Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters are completely the property of Paramount and Pet Fly Productions. I use them out of reverence, solely for fun and not for profit.

Author's Notes: I do hope I haven't offended anyone with this, and I apologize if I have.


Nothin' but Air
by
Ismaro

ligela@sympatico.ca

 

A terrified group of detectives shuddered and drew back from the delivery being made to Major Crimes. Rafe went so far as to hold his index fingers up in the form of a cross and Brown had his eyes turned to heaven in silent prayer.

James Joseph Ellison was no silent protester, however. Forget the Grinch. Jim was capable of unending bitchery that the uninformed only thought was Blair's style.

"No," he said firmly.

He then stared at his monitor and entered a few words at the keyboard as the bravest of the brave walked up with one of the boxes and said, "Sign here."

"No," Jim said again. He went back to the very important paperwork which was obviously more his style than that box was.

"Sir? You are James Ellison, right?" a teenager with a really bad case of acne asked in a careful baritone, peering at the nameplate on the desk.

"Yes."

"Then I need you to sign here, Detective Ellison. Please."

"No," Jim said again. But this time he rose from his seat to tower over the unlucky lad and pointed directly to the box. "Get that out of my sight." He growled, very convincingly.

The kid was quavering with fear. "But, but, I'm s'posed..."

"... to take that out of my sight." Jim growled again.

The kid gave up. He looked around for moral support. Rafe was staring at a duplicate box, despair written all over his face. A larger box was crowding out all the junk on Sandburg's desk. That was the only reason Sandburg was still alive.

Then Simon stuck his head out of his office and said, "Bring the box to me."

The relieved kid left Ellison's desk and went to Simon's office. A full minute went by.

Then Simon stuck his head out again and trumpeted, "Detective Ellison! Get your ass in here NOW! And bring that other box!"

Jim's jaw tic started, Rafe looked at him with sympathy, and Brown tried to disappear as the only other likely candidate for the honour.

Ellison grabbed the huge box on Sandburg's desk and kicked his way to Simon's office.

"Someone want to hold the door for me at least," Jim tried, hoping for a little fellow feeling. Simon stared at him and the kid who had made the deliveries shrank back, far, far back.

Jim kicked his way into the office and dumped the huge box on the ground. "You called, Captain?" he asked sarcastically.

Simon's face was iron. "Yes, Detective. You have a delivery to accept. We need your signature here." Simon pointed out the line.

Did Simon think it was going to be that easy, Jim wondered to himself. Well, it wasn't. "No."

"I think you might want to reconsider that decision, Detective."

"No." Pause. "Sir."

Simon took a look at the sickly fascinated face of the delivery boy, sighed, signed in two places, one for Jim and one for the absent Sandburg, then pushed the kid out the door, who ran like a racehorse.

Simon stared at his best detective, who had taken on a military posture, at the ready. "Detective!" he yowled, before closing the door on the interest of Jim Ellison's compatriots. "That was cowardly, unsightly and undignified of you. Failing to sign for the uniform!"

"Yes, sir."

"You think this is going to get you out of wearing it?"

"No. I think saying No often enough will do the job. We just have a few slow thinkers around here."

Jim was watching the ceiling or he would have seen the interesting transformation of his captain's face from its usual dark brown to a shade like oxblood. It would not have looked healthy to the ex-medic, but Jim had more important problems than his best friend on the force having apoplexy in his presence. He had to deal with the box.

"'No' is not an alternative, Detective! This is a special event with the mayor's backing and Major Crimes is providing the support here."

"No, sir."

"Is that 'no', No is not an alternative, or is that 'no', you're not going to do it?"

"No, sir, I am not going to do it."

Simon's face got ugly. "You have about five seconds to change your mind. You know who is due here then."

"No, sir."

"Sandburg is gonna be here in five seconds and your ass is grass, Ellison." Simon stuck the cigar back between his teeth and sank into tobacco heaven.

Five.

Four.

Three.

Two.

One.

"Hey, guys, did the suits arrive?"

"Uh, yeah," Rafe confirmed glumly.

"All right! There'll be no holding us. We are winners!"

Brown started a powerful "Go, go, go!" but his partner's fingers were fidgeting far too quickly on his service revolver. H let it go.

"What? What's up?" Sandburg asked, a lost, confused look on his face.

Rafe pointed at Captain Simon Banks' door.

"Simon isn't for this? He never said that. I can't believe it. Major Crimes is the primary city sponsor. Simon wouldn't back out now!"

That lost, confused face got cranked up a little farther.

Simon, watching through the slats of his blinds, decided to take a hand in the matter. He opened his door. "Sandburg," he yelped.

"Yes, Simon, uh, sir, uh, do you have a problem with this, I don't understand," Blair Sandburg babbled, still oh, so lost and oh, so confused. He had to duck under Banks' arm to get through the doorway and then, Wham, Bam, 'lost' and 'confused' hit Jim Ellison where it hurt most. In his conscience.

"Uh, hi, Jim, what's going on, I thought Simon was behind us." If 'lost' and 'confused' hadn't done the job, the 'I'm appealing for the advice of my best friend' trick had Jim Ellison down for the count.

"Oh, frick," Ellison mumbled, and Simon was right on it.

"What's that, Detective? Did I hear you say something?"

"All right, I'll do it!" Jim could be heard all over the floor. "But you"—he was pointing to Blair—"and you"—he was pointing to Simon—"are dead men. You might have won, but if you think I didn't know you were working in concert, you'd better think twice about having sub rosa conversations in the men's room across the hall."

"Oh, um," Blair went from lost, confused and appealing to amazingly guilty.

"Oh, that," Simon said off-handedly. "You gotta work with what you got. We got a men's room, not a sanctuary."

"Besides," Blair came back at Jim, "why were you listening to what goes on in the men's room? Gross. Is it something Sentinels need to know? Geez, I hope that's all you did about the men's room."

The combination of creepy and gross turned the conversation around. "I saw you two deke in there, and I just upped the old hearing a bit. I know when my best friends are selling me out behind my back. Call yourselves pals of mine. You're rotten to the core."

"Hey, hey, hey!" Blair jumped on the line as Simon let the master take over his office, "that's good, Jim, that's really good. Rottweilers, Rottweilers, Rotten to the Core. Give 'em the ball and watch them score, score, score!"

Jim was fixed on Simon's face. Simon had managed not to swallow the cigar and was in the process of returning it to its aluminum tube. "Simon?" Jim said weakly. "Surely we don't have to do that too!"

Simon, looking anywhere except at Jim's face, said, "Sandburg, Ellison, Rafe, down to the work-out room now!"

"Oh, God," Jim said and prayed for an early death. A very, very early death. Like last week.

So the band of detectives—well, two detectives with largish boxes and a smaller police observer with an immense one, plus the captain of Major Crimes—marched to the elevator and took it straight down to the work-out room.

"Everybody out!" Simon barked.

"Wha?"

"Hey!"

"Oh, yeah, that's right, it's closed this aft."

"Huh?"

"Sign on the door. We're being booted."

The Major Crimes lot watched as the others haltingly made their displeasure known via excruciatingly slow movements, until Jim growled at one of them and they got the message. Jim was not in a good temper and they were not helping. They were also cops, not poor little delivery boys. Jim was not allowed to eat poor little delivery boys. Blair wouldn't let him.

Everyone else always wanted to help Jim in the worst way possible. All he had to do was growl.

When the last denizen of the gym was gone, Simon protected his men's modesty by closing all the blinds himself. Jim went over them again and twitched a few exactly so, then gave himself over to torture.

Blair was talking to Rafe. "So the final arrangements have been made?"

"Yeah. I got the confirmation today, from Coach."

"Who's Coach?" Simon asked. Jim was playing Black Ops with the shadows of the boxing bags.

"The rep for the Women's Wheelchair Basketball Institute," Rafe explained. "Coach will be doing the introduction himself. Uh, herself. Whichever."

"Why the whichever?" Blair asked.

"One of those unisex names, Blair!"

Both Simon and Rafe were laughing and Blair Sandburg was laughing right with them.

"Lindy Cecil could be Lucky Lindy, you know? Though it sounds more like a woman," Simon gave his opinion.

"She one hell of a woman, if that's what she is," Rafe said.

"Why?" Blair asked, playing straight man.

"She's got balls, great big ones," Rafe sputtered out and even Jim had to laugh at that.

"Oh, shit, I just laughed, didn't I?" Jim said.

"Yeah, Tough Guy, you laughed," his personal Shaman agreed. "Wait till you see me in my costume, Jim. It's a laugh riot."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Simon scowled at the other three. "Now go get changed so I can get finished up here and get back to work."

Rafe and Jim groaned, but Blair was beaming. He did have the largest box of all. With his good example before them, the other guys had no choice but to grin and bear it.

The two detectives came out looking shell-shocked.

"Black lurex. Skintight black lurex. They put us in skintight black lurex," Rafe kept repeating.

"With rust cuffs," Blair put in, as if it would help.

Rafe took one look at Jim and Jim took one look at Rafe and then both dived for towels.

"NO ONE IS GOING TO SEE ME IN THIS OUTFIT BEYOND THESE DOORS," Jim bellowed.

Simon snorted. "Look at Sandburg and tell me you'd rather switch."

Sandburg was in a skintight black lurex outfit with rust cuffs, only he also had a huge plastic dog's head mask over top of his own head. It was primarily black, with some rust colourations above the eyes, on the cheeks and down the muzzle. Sandburg was clearly enjoying himself. He trotted up and down the exercise room, pumping his fist in the air, jumping on and off pieces of exercise equipment. Nothing could be heard issuing from the huge costume head, but Jim revved up his hearing and Blair was making happy little noises, "Oh, yeah. Um-hmm. Hope you like it, ladies. Good pick."

He couldn't help it. Jim sighed and gave in. If Blair was this happy over a stupid dog costume, Jim could give in gracefully. Couldn't he?

Besides, laughing at Sandburg in the dog costume was going to be good for at least five years. At least!

So the three costumed gentlemen had a quiet conversation about codpieces, made a few adjustments, and started in on practising their routine. They needed a lot of practice.

Simon sighed long and hard and thanked his lucky stars he wasn't wearing black lurex. Skin tight. With rust cuffs.


"Ladies and gentlemen," the voice of Orvelle Wallace filled Cascade Arena, "today we are here for an historic event. Today the state's first women's wheelchair basketball team is making their debut. I give you the RAINIER ROTTWEILERS!"

Twelve women in wheelchairs, the wheels canted for better speed and flexibility of movement, pulled themselves out before the crowd. All were dressed in black and rust team outfits. They did a pre-rehearsed routine of dribbling and passing the ball back and forth to each other. Meadowlark Lemon would have been impressed.

The applause was deafening. The bleachers were filled to capacity. Cascade's population held basketball to be a sacred sport, and with the backing of the Jags and the mayor and Major Crimes to push along the sales, there had been a wonderful and unexpected sell-out.

Now it was time to put on the show and let the long term sponsors of the corporate world test out the newest deserving group of hopefuls.

Orvelle looked behind him and saw the man he was looking for. "Here's the guy who introduced Women's Wheelchair Basketball to Washington. I give you Blair Sandburg."

The applause was at a roar again, and Blair, who had been standing talking to a woman in an unaltered wheelchair, was flushed and disconcerted by the noise. Orvelle kept waving him up, and finally Blair swallowed a chestful of air and stepped up to the podium.

"Hello, Cascadians," he started, and the crowd was happy to applaud themselves. "Well, as you probably know, there's university sponsored men's wheelchair basketball team in Seattle already. I thought it was time to balance things out a little. What better place for a women's wheelchair basketball team than right here in Cascade? Rainier University is the proud new home of the Rainier Rottweilers..."

Again the onlookers were louder than the speaker system. Blair waited for them to settle down. "Now I'm going to hand you over to the local spokeswoman for the National Women's Wheelchair Institute, Coach Lindy Cecil."

The woman in the unadapted chair rolled up to a position in front of the podium. Blair handed the microphone down to her. She was the picture of corporate image perfection, thirtyish, blonde hair, blue eyes and a black linen suit with a white shirt. The obligatory touch of rust was added by her feather earrings.

"Wow! What electricity!" Lindy said. "You are the greatest!"

The crowd went wild for themselves again, and Blair disappeared to a dressing room where Jim and Rafe were already doing starter exercises to support their later regimen.

"Boy, can she work a crowd!" Blair said with some envy. "Wish I had her enthusiasm. I'd never lose a grant."

"Hey, Chief, if you had any more enthusiasm, you'd be the one under study!" Jim smiled at his best friend, the Guide who was studying his Sentinel abilities, and Blair smiled back, patting Jim on the shoulder as he scurried to pull off his suit jacket and pull on the dog costume.

When all three Major Crimes men were dressed they took a good, long look in the mirror. What they saw looking back was pretty damn hot!

Rafe and Jim were identically sized, although Jim's musculature was more defined. Both dark-haired with blue eyes and a great smile, they made very good bookends.

The book in the middle was the smaller Sandburg, but with the outsized mask on, he almost reached the height of the other two. But the mask was very lightweight for its size, and well cinched down so it wouldn't topple over when the 'Rottweiler' started jogging around the arena.

That would become much more important later in the game.

"How much time we got left?" Jim asked, still stretching. "Hey, Chief, do a little warm up, okay? You've got a part to play in this!"

"Okay, okay," Sandburg said, and he started the stretching and loosening exercises too.

Within a few minutes, Orvelle was down in the locker room looking for Sandburg. "Hey, Blair," he said, "you're on in a minute."

"Oh, wow, I'm late," yiped the Rottweiler, and he raced down the ramp in oversized dog shoes, trying not to trip or fumble.

Of course he fell all over his feet, and then flat onto his face, but he turned it into a joke with a shoulder roll and stood with his arms outstretched, swivelling back and forth before the crowd.

Lindy Cecil was still in possession of the mike. She looked Blair over and broke out into a smile. "Now that's what I call a dog!" she laughed, and the crowd cheered. "This is the Rainier Rottweilers' team mascot. He was named in a contest held among all the grammar schools in Cascade. If the lucky winner will come forward..."

A small boy, in jeans and a blue sweater, was pushed into the forefront, where he obviously did not want to be.

"This is Johnny Wing and he is the winner of the Search for the Rottweiler contest. Johnny, do you remember what your prize is?"

Johnny was talking to his shoes around a mouthful of Swedish berries. But that was no problem for the most experienced Ms. Cecil.

"That's right," she said brightly. "A pair of season's tickets to the Rottweiler games at Rainier U.," her voice broke off to nod at the child who nodded back, "AND a pair of season's tickets to the Cascade Jags games!"

Now the child had a gigantic smile on his face and the applause nearly overloaded the sound equipment. Techies fiddled with buttons and sliders and everything came close to normal again.

"And what name did you give to the Rainier Rottweiler, Johnny?" Ms. Cecil coaxed.

"Roscoe!" the child announced with pride.

Roscoe came bouncing up, faking a lick at the child's face and pretending to steal the envelopes with the prize tickets inside.

He got stopped good and fast by Lindy Cecil, who outmanoeuvred him all around the court until she drove him back to the podium and demanded that he return the tickets.

Hangdog, Roscoe did it. Then Lindy and Johnny petted the mascot and he sat up, happy again. (Of course, the only moveable part of Blair's costume was the tongue. Jim had said that seemed appropriate, and Blair had bristled; "She's my Mom!")

Then it was time for Johnny to take his tickets back to his seat and for the podium to be removed and the mikes relocated for the commentators, while onto the court came the twelve opposing players, drawn from teams all over the U.S. Orvelle had the juicy job of commenting and at his side were the mayor and Simon Banks himself. Simon was uttering prayers that his men would make it through their routine without coming apart too badly.

It was not to be.

The game itself was engrossing. People who had only come for the sake of being seen to support a good cause found themselves drawn into the action. It was fast, it was cut-throat, and every basket either side made was hard won.

All over the arena came the comments. Everyone was surprised at how much they were enjoying the game, how they could pick out the styles of the various players, and a few started placing discreet bets.

In this exhibition game the time played was abbreviated for the opening festivities, and soon a halt was called.

Showtime!

Jim and Rafe ran out onto the court, both pumping their hands into the air. Jim discovered very quickly that he'd better turn his hearing way down, way, way, way down, if he wanted to complete the routine. The, um, codpieces were barely there and a few of the ladies had noticed that fact.

But grim and determined to the end (because, hey, if they shrivelled up and died they couldn't work their revenge on Sandburg and Banks), the very fit and well-trained detectives went into a rah-rah-rah routine that outdid any other cheer squad ever seen. Naturally, it was little more than an embellishment on the physical demands of the job of guarding the most dangerous city in the country, but Rafe and Jim worked it for all they had.

As said before, the codpieces were, well, insignificant.

Especially when they started moving.

"Rottweilers! Rottweilers! Give me your paw! Rottweilers! Rottweilers! Rah, rah, rah!"

For that meagre little couplet, Jim and Rafe were working apart, but in tandem with lots of leg and arm movement. Blair was circling the crowd, handing out his paw to shake. The next rhyme proved more entertaining.

"They're a little bit witchy and a lot more bitchy and when you see 'em coming, you'd better run away. 'Cause the dames on this team really know how to scheme and the ball is always theirs, every court, every day."

The guys did a couple of cartwheels to open and close this jingle, and the crowd was happy to watch what went up to come down again, especially when followed by a little wiggling of the hips as the guys tried to get the no-name codpieces back where they belonged.

"The Rainier Rottweilers are ladies with style. Watch 'em handle the ball with a whole lot of guile. They're wily like their namesakes and they got energy to spare, and whenever they shoot they get nothing but air!"

Rafe and Jim started a tumbling routine with each using the other's knee and thigh as a jump up for backwards somersaults. The crowd started to applaud. The codpieces had pretty much left the scene. Simon held his breath.

"Rottweilers! Rottweilers! Rotten to the core! Give 'em the ball and watch 'em score, score, score!"

Ah! Blair's first cheer for the Rainier team. It was his cue to come to centre stage.

"Rottweilers! Rottweilers!" The cheer went up, helped on by a few scattered officers around the arena, who knew the guys were going to need to breathe, not chant, for the next bit.

Rafe and Jim hunkered down a bit and Blair simply climbed them. All the way to the shoulders. Then the cops straightened up and there was a three-person human pyramid for the delectation of the viewing audience.

It didn't last long.

One of the rather envious-looking players on the opposing team (which had an all-female pep squad to go home to, and jingles with a little less pizzazz) 'accidentally' passed the ball to Sandburg's head.

Blair couldn't see it and the roar of the crowd could have been for the missing codpieces, but the impact of the basketball against the mask was more than enough to upset the balance of the makeshift rally team.

When Blair fell, it was Jim who twisted around so that his Guide wouldn't take the landing so hard. So Blair and the mask fell on Jim. Rafe was doing well to have come out of it without injuries of his own.

Blair's hands were at the mask, obsessively pulling at it to try to get it off. Rafe helped him. The sight that greeted him was not what he wanted to see.

"Oh, God, Jim! Talk to me buddy. Jim, you there? SOMEONE CALL THE EMT'S!"

Jim wasn't waking up quickly, and he was surrounded by people in wheelchairs, all trying to help. Rafe calmly took command. "Please move back. It's just a minor matter. Please give him room to breathe. Thank you. Thank you."

When the EMT's arrived, there was no problem with them getting down to Jim's side. The extra law officers in the audience were terrific ushers.

As they put him on the stretcher, Jim muttered in his throat and his lids began to flutter.

"Jim!" Blair cried.

But there was nothing more. Jim had fallen back into unconsciousness.

Blair insisted on going with the EMT's, totally forgetting that from the neck on down he was a dog. Simon and Rafe exchanged hopeless glances and waved the EMT's to allow Blair to accompany Jim to Cascade General. They would follow with both men's street clothes.

Simon was muttering about charging the competitor with assault. Rafe was nodding sympathetically. Of course, it was impossible. How do you raise funding for a new sports team, with a piece of unsportswomanlike behaviour such as that which had felled Jim Ellison?

In other words, the mayor said No.

It wasn't until they had reached the E.R. that Jim opened his baby blues again.

"Thank God!" Blair said and clutched at Jim's hand with his paw.

"Oh, oh, how long was I out, Chief?"

"About fifteen minutes."

They looked at each other and said in concert, "Concussion."

Blair was hovering, and Simon signalled to Rafe to draw him away.

"Hey, Blair, we have to do the paperwork for Jim, right?"

Anything that impinged on Jim Ellison's health was a priority to his Guide, and Blair let himself be led off.

They entered a too familiar room. Behind the counter, a woman was working. Rafe thought she looked familiar too. Perhaps he had been making more visits to C.G.H. than he had realised.

But Blair was talking. "... Jim's list of allergens and his prior concussions." Then he stopped utterly and said, "Lindy!" with the greatest surprise.

"Yeah, that's who I am," said the young woman behind the counter with a big, warm smile.

"Hey, Rafe, this is Lindy! What are you doing here, Lindy? You should be at the arena."

"S'okay. The show was over. I always update Jim's files when I'm here. I wanted to make sure it was done right. I know important it is to you both."

"I'm so sorry, Lindy, I didn't recognise you before."

"No need, Blair. I was out of place. There's that kind of weirdness of 'where do I know this person from' when you meet your pizza delivery guy at a charity social event."

"Yeah, there's that." But Blair knew full well that he hadn't recognised Lindy for any reason other than that the wheelchair had made the difference; it was not the disability, but the height as he faced and looked down at her on the arena's court. But he was very grateful for the graciousness of her reply.

"Hey, Lindy!" Rafe said. "You're Coach, right? My Coach on the internet."

The young woman reddened a little. "Yup. That's me. While I know this one," she jabbed a thumb at Blair, "and his partner way too well, I don't think I've actually met you. Hey, Blair, help me out!"

Blair found himself introducing Rafe to the pretty woman sitting in front of the computer screen, working on the details of Jim's medical profile, and it soon became clear that his presence was unnecessary.

Roscoe went to find his roomie, not sure why he was fielding so many strange looks. It wasn't until he found Jim down in X-rays that he got the answer.

"What's wrong with me, Jim?"

"You're a dog, Chief."

Blair looked at his paws aghast. "So I am. How did I get roped into this?"

"I don't know," Jim returned. Then he started humming, "How much is that doggie in the window?"

Blair nearly needed treatment for apoplexy at that. Jim relented. Rafe came down to ask Simon for their proper clothes, and everybody changed and went home.

Except Rafe who had made a date with a young woman who only stopped into the hospital to be sure one of her favourite patient's file got updated properly.

~ End ~


E-Mail Ismaro at ligela@sympatico.ca
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