Work Was Never This Hard
by Kimberly Workman
Summary: Jim's back at work, but this will not be a smooth road for him or anyone that gets in his way. #7 in the Broken Spirit Series.
Disclamer: Not mine.
Sandburg was getting on Jim's nerves, yet again. They were in the elevator on their way up to Major Crimes and he was acting like Tigger on crack, bouncing all over the place. OK, so this was the usual way he acted, but lately Jim had begun to let it get him more irritated. Because Jim couldn't move as much as he so dearly wanted, anyone around him who was overly animate got the wrath of his voice.
"Will you PLEASE settle down?" Jim asked tersely. His hands were gripping the crutches tightly, afraid that he would fall. He always hated the way elevators made him feel so unsteady.
"Oh!" Blair apologized, consciously reprimanding himself. "Sorry." He looked down at his feet, trying to calm his excitement.
"The party will still be there when we get up there," Jim slyly commented.
"Yeah, I know.... Wait! That was supposed to be a surprise!"
"I've been gone for five months. If I don't get a party, I'm quitting," Jim laughed.
"Party pooper," Blair mumbled. The elevator stopped at their floor and they exited at a slowed pace. Jim had been hesitant all morning over this final meeting. Thankfully, no one had been in the garage when they pulled up and they had the elevator all to themselves. Now came the true test, seeing the guys again. It wasn't like Rafe, Brown, and Simon hadn't seen Jim while he was in the hospital, but this was different. This was when he had to prove himself, to being up to the job.
"Come on, come on," Blair nudged him, breaking him out of his memory.
"I'm coming," Jim replied, shuffling along on his crutches.
"You ready?" Blair asked as he put his hand on the doorknob.
Jim took a deep breath. "As ready as I can be."
With that, Sandburg opened the door and hurried in to make sure all was ready. Jim slowly shuffled in behind him.
"Surprise!" the entire department yelled at once. Jim had his hearing dialed down, thankfully, but he still winced. No one noticed it though, too busy crowding around him.
"Jim! You look great!" Rafe commented.
"Yeah man, look at you," Brown added.
"I try," Jim smiled. "It's been rough, but I think I'm back."
"Glad to hear it," Simon said as he joined the group. "Cause we've got a ton of paperwork just calling your name."
"I haven't even been here two minutes and he's already putting me to work," Jim said to Blair.
"Well, you wanted to come back," Blair chuckled, not helping Jim at all.
"Everybody's against me!" Ellison joked. Turning back to the cheerful detectives he asked, "Can I at least have some cake first?"
"What makes you think we've got you any cake?" Rafe asked with suspicion.
"You mean besides the fact that Joel's over there stuffing his face with it?"
The four men turned to see Joel taking a huge bite of Jim's 'Welcome Back' cake.
"Joel! You were supposed to wait for Jim to get here!" Brown said.
"I'm not going to let a perfectly good cake sit around for two hours waiting for him. I got hungry," Joel said between bites.
"It's alright Joel, you go ahead," Jim was practically beaming. "Man I've missed this!"
"Well, you want to go have a piece of what's left of your cake?" Blair asked, smiling.
"Yeah, especially since you didn't make me any breakfast," Jim said as he steadied himself.
"It's not MY fault you don't like my cooking."
"If you can call that cooking," Jim replied as he got ready to walk.
"Like some married couple," Simon said under his breath, knowing Jim would hear him. He did and shot him a happy glance. Ellison continued on, making his way across the Bullpen. Rafe and Brown stayed a little behind, just watching. Jim didn't move as fast as he used to and he wasn't very steady on his braces. He had to practically drag his feet across the floor. Was he ever going to be like he was before the accident?
By that time, Jim and Blair were standing in front of the 'Welcome Back' spread. A pile of presents was gathered on one end of the table and a blue and white cake was on the other, sitting beside a bowl of red punch. It used to read "Welcome Back Jim," but since Joel had gotten into it, the cake now read "Welcom Bac Ji." The thought was still understood.
"You want a corner piece?" Blair asked, grabbing a knife.
"Yeah, upper corner," Jim motioned with a nod of the head. He was learning that sometimes he still needed help. The trick was, to let people know when it was accepted and when it was resented. That was something he had to work on.
"Grab me a glass of punch and take over to my desk, I need to sit down," Jim told him as he started off.
"You alright Jim?" Simon asked concerned, joining him in his slow progression.
"Yeah, yeah. My muscles hurt, that's all. Happens all the time, ask Sandburg."
"And that means that you're over-doing it," Blair called back, trying to get the punch in the too small glass.
Over at Jim's desk, a young officer was gathering up papers and hurrying to get out of the way. He looked to be younger than Sandburg and twice as new. Ellison came up alongside the desk.
"Who's this? " he asked Simon.
"Thomas MacDonald, meet Jim Ellison. Jim, Tom," Simon made introductions. Tom stuck out a free hand.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Ellison."
"You too," Jim nodded.
"Give me a minute and we'll try that handshake."
"Oh, right, sorry," Tom apologized as he moved out of the way, letting Jim collapse in his chair.
"Tom is our temporary officer. He's been taking up the slack since you've been out," Simon continued.
"Well, Tom, nice to know my desk has been in such capable hands," Jim smiled and stuck out his hand.
"You too, sir. I've heard so much about you," Tom joyously took Jim's hand.
"Please, call me Jim. You're making me feel older than my body's telling me I am."
"Oh, sorry Mr...I mean Jim. It's just that you're such a legend and I was proud to serve as your replacement these past few months."
"Legend? My, my, I never knew I lived with a legend," Blair dramatically set down Jim's cake and punch as he bowed. "Here's your food oh great Detective."
"If I could reach you, I'd pop you," Jim laughed. "Tom, this is my partner Blair Sandburg. Tom's the replacement they hired while I was out."
"Nice to meet Tom," Blair thrust out his hand for Tom to shake, which he did hesitantly. "Don't let Jim fool you, he's nice to everyone but me it seems."
"Sandburg," Simon said, peeved.
"Hey Hairboy!" Brown called.
"My public awaits, I must depart." With that, Blair excused himself and went to join Rafe and Brown at the table.
"Is he always like that?" Tom let slip.
"No," Jim assured him. "Today he's pretty calm." Simon and Jim laughed, while Tom just peered at them quizzically. Blair and H were gathering up the presents while Rafe walked over to Jim.
"You want us to bring your presents over here?"
"Presents? You guys shouldn't have gotten me presents," Jim said as he waved H and Blair over.
"Well, figuring you're back here after only five months, we had to do something to celebrate," H said as he deposited his armful onto Jim's desk.
"From the feel of it," Blair deposited his armful. "It's a pretty heavy way to celebrate."
Jim, noticing the obvious tension among the other members of Major Crimes, tried to ease the situation. "If you people don't get started eating soon, I'm going to have to go over there and eat that entire cake myself."
People looked around at each other, making halting motions toward the table. Conversation soon started and the mood lightened.
"Now," Jim clapped his hands. "Presents."
"Open mine first," Rafe thrust a present at Ellison.
"Ooook," Jim took the gift. He began to unwrap the appealing paper. He was thrilled at the contents. "Rafe! You really shouldn't have." Jim held up his gift, an appealing light blue silk tie. "I'm putting it on right now!" With that, he began to undo the tie he was wearing.
"It doesn't even match what you're wearing," Blair commented.
"And I care because.....?"
"Fine, if you want to go around mismatched after I took the time to pick out a nice suit of clothes for you, far be it from me to stop you."
"I've, um, I need to go get these files down to Records," Tom tried to excuse himself.
"Don't be silly, stay and party with us," Simon tried to halt him.
"No, no. I can run these down and be back up later." Tom left, hurrying faster than he should have.
"What's up with him?" H asked, looking at the door.
"Who knows," Blair dismissed it. "Anyway, get to the others."
Jim continued to unwrap his presents. He got a pen set from Simon, a promise to treat him to lunch from H, a nice cream shirt from Joel, and various other presents from the rest of Major Crimes. They spent the entire morning in a part-mode, not getting any work done. Tom was mysteriously absent throughout the whole event.
By one o'clock, Simon decided that it was time to get back to work. They all complained, but did as they were told. H and Rafe had to go check up on an interview, so they slipped out before being roped into the cleaning up. Jim begrudgingly started on the immense pile of paperwork that had accumulated on his desk, Sandburg doing what he could.
"I've been stuck in the hospital for the past five months, only to come back here and get stuck with the one job I hate. What did I ever do wrong?" Jim asked, looking up from his computer.
"I think 'everything' pretty much sums it up, don't you?" Sandburg commented, not even looking up from the file he was reading.
"Yep, everything," Jim sighed. Something caught his hearing, so he dialed it up.
'I'm not some errand boy. I shouldn't be doing this.' Tom's voice. 'Who am I supposed to be? I'm an officer and he's what? His partner? It's not even official! I bet he's a partner in more than one way.'
By that time, the young man had breezed into the office. Stalking over to Jim's desk, he let the folder he was holding drop. "Anne down in Records sent this up. Said it was for Sandburg," his voice was terse.
"Thanks man," Blair hadn't even noticed the tone. "I've been waiting for this."
Tom walked away without saying another word. Jim wasn't liking him very much, but he wasn't going to let onto this fact to Blair.
"What is that and why have you been waiting for it?" Jim questioned his partner.
"It's from the case H and Brown are working on." Jim drew in a long breath. "It's nothing dangerous. They just found some writings beside a body. It's written in some ancient language and H just asked me to look it over and see if I knew what it was."
"And that's all?" Jim asked, trying to reassure himself.
"That's all, nothing more."
Jim let it go, this wasn't going to be hurtful to them. Blair was an Anthropologist, this was his job. If he could of some help, let him. He needed to feel back into the swing of things after the way Jim had treated him these past few months. Even though he had consciously forgiven Sandburg for the accident, Jim wasn't completely sure that Blair had forgiven himself. Ellison just let it go and turned his attention back to the computer.
"Whoa! Do you know what this is?" Blair's heightened voice broke the silence of Jim's data entering.
"What? Huh?" Jim was a bit dazed, apparently in a mini-zone.
"This language," Blair raised the folder. "It's an Amazon dialect, really ancient."
"Do you know what it says?"
"I'm not completely sure without verifying, but I think the gist is the reason he was killed. It says they blame him for cutting off their way of life."
"That sounds oddly familiar," Jim commented, remembering Incacha. "But it couldn't have been written by the Amazon society, they've been dead for more than four centuries."
"Who's been dead for four hundred years?" H asked, breezing over to the desk.
"H, man, I think I've got this letter figured out."
"Hope you had more luck than we did. Two hours in an interview and all we find out is that the killer was a man, which we already knew. What a waste of time."
"This might be a lead, then," Blair rose to show H the folder.
"Take it over to his desk," Jim told Blair. "I've got these reports typed."
"Touchy, touchy," H said as he and Blair left.
Jim continued with his reports, glancing up periodically to see Sandburg ecstatically reiterating a point. This was what it was all about, back to the job and to their normal routine. He had missed this so much.
The day wound down, slowly for some and too quickly for others. Simon ordered Jim to take off at five no matter if he was done or not. He needed to take it easy with his first day back and Simon was going to force it. By 5:30, Simon won out and Jim was on his way home. It was a nice evening and a peaceful night, with little argument among them. Jim was still worrying about what Tom had said and then to have Blair getting into who knows what with Rafe and Brown didn't help matters. He didn't say anything, though. Just let it rest till they got back to work.
"Sit, stay," Blair ordered when they got to the desk. "I've got to go give Anne something, but I'll be right back." He started back to the elevator. "I don't hear typing," he called over his shoulder.
"Sit, stay. What am I, a dog?" Jim huffed, sinking into his chair anyway. He started rifling through his in box. "Why was I in such a hurry to get back to this?"
After twenty minutes, Jim was getting antsy. He needed a cup of coffee to break the monotony. He raised himself up on his crutches and reached for his cup, in a side-ways grip.
"Let me get that for you," Tom rushed over to grab the cup. "It's ok, I've got it," Jim tried to brush him off.
"No, no. It's no trouble at all," Tom once again reached for the cup.
"I said I've got it!" Jim exploded. "What are you, deaf?"
Tom backed away, shocked. All conversation had ceased around them. "I'm sorry Mr. Ellison, I just wanted to make a good impression."
"Just stay out of my way," Jim seethed, shuffling past him on his way to the Break Room. He stayed in there for twenty minutes, trying to calm down. His emotions had been on a roller coaster since the accident, but he really didn't nee some punk, hot-shot officer to be bad-mouthing Sandburg and then trying to suck up to him. It just didn't work that way. Finally, he made his way back to the Bullpen.
"What took you so long? H said you went for coffee like half an hour ago," Blair asked, looking up from his folder.
"I just needed to get up and walk around."
"Are you alright?" Blair became concerned.
"Yes," Jim breathed as he sank back into the char. "I'm fine."
Rafe's phone rang and he began an active conversation with the caller. Jim and Blair tried to return to their work and were failing miserably. The files that had accumulated on Jim's desk were not decreasing very rapidly. Rafe hung up the phone and went out, probably searching for H. He apparently found him because they both came rushing back into the office and over to Jim's desk.
"Blair, we got a tip," H said in a hurried tone.
"How likely would it be for the common person to know that Amazon language you were telling us about?"
"Did you know it?" Blair asked.
"Sandburg's got a point," Rafe added.
"Ok, forget that. How about a museum curator, say the head of the South American exhibit?" Brown asked.
"Now that, I would say, is highly likely," Blair's interest obviously peaked.
"Suspect," Brown and Rafe said at the same time.
"What you got?" Jim spoke up from his quiet listening.
"It appears that John Richards, the museum curator, and our body were in business together and their partnership ended on a very ugly note," Rafe explained.
"And we were going to go down there to question him," Brown added.
"And this would affect us how?" Jim asked.
"We...wanted to...borrow the kid," Brown's last words were rushed.
"What do you need me for?" Blair was suspicious.
"We need a cover, get us in with him. We don't have anything to go on, so we just wanted to see how much he knew," Rafe explained.
"I don't think that's such a good idea guys," Blair said. "Jim might need my help with something and I don't know very much about language, so I really couldn't carry on an intelligent conversation with him."
"Come on Hairboy, just ramble off something to the guy. You're always talking over our heads, you can fake it with Richards," Brown pleaded.
"Yeah, go on Chief. You need to get out of here anyway."
"You sure?" Blair asked Jim, wide-eyed.
"Yes, I'm sure. Go over to the museum and look at the exhibits, enjoy yourself."
The pleasure on Blair's face was immeasurable. Jim knew that Blair would enjoy the trip and it was a safe place for him to be. Jim could get his reports typed and Sandburg wouldn't be around to catch Tom's snide remarks or Jim's attack upon him if he kept pushing his buttons. The trio happily departed and Jim went back to his monotonous task.
The phone call came about an hour later. Jim knew it couldn't be good when Brown was on the other end.
"Hello?" Jim said absently, trying to type at the same time.
"Jim, first of all it isn't serious," Brown assured him.
Nothing good can come after that opening. "Please tell me nothing's wrong," Jim pleaded.
"He's alright...I think. Man, Jim, he just started shooting. I couldn't stop it," H rambled.
Jim's heart rate was elevating by the minute. Blair was hurt, he just knew it. Brown was still talking, but Jim couldn't concentrate.
"He's in there and he's got Rafe and Sandburg. I tried to save them, but he threw me out. Man, I tried, I really tried."
"H, calm down. I'm going to come over there."
"I'm sorry," H whispered before Jim hung up the phone. Ellison grabbed his crutches and busted into Simon's office without even knocking. "
What the....Oh, Jim. What's going on?" Simon asked.
"Sandburg's at the museum and Rafe and H just called me and he's got them hostage and he's shooting and...." Jim was rambling now.
Simon shot up. "Slow down, who's got Rafe and Sandburg?"
"This suspect....John Richards I think is his name. They went over to ask him about a murder and now..." Jim's shoulders were physically sagging under the weight. How could he let Blair go into all of this? It was all his fault. "I've got to get over there."
"Jim!" Simon yelled at him. "You're in no shape to go anywhere. Just stay by the phones and I'll let you know what happens." He tried to push past Jim's imposing frame.
"Simon!" Jim's temper was rising. "I am not some invalid! Either you let me get out of here or I'll physically flatten you."
Simon's eyes widened. He had no doubt that Ellison would do just what he said. "Fine, we'll take my car," he backed down. "Joel! We've got a situation down at the museum. Take MacDonald with you and meet us over there."
Joel nodded and took the young officer out to the elevator. It was going to be a tense situation. Jim shuffled as fast as he could towards the elevator, but that was only at a slow speed. He only made it to the elevator after Joel and MacDonald had made the trip down to the garage. The entire ride was spent in silence, with Jim silently praying that Blair wasn't hurt. The sight that met them was heart stopping. H was rushing over to them, still babbling.
"He's still got them. I think Rafe's hurt, I can't tell. Where's the back up? I called for back-up ages ago!"
"H, calm down and tell me what happened," Simon lay a hand upon his shoulder.
"We went in there and Sandburg started talking to Richards, nothing big. They were rambling on about some anthropology thing, I don't know, but it wasn't anything important. I think he saw Rafe's gun when we were talking. The next thing I know, he's got Sandburg in a chokehold and his gun pointed at Rafe. He ordered me out, gave me five seconds and then started shooting. I think I got everybody else out, but I couldn't get them..." H started to choke up.
"H, it's not your fault," Jim came closer.
"I'm so sorry Jim, I didn't mean for this to happen."
Jim started shuffling forward, hesitant of what he would find if he went into the building.
"Ellison! Get back here!" Simon ordered. "You don't know what he's doing in there!"
"Is he crazy?" Tom yelled as he and Joel were getting out of their car.
"Either come with me or stay out here," Jim called over his shoulder. "I don't care which." Jim got to the stairs and knew he couldn't balance his crutches and himself at the same time. He decided to cast off the braces and lean on the railing instead. He began pulling himself up, step by step. When he reached the top, he was hit with Sandburg's yell.
"Go now!" Blair yelled from inside, probably to Rafe.
Jim couldn't stand to hear the fear in his voice. He started pulling himself along, leaning on the door frame, the wall, anything. Simon had eventually come behind him, gun drawn.
"What is it?" Simon asked.
"Blair, I heard him yell at someone in the back. He sounds scared out of his wits," Jim continued to pull himself along.
"Here, let me get in front of you." Simon quickly passed Jim and flattened himself on the wall. "Which way?"
"To your right, all the way in the back."
Slowly, they both inched forward into whatever was awaiting them. They heard a struggle and hurried their approach. Simon hesitantly rounded the corner with Jim dragging behind him.
"Certainly took you long enough to get here," Blair sighed and chuckled.
Rafe was handcuffing Richards as Blair held a gun on the proceedings. The suspect looked like he had been through the ringer, along with Rafe's scratched face. Other than that, there weren't any serious injuries that they could see. Simon moved over to take the gun from Sandburg.
"Jim!" Blair finally noticed his partner edging along the wall. "What are you doing!"
"I came to save you...I guess I'm too late," Jim sighed in exhaustion.
"Where're your crutches? You could have been killed! Here sit down," the words came tumbling out one after another.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," Jim breathed heavily. "My crutches are out front, couldn't make it up the stairs with them." The exhaustion finally hit him and he started sagging down the wall.
"Here, let me help you," Blair eased Jim down. He turned to Simon, "How could you let him come?"
"I couldn't stop him," Simon tried to explain. "He was determined to get here and I'm not about to stand in his way after he threatened me with bodily harm."
"You're hard-headed, you know that?"
"We both are," Jim laughed, breathing still strained.
The entourage was soon safely back at the Station. Richards was booked and Rafe was getting jibes from H about the scratch ruining his 'pretty boy looks.' Blair and Jim were chiding with each other, just like usual.
"You walked, man."
"More like dragging," Jim relied, leaning back in his chair.
"Close enough for me. Pretty soon you won't need the crutches at all."
"Thankful be the day."
Tom interrupted their conversation. "Umm, guys?"
"Hey Tom, nice work out there today," Blair smiled.
"Even though I didn't do anything."
"Well, you did your job and that's enough," Jim's words were bitten off.
"About that, I came to tell you guys that I'm leaving."
"Leaving? But we just got back. We hardly got a chance to know you," Blair acted surprised.
"Well, sometimes you can get to know a person in a short time or make a really wrong judgement about them," Tom said as he lowered his head.
"Where're you going?" Jim tried to put on a polite front.
"I've got an offer in Olympia to work with an old friend."
"Hey, that's great!" Sandburg arose to shake his hand. "I wish you the best of luck!" This time, Tom took it willingly.
"Thanks," he smiled. "For everything."
Blair just politely smiled, confused as to what he had done for Tom. The young officer left and Blair sat back down.
"What was all that about?" he asked Jim.
Jim thought it better if Sandburg never knew the truth about Tom. "I guess you made a great impression on him," Jim smiled.
"I do make a good impression don't I?" Blair chuckled to himself.
Good old Sandburg, back to normal. Soon, all would be normal again and they could put all this behind them.