“So tell me,” Blair pleaded. “What’s the big deal about these awards again?”
Jim paused in the middle of dressing. “It takes place every year, Chief,” he explained. “It’s a long-standing tradition involving Cascade PD and the Cascade Fire Department.” At Blair’s questioning look he asked incredulously, “What, you’ve never heard of the Extinguish My Fire Awards?”
“I’ve heard of them,” Blair said, casting an appreciative eye over Jim as he completed donning his competition attire. The dress code for today’s event was pretty eye catching: lurid, tight-fitting, one-piece coveralls worn commando over a bare torso, and left open to the waist. And where the hell had that glistening oily film on Jim’s muscular, hairless chest come from? “I’ve just never gone to watch it before,” Blair admitted distractedly.
“Yeah, well,” Jim said. “It’s a big deal, all right? The CPD have a title to defend.” He puffed out his impressive chest proudly. “Several titles, in fact. I’ve been BNF now for three years running.”
“BNF?” queried Blair.
“Yeah.” Jim grinned. “Best Nude Firefighter!”
Blair could totally see that; Jim would be a tough act to beat, he thought. “What I don’t understand, man,” he said, putting that thought to one side (for now), “is how come Cascade PD always wins the EMFAs. I mean, the other side are professional firefighters, right? You guys are cops!”
Jim shrugged. “Extinguishing fires calls for a bit of finesse,” he explained. “Those guys, now, they put out fires every day. Their priority is to get it out quick and fast - they just pull out their huge hoses and wham, blast away at it, making a hell of a mess in the process.” He shook his head sadly. “No sense of style, just churning out the same old, same old, day after day. Now we, on the other hand,” he held up an odd looking implement, shaped a bit like a tennis racquet. “We prefer to use these.”
“What is it?” Blair asked.
“It’s a beater,” Jim explained. “I find that it keeps things all nice and tidy.”
“Oh,” Blair said. “Right, I’ll remember that, man. Always use a beater.”
Jim seemed determined to impart even more wisdom. “Ah, ah, ah,” he said, wagging a cautionary finger. “It can’t just be any old beater you’ve got lying around, it has to be the right one for the job. This one here,” Jim stroked it proudly, “is made from seasoned pine from a forest up near the Cascades. Last year, Rafe nearly lost us the championship because he turned up with one imported from somewhere in Europe.” He shook his head sadly. “Hell of a thing.”
“What happened?” Blair asked.
Jim looked pained. “It was fine for the basics, but some of the burning embers got through. We had to bring in one of our local beaters to catch them and put them all out. Thankfully that worked, or else it would have been sayonara to the H/C title.” At Blair’s questioning look, he clarified, “Hot/Cold. See, it starts hot, then we make it go cold. With our beaters.”
“Yeah, Jim, okay,” Blair said grinning. “I got it.” Then, curious about the whole deal, he asked, “So, what other categories are you competing in?”
“We always do well in AU.” Jim said. “That’s the Alternative Uniform category.” He indicated his current state of semi-undress. “This is my entry for this year.”
Blair eyed Jim appreciatively. “That’s pretty impressive, man,” he said. “You’ve got my vote!”
manipulation by Jane Davitt
Blair found the event itself really engrossing from an anthropological standpoint. “It’s like watching two tribes engage in primitive warfare,” he told Jim, as The Taller Man TM took a brief time out between bouts. “Primal stuff, man! It’s pretty cool actually. Except,” Blair ran an appreciative eye over Jim’s sweaty, sooty torso, “the bits that are totally hot.”
Jim rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, Chief. Whatever you say.” He took an icy-cold swig of water and wiped the condensation-laden bottle across his brow, leaving a pale smudge in the soot which had totally blackened his face. Blair grimaced at the sight. The Scooping Loose Ash category (usually abbreviated to SLAsh) which Jim had just competed in had to be hell on the complexion.
Suddenly, Jim turned his head back to the field, listening to something Blair couldn’t hear. “Shit,” he said. “I gotta go. The Crossover tournament is just starting.”
Blair frowned. “They didn’t announce it,” he said.
Jim was frowning too. “The dirty rotten...” he muttered angrily, then he shouted across at his teammates. “Simon, the idiots are playing dirty again. We need to get over there now!” Simon immediately ushered the other cops onto the field, and before Jim followed he briefly updated Blair. “This category supposed to be a collaboration between them and us, but the bastards try to cheat every freaking year by flooding the competition with their buddies disguised as cops, so they can win the whole damned thing themselves.”
Blair shook his head – this thing was getting weirder by the minute. “Isn’t that a bit of a hollow victory?”
“Go figure,” Jim said. “To some people, getting their name in the ballet is everything.”
“Don’t you mean ballot?” Blair asked.
Jim grinned. “No, I’m talking about the dance-off the high scorers have to do to decide the overall winner. You’ve not seen anything until you’ve seen Simon wearing a tutu, facing down the captain of the Cascade firehouse en point!” And with that disturbing riposte, he hastened to join his teammates.
Blair just blinked, and absently wondered if brain bleach could be purchased in bulk.
Predictably, Jim emerged victorious once more as reigning BNF, and (following a recount, which eliminated the names of more than a few imposters from the ballet) the brief and rather frightening dance-off saw Cascade PD once more emerging as the champions.
As the local fire crew walked past Blair to get changed, he could hear them muttering resentfully. “The same goddamn people win every year,” one guy was saying. “It’s just not fair!”
“It’s never been the same since Smoky Bob decided not to compete anymore,” another complained.
As they retreated inside, Jim guffawed. “Smoky Bob didn’t ‘decide’ to leave the competition,” he said. “He got disqualified for getting his dog, his three cats and his goldfish to vote for him in the ballet. Seems he didn’t think anyone would notice that the fire crew supporting him were not actually, you know, real people, let alone firefighters.” Jim shrugged. “Though where he found tutus to fit them all beats me.”
Blair could only boggle. “Man,” he said. “That takes a special brand of crazy!”
Jim threw a sooty arm around Blair’s shoulders. “So, Chief, the role of BNF is supposed to come with certain benefits. How do you feel about being my minion, huh?”
“Minion, schminion,” Blair said. He poked Jim hard in the chest. “Listen up, buddy,” he said. “You’re not the only big shot around here, you know. Did I ever tell you about the time I went to a historical re-enactment at a castle in Europe, and ended up winning Best Cannon Character? Man, you should have seen the size of those guns...”
The End (mercifully)