IRC Improvisational Smarm

One Very Long Session On #smarm....


Martha, Merry, cat1, Kitty, and Kareila



This is a combined and condensed log of two sessions, which occupied virtually an entire weekend. As usual, typos and most extraneous comments have been removed. I'd leave the typos in to give you the full flavor of the experience, but we don't have enough cat1 decoder rings to go around at the moment. The usual gang of suspects had gathered, when a newbie arrived: it was Martha's earliest venture into the world of IRC, and she fell in with some very bad company....



(Merry) Smarm! Smarm!

(Merry) I could die a horrible net-death at any second and you're depriving me.

(martha) Jim scooped an armfull of papers off the chair behind Blair's desk so he could sit down

(martha) It was six pm. The early autumn sunset threw red shadows across the crowded office.

(martha) He knew despair couldn't help Sandburg now.

(martha) But he let his head rest in his hands for a few moments, trying to clear his thoughts.

(martha) Three days now.

(martha) Funny thing. Since the day Blair moved in they'd never been apart so long. Just three days. No time at all.

(martha) A long weekend.

(martha) Kid needed some space.

(martha) Some time to himself.

(martha) Right, Jim

(martha) So he took off without saying a word to anyone, missed his lecture on Wednesday, didn't show up to proctor an exam on Thursday, and here it was Friday evening

(martha) And still not a word.

(martha) Jim sat up, raked his hands back through his hair, tried to focus.

(martha) He'd been through the papers on Blair's desk a dozen times, but maybe he'd missed something.

(martha) The journals. Nothing there. The coffee cup with half an inch of sludge on the bottom, a thin layer of mold on the surface of the liquid,

(Spengs) (ewww!)

(martha) Sorry

(martha) Nothing like my desk, I swear

(Kareila) He was just conducting a mold experiment for a friend!

(Spengs) keep going!

(martha) Right, right.

(martha) Blue books, floppy disks labled with post-it notes that would be pulled off and lost the first time he tried to use the disk

(martha) Student papers, department mail.

(martha) And that blue envelope.

(martha) Jim had seen it when he'd been here yesterday looking for Blair. And the day before.

(martha) He hadn't read it then. Still holding on to some foolish desire to protect Blair's privacy. Because Blair was fine, even though he wasn't here and he'd hate having Jim read his private mail, surely. Little enough privacy as there was, living with a sentinel.

(martha) Jim pulled letter out and read it.

(Spengs) If Martha were an evil person, she'd pass to Merry now.....

(martha) It was typed on a manual typewriter that punched holes in the paper with every period. Pinpricks of light shone through.

(Merry) eek

(martha) Whew. Good idea. Thank you, Merry. Good luck getting a plot moving.

(Merry) ack!

(Kareila) Good one, Kitty. (g)

(Merry) I hate you all.

(Merry) Just want you to know that.

(martha) What a lovely group.

* Merry grins.

(Kareila) We are, aren't we?

(martha) Your story now.

(Merry) ok.

(Spengs) ooo, she learns fast

(Merry) Too damn fast.

* Merry grins.

(martha) Good teachers.

(Merry) ok, smarm.

(Merry) For long moments, Jim didn't read. He lost himself in the component parts of the letter: The raspy feel of the paper between his fingertips, the indentations of the letters.

(Merry) He could've read it with his eyes closed, fingers skimming lightly over the surface of the page. Sandburg would've liked that. Kid would probably have him tested out on every font known to man, then start in on laser printers.

(Merry) He'd tell him about it, maybe.

(Merry) When he found him.

(Merry) Finally he backed off, pulled back from the faint scent of perfume and chemicals that lingered on the paper and the whorls within the purplish ink of each particular letter, and read the words.

(Merry) "Dr. Sandburg -- or if not yet, then soon, correct?

(Merry) It is with a sad heart that I write to inform you of your mother's death.

(Spengs) AMTA

(martha) Yikes!

(Merry) Or, I should say, imminent death --

(Merry) Should you fail to do exactly as I instruct.

(Merry) Yesterday afternoon you took a walk which led you to a place with which we are both familiar. Meet me there in three hours time --

(Merry) -- that is, if the life of your mother is still of some value to you.

(Merry) Come alone.

(Merry) Speak of this to no one.

(Merry) There is a life in your hands, Dr. Sandburg."

(Merry) The letter was unsigned.

(Merry) It took every ounce of willpower Jim possessed to hold the paper gently.

(Kareila) (shudder)

(Merry) He wanted to rip it, shred it, tear it into as many pieces as he could. He wanted to vent his rage against it.

(Merry) But Jim Ellison was a man with priorities, and the violence that howled in his heart for release had a more appropriate target.

(Merry) He lay the page down on top of its envelope with tender, almost reverent care.

(Merry) A walk.

(Merry) Blair had gone for a walk yesterday, all right. Start there.

(Spengs) (three days ago...)

(Merry) Ooops...thanks, Kitty...

(Kareila) time warp :)

(Merry) Someone had seen him. Someone who would very soon have considerably less to worry about -- or, indeed, with -- if Jim had his way.

(Merry) Someone had been watching, but not long enough.

(Merry) There wasn't a trail Blair loved that Jim hadn't walked with him.

(Merry) There wasn't a favorite spot Jim hadn't seen.

(Merry) Indeed, on Rainier campus, there were very few places, hidden or un-, that Blair hadn't run Jim through at least one test of his senses.

(Merry) If Blair were here...what would he say?

(Merry) Okay, yeah, *after* the breathing part.

(martha) lol

(Spengs) heh

(Merry) He'd tell me to start with my sense of smell...

(Merry) Jim picked up the page again, and the envelope, and held them close to his nose. He imprinted the scent of perfume, and the smell of the ink, and the smell of the paper itself, deep into his memory.

(Merry) And as he did so, he noticed something else.

(Merry) Another aroma, hidden beneath the others.

(Merry) Familiar...almost...

(martha) yes? yes?

(Merry) It smelled like...

(Spengs) I feel it coming.

(Merry) Simon?

(Merry) pass

(Spengs) yup (g)

(Merry) Kitty can sense a pass from paragraphs back.

(Merry) Who did I pass to?

(Spengs) Me, I expect, if we're doing the alphabet thing

(Merry) Well then, my dear...

(Merry) Smarm away.

(Spengs) ....like hospitals. The faint, faint hint of something that reminded him all too much of many hours he had spent in emergency rooms.

(Spengs) The memories began to catch at his concentration, the scent dragging a hundred fears up from below the surface of his consciousness.

(Spengs) Hours spent not knowing how long it would take to recover this time.... hours spent in small rooms surrounded by the hundred smells of the place, of which this was only one, the most prevalent.

(Spengs) Ignoring the twisting pain that curled in his chest, Jim focused again, trying to isolate it, hoping against hope it could tell him something more useful.

(Spengs) The musty, organic, chemical smell...

(Spengs) It was latex.

(Spengs) Whoever had handled the letter had used gloves.

(Spengs) His eyes opened in frustration and he glared at the page as if it had deliberately misled him.

(Spengs) All he knew now was that there would be no fingerprints to help him trace the origin of the note.

(Spengs) "Try again, Jim. You can do it. Just focus." The voice in his memory spoke clearly over his fear, as it always did. And as he always had, he obeyed it.

(martha) Starting to see, here, why chats are more important than sleep, food, jobs...

(Kareila) mmmhmmmm

(Spengs) bloody addictive, eh? (g)

(Merry) See, Martha? And you thought it was just us. =)

(martha) Well .... I can see how they COULD be. To someone with less self control than me. On with the story.

* Merry laughs.

(Spengs) This time he added the scent of the latex to the list of odors to be ignored, and searched further, letting himself go completely into the hunt, as if he had his Guide standing by him to bring him out of a zone.

(Spengs) But he didn't.

(Spengs) There was nobody there this time.

(Spengs) When he came to with a gasp, his chest heavy and tight with the need for oxygen, it was to find himself on the floor.

(Spengs) His head pounded fiercely, pain blossoming between his eyes as if he'd been shot.

(Spengs) But he had found what he'd been looking for. He had finally found it, underneath all the other smells, one that could only have come from a number of molecules that could be counted with ease by a two year old.

(Spengs) And he knew where it was from.

(Spengs) He could almost tell exactly how old the scent was. It fit so perfectly he knew he was right.

(Spengs) Pulling air into oxygen-starved lungs, he groggily pushed himself upright on the dusty floor.

(Spengs) There was no time at all for this. Reaching up for the edge of the desk, he hauled himself to his feet, swaying as if drunk.

(Spengs) No time at all left. How could he have left it go so long? How could he not have searched here earlier?

(Spengs) The guilt ripped at him even as he pushed himself fully upright. First things first. Get over to the underground insect research lab, that was where the trace scent had come from. Find Blair. Find Blair alive.

(Spengs) And then worry about what had taken him so long to realize he was needed.

(Spengs) pass

(Spengs) Kar.... (eg)

(Kareila) eeeek

* Kareila is composing herself, and trying to rise above the cold medicine. (g)

(Kareila) Had Jim been capable of coherent thought, he might not have broken land speed records getting to the other side of campus.

(Kareila) But his mind was firmly fixed on his mission: Find Blair and do some damage to whoever had dared threaten him.

(Kareila) The tires of the truck hopped the curb as he screeched to a stop in front of the abandoned building. It looked eerie in the fading twilight.

(Kareila) He stood stock still and opened up his hearing. He almost closed it right up again.

(Kareila) The sounds sent shivers up his spine.

(Kareila) Whispering, skittering sounds. Barely audible even to his enhanced senses.

(Kareila) "Only Sandburg," he thought. "Only that kid could get himself into a mess like this."

(Kareila) He tried to be angry at Blair, but the thought of him, somewhere in the bowels of the crumbling building, brought nothing but concern.

(Kareila) He forced himself to ignore the crawling sensation the sounds had created on his skin, and moved forward into the building.

(martha) congratulations on moving the plot right along! this is great ...

(Kareila) Once inside, he had to focus his vision to cut through the murky blackness. He tried to filter out the clicking and rustling sounds of the insects, tried to find some sign of his guide, but he found himself unable to focus.

(Kareila) pass....(g)

(martha) Uh oh. Is that me?

(Spengs) Yup

(martha) OK. Um...

(martha) Right.

(martha) Gimme a minute ...

(martha) Jim stopped. Leaned one hand against the wall and tried to clear his thoughts.

(martha) He was trying too hard to filter out all emotion, that was the problem.

(martha) Blair wasn't beside him, he was trying to do his job without that voice, that presence, that smile, that warmth at his side

(martha) And trying not to slip into the madness and helplessness of a zoneout in the process.

(martha) (ack, where was this sentence going?)

(martha) Think of something small. Something simple.

(martha) Just a moment, something to ground him.

(martha) Breakfast Wednesday morning. The last time he'd seen Blair.

(martha) Coffee was too strong. The milk had gone sour because Blair hadn't put it on the list so Jim hadn't known to buy any.

(martha) Exactly two eggs left, and the only bread in the house were the potato scones Blair had made the night before.

(martha) "Try 'em, Jim. They're great. Toasted with a little butter --"

(martha) "Sandburg, I want two slices of white bread. Scrambled eggs. Milk for my coffee. I don't think that's asking too much." Trying to be stern, but Blair didn't buy it for a minute. Just grinned, snatched up his backpack on the way out the door. "Got a lecture this morning. Catch you at the station this afternoon if I can get away."

(martha) Jim opened his eyes again. Straightened up. Still angry, still frightened, but

(Spengs) hungry for a scone?

(martha) calm as well.

(martha) thanks, kitty.

(Spengs) sorry!

(martha) you're not a bit.

(Spengs) maybe a little bit

(martha) Blair was close.

(martha) Jim followed something less tangible than scent.

(Spengs) If Blair's been down there three days, the scent is going to be pretty tangible.

* Spengs whaps Spengs with Jim's favorite silk boxers

(Spengs) Shutting up now

(martha) I believe you.

* Kareila giggles

(Kareila) He must have used the spray

(martha) Instant editorial comment is great, isn't it?

* Spengs has shut up and can't answer that

* Merry falls over laughing.

(Merry) Thanks for preserving that smarm moment for me, Kitty...

(Kareila) you know you love it!

(Merry) Felt myself going mushy there for a sec.

(Merry) I'm ok now, though.

* Merry grins.

(martha) OK, after the scone interlude I guess I need to get moving...

(martha) Get Jim moving.

(Spengs) Never let the peanut gallery slow you down

(Kareila) Part of the challenge is keeping the mood despite the running commentary

(martha) Oh, like *extra* challenge is needed?

(Kareila) Be one with the smarm, Martha.

(Spengs) Feel the smarm flowing through you.

(Merry) Feel the energy of the smarm.

(martha) All that's happening right now is I'm scaring the cats....

(martha) Down crumbling tile stairs, past battered lockers pulled half way off the wall, down another flight of stairs, the boiler room, past the grating that blocked access to lower levels -- he pulled it off the wall, rusty hinges tearing like paper

(martha) and further down, the weight of the ancient building above him, the subcellars stretching so far below. The tiny sounds of life all around him, cockroaches, rats -- other things? He tried not to think about what else could be here -- what had they done with the insects when they shut the entomology lab down? What had been breeding down here all that time --

* Merry shudders.

* Kareila is getting the creepy-crawlies

* Spengs feels the skittering of bug feet all over her

(Merry) Oh, c'mon, guys, I sleep on the floor...

(martha) None of that mattered though, because Blair was right here.

(martha) He pushed open a sagging screen door (a screen door? Down here) and found Sandburg sitting at a school desk.

(martha) It was too small for him. His knees were jammed up against the bottom of the desk, his arms crossed on the desk, hunched over a little.

(martha) A naked bulb glowed from the fixture overhead. Jim didn't even know the power was on in this place. Could have just flipped the lights on he thought with blank absurdity.

(martha) "Chief?"

(martha) Blair winced a little.

(martha) "Sandburg, what are you doing here?"

(martha) Blair looked up at last. Smiled a little. "Jim." His voice was steady. "Hey. It's OK. I was just --" he looked around himself, then back at Jim. The smile was more than a little strained by now.

* Spengs sits on the edge of her chair

* Kareila is half-expecting Martha to pass

(Spengs) Nah, she has to smarm first!

(martha) A thin length of chain was wrapped around Blair's ankle. His left wrist was handcuffed to the support under the desk.

(Merry) Hey, I had a dream like that once. Only Jim wasn't in it. It was me, and... --I just shared too much, didn't I?

(Spengs) 'fraid so, Merry

(Kareila) ROFL

(martha) He followed Jim's gaze, then tried to cover the handcuff with his right hand.

(martha) "It's OK," he said again. "Jim, you can't be here, man."

(martha) Blair hadn't been here long, thank god. They must have been holding him somewhere else.

(martha) "Jim -- stop it! Please! You've got to get away from here! He's got Naomi!"

(Kareila) nice rebound on the "smell" issue (g)

(martha) Thanks.

(martha) First things first.

* Spengs whispers to Martha to do some nice gooey stuff

(martha) Goo coming right up.

(martha) Jim shut down ruthlessly. Not now. Not yet.

(martha) Drawing his gun, he entered cautiously,

(cat1) poor Jim! he knows if he stops to think he'll fall apart...

(martha) watching the shadows, listening to the sounds of the night and the ancient building, looking everywhere but at the hunched figure before him.

(martha) Like a kid who'd had to stay late after school.

(martha) "Jim, there's no one here --" Blair said, as though they were discussing the weather. "Please. You've got to go."

(martha) Satisfied that they were alone, Jim put the gun away, crossed to Blair's side.

(martha) "Jim, please."

(martha) "It's all right." He knelt, began unwrapping the length of chain from his ankles. "Don't try to talk."

(martha) "You're not listening to me!" Blair's voice rose with frustration. "I've got it under control here. Please."

(martha) "Chief." Jim stood up, took Blair's shoulders.

(cat1) ummm, sure Blair. You look like you have it under control to me. Yeah.

(martha) Blair looked away, refusing to meet his eyes.

(Merry) Obviously some strange new definition of control only known by anthropologists.

* cat1 blinks and consides that one for a sec...

(martha) (snerk -- made the mistake of looking up)

(Kareila) remember, *ignore the peanut gallery*

(Spengs) Merry - so, tell us about this anthropological control thing....

(Merry) Well, it's all very metaphysical.

(Merry) Blair and I...uh...well, we doubt anybody else would understand.

(Spengs) uh huh.....

* Merry dives under the couch and peers out, carefully, between the dustbunnies.

(cat1) metaphysical. Uh-huh. Which is why the physical chains come into it?

(Merry) Well, they're just...um...a physical representation...of the...

(Merry) uh...

(Spengs) a visual metaphor of something, no doubt.

(Merry) metaphysical bonds...

* Spengs and Jim both look darned skeptical about the whole thing

(Merry) between, like, a grad student and an institution of higher learning (for which, of course, the desk is but a metaphor)

* Merry and Blair sulk mightily while comforting one another at the far end of the couch.

(cat1) chained to the couch, or no? (eg)

(Spengs) lol

(Merry) That comes later.

* Merry grins.

(cat1) I think we're distracting martha...

(Merry) Martha, are we distracting you?

(martha) Nope, not me.

(martha) "Look at me, kid." Jim put his hand under Blair's unshaven chin, gently lifting his head.

(martha) "It's all over now, so just take it easy and --"

(martha) Sandburg blinked. The yellow light overhead turned the day-old bruises black,

(martha) Blair closed his eyes.

(martha) When he opened them again, they were dark with calm resolution. "Jim, for the last time, you don't understand what's going on here. You can't help me."

(martha) He'd never heard those words from Blair before. Never thought, if he were honest with himself, that he could hear them.

(martha) Sandburg was out of his head. Didn't know what he was saying. That was it.

* cat1 senses a particularly difficult pass coming up in a bit...

(martha) "OK, Chief. I know. I know." Soothingly, as if he were talking to a frightened child. Hoping his physical presence would be some comfort, he slid his hand around to the back of Blair's head, gently pulled him forward to rest for a moment against his chest.

(martha) "Almost done here."

(martha) He knelt again, began unwrapping the chains. They were clumsily wrapped around the base of the chair. If Blair had tried he could have gotten out of them himself.

(martha) He hadn't tried.

(martha) Then Jim looked at the cuff binding Sandburg's wrist and, and that sense of dark, cold anger that he'd been trying to hold back all along began to creep back, tightening his chest, flushing his face like a fever.

(martha) The cuffs were plastic. Toys.

(Kareila) ahhh!

(Spengs) aaaaaaaah!

(martha) He gave one hard yank and they broke.

(Spengs) no wonder he was trying to cover them up

(martha) Blair groaned in anger. "Dammit, Jim, get out of here and leave me alone!"

(martha) Jim wrapped his fists around the shoulders of Blair's shirt, pulled him out of that stupid desk, dragged him to his feet.

(martha) "Sandburg, I saw the letter. You must think you're helping Naomi, but this isn't the way. Believe me."

(martha) Anger had been the only thing holding Blair together.

* Spengs gets ready for some really good goo

(martha) When his eyes cleared, when he looked up at Jim for the first time without that cloud,

(martha) (oops, can't possibly finish that sentence. Lemme try again)

(Spengs) ack! the suspense is gonna kill me!

(cat1) aaaaah Blair is gonna lose it if he gets unmad, and then Jim will fall apart if Blair loses it...

* cat1 nearly falls off her chair in anticipation...

(martha) When his eyes cleared, everything seemed to fall away from him. "Jim," he started to say.

(martha) Blair shook his head a little, as if trying to clear the cobwebs. "Jim, I'm sorry."

(martha) He reached up with both hands, and grabbed Jim's shirt hard before his knees buckled.

(Spengs) Checking reactor core temperature.....

(martha) Jim caught him, one arm around his shoulders, one around his waist, lowered him to the floor. Filthy linoleum, crossed with tiny tracks, mouse droppings, years of dust and grime.

(martha) "Take it easy. We're going to figure this out together."

(martha) "Jim, I'm so sorry."

(martha) "It's all right."

(martha) "No, it's not." Blair's head rolled from side to side in desperate negation. "It's not, Jim. I lost it. I knew I should have gotten to you somehow, I knew I couldn't handle this on my own --" His voice was rising in desperation.

(Spengs) core temp climbing

(martha) Jim put a hand on his forehead, trying to still him. "I'm here now."

(martha) "But they've got Naomi! Jim, I was so scared I couldn't think straight."

* cat1 looks for raschig rings...

(martha) Sorry, I've really been hogging this, haven't i?

(Spengs) We WANT you to!

(Spengs) Don't make me sharpen the prodding stick here....

(martha) Just don't want to risk never being invited back because I never gave up the floor --

(Spengs) On with the goo!

(martha) whoops! Ok, sorry, thanks, came up for air and got nervous.

(martha) "Jim, I was so scared." Tears brimmed in his eyes and he blinked them away furiously. "If anything happens, it'll be because I screwed it up -- oh, god, Jim please tell me it's not too late."

(martha) His voice broke, became a hopeless wail that he tried to bite back, shutting his eyes, muscles clenching,

(Spengs) reactor core reaching critical

* Kareila gets out the lead shielding

(martha) but he wasn't strong enough to hold back so much grief and fear. Jim pulled him close, wrapped strong arms around his shoulders,

* Spengs dives for the reactor rod release lever

* cat1 whimpers

(martha) quietly promised him over and over again that everything was going to be all right. Blair buried his head hard against Jim's neck, trying to say something that he couldn't get out past the sobs.

(martha) His tears and breath were hot against Jim's throat, his hands balled into fists at JIm's back.

(martha) Jim put one hand at the back of Sandburg's head, supporting him with the other arm gentle around his shoulders, rocking him there on the floor until the sobs began to die away

(Spengs) ack -*BAMF*-

* Spengs has imploded

(martha) When the sobs began to die away, Blair tried to pull back.

(Merry) Wow. That was totally nuclear smarm, Martha. Way to go! I'm surprised Kitty's still with us.

(martha) Jim took his upper arms and kept him close. "We're in this together now, you understand?"

(martha) Blair nodded. The stark yellow light gleamed in the unwept tears still in his eyes, but when he spoke his voice was calm.

* Merry tries to snuggle with Blair, but it's tough without the macros.

(martha) Not what Blair said. (g)

(Merry) "Blair, this is no time to discuss computers," Jim said, glomming his partner smarmily.

(Spengs) and the pass is good!

(Spengs) Merry takes it downfield....

(martha) Hey, that's right, I was just killing time till Merry got back. All yours.

(Merry) Not.

(Spengs) (where's the color commentator?)

(Merry) Hey, wait!

(Merry) I was just kidding!

(Spengs) You yelled "smarm" in a crowded channel. We don't joke about such things here, missy.

(Merry) I'm...uh....

(Kareila) smarm, Merry, smarm...

(Spengs) just sorta continue with the goo or something

* Merry takes a deep breath.

* Merry takes several deep breaths, kinda like Blair right before he let go of that window ledge in Siege.

* Merry pictures herself there...

(Merry) "I...I should've known you'd find me," he said, his eyes fixed on Jim's with unwavering faith. "I did know, I just...."

(Merry) "You were scared," Jim said. He could feel the tremors still, racing through the warm body in his arms. He tightened his embrace as his eyes scanned the dark recesses of the room, instinct pushing him to range outward with his senses.

(Merry) "Yeah." Blair's head moved against Jim's chest, the word a choked whisper fraught with shame.

(Merry) If you guys are gonna hang out in the peanut gallery, the least you can do is share peanuts.

(Spengs) OK, I gotta say I admire your use of "fraught"

(Spengs) Not a word just anyone can throw around

(Merry) I've been dying to use that word all day.

(martha) Beautifully done.

* Merry bows.

(Merry) "Hey." Jim tilted Blair's face up toward the meager light. "You're just taking care of your half of the deal, Blair," he said gently. "You get us into trouble, I get us out, right? Isn't that somewhere in the Sentinel/Guide contract?"

(Spengs) Paragraph 3(b)(i)

(cat1) snrrrfle!

(Merry) The ghost of a smile formed on Blair's lips and lingered for just a moment. "I guess," he said. He tried to turn away, but Jim's hand was firm beneath his chin, forcing the younger man to meet his eyes.

(Merry) "You did what anybody would've done," he said softly, intently, willing Blair to understand.

(Merry) "You...you wouldn't have--"

(Merry) "Damn straight I would have," Jim said, his voice rising to override Blair's. "In a heartbeat I would have. Yeah, calling me would've been the smart thing to do, but in a situation like that you don't necessarily think with your head. Nobody does, Blair. Don't... don't do this to yourself."

(Merry) The look Blair turned on Jim then was incandescent. The fear was still there, and the shame, but in addition to those there was a kind of trust humbling in its depth and intensity.

(Merry) For a moment, Jim couldn't speak around the swell of pride in his chest, but the gift Blair had given was also a responsibility. It required an answer. There were times when the silences between he and the man who'd become the focus of his life were more than enough, when no amount of conversation could elaborate on the bond between them.

(Merry) But there were also times, like this, when words were needed.

(Merry) "I'll fix this," Jim vowed. He didn't know how, and it wasn't important. He knew he was saying something Blair already believed with all his heart, but these words were as much for himself as for his friend. A promise made not just to Blair, but to himself as well.

(Merry) "I know that, Jim," Blair said, and finally his voice was firm, gaining strength with his certainty.

(Merry) Jim nodded, feeling strong. With that trust, he could do it. He could do anything.

(Merry) "You ready to get out of here?" he said, forcing his arms to loosen their hold.

(Merry) For a moment, Blair's hands tightened convulsively in the tightly-woven fabric of Jim's shirt. His eyes closed, and Jim waited, knowing his friend was searching for a center of calm deep within.

(Merry) Then his partner's eyes opened again. Jim could almost feel the anchoring as their gazes met. "I'm ready," Blair said, nodding confirmation. "Let's go."

(Merry) pass

(martha) heh.

(Merry) (sorry, I have to fix a printer)

(Spengs) Ack!

(Spengs) Gotta get Remo to stop licking Jim here first... little hairball has been listening to me too much

(Spengs) Avaunt ye, furface!

(Merry) (Okay, so I have to flip it off and then right back on and pretend that fixes it...)

(Spengs) good, you're back. I entertained them while you were gone, now you can go back to smarming

(martha) nice try, kitty

(Merry) Kitty, I can scroll back and check.

(Spengs) I did entertain them!

(Spengs) Well, not that anyone applauded or anything

(martha) clap. clap.

(Spengs) See?!

(Merry) I can go on if you REALLY want me to.

(Merry) But I insist on a scene break.

* cat1 offers applause

* Merry shakes her head sadly.

(Merry) Poor computer dweebs. Printer is down and they think I can fix it.

(Merry) Me, the girl who answered "about a foot square" to the question "how big is your hard drive".

(Merry) Okay, this respectful silence is scaring me.

(Spengs) So, smarm and we'll make comments about it

(martha) Go girl! Scene break, fine, whatever.

* Merry rolls her eyes.

(Merry) Ok.

(Kareila) gogogo

(Merry) ~~~ (pretty scene break graphic) ~~~

(Kareila) but, no pressure you understand

* cat1 admires the pretty scene break graphic

(Merry) "I need to know everything," Jim said as he half-carried his partner out of the lab, leaving behind at long last the scurrying sounds that he could almost feel against his skin for the gentle whisper of wind and leaves.

(martha) That Rainier campus. What a death trap.

(cat1) hee! yeah it is a dangerous place, isn't it?

(cat1) must mess up campus crime statistics nationwide

(Merry) The sunlight filtered greenly through the trees, filling the clearing above the lab with a clean, spring light. Jim took the cool air into his lungs slowly and held it, like breathable hope. His eyes closed as he concentrated on the gentle breeze fluttering against his skin.

(Merry) "Hey, c'mon, Jim. Cut it out." Blair's voice, tinged with anxiety and no little irritation, filtered through the layers of sensation that gripped him. Jim's eyes snapped open, and he released the breath he'd been holding.

(Merry) "Sorry," he said shortly, meaning it more than he was able to say in the sunlight. "How long?"

(Merry) "About twenty seconds," Blair said. "And if you'd been any longer I was thinking of mouth to mouth. You totally stopped breathing, man. For future reference, your Guide is like, *totally* against that."

(Merry) Jim smiled in spite of himself, relaxing into the comfort of their familiar banter. "If it should happen again," he said, "find a co-ed."

(Spengs) and give *her* mouth to mouth? How is this going to help Jim?

(Merry) "And give *her* mouth to mouth? How's that going to help you, Jim?" Blair's eyes were wide with false innocence.

(Spengs) lol

(Merry) "Funny," Jim said, reaching out to tug gently at one of his partner's curls. "Very, very funny." Blair grinned up at him, and Jim could almost see the life pouring back into his friend. The bruises that darkened his face were surely the most minor of Blair's injuries, yet the younger man was strong.

(Merry) There was no way to know how much pain Blair was hiding from him, just that the pain was there. Jim wrapped an arm securely around his partner, supporting him; Blair rolled his eyes, but he didn't pull away.

(Merry) Jim nodded grimly to himself. Whatever it was, whatever had been done to Blair, it hurt bad. There was no way Blair would let himself be practically carried otherwise.

(Merry) "Okay?" Jim asked quietly. Blair nodded, his eyes flicking up to Jim's just for a moment in confirmation. "Let's go, then."

(Merry) He should have heard something.

(Merry) A step behind him on the path, the crackle of leaves beneath heavy feet. He should have sensed the presence behind them, even without his Sentinel abilities. Protecting Blair went beyond being a Sentinel, into something deep and abiding and not quite rational. Somewhere, somehow, he should have known it wouldn't be that easy.

(Merry) He missed it all, right up til the moment when Blair's eyes widened in pain and shock. The hand clutching his arm for physical support suddenly tensed with surprise and fear, and his face turned up toward Jim's, and suddenly Blair was a dead weight in his arms.

(Merry) His eyes were vacant, lifeless, staring...and the familiar heartbeat that anchored Jim, that measured out the quiet spaces in his life, was gone without a trace.

(Spengs) aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh

(Merry) pass

* cat1 snickers but very quietly so Spengs can't hear her

* Spengs knows who has snickered, and who is next on the roster

(cat1) ok, that is a pass for the record books

(Merry) Cliffhangers a specialty, optional but encouraged.

(Spengs) Even though he knew what it had to mean, what the threat had to be to himself, he couldn't simply drop Blair and turn to meet it. There was nothing so important to him as hearing that heartbeat again, even if seeking it meant his own might stop.

(Spengs) (need drugs and a beer, brb)

(Merry) Drugs and a beer?

(Merry) The pass wasn't THAT bad.

(Kareila) Oh yes it was...

* Kareila does the happy dance at being last on the list

(Spengs) Lowering Blair quickly to the springy turf, Jim bent over him and pushed a shaking breath into his mouth. He felt lightheaded, lost, as if the gentle breeze he had felt only seconds earlier had somehow become a hurricane and changed the world around him in the time he had blinked.

(Spengs) His fingers rested on Blair's throat, seeking the heartbeat he couldn't trust his hearing to catch.

(Spengs) "I don't think you really have time for that, Detective."

(Spengs) The voice was cold and quite casually dismissive.

* cat1 suddenly regrets her earlier snickering

(Spengs) Jim ignored it, knowing it was much less important than the fading warmth in Blair's skin, the quiet lack of a heartbeat that stole the desire to live from his own chest.

(Spengs) All his hopes, all his soul were in the next breath he gave Blair.

(Spengs) "Step away from him. Now." A thread of annoyance had entered the voice.

(Spengs) When the blow landed in Jim's side, he still didn't turn.

(Spengs) "It's too late, you idiot."

(Spengs) Pass

(Spengs) hehehehe

(Merry) Hey

(Merry) Waitaminute...

(Merry) that was what, ten lines?

(Spengs) Thick lines. Fat ones. Fulla adjectives. They count double.

(cat1) gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

(cat1) ok I need a minute to get a drink and shut the door

(cat1) arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh

* Spengs notes that Kar's time is coming soon

* Kareila looks about frantically for something to whap Kitty with

* Merry shakes her head sadly at Kitty, lightning smarmer extraordinaire.

* cat1 sits down and shakes her head at the pass

(cat1) Another blow, a kick this time, hard in Jim's ribs, but he knew he could be immovable if he tried. It shook him, but all that mattered was it broke his rhythm a little as he breathed for Blair.

(cat1) It was a rhythm he knew too well, had used far too often, but it meant that he could keep it up no matter what.

(cat1) He breathed, breathed again, keeping up compression the whole time. They were pulling on him now, but he was only half aware of it, resisting automatically and forcing them to lift his whole weigth if they wanted to move him.

(cat1) And then he felt it. Heard it, sensed it with his entire being. There was a heartbeat.

(cat1) And then a blow to Jim's face with something sharp finally overbalanced him, and he went down sideways, blind for a terrible moment.

(cat1) Someone was holding him, big hands were pinning his arms from behind and pushing him down into the grass.

(cat1) But whoever it was had finally realized how to control him effectively. Blair lay in the grass, breathing. It was ragged adnd shallow, but he was managing it, and Jim attuned himself once more to the slightly irregular sound.

(cat1) But Blair's face was a color he'd never seen on anyone living, the bruises standing out like shadows, and his tangled hair was loose against the grass.

(cat1) And the small man who had squatted down next to him had a gun pressed against his face.

(cat1) Jim's face was bleeding, it was in his eyes but with his hands held behind his back he couldn't wipe it off. He stared through it at the small man, wondering if he could actually say words to something that had done that to Blair.

(cat1) "What do you want?" was all he could manage, and then he had to spend the rest of his anger in trying not to claw the man's eyes out, gun or no gun.

(cat1) The small man looked and Jim and smiled, and Jim's vision went red with fury. He reached for Blair's heartbeat again, wanting his guide, needing him, needing to hold on to something that was him.

(cat1) But they had tied his hands behind him.

(cat1) The small man looked down at Blair, used the gun to turn Blair's head, and made a sort of tching noise, as if he were looking at some piece of machinery that had been assembled according to the directions, but wasn't doing what it was supposed to.

(cat1) "He didn't do what I told him," he explained to Jim. His voice was mild and reasonable.

(cat1) "That was your fault, Detective Ellison. It was working, until you found him."

(cat1) The small man's eyes darted around them. They were in a secluded corner of the campus, but their cover wasn't total. The row of box hedges screened them from the sidewalk, but on the side facing the park there was only an empty field between them and the road.

(cat1) The small man's narrow face went even more pinched, and he stood up, backing a little away from Blair. "Pick him up," he told Jim, and the man behind Jim pushed him forward roughly and released his hands so he could do it.

(cat1) (pass)

(Kareila) grrrrr

(martha) I think it's been the kindest pass all day, Kar

(Kareila) It's just this whole plot thing...when did we decide to have a plot again?? (g)

(Merry) I wasn't here for that vote, Kare.

(Merry) I surely would have voted against it.

(martha) well, you can stop it at any point, can't you?

(martha) I didn't have any qualms about grinding everything to a stop

(cat1) I don't think this really qualfies as a plot

(Kareila) true :)

(cat1) far as I can see we're almost right back where we started (g) Jim is about to pick Blair up. Except for the odd bad guys and a gun or two we're about where we were before...

(martha) but what fun getting there!

(Merry) Precisely!

(cat1) exactly :)

(Merry) Cat, you're just way too hung up on plot.

(cat1) I didn't put the bad guys in there, Kitty did!

(Kareila) Jim knelt down next to Blair and checked his pulse again. He had pushed his fury into a small fiery knot. Sooner or later there would be hell to pay.

(Kareila) But for now, Blair needed tended to.

(Kareila) His breathing seemed regular now, and his heartbeat slow, but strong. Still, he lay motionless and unresponsive. What had these men done to him that had brought him so close to death?

(Kareila) "Blair, buddy, can you hear me?"

(Kareila) Nothing.

(cat1) hey even Jim is wondering about the plot (g)

(martha) hee hee

* Merry falls over laughing.

(Kareila) With a precision and speed honed to a sharp edge by years of military experience, Jim swung around and kicked out, knocking the first man's legs out from under him.

(Kareila) As the man lay stunned, Jim brought his fist down hard against the man's chin and yanked the gun from his grasp. He made a quick mental note of the silencer as he pointed the weapon at the smaller man and fired, dropping him instantly.

(Kareila) He felt no sympathy for the man.

(Kareila) "Jim." A weak voice cut through the red haze of anger, and he turned to see Blair struggling to sit.

(Kareila) Quickly and efficiently, he cuffed the unconscious man, and assured himself that his accomplice was really dead, then he knelt next to his young friend, pushing him back down.

(Kareila) "Don't try to move. Take it easy."

(Kareila) "Jim, don't kill them...you can't..."

(Spengs) sure he can

(Merry) Yeah, Blair, sure he can. Geez.

(martha) But Naomi!?

(Spengs) They're *bad* guys

(Merry) She was a bad idea to start with.

(Merry) She's the one who started the whole plot nonsense.

(Spengs) probably dead already, or else they never really had her in the first place

(martha) C'mon, needed some reason for Blair to run off half cocked and get into trouble...

(Kareila) "Shhhh." Jim hushed him and stroked his fevered brow. "I only killed one of them."

(Kareila) (Ooops, I need to take that back. Silliness crept in.)

(Kareila) "Naomi..." Blair's voice was barely audible now, and his heartbeat seemed weaker than it had been a moment ago.

(Kareila) Jim turned as the handcuffed man stirred and grabbed him by the front of his shirt. "What in the hell did you do to him, you son of a bitch?"

(Spengs) I sense the pass

(Merry) This is like becoming a thing for you, isn't it, Kitty.

(Kareila) The man only smirked until Jim shoved the butt of the silencer under his chin.

(Spengs) Only when I'm sufficiently tanked on Excedrin and honey brown ale

(Kareila) "You'd better answer quick unless you want to end up like your 'partner'." Jim spit out the last word. It was a sacred word to him, full of meaning and friendship. Applying it to these sorry excuses of humanity left a sour taste in his mouth.

(Kareila) pass

* cat1 watches the pass fly through the air...

(martha) who's up?

(Merry) You are, sweet.

(Kareila) why that would be you. :)

(martha) I love you all.

(Spengs) awwwwww

(Spengs) She's turning into a total smarm ball on us

(Merry) Ooh. Real life smarm. We love you too, Martha!

* Spengs gets all teary eyed and choked up

* Kareila feels all warm and fuzzy inside.

(martha) But isn't this exactly where we were SIX HOURS AGO?

(Kareila) LOL

(Spengs) No, this time Jim's been bonked too!

(Merry) There wasn't a bad guy six hours ago.

(martha) Right. Progress.

(Kareila) but now they're out of commission and we can resolve this with massive gloms

(Spengs) And we know Blair is hiding severe internal injuries of some kind

(Merry) What a trooper.

(Kareila) A quick call on the cell phone to establish Naomi doesn't know what the hell is going on and we're good to go

(martha) Poor Blair! Can it really be that easy?

(martha) I mean, what did they want in the first place?

(Spengs) Shouldn't Jim have thought of that a little earlier?

(Merry) He was consumed with fear and concern.

(Merry) And there was that zone out thing.

(Kareila) Well, Jim's got a silencer under the guy's chin. I bet he'll spill it all.

(Kareila) I think we're getting hung up on plot again. :)

* Spengs plays kissy-face with Remo

(martha) OK-- gun under the bad guy's chin.

(Spengs) It is better to have a cat nose in your hair than a cat hair in your nose

(cat1) rofl!!!!!

(Spengs) I guess you have to own a cat to get that one

(cat1) it is better not to read some of Kitty's comments unless you want soda in your nose

(Spengs) LOL

(martha) Yep. Tequila up your nose is even worse. Thanks, Kitty.

(cat1) snrrrf!

(Spengs) woo, we've driven martha to the hard liquor already

(martha) And all at once the veneer of callous indifference crumbled.

(martha) The narrow eyes widened with shock, and suddenly Jim realized how young this little man was. Certainly no older than Blair.

(martha) Younger, perhaps. And there were tears welling up. "Please don't kill me."

(Merry) Kill him! Quick, before he breeds!

(martha) With a snarl of disgust Jim flung him to the ground and holstered the gun. Kneeling, he wrapped his fists around the the collar of the kid's shirt, hauling him up. "Where's Naomi?"

(martha) Terrified eyes darted away, then came back. "I don't know. Calcutta, I think. Myers said she'd gone to visit her yogi. No way Blair would be able to contact her."

(martha) "Who is Myers?"

* Kareila is impressed that martha is attempting to cook up a coherent plot from this mess.

(martha) The terrified eyes darted back. "You killed him. You dirty pig, you killed him. We were just trying to --"

(Kareila) (but a lovely, smarm-filled mess it is!)

* cat1 watches in admiration

(martha) Jim hauled him closer, spoke to him from a distance of inches in a very, very quiet voice.

(martha) "What? What, exactly, were you trying to do?"

(martha) "Blair should have been helping us!" The kid shouted back. He was reeking with fear.

(martha) "He's an anthropologist! He knows --"

(Spengs) he knows how to make potato scones?

(martha) ack! More tequila!

(cat1) knows the secret of good smarm?

(Spengs) ooh, that he does

(Merry) The phone numbers of every eligible woman on campus?

* Spengs passes martha a couple fresh limes

(martha) Thanks!

* cat1 finds Kitty's kosher salt shaker

(martha) Jim shook the sniveling, whimpering creature who had hurt Blair so badly, repressing the urge to do greater damage.

(martha) "What does Blair know that could give you a reason for this?"

(Merry) A really good recipe for cold medicines.

(Spengs) when to pass

(martha) I can see I've got to stop pausing between lines.

* cat1 tops off martha's glass and sits back and puts her feet up

(martha) "All those bones! It's desecration! Blair knows that! I couldn't understand why he wouldn't help us to begin with."

(martha) Jim stared at the man as though he were speaking another language.

(martha) "But he wouldn't even talk about it with us, and it would have been so easy for him! He's got the keys to the vaults -- he's a teaching associate in the department, right? How hard would it have been?"

(martha) "So then Myers thought of the thing with Naomi. They met during the Harmonic Convergence or something."

(martha) The kid's eyes were less scared now, as the fanaticism that had driven him this far resurfaced.

(martha) "You'd never think Blair was her son, would you?" he spat out. "No morals. No sense of decency. No respect for native peoples --"

(martha) Jim knew his hands were tightening but he didn't give a damn. To hear the miserable little punk who'd beaten Blair within an inch of his life impugn his partner's morals, his decency --

(martha) He drew the kid up even closer, glad to see the blood suffusing his face, the panic in his eyes.

(martha) "Jim."

(martha) Blair's hand on his arm.

(martha) Jim turned his head. Somehow Blair had pulled himself up, close enough to touch him, close enough to reach him.

(martha) Jim took a deep, shuddering breath. Released the punk he'd been ready to strangle, pushed him away. He collasped on the grass, gasping, clutching at his throat.

(martha) "Blair. I'm sorry."

(martha) He eased Blair away, gently settled him back on the grass. "Naomi's all right," he said. "She's in Calcutta. She's all right." He took pulled his coat off, bundled it up, eased it under Blair's head.

(martha) "Just lie easy. I'll get help."

(martha) (oops. why didn't he use his cell before now??)

(Merry) He was overcome by worry and fear.

(Merry) Duh.

* Merry grins at Martha.

(martha) Jim pulled the cell phone out -- should have called the instant he found Blair, he thought angrily -- called for an ambulance, and then knelt close to Blair, smoothing the tangled hair off his forehead.

(Merry) nicely done.

(cat1) there, all taken care of

(martha) "Help's on the way," he said.

(martha) Blair nodded. With one hand he reached up, grabbed Jim's sleeve and held on tight. "Naomi's all right?"

(martha) "She's fine."

(martha) He nodded, satisfied, and let his eyes close. Jim could hear the sirens in the distance. Blair opened his eeyes again.

(martha) "It was all so crazy, man. I really did, want to help."

(martha) "Don't worry about it now. Whatever it is, it can wait."

(martha) Blair nodded, but kept talking just the same.

(Spengs) that's Blair all right

(cat1) (g)

* cat1 throws kitty handfuls of raschig rings in a preemptive strike

* Spengs desperately arranges the raschig rings around herself

(martha) "I'm on the committee. We're working on returning those remains to the burial sites they were taken from -- but it's been decades, man. It's not so easy."

(martha) Jim shook his head. "Are you telling me this was all about repatriating Indian bones? They were willing to kill for that?"

(martha) Sorry. Just felt this insane urge to try to explain the toy handcuffs ...

(cat1) I did too martha :) go for it

(Merry) He really did think they had Naomi.

(cat1) oh definitely

(Spengs) On what evidence?

(Spengs) Like, not even a phone call from her?

(martha) Oh no. If you're going to start asking THOSE kinds of questions.

(Spengs) OK, here's a better question:

(Spengs) Why isn't Blair sobbing helplessly in Jim's arms while the big guy gloms and soothes him some more?

(martha) Because I was fretting about plot, that was very, very wrong.

(cat1) hee hee

(martha) I know that now.

* cat1 senses prodding sticks being sharpened

(Spengs) Now that you know your error, my child, go forth and sin no more

(martha) "For chrissakes, Blair, these guys aren't native american --"

(martha) Blair laughed on the verge of hysteria, then clutched at his side. "No kidding, man."

(martha) oh ghod!

* Merry laughs at Martha.

(Spengs) Martha has noticed it is getting dark outside....

* martha is glad Merry is so easily amused.

* cat1 watches the irc net drawing tighter and tighter around martha

(Spengs) Or else that her tequila bottle is nearing empty

(martha) ack. Choke, gasp.

(martha) Are you kidding? Who's had time to refill the glass?

(Spengs) So you're chugging out of the bottle then?

(cat1) rofl!!!

(Spengs) Woo, you *are* in trouble

(martha) OK, the damn indian bones, right? Seemed like a good idea six hours ago.

(cat1) still a good idea

(Spengs) And the shivering, injured, bravely struggling Blair

(martha) thanks (g)

(cat1) we'll help you along :)

(martha) Trust Kitty to remember the important things.

(Spengs) Oh, and bleeding Jim

(martha) Oh, I'd forgotten that, actually. Thanks!

(Spengs) Just have my priorities :-)

(cat1) and Jim, who still has blood running down his face and probably a couple of broken ribs, but who is still not noticing that right now

(Spengs) OK, just *one* priority

(martha) Blair struggled to focus. "Oh man, Jim, you're hurt."

(martha) "Sandburg, I'm fine. For the last time, lie still." He pushed him gently down again.

(martha) Blair looked up worriedly. "But you're bleeding."

(martha) "It's nothing. Don't worry about it. You don't need to worry about anything anymore." He leaned close over Blair, trying to make those concerned eyes see him, believe him.

(martha) "It's all over now."

(martha) Blair shook his head a little, looked away, then back at Jim. Exhaustion was catching up with him.

(martha) "I'm sorry," he said, hardly a whispper.

(martha) "Nothing to be sorry for. You know that."

(martha) "But Jim, I gave in so fast. I went straight to them when I found that note. I gave them the keys to the vaults. I did everything they asked me to."

(martha) "You were worried about Naomi. Blair, it's all right."

(martha) "But I couldn't tell them what they wanted me to say. Is that stupid, or what? They just wanted me to say that they were doing the right thing, but I knew they weren't, man. You taught me that, Jim. The ends don't justify the means."

* cat1 can just hear blair saying that, all rushed and shaking...

(martha) "Chief."

(martha) Ignoring the pain in his side, Jim bent close enough to touch his forehead to Blair's.

(Spengs) ack ack ack

(Spengs) the raschig rings are all melting

(martha) "They were so stupid, man, such amateurs. They didn't need to keep hitting me like that. It didn't do any good. I wasn't going anywhere. I thought they had Naomi."

(martha) "For the last time. You did everything right, Blair. I'm proud of you."

(martha) Blair finally shut up.

(martha) It wasn't easy to manage with the pain in his ribs, but Jim curled close to him on the grass, pulling him close, one arm gentle over his chest.

(cat1) Kitty will melt down totally when she sees this

(cat1) whereas I am dogn so right now...

(Spengs) total meltdown in progress

(martha) "It's all over now." He told Blair softly, and for the first time Sandburg seemed to believe him. He turned his head, pressing closer, and finally closed his eyes.

(martha) The sirens wailed to a crescendo, then stopped.

(Kareila) The glow from the smarm is enough to light a small city

(Spengs) it's sure lighting up this one

(martha) "Jim?"

(martha) "Right here, Chief."

(martha) Eyes still closed, Blair smiled a little, managed somehow to reach an arm around Jim's broad shoulders. "I know."

(martha) Finit?

(Kareila) awwww

(Kareila) sweet

(Spengs)

(cat1) mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

(Spengs) Hmm, no, I can't think of many ways to improve that as an ending

(Kareila) and thus ends the most marathon of marathon smarm sessions