Disclaimer & etc: see Chapter 1

FINNESSE

Chapter 4

"You up for another beer, Chief?" Jim offered as he opened the fridge.

"Yeah, thanks man." Blair accepted the bottle gratefully from his position slouched in the armchair as Jim passed him.

Jim sat down on the couch and turned the sound on again as the adverts preceding the news came on. Blair ignored the essays on the coffee table still to be graded as he eyed his Sentinel thoughtfully. True to his pessimistic prophecy, the Special Review meeting had taken all afternoon, but Blair had emerged victorious, routing all before him. A freeze-frame of the impostor porn actor's face, thankfully right at the start of the sleazy movie, had shown clearly it wasn't him. He had also produced copies of the letter from Dr Haakala thanking him for his courage and willingness to make the poster in view of his painful illness, and finally he had taped Chadwick Preston IV's threats.

Blair had finished by bringing up the Brad Ventriss situation and stating how disappointed he was that for a second time the governing body of Rainier University seemed positively eager to discard academic principles and ethical conduct in a desperate pursuit of cash. That had ruffled some feathers but fortunately their ire had quickly settled on Dean Edwards rather than Blair. Chadwick Preston IV had been expelled on the spot, Blair exonerated and Dean Edwards formally censured.

Blair had returned home and related all this to Jim who seemed inordinately pleased at the news. In fact, Jim's mood in the days since had been persistently ebullient. While Jim was nowadays far from the sourpuss he used to be, humming to himself at work had never been his style and yet twice Blair had noticed him whistling cheerfully to himself. It was kind of scary.

Jim straightened up as the local news came on. Blair also began to watch in a vaguely desultory manner whilst reading the topmost essay with the other eye. Usually Jim watched the later news but Blair wasn't really bothered until…

"We're back after the break. Please be aware that the next segment contains scenes of full-frontal male nudity and viewer discretion is advised."

Huh? Blair stared at the screen, wondering what on earth that was about. He looked at Jim, expecting the big man to change channels on the spot, but Jim just sat there with a knowing smirk on his face. Blair's radar began to ping. Something was going on here. He waited patiently for the adverts to finish and the news to come back on, blinking as he recognised the cancer charity that Dr Haakala was patron of. He rung Dr Haakala's office and learned that this year's charity calendar was being shot in Cascade, which was why they'd reused Blair's image as publicity for the poster co-campaign.

All the breath seemed to leave Blair's lungs as the scene cut to the city's buses. Down the entire length of the bus was the giant image of a completely naked man. A naked James Joseph Ellison, whose only attire other than a smile was the gold detective shield hanging around his neck. He was stretched out on his left side in a pose identical to what Blair's had been. Propping his head on his hand, the shield dangled down next to his left nipple; his left leg was stretched straight out, the right drawn up so his right foot rested just behind his left knee. His genitals were clearly displayed between his open thighs, his penis resting on his inner left thigh. Dimly aware that he was making high-pitched unnh-unh noises, Blair absently noticed the stark white lettering above the image that said: HAVING TESTICULAR CANCER IS NOT A CRIME.

"Breathe, Chief." Jim's tone was not outraged or furious, just vastly amused.

Blair opened and closed his mouth helplessly as his brain refused to compute the images. Jim. Naked. TV. Jim. Naked. Jim naked on TV. Error. Does Not Compute…

Molly Stone, the station's top interviewer, appeared on screen as the bus faded out. Seated across from her was none other than Jim, dressed in beige pants and his favourite sky-blue round-neck sweater. The same sweater, in fact, he'd worn to the precinct on the day of Blair's Special Review. He hadn't worn it since because it was in the wash – just before Blair had left to go to the Special Review, a suspect had tried to make a sudden escape dash from the MCU bullpen and ran straight into Ellison coming through the double doors, sending coffee all down the irate detective's front. The suspect had then run back into the MCU bullpen for protection from Angry Ellison.

As always, Molly Stone introduced herself and then explained about the testicular cancer awareness campaign currently running. "And with me now is one of Cascade's finest. James Joseph Ellison is the Senior Detective in Cascade's elite Major Crimes Unit, and a three-time Officer of the Year Award winner. A former U.S. Army Ranger with the 731st Airborne, he achieved the rank of Captain, winning two purple hearts, the Military Cross and being a Medal of Honour recipient in his fifteen-year military career. Five days ago, however, Detective Ellison volunteered to quite literally be the new poster-boy for the current awareness campaign on testicular cancer. Detective, in a word: why?"

Obviously the segment had been pre-recorded, but Blair couldn't tear his eyes from the screen as Jim smiled his most charming smile at the woman and leaned very slightly towards her in a way that pulled the soft silky material of his sweater tight across his torso and round his biceps, giving clear definition. Not that anybody needed to use their imagination, in view of that up-close and lingering view of the bus!

"Well, Molly," Jim caressed her name as he said it, "as you know, the previous poster-boy that has been adorning Cascade's public transport is my partner Blair Jacob Sandburg, who is our Department's Consultant Criminal Anthropologist as well as being a Teaching Fellow at Rainier University. Now I admit it was a hell of a shock when I looked up from my breakfast pancakes at the Finnesse café and saw, well, that bus…"

The studio audience and Molly chuckled and Jim smiled and paused. Then he continued, "However, Blair had a cancer scare when he was twenty-one. He was too scared to visit a doctor and endured many months of pain and distress before he plucked up courage to go. Mercifully he had a treatable cyst not a cancerous tumour, but when Blair admitted to me that if it had been cancer, it would have been terminal by then, I realised how important this campaign is."

Molly nodded, her face changing to a look of concern. "So you decided to do something beyond writing a cheque for a good cause?"

Nodding, Jim lost the smile and looked grim. "In the four years since Blair began consulting with the MCU and became my partner, he has proven an invaluable asset to both me and the PD. I certainly wouldn't have made Cop of the Year for the third time without him. His extraordinary intelligence and innovative insights have been directly responsible for the Major Crimes Unit preventing terrorist attacks and major criminal operations. The people of this city owe Blair Sandburg their lives several times over. But I realised just how close we came to never being fortunate enough to work with Blair," Jim explained earnestly. "All because he was too scared to go to a doctor for eight months, if he had had testicular cancer, he would have died long before any of us knew him."

Molly Stone nodded, "Yes, you mentioned that Blair was twenty-one when he became ill but twenty-two when he sought medical intervention? But surely someone of Mr Sandburg's IQ would have realised –"

"IQ has nothing to do with it, Molly." Jim interjected, "Unfortunately it has everything to do what men perceive as a threat to their masculinity. If you're male, you could develop cancer of the testicles or the penis or prostate – whether you're black or white, whether you're seven or seventy, whether you live in Bel Air or on Skid Row. I'm a cop and I was a soldier so my hope is that by doing the poster I can help at least one guy to understand that it isn't weak or unmasculine or unmacho to go to a doctor if he finds that something is wrong 'down there' as it were."

"I understand that you've also posed for a month on the new calendar and been proactive sourcing its models?" Molly asked the leading question.

Jim's smirk bordered on the leering. "Oh yes, let me just say that this calendar isn't the usual college students posing for a few bucks. Several of my old friends in the services kindly posed too. But, to make my point, Molly, that's the real tragedy of testicular cancer," Jim wound down in a tone of suitable gravitas, "you see, testicular cancer is almost always curable with no lasting life-effects as long as it's treated in time. Hundreds of men die needlessly from testicular and penile cancer every year through no other reason than fear, because they wait far too long to seek medical advice." Jim looked straight at the TV cameras, "Not going to a doctor if you have a problem is not being a real man; it's being stupid."

"Thank you, Detective Ellison." Molly smiled. "The campaign starts with a vengeance on tomorrow morning, Saturday, which is when that calendar comes out too – mine's on pre-order. So look out for those buses, I know I will!"

The segment faded to the end credits of the news and Jim leaned back on the couch, grinning at Blair's stupefied expression.

Blair spluttered, "You…I…you…"

"Coherence through connectives, Chief," Jim advised.

"Aw, man, you didn't have to do anything like that…" but Blair's face was flushed with pleasure at the praise Jim had uttered on the segment.

"Yes I did." Jim interposed firmly. "If it prevents any other guy having to go through the emotional torment you went through, it will be worth it. Besides, it wasn't that horrendous to do." He smirked. "There was this blonde chick with the baby oil for the close up shots…"

Blair grinned in response, but then groaned. "Oh man, Jim!"

"What?"

"We only just got Bertorelli to stop with those damn condom-balloon animals…"

THE END

© 2005 & 2011, The Cat's Whiskers

AUTHOR'S NOTE – Important, please read:

Yes, this story was fun to write, but it has a serious point to make. Once there was youth named Ben. When Ben was 16 he discovered a small lump on his testicles and then experienced increasing physical pain, but was so scared and in denial about things 'down there' that he kept it a secret from his parents, brother, family and friends and teachers, for two years until he finally went to a doctor aged 18. But by then the cancer had metastasised and spread up into his stomach and was inoperable and terminal. Ben died a few weeks after his 19th birthday.

When Sentinel Angst list member Gail Gardner invited me to Finland some years later one Easter, I accepted and took along my The Sentinelepisodes for her to view. It was clear that her favourite was the scene in Season 2's The Rig where the villainess earns our eternal forgiveness by ordering Ellison to drop the towel. (The chants of: Naked Burgi! Naked Burgi! were also a big clue, snerk.)

That is when the seed for this story began to grow as a thank you to her. It had to involve Finland, Reindeer, Carellian Pancakes and both our heroes in the buff. I could manage most, but I wanted a plausible reason for the nudity. In the words of Star Trek's Tuvok, a character's actions must not be contrary to their personality characteristics, which meant that someone like 'Jim Ellison' would certainly never strip for something frivolous.

That brought to mind Ben. Ben was a real person, and Ben was his real name and he really was just 19 when he died of secondary stomach cancer resulting from primary testicular cancer. Ben spent the last two years of his life in constant mental and emotional anguish as well as physical pain, but the true tragedy is that within the first three months of his illness, back when he was 16, if he had confided in his dad, his granddad, one of his uncles or gone to see a male doctor just to be on the safe side, the disease would have been treatable and today he would be a healthy 34-year-old man.

I did ponder about writing the story in this manner instead of going for a quick PWP snippet. I know most fan fiction writers are female (Bruce Alan Wilson, whose Jacob's Ladder series is on Susan Foster's GDP site is the only fan-fic writer I definitely know of who is male). I know most fan-fiction readers seem to be female. However, I hope that the ladies will read this and gain an awareness of how this disease can strike. I also know that (perhaps thankfully) most actors never read any stories based on characters they've played in the past. In the unlikely event however, I would hope Richard Burgi and Garrett Maggart would accept this story in the spirit it was written and approve of the cause I wish to highlight.

Most of all, I believe that this story can be relevant to everyone, regardless of gender. Due to environmental and industrial pollution, cancers of the human reproductive organs and other fertility problems are epidemic in the Western world amongst men and women. Far more Western couples are likely to suffer fertility problems, far more Western women are likely to suffer from endometriosis. In the last fifty years the quality and quantity of male sperm has plummeted in the Western hemisphere.

Breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cancer of the womb, uterus and cervix, testicular cancer and cancer of the penis are increasingly common in our society. However, a man is far more likely to die of testicular or penile cancer than a woman is to die of cervical, ovarian or breast cancer. Not because these cancers are more aggressive or more difficult to treat necessarily, but because in Western society when a man is ill, he reacts like Blair did in this story – with panic and denial. Going to a doctor is seen as weak, wimpy and unmanly and that attitude quite simply will kill you, or a man you love – whether he's your dad, brother, son, husband or best friend.

Basically, any good doctor will tell you that there are two entirely free and excellent ways of monitoring your own health and with the second one, the health of your partner too. The first, a bit unpleasant – is in the bathroom. Urine and faeces are excellent indicators of health. If your urine or stools change colour once, or you get constipation/diarrhoea/cystitis once – then there isn't really anything to worry about because, no pun intended, shit happens. But if there is a sudden repeated change without any apparent cause – you haven't moved home, changed your diet, work, just gotten married/divorced/become a parent, etc. then a trip to your doctor is advised. If you have young children, or provide personal care to a disabled or elderly person, you can also monitor their health in this non-invasive, discreet manner.

The second way of monitoring your own health and that of your spouse/lover is much, much more fun and greatly more enjoyable and it is also completely free: sex, and the more the better. You know what you like, but how knowledgeable are you about your partner's body? Use the fun to get to know your partner's body, quite literally, with your eyes closed – the shape, size, colour, feel and temperature of your lady's breasts or your man's balls and so on. Know how sensitive they are to touch and for any change that happens more than once. If something that usually results in a 'mm, yes' instead results in a sudden hitch of breath and wincing once, then you can put it down to being a bit heavy handed in your enthusiasm, but when something that always used to cause an expression of pleasure is now avoided or causes him/her discomfort, you need to note it and if it persists, don't allow him or her to dismiss it, but go to a doctor – as a couple.

The doctor will have much more to work with, and will take you seriously, if you can provide relevant specific information. Instead of letting your partner go to the doctor and mumble about "being a bit sore down there" at which point the doctor will hide a smile and mentally dismiss it, go with them and provide specifics – my wife's breasts are peach-coloured and usually cool to the first touch and her nipples are dark pink, but on the 21st of and since then I've noticed her left breast is warmer to the touch than the right one, and her nipple aureole has gone from dark pink to light brown and she has this tiny pinkie-fingernail red patch just below the underside of her breast/ my husband's testicles are red-apple coloured and usually very slightly warm to the first touch but on the 21st of and since then I've noticed his left testicle seems a bit hot to the touch more than the right one, and the colour has gone from reddish to brown and he has this tiny pinkie-fingernail red patch just at the base of his penis…

That explanation will get you taken very seriously and at this point your doctor will be arranging an appointment for scans and diagnosis. It might be a cyst, or a fungal infection, or nothing at all, but you might be saving a life – your own or that of someone you love.

If the above sounds totally over the top, I will repeat: Ben was sixteen years old when he developed testicular cancer. Not forty-six or seventy-six. He wasn't even out of high school. Another boy, named Adam, was 20 years old when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, fortunately in time to be treated.

Let me tell you another story: once upon a time, there was a woman who was married with children – she was a perfectly ordinary suburban working woman, except that for 3 days per month she was a bitch-queen from hell – vicious, volcanic and generally mad, bad and dangerous to know. Then one day, just an ordinary day, she began her menstruation and realised she hadn't spent the previous 3 days in a raging temper. In fact, she felt fine, just peachy. She was delighted, as was her husband and her family and friends – nobody was sorry the devil woman diva had forgotten her monthly appearance.

The next month was the same, and the month after that; ongoing relief and delight. One day she took the afternoon off work and met an old friend for lunch, and in the course of conversation, described this turn of events, even how her and her husband's sex life had perked up as a result of her non-ferocity. Then a shadow fell over the table and they looked up to see the stern-faced, middle-aged woman who had been seated at the next table standing there. She said that she was a midwife and had heard their conversation. She said she wanted the woman to go to the hospital with her immediately as she believed the woman had ovarian cancer.

The woman and her friend thought this was nonsense and outrageous to boot, but the midwife persisted and eventually they both agreed to go to the hospital with her. When they got there to the Casualty (Emergency Room in America) reception, the hospital staff on duty were similarly dismissive, but the midwife stated she would pay the cost the scan if she was wrong. The woman pleaded for a scan to "sort this all out" and the hospital was quite quiet at that moment, so they fitted the woman in for a scan there and then whilst her friend and the midwife waited.

After the scan the woman sat up on the trolley and asked for her clothes and shoes to dress. The doctor said to wait a moment and came back, not with her clothing, but her friend who was looking after her belongings. The doctor told them that she had thirty minutes to contact her family and advise them before she was taken down to theatre – one of her ovaries was completely subsumed by a grapefruit-sized tumour that was on the verge of going metastatic – medical speak for bursting, like a dandelion flower does when it goes to seed and spreads its spores all around her body. They had to operate immediately to save her life and stop the cancer getting into her bloodstream.

The operation was successful and they removed the tumour whole and she had no other cancer sites. In recovery, she and her husband and their friend contacted that midwife and how she had known just from listening what was wrong.

The midwife explained it was simply logic. A signature of reproductive organ cancers is hormones, which the cancer cells love. Every month, the woman produced too much of certain hormones, which travelled through her body to her brain and wreaked havoc. These hormones did not magically disappear or evaporate from the woman's body, they were still there as they had always been – so why were they no longer reaching her brain? Something had to be intercepting them and stopping them. The midwife noted that the woman hadn't had any major changes in her life, and nor did she mention anything about her breasts whilst discussing her 'happy' change of circumstances, and she mentioned love-making with her husband had improved, so there was clearly no vaginal discomfort, discharge or other change. That meant the 'interceptor' of the hormones had to be somewhere hidden, and unnoticeable, but really hungry to devour hormones – which left the ovaries.

The above story again might sound far fetched and I have anonymised it because the person is still alive and well today, but she did tell me how she had taken the midwife's warning to heart. Hormones don't mystically evaporate, and a sea change such as she experienced was a clear warning sign. If you man was a officer and a gentleman, and suddenly develops into a male nymphomaniac, once is not a problem, but a persistent change in libido needs investigating – likewise if your man is a fully paid up Captain Caveman who suddenly develops the sensitivity of Alan Alda and would much rather have a nice cup of tea, the question is – what is happening to his hormones, and why? Some reproductive cancers eliminate libido by gobbling up all the hormones, other reproductive cancers trick the body into producing excessive hormones and boosting libido like the body is on super-charged Viagra. The above also applies to the woman in your life.

The rule is this: a sudden change from the norm that continues after one or two occasions and which has no apparent cause (e.g. a change of diet, job, relationship, home etc) should be investigated by a medical professional. As Jim says in the story – it's not manly to avoid doctors. If you're a lady, you can use this story to encourage fidelity and monogamy in your man – the majority of men who develop reproductive cancers are saved by their wife, who notices the situation and insists a doctor is involved.

And if all this seems rather melodramatic and over the top, let me ask you one final question: Would you (a) rather feel a little foolish after being told by a doctor that you're are worrying about nothing or (b) be sat in front of some doctor telling you, or someone that you love, that you/they wouldn't now be dying of terminal cancer if you/they had had the situation checked out when the symptoms first presented and persisted…