Chapter Nine

Jim slumped in his seat as soon as he got the car safely parked. His hands, still clutching the wheel, trembled. "We made it. Thank God." He was breathing hard.

Blair squeezed his shoulder, mindful of the attendant working the pumps. Jim's whole body was shaking. "Yeah, we did. We're safe, Jim. We're safe. You made it."

"I nearly killed us both. I nearly killed *you*."

Blair snorted. "As if it matters what happens to me."

"It matters." Jim looked at him, blue eyes shining in the morning sun, brighter than the cloudy sky. "This is too...I don't know what I'm feeling. But...damn it, we have to call the cops, don't we."

Blair blinked. They would have to talk later. "Yeah. Um...you have to do it. I'm kinda stuck here." Actually, he probably could manage if he had to, but Jim needed to think about something other than driving.

"There's a phone by the office over there. I'll...I'll call the Cascade police, and we'll think about what to tell them."

"The truth. I hate dealing with the fuzz, but this time we gotta. You have a dime?"

"Yeah, I think so. I'll be right back."

Blair watched him fish in his pocket for a coin and feed it to the phone. He wished desperately for Jim's hearing just for that moment. As it was, Jim's back was to him, so he couldn't read his lips. And Jim, damn him, didn't talk with his hands, so he couldn't even interpret the gestures.

Finally, Jim nodded and hung up the phone. His walk was still a little shaky, but it was better. "Why don't I help you out of here? I'm guessing you need to use the john as much as I do."

"You got that right. What's going on?"

Jim pulled the wheelchair out of the back seat and opened it up. At Blair's gesture, he set the breaks. Then he swiftly transferred Blair from the car to the chair.

"The police'll be there soon, and then they're coming here to talk to us. Ground's a little uneven. John's just behind the phones." Blair gritted his teeth as Jim pushed him to the restrooms. He waited while Jim got the key from the attendant...and then the door was too narrow for the chair.

Jim shrugged. "Good thing I keep in shape." Blair was mortally embarrassed as Jim set him on the toilet seat and walked out, waiting for his shout. He'd fought to be independent and now look at him! And the damn ankle hurt. A lot. So did the leg that wasn't there, and he hadn't slept and he hadn't gotten laid and...and he was with Jim. That, for some reason, made it all okay. He finished up, and Jim appeared at his shout to swing him back onto his chair and take his place.

He took the time to look around. It was a typical gas station - two pumps, a garage attached to an office. There was one guy pumping gas into a late model Chevy. His uniform was fairly clean, but it was early yet. The Chevy drove away just as Jim left the bathroom. The attendant strolled up to them.

"Anything I can help you two gents with?"

"Yeah, actually. We're going to be here for a while. Do you have any vending machines?" Jim sounded desperate. Well, Blair was hungry himself. Dinner had been a long time ago.

"Yep. And there's a cooler full of cokes just outside the office. Is there something wrong with the car?"

Blair shook his head. "It's running just fine. But, I would appreciate some gas, now that I think about it."

"Sure. Just drive it up to the pumps and I'll take care of you."

"We've been up all night. Could you take care of i