Naughty or Nice by Kerensa

Naughty or Nice - Kerensa

"I tell you, Joel, something is going on with Sandburg," Simon stated.

Joel Taggart, Captain of the Bomb Squad, rolled his eyes before turning away from the window to look at his old friend. Banks was standing beside his desk, glaring into the bullpen through the windows of his office. Blair Sandburg, observer and graduate student, and the object of Simon's ire, was doing nothing more suspicious than sitting at Jim Ellison's desk, reading a book.

"What do you mean?" Taggart asked softly. "Blair's just sitting there."

"Have you ever known Sandburg to just do nothing?" Simon asked. He gave a snort and shook his head before turning around to sit back down in his chair. Joel gave his head a surreptitious shake, wondering—and not for the first time, either—why the other captain seemed to have such a chip on his shoulder where Blair was concerned.

"Actually, Simon, no, I haven't." Banks nodded his head, pleased that the other captain agreed with him. "Blair's usually too busy doing Jim's paperwork or his own schoolwork to be idle," Joel continued. Banks glared at him, not pleased that his friend disagreed with him.

Taggart sat down in the visitor’s chair with a sigh of relief; his leg wound, courtesy of a gun happy Kincaid—was there any other kind?—bothered the big man if he stood up for longish periods of time. He absentmindedly rubbed at the bothersome thigh, even as he glanced over at Simon.

Banks was glaring out of the windows in his office—the ones that led to the bullpen, not the ones overlooking the nearby buildings—his gaze lasering in on Blair’s helpless back. (See, wouldn’t have done him any good at all to look out the other window.) Joel watched as Simon chewed on his unlit cigar. Health regulations prohibited him from lighting it up anywhere in the building, but he still kept a stogie around, either in hand or mouth, using them as something akin to worry beads.

“He’s been sneaking around lately.”

Joel blinked in surprise at the pronouncement and thought back to a few hours earlier when Blair had arrived at the station…

(Yes, a flashback. See the wavy lines!)

~~~~~ (wavy lines)

The door to the squad room popped open, making everyone look up. “Hey, guys,” Blair Sandburg breezed in seconds later, waving to all and sundry.

“Hi Hairboy,” Henri Brown answered.

“H, H, H, when are you going to call me by my given name?” Blair asked, stopping in front of the detective’s desk.

Brown gave a wide, I can sell an Eskimo an air conditioner smile, his super white teeth framed by darker skin. “When I have more hair than you do.”

Blair snorted, giving Henri’s bald head a fast glance. “So, that’d be never, huh.” Sandburg jumped back nimbly as the man in the brightly colored shirt tried to smack him on the arm. “Oh man, that’s just sad. Bald and old.” Blair laughed and hurried over to Jim’s desk, saying hello to three other people on the way.

~~~~ (End flashback, just in case you forgot what the wavy lines were for.)

“Yeah, he’s really sneaking around,” Joel muttered sarcastically. As enthusiastic as Blair was, Joel didn’t think sneak was a level anywhere in the younger man’s make up. Bounce around like crazy and Talk fast and gesture expansively, while explaining yes, but nothing stealthy or underhanded. It just wasn’t in the grad student.

“Hmph,” Banks snorted. He pulled the cigar out from between his lips and gestured with it. “So, where’s he going now, then? Hmmmm?”

Taggart looked over and saw Blair’s back as he walked across the room. “The bathroom, maybe?” Joel offered. He saw that Blair was carrying his ever present backpack. “Or to one of his study groups,” he amended. “Does it matter?” the captain asked.

Honestly, Joel would have thought that Simon would be happy to see Blair leaving, considering how much he bitched and complained about his being there.

Hmmmm, Joel thought to himself. A light bulb went on over his head. (It wasn’t very bright, because it was a green Christmas light.) He acts more like a jealous boyfriend than anything else.

Taggart knew that Simon wasn’t gay and neither was Ellison. Blair, if the amount of women that he’d dated at the station was anything to go by, was as straight as board.

“I thought he was supposed to be helping Jim.” Taggart bit his lip at the whiny tone that crept into Simon’s voice when he said his friend’s name. The Major Crimes captain’s bottom lip was actually sticking out a little.

Knock. Knock.

“Captain. Captains,” Jim amended, seeing Joel sitting there. “I’m heading out to interview that security guard again,” Ellison informed them.

“Okay, Jim.”

“And then, I’ll head on home, if that’s alright with you.” It was more of a question than a statement, but Simon accepted it as fact.

“No problem. It’s been really slow around here.” Jim nodded his head in agreement and started to back out of the doorway. “By the way,” Simon began talking nonchalantly. Nobody was fooled. “Is Sandburg going with you?”

Butter wouldn’t have melted in his mouth. Melted butter would have gone back to solid. Well, you know what I mean.

“No,” Jim gave the empty chairs at his desk a significant look. “The kid had to be somewhere this afternoon.”

Simon glanced into the bullpen and nodded, as if he’d just noticed that Sandburg was missing. “He’s been doing that a lot lately, hasn’t he?”

Blair had been leaving a lot sooner the last couple of weeks. And, he had ducked out on the last two times they’d gotten together to play poker. Still…

Jim leaned against the doorframe, arms and ankles crossed, his pose deceptively casual. Simon, who was blinded by his jealousy, didn't notice the telltale signs of anger. Joel, however, could see that little muscle on Jim's jaw twitching, a sure sign of pissedoffness in the younger detective. He tried to catch Banks' eye, but the captain wasn't paying attention.

"I wonder what he's up to?" Simon remarked casually. "Nothing good, I'll bet," he muttered under his breath, forgetting about Ellison's superior hearing. Joel, not being a Sentinel, didn't hear Simon's remark, but he knew something was going on when Ellison straightened up to stand stiffly in the doorway and his look changed to an icy glare.

"My observer," Jim made sure to emphasize the my aspect of that statement, "had to go back to the university," he growled.

Simon opened his mouth, to apologize, if the contrite look on his face was any indication, but then seemed to change his mind in mid-stream. "How do you know that's where he went?" Banks asked, cocking one eyebrow.

"Because he told me so," Jim said tersely. "And," he overrode whatever response Simon started to say, "I trust him."

"Why?" Banks asked plaintively.

"Because he's never lied to me," Jim said simply.

Simon had nothing to say to that statement and after a few moments, Jim took his leave. Joel watched his old friend, contemplating what Ellison had said.

"What's Blair ever done to you?" Taggart finally asked.

Simon didn't answer, but he thought about Jim's defense of the grad student. Caused me to lose my best friend, he thought to himself.

Joel must have developed the ability to read people's minds, because he responded. "Jim is still your friend, Simon. Caring about Blair doesn't mean he suddenly doesn't want to be around you." The captain looked at Jim's empty desk in the bullpen. "Although, if you keep acting like an 8-year-old little girl whose bestest friend in the whole wide world has just dumped her for the new girl, then you probably will."

Taggart bit back a laugh at the dumbfounded look on Simon's face. Hopefully, that'll straighten him out, Joel thought.

hohohohohoho

“Nicky, I don’t know if I can make it, man.”

Jim hesitated in the hallway when he heard Blair talking. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Blair, but Simon’s earlier suspicions had made him paranoid.

“Can you manage without me, just for tonight?”

Ellison couldn’t hear what the person on the other end of the phone was saying, no matter how much he turned up the dial on his hearing. The Sentinel had just discovered that he could crank that sucker up to at least a 17—and that two cats were mating about five blocks away—when the click of the phone being turned off almost brought him to his knees.

Serves me right, the Sentinel thought as he dialed his hearing down as fast as he could. I shouldn’t have been listening in on Blair’s private conversation.

“Hi, Chief.”

Blair looked up at Jim’s greeting and dazzled the detective with one of his mega watt smiles. “Hey, Jim. How’d the interview go?”

“Fine.” Jim waved a hand. “It looks like a simple case of some kids jimmying a lock to steal a few Christmas gifts.”

“That’s terrible,” Blair said with a frown. “Nobody should be so bad off that they have to steal for presents.”

Jim glanced down at Blair’s socks, which were threadbare, up to his sweat pants, which had holes in both knees, to land on the t-shirt with the overstretched neck, which had once been a vibrant green, but now looked like something you’d see in a baby’s diaper.

“Yeah, that is too bad,” Jim muttered, feeling all of three inches tall. He walked into the bathroom and pulled out a plastic bottle. “Be out in a minute, I need to get something for my headache.”

The headache I got from trying to listen in on Blair’s conversation, he thought guiltily.

“Uh huh,” Blair answered quietly, his head tilted to one side and a thoughtful look on his face. He looked back at the front door and then to Jim’s retreating back and gave a little smirk.

hohohohohoho

Jim heard the springs on the futon creak as Blair sat up in bed. He ignored it, because the younger man sometimes got a drink of water in the middle of the night. A floorboard popped. It was the one in front of the fire escape, the same one that Jim had been meaning to nail down for weeks now.

What’s Blair doing? he wondered, raising his head slightly off of the pillow. Ellison shook his head firmly and snuggled back under the covers. It’s none of my business, he thought firmly. I was out of line, listening in on him earlier.

The Sentinel resolutely dialed his hearing down to give his friend some privacy.

hohohohohoho

Blair sat on the edge of his bed for a few moments and then, when he thought it was safe, he reached over and turned the switch on the little white box sitting on his side table to on. Giving the white noise generator a little bit to block the noise, the grad student stood up and took the grand total of two steps to the fire escape.

The rusty, creaky door…opened silently. Blair kept the hinges oiled for a situation just such as this. On little cat’s feet—alright, feet with tennis shoes—Blair climbed up to the roof of the building. He stood on the flat roof, making sure to stay away from the skylight that looked down into Jim’s bedroom, and waited. His patience was soon rewarded.

Ting. Ting.

Blair looked over and smiled. “Nice landing, Nicky.”

“Thanks, kiddo.” The older man with the long beard pushed up his goggles and smiled back. “I’m glad you could meet with me tonight, even if only for a few minutes.”

“Well, I can’t let you get off schedule, not this close to the big day.”

St. Nick (like you didn’t see that one coming) nodded and pulled a PDA from the inside pocket of his suit. (What? You were expecting a roll of parchment? Get real, this is the 21st century.) He handed the device over to Blair who looked it over.

“Uh, Nicky, why is Simon’s name on the Naughty list?” Blair asked.

Nick shrugged and tried to look nonchalant. “He’s been saying some bad things about people lately and being a jerk.” The older man picked a piece of lint off of his suit and flicked it into the wind.

Blair grinned. “Old friend, don’t punish the captain because he’s jealous of Jim’s friendship with me.” Sandburg used the little stick pointer and changed Simon’s designation to Nice.

“If you insist.” Nicky didn’t sound very pleased, but he didn’t protest either.

“I do. Speaking of which, there are some people I wanted you to help out.”

In three different apartments and one house, scattered across town, presents appeared. Presents that weren’t stolen.

Blair hopped up to sit on the sleigh and the two men began to chat. Sandburg offered up a few suggestions for presents, which Nick was grateful for. After about half an hour, Nick looked at his watch and sighed.

“I’d better let you go,” Blair offered.

“Yes, these presents won’t deliver themselves,” Nick agreed, patting the bag sitting beside him.

Blair nodded. “At least it isn’t like the old stories where you have to deliver them all in one night.”

The truth was that the presents were made, designed and created in the first half of the year and then Nick delivered them during the rest of the year. The presents were in the people’s houses, but they were invisible until the appropriate time. And, it wasn’t only the children who received gifts, it was just that the grown up’s presents were more practical things, ones that their adult minds could give logical explanations for.

Santa snorted. “As if. Personally, I think whoever thought that idea up was on drugs.” Nick laughed as he picked up the reins. “Every child, all around the world, in one night.” He shook his head.

Blair raised his hands in the air as if to say I don’t know. He gave the older man a quick hug and then stepped back out of the way.

“Be careful,” he cautioned.

“You too,” Nick retorted. “Don’t get hurt again or you’ll be taken off the Nice list,” he warned.

With a flick of his wrist the reins lightly tapped against a couple of the reindeers who immediately took flight. All that was left behind were several piles of steaming deer poop. With a wicked grin, Blair waved his hand and the poop appeared next to a particularly slippery patch on a slum lord’s driveway. Blair arched an eyebrow, imagining the resulting fall.

“I’m not that Nice,” he said with a grin, before heading back inside to his bed.

The End

Merry Christmas!

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Acknowledgments: Betaed by Bobbie and cover art done by Patt. Thank you to both of you.