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Okay, this was running in my head as I watched the 4th of July Parade today (I know I know, it's only July 3rd, but my town does it early....). Thanks to Graywulf for posting it for me. Thanks to Iris Wilde for beta-ing for me. This is a tribute to all my friends at Cascade Times.

Disclaimers: Not mine, I just play with them for the enjoyment of others.

No spoilers - PWP

Sandburg bounced as he headed for the loft door. "Come on, Jim. Hurry it up!"

The taller man grimaced and groaned. "Sandburg! You're excitement is giving me a headache. *Will* you settle down?"

"Uh uh, Big Guy! We're going to be late and Simon said if we're one minute late, he's giving our spot away!"

Sandburg flung the door open and bounced out of door. Ellison grabbed the door just before it banged into the wall. He shook his head ruefully at the anxiousness of his roommate and friend. He closed the door, locked it, and followed his friend, who was halfway down the stairs. The smaller man couldn't even wait for the elevator to arrive.

Blair talked nonstop on the way to the park. Fortunately for the Sentinel, it was only a short drive to the park, so he let Blair ramble on. He half listened to his friend tell several stories about memorable Fourth of July parades when Blair had been younger. Judging by his comments, the younger man was still enamored of parades by his comments.

Surprisingly, Ellison found a parking spot nearby. Jim grabbed their folding camp chairs. They quickly found their friends from Major Crimes and greeted Rafe, Brown, Simon, Daryl, Megan, and Taggart.

Simon looked pointedly at his watch, then at Sandburg. The police observer just shrugged and pointed with his head at his roommate. "What's the matter, Jim? Not a fan of parades?"

Jim set up their chairs and mumbled, "Not exactly, sir." He rubbed his ear as an explanation for his captain. Simon nodded his understanding.

Blair jumped in before Simon could get a word in edgewise. "Oh, man this is *so* cool with everyone here! Just look at all the people! You could do a whole cultural study just by people watching!" Blair started to warm up to lecture mode but Henri interrupted him.

"Look out, Megan. Blair's going to a lecture on the subcultures of Fourth of July Parades!"

"Actually," she replied with an indulgent smile at Blair, "being the outsider here, and having never been to one of these, I'd love to hear Blair's take on it!" Blair gave Megan a mega-watt smile in return.

"Megan, you know the history of the Fourth of July Parade, right?" The Australian inspector nodded. "Okay. Good. "

He rubbed his hands in anticipation for his "lecture".

"Other than being celebrated for the obvious reasons, the Fourth of July has come to symbolize the gathering of the clans. Families that have splintered across the country gather, if not in person, at least spiritually, to celebrate the founding of this country. It can also be celebrated as the founding of the family as a whole. Everyone can celebrate this holiday, no matter what their ethnic/religious/racial background, since it is based on the founding elements that make this country great!"

He heard a few encouraging comments from the rest of the Major Crimes officers and from people surrounding their little group. Blair blushed when he realized he had garnered a larger audience than just his friends. Megan encouraged him to continue. "What I find interesting is that you may not know the people standing next to you, but the camaraderie felt amongst the crowd, the pulling together to celebrate a common holiday, is great. I mean, the energy given off by everyone is infectious. You just have to watch the faces of the children to see their excitement. In turn, watch the parents and grandparents of these kids get excited of their little ones' excitement and the energy just builds. It's a time when everyone can forget their troubles and just have fun! Friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time, perhaps, get together, quickly renewing that friendship as they stand and watch the parade. Kids get to see other kids they know from school or daycare. And the best part of all is being able to see if you know someone that's actually in the parade to cheer them on! And you feel special if you're recognized by someone in the parade. Kinda validates your existence, if you know what I mean, if just for that day. And the symbolism of the parade.

"Man, where but in America, do we have such recognizable symbols that mean so much?"

The crowd around him nodded and he heard different examples of the symbolism.

"And where else can we really, really show our sense of patriotism, but on the Fourth of July? It's the greatest reminder that we are one people, one nation. We may forget our patriotism the other 364 days a year, but not on that 365th day known as Fourth of July!"

Blair stopped to draw in his breath and continue as he looked at each of his friends. He had been the one to suggest that they all get together to celebrate the holiday and then go back to the loft for a cookout.

"This celebration reminds me of tribal cultures where everyone is one big family unit. Here at the parade, everyone watches out for the littlest children to make sure they don't get hurt running after the candy.

"Everyone is friendly, not in a hurry to get somewhere, because they are where they want to be! It's one of the few times in a year where everyone gets together and is that one family unit! And to think that this is the last celebration of the 20th century! And that we've been doing it for 223 years without missing a year! That's a pretty strong tradition...."

They heard the sirens of the police cars that signaled the start of the parade. Blair wound down his "lecture" and winked at Daryl.

"Wow, man! That was great! I never thought about the Fourth of July like that before. Thanks!" effused Daryl. Blair just bounced in return and pointed down the street as he heard the first band playing a patriotic song. He whispered to Jim. "Dial your hearing down, Big Guy, before the military guns go off."

Jim nodded in return to acknowledge the advice.

As the American flag was making it's way toward the group with the armed forces marching proudly behind, everyone stood in respect. The former military men of their group saluted while the nonmilitary people put their hand over their heart. Blair nudged Megan and motioned what she should do.

She mouthed a silent "thank you" to her friend and turned her attention to the flag. Her breath caught for a moment as she saw the rapt attention of everyone and noted how silent the crowd had become as the flag passed.

Megan watched the crowd and realized just what Blair had been saying. She also watched people salute as the flag continued to pass down the street.

She was glad that Blair had suggested that they all get together to celebrate this unique American holiday.


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