A Good Old Day Out
Blair knew it had been a mistake. He knew he should have invited someone else. But Jim was his best friend and he knew that if Jim had won free plane tickets to England, he'd take Blair along for the trip. Well, not that Jim would have entered that competition in the first place.
But that wasn't the point! Glancing over at the Sentinel who had rigidly dialled down his hearing so he could sleep on the plane, Blair hoped that he could find a way to make it all sound reasonably sane before Jim tried to kill him.
Jim's jaw dropped as he looked at the sign on the hill. "Sandburg! Tell me you're kidding!"
Blair took a deep breath. The moment of truth had arrived and he was right: Jim was not happy. "C'mon, man, it'll be fun," he declared, keeping a hopeful smile on his face. "And it's not quite what you think."
One hand pointed to the sign which gaily proclaimed that the annual cheese-rolling competition was being held that day. "What exactly am I missing here?"
Okay, maybe Jim had a point. "Well, we don't roll cheeses down the hill."
Jim's rigid stance relaxed slightly, although Blair was sure that was a temporary thing.
"The honoured guest rolls the cheese down the hill and we...." Blair mumbled the rest of his sentence.
He winced. Naturally, Jim had heard him.
"We roll ourselves down the hill chasing the cheese?!" Jim repeated, his disbelief echoing in every word.
"But whoever reaches the bottom first wins the cheese!"
Blair could see Jim trying to control himself. It was really quite fascinating, from an anthropological point of view, to see thousands of years of civilised behaviour crumbling in front of him. It was also quite amazing at how much effect Jim was currently having on his own ingrained flight or fight instincts.
"I think the first race is starting. Gotta go, Jim!" Bolting past the sign, Blair made sure to keep up a quick pace. Even if Jim wasn't interested in chasing a cheese down a hill, Blair was pretty sure revenge would have Jim chasing him up the hill. Muffled curses behind him told him he was right.
"When I get hold of you-"
Blair skidded to a halt as he reached the other competitors and hastily made his way along to the line to avoid Jim. A quick glance behind him told him that Jim had backed off - although he was sure that was only temporary - and Blair turned his attention to the man in charge. Naturally, once he'd won the competition for why he'd like to go on a weird vacation, Blair had researched the cheese-rolling event at Cooper's Hill in Gloucestershire and he'd been amazed to discover that people had been annually throwing themselves down the hill in pursuit of dairy products for at least two hundred years now. Why, he couldn't imagine. Surely cheese wasn't that expensive, even in Britain?
Dismissing his musings of what motivated people to do this, Blair turned his attention to the actual event. The Master of Ceremonies, a bizarrely dressed man in a long white doctor's coat - complete with a large red rose on the collar - and black top hat decorated with red, white and blue ribbons, was helping an elderly gentleman take a seat on the edge of the slope.
Blair glanced over, then stepped back hurriedly. What on earth was he thinking? That wasn't a gentle 'slope'; it was a cliff of epic proportions, and he was supposed to hurl himself off that?
"Not 'avin' second thoughts, are you, mate?" a quiet voice murmured in his ear.
Wrenching his eyes away from the edge, he looked at the speaker, seeing a tall, well-muscled guy with a thatch of blond hair.
"Me Mum thought I was bonkers the first time I did it. Now she's over there, ready to cheer me on," the young man confided. "It's not so bad once you're actually on your way down. It's the standin' at the top bit that gets everyone."
Blair glanced over his shoulder and his gaze met Jim's. The smirk on his friend's face said it all, and Blair turned back to the guy beside him, his mind made up. "I'm going to do this."
"Good on you!"
I've jumped out of an airplane over Peru, Blair thought, as he watched the elderly gentleman take hold of a very large cheese. I can roll down a slope in England.
"One to be ready!" the Master of Ceremonies cried.
I can do this.
"Two to be steady!"
It's nothing compared to Peru.
"Three to prepare!"
Blair watched as the cheese began to roll down the hill, bouncing its way over the uneven ground at a fast rate.
What the hell am I doing?!
"And four to be off!"
As the line of competitors threw themselves forward, Blair went to step back, but his helpful companion, perhaps sensing his sudden change of mind, hauled him over the edge.
With a howl of, "Jiimmm!" Blair went. He had no idea where the cheese was and he couldn't bring himself to care. The world was spinning and people were yelling as he rolled his way down the hill, small grunts forced out of him every time he hit the surface.
Finally, the world stopped whirling, and he lay still.
Blair staggered as he was hauled to his feet and a large cheese, pit-marked by its rough handling, was thrust into his arms.
"Well done, mate!" The voice of his 'helper' sounded in his ear as a heavy hand slapped him on the back.
Confusion slowly cleared as Blair realised he was still alive, standing at the bottom of the hill, a very large cheese clutched to his chest.
"Chief! What the hell did you think you were doing?!" Jim demanded as he suddenly appeared in front of him.
Blair looked up the hill. There was no way Jim had rolled down there. "Hooow -"
"There's a path down the side. It's called the 'easy route'."
Ignoring Jim's comment, Blair held out his cheese. "I won the cheese, Jim." Now that the adrenalin was fading, he was vaguely aware of the aches and pains that were beginning to register.
"Sandburg, if you wanted cheese that badly, I would have gone to the grocery store and bought some, I swear. C'mon. Let's get you cleaned up."
Dragging an unresisting Sandburg along with him, Jim made his way back to their motel. He refused to stop and think about what motivated people to roll down a hill; his thoughts were focused on his guide and that lumbering idiot who'd dragged Blair over the edge of the hill. He'd known that Blair wouldn't go ahead with it - the kid had common sense and a healthy sense of self-preservation...most of the time. And if Jim ever got his hands on the jerk who'd pulled Sandburg over....
Well, maybe it was better that they wouldn't see that guy again. Jim didn't have any jurisdiction in England, which was a pity as he would have loved to have arrested the guy for something. He glanced at the dishevelled figure next to him. Make that, anything.
It wasn't until they were in their room that Blair spoke again.
"Jim, I rolled down the hill."
"I noticed, Chief." Jim removed the cheese from Sandburg's arms, grimacing as he did so. He didn't know what Sandburg had planned for the cheese, but Jim had no intention of eating it; Sentinel eyesight had already taken note of the dirt embedded in various pockmarks.
"I rolled down the hill for cheese!" Sandburg sounded indignantly annoyed with himself, almost as if he couldn't believe he'd actually been stupid enough to do such a thing.
"I saw that, Sandburg. Now maybe you'd like to get in the shower?" Jim pushed him in the direction of the bathroom.
"What on earth am I going to do with it?" Sandburg demanded as he began to shut the door behind him. "We don't eat that much cheese!"
Jim eyed the large cheese on the table. "And there's no way you can eat it all before we fly out again."
The door was yanked open and Sandburg came back. "Before we fly out?"
"Chief, customs won't allow it into the country."
"But I rolled down a hill for it!"
Turning him on the spot, Jim pushed him back into the bathroom. "And I'm sure that'll make all the difference to the nice customs officer." He grinned as he shut the door on his indignant guide. He couldn't wait to hear Sandburg try to obfuscate his way around that one.
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