The shopper perused the glass case, eyes raking over the colorful contents. The clerk followed patiently, discernable shoppers a delight. Finally, "That one, two please, and two of those, and one dozen of those, and two of these, one in pink, one in purple."
The clerk took each indicated item as targeted, dropped it into the lovely shoppers basket hanging from his arm and mentally calculated the ongoing amount. The more items dropped into the basket, the wider his smile.
They were done, the basket full. As he wrapped and packaged, he asked, "For your children?"
The shopper gave a Mona Lisa smile and said, "You could say that."
(*> (*> (*>
Detective James Ellison stalked into the bullpen, lips clamped shut, eyes looking neither right nor left, body tighter than a spring. Detectives with years of experience in Major Crime cringed and newer detectives were quickly told to shut up and mind their own business.
Ellison reached his desk, yanked off his jacket, threw it carelessly across the back of his chair and with a snarl, dropped into his seat - and froze.
In the middle of his desk sat a small, clear plastic bag, and inside; one dozen, colorful foil wrapped Godiva Easter Eggs.
The bag was tied at the top with a shiny yellow foil ribbon and attached to the ribbon was a small card. Puzzled, Jim reached for the note and read:
Hi? HI? Just - hi?
His surly expression slowly melted as fingers untied the ribbon, reached inside and plucked out one egg. Languidly, he unwrapped the foil, following each crease, careful not to tear, and when the chocolate morsel was finally revealed, he plopped it into his mouth.
Better than - sex.
Well, better than the sex he'd been having lately - as in - none.
He let the egg roll around in his mouth, the velvety sweetness melting, coating his tongue and his eyes blissfully closed.
And immediately popped open but not even the slightly disheveled appearance of his partner could jostle him from his chocolatey wet dream.
He smiled benignly, looked up at Sandburg and purred through the chocolate, "Morning."
Sandburg's eyes rested on the bag of eggs and one eyebrow rose in question. Jim just shrugged and kept right on sucking.
Blair sat down at his desk, pointedly ignoring the man and his chocolate. He'd had a miserable night helping a friend move, getting a flat tire in the rented moving truck, then spending the night in said truck. He hadn't had a chance to shower or change and he felt icky and Jim's current state of euphoria was depressing.
Flipping a folder over to Jim, he said, "Here's the Anderson file you wanted. I'm going downstairs and taking a shower."
Jim was about to dip into his stash and snick another egg when the folder landed with a quiet whoosh. He glanced up in surprise and Blair correctly read the question.
"Jim, I've been here for over an hour. You said you needed this folder first thing. Well, here it is. And you owe me big. It was buried deep."
With that, he stood and walked out.
Jim stared after him.
Since when didn't Sandburg shower after a night of sexual action?
Ellison's gloomy gus persona reasserted itself as he was reminded of the cause for the sour mood to begin with, namely, an absent Blair Sandburg the night before.
He cursed rules, he cursed bargains - then he ate two more eggs.
(*> (*> (*>
At 8:15, Simon Banks walked through the squadroom, whistling, one of his patented, I got lucky or I had cheesecake smiles plastered on his face. He nodded here, gave a cheery greeting there, inquired after a sick three year old over there and after plucking his favorite danish from the cart, walked happily into his office.
As Jim watched the happy man, he thought about shooting him, but decided that shooting one's boss was poor etiquette so he had another egg instead.
Simon shut the door behind him, turned on his coffee machine, took off his coat, hung it carefully on the coat tree in the corner, sat down and picked up the file on his desk.
Another case solved and closed, thanks to the wonder team of Ellison~Sandburg. They'd cracked a huge case, garnering great publicity for the department and adding one more, I told you so to the Commissioner's evergrowing collection.
It had been an uphill battle to get Sandburg accepted on the team, but with every case, the naysayers dwindled.
His phone buzzed and Rhonda's voice reminded, "Simon, don't forget your nine o'clock."
Unruffled, he glanced at his watch, noted that he had over thirty minutes and continued to munch on his danish, pour his now ready coffee and enjoy.
Nine o'clock? What nine o'clock?
With a stirring of unease, he took his Franklin and flipped through to today's date: April 10, 2000.
His blood ran cold.
April 10th. Five days before April 15th. And no, the worry had nothing to do with tax day. He already had his refund.
Michael Binks. That was the problem. His stomach curled, the danish doing flip-flops.
Double shit, double fuck, double crap.
An appointment made a year ago. My, how time flies.
Then he smiled. A wicked smile, because he remembered. He wasn't in this alone. Oh, no, Detective James Ellison was in this with him. If he was going down, Jim was going with him. He took another sip of his coffee, took another bite of danish and smiled.
Twenty-five minutes later, Rhonda announced that a Michael Binks was here for his nine o'clock appointment.
"Rhonda, tell Ellison to get his butt in here and then give me five minutes with him before you bring in Mr. Binks."
//You got it, Simon//
She was smirking. He could definitely hear her smirk. Well, payback was a bitch.
A knock announced his best detective and with a diabetically sweet, "Come in", Jim opened the door and stepped inside.
"Sir, you wanted to see me?"
Simon smiled at his man, noted with approval the light green shirt and black slacks, also noted a hint of - chocolate? Around his lips? He got up and walked around to the front of his desk and said, "Jim, do you remember what month this is?"
"Uh, April?" Jim asked warily.
"April, yes. And do you remember what the 23rd is?"
"Um, would that be the 23rd, sir?"
"Yes, it would. Sunday, April 23rd, Easter. And how about this Saturday?"
"Sir, do I win anything for these answers?"
"As a matter of fact, you do." Simon perched on the edge of his desk and crossed his arms.
"Michael Binks, Jim."
Michael Binks. Nope. Bupkis.
Simon leaned forward and said, "The - Annual - Cascade - Easter - Egg - Hunt."
"Uh, Simon, I, you, we....."
"Are committed, Jim. Our word is our bond, remember? We promised. And he's - here. Today. Now."
Double shit, double fuck, double crap.
Life is short - and then you die. This Saturday.
Rhonda poked her head in and said, "Simon, Mr. Binks is here."
Simon immediately morphed into Mr. Congeniality, as he stood, rushed the door, swung it open and ushered in a man in his late thirties.
Michael Binks was almost six feet, with black hair that curled around his ears. In his arms, he carried two large boxes. Jim moved to take one and both were quickly set down on the conference table. After straightening his tie, Michael Binks faced Simon, his bright green eyes alight.
"Captain Banks, it's so good to see you again. And Detective Ellison."
The three men shook hands and Simon pulled out a chair for his guest.
As Binks sat down he said, "I want to extend my gratitude to you gentlemen. You can't begin to understand what a delight it's been to plan the annual Easter Egg hunt knowing that I don't have to worry about the two most important elements of the whole event. My entire staff is extremely grateful to you both. Volunteering last year, to take over this year was admirable, to say the least."
Simon smiled, saying, "It's our pleasure, Michael. Isn't it, Jim?" He asked innocently.
Caught by surprise, Jim said, with great aplomb and sincerity, "Yes."
"Well, this is wonderful, gentlemen. I know how busy you are, protecting the city, and to give up a precious Saturday for the children of Cascade, well, I'm overcome. Trust me, the Mayor will not soon forget this."
Binks turned his attention to the boxes, fingers getting ready to open them, but he stopped, glanced back at Simon and his expression turned to one of horror.
"Dear God. This is terrible."
Simon looked at Jim. Jim looked at Simon.
"Michael?" Simon inquired.
"I'd forgotten. Please, Detective Ellison, could you stand up again?"
With a worried look directed at Simon, Jim stood.
"Oh, dear me, this is dreadful. Captain Banks? Could you stand as well?"
Simon joined Jim.
"You're both too big. Just - too - big. Not only will the costumes never fit, but a 6'5 Easter Bunny will scare the children to death! Oh, this will never do, never."
He walked around behind Simon, his head shaking helplessly. "And you could never wear the yellow one."
He moved to Jim and clucked. "Maybe the pink one," he mused, "But no, your shoulders are too broad, it's long enough, but you'd rip out the back. And definitely not the yellow one."
Simon looked at Jim. Jim looked at Simon. Both men smiled, smiles that could rival the angels above.
"Oh, dear, Michael. This is devastating news. But perhaps, other officers?" Simon offered, sincerity fairly dripping from his mouth. As Simon spoke, Jim looked out the window and spotted Rafe.
"Um, er, Captain? How about Rafe? For the pink one? He's only slightly shorter than me, and his shoulders are smaller?"
Michael followed Simon and Jim's gaze and as he spotted Rafe, at the coffee center, his eyes lit up. "He's perfect, Captain Banks. Just perfect."
Trying to hide his delight, Simon walked to the door, opened it, and said softly, "Oh, Rafe? Could you give me a minute?"
The younger detective looked askance. Simon was too nice. This was bad.
"Yes, sir, of course sir."
Simon welcomed his detective and introduced him. "Rafe, this is Michael Binks, assistant to Mayor Crawley. He's in charge of the Annual Easter Egg Hunt. Michael, this is Detective Brian Rafe. And I'm certain he's available this Saturday. He is quite committed to the children of Cascade."
Rafe's heart sank. Easter Egg Hunt. The Cascade Bunny. Shit. Fuck and double fuck.
Michael immeditely opened one of the boxes and pulled out a pale pink bunny costume with the requisite long, furry ears, large pink feet, and of course, the white cottontail. He held it up to Rafe and smiled hugely.
"Oh, yes, a perfect fit. Detective Rafe, you are to be commended. The children of Cascade will not be disappointed this Easter."
Rafe looked helplessly at his Captain as the pink thing was draped over his arm and seeing the smirk, he surrendered. Damn.
"But gentlemen, that still leaves the yellow one. And it's much smaller. I find it hard to believe you have another officer....."
In complete and total unison, all three men said, "SANDBURG". Jim actually cackled.
Michael looked from one to the other and said, "Sandburg?"
"Detective Blair Sandburg. Jim's partner. He'd be perfect." Simon offered sweetly.
At that moment, the patsy walked into the squadroom, freshly showered and changed.
"There he is," Rafe helpfully pointed out.
Binks craned his neck, trying to look around Detective Ellison and his eyes widened. "Oh, yes, he's absolutely perfect." But then his face fell. "But, Sandburg? Perhaps, I mean, this is a religious holiday, Captain. Detective Sandburg may have - reservations? He is perhaps, of the hebrew faith?"
Jim smiled mischieviously and said, "Oh, don't worry about him, Michael. Sandburg's a little bit of everything. Jewish, Buddhist, a bit Wiccan, a bit pagan, heck, I'm betting there's even some druid in there. Maybe even a dash of new age Christianity thrown in for good measure," he turned to Simon and said, "I guess you could call his religion - Sandburgian, right, Simon?"
"Oh, absolutely. Let me get him in here, introduce you two."
Much like the Roman's of yore, the Roman Captain invited the innocent and unsuspecting Christian/Wiccan/Jew/Druid/Pagan into the lion's den.
(*> (*> (*>
All Sandburg had to see was the smile on Simon's face to know he was stepping into the proverbial spider's web. God, he hated that smile.
Fuck. Jim was smiling too. And it was Blair's least favorite. It was Jim's, Tag - you're it smile.
Sandburg didn't need his 300+ I.Q. to know he was in deep do-do.
"Captain?", he said, while giving Simon his best who me? look. He thought briefly of batting his eyelashes, but the Bandini was already hip deep.
"Ah, Sandburg, you're just the man we need."
As Simon spoke, he dropped his arm across
Blair's shoulders and guided him over to the conference table. "I don't believe you've met Michael Binks, Assistant to the Mayor?"
Blair stuck out his hand and as they shook, Binks said, "Detective Sandburg, thank you so much. You don't realize what this will mean to the success of Saturday's event."
Blair smiled winningly and responded with one of his patented brilliant comments.
Binks grinned happily, saying, as if everyone knew exactly what he was talking about, "Of course, the Cascade Easter Bunny is important, but between you and me, it's the Easter Baby Chick that really makes the event. The bunny stands in one place and hands out the baskets, but our Baby Chick runs all over the place, helping the children find the eggs. He's really the star."
Binks opened the other, larger box, his face a mixture of reverance and joy. He carefully folded back the tissue to reveal a giant - yellow - furball.
He indicated the pink thing that was draped over Rafe's arm and said, "Now, the Cascade Easter Bunny costume is all in one piece, as you can see. Detective Rafe simply steps into it, pulls it up, including the hood with the ears, and he's done."
Rafe gulped and looked slightly sick, but Binks, unaware, rolled on.
"Our Baby Chick costume, however, comes in four parts and I must say, it's a masterpiece of costume engineering. First," he pulled out a pair of bright yellow longjohns, "There is the yellow body suit, made of lycra," he grinned and added, "Just like Superman's."
He handed the longjohns to a slightly green Sandburg and said, "Then the actual body of the chick." He unrolled the furball, fluffed it up and out and said, proudly, "You just step into it, pull it up and it kinda poofs out. And see, it even has little chicky wings. As for the hood, well, you just slip it on."
He handed the fur ball to a very green Sandburg then reached into the apparently bottomless pit of a box and with a triumphant wave, produced the beak.
"Now make sure you put the beak on before you pull up the hood, see?
The elastic just slips over your head and you drop it down....."
No one moved an inch as the garish proboscis was placed on Sandburg's pug nose.....
"......over your face and adjust it over your nose," he settled the monstrosity and finished with, "like this and there you have it. Our Easter Baby Chick."
Blair stood there, orange beak covering half his face, arms hanging limply at his side, resolutely refusing to look at Jim, while at the same time - planning a mass murder. Martydom was fine, but Blair had every intention of taking several people with him.
"Good God, how could I have forgotten?" Binks exclaimed in horror as he went back to the box and pulled out the last item, which he presented to Sandburg the way Queen Elizabeth must have presented Elton John with his knighthood.
Sandburg wondered briefly why detectives didn't have silencers while also contemplating including Binks in his murder plot. After all, three bodies or four, what's the diff?
As he took the feet, he gazed at the Mayor's Assistant and caught the glimmer of almost immediately surpressed humor. Blair's eyes narrowed with suspicion. He pulled the beak up and rested it atop his head, saying, "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
Michael's whole demeanor changed as he realized he'd been discovered. With a shameful grin, he said,"*I* was the Baby Chick two years in a row."
Blair smiled, looked over at Rafe and said, "At least I don't have to wear a cottontail."
Rafe, getting into it now, said, "But I don't have to wear a beak."
"Oh, but Rafe, I look great in yellow, whereas you suck in pink."
"But I don't have to move all day, whereas...."
"GENTELMEN?" Simon bellowed, "Enough!"
It was obvious to both Jim and Simon that the other three men were having way too much fun. It was time to put things back into perspective.
"I realize that chasing after a horde of five year olds in a hot, sweaty costume, up and down the green hills of the Mayor's front lawn is not in the job description of a Major Crime Detective. I also realize that you will be doing this from approximately nine in the morning until......," one eyebrow rose as he faced Michael, who answered, "until one pm."
"Yes, one pm. And that following the hunt, you will be called upon to stand at the buffet tables while the five year olds and their parents eat lunch. But trust me gentlemen, this is a grave responsibility, one that I and the Mayor take very seriously."
Simon had watched in delight as the future Cascade Easter Bunny and Baby Chick wilted before his eyes. But he hadn't counted on the resourcefulness of one, Blair Sandburg, Easter Baby Chick.
"But Michael, I can call you Michael, can't I?" At the Assistant to the Mayor's nod, Blair continued.
"I vaguely remember seeing pictures of the event from last year, and it seems to me, well, wasn't there a need for security and weren't they members of the Cascade P.D. and didn't they dress up in waiter outfits, but with rabbit ears and bunny tails?" At Michael's nod, he continued, "Now, I'm just thinking off the top of my head here, but it seems to me.....," he didn't have to finish. Michael Binks was one quick cookie.
"Oh, of course!" He nodded sagely and continued, "Captain? Detective Ellison? I can count on you for this detail, yes? And perhaps one or two others?"
Waiters uniforms? Rabbit ears? Bunny Tails?
Shit. Fuck. Crap.
The two men, hoisted by their own petards, looked at each other helplessly.
Curses, foiled again. And by an Easter Baby Chick.
Later, that same day:
Blair sat alone in the booth, waiting for Jim to return from the bathroom.
They'd already ordered, had their usual fight over whether Jim could have the Slobbering Bruno Burger with everything and where did Blair come off as Jim's mother and diet ghuru, not to mention their typical, *who should sit on the inside of the booth and who should sit on the outside and no, neither one could have just one beer because there were criminals out there just waiting to be caught and arrested by the team of Ellison/Sandburg. Then Jim had excused himself to wash his hands, leaving Blair alone, playing with his fork and musing.
Blair Sandburg was a healthy, relatively good- looking young man. He loved men, he loved women. He was in love with his partner. A partner who loved rules and bargains.
His mind flashed back three years......
Three years ago.....
"Look, Chief, it's been over a week and you're still here and I like it that way."
"It's been six months, but who's counting?"
"Yeah, well, anyway, it's time we had the talk."
"The talk, Jim?"
They were sitting at the kitchen table, scarfing down spaghetti with turkey meatballs. Jim took a sip of wine and said, "Yeah, the talk. Sex talk."
A turkeyball whooshed from Blair's mouth, shot across the table and went splat against Jim's chest. He handled it well. He plucked it off and ate it.
"Jim, I know I don't pay rent, but you need to remember, you're a cop.
And I don't do that."
"Actually, Chief, you do. All the time and far to frequently if you ask me....."
"...which I don't."
"Right, which you don't. And the sex talk I'm referring to is this; You like men, I like men. We're men. Men living together. Working together. The twain shall not meet. Capice?"
"Would that be the tu-tu twain, Jim?"
"No, wiseass, that would be the Jim/Blair twain. Got it?"
Blair nodded, doing a masterful job of hiding his smirk behind his wine glass.
"Uh, Jim? I have something to add to this scintillating conversation. You are the subject of my dissertation. I could never fuck you. No matter how much you beg. And Jim? You will beg. Capice?"
Jim Ellison was a cop. A Sentinel. An ex-Ranger and a stand up guy. He put a turkeyball in his spoon and let fly. It hit Blair square in the forehead, ran down his nose and landed on his plate.
"Jim, has it really been only six months?"
Back to the present and lunch at Dan's Hamburger Emporium:
Yep, he hated rules and Jim had never begged. Not once. Hell, he hadn't even shown an interest. And Blair thought he was one cute permanent and official partner.
Jim slid in beside him, rewarded him with a smile and said, "So, anything exciting happen while I was gone?"
"Did you flush?"
"Yes, mom. Washed my hands too."
"Good, good. And about this Saturday. Did I tell you about the appointment I have with President Clinton? I'm gonna have to pass on the Baby Chick schtick."
The waiter arrived with their lunch so Jim was unable to immediately respond. The delectable mound of fried onions on his plate, not to mention the Rueben sandwich, beckoned. He took a big bite, chewed and regarded his partner who was picking the sprouts from his three cheese, avocado, tomatoe, tuna and egg salad sandwich.
Jim swallowed, then inquired, "And the President wants you why?"
"You know, Jim, that's exactly what I keep saying. But there's no explaining the man's taste. But he is the President and he does come before the Easter Egg hunt. I gotta tell ya, man, I'm devastated."
"Oh, yeah, I can see that, and Sandburg? You're going to be a Baby Chick this Saturday, whether you like it or not. Get over it."
"But Jiiim, Hilary asked too......"
(*> (*> (*>
Arriving back at the station, Blair was surprised to find a gold box sitting in the middle of his desk. He glanced back at Jim who was looking at the box as if it were a bomb. Blair sat down and slowly picked up the gift. He untied the ribbon as Jim watched, then lifted the lid.
Nestled inside were two gold foil wrapped Easter chickens. Each had a blue ribbon around it's neck and blue eyes. On the foil it said, "Godiva - milk chocolate/chocolate au lait" and attached, a note. Blair flipped it around and read:
"Uh, Jim? Is this a joke?"
Jim went to his desk and took out the note from his morning baggie of eggs and handed it to Blair.
"Something's up, Chief."
Blair gazed from one note to the other, then back again.
"It's the same writing. Or should I say - printing."
"So it is. My, but you're becoming quite the detective."
"Fuck you, Ellison."
"Nope, against the rules."
"Thank god. Now, are we going to try to solve this chocolate mystery, or stand around gabbing?"
"I like chocolate, Chief. Why should I try to figure this out?"
"So you're saying we should just go with the flow?"
"Or the chocolate, as the case may be. And did you call the President and tell him you wouldn't be coming?"
An eraser thunked against his chest.
(*> (*> (*>
The next four mornings resulted in more bits of chocolate being deposited on one of the two detectives desks.
· On Tuesday, it was a duplicate of what had been left for Blair the day before and the note said, "Hi again".
· On Wednesday, it was one dozen chocolate eggs for Blair, just like Jim had received and the note this time said, "Got it yet?"
· On Thursday morning, Jim received a handpainted foil wrapped Godiva Easter Bunny with a small, pink straw hat slipped on over it's ears. The note said, "The Game's a foot".
Later that afternoon, when the two men came back from a grueling day in court where they'd been forced to play endless games of hang-man and rock/scissors/paper, another bunny sat on Blair's desk, this one with a purple straw hat. The note said, "And you two call yourselves detectives?"
As Blair bit off the chocolate ears and munched contentedly, Jim stalked. The other detectives watched, all delighting in the chocolate mystery but now certain Mount Vesuvius was about to blow. No one noticed that Blair was no longer in the least bit bothered.
"Who is doing this? And what the fuck does it mean? And damn, did you notice? I have a zit on my chin."
"You've been eating too much chocolate, Jim.
Try cottage cheese."
Jim froze in his tracks.
"You know, Sandburg, sometimes I really hate you."
Blair snorted. Then bit off the chocolate tail.
(*> (*> (*>
They rode up in the elevator, both silent. Blair stared at the ceiling, Jim stared at the floor.
Blair was pretty certain what would be on their desks this morning and he'd been trying to decide if he should share his conclusions with Jim, but rules were rules and the twain would never meet. Toot-Toot.
The door slid open and they stepped out. Jim paused as they both noticed the crowd around their desks.
"Uh, oh. More gifts?"
"Sandburg, in this relationship, I'm Sherlock, you're Watson.
"Which one of us is Captain Kirk?"
"I don't know, but you're definitely Scully."
"I accept that. She's cool. Smart, savvy, leaves Mulder in the dust more times than not. A lot like us. Jim Ellison, the clueless wonder Sentinel and his faithful, intelligent, handsome, charming, years ahead of his time Guide, Blair Sandburg."
"You've been out of the home way too long, Sandburg. Way too long. I'm taking you back right after the Easter Egg Hunt. They'll give you milk and cookies and lots and lots of Thorazine."
"Can I watch the Twilight Zone marathon?"
"Yep, and the Incredible Hulk marathon too."
"Oh, goody. But perhaps you should take me back tonight? The natives are getting restless and I must lead the revolt against Nurse Ratchett."
"Sandburg, you will be the Baby Chick."
"Go. Time to see what's so interesting on our desks. The gaggle of geese are looking ansty."
They walked through the squad room doors and the gaggle parted as detectives stepped back, allowing Sandburg and Ellison their first glimpse.
A huge, cellophane wrapped Easter Basket sat in the middle of each desk. Blair grinned. He loved being right. He snuck a quick look at his partner and grinned even wider. Jim's eyes were round and ready to take off into outer space. He watched as Jim started to open his basket, to carefully fold down the pink cellophane to disclose the scrumptious tidbits inside.
Two huge solid chocolate bunny rabbits took center grass. They were facing each other, nose to nose, one slightly taller than the other. Scattered around them were several small chocolate Easter eggs, a gift certificate to Tortilla Flats Restaurant, two tickets to the movies and another card. Jim lifted it out and read:
"Figure it out yet?"
Rafe leaned over and said, "What's with you two anyway? You both dating twins? Twins with a warped sense of humor?"
"Bite me, Rafe. And how's the bunny suit fitting these days?"
"About as well as your bunny ears and white tail, Ellison."
Jim made a dismissive gesture with his hand, growled and the minions scattered.
Once they were left alone, Jim turned to Blair, eyed his basket, as yet unwrapped and said, "You're not going to open it? Read the card?"
Once again Blair warred with himself on whether to tell Jim his suspicions. A final volley by the mental opposition left him flat on his back with his bags packed and Jim standing over him yelling, "THE TWAIN SHALL NOT MEET. GO FIND YOURSELF ANOTHER STATION!"
Blair decided discreation was indeed the better part of valor and tore into his basket instead.
He found tthe same two rabbits, nose to nose, one slightly shorter than the other, both with blue eyes. The same eggs were scattered about, but his had no gift certificates, no passes, just chocolate.
His card was laying under one of the rabbits and tucked into an envelope. He pulled it out and read:
"Personally, I always thought Watson
was smarter than Holmes."
Blair ducked his head down in order to hide the grin, letting his hair smother his expression.
"Well? What does it say?"
"Same as yours, Jim," he obfuscated.
Ellison fingered the gift certificate and said, "Well, my admirer is a whole lot more generous than yours, Chief."
"Oh, ho, so we've decided these are from two different people?"
"Well, you didn't get any certificates - I did. Draw your own conclusions, Darwin."
Blair stood, disgust written all over his face.
"You know, you really are the stupidest man on earth." He stalked out, fresh air and meditation his only goal.
Punching out his partner in front of the others was not a good thing.
Fun, yes. Rewarding, yes. Satisfaction guaranteed, yes. But wise, no.
As he passed into the hall, he wondered if Jim would have hit him back.
(*> (*> (*>
The rest of the day passed swiftly, as days before executions usually do.
The criminals did nothing to assist Blair in his efforts to avoid becoming the Easter Baby Chick and he really didn't think he was asking all that much. A bullet, just grazing his arm, for instance. Or a little bump on the head, maybe a brief but traumatic kidnapping for a change. But no, the good criminals of Cascade stayed underground all day, refusing to show their faces.
The ingrates. And after all that Blair Sandburg had done for them too.
Twenty minutes before he and Jim were due to leave, Simon made an appearance, his cheesecake or sex smile firmly in place. He sauntered over to Blair's desk and dropped a sheaf of papers.
"Instructions for tomorrow, Sandburg. Time, changing room, agenda, the whole magilla. I'm bringing my camera."
Blair took the papers and then made a grave error. He said:
"A camera's a great idea, Captain. I'm sure Daryl will love having a picture of his father in Bunny ears and a cottontail. I know I'll want a couple of copies. Maybe you and Jim will pose together for us?"
Jim had been taking a sip of cold coffee when Blair made his fatal error, and he swallowed the wrong way, which started him coughing, hacking and basically choking to death.
Blair stood, watched bemusedly, then excused himself to go to the men's room.
Simon moved to Jim's side and started thumping him on his back, telling him to raise his arms, which he did, but then Megan said, "no, he should bend forward", which he did, just as Simon gave him another whack on his back, pushing his head against his desk - hard. His skull thwacked, bounced, and Megan quickly excused herself to go to the women's room.
"Sorry, Jim. You okay?" Simon asked, not really caring.
"I'm fine, sir."
"Good. Good. You don't really need Sandburg anymore, do you?"
Rubbing his forehead, feeling the bruise already rising, Jim said, "No sir, I do not need Sandburg anymore. But Traffic could use a good man."
"Um, I was thinking - the cafeteria. Guard duty."
"How about a compromise? Traffic in the am, cafeteria in the pm?"
Simon pinched his nose, squinted his eyes, then nodded. "Yes, I like that. Starting Monday."
"Very good, sir."
Simon waved at the baskets and inquired, "Well, what is this all about?"
"Haven't a clue, Simon. But I'm enjoying it."
"What's in the envelope?"
"Gift certificate to Tortilla Flats and two tickets to the movies."
"Nice. Who you thinking of taking?"
"Don't know. No rush."
"Well, there's always Gretchen in Files. She's had her eye on you for weeks."
"How 'bout Detective Wilson?"
"Hair too short. And she wears terrible perfume."
"Um, maybe that nice Miss Walters, from the Raddison case. Weren't you talking about calling her, now that everything was settled?"
"She can't string two sentences together."
"I wasn't aware you were looking for someone who could actually - talk?"
"Very funny, Simon."
"You just make sure, no matter who you use those tickets on, that Sandburg is in full uniform tomorrow. Got it?"
"No problem, Simon. If I have to dress him and hog tie him to the top of the truck, he will be there."
"As a general rule, Jim, this job sucks. But every now and then, a streak of sunlight makes it's way into my miserable existance. Tomorrow, the streaks name is Sandburg."
Jim grinned and nodded.
"Yes, sir. You gotta take life's small gifts when you can."
They both smiled dreamily, the idea of Blair Sandburg in a Baby Chick outfit first and foremost in their brain.
Oh, yes, Saturday promised to bring manna from heaven.
(*> (*> (*>
Seven miles away, in a cheap motel room, three men plotted.
On a table, a map was spread out, the men hunched over it.
"The parents will be gathered here," the tallest of the three men pointed down and tapped a spot circled in red on the map, "They'll be so busy watching their brats, they won't feel a thing." He turned to the man next to him and said, "You've got the passes?"
The darker man nodded and held up three purple, laminated passes. "Easy as 1-2-3. They don't have much imagination in the Mayor's office. These were a breeze to copy."
"Then we're set. We move through the crowd, pick the pockets of the rich and come away with a fortune."
"God, I love our Mayor," said the third man, "What other Mayor would have an Easter Egg Hunt for the rich kids?"
"Ya gotta love Cascade."
The dreaded Saturday dawns:
Blair rolled over, pulled the blanket up and tucked it under his chin. He dug his head deeper into the two pillows with their soft, jersey pillow cases and willed the sun that was streaming through his small window to go away.
Cascade, Washington. Pacific Northwest. April.
It should be raining buckets. But no. Not today.
A cheery voice from the kitchen interrupted his planned pact with the devil that included giving up his first born and sex in return for a rainy day.
"Oooh, Bla-irrrr! Time to get up. It's Saturday."
The sing-song voice grated over his nerves and he wondered how many ways there really were to kill a man with a paperclip. Bet Jim knew every one of them. But would he share? Noooo.
He rolled over onto his back and regarded his ceiling. He sighed heavily. On his chair, next to his desk, sat the white box. On top of the box, the chicken feet. He sighed again.
Thirty years old. Unmarried. Likely to remain so. Living with a forty year old divorced man. In separate bedrooms. Hadn't had a good fuck or been well fucked in months. He was developing carpel tunnel syndrome from one handed sex and buying boxes of baby wipes was starting to embarrass him. Not to mention the number of sheet changes. He was doing laundry every other day and was going through hand lotion like it was water. But his right hand was softer. Among other things.
Now today. Adding insult to injury, he was forced to romp around the Mayor's home in a bright yellow baby chick costume.
Could his life get any worse? Any more pathetic? He'd forgotten the beak. Yes it could get more pathetic.
He threw off the covers, swung his legs over the edge of the bed, scratched his stomach, reached lower, scratched deliciously there, stood, stretched, felt the bones crack, grabbed his robe and padded out into the livingroom.
Jim turned when he heard the bare feet hit the wood floor and a few minutes later, a sleepy, tousled Blair exited his bedroom.
Ah, Jim's favorite time of any day. Mornings and watching Blair come out of his room. He was always yawning, always running his fingers through the tangled mess that was his morning bedhead and always looking good enough to eat. Whole.
Jim leaned back against the sink, arms crossed over his chest and watched, a half smile on his face.
"What do I smell, Jim?"
"Blueberry waffles, Chief."
Blair froze halfway through another yawn and regarded his roommate with awe.
"Blueberry waffles? You made blueberry waffles?"
"I can cook, Sandburg. I just don't choose to."
Blair sniffed the air, took in a big gulp and smiled happily. Blueberry waffles, well he'd be damned.
Jim turned back around, reached up and took down the syrup, put it on the table and said, "I figured with you having to be a baby chick today, and starting in Traffic tomorrow followed by guard duty in the cafeteria tomorrow afternoon, you deserved a last meal - so to speak."
"Jim, I will not be in Traffic tomorrow. Simon will forgive me." Blair spoke absently, his eyes watching rabidly as Jim placed two small waffles on a plate and set it in front of him.
"Simon will forgive you - sometime in the year 2001."
Blair picked up his fork, cut into the waffle, dipped it into the syrup he'd just poured, waved the fork around his mouth and nose, inhaled it's fragrance and slowly let his lips close over the bit of ambrosia. Ah, yes. Scrumptious.
"Well," he mumbled around the waffle, "if he doesn't forgive me, this waffle makes it worth while. You are a king among waffle makers, Jim."
Ellison took his plate and sat down next to Blair and dug in. After two bites, he nodded. "Yes, I am king. These are good. Don't mind saying so."
Blair was on his fourth waffle when Jim looked pointedly at his watch.
"Time to get cracking, Chief. You know the drill."
Blair stuffed the last chunk of the breakfast confection into his mouth, wiped his lips, swallowed a huge gulp of milk and pushed back his chair.
"I'm ready for this, but I'm not going to like it. And you, as my partner and roommate, should be prepared. I plan to make everyone miserable for days to come. Beware the Ides of April and Blair Sandburg."
(*> (*> (*>
The Mayor's home was one of the old Victorian mansions in the Roosevelt district. The home itself was called The Henessey and had been purchased by the city over fifty years ago to serve as the Mayor's home.
The mansion was situated on a small hill overlooking Roosevelt Park and Lake. It's rolling lawns and surrounding garden made it ideal for the Annual Easter Egg Hunt, which might not be as famous as the White House Easter Egg Hunt, but for Cascade, it was one of the big events of the year. It was also a perfect opportunity for the Mayor to do a little - campaigning.
As Jim swung the truck into the back circular driveway and pulled up behind the catering trucks, Blair whistled.
"Whew, this is some place."
"I thought you'd been here before?"
Blair glanced over at his partner, one eyebrow heading north. "What would give you that idea?"
Jim shut down and turned Sandburg. "Maybe something Naomi said? Why do I remember you, Easter, and joining the egg hunt here?"
"Not here, you idiot. Gracie Mansion - New York City. I was four. Got trampled by a horde of six year olds. Mom had to rescue me. I've had a fear of colored eggs and six year olds ever since. In fact, I'm getting a panic attack now. Maybe I should go to the hospital?"
"Jeesh, you're unbelievable. You'll say anything to get out of this."
"Nah, I'm up for it. And the horde of six year olds was true. I really got trampled. Naomi said that next year, we'd celebrate Passover instead."
Jim chuckled as he tried to picture a toddling Blair curling up in a curly haired ball while trying to avoid a herd of rampaging six year olds.
"I bet you were cute. And in your Easter suit too."
"Oh, God, don't remind me. Pale yellow shorts, with suspenders, and a yellow and green short-sleeved shirt. I looked like an Easter egg. The kids probably thought I was. And you know how short I was. I couldn't outrun a two year old. Personally, all childhood pictures should be destroyed once the child reaches puberty."
"Well, Chief, in your case, your mother has a few more years to gaze fondly at your baby pics."
"Yuck-yuck, Jim. You should take your show on the road. Or better still - a very short pier."
They climbed out of the truck, Jim reaching back and picking up the box.
"Where do the instructions say you're to report?"
"The swimming area. We're changing in the poolside dressing rooms. Good ol' Cascade. Poverty levels at new highs, but our Mayor has poolside dressing rooms."
They walked around the side of the house, following the sounds of instructions being yelled through a megaphone. As they came around the corner, the pool came into view along with Michael Binks. He caught sight of them and smiling, walked over.
"Gentlemen, am I glad to see you. We're a mess this morning. The eggs are late, which means our people have less than two hours to hide them, so naturally, everyone is absolutely crazy. Blair, you're assigned to room 3, Jim, you're assigned to room 4, your waiters uniform hanging up and ready for you. I'm certain it will fit, but if there are any problems, let me know."
As he spoke, he lead them around the sparkling blue pool, people running around, yelling, pointing and doing a fine job of imitating headless chickens.
"Is Rafe already here?"
Michael blushed to his roots and nodded. "He arrived quite early this morning, actually. He's been a godsend. Right now, he's helping the caterers."
"Good old Rafe," Blair quipped, not missing the blush. "He's a real gem, Michael. And Monday? I lied. He looks terrific in pink."
"Yes, he does," Michael added,"He's already in costume." Michael blushed again. "Well, I'd better get out front, there are dozens more eggs that need hiding. Again, if you need anything, just yell." And he was off.
Jim grabbed Blair's arm and pulled. "Come on, Mr. Matchmaker, lets get changed."
"I am so not matchmaking. They don't need it. Didn't you see Michael blush?"
"I saw, Darwin. Now come on, the sooner we change, the sooner we can help."
(*> (*> (*>
Blair stood in front of the mirror and groaned.
He had on the body suit and as he gazed at his reflection, he bit back the need to laugh hysterically. There was absolutely no describing this. But if he leaned slightly to his left, he could be a banana.
With trepidation, he picked up the big yellow furball, and one leg at a time, slipped it on, pulled it up over his hips, slipped his arms in and out the wing holes, then zipped it up to his neck.
The hood flopped behind him but he didn't have the nerve to pull it up yet. He turned and stepped into the rubber feet, turned back around and hissed.
Blair Sandburg, you are a fruitcake. You deserve this. You're smart. You should have been able to get out of this. You actually look like a baby chick.
He shook his head. At this rate, Jim would not be begging anytime soon. He'd get one look at Blair today, and go running for the hills.
This was not sexy. This was not cute. This was not endearing. This was a joke. A joke he'd never hear the end of for the rest of his life.
Was thirty years old, too old to run away from home?
He reached back for the beak, but didn't put it on. No need. He draped it over his wrist and stepped out.
As he flopped toward the far side of the pool, searching for Jim, he ignored the pointing fingers and smothered grins, and as his rubber chicken feet slapped the cement, the smothered grins turned to fullfledged laughter.
He paused, faced the many workers who were now grinning out loud and took an exaggerated bow. They responded with wild applause.
"I do believe you're a hit, Chief."
Blair turned rapidly, his wing hitting Jim in the chest. "Jeesh, scare a chicken will ya?"
"Sorry, Sandburg." Jim stepped back, put one hand up against his face, rubbing his jaw as he regarded his partner.
Blair narrowed his eyes and warned, "Jim, so help me, you say anything, anything at all, and you are so dead."
Jim shrugged and smiled. "Why, Chief, I think you look - great. Just - great."
Blair oomphed and stalked past Jim. As he waddled past him, Jim got a good look at his chicken behind. The costume ended in a nice, little chicken point, which at the moment, was wiggling nicely. Jim found himself enthralled with the little yellow tail, watching it sway back and forth, back and forth. He nearly zoned on it. "Jim? You coming?"
"Uh, yeah, Chief, coming." In more ways than one, he thought.
As he caught up with his partner, Blair added, "By the way, you look good in your waiter garb, but where's the tail and the ears?"
"The tail just velcros on, so it and the ears are in my pocket."
Blair craned his head back and sure enough, resting quite comfortably on Jim's very nice ass was a strip of velcro. Blair had this sudden insane urge to velcro himself to that little strip and never separate himself again. He sighed and turned his attention back to the matter at hand.
"We are a pair."
"Yes, we are. Let's go hide some Easter eggs."
As they wandered down to the front grass, Blair had a second insane urge; to hold Jim's hand and skip. He smiled instead.
(*> (*> (*>