. I have other stories to finish before I was supposed to write this one. whimper, whine I hate it when the muses bash and won't leave me alone until I do as I'm told. Sigh. Back to Equality, I guess. J
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