OK, We were in the weekly chat. The one on Monday. Carole started begging for some smarm, but no one seemed to be listening. She basically went through the group, asking each of us for a smarm story. Well, I've always had a hard time resisting a dare, so... I started to write. An hour later, this was the result. I'd like to thank Carole and Graywulf for their help in beta-ing this for me. As always, all mistakes are my own, and no one else's fault.
Also, as usual, the disclaimers still apply. Not mine, but I'm thankful for their creators for not suing me over their use, and I hope that they continue their largesse.
Oh, gee. I suppose I need to find a title for this, too, eh? Sigh. OK. Hmmmm.
It's About Friendship
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Oh, man. Come on. Don't do this to me. "Jim? Jim? Answer me, man. JIM!"
He held his breath, trying to listen for his friend, but he couldn't hear anything over the pounding of his own heart.
"Come on, Jim. Pleeeeease? Jim?"
Working his way up to his hands and knees, Blair began to feel around in the darkness for his partner. "Jim? Please, man. I know you're there, somewhere. JIM!"
His breath caught in a half-sob of pain and frustration. He kept feeling around, knowing that Jim had to be nearby.
Finally, his desperate fingers felt something besides dirt. Damn, just a rock.
"Come on, Jim. You have to answer me. Please?"
Then, at last, a boot. Scrambling up the supine figure, he found himself brushing debris off the figure. Eventually finding his face, Blair first, nervously, felt for a pulse, which beat strong and calmly against his fingers.
"Hey, Jim?" He gently patted Jim's cheek, trying to wake him." Jim, you've got to wake up, man. Please? I can't see well enough to get us out of here."
Finally, just when Blair had begun to think that his friend would never awaken, there was a soft moan.
"That's it, Jim. Wakey-wakey, as Connor would say. Jim?"
"What? Sandburg, it's the middle of the night. What the hell are you doing?"
"Trying to wake you up, man. What happened, anyway?"
Jim was silent for a moment, trying to remember. Abruptly, he did. "We... we were camping, weren't we?"
"Right. It started to rain, and we were hiking, and found our way into this cave for shelter."
"Then what happened?" Jim asked, feeling his head and groaning.
"Uh, there was a big crash... I think that there was a lightning strike nearby."
"Right, right. Yeah, that's what it was, only I don't think it was nearby, Chief. I think it struck right here, over our heads.
"So, are you all right?"
"Well, my ears are ringing a bit. And my hair is standing on end."
"How's your eyesight?" Blair was hopeful that Jim would be able to lead them out of the dark cave.
"Uh, it's kind of dark, Chief."
"Well, Duh, Jim. I think we were out for a while. Or else..."
"Or else what, Chief?" Jim asked, picking up on his companion's distress.
"Or else, the mouth of the cave has collapsed and we're trapped in here."
The two men became silent. After a moment, Jim struggled to sit up. Cautiously, Jim began to crawl towards what he hoped was the cave opening, Blair literally right on his heels.
Jim bumped into a wall, head first. Rocking back on his heels, he grabbed his head, "Ow. Try looking where you're going, stupid."
"Uh, Jim? I can't see a thing, so how can I watch where I'm going?"
"Not you, Chief. Me."
"Oh. Sorry. You okay?"
"Yeah, just bumped my head is all." Jim peered into the darkness, finally spotting a lighter patch of darkness. With renewed hope, he began once again to crawl towards the light.
Blair clung tightly to his heels... Almost literally, unable to see anything in what was to him pitch blackness.
Making his way around a corner, Jim could see a sliver of night sky just ahead.
"We're okay, Chief. It's not much further."
"Good, Jim. This is not one of my most favorite places to be, you know?"
"Yeah, I know, Chief. Don't worry, we'll be outside soon enough."
Crawling along, they were soon at the opening to the cave. Using the wall for balance, Jim climbed to his feet, then bent down to help Blair up, as well.
Stepping out into the night, both men were almost instantly drenched from the rain.
"Sandburg, you up to making the hike back to the truck?"
"Oh, yeah, man. Just as long as you're leading the way and I can hang on to you so I don't get lost."
"Not a problem there, Chief. You know you can always hang on to me when the going gets tough."
"Except in helicopters, that is." Blair's smile was obvious in his voice.
"Well, yeah, except for then. You ready?"
"Whenever you are, man. I am right behind you."
"Yeah, and if you fall, you're going to rip my jacket right off my back."
"You got it, man." Blair chuckled, easing his grip just a bit.
"Okay, it's a bit slippery here, so keep close and watch... AHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
The two men slid down the muddy hillside, unable to stop. Battering themselves on various rock outcroppings, grunting with every blow, Blair's hands managing to maintain their panicked grip on Jim's coat, tumbling and sliding all the way down to the bottom of the slope. At long last, they came to rest in a small, frigid stream.
"Oh, man. Jim? Are you all right? Jim? Jim?"
"Let go of my coat."
"Because, the way we landed, I've got my face in the stream, and it hurts to keep my head up like this."
"Oh! I'm sorry," Blair replied, releasing his grip and shifting back. "Uh, are you, okay?"
"Yeah, just bruised, and wet, and... cold!"
"Hey, welcome to my world, man."
"Sandburg," Jim growled, but couldn't hold his annoyance and chuckled. "Come on, give me a hand up, will you?"
"Yes, sir!" Blair scrambled to his feet and reached down to help Jim up. Once back to the vertical, Jim looked around in the darkness.
"Okay, I think the truck should be in this direction," he said and began to head in the indicated direction.
"You think?" Blair stopped, his hands once again grasping Jim's coat. "What do you mean, 'you think'?"
"Well, I can't see the stars, with all this rain, but I remember the stream from earlier, before there was any water in it, so the truck should be this way."
"Well, if you're sure."
"Trust me, Chief," Jim said softly.
Blair was silent for a moment. "Okay."
Jim waited for a moment to look at Blair. Satisfied, he started off, leading the way back to the truck.
The going was rough, and they slipped and fell innumerable times, but eventually, after two or three hours, they found themselves back at the truck. Sighing in relief, Blair let go of Jim's coat and massaged his cramped fingers.
Jim fumbled with the keys and finally got the door open. They had decided to hike before setting up camp, so in companionable silence, they decided to just head for home.
Blair started around to the passenger side to wait for Jim to open the door, but Jim stopped him and handed him the keys and headed around to the passenger side, himself. Blair looked up in surprise, until he finally got a good look at his friend.
"I'll be just fine, Chief. But I don't think my vision is quite up to driving on mountain roads, just now."
"Jim, let me have a look at that,"
"I've got the first aid kit, just worry about getting us safely back to town, will you?"
"Jim, you're bleeding."
"I'm aware of that, Darwin, Just let me get some pressure on it and it should be all right, at least until we can get home."
"Home? I don't think so, man. Straight to Cascade General for you, my friend."
"Fine, just get a move on, doctor Kildare, before we both freeze out here."
Blair, glaring at Jim, jumped behind the wheel and, placing the key in the ignition, started up the truck and carefully backed the truck around and headed back to Cascade.
Finally back home, Jim was lounging on the sofa while Blair made a pot of tea. Not that Jim wanted tea, just that Blair wasn't going to let him have anything stronger. And, he wasn't going to tell him that the Earl Grey Tea he was serving was decaf... no need to successfully survive another trip to the great outdoors only to be killed by his sentinel when they were at last safely at home.
"Here," Blair said, handing Jim a steaming cup of tea.
"Thanks, Chief." Jim took a deep sniff of the contents of the cup. "Earl Grey? Good stuff."
"You like Earl Grey?" Blair was surprised. "How come you never told me?"
"You never asked? You also never offered it, before. You usually go for those weird herbal blends."
"I thought you just didn't like tea."
"I don't like your weird teas, Sandburg, I never said I didn't like real tea." Jim took a sip... "Even if it is decaf."
Blair stared at him. "Uh, what makes you think it's decaf?"
Jim opened his eyes and smirked up at his friend. "You get three guesses, and the first two don't count."
"Right, right. I forgot. You can't fool a sentinel. Right."
"You can fool me, sometimes, Chief. But when I'm tired like this, and I'm a little high on aspirin? Everything just seems to come easier, like it's all right there, and I can use all the senses." He shrugged. "Just one of those weird things."
"Wait, are you trying to tell me that your senses all work really well when you're relaxed?"
"Well, yeah. You're always telling me to 'relax and let it come, Jim'. Remember?"
"Yeah, but, you mean, it works?"
Blair froze, realizing what he had just admitted.
"Of course, Chief. I thought you knew that?"
"Uh, well... not really," Blair's voice was soft and unsure.
Jim smiled. "Generally speaking, when we're in a crisis, you manage to come up with the right information. Call it luck, fate, karma, or what have you. You're the guide, Blair. I may be the sentinel, but the sentinel isn't much good without the guide."
Blair sat down beside his partner. "Wow, man. That's awesome."
"Yeah, Chief, you are pretty awesome."
"You too, man. You, too."
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