ABLE TO CALL





Blair Sandburg hummed a happy little tune as he parked his beloved Volvo in his normal parking space in the Cascade PD parking garage. Even though he'd flown all night and found himself waiting on standby in more airports than he liked to remember, he was exhilarated to be home. No one was expecting him until the next day, so his early arrival was going to be a surprise to everyone…including his roommate, Jim Ellison.

Bouncing on his toes as he waited for the elevator, Blair glanced at the clock mounted on the nearby wall. Nearly 10 am. Jim would be upstairs at Major Crimes…unless he was out for some reason.

Blair scowled as he entered the elevator and pushed the button for Major Crimes. Jim had promised to stick to desk duty as much as possible while Blair was out of town. More importantly, Simon had promised to keep Jim restrained to desk duty as much as possible. 'They'd better have kept their promises,' Blair told himself.

Deep in thought, Blair exited the elevator and swung his backpack off his shoulder. He hadn't gone more than two steps inside Major Crimes, when he was enveloped in a huge bear hug. Blair wiggled, trying to breathe as his backpack hit the floor with a resounding thud. He dimly heard a voice murmuring, "Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord."

"Joel?" Blair finally squeaked. "Can't breathe here, man. 'Kay?"

"SANDBURG!"

Blair found himself yanked from Joel's crushing embrace and spun around. Dizzily, he stared up at Jim. "Jim? Man, what's…" He blinked, trying to decipher the emotions flashing across Jim's normally stoic face. He winced at the tight grip Jim held on his shoulders.

"What are you…you're here," Jim stammered. "Why?"

"Sid's lawyers called yesterday afternoon. We met for dinner and worked out an agreement…a settlement for his leaking my diss. I got on standby flights and started home late last night." Blair's babbling explanation was the only sound heard in the bullpen except for Rhonda's muted sobbing. Blair tried to look past both Jim and Joel to see what was upsetting Simon's normally unflappable secretary.

"They're showing it again," Megan solemnly announced.

They turned to where a small television set sat on Rhonda's desk. Blair twisted to look up at his partner. "Jim, what's going on? Why is…"

"That's why, Sandburg," Simon quietly interrupted.

Blair turned to look at the television set. His jaw dropped when he saw smoke billowing out of one of the World Trade Towers. "Jeez," he breathed. "That's the one opposite from where Sid's office is located."

"Where you're supposed to be right now," Joel shakily observed. When Blair glanced at him, he nodded towards the screen. "Watch."

Blair watched in horror as an airplane came into camera view. He felt Jim's fingers tighten on his shoulders, then jumped in shock when the plane slammed into the second tower. "God!" he exclaimed. "That's…"

"That's about where Sid's office is…was located," Simon finished. He took a deep breath. "We called your hotel. They said you'd checked out but didn't say when. It took forever to get through, and that's all the information we got before we were disconnected." He glanced at Jim who seemed fixated on the television screen. If it hadn't been for the Sentinel's fingers reflexively opening and closing on Blair's shoulders, Simon would have thought the man was in a deep zone. "Jim said you were planning on checking out this morning before your meeting with Sid so…"

"Oh, man…" Blair closed his eyes then turned to bury his face in Jim's chest. "Oh, God, Jim. I'm sorry. I should've called. I should've called from somewhere but I just wanted to get home and have this all over and done with and I thought I would surprise you by getting home early and…"

"Breathe, Sandburg!" Simon sharply ordered. He hesitantly patted the young anthropologist on the shoulder, then turned to the others. "All right, people. Our prodigal lamb has returned. Let's get back to work. We've got plenty to do."

"Thought I'd lost you," Jim mumbled into Blair's ear. "Thought I'd lost you forever this time."

"Sorry, man. So sorry," Blair whispered. He slipped his arms around Jim's waist and hugged him tightly.

After a moment, Jim pulled away. "C'mon. I promised I'd call Naomi once I found out anything," he muttered.

"Oh no. She must've…" Blair ran a shaky hand over his face. "You actually got a number for her?"

"Yeah." Jim walked back to his desk and found a sheet of paper. "She gave me a couple. She was trying to make arrangements to get here. She figured she couldn't get through to New York."

Jim silently handed over his cell phone. "Call her, Chief." He hugged Blair one more time, then walked away to give him some privacy.

Blair sank down into Jim's chair and began dialing. As he listened to the chirps, beeps, and rings, he stared at the television screen and silently prayed for those who weren't able to call.



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