A Hundred Dollar Bill
After dropping Sandburg off at the loft I went grocery shopping. I was still limping but I knew Blair needed a while to clear his head and I suspected he might want to use this time to write down some of his ideas about what happened in Southtown from an anthropological perspective. It was almost as a whim that at the register I asked the cashier if she could change a few lower denomination bills for a hundred dollars one. She gave me a funny look but didn't say anything. I didn't know why I did it but I had seen how important that was for my Guide. For some reason the fact that he had been reimbursed with five twenties had really bothered him. I suspected there was a story there but I just couldn't imagine what it could possibly be.
When I got home I found my partner typing furiously on his laptop. I placed the bill next to him and I could see a rapid succession of emotions running through his face. Surprise, joy and relief followed by embarrassment.
"So, what's the story, Chief?"
"Behind that bill. Why is it so important?"
"As I said, it's just sort of an emergency fund, man. No big deal."
"Then why does it have to be a one hundred dollar bill if it's just an emergency fund? Why can't it be five twenties?"
"Because if it's five twenties I might dip into that fund without realizing it, or even deliberately thinking that I'll replace the money later and then I may not be able to do it. This way I know that if I ever have to break my hundred dollar bill then I'm in trouble."
As far as explanations went that one made sense. It was reasonable, direct and to the point... and that was enough for me to know that it was not the whole truth. I knew Blair wasn't lying but that explanation was too unlike the ones I've come to expect from my Guide for it not to leave a nagging feeling behind. Experience has taught me that there are only two instances in which Blair provides straight forward answers: either when it's a matter of life and death and he doesn't have time to elaborate or when he's trying to keep something from me. Seeing how there were no men with guns anywhere to be seen I assumed this fell under that second category.
In other words I was now certain that there was a story behind that hundred dollar bill and I was almost certain that I wasn't going to like it. In spite of that conviction I decided to push it.
"So you've always had a hundred dollar bill with you."
"Pretty much. Ever since I was a kid."
"A kid? Why would you even need an emergency fund when you were a kid?"
"Chill, man! It's no big deal. Ever since I turned thirteen Naomi would always ask me where I wanted to stay whenever I wasn't traveling with her. She also gave me a hundred dollar bill before she left me, just in case something happened and I needed to bolt."
"Yeah, I mean, if something came up or if I had some problems with the people I was staying with or whatever. That bill was sort of Plan B... you hope you won't have to use it but it's best to have it anyway."
"Doesn't seem like much though. Just how far did she expect one hundred bucks to get you?"
"It's true that my plan B hasn't exactly kept up with inflation, but the idea was for me to contact one of her friends --preferably one who could actually get in touch with her-- and if possible try to get to them."
"And did you ever use it?"
"The bill? Not really, I mean I was choosing where I was staying by then so things were never so bad that I had to resort to that but just knowing it was there made me feel safer. The last time she gave me a hundred dollar bill was when I came to Cascade. I was really on my own so it wasn't like I was a kid staying with some friends any more. It was mostly a symbolic gesture but still it was something I had gotten used to having. I told you it wasn't a big deal."
"And so you've kept a hundred dollar bill on you ever since?"
"For the most part. Since I came to Rainier there have been a couple of times when things have gotten rough enough that I've had to spend some of that or go hungry but that hasn't happened all that frequently and I've always managed to replace that bill within a couple of days. It's become sort of a top priority."
The idea of Blair going hungry was an uncomfortable one --even if I knew it was not something that would ever happen again as long as I could do something about it-- but that was beyond the point. I finally understood what that bill meant to my partner and while the origin of that little habit of his wasn't necessarily something I'd ever feel particularly comfortable with, it was nowhere near as bad as I had feared. It felt good to know that being paranoid didn't necessarily translate into being right.
Of course, being Blair's appointed Blessed Protector, I was left to wonder what he meant when he said that it was only because he was choosing where he was staying that things were never that bad... and just what did a thirteen year old Blair feel a hundred dollar bill, a plan B, would keep him safe from?
Author's Note: I have received some requests to write a sequel to this story and, while I have no plans to do so for the time being, I believe that this story might be seen as a sort of prequel to my I Can Always Pretend series (complete, post TSbBS). This is not a perfect fit as there was no master plan when the stories were writen but they do share a common perception as to Blair's childhood.