Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks, and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

What can I say?

by Shedoc

What can I say?

It's been a nasty day from minute one. The hot water heater died and neither of us had a hot shower. The night had been a stifling hot one and there had been no breeze to cool my Guide down. The fan in his room rattled annoyingly so he refused to use it - and threatened me with physical harm when I told him to anyway. The fuse in the fridge blew and everything spoiled overnight without me noticing because of the headache I had from yelling at Sandburg. The truck refuses to start and we end up in his classic - which for once is running like a charm.

So, no morning routines to buffer us against police work. It's the summer break and Sandburg is spending his time at the station during the day and working on assignments or whatever at night. We have an argument about it on the way to work - I want him to take some time off the police side of things and he won't even consider it unless I take some time too. I finally shut up when he threatens to get out of the car and walk. We're stuck in a traffic jam so he could, but I'd have to hotwire the car if I wanted to use it to get to work.

Simon is in a bad mood - I suspect Joan and he have had another engagement in the long battle that is their divorce. Sandburg goes to sit at Brown's desk and everyone instantly starts giving me funny looks and a wide berth. Obviously if Sandburg is staying away everyone else should too. He gets sympathy and I get dirty looks. That doesn't improve my mood any. The air conditioning is out of order and the windows don't open anymore after Kincaid.

Captain Banks roars for us from his office and we head in in a hurry - we've both had that tone aimed at us before, the 'get in here and shut up' tone. He tells us that the Cascade Symphony Orchestra was expecting some new instruments to be shipped to them yesterday and the shipment was stolen before it arrived. The Mayor has requested me personally to deal with the investigation - it's nearly election time and the Mayor has been very supportive of the arts lately in an effort to grab more votes. My mood worsens - I hate being singled out by politicians. I don't say anything though, because the vein in Simon's temple is throbbing and I can feel the rise in his blood pressure from the other side of the desk.

We cram into Sandburg's ridiculously small and hot car and head over to the conservatory. The value of the missing instruments? Only thirty million dollars - how much does a violin cost anyway?

The Director is in the main performance hall - a place acoustically designed to amplify noise. Sandburg tells me to tone down my hearing before we enter and then steadies me when I stumble as the echoes of the orchestra warming up hit me. He gives me the look I hate the most - the one that questions his worth and place in my life. The one where I can see him calculating how long it will take him to pack and where he'll store his stuff when I tell him to get the hell out of our home. The one he gets when I'm being the biggest jerk in the Universe and ignoring his advice and the constant support he offers. I wince from the look and he misinterprets it, swinging into Guide mode and offering a quick monologue as we ease our way down the aisle to the Director.

He's a thin man with balding white hair and a very straight back. At first I thought he was shaking with age - then I realized it was anger and the posture might have been from whatever had been jammed up his I sigh and cut the guy some slack - the Symphony was always struggling to make ends meet and the new instruments were going to make a big difference to the school that was attached to the conservatory. I identify myself and he breaks in, roaring about how the last thing he needs right now is a detective - what he needs is a conductor, since his just walked out after his application for a raise was turned down.

I rapidly haul in the slack I was going to cut this man when Sandburg volunteers to warm the orchestra up. He sticks his hand out, says hello and suggests the Director talks to me while he goes over the score with the orchestra. To my everlasting astonishment the Director instantly mellows and practically hustles me into a seat in the tenth row back from the stage. He prods me into asking questions while my Guide gets up on the stage and starts chatting to the musicians up there. He stands at the podium thingy that the conductor would normally stand at and goes through the pages of music there as he talks to them. I stop hesitating and get in a solid twenty-minute interview that shows me some light at the end of the tunnel.

I wrap the interview up and stand, thanking the Director. The old guy grabs my arm and sits me back down, telling me that I don't want to miss this - it's a rare thing to watch a private rehearsal of this caliber. My expression must have told him how confused I am, but he waves me into silence. The door up the back opens and I glance around. There's an audience in the back rows all of a sudden - students from the conservatory mostly and a few teachers and administrators. I want to get Sandburg out before he humiliates himself, but the Director hits me with a glare as bad as Simon's and I slump into my seat, silently vowing to kill the witnesses to this nightmare later. I know he can play the piano and guitar - it seems that at one time or another the musicians that Naomi dated at least instilled the basics into her curly haired genius, but it's a long way from knowing how to play an instrument to directing an orchestra.

Blair quiets everyone down and stands straight before them. I'm hoping that the orchestra is good enough to carry him - in other words, play the music without a conductor. His hair is out and he's wearing his glasses to read the paper in front of him. He's wearing a linen shirt untucked over faded blue jeans and hiking boots - what I privately call his 'anthropologist on a field trip' look. He looks vulnerable to me up there and my Sentinel instincts are telling me to protect, but I know I can't. His voice drifts lightly off the stage as he gathers them together and he picks up the white stick - I guess it's called a baton - that conductors use.

The body language on stage gets that much more focused, like tigers about to leap up and rip something limb from limb. I put the thought aside, knowing that he volunteered to do this and more than a little astonished that the Director agreed to it. I reach out with my senses into the silence and check my Guide over. His heart rate is steady and calms his breathing normal. His shampoo caresses my nose and the muscles in his shoulders and back ripple smoothly. He is calm and in control - much more so than he should be. I begin to wonder what's really going on here - what have I missed about my best friend and Guide.

The baton lifts and everyone settles into readiness. Like a hound will when it sees the game. The baton sketches the time and then everything changes. I know instantly that he's carrying them, not the other way around. The music starts with a simple theme, dominated by brass and echoed by string. His bearing is upright and the energy flows from him to the orchestra to the music. I let my hearing soak up the beauty of it and feel my muscles relax as the positive energy flows from the people in front of me. I sense joy in the music. It's a full on piece from the first note.

The music changes. The strings dominate - changing the whole mood into a sadder, more reflective piece. Just as I'm beginning to be uncomfortable, my Guide adds tension to the piece. The strings become urgent and hurried with the brass sounding long ominous notes to emphasize the urgency. The urgency seems familiar to me and I waste time trying to figure out why - what is my Guide doing? His posture sways as he pulls more emphasis from one section or another and the music soars to a climax before changing again.

The strings soothe and calm us. The brass anchors us to the mood and I relax again as it repeats it's cycle. Woodwind weaves a little harmony through the piece and the Director sighs beside me in pleasure. I spare him a glance - he's on the edge of his seat in anticipation, his eyes fixed on my Guide in such a way as to make me want to tell him to back off. Sandburg is mine. His whole body is involved in coaxing the sound into the shape he wants now and I settle back in awe to watch. Percussion is punctuating the music deftly and I see him nod to one or another musician when they get it right.

On the stage my personal confounder adds some more to the tension and then weaves it all into a triumphant climax. I feel l ike he's telling me a story without words - one where the good guys triumph over the bad. Woodwind continues to lead the harmonies through their changes as brass and string swap roles. The finale leaves me feeling warm and relaxed - like we've just stepped into the loft at the end of a long day and plan to do nothing more than hang out on the couch together with the TV and some delivered dinner.

The silence at the end is like a slap and Sandburg puts the baton down before turning the pages back to the beginning. I'm still focused on the story that I've just heard - well most of it anyway and I miss what he says to the musicians in front of him. Some of them frown. They all nod in agreement. He talks some more and I let the sound wash away the bad day we've been having. People on stage shift around a little and to my delight he picks up the baton again. I lean forward, rest my arms on the seat back in front of me and settle in to hear the whole story again - this time from the beginning.

The second run through is flawless - and I can't believe the difference. I watch him move with the music. I realize the finale is echoing the theme the brass started at the beginning - it's come full circle, but matured. He puts the baton down again and I think about the story that he just told me. A hurried, energetic start to the day - full of familiar and comforting things. Arriving at work and plunging headlong into a case. The sadness of the victims, the hurt of the survivors. Catching the trail of the perpetrators. The chase to gather evidence, the chase to catch them. The waiting game where we try to buoy each other's spirit and process the days events. The final showdown where we catch the suspect and everything is righteous. Celebrating with colleagues that we won and no one got hurt. Returning home to unwind together, ending the day in our way. Preparing for tomorrow.

The people up the back applaud and my Guide effaces his skill to them, handing the credit to the orchestra. I wonder what story they heard in the music - was it about their hopes and dreams? Did it touch their reality? Am I seriously thinking this stuff or have I suffered a head trauma? My Guide jumps down off the stage after thanking the musicians in front of him and the Director thanks him. Tells him it's good to see Sandburg hasn't forgotten all he was taught as a boy. Asks him to keep in touch - offers a sort of guest conductor position, which gets turned down immediately. Offers an emergency fill in position that is reluctantly accepted.

Then my Guide steps to my side and we go arrest the conductor that quit and recover the instruments he was planning to sell overseas in lieu of his pay rise.

That evening we return to the loft. I discover that this morning when he was in exile at someone else's desk he managed to organize a plumber and electrician and gave his key to Taggert - it was Joel's day off - so they could fix the water heater and fridge. Taggert even bought some milk, eggs and bacon for tomorrow's breakfast. We end up doing what the music told me would happen. Hanging out on the couch and eating delivered food.

Four months later Major Crimes sits in the tenth row with me and watch my Guide tell his story. He tells several stories and at the end they're on their feet cheering for him. Afterwards they ask me why didn't I tell them sooner about this. What can I say?


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