Poker night at the loft was in full swing. Henri Brown dealt the cards- Simon had refused to let Jim do it, knowing that he could see through the paper-thin plastic, if he held it at a certain angle to the light.
Rafe joked with Blair about a recent case where Blair had posed as a woman, and Jim's 'date', to get into a nightclub. This lurid little tale was still the talk of Cascade P.D and grew more wild and fantastic at each telling.
Joel Taggert munched on Blair's low calorie snacks, his whittling waistline testament to Blair's encouragement and support.
Megan and Jim traded insults, the vitriolic Australian more than a match for Cascades finest.
Listening to the humorous jibes, Steve Sharpe smiled and laughed as the jokes flew and the warmth of his fellow officers wrapped around him like a security blanket. It had been a bad few months for him, since his young son, Richard, had been involved in a hit and run incident.
His sweet six year old with the bright, cheerful smile and the dancing blue eyes had been reduced to a broken wreck, his tiny, shattered body lying in a hospital bed almost unrecognizable. If it hadn't been for the guys he now shared a beer and a joke with, he had no idea how he and his wife, Rachel would have coped.
As if the shock and fear wasn't bad enough, the hospital bills were mounting up and he wasn't sure how much more treatment they could afford. Richard was still in need of so much reconstructive surgery that he was sure the final account would end up looking like the national debt. That didn't even begin to take into account the rehabilitation he needed.
When Jim had invited him to the poker night, Rachel had insisted he go. They were his friends and they wanted to help him chill out a little.
The beer had been flowing all night and everyone was more than a little relaxed.
"So Steve, how's Richard?" Megan asked.
"Oh he's doing okay. Still a way to go, but he's heading in the right direction," Steve replied with a sad smile.
"Any luck with getting help with the hospital bills?" Blair enquired.
Steve sighed, "No. I approached one company regarding funding, they said they might consider it. But I had to put up ten thousand dollars myself. Shit, like I wouldn't if I had ten thousand," he sighed.
"What if you could raise the money somehow?" Rafe suggested.
Megan sniggered, "You could always get the guys from Major Crimes to do a 'Full Monty'," she laughed.
"Hey, great idea," Blair giggled, "How about it guys? I'd choreograph it for you. I used to help out at the U in the theater project," he smiled at the shocked stares. The suggestion was met with snorts of derision.
"Oh come on, Sandy," Megan needled, "You know that these guys are too anal and repressed to do anything like that. I mean, a man has to be confident with his body, his sexuality and his 'equipment' to handle something like that," she grinned directly into Jim's face.
"Well, yeah," Blair sighed, seeing exactly where this was leading.
"What do you mean, 'repressed and anal'?" Simon said suddenly, "Do you mean just the men of Major Crimes, police officers, American police officers or men in general?" he asked irritably.
"I can only comment on the 'American police officers' I know of course, but I'd say you guys typify what I'm getting at. All macho and tough, but you'd blush like a virgin on a wedding night if you had to lose your strides in public," she chuckled.
"Says who?" Jim said defensively.
"Says me, mate," she replied eyeing the big cop aggressively.
"Oh really?" Jim challenged, "You willing to put your money where your mouth is, Connor?"
"Jim?" Simon said recognizing 'that' look on his friend's face.
"I'll do better than that, Ellison. If all the cops sitting here, get up on stage and take off *all* their clothes in front of an audience, I'll not only put up a thousand dollars, I'll also do all your paperwork for a month."
Jim glared at the brash Aussie, his jaw twitching, "You're on!" he said finally.
"Hey..hoo..Jim, whoa man," Brown said wide-eyed.
"What's up, Brown?" Jim growled, "You gonna let kangaroo lady here insult us that way? Don't you have any pride?"
"Hey, Jim. But.." Rafe said with discomfort.
"Jim...'naked'?" Simon chipped in.
Megan cackled, turning to Blair she grinned, "See what I mean? No balls," she sneered.
"Hey lady, I can assure you *I'm* not lacking in that department," Brown pouted.
"I would love to see you laughing on the other side of your face, Connor," Rafe said with annoyance.
"I'll do it!" Joel grinned.
Everyone turned to see his smiling face, Jim grinned widely, "Joel, you are an officer and a gentleman!"
"What about Sandburg?" Simon asked.
Blair grinned, "Oh no, she said the 'police officers of Major Crimes'. Like you're always telling me, man. 'I'm not a cop'. No, I'll choreograph the moves for you, help you get it together. Man, trust me...this is a 'cop thing'," he sniggered. Throwing back at them all the things that they used against him daily.
"So, is it a deal?" Megan asked, surveying the faces. One by one, they nodded. "I knew you'd see it my way eventually."
"Connor," Jim leaned in close, "I am going to dig out the most boring, most complicated, shittiest jobs I can for when you lose," he said smugly.
Megan's feral smile caused Jim to shudder, "And *I* am going to be in the front row, with a video camera and a measuring tape!" she laughed.
"Jim, I can't believe you let Connor talk us into this," Rafe whispered as the guys gathered at the loft for their first official 'meeting'.
"What's up, Rafe?" Jim grumbled, "Doubting that you have the 'equipment' for it?"
Rafe blushed slightly, "No. I just think it's kind of undignified for police officers to be stripping in public!" he hissed.
"'Undignified'? This coming from the man who got drunk and tried to hook the Commissioners daughter at the award ceremony last year, in front of the *entire* Washington police force," Jim sneered, "and *failed*."
"That's different!" Rafe exclaimed.
"Yeah, always is when it's you making a fool of yourself. Think of it this way, at least we're all gonna look like jerks!" Jim grinned.
"Come on, guys. Let's get started," Blair called, "Now I've sorted out some music and I have the steps running around in my head. I'm going to keep this simple, since I accept that some of you are rhythmically challenged," he gave a grin, "So, lets see, We'll start with three of you at the back, er...Jim, Simon and Joel and Rafe, H, and Steve at the front. Now all you have to do is, on the third beat of the music, those at the back walk forward, between the guys at the front and stand still. Simple?"
"What the hell's he talking about?" Simon whispered.
Jim shook his head, "Beats me!"
"Guys, it's simple, you listen for the third beat, then match your steps the same beat and move forward like so," Joel said, demonstrating.
The other men watched in amazement as Joel strutted his stuff, even adding a twirl at the end.
"Oh, way to go, Joel!" Blair exclaimed.
"Hey, man. You done this before or something?" Henri asked with a scowl.
"I know a few moves from my youth, kid. Yeah!" he grinned at the shocked expressions.
"Shit!" Rafe whispered.
"Okay, now lets all try. I'll put on the music and on the third beat...you go," Blair pressed the button on the tape recorder and the thudding baseline began.
"Sandburg, you gotta be kidding me," Jim gasped, "Not 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy', please!" he laughed.
"Hey, I'm the artistic director, right? I choose the music. Now get with it Ellison!" Blair said with a pout.
"Jeez, I really don't believe I'm doing this," Jim muttered.
"I seem to remember that this is *your* fault. Someone wanted to wipe the smile off Connors face, remember?" Simon grumbled, "Never mentioned the egg we'd have on ours, though, did you?"
"Just gimme a break. You were the one 'offended' about her insulting American manhood," Jim groused.
"Will you two please shut up and pay attention?" Blair demanded, "It's like taking a Kindergarten class, here."
"Is he *always* this bossy?" Simon asked.
Jim nodded, "Yeah. Little guys are always the same, it's a power thing," he muttered just loud enough for Blair to overhear.
The younger man shot his partner a withering look, "When you're ready, gentlemen."
On the third beat the three men moved forward, Jim and Simon watching their feet as though they were planning to break free of their body and escape into the wilderness. Unable to see the men in front, they both careered into the backs of Rafe and Steve who fell forward with an 'oof'.
"For God's sake, will you look where you're going?" Rafe groused, rubbing his knee- the same knee that just crunched as it hit the floor.
"Guys, pay attention, please!" Blair implored.
Two hours later, Simon limped from the loft, his toe swollen where he'd slammed it against the wall as he tried for 'the turn'. Rafe still nursed his throbbing knee and Steve was sporting the beginnings of a black eye, where Brown had elbowed him. Blair ran his fingers through his hair, he watched the casualties of war struggle away, and wondered what possessed him to agree to do this in the first place.
"See you guys Tuesday," he called. Feebly they all grunted and waved. Closing the door, he turned to see Jim, still with a finger in his mouth. He'd tried to catch Simon as he fell and bent his finger back. "Still hurting?" he asked, inexorably watching as Jim slid the finger in and out of his mouth, curling his
lips around it and gently sucking. Blair's mouth went dry.
"Yeah, "Jim said finally, "What a fiasco, huh?"
Blair strolled over and threw his arm around his partner's shoulder, "Not the best I've seen, but we have time to improve it," he said softly.
"Diplomatic to the end, Sandburg. What you mean is we were shit!" Jim said with a half grin.
Blair thought about the statement for a minute, "Yeah, man. You were shit!" he grinned.
Jim laughed, "Okay then, Fred Astaire. Why don't you show me what we're supposed to do?" he suggested.
"Okay," Blair said moving over to the cassette recorder and pressing the button. The music began to thud. Blair went through the moves with ease.
Jim watched inexorably as his partner strutted and posed, pretending to strip off the clothing as he went, <Why doesn't he just do it for real?> he thought hungrily, <Now *that* could inspire me.> Jim smiled at the idea. He'd been lusting after his partner for months and he was praying that Blair felt the same way. Blair had made it pretty obvious that he enjoyed watching as Jim strolled around the loft, wrapped only in a towel. It didn't take Sentinel vision to notice the bulge in the younger man's pants sometimes when they were laughing and teasing, pretending to fight or wrestling on the floor to see who got to eat the last twinkie bar. Hell, the man was a vision of loveliness. But, he'd probably go ape of course, if he knew what had happened at the P.D a few days before....
"Hi, Detective Ellison," a fresh faced young man smiled, "You seen Blair? He asked me to meet him for a coffee."
Jim looked the youngster up and down. He was fresh from the academy, tall: well over six feet. Had a healthy crop of dark hair: damn him to hell, Jim thought bitterly. The epitome of American manhood and he was looking to date Sandburg.
Blair had 'come out' to Jim about a month before, admitting that he was bisexual and though he preferred women, some men just took his fancy and he hoped that Jim wouldn't be too disappointed or upset with him. Jim had hoped that he came over all surprised and understanding, when in fact, mentally he was doing cartwheels and screaming 'Hallelujah!'
The main drawback in these revelations was that Jim had let loose all the repressed feelings he'd had for his partner from day one and they were now manifesting themselves in some deeply unpleasant ways.
"I don't think he can make it, we have a date," Jim said offhandedly, flicking through the report in his hand. Out of the corner of his eye, Jim saw the young man's face drop.
"Y..you have a 'date'...with Blair?" he stuttered.
"Yeah, for lunch. Sorry!" Jim smiled the coldest smile he could muster.
The young officer backed off nervously, "I'm sorry, Detective Ellison, I didn't know," he said before fleeing like a frightened rabbit.
Jim allowed himself a smug smile. If he could drive off all the competition, Sandburg would get so horny he'd have to throw himself at a grumpy, follicley-challenged old Sentinel eventually. At least that was the theory.
At that moment, Blair breezed his way into the bullpen. "Hi Jim, I'm late. Has anyone been asking for me?" he said cryptically.
Jim looked up with an innocent air, "No, Chief. Should they have?"
"Nah, guess not. You free for lunch?" Blair said with a tinge of disappointment.
"I guess so," the older man replied with a grin. Yes, he knew that what he'd done was mean, petty and spiteful. But, as they say, all's fair in love and war.
...."So, now do you get it?" Blair's voice broke through Jim's musings.
"Wh..Oh, yeah. No problem."
"So you want to try it?" Blair asked.
Jim blinked, his mind racing. What was it Sandburg was saying? He looked at his guide in puzzlement.
"Earth to Ellison...are you there?" Blair smiled.
"Sorry Chief," Jim tried his softest smile.
The younger man sighed heavily, "You haven't listened to a word I've said, have you?"
"Sure I have, but why don't you run through it again?" Jim smiled as apologetically as he knew how.
"I'll do it with you," Blair suggested, grabbing Jim's hand and hurling him to his feet.
<Ah, if only you meant that, Sandburg,> Jim thought pitifully, following his young partner out onto the cleared floor area.
After two minutes, Blair stopped the tape, "Hell, you might have five heightened senses, Jim, but your sense of rhythm stinks!" he sighed once again. He thought for a moment, "Okay, lets try this. You stand behind me, put your hands on my hips and literally just follow every move I make, okay?"
Jim gave an almost imperceptible mewling noise. Sandburg *must* be doing this on purpose. Like it wasn't bad enough watching him wander from the shower all drippy and delicious, but now they were playing 'Dirty Dancing'. Too much for this sad old cop. "Sandburg, I don't think that's gonna work," he shook his head, <'cause I might have to wrestle you to the floor, mount you like a prize bull and screw your brains out.>
"Jim, do you want to go through with this challenge or do you want Megan to win?" Blair needled, knowing exactly which buttons to press to get his partner champing at the bit.
"Okay, okay. Go ahead," Jim clenched his teeth as he moved in behind Blair. <I'm not going to embarrass myself. I'm not going to jump him or come in my pants. I'm just going to follow a few simple dance steps....Oh my God, look at that ass wiggling!>
"Right, one, two, three and....oof!" Blair fell headfirst as Jim crashed into his legs, landing heavily on top of him. "You know, Jim," he gasped for air, "You could be right about this not being the way forward."
Lying in his bed that night, Jim tried to take stock of his life. Here he was, forty years old, an ex-marine, soldier, cop. He'd seen most things in life- didn't like many of them. He wasn't *unattractive*, he never had much difficulty in getting women. He knew he was a good cop and was respected by those he worked with. So, why in God's name was he making a total fool of himself over a twenty-nine year old hippie, who wouldn't consider him as a sexual partner if he were the last man on earth? <But, Sandburg looks, he definitely checks me out when I wander around half naked,> he thought warmly.
#That's 'cause you're a lab rat to him, Ellison. He *studies* you, remember. He can look and still think Sentinel statistics. He doesn't find you attractive, just interesting.#
Jim turned over in bed, his erection bumping against his thigh heavily, "Oh please. Give me a break!" he whispered. Looking under the cover at the desperately straining cock, he sighed, "I know how you feel, I really do, but you *have* to stop embarrassing me in public," he pleaded. It throbbed and ached in reply, "Hell, I want him as much as you do, but short of throwing him on the bed and ravishing him, I don't know what else to do," the ache grew deeper, "Oh yes, you like that idea, don't you? Well, little guy, life ain't quite that simple." Jim closed his eyes tightly and hoped that his body would just calm down and get a little rest.
The bullpen bustled with activity as usual. Jim strolled out of Simon's office smiling. The Captain was sitting in a smart suit, behind his oh, so important desk, with his foot in a bowl of water, trying to take down the swelling in his toe. Jim had almost hurt himself laughing when Blair had refused to let his boss get out of Tuesdays rehearsal, insisting that he could supply some herbal potion to bathe the foot in, which would reduce the swelling in time.
"Sandburg!" Simon had pleaded pitifully.
Blair had set his jaw, "No excuses. You'd better be there, or I call Megan and inform her that she's won," he'd said forcefully. Oh lord, he was so impressive when he was being forceful. Uh, down boy.
Jim wandered over and sat at his desk. Blair had skipped off to the drink's dispenser to get them both a coffee. Suddenly, his partner hove into view with Sarah from accounts in tow. She was around his age and very pretty, in a common sort of way, Jim thought irritably. Blair was flirting madly, Jim could always see the signs. The smile, the body language, they shrieked 'take me', and she probably would have too, if there had been room on his desk to rest her ass.
"Chief, come on we gotta go," Jim called.
Blair looked up, the dreamiest smile spread across his face, "Okay, man. I'm coming," he said.
<I'll bet!> Jim thought with extreme annoyance, "Now, Chief!" he insisted.
"Call me?" Sarah simpered.
"Sure," Blair grinned.
Jim grunted, <Over my dead body,> he decided.
"So where we going?" Blair asked as the truck sped along 34th.
"Murder scene. Derelict building down by the harbor," Jim relayed the information, then took an almost sadistic pleasure in watching Blair squirm. <That'll cool your ardor, for starters,> he inwardly sniggered.
"So Jim. How do you feel about taking off your clothes in front of an audience?" Blair asked suddenly.
Jim glanced at his partner, "I'm okay with that, Chief. I have nothing to hide," he grinned, "Why d'you ask?"
"Oh, I collided with Rafe this morning. He's kind of 'anxious' about it," Blair smiled.
"Ah, Rafe's a wuss. He must be worried that he won't measure up," Jim laughed, still furtively watching his guide.
"Oh, I don't think he has anything to worry about there," Blair mumbled.
Jim's face almost dropped through the floor of the truck, "W..what's that supposed to mean?" he stuttered.
Blair just smiled that damnable enigmatic smile, "Nothing man," he replied, casually looking out of the window.
Jim gripped the steering wheel tightly, knuckles whitening with the pressure. <Nothing, huh? Well, we'll see!>
"Oh man, I can't believe how quick this has come around," Brown sighed, as the men once again gathered for a rehearsal. Blair was busy pushing back the furniture and getting everyone a nice relaxing beer.
"Hey, Brown," Rafe whispered, "You noticed Jim behaving strangely?"
"Like we'd notice?" Brown said in a low voice.
"No, I mean stranger than usual. He's been looking at me really weird the last two days. You know how lions watch wildebeest just before they pounce? Kinda like that," Rafe said uneasily.
"Maybe he's got the hots for you," Brown teased, watching Rafe's face flush.
"Gimme a break, we all know that Sandburg warms *his* sheets at night," Rafe sighed miserably, looking over at the two roommates joking, hugging and pretending to Lambada.
"Nothing so pathetic as a love struck fool, my man," Brown smirked as Rafe flushed even further.
Mentioning that he was gay was a risk, Rafe realised, but mentioning that he was attracted to Jim Ellison was insanity. Luckily, Henri Brown was a fine partner and a good friend. He had been supportive and understanding about everything. Pity he was so damned straight.
"Okay guys. Pay attention," Blair said trying to subside the giggles that had over taken him when Jim had swung him down, almost touching the floor...then fell over. "I have something for you," he reached into a bag and pulled out a handful of very skimpy leather underwear, "Your costumes, gentlemen."
"Man, you are joking?" Brown hooted.
"Nope. You strip to these, then at the last beat...whip them off!" Blair grinned.
"Jeezus, they look painful!" Simon grimaced as Blair held aloft one of the very skimpy bright red leather 'pouches'.
"Why bright red, man?" Brown wrinkled his nose.
"Because in case you haven't noticed, we have a wide range of skin colours here, and red will show up on everyone!" Blair enthused, "So listen up. Today, we just go through the moves again, and no one leaves until they get it right. You can take your costume home with you and try them on...they are adjustable, so we won't have any 'I need extra large' arguments. When we meet again on Friday, we are going to do a full dress rehearsal. Or should I say 'undress' rehearsal," Blair chuckled. Everyone groaned.
"What..all of us..together?" Rafe asked nervously.
"Of course 'all of us together', "Jim snarled, "What, Rafe. You want to give someone a 'private show'?" he eyed the younger man with malice.
"No," Rafe swallowed hard as Jim's eyes bored into him. Almost losing his ability to think or move, he glanced at his partner with desperation.
"He only asked, Jim. The guys nervous, he's not alone, I can tell you," Brown said with immense discomfort.
"Shit, if he can't take 'em off in front of us, what's he going to do in front of an audience?" Jim grumbled.
Blair placed a hand on Jim's chest. His stern gaze stopping the big cop in mid sentence. "Hey, look. It's perfectly okay to feel nervous about this, that's why we're going to do the rehearsals here, together, until you all feel comfortable," he glanced around at the serious faces and smiled, "Guys, maybe if you all stopped taking it so seriously and considered enjoying yourselves?"
"Hey, Blair's right," Joel grinned, "Why you boys so shy? You got something we haven't seen before?" he teased, "Lighten up!"
"Yeah, just remember that it's all in a good cause," Blair reminded them. Pricking their conscience seemed like a good way to keep their spirits up, "And we don't want Connor to win now, do we?" he asked. A general grumble ran through the room. Blair handed the tiny garments out and the men studied them cautiously. "Okay, lets get started."
An hour later, Blair sat on the sofa, running his fingers through his hair in sheer desperation. "Let me ask something," he sighed, "I trust that you can all count to three?"
"Can I use my fingers?" Jim said irritably.
"I'd say you could use brain-cells, but you wouldn't have enough!" Blair raged at him, "Shit, Jim. You stood on Simon's foot *again* and almost concussed Rafe, what you doing man?"
"He got in the way," Jim snarled.
Rafe eyed him warily, "It's okay, I'm not really hurt," he said.
Blair leaped from the sofa and ran to his room. The men watched in puzzlement until the young man reappeared sporting a tribal drum. "Right, we'll go back to basics. I'll pound the rhythm you move to it."
He began to thump the drum. The men stamped the moves out...forward..back..stop. "Ellison, move your ass before I kick it," Blair shouted. Jim pouted but caught up and actually began to get it right.
By the end of the session, Blair was beaming. They had actually got the rhythm and the basic steps together..even Jim. "Guys, you're doing great. Friday, we do a dress rehearsal. Oh, and if anyone is considering 'forgetting' their costume? Don't bother, I have spares," Blair warned.
"Okay, man. Friday," Brown grimaced.
"Sure, Friday. Oh and guys? Thanks. We really appreciate everything you're doing for Richard you know," Steve said.
Simon felt a lump develop in his throat, "You'd do the same for us," he said echoing everyone's sentiment.
"Would I take my clothes off in public for you guys?" Steve teased, "No way!"
Laughing they all left the loft at eight five two Prospect and headed home.