Note:  This missing scene takes place between the climax and the tag of "Sleeping Beauty".

Most heartfelt thanks to my betas:  Trish, Sandy, and Kimberly FDR.  I was the last one to read the final version, so any mistakes are mine.


by Charlotte Frost

© January 2003

At first, it was just the whisper of a dream, so Jim ignored it.


It had to be a dream. Jim had too easily fallen asleep after an exhausting day to close the case concerning Stacey Neumann. She was once again safely at the loft, and Blair was going to meet with Cascade Social Services tomorrow to figure out what would be the best solution for her immediate future.

"Jim."  The whispered voice was closer now. "We have a loft emergency."

Loft emergency? Jim's eyes popped open and met complete darkness.

He rolled onto his back and pushed up his mask. It took a moment for his sentinel eyesight to adjust to the darkness. Blair, still dressed, was standing next to the bed.

"Sandburg?" Jim grumbled, getting up on an elbow.

Blair rested one knee on the mattress. "Jim, we've got a real problem," he whispered. "Stacey, uh…." He seemed suddenly tongued-tied.

"What about Stacey?" Jim whispered back. Stacey couldn't possibly be in any danger, or Blair would be louder and more animated.

Blair released a breath. "Jim," he said with clenched teeth, "when you bought her a dress the other day, you should have thought ahead and bought her some other lady things, too."

Lady things? Jim's brain tried to decipher that. Then it hit. Oh. Lady things. He groaned.

"Right," Blair said accusingly. "What are you going to do about this, man?"

"Me?" Jim demanded in a clear voice.

"Shh!" Blair hissed at him. "I don't want to alarm her. She feels bad enough as it is. All embarrassed and everything. We don't have anything here for her."

Oh, Christ.  This was not good. Jim extended his hearing and couldn't detect any sounds from Blair's room.

"She's hiding in the bathroom," Blair provided. "I told her to hang tight and we'd get her some -- you know -- stuff."

Wondering why this had to involve him, Jim whispered, "Then why don't you run down to the store and get her something?"

"I didn't want to leave her alone. She's been so scared and unpredictable. One of us needs to be here. But, sure, I'll go. I just think you should at least let her know you're outside the door and, you know, talk to her. Make sure she understands what it's all about. That there's nothing wrong with her. That it's very normal. That it's a beautiful thing and all that."

Jim decided that he really, really wanted to be the one to go to the store. He scrambled out of bed and grabbed some sweats. "I'll go, I'll go."

Blair watched him dress. "No, I think I should go. You talk to her."

Blair had to be teasing him. Irritably, while pulling a sweatshirt over his head, Jim said, "Surely, the nurses at the hospital talked to her about it. And her mother back when she was a child."

Blair rolled his eyes. "Jim, just how close attention do you think she was paying to the nurses in her frame of mind? She wouldn't even talk until a few days ago."

"She's been awake from her coma for over a month," Jim continued to reason. He sat on the bed and began pulling on his socks. "Maybe she's already had this happen once since she woke up."

"I doubt it. It's probably going to take her body a while to get on a regular cycle, now that she's awake and active."

"Yeah, yeah," Jim muttered, pulling on loafers. "I suppose it hasn't helped her moodiness lately, either. Maybe I should get her some of those over-the-counter pills they advertise for symptoms."  He was dressed, but reluctant to move. He looked at Blair hopefully. "As for... the other stuff, I wonder what kind I should get."  At least, he assumed there would be a selection of choices. He released a heavy breath, uncertain if he was up to the task.

"Get the pads," Blair said.

Oh, God, this was getting complicated. "Pads?"

"Yeah. Young ladies like the pads instead of the internal things. They said so on ER. That's respected for being a realistic medical series."

Then ER should know what it was talking about, shouldn't it? I hope. Besides, would Stacey even know what do with the -- what did Blair call them? -- the "internal things"?
Jim blocked the mental image of assistance that came to mind.

Abruptly, he stood. If Stacey needed any personal assistance, that was Blair's job.

He heard sobbing.

"Get back down there and talk to her," Jim said as he started down the stairs. "She's falling apart. Tell her I'll be back in just a few minutes."


Jim paused at the base of the stairs and looked back over his shoulder.

Blair stood at the top of the stairs and shook his finger at Jim. "You'd better hurry, man."

Jim had every intention of doing just that.

Poor kid, Jim thought as he drove to the supermarket that stayed open after midnight. As if Stacey hadn't had enough turmoil to deal with.

Sandburg had better know what he was talking about with the pad thing. Maybe I'll buy the other kind, too, just in case.

Plan in place, he marched into the nearly vacant supermarket and grabbed a shopping cart. A hand basket would suffice but it didn't fit his image.

He felt a blush start to develop as he made his way to the feminine care section.


A young lady -- probably just out of high school -- was there stocking the toiletries on the other side of the aisle.

Boldly, Jim turned his back and confronted the section he needed. His face was heated beyond anything he'd ever experienced. I've been a soldier, he reminded himself. I've survived eighteen months in the jungle. I've been shot at and wounded as an officer of the Cascade PD. I can do this.

The phrase "variety pack" caught his eye and he threw the box into his cart.

Oops. That wasn't the pads. But better to buy too much than too little.

He studied the labels on the packages that looked like pads. There were "panty liners". Thin pads, regular pads, and thick pads. Deodorized pads. Pads with wings.


And wipes.

This is impossible.

He started grabbing one of each and throwing them into the cart. Through the corner of his eye, he saw the employee glance at his basket, and then turn away with her own blush.

Why couldn't she have been a seventy-year-old woman instead of a teenager? If she'd been a motherly type, he might have even asked for her help.

Soon, the basket was full of feminine products. Heck with the Pamprin or whatever the hell it's called. We have aspirin at the loft.

This is all Simon's fault, Jim decided as he headed for the lone open cash register.

Christ. A young, pimply-faced male was behind that one.

Simon was the one who had the brilliant idea that Stacey stay with Jim and Blair. She seemed to trust them, and since she was in danger -- they hadn't known by whom -- Simon had thought the less exposure to other places, the better.

Jim was going to talk to Simon about this. A person with a child's mind and a young lady's body should not be staying with two grown men -- albeit very nice, trustworthy men -- who were virtual strangers. Especially men who would have no reason to have feminine supplies in their home.
Not that he'd actually minded Stacey's presence at the loft. It was rewarding to watch her come out of her shell, he considered, realizing that his blush was going away.

The cashier was beet red as he ran the items over the scanner.

That made Jim feel a lot better. Of course, when he'd been that age, he hadn't known anything about "lady things", other than the basic biological function of the female cycle that he'd been taught in school. He had grown up without a mother or sister. Only Sally, but her maternal instincts hadn't gone much further than cooking, house cleaning, and warm smiles.

He'd shied away from the subject altogether whenever he'd dated, preferring to leave women to their secrets. It wasn't until he'd gotten married that he'd had any idea what the whole thing was like for women. Even then, he'd never wanted to talk about it. He'd made sympathetic noises when Carolyn complained of cramps, but he hadn't pretended to know exactly where it hurt or what that particular pain felt like. It hadn't bothered him too much to pick up the appropriate items when they were on the shopping list Carolyn handed him, since she'd been specific about just exactly what brand and what type she wanted. No fuss.

The clerk read off the amount and Jim handed over his debit card.

He fervently hoped he had everything Stacey needed.

Poor kid, he thought again when he pulled out of the parking lot a few minutes later. He hoped she wasn't going to feel too badly about this. It was hardly her fault. Like Blair had said, perfectly natural.

He grinned as he imagined Blair playing professor and so-seriously and compassionately describing to Stacey, through the door separating them, what was happening to her, and how it was a glorious thing.

Thank God Sandburg stayed behind to do the talking. Jim couldn't have handled that part. He'd botched it enough as it was when he'd tried to talk to Stacey sympathetically about how he'd always be her friend. She'd been so impressed with his heartfelt speech that she'd yelled at him to leave the room and then snuck out of the loft.

Yes, the talking part was more Sandburg's forte.

Mission accomplished, Jim thought when he entered the loft, multiple plastic sacks in his grip.

Blair appeared from around the corner. His eyes shone with amusement as he quietly said, "What you'd do, man, buy out the whole store?"

"I didn't want to forget anything."

"What about toilet paper?"

Jim blinked. "Toilet paper? Are we out?"

"Not quite. But women go through it a lot faster."  Blair was turning the bags upside down, spilling the contents onto the dining table.

"There's wipes," Jim said, hoping that would suffice so he wouldn't have to go back.

He watched Blair pick up some items, as though he knew exactly what he wanted. Then he asked, "How's she doing?"

"Okay, I guess," Blair said without looking up. "I got her calmed down and she does remember that this was going to happen to her, based on what her mother had told her and what some of the nurses said. Still..." Blair put his selections into one of the sacks and moved off toward the bathroom.

"Stacey," he called through door. "Here you go. Let me know if you need help and we'll call a lady friend of mine to come over."

Jim listened to the door open, and then close a moment later.

Blair came back, crossing his arms. "Man, poor Stacey."

"Yeah," Jim said sympathetically. Though he assumed Stacey's attention was elsewhere, he didn't want to risk her overhearing them. He nodded toward the balcony, and Blair followed him.

Once on the deck, Jim said, "Don't you think she'd be more comfortable in a hotel than with a couple of guys?"

Blair looked up at Jim with one of those open expressions, hinting that he thought Jim was more than a little clueless. "Maybe, but we can't suggest that now. It would be like banishing her or something for being... unclean. She's got enough to deal with right now, without adding the feeling that the two people closest to her in the whole world don't want her around because of something happening to her that she has no control over."

"All right, all right."  Jim held up his hand. He had to admit that Blair was handling this awfully well. But then, he supposed that Naomi had probably told Blair a lot more about the female body than Jim wanted to think about.

Blair grinned at him. "So, Jim, were you, like, major embarrassed during your little shopping spree at the supermarket? I noticed that you didn't even try to 'hide' your purchases with other groceries."

Jim countered, "Why, is that what you would have done?"

"Maybe," Blair admitted.

That admission was all Jim needed to drop his defenses. Hesitantly, he asked, "Is there... a big mess or something in your room? I mean, how did you know...?"  He couldn't imagine that Stacey would have simply said something.

"I was watching TV, waiting for her to go to sleep before I went in to get my sweats, and she suddenly ran out to the bathroom."  He shrugged. "I went to ask her if she was okay, and when I went by my room, I saw the stains on the bed. I've already changed the sheets for her."

Jim nodded. That was good of Blair, taking care of that.

Blair grinned again -- the impish grin that said teasing was on the way. "Man, Jim, I think you did a bit of overkill on the shopping. We're going to have lots of leftovers."  He nudged Jim with his elbow. "Just think what the guys will say when they come over for poker and see our stash in the bathroom."

Jim didn't rise to the bait. He really, really wanted to know something. "Chief? How is it you knew what she needed from all of those supplies?"

Blair said, "I do have some experience. You know, with girlfriends and such."  He regarded Jim curiously. "You were married, man. I wouldn't think this kind of thing would be that foreign to you."

"It's not foreign," Jim protested the literal term, though he knew what Blair meant. "I just... never had a reason to think about it much."

"You never asked Carolyn or your girlfriends about it?"

Jim shook his head, wondering if that made him strange.

"Oh, man!" Blair exclaimed. "You are so sheltered. I talk to women about that stuff all the time. I mean, I always thought that a woman's body was this incredible mystery. I love asking them questions and demystifying it. Except," he seemed genuinely intrigued, "it's like it's never totally demystified."

Jim shook his head. "Sandburg, I wonder about you sometimes."

Blair glanced back into the loft, then nudged Jim again. "Just so you know, she was scared that you were going to be mad at her for this. I assured her that you would think her quite the grown-up young lady now. This is an important rite of passage, after all -- if a few years late."

"Thanks a lot," Jim grumbled, but he didn't really mean it that way. He was glad Blair had been reassuring to Stacey.

If anything, he now felt all the more protective toward her.

Jim looked toward the bathroom when he heard the door open. With her head down and robe tucked tightly around her, Stacey went to Blair's room, carrying the grocery sack.

"I'll make sure she's okay," Blair said, giving Jim a quick pat on the stomach. "And I'll tell her I'll wash her clothes for her."

Jim nodded. "I'm going back to bed, since I assume this crisis is over."

Blair grinned. "Loft crisis over. At least we know we have the supplies on hand in case anything like this happens again."

They moved back inside and closed the sliding door. As Blair headed for the French doors, Jim climbed the stairs.

That wasn't so bad, he decided.  He did wonder, though, how they could ever have a similar situation again. After all, most women had their own preparations and it seemed men never needed to know about it.

It did give him a sense of comfort, he realized as he undressed, that the loft was now truly prepared for anything.

Jim climbed into bed. Loft secure.

He quickly fell asleep.



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