And to Think It All Started with a Baseball by Sammi M.
When it had first pulled up in front of Jim and Blair's place, the travellers', and a few people on the street, were amazed at the sheer size of the thing. But, as Schuy had explained, it had to seat all ten of them comfortably, so, in this case anyway, size did matter. As they grabbed their stuff and filed in, the guys cringed when Naomi and Megan started murmuring about in *any* case size mattered, but they soon settled and the driver smoothly headed toward their destination.
Almost as soon as the RV pulled away from the curb, cards were pulled out and chips were distributed. Poker was going to be the game for the trip and all the adults had invites to play as long as they had the money to do it. With the exception of Simon, who begged off to work with Daryl on a new laptop program they were trying to figure out, and Naomi who was "preparing herself," everyone was participating including Schuyler.
This had come as a shock to the guys because they had all lumped her with Daryl in the "too young to play category", but she soon availed them of that notion when she pulled out her ID and showed them her birth year. To make up for their erroneous beliefs, they all promised to go easy on her in the first round and she just smiled ... and kept on smiling through the first, second, third and fourth games that she won. There quite possibly would have been a fifth game, but the others decided to wage a slight protest.
"What do you mean I can't play? My money's just as good as yours in fact, a lot of it *is* your money."
Jim glared at her from under his baseball cap. "*That's* why you can't play."
"But, I won that fair and square!"
Blair, who usually fared better in these sessions, wasn't quite on his sister's side. "So don't you think it's only fair that you give someone else a chance. I mean, it's not like *you* *need* the money."
"No, it's more like you guys are a bunch of sore losers. You just can't handle the thought that a 'kid' that you dismissed as not being able to play her way out of a paper bag, has played you all into one." She decided to appeal to the one person she was sure would be for her. "Megan, aren't you going to say anything?"
"Well, you know me, I never pass up a chance to comment." The woman ignored everyone else's wholehearted agreement with her statement and continued, "Perhaps you should sit out a few hands so that the rest of us can recoup our losses."
"Et Tu, Megan?"
"Sorry, female solidarity flies out the window when it comes to my chance to beat the pants off of these guys. And, I want that chance."
"So, that's how you're all gonna play it?" Everyone ignored her and concentrated on Joel's shuffling. "Fine." She divided her pot into six equal piles. "As it's been pointed out, I don't *need* the money, so feel free to help yourselves."
Schuyler stood and huffed her way over to the chairs where the Banks' sat. She took the seat beside the older man and fumed.
"What else did you expect, Schuy?" Simon asked. "That they'd let themselves be hustled the entire trip."
"I did not hustle them. I just played to the best of my abilities which just happen to be quite extensive." She turned pouty eyes toward the man. "Can I help it if my brain naturally figures out the probabilities of the deal? I don't consciously do anything."
"I know that and so do the others that wasn't what had them upset. If you had spread your winning around a bit, they wouldn't have had a problem. All they wanted was a chance."
"I guess I was trying to show them up because of their assuming I couldn't play."
"You guess? Schuy, I could feel the challenge over here." Hitting a few buttons on the laptop. "Give them some time and I'm sure they'll let you back in."
She shook her head, "I'll leave them to it; they'll probably enjoy the games a lot better without me."
"You can always hang out with us," Daryl offered. "Though it's not quite as exciting as poker, this is pretty fun."
"What are you doing?"
Simon turned the computer toward her so that she could see the screen. "Joan gave Daryl this new program that has tons of stereograms. We've been sitting here trying to find the stationary ones before we try our hand at the animated ones. You're more than welcome to join us and another pair of eyes would be most appreciated."
"Sounds good." She smiled as the older man raised the armrest so she could move in closer. "Is this one a hidden picture or just a 3D one?"
"Who are you asking? I thought that's why we brought you into this."
It didn't take long for all three of them to really get into the program. But, by the time they were ready to head into the animated section, the two younger people were drifting off one on each shoulder. Simon shifted a bit to make sure they were comfortable and started in the new area.
About fifteen minutes into it, he suddenly had the feeling he was being watched. He looked up and directly into Naomi's smiling eyes. "I'm sorry. My mind was on this stupid thing. Did you need something?"
"No, I was just marvelling at how well you handled that earlier situation. Because Blair often catered to her when she was younger, she still has a problem when he doesn't." Chuckling. "You saved us from a massive sulking session."
"Ms. Sandburg, are you implying your daughter is spoiled?"
"It's Naomi and I'm not *implying* anything I'm coming right out and saying it. She's spoiled rotten to the core and Blair's not too far behind her. I wanted my children to know they were the most important things in my life and I did everything in my power to prove it."
"So then it wasn't *only* Blair who catered to her."
She blushed a deep red that actually complimented her hair. "Oh, well. Anyway, I do appreciate what you did. The trip definitely wouldn't have gone as well and several of us didn't need any more extra stress." Looking at her sleeping daughter. "I'm rather amazed that she's comfortable enough with you to let her guard down. She has to really trust a male before she can do something as simple as fall asleep around him. If I hadn't already known that Jim was a very good person, Schuy's instant taking to him would have cinched it." Curious. "Um, if you don't mind me asking, how exactly did you get past the walls?"
Simon shook his head and lowered the laptop screen. "I don't think I did anything special."
"But, it had to be something. I know my daughter and she's very protective of herself."
He shrugged very carefully so as not to disturb the younger ones, "Like I said, I didn't do anything special. Schuy just appeared at my door one day and offered an olive branch. I guess things grew from there."
~ @ ~A soft knock alerted the captain that someone wished to speak with him, but nothing prepared him for the person waiting. As he quickly moved to the door and opened it, a sense of dread settled in the pit of his stomach. "Hello, Ms. Sandburg."
Schuyler took the hand he offered and shook it. "Sorry for the intrusion, Captain Banks, but I really felt like we needed to talk. I hope you don't mind."
"Of course not. Please." He ushered her to one of the seats in front of his desk and returned to his own. "Now, what exactly do we need to talk about?"
She pulled a folder full of papers out of her bag and placed them before the man. "I'm sure you remember my attorney mentioning filing harassment charges after I was brought in for questioning." She speared him with her eyes. "Since the incident, he has continuously asked me what I wanted to do about them in the hopes that I would agree to their being filed."
"And, have you come to a decision?" Not a trace of emotion could be seen on his face or in his voice.
"Yes, I have." She pushed the file closer to him. "I asked Richard to send them to me and now I'm giving them to you. You can do whatever you want with them. Oh, and there are *no* extra copies."
Now, emotions could be seen mainly shock mixed with a little confusion. "You're giving them to me? Why?"
"Because I never had any intention of filing anything against you or your department. I didn't like being dragged down here, but I did do understand why it happened. It wasn't your fault you were mislead and I have no intention of punishing a simple mistake."
"That's very generous of you, Ms. Sandburg. I don't know if I'd be that forgiving in your place."
She smiled, "It's Schuyler or Schuy and I'm pretty sure you're not giving yourself enough credit. From what Jim and Blair have told me, I'm sure you'd do the same thing." She stood and held out her hand, which he took still in something of a daze. "Well, I hate to surprise and run, but I still have a few things I have to get done today. Thank you for taking time out to listen and I hope next time we can meet on better terms." She turned to leave the room when her eye caught something causing her to stop. "I haven't seen these fliers before."
The older man joined her. "We just got them in today and haven't had a chance to put them out yet." He raised the flyer and smiled at the group photo in the middle. "Major Crimes sponsors this league as a part of our "Act Out, Not Up" Program. They're a great group of kids and they're responding really well to the program. Not one of them has been in trouble at his/her school since it began."
"So it's co-ed."
"We have three mixed teams. We go by grades and involvement rather than gender."
"Glad to hear it." Reading the flier. "How much are you guys needing?"
"If we only buy the uniforms, about \$15,000 new. If we even think about purchasing new equipment, we're talking closer to $21,000." He shook his head. "Even with all of us pitching in, there's no way we could come up with anywhere near that amount, so we decided to ask for donations."
"Have you thought about asking for sponsors?"
"Yeah, but the game feels different when you bring in those particulars. It's almost like the kids stop playing for themselves and start playing for whoever's name is on the back of their shirt. We're trying to avoid that as much as possible." He shrugged. "I'm not saying we won't have to go that route - especially if it looks like we won't meet our needs." Sighing. "If it's a question of losing the program or taking on a corporate name, we'll go with the latter rather than letting down the kids."
"I see." Looking down at her watch and sighing. "Well, I wish you the best of luck and I hope things work out. I'm sorry, but I really have to run. Thank you again for seeing me."
~ @ ~"And like that," he snapped his fingers, "She was gone."
"How soon before the check was on your desk?"
Simon's mouth dropped. "How'd you know there was a check?"
"Please. Give me some credit for knowing my children. Blair always volunteers time he doesn't have because he can't afford to do more and Schuyler's always reaching into her purse because she doesn't have the time to volunteer as much as she would like."
He smiled as he realised how much she really did know her children. "The next morning. I almost went into shock when I saw the cashier's check made out to the program. She padded it quite nicely as well and she's never mentioned anything about putting the Symmonds stamp on it."
"Then it was from her personally because Richard would have demanded it; the man's an excellent advisor, but he's always looking for opportunities. I know he was Kael's friend and he's been a wonderful mentor for Schuy, but there's just something about him that doesn't sit well with me."
Loud laughter broke into their conversation and Naomi turned to watch Blair happily rake in the large pile of chips. Simon didn't miss the look that crossed her face or the slight drooping of her smile.
"This trip must bring back a lot of memories."
"Is it that obvious?" She turned to look at the animated antics of her son at the poker table and her full smile returned. "Even with me knowing and seeing him here, the fear is still there. I remember how years after he went into remission I would still wake up and check on him or call at all hours of the night just to make sure he was okay."
"There's nothing wrong with that. Hell, whenever Daryl gets over the flu or something *I* do that. It's probably ten times worse when it's as bad as cancer." He tried to hide a small grin. "But, it does explain a lot."
"I don't understand?"
"Don't get me wrong here, but it does explain why you're as overprotective of Blair as you are. After a scare like that, how could you be anything but."
Naomi chuckled a bit. "Overprotective, huh? And on what are you basing your decision?" He cocked an eyebrow at her and she relented. "Now, I will concede to being overly cautious where my children are concerned, but overprotective "
"Uh huh. Whatever."
She pointed her finger at him. "Okay, what have you heard?"
"Nothing in full detail, but there have been rumours of you taking out a doctor twice your size when he wouldn't allow you to get to your son."
"Twice my size! That boy! I swear he has taken embellishment to a new level." She shook her head. "And I didn't take him out; I only broke his nose."
Simon was trying to contain his laughter, but he was failing miserably. "Pardon me for saying this, but you just don't seem the type. You're so passive and non-violent."
"Normally, I am, but, that time, he just pushed a bit too much when I really needed to be with my son. I had to show him I meant business."
~ @ ~Naomi walked onto the floor from the elevator not really paying attention to what was going on around her. Part of her was focused on the little child she held on her left hip and the other part of her worried about Blair's last reaction to his chemo. It had hit him pretty hard. She clutched the bag of healing oils one of her friends had given her tightly in her hand and headed toward her son's room.
"Naomi," a soft voice called from the nurses' station. She raised her eyes and found herself face-to-face with one of the nurses who took care of Blair. "How ya doing today? I missed saying bye to you yesterday when I went off-shift."
"I'm fine, Monica, thanks for asking. How's our boy doing today?"
The kind eyes tried not to show their sadness, but they couldn't. "This last round took a lot out of him. He's still pretty weak, but I know he'll perk up when he sees you guys." She tweaked the little girl's nose and smiled at Schuy's laugh. "He's so much happier when you're around especially the little one."
"They adore each other. Sometimes I feel like I'm not even necessary when they're together." She chuckled. "It's not the best feeling."
"Like you have anything to worry about. He's just as devoted to you too. That face lights up for both of you and you know it." Monica looked around. "There was another reason why I came out. Dr. Nelson's mother died and he flew out this morning to take care of things. He left his cases with Dr. Frasier."
The colour drained from Naomi's face as she heard the news. "I am so sorry about Dr. Nelson. He's such a sweet man and for something like that to happen I know Blair's gonna miss him."
"Probably more than you think. Dr. Frasier isn't anything like Dr. Nelson." Checking around them again. "Truth be known, he's a 'pluper-perfect' ass and he thinks he knows everything. All the nurses hate him, but he does know his stuff. If you see a little balding man with this absolutely horrible moustache, try to avoid him, okay?"
"Okay." She smiled and hugged the woman. "Thanks for the warning. Now I better get down there before my guy thinks we've deserted him."
She had Schuy wave at the woman as they headed down the hall. Just as she was about to push the door open, she heard a voice. "Excuse me, madam, but may I ask exactly what you think you're doing?"
Naomi turned to face the little man and tried to smile. "I was just planning on going in to my son. Is there a problem?"
"Yes, for one thing, that child is not allowed in there and for another, Blair is on a very strict diet and outside food is also not allowed."
"This isn't food," she replied as she lifted the bag. "It's a bag of healing oils that I was going to use to rub him down and Dr. Nelson made special arrangements so that Schuyler could spend time with her brother."
The little man looked them over and dismissed them as nothing in one glance. In his most condescending tone, he explained, "I guess you haven't heard. Dr. Nelson had a family emergency and he turned all of his patients over to me. Now, I don't care what 'special arrangements' he made or what mumbo jumbo he allowed, but things are going to be different now that I'm treating your son. First things first, *that child* will have to be left with someone before you can go in."
It was obvious to everyone watching - and from the first words he spoke people had been watching - the woman was trying to keep her temper under control. It was also obvious, she was losing the battle. "My *daughter* and I will be going in to see Blair together and then she and I will be heading up to speak with one of the administrators about getting you removed from his case. I'd prefer if he wasn't treated by such an ass."
Those watching described what happened next in complete and joyful detail when asked about it later.
Dr. Frasier seemed to take exception to what he considered some "drugged-out ex-flower-child" questioning him, so he grabbed Naomi by the arm which just happened to be wrapped around Schuy and pulled. "No hippie slut and her half-breed bastards are going to determine what I do in my hospi "
He didn't quite get a chance to finish because he found himself on the floor with blood pouring from his nose in a growing puddle of multicoloured oils and what looked to be the Angel of Death or at least of Pissed-Off Mothers standing over him. "Don't you dare ever put a hand toward either of my children or the only thing they'll find left of you will be your stethoscope!"
When Security showed up, the hall was filled with cheering and clapping. The good doctor hadn't realised so many had been listening to the little scene, but that didn't deter him. "I want her held for the police. She attacked me for no reason."
One of the security guys placed himself in between the two as Naomi went after the man. "You grabbed my arm which was holding my daughter and tried to stop me from seeing my son! You're damn right I attacked you! And if you tried it again, no number of men would be enough to keep me from tearing you apart."
Neither of the two guys liked the way this was going, and truth be known, they couldn't stand Dr. Frasier either but they did have a job to do. The one not trying to keep the agitated woman from the injured doctor asked the crowd, "Did anyone else see what happened?"
Several people chorused they had and the nurse, Monica, from before stepped forward. "We all saw and *heard* everything, Chuck. We'll *all* back Ms. Sandburg if she wants to press assault charges. Dr. Frasier made the first move."
There was general agreement from the large group at the nurse's statement and the good doctor went as white as his lab coat. He didn't stand a chance. "Well, I suppose when phrased like that, it might have *seemed* to Miss Sandburg that I was a threat. But, that was not my intention, I assure you. If you will accept my apologies, Miss Sandburg, I'll be on my way."
Chuck turned to Naomi, "Well? If you want to press charges, you have enough witnesses to back you up."
She shook her head. "That won't be necessary. What I would like, though, is for someone else to be assigned to my son's care. I don't want that man and his attitude anywhere near him."
They all watched silently as she turned and headed into the room with her head held high and only Chuck was close enough to see the tears that rolled down her face.
~ @ ~Simon realised he had a whole new respect for the woman that sat across from him as she told her story. Another cheer from Blair turned her attention and a peaceful smile in that direction and he couldn't help himself when he thought how lucky the Sandburg kids were to have her for a mother.
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@The group tiredly made their way up to their rooms and agreed to meet back in the large reception area on the floor, that Schuyler pointed out to them, when they were ready.
After about thirty minutes, they all had wandered in and were just sitting around waiting.
Joel couldn't help himself. "Schuy, this place must be costing you a fortune. We're all in three-room suites with mini-kitchens and the rooms themselves are fit for kings. I'd hate to be you when you get the bill."
Blair cracked up and forgot how close to the edge of the sofa he was. He ended up on the floor while everyone else just stared at him like he had gone crazy and his sister glared at him. "It's not really a a problem, J-Joel." He finally managed to get out. "She's got it covered."
Seven pairs of confused eyes - Naomi already knew and Blair had caused the whole thing - turned toward the seething girl. "Big mouth! How old are you gonna be before you learn to keep your trap shut?" She looked at the curious faces and sighed. "Okay, Symmonds owns the place and rents it out for conferences."
The confusion turned to shock and the girl found herself growing increasingly uncomfortable at the stares.
"Geez, Girl, what don't you have your hand in?" Daryl asked. "And would you like to adopt me?"
Schuy rolled her eyes, "The National Debt and I'm too young. Can we please change the subject? Is there anything you guys would like to do tonight other than try to calculate my net worth?"
The older Sandburg had finally gotten himself under control and had returned to his seat beside Jim. "Well, I was thinking after dinner we might head out to the Centre."
"Won't that be a little late, Chief? I mean I know how anxious you are to see the place, but can't it wait till tomorrow?"
"Oh, I wasn't wanting to go in. Every Friday night they have a concert out in their amphitheatre for the patients, their families and the surrounding community. I thought it would be a nice way to unwind after the trip. When I called to confirm our coming, they told me about it and said they had several bands that usually covered everyone's tastes." He looked around to gauge the other's reactions to his suggestion. "It starts around nine and lasts for a couple of hours, so we'd have plenty of time to eat."
Henry heard his favourite three-letter word and decided to light his own fire. "I'm with you, Hairboy, just as long as you point me in the right direction of some food."
Megan couldn't believe the man. "How can you think of food after everything you ate on the trip down here?"
Simon was ready for this one, "The easier question would be when is Henry *not* thinking of food?"
"Doesn't matter. As long as all the answers end with a plate of something in front of me, I'll be happy."
"So, does that mean I need to tell the driver to be prepared to take us out there tonight?" Everyone agreed. "Okay, I'll let him know. Now, I suggest we get the good Detective Brown downstairs into the restaurant before he starts eyeing some of us for dinner."