I'll Watch Your Back
Blair had just finished grading the last exam when his cell phone rang. Reaching down to dig through his backpack, he grimaced when his hand closed around something very squishy and sticky. Pulling out his hand, he scowled and then dumped the handful of clumped together gummibears into the trashcan.
'I swear, Jim,' he thought, 'if you put any more of these things in my backpack, you're going to walk into the bullpen and find a great big clown sitting on your desk. Then you'd have to explain to Simon and the guys why you felt the need to pull out your gun and shoot a poor, defenseless doll. And I'd be there, laughing my ass off, seeing you squirm while you try to get out of admitting that big, tough, Jim Ellison was scared of a stuffed clown doll.'
Finally locating his phone, Blair pulled it out and answered. "Hello." Hearing nothing but breathing, he tried again, "Hello."
"Jim? What's going on and why are you whispering?"
"They're here," Jim answered. "They've come to get me. I should stay quiet but I had to call and warn you. They're everywhere, all around me. There's no escape. Save yourself. Run, Chief, run."
"What..." Blair began but stopped when he heard a click and then the dial tone. "What the... Jim, what is going on here?"
Worried, Blair quickly called Jim back. Growing frustrated when the phone just continued to ring and ring, he hung up and then called Simon.
"Simon," Blair said, "Jim just called here. He said..."
"Sandburg," Simon interrupted, "I was just getting ready to call you. Get your butt down to the station. NOW!"
"I can't go into it right now, just get here as fast as you can."
"Okay, but..." Blair was once again cut off by a dial tone. "I am getting really fucking tired of people hanging up on me."
After racing to the station, Blair bypassed the elevator and rushed up the stairs to the seventh floor. Consumed with concern and fear regarding his partner's well being, Blair was shocked at the sight that greeted him when he entered the bullpen. Taking in the scene before him, all he could do was stand there in bewildered silence. Blair came out of his daze when Simon approached him.
"It's about time you got here," Simon growled. "You need to do something and fast. I don't know how much longer we're going to be able to contain this situation." When Blair simply continued to stare at the chaos filling the room, Simon bellowed, "Don't just stand there. Do something!"
Nodding, Blair managed to overcome his initial shock and began to make his way over to Jim. Carefully stepping over and around the files, phones, computers and chairs strewn all over the floor, Blair stopped when he finally stood before the desk that Jim was currently crouched under. Bending down, Blair was startled when two hands grabbed his shoulders. Grunting as he was yanked forward, Blair suddenly found himself pushed behind his partner. Squeezed into the extremely small area, Blair looked up at the back of Jim's head. After several seconds of painful contortion, he was able to lean forward and look at Jim's face. Momentarily taken aback by the expression of fright on his usually stoic friend's face, it took Blair a few seconds to notice the gun tightly clenched in Jim's hand.
"Jim?" Receiving no response, he called out louder. "JIM!"
Batting away the hand that tried to push him back, Blair tried to reach Jim again. "Jim, c'mon, talk to me here. You're staring to worry me. Jim?"
Blair was relieved when Jim finally seemed to notice his presence and turned to look at him, relief that quickly vanished when he heard Jim's words. "Chief, you shouldn't be here. It's not safe. They're everywhere. I told you to run. Why didn't you run? Don't worry though. I'll protect you. I'll always protect you. You're my guide. I'll NEVER let them get you."
"Uh, Jim," Blair responded, "exactly who are you protecting me from? Who's here?"
Turning to once again scan the bullpen with his senses, Jim answered, "CLOWNS!"
Starting to laugh, Blair sobered when he recognized the serious, fearful tone in Jim's voice. "Jim, you gotta believe me. There are no clowns here. I promise. Let's get out from under this desk, okay? It's pretty cramped down here."
When Blair started to ease his way past Jim and out from under the desk, he was once again caught in a very powerful grip and pulled back.
"Stay back. Please, Blair. I don't want them to get you too. You're my best friend. I can't lose you. Please."
Reaching out a hand to lightly rub circles on Jim's back, Blair relented, "Okay, Jim. I promise you that I'll stay under here with you as long as you need me to. But you have to tell me what's been going on. C'mon. Talk to me. I'll keep a look out for the clowns. I promise."
"I can't," Jim argued. "I have to keep my guard up, to protect you."
"But, Jim, remember I'm your partner," Blair responded. "I can't watch your back unless I know what's going on. You can trust me. I want to protect you too. Talk to me. Let me know what's happening so that I can help."
"You're keep watching for them?"
"Yes, Jim, I promise."
Pausing to take one final scan of the room, Jim seemed to be satisfied that the room was safe for the moment. Then, after taking a deep breath, he began to talk. "It started a little bit after I got to work. I went to the break room to get some coffee. Then I came back to my desk and started in on some paperwork. That's when Rafe came up to me. He thought he could trick me, asked if I had seen the file on the Jones case. Couldn't fool me, though. I saw right through the disguise."
"Disguise?" Blair asked.
"Yeah," Jim said. "It wasn't really Rafe. It looked like Rafe. It sounded like Rafe. But underneath it was really a clown. They took him over. They're clown pod people. They're everywhere and they've taken everybody over -- Simon, Joel, Rafe, Brown, even Rhonda. But, I won't let them get you."
"Jim, I need you to think back for me, okay?" Blair asked. "Did you eat or drink anything different this morning?"
"No, you're not going to do that this time," Jim exclaimed. "It's not my senses acting up. It's real. The clowns have taken over everybody. I know they have. I can see them."
"Okay, Jim. I believe you," Blair said, hoping to placate his agitated friend. "But, don't you think we'd be better able to defend ourselves if we were at the loft. How about it, huh? Let's go home."
"We can't. We're safe under here. If we try to leave, they'll get us."
"We'll stay here then," Blair agreed. "But finish telling me what happened."
"Well," Jim continued, "after I saw that Rafe was really clownRafe, I looked around the room. That's when I saw that I had already been surrounded. I shoved clownRafe away from me. I yelled at all of them to stay back, but they keep coming towards me. So I started throwing stuff. Anything I could lay my hands on. Then I got under here, where it's safe. After I shot at them, they left me alone."
"You shot at them!" Blair exclaimed. "You didn't hit anybody, did you?"
"No," Jim replied. "For some reason I kept missing, don't know why."
Realizing that Jim must on some level be aware that something was wrong this situation, Blair figured that Jim had probably missed on purpose, without even begin consciously aware of it. Emerging from his thoughts, Blair suddenly came up with a plan to convince Jim to go home.
"I know why you missed when you shot at them earlier."
"Why?" Jim asked in a very interested tone.
"Because you don't have the right weapon."
"What are you talking about, Chief?" Jim replied. "I've got a gun here, in case you didn't notice."
Being very much aware of the gun Jim held, Blair responded. "Yeah, but we're not talking about some ordinary run-of-the-mill bad guys like drug dealers or gun runners. This is clown pod people we're dealing with here. We need a special weapon to fight off these guys."
Intrigued, Jim asked, "What special weapon?"
"Think about it for a minute," Blair demanded. "What would hurt these guys?"
Blair watched as a look of comprehension appeared on Jim's face. He grinned when Jim snapped his fingers and exclaimed, "Seltzer."
"That's right, man," Blair said, "We need some bottles of seltzer to spray these guys with. It's the only weapon that will work. We can stop at the store and pick some up and then head home. All right?"
"But how will we get to the store and home without them getting us?"
"That's easy," Blair answered. "You watch my back and I'll watch yours. Okay, partner?"
"Yeah," Jim agreed. "It sounds good to me, Chief. I'll always trust you to watch my back. And you know I'll always watch yours, right?"
"Never doubted it for a second, Jim."
Half an hour later, Blair stood besides the couch staring down at his sleeping partner. Reaching out a hand, Blair lightly stroked Jim's hair. Jim gave a soft sigh on contentment then tightened his grip on the bottle of seltzer he had clutched against his chest. Shaking his head slightly in fond amusement, Blair thought, 'Clown pod people. I swear, Jim, you have the strangest mind of anybody I know.'
Just then, the phone rang and Blair hurried over to answer before it woke Jim. "Hello."
"Sandburg, how's Jim doing?"
"Better now that we're home, Simon," Blair explained. "He's sleeping. Whatever affected him seems to be working its way out of his system."
"That's the other reason I called," Simon replied. "I think I found out what caused Jim to flip out today."
"Seems somebody switched brands of coffee in the break room," Simon explained.
"That's got to be it," Blair agreed. "I managed to get Jim to talk some more about what happened today. He said the only thing he noticed was that the coffee tasted slightly different. Grab that coffee, I'll need to see what's in it to find out what ingredient affected Jim. You also need to make sure that brand is never brought into the station again."
"I'll see what I can do."
"You might want to spread the word to the guys about this clown thing."
Laughing, Simon replied, "Yeah, it'll be funny to see how Jim reacts when he comes in tomorrow and sees clown dolls sitting all over his desk."
"No, Simon," Blair disagreed. "I want you to make sure that nobody messes with Jim over this. There had better not be any clown dolls, big red noses, rainbow wigs or big floppy shoes anywhere at the station tomorrow."
"Look, Sandburg," Simon reasoned, "you know the guys are gonna want to tease Jim about this. I mean, admit it, Jim Ellison afraid of clowns. This is too good to pass up."
"Well, everybody better pass it up."
"You actually think you can convince them not to do anything?"
"Actually," Blair answered, "I expect them to be on their best behavior."
"And how are you going to accomplish that?" Simon asked.
"Simple," Blair answered. "You just let them know that if they mess with Jim then I will be extremely pissed off. While I am pissed off I won't be able to help you guys get your computers to access all those sites that are supposed to be off-limits, there won't be any ostrich chilli at any poker games for the foreseeable future and I won't help with anybody's paperwork except Jim's."
"I'll be sure and spread the word."
"Thanks, Simon," Blair said. Then, after hanging up the phone, he thought, 'Like I told you, partner, you watch my back and I'll watch yours.'
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