Disclaimer: Just borrowed, briefly. No hits, no runs, no errors. Warning: AU, Partner Betrayal, minor language issues.
The Betting Pool
It wasn't supposed to turn out that way. First, he wasn't supposed to know about it. Second, they hadn't meant it. Well, they hadn't meant it the way it sounded. It was all just fun. Wasn't it? It was just unfortunate that he found out, and that he found out the week the pot hit two thousand dollars.
It was a Tuesday, and things had been pretty quiet lately. Nothing had happened in the past several weeks to their favorite "trouble magnet," and it was difficult to come up with new things for the betting pool. Everything from the previous weeks was held over. Some of the choices were a little grimmer than usual. Of course, the first week's bets had included some inventive deaths, and many serious things appeared on all of the pages.
It was tempting to blame H because he's the one who left his copy of the betting sheet in the break room. However, the various members of the betting pool, also known as the detectives of Major Crime, were all well aware of their equal guilt in the fiasco. With two exceptions. Banks knew that as the captain he not only shouldn't have allowed such a betting pool to exist, he certainly shouldn't have been such an eager participant in the game. Ellison, well, yeah.
Blair had gone into the break room to get some coffee. He saw a neatly stapled set of papers lying on the table, and, thinking to help, he picked them up to return them to their owner. Thus, his reasons for looking through them were innocent and laudable.
H's name was hand printed on the top of the first page, which also had the current week's date and the title "BS Predictions." The name Henri Brown was also included within the list of the rest of the detectives in Major Crimes, and a few others from around the CPD, on all of the sheets. Typed in next to each name was what Blair could only assume were the "predictions." Leafing through, idly at first, Blair saw a list of terrible sounding things: kidnapping by prison escapees and various psychopaths, death by falling or fire or plane crash, broken limbs, permanent disabilities, disfigurement, arrest on various charges, assaults of all kinds, sexual as well as physical, and the list went on and on.
Different men seemed to be treating the predictions differently. Banks, he saw, always predicted death. Rafe's list included most of the disfiguring or maiming. Herbert, one of the outside bettors, seemed to predicting arrests for a series of mostly drug related crimes. Others' ideas were more eclectic. The dollar amount at the bottom of each page kept going up, signaling that the predictions were not simply out there, but that money was riding on this list. Blair wondered briefly why he hadn't been invited to the game before he suddenly, horribly, got it.
"BS" was Blair Sandburg. This was a weekly Major Crimes betting pool about him. The men he thought of as his friends were involved in a betting pool, betting quite large sums. Those sums made it impossible that they were not hoping to win and hoping to win meant hoping that something really terrible would happen to happen to him. Banks wanted him to die. Rafe wanted his looks gone. Jim Jim's list how could Jim even have a list?
It was a devastated Blair who returned that final time to the Major Crimes bullpen, the list clutched tightly in his hand. It was all he could do to move toward H's desk to return the paper to him. He wanted to break down and cry, to scream at them all, "Why? Why did you all pretend to like me?" and "How? How could you, as police officers and human beings, hope that these things would come true?" Yet, he held onto his dignity with all of his will power. Placing the paper on H's desk, he turned back to Jim's. Busily proofreading his latest report, H didn't look up or notice exactly what it was the Blair put down on the edge of his desk. A quick and mindless "Thanks" was his only reaction.
Jim wasn't at his desk at the moment. He had stepped into Banks' office. So, Blair picked up his backpack without having to speak. He gave the room a quick visual sweep, noting the various detectives hard at work, seeing Simon and Jim in the inner officer, and wondering, vaguely, if Rhonda, whose name didn't appear on the sheets, was aware of the betting and refusing to take part or if she was as in the dark as much as he had been. Because her name was not on the sheet, he decided that she was the person to give his Observer's Badge.
Hating the tears that were forming, but fortunately not falling, and wondering why the agitated beating of his heart was not reaching his "Blessed Protector," Blair reached to unclip his observer's badge. He walked up to Rhonda's desk and put it down in front of her. "Blair, what are you doing?" she asked in surprise. Her shocked tone caught the attention of the rest of the bullpen, and Blair realized he should have just left it on Jim's desk and gone.
"I can't stay I can't work here anymore, Rhonda," he said. "If you need a reason, ask the detectives here about their betting pool." He spoke quietly, but as the room was mostly silent, the words were loud and clear. "Good-bye, Rhonda. It's been good to know you." Grimly, his face white, his eyes still shining with the hurt and humiliated tears, he turned and left with as much dignity as he could muster. Stunned, no one tried to stop him.
As the elevator doors closed behind him, the room erupted as the detectives realized that they had been found out and what Blair thought. "Damn," Brown said, looking down at the papers Blair had brought him. "Damn. That was so stupid of me."
Alerted by the commotion, both Simon and Jim emerged from the inner office. "What was stupid of you, H?"
Brown looked at his captain and his colleague. He took a deep breath. "I left my copy of the betting pool sheets in the break room. Hairboy Blair he found them. He fucking figured them out."
"What?!" Both Simon and Jim were as quick to see the implications as everyone else had been. They had made death and trauma and tragedy for a good friend into a game, and then they had sought to make money from that horrible game. They had been so relishing the black humor and outrageousness that they had never thought what the game would look like to the man at its center. Yet, guiltily, they also knew that they had known all along that the game was wrong, or else they would have let its major player in on it.
Rhonda spoke up. "I don't know what you or Blair are talking about. But he left his Observer's Badge, Simon. He said he couldn't work here anymore. So, will someone tell me what's going on?" She looked over the room, unhappily. What had these fools done to that young man? "Well?"
Brown, ironically both the instigator and the ender of the game, spoke up in the silence. "We had a betting pool."
Rhonda just stared, waiting. When H stayed silent, she prodded him, "Yes. I understand that. What kind of betting pool?"
Banks stepped in. "We had a harmless little betting pool on Blair because he is such a trouble magnet. We bet what would happen to him next. If nothing happened, we carried the bet over to the next week, and we added new bets. Nothing's happened for several weeks now so "
Rhonda cut him off. "You did what?" She looked around the room. She actually asked the questions Blair had only thought. "How could you do something like that to someone you claimed to like? You made bets, substantial bets I assume, that made you hope that the things you predicted would happen to that young man? Am I right?"
Several of the men tried to protest that that wasn't true, that that wasn't what they meant, but then they had to stop in the middle of defending themselves. What else had they meant? A few even realized that they had thought about the money and wished they could win it, without allowing the warning from their subconscious that winning meant something happening, something dire, to Blair.
Rhonda turned to Jim, standing silently just outside Banks' door. He, of all people, should have stopped this or, at the least, sat out. Yet, Rhonda, having grabbed the sheet from Henri's lax hand, saw that Jim's name appeared on each sheet. He had bet on gunshots, broken limbs, mugging, and, stunningly, attack by the serial rapist who had been preying on Rainier students a few weeks back. Abruptly, it was too much. Rhonda burst into the tears that Blair had somehow managed to hold back.
"You none of you are the men I thought you were," she got out, waving off Simon and Jim when they moved toward her. "Don't touch me." Suddenly, despite the tears, she was furious. "Captain Banks, I want a transfer. Today. I don't care where. I won't come back here, and I'm not losing my job at the PD over this this this disgrace." She collected her belongings, leaving Blair's observer badge prominently displayed in the middle of her desk. "I'm going home. Have Human Resources call me by tomorrow with where I'll be working next week. I'm taking the rest of this week off." Giving the room one last angry glance, Rhonda moved out the door and was gone.
Because the conversation had played out in front of not only the Major Crimes bullpen, but also various employees from other departments, truth and related rumors were flying about the building by the end of the hour. Several phone messages were left for Captain Banks to call his superiors. He wasn't in his office to get them because he had chosen to drive his best detective home.
Jim was clearly in no position to drive. He was thinking about the betting pool, and his own participation in it. He was thinking about how he had actually, or at least apparently, tried to win money from friends by predicting that his best friend would be mugged or shot or raped. Suppose the serial rapist had gotten to Blair? How could Jim have ever accepted the money from the betting pool? How could he have taken it over even a simple mugging?
Jim tried to put himself in Blair's place. He was an outsider in the PD, teased for being different, for having been actually hurt so many times as he worked with Jim, making sure that Jim was able not only to function, but to use his senses to their fullest potential. And what was his reward? As devastated as Blair no doubt was by Rafe and H and the others' bets, especially, no doubt at all, Simon's, Jim knew that his own participation was the true betrayal.
By the time the two men got to Jim's loft, Blair was almost finished with his packing. His clothes and artifacts were, in fact, already in the trunk of his car. His always-packed emergency bag was on the front seat, and his backpack was next to it. The backseat was waiting for his books and the small selection of kitchen items that had escaped the fire at his warehouse home.
"Blair? What are you doing?" Jim shouted. He hadn't thought this through. He'd come back to the loft to some how, some way, convince Blair to take back his observer's pass. He hadn't let himself consider all of the ramifications of the morning. He was frightened, but it sounded like anger.
Blair sighed. If only he could have gotten away before Jim appeared. And Simon. Simon had hurt him, too. "Jim. What makes you think I want to stay here anymore? I'm not going back to the PD, and I don't want to live here anymore. I cannot live with someone who thinks it's fun to bet on my pain, who was planning to win a couple thousand dollars if I was robbed or shot. How could you even think those things?" He stopped packing and looked Jim in the eye, "What the fuck kind of Blessed Protector bets on his Blessed Protectee being raped?"
Simon tried to intervene. He knew how much Jim depended upon the younger man. "Blair. I'm the captain. I should have stopped it. I'm truly sorry that I let it go on, that I took part in it. But we didn't think of it that was. It was mostly done in fun "
As soon as the words left his mouth, he knew he'd made a mistake. "Fun! Fuck you, Simon. You bet that I would be killed in a fall despite the fact you know I'm afraid of heights. You bet that I'd be hit by a police car, implying that some uniforms might even do it on purpose. You bet only on my death. Fun! You must hate the sight of me, subconsciously if nothing else. Well, guess what, man? You won't have to see me anymore, and I don't have to fucking die for that to be accomplished."
"Blair, it wasn't like that. I do like you, you know I do." Damn, he hated that touchy-feely crap, but this was important.
Blair cut him off, furiously. "I know nothing of the kind. Actions speak louder than words, and you both spoke pretty damn loudly." Blair stopped in closing his final box. "Hey, who bet that the partnership between Jim and I would break up. Someone must have bet that." He choked back a sound halfway between a laugh and a sob. "Guess someone will be happy today."
Jim found his voice again. He'd thought maybe Simon would help, but he'd only managed to confound things further. "Blair, please don't leave. I still need you. We didn't realize how much this would hurt you. It was only a game. Just a fucking game."
"No, Jim. It's not a fucking game. It's my life. Think about this, gentlemen. Why should I trust any of you ever again when I'm in danger? I'll always wonder if the person who is supposedly protecting me has bet on me. 'Gosh, I could save the little guy, but I bet he'd die in a fire, and, well, money's money.'" He paused. "You can come to the University a couple times a week, Jim. We'll do some tests, and I'll give you some ideas."
"That's it? A few tests at the University? What if I need you on the job?"
'Well, Jim, that's too damn bad. You should have thought about that before. And think about this. Suppose I had been the one making bets. Suppose we'd all been betting about you? How fast would you boot me out? How long would you still think of me as a friend? How angry and betrayed and hurt would you be? You just think about that." He paused. "What if you need me? Fuck you, fuck that, and fuck the whole dissertation. I'll tell Eli that my subject turned on me, and I'll come up with a new subject. Hell, I could write the fucking Blue Line dissertation without a thought, but somehow I don't feel inclined to portray you boys in blue in any good lights right now either."
Simon stood by, watching the complete meltdown of his best team, unofficial though it was. He thought about what the loss of Rhonda, the most efficient secretary he'd ever had, would mean over the next few weeks. He thought about a Sentinel trying to work without his Guide. He thought about the men he was supposed to have been leading, and how he had let them all down.
Jim sat on the couch, his face in his hands. He had no answers for Blair's accusations. He knew that if the situation were reversed he would have been irrational in his anger. Blair was the innocent here, and he had lost his friends, his PhD subject, his home, and his dream. How could he expect Blair to let this go?
Silence held over the loft as Blair began carrying the heavy boxes of books down to his car. He made several trips while Simon stood and Jim sat quietly. When his final box was gone, he came back one last time. Stalking over to the dining room table, he set down a small key ring. "These are the keys to your loft, your truck, and your desk at the PD." He pointed to a couple of ring binders. "This one has all the information about using your senses, including information about zoning. The second one is about your medical issues, including allergies and safe products. The blue one is the only copy of the draft of my dissertation. I've erased all the information from my laptop, and even reinstalled the system to clear away the last bits. Finally, this is Burton's book. All of this is yours. I don't want it or need it anymore."
He turned eyes once again bright with tears to the two men. "Simon, I really looked up to you, man. Have Daryl call me if you don't mind if we keep in touch." He took a deep breath, "Good-bye, Jim. I'll still work with you, like I said, and I'll come in an emergency, but, other than that, it's over." He left the two silent men and walked away.
**** No one in Major Crimes had bet on the partnership breaking up, but one of the outside the department officers had. Yet, somehow, the money didn't make Simmons, from Burglary, as happy as he had originally thought it would.