Looking In



Blair walked through the silence of the bullpen, heading for the dim light shining through the closed blinds in Simon's office. The few people around didn't give him more than a cursory look, their gazes sliding away.

He was used to smiles, nods, the odd friendly insult; resentment, not so much. Didn't bother him -- well, it did -- but he knew it was temporary.

Not one of them, and tonight if you weren't a cop, you weren't welcome. He was down with that. Totally.

Which was why he didn't bother knocking at Simon's door, just opened it carefully and slipped in fast.

"Sandburg?" Simon reached for his glasses, fumbling them back on. The desk he sat behind was bare of paperwork, for once. A cigar, blackened end fragrant, a wisp of smoke air-writing, was shoved to one side in its ashtray; a cup of coffee, that looked cold, beside it. "What the hell is it now?"

Blair spread his hands wide. "Nothing. Just thought I'd stop by. See how you were, you know? How you're doing."

"How am I doing?" Simon snorted. "How do you think I'm doing, Sandburg? He was a friend of mine as well as being one of my men."

"I know."

"No, you don't." Simon was looking at him as if he hated him and Blair flinched. Whoa. Not nice being on the receiving end of that. He sat down anyway, across from Simon, folding his hands in his lap and waiting.

"I don't want company."

"I figured that when you left." Blair shrugged. "And I… didn't feel comfortable there, either."

Simon was still glaring at him, a muted, blunted by fatigue glare, but even so the hostility was there. "No? Would've thought it was an ideal opportunity to observe. That's what you do, right? Observe? Stand on one side and watch. You stayed at the bar long enough to do that, didn't you? Make any notes?"

"Simon --" Blair's protest died in his throat. Let Simon get it out of his system if he needed to. He bent his head and kept quiet.

"It ever occur to you that there's a saying about the onlooker seeing nothing of the game? That if you're always looking from an objective distance, you're missing everything?"

"I can see your point, Simon." Meek voice, low, careful.

"Sandburg, why don't you just come out and tell me I'm full of shit?"

Blair looked up. "You're bigger than me."

"Like that would stop you." Simon shook his head, rubbing his fingers over his forehead. "Want me to apologise?"

"No, we're good." Blair waved his hand dismissively. "And that's a good point, an excellent one in fact. I read a really interesting paper last year about the fallacy of interaction with --ah, you know, that's not really relevant. I'm going to save you the trouble of telling me to shut up."

"Appreciate it."

Simon picked up the cigar and studied it in silence before tossing it back into the white ash, sending a puff of dust up. Blair breathed shallowly until it had settled, letting the controlled in-out calm him a little. Breathe in, hold, count of three, breathe out...

"If you start chanting --"

"Not going to do that," Blair assured him, jerking out of his version of a zone, and realising that his foot had started to lift and tuck under him in a half-lotus. He made sure both his feet were grounded and gave Simon a bright smile which slipped away a moment later. Not appropriate. Right.

"So where's Jim?"

"Still there. Getting drunk." Blair dug out Jim's car keys and dangled them for a moment before tucking them back in his jacket where they weighed him down unevenly. "It's close enough that he can walk home or call me for a ride."

"I should be there with them," Simon muttered. "Just couldn't.  Been to too many of them over the years and they don't get easier."

Blair nodded sympathetically and Simon's mouth hardened. "Don't do that, Sandburg. Don't act like this is something you know about."

"Okay, now that hurt," Blair said, losing his patience. "Look, there were rookies there in that bar; one guy only got here last week. Last week, Simon. And I've known Casey two years and I couldn't -- Jim didn't tell me to go, but he was glad when I did and that's -- man, that's hard."

"You're not a cop." It wasn't said unkindly but it didn't need to be; the words were enough.

"I knew him --"

"You knew his nickname and maybe that he always grabbed the doughnuts with the chocolate frosting. What else, Blair?"

"Well, you know, I'm mostly with Jim --"

"Did you know he was married?"

"Yes." Blair blinked. "Sure, I did. There's a photograph on his desk --"

"Yeah." Simon's mouth curved up in something that didn't come close to being a smile. "Anne and the kids. Did you know she was leaving him?"

"What? No, I --"

"I went around to tell her he was dead and his stuff was piled in boxes. He's been living in a motel for the last three weeks. Offered him a place to stay, but he wouldn't. Said he wasn't going to look at my face 24/7 unless it was an order, and what was I going to do? Kidnap him? I helped him shift what he needed and we were going to put the rest of his stuff into storage this weekend."

"Oh, man, that sucks, Simon."

"She cried as hard as if she still loved him. Guess maybe she did. She'd just had enough of never seeing him."

"He always left here right when his shift ended," Blair said, frowning.

Simon looked away. "Don't think they liked him being late at his other job."

"His --? Oh." Blair cleared his throat. "So you knew about it? The security work?"

"Knew he was moonlighting, against regulations, because money was tight?" Simon's smile was ferocious. "Now, how could I know that?"

"Right." Blair nodded, shifting awkwardly in his seat, an uneasy smile of his own on his face.

"He told you about the dog eating his daughter's retainer, I bet?"

Blair chuckled. Casey had told them all, drawling the tale out, deadpan, brown eyes solemn, waiting for them to start laughing as the story finished before roaring himself. Jim had told him once that Casey's red hair went two shades brighter when he laughed, grinning when Blair had begun to splutter excited questions at him and refusing to answer any of them.

Simon pursed his lips, looking sour. "Didn't tell you it cost $2000 to get her a new one, did he? Or if he did, he made it funny. Wasn't funny. Damn dog. Wasn't all he had to deal with, either." Simon eyed him. "Why are you here, Blair?"

"Thought you might need company."

"I don't. And I don't need a hug, or a shoulder to cry on. I'm a --"

"Cop," Blair finished, standing up. "I get it, okay? Sorry to have intruded. Guess I'll go home and wait for Jim."

Simon nodded. "He's taking this hard, isn't he?"

"Yeah. Won't let me help, though."

"There's nothing you can do." Simon's voice gentled. "Not now. You helped him get the son of a bitch who thought gunning a cop down to get at a mostly empty warehouse was a good idea; that was enough."

"But it isn't enough, Simon!" Blair struck the door with his fist in an excess of frustration that hurt him more than the door. "He's --"

"Dealing with it. Just like I am." If Simon kept being kind, Blair thought he was going to lose it. "He's got angry, now he's getting drunk. He'll go to the funeral tomorrow and he'll kiss Anne and tell the kids he was proud to serve with their father. You'll have to put up with him snapping at you for a while and then he'll be back to normal." Simon gestured at the room beyond his office. "And they'll stop closing ranks around you. It's just how it works." He smiled ruefully. "Why am I telling you all this, when you already know how it works?"

Blair smiled back at him. "Because you like hearing yourself talk?"

Simon snorted. "Get out of here, Sandburg. Some of us have work to do."

Blair carefully didn't look at the empty desk or the clock. "Right. So I'll --" He broke off.

"What?" Simon said irritably, taking a sip of his coffee and grimacing.

"I was going to say I'd see you tomorrow, but it's the funeral…"

"What? You don't own a black tie? Get Jim to loan you one."

"Well, I wasn't planning on -- I mean --"

Simon glared at him. "Casey would expect you to be there, Sandburg. I expect you to be there."

"Why?"

"You were his friend, weren't you?"

"Well, yes, but I'm not a --"

"Tomorrow, that won't matter." Simon met his eyes. "You'll be welcome," he said softly. "Tomorrow. Now, you should go home."

Blair nodded and closed the door behind him. Walked through the room, silence in his wake, and went home to wait for Jim to come in and throw up and treat him like a -

It would all go back to normal tomorrow, maybe the day after, a week, max.

He knew it would. Simon said.



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