Simon frowned. Considering events had worked out the way the young anthropologist had hoped, the man didn’t look all that happy.
"I hope you’re planning on unhooking all those paperclips before Ellison gets back," Simon gently advised. Inwardly, he smirked, thinking of Jim’s reaction if he pulled out one paperclip only to have a whole chain in his lap.
Blair ruefully nodded. "That WOULD be a good idea, wouldn’t it?" he admitted.
Simon perched one hip on the edge of the desk. "You did good tonight, Sandburg," He quietly praised.
Simon remembered Blair’s expression at the end of the Jags game. The young man had stood there, clapping as the victorious players had run past them, his eyes on Orvelle Wallace. The player was obviously a hero to Blair, and the young man had staunchly defended the athlete.
The expression ‘stars in his eyes’ had come to Simon’s mind as he’d watched the young anthropologist after the game. They’d all been happy and excited, caught up in the general enthusiasm of both the playoff win and the successful apprehension of a murderer. But it had seemed to affect Blair more than the rest. Now he wondered where all that emotion had gone.
And for some reason, he wanted to see that expression again.
"Thank you, Simon," Blair quietly answered.
"I mean it, Sandburg," Simon gently stressed. "You had a gut instinct and went with it. In anybody else around here, I’d call it a cop’s instinct."
"And since I’m not a cop?" Blair evenly asked, finally looking up at the other man.
"I’d call it a good instinct," Simon replied. He saw the smile playing on the younger man’s lips. "Although I WOULD like to know where you got your information."
Blair innocently leaned back in the chair. "Aren’t informants supposed to be confidential?"
"Uh-huh," Simon grunted. "I don't want to know, do I?"
"Probably not," Blair cheerfully admitted. Seeing Jim approach, he swept the paperclips back into the desk drawer.
Jim wearily handed Simon a case folder. "It’s done as much as possible at this point," he reported. "Forensics will have a complete report tomorrow."
Simon nodded and took the folder. "You guys get outta here." He started towards his office. "You know, there are probably a lot of celebrations still going on. You might catch up with some of them."
Jim stretched his aching muscles. "I think I’ll pass, sir." He glanced at Blair. "You ready, Chief?"
"Yeah." Blair got to his feet and pushed Jim’s chair back under the desk. "See ya, Simon."
Simon silently watched as the two men walked towards the elevator. Both he and Ellison had come down on the kid in what had to have been an annoying and condescending fashion. He hoped Ellison would remember and apologize. He glanced back at Jim’s desk. He hoped Sandburg had unhooked all the paperclips.
Jim uneasily eyed Blair who leaned against the passenger door, seemingly half-asleep. "You okay over there?" he finally asked.
"Yeah. Sure." Blair blinked and nodded.
Jim suddenly realized he hated it when Blair was silent. It just seemed to go against the natural order of the universe.
"Simon’s right. There’s probably some action and after game parties," Jim continued. "I’m pretty wiped out, but you could go."
"That’s okay. I’m kinda tired myself," Blair answered.
The truck slowly rolled to a stop at a red light. Jim stared at the traffic signal as though seeking divine guidance. When the light turned green, he gently stepped on the accelerator. "You know…neither of us handled this case well." He saw Blair turn his head to look at him.
"Simon said I did good tonight."
‘Thanks, Simon. Warn a guy next time, will ya?’ Jim cleared his throat. "He’s right, Chief. You did. But you still withheld evidence." He saw Blair look away. "And I got fixated on Wallace," he admitted. "If it’s any consolation, Simon was upset with me because I thought HIS friend might have been involved."
"Everything turned out okay," Blair replied after a moment. "No harm. No foul."
This startled the Sentinel into silence for the rest of the trip home. Once parked, Blair quickly got out and walked across the street.
Jim sat silently for a minute then followed his partner with a determined look in his eyes. The increasing stiffness in his shoulders only aggravated his rapidly shortening control over this temper. By the time Jim caught up with Blair, the younger man was in the kitchen boiling water for the tea. Jim was just boiling.
"You want some coffee?" Blair asked.
"I’d like to know how long you’re gonna play the martyr," Jim irritably snapped as he slammed the door.
"What?" Blair asked in confusion.
"I mean…just what’s going on? You still pissed because Simon and I didn’t believe you?" Jim opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of water. He slammed the door shut and angrily twisted the cap on the bottle.
"I do NOT believe this," Blair muttered. He glared at the older man. "Yeah. That bothered me. Okay? But you want to tell me why you’ve been giving ME the cold shoulder ever since we left the arena? You’re still pissed because I was right?"
"Listen, Sandburg. Just how would you have reacted if I told you something about some tribe in Africa that went against all the evidence you have in your books? Huh?" Jim demanded. He took a deep gulp of water to calm down. "Especially when you consider all I know about anthropology is what I’ve picked up from listening or just being around you. Would you give MY reasoning the same weight and consideration as you would say…Eli Stoddard’s?"
Jim leaned against the refrigerator and watched the wheels in Blair’s head turn. He nodded to himself when the younger man slumped.
"Probably not," Blair finally admitted.
"Next, time I’ll remember," Jim quietly promised. "And listen better. Bu no more withholding evidence, Junior. Got that?"
"Yeah." Blair turned his attention to the boiling water. "That’s a deal."
Jim watched as the younger man prepared his tea. "And I was not giving you the cold shoulder," he continued. "I just figured you were upset with me and wanted to give you time to calm down." He finished the water and tossed the bottle into the recycling bin. "Simon was right. You did a good job."
"No, I didn’t," Blair muttered.
The Sentinel frowned. "You want to explain that?"
Blair flushed. "I don’t mean about Orvelle. I…" The younger man’s shoulders slumped as he leaned against the counter. Avoiding his friend’s curious eyes, he explained, "I got so caught up in the last seconds of the game, man. Watching Orvelle…knowing how much was riding on that one last shot. I totally blocked out everything else."
Jim’s frown deepened. "It wasn’t like you were guarding a prisoner, you know. Everybody was caught up in what Wallace was doing."
"You weren’t," Blair quietly corrected as he gently stirred his tea.
"I wasn’t here," Jim pointed out. "If I had been, I probably would have been just as caught up---"
"Dammit!" Blair angrily slammed his mug onto the countertop and turned to face his friend. "It was a game, for God’s sake! A lousy game! You were up in the rafters fighting for your life…wound up nearly falling onto the court…hanging there on that damned cable…and I’m FOCUSED ON WHETHER A BASKETBALL GOES THROUGH A HOOP!"
Jim’s eyes widened at the unusual display of temper.
The young anthropologist ran a hand through his hair. "Jim, I didn’t even realize you were dangling there until Simon started getting you some help." He snorted. "Some partner I am."
Jim easily reached out to put his hands on Blair’s shoulders. "Don’t you think you’re being just a little too hard on yourself?"
"No. I. Don’t. I. Screwed. Up." Blair’s words were sharp and bitter.
"Well, I disagree," Jim firmly argued. "Even if you’d known what was going on up in those rafters, there wasn’t anything you could have done. Even if you’d seen me dangling on that cable when the scoreboard came down, there wasn’t anything you could have done." He gently kneaded the stiffness of Blair’s shoulders. "Understand?" When the younger man shrugged, he took a deep breath. "I screwed up, too."
"What are you talking about?" Blair asked. "I mean, you thought Orvelle was guilty but you DID have evidence…false evidence…planted evidence…but---"
"Yeah, and I followed that false trail," Jim interrupted. "I fixated on Wallace and didn’t seriously consider any alternatives." He silently prayed Blair would accept the words and not probe further. ‘How in the hell am I supposed to tell him I was jealous of the way he looked at Wallace? Like he was Superman, Batman, and damn near God all rolled into one. The way he looks at me when I pull off some sort of Sentinel stuff.’
"So…maybe we should just agree we both sorta screwed up," Blair began.
"And call it even," Jim finished with a grin. "And…process it?"
"Cool," Blair widely smiled. "You’ll get the hang of being laid-back yet, Jim."
"Don’t hold your breath, Darwin," Jim grunted. "I’m taking a long hot shower." He winced as he rolled his shoulders.
"You want me to rub something on your shoulders to loosen them up?" Blair offered. His eyes suddenly brightened. "I’ve got some great stuff! All natural ingredients so it won’t affect your sense of touch or smell." His face took on a familiar expression. "You know, we probably should run some tests on various creams…"
Jim shook his head in amusement as the younger man took his tea and walked towards his bedroom still muttering about tests, creams, and muscle relaxants. ‘God help me. More tests.’
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