start of a much-needed day off. He didn't want that day spent with his partner still fussing over that program. Or worse yet, sound asleep.
With a heavy sigh, Jim tossed the blankets off and swung both legs out from under the covers. The wood floor was cool on his bare feet, but the loft remained warm enough now in early spring to allow walking around in boxers. Padding down the stairs, he found Blair still
at the kitchen table, staring at the glow of his laptop. An empty cup sat beside his computer, with the remains of two pears stuffed inside. At least he'd been eating.
"Sandburg, you're not still at this are you?" Jim rubbed his face, knowing full well Blair wasn't willing to end his quest until he'd solved the problem.
"Jim, I can't find it." With a tired sigh, Blair shook his head. He looked up at his friend with bloodshot eyes. "I've looked everywhere, man. I've backtracked every step since last week, gone over everything I've done up until now, and I can't find it."
"Why don't you just give up for now? It'll be there when you come back." Jim rested a hand on his partner's shoulder, giving a small massage. "Did you save all your work up until this point?"
"Yeah, I did. I'm not dumb enough to make that mistake again."
After last month's all nighter, he would hope not. "Come on, Chief, it's not going anywhere. Get some rest."
"I can't, Jim." Blair shook his head, but leaned back on the chair and into the hand rubbing his shoulder. "I've been at this too long to give up now. The answer is there, somewhere. I just can't find it."
Jim began to massage both of Blair's shoulders, feeling him relax into the touch. "Listen, why don't you let me have a look, huh? Maybe it just needs a fresh perspective?"
"I dunno, man. I'm beginning to think it just isn't there."
"It has to be there, Chief. These things don't just vanish and leave no trace. We'll find it." He gave Blair's shoulders a pat, then lifted him by the arms. His friend was so exhausted, he gave little resistance to being led to the couch. "Come on. Just sit down for a bit, and let me have a look. I promise I won't lose any information you already have." He got Blair onto the couch, then gave his shoulder a slight push down for emphasis. "Trust me, Chief."
"I do, Jim. It's just...I've been everywhere in there. I just can't find it."
"I know." Jim sat at the computer and turned the chair slightly so he could see Blair. "Sometimes it just takes a fresh eye. If I can't find it, then maybe we should take a break and try again tonight."
Reluctantly, Blair nodded. And promptly fell asleep.
When he opened his eyes, sun was streaming in through the large livingroom windows. There was a light blanket over his legs, and sounds coming from the kitchen. Suddenly remembering the past few hours, Blair shot up and glanced around. The computer was shut down, but still on the table with his notebook and pen beside it. His coffee cup and pear
cores were gone, and Jim was in the kitchen wiping down a counter.
"How long was I asleep?" He rubbed the vestiges of sleep from both eyes with the back of a hand and got off the couch.
"Just a couple of hours. Long enough for me to fix that little problem of yours." Jim smiled, nodding toward the computer.
Stunned, Blair stopped in his tracks, halfway to the kitchen. "What? Are you serious?" His friend nodded, tossing the towel over drying dishes. "Where was it? How did you find it? Did you get it saved?"
This was unbelievable. Blair had spent nearly two days trying figure that stupid program out, and Jim sat down for two hours, or less, and got through it?
"You were too tired, Chief, or else you would have found it." Jim stepped over to the table and pulled out a chair, indicating that Blair should sit down. "I saved everything before and after. If I show you how I found it, can we leave this thing alone for the rest of the day?"
Blair immediately agreed. He'd become obsessed with the problem, unwilling to stop until he figured it out. But in that time, he'd grown to hate the program that was causing so many headaches.
Jim flipped on the computer. "You'd come so close a couple of times, Chief. I'm sure if you hadn't been so tired by that point, you'd have found it yourself."
"I backtracked every move since yesterday so many times, I couldn't even see straight." The program had fired up, and he watched with exhausted familiarity as the file was brought up.
"It's right here." Jim hit a few keys, bringing up Blair's last saved file. "On this wall here, what looks like graffiti on the wall, held the key."
"But I looked there, a hundred times. I even got it all deciphered." Blair shoved long hair from his face, trying to focus on the markings without his glasses.
"I know, but that's not the key." With a hand on the keyboard, Jim pointed to the last character on the brick wall. "You have to position yourself right here, directly in front of the last mark, and press this one brick." He clicked the space bar.
Blair watched, numb with realization, as the panel moved aside.
"The key was right in that secret door." Jim moved forward and retrieved the key. "With that, you open the gate of Havre and the scepter is right behind his throne." With ease, Jim moved through the castle gate, up the stone stairway to the throne room Blair had been so
close to finding, and retrieved the scepter. "Now, you're King."
Blair shook his head. All that time, he'd been so close. "I can't believe it."
"Relax." Jim patted his shoulder, then saved the file where it was. "Now, you can go on to the next level and wage war on the Elwins."
"No. No way, man." Blair shook his head and sat back. "I've had enough of that game."
Jim shrugged. "I don't know, Chief. It's not too bad. Good graphics, nice realism. I like the emphasis on strategy. Just don't stay up all night trying to end one level."
Blair laughed shortly and ran a hand over his face. "Yeah. Well, it does have network play."
"Listen," Jim slapped him on the back and shut down the computer. "Let's forget this for the day and go down to the market for breakfast."
He stood and closed the laptop. "It's a beautiful day and we've got the whole thing to ourselves."
"Yeah, I could use some fresh air."
"And, if you're still awake when we get home, I just might take you on."
Blair found his shoes after a trip to the bathroom. "Yeah, that might be interesting. We just need to load it on your computer."
"On one condition." Jim stopped Blair with a hand on his chest.
Looking up at his partner, Blair waited.
"I go in as the Warrior."
Blair nodded, happily. "Oh sure, Jim. I'm better as the Wizard anyway."
"Wizard?" Jim opened the door and Blair walked out to the hall. "I thought that was a Court Jester."
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