There are days I wonder about those two. Oh hell, most days I wonder about those two: my two best detectives. When Sandburg first bounced into my office spouting off about the thin blue line, I didn't expect him to last a week. I thought the kid would run for the hills the first time I bellowed. He surprised me.
Now Sandburg is hunched over the computer typing up their latest report. After I get it, I’m going to have to explain to the police commissioner how those two managed to wreck another car. Right now, though, I'm just watching them work together. Jim is hovering over Sandburg pointing his finger at the screen and saying something enthusiastically. He's also enthusiastically petting Sandburg.
I really don't know what else to call it when Jim's hand keeps moving to the back of Sandburg's head where large fingers bury themselves in those curls Blair wouldn't cut even for the academy. The hand stays there for a few seconds before Jim combs his fingers through Sandburg's hair and lets his palm fall on the younger man's shoulder. Any other man would be annoyed at the hovering and pointing and petting, but Blair smiles up at his partner.
I remember the first time I saw them playing in the bullpen. I don't even know who started it, but Jim moved into Blair's space pushing out his chest and practically growling. I remember that look of amusement that flashed across Jim's face when Sandburg did a mock-growl that nearly degenerated into a laugh and physically chest butted his partner right back.
Brown and Taggart and Conner all ignored the antics as normal, so a single perp handcuffed to Brown's desk and I were the only ones standing there shocked at the playfulness and tenderness that seemed to pass between the men. Sandburg gets Jim to laugh for real, that full laugh that says that the man has forgotten his past and just allowed himself to enjoy the moment. Jim hovers over Sandburg and offers his home, his loyalty, and his affection. The day I saw Sandburg driving Jim's truck, I knew the two men loved each other.
I know most of the department think they're lovers. The rumors were bad enough back when both still dated and did so rather publicly. Now that they seem to have settled into a life together without Sandburg's parade of women, the department has gone from whispering in back halls to just accepting the rumors as fact. Lord knows Jim and Blair have never actively discouraged the gossip.
Four years ago the thought that two of my detectives might have been intimate would have sent me into a rage. I have to admit it still does bother me if I think too hard about exactly what they might be doing at night in the loft, but I just can't condemn them the way I would have when I was younger. I look at the two of them together, and I can't help but think they belong together.
But honestly, I still don't know whether I'm seeing sexual or brotherly love. I just know their love is intense and nearly palpable. Even the newest rookie doesn't stand between them. If one has the flu, the other calls in sick. No one has ever suggested assigning one to a case without the other. When the new captain from vice asks to borrow Sandburg, he knows Jim is just part of the deal.
Sandburg must have done something amusing because Jim is laughing now. He's sitting on the edge of Sandburg's desk leaning forward with a huge smile that makes the edges of his eyes wrinkle. Jim always smiled easily, but it was a tight, small smile. Sandburg is the one who gets this wholehearted open expression out of Jim. For his part, Sandburg is ducking his head, but I can see his shoulders shake with his own laughter. Jim's foot lands on the edge of Sandburg's chair so that his shoe pressed into the outside of Blair's thigh, and Jim reaches forward to give Blair a mock hit upside the head. Blair retaliates with a mock punch to Jim's stomach.
If it weren't for Jim's foot invading Sandburg's personal space, I could convince myself that they were brothers, overly protective brothers.
Most people see the way Jim protects Sandburg, the way he cradled the younger man in his arms when Blair got drugged or the way Jim camps at Sandburg's side any time the man lands in the hospital. Several people have seen how Jim instinctively pushes his partner behind him in a dangerous situation despite the fact the kid is a full detective now. A few people have even seen Jim physically pull Blair away from his desk when they're working some particularly heinous murder because the kid will drive himself to exhaustion trying to put together some theory of the crime.
Most people miss the way Blair protects Jim. The dissertation was just the beginning. When Jim goes stone faced with anger or fear, it's Blair who steps in and gets between Jim and some unforgiving family member blaming Jim for not finding a criminal. Blair is the one who harasses Jim into forgiving himself when he can't be the great Sentinel who solves every crime and saves every member of his tribe. Blair lies to protect Jim with such regularity that I've found myself starting to worry about just how much the kid might be lying to me.
Blair is going for the printer now, and Jim watches him with that amused expression. At least I think the expression is amused although lately it has occurred to me that might be Jim's 'in love' expression. Sandburg will have that report in just a second, so I retreat to my office rather than risk getting caught watching. They'll be in the office soon enough, listening while I point out that the city can't afford their special brand of street demolition derby. I'll yell and threaten to suspend them, and they'll sit there exchanging that look that says they're in this together even against me. They'll protect each other. No matter what kind of love they share, I find myself envying that silent promise.