Thanks to all who wrote telling me they liked the first one. I had planned on going back to one I have mostly on paper (30 pages, in pencil, on unlined paper. I can write a straight line, and my handwriting tends to almost equal the typed page, after I make all the breaks for dialog), but this one came up instead. It's true what so many others have said. You give a writer encouragement, and they write more. I'm finishing this up on Thursday, and my first e-mails were Tuesday night. I wrote this yesterday, during lunch.
Usual disclaimers. If they were real, I'd want to keep them. Since they're not, I'll give them back after a little emotional exercise. I started this, fully intending to have something exciting happen. It just did not go in the direction I thought it would. It ended up an emotional piece, instead. No One gets hurt, but I think it still classifies as smarm. Oh, well. Maybe next time. I am not one of those organized people who plot out a story before they start. I usually begin with a conversation, and read along behind my fingers to see where it goes. I realize it sounds silly, but it's what makes me able to make up quick, short tales to fit a given situation. Much like Blair's anthro stories.
I have to remember to not try working on stuff at home when most of the input was on my work computer. They just don't interface very well, and I'm tired of losing stuff from unrecoverable errors imposed by my more antiquated machine at home. Ah, well. Live and learn. My computer named this one. It worked. You'll see what I mean.
Enough rambling. On with the show.
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Some days, it simply didn't pay to get up. This had to be one of the lousiest days ever. It had started with a power outage during the night, resulting in his not waking up until 8:00. Unfortunately, he was supposed to be at work at 7:00, and his people thought he was late if he wasn't there by 6:00. To make matters worse, he was out of coffee. He never ran out of coffee. The only good news, was that the weather was clear. Whoopee. By the time he pulled into his parking stall, he was feeling the usual disorientation of not being on time, it was daylight. He never got to work after daylight. He had that uncomfortable feeling of having wasted his entire day, all because he was a couple of hours behind schedule.
Of course, the rest of the day hadn't been much better. He received a call from his ex-wife, whining and complaining about something Daryl had done, or not done. It didn't matter. The kid was just being a kid. He offered, once again, to take custody if their son was too much trouble for her. He was surprised by the silence, followed by her telling him that she would seriously think about it.
The next problem concerned his best detective. He had sent Jim Ellison out on a simple missing person's case. It wasn't that Jim had failed in his duty, but rather that the simple missing person case had turned into a kiddie porn/murder case. In tracking the missing teen-ager, Jim had stumbled on a house full of kids running in age from six to sixteen, kept in cages like animals, ill-fed, in unsanitary conditions that made him wonder why the neighbors hadn't called in to complain about the smell. Even without Jim's enhanced senses, he had been able to smell the stench from the street. It almost made him gag, just remembering it. Now the hospital was overtaxed caring for the twenty children that had been found. There were several apparent graves in the back yard that were being exhumed now. The owner of the house hadn't been home. In fact, there had been no adults in the house. Fortunately, the evil odour had given Jim probable cause to break into the house and rescue the hapless victims incarcerated inside.
Now, they were waiting for the FBI to send them a fax, with photos, of all the hundreds of missing kids on their lists, to try to match up with the twenty that had been rescued and the victims being dug up. Most of his detectives were still out at the scene, taking statements from the neighbours, waiting for the information from the exhumation crew, tagging evidence, looking for the owner of the house. It couldn't possibly get any worse.
Sensing movement out in the bull pen, he looked up from his perusal of the first of the faxes from the FBI. Oh, great. Just what he needed. Sandburg.
Blair looked curiously around the deserted bull pen. Surprised that no one was there. He looked toward the captain's office. At least Simon was around. Where was everyone else? He made his way to the glassed in cubicle housing the division chief. Simon waved him in before he had a chance to knock.
"Hi, Simon." Blair greeted upon opening the door, noticing that Simon didn't look too good. Wondering what was going on. "Where is everybody?"
Translation: Where is Jim? Simon thought. One thing he did not want was Sandburg on the scene. He still felt nauseated just thinking about the conditions he had seen at that house. "They're all out on a case." Before Blair could do more than rise up on his toes, eyes lighting up in anticipation, mouth opening to speak, Simon continued. "No. You can't go out there."
An expression of shock crossed Blair's face. Since when did Simon start reading his mind? "But, what if Jim zones out? He might need me, man." Bouncing on his heels, agitated. Wondering why Simon didn't want him on the scene, unless? How bad could it be? Did he really want to know? "Believe me, Sandburg, you do not want to go there. I wish I hadn't gone there." Simon informed him.
Blair paled. It had to be really bad, if Simon didn't want to go to a scene. "Oh." He looked at the much larger man, worried. "What happened?"
Simon sighed. "What happened, is that Jim was working a missing person's case. A local teen-ager disappeared over the weekend. He found some kind of scent trail to follow," he noticed the sudden excitement the grad student was feeling and shook his head in wonder, how did he do it? "and found this house. It stank. Even I could smell it from the street. Jim called in for back-up before going in. Of course, he didn't wait for us to arrive, but he was lucky." At Blair's look of worry, he explained further, "He told me that he couldn't hear any movement in the house, and the heartbeats he could hear were strange. It turned out to be twenty kids being kept in cages." Blair looked horrified. "It was some kind of kiddie-porn set up. Maybe even snuff films. There appear to be several shallow graves in the back yard."
Blair gasped, "Oh, man, that sucks." Noticing Simon's own distress over the incident, he came further into the room, "Are you all right, Simon?" At the captain's bleak expression, he moved over beside him, laying a comforting hand on his shoulder. "It's OK, man. You rescued twenty kids. The good guys are winning." Blair had automatically gone into 'guide mode', his voice soft and low, soothing the older man. Realization struck, "You're thinking about Daryl, right? He's the age of some of the kids you rescued, isn't he?" sympathetic, concerned, comforting. He squeezed Simon's shoulder, unconsciously knowing precisely the right thing to do.
Simon shook his head. When had this kid gotten so good at reading him. He leaned back, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose, shifting his glasses out of the way. It did explain why he was in such a funk. "Yeah. The kids range from six to sixteen, and the graves all look to be about five feet long. Some smaller. None larger." He shuddered. "Jim says there are at least ten graves there. Ten bodies. Ten kids. That's providing that none of the graves are occupied by more than one body." He shivered, thinking about his son. Worrying about what was out there to hurt children. He knew his son had a good head on his shoulders, but there was so much out there to worry about... He jumped. He had become so involved in his musings about his son and those kids that he had lost track of Sandburg.
Blair was surprised that he was able to figure out what Simon was thinking about. It had to be rough, trying to protect an active, intelligent young man like Daryl; especially when he lived with your ex-wife. He could see the distress Simon was feeling. Without thinking, he moved over behind the oblivious captain, reached out and started to massage the tense shoulders and neck of the older man. When Simon jumped, he was careful not to withdraw. He could feel the muscles bunched up in Simon's shoulders, the knots in his neck. His long, slender fingers knew just the right pressure and angle to use to ease the tension and relax the spasmed muscles. Simon groaned softly at the wonderful, soothing feeling of Blair's talented hands, kneading the tension from his neck and shoulders.
Softly, still using the low pitched, soothing voice he used when anchoring Jim to prevent a zone out, he started talking. "You know, Simon, Daryl would never willingly get involved with any kind of trouble. You're never going to see him do drugs, steal, any of the myriad kinds of trouble kids get into these days. He loves you too much for that. You just need to let him know you love him a little more often. Kids need all the reassurance and love they can get. You can't tell them enough." He felt a little guilty, repeating the worries Daryl had expressed to him; but Daryl hadn't said any of it was secret. It was stuff that Simon needed to hear. He just hadn't found the proper forum, until now. He could feel the stiff muscles relaxing under the pressure of his hands, so he worked a little lower, kneading the area of the spine between the shoulder blades. Simon leaned forward, allowing him access, hanging his head to stretch the relaxing neck muscles and help loosen the upper back muscles.
No wonder Jim keeps him around. He not only helps Jim with his senses, he does back and neck massage. He groaned again with pleasure. Blair's words had also gone straight to his heart. Helping with his feelings of insecurity He had known what a great kid he had in his son. But sometimes, it was nice to have reassurance from an outside source. He wondered if Daryl had confided in Blair. Then he thought of exactly what Blair had said, and realized that Daryl had told Blair all the things he was afraid to tell him.
Blair finished worrying the knots out of the captain's back. He patted Simon on the shoulder as he backed away, returning to the front of the desk. When Simon looked up and made eye contact, Blair could sense that something odd had just occurred. He'd always been a little afraid of his big partner's even larger boss. He suddenly realized that he was just as accepted here as he was by Jim. He smiled, the shy, puppy-dog, smile; and was greeted with a rueful grin in return.
"Don't worry, Simon. I won't tell anyone." Voice still unconsciously in guide mode.
Simon shook his head. "No one would believe you even if you did tell them." Then smiled, that smug, self-satisfied smile that could drive his men to distraction trying to prove him wrong. Usually to no avail.
Blair grinned back. "Jim would believe me. If I told him. Which I'm not. Going to tell, that is." This was between them. It wouldn't do to have it known that a grad student observer had given comfort and advice to the tougher-than-nails captain of a bunch of smart, shrewd, detectives, and had that comfort and advice accepted. Especially not the comfort. It sometimes amused, more often irritated Blair when considering the last bastions of machismo that were paramilitary groups, like the police. He could see where it could be considered a requirement, however. It would be impossible to maintain discipline if the people under your command thought you were weak in any way. He sometimes wondered at the gentleness he often observed from Jim and Simon, even from the other members of Major Crimes. He wondered, not for the first time, whether the gentleness came from the awareness of the men's size and power, or from something else. Something to do with their chosen paths. In Jim's case, it could be argued that the sentinel would be gentle with his tribe and harsh in his defense of it. Like a family dog, gentle and loving to his people, and a fierce protector against strangers. Better make sure never to make that comparison out loud. He already had problems equating his friend to a pre-civilized tribal group; he didn't need to make it any worse by comparing him to the family mutt. Jim would not care to be thought of as some ferocious ankle-biter. He grinned at the comparison. No. Jim was more a Great Dane, than a terrier. If anyone could be called a terrier, it would be Blair, himself. Jim would be the Great Dane, and Simon, no. Simon would be the Great Dane, big, strong and powerful, elegant and proud, with a commanding presence. Jim would be a lurcher. That cross between sight hound and scent hound or herding dog; large, powerful, rangy, fiercely loyal, outstanding hunter, loving companion. Gentle with his friends, savage to his enemies. He smiled, bemusedly at the train his thoughts were taking.
"Sandburg? You zoning out on me, here?" Simon was curious. Blair had that 'lost in space' look, indicating his thoughts had found a path that probably no one else would find, or even think of as a path. He decided he didn't want to know what those thoughts were. He was, he admitted to himself, a little in awe of the intelligence of this young man. Not that he'd ever admit it out loud. Well, except for Jim on a few occasions. But Jim was just as much in awe of the Sandburg intellect as he was.
Blair snapped back to the here and now. "Sorry, Simon. I was just thinking, you know, anthro stuff." He said, just a little embarrassed to be caught in his musings. Definitely a Great Dane. He smiled at the idea.
The sound of voices drew the attention of both men, as Ryf, Brown, and Jim entered the squad room. All three men looked absolutely wrung out. Jim looked on the edge of a sensory overload. Absolutely silent, jaws clenched.
"You'd better take him home. He looks wiped. You can help him with the reports tomorrow." Simon advised Blair, as he stood and circled around his desk. He passed the smaller man, opened and held the door for him. Blair nodded in agreement and went directly to Jim, who had dropped, exhausted, into his chair. Jim was staring, blankly at the desk in front of him. Blair lay a hand gently on the slumped shoulder of his sentinel.
"Simon told me. If you need to talk, I'm here for you." He softly informed his friend. "Let's go home, OK?" Jim shook his head, no.
"I want to finish the reports first." He looked up at his friend's face. "I need to get it down, so I can try to forget it. I..." he shuddered, the memories of the day haunting him, already.
"Sure, man. We can do that." He moved behind his friend and began for the second time in less than an hour the soothing massage that would relax and comfort. As he rubbed the tension out of the man he thought of as his Blessed Protector, he again spoke in the soft guiding voice he used to soothe and focus his friend. "It's OK, Jim. You did a good job today. You rescued twenty kids from hell. You'll find the people responsible, it just takes a little time, sometimes......."
The tension washed away under the soft, gentle ministrations of the only person who had ever been able to get past his barriers. He lost the meaning of the words, just the warm ebb and flow of the voice washed over his shattered soul. He was sickened by what he had found. The remains of ten children buried in the back yard, the twenty abused and neglected children in the cages within the house. Neighbours who cared so little that they hadn't even complained of the stench emanating from the premises. He nearly gagged, just remembering the smell. Even with the dials turned all the way down, he had lost the battle to hold down his breakfast when he found the first children, stuffed in dog crates and kennel cages, the larger kids unable to stand up at all, or lie down, except in a fetal position....The memories dimmed as the soothing touch and sound calmed him. Relaxed him. Comforted him.
Brown and Ryf had come over and pulled up chairs by Jim's desk. Blair took notice, but he was concentrating on helping his friend. Jim was losing himself in the gentle touch and voice of his guide. The other two men sat and listened, losing themselves in the warm, soothing voice that affirmed their worth. The words may have been directed at Jim, but both men took them to heart as well, healing their souls from the horrors of the day.
Simon watched, awed by the power of the young anthropology grad student. Good thing the department shrinks weren't here. Maybe not. They could learn a lot from the long-haired kid. The three burly cops sat, mesmerized by the voice of the slight young man. The expressions of rage and horror slowly smoothing into calm, relaxed, peaceful faces. He was amazed at how little time it took the kid to comfort his tough crew. He wondered if they were even aware of what was happening.
Blair had noticed the others when they pulled up chairs around Jim and him. He glanced nervously at Simon, who gave him an encouraging smile and waved him to continue. By the time he had gotten Jim to relax, he noticed the same calm looks emanating from the faces of the other two men. He stopped his ministrations, his voice trailing off. He stood back and watched the three men.
Jim was the first to move. He blinked, coming back to the present, and took a deep, cleansing breath. He let it out slowly, relaxed. He looked at Blair, and smiled, faintly. Blair returned the smile and patted Jim's shoulder. Both men watched Ryf and Brown as they slowly returned from wherever their minds had taken them.
"Wow." Brown murmured in surprise. He looked at the others, blinking. "What do you call that?" his voice soft, calm. Ryf nodded, not ready to speak, yet. Wanting to hold on to the moment of peace.
Jim grinned. "That is known as the Sandburg zone. A great place to visit..."
"But we wouldn't want to live there!" Brown, Ryf, and Simon chorused, with matching grins.
Blair blushed. Before he had a chance to reply, they were joined by the captain of the bomb squad.
Joel Taggart had followed the events of the day, and had come by to lend his support to his friends. He was surprised, to say the least, to discover the peaceful atmosphere of the Major Crimes squad room. He knew the three men had only returned fifteen to twenty minutes ago. Yet, they all looked...so...peaceful. He looked askance to his counterpart; with a flash of understanding he glanced at the observer, then back to Simon.
"I came by to see how everyone was doing." He met the bemused gazes of the three detectives, "I can see that you're doing pretty good. One of the patrols found the guy that owns the house. They spotted his car in the parking lot of a bar. He was inside. Never occurred to him that we'd be looking for him. Didn't even put up any kind of fight. He's waiting for you in interrogation." The last directed at Simon. "You want to talk to him tonight, or let him get his lawyer in order before you tackle him?"
Simon looked at his crew. They were all tired. They had been working on this one since ten that morning, it was nearly five, now. "Let him sit until tomorrow. Give us a chance to rest and him a chance to start sweating." The three detectives nodded their agreement, matching grim expressions on all three faces.
They spent the next several hours filling out the paperwork. Jim was glad that everyone else had been able to smell the stench from the house, as it made his probable cause nearly air, if not scent, tight. Blair helped all three men by running for coffee, going out and getting them all dinner, telling stories, and cracking inane jokes totally unrelated to the happenings of the day.
By the time they got home, it was nearly midnight. Both men were exhausted. Simon had told them all to turn off their alarm clocks and not come in until they woke up on their own. Blair knew that that was not going to happen with Jim. He wanted to be there early, to be sure he was in on the interrogation. Blair couldn't blame him. After all, he was sworn to protect the tribe. Not only by dint of profession, but genetically, as well.
"What time do you want to get up, Jim?" Knowing that it would be his alarm that had to be set.
"Eight is early enough, Chief." Jim answered as he pulled two beers from the refrigerator, opened them both, depositing the caps in the trash and handing one to Blair on his way to the couch. He slumped tiredly against the cushions. "Thanks for everything, today, Chief." He took a deep draught of the cool, amber liquid. "You went above and beyond, this time." He gave his roommate a mischievous grin. "You practicing on becoming everyone's guide?"
"Hey, I was only trying to help. It's not my fault that everyone else ended up joining in the meditation session." He was still a little non-plussed by the whole episode. "Maybe they're just getting used to me?"
Jim sighed. "I don't know. Maybe it's just that the tone of voice you use as a guide hits the right chord for relaxing stressed out cops." He took another pull at his beer. "Maybe you need to run some tests on them, for a change." He grinned.
Blair perked up. "You think so? Maybe I can....."
It was very late. But Simon decided to call anyway, even if it was nearly midnight. His son answered the phone on the fourth ring.
"'Lo?" was the groggy answer. "Mom?" he asked, with a yawn.
He held down his anger. Daryl was old enough to no longer need a baby-sitter, but it still rankled when he was left alone so late at night. "No. It's dad." He replied, softly.
"Is something wrong?" worry starting in the young voice.
"No, no. Nothing's wrong. I just had a real bad day at work, and felt the need to call you."
"Oh." Silence. Waiting.
"I just needed to let you know just how proud I am that you're my son, and how much I love you."
"I love you too, dad." Was the soft answer. Joy spreading through the sleepy young man's being. "I'm glad you called to tell me. I...I need to hear it sometimes, you know?"
"I know, son. I know."
And some days made it all worth while.
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