And to Think It All Started with a Baseball by Sammi M.
A muffled moan was his first response. "Try functioning on an hour's sleep and we'll see how good you look."
"Been there, done that, left the bones to prove it. Any particular reason why you stayed up late last night when you knew how early you had to be up this morning?"
"I had a nice long talk with Jim and he helped me with some things. We didn't even know what time it was until he called down to the desk for a wake-up call and they asked if he realised that was only ninety minutes away."
The older woman moved forward in her seat. "Sounds intense. Care to share while we wait for them to bring your coffin up?"
"Not particularly, but I would like to hear what happened between you and Schuy while we were being briefed yesterday."
"She told you about that?
"No, but I saw you after and your face spoke volumes. You looked almost shell-shocked."
She chuckled. "That's probably because I was. I couldn't believe what she said. It was totally out of the blue."
Blair took a deep breath and leaned forward in his chair locking eyes with his friend. "First off, just let me say how sorry I am about everything. You haven't deserved how you've been treated and you don't know how much I wish it had never happened."
"Whoa, whoa." Becky held up her hands trying to stop the younger man. "I kind of get the funny feeling we're not talking on the same subject. What exactly are you sorry about and what didn't I deserve?"
The observer stood and started pacing in front of the desk, "The whole Schuy thing. I should have never brought her back here. After what she did to you, I wish I hadn't."
"Okay, now I'm confused." She joined him. "What is it with you and your sister? Why do you both believe you owe me an apology for her behaviour? She hasn't done anything to apologise for."
"You don't have to protect her, Becks. I saw you yesterday and you more than confirmed what she said to you this morning."
"All I said was she threw me which she did. I've felt for years I owed *her* an apology and then she showed up and gave me one and it totally knocked me flat." Sighing. "She explained a bit of what she was feeling and how that had led her to the reactions I'd seen. Then she started apologising."
Now it was Blair's turn to be confused, "You mean she didn't go at you for the stuff in the past?"
"But, she didn't deny it when I "
"When you what?"
Chagrined, "Things sort of came to a head last night and I confronted her about the stuff she's been doing while we've been here." Shaking his head. "She didn't deny any of it."
"Blair, please tell me you didn't attack her out of some misguided need to protect me."
"It wasn't *just* There were other things. I "
Becky shook her head and slowly returned to her seat. "Do I even want to know?" She watched him as he shrugged. "Okay, Sandburg, you and I need to have a little talk and I'd prefer you sitting while we do it." He sat and she continued, "From the beginning, I want to know what was said and I don't want any glossing over parts like you used to do when you were a kid."
The younger man squirmed in his seat from the intense look the woman was giving him and relayed the events of the night. As he finally started winding down, he noticed her hand now covered her eyes. "Well, I suppose we can be grateful that you're not covering up your feelings any more." Sighing. "But, whatever possessed you to " She lifted her hands in a questioning manner. Becky shook her head and her shoulders looked like they carried the weight of the world. "Why'd you have to drag me into this?" She raised her hand again silencing him. "Don't answer; it was rhetorical; I just need to rant." She drummed her fingers first on her desk and then on her head. "Let me think about this for a minute." Raising her eyes to his. "Do you honestly believe everything you said to her even after I've cleared up some things?"
Blair shrugged and nodded, "Pretty much."
"Okay." The woman nodded sending her black scarf floating with the motion. "Do you remember her fourth birthday party?"
This wasn't what he was expecting. "What?" Thinking. "Not readily, no."
"Good, because she didn't have one. Do you remember *why* she didn't have a party? I mean, it was planned and everything we had a cake and several of the kids had been invited."
"If I don't remember the party or lack thereof, how am I supposed to remember why it didn't happen? Come on, Becks, it's been over fifteen years."
"Well, I remember. Mainly because I baked, but still I remember it like yesterday." She cupped her chin. "The day before the party, you had a nasty reaction to something Dr. Scurry had tried and you were really sick. You still weren't better the next day and Schuy threw a tantrum so she wouldn't have to leave you. She wouldn't even hear about having a party without you being there so, we had to cancel it and my cupcakes disappeared."
Frustration, "And this is supposed to be telling me what?"
"Do you remember why we had to start locking her in the nursery?"
"Ah, a question I can actually answer! Yeah, she broke out and almost got hit by a car."
"But, do you know why she broke out?"
"Are twenty questions a new part of the Ceremony you didn't tell me about?" Seeing her glare. "Okay, okay. No! I have no earthly idea why she made her escape."
"Dougy had promised her some time with you when he took your group out. He got tied up and forgot and you guys went without her. She left the nursery searching for you and I guess 'sensed' or something where you were and headed out there." She sat back in her chair. "The Martins were almost devastated at how close they came to hitting her they were so close they couldn't even see her over the hood. But, that didn't stop her she was going to get to you no matter what. She stood back up and headed for the park and that's where she found you. Dougy said the first he knew about what had happened was when he saw her left leg where she fell it was all scraped up and bleeding, but she hadn't said a word because she wanted to be with you.
"Now, granted, I'm just going by things I saw here a long time ago, but you can't tell me she's changed that much and suddenly become selfish and attention-grabbing. In fact, judging by something Detective Taggert said about your travel and accommodations, I'd say she's been the opposite. But, maybe you see something I don't, so enlighten me."
Blair glanced over at the clock on her desk and then turned a thoughtful look in her direction. "How much time do you think we have before they bring the coffin in?"
"I'd say we have anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes. Why?"
"Because I want you to tell me everything you remember from that time especially, that last night. Then I want to hear what you and she talked about yesterday. If need be, you can tell me while I'm going through the stuff, but I have to know what you saw before I start the Ceremony."
@@@@@@@@@@@@@Though it was still pretty early, the room was alive with chatter and movement. Even with the whole group dressed in what could only be described as mourning clothes except for Naomi who was in all white as required by her non-conventional mindset, the mood was light and cheerful. No one questioned it because they all recognised they weren't celebrating death, but they were celebrating the life of someone they were thankful had won his battle so he could touch their lives. Who wouldn't be almost bubbly or the cop equivalent with that in mind.
"Jim, don't take this the wrong way, but you look like Hell."
"Thanks, Captain, but you should see the other guy."
Daryl laughed, "So, what did you and Blair get up to that kept you from getting any sleep?" He leered as only a teenager can. "It was the two desk attendants, right? You guys couldn't resist that."
Simon raised to his full 6-feet-plus height and glared down at his son, "And what couldn't they resist, young man?"
The boy was not stupid he definitely got that from his father. "Nothing that I've ever experienced, Dad."
"That's what I thought." Looking around. "Oh, good, there's Joel. Why don't you go ask him how his wedding plans are going and also how much better he's going to feel now that he and Rhonda are getting married. Then, later, we can discuss what he said and how I feel about you and resisting." Daryl just stood there stunned. "Did I forget to mention I wanted you to do this today?" He silently watched as his son snapped out of his paralysis and hurried over to the detective like the devil himself was after him. "You know, I wonder how much longer my feelings are going to be enough to keep him on the right path. I've been really thankful it's lasted this long."
Jim clasped his friend on the shoulder and smiled. "I don't think you have anything to worry about, Sir. Daryl's got a great head on his shoulders and he also respects and loves you a great deal. Because of that, he'll always keep what you taught him close to heart. You've given him no reason not to."
The gruff captain was truly touched by the words of one of his closest friends. "Thanks, buddy. You don't know what that means to me." In typical male fashion though, he quickly changed the subject from the emotional. "So, what time did they roust Sandburg? Judging by how you look, I'd say too soon."
"And you'd be right. He got up and dressed about seven and they were downstairs waiting for him at half past." Smiling. "I was serious when I said you should have seen the other guy he looked much worse than I do and black really drains his complexion when he's tired."
"Did you get everything cleared up?"
The smile left the detective's face, "Some, but not all of it. If we'd had more time, maybe."
"Well, if you guys need anything, let me know. I kind of like having the Sandburgs around all of them and I like it even more when they're happy. The world just seems so much better that way, but I'll deny it to the ends of the earth if you tell anyone."
Jim grinned as Megan let her presence behind their superior be known. "Don't worry about a thing, Captain. Your secret's safe with me."
Simon glared at his detectives as they fought their laughter. "Connor, I swear I'm going to get you a bell to wear around your neck." He caught the pleading looks his son was throwing him. "I think I'll go save Daryl from Joel. He looks suitably punished." Remembering whom he was leaving alone together. "You two, play nice. I don't want to have to come back and separate you."
The two in question cracked up together after he left and Megan shook her head. "He doesn't know we buried the hatchet in something other than each other's backs?"
"I didn't have the heart to tell him. He so enjoys playing father when we get into it." Trying not to laugh. "We're probably going to have to argue a few times around him just so he can feel needed."
"Oh, the things we do to keep our superiors happy and well-adjusted." She rolled her eyes setting both of them off again. "Goodness, Ellison, you seem almost giddy with laughter this morning. I know mine's from lack of sleep, but what's your excuse?"
"The same. Sandburg and I didn't get to bed until around 5.30 this morning."
Megan sobered, "Amazingly, that was my reason for not sleeping as well. I was helping out the other Sandburgs." Curiously. "Was it as messy for you as it was for me?"
"If you're asking if things were emotional, then, yeah, it was pretty deep in our room."
"Did you get deep enough to find out why Schuy's not returning with us to Cascade?"
"You heard me. Schuyler spent the wee hours of this morning packing to head out as soon as possible."
Jim scoured the room for signs of the youngest Sandburg, "Is that why she's not here?"
She nodded. "She had to call to make sure the company plane would be at the airport. Care to enlighten me as to why she suddenly can't take the RV back like the rest of us?"
The detective spotted the topic of their conversation as she entered the room. Turning back to Megan, he answered, "That's probably something you should wait for her to explain." He motioned in the girl's direction. "Sorry to bug out on you, but I need to take care of something. I'll catch you later after the Ceremony."
Without waiting for a response, he headed over to the young woman and managed to stop her before she moved too far in the room. "What's this I hear about you flying out of here?"
"Megan has a big mouth and good morning to you too." She took a good look at the man she considered a brother. "And may I say, you look like s "
"I wouldn't finish that sentence because it would be the pot calling the kettle." Barely catching the tiny sparkle in her eye. "Good morning and why are you flying out this morning?"
Schuyler chuckled, "You don't give up do you? Well, I'm not leaving this morning. I'm staying for the Ceremony and then heading for Tokyo."
"That's an awful long way to run from your problems."
"Excuse me? Who says I'm running from anything? Mukogawa-san has requested my services for one of his esteemed colleagues and because of the ridiculous amount of money offered and the promise that his security is unbreachable, I've accepted."
Jim cocked his head. "I don't know. Still sounds mighty coincidental to me." He quickly accessed her bruised and red eyes and the slump to her shoulders. "Couldn't this have waited? I mean, what can you really do on a Sunday?"
"It's Monday there and by the time I'm rested and ready to work, it'll be Tuesday and since when have you been so concerned with my business schedule?"
"Since it's being used to keep distance in my family."
"Well, then you're talking to the wrong person cause I didn't put it there and I really don't feel like discussing it right now."
"But, you will be willing to discuss it eventually? Maybe after you return from Japan?"
"Damn it!" Her voice dropped to an angry whisper. "Okay, I'm running! Is that what you wanted to hear? I thought my being on another continent would help things and I definitely was looking forward to just getting as far away as possible. I didn't realise I had to get your permission first!"
Jim gathered her resisting form into his arms and lightly kissed the top of her hair when she relaxed. "You don't. I just don't think now would be a good time to leave. We all need to take some time and sit down and talk."
"I wish I could, but I said I'd be there and breaking a promise is the equivalent of losing face to the Japanese. I couldn't do that to Mukogawa-san." She raised sad eyes to his. "I'm sorry. I "
"Is everything okay over here?" Robyn asked as she walked up to them.
The detective allowed for the girl to loosen the embrace, but he wouldn't let her move away from the arm he kept on her shoulder. "We're fine. Just a little sibling discussion."
"Yeah, Bones. Everything's peachy."
"Bones? You call her Bones?"
"Lord, I haven't heard that one in a long time!" She smiled at the confused look on Jim's face. "My last name's spelled McCoy and because, back then, people still remembered the original Star Trek, the kids all called me Bones."
"She pretended to hate it, but we knew she didn't. Plus, it was easier for me to say Bones than McKay."
"Now, I'm really confused. I thought you said your name was McCoy?"
Robyn laughed as she looked down at the two in front of her. "That's how it's spelled, but the correct Gaelic pronunciation of my family name is Mc-Kay. It always used to give the announcers fits."
"Announcers?" Jim thought for a moment and then his eyes grew wide in astonishment. "You're *the* Robyn McCoy? The one who use to play for St. Pete's?"
"Well, it's been a long time since I was referred to as *the* anything and I'm amazed that you can remember that, but yeah, that's me."
"Omigod! You were the greatest forward in women's basketball for years until you dropped off the face of the planet!" He removed his arm from his sister and shook the doctor's hand in both of his. "I always dreamed of meeting you. I mean, you were almost every other guy's fantasy and mine when I was in high school. What happened?"
"I was only playing to make it through college, then I graduated and went to medical school." She shrugged. "I still play occasionally, but this is my dream."
Jim was still in seventh heaven. "Wow. You do know that if they had women's pro basketball back then, you would have been their greatest player? Shoot, as good as you were, you could have played for the NBA."
Robyn glowed from the compliments. "I thank you for that, but that was never what I wanted. I think I've gotten more satisfaction from helping the people here than I ever received from scoring forty points in a game."
Schuyler was enjoying seeing the usually calm man losing it over meeting one of his idols. "Gee, Bones. Didn't know you had fan club? High school guys' fantasies, huh? I'm speechless."
"Yeah, and you're also just as facetious as you ever were. I don't see how Naomi put up with two of you."
Jim suddenly jerked back from his memories with a loud laugh. "McCoy, of course!"
The two women were starting to worry. "Um, Detective. I think we've already established who I am."
"No, that's not what I'm talking about." He chuckled. "Since everyone else has been telling stories from Blair's past, I suppose it's now my turn." Turning both women and walking them towards a group of chairs, he chuckled. "Lemme tell you the story of how Blair and I met. Strangely enough, it was in a hospital "
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@The young man handed Robyn two items and then turned to leave. "Thanks, Terry." She returned to the group. "Well, ladies and gentlemen, Terry has just let me know that Blair is in the process of going through his coffin and that they should be ready for us in about thirty minutes." An evil gleam leaped into her eyes. "In the meantime, he was very nice to bring me something that you have all heard mentioned." She held up a picture frame with the picture turned towards her. "In my hand, I have one of the greatest blackmail photos ever to grace my presence."
Schuyler paled as she watched Robyn's horns extend. "That can't be what I think it is, is it?"
"You wouldn't do what I think you're going to do, would you?"
Pure devilment, "I would."
"I'll give you twenty-five thousand dollars not to."
The older woman thought about it for a minute and then shook her head. "As tempting as that sounds, I'm going to have to pass. I owe you for all the times you wouldn't let me pick you up when you were little."
"But you smelled like antiseptic! That stuff was like formaldehyde to me. It was self-preservation!"
"Yeah, right." Looking out to the rest of the group. "How many of you remember our mentioning 'The Pongo Incident?'" Everybody nodded and a few people grinned. "Good. Would you like to see the picture that has held a revered spot on our 'Great Moments' wall?" Again, it was pretty much unanimous. "Then who am I to deny the masses." She started to turn the picture around enjoying Schuy trying to sink into her seat and stopped. "But, first, let me tell you the story behind the picture. You see Pongo was a local clown who we'd hire to put on a show for the kids every month. The kids seemed to love him and he had an excellent record with us until he met up with one little Sandburg "
~ @ ~Naomi sat watching her babies as they enjoyed the clown's antics. She smiled at the look of joy on Blair's face and she was thankful that even though he was weak, today was a good day. She laughed as Schuy almost vibrated with restraint from moving. The little girl refused to move very much for fear she'd hurt her brother since she was sharing his wheelchair, but that didn't stop her eyes from following every movement of the animated man up front. Both her children wore identical smiles and that more than anything made her happy.
Blair's eyes lit up even more as Pongo's assistant carried out this huge bouquet of balloons and the clown started handing them out. He turned to his mother. "Aren't the purple ones so beautiful, Mama?"
"They most definitely are. Do you like them?"
He nodded, "They remind me of the sky at sunset that time in the mountains. I always wanted to see it again so that I could keep the colour in my memory. Now, I don't have to because there it is."
Schuy had been following the conversation even though her eyes hadn't left the front of the room. "Do you want one?"
"Oh, yeah." The little boy looked down at his chair and then at all of the kids gathered around the clown and sighed. "But I don't think I'll get one. There's too many people and I'm not fast enough in this thing."
"I can get it for you." Schuy bounced once.
"But you're too small. He won't even be able to see you and by the time he does, they'll all be gone."
"I can get it!" The little girl carefully climbed out of the chair and stood in front of her brother with her hands on her hips. "Can't I, Mama?"
What else could Naomi say, "Of course you can, sweetie. Just go up there and *politely* ask him for a purple balloon for your brother and a gold one for you and I'm sure he'll give you one."
Schuyler looked at her brother as if saying, "See!" and he shook his head and rolled his eyes a bit. Before she could turn away, he tapped both his ears with his hands and waited until his sister nodded and took a few breaths. He relaxed back in his chair knowing that his baby's ears wouldn't be overwhelmed by the sounds when she got closer to the front. But, being a typical ten-year-old, he couldn't resist as the little girl headed for the clown telling his mom, "He still won't see her."
Somehow, the small child managed to twist and squirm her way to the front until she was right beside the big man. Schuy had to tilt her whole head back just to see his bright red nose and she couldn't get too close to him because of the huge pants that made him seem so round. At first, she just stared up at the human mountain, but then she remembered Blair and his balloon and she began to think. Whenever she thought really hard like this, she would always stick her tongue out the corner of her mouth because it made her think better.
It suddenly hit her that she needed something to grab Pongo's attention so that he would look down at her. She looked all around the tiny area she had access to, but nothing met her strict criteria. So, she used the next best thing. After all, her mother had always told her to use the resources at hand.
~ @ ~Robyn was really starting to get into the story and Schuy had resorted to covering her face. "So, Schuyler, with all of the innocence of the very young and the smarts of the truly precocious, reached up with that tiny hand and *yanked* the man's pants down to his ankles.
"You should have seen how quick the area around him cleared. It was like the parting of the Red Sea and talk about sudden silence. No one said a word. At first, Pongo didn't understand what was going on, but then he started picking up on a draft. I swear that once that man looked down, he turned as red as the hearts on his baggy boxers." She stopped to get control of herself and waited for the rest to calm down as well. "Suddenly, this sweet, tiny voice yelled - very politely mind you, 'May I please have a purple balloon for my brother?'
"The man was stunned. I mean never in his career had he had something like this happen to him. So, he did the only thing he could he handed her a whole bunch of balloons and quickly staggered back to his changing room.
"I looked over at Becky and she had the same shocked expression on her face as I had and then we turned and looked at Blair and Naomi. At first, I thought she was crying from the embarrassment as she leaned over onto her son, but then I heard this light laughter as she rather hysterically told him, 'Knew she could get it.' I never underestimated any of the Sandburgs after that point."
The room was filled with out-of-control laughter as each person pictured in their mind the scene that had just been described. Just as the noise started dying down, the good doctor turned the picture around and set them off again.
"But, you know, that wasn't the end of it. The Director back then had arrived just in time to witness Schuy's crowning glory and Pongo's eternal shame. He was such a sweet man and all of the kids adored him and he loved them. He quickly made his way over to the little girl, scooped her into his arms helping her to hold onto her balloon prize and brought her back over to us. Just as gently as he could, he lowered her into the chair with her brother, kissed her forehead and winked at Blair before looking over at Naomi. 'Ms. Sandburg,' he said as he stood straight up and with a totally straight face, 'I would suggest you keep an eye on that young Miss because she's already showing a remarkable intelligence. It's amazing that she's that young and already knows the best way to get what she really wants is through a man's pants.'
"Becks and I almost died from laughing and Naomi had long since lost it. Schuy just shook her head and gave her brother most of the balloons and kept the rest. After all, she'd accomplished what she'd set out to do.
"Till the day he retired, Pongo always wanted to know if *she* was going to be there before he would agree to come and perform."
Again the room was filled with uncontrolled laughter and even Schuy joined in with the others this time. People walking out in the hall couldn't help themselves as they passed the door and joined in with the contagious laughter. They didn't know what had caused it, but anything that could cause that much joy had to be good and they wanted to share in it as well.
But, Blair wasn't laughing as he stood at the door. Becky had sent him to grab the group and bring them back, but he hadn't wanted to interrupt Robyn while she was on a roll. He'd had a lot to think about since his talk with his old counsellor and the walk to the Break Room had given him some time. While listening to the story, everything suddenly shifted into place and he could see the full picture clearly. Even with the laughter that still floated from the room, he knew what he'd done and he fought the tears.