Date: 09/02/1999, copyright Red Soprano
Warnings: Shameless overuse of a word referring to a certain part of the anatomy.
Disclaimer: Simon, Jim, Blair and Blair's lovely butt belong to Pet Fly and Paramount. I'm not going to make any money off this. It's just great fun.
Dedication: Many, many thanks to my dear friend and beta reader, Dana, and to the incomparable Cat who, from the very beginning, has given my humble stories a home.
Who You Gonna Call....
...When Your Butt's Hanging Out?
by Red Soprano
Epilogue to Blind Man's Bluff
There was something wrong with the sound of his footsteps.
For one thing, he couldn't hear the sound of his footsteps. Only the echo. Jim slackened his no-nonsense pace toward the elevators at the other end of the parking garage. With mild curiosity, he studied his feet as he made his way across the concrete floor. Each step of his lug-soled boots touched the ground silently then was followed in recalcitrant delay by a ghostly echo step. It was disorienting, walking like that; threw his timing off like crazy. It was sort of like talking while hearing your own speech come back to you in delayed feedback.
The quality was wrong, too. Heavy and metallic, it reverberated sullenly against the walls of the deserted underground garage in a manner which suggested a structure far more vast.
Something was definitely up with his hearing today. Jim slowed to a halt. "Say, Chief?" He looked back at his partner, who was following several yards behind, padding soundlessly across the concrete floor in stockinged feet.
"What's with the stealth routine, Chief? You're going to ruin your favorite pair of argyles there."
"Huh?" Blair stopped and peered down at his feet. He studied his wiggling toes in dazed bewilderment for a moment then favored Jim with an amiable grin. "Didn't want to scratch the paint, man."
"The paint. Simon'll be pissed if I scratch the paint on the hood."
"What are you talking about, Sandburg?"
Blair continued to smile at him blithely, but his voice broke slightly when he answered, "I'm sorry."
With a growing sense of unease, Jim motioned for his friend to follow. "C'mon, Chief, let's get upstairs to work."
Blair didn't move to follow him.
Jim sighed impatiently, "C'mon, Buddy, we don't have all day here."
Blair's grin abruptly faded and he stared, wide-eyed, at something just over Jim's right shoulder. Jim followed his gaze and spied a small, dark creature hanging from the ceiling girder half the distance between him and the elevator doors. He focused his vision on the quivering mass suspended by its tiny feet from the steel beam. The animal shifted and its folded wings parted slightly to reveal a pair of malevolent eyes glaring out at him from a wizened face.
"Damn. Where the hell did that thing come from?" Jim chuckled nervously. "Hey, Sandburg, think he knows the bat echo trick?"
"Don't think that's gonna work here, Jim," Blair answered in a strangely hollow voice.
Jim took a cautious step toward his friend. "You okay, Chief?"
Blair continued to stare, transfixed, at the unsettling creature.
"What say we take the stairs at the other end of the garage, okay?" Jim shrugged self-consciously. "Not that I have anything against flying rodents, but that thing over there gives me the creeps."
Jim sensed a displacement of cold air behind him and swung around to see the bat drop lightly from the girder and fly away into the shadows, only to circle and swoop gracefully back toward them.
"Sandburg? What the hell's up with that thing?"
The creature seemed eerily unhurried as it bore down on them, yet Jim found himself utterly incapable of stepping out of its path. When it was less than ten feet from where he stood, it opened its hideous little mouth and issued a strange trilling sound. It swerved languidly around him then sped up as it continued its flight directly toward his partner.
"Blair, look out!"
Jim watched in horror as his friend opened his mouth to scream, but what came out instead was a ghastly imitation of the same awful trilling noise the bat had made.
When the creature was less than an arm's length from Blair, it burst into flame....
Jim awoke in a cold sweat to the sound of his phone ringing. He groped clumsily for it, his reach jerky and misdirected from the adrenaline-spike of his nightmare. He knocked the cordless off its base and it went skittering across the floor.
The phone rang once more before the answering machine picked up, silencing its strident ring, mid-trill.
Jim sighed heavily and, yanking his bedclothes disgustedly to the side, rolled over and pushed himself to a sitting position on the edge of the bed. He rubbed wearily at his eyes as the answering machine downstairs finished informing the caller what to do after the beep.
"Uh...." the caller started hesitantly. "Umm.... Jim?'
"Sandburg ... what the hell?"
"Jim, I'm really sorry man.... God, this is so stupid.... I'm not sure why I'm calling...."
Jim bolted off the bed and ran down the stairs to try to interrupt Blair's message before he finished and hung up.
"... Actually, no, I know why I'm calling. I was kind of wanting to make sure you weren't dead. Which would be really nice and all, your not being dead, but if you're not dead, that probably means you were asleep and now you'll be pissed I woke you up --"
Jim snatched the receiver off the phone by the sofa. "Chief? Hey, what's up?"
There was a startled pause, then the shaky sound of Blair releasing a breath. "Jim?"
"Yeah, Buddy, it's me. What's going on? You okay?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm good. I just.... I thought maybe I'd call. You know. See how you're doing."
Jim smiled slightly at the note of feigned nonchalance in Blair's voice. "I'm fine, Chief." He glanced at the clock on the bookshelf. Two a.m. Less than four hours since he'd left the hospital. "Where's Simon, isn't he there with you?"
"Asleep? Great. Just great. He was supposed to stay awake and keep an eye on you."
There was pause before Blair answered quietly, "I guess he was tired, man."
"Yeah, I guess," Jim sighed. "It's just that the whole point of his being there was because I didn't want you waking up confused and alone in the hospital. You were still pretty out of it when I left."
Jim moved around to sit on the sofa. A full moon shone through the doors from the balcony. To Jim's eyes, the light it cast was not a serene bluish hue, but rather, a jaundiced yellow glow, a testament to the residual effects of his encounter with the drug, golden. Jim rubbed at his eyes and a kaleidoscope of gilded darts and swirls danced behind his eyelids.
"Blair? You still there?"
"Yeah. I'm still here."
"Are you really okay? You want me to come down to the hospital?"
"Nah, Jim. I'm fine. I just woke up and kind of thought I should check on you, you know...."
"Check and make sure I wasn't dead?"
"Yeah, right." Blair chuckled softly, then added, almost as an afterthought, "You're not are you?"
"I didn't shoot you?"
"No. Not even close."
"'Cause I remember I had a gun. I thought I shot somebody."
"You didn't shoot anybody. I promise. Remember? We discussed this earlier."
"Yeah. I'm sorry, man. I remember now. I guess I'm still a little fuzzy."
"Don't be sorry, Blair. I told you, none of this was your fault. That golden crap really did a number on you."
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Sandburg, let me talk to Simon for a minute."
"Uhh ... can't."
"Sure you can. Just wake him up and hand the phone over. He won't bite. Much."
"He's not in here, Jim, he's back in my room."
"What do you mean, he's back in your room?"
"Well, like I said, I didn't want to wake him...."
"Why aren't you back in your room?"
"Because, " Blair explained patiently, "if I'd used the phone in my room, I'd have woke up Simon. You know, Jim, you're not at your intellectual peak at this time of night."
"Chief, if you're not in your room, where are you? Are you at the nurse's station?"
"Nah, I didn't want to bother the nurses."
Jim took a deep breath and forced himself to ask evenly, "Sandburg, where are you?"
"Uh.... Dunno exactly."
"You don't know!? What do you mean? Are you lost?"
"No, I am not lost," Blair responded peevishly. "I'm in this room down the hall. I just don't know what you call it. I think it's where the doctors read x-rays and charts and -- whoa...."
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah. Just got a little dizzy there for a second. Wow. Head rush, man. There's chairs here, I guess I could sit down, huh?"
"Are you alone in there?"
"Uh-huh. Damn, this upholstery's scratchy. I guess they don't mean for you to sit on them in your bare butt...."
"Bare butt -- Sandburg, I don't believe this. Look, I don't think you're supposed to be up wandering around the hospital."
"Jim, they wouldn't have put wheels on the IV pole if they didn't mean for a person to get up and walk around, now, would they?"
Jim let his head fall back against the sofa cushion and shook it slowly back and forth in weary surrender. "You know, I should be able to argue with that logic, but for the life of me --"
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Am I under arrest?"
"What? Oh, jeez, Sandburg.... No! You're not under arrest. I keep telling you, you're not in any kind of trouble over this."
"I just thought after freaking out and shooting up the place, everybody'd be pretty pissed. And then I woke up and Simon was here and I thought maybe I was under house arrest or something."
"Ah, Chief. Damn. So that's why you didn't want to wake him up."
Blair didn't answer for a few moments. When he did, Jim could almost see his self-deprecating smile. "Actually. No. I didn't want to wake him up because I figured, despite what you say, he probably does bite. That, and I couldn't remember if you were dead or not. And yes, I know, I could have just woke up Simon and asked him, but I didn't want to. Probably sounds stupid, but I really wanted to hear it from you that you weren't dead, Jim. That's pretty dumb, I know, but, well...."
"It's not dumb, Chief," Jim said softly.
"Man, I feel like such an idiot. I mean, I know you were here earlier and we talked, I remember it now, it's just that I thought maybe that that was the dream and the part where I shot you was real." Blair's voice faltered slightly, "I'm a real mess, aren't I?"
Jim winced at the plaintive tone that had crept into Blair's voice. It carried with it a hint of the same pleading, desperate quality he had heard in his friend's voice around this same time yesterday morning as Blair fought the terrifying images assaulting him in the Cascade PD parking garage.
"No, Chief," he reassured him, "you're not a mess. And you're not under arrest. In fact," he continued teasingly, "you're a hero in Brown's eyes because he's usually the one that sniffs out the pizza delivery first. And, trust me, he wouldn't have stopped at just one slice."
Blair chuckled, "Yeah, you're probably right."
Neither man spoke for a moment. Blair sniffled slightly and Jim tried to remember where he had last seen his cell phone. Blair didn't sound too distraught, but it might be a good idea to call the nurse's station on the cell so he could keep his friend on line until they could come and retrieve him.
"I'm kinda tired. I think I'm going to go back to bed now. I'm sorry I woke you up, man."
"No, wait.... Chief?"
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah. Just a little cold. These damn gowns are drafty, you know?"
Jim shook his head in fond exasperation. "Do me favor, okay? You can hang up but I want you to stay put, you hear? Don't go anywhere. I'll call the nurses' station and have them come get you."
"Nah, don't do that, Jim. I can get back to the room on my own."
"Sandburg, I said stay put! You almost passed out less than a minute ago."
"Okay, okay. Oh! Hey, wait a minute ... company."
Jim could make out voices in the background.
/"Here he is, Captain, in the chart room. Mr. Sandburg, do you realize we had half the hospital out looking for you?"/
/"Sandburg! What the hell do you think you're doing out of bed?"/
"See, Jim, I told you he bites."
"Let me talk to him, Chief."
An exasperated sounding Simon came on the line, "Jim? Jim, how do you do it? How do you manage to stay sane keeping track of this kid? I swear, Jim, I just dozed off for a second and I wake up and he's just disappeared into thin air. Sandburg would you wait until the nurse gets back with the wheelchair? Yes, dammit, you do need one. And pull that gown together. I'm not in the mood to be mooned before my morning coffee."
"Simon, I think I'm going to head on back there to the hospital."
"Jim, that's not necessary. Look, I'm sorry I fell asleep, but the kid's okay, no worse for the wear. Besides your vision's still all weird from the golden, isn't it?"
/"Hey," Sandburg's voice came from close by, "I forgot all about his eyes! Simon, let me talk to him --"/
"You get your butt back in that chair now, Sandburg!"
/"But, Simon --"/
"His eyes are fine, Sandburg. Aren't your eyes fine, Jim?"
"Yeah, Simon. There's just kind of a golden glow left --."
"He says his eyes are fine, Sandburg. Look, Jim, we're going to get Twinkletoes here back to his bed. You get some rest, okay? I promise I won't let him get into any more trouble."
"Thanks, Simon. Take good care of him, okay?"
"No problem. 'Night, Jim. Sandburg, would you quit flirting with the nurse and let her --" Simon's voice was cut off by the dial tone as he disconnected. Jim thumbed the disconnect on his cordless and sat for several long moments staring off into the golden-hued dimness of the loft. He really should get some more rest. Blair was okay. He was in good hands. Simon wouldn't fall asleep on the watch again tonight. So, he should get back to bed. Get some rest. Yeah, that's what he'd do. Check on Blair in the morning.
He got up stiffly from the sofa and headed for Blair's room. He'd just get some clothes together for the kid first. Have them ready to take to him in the morning in case the doctor decided to let him go tomorrow. Wouldn't want him checking out wearing that drafty hospital gown. He pictured how Sandburg must have looked, shuffling down the deserted hospital corridor in the wee hours of the morning with IV pole in tow, sporting some serious bed head and totally oblivious to the peep show he was providing, courtesy of the open back of the gown flapping loosely behind him.
Sure made for an amusing image. Amusing ... and, for some reason, so damn sad. Jim swallowed hard past the sudden lump in his throat as he imagined Blair slipping quietly past the sleeping guard in his room and going off on a lonely search for a phone so he could call his best friend to ask for reassurance that he wasn't dead.
Jim realized then that he wouldn't be going back to bed that morning. First he had to get some of Blair's clothes together, then he had to head back to the hospital. He'd be there when Sandburg woke up in the morning.
After all, a friend shouldn't leave another friend with his butt hanging out.