The Favor 3
Jim was having a rather disturbing dream involving machine gun wielding Teletubbies bent on world domination. Just when he was about to heroically rescue his partner, who had been captured and was being bombarded by solar death rays from the sun baby, the ringing of the phone woke him.
Tuning in as Blair answered the call, Jim cringed when he recognized Simon's voice. Sitting up, Jim thought, 'Oh no, it's field trip day. Okay, don't panic. I can get out of this. I mean, Sandburg's the one who promised to go not me. All I have to do is say no to the kid. How hard can that be? I was an Army ranger for crying out loud. I should be able to stand up to one longhaired, hyperactive grad student. I just have to look at him... No, I can't look at him. He'll pull that pouting lip, puppy dog eyes routine. He looks so SAD when he does that. That look makes me give in immediately, it's what got me into this whole mess to begin with.'
Jim was so deep in thought that he didn't notice when Blair came upstairs. He was startled when he felt a hand shaking his shoulder. "Huh? What? Oh, Chief."
"Hey, Jim. Are you all right?" Blair asked. "I called your name, but you didn't answer me. You didn't zone did you?"
"No," came Jim's rather irritated reply. "I didn't zone. I was just thinking. There IS a difference you know."
"Sorry. Geez, you're grouchy this morning," Blair complained. "Don't tell me you're still ticked off because I left that package of Depends on your bed." Receiving nothing but a glare from Jim, he continued, "Hey, it's only fair, you're the one who started it. Leaving all those packages of Gummibears all over the place -- in my backpack, in my canister of tea, in my desk. That wasn't funny. And don't think I haven't noticed all those jars of peanut butter you've brought in. I know we both like the stuff, but I think ten jars is just a little bit excessive."
"You weren't complaining when we had to use it AGAIN the other night."
"That wasn't my fault."
"Yeah," Jim replied. "I'm sure lots of people fall asleep with an open package of those gummi things lying on their bed."
"That was your fault," Blair accused. "After staying up all night on a stakeout with you and then teaching classes the next morning, I had to come home and take a nap. I hadn't had time to eat, I didn't feel like fixing anything and you're the one who had so conveniently left a package of them lying on my bed. I was hungry so I ate some of them. Actually they're pretty good, kind of squishy and gooey. Besides, I should have been complaining with the way you were pulling my hair that night?"
"You should have been complaining?" Jim asked. "I was supposed to go out with the guys that night. But what do I spend my night doing instead? Playing hide and seek with the Gummibears entrenched in your hair, that's what. My fingers still have that disgusting smell on them, too -- that nauseating mixture of Gummibears and peanut butter."
"Your fingers?" Blair said, "What about my hair? I'm still picking stuff out of it since you, in all your genius, got chunky instead of smooth. I had a meeting the next day and peanuts kept falling out all over the place, which happened to make it very hard to maintain any level of creditability, thank you very much. Now get up and get ready." Turning to go back downstairs, Blair added, "And don't even think about trying to get out of this 'cause nothing is gonna work. You ARE going."
After much grumbling, whining and quite a bit of cursing, Jim and Blair were about to leave the loft. "By the way," Jim said as he opened the front door, "where exactly are we going today?"
"Don't worry," Blair responded, "it's someplace you'll like. Trust me."
"Why do I feel a cold chill whenever I hear you say those two words?"
"That's just SO funny," Blair replied. "Man, I hope you're not like this all day or else we'll have no fun at the..."
Hearing Blair trail off, Jim immediately got suspicious. "At the what, Sandburg?"
"It won't be that bad, Jim. I promise."
"I am not stepping one foot outside the loft until you tell me where we're going."
"Aw c'mon, Jim, don't you want it to be a surprise?"
"Well, I want it to be a surprise," Blair stated as he started out the door.
Reaching out to grab Blair's arm, Jim growled, "I'm serious here. Tell me. Where are we going?"
"Um...well...see this field trip is kind of like a reward for Daryl's class. They had one of those magazine drives where the kids sell subscriptions. And see the homeroom that sold the most got this trip as a prize. So, we have to go. They worked hard for this."
"That new place that just opened up downtown."
"What? You mean that new entertainment center for kids, with the skating ring, miniature golf, arcade games and all that other loud, annoying stuff. And...oh shit...the stuff for the little kids. You mean to tell me that not only do I have to spend my day with a group of noisy, rambunctious teenagers, but there's going to be some of those little ankle bitters there, too?
Reaching for his gun, Jim withdrew it from the holster and held it out to Blair. "All I ask is that you make it quick." When Blair simply stared at him, Jim said, "Fine then, nothing serious. Just a flesh wound will do. Sandburg, you owe it to me." After a few moments of silence, Jim relented and re-holstered his gun.
"Let's go, Jim," Blair demanded as he walked out the front door. "And quit being such a drama queen."
Jim started to join Blair out in the hallway but stopped as the younger man's words registered. "What did you just call me?"
"Who, me?" Blair asked.
"Nothing, Jim. I didn't say anything at all."
"That's what I thought," Jim said. Closing to turn the door, he added, "But I swear, Sandburg, if I get peed on again there's not going to be anyplace for you to hide. I will hunt you down and I will hurt you."
* * *
Half an hour later, Jim cringed as he and Blair entered the center and were blasted by a multitude of extremely loud noises.
Concerned, Blair asked, "Do you have everything turned down, Jim?"
"What do you think, Darwin?" Jim sarcastically responded. Spotting Simon standing with a few other adults, Jim said, "There's Simon over there, c'mon."
"Jim, Blair. It's good to see you. Thanks for coming," Simon greeted them. Gesturing to a group of about twenty teenagers seated at the tables besides them, he said, "These are the kids from Darly's homeroom. They've been told all the ground rules. If anyone gets caught acting up, their parents will be called to come and get them. But I really don't expect too much trouble. They're a good group of kids."
"Yeah, that's fine, Simon, but what exactly are we supposed to do here?" Jim asked.
"Basically, all of us chaperones are here to just keep an eye on them. You know, just circulate the room, keep track of them and what they're doing."
Looking around the center while Simon explained things, Blair noticed something seemed kind of off. "Hey, Simon, why is the place so empty looking?"
"Today's been set aside for private parties," Simon explained. "Besides us they'll be about six other groups here throughout the day for birthday parties and stuff."
"Birthday parties?" Jim asked, a rather odd tone in his voice.
"Yeah," Simon replied. "You know, cake, presents, paper hats." Turning to look at Blair, he pointed towards Jim and asked, "What's his problem."
"Nothing, Simon," Blair replied. "We just need to go talk about something for a minute." Tugging on Jim's arm, Blair led him away from the group. Once they had a little bit of privacy, he said, "Just calm down, Jim. It'll be all right. We don't even know if any will be here."
"I can't believe this," Jim said. "I just can't believe this. And you know some will be here, Sandburg. They're bound to be. We're talking birthday parties."
"Relax! Now take a deep breath. Okay. You can deal with this. I still can't believe you act this way about them. You have the weirdest phobias, man."
"There's nothing weird about it!" Jim exclaimed, causing several people to look their way.
Briefly turning to wave at the people staring at them, Blair faced Jim again and said, "Quiet down, would you? That is unless you want everybody here to know that Detective of the Year James Joseph Ellison is afraid of..."
"Don't even say it," Jim demanded. "And wipe that smirk off your face. This is a perfectly normal phobia. Lots of people have it. I mean look what we're talking about here."
"Clowns, Jim," Blair responded. "We're talking about clowns."
"Yeah," Jim replied. "They're creepy and they freak me out. If so much as one of those painted lunatics puts in an appearance, I'm out of here before the first balloon dog is finished."
Laughing, Blair walked over to stand by Simon again. After taking a few seconds to sulk, Jim and joined them.
Giving the two men a strange look, Simon asked, "Do I even want to know what that was about?"
When Blair started to respond, Jim quickly cut him off. "No, Sir. You don't."
"All right, then," Simon replied. "The kids are out there enjoying themselves. I suggest the two of you do the same. Go. There's plenty of stuff to do. Play a game or something."
"With all due respect, Sir, I am not going to play a..."
"Oh wow," Blair interrupted, "would you look at that. You can win prizes. C'mon, Jim, you can win me a stuffed animal."
"What?" Jim asked as he turned to look at Blair. "No, Sandburg. Don't even think about it. There's no way I'm playing one of those stupid..." Catching sight of the pleading look on Blair's face, Jim thought, 'Shit. How did he get so good at that? Does he practice in the mirror or something?'
Simon just stood there, watching in amusement, as Jim once again gave in to Sandburg. "Fine. But just one."
* * *
Several hours later, the group had gathered back at the tables for lunch. Digging into their pizza and breadsticks, the teens chatted and joked among themselves.
Joining Jim and Blair, Simon asked, "Well, are you two having a good time?"
Wiping his mouth, Blair replied, "Yeah, Simon, it's been great. Jim actually smiled. Three times. Can you believe it?"
"Okay, but what's wrong with him now?"
"What?" Blair asked as he turned to look at Jim. 'Oh no," he thought when he saw what his friend was staring at. "Nothing, Simon," he said. "His senses are probably just acting up a little bit. Why don't you go talk to Daryl and I'll see what I can do to help him?"
After Simon left, Blair placed his hand on Jim's arm. "Jim, it's all right. Everything's gonna be fine. Relax."
"I warned you, Sandburg," Jim replied after a few seconds.
"NO! Please, Jim," Blair pleaded. "We've been having a good time so far. Let's not let this ruin the whole day."
"All right," Jim conceded. "You know, someday I'm gonna become immune to that look."
"Sure you are, Jim."
"Hey, whatever you need to tell yourself."
"Shut up and eat."
"Fine," Blair replied. "And, Jim?"
"You don't have to worry," Blair reassured. "I'll protect you from the big, mean clown."
Scowling, Jim turned his attention back to his food.
* * *
Later that evening, two very tired men entered the loft and went to sit down on the couch. Jim picked up the remote and turned on the TV, trying to find something halfway entertaining to watch. Meanwhile, Blair was trying to come up with names for the three stuffed animals Jim had won for him.
'I still can't believe he won these for me,' Blair thought as he looked at the items he held. 'A wolf, a panther, and a monkey. Wow.'
Looking up, Blair saw that Jim was watching him. Seeing the small smile on Jim's face, Blair said, "Admit it, Jim, you ended up having a good time today."
"I have to admit, it was okay," Jim admitted. "But that's not the reason I'm smiling."
"Well, Chief," Jim replied, "the way I figure it, you owe me two days."
"I gave you two days," Jim explained. "One spent at the daycare and today. So now you owe me two days, to be spent doing whatever I want you to do."
Getting up, Jim advised, "Be sure to rest up, Sandburg, because I can think of plenty of stuff for you to do."
Chuckling, Jim headed for the bathroom, "I can just see it now. You detailing the truck, scrubbing the bathroom grout with a toothbrush, cleaning out the storage area downstairs."
"And Simon did say that he needs some more help with the Halloween party the station is throwing. You know I really like the idea of offering parents an alternative to taking their kids from house to house, not to mention its a whole lot safer." Smiling, Jim said, "Plus there's the added bonus of my getting to pick out your costume. I've got to give Simon a call tonight."
"Tomorrow I'll start checking out costumes. I'll need to find just the right one."
Muttered something about not wanting any more nocturnal visits from deranged Teletubbies, Jim ignored Blair and went into the bathroom.
Sitting on the couch, Blair looked down at his new friends and said, "If he thinks he's picking out my costume, he's crazy." Then, emitting an evil little chuckle, he added, "In fact, I already know what costume I want." Getting up, Blair began going over his list as he went into his room. "Big floppy shoes, rainbow colored wig..."
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