Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Humor

Summary: On a late fall evening, a series of mishaps prevent Jim and Blair from getting the wash done the usual way.

Note: You guys should be proud of me. I started this story last September and *finally* finished it. YAY!
Warning: the boys have wet t-shirts during part of the story.

Revenge of the Washing Machines
by Robyn
July 1999

Blair Sandburg paused to push up his glasses before reaching for the pen behind his hoop-adorned left ear. He underlined a few lines in the voluminous tome on his lap and scribbled a few notes in the margin, a slight, unconscious smile appearing on his face as he thought with satisfaction on the novel angle he could present his students the next day. The young professor never tired of finding new ways to present old ideas, nor of the pleasure of teaching them to eager minds.

And what better way to make use of the time to finish a load of wash.

His tall partner and apartment-mate, Jim Ellison, knew Blair often preferred to stay in the basement when it was his turn to do the laundry. Sandburg had always explained it as being a convenience thing, not having to run up and down the stairs or take the building's interminably slow elevator back and forth every time he had to tend to the dryer or washer. But Jim also appreciated the younger man's gesture as an understanding, unspoken courtesy to give the loft's original occupant a few hours of solace every so often.

A 70s orange vinyl overstuffed chair discarded by some unknown person years ago served as a pleasant place in the winter to await the completion of your cycle of choice, and the water heater kept the basement warm enough to be bearable until the dryer began putting out heat. Only three floors down, Blair was well within Jim's earshot should anything unexpected happen, and amazingly, nothing bad had ever necessitated Jim's appearance. Blair always seemed to return unharmed and in good spirits with a freshly laundered load, so the detective had always felt quite satisfied that the basement was a safe and comfortable place for his friend.

But had Jim happened to pop his head inside the basement's green door, the detective likely would have had to smooth away a smile from his face with one hand -- that is, after recovering from temporary confusion at seeing the overstuffed orange chair quite empty of his partner's presence.

For Blair always sat cross-legged -- on top of the washing machine.

The gentle vibrating of the white metallic beast hummed with soothing rhythms having an almost prenatal quality. Not enough to interfere with reading or writing, but enough to imbue its strangely calming effects on the body and soul of the sometimes harried anthropologist. Blair figured it had something to do with his experiences in the womb or shortly afterwards, when Naomi had supposedly lulled her curly-haired, occasionally sleepless baby to his dreams by laying his bassinet on top of a washing machine or dryer. Luckily for him, the old Maytag's rather durable construction supported his weight with only a slight groan and effectively conducted the heat of the warm cycle to his body. It made his red-and-brown plaid flannel shirt, white t-shirt, and pale stone khakis just the right temperature.

The machine finished filling itself with warm sudsy water and paused for half a second, making a couple clicking noises. Then the rotors began their regular cadence, swishing the two men's clothing back and forth, back and forth. Sandburg was walking along with an ancient African tribe on the warpath. The drums were getting louder, louder ...

<klunk>

<KLUNK!>

<thump-thump ... thump ... thump ...>

Suddenly Blair was back in Cascade in the loft's basement, clutching his textbook with one hand and the edge of the washing machine with the other, a startled look on his face. The formerly soothing, grandmotherly appliance had unexpectedly transformed into a bucking bronco. Rattling, shuddering, and making a terrible racket, the beast inched away from the wall.

<KLUNK-THUMP!>

With one last violent heave, the machine succeeded in unseating its rider.

"Aaaah! ..." The short exclamation was the only thing that had time to escape Blair's lips before he landed rather rudely on the concrete floor.

Then everything was silent.

Blair blinked up at the machine from his new crouched position on the ground; fortunately he'd managed to land on both feet. At first his wide blue eyes looked almost betrayed as they beheld the washer. Then they narrowed as Blair groaned and blew unsuccessfully on the loose curls hanging over his field of vision. His textbook lay splayed open a few feet away, and his pen was nowhere to be seen. Grumbling, he pushed himself up to a standing position and collected his book.

Had Jim's hearing not been turned down to block out the noise from his own housekeeping task, he would have heard a small creak as the lid opened, then a thunk as it fell shut, then a hollow noise as the rubber sole of Blair's hiking shoe made contact with the metal siding.

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

The high-pitched whir of a vacuum filled the loft as the detective lifted the blue couch's cushion with a meticulously deliberate movement, using his other arm to pass the vacuum's attachment over the fabric in search of miscellaneous lint and the occasional long curly hair. The tall man was, at the moment, blissfully unaware of how incredibly domestic he looked, thanks to his overriding, never-ending quest for order and cleanliness. And somehow Jim always managed to perform his housekeeping duties without wrinkling his blue plaid flannel shirt or forest-green chinos.

A subtle change in the room's lighting alerted the detective that the front door had opened. He paused, cushion and vacuum suspended in midair as he looked up from his task, ice blue eyes slightly wide, mouth partially open, expression mildly surprised.

"Sandburg?" said Jim. His best friend stood in the doorway, his features softly backlit by the hallway lights, textbook under one arm. Blair's face looked slightly frustrated and pathetic. His shoulders hunched ever so slightly, his lower lip jutted out ever so subtly, his deep blue eyes speaking some message, the details of which Jim couldn't quite decipher.

Blair waited for Jim to quickly turn off the vacuum and replace the cushion, then straighten to give his attention fully to Blair. "We've got a problem, man," he said solemnly.

"What, Chief? What's wrong?"

"It -- iiit's the washer, man," said Blair timidly. His lower lip quivered just enough for Jim to notice.

Jim's forehead furrowed. "Chief? Are you okay?" He moved around the couch and toward Blair as he spoke, never taking his eyes off his partner.

"The washer -- " Blair began, his voice a hoarse whisper, "it tried to get me, man! It mauled -- oh, Jim ..." Blair choked on the last words and sniffled once, his lips quivering more now, averting his eyes from Jim and covering his face with one hand.

The tall detective had reached his partner's side now, concern written all over his features, pushing away a small instinctual feeling that something wasn't quite right. "Shh, Blair, I'm sure it's not that bad. Are you all right, buddy? Let me see..." Jim visually searched the rest of his partner for any sign of injury, meanwhile gently pulling Blair's hand away from his face.

However, instead of fearful, tear-streaked eyes, his partner's baby blues sparkled with -- mirth. Blair couldn't keep control of his laughter any longer, and his quivering lips dissolved into full-fledged guffaws.

"SANDBURG!!!!" Jim yelled, immediately realizing his over-protective mistake of underestimating his mischievous friend. "Mauled by the washer, eh? I'll show you mauling!" The tall man's practiced fingers went straight for Blair's rib cage before his prey could escape, mercilessly adding ticklish laughs to those already effervescing from his hysterical partner.

"J-jim! Pp-please!" Blair managed to gasp between laughs.

Jim paused, still holding Blair firmly in his grasp. "I'll think about it -- in a little while," he said, resuming his sweet revenge.

"Aaaaaah!!!..."

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

The sound of water lapping against the inside of the washer echoed against the concrete walls of the basement as Blair bent over the open washer, sleeves rolled up, fishing around in the soapy water with a long-handled wooden spoon from the loft's kitchen. Jim stood off to the side, arms crossed over his chest as he observed his partner to make sure there would be no further washing machine muggings that night.

"What exactly did you say happened, Chief?" queried Jim as he supervised the retrieval operation.

"I was just sitting, minding my own business, and all of a sudden the washer started shaking like crazy." Blair lifted a sopping gray sweatshirt up with the spoon, the water draining from it in loudly dripping cascades. He held the piece of clothing out to Jim. "I've never heard it do that before. Believe me, it was violent!"

Jim plucked the sweatshirt off the spoon and proceeded to wring it out, holding it well away from his body to keep from getting splashed as a wet puddle with bubbles formed on the basement floor. "You said it made some kind of noise before it stopped?"

"Yeah. It went 'klunk' and 'thump-thump' a few times before it died," said Blair as he squinted into the murky water and rescued a few gray t-shirts, followed by several pairs of boxers.

<swish-swash>

"Klunk and thump-thump. Now that's helpful. I'm sure the repair guy is gonna know exactly what's wrong based on that description. We'll have to call him tomorrow morning."

<drip-drip-drip>

"What do you expect the last words of a dying washer to be, huh, Jim? Man, your jeans weigh a TON!" Blair groaned as he lifted a well-hydrated pair of blue jeans partially out of the washer, then resorted to the hand-over-hand technique to fully extract the pants.

"Hey!" exclaimed Jim as he received an unceremonious wet thwack from the water-logged jeans, leaving a large damp spot in an inconvenient place on the front of his dark chinos. "You sure these aren't your jeans, Chief?"

"They're yours, Jim. I put them in here, remember?" Blair assured him calmly, fishing around for several flannel shirts and a few argyle socks.

"No, I think they are yours!" contradicted Ellison emphatically, giving the wet piece of clothing the patented Elllison glare.

"Are not!"

"Are so!"

"And how do you know that?" demanded Blair.

"Because a pair of my pants would never do this!" shot the detective defensively as he gestured to the wet spot on his clothing.

"Gimme that!" said Blair, grabbing the item in question from his partner and holding it up in front of himself. "Now lookit, Jim. These are NOT mine because I do NOT wear pants that go up to my nipple line. Who do you think I am -- Pee-wee Herman? On second thought, don't answer that."

"Why do I have to be the one wringing out the clothes, anyway? Isn't this your turn to do the wash?" Jim grumbled.

"Because your biceps are bigger than mine, mister I-go-to-the-gym-at-least-four-times-a-week-can't-you-tell Ellison," retorted Blair. Then he broke into a cherubic grin. "And, because you like me and you're such a nice guy."

Jim rolled his eyes. He opened his mouth to say something but only a grunt came out. "Gimme those socks. And I'll think about not whacking you with them."

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

Ten minutes later, the laundry basket was full of wrung-out, soapy wet clothes. The ends of Blair's sleeves and the front of Jim's pants were also hopelessly soaked.

"Guess all we have to do now is cart these upstairs and hang them all over the loft to dry," Blair grinned up at Jim.

"Only if they all go in your room, Sandburg," retorted Jim. "I air-dry my clothes on jungle reconnaissance missions only, Chief, and I'm not letting you rinse the soap out of the clothes in the bathtub, pretending it's the Ganges or something. Who knows what disaster that'd turn into. Nope, these'll have to get done at a laundromat."

"Aw, c'mon, Jim, where's your sense of adventure?" teased Blair.

Jim simply glared at the younger man.

"Okay, Jim, you're right. I'll just haul these down to the laundromat now -- there's one down the street, I think," reasoned Blair, reaching for the lighter laundry basket full of dirty clothes which had never made it into the washer. "I'll be back in a couple hours or so."

"You most certainly will, Wash Boy, 'cause I'm going with you," said Jim.

"Jim, you don't have to come. I can get it by myself," assured Blair.

"You probably can, but that laundromat is unattended and it's late already. I don't want you getting into any more trouble tonight," said Jim, sending Blair a meaningful glance.

"C'mon, Jim! I go out at night all the time. And it's only just past 8 p.m.!"

"That's already 3 hours and 46 minutes past sundown for this time of year. Besides, you never know what perps might show up in a deserted laundromat at this time of night."

"You mean guys like us?" offered Blair.

"Exactly. Now let's get these clothes up to the truck. I'm not carting that basket full of wet clothes up to the loft --I just mopped the kitchen floor."

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

Jim hefted the heavier basket of wet clothes onto the pickup's tailgate and shoved it in, then stepped aside to let Blair heave his basket full of still-unwashed sorted whites into the truck bed as well. A box of detergent, a smaller box of softener sheets, and a bottle of bleach perched on top of the clothes.

"You stay here with the clothes, Chief. I'm going upstairs to change my pants so I don't look like I had an accident. I'll be back."

"'kay, Jim," answered Blair as he turned to make his way to the passenger side of the cab. Suddenly he remembered something. "Hey, Jim!"

The tall man paused to look back at the truck, his hand on the door leading back into the building. "Yeah, Chief?"

"Jim, we forgot something. We need quarters to run the machines. I don't have any change on me right now."

Ellison thought a moment, then smiled. "Not to worry, Chief. I've got some up in the loft. Be right back."

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

A few minutes later and wearing a dry pair of jeans, Jim opened the driver's side door of the truck. He hopped in, plopping something into Blair's lap before inserting the key in the ignition and starting the engine. The item jingled as the anthropologist caught it.

"What's this?" asked Blair, holding the strangely-shaped thing up so the light from the surrounding street lamps shone through the windows into the darkened cab.

"You said we needed quarters. I brought you quarters," said Jim matter-of-factly.

"What the -- Jim, this is one of my ceremonial gourds!" Blair exclaimed in a voice both surprised and annoyed.

"Yep. The first one on the left of the third shelf of the bookcase behind the couch, actually," said Jim, keeping his eyes on the road as he backed the truck out of the parking space and headed down Prospect.

Blair shook the gourd gently, and jingling emanated from the container. "JIM! This is a special gourd for a Peruvian tribal anointing ceremony -- not a piggy bank!" he said through clenched teeth.

"Betcha the tribal elders never thought of it that way, eh, Chief?" Jim laughed.

"I've got four of them, too. They all have different meanings in the ceremony, you know," said Blair in an aggravated, self-righteous tone.

"Yeah, I know!" said Jim. "One for quarters, one for pennies, one for nickels, and one for dimes..."

"Oh, brother! I shoulda known you were using my artifacts for storage!" grumbled Blair.

"Just a small payment for the fact that I'm the one that keeps them dusted, Chief," smiled Jim. "I stick all the change I find in the couch in there."

"You mean all this change could've come from my pockets?" asked Blair incredulously.

"Consider it an offering to the gods of -- well, whoever those gourds are for," suggested Jim.

"Whatever," the anthropologist grumbled as he clutched the oblivious gourd.

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

The laundromat seemed deserted of other customers when the two men arrived with their laundry, although a few of the dryers along one wall were operating. The combination of humidity, lint, and detergent particles induced a violent attack of sneezing in both partners, although Jim's lasted longer. After his nose decided to recover, Jim settled himself on one of the wooden benches placed against a section of bare pastel yellow wall and opened his newest issue of Field and Stream. Blair had already selected an empty washing machine near the place where his friend sat and was dumping the soapy, damp articles of clothing into it. When he finished filling the washer, the anthropologist shut the lid and proceeded to shake three quarters out of the gourd, all the while muttering (loud enough for Jim to hear, of course) his deepest apologies to the exploited artifact for the indecent, unfair victimization of sacred relics.

"Stop your bellyaching, Sandburg," called Jim, not looking up from behind the magazine as his friend shoved the coins in and started the washer. "That dried-up squash is perfectly fine. The coins didn't hurt it a bit, and you know it."

Blair had already inspected the thing carefully so he knew Jim was right. "Yeah, but, uh ... but you didn't know it wouldn't break," he muttered grouchily.

"Yes, I did," the detective insisted. "I put it through some stress tests to make sure the thick rind wouldn't crack under pressure. Did you know those things can even be used as bowling pins?"

"JIIIIIM!!!!" the younger man yelled as he rushed his partner. Blair was about to pommel him when an attractive dark-blonde young woman entered the laundromat with a preschool-aged curly brown-haired little boy in tow. The anthropologist paused, fists poised in midair, looking back and forth in an aggravated fashion between Jim and the girl. He looked obviously torn between the two potential targets, and Ellison detected the argument raging in his friend's dichotomous brain without even looking up at him. Jim knew confidently which one was going to win out. Relaxing his defensive stance and muscle tone, the detective settled back against the bench into a more comfortable position.

Revenge? Date? thought Blair frantically. Grudgingly, he let his hands fall to his side, deciding that revenge could be more easily postponed than such a golden opportunity for a date.

Behind the magazine, a smug grin formed on Jim's face as he continued to read the fly fishing column.

Picking up the remaining basket of dirty clothes, Blair sauntered up the aisle and non-coincidentally selected the washing machine directly across from the dryer where the young woman was removing her dried laundry.

"Nice evening for doing a few loads, eh?" began Blair casually as he started to fill his washer.

The girl lifted her head, pausing for a second. She looked up at the handsome teaching assistant and smiled shyly. "Yeah. My boss's machine broke yesterday and they haven't gotten it fixed yet."

"No kidding!" said Blair, the dirty clothes temporarily forgotten as he turned to face her. "The washer in our building broke today, too. Seriously!" he added, realizing his words sounded like a shameless come-on. He could feel Jim's amusement wafting toward him from halfway across the room.

She giggled and opened her mouth to reply, but another voice rudely interrupted them.

"Hey mister!" said a high-pitched voice at about the level of Blair's knee. Sandburg felt something yanking at his jeans pant leg.

"I wanna be up there!" the little boy demanded, pointing at the washer on the other side of Blair's.

"Okay, big guy. Up you go!" Blair lifted the boy easily to his designated perch, next to Blair's open box of detergent. "What's your name?"

"Danny."

Blair grinned at the kid. "Nice to meet you, Danny. I'm Blair." He extended his hand and the boy shook it solemnly. "Who's this lovely lady?" he asked, motioning to the girl.

"Sandra," said Danny. "She takes care of me," he declared.

"Betcha she does a good job, too," Blair said, and the boy nodded his head vigorously in agreement. The anthropologist turned back toward the girl. "Blair Sandburg," he said, extending a hand.

"Sandra Richardson," she said, shaking his hand and smiling.

Their eyes met for a moment, and Blair thought he was in heaven. "Nice to meet you, Sandra. I'm a grad student at the University -- anthropology."

"Wow," Sandra said, impressed. "I'm working as a nanny -- trying to save up some money for college." She paused, noticing that Blair had stopped filling his washer even though the basket was only half-empty.

"That's great! What're you interested in studying?" grinned Blair, his back still turned away from his basket of clothes.

<crash!>

Blair whirled around to see what had caused the noise, while Sandra exclaimed "Danny!" at the same time.

The basket of clothes lay overturned on the dirty tile floor, and a four-year-old boy perched on top of a washer looked wide-eyed and scared at the two grown-ups.

"Aw, it's okay," Blair soothed, rumpling the little boy's hair, then bending over to attend to the clothes.

"I'm so sorry," Sandra apologized. "Let me help you," she offered, crouching down beside him and helping to retrieve the underwear, t-shirts, and numerous white socks.

The two people were so intent on collecting the laundry that neither noticed Danny adding a voluminous amount of detergent to Blair's open washing machine.

After gathering the scattered clothes, Blair quickly dumped them into the washer, added even more of the detergent's white crystals, and popped the quarters in to start the load. The perenially date-seeking anthropologist comically rushed to finish before Sandra escaped with her own laundered items and without giving away the all-important phone number. They kept up a chattering conversation as Blair followed her to the door where he casually stopped and smoothly asked for the phone number. The young woman smiled, then began fumbling in her purse for something to write on. Alas, all she could find was a pen.

Before Jim knew what was happening, his partner was upon him. All he heard was "Hey Jim, lemme see the magazine for a second," and felt the periodical being plucked from his hand before he could respond. Jim's mouth hung partially open in surprised disgust as he watched his partner's actions.

In one swift movement, Blair flipped to the page where a subscription card was located, ripped it from its connecting perforations, then handed the magazine back to the detective with a "Thanks, man!"

The magazine lay limp in Jim's hand as he rolled his eyes. In a moment the phone number was scribbled and Blair gave Danny a high-five, flashing a classically brilliant smile to Sandra as she and the preschooler left the building.

Blair waved through the front windows of the laundromat as he watched them get into a minivan and drive away. Then he plopped down on the bench next to Jim and grinned at his partner. Choosing to ignore the continued displeased look on the detective's face, Blair waved the card in the air and bounced a little where he sat, his eyes sparkling. "Wasn't that cool, Jim? I mean, wasn't I good, man?"

Jim rolled his eyes again, still maintaining his impassive, unimpressed look. "Really, Sandburg. I thought you'd gotten a date before."

"I know, man, but I really felt like something was happening when we were talk--"

"Do you smell that?" Jim interrupted, suddenly moving the magazine to the side and sitting up straighter, sniffing the air purposefully.

"What? What is it?" asked Blair, repositioning himself on the bench to face Jim more directly.

"It's -- detergent," Jim muttered, still smelling the air, his brow furrowed.

"Uh, Jim, this is a laundromat, man."

"No, you don't understand, Chief," said Jim as he stood to get a better vantage point for surveying the room. "I turned down my smell when we got here because the soap smell was too strong. But now I'm smelling it again. Don't you smell it?"

"Not really, Jim," Blair said after sampling the air with his own nose. "I mean, this whole place smells like detergent and fabric softener."

"I'm hearing a gurgling, bubbling kind of noise, too -- you don't hear that, Chief?"

"Unh-unh."

Then just as suddenly as he had stood, the sentinel's expression of confusion changed to one of understanding and a slight smile replaced the furrowed brow and clenched jaw. Seemingly satisfied with his sensory sweep of his surroundings, Jim sat back down, picked up his magazine and calmly started paging through it again, settling on a bass fishing article.

Now it was Blair's turn to look utterly confused. "What? What happened? Do you still smell it?" he demanded.

"Yep, sure do. Strong as ever," said the detective casually, still focused on the article in front of him. "The noise is getting louder, too -- you should be able to hear it soon."

"JIM! C'mon, man. What is it?"

"Better go check your washer, Sandburg. I think you broke another one."

"What do you mean 'broke another one'? I didn't break the first one! Wha--"

Blair's words trailed off as he turned to follow Jim's motion to the tiled floor. A small but rapidly moving stream of water was tracking across the floor. The anthropologist sprung to his feet and ran to the end of the aisle where his machine was located.

"Oh, man. Oh. No. Nononononono!"

Blair's facial expression changed to one of horror as he beheld unending masses of bubbles oozing from around the washing machine's lid and onto the floor, and the lid even jiggled up and down slightly from the pressure as the soapy liquid pushed its way out. A large pile of bubbles decorated the floor directly in front of the washer and was steadily spreading outward in all directions.

"What am I gonna do?" he murmured under his breath to himself.

Muffled laughter had started behind him, and Blair whirled to see Jim shaking with mirth. "This is too good, Sandburg. Too good. You must've been real distracted with that woman when you were adding the soap." The detective shook his head again, his eyes starting to tear from the amusement of the situation. "Too good," he choked as he wiped his eyes.

"Shut up, Jim."

<KLUNK-THUMP>

<ppsshhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!>

The anthropologist's glare at his partner broke off at the sudden sound of water spraying, and he jerked his head back around in the direction of the noise. "It -- the water -- it's --" he stuttered, frozen as he looked up to see how high the geyser was spouting.

"Gushing?" offered Jim cheerily. "Hitting the ceiling like Old Faithful?"

"Aaaaaaaack!" cried Blair. "We've gotta stop it!" The younger man's legs kicked into action all at once as he took off running toward the rogue machine before Jim could add another word.

<squeak-slip!>

A pair of tennis shoes flew up in the air as its wearer disappeared from Jim's view and impacted the wet tile with a thud.

"OW!" The indignant yelp floated up from behind the row of washers.

"Sandburg! Chief, are you okay?" In an instant, the magazine was tossed aside and Jim was at Blair's side, putting an arm around him.

"Yeah, I'm okay, man," Blair reassured his friend, though he didn't try to hide the injured tone in his voice. "Now my pants are wet in a really bad spot," he grumbled as he rubbed his backside.

"You could say that," Jim stifled a chuckle as he helped Blair to his feet, noting the prominent dark spot on the seat of Blair's jeans.

"Thanks for nothing," grumbled the anthropologist. Suddenly something prompted him to feel for the back pocket of his jeans, and the younger man's face turned a shade paler. "OH MAAAAAAN!" he cried, pulling out a white subscription card from his back pocket. "Lookit, man, the ink's all wet and smeared now! I can't even read the phone number! Oh maaaan..."

At the sight of the pathetic look in Blair's eyes, the taller man gave a long-suffering sigh. "Let me see it, Sandburg." Slowly, Jim ran sensitive fingers over the wilted cardstock. "555.... 6...8...2...2. Got it?"

Blair's face brightened immediately into a big grin. "Thanks, Jim."

"No problem," grunted his friend.

"Now you can help me stop Niagara Falls over there before this part of Cascade becomes part of the Pacific Ocean," Blair grinned cheekily.

"What am I -- your slave?" grumbled Jim.

Blair stroked his chin for a moment in contemplation. "What if I promise not to sell you, ever?"

Jim replied by delivering a friendly smack to Blair's arm.

The two men made the rest of their way down the aisle to the offending washer, which thankfully had already stopped spraying such copious amounts of water after only a few seconds.

Blair groaned as he opened the lid. This evening was turning into the longest laundry session on record in Cascade, and his partner's thinly veiled snickers weren't helping matters any. "If you make any comments about deja vu, Ellison, I'll find a way to dunk you," he warned.

Sans long wooden spoons, the second retrieval operation turned wet and messy rather rapidly for both men, and their soaked long-sleeved flannel shirts were stripped and tossed into the pile of wet clothes several minutes into the process. Jim and Blair's t-shirts both sported large wet spots covering most of their chests. So engrossed were they in the process, neither partner noticed a certain Australian inspector walking past the laundromat's large front glass windows.

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

Long dark red coat flapping behind her, Megan shifted the large plastic bag in her arms containing a couple newly dry-cleaned suits and dresses as she walked down the sidewalk toward her car. The early fall evening weather was nippy but not bone-chilling. Nonetheless, it had been a long day at work and she was very grateful that her dry-cleaners were open late tonight. She felt better after an hour at the gym, but now she just wanted to get home and do something entertaining to take her mind off the morbid cases she was currently working on.

She was about to reach for her purse and keys when she noticed a blue and white '69 Ford pickup parked in her peripheral vision. Megan frowned as she slowed her steps and turned to examine the truck's front. There was no mistaking Jim's indestructible hayseed, and a glance at the license plate confirmed her suspicions. That meant at least half of Major Crime's infamous detective team must be somewhere nearby.

The Aussie inspector was about to consider which of the street-side stores Ellison and Sandburg were likely to visit when she heard voices coming from the laundromat directly to her right, and cocked her head to peer through the glass store front. Sure enough, two familiar-looking men were standing near the back of the laundromat, alternately flailing their hands in characteristic bickering as they took turns reaching into a washing machine to retrieve what looked like very water-logged pieces of clothing.

The boys having problems with a simple task like laundry? Megan chuckled to herself as a mischievous smile appeared on her face. This was too good to pass up. Now I'll have some return ammo for the next time they bring up the "pink dingo" coat, not to mention valuable blackmail material back at the precinct.

It was all she could do to keep from laughing when Jim's head jerked up, his blue eyes wide, the moment she quietly entered the open door, presumably left that way to relieve the room of some of the humid, linty, detergent-ridden air. Almost instantaneously, Blair's head popped up as well in an exact imitation of Jim's alert-movement. For a moment, both men stood frozen, staring at her like deer caught in headlights.

"Break the washer, boys?" Megan teased, depositing her dry-cleaning on one of the countertops for folding clothes as she maneuvered between the aisles toward them, making sure her clothes were far enough away from Ellison and Sandburg should they attempt to spread their laundry mishaps in her direction.

"It was Sandburg's fault," grumbled Jim.

"Nuh-uh, Megan. It was Jim's fault," Blair contradicted as he pointed at the taller man. "HE realized the washer was broken and purposely didn't tell me."

"WHAT?" protested Jim. "You're the one who put too much soap in here, kid."

"That's too bad. I thought you two were simply trying to have a wet t-shirt contest," laughed Megan as she eyed the men's very soaked white t-shirts which were clinging very well to both men's chest and arm muscles.

As if on cue, two sets of blue eyes narrowed and glared at the inspector. Blair self-consciously crossed his arms in front of his chest while trying to look ticked-off.

Megan snickered, then cleared her throat and tried hard to look serious. "So, do you, uh, gentlemen need help?"

The two men looked at each other, then back at Megan. "No! No, uh, we've got everything under control," they said in unison, nodding vigorously.

"Good. I'll just sit back and watch, then." The woman leaned forward against one of the nearby washers, propped her chin up with one hand and smiled sweetly, clearly intending not to leave anytime soon.

"Don't you have somewhere else to be, Conner?" growled the taller detective.

"Lucky for me, no. You two are much better entertainment than anything on TV right now."

Jim growled again, then turned back to Blair and the broken washer. "Looks like we got it all, Chief. Let's throw these clothes in that machine over there," he said after peering into the murky water.

"I don't think so," said Blair, also squinting into the washer's turbid depths. "There's something still in there. It's red, but I can't tell what it is. Man, how can I see it and you can't, Jim?"

"Chief, I don't think --" began Jim.

"It's in there, man," interrupted Blair with certainty. He had already plunged his arm into the water again, fishing around for the last piece of clothing and bringing it to the surface. "Got it! See! I knew there was -- what the --"

The anthropologist's face turned a matching red as he realized exactly what he'd just recovered. "It's a -- it's a --"

"...bra," finished Jim annoyedly. "I told you we'd taken all our clothes out of the washer."

"Victoria's Secret red lace underwire demi-bra to be exact -- the new Angels line, I believe," Megan clarified, shaking with laughter. "Comfortable yet sexy, wouldn't you say? I have several."

"Spare us your lingerie inventory, Conner," snapped Jim, causing Megan to laugh harder.

"I swear I didn't know that was in there!" wailed Blair. "I forgot to look when I put the clothes in."

"If you hadn't been trying to make a fast date, Sandburg, maybe you would have noticed!"

"Hey man, I think you should just be thankful it was in the colors and not in with your white socks!"

"Methinks you two protest too much," choked Megan, gasping for air between laughs. "Don't worry, Sandy, I believe you. If either of you had a girlfriend so serious you were doing her wash, I'd know about it. Fetishes on the other hand -- did you know you could get help for those, Jimbo?"

"Shut up, Conner."

The inspector ducked just in time to avoid a wet sock hurled in her direction.

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

Clothes finally put into yet another washer, and the other batch safely tumbling in one of the dryers, Jim and Blair turned their attention to the generous puddle of cloudy water layering the aisle and tracking almost all the way to the front door. "We should try to mop some of this up, Jim," said Blair as he surveyed the floor. "Somebody could come in here and get hurt before the cleaning people can get to it."

Jim grunted in agreement, knowing Blair was right. "They got any paper towels in here?"

Blair had already spotted the dispenser and pulled out a smaller-than-usual, creased towel signifying the end of a roll. "I don't think this is gonna go very far, Jim. What we need is a mop."

"This looks like it could be the janitor closet," offered Megan, trying the knob of the only door inside the laundromat. "Unfortunately, it's locked. Jim, can you see anything in there?"

The detective crouched down, attempting to peer through the hole in the doorknob. "Looks like there's a mop and bucket in there, all right. We just have to get it open. Chief, gimme the toothpick from your Swiss Army knife."

"Here, Jim," Blair said as he produced the object and handed it to his partner.

Positioning himself in front of the doorknob, the detective proceeded to pick the lock while Blair and Megan stood back and watched as Jim attacked the lock.

Several minutes later, the detective had still not succeeded in opening the door. "This lock should be a piece of cake. I don't understand why it isn't opening," muttered Jim as he wiggled the toothpick back and forth again. Suddenly, he froze, sniffing the air.

"What, Jim?" whispered Blair. "What is it?"

"I smell cigar smoke," Jim said in a low voice. "Simon's coming."

"You're kidding!" hissed Blair.

"Nope. It's his brand of cigars, and I can hear his foot steps now -- it's Simon all right."

Blair grabbed Jim's arm. "You wanna explain why we're picking a lock? We gotta hide!"

After a split second pause, bodies and limbs flailed in the air as the three people scrambled to get behind the end of the nearest row of washing machines.

"Hurry!"

"C'mon, get back here!"

<thud>

"OW!" exclaimed Jim as he slipped on the wet floor in the confusion, landing on his backside and banging loudly against one of the hollow machines.

"Good one, Jim!" Megan hissed. "Take his other arm, Sandy, quick!"

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

Simon Banks strode purposefully down the dark sidewalk, clutching a brown paper bag in his left hand. A grease spot was already forming on the side of the bag, and he muttered to himself about how somebody else ought to be getting Rafe and Brown donuts at this time of night. But he'd needed them to fill in on a night stakeout shift at the last minute and had ended up promising them donuts in return for their cooperation. "You're such a softie, Banks," he grumbled to himself. "You oughta just TELL those men when and where they're needed and they oughta DO it without needing you to bribe them. Such a softie!"

However, in the next moment all thoughts of self-chastising were forgotten when Simon's police-trained ears heard noises and voices that sounded like a struggle. Jerking his head toward the large glass windows of the laundromat on his left, he looked through them just in time to see a leg being dragged behind the end of one of the rows of machines. His eyes narrowed, and the tall captain reached for his gun, drawing it in one smooth movement and holding it to his chest while dropping the bag of donuts softly to the ground against the store's outside wall. Scanning the area, he crept slowly but steadily toward the door with his back against the wall, listening for any further suspicious sounds of guns cocking or the like. Then he spun, pointing the gun into the laundromat toward the back left row. "CASCADE P.D.! FREEZE! Come out with your hands up!"

Slowly, he watched as one woman with long brown hair, and two men with wet t-shirts slowly appeared behind the row of washing machines with their hands up, looking incredibly sheepish.

Unsure whether to be upset, aghast, or annoyed, the Captain rolled his eyes and groaned, holstering his gun and reaching outside to retrieve the bag of donuts. "I don't even want to know what the three of you are doing in here, hiding behind washing machines. Is this your idea of off-duty fun?!?!"

"Sir, I can explain," began Jim.

"Save it, Ellison," Simon barked. His gaze followed Blair's guilty one to a certain door, spotting a tell-tale object sticking in the door's lock. "Tell me you guys weren't trying to break into that door."

"We were just trying to clean up after -- Simon, look out--"

<slip-thud>

Mild swearing could be heard as the captain's tall frame landed hard against the smooth, wet tile.

"-- for the wet floor?" finished Blair lamely as Jim and Megan scrambled over to help the growling Captain up, the back of his dark brown trench coat now stained in a very inconvenient spot.

"See, we were trying to get into the closet so we could clean up --" Blair began again as Simon cautiously crossed the floor toward the door.

"I get it now, Sandburg," Simon bellowed irritably. "Couldn't Jim get the door open? Looks like a pretty simple lock to me." Removing the toothpick, Simon re-inserted the pick, then twisted it a couple times.

<click>

The captain twisted the knob and the door swung open easily. Smug grin on his face, Simon looked down at his three gaping subordinates (Ellison gaping widest of all) with an incredible amount of satisfaction. "This is why I'm captain." He dusted his hands off with ceremony, then handed the pick back to Blair. "Now get to work and mop this floor up!"

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

Fifteen minutes later, the floor was mopped clean, the mop stowed back in the closet, and the yellow plastic "Caution Wet Floor" sign set at the entrance of the laundromat to warn others of the residual slippery dampness.

"Too bad Simon had to take Rafe and Brown those donuts and didn't stay to see how well we cleaned up this place," said Blair as he began to fold the batch of dry clothes. "It's cleaner now than when we got here."

"Darn right it is," muttered Jim.

Megan grinned. "I think I'll leave you two to finish up your laundry here. Unless you want me to help fold your socks and underwear. You two probably have some cute boxers, don't you?"

Blair cleared his throat and reached for Megan's dry cleaning. "Uh, yeah, thanks for helping, Megan. We can handle it from here." As he ushered her to the door, Blair lowered his voice to a whisper. "You don't want to try matching Jim's socks anyway. He's very sensitive about getting them matched right."

"What do you mean 'matched right'? They're all white," said Megan.

"I know. But each pair has a... unique personality, you know."

"Ohhhhhh."

"I heard that!"

~ The End ~