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On Call

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The phone rings and I'm instantly awake. Dylan and Brian just murmur and snuggle closer. They're not old enough to know what late night phone calls mean. I reach over Dylan and grab the phone. "Hello."

"Jase." It's Lars and he sounds scared. "James is missing."

"Missing?"

"He just disappeared from rehab."

"How the fuck could he disappear from rehab? Don't they have any security?"

"They do. It's obviously not any good," he says derisively. "We have to find him." He sounds scared again. "Please, Jase, you gotta help us find him."

"All right, all right." I pull myself out of bed. "I might know where he is." Dylan and Brian move together to fill in the space I occupied while I start pulling clothes out of the dresser. "I'll take my cell and call you if I find him."

He's pathetically grateful for my help. "Thank you, Jase."

"He's still my friend," I remind him before I hang up. I pull on jeans and a t-shirt while I watch Dylan wake up.

"What're you doing?"

I lean over and kiss him deeply. "I have to go out. I'll be back." I kiss him again. "Go back to sleep."

"Okay." He curls back around Brian.

I shove my feet into a pair of shoes and scoop up my wallet. I grab my keys on the way out the door. Once I'm in the car, I have time to worry. I hope he's where I think he is. I hope I'm not too late. I turn on the stereo and EchoBrain comes out. That only makes it worse. I switch to the radio and find something non-threatening. I finally pull into the parking lot. There are no other cars there, but I guess there wouldn't be if James broke out of the rehab center. I hike up the trail until I can see him. I stop and call Lars to tell him where we are, and then I go up to where James is sitting.

"I wondered if they'd call you," he says as I sit next to him.

"Did you want them to?" I ask curiously.

"I thought you didn't want to be on call for us 25 hours a day anymore."

"I didn't want to be on call for Metallica. You're still my friend." I can hear the cars pulling one after the other into the parking lot.

"Not a very good one."

I shrug. "Doesn't matter." I turn to watch Lars and Kirk come up the path. I gesture to them to stay back a little. The moon's bright enough for me to see what James can't--the stark relief on Lars' face, the flat blankness on Kirk's that could be hiding fear, anger, love.

"And what about your new band?" he asks. "Where are they while you're on call for us?"

"Sleeping," I say without thinking.

"In your bed?"

"Yes."

He stares out into the night. "It would be so easy," he says, gesturing at the low wall separating us from a hundred-foot drop, "to just go over the edge."

I hear a gasp from behind us. I turn to see Lars take an involuntary step forward. Kirk takes his arm and pulls him back.

"Is rehab really that bad?" I ask James.

I don't really expect him to answer me, but he says, "Yes." He pauses, and I can almost hear him thinking of what to say. "I want to go biking."

"So you came here." I'm not really asking.

"Yeah." He gives me a small, sad smile. "Silly, huh?"

I put my hand on his arm. "No. I know you hate being stuck somewhere."

"I don't want to go back there."

"You have to."

He shakes his head. "I hate it there."

"You can't go home. This is hard enough for Francesca without having to take care of you through it."

"I don't have a choice, do I?"

I shake my head. "No."

He sighs and rubs his hands through his hair. He stands up and turns around to face Kirk and Lars. "Let's go."

Lars reaches out and takes his hand. "You scared the fuck out of me," he chides.

James manages a real smile for him. "Sorry."

"You better be. And you better not do it again."

I walk down next to Kirk. "You okay?"

He shrugs. "Not really."

I put my arm around him and hug him close. "You can come over anytime, you know. Jam, hang out, whatever. Dylan and Brian will be happy to see you."

He leans into me, momentarily accepting the support I'm offering. "I know."

I hug him a little bit closer. "You should come. It might help."

He smiles at me. "Thanks. I'll see if I can make it out there this week."

We're back at the cars now. Kirk hugs me tightly and steps away. I go to James, and we look at each other for a few long moments before I wrap my arms around him. "I'll come visit you in a couple of days," I promise. "I'll convince them to let you out and we'll go bike or hike or something."

He shakes his head. "You'll never get them to let me leave."

"Sure I will." I give him a lopsided smile. "I got myself out of Metallica. I can get you out of rehab for a couple of hours." I quickly hug him again before he can protest.

Lars pushes the button on his keychain that makes the doors unlock with a beep. James climbs into the car and pulls the door shut. Lars jumps at me and hugs me tightly. "Thank you."

I drop a kiss onto his hair. "Anytime."

I leave them and climb back into my car. I wait for Kirk and Lars to leave before I start the car and pull out of the parking lot. I switch the stereo back to the EchoBrain CD. Now that I'm on my way home, it's comforting.

The drive back seems even longer, but I finally make it there. I go in and drop my keys on the hall table. I leave my shoes on the stairs and when I get to the bedroom, I shed my clothes and let them drop to the floor.

Dylan wakes up again and turns to face me as I crawl into bed next to him. "Where'd you go?"

I wrap my arms around him and hold on. "I had to go find James."

His forehead creases in confusion. "I thought he was in rehab."

"He was." I kiss him, letting the feeling of his mouth against mine comfort me. "He got out."

"Oh." He kisses me slowly. "You find him?"

"Yeah."

"So that's good, right?"

"Yeah." I smile for him and kiss him again. "I'm glad to be back."

His whole face lights up. "I'm glad you're back." He moves closer to me.

"Bed's too empty when you're not here," Brian says from the other side of Dylan.

I push myself up and lean over Dylan to kiss Brian. "Sorry."

Brian shrugs. "Do what you gotta do." He curls back up against Dylan's back and closes his eyes.

Dylan kisses me lightly. "You okay?"

I smile at him again. "I'll be fine," I reassure him. I kiss him and stroke his hair. "Go back to sleep."

"'Kay." He settles in with his head tucked under my chin. I hold him close and stroke his back, my hands straying to touch Brian too. I hope that I won't be doing this for one of them sometime in the future.

It's a long time before I sleep.