Monday Early Afternoon
Buck was mad and having a hard time concealing it. Nathan, Josiah, and Chris had all already asked him what was wrong. They didn’t buy his “nothing”, but left him alone anyway. He needed to talk to JD. Where was that kid? Just then, JD walked in like he didn’t have a care in the world. Buck pulled him over, whispering in a harsh voice. “Well, it’s about time! Where have you been?”
“I was just…”
“I gotta talk to you in private. Break room.”
Vin looked at Josiah. “Whatcha think’s eatin’ him?”
“Don’t know, Brother. And I’m not sure I want to know.”
A confused JD followed Buck into the break room. “What’s the matter with you?”
“That rotten, no good, little…”
“Who are you talking about?”
“That ‘friend’ of Ezra’s—that guy he was with at the restaurant.”
“Are you still on that whole ‘Ezra is gay’ thing?”
Buck threw a bunch of papers down on the table. “His name’s Blair Sandburg. He was an anthropology grad student until he faked some of his thesis work and got discredited. Then he ended up working for the Cascade Police Department.”
“Buck, what did you..?”
Buck interrupted him, waving a photo in front of his face. “See this picture? This is James Ellison, a detective with the Cascade PD. This Blair guy started out as a ride-along with him. He was doing research on closed societies like police departments and wanted to study the detective and his unit. But he ended up moving in with the detective pretty soon after they met. The two of them are roommates, JD.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something, Buck? We’re roommates. Does this mean you’re coming out of the closet?”
“Don’t get smart, Kid. I talked to a few people at the university and in the department about the two of them. Seems a lot of people think they’re in the closet. They’re a lot closer than friends, JD. One lady I talked to said they’re always real close, always touching each other. He’s stringin’ poor Ez along. I don’t think Ez is the type to go in for casual relationships, either. This is really gonna hurt him. We have to do something.”
“Buck! I can’t believe you! You called their friends and co-workers?” JD got up and headed for the door. “That’s it! I don’t want to be involved. You’re on your own.”
Ezra Standish, Blair Sandburg, and Jim Ellison were just getting into the elevator at the ATF building on their way up to Team Seven’s floor. Ezra was nervous. He really had no reason to be, but he felt it just the same. His worry was in how the others would receive Blair. Ezra was going to give his cousin and Detective Ellison a tour of the ATF facilities and then introduce them to his co-workers. Those who made the effort to get to know Blair always liked him. Unfortunately, he often made bad first impressions. Some people never looked beyond their initial assumptions about him. He could be too animated, too boisterous, too eager, too Blair. Hearing of Blair’s early days with the officers of the Cascade PD, Ezra was not surprised they didn’t take to him right away. He often gave the impression that he was either a know-it-all hot shot or a flighty hippie—or both. Even Jim Ellison, who was now Blair’s best friend, had started out disliking him. The man had slammed him against a wall and called him a ‘neo-hippie-witch-doctor punk’. But now they were as close as brothers. Ezra was admittedly envious. He wished… Ah, well. If wishes were horses…
The three of them stepped off the elevator, finding themselves facing several curious stares. JD took a sip of his soda and almost choked on it when he saw who was with Ezra. The guy from the restaurant and the detective in Buck’s photos. He looked around frantically, hoping Buck was still stewing in the break room. Please, please, please let him stay in there and not cause any trouble.
“Mr. Dunne? Are you alright?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. I’m fine, Ezra.”
“Then I’d like you to come over here for a moment so I can introduce you to someone.”
Oh, man. This was not good. Maybe Buck was right. Oh, man. “Sure.”
Ezra turned to the young man with him. “This is JD Dunne, computer wizard extraordinaire.”
JD blushed and reached out to shake the man’s hand.
“And JD. I’d like you to meet my cousin and good friend, Blair Sandburg, and his friend, Detective James Ellison of the Cascade PD.”
JD’s mouth hung open. “Cousin? He’s your cousin?”
“Yes, Mr. Dunne. I do have other relatives besides Maude.”
Blair chuckled. “Nature’s way of trying to make it up to you.”
“Now, Blair. I haven’t denigrated your mother, have I?”
“Not this morning. The day’s still young.”
Ezra didn’t seem at all angry with his cousin. It sounded more like an old joke between them. JD couldn’t believe it. Cousin. He couldn’t help it. Snorts of laughter burst out from him. Blair and Ezra just looked at him like he was crazy. “I’m…I’m glad…to meet…you.” He wiped tears of laughter from his eyes as he shook Blair’s hand.
Ezra made the rounds, introducing his guests to everyone. He wondered where Mr. Wilmington had gone.
“Any chance of a guy getting a cup of coffee, Ezra?”
“Of, course, Blair. How rude of me. Let’s go into the break room.”
Chris stopped Ezra for a moment to ask him about some paperwork on a recent case. Blair assured his cousin that he could get his own coffee and headed for the break room.
JD saw Blair going into the break room. Wasn’t Buck still in there? Oh, crap! Ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrap!
Buck looked up in surprise to see just who came in the room. He’d just started to calm down with a nice doughnut and coffee, too. “What are you doing here?”
Blair was startled by the anger in the other man’s voice. “Uh, I’m just, uh, here for some coffee.”
“You’ve got some nerve, I’ll tell you.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to just barge in here. Ezra said it would be okay to get a coffee. If this is a bad time, I can come back later.” Blair started for the door only to have the man grab his arm.
“I don’t know what Ezra sees in you, you little punk. Maybe it’s the big, puppy-dog eyes or the curly hair or something, but I tell ya, I ain’t seein’ it. Ezra’s a good guy and he could get a lot better boyfriend than you any day—one that wouldn’t break his heart by runnin’ around on him with some butch cop. I’m givin’ you fair warning. You leave Ezra alone or you’ll have to answer to me.” He let go of Blair’s arm in a huff and stalked away.
Blair rushed out of the room only to run into Jim. Apparently, Jim had had his sense of hearing turned up a notch and caught everything. The angry detective was trying to keep his voice down so the others wouldn’t know what was going on. “Are you alright, Sandburg?”
“I’m fine. He just surprised me. He thinks Ezra and I…that you and I… Where are you going?”
“I’m going into the break room to have a few words with the agent who roughed up my partner.”
“Oh, no, you don’t! Ezra has to work with these people. Don’t mess things up for him here. He’s had enough of that in his life. He didn’t hurt me, Jim. I need you to rein it in.”
The veins in Jim’s forehead were bulging with frustration. He wanted to put some fear into the nut that accosted his Guide.
“I mean it, Jim. Don’t do this. Much as I appreciate your ‘Blessed Protector’ instincts, they aren’t going to help here.”
Jim stared at Blair for a moment before he let out an angry breath. “Fine! You win. I won’t touch him.”
Blair smiled. “I knew you could do it. You know, I think we really need to talk to Ezra about this. I don’t know where this guy got the idea that Ezra and I were gay, but this kind of thing could hurt Ezra’s reputation in the ATF. We’ve got to put a stop to it right away.”
“I told you that long hair and sensitive side of yours were going to get you in trouble.”
“Don’t laugh. He thinks you and I are a couple.” Blair was always amazed at how quickly Jim’s anger could turn to amusement—especially if it was at his expense.
There was a note of sarcasm in Jim’s voice. “And we haven’t heard this sort of thing before back at the station?”
“Yeah, I know. When I first showed up at Major Crimes, the guys thought I was either a druggie or as Henri put it, a ‘fruit loop’. It couldn’t have been all my fault, Jim. Maybe you’re just too butch.”
Jim cuffed him on the back of the head.
Ezra was watching them with interest. They’d been whispering ever since Blair exited the break room. For a moment, he’d thought Detective Ellison was going to explode. The man seemed a veritable powder keg. Now the two of them appeared more relaxed. “Is there something wrong, Blair?”
“Well, um, I just had this run in with some guy in the break room and…”
JD interrupted. “Tall guy, dark hair, mustache, green sweater?”
“Oh, geez! That would be Buck. There’s really something I gotta tell you, Ezra.”
After several minutes of JD’s rambling explanations and apologies, Ezra and his co-workers had a pretty good idea of what was going on in Buck’s head.
Vin couldn’t resist. “So, Ez. Ya sure you and Blair ain’t kissin’ cousins?”
“How droll, Mr. Tanner. Your wit astounds me.”
Nathan shook his head. “So what now?”
Despite JD’s explanations, Ezra was perplexed as to how Mr. Wilmington had arrived as such a preposterous assumption regarding his relationship with Blair. He supposed he should be angry—maybe he was a little. But more than anything he truly appreciated the man’s concern. Mr. Wilm…Buck, had actually tried to protect him from someone he thought would cause Ezra emotional pain. Of course the man had to worry about his physical well-being during busts, but he had no obligation to worry about him on a personal level. Ezra couldn’t remember the last time someone besides Blair had cared about his feelings. He was more than grateful and he would never be able to say just how much. But still… Buck’s wild ideas could have caused a great deal of trouble. Something had to be done. “Gentlemen.” A devilish smirk appeared on his face. “I would like to ask for your assistance in teaching Mr. Wilmington a lesson about snooping. Here’s what I would like you to do…”