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Miracle Ball
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Disclaimer: Not mine. No money. Don't sue. They're still Pet Fly's, but thankfully they no longer have anything to do with up of n. I'm just borrowing them for a brief time. The story however, is all mine. Who was I to resist when Jim whispered in my ear that he and Sandburg hadn't gotten to get dressed up and go out for a while....

Warnings: minor spoilers for His Brothers Keeper, Remembrance, and Foreign Exchange; pre The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg; I gave them a hospital, specifically a children's hospital. I also gave Jim a little bit more background. You've been forewarned, if you don't like it, tough.

Summary: The boys have the opportunity to spend a relatively mild evening on the town, and it's all for a good cause.

A big thanks to my betas Ronnee and TAE. Thanks ladies, your input made this a better story. Any mistakes that remain are mine and mine alone. What can I say, I can be rather stubborn about some things.... Okay, just about everything....

Another big THANK YOU to Ronnee who graciously volunteered to host my story... (we aren't even to plural yet!

This one is for the kids. And Dr. Robyn, just because she might have to go to one of these things someday.

Feedback welcome at Toni Rae . Remember this is my first attempt at this, so be gentle!

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Miracle Ball

by

Toni Rae

"Sandburg! Ellison! My office now." Simon's bellow cut the otherwise quiet afternoon.

The two men in question looked at each other in confusion, each mentally cataloguing their latest escapades to determine what, if anything, Simon might complain about. After quick mental review, neither one came up with anything significant so with a shrug of their shoulders they made their way across the bullpen.

"Have a seat gentlemen." Simon said as they entered the office.

"Coffee?"

Simon's words caused even more confusion for the detective and his partner. Usually Simon was not this forthcoming, unless of course he wanted something. Light began to dawn in the eyes of both men as they took their respective places on the edge of the conference table and the

chair sitting in front of Simon's desk.

"Uh-yeah. Thanks." Blair replied, thrown off with the seemingly innocuous request, then moved quickly to get two cups of coffee and refill Simon's before the Captain withdrew the offer.

"Jim," Simon began after the coffee had been distributed among the three men.

//Uh-oh.// the detective thought to himself, knowing that the Captain's use of his first name meant he wanted something big that Jim was really not going to like.

"Yes, sir?" Jim responded, sure he was not going to like the direction the conversation was taking.

"Jim, I have an assignment for you." Simon said as he handed the detective a smallish, square, obviously expensive, envelope.

//An assignment, that wasn't too bad// the detective thought to himself as he reached for the envelope.

However, the look of relief on Ellison's face quickly changed to one of horror as he opened the envelope. In the meantime, Blair remained unusually quiet, still not sure exactly what was going on.

"Captain tell me you didn't." Ellison lamented after reading the contents of the envelope and handing it to his partner before the kid fell off the table trying to read over his shoulder.

"Cool! This is an invitation to the Miracle Ball." Blair said as he began to bounce.

"Actually, I didn't." Simon interrupted before Sandburg began detailing the cultural significance of the invitation or some such anthropological nonsense.

Jim's sigh of relief was short lived as Simon continued. "You have the Mayor to thank for this one. Seems the city is doing a major positive publicity effort revolving around its civil servants.

Each of the city's agencies is required to send at least one representative from their ranks. The police chief, the fire chief, the local paramedic coordinator, and even the Mayor will all be there."

"Simon, haven't we been through this one already? The Mayor doesn't even like me. What good is it going to do for us to go to a party Simon? And why me? I'm sure you represent the Major Crime's division better than I ever could. Hell, send Rafe, I'm sure he lives for these kinds of

events." Jim responded.

"That's not entirely true. Like has nothing to do with it, you make him look good, and that is good for his image and the city. In addition, the Mayor feels that with that Policeman of the Year award of yours comes an obligation to interact with the public in a more informal manner. If it

makes you feel any better the Fireman of the Year and the Paramedic of the Year will be there too." Simon said in his reasonable, 'I'm the Captain so don't argue with me' tone of voice.

"If you remember correctly Simon, I gave that particular award to Little Stogie. And I'm sure that he would be happy to attend this thing in my place." Jim responded, a slight note of contempt creeping into his voice. "You know how much I hate parties, not to mention socialites."

At the same time thinking of the impact an event like this would have on his senses. Just the thought of all the different perfumes and colognes in the air was enough to make him wince as a headache began to form behind his eyes.

"Well, then you will be delighted to know that you are not actually going to attend the party." Simon said, knowing the detective was going to hate what came next even more than the idea of attending the party.

"What?" Both Sandburg and Ellison said in unison.

"You have been selected as one of the celebrity bartenders."

"No way Simon. Absolutely not. Can you even imagine what all of that noise, coupled with the smell of alcohol would do to my senses!?!" Jim responded outraged.

"That's why you get to take the kid with you." Simon replied.

"Oh cool. I've always heard about these events but never gotten to go, this will be so cool." Sandburg interjected before Ellison could object to the latest turn of events.

"Cool. Yeah, right. Why don't the two of you go then? And I'll stay home and watch the Jags game." Ellison said, realizing the futility of trying to battle both Sandburg and Banks when they actually decided to agree on something, but not quite willing to concede defeat.

"Sorry, Jim. Daryl and I have tickets to the Jags playoff game that night. I wouldn't want to disappoint my kid. Now, the two of you have tuxes to get cleaned so get out of my office." Simon dismissed the two men. "Oh and by the way, the Mayor expects you to be on time."

"Yes, sir." Ellison responded as he and Sandburg left Simon's office.

As soon as the door closed behind them, Sandburg began trying to impart some of his enthusiasm for the upcoming event to his obviously reluctant partner.

"Jim, this is so cool. You realize that the Miracle Ball is one of the big fund-raising events for the Cardiac Care Unit at the Children's Hospital? Just think of all the good things they do for the kids in the region. All of the funds raised will go directly to research, even the money from alcohol sales." Blair began.

"I know how important fund raisers are to the hospital. And even how important this particular fund-raiser is, that's why I buy two tickets every year." Jim interjected before the kid got very far in his 'I have to convince Jim this is a good thing' lecture.

"What? You buy two tickets every year? Why didn't I know that? But if you buy two tickets then you've been to this thing and you know what to expect." Jim's admission stopped the Sandburg tirade in mid-stride.

"I said I bought two tickets, Sandburg, I never said that I actually went to the event." Jim responded with a grin.

"So what's the point of buying tickets if you aren't going to use them?" Blair replied, confusion evident in his eyes.

"They saved my brother's life."

"What did you say?" Blair responded somewhat incredulously.

Jim took a deep breath before continuing, knowing that the kid would keep pushing until he answered the question. "Not too long before my mom left, when Steven was about two he started having trouble breathing." Jim began, deciding to avoid the inevitable Sandburg subtle interrogation if he tried to avoid the issue. At the same time he knew that three years ago if anyone had taken the time to ask about his yearly donation to the cardiac care unit he would have just responded with a gruff 'it's a tax write-off.' "The doctors finally decided that he had developed a slight heart defect. They figured it had probably been there since birth, but hadn't really started to cause a problem until he was old enough to start running around and playing. Ultimately, the doctors decided that the defect required surgical intervention, otherwise Steven

probably wouldn't live to see his next birthday." Jim stopped and took a deep breath before continuing, a note of bitterness entering his voice.

"My dad thought that Steven would eventually grow out of it, after all, the Ellison men did not exhibit weakness, but my mom and the doctors eventually prevailed. Of course the couple of times Sally had to run Steven to the emergency room because he couldn't breathe or because he

collapsed on the playground again, probably didn't hurt their case any. Between the surgery and the recovery period, Steven spent a couple of weeks in the cardiac care unit, that was when it was brand new. Steven recovered completely, but dad always held it over his head, that I was the stronger one and that they could have let Steven die as a kid."

Somewhat stunned by the latest Ellison revelation, even after three years, there were so many things the two men didn't know about each other. Blair filed away in his special mental file reserved specifically for the purpose, this, the latest of William Ellison's transgressions

towards his two sons. He would never understand how someone could raise his kids the way William Ellison did. He may not have been the biggest or strongest person on the playground growing up. Okay let's face it, he was usually the smallest and the weakest. But Naomi always made sure that he knew she loved him.

"I'm sorry, man. I didn't know." Blair said, patting the larger man on the shoulder.

"Not your fault. No one knew. But personally, I've always wondered if perhaps part of the reason that my mom left was because of the way my dad handled Steven's being sick." Jim said, before deftly changing the subject to avoid further Sandburg inquiries. "So do we have to go rent

you a tux, or is there one hidden in that mess you call your room....?"

"Hey! I'll have you know that everything lives in its own special spot." Blair smiled and took the offered change of subject easily.

"Well, does one of those special spots contain a tux?"

"Um... Let me think here, flannel shirts in the corner, books and artifacts on the bookshelf, socks hidden in the other corner, jeans in the bottom drawer...."

"Sandburg!"

"Okay, okay. Tux. Yeah, I think I have one in there somewhere."

"Good, let's go dig it out so we can get it cleaned. I think I had mine cleaned after the Policeman of the Year thing, but I'm sure it is going to need to spend the next couple of days on the balcony to air out. At least Simon gave us enough warning to get that accomplished." Jim said

as he grabbed his coat off the coatrack in preparation for returning to the loft and undertaking a tux finding expedition.

"You know Jim, this could actually turn out to be fun."

"Speak for yourself Sandburg, speak for yourself."

**************

A week and a half later saw Jim relinquishing, somewhat reluctantly, the keys to the truck outside of a building that looking deceptively like a Church.

Both men looked stunning in their tuxes with black and white accents. The invitation read, Black and White chic, and after Simon's admonishment to wear their tuxes, both men took the opportunity to add subtle accents which accented their own personalities. Blair chose a black and white vest with a tribal pattern stitched into the fabric, to accompany his black tux. Jim on the other hand, chose to wear a white tuxedo jacket with the traditional white shirt and black bow-tie. Though, in slight defiance of the all black and white dress code, he hadn't been able to

resist his roommate's suggestion of an ice blue handkerchief in the left breast pocket. Together the two men presented a nice contrast, which of course drew the attentions of everyone standing in line waiting to get in.

"Sandburg, are you sure this is the right place? I mean it looks like a church not a night club." Jim asked as the two men walked towards the end of a line stretching from the door nearly halfway down the block.

"It is a church, Jim. Well, to be specific, it was a church, Episcopalian to be exact. A few years ago the Church built a larger building further east and left this one vacant. It sat vacant for

several years until some innovative businessmen bought it and decided to renovated it into a night club. According to several of my friends in the history department they actually did a fairly good job of keeping the original building intact when they remodeled." Blair responded. "I'm

surprised you hadn't heard about it before now."

"I quit working vice seven years ago, Sandburg." Jim replied with a smile as they reached the end of the line.

"Man this is so cool. I cannot believe we are actually here."

"Yeah, well don't get too excited, we do actually have an assignment here." Jim responded, already beginning to feel the start of a headache from the array of perfume and cologne emanating from the line around them.

"Will you stop bouncing?" The Sentinel growled to his Guide after several long minutes of standing in line.

"Sorry man, I've just never been to one of these things before." Blair replied as his attention diverted once again to the well dressed women milling about. "Wow, wonder where she found that dress?" He muttered to himself. "See the tribal motif in the fabric?"

"Chief, this is official remember?" Jim reached out and grabbed his errant partner before he bounded off to add additional numbers to his already overflowing 'little black book.'

"But think of the potential in that pick up line."

"Chief."

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Nearly half an hour later, the two men were safely encased behind the bar. It would have taken far less time had Blair not stopped to flirt with the woman manning the ticket pick-up line where they had to stop and check in, though even Jim had to admit to being somewhat captivated by

her dazzling smile. Despite Blair's best efforts, however, neither man walked away with her phone number.

"So what do you two know about mixing drinks?" The regular bartender asked the two men as they took off their jackets in preparation of a couple of hours hard labor—or at least as hard a labor as mixing drinks for wealthy, well-dressed socialites and their dates could be.

"I tended bar a few times in graduate school." Blair replied. "I'm not into fancy, but I can pour a mean vodka tonic and a fairly decent margarita."

"And you?" The bartender turned toward Jim.

"Actually I worked part time at one of the local bars when I was in college." Jim responded. "I may not be up on the latest fads, but I remember most of the basics, including a recipe for killer martinis. What!?!" Jim asked at Blair's open mouthed look of shock which greeted his words.

"You never told me that!" Blair finally stuttered out after regaining his power of speech.

"You never asked."

"That's no excuse." The suddenly miffed Guide retorted. "All these years I could have been asking you how to mix exotic and interesting drinks for my dates, but no, you have to go and keep this information to yourself."

"Get over it junior." Jim said as he tossed an apron Blair's way. "Wouldn't want to get grenadine on that rented tux now would we?" He quickly responded to the younger man's incredulous glare.

"At least it isn't flowered." Blair muttered Sentinel soft as he tied the thing around his waist.

"If the two of you think you can handle it here, I'll go take a break." The bartender interrupted the light banter between the two men reminding them they were in a public place.

"Yeah, go on. We're cool." Blair responded for both of them.

**************

The next forty-five minutes proved to be the most fun Blair had had in a long time. Jim was a natural behind the bar, who ever would have guessed? And the socialites proved amusing and interesting as they all wanted to meet the former Cop of the Year. While Blair's own natural

empathy and inquisitiveness made up for his lack of knowledge about mixing drinks. So caught up in what they were doing, neither man noticed the regular bartender had returned until he spoke.

"So you guys ready to go mingle with the crowd for a bit?"

"What?" Blair responded, his attention diverted from the drink he was mixing and he splashed soda over the side of the glass.

"Whoa there Chief. Soda goes in the glass, not all over it and the bar." Jim laughed as he directed his friend's hand back over the glass.

"Oh right man, thanks."

"I'm guessing by your reaction that you would rather stay here instead of going out to mingle?" Jim asked surprised the gregarious anthropologist would turn down the opportunity to meet women.

"Well actually..."

"Fine by me, but if we're going to stay here at least let's have some fun."

At that moment four familiar faces appeared on the other side of the bar. Jim paused in his bartending endeavors as he acknowledged the newcomers.

"H. Rafe." Inclining his head toward each man. "Captain." Jim's eyes continued down the bar alighting on Megan several steps behind Simon. The sight of the Inspector in a form fitting green silk sheath dress startled a low appreciative whistle out of the detective. He turned his vision up a notch as he admired the slight pattern in the fabric and the way the lines of the dress accentuated her tall lithe form. Blair, bent down to retrieve a glass from beneath the bar, stood up abruptly nearly banging his head on the edge of the bar at the words that followed on the heels of his partner's whistle.

"Wow, Megan you're a long way from pink dingo. You look amazing."

"Why, thank you, detective. I opted to leave my coat at the door. I could say the same of you and Sandy." Megan responded with a smile as she moved next to Simon in front of the bar.

"Thank you." Jim responded as he nudged his partner slightly to prompt a response. Blair caught up on the subtle byplay between the two detectives jumped at the contact.

"Um, yeah. Thanks. And you do look great Megan." Blair threw out even as he thought //I hope this means they've finally decided to call a truce. Maybe now I can actually get some work done the next time we get suck on stakeout instead of having to play referee..//

"Can we get you anything or are you just here to block the flow of traffic?" Jim turned his attention back to the three men.

"Beer." They each responded in turn naming popular micro brews from the area.

"And you, Megan?" Jim asked while both he and Blair began pulling tops off bottles.

"Vodka martini please."

"One olive or two?" Jim questioned as he began pulling out the necessary bottles and shakers.

"Two."

"One vodka martini coming up."

With those words, Jim began mixing Megan's martini a la Tom Cruise, throwing bottles and shakers in the air before deftly catching them in just the right position to construct the perfect drink. Several minutes later as he slid Megan's finished drink across the bar the room broke

into applause. At the sound Jim turned his attention to the crowd which had formed in front of the bar. Even the band had stopped playing to watch his antics. In an attempt to save the now blushing detective, Blair interjected.

"Wow man, that was awesome. Where'd you learn to throw drinks like that?"

"Let's just say you learn some interesting skills in college." Jim replied, grateful for the distraction. "But like I said, let's have somefun."

Soon the two men were mixing drinks with the ease of long time partners. They easily interpreted one another's actions and anticipated the other's moves, perfectly. As for the sponsors—they'd never made so much money on drinks in the history of the fund raiser, and each made a mental or written note to remember to invite these two men to tend bar every year.

Nearly forty-five minutes later, Jim's attention halted abruptly focused on something in the distance. Seeing the halt in rhythm Blair immediately moved to his Sentinel's side afraid the older man was going to zone. By this time, the crowd in front of the bar had thinned leaving

few spectators to the sudden movements from both men.

Pitching his voice for Sentinel ears, Blair slopped into his Guide voice, "Jim. Come back man."

"Here, finish mixing this margarita for me, would ya?" Jim asked, as he indicated a blender full of ice and liquid to his partner.

Looking around quickly, Ellison could find no easy way out from behind the bar. The long plank of wood that formed the bar's surface had one end nestled into a corner that looked as if it was formerly occupied by a small table which held prayer candles in the building's former life. The

other end of the bar extended towards the stage, currently occupied by a small jazz band. //At least it wasn't an obnoxious rock bank with the bass turned of too loud for even the non-Sentinels in the room,// Jim thought to himself. The band was currently involved in a rousing act,

Jim thought that he recognized Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis with a little George Gershwin thrown in for good measure, so the exit end of the bar was blocked by a crowd of jazz enthusiasts. As he continued his perusal of the room, Ellison spied a fairly clear path across the room, beginning just to his left. Realizing the only way out was over, he took a deep breath and quickly vaulted over the bar.

Jim made his way across the room stopping momentarily to grab a plate off of one of the serving tables. As he reached the Mayor he surreptitiously reached out to switch the plate in his own hand with the Mayor's before the man could finish talking to one of his campaign donors. As Jim completed his actions the Mayor paused giving Jim an opening.

"Sir, I think you'll find this entre more to your liking, no peanut oil in the cooking process."

"Yes, thank you." The Mayor responded as Jim slipped away to return to the bar, not registering the detective's somewhat unusual words or even stopping to wonder how Ellison knew of his peanut allergy. His attention returned almost immediately to the donor, though the incident itself

filed itself away in the Mayor's mental file labeled Ellison.

"Man what was that all about?" Sandburg asked his partner when Ellison returned to the bar.

"Oh that. Nothing really. The Mayor's allergic to peanuts."

"Excuse me?"

"Later, okay, Sandburg?" Jim said as he indicated the crowded room, effectively ending the conversation. Blair knew his partner was right, this was not the place to have a conversation about Sentinel senses. Blair nodded his agreement, while his eyes promised to purse this line of

questioning at a later time when the two men were alone. At the same time, he made a mental note to remember to do just that.

The unspoken communication between the two men over, Jim turned to the bartender who stood silently in the far corner of the bar. "You okay here or do you still need our help?"

"I'm fine. You two were great. Ever think about changing careers?"

"I don't think so, but it sure was fun for the evening." Blair responded as the two men took off their aprons and put their jackets back on.

"Too bad, the both of you have talent."

With a grin the anthropologist bounced after his larger partner who was already on his way to one of the smaller rooms to say goodnight to Simon, H., Rafe, and Megan. The formalities completed, the two men headed outside and toward the waiting valet. Several quiet minutes of

comfortable silence later, the two men were situated inside the cab of the truck and headed back toward the loft.

Not wanting to break his Sentinel's quiet concentration on his driving Blair waited until they pulled into the parking lot in front of the loft to ask. "How did you know?"

"Know what?" The Sentinel responded, his mind on the pleasant evening he just spent with his Guide.

"Jim!"

"I saw his medi-alert tag when he picked up a drink and I caught a whiff of peanut oil in the air. When he started to eat something I tracked the smell a little further and made the connection. Well that and I overheard him telling his date that he couldn't eat the peanuts set across the bar because he's allergic to them." Jim mumbled the last part.

"Man that is so cool! You picked up the scent of peanut oil with all those smells in the air. I think we should run some tests on this." Blair began to bounce with the excitement of new tests for his Sentinel, Jim hearing as well as seeing not quite registering with the younger man.

"No tests, Sandburg. Besides, if you remember correctly we already did tests on oils which is the reason that I could tell them apart in the first place."

"Come on man. Think of what else you could pick up with a little practice."

"Chief!"

With those words the two men headed up the stairs to the loft, both grateful the evening had ended without significant incident.

***********

Next morning's Society pages—

Who was that dynamic duo slinging drinks last night at the Church? None other than recent Cop of the Year James Ellison, Major Crimes Division of the Cascade PD, and his ride along observer Blair Sandburg. The two dazzled the crowd at the annual Miracle Ball, benefitting the local

Cardiac Care Unit at Children's Hospital. Who knew there was so much talent hidden in the local PD.... Any ideas where this fabulous pair will turn up next.....?

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Author's Notes: The Children's Hospital in Denver really does have a Miracle Ball held at a local night club called the Church, which is a renovated Episcopalian church. The event uses local celebrity bartenders, too. The proceeds of the event benefit the Research Institute at the Hospital. (I decided the cardiac care unit sounded much more interesting! ___________________________________________________________________