Title – Team Work
Characters – Sergeant Ed Brown, Mark Sanger
Prompt - #25 Strangers (sfff #9 Secrets)
Rating – G
Summary – The Chief decides that Ed and Mark need to perfect their "teamwork skills".
A/N – Set sometime in the Pilot, or the first few episodes.
It was quiet. It was far too quiet. The office had never been so quiet.
The message had been marked urgent, and it had been very specific about the time. Working for the Chief there was one thing you learned very, very, very quickly: when he told you to jump, you jumped without asking how high!
Sergeant Ed Brown had been waiting in the attic office for over an hour after the call at five and the frenetic dash around the city to collect what the Chief wanted. And though Ed was not a man prone to doubt, he was beginning to wonder if he'd done something wrong. The Chief was supposed to have been back by ten, and it was now well past eleven.
The sound of the elevator doors from outside brought Sergeant Brown back from his daydream. Someone was coming. At last!
To his surprise, it was Mark Sanger, the Chief's assistant and helper. He was weighted down with a huge bundle of files. And he was alone. Sergeant Brown gave a deep frown.
'You know what's going on?' asked Ed as soon as the other closed the office door.
'Hey man, not even a good morning?' said Mark, dumping the files on the far desk, beside the ones Ed had gathered.
'Does it feel like a good morning to you?' replied Ed a touch sourly.
'Funny you should ask,' replied Mark. 'The Chief has had me chasing all over the city since five this morning. I was in bed!'
'That sounds familiar. And I haven't even had breakfast.' Ed raised the coffee mug. 'There's a liquid breakfast is on the stove.'
'That's good enough for me,' said Mark, walking over to the coffee pot and helping himself to a generous mug-full. 'Where's the Chief anyway?'
'Not seen him. I thought he was with you.'
Mark ambled over to the desk where Ed was sitting, pulled up the seat opposite and silently sipped his coffee.
They hadn't been alone together often; Ed worked with Eve and Mark with the Chief.
But Ed was surprised by the relaxed atmosphere in the office that morning. He couldn't help but feel a little uncomfortable around the other man. Mark was an ex-con with a book-full of convictions, who'd grown up in the ghetto and Ed was a white policeman, the very epitome of everything Mark hated. He was even the one who'd dragged Mark up to Ironside's office that first day, albeit under the Chief's orders. Under normal circumstances, there would be no chance that they would ever have ended up working together, or even being acquaintances, let alone friends. But there were never any normal circumstances around Ironside.
Besides, he didn't need Ironside to tell him the score; the Chief had decided to employ Mark as his assistant, and that was good enough for Ed. So Ed would just have to learn to live with it.
The silence stretched out for a number of minutes before Ed had decided on asking any more questions.
'You get what he wanted?' he asked Mark.
'And then some. He only wanted the five largest case files in the Narcotics Department! The Carson Case, the Jessop Case, the McDonald Case…'
'McDonald,' interrupted Ed. 'That can't be right!'
Mark didn't look pleased at that comment.
'Don't tell me that, man,' he said. 'Why not?'
'McDonald's been dead the past three years. The case is as dead as he is!'
During the cold pause that followed, Mark scowled.
'Man, I don't like where this is heading,' he said at last.
They looked at each other, and Ed had a sudden idea.
'Say, did the Chief tell you to come straight back here, once you were done?' Mark nodded. 'Same with me. So why isn't he here?'
'Maybe he found something better to do,' Mark suggested.
Ed shook his head.
'He said this was important. And urgent. You'd think that he'd want to hear what we had to say rather than keeping us hanging around with nothing to do but chat.'
'Yeah…' echoed Ed slowly.
'Circles,' Ed murmured. 'As in going round in ever decreasing.'
'The man certainly knows how to run you in circles,' said Mark.
'You'd better believe it!'
Ed gave the other man a rueful smile and, much to his relief, Mark smiled back.
'You know him better than I do. So what does that mean?' asked Mark, leaning forward. He seemed uneasy.
'It means…' Ed moved forward too, mirroring the other man. 'It means I wouldn't put it past him to have put us on. You've just spent five hours chasing round in circles. So have I.'
'He'd do something like that? To his own staff?'
'I wouldn't put it past him.'
That was the question. If Ed was right, and his instincts were screaming at him that he was, then there had to be a why. Why would Ironside have sent them out on useless errands? There was only one reason he could think of, the only reason that fitted the facts. Ironside wasn't blind or stupid, he must know of the tension in the office between himself and Mark. They were two totally different people, they needed a little common ground.
'Maybe,' he said thoughtfully, 'maybe it's meant to give us something to talk about!'
There was a long pause as Mark scowled at him.
'You mean to say that I've wasted five hours, just so I can get to know the fuzz!'
He looked so serious and annoyed by the idea that, for a moment, Ed was deeply insulted.
'Hey, man, there's no need to be sarcastic. You can't honestly say you're pleased about me hanging' around, either.'
There was no reason to deny it, so Ed shrugged.
'Doesn't matter,' he said. 'You're the Chief's assistant, and he trusts you. I do to.'
Mark paused, looking uncomfortable. It was a number of seconds before he replied.
'I'd like to say the same about you, man. But you're the fuzz, so…'
'So's the Chief,' Ed reminded him.
The door banged open suddenly, making both men jump. It was Ironside himself.
'Why are you two just sitting there gossiping like a pair of old women?' he demanded, glaring at them both. 'Don't you have any work to do?'
Ed flicked a glance at Mark, and saw the other man smiling. Together, they stood up.
'We've been working for the past five hours,' said Mark, crossing his arms and glaring at the Chief. Ed struggled to stop his smile growing wider. There were very few people who would stand up to Ironside like that!
Ironside looked blankly at the pair of them, so Ed pointed to the pile of files on the desk, the ones Mark had gathered, as well as his own.
'So?' said Ironside, still as truculent as usual. 'What do you want? A promotion? A raise?'
'We're going for lunch,' said Mark, with a half-glance towards Ed. 'A steak.'
'It's only Eleven,' Ironside said.
'Early lunch, as we've been working since five,' Mark said. 'Neither of us had any breakfast.'
'You're not paid to eat! You're paid to work!'
'We're not paid to go round in circles!'
Ironside had the grace to look ever so slightly guilty, just for a moment.
'Well,' he said, 'In that case, I'll come with you so…'
'But you've still got those files to check,' Ed replied automatically. 'Since they were so urgent, you'll want to check them straight way. We'll just go on without you.'
He saw Ironside scowl, and decided that if he was going to leave, it had better be before the Chief managed to get another word in! With a wide grin, Ed marched past his boss, towards the ramp. Mark followed him.
'Who's gonna pay?' Mark asked as they reached the door.
'No way, man! You!'
'The Chief gives you a good salary!'
'Not as good as a Sergeant's pay packet!'
Ed thought about it for a moment. Mark was here to stay, that was clear. They still had a long way to go before they might be friends, and this was as good a start as any.
'Ok,' he said. 'But you pay next time. Deal?'