Spring Back - Melinda

God, I love the Spring! Blair Sandburg closed his eyes and filled his lungs with the crisp morning air. He was in such a good mood. It was going to be a gorgeous Spring day in Cascade.

The young anthropologist chuckled to himself. He'd have to apologize to Jim. His partner had only been his usual self in reminding Blair not to be late, even ensuring he had an alarm clock properly wound and set so he wouldn't oversleep.

Blair knew Jim would understand it had been the stress that caused Blair to yell at him last night. He'd gotten about six hours of sleep in the past three days. Jim had forbidden him to step foot in Major Crimes as he struggled to once again juggle all the balls in his life. He'd even gotten Simon to approve time off for the newest Detective in the unit. Blair had the sneaky suspicion Jim had traded some of his own time off in order to get a break for Blair.

He'd had the best of intentions of not falling asleep at the library at Rainier. But he had fallen asleep, so very grateful to have emailed the two chapters of his dissertation his Advisory Committee had demanded. His abrupt change in subject matter from Sentinels to 'The Metropolitan Police: A Study of Tribal Societies Past Present and Future' had really upset more than one member of the Committee.

Blair chuckled once more as he trotted across the campus towards the gym. The alarm clock had gone off on schedule. Despite the lack of sleep and the fact Blair was not known to be an active "morning person", his eyes had flown wide open at the first strident clang. By his calculations, he was ahead of schedule.

***

"Dammit, Simon! Where is he?"

Simon Banks tried to be sympathetic. He'd been sympathetic for the past hour. He was starting to get tired of being sympathetic. "I'm sure he'll be here, Jim." When he received a patented Jim Ellison glare (guaranteed to nearly peel varnish from wood), he shrugged. "If you're so worried, just call him."

Jim Ellison uncomfortably shrugged. "I can't," he finally admitted. "Blair got really mad...and I mean really mad when I kept..." He snapped his jaws shut.

"When you...what?" Simon gleefully prodded. "Went on and on about not being late today?" He threw Jim a patented Simon Banks glare (guaranteed to nearly peel varnish from wood). He felt satisfied when Jim looked away.

"Alright, maybe I did go overboard a little," the Sentinel admitted. He wearily rubbed the back of his neck. "He's been really stressed trying to get everything caught up before we leave town. Work at the station, work at school...did you know his Advisory Committee demanded...demanded to see two chapters before today? After they'd repeatedly told him it could wait until next month!"

"I might have heard that," Simon calmly nodded. More than once. He poured some water into a glass and passed it to his friend. "Drink this and settle down, Ellison."

Jim took a deep breath. "He spent the last week putting those two chapters together. He actually spent last night at the University library getting it done. Said he'd shower and change at the gym there then meet us here." He stared at the glass of water then set it aside.

"And he took an alarm clock so he'd wake up after falling asleep at the library...despite his best intentions," Simon added with a straight face.

"I saw him put it in his gym bag," Jim nodded. "One of those wind-up types with the clanging bell." He irritably added, "Watched him wind it, too. That's what got him mad at me."

Simon waited a full ten seconds. "You did make sure he set the clock to reflect the time change."

"That's what precipitated the slamming of the door when he left the loft," Jim ruefully grinned.

Simon waited another full ten seconds. "You did make sure he set the clock ahead?"

Jim stared at his friend for a few moments then cursed under his breath.

Simon refrained from smiling as Jim fumbled for his cellphone. Seconds later, they heard Blair's cellphone ringing...from inside one of the suitcases neatly stacked in the corner.

"Dammit, Blair!" Ellison roared.

***

Simon calmly walked through the crowd of people, smiling and softly apologizing for the delay. He spotted the usual group of suspects from Major Crimes standing near the lavish buffet table and made his way across the room to them.

"Anything wrong?" Joel asked once he saw Simon's expression.

"Ordinarily, I say not," Simon admitted. "But given Sandburg's propensity for attracting trouble..."

"Sandy's not here?" Megan anxiously asked.

"We think he didn't set his alarm correctly," Simon answered. He saw the smile Henri was trying hard to hide. "Just to be on the safe side, I think somebody better drive over to library at Rainier and get Sandburg back here." He sighed when he saw his detectives glance at the magnificent buffet table. "Or you people could stay here to ride herd on Ellison."

"We'll go." Rafe grabbed Henri's arm and began pulling him towards the door.

"He might be at the gym cleaning up," Simon quickly added.

***

"No...no...no..." Blair gently hit his head against the driver's side door of the Volvo. "I don't believe this." He opened his eyes and peeked through the glass in the locked door.

Dangling from the ignition were his keys. His only set of keys.

"Okay. Don't panic. This is not a problem. You're ahead of schedule. Just leave the car. Take a bus. You have plenty of time." Blair closed his eyes to take a deep breath.

"Blair?"

Startled, Blair jerked and spun around.

Rafe and Henri stood several feet away with identical confused expressions.

"You okay, man?" Henri gently asked.

"Yeah. Why?" Blair blurted.

The two detectives exchanged a quick look. "Because you were banging your head against the side of your car?" Rafe guessed.

"Oh. That." Blair's shoulders slumped. "I locked my keys in the car. And I left my spare set at home. I wasn't going to need them."

"Oh, man." Henri sympathetically squeezed Blair's shoulders. "Hey, it happens to all of us."

"Yeah," Rafe grinned. "You just had your mind on something else."

"What are you guys doing here?" Blair suddenly paled. "Oh, God. Something's happened to Jim?"

"Ellison's fine. Just worried about you." Rafe picked up the gymbag from next to the Volvo.

"Me? Why?" Blair looked from Rafe to Henri in confusion.

"What time is it, Hairboy?" Henri gently smiled.

Blair glanced at his watch. "8:52 am. I set it when I set the alarm clock." He paled when Rafe extended his arm to show his own watch. "Oh, God. Oh no. Oh, God." He closed his eyes.

"Come on." Henri gently wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "It'll be okay."

***

Simon uneasily eyed the pacing Sentinel. Every second trip past the window, Jim glared outside as though personally affronted that Rafe and Henri hadn't returned with his wayward Guide. "Jim, you need to calm down," he finally suggested. "You know Sandburg's okay. You heard Rafe when he called."

Jim's head jerked in short silent acknowledgment. His fingers irritably jerked at the tie around his neck.

"It's an easy enough mistake," Simon added.

Jim's ice cold blue eyes flickered in Simon's direction before once again glaring out the window. He'd taken two more turns around the room before he saw Henri's car turn into the parking lot. "About time," he muttered.

"Ellison!" Simon snapped. "I know you're upset with Sandburg. And I'd probably be just as upset." He ignored the snort from the detective. "But you need to calm down before you take his head off." All he got was an unreadable stare from Ellison before the man threw the door open and walked into the hallway.

Simon glanced out the window, wincing as Blair threw himself from the barely halted vehicle. Rafe and Henri quickly jumped out of the car and followed.

Blair slid to a halt in front of the building. In the doorway stood Jim Ellison, arms folded across his chest. He heard Henri mutter "oh shit". Rafe had the good sense to keep his mouth shut. The young anthropologist nervously tucked a strand of hair behind his ear that had escaped the tie.

Henri patted Blair on the back before tugging at Rafe's arm. They quietly walked past Ellison and joined Simon in the hallway.

"Are you sure we should..." Rafe began.

"You never struck me as suicidal, Rafe," Simon curtly interrupted. "I know I'm not."

Henri shivered slightly as he glanced over his shoulder. But he and his partner followed Simon down the hallway.

"Oh, man, I am so sorry!" Blair finally blurted. "I thought I had everything under control. I didn't even hit the snooze button. I woke up so excited and ready for this day to start, you know?" He took a few steps closer to his partner. "Jim? Jim, oh man, you gotta know this was just a huge screw-up, right? Right? I thought it was Fall Ahead - Spring Back! So I set everything back an hour! You really didn't think I'd leave you stan...I'd never! You gotta know that!" He finally stood in front of Jim. "Jim? I love you."

Jim Ellison stared into the deep blue eyes of his partner. "Only you, Sandburg," he finally murmured. He finally released the grin he'd held back ever since the younger man had started babbling. "Only for you," he quietly stressed.

Blair finally released all the oxygen he'd been holding in his lungs. He rested his forehead against Jim's broad chest. "Oh, man...I am so sorry."

Jim wound his arms around Blair and hugged him close. "It's Spring Ahead - Fall Back, genius," he muttered.

"You did think I left you..." Blair muttered.

"No, I didn't," Jim shook his head. He waited as Blair quickly raised his head to stare into his eyes. "I've just been...nervous. I wanted everything to be perfect. No glitches. No problems." He took a deep breath. "And then your Advisory Committee pulled that nonsense about your dissertation. And we were both running around, scrambling to get everything done."

"Hey, it's okay." Blair gently ran his hands down Jim's back.

"I could just see everything falling apart," Jim admitted. "I figured you'd gotten caught in another elevator." He heard Blair's chuckle. "Or Kincaid had shown up again."

"Bite your tongue!" Blair hissed. Then he laughed. "I think Henri and Rafe were worried when they found me. I was hitting my head against the side of the Volvo."

"What!?" Jim exclaimed.

"I locked the keys in the car," Blair sheepishly admitted. "And I'd left my spare set at home."

"I'll ask Simon to grab the keys and get your car home," Jim assured him. "He's gonna pick up the mail and stuff while we're away."

Blair shook his head and buried his face against Jim's chest. "I can't believe I did something so stupid."

Jim chuckled as he hugged Blair close to him. "Well, Naomi warned me when she got here that you had no concept of time."

"Naomi? She's here?" Blair's head jerked up as he moved back a step. "Here!?"

Jim laughed. "Yeah, she got here right after Rafe called to say he and Henri were on their way back with you. I was going to surprise you."

Blair half-ran into the building and down the hallway. Smiling, Jim closed the door and followed.

Blair carefully opened the door at the end of the hallway. Peeking through the two-inch opening, he moved his head back and forth. Catching a glimpse of his mother's red hair, he quickly closed the door. "She came," he happily murmured.

Jim quickly stepped back when Blair suddenly whirled around. Seeing the concerned look on the younger man's face, he frowned. "Blair? I thought you were happy that she's here."

"Yeah. I am. I mean..." Blair ran a hand through his tousled curls. "Uh...she's okay with this, right? I mean, she's not gonna stand up and..."

"Would it make a difference if she did?" Jim quietly asked.

Blair saw the vulnerability in the Sentinel's eyes. "No," he firmly answered. "I just don't want anything to screw up this day." He flushed. "Well...anything else."

"She's okay with us," Jim assured her. "She just doesn't like you being tied even closer than ever to the cops."

Blair leaned against the wall. "I thought she'd gotten over that," he mumbled. "I mean...she was there when you and Simon offered me a chance in Major Crimes."

"She...processed, Chief," Jim grinned as he leaned against the opposite wall. "And maybe she was feeling a little guilty and didn't want to interfere with your choices."

Blair snorted. "Some way of not interfering. Threatening a major lawsuit against the University. And in my name. Without telling me first."

Jim had to grin. Naomi Sandburg might have raised Blair in an unorthodox fashion. But when push came to shove, she was his mother. And when someone or something threatened her son, she was as vicious a fighter as any mother bear.

"I'm not gonna call her on it, Sandburg," the Sentinel confided. "She only pointed out that the University hadn't followed proper procedure, and even Sid Graham agreed that he'd publicized your thesis against your express orders. When balanced against a very large and potentially nasty lawsuit, the University decided it wasn't such a big deal to let you back in for your Phd."

"I guess," Blair sighed. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you." He flashed his partner a sudden grin. "But Naomi and I are going to have a long serious talk about how much interference she's allowed in our lives."

"I hear you," Jim grinned in return. He nodded towards the closed door. "You ready for this?"

Blair automatically raised his hands to his hair. "I need to comb and tie this back." He saw something flicker in Jim's eyes. "What?"

"Nothing," Jim answered with a quick smile.

"I'll be right back," Blair answered with a grin. He disappeared down the hall into a small bathroom.

Seconds later, the door to the inner room opened and Simon looked out. A scowl crossed his handsome features. "Where's Sandburg now?" he quietly hissed.

"Last minute primping," Jim grinned. "We'll be right in."

With a muttered "Thank God", Simon quickly closed the door.

Jim took a few moments to calm his breathing. Everything was going to be okay. He was here. Blair was here. Their friends and family were here. No deranged psychopathic meglomaniacs were going to disrupt or delay the proceedings. Personally, he was still surprised that not only Naomi had shown up but that his own father and brother were in attendance and seemingly happy for him.

"Jim?"

Deep in his own thoughts, the Sentinel hadn't heard Blair's soft footsteps. Startled, he looked up and felt his knees go weak.

Blair had removed the hair tie and his curls fell gently to his shoulders. Perched on his nose were the glasses that somehow never failed to increase Jim's heart rate.

Loose curls and glasses. Oh, God. I'll never make it through this. Jim took a deep breath. "You're beautiful, you know."

Blair flushed. "I don't think so."

"I do." Jim easily moved away from the wall and towards his waiting partner. He hesitantly ran his hands down Blair's cheeks then tangled his fingers into the soft curls. "You're beautiful." He gently kissed the tip of Blair's nose. "You're smart." His lips moved to Blair's cheek. "You take such good care of me." His lips finally found Blair's.

Whimpering into Jim's mouth, Blair slid his arms around Jim's neck. He felt himself slowly pushed against one wall. Held securely in Jim's arms, Blair gave himself up to the luxurious sensual sensations coursing through his body.

Finally giving in to the need to breathe, Jim pulled back. "You were right, Blair. We should have eloped."

"They would have killed us," Blair muttered. He took a deep breath and stepped away from the wall with a grin. "But there's nothing that says we can't make this the fastest recitation of wedding vows in history, right?"

Jim cupped Blair's chin and stared down into the younger man's deep blue eyes. "We've already said them," he murmured.

Blair took a deep breath. "You keep that up, and we'll never get this done."

A wicked grin crossed Jim's face.

The End.

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Author's Acknowledgements: Thank you Mary for doing the quick and great beta job. Thank you to Lisa for having me and Patt for inviting me to the party.