Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks, and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

What's in a Name?

by Arnie

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

The men spread out silently, each one taking their assigned position like cogs in a well oiled machine. If all went well, the mission would be completed within ten minutes and then they could all relax, and laugh about how well it went. Assuming it went well, that is.

Jim didn't need his earpiece to hear Joel's muttered comment, but for the sake of appearances he had it turned on and his hearing dialled down. This wasn't an important mission anyway - the main thing was to get in and out without getting caught.

"Dragonlady at two o'clock."

Jim smiled and turned to prod his reluctant partner. "You're up, Sandburg." He didn't need to focus on his Guide to know that the younger man was looking nervous and that his heart was going like a jackhammer.

"You know, guys, I really don't think this is a good idea."

"Dragonlady at three o'clock." Joel's voice was urgent. If they didn't do this today, who knew when they'd get a chance again?

"Sandburg, go!" Jim growled the command and followed it up with a shove that sent his partner into the room.

Stumbling forward, Blair pinned his most charming smile onto his face and headed towards the desk. "Hey...Ruby!"

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

The day before

"Okay, I got...Rupert." Blair looked at the paper in his hand and frowned. Rupert. What kind of a name was that?

Brown took a deep breath and pulled a piece of paper from the trashcan in Megan's hand. "Horace. Horace?!"

Megan shrugged. They couldn't blame her. She hadn't picked the names. Picking out a piece of paper for herself, she grinned widely. "Bruce." The men glared at her suspiciously but she kept her smile. "Hey, it's a really good name in Australia."

Looking around at the assembled team, Jim squared his shoulders and pulled out his piece of paper. "Sebastian. Isn't that a cat?"

"No, that's Sylvester," Blair told him. "You know, Tweety-Pie and."

The ice in Jim's eyes could have frozen a lake. "That's as likely as Sebastian."

Moving to one side, Jim let Joel take the final piece of paper. "And I've got..." His voice trailed off and he grinned widely. "Well, whaddya know?"

"C'mon, what have you got?" Blair tried to peer at the piece of paper, but Joel held it against his chest and glared at the younger man.

"I'll tell when we know for sure."

"Gentlemen? Conner? Something going on?" The team swung around at the sound of their captain's voice, and they all smiled reassuringly. Simon raised an eyebrow. They looked like a bunch of kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar. "Well?"

Glancing around at each other, by common consent their most voluble talker was shoved to the front and silently nominated spokesperson.

Blair raised his eyes to Simon's face and smiled again. His eyes slid away and the smile faded as Simon's sternest look greeted him. "Well, Simon, we were just wondering what Rafe's first name is."

"His first name." Simon's voice was not encouraging, and the team hastily slid the damning pieces of paper into their pockets out of sight. Megan, left holding the baby - or in this case, the trashcan - hid it behind her back and smiled even more.

"Yes, Simon. You see, in many cultures people are afraid to give out their names, believing that it gives people who know it an advantage over them. Now, obviously, that doesn't apply to the majority, if not all, of North America and yet Rafe has not told any of us his first name." Glancing around, Blair was encouraged by the nodding the team were giving him. "Obviously, his first name is an embarrassing one and we think it would be better for him to come out and face his fear as opposed to hiding his first name, and, undoubtedly, living in terror."

"Bullshit."

"Excuse me?" Blair wasn't sure he'd heard what he thought he'd heard.

"I said 'bullshit', Sandburg. You do know that term, don't you?" Simon glared down at the anthropologist who undoubtedly had a dozen or more stories detailing exactly how and why that particular term had come into common use. "You just want to know his first name so that you can give him hell."

The glow of innocence coming from the assembled police officers and police observer would have dazzled an angel.

"Not at all, Si-r." Catching Simon's glare, Sandburg slid from Simon's first name into being very respectful. "We're just concerned that repressing the knowledge of his first name might harm Rafe in some way."

"Repressing," Brown echoed, nodding wisely.

"I see." Simon folded his arms and gazed at his team levelly. "And have any of you tried to talk to Rafe about this?"

They nodded. Each of them had tried, in their own way, to extract the truth of Rafe's first name from him. Each of them had failed - Rafe being even more silent than the grave where his first name was concerned.

"And he hasn't told you."

The team shook their heads. Blair opened his mouth to continued obfuscating, but Simon talked over him easily.

"And you thought you'd all have a little bet on the outcome."

There was silence.

"And how do you know that one of you has the real first name?"

He glared down directly into Sandburg's face and watched as the observer took a step backwards. Knowing the grad student as he did, Simon knew that Blair was the most likely to talk. Well, unless he pulled rank and ordered one of his men to explain.

Fortunately he didn't have to do that as Blair cracked. "Someone in Records made up the sweepstakes."

Four fingers from four separate people prodded him in the back sharply and he jumped.

"Oh, and that someone in Records is going to tell you who has the correct name... right?"

Taking the silence to mean 'yes', Simon stalked over to the nearest desk and grabbed the phone. "Records." He waited until he was connected then barked a few short orders to the effect that unless they had written authorisation from him, no one in the police department was to view Rafe's file or to be given any information from it. Slamming the phone down he turned and glared. "I think that means your little bet is off." He paused then added, "And don't we have work to do around here?"

The five left behind waited until the captain's door had slammed shut, then three of them turned on the shortest one among them.

"What did you have to talk for?" Megan demanded, keeping her voice as quiet as possible to avoid bringing Simon back out of his office.

"Yeah, you blew the whole thing!" Brown chimed in.

"Blair, I never thought you'd welch on us!"

Blair stared at Taggart in disbelief. "Joel! C'mon! He wasn't going to stop asking until he knew!"

"Leave it, the kid's right. Simon knew most of it already. It's over."

The other detectives glared at Jim then turned away.

"Pity," Megan muttered, dropping the trashcan with a clang. "I really wanted to know."

"Well...unless...."

The four of them turned back and stared at the evil-doer in their midst.

"Unless what, Sandburg?" Jim prompted.

"Well, we could borrow the file and put it back later."

Jim rolled his eyes. The kid was still trying. "You heard the captain - no one, and he meant *no one*, is going to get Records to hand over that file now."

"I didn't say we should ask them, did I?"

Evil grins spread over the faces in the bullpen. They were trained to handle any situation. How hard could it be to 'borrow' a file?

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

The next morning

Ruby looked up as the good-looking police observer approached the desk. "What do you want, Sandburg?" A glance from her dark eyes, sharp as daggers and twice as lethal, stopped him in his tracks.

"I was just wondering how you were doing." Blair smiled his famous Sandburg special that normally had women swooning in the aisles. It seemed to have little effect upon Ruby.

"I'm fine. What do you want?"

Inwardly, Blair cursed. If it had been any other woman in Records, they would have been eating out of his hand by now. He'd dated two of them and was well on his way to getting a date with the other. Ruby, however, was different. She was made of granite which meant that his charm bounced off her. And since Rafe was due back in that afternoon, they couldn't wait for a change in personnel before carrying out the mission. Fortunately for him, and for the success of their self-imposed mission, Ruby's stoniness had been taken into consideration. All he had to do was to get her to either let him into the Records department to fetch a file, or to get her to go and fetch a file for him. Easy? Not on your life.

With the clock ticking, Blair turned up the heat on his smile until it could have melted Antarctica. Megan was keeping Simon busy upstairs in the bullpen - and God help them if he realised that most of his team was missing - so time was not on their side.

"I was wondering if I could have the Simpson folder again? I was finishing off some paperwork for Jim and I've realised that I need to check something. It'll only take a minute - honest!"

Ruby's glare turned even more glacial and Blair wished he'd thought to put on his jacket before coming down. "I can't spend all of my time running back and forth fetching files you should have finished with by now! If Mel and Lisa weren't off sick with that flu that's going around, it would be a different thing, but they are."

As Blair tried to offer to go and fetch the file himself, she continued.

"Traipsing back and forth with no thanks, fetching files and putting them away again. What is it with you detectives and your need for the actual files? You know, they're all on computer now too - but oh no, you have to have the paper files in your hands, probably to make sure that you haven't missed a scrap of paper. Do you think I appreciate walking back and forth all day?"

Blair shook his head hastily.

Mollified a little by his enthusiastic agreement, Ruby relented a bit. "Well, I'll fetch it this time, but you see you don't need anything else today!"

"I will, Ruby. And thanks." As Blair kept himself in full sight of Ruby's retreating figure, he waved hastily.

Brown came running. Throwing himself over the counter, he disappeared down one of the side aisles before Ruby had reached the section she needed. She was still complaining. Glaring back up the aisle at the still smiling observer, she slowly reached for the file, then turned and took her time making her way back up to the counter. Slamming the file down on the counter, she placed her hand on top of it, giving Blair one final deadly glare.

"Two minutes - no longer."

"That's all I need, thanks." Blair's face was beginning to ache, but he kept the smile on his face. Waiting until her hand was out of the way, he hurriedly whipped the file open and flicked through, pretending to look for something important. "That's it! I knew I'd got that wrong. Thanks a bunch, Ruby - you're a lifesaver!"

"My pleasure." Her reply was nearly a growl, and she certainly didn't sound happy about saving his life, but Blair allowed his smile to grow, sure that his cheeks were going to crack with the effort.

"Well, I'll see you around, Ruby. And thanks again!" He called the last after her, that being their agreed signal for Brown to come back out.

Brown didn't fail. The thought of being caught, by Ruby of all people, taking a sneak peek at someone's file, added impetus to his speed, and Ruby wasn't even halfway down the aisle before Brown was over the counter and clear.

Collecting Joel from his lookout post by the door, and Jim from his stance as 'official backup in case Sandburg needs saving', they retreated to the bullpen to celebrate. Megan was still in the captain's office, keeping him well and truly occupied with a cultural misunderstanding - Aussie slang vs. American, with no takers on bets as to who would win.

Brown had the biggest grin on his face but he refused to divulge the secret of Rafe's first name until Megan had left Simon's office. Finally she did, leaving the frazzled police captain behind. Spotting the glee on her colleagues' faces, she pounced on Brown and demanded the answer.

With a smirk, he held her off and stood up to declare the winner of the sweepstakes to be Joel. The rest of them frowned.

"But Joel never told us what name he got in the sweepstakes!" Blair protested.

"I know. But none of the names we pulled were it - so Joel has to have the right one." Brown grinned at Joel, who sent a smug smile back.

"Well, well, whaddya know."

The other three glared at the happy pair.

Finally, Jim stated, "We took our share of the risks, so share the prize. What's Rafe's first name?"

"My first name?!" Rafe stopped in the doorway of the bullpen and stared around, horrified. They hadn't, had they?

"Hey, Rafe, welcome back!" Brown seemed honestly happy to see his partner. "Or should I say...Blair?"

"What?" Three voices spoke in unison and Jim, Megan and Sandburg stared in disbelief.

"His name's Blair?" Sandburg looked stunned as the blush on Rafe's face told them the answer. "But why are you so secretive about it?"

If it was possible, Rafe flushed even more. "Sorry, Blair. I've always thought it was a kind of girly name."

"There's nothing wrong with the name 'Blair'!" Sandburg retorted, stalking over to the unhappy detective.

"Sure there isn't, Sandburg." Jim diverted him partway and turned him around to head back to his desk. "Nothing wrong at all." The grin on Jim's face told them all that he was looking forward to teasing his partner about this one.

"Oh, right, there isn't." Blair stopped in the middle of the bullpen, shook off Jim's hand, and glared at his friend. "So if there's nothing wrong with my name, why do you always call me 'Sandburg'?"

~finis~

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