by Kittie Verdena
Summary: Detective Blair Sandburg evaluates his life.
Notes: Major thanks to Lorri for beta-reading for me. This takes place after TSbBS, with Blair having gone thru the Academy. He's probably been a detective for a couple of months at the point of this story. Spoilers for TSbBS and S2p2. Beware of short-haired Blair! :)
Disclaimer: Pet Fly owns 'em, Garett Maggart and Richard Burgi brought 'em to life. I just borrowed them and put words in their mouths.
Blair Sandburg shivered hard, plunging his hands deep into his pockets as he stared down at the churning waters of the fountain where he'd almost died, over one year before. The chill had little to do with the weather; it came from within. He could feel it, like cold fire pumping out of his heart with every beat, turning his body and his soul to ice.
He'd thought he could handle it. Sure, he'd told the entire world he was a liar and a fraud but people would forget, wouldn't they? He had a job in the police department, partnered with Jim, and if he were honest with himself, he'd have to admit that near the end of his close to four years as an observer, he'd enjoyed the police work a lot more than academia. But despite all this, he was miserable. He had overestimated the people of Cascade, especially their ability to forgive and forget. It seemed the good people of Cascade could do neither.
He felt a tiny smile come to his face as he remembered some of the things he had heard them say not-so-quietly behind his back. And apparently, judging from Jim's near constant state of annoyance and the spasmodic clenching of that granite jaw, a lot more was being said by people he couldn't hear.
Just earlier in the day, he'd experienced what he supposed would be called "the straw that broke the camel's back." He and Jim had gone to the home of a suspect in a money-laundering and murder case. Jim had introduced them: "Martin Jameson?" The man nodded, looking somewhat suspicious. "I'm Detective James Ellison, this is my partner, Detective Sandburg." Blair held up the warrant as Jim pulled out his handcuffs. "You're under arrest."
Jameson just stared at them for a moment, then sneered at Blair as he held out his wrists. "Sandburg? You're that fraud, right? What's a guy like you doing on the police force?"
Blair had felt something inside him break. "No," he answered, keeping his voice calm even though he felt he might fly apart. "Didn't you hear? That guy's dead, man. Suicide."
Jim shot him an inscrutable look but said nothing.
"Suicide?" Jameson shook his head as he was marched over to the black and whites waiting at the curb. "I didn't hear anything about that."
"Yeah, it got maybe a paragraph on page C-10 of the paper. Not like anyone'd miss him, right?" Blair barked a tiny laugh. "Hell, he was my friggin' cousin and I don't miss him."
Jameson seemed disturbed by this. "Sorry," he muttered. Blair simply shrugged. He could feel Jim's eyes upon him during the whole ride back to the station, but somehow, he just didn't care.
Jim, of course, had completely freaked out once they had dropped the guy off. "What the Hell was that," he'd barked, his fear coming out as irritation, as it most often did.
"What was what," Blair had responded mildly, avoiding Jim's eyes. He had to concentrate on keeping his heartrate normal, knowing that Jim would be monitoring him. One beat out of synch and he'd be under house arrest for the next ten years.
"Sandburg--" Jim had begun, but Blair interrupted him.
"Look, Jim, I was just messing with the guy. He got on my nerves. I mean, he's a murderer, for God's sake, and was judging me? I'm fine, really."
Jim only looked half convinced. Blair rolled his eyes, mustering up the strength for the biggest show of his life. "Cluck, cluck, cluck, Jim. It was a joke. A joke in bad taste, maybe, but a joke. Will you please stop mother henning me for, like, two minutes?"
They were in the elevator now, on the way to Major Crimes. He had to make this quick. "Okay, look, I'm supposed to have lunch with some people from the Uni today." This, of course, was a complete and total lie, because he was sure absolutely no one at Rainier would have anything to do with him since the press conference. In fact, he'd been studiously avoiding any contact with them, knowing that he wouldn't be able to stand the disappointment and condemnation he'd see in their eyes. "So we can talk after, okay? It just caught me off guard, that's all, him recognizing me despite the name change and the hair and everything...." Time to redirect. Damn, but he was good at this! "Which reminds me, Jim, how many times to I have to tell you to introduce me as Detective Jacob Sandburg?"
Jim was silent for a moment, speechless. "Well," he'd finally managed, "I have enough trouble remembering the detective part."
And so Jim was taken care of. Now, here he was at the fountain, staring down into what should have brought his death. He could still feel it sometimes when he closed his eyes: the helplessness as he sank beneath the surface of the water, and the pain as his lungs filled and his heart slowly stopped beating. The last thing he'd seen was the smirk on Alex's face, but his last thoughts had been of Jim.
What would Jim say when they found his body this time? He reached into his jacket, slowly wrapping his fingers around the 9mm hidden in his shoulder holster. This time, there would be no miracles.
He froze, hand on the gun, and closed his eyes momentarily, pulling himself together. A few more minutes wouldn't matter, would they?
"Is that you?" Came the voice again, soft and uncertain. He realized that he hadn't yet turned around, and standing here, not speaking, with his back to whomever it was, might be considered rude. Not that he cared.
"It is you!" A young woman, maybe nineteen or twenty. He thought he recognized her from one of his classes, back when he still taught. "Wow, you look... different."
"It's the hair," he muttered, trying to muster a smile. He couldn't.
"Yeah," she agreed, smiling as though she hadn't yet noticed his mood. "The hair, and the clothes too, really. You're a cop now, right? Should I be calling you Officer Sandburg?"
"Detective," he corrected, mentally cringing at how flat his voice sounded. Luckily, the girl didn't seem to notice.
"Wow, Detective Sandburg. That's so cool!" She regarded him critically for a moment, then frowned. "You don't remember me, do you?"
"Sure I do. You were in my Anthro 101 class two semesters ago. You sat in the third row." There, he was making an effort.
"Yeah! Jamie Galloway!"
"Jamie, right. Hi."
She grinned momentarily, then frowned again, stepping closer. Damn, she'd noticed. "Are you okay, Detective Sandburg?"
"Sure," he shrugged, his eyes darting nervously back and forth. Any minute now, security would show up to escort him off the premises....
"I was real sorry about what happened to you. It was so totally unfair, I mean, you never even turned it in! Your diss, I mean. A lot of people were really pissed off at what happened to you."
That got his attention. "They were?"
"Oh yeah! Everybody's been asking about you, ya know, bugging the other TAs and stuff, but nobody could ever get in touch with you. They'll be so glad you're still around. I mean, we thought you'd dropped off the face of the Earth, or something. It was so sudden, ya know? I mean, God, Blair.... Can I call you Blair?"
"They didn't even ask you, you know? It was like... like if I wrote a total piece of shit of a paper and left it in my dorm room, they could just come and get it when it was due and then grade me on it! Which is just completely bogus."
"Well, it was a little different than that--"
"You were the best TA we ever had. Hell, the best professor we ever had! Did you know there was a protest when they fired you?"
"A protest? When?"
"Like, right away! A bunch of us stood in front of Hargrove Hall with signs and everything, but they shut us down."
"Jamie!" Another young man jogged up, stopping short and doing a double-take when he caught sight of Blair. "Hey, isn't that Professor Sandburg?"
"Yeah, but he's Detective Sandburg now," Jamie corrected him.
"Wow! Hi, I'm Mark." The kid held out a hand and Blair shook it, still a bit shell-shocked from Jamie's revelations. "You're like a legend on campus, man. I'm only a Freshman, but I heard all about you. Jamie has your picture, like, all over her room."
"I do not!" The young woman turned bright red. "Just... on one wall," she finished in a mumble.
Blair finally found the strength to smile. "I'm flattered, really."
"Hey, listen, Prof- I mean, Detective," Mark grinned, "why don't you come over Friday night? There's a big party and I know everyone would be totally stoked to see you."
"I don't know," he hedged, still keeping an eye out for security. "I'm not exactly welcome here."
"By the PTB maybe," Jamie protested, her tone showing her disgust, "But the students stand by you, one-hundred percent. I'll bet you never planned to turn it in, did you?"
Blair thought about that. If he thought about it a certain way, what she was saying was true. He certainly hadn't planned to turn it in as-is. At the very least, he would have removed Jim's name, and at the very most, he'd have burned the whole damn thing and just gone with the closed society bullshit he'd been shoveling the whole time. "No," he told her quietly. "I wasn't going to turn it in."
"So, come to the party," Mark insisted. "Rainier misses you, man. Hell, I miss you and I never met you before! They've got this total dickwad teaching Anthro now and guess what? No wait list for the class like they had with you. In fact, it's only about half full. And of the people that took it? I heard that four dropped out already. If that doesn't tell the PTB something about you, I dunno what would!" He shrugged, then held out his hand again. "Well, anyway, nice to meet you. Hope to seeya Friday! Jamie, c'mon, we got class!"
Jamie glanced at her watch, eyes widening. "Oh, shit, yeah! Bye, Prof- I mean Detective Sandburg! Friday, 10-o'clock, Bilson House, don't be late!"
Blair waved as the two hurried off to class, then turned back to the fountain. He didn't feel quite so cold anymore. With a tiny smile, he made sure his gun was secure in its holser before he turned and headed back to his car. Jim would be waiting.