A Vow Of Friendship
Tag for Vow Of Silence. Written for the missing scene challenge on Sentinelangst.
Thanks as always to Annie for her stellar beta.
Summary: Jim takes a trip down Blair’s memory lane.
Blair has been silent for most of the drive back to Cascade. I know he’s still pretty rattled over thinking Marcus was dead and then discovering he was alive, and I’m certain he’s a little pissed at me for my deception. His exuberance after everything was cleaned up, his jokes about Las Vegas and getting the monks to bless my dice might have fooled most people but I’ve known Sandburg for long enough now to know he’s still dealing with all that occurred at the monastery. Hell, just the thought of discovering Marcus wasn’t who everyone thought he was has got to be screwing with his head.
My stomach rumbles, reminding me that it’s a while since we ate and I take the opportunity offered for a little downtime. “You hungry, Chief?”
He looks over at me, blinking slowly as though he’s processing the question. “I could eat,” he says finally, “But we’re not that far from home…”
“From what I can remember, you cleared out the refrigerator before we left, and I don’t think I want to wait for a pizza to be delivered,” I say. “There’s a diner just up the road.”
He nods and goes back to watching the scenery rush by outside his window. “Sure. Why not.”
I lead the way to a small table by the window but Blair nudges me as I pull out my chair.
“That one,” he says, pointing to a cubicle in the back corner.
He pushes past me and strides over, plonking down on one of the benches with a sigh. I sit opposite him and pick up a menu.
“Helluva a couple of days, huh?” I say, as much to break the ice as anything.
“Yeah.” He falls silent and peruses the menu, looking up and giving the approaching waitress a bright smile that doesn’t reach his eyes.
“What’ll it be?” the girl asks. Her nametag is askew on her apron – Sally. She pops her gum and yawns for good measure. Maybe a pizza would have been worth the wait.
“I’ll have a burger… with everything,” I say, waiting for the inevitable good health lecture from Sandburg.
Instead he drops the menu on the table and nods. “Same here.”
I wait till Sally has gone to put in our order before leaning toward Sandburg. “A burger? With everything?”
He shrugs. “I said I could eat.”
The atmosphere is feeling thick enough to carve with a knife. I take a sip of my water and go for broke. “About Marcus. I know it’s got to be bothering you—“
“Damn right it’s bothering me!” Blair turns his laser death glare on me – I thought I was the only one who could kill a man at twenty paces with a look like that. Guess Sandburg’s been picking up some of my tricks. “I’ve been working with you for a year now, Jim! I’ve gone undercover, for god’s sake, and you can’t trust me enough to tell me that Marcus was alive?”
I hold my hands up in defence of my actions. Okay, maybe I should have let Sandburg in on the game but I was thinking on the fly with Grossman just about to come busting in and kill everybody. “I just thought it would be better…” I trail off, knowing it sounds lame. “You’re right,” I say instead. “I know you can handle situations like this. I’m sorry.”
He gives me a brief nod and stares down at his water, looking up again as the waitress plonks our plates down in front of us. His eyes are glistening a little and I feel like an absolute jerk for having put him through what I did.
I pick up my burger then put it down again. My appetite has taken a nosedive along with the conversation. “You never did tell me how on earth a Jewish guy got to be buddies with a bunch of monks.”
He smiles a little at that then a frown creases his forehead. “Long story.”
I shrug. “We’ve got plenty of time. Simon’s not expecting us back until the day after tomorrow.”
“It’s not very interesting.”
“To you maybe.”
He sighs and looks out the window. “I was about seven or eight, I think. My mom and I were living with this guy. Barry Keller… Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, if you get my drift.” I nod and wait for him to continue. “Not the nice guy Mom thought he was either, especially once he started hitting the booze and then my mom….
“Blair, honey, we have to go now!”
Blair looked up from packing his backpack at his mother’s summons. “Nearly ready, Mom,” he called.
Naomi hurried into the bedroom. “We have to go now,” she said, wringing her hands anxiously. “Barry will be home in an hour.”
“My books!” Blair grabbed up two thick books from the pile on the bed. “I can’t fit them in my bag and they’re too heavy to carry.”
“Leave them,” Naomi said, grabbing his backpack up from the bed and pushing Blair ahead of her. “We can always buy new ones when we get to Cascade.”
Blair pauses and takes a sip of his water then pulls a bit of bread off his hamburger bun.
“Eat,” I urge him, encouraging him by picking up my own and taking a bite. It’s surprisingly good and I’m pleased when he copies my actions.
Once we’re halfway through our meal, he sets his burger down again and his gaze returns to the window. “We didn’t make it to Cascade,” he says. “Naomi’s car broke down and we started hitchhiking.” I raise an eyebrow and he glances over at me and holds up one hand. “I know, bad idea but mom always thought the best of everyone.”
“Sounds like someone else I know,” I say and he smiles.
“Anyway, we were walking along and suddenly this old bus pulls up beside us….”
Blair looked over as the bus door creaked open and a heavyset man wearing robes smiled widely at them. “Where you headed?” the driver asked.
“Cascade,” Naomi replied. “My car broke down and I couldn’t get it started again. I can’t afford a tow.”
The man looked like he was considering something then he waved them over. “I’m headed back to the monastery tonight but Brother Christopher will be making a trip into Cascade tomorrow. I’m sure Brother Jeremy won’t mind offering you a bed for tonight.”
Naomi smiled back at him. “Thank you. We’d appreciate it.”
Blair pulled on her hand. “Naomi!” he hissed. “We don’t know him. Our teacher taught us about stranger danger in class last summer!”
Naomi crouched down in front of him, smoothing his wild curls out of his face. “He’s a man of God, Blair. He won’t hurt us. Come on!”
Reluctantly, Blair allowed her to pull him toward the bus. The man held out his hand and gave him another big smile. Blair had to admit he looked friendly enough. His eyes crinkled and twinkled as though he’d just been told the funniest joke ever.
“I’m Brother Marcus.”
Blair took his proffered hand and shook it. “I’m Blair, and this is my mom, Naomi.”
Brother Marcus nodded and gestured to the seat behind him. “Sit and we’ll be on our way. Won’t do to be late. There’s chili for supper.”
“So, how did Brother Jeremy handle putting a young woman and her kid up for the night in a monastery filled with monks?” I ask, remembering Jeremy’s austere greeting to me.
Blair grins and I can see he’s warming to the story. There’s a flicker of familiar enthusiasm back in his eyes. “From what I overheard – no, I wasn’t eavesdropping – Brother Marcus convinced him that it would be doing God’s bidding to take us in. We spent the night and the next morning, I was up early. I really wanted to take a look around. I was already starting to get an interest in cultures and sociology—“
“Color me surprised,” I interject and smile so he knows I’m only kidding with him.
“Anyway,” he continues without missing a beat and only a slight rolling of his eyes, “I was walking past the barn and saw the stained glass they’d been working on. Man, it was beautiful, Jim… I picked up a piece, all green and red and blue and held it up to the light to see it better and then…”
“What are you doing here, son?”
Startled by the voice behind him, Blair dropped the glass and watched in dismay as it shattered on the ground. Distraught, he dropped to his knees and started gathering up the broken pieces. “I’m sorry,” he said, his heart pounding in his chest. “So sorry. I just wanted to look—″ He gasped as a shard of glass sliced into the palm of his hand.
“Easy, son.” Brother Marcus knelt down next to him and lifted his hand, wiping away the blood with a handkerchief. “This glass is jagged. That’s a nasty cut. You might need stitches.” He climbed back to his feet with a groan and walked over to a first aid cabinet secured to the wall. “Let me get some disinfectant and stuff.”
Blair shot to his feet, holding his injured hand tightly. “I-I’m sorry,” he stammered. With that, he turned and ran.
Blair finally looks at me. “I hid in the bell tower for what seemed like hours. It was freezing cold and my hand was throbbing. I remember being scared because there was so much blood. I watched the monks and my mom searching for me, calling out my name, and then I heard footsteps coming up the stairs.” He shakes his head as though by doing so, he can banish the fear of that moment. “I was so scared.”
“So this Keller guy didn’t just beat up on Naomi when he was drunk,” I say intuitively.
“Mostly when I tried to stop him hitting on Mom. Sometimes, Mom wouldn’t be there so….” Blair sighs and shakes his head. “Anyway, I was shaking in my boots, wondering what kind of hell the monks could send me to for breaking their stained glass windows…”
“Thought I’d find you here,” Brother Marcus said. He sat down beside Blair and placed a small box on the floor beside him. “I really wish you’d found somewhere ground level to hide. I’m not much for climbing stairs these days, though the good Lord would tell me it’s to my benefit.”
“I’m sorry,” Blair whispered. “I didn’t mean to break the glass.”
“I know,” Marcus replied. He rested a hand briefly on Blair’s shoulder. “Let’s get that hand bandaged up. I told your mother I’d bring you down when you were ready. Brother Christopher already left for Cascade,” he said as he busied himself inspecting Blair’s wound then dabbing at it gently with disinfectant. “A little pain’s good,” he said when Blair flinched, “means it’s killing the germs. So, you’re here till tomorrow. There’s still plenty of time before lunch – meatloaf – I thought you might like to see how we put the windows together.”
Blair nodded. “I’d like that… I promise I won’t touch anything.”
“I know you won’t.” Marcus wrapped a gauze bandage around Blair’s hand then gave it a pat. “You’ll be good as new in no time.”
“Do we have to go down now?” Blair asked.
“When you’re ready,” Marcus said, “as long as it’s before lunch.”
Blair nodded. “Okay.”
“We left the next day,” Blair says. “Just as I was about to get on the bus, Brother Marcus came out and handed me a paper bag. It was full of books. I asked Naomi if she’d told him about the books I’d had to leave behind but she said she hadn’t. He’s a very special man, Jim. He knew.”
“He is that,” I say. I reach into my pocket and pull out cash for our lunch. “You ready to head home?” I ask.
Blair nods and stands. “Yeah.”
I lead the way out to the truck, happy to see the bounce back in Blair’s step as he hurries to catch up.
“So,” he says as we head back on the road toward Cascade, “now you know about me. When do I get to learn more about you? Your family, how you grew up?”
I feel a pang of sadness at his question. “One childhood at a time, Chief. One day.”