Standard disclaimer: Pet Fly owns these boys, I just borrowed them for a little exercise. I'll give them back, I promise. Please don't sue, all I've got are four kids and a cat. The kids eat a ton and the cat spent yesterday stalking his own shadow - and couldn't catch it.
Warnings: Ahoy, Captain, smarm off the port bow!
Jim Ellison set his bag down in front of the loft and dug his keys out to unlock the front door. Testifying at the trial of Joseph Lessum had left him tired, dog tired, in fact. He let himself into the loft. Dog tired? I haven't heard that expression since my grandfather's day, I must be more tired than I thought. He dropped his keys in the basket and, as was his habit, extended his hearing to find his roommate. There, in the small downstairs bedroom, was the slow, steady beat of his friend's heart. Ellison paused, his Sentinel hearing had picked up something else in the small room. He focused more intently, there was another heartbeat, very fast. Another and another, in fact, more than he could separate. Alarmed, he swung the door in, expecting to find - Puppies? Sandburg was covered with puppies.
"What the. . . ?"
"Jim? Geeze, man, give me a heart attack, why don't you? It's four in the morning, you are not suppose to be home until tomorrow afternoon, I mean this afternoon." The younger man tried to focus bleary, blue eyes on his partner, while moving the sleepy, furry forms off his chest.
"What. Are. Those?" This was not what Ellison had envisioned coming home to. He counted to ten between each word.
"They're puppies Jim. I'm sure you've heard of them. They grow up to be dogs."
"I know that, Sandburg, what are they doing here. They can't be old enough to leave the mother." Unconsciously, the Sentinel began to scan the rest of the loft, half expecting to find a mother dog sleeping in some corner.
"That's why they are here. Let's go in the kitchen, I need some tea and it's almost time to feed them." With that, Blair began to scoop up the pups and place them in a box next to the bed. Jim counted a total of five. Five puppies, this is just great. He followed his Guide out, and into the kitchen. When did I loose control of this situation, hell, when did I have control of this situation?
Sandburg picked up the kettle, and walked over to the sink. "Do you want some tea, man?"
"Tea? It's 4 am, there are five dogs in my home, and you want to know if I want tea? I need a beer." He walked to the refrigerator and snagged one.
"No. You don't drink beer before breakfast. You are having herbal tea with me." Ellison started to open his mouth, then thought better of it and returned the beer to the refrigerator. The reason he won so many arguments with the kid, was because he knew how to pick them.
"How am I going to sleep with them in the loft? They'll be all over the place." He continued to stare at the swarming mass of puppies in the box that had been set down on the table.
"They have only been in my room or in a box. They haven't even touched the floor out here."
"You still haven't answered my question. Why are they here?"
The expression on Blair's face almost broke the older man's heart. "I couldn't just let them die, Jim."
With a resigned sigh, Jim asked the question. "Why would they have died? Tell me what happened. All of it."
Blair started to warm up a bottle of what looked like milk. After a moment Jim realized that it was puppy formula. He sank into a waiting chair and picked up one of the pups before he began to speak. "Tuesday, after I dropped you off at the airport, I drove out north of town to see a professor that retired last year. On my way back, I saw this truck by the side of the road and this guy. . . Jim, he picked up this burlap sack out of the bed of the truck and threw it in the river. Then he just drove off. I could tell the bag was moving, there had to be something alive in there."
"So you jumped in the river after it?"
"Well, more like waded in after it. I opened the bag and these puppies came tumbling out. There were seven, but I couldn't save two of them, I guess the bag hit a rock and they. . . ." Staring at the floor, his voice trailed off and Jim could imagine his young friend trying, desperately, to save those two pups. "I took them to a vet, he thinks that they are purebred Labs, but their ears aren't shaped right to be show dogs. I've been feeding them with an eyedropper. The vet gave me some formula to use until they are old enough to start on solids." He retrieved the now warm puppy milk and an eyedropper before he continued. "How did you get home from the airport and how come you're early?"
"I finished testifying a day early, and I. . .was lonesome. . . I guess, so I took the red eye home. I didn't want to wake you, so I called a cab." Ellison took a good look at his partner, he hadn't noticed before how tired he looked. "How often do you have to feed them?"
"Huh, oh every two hours. In a week or so, they will be able to eat enough to go a little longer between times." With practiced efficiency, he scooped up one puppy, and fed it, a dropper full at a time until it was satisfied. He then placed the now full andcontent pup in another box, one that he had pulled out from under the table. This continued until all the puppies were in the second box. The now empty box was slid under the table, ready for the next feeding. "Good night, I'll see you at the 6:00 am feeding, or at the 8:00 am one, whenever you get up. They will go to the university with me so they won't bother you today." He paused, as he picked up the box of puppies, "Are you okay with this? They won't be in your way, I promise, and as soon as they are old enough, they will go to a pet store or something."
"You wouldn't have been you, if you had left them to die." He paused. "Did that make sense? What I'm trying to say Blair, is that it's okay. Just don't get too attached to them. You better get some sleep, being the mama dog is a lot of work. Go."
Ellison picked up the two forgotten cups off the counter. One he dumped down the sink and the other one he carried into the living room. As he sat down he could hear Blair and the puppies settling down on the bed. There was a fumbling noise as the young man reset his alarm. Ellison sipped at his tea and thought about what his friend had said to him. He wondered about what kind of man would throw away a bag full of lives like that and shuddered. That was too close to the man he used to be, before Sandburg showed up in his life. After some close self-scrutiny, Ellison decided that thankfully, he was never the kind of monster who would kill innocent animals. He had just been the kind who would have driven by without stopping. That was almost as bad. Thinking about it reminded him of the trial. The feds had a good case against Joseph Lessum, and Jim's testimony helped to make sure he never hurt an innocent child again.
Blair Sandburg woke up and glanced at his clock. 6:15am, he sat up, reaching for the puppies and found that the only fur on his chest was his own. Alarmed, he rushed into the kitchen where he stopped and stared in shock.
At the table sat Jim Ellison, tough guy cop, former army ranger trained in covert ops. In his arms was a small, wiggling bundle of energy, sucking on the business end of an eyedropper. Not only that, the bigger man was having a conversation with said bundle.
Joining his partner at the kitchen table Blair waited, an expectant smile on his face. After a moment, Jim looked up and returned the smile. Realizing that an explanation was in order, he told the younger man, "I was already up and you looked so tired, so I turned off your alarm and brought them in here. As I was telling King. . . . "
"King? You named them?" Sandburg's grin was growing wider by the second. "They all look the same, how can you tell?"
"We can't just call all of them, 'Pup', it will confuse them. And they do not all look the same. King here, is the biggest, and has the most muscles. Tiger over there, has a lighter color coat and his ears are slightly different in color. Missy has a spot on her stomach that the hair grows a different direction. Mugs has a kink in his tail, and this one is whinny and bossy, so she's Cassie."
By the time Jim had identified all the pups, Blair was biting his knuckle, to keep from laughing. "If you say so Jim. What happened to 'not getting attached to them' Big Guy?"
Ellison changed the subject without batting an eye. "Are you sure you can handle them at school?"
"Well, let's see. Five puppies, thirty college kids, Nooooo problem. I've got only one lecture today, then I'm free. What about you? Don't you have to go in, and report to Simon about the trial?"
"Don't remind me, the only thing worse than sitting through one of these trials is having to report back about it. At least Lessum won't be getting out for the next thirty years. Do you want me to take them until the next feeding?"
Blair studied his friend. He knew what the investigation and testimony had cost him. "Nah, they like sleeping on a warm body, reminds them of their mom, I guess. This is one time it's nice to have a lot of chest hair, it gives them something to hang on to." He stopped, puppy box in hand, grinning at his friend. "Man, you are like total mush, you know it?"
"Just don't let it get around."
"Are you kidding, and loose all the respect I get for putting up with you? Never." Blair's laughter could still be heard as he and the puppies returned to their regular sleeping positions. Knowing that he could be heard, he added, "Thanks, Jim."
By the 8:00am feeding, the two men had fallen into a comfortable routine of feeding and playing with the pups. A second eyedropper had been found (purchased by Jim, at the local, all night drug store, but Blair didn't know that), and the job went quicker, and easier. Jim handed the puppy he had named, Cassie to Blair. Much to Jim's surprise, she was quite well behaved for him. Blair kept his comments to himself, wisely, as he watched Ellison continue his earlier conservation with King. The young prince seemed quite enthralled with the sound of the Sentinel's voice, and never turned away from it, even when he was full. At five minutes till nine, a carefully packed Volvo was on it's way to the university, for Blair's 10:00am lecture.
At noon, the Sentinel was on guard outside the lecture hall. He could hear his Guide's voice inside. "That is it for today. Be ready for discussion on the subject Wednesday. Who wants to stay a few minutes, and help with the puppies?" He took that as a cue to enter the room. As expected, there was quite a crowd around the lecture podium. Jim reached over several students, and snagged King out of the arms of a pretty young co-ed. "I'll take this one, thank you." This time Sandburg did not try to hide his laughter as he watched his friend rubbing noses with the small pup.
Feeding five small mouths and chasing out thirty young people took almost an hour. When the two men and five dogs were finally alone, Blair turned and asked, "Did you come down just to help feed them?"
A slight blush preceded the answer. "No, actually, a case has come up, that involves some smuggled artifacts. Simon thought it would help if you could look at them."
"You were already at the station, why didn't you just call?" There was no answer, but the blush deepened several shades. "Uh huh, yeah, right Jim. Since you are already here, why take two cars to the station right?"
"Well, now that you mention it Chief, we'll just pick your car up later."
They settled into the truck, the box of sleeping puppies between them. Blair studied the other man. He was seeing a rare side of Jim and he felt honored that Jim was comfortable enough to share that side with him. It was like seeing what Jim had been like as a child. Blair needed to know more. "Did you and Steven have a dog when you were growing up?"
"We didn't, Dad did. He always had a hunting dog, sometimes two."
"But didn't you get to play with them? Even when they were puppies?"
The answer was a wistful one as a large hand gently patted the sleeping puppies. "We never had puppies. Dad insisted on full grown, trained working dogs. He said playing with them would undermine that training."
Blair Sandburg, one of the rare individuals who could out talk anybody, about anything, was speechless. It had never occurred to him before. Jim's never played with a puppy before. He thought back to his own childhood. They had never been able to have a dog of their own, but his mom had always made sure there were ample opportunities to play with a dog, wherever they happened to be. He reached out and snagged the older man's sleeve. "I'm sorry."
"Things happen, you know." The truck was parked and Ellison gently picked up the box, "Let's go."
"What are we going to do with them while we do this?"
Ellison grinned and turned the younger man's words back on him. "Five puppies, lots of cops, Noooooo problem."
Detective James Ellison walked into Major Crimes as if he did this, with a box of now awake puppies, every day. Captain Banks saw the entrance and came out to see what was going on.
"Those are puppies. You've got a box full of puppies."
"Very good sir, and on the first try. Guess we know why you made captain." Ellison's grin was infectious, luckily.
"Jim," Banks decided to try it again from a different angle, "why do you have a box full of puppies? Where did they come from? And why are they here?"
"Blair rescued them. Their ears aren't perfectly shaped, so the owner tried to drown them. Their eyes aren't even open, yet. How could we leave them home? Besides their next feeding is at 2:00pm."
Simon swooped into the box and emerged with Mugs. "What's wrong with their ears?" His attention turned to the little ball of fur in his hand, "Hello little one, did Blair save you from the big, mean man?"
The rescuer in question just shook his head. "Mush."
"What was that, Blair?"
Ellison had observed the exchange and wisely had kept out of it. He honestly had not known what his superior's reaction was going to be, he had hoped that Blair would be able to con Banks into letting the pups stay in the squad room while they did their investigation. It appeared that conning was not going to be necessary.
Simon deposited his charge back in the box and then took the box out of Ellison's arms. "Here, they can stay in my office. It's quieter in there at least." He turned and went into the office, leaving many dissapointed faces in the bullpen.
Ellison rousted his young friend with a nudge. "Come on, we'd better hurry if we want to be done before they're hungry. With that, the two men left for the evidence room.
The items in question were fakes and poor ones at that. The case was now in the hands of the fraud unit. As they waited for the elevator Blair realized that the puppies should have been fed twenty minutes earlier. Forgoing the elevator, they took the stairs two at a time.
Arriving back at Major Crimes, Ellison skidded to a halt just inside the door causing Sandburg to run into him. "Hey, what the . . . ?"
Blair looked around the bullpen in total amazement. Four puppies in the arms of four detectives, in various stages of eating and sleeping. Blair also noted that the number of eyedroppers had again increased. "Where's. . .?" Jim just pointed. Simon was at his desk, reading a file. Quietly sleeping on his chest was the fifth pup. The older man looked up and smiled at his two detectives, then went back to reading.
Rounding up the puppies from the detectives proved to be harder than prying them away from the college kids. Finally, four down one to go. Before a strategy could be developed to remove the last puppy from Captain Banks the elevator doors opened revealing the police commissioner. The box of four pups was slid under a desk before it was noticed. Banks saw the commissioner heading for his office and moved the sleeping pup to his coatpocket.
The commissioner's visit was short and to the point. His time was a very valuable commodity but once again Major Crimes had the highest solve rate in the entire department, along with the toughest case load. Passing on the mayor's congratulations was something he wanted to do in person. Having done so, he stood to leave. Simon Banks stood to shake his boss's hand. As he did so, the movement woke his pocket buddy and a small head poked out, catching the commissioner's eye.
"Banks, there is a dog in your coat pocket."
"Why is there a dog in your coat pocket?"
Simon answered in his most official voice, "He won't fit in my shirt pocket, sir."
The commissioner stared at Banks for a long moment. Whatever it was about this unit worked. The commissioner had hoped to duplicate whatever it was in the rest of the department. Now he realized the question was better left unanswered. Instead he smiled at the tall man. "Of course." With a slight nod to the men in the bullpen, he made his way to the elevator.
When the elevator door slid shut, the men and women of Major Crimes let out a collective breath. All, that was, except for the Sentinel among them, who had heard the conversation in Simon's office. What began as a slight chuckle grew into full blown laughter, as his co-workers stared in amazement. Ellison finally regained his composure and wiped the tears from his eyes. Simon emerged from his office, pup in hand, and watched his best detective. It was good to see the other man laugh again after the hell that he had gone through on the Lessum case. Still wiping his eyes, Ellison retrieved the wayward puppy from his captain.
"I think they have had enough excitement for one day."
A room full of eyes watched the box of pups leave the station. "Do you think they will bring them back in tomorrow?"
Over the next week a familiar pattern emerged as the puppies traveled between the loft, the university, and the police station. Their eyes opened and they began to play, not just eat and sleep.
It was after dark when Blair let himself into the loft. He set the groceries down on the counter and started to call out to his roommate. The sound died in his throat as he stared at the sight on the living room floor. Jim was sitting on the floor leaning against the sofa. He was asleep. Across his shoulder lay King, also asleep. On his left knee was Mugs, with a knotted sock still in his teeth. One of Jim's white socks, at that. Tiger and Missy were on the rug next to him, a chewed up shoe of Blair's between them. Man, you guys are worse than Sneaks.
A soft growling interrupted Blair's train of thought. He looked down at Jim's feet and had to laugh at the sight. Cassie had one sock half way off of his foot, and was pulling for all she was worth. "No Cassie, be a good girl to Jim." A soft giggle erupted at the sound of that phrase, as he pulled the determined pup off Jim's foot.
Cassie was deposited back into the box along with Missy and Tiger. Mugs joined them a moment later. When Blair returned for King, the dog opened his eyes and stared at Blair, then snuggled his face into the big man's neck. Jim sighed and smiled in his sleep. Not willing to disturb his partner's contentment, Blair covered man and dog with a blanket and settled down in the chair across from them.
In the quiet of the loft, the Guide could study his Sentinel uninterrupted. In the moonlight, he looked younger than Blair had ever remembered seeing him. Finally Jim had been able to shake off the suffocating memories that the trial had brought back. An overwhelming protective urge propelled the observer to move to the sofa next to his partner. Settled in, he kept watch over the pair sleeping on the floor.
Jim began to stir as the light from the balcony doors reached his feet. He looked up into the amused face of his Guide. "Morning, Sleepyhead."
"Guess I must have fallen asleep. When did you get home?"
"About 8:30pm last night. I didn't have the heart to wake the two of you up." Blair reached out to rub the puppy on the head, and let his hand linger there, enjoying the warmth of his friend. I'm glad to see that you are finally able to let go of Lessum and what he did. I was afraid that it was going to eat away at you."
Ellison turned and watched his young friend. "How did you know I was able to let it go?"
"I could see it in your sleep man, you seemed. . . . peaceful"
Jim nodded, the two men were so in tune to each other that Blair's explanation made sense. "Did you sit up with me all night?"
He smiled, "Sometimes it's my turn at guard duty, buddy."
King began to awaken and started to slide off his shoulder perch. Jim caught him and lifted him up. A wet tongue began to wash his face and Ellison just leaned his head back and laughed. His voice grew serious after a moment, "I don't think I said 'thanks', Chief."
"For what, man?"
"For them. When I got back from that trial. . . . I couldn't get it out of my head. The whole thing made me sick. I walked into the loft that night feeling like Lessum had dragged me down with him and there you were, with all those puppies." Ellison's drowsiness had weakened the walls he usually kept around his feelings, allowing the Guide an even deeper look into the other man's heart. "It felt like finding an island of humanity in an ocean of ugliness. You gave me a piece of my childhood, one that I didn't even know I was missing."
Jim set the wiggling puppy down on the floor, and squeezed Blair's hand. The younger man turned to him, his eyes moist and his voice raw with emotions. "I'm glad, Jim. The vet I took them to that night was going to keep them, but I kept thinking about that trial and what you had seen and had to testify about. I couldn't let the vet keep them. Seeing you struggle with what Lessum had done was almost too much for me to bear. I needed to take care of them. When I came out that morning and saw you with them, feeding them, I knew that you needed it too."
Ellison settled back on the sofa, pulling his partner with him. "You protect my soul, you know." He planted a kiss on the shorter man's head. "All I do is save you from the bad guys occasionally and you keep my heart, mind, and soul safe. I sure got the better end of the deal."
Blair chuckled against Jim's chest. "Don't worry, Big Guy, rumor has it, you get to rescue me next week."
"Try not to make it on Wednesday, okay?"
"What's happening on Wednesday?"
"The Jags have their first play-off game of the season."
"Okay, that's cool."
Comfortable with their friendship, the two men stayed like that until it was time to take the pups outside.
By the third week, the puppies were a regular fixture at the station. Half of the department was bringing in the newspapers needed in the training of little animals. They were too big to stay in their box except when they were sleeping, so one morning a baby gate arrived for the door to Simon's office. No one admitted as to where it came from, although Taggart seemed to understand how to put the thing together. With the puppies safely corralled in the office, the morning meeting was held in the break room. A drug smuggling operation that Rafe and Brown had been investigating was ready to be taken down. Everyone would be in on the bust, as was the unit's practice when the case was as big as this one. Photos of the suspects were spread out on the table in front of the men. Blair picked up one of the photos and studied it.
"Now we know what kind of a man throws puppies into a river to drown," he announced to the rest of the unit.
Ellison sat up straight. "That's him, are you sure?"
"No doubt about it, man. That's him." The photo was passed around. The suspect in question was now worse than a gun runner, he was a puppy killer.
The bust went down smoothly. The men and women in the Major Crimes division made sure of that. No loose ends, no questionable tactics that a defense lawyer could use to get these dirtbags off. One particular dirtbag chose to resist arrest and had to be taken down by force, not that the officers complained about it. After all, it was their job. Sometimes, they just enjoyed it more than others.
The day finally came when the puppies were old enough to go to a pet store. Blair stood in the door to the bullpen dreading it. He was going to have to be the strong one and go in there and take those puppies away from the detectives. The detectives with guns, big guns. He faltered.
A shove from behind propelled him into the bullpen. "Hey, Hairboy, how's it going?" Brown looked up from the floor, laughing while one of the puppies lay on his lap, chewing on one corner of the file he was trying to read.
This was going to be hard. "Hey, Brown." He looked over at Jim, who immediatly knew what was going on.
"Did you find a pet store that will take them?" The question quieted the room.
After an eternity of silence, Simon walked over and picked up Mugs. "Not this one, he's going home to Darryl. I've already talked to Joan." Mugs was promptly placed in the office behind the baby gate at the door. Rhonda laid claim to Cassie, and within the hour, Tiger had a home with Brown's sister and her family. Before lunch Missy belonged to Kirby, in traffic. That left only King. Blair knew that the loft was not a long term home for a dog that needed room to run, but his heart ached, watching his friend prepare to say good-bye to him. Blair looked up to see Taggart head for the break room, coffee cup in hand. The young observer grabbed his own cup and followed.
"Joel, I'm surprised at you."
"As much as you play with those pups, I kind of thought you'd snatch one of them up."
"I'd love to have one of them, Blair. I've even got a nice fenced in back yard for it. But a dog like that needs to go running a couple of times a week and I'm not as young as I used to be."
Blair smiled, this was better than he had hoped. He laid his arm across the huge man's shoulders. "Have I got an idea for you, my friend."
Taggart entered the bullpen and walked straight over to King and Jim. He picked up the dog off Jim's desk and smiled. "Hello there, would you like to come home with me?" The puppy began to lick his face in ernest. "All right, I'll take that as a 'yes'." Laughing, Joel turned to Ellison, "He may need more exercise than I can give him at first. Would you mind giving him a good work out a couple of times a week, at least for a while."
The smile on Ellison's face could have lit up the entire police garage. "No Joel, I wouldn't mind at all." With that the last of the puppies had homes.
On their way out that night, Jim Ellison stopped and touched his friend's arm. "Thanks Chief."
The other man just shook his head. "Don't thank me, Joel's the one who gave him a home. I didn't have anything to do with it."
The reason that Ellison won so many arguments with the kid was that he knew how to pick them. He simply answered, "Thanks anyways."
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