Listening to the theme music for the show and watching out of the corners of his eye as the credits scroll across the screen, Jim Ellison focused most of his attention on his best friend. It was one of his quiet joys to watch Blair kick back and relax like this. For the short time that these re-run episodes aired, Sandburg became like a little kid again, entranced by his love of the show.
Jim wasn't sure if it was the mystical aspect that often imbued the sub-plot, the relationship between the father and son, or even the camaraderie displayed by the energetic detective with the unusual past and the ex-mercenary turned detective that he sometimes worked with; whatever it was, Sandburg loved it. Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. An action show that the kid voluntarily missed documentaries on the Discovery Channel for.
Sipping his beer, Jim mused on the episode just aired... the follow up to an episode they'd caught earlier in the re-run schedule. Against his better judgment, he'd found himself liking this show too but these two episodes had really struck a chord with him. In the first, the father had 'rode' with his detective son as an observer for a typical day on the job. In the episode they'd just seen, the roles had been reversed; the son had 'rode' along with his father as the older man carried out shaolin, apothecary and teaching duties.
Blair rode with him... and had been doing so for years now. He had never 'ridden' with Blair in his world. Oh, he'd done a multitude of tests, listened to Blair rehearse segments of lectures, occasionally caught the end of a lecture when he'd come to pick Blair up for police duties; he'd never spent a full day in Blair's world and watched him work. He'd done his Guide a huge disservice in doing so.
They'd been back from Peru a few weeks now and 'the fountain' was slowly being put into the past. Things were still not a hundred percent, though. It was time he put a little effort in to this partnership, this friendship. He couldn't leave all the work to Blair... it was about time he put up or shut up. It was about time he saw Blair in his own environment.
"Yeah, Jim?" said Blair, smiling quietly at him from the opposite side of the couch.
"Could we do that?" asked Jim.
Jim mentally rebuked himself, saying, Give the man some details, you idiot! What he said to Blair was, "Can we arrange it so I ride with you for a day? You've been observing me for years. I think it's about time I showed an interest in what you do when you're not pulling a cranky Sentinel's butt out of the line of fire.
"I'd really like to see you in action in your own environment. Can we fix that, Chief?"
Jim chuckled slightly at the sight in front of him... the sight that the bullpen of Major Crime considered to be rarer than the sight of Chief Warren in a good mood; Blair Sandburg, speechless.
"Well, Chief?" prompted Jim, smiling.
"You really want to?" asked a doubtful Blair. His reassuring expression must have worked because he saw a variation of the patented Sandburg bounce start on the opposite side of the couch. "Yeah... this could be cool! Okay! I'll check with the university and make sure it's okay. I can't see why it would be a problem! When do you want to do this?"
Relaxing back into a slouch, Jim shook his head and said, "No, Chief. We work around your schedule. You pick a good day for you in this month's schedule and I'll arrange with Simon to take one of my holiday days. He's been on at me for weeks to use them up."
"'Kay, man. This is gonna be so cool!"
Jim watched with satisfaction as his Guide bounced off the couch and headed to his room to get his desk calendar. Grabbing the remote and switching to the Discovery Channel, Jim settled down for a quiet night in with his friend and roommate. Sandburg was right. This was gonna be so cool.
Besides, when he gave Simon the reason for his holiday request, he was sure the reaction was going to be memorable, to say the least.
Jim knocked on the door to Captain Simon Banks' office and stuck his head round the door, saying, "Have you got a minute, Simon?"
Sitting back and stretching wearily, Simon said, "Come on in, Jim. I could do with a break from these budget reports. What can I do for you? Is it the Scarabelli case?"
"Thanks, Simon. This'll just take a break and, no, it's not the Scarabelli case. There's no new information yet," said Jim as he walked into the office, shutting the door behind him. Moving to stand in front of the captain's desk, he almost instinctively stood at parade rest.
"So," said Simon, as it became abundantly clear that Jim wasn't going to volunteer any further information. "You asked to speak me, Jim," he reminded his star detective. "What do you need?" There was a soft mumble from the Sentinel. "Sorry, Jim. We don't all have Sentinel hearing, remember? Care to repeat that?"
Taking a deep breath, Jim Ellison spoke again. "I'd like to request the fifteenth as one of my holiday days, sir."
Simon frowned his confusion and said, "Fair enough, Jim. You need to use the remaining days by the end of next month, anyway. Why the melodrama? What are you going to be doing?"
Suddenly fascinated by his feet, Jim said, "I asked Blair if I could spend the day observing him for a change... see what he does when he's not here. He okayed it with the university and - with your approval of my request - he'll arrange things for the fifteenth."
"I see," said Simon slowly. "Let me just get this completely straight. You're taking a day off so that you can see what Sandburg does when he's not on the job with you?"
"Yes, sir," said Jim with a relieved smile, thankful that he didn't have to go over everything again.
Grinning, Simon Banks said, "Permission granted, Jim. Do try and do what the kid tells you. Okay?"
Jim glared at his captain and then grinned, saying, "I'll do what I'm told, sir. I promise."
"Of course you will, Jim," said Simon in a reasonable tone.
An hour and a half later, Jim had stepped out to go meet one of his snitches. Simon took this opportunity to make an announcement to the Major Crime detectives currently in the bullpen. Smiling, he said, "Okay, people, listen up. A situation has arisen concerning Ellison and Sandburg."
"Is anything wrong?" asked Joel Taggert, flashing back to the fateful day at Rainier University's fountain.
"On the fifteenth of this month, Ellison has taken a vacation day... he's going to be spending the day acting as Sandburg's ride-along at Rainier... seeing what his partner's day job is like. Ellison, together with Sandburg. In the nice, quiet, peaceful campus of Rainier University. A place where the pair of them couldn't possibly find any trouble to fall in to."
Simon headed back to his office, and, just as the door was swinging shut, he heard Detective Henri Brown saying, "All right, people. New pool. Ellison and Sandburg at Rainier. What could possibly go wrong? I've got ten dollars that says they arrest a streaker. Anybody else want to offer a guess?"
Simon moved to his coffee maker and made himself a fresh cup of his new blend of Java coffee. Ellison living in Sandburg's world. This was going to interesting.
The morning of the fifteenth saw the first sign of the role-reversal for the day. Having talked it over among themselves, Blair and Jim had decided to try to mirror the spirit behind the episode of the show that had inspired Jim to make his request to Blair. The result of this was that, this morning, Detective James Ellison, Sentinel of the great city of Cascade, ate his wholegrain toast and drank his algae shake without a word of protest; the delighted smile on his Guide's face being reason enough for him to endure the health food. One day of it wouldn't kill him.
Blair had reluctantly agreed that - unlike the episode of the show - he would not request that Jim leave his gun at home. The amount of trouble they tended to find in the most unlikely places necessitated a bit of caution. Of course, Blair still teased his partner about his propensity for dropping his gun in the middle of mayhem... there was a reason their reports were avidly read by Simon and the police brass. Their 'alternative' methods for subduing perps had become the stuff of legend within the department.
Next unusual event of the day was Jim voluntarily letting Blair drive. The Volvo was in the shop again, so Jim had agreed to let his Guide borrow the truck for the day; the extra leg room in the truck made him more amenable to the temporary driving arrangement.
Arriving at Rainier, they parked and were halfway towards the main section of Hargrove Hall when Blair stopped dead in his tracks and said, "Oh man, I forgot! We need to go to the library!" With that, he began walking quickly towards his new goal, his puzzled observer at his side. Jim was about to ask what was going on but Blair had already started on his way in to the library. Trailing curiously along behind, Jim watched with a confused expression that turned to one of fond amusement, as he watched his Guide reach into his ever-present backpack and pull out a small gaily wrapped package and hand it to the blushing woman behind the reference desk, saying, "Happy Anniversary, Martha! Ten years today since you blessed us with your presence and you still don't look a day over thirty!"
Jim smiled as he watched a beaming smile appear on Martha's face. His Guide really could charm the birds from the trees when he wanted to. Blair turned to see him smiling and the grin and the bounce in his partner's step declared his happiness with the world in general at that moment. Jim let himself be gathered with a nod and a wave and they were off again, Blair chattering about Martha all the while.
By one o'clock that day, Jim was both mentally exhausted and completely astounded. Sandburg never stopped! The bouncing that he got teased for in the bullpen of Major Crime was nothing compared to his pace at the university! Jim had sat and watched in awed pride as Blair gave two back to back forty-five minute lectures; the second off the cuff as he had forgotten his notes that morning in his exuberance at having Jim riding along. They'd then retreated to his small office to do some quick grading of first year student assignments.
On their way to the quad to have sandwiches for lunch, Blair was hailed by dozens of people; the kid seemed to know half the campus! Blair stopped for each person, smiling and chatting; arranging study groups, promising to help with grant applications... all sorts of stuff.
When they reached a nice spot outside with some trees for shade, they sat down on a low wall in the landscaped splendor of the quad and had their lunch. When Jim asked a question about one of the earlier lectures, Blair's face lit up at his show of interest. The rest of their short lunch break turned into a mini-lecture, and, to Jim's surprise, he loved every minute of it.
Office hours followed for the early part of the afternoon. Some of the students were a bit unnerved to find Jim there but relaxed when Blair explained that it was only a day-long observation. Jim sat quietly out of the way, he may be imposing when he wanted to be; his Ranger training had also taught him how to sit so silent and still that, after a while, he'd blend into the background and people would forget he was there.
The office hours were informative for Jim. He knew his Guide was brilliant, and he knew his Guide was a great teacher; he'd never seen him quite like this before. Blair was in turns supportive, demanding and patience personified with his students and their study problems. He hadn't realised that quite so many of his students asked Blair's advice on personal matters. He shouldn't have been surprised, though. As a Guide and a shaman, how could Blair do anything else but help?
The most telling moment for Jim, was when one of Blair's male students, voice wavering, asked for his advice. He'd had word from his home town that his former boyfriend had succumbed to a long battle with AIDS and he was both heartbroken and scared. He'd put off getting himself tested since the term had started... what if the result was positive?
Jim sat and fought down an irrational wave of jealousy when Blair moved round to the other side of his desk, wrapped his arms around the boy and let him cry out his worry and grief on his shoulder. When the boy had composed himself, Blair spent the next twenty minutes talking to him. By the time the kid left, smiling for the first time since entering the room, Blair had given him a list of numbers for support groups for grief counseling and peer support. He'd gotten the boy to make an appointment with the campus clinic to be tested. Telling the kid that he was there for him, any time, Blair had scribbled his own numbers on a piece of paper and firmly pressed it into the kid's palm. "Call me if you need to talk. I'm not always easily available but I promise, I will get back to you."
After office hours, it was a quietly reflective Jim Ellison that listened to Blair's next lecture. His Guide didn't just tend the minds of his students by teaching them, he tended their hearts and souls by his gift of caring. No wonder his classes were so popular. His students were not idiots. They knew they'd been given a gift in having Blair Sandburg as their teacher. A gift they did not intend to squander.
Wandering down the corridor for a meeting with his own advisor, Blair was accosted by a yelling behemoth demanding to know why he'd only gotten a D for his last paper. Blessed Protector instincts shifting into overdrive, Jim had held himself poised ready and willing to leap to the defence of his Guide. It was completely unnecessary. The bluster and yelling died away under the calm expression and serene eyes that Blair offered to his student. By the time the guy had run out of steam, Blair had given him a soft-spoken reason for the grade, arranged a make-up assignment and assured the behemoth that if he had it ready by the seventeenth he'd grade it that day; he wouldn't have to miss the football game that weekend. He was sure that Tim could get his grade up to the C required to keep from being benched.
By five o'clock, Jim was completely blown away by Blair Sandburg. The kid had arranged the visit for today because it was one of his quiet days. This was a quiet day? Blair did this, plus be his Guide, plus write his dissertation, plus all his work at the PD? Where did the kid find the willpower and the stamina to do all this?!
Walking towards the truck, Jim and Blair were more at peace with each other and feeling ever so slightly smug. They'd heard about the new office pool; Jim was a Sentinel, after all. He heard things. They knew their friends at the PD had expected mayhem... they hadn't got it. They'd proved they could spend a quiet day together. Jim's days off did not necessarily equate to disaster.
Just as Blair was about to open the driver's side door of the truck, there was the sound of an explosion and shattering glass. Seeing Jim clap his hands over his ears, Blair dashed round the truck, and, gently placing a hand on his Sentinel's shoulder, talked him through finding the dials and dialing down his hearing to a less painful level.
Then, and only then, did they turn their attention to the direction the sound had come from. The chemistry building. Sighing, resignedly, Blair whipped out his cell-phone and called for back-up and the fire department. They'd been so close to a peaceful day. So close.
Staggering in to the loft at ten p.m. Jim headed to the kitchen to make them a quick sandwich and Blair headed to the bathroom to wash off the soot and dust. Amazingly enough nobody had been hurt in the explosion. The main chemistry lab was going to need a complete overhaul, though. The cause of the explosion had been a source of irritation for the Sentinel and Guide, though. Not a criminal in sight. Just a pair of soon to be reprimanded first year students who had thought trying to make napalm seemed like a fun experiment to try!
Their colleagues in Major Crime had waved aside their protests that, as they had been already on the way home, the incident didn't count as part of Jim's observation day. They'd said that since they'd still been on campus, the event counted. A widely grinning Detective Rafe had claimed the $100 pot and promised that the pizza was on him at the next poker night.