[personal profile] starwatcher_fic

Title: Rain, Rain, Go Away
Summary: The rain is driving Blair crazy.
Style: Gen
Size: 6,030 words, about 12 pages
Warnings: None
Notes: April, 2009.
Feedback: Not necessary, but I certainly do like to get it!
Email: If you prefer not to post a comment that everybody can see, you can reach me at starwatcher -at- dreamwidth.org

Rain, Rain, Go Away

by StarWatcher

Blair Sandburg stood under the overhang at the top of the steps outside of Hargrove Hall and softly muttered, "Crap." The rain continued to fall, as it had for days -- more than a drizzle, less than a downpour, depressingly steady and inescapable and, worst of all, never-ending.

"Buck up, Sandburg," he told himself sourly as he remembered the distance between his current position and the remote spot across the parking lot where the Corvair waited. "Putting it off won't keep you any drier." Sighing deeply, he pulled the hood of his rain-poncho farther over his head and face, hunched his shoulders in an unconscious attempt to shed the cold dampness, and headed down the steps.

Blair was mournfully aware that his 'nerd vibes' must be overpowering any creds he'd picked up by working with Jim at the PD. The hooded yellow rain-poncho he'd bought after four days of non-stop rain was majorly uncool, and -- because he draped it over his backpack to keep his books and papers dry -- he figured anyone watching could easily mistake him for a troll. But at least, from his head to his knees, it kept him dry from the falling rain.

Unfortunately, the poncho's protection extended only so far; there was no way to avoid the puddles that settled in to, and spread out from, every tiny depression in the sidewalks, streets, and... parking lots. From his knees down, his jeans and shoes were permanently damp -- when they weren't outright soaked. He tried to ignore the clammy fabric that chilled him each day, but it wasn't easy.

Too bad I'm not really a shaman, like Jim's guide with the Chopec, Blair thought as he trudged toward his car. I'd conjure up a personal shield around me that would keep me dry. Better yet, I'd cast a spell to make it STOP RAINING!

He glared toward the heavy, low-hanging clouds as he reached the Corvair, but the Gods showed no signs of relenting. Sighing again, he slipped out of the backpack and tossed it toward the passenger seat as he slid into the car. His nose wrinkled at the musty smell of damp and mud that was evident even to non-sentinel senses; Blair wondered if he'd ever get the interior completely dry, even after the rain stopped. It had to stop sometime, didn't it?

But he could deal with that another time. Right now, Blair was looking forward to reaching the loft, taking a long, hot shower, donning his warmest sweats, and parking himself next to the fire while he graded mid-semester essays. Thank god it was Jim's night to cook.

On the other hand, a hot stew with fresh cornbread would really hit the spot in this kind of weather. Maybe he'd get it started before Jim got home, and they could both relax while it simmered.

Blair nodded firmly as he turned onto Prospect. Yeah, that would work. Like Jim always said, the simplest plans were the best.

As Jim approached the door, he heard Blair muttering balefully. "Between the internet and your textbook, there's no excuse for this. You can't extrapolate anything valid from 'Indiana Jones'; Hollywood doesn't do their research, either, and it makes you look like a lazy fool."

Chuckling, Jim stepped into a haven that denied the foul weather. There was a fire snapping in the cast-iron fireplace, and the smell of a hearty beef stew filled the room. Blair was sitting cross-legged on the floor, as close to the fire as he could get without singeing himself. He'd obviously showered -- despite the heat of the fire, the hair fanned across his shoulders wasn't quite dry -- which might not be such good news for his weather-beaten partner. "Smells good, Chief, but did you leave any hot water for me?"

"Hey, Jim." Blair looked up, then rubbed his eyes under his glasses before glancing at the clock in the kitchen. "Yeah, man, I finished up about an hour ago; the water's had plenty of time to heat up again." He stood and arched backward to loosen the kinks in his back. "The cornbread's mixed and waiting for you. I'll just shove it in the oven while you shower, which means we can eat in thirty minutes. Go, soak the frostbite out of your bones." Blair made vague flapping motions as he headed toward the kitchen.

Jim 'tsk'ed as he hung up his coat and left his shoes against the wall. "It's not that cold, Chief. Wet, I'll grant you, but fifty-one degrees doesn't lead to frostbite." Nevertheless, he headed up the stairs to grab some clean clothes; he'd been looking forward to a hot shower for the past two hours.

Blair closed the oven door and set the timer. "I'll bet you and the abominable snowman have a great time walking barefoot in the snow. Me, I want my springtime to include blue skies and lots of sun; eight days of rain is just... inhuman."

"That's it exactly, Chief. Since no one controls the weather, you'll have to tough it out like the rest of us. Or use some mumbo-jumbo chanting to convince the weather gods." Jim closed the bathroom door and turned on the water, waiting for it to get hot, carefully not listening to whatever response Blair might have. He was sure that, by the time supper was ready, Blair would have developed a full 'Sandburg lecture' that explained the effects of prolonged rain on the human psyche, as well as the physical impact on the city, towns, forest and farmlands. Not that he'd ever let Blair know, but Jim looked forward to the occasional emergence of 'Professor Sandburg'; his lectures were more entertaining than ninety percent of what was on TV.

Jim stretched and turned off the late news, then glanced at Blair. The kid had gone back to his grading right after supper, and was still hunched over those damned blue books. Come to think of it, he didn't look too good; there was kind of a pinched look to his face, and he'd been rubbing his eyes a lot this evening.

Jim extended his senses. Blair wasn't running a fever, and he didn't smell sick, just... tired. Not surprising; they'd had two late-night stakeouts this week, and Blair had been staying late at the university to catch up with his work there. In fact, this was the first evening Blair had made it home before Jim since... a week ago, yesterday. Jim shook his head; if the kid didn't get some major sleep soon, he was going to crash -- bigtime.

"C'mon, buddy," he said quietly. "It's late; time for all good little anthropologists to be in bed."

"Huh?" Blair looked up, blinking in confusion. "Bed? Oh... yeah." He shrugged a shoulder, and bent his head over his marking once again. "I'll go in a little while, after I finish this one and maybe one more."

"Pull the other one, Chief; I've heard it too many times before." Jim crossed the room, pulled the pen and book out of Blair's hand, and urged him to his feet. "You really need a good night's sleep; when you're all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning, your grading will go a lot faster and easier."

Blair shook his head, even as he stumbled toward his room at Jim's gentle urging. "No, but see, after the grading, I have to work on next week's lecture, and tabulate the results from the tests we did last week, and --"

"And you can't do any of that without sleep." Jim pulled back the covers, urged his friend to lie down, and tucked the blankets around his shoulders. "You keep reminding me that I'm not a superman; the same goes for you, buddy. You can get back to saving the world tomorrow." He patted Blair's shoulder, turned off the light, and shut the door as he left.

As tired as he was, Blair lay awake in the dark, listening to the 'plink, plonk, plunk' of raindrops hitting the fire escape on the other side of his outer door. Although normally soothing, the sound was getting on his last nerve, growing louder and more obnoxious the longer it went on. How could anyone sleep like this?

Almost violently, Blair threw back the covers. If the weather gods were going to laugh at him, he'd show them. He wouldn't let a little rain -- or even a lot of it -- get him down; he'd finish his work and find a way to do something about the ongoing deluge. After all, people in the southwest were praying for rain; it wasn't fair that Cascade and surrounding areas should be hoarding it.

Unaware that he was weaving slightly as he walked, Blair crossed into the living room. He grabbed the afghan from the back of the couch and threw it around his shoulders before resuming his spot in front of the fireplace and grabbing a blue book. Jim was right, of course; he needed to sleep, but he could grade a couple of more essays first. At least the sound of the rain hitting the concrete balcony wasn't as loud or intolerable as when it hit the metal fire escape; much closer to the 'soothing' end of the spectrum. Now -- Blair squinted at the page -- if only some of his students would learn to write legibly. Maybe a different angle would let him read it more easily.

Blair stretched out on the floor, hitching the afghan higher to keep warm, propping the book in front of him. Yeah, this was better, much easier on the eyes...

A few minutes later, the book slipped from Blair's loosened grasp as sleep finally overtook him, with muddled dreams of shamans who commanded the rain to come or go.

"So, what's your schedule like today?" Jim asked as he slid a toasted bagel and scrambled eggs in front of Blair. He'd decided the best course of action was to ignore having found his partner curled up on the floor this morning. Judging by how stiffly he was moving, Blair didn't need Jim's input; his body would remind him that a bed was a more beneficial place for sleeping.

"Pretty light; just two classes in the morning, and early office hours. I can be at the PD by one," Blair answered. "You wanna go out and run through that warehouse again, right?"

Jim hesitated. Blair's easy smile couldn't hide the weary shadows under his eyes; he needed to rest. But the likelihood of finding something in the warehouse increased dramatically if Blair was there to help him focus.

"That was the plan," Jim admitted. "But it'll be cold and wet, and you're already dragging. I could probably take Joel with me, let you catch up on your university stuff so you can really relax this evening."

"No way, man, I'm your partner!" The protest was automatic, but no less heartfelt. "And you know paperwork is with us always; I can put it off to another day if I have to."

"But that 'other day' will also have perps to chase down." The logic apparently fell on deaf ears. Jim regarded the stubborn glare coming across the table; he had to find a way to convince Blair.

"Look, Chief, I know this 'partner' thing is important to you, and I appreciate it. But it works both ways; as your partner, I worry about you." He waved a hand to forestall Blair's indignant rebuttal. "Not because you're 'not a cop'; you've proved you can hold your own, whatever we run into. But you're holding down two fulltime jobs -- grad student-professor and cop-partner. If you don't give yourself a break, you'll collapse, and then you won't be able to do either job."

Blair sighed as he raked his fingers through his hair. "Yeah, Jim, I know... but it's dangerous for you to be using your senses when I'm not around. Joel can help with the cop things, but if you have trouble with the sentinel stuff, you're shit-outta-luck. You need me out there! How do you think I'd feel if your senses got screwed up and I wasn't there to help? Grading can wait. Hell, sleep can wait! If you're goin', I'm goin' too."

Impasse. Jim should have known better than to think Blair would back down; he took this sentinel shit seriously. But maybe he'd go for a compromise.

"Then how about this? You meet me at one, we check out the warehouse right away, then you go home and put in some quality time with your schoolwork. After I finish my own paperwork, I'll bring Chinese home, and we can both have an early night; I need it just as much as you do. Deal?"

Blair nodded vigorously. "Sounds like a plan." He quickly finished his breakfast and carried the dishes to the sink, glancing out the balcony doors as he passed.

"I'm gettin' so tired of this rain! At this rate, we'll hit the yearly average by the end of the month."

Jim chuckled as he ran hot water into the sink. "I don't think even we can get another twenty-three inches by the end of next week. And I'll bet the farmers are happy."

"Not really, no," Blair argued as he put on his shoes and started tying the still-wet laces. "This much rain makes the fields too wet to plow and plant. And if they've already planted, the new sprouts could very easily drown." He shrugged his backpack over his jacket, then slipped the rain-poncho over his head. "And too much rain is depressing; do you know the suicide rate goes up in overcast, wet weather? I gotta tell ya', it sure plays hell with my mood."

The kid often let his imagination run away with him, but this sounded kind of serious. "Blair!"

Jim's voice stopped Blair as he was reaching for the doorknob; he turned and looked back. "Yeah?"

"It won't last forever; even Cascade has been known to have clear, sunny days. You just have to wait it out."

Blair smiled almost ruefully. "Yeah, I know. Don't mind me; just letting off a little steam. See you at one." He shrugged a shoulder, smiled again, and headed out the door.

So much for plans, Jim thought as he and Blair entered the loft. Just their luck the perps would come in while they were in the warehouse. A pitched gun battle, then a chase -- first in the truck, then on foot through muddy fields along the shore -- hardly made for a quiet afternoon. And then Blair had to stay for the inevitable paperwork; as a direct observer of the gun battle, and active participant of the chase, he had his own reports to fill out. Fortunately, backup had arrived in time, and the perps had all been captured, but then they had to deal with the aftermath. They hadn't left the PD till after dark, and they were both wet, muddy, and cold. Blair was still filled with adrenalin-induced manic energy; he hadn't stopped talking, even though he was so tired he staggered as he walked.

"You were awesome, man, simply awesome! The way you used the reflection off the side of the car to pinpoint their hiding place was just... just amazing!" Blair laughed on a high, shrill note as he paced around the loft, rubbing his hands together almost frantically. "I don't think I've ever seen you with your senses so on, from the warehouse to the takedown. But I told you -- didn't I tell you? -- you needed me there. Joel couldn't have helped you with that spike, and you know you almost zoned on that reflection thing. But you didn't, 'cause I was there, backing up my sentinel, just like Burton said. Admit it -- admit it, we are so cool together!"

"A little too cool," Jim said as he captured Blair on one of his circuits and removed the jacket from his oblivious partner. He urged Blair toward the bathroom. "Shower, Chief, before you catch your death of cold."

"Now you know that's a fallacy, Jim! Colds are caused by germs, not by getting wet or cold! I mean, look at the guys who jump into freezing water on Christmas day; they're all healthy. And --"

"Chief, I know you're cold. Do you want a hot shower now, or after I've finished?"

"Well, when you put it like that." Blair stepped into the bathroom, still talking. "Of course we wouldn't be wet and cold if it would just stop raining! I'm telling you, we gotta do something about that. Maybe --"

"Shower, Sandburg!" Jim closed the door firmly on Blair's latest brilliant idea; with any luck, the shower would wash it out of his brain. He carried their dinner into the kitchen to dish it onto plates, and keep it in a warm oven until they were ready to eat.

Jim rolled over in bed and raised his head. He didn't need to extend his senses very far to realize that it was Blair who had awakened him, typing on his laptop and muttering to himself in a whisper. Jim shook his head in bemused resignation; he should have known that Sandburg wouldn't let a 'great idea' drop, no matter how tired he was. But if this continued for much longer, the kid would flat-out collapse.

Jim pulled on his robe and walked into the kitchen without speaking; Blair didn't even look up from his laptop. Jim filled the kettle with fresh water, and put it on the stove to heat. While he waited, he leaned against the counter and watched Blair.

He looked terrible -- the shadows under his eyes had deepened, and his eyes had a glazed, almost manic look. He was hunched into a blanket, and had pulled it completely over his head for extra warmth; only his hands stuck out to manipulate the keyboard. The soft muttering was unnerving -- half-finished thoughts and phrases, interspersed with stifled giggles. If Jim didn't know better, he'd think Blair was really a candidate for the funny-farm.

The kettle whistled, and Jim turned off the stove, then filled a large mug with the hot water. He knew exactly where Blair kept the chamomile tea; the guide had used it to calm the sentinel often enough. He grabbed a bag from the cupboard and dropped it into the mug to steep, then carried it to the table and set it where the smell would drift to Blair. Finally, Jim pulled a chair very close to Blair -- right in his personal space -- and sat down, nudging the chair even closer. He didn't expect a long wait; the smell of the tea and the hovering presence of a large, warm body should break through even Sandburg's academic bubble in a few minutes.

He was right; just about the time the tea was cool enough to drink, Blair's fingers stilled on the keyboard, and he looked around in confusion. "Oh. Hi, Jim. What're you doing up?"

"Taking care of you," he answered gently; yelling would just make them both too agitated to sleep. "Chief, I know your brain is rocketing along at super-sonic speeds, but you can't keep this up. Here." Jim picked up the mug, placed it in Blair's hand, and raised it toward his lips. "Chamomile, for calmness and sleep, like you've told me a couple dozen times. Drink it, and take some deep, cleansing breaths, then go back to bed."

"But, Jim, I've figured out how to stop the rain! I can do, it man, I know I can."

"I'm sure you can, Chief," Jim assured him in the same gentle, reasonable tones. "But it can wait till morning. Tomorrow's Saturday. You can sleep late, and be all rested to do your rain-stopping thing. I'll even help you. Promise," he added, as Blair started to object. "But first you've gotta sleep. So, drink up."

Jim waited while Blair obediently drank the tea, his eyes never leaving Jim's face. "That's good," Jim said quietly. "Now, three slow, deep breaths." It was working; the manic glaze was decreasing, leaving Blair's eyes drooping with weariness. "Good job, buddy. Now, back to bed."

Jim helped Blair to stand, and guided him toward his bedroom. Once there, he coaxed Blair to lie down, spread the body-warmed blanket over him, then pulled the rest of the bedding over that. As he patted a shoulder and turned to go, Blair whispered, "You'll help me do it, right? So I can stop the rain?"

Like a dog with a bone, Jim thought; Blair just couldn't let go. "I promise," he answered softly, rewarded by seeing Blair's eyes close as he finally slipped into sleep. Jim could only hope that 'helping' wouldn't be too involved, or turn out to be something against his conscience.

Despite his recent shortage of sleep, Blair was up at eight -- long before Jim had expected to hear him stirring -- putting together a ham and cheese omelet. Jim chuckled to himself as he descended the stairs; even though he'd promised to help, Blair wasn't above bribery -- or, as he called it, 'offering a little incentive'. Blair smiled brightly, and slid a filled plate in front of Jim as he sat down.

"What happened to sleeping late, buddy? Not that I don't appreciate you doing the cooking." Despite his mild complaint, Jim dug into his omelet; Blair knew exactly how he liked them.

"We're working on a deadline," Blair explained earnestly, cutting into his plain cheese omelet. "There's a lot to get ready, and we have to be out there by noon."

Jim took a mental breath, and dived into the Sandburg zone. "Ready for what, and where are we going?"

"I'm going to do an Anti-Rain Dance, and I think it should be in the sand. I figured we could use one of the sand traps on the community golf course; I doubt anyone will be out today." Blair glanced out the balcony doors, where the rain was still streaming down the glass.

"I don't think I've ever heard of an anti-rain dance," Jim said cautiously. "Wouldn't it make more sense to do a sun dance?"

"Well, that's the thing." Blair's eyes were alight with excitement. "The Sun Dance wasn't really an appeal for more sun. It was a way to request power or insight from the supernatural, or sometimes just a celebration of the circle of life, and that's not what we need right now.

"But rain dances were common, especially in the Southwest, where it's so dry -- still are, actually, in a lot of tribes." Blair was growing more enthusiastic, words tumbling out double-time. "Of course, I can't find any information about an Anti-Rain Dance -- when your only water comes from a river or the sky, you're grateful for anything you get, so I doubt the indigenous peoples ever wanted to 'turn it off'. But I figured I could turn the Rain Dance ceremony inside out, and the weather gods would get the message."

"But... you can't just go making up your own ceremony," Jim objected. "I remember with the Chopec, every ceremony had to be done just right. What makes you think an 'inside-out' version will even work?"

"Because it's traditional, but not set in stone. Every tribe had their own version, so variances are acceptable. Did you know the Rain Dance was the one ceremonial dance where women were allowed to participate? In other words, everyone's welcome, with their own version of the dance, and that means me, too!" Blair nodded firmly, smiling with evident satisfaction.

"Well..." Jim was almost afraid to ask. "So what kind of 'inside-outness' are you going to do? It doesn't involve dancing nude, I hope."

Blair snickered. "Just the opposite. The men danced with bare torso and legs, just paint and beads, breechcloth and moccasins. So I figure I'll wear jeans and a vest -- that old multicolor-blue thing, because I want to suggest blue skies -- but with bare feet, no shoes.

Jim breathed a sigh of relief; at least he wouldn't feel obliged to arrest Sandburg for indecent exposure. "Well, that's not too difficult. What else?"

"Nothing too outrageous." Blair winked, as if he'd tapped into Jim's thoughts. "The ceremony calls for silver or leather bracelets, and turquoise and feathers to signify rain and wind. I have plenty of leather straps for necklaces, but I'll tie them around my ankles. But I don't have any amber; we'll have to stop at the rock and mineral store on the way. And the opposite of feathers is no feathers, so that's easy."

"Because amber signifies sun?" Jim guessed.

"Right! Amber radiates light and heat, and the color is the color of the sun. I really should have some already, because amber also grounds and stabilizes the psyche, and it's a healing agent. I don't, but I will after this."

"It sounds easy enough. But why dance in sand? And is there a significance to doing it at noon?"

"Because, even though it's wet now, sand is usually very dry, and that's the message we want to send. I thought of the beach, above the high-tide line, but being in sight of all that water might send conflicting messages. So, sand trap on the golf course. And noon is when the sun is at its highest and brightest. It's still there, even if we can't see it."

"Makes sense," Jim observed. At least, as much as Sandburg's wild ideas ever make sense. He stood, and reached for the plates. "Okay, you go get all geared up while I do the dishes."

Fifteen minutes later, the dishes were washed and dried, and Jim was making a few preparations of his own. He returned from downstairs to find Blair waiting for him, dressed as he'd specified -- blue vest over his shirtless chest, old jeans that had been cuffed to show the leather tied around his ankles, barefooted and wearing...

"Braids, Sandburg? Isn't that a bit girly?"

Blair snorted. "Oh, sure; tell that to countless numbers of Native American men through the centuries. No, for the Rain Dance, the women had their hair bound, and the men let theirs hang free. Inside-out means braids."

"If you say so. Ready to go?"

"Yeah, just one more thing." Blair hurried into the kitchen to grab four bowls -- perfectly ordinary, to Jim's eyes -- and put them next to the CD player on the table while he shrugged into his jacket and stepped into his shoes. "No sense being cold until we get there," he explained to Jim's raised eyebrow.

He picked up the bowls and CD player, then preceded Jim out the door. "I checked the yellow pages; there's a rock and mineral shop at thirteen-seventeen Amber Way -- good sign, huh? -- which is right on the way to the golf course."

"It's a sign of something, all right," Jim muttered as he locked the door behind them. He preferred not to contemplate the possibility that it was a sign Sandburg had gone completely 'round the bend.

As Blair had predicted, there was no one on the golf course. Jim had parked the truck as close as he could to a convenient sand-trap, but the designated 'ceremonial area' was almost two hundred yards away. Blair groaned, watching the rain pelting down. "Y'know, that's the one downside to all this; to turn off the rain, you have to get out in it."

"You don't have to," Jim pointed out. "The weather will change eventually. Couldn't you just -- I don't know -- stay in the truck and pray, or meditate, or something?"

"I could, but it wouldn't be nearly as effective. Besides, what a waste of all this planning and preparation." Blair reached for the chunks of amber he'd bought, and used a leather strap to tie one to the end of each braid. Then he shrugged off his jacket and kicked off his shoes. He pulled a plastic bag out of his pocket and covered the CD player, then picked up the bowls and reached for the door handle.

"Wait, Chief, you haven't told me what my part is. I promised I'd help."

"You have, man; you haven't tried to talk me out of this -- well, not much -- and you've supported my plans so I didn't have to do it alone. The psychic energy of that is a big help." Blair gave Jim a flashing smile, then squared his shoulders, lifted his head, and stepped out into the cold rain without flinching.

Jim watched as Blair crossed the grass toward the sand-trap with a kind of stately solemnity; he wasn't scurrying or rushing to get finished. Once he reached the sand, Blair settled his CD player on the grass at the edge, and pressed the 'play' button; Jim easily discerned the Australian aboriginal music coming from the speakers. With a few seconds' thought, Jim realized that Blair had chosen it deliberately; music produced by a people who lived in some of the driest areas of the world should have strong anti-rain properties. If you believed in that sort of thing.

Blair set the bowls upside-down in the sand, marking the corners of a square about thirty feet on a side. He paused a moment, then began to dance.

The steps were obviously made up but, Jim thought, no less sincere. Blair was doing a rhythmic three-two beat, stomping into the sand with his bare feet, sometimes spinning to the right or the left, but always moving backwards, using the bowl-markers to help him maintain the square. Occasionally he would stoop to grab a clump of sand with each hand, then hold his arms high and let it dribble out between his fingers -- or as close to dribbling as he could manage with wet sand. Then he'd stretch out his arms and let the rain fill his up-turned, cupped palms, after which he'd throw the captured rain away with a violent motion and once again start stomping and spinning.

The music played for half an hour, and Blair kept dancing the entire time. Jim could see the jeans and vest clinging to his body with the weight of absorbed water, the rain dripping from his nose, chin, and the ends of his braids, but still he danced, totally absorbed in the ceremony he was creating. The rain filled the path his feet had formed in the sand, so that his stomping feet kicked water upward to meet the down-coming rain, but Blair continued to dance.

Jim was surprised that Blair stuck it out so long, and a little humbled; this was just an outward demonstration of the same unswerving dedication Blair used when helping Jim maintain control of his senses. For that kind of support, putting up with a little Anti-Rain Dancing wasn't such a big deal.

When the music stopped, Blair seemed to have come to the end of his ceremony. He stood quietly for a few minutes, letting the rain fall on his uplifted face, then shrugged, collected the bowls and CD player, and headed back toward the truck.

Quickly, Jim put his planned preparations into place. He pulled out a large sheet of three-mil plastic from behind the seat, and spread it out to cover the seat and back of Blair's side of the truck. The emergency blanket he always carried went over that, followed by two thick towels -- one to sit on, and one to wrap around Blair's shoulders. He kept a third towel in reserve for the dripping hair. The towels would soak up the water, the blanket would keep Blair warm, and the plastic would prevent water-damage to the fabric of his seats; an elegant solution, if he did say so himself.

Blair opened the door, caught sight of the layers, and chuckled. "Man you are so anal. But this time I won't complain; you think of everything, and I really appreciate it." He sighed deeply as he pulled the towel around his shoulders, followed by the blanket, then wrapped his head in the last towel.

Jim started the truck and headed home. "You looked good out there, Chief, like it really meant something. But notice -- it's still raining."

Blair turned toward him, his smile positively incandescent. "Oh, ye of little faith! Rain can't be turned off like a faucet. But I'm betting it stops sometime tonight, and we'll see sun in the morning. I mean, I really felt a connection out there; I'm sure it worked."

"I hope you're right, Chief; I admit, I'd like a little sun myself."

In truth, it didn't matter. Blair looked more peaceful and relaxed than Jim had seen for the past two weeks; all of the underlying tension was gone. Rain or no rain, it seemed that Blair had found his 'balance' again, regained his normal enthusiastic optimism. Jim realized he'd missed it, and was grateful for its return.

"One question, Chief. I figured out the music, and throwing the rain away, but why the upside-down bowls? You could've used rocks or something to mark your square."

"You saw all that? Of course you did." Blair slapped his forehead. "When will I learn? Anyway, upside-down bowls can't be filled; they were rejecting the rain. The traditional Rain Dance is in a zigzag pattern, while other ceremonial dances are in a circle; the square is more or less the opposite of both."

Of course it was. "Well, Hiawatha, I think that'd earn you an 'A' in any practical anthropology course. But now that it's over, think you can stand a little more wetness?" Jim asked as he turned the truck into Prospect. "I'm betting you'd like dibs on the shower as soon as we get home."

"Oh man, you know it! I intend to stay in hot water till I'm pruney. Well..." Blair glanced at his hands, "till I'm pruniER." Their shared laughter accompanied them into the building.

During the night, the rain drizzled to a stop. Blair awakened momentarily with the subconscious realization that something was 'wrong'. In his sleep-befuddled state, it took him a few moments to realize that he was reacting to the lack of noise from the rain hitting the fire escape. With a satisfied whisper of, "Told ya' so!" he turned over and sank back into deep, peaceful slumber.

Blair sat up in bed and raked his hair out of his face, listening intently. Cool! For the first time in ten days, no sound of rain hitting the metal outside his door. Energized, he leapt out of bed and into a set of comfortable sweats; this was going to be a good day, he was sure of it.

Jim was reading the morning paper over the remains of what looked like a substantial breakfast.

"Is it that late?" Blair asked as he crossed the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee.

"Nine forty-five, Chief, but you needed the rest."

"Yeah, I really did. I'm glad it's Sunday -- in more ways than one." Blair crossed to the balcony doors and regarded the sunny blue skies with a feeling of proud satisfaction. "I can say it now -- I had some doubts. But it looks like my Anti-Rain Dance really worked."

"Looks like it. On the other hand..." Jim rustled the paper, "we've both been too busy to keep up with the news. The weather forecasters have been predicting that a high was coming through, and would push the rain out of the area. Maybe it just finally reached us last night."

"Maybe. Or maybe it got here sooner than it would have otherwise because of the anti-rain ceremony -- or maybe it didn't get here earlier because no one thought to do a ceremony. You gotta admit, the timing is awfully convenient," Blair argued. "If it's a coincidence, it's a helluva big one."

"There would be no word for 'coincidence' if they didn't happen, Chief," Jim pointed out. "But you're right; I saw Incacha -- the shaman of the tribe I lived with -- do a lot of unexplainable things. I guess an anti-rain dance can be added to the list."

"You better believe it, man; I'm good." Blair went back to sipping his coffee as he reveled in the warmth of the sunshine pouring through the balcony doors.

Yes, you are; very good, Jim thought. Thanks for being part of my life, crazy ideas and all; I couldn't do it without you.

The End

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