RATING: Gen - but we all know what happened when Blair moved into the loft, don't we? <g>
Written for Annie's challenge - Homeless. Unbetaed for now till Annie gets her hands on it.
What was he going to do now? Blair looked around the remnants of his home, his life. Larry screeched in outrage at being placed in his cage and Blair winced at the jarring sound. Least you've got somewhere to live.
That wasn't fair. The little ape was probably scared out of his wits at all that had occurred tonight. Feeling like a heel, Blair walked over and gave the top of Larry's head a conciliatory scratch through the bars then opened the door and lifted Larry into his arms. "I'll figure something out," he promised his little companion.
Tattered remnants of a book caught his eye and he bent down and picked it up, grimacing at the tenderness of his ribs where he'd slammed into the coffee table when Jim had pushed him down. He'd probably have some good bruises by tomorrow. He was lucky Jim had been here, had heard the suspicious sounds a split second before the drug lab next door had exploded. Gently, he rubbed a finger over the scorched pages in his hands and tried to mentally calculate the cost of the damage. He gave up quickly. His head was pounding and he still felt numbed, shocky.
He massaged his temples, trying to will away the pain. He needed to think things through, figure out a plan of some kind but his thoughts kept drifting away, scattered and flimsy.
Where would he go?
The warehouse hadn't exactly been a palace but it was cheap and warm enough, provided he wore a few layers of clothes. The rats had ceased to bother him, though the snap of the traps still set his teeth on edge.
He pulled his wallet out of his pants pocket and checked the contents. A ratty five dollar bill sat forlorn and alone in the billfold. He had a grant coming just as soon as he got the study on Larry done - another reason he didn't want to send the ape back to the lab just yet. That grant was going to be his rent for the next month and pay for a new textbook. Now it would be the only cash he had coming for some time and he needed to replace so much: clothes, books video camera. He swallowed and looked away from the smashed camera where it lay on the floor, blackened, and waterlogged as well. Jim had let him borrow it under threat of death if anything happened to it. He supposed he'd better put that at the top of his replacement list. If he was going to be living on the streets for a while, he figured new clothes weren't going to be high on his list of things to buy anyway.
He looked up at the sound of Jim's voice. "Hey, Jim."
Jim picked his way through the rubble of what once had been Blair's living room and looked around. "You got everything?"
Blair nodded and swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat. He blinked rapidly, trying to dispel the burning in his eyes. "Everything worth salvaging," he croaked. Looking at the paltry collection of boxes at his feet, the realization of just how much he'd lost hit hard.
"Let's get out of here then." Jim hefted a box in his arms and followed Blair out of his ruined home.
Blair stopped at the doorway for a moment and fought the urge to look back. Taking a breath, he headed out to his car, having no idea where he was going from here.
A thought came to him and he turned to Jim but before he could say anything, Jim said, "So you mean to tell me in all the time you lived here, you never once suspected you lived next door to an ice lab?"
Blair shook his head vehemently. "Oh, man, I swear, that place was deserted. I mean, last week, I did start to hear some strange noises in the middle of the night, but I could have sworn it was just like the plumbing..." Larry screeched again and Blair reached up a hand to the ape, who sat now on Blair's car. "Hey, Larry... like you know, the rodents or something. I don't know."
Jim nodded, seeming distracted and waved a hand at the boxes stored in the back of his truck. He'd promised to keep everything Blair had been able to salvage at his place for now.
But where would he go?
"Is this all your stuff?" Jim asked, dragging Blair's attention back to the matter at hand.
Blair nodded, suddenly feeling drained of energy. He slumped against the side of his car. "Yeah, it's most of it. I'll have to try to come back tomorrow and put the rest into storage. This is just the worst. Where am I going to stay?" Saying the words out loud only caused his panic to resurge and he fought to control it. It was just shock, he told himself.
Jim shrugged, looking a little discomfited. "I don't know. A hotel, hostel, something."
"That's fine for me, but what about Larry?" He really didn't want to admit to Jim that he didn't have the money for anything at all right now.
Jim moved back, toward the door of his truck. "Put him in a kennel. He'll figure it out."
Blair took a chance and obfuscated. "I can't do that to him. I mean, my project's due next Friday. Unless..."
Jim's eyes widened and his hands came up as though he was warding Blair off. "No, no, no. No. Just forget it."
Blair felt a pang of disappointment that threatened to choke him. He'd thought they were friends, were becoming friends at least. And he knew without a doubt that if Jim needed a place to stay, he would have been welcome to share Blair's drafty old warehouse. He put on his best wheedling tone. "Come on, Jim. Jim, please, please. My back is up against the wall here, man. I got nowhere else to go."
Jim shot Larry a nervous look. "I'm not a big fan of animals in cages."
Blair's desperation gave him the push. "Larry? Larry, he's no problem, no trouble at all. I mean, he's been around people his whole life. Heck, he's more human than most of my friends."
Jim smirked. "And that's supposed to reassure me?"
Blair gave it one final plea. "Jim, one week. One week, and I promise, I promise, we'll be out of your hair. Come on. One week, man."
Jim groaned and rolled his eyes and Blair felt his despair disappear, replaced by a smidgen of hope. "All right, look... One week. You or the gorilla act up and you're out. All right?"
"He's not a gorilla," Blair corrected, unable to stop himself from babbling in his relief. "And, look, you already hurt his feelings."
Jim glared at him but Blair could see his heart wasn't in it. "You know, I'm already beginning to regret this."
"You won't regret it, I swear," Blair said seriously. His eyes were beginning to tear up and the damn lump in his throat was back, threatening to choke him. He couldn't give in to any of this though, until he was alone. He was too damn grateful for the reprieve and the last thing he figured Jim would want was a teary-eyed roomie, even if it was just for a week. "Thanks, man."