Author Notes: Had to pare this down considerably from nearly 2000 words with help from Moonglow. Hope it still works.
Rhonda got the phone call that her temp had arrived only five minutes after she herself had got to work.
"Hi, I'm Rhonda." Rhonda held out her hand to the woman who would be covering for her whilst she was on vacation.
"Mary Dennison." Mary took Rhonda's hand and they shook, Rhonda approving of her warm firm grip.
"Got your temporary pass?" Rhonda asked.
"Right here." Mary clipped it to the lapel of her suit.
"Good. You just have to sign in down here every day you're here and then come on up. Did they tell you at the agency that your hours are eight to four thirty?"
"Come on then, let's get you settled. As the detectives come in I'll introduce you."
"Looks like Captain Banks has arrived. No time like the present to introduce you."
"Captain, this is Mary Dennison, my temp while I'm on vacation."
"Hmph." Simon shook Mary's hand. "I need last quarters expenses report, Rhonda."
"Put your coffee on, Simon, you'll have your report by the time it's brewed."
Back at her desk she picked up the filing cabinet keys and showed Mary where all the admin files were.
"Simon's tough but fair. Don't be intimidated by his gruff manner and shouting."
"My father was a colonel in the Marines. I'm used to bluster." Mary smiled.
"And who is this lovely lady, Rhonda?" Mary was almost blinded by the bright Hawaiian shirt in her line of vision as she looked up at the sound of a male voice.
"This is Mary. She'll be doing my work while I'm on vacation and I've warned her about you Henri Brown."
"I'm crushed." He placed his hand over his heart and staggered backwards into the stylishly dressed man behind him.
"Not enough." He said, pushing him upright, "Brian Rafe." He held out his hand for her to shake; he knew enough about office politics to get on the good side of the admin staff.
"Hi, Mary Dennison."
"Go away, we have work to do." Rhonda shooed them away and they goodnaturedly wandered over to their desks.
"You'll get used to H, Mary, he's a teddy bear really, and they're one of the best teams in the department."
"Rhonda, here's this weeks expenses. Do you think I'll get away with claiming for my pantyhose? I must've ruined three pairs last week."
"Sorry Megan, Captain Banks is going through last quarters expenses with a fine tooth comb. I doubt you'll get away with claiming for a paperclip at the moment."
"Damn." Megan looked at Mary.
"Megan? Mary. Mary? Inspector Megan Connor, our exchange program detective."
Nodding to her, Megan went off to adjust her expense sheet.
"Megan can be a bit abrasive at times but she's worked hard to get the respect of some of the men in here." Rhonda's eyes strayed to the other side of the room. Mary followed her gaze but could only see an empty desk.
Throughout the morning, Mary was introduced to most of Major Crimes, and she was staggered by the amount of work Rhonda did, from fielding calls from the commissioner to making sure the break room had sufficient coffee supplies.
When she and Rhonda got back from lunch there was a new face for Mary to get to know.
"Oh damn, he's on his own." Mary looked up at Rhonda's comment. She noticed the tall man sitting at the desk that had been empty that morning look up and scowl at them both.
"That's Detective Jim Ellison. He's been Cop of the Year two years running. He's usually one of the first ones in and the last to leave. Just make sure he gets his files when he asks for them and you won't have any problems with him."
Mary watched as Rhonda took another mug out of her desk drawer and poured coffee into it.
"Um, Rhonda, we've got our coffee."
"Oh, this is for Blair." Rhonda added cream and sugar to the mug.
"Blair? I don't think I've met her."
"Blair's a man. He's an anthropologist doing his dissertation on police societies. He rides with Jim Ellison."
"Is he due in then?"
"His hours vary depending how busy he is at Rainier. You can always tell when he's in the building though."
"Look at Ellison."
Mary obediently turned her head. To her surprise there was no trace of the habitual scowl on the face of Jim Ellison. His attention was fixed on the doors of the bullpen and a faint smile lightened his eyes. The lines of strain were gone from his mouth and he looked five years younger.
Two minutes later a whirlwind blew through the doors. It was about five eight, had shoulder length brown curly hair and was dressed in ratty jeans and checked flannel. It carried a heavy backpack and threw out greetings like confetti.
"Rafe! Lookin' sharp today. H, got that CD you wanted. Megan, new blouse?" All that energy was suddenly turned towards Mary and she was mesmerised by bright blue eyes laughing at her.
"Hi, I'm Blair Sandburg."
"Mary Dennison, I'm covering for Rhonda while she's on vacation."
"Oh man, I can't remember the last time I had a vacation. The Seychelles isn't it?"
"Three weeks of nothing but sun and sand." Rhonda handed him his coffee.
"You forgot the other 's' " He grinned.
"Well that's a given, it is our second honeymoon."
"Uh oh, looks like Jim wants me for something. Catch you later, nice to meet you, Mary." And he was gone.
Two weeks later, Jim was suspicious. It was nothing he could put his finger on but something about Rhonda's temp put his teeth on edge. She seemed nice enough on the surface and everyone seemed to like her but whenever Blair was due in she did something that set the alarm bells ringing.
Maybe he was blowing it all out of proportion so he resolved to put it out of his mind but it continued to nag him until he had to say something to Blair.
"You're imagining things, Jim. She's just making sure everything runs smoothly while Rhonda's away. Anyway, can I help it if she likes me?" this was said with a wiggle of his eyebrows and a wide grin.
"I'm serious, Sandburg." Jim gritted his teeth and said something he never thought he'd say,
"Could she maybe have heightened hearing?"
"Hm, you think so?"
"Maybe." Jim hedged. "Look, all I know is that as soon as you enter the building she makes a coffee exactly how you like it and puts it on my desk ready for you. How the hell does she know you're coming?"
"Beats the hell out of me."
The day before Rhonda was due back, Blair managed to catch Mary in the break room."Look, Jim and I were wondering..." He hesitated for a moment. "Have you ever heard anything that you wouldn't normally hear?"
"I've never heard anyone discussing your and Detective Ellison's relationship, if that's what you're asking, Blair. As far as I'm concerned it's your business and no-one elses."
"Well, Rhonda did tell me you and he live together but didn't flaunt your relationship at work as it could cause problems."
"No, no! You've got it all wrong!"
"Oh, you aren't lovers then?"
"Oh! Then why are you asking me if there's been any gossip about you two?"
"I'm not! We just want to know how you always have a cup of coffee ready for me when I get to the office?"
"Oh. Rhonda told me to watch Detective Ellison."
"What?" Blair's famous vocabulary seemed to have deserted him.
"She was right, you know. My first impression of Detective Ellison was that he was arrogant, unbending, and aloof. But whenever you're in the building he changes. A smile enters his eyes, and he watches the door and sure enough, you walk through it a couple of minutes later. It's cute."
"Mary, cute and Jim Ellison do not go together."
She ignored him.
"Haven't you ever noticed that Rhonda makes you coffee? Or is it because I'm new that you've only just noticed?"
"Jim does tend to ignore the familiar."
"Are you also the familiar that he ignores?" Mary put her mug in the sink and walked out, leaving Blair with a lot to think about.
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