Laurie (laurie_ky) wrote,

A Fair Distance : Ball and Chain. Chapter Four

Challenge 229 LJ Moods
Title: A Fair Distance: Ball and Chain. Chapter Four
Author: Laurie
Type: Slash
Rating: PG-17
Warnings: none
Beta’ed by t_verano I am so very appreciative of how you consider every word. Especially prepositions. Picture by slipperieslope

This is the second arc of A Fair Distance. The first arc,Running on Empty, can also be found at sentinel_epic and at 852 Prospect
There are now three Standalone stories from A Fair Distance

The beginning of this story

A Fair Distance baner

Ball and Chain. Chapter Four

Hot… can’t move… Heat all round me…

I drifted in and out of sleep for a while, feeling uncomfortable and listless, but not awake enough to do something about it. I felt my skin being touched and heard a smattering of syllables, until a voice pulled me totally out of unconsciousness.

“Sandburg, you’re mumbling. Wake up, Blair. You need Tylenol again. It’s morning and we need to leave.”

Jim. And he was in bed with me and he felt like a furnace. I pushed at him, without opening my eyes. “You’re making me too hot.” I tried to wiggle over to a cooler part of the bed, but I couldn’t get far because… my ankle was being held… by a shackle. God Damn It!

“Jim, your prisoner needs to go to the bathroom. Think you can unshackle me from the bed?”

“Chief, you’re going to have to open your eyes. We have to get up together because you’re not attached to the bed; you’re attached to me. And you’re hot because you’re running a pretty good fever. C’mon, Blair, quit being cranky and make some effort here. My shackle key is in the other room.”

I opened my eyes, annoyed at being called cranky; it hadn’t been me who’d decided to shackle us together, and it was just too damn bad if it was now inconveniencing the oh-so-clever-detective who’d come up with this bright idea.

Jim was raised up on his elbow, half leaning over me, and he lowered his head and kissed me on the forehead. “Are you really awake now?” he inquired. “I’ve been trying to get you up for the last fifteen minutes.”

“I’m talking, aren’t I?” I muttered. I tried to roll over, but Jim’s arm snaked over me and held me still.

Jim snorted and brushed my hair off of my face. “You’ve been known to practically give a speech and still be sound asleep. Even Findley figured that out.”

Huh? “What d’ya mean? Did Dave tell you I talked in my sleep, or something?”


“What about?” I hoped it was something trivial, something not too personal.

“About how you felt towards me, and that I hadn’t abused you.” Well, there went that hope. I could feel my face flushing from embarrassment. Maybe Jim would think it was from my fever.

“I told him you had never hurt me before, and you wouldn’t do it now -- I told him that stuff when I was wide-awake.” I frowned. Damn my blabber-mouth subconscious anyway.

Jim must have thought my head was hurting because he started to gently massage my forehead.

“Ah, it sounded to me like he asked you about all of that again when you were conked out. He told me not to get pissed off at you, because you didn’t know you’d given it away about us sleeping together.” Jim offered.

“I guess he thought I was lying to him.” And that stung, that Dave hadn’t believed me.

“Blair,” Jim’s voice had softened. “He was just trying to make sure you were going to be okay with me. Findley’d picked up on the fact that you’d do anything to protect me. He’d read about you calling yourself a fraud regarding your dissertation. He told me that while he didn’t have any idea how you managed it, he knew you’d gotten yourself that stigmata mark to keep me from being charged with assault. And by the way… I know how you did it. How you got yourself hurt for me, again.”

Jim gave a last comforting rub on my head and grinned at me enticingly, “Come on and get up, take some Tylenol and eat, and I’ll tell you how I know what you did.”

Fuck. He was pushing my buttons. The ones labeled curiosity and sucker-for-Jim-being-charming.

I gave out a mighty sigh. And yes, I knew I sounded petulant and pouty. So what if I did. I was tired, still exhausted, even after all the sleep I’d gotten last night. I wanted to indulge myself in feeling lethargic and sleepy and just stay in bed. I’d been so stressed over what Jim had told me yesterday, not to mention plain old sick, that all my energy seemed to have been drained right out of me.

Poor, poor, pitiful me. Time for a pep talk; I was good at lecturing myself. I stared up at the ceiling while Jim started using his finger to doodle on my chest.

’Suck it up, Sandburg. Use adult style communication; don’t act like a spoiled brat, if you want Jim to listen to you about not needing protective custody. His impulse is to protect you, according to his spirit-self and -- oh, your four years of observing him. Whining like a kid isn’t going to make him trust you to take care of yourself. You took a giant leap backwards yesterday, crying while he cuddled you on his lap. You’ve got to show him you can be reasonable while you sell him on your ability to disappear off the map. Just close the door on how you really feel – tired and sick and disheartened -- and put on a show. You’ve done it before lots of times. You’re a pro, Blair old buddy. And stop talking to yourself and get your scrawny ass out of this bed.’

“O-kay, Jim.” I pushed the covers off of both of us, and the cool air in the room felt soothing against my hot skin. I wiggled my shackled ankle and told him, “I guess you’re my partner for the three-legged-race. How about you scoot over first and I’ll be right behind you.”


Blair pulled himself together this morning, although he kept giving the bed longing looks when he didn’t think I was watching him and pointedly did not look at the big rocking chair or say anything about how I’d taken care of him yesterday.

Right. I’m a detective, and I detected that he was still feeling embarrassed about falling apart last night and me rocking him on my lap. I didn’t tease him or say anything about it. I had been glad I could offer him some comfort, but if he wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened then there was no need to bring it up.

He did a double take at the sight of the beat up guitar case by the door, then smiled when I explained Findley had given it to him. I wondered where his Jimi Hendrix guitar was but shelved that question for later, in case there was an unhappy ending to that story.

At first, I’d kept the conversation fairly light after I’d unlocked the shackles around our legs – just questions about how he’d slept and if he was hungry. After he mumbled that he’d slept okay, I brought up news of Cascade while I dressed and wolfed down a leftover sandwich from dinner. He grinned to hear that Henri was going to be a daddy in a couple of weeks and raised his eyebrows upon learning that Rafe had applied to Quantico. Blair chattered a little bit about their futures, while he pawed through his backpack for clean clothes, almost sounding like the man I’d lived with for four years.

Still talking about H’s new baby, he headed to the bathroom, clean clothes in hand, and I went along with him; he could’ve climbed out that window in a heartbeat. I accompanied him into the small room, despite the huffing sounds he made, but then he smiled sweetly at me and said he understood.

I remembered that smile. It meant that Blair thought the recipient was an idiot, but he was going to bump up his Karma by going along with said idiot. I was getting the hang of Blair-speak, again.

It was evident from the way he trudged back to the kitchen that he was still wiped out. I wished I could indulge him -- let him lounge around and sleep in a comfortable bed -- but we needed to leave. I handed him a couple of Tylenol and he didn’t even fuss about taking them, which confirmed to me that he felt like shit.

I sat down at the table across from him, where he was finishing eating some applesauce for breakfast, to bring up the handcuff question again.

I really didn’t want to have to shackle and cuff him again, so I was hoping that with a full night’s sleep, he’d have seen the necessity of being in custody and agree to it voluntarily. Blair shoved his half-eaten bowl of applesauce away and looked earnestly at me, folding his hands together on the table; the puppy-dog eyes were in full force and I braced myself for the onslaught.

“Jim, I need you to listen to me. It’s important. I know that you want to protect me and hearing those thugs in the Jeep Cherokee wanting to snatch me revved up your ‘look after Sandburg’ dial, but I really can take care of myself. I can disappear and stay away from the usual ways to trace people. I… uh, I know some people who could make me a false ID, and I can do the underground economy thing, get paid under the table for work, so there won’t be a paycheck trail. I’ll avoid the kinds of jobs I’ve done before, no welding or truck driving, no teaching or social services work, no orderly jobs like I had at Conover. The kinds of work I’d do wouldn’t be the kind you need an employment application or a background check for. I won’t stay where I have to fill out a rental application, and my fake ID should be enough for a casual look at it.”

I reached over and took his hands in mine. It had always been hard for me to deny Blair anything he asked for, but I wasn’t going to let him persuade me to turn him loose. Sure, I had my personal reasons for wanting to keep him by me, but the police reasons were solid.

“Chief, I talked this over with Simon, and he ordered me to take you into custody. Even if Findley had blocked me – and he threatened to sic Adult Protective Services on me before I came clean about being a sentinel – another Cascade officer would have come down and done it. And this was before I discovered your life was in danger.”

“But Jim --”

I cut him off. “You’re coming with me, Chief. Now do you want to do it in hardware, or are you going to give me your word to not try to escape?”

Blair jerked his hands out of mine and shot me a furious look. I sighed and reached down to my pocket where my cuffs were stashed.

“C’mon, Sandburg. It won’t be so bad staying with me and letting the State of Washington pick up your bills. You won’t have to spend your own money on food or rent. Your meds won’t cost you anything, and Blair… you aren’t well enough to work right now. Mono and strep together – you’re going to be sick with a fever for at least a few more days. The mono will probably keep you from being able to work for another month. How are you going to keep a job, when you don’t have the energy to do the work?”

“I’ll take my chances. And I could probably stay with a friend or hole up in a cheap flop– a cheap boarding house until I feel a little better. I’ve got enough money to tide me over.” And Blair was back to making big eyes at me again.

Manipulative little shit. No – it was unfair of me to call him that. He was more scared of staying with me than the chance of being found and killed. And Blair didn’t scare easily. This was my mess; I’d have to fix it.

I tut-tutted at my guide, “Blair, four hundred bucks and some change is not going to last you a month on the run. There isn’t one good reason to turn you loose on your own, not on a you-and-me level and certainly not on a security level. You are going to stay a protected witness. I’m sorry that you can’t wait to see the last of me; I was serious last night when I said I wanted us to be together. “

Blair’s heartbeat had increased and I could see the signs of anxiety on his face and in the way his body was tensing.

“You don’t believe me, do you, Sandburg? When I tell you that I want us to go back to being lovers and living together. You’re my guide, Chief. I don’t want anybody else.”

Blair swallowed, and it looked like a painful process. The kid needed to get started on antibiotics and we were just spinning our wheels here. Time to get this show on the road. Blair had to either agree to be good and not try to get away, or I was going to cuff him. Gently, though. I would hate to do anything that would get him bruised or roughed up. I hoped he wouldn’t fight me like he’d done when we switched trucks. Blair started to speak, using all of his persuasive voice tricks, but I wasn’t going to buy it. Still, I let him talk. Maybe I could learn what his fears were this way. I pasted on my best ‘I’m listening’ look and nodded at him as he gave his spiel.

“Jim, I know you think you mean what you say – now – but you’ll change your mind. You’ll decide I fucked up something and I’ll see my stuff boxed up again. You’re saying you want me to keep being your guide, but I’m… I’m just not the right guide for you. And I shouldn’t have ever tried to be your lover. I’m a fuck-up. You’ll remember that, once we start spending time together. I can’t do this again, Jim. I just can’t. Let me go, please. Please --don’t do this to me, Jim. I won’t be able to stand it. Last night was like a dream, a sweet memory to cherish when I’m by myself again. But it wasn’t reality. Reality is… I love you and I always will, but I can’t live with you. And you need somebody else, not me. You don’t trust me, you’ll remember why if I stay with you. ” Blair’s eyes looked wet. He was breathing too fast, his words tumbling out in his haste to make me understand him.

“I had thought maybe we could keep in touch as friends, but I think even that would be like torture to me, to see you and know that I can’t really be with you ever again. God! Jim, you’re just having a reaction to seeing me; you don’t really want me. I’ll stay in touch with Simon about the case. I’ll take care of myself; I won’t get myself killed. Simon will understand. I don’t want to go back to Cascade; everybody will know I’m just a failure. Jim --” and his heart was beating way too quickly and he lost his words as he started to hyperventilate.

Shit, he was having a panic attack. I grabbed a paper sack off the table, dumping out the beef jerky that was in it while I hustled over to his side.

I opened it up and held it against Blair’s mouth and started rubbing his back, while he gasped and jerked in the seat, his eyes full of dread. His breath was still erratic and too fast as he breathed into the bag, so I gave him a countdown for breathing out and rubbed his back, and he began to settle down. Poor kid. After a long ten minutes, his heart rate was in an acceptable range and his breathing had slowed down enough for me take the bag away and fold it up. I was keeping it handy in case he needed it again.

What little reserves he’d built back up by sleeping had just been blown to smithereens. He looked like he’d just run ten hard miles. I shook my head at him and leaned over and kissed the top of his sweaty head.

“I love you, Blair, and I’m going to take care of you. It’s okay to let somebody help you, Mr. Independent, especially if they care about you. And I do. And I will -- you know, keep caring about you -- so let me help you. We’ll keep working on the trust thing. Now, I want to get going so we can get your script filled. So, once more, Chief; will you agree to stay in custody and not try to get away?”

Blair looked down at his lap and wouldn’t look at me. Sighing at my stubborn guide, I got out the cuffs and quickly secured him, leaving his hands in front of him. I decided that unless he gave me more trouble, I wouldn’t use the leg shackles. The way he was swaying in his seat, I wasn’t sure he wouldn’t just trip over his own two feet anyway. He was mumbling to himself, something about ‘fuck adult communication.’

I left him at the table and quickly finished gathering our things, moving him over to a chair by the door so I could watch him while packing up the truck. After cleaning up the kitchen and placing the key on the table, I gathered up my guide and settled him in the truck, before climbing in myself and starting the engine. Blair was shivering in the cold air and I reached over to feel his forehead. The Tylenol hadn’t kicked in yet; his fever was still fairly high. My poor, sick partner. I shrugged out of my jacket and handed it to him.

“You can use it as a pillow, Chief.”

Blair bunched it up and scooted around in the seat till he was more comfortable. The heater in this jalopy wasn’t the greatest; I’d cover him up with a blanket again when his fever went down.

“Thanks,” was said so softly even sentinel ears barely caught it. I reached over and patted him on the thigh.

“It’s going to be okay, Blair. I promise you; we’ll work things out and everything’s going to be okay. Go to sleep, I’ll wake you when I get your antibiotics.” Blair closed his eyes with a small sigh.

He slipped off into dreamland as soon as I hit the main highway. A half-hour later, I went through the drive-thru at Walgreens in a small Indiana town. He woke up long enough to swallow his medicine and half a bottle of water, and then went right back to sleep. And I drove for hours while he rested, thinking about how to build his trust in me again.


Blair stirred on the bench seat of the truck, blinking and yawning. He’d been bobbing up and down from the land of nod for ten minutes now. This time, though, he sat up straighter and scrubbed at his face with his hands, his dreams fading from his eyes.

“Oh… man. Where are we? What time is it? Where are we going? And don’t tell me Cascade, you made it very clear I’m going there; I mean where are we going now? And is there a bathroom or a tree available in the near future? Is it cold in here, or is it just me?” And he pulled the blanket I’d tucked around him tighter against himself.

I grinned at him; if he had the energy for this fount of questions, he must be feeling a little better. I reached over and laid my palm on his forehead. He rolled his eyes, but let me do it. Just a low fever; he’d fuss if I made him take more Tylenol now.

“Let’s see… the heater doesn’t work worth a damn; Findley’s cousin, who sold me this truck, failed to mention that detail. I bought some sweatshirts for you; do you want to put one on? They’re big, so they’ll fit over your old sweatshirt easily.

“It’s…” and I looked at my watch, “quarter to one. You’ve been sacked out for hours. We’re on Interstate 65, we passed Indianapolis about an hour ago and we’re coming up on Lafayette. We’re bunking tonight in a cabin near Lake Michigan. I made the arrangements while you were sleeping.”

Blair glanced at me, a puzzled expression on his scruffy-Botticelli-angel face. To keep his brain from getting overtaxed, I decided to explain what Findley and I had arranged.

I changed lanes to get past a jerk who was only going about forty-five, and as I eased the truck back into the right-hand lane, I patted Blair on the thigh.

“Before we left Sweetwater, while you were cooling your heels in court, Findley and I set up a plan for him to locate off-season, isolated vacation rentals or state park cabins in the areas where we were going to end up each night till we reached Cascade. I called him earlier and let him know we’d be within a hundred miles of Chicago tonight and he found us a nice little place. He’s paying for it with his credit card. Before we left, I gave him a blank check, which he’ll use to settle up what I owe him.”

Blair had an incredulous look on his face, listening to me explain the arrangements to keep him safe.

“I’ve got his cell phone, so anybody trying to track us by my phone will hit a dead end. I’ll mail his phone back to him when we get to a Cascade safe house. Simon’s got the number for Findley’s cell phone, and he’s going to only contact us from a secure site – not his house or the station – in case the phones are tapped or the records get pulled.”

I smiled at him, sure that he’d welcome the next part.

“Chief, we’re booked for two nights at the cabin we’re going to this evening. You can sleep as much as you like in a comfortable bed, and give the antibiotics a chance to work.”

“Uh – Jim… Do you really think all this cloak and dagger stuff is necessary? I mean, I appreciate your efforts – kind of – but what I said this morning is still valid. I can watch out for myself now that I know about the problem. But, hey, the bed sounds good; I get really tired and I can hardly keep my eyes open. Shoot, most of the time I spent in jail, I was asleep.”

I nodded at him thoughtfully. “I could be overdoing it, yeah. But, Chief, we don’t know what kind of resources our enemy has to use against us. I’d rather err on the side of caution where your safety is concerned. And if Bergman’s behind the hit contract, then he has a source or an ally at the P.D.” “If it is him,” I said slowly. I rubbed my forehead with the heel of one hand. “Have you pissed off anybody else in Cascade? To the point where they’d spend a lot of money to hire hit men?”

Blair was shaking his head no. “If I did, they didn’t say anything to me about it.”

I frowned. “Bergman is the obvious suspect, since your testimony can link him to what is probably the murder weapon. Damn, we have got to find that car.”

Blair made a face. “I hate to think of my baby being used to run over a human being. Even Chancellor Edwards. Although it’s easy to see how she could have invited cold-blooded murder from her employees. Or did invite it. Her death still doesn’t seem very real to me.”

I made a non-committal listening sound. And it occurred to me that if Blair felt like talking about the case -- falling back into our old partnership ways instead of building up more anxiety about our future together -- I was all for it. It wouldn’t hurt to ask him to help me. And his skills were formidable when it came to putting together clues and understanding people’s behavior.

“Chief… about Bergman. You know this guy, you’ve talked to him, know what his reputation on campus is like. Why don’t you tell me everything you remember about him, no matter how trivial; maybe we can get an idea of what he did with the car. Would you do that? Unless your throat is too sore for much talking and you’d rather be quiet. And that reminds me --”

I reached down on the seat between us and handed him a small bag. In it were cough drops, his medicine, and a box of tea. Blair had always kept this tea on hand in the loft -- it was some herb or root that was supposed to be good for a sore throat -- and he used it whenever his throat was feeling scratchy. He’d made me drink it a bunch of times; the stuff helped.

Blair rummaged in the bag and pulled out the cough drops. He popped one in his mouth while he was thinking, and I congratulated myself on distracting him from our emotional minefield. I was concerned that he’d had a panic attack this morning over our relationship. It would be good to just spend time with each other, without getting into the heavy stuff every time we opened our mouths. Let him feel his way back to being comfortable with me.

“Jim, let me make some notes for you on Bergman. He seemed like a nice guy; I never heard anybody really dissing him, ya know, not the way people liked to complain about Edwards. He had a lot of pity directed his way for having to put up with her on a daily basis. Where’s my – oh, there it is. I’ve got a notebook in there and a pen.” Blair leaned over and pulled up his backpack. He sat there with it for a couple of minutes, playing with a zipper tab, lost in thought. Then he shook his head and opened the pack.

Some asshole was on my butt, and I tapped the brakes quickly to warn him to back off. “Pass already,” I muttered. I could hear Blair sucking on his cough drop and looking through his belongings. He started to mumble anxiously under his breath.

“What’s the matter, Chief?” Good. The asshole behind me had decided to pass.

“My knife. I can’t find it. Oh shit! I must have left it in Sweetwater. I know it was in my backpack when I got arrested. Maybe it was locked up because it was a weapon.” There was more frantic scrambling through his pitifully small amount of belongings. Right, time for me to come clean.

“I’ve got it; it’s safe. I’m sorry, but while you wear cuffs, I can’t take the chance that you’d use that handy knife of yours and free yourself.” I looked at Blair, who’d pulled his notebook and pen out of his pack, and who had an expression of relief and annoyance on his face.

“I know your knife is important to you. I haven’t told you yet about the dream I had last night, but your knife was a big part of it. Remember this morning, I told you I knew how you got the bite on the back of your neck? I found out in a blue dream – one of those weird jungle experiences. I haven’t had one since you left Cascade, but last night I did.” I was watching him while I was talking and I saw the body language signals that telegraphed to me that he was hooked on what I was telling him.

I spotted a sign that said the next town was fifteen miles away and decided to get off there for gas and food. I had something in mind to keep Blair with me, without the cuffs being seen.

“I went to the spirit plane last night, after I was asleep – not that I wanted to go, exactly – but once I was there I learned a thing or two. Like, you went to the spirit world when you were meditating in that interview room back in Sweetwater. I bit you, or my spirit half or quarter or whatever bit you. I made you orgasm, and when you were high on it, I bit you hard on the back of your poor neck. I made you bleed.” I reached over and squeezed his hand. “You asked for that bite to protect me. You did it because you love me. How can you think that you aren’t the right guide for me? You fit me, Blair, like… pancakes and maple syrup… like… peanut butter and chocolate… like… bacon and eggs.” I stopped because Blair was snorting to himself.

“You’re hungry, aren’t you, Big Guy.” And there was a fond, indulgent look on his face that I hadn’t seen for a long, long time.

I grinned back at him, glad that he was relaxing more with me. “I could eat. There’s a town coming up in about ten minutes and I thought we’d take a break, get a meal. If you’re ready to promise about staying in custody, we can pack away the cuffs…”

Blair looked at me seriously, “You know, I seduced you into becoming my lover, and it was a decision that totally fucked us up. You say you want us to be lovers again, and I can’t help but feel that history is going to repeat itself. I’ll hurt you, and you’ll hurt me. And it feels to me that agreeing to stay in protective custody is the first step towards that slippery slope. I don’t like the shackles or handcuffs, but in a way they keep me safe. If I’m your prisoner, then I’m not cooperating in my own slide into this fantasy that we can forget how we acted towards each other and just pick up where we left off. I know you, Ellison. You see a problem; you want it fixed right away. That’s okay, I want to fix problems too, but if we don’t know why we went wrong, it’ll happen again. Like… like, replacing a fuse when the real problem is in the wiring. That fuse is gonna blow again. Is any of this making sense to you, Jim?”

“I hear you, Blair. I hear you. And I mean my kind of hearing, not Naomi’s. It makes perfect sense. And we are going to fix the wiring, pal. I won’t push you… much. I just don’t like restraining my partner. I mean, I wouldn’t mind handcuffing you to the bed and shackling your legs so they’re wide apart, and doing indescribable things to you, Blair. Things that would make you melt into a puddle of goo. But that would be just for fun.”

Blair’s eyes had widened with that thought and I caught the scent of his arousal. I would have liked to tease him by describing the indescribable acts, but I had to get through to him about the danger he was facing. He was equating resisting protective custody with resisting renewing our relationship. If he escaped because he wanted to run from living with me again…

“There is a real danger to your life, and you’re in protective custody because of it. And… your life is too unstable to count on you being available as a witness. I didn’t tell you what the Sweetwater cops found in the Jeep, did I? What those hillbilly hit men had in mind for you? Findley told me they found chloroform to put you out, rope to secure you, condoms so they could rape you without leaving any trace evidence, a gun to kill you, and shovels and plastic bags and sheets of plastic to bury you on some forgotten land. You can’t run on your own, Blair. I wish you’d see that. I don’t doubt that as smart as you are, you’d figure out a way to maybe stay out of sight. Maybe.” I lowered my voice. “Your plans involved contacting people you know and asking them to hide you or help you. Did you stop to think that by doing that you’d be putting those people in danger?”

Blair made a choking sound and looked kind of shell shocked; I hoped I wasn’t pushing him into another panic attack, but he needed to get his head on straight about all of this.

“I stopped you from going into that gas station in Sweetwater not because I was being a jerk, but because those guys were watching us. Their plan was to pick you up hitchhiking when I let you out on the interstate, but I couldn’t take the chance that they’d impulsively decide to shoot you instead, or run you over. And if they had gone for it at the gas station, they might have hurt other people too.” Ah… No, it didn’t look like he had thought about that aspect of it. He had the deer-in-the-headlights look.

“Blair. To be honest, I do hope that spending time together convinces you that we can make us – you and me -- work. You said you never stopped loving me. Well, I never stopped loving you either; I just buried it under a load of anger. And I’m willing to talk about all of that. I want to fix the wiring, Chief.”

Blair was biting his lip and looking down at the handcuffs around his wrists. I willed him to tell me he understood, that he wanted to stay with me and would agree to protective custody.

“Jim…” Blair spoke softly and hesitantly. “I need to process what you’ve told me. I’m sorry. I don’t want anybody to be put in danger because of me, but I can’t tell you I agree. I want to meditate on it. Don’t be mad, okay?” And he looked at me with those big blue eyes of his, and I caved.

“I’m not mad, Blair. I’m just worried about you. If it makes you feel better to be handcuffed, then you can be handcuffed. You don’t have to promise me anything. You can tell yourself truthfully that I forced you to be with me. Processing and meditating – that’s good, real good.” I saw my exit coming up and flipped on the turn signal.

“I didn’t finish telling you about my dream. I’ll tell you after we eat, okay? How about helping me look for some kind of deli? We’ll get you more soup.”

Blair nodded and looked out the window as we left the interstate and turned towards the row of restaurants and gas stations near the exit. Gas first, then lunch.

I let the conversation drop. I felt we were making progress, and it was unrealistic of me to expect everything to be cleared up immediately. I was a chump for wanting do-overs. I had a history with my past relationships of trying to jump start them again without really trying to figure out why we’d bombed in the first place. Lila, Veronica, even thought about it with Carolyn when I’d kissed her in the rain that time. Luckily, my ex-wife had more sense than me. It appealed to me to dive into the water without looking to see if it was safe. I was tempted to do it now, with Blair. Just seduce him – and I could; I could tell from his reactions to me – and think everything was fine again.

No, Blair was right. It wasn’t enough to just change the fuse; that was the easy part. The wiring needed an overhaul. It would take time but it was the only way to really fix the problem.


A Fair Distance:Ball and Chain. Chapter Five
Tags: a fair distance, ball and chain, sentinel thursday, slash
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