Title: -30-

Author/pseudonym: alyjude

Email: alyjude@webtv.net

Rating: PG (hey, it's better than G)

Pairing: J/B

Category: First time

Date: May 5, 2002

Series/sequel: Nope

Status: New, complete

Disclaimer:  I have abdicated my throne. I am now King. Of something. Maybe of lube and condoms. Yeah, that's it.

Warning: Yes. No redeemable value whatsoever. So there.

  Notes: Thank you to the great gang at TSL. They put up with this. I've made some changes, they gave me corrections and motivation. Thanks to

Greenie for the title idea! Thanks especially to Jael and most especially to TRICIA, O BETA DIVINE. ::aly waves at Melvin and Marilyn::


Summary: Blair faces the big 3-0 and decides to make changes. Jim isn't happy -- then he is.

  (Don't you hate cryptic summaries? Me too.)


 I left off a very BIG THANK YOU to Blankety for doing my archiving and to Michelle, who still puts up with me by hosting me at her website!!



by alyjude

Life altering events.

Blair Sandburg had experienced a hell of a lot of those in his twenty-nine years on this earth—and he hadn’t changed or altered his life after any of them. But now—oh, yeah, now it was time. The big 3-0 loomed on the horizon, only five days away, and it was time to re-evaluate his life. Make radical changes, shake up the pot.


BE DIFFERENT—or something.

Okay, so now that he was headed toward change, he needed to figure out what to change. And the best way to do that, was to figure out what absolutely could NOT change?

His life was so huge that the sheer number of items that he had to decide about overwhelmed him to the point that he immediately bounced up, grabbed a pad and a pen and started scribbling.

1.         His job


Nope. He couldn’t change that. Jim needed him and besides, he liked being a cop now. And Jim still needed him. The big jerk didn’t know that he still needed him, nor did anyone else, but hey, who was the expert here? Right, him, that’s who.

Blair knew that a sentinel needed grounding and that it came in the form of his back-up. The fact that said grounding was almost second nature now was probably responsible for why no one knew how much Jim needed Blair. Jim hadn’t zoned at home, or when Blair was around, in over a year. Of course, he’d zoned a few times with others, which was how Blair learned that Jim still needed him.   Zoning could be dangerous. Duh.

But when Jim zoned around Simon or Megan, it could be really dangerous.  If, for some reason Blair wasn’t around and Jim zoned with Simon, well, Simon panicked, pure and simple. Then he started yelling. Loudly. Well, of course he yelled loudly, that’s what yelling is, but Simon always upped the volume when zones were involved. As for Megan, well, she simply punched Jim, or elbowed him.

The only person Blair could trust with Jim in a zone was Joel. At least he wasn’t abusive with the poor sentinel. Joel simply rubbed small circles over Jim’s back.

What people forgot was what it was like for Jim—coming out of a zone.  When he finally returned to normalcy, or what passed for normal, whether it was minutes or—hours, it was like waking up after a coma, you know? It wasn’t exactly fun for Jim. But let him come to around anyone but Blair—and it was worse.

If he was with Simon, his ears would be ringing and he’d have a whopper of a headache but wouldn’t know why. If it happened with Megan, he was

usually bruised and confused and would give Megan weird looks for the rest of the day. If the zone happened around Joel, well, that really upset Jim because when he finally came out of it, he always felt all warm and cuddly and he really didn’t understand that at all. Then he’d say, “Sandburg, why is that when I zone with you, it’s over, done and no aftereffects, but with anyone else—“

Blair would always interrupt at that point and mention oh, so casually, “Hey, Jim, when was the last time you zoned around me?”

That usually shut Jim up.

So yeah. Couldn’t change the job.

Next item:

2.         Where he lived.


Nope, couldn’t change that. See number one above. Okay, while it was true that Jim didn’t zone at home, whether Blair was present or not, the fact was that the loft fairly reeked of Sandburg (with or without using the spray). Wherever Jim turned, there was leftover Sandburg. The scents of his tea or coffee or disgusting food, his bath products, his clothes (dirty or clean), his pens, papers, basically—him. And that was, oddly enough, sufficient to keep Jim grounded.

So yeah, Blair understood that changing where he lived was a no-no. Not that he minded. He didn’t. He liked his little room under the stairs and if he, in his most private moments, wished to be upstairs with Jim, well, that was between he, his hand and his dick.


3.         Hair.


OH YEAH. He could change that big time. Okay, first on the list—cut his hair. OFF. Cool. Besides, he was fast approaching thirty, so why the hell not?

4.            Transportation.


YES! This he could also change. After all, enough was enough. He was a big boy now and fuck the Volvo. So------------motorcycle.

Mmmm--------RIGHT ON, BROTHER!

Blair Sandburg, sleek, dangerous, riding a hog the way he’d like to ride---yes, well. Anyway.

Next on the list—sell the Volvo, buy a motorcycle.

5.            Clothes.

This one was hard. Layers were good, layers were warm, layers were fine.  But—times, they are a changin’. When a person couldn’t change jobs or homes, when they knew what the next fifteen years were going to be like -- Jim would probably retire at 55, and even though he’d always be a sentinel, he probably wouldn’t need Blair to the same extent.

Okay, so a person changed what they could. Especially when they were looking at the downside of their life. Hell, he’d be 45 when Jim retired. Unmarried, no kids and still living under Jim’s stairs. Wait, that was unfair. Jim might move someday. Maybe Blair’s room would get bigger? Cool. But still—

Right. So—hip. He’d ditch the layers and go cool, hip and thirty. There was no reason to hide anymore—no one looked anyway. And since his dick’s best friend was his hand—and his imagination—for at least the next fifteen years - - why the hell not?

Okay. He looked over his list and nodded. Not bad. And hell, no time like the present to get started. Of course, cutting his hair would take a few days—he needed to work his way up to that. But the car, the clothes, that could be started pronto.

Satisfied, Blair rose, put the pad away and whistling, grabbed his jacket, yelled, “Jim, I’m outta here for awhile!” and without waiting for the usual grunt, he left.


Jim lifted his head from the Sunday paper in time to see a whirl of flannel as Sandburg left. Just as the door closed, he said, “Right, gotcha. Have a good—“

Yes. Well. He’s gone. Wonder who the woman is? Jim straightened his paper, refolded the crease absently, then went back to reading as he sniffed and filled his senses with Blair.


Well. That was easy. One, two, buckle my shoe and the Volvo was sold, but not gone. Sammy would take possession Friday. Which was kind of—poetic. His birthday. Okay, so now—the bike.

Three hours later, the bike had been chosen, but not available until Saturday. No problem. He could rearrange with Sammy to take possession of the Volvo on Saturday, drop him off at the dealer, and voila, Blair Sandburg would drive away on a new Honda. And wasn’t the anniversary party for Simon on Saturday night?


So. On Saturday, the new improved Sandburg would make his appearance.  Which meant that he’d need to cut his hair (you can do this, he coached) before he picked up the bike. No problemo.

That left his wardrobe. But it was late and he was hungry. Wardrobe would take time anyway. With a satisfied smile, Blair headed home.


Over the next few days, Blair slowly divested himself of most of his clothes. The Salvation Army loved him. And of course, as he gave away, he purchased.

God, how he loved a regular paycheck. And a damn fine one at that.


His birthday came and went unnoticed. Not unusual. Most birthdays after his move to Cascade had gone unnoticed. Well, his mother had come to town for his twenty-first, but hell, he’d been drinking for the last five years, so it was hardly the milestone it was purported to be.  Of course, when he’d been a TA, his students usually had a ball with his birthdays. On his twenty-fifth, he found his desk littered with 25 shiny red apples. The class then stood and applauded, followed by the passing around of home-made brownies brought in by several female—and a couple of male—students.

On his twenty-eighth, his Anthro 101 class hired a stripper. Blair had spent two hours in the Chancellor’s office over that one.

Quite a few birthdays had been spent in foreign countries and had been commemorated by the lifting of a beer and saluting himself in a mirror, or perhaps, if someone on the expedition found out, he’d find himself swallowing a frosted—worm. Expedition humor was—cute.  Not.

Since joining Jim, well, birthdays weren’t top of the list for Detective Ellison. Although, Blair had always managed a little something for Jim around his great day. Rhonda kept a birthday list, but as Blair hadn’t been a cop, he’d never made it on said list. Now that he was—well, she hadn’t quite got around to adding him.

So—Friday was typical. The big 3-0 came and went. Blair saluted himself in the bathroom mirror with a cup of water, which he drank, swirled, then spit out along with toothpaste. Of course, later in the day, he did find an email from his mother. It was very chatty, but said nothing even remotely connected to: “Happy Birthday, sweetie! Thirty years ago today, I gave birth to you and I’ve never regretted it for one moment!” But hey, it was Naomi, after all.

At least it was an email.


Blair sat down in the chair and looked up at Dan, who said, “Weren’t you just here for a trim, Blair?”

“Yep. But today—take it off.”

Dan blinked, then blinked again. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope. I am thirty years old—plus one day. Take it off.”

Dan looked skeptical. “You want blinders?”

Smiling, Blair shook his head. “Nah. I’ll just remove these.” He slipped his glasses off and folded them. “There. I’m ready. Go to it, my man.”

“Okay, if you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.”

“Any idea of how short?”

“I leave the exact length to your good judgment, Dan. But short.”

One hour later, Dan spun him back around and said, “Okay, take a look, Blair. And don’t kill the scissor man. I just take orders.”

Blair donned his glasses and nearly fainted.


“Personally, Blair. I like it. A lot. Your hair is terrific, but I’ve always told you that. It’s naturally curly so I cut it to the wave. And may I say, you may be thirty—and a day, but now you look—“

“Fuck. I look seventeen.”


“Dan, that was not the idea.”

“Well, you could let it grow to say,” he put his hands at jaw level, “here. That would probably add a few years—“ his voice trailed off.

“It’s okay, Dan. I asked for it and got it, and to tell the truth, I do like it.”

He raked his fingers through the short, but thick mass and nodded. Yeah, it was cool. And maybe—it was time for an earring again. He might be thirty and a day, but he could be a cool thirty and a day.


Blair stared at the bike. And then stared some more. He sighed. He smiled. Then he grinned like a drunken fool.

Sammy had just left in the Volvo and Blair’s heartstrings had hardly zinged at all when the green bomb pulled away only to disappear into the sunset. Swinging his new black leather jacket from his shoulder, he slipped it on, then mounted the bike.

It had been awhile since he’d been on one, but as he’d learned before purchasing, you never forget how to ride a bike—any bike. He put on his helmet, glanced down at his new boots and grinned again. Blair gave a quick glance at his watch and the grin turned to a scowl. He was already thirty minutes late to the party at Hooligans. By the time he got there, he’d be almost an hour late. But hey, at least, he quickly patted his pocket and smiled, yeah, at least he had his gift for the man.

As he kick started the bike and felt the rumble of power between his legs, he grinned again. Seconds later he hit the street.

It only took him a few minutes to get the hang of it and in no time, he was flying. Blair almost wished he could take off his helmet, but while change in his life was good, being a vegetable for the rest of it wasn’t. He watched his speed, but still—he flew.

Maybe thirty wouldn’t be so bad after all.

And the next fifteen years? A piece of cake.


Jim sat back in the booth and huffed into his drink. Where the fuck was Sandburg? And what was with all the sudden weekend errands anyway? Hell, Jim had hardly seen him all week (if you didn’t count working with him for an average of fourteen hours a day). Simon slid in next to him and jostled him a bit, but Jim managed to save his beer.

“Hey, where’s Sandburg?”

“Like I know?”

Simon’s eyes widened. “Okay, who peed in your sandbox today, Ellison?”

Jim turned a bleary gaze on his captain and shrugged. “Maybe it’s the noise in here or something.”

“Right. The noise. Like you’re not spinning those knobs or whatever the hell Sandburg calls it?”

“Dialing down, Simon. Dialing down.”

“Whatever. You are, aren’t you? Dialed down, I mean.”

“Yeah, but still—“

Simon gave his friend a good going over with his best “In spite of my title, I’m still a detective” look and then nodded. “Yeah, but still—no Sandburg yet.”

“He’s over an hour late, Simon.”

Banks could have sworn Jim had just whined. But no, the man was almost forty—he didn’t whine.

“Yeah, he is. So did he say anything to you earlier today?”

“I never even saw him. He was up and gone by the time I went downstairs.”


Jim peered at Simon over the rim of his mug. “’Ah’? What exactly does that mean?”

“Mmm, it means—ah.”


Tired of the “ah” game, Jim set his beer down and said grumpily, “I’m going to the head.”

Simon let one eyebrow rise. “You do that, Jim.”

It took everything in him not to stick out his tongue. Instead, Jim ignored Simon, slid out and headed to the restrooms in the back of Hooligans.

“He’s in a bad mood, Captain.”

“No kidding, Conner.”

Megan patted Simon’s shoulder. “Well, don’t let the old fogey spoil your anniversary party, okay?”

“Like he could?”

Simon was receiving free drinks and all the food he could eat from Hooligans’ excellent buffet, thanks to having, on Friday, completed twenty years with the Cascade PD. Many took retirement after twenty and those who didn’t, well, most should have. Simon wasn’t one of them though. He’d long since decided (about the time he signed divorce papers) that he was a thirty year man.

He’d be in his late fifties when he finally retired and that suited him fine. And to be honest, though he’d never tell a soul, he had no intention of going any higher than where he was now. He enjoyed being Captain of Major Crime. Besides, Simon had a very special reason for remaining captain. Namely one very disgruntled detective with hyperactive senses.

Simon knew perfectly well that Jim dialed down his senses. He knew about piggybacking, zones, allergies, the whole magilla. But he also knew that if he appeared to take it lightly, Jim felt more secure and less like a freak. Thank God for a couple of late nights several months ago, nursing a drunk Sandburg who was worried about an injured Ellison. Amazing what a man learned from a sweet, worried, drunken kid.

Yep, Simon had learned way more than he’d ever wanted to learn about Jim, his dad, fears of being a freak, of being different, and about Sandburg and his theories. Theories that weren’t theories. Theories that were fact.

Simon had learned a great deal about Sandburg that night too. But it didn’t pay to think too much about what he’d learned. It had been too—painful. Hell, Simon was a detective, for Christ’s sake. How could he have missed all the signs? The way Sandburg talked a mile a minute.  The way he dressed, combined with his strange individualism. The way he could disappear in a room full of people. Simon had finally, after over three years, realized that Blair Sandburg was deeper than the Mariannas Trench. And there wasn’t a bitter bone in Sandburg’s body.

As Simon watched his people laugh, drink and party, he wondered about Jim and Blair. Both men had more in common than either realized, yet both had handled their challenges differently. Sometimes, in the days and weeks since those babysitting nights with Sandburg, Simon wondered if maybe, just maybe, Blair didn’t have the deeper wounds? If maybe—

“Simon, how ‘bout a dance?” Rhonda leaned down and grinned in his face.

She was well on her way to being thoroughly pie-eyed.

Figuring that he’d end up carrying her off the floor if they really tried to dance, he patted the seat next to him and said, “How ‘bout you sit with me for a few? I’m lonely.”

Nodding happily, she slid in. “I can do that. Shove it over, Conner.”

Megan, biting back a laugh, did as she was ordered, then gave Rhonda a smart salute. Rhonda giggled.

“Hey, Simon, it may be your anniversary, but you’re hogging all the ladies!”

“So join me, Henri.”

“Don’t think I won’t.” Henri pulled up a chair and sat down, then wiped his brow. “Boy, Alicia can really dance.”

All three at the booth stared at him. Finally Simon harrumphed and said, “Alicia isn’t dancing, H. She’s our waitress.”

“Maybe she’s not dancing to you, but to me an’ Rafe—that woman is dancing. I mean, have you seen that set of—“

“Trays?” Megan supplied helpfully.

“Um, yeah, ‘trays’.”

“Boy, she’s got a set all right,” Rafe added as he too sat down. “I could watch her all night with those—trays.”

Rhonda looked at Megan, who gazed back at her. Both rolled their eyes.

“Hey, where’s Sandburg, by the way?” Henri asked, looking around.

“Not here yet. And before you ask, Jim’s in the bathroom,” Simon provided.


Simon couldn’t help it. He laughed.


Blair pulled into the parking lot, negotiated the bike over to where a few others were parked, and after shutting down, he climbed off. He locked her up, then took off his helmet and gloves which he stuffed inside the helmet. Blair ran his fingers through his short hair and smiled. Not bad, really. Felt kinda good. Straightening his jacket and the blue shirt, he headed indoors.

Hooligans was packed, but then it was a Saturday night. Even this early, the place was going strong. Of course, many of the guests were police officers and detectives, there to celebrate with Simon.

Since bikers were welcomed at Hooligans, there was a special shelf for helmets and Blair stored his away, then started to make his way toward the sound of Henri Brown’s laugh. Which wasn’t easy. Bodies were everywhere and the dancing had spilled off the dance floor. But eventually, he was standing in front of the large table where Simon and the others were seated.

Rhonda was the first one to see him and she smiled, then batted her eyes at him. He dropped his jaw. Rhonda never flirted with him. Then she waved and poked Megan in the side and pointed to him. Megan glanced up, then she smiled broadly and cocked her head invitingly. Good God, she was flirting with him too! Then she narrowed her eyes, leaned forward and finally said loudly, “MY GOD, IT’S SANDY!”

Several heads turned to look and Rafe, looking right past him, said, “Where?”

Rhonda clamped her hand over her mouth and blinked. Then said, “MY GOD, IT’S BLAIR!”

This time it was Henri who said, “Where?”

Blair thought maybe turning thirty was actually physically telling and maybe it wasn’t so great after all. He can’t have aged that much in one day? Sighing heavily, he bent down and waved a hand in front of Rafe’s face. “Hello? Guess who?”

Rafe crossed his eyes, then uncrossed them. “Holy smokes. What the hell did you do to yourself?”

Blair rolled his eyes. Henri stood and tentatively reached out to touch Blair’s head. Blair jerked back and said, “Hey, man!”

“You cut your hair,” Henri said almost eerily.

“Well, yeah. Is that okay with you, Brown?”

Simon, who’d been listening and watching, his own mouth agape, finally found his voice. “Where’s the flannel, Sandburg?”

Blair looked at Simon, then at Rafe and Brown. “Geesh, what’s with you guys? Can’t a person get a hair cut? And so what if I’m not wearing flannel? What, now I suppose you want to know how many times I took a dump today? Three. And I flossed after every meal too.”

Then he scraped his fingers through his hair and said, “Man, I need a drink.” He shrugged out of his jacket and dropped it on the back of Henri’s chair and turned his back on the group to make his way to the bar.

Megan hissed and Rhonda gasped.

“My God, who knew?” Megan said in disbelief.

“Who knew what?” Henri asked.

“Who knew he was hiding that incredible ass under all those clothes,” Rhonda supplied helpfully, her eyes fixed on Blair’s rear.

“He’s got the cutest butt in the Cascade PD, and believe me, I know,” Megan said dreamily.

Simon held up a hand. “Ladies, if you don’t mind? I can skip the conversation regarding a butt belonging to one of my men.”

It took everyone a moment, but when Simon’s words finally sunk in—the table exploded with laughter.

Finally Megan was able to say, “Oh, sure, you guys can talk about ‘trays’ but Rhonda and I can’t talk about Blair’s—assets?” Then she turned to her gal pal and said conspiratorially, “Can you believe what layers of flannel can hide?”

Rhonda shook her head and grabbed Megan’s lapel. “YOU KISSED HIM! YOU ACTUALLY KISSED HIM!”

Megan scoffed. “Yeah, but at the time, it was like kissing my brother and we were on a case.”

“I don’t think it would be like kissing my brother, Megan.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ll just head on over there and give it another try, okay? Then I’ll report back to you.”

“Oh, I don’t think so, girlfriend, I think it’s my turn.”

Before either woman could move, Jim returned. “Hey, Sandburg get here yet?”

Five people said, “Oh, yeah.”


Blair made his way through the crowd to the bar, his mind reeling from his friends reactions to his hair cut. Jeez, it was just a fucking hair cut. When he arrived at the long brass counter, Blair managed to lean in between two people and by yelling, got the bartenders attention.

“Beer with a tequila shot!”

The guy ambled over to him and smiled disarmingly, then said, “Driver’s license, please, kid.”

Blair was stunned. Flabbergasted. Shocked out of his skull.

“Excuse me?”

“He’s here? Where?” Jim said as he looked around.

“Oh, he’s headed for the bar. And Jim—“ Simon stopped. Jim was already gone.

“Well, damn.”


Jim made his way through the same crowd Blair had negotiated only minutes earlier. He still couldn’t see him, but he could hear him. Jim paused and smiled, then his smile froze—

//Excuse me?//

//Your drivers license, kid. We card in this joint and we don’t serve

minors. Now either pull it out or order a coke.//

//This is ridiculous. I haven’t been carded for—like—years. I’m

fucking thirty years old, man!//

//So you want a coke, right?//

Jim heard Blair’s sigh then the sound of fumbling which told Jim that the kid was getting out his wallet.

//There, does that satisfy you?//

//Well, I’ll be damned. You are thirty—and your birthday was

yesterday. Well happy birthday, Mr.—um, Sandburg.//

//Yeah, yeah - now how ‘bout that drink?//

//Hey, is that a PD ID?//

//Yes. Detective, Major Crime.//

//So this shindig is for you? They celebrating your thirtieth?//

//Hardly. It’s a kind of anniversary party for our Captain. And that drink?//

Jim stopped listening. He couldn’t move. Blair’s birthday had been yesterday. FUCK. He headed back to the table, pushing and shoving, eager to beat his buddy.

“Hey, where’s Sandburg? Didn’t you spot him?”

“I spotted him, Rafe. Simon, we’ve got to do something. Yesterday was—Blair’s—thirtieth.”

Simon quickly sat forward. “What? You’re shitting me? How could we not know? And his thirtieth? No way!”

“Way. We’ve got to do something, Simon.”

Everyone immediately looked at Rhonda, who blushed. “I guess I forgot to add him to the birthday list—I’m sorry Jim!”

“Hey, fine, so it’s fixed now and next year, great. But his birthday was yesterday,” Jim said, exasperated.

Megan snapped her fingers. “Look, Emilio’s is two doors down and they

don’t close for another hour. We can get a cake there—“

“Yeah,” Rhonda jumped in, “And there’s that little flower shop at the end of the block, we could get him a great arrangement, with black balloons and everything! They’re still open too!”

Simon looked around at his people. “Okay folks, let’s get our money on the table.” As bills were slapped down, he added, “Okay, who’s gonna tackle the bakery?”

No one moved. He looked at Megan.

“Oh sure. The ladies have to do it.” Then she turned to Rhonda who immediately nodded.

“Yeah, I’ll take the florist shop. And actually, it makes sense, us doing this. Women can do it all, you know? Shoot up the bad guys, type 80 words per minute, keep Simon’s schedule organized and take care of a cake and some flowers. We be the best.”

She and Megan high-fived, then gathered up the money.

“Okay, keep him busy, we’ll be back as quickly as possible,” Megan ordered.

A little booth shuffling was needed, but finally the two women were up and moving out. Once they were gone, Jim sank thankfully into Megan’s spot.

“I can’t believe you didn’t know, Jim. You live with the guy.”

“You think I’m not saying the same thing to myself, Simon? And this isn’t just a birthday, it’s the big 3-0. I’m kicking myself here.”

There was a thud, then Jim yelped. “Hey! That hurt!”

“Just thought as long as you were kicking yourself, I’d add my own. And we all should have known.” Then Simon grew serious as he added, “You know, there hasn’t been a single birthday of any of ours that he didn’t have the perfect gift. And last year, it was Blair who remembered Megan’s and got it on the list. But in three years, his has never been there. What the fuck does that say about us?”

No one could say a word in response. But Jim couldn’t help but wonder what it said about him. Blair had been a part of his life for better than three years and yet, he couldn’t remember a single birthday that he’d celebrated for Blair. He thought about Naomi and prayed that she’d done something.


“Yeah, Simon?”

“Listen, when he gets here, well, we razzed him a bit about—well, about how he looks. So maybe if you pretended that you didn’t notice anything?”

Eyes widening in alarm, Jim said, “What the hell do you mean? His looks?”

“Didn’t you see him at the bar?”

Jim shook his head, suddenly feeling numb. “No, I heard him.”

“Uh-oh. Well—see—he, um—“

“He cut his hair, Jim,” Rafe supplied helpfully.

“And he’s dressed different too, Jim. It’s weird. No flannel, no layers,” Henri added.

Jim’s eyes immediately went out to the crowd but he couldn’t see Blair yet. Maybe he’d decided to have his first drink at the bar—

“Hey, somebody scoot over,” Blair said.

Jim blinked. Looked up. And started choking.

“Hey, Simon, do something, Jim’s choking!” Blair said, as he quickly set his beer down.

Simon started hitting Jim on the back as Henri moved and let Blair slide in.

“Jim, man, you okay,” Blair said as he leaned over, concern written all over his face.

Waving his hands and trying to push Simon away, Jim said, “I’m fine,” he coughed, “just stop hitting me, Simon!”

“Sorry, but you were cho—“

“I’m fine, just dandy and Sandburg, what the hell did you do to yourself?”

“Oh, swell, not you too. It’s a fucking hair cut, okay?” He made little motions with his fingers, mimicking scissors. “You go to a barber shop and they cut your hair, you know?”

“Right, right, a hair cut. But you weren’t going to do that, remember?

You went through the entire academy with long hair. Why now?”

Blair took a swig of his beer and looking out over the crowd, he said nonchalantly, “Oh, just felt like it. Needed a change, you know?”

“Oh. A change. Sure. I get it. A change.” Jim turned to Simon. “He needed a—“

“Change,” Simon finished Jim’s sentence.

“Hey, where are the ladies?”

“Oh. The ladies. Right. Um, where are they again, Simon?” Jim played dumb and threw the ball at his captain.

“Um, yeah, where are they, Rafe?” Simon was a damn fine ballplayer himself and as a captain, well, delegation was mandatory.

Rafe scratched the back of his head and said, “Henri?”

“Simon?” Henri always loved throwing balls back at his captain. That’s what captains were for, right?

“Little girls room.”

“Right,” Jim jumped in. “Powdering their noses.” Blair took his eyes from the crowd and arched an eyebrow. Everyone looked away.

“So, Sandburg, you were late. What happened, besides the obvious,” Jim motioned to Blair’s hair.

“Oh, just had some—errands to do, that’s all. Sorry about being late, Simon. And by the way, congratulations on twenty years.” Then Blair reached for his jacket, fumbled in the pocket and took out a gift. “Here you go, sir.”

Simon took it, surprise evident on his face. “Sandburg, you didn’t have to—“

“It’s just a little something from Jim and I. No biggie. And Daryl helped.”

Slowly Simon tore at the wrappings. When the paper was gone, he was left with a black box about the size and shape of watch box. He opened the

lid and gasped.  “How—“

“Like I said, Daryl helped. I was trying to figure out the best way to commemorate twenty years, and we got to talking and he remembered you had that in a box of stuff. Jim and I simply had it mounted.”

Carefully, Simon lifted the item from the box and held it up. It was his original badge, denoting his status as an officer of the law, only now it was mounted in a shadow box case and below it, a small gold plate on which the words, Officer-Detective-Captain in only twenty were engraved, followed by his name.

“Jim, Sandburg, I don’t know what to say. Except—thank you. Thank you very much.”

Blair shrugged, then winked at Jim.

“Hey, look who’s back from the restroom,” Rafe said, warning in his voice.

Megan slid in next to Blair, just beating out Rhonda, who with a pout, slid in next to Jim.

“So, mission accomplished, ladies?” Simon asked innocently.

“Yes, sir.”

“Very good.”

Henri reached over and took Blair’s gift from Simon and held it up.

“Check this out, guys. Jim and Blair gave this to Simon.”

Megan and Rhonda both whistled. “Very cool, sir,”

Rhonda said, as she admired the badge and the gold plate. “I agree, this is wonderful. Good job!”

Jim shot a dagger look at Blair, who just grinned.

At that moment, the music stopped and the DJ stood, took a microphone and addressed the crowd.

“All right, ladies and gents, it’s Texas line dancing time! All you shit kickers out there, now’s the time to strut your stuff.” He pointed to a spot on the dance floor and said, “The line forms here, so come on!”

Megan immediately jumped up, reached down and grabbed Blair’s hand, then said, “Come on, Sandy, let’s show them how it’s done.”

Laughing, he slid out and stood. ”All right, all right, I’m up for it if you are.”

Grinning, she tugged at him, saying, “You bet I am. Let’s go, partner.”

As the two walked onto the dance floor, both missed the look that crossed Jim’s face. And the way he slid down in his seat.

Simon looked from Jim to Megan and Blair, then back to Jim.

Uh-oh. Rough seas ahead, he thought.