TITLE: Distance
AUTHOR: winter baby
FANDOM: The Hire
CHARACTERS: The Driver, The Wife
SPOILERS: The Follow
SUMMARY: Whatever you do, don't get too close.

WEBSITE: http://www.livejournal.com/users/winter_baby
FEEDBACK: winter_baby@popullus.net
NOTE: Summary and the occasional line come directly from The Hire: The Follow.

+  Distance  +

When you get the job, you wonder who it's really for the movie star or him. He looks at you pleadingly and shoves money into your hands. He calls Mickey beautiful and a jerk, all in one breath. The movie star might be the jealous one, but he's the one who's carrying out this desperate act, and it makes you wonder if he's not half in love with Mickey.

The photograph of her is firmly in your jacket pocket, although there really is no need for it anymore. You've studied it, memorized the curves of her girlish mouth and the look of innocence in her eyes. She could wear whatever disguise she comes up with, you don't think you could ever mistake that face.

As you pull up to the address that he gave you, you see her come out of the house and slip into her car. She weaves in and out of traffic expertly, handling the convertible almost as well as you would have. You vary your distance by staying to the rear, to the right, but never more than a few cars behind.

She leads you outside L.A., where traffic gets lighter and lighter until you two are the only ones on the road. When she stops, it's nowhere. It's stretches of desert on either side of the highway and mountains in the distance, but nothing more than that.

She opens the car door and steps out, her long legs gracefully swinging out over the side. You slow your car a few yards away and watch from a distance as she wanders out into the desert, her back to you. She wraps her arms around herself because the sun is setting and it's getting colder. You would offer her your jacket, if things were different.

Birds squawk and fly off in a flutter of black feathers, obstructing your view for a moment. When they've gone, you see that her head's hung low and maybe she's crying. If you were little closer, you would swear you saw tears fall to the barren land.

The waiting is the hard part. Your mind wanders and begins to think of things that it shouldn't. Like what kind of woman would drive all the way out to the desert to cry alone. And what kind of man would intrude upon a private moment like that, even if she had no knowledge of it. Especially because she had no knowledge of it.

You break your own rule. It's not intentional; it's not even significant. All you did was look up at the wrong moment to find her staring at you through dark sunglasses. Nothing but a quick lock of the eyes, but it's enough to make you grab your jacket and leave the restaurant.

She's one of your targets, and you should know better than that.

Never meet their eyes.

You pick up her trail again a few blocks away from the restaurant. She stops at a bank and withdraws a large amount of money, her perfectly manicured fingers straightening the pile and slipping it into her purse.

You fear she might get mugged, carrying that much hard cash on her person. You fear that you'll have to be the one to save her, and then she'd know your face.

That last part scares you the most, though you don't know why.

In the darkness, the road is complete only as far as your headlights can reach. But the temporary blindness doesn't bother you. You've done this long enough to know instinctively which way the road will curve, how far till the next turn, how much room you have to maneuver. There are nuances and patterns and subtleties in roads, just like there are in any other art.

At night, all you can see of her is the glow of her taillights, the occasional flash of chrome whenever her car enters the direct line of your headlights. She pulls over and checks into a motel, the attendant carrying her luggage and opening the door for her. If she was having an affair, this is where she'd meet her lover.

Something tells you it's not as simple as that.

You spend the night in your car, watching her door and no one comes in or out. The next day, she leaves in the early mist of a barely risen sun, when the world is still colored blue. She has let her hair dry curly maybe to change how she looks but it doesn't fool you. You can tell it's her just by the way she walks, the way she carries herself.

And there's also the way she drives.

You don't realize that you've reached the airport until she's pulled her car into a long-term parking space. You look around to see planes take off and touch down, big clunky aircrafts jolting and screeching. You can't understand how people enjoy traveling in those things. There's no finesse in them; there's no grace.

Her flight to Brazil is delayed for almost a full day, and you listen to her as she explains in Portuguese to her mother that she won't be home until very late. By now you know that there is no lover. She's not running off to an exotic country with some boyfriend of hers to live off the cash she took from the movie star. She's just going home.

You suspect that it's part of your job to call the movie star and tell him that she's leaving. Instead you watch her as she sips her tea, and then as she falls asleep on top of the bar counter, her head resting in the crook of her arm. She stays like this for hours, and as the sun sets you think it's probably safe to sit next to her.

You just want to smell her scent, see her face up-close.

When you dare to crane your neck to catch a glimpse of her buried face, it's a sight which doesn't surprise you. The black and blue of her eye behind the sunglasses is something you expected, but that doesn't make it hurt any less.

You settle back into your seat and watch through the giant windows as a plane pulls away. The repetitive succession of oval windows passing through your line of vision almost makes it feel like you're the one who's moving, and the plane is the one standing still. It almost feels like you're driving past.


Her flight is called over the loudspeaker, and you notice that she's not waking up. There's a moment of hesitation, but really there's no question about it. You gently shake her shoulders and ask her if she's supposed to be on the plane to Brazil.

She looks at you through her sunglasses, and you think that there's a hint of recognition in her eyes when you finally meet them, that she's on the verge of saying, "You're the man from the restaurant." But she doesn't. Instead she thanks you in a small voice, grabs her bag, and leaves you.

It's the familiar feel of leather beneath your hand as you steer the car to the side of the tunnel. He comes up to your window, almost getting hit by oncoming traffic. A car whizzes by and when you hand him back the money, he looks confused.

"What's this?"

"I lost her," you answer him, and you mean it in every single way except the way he thinks you mean it. He gives you another blank look which tells you that he doesn't understand. And you know that he won't ever understand, because he won't ever know the feeling of losing something he's never had.

Before stepping through the gate, she gave one last look over her shoulder as if she knew she was being watched. You made yourself blend into the wall and didn't move until you saw through the window her plane taking off.

Only then did you allow yourself to breathe again.

You feel like you've spent your whole life in a car, surrounded by leather and the rhythm of the road. There's a cold comfort in the hum of the engine as you speed up, the blur of city lights as you drive past. You realize the only place you've ever been entirely certain of yourself is here, behind the wheel. Even in the midst of bullets and smoke and fire, you've never faltered, as long as you were driving. That's just not who you are.

You don't know how she changed all that.

Black road stretches out in front of you, and every mile you cover is another mile farther away from her. North. You travel north, partly because that's where your next job is, but mostly because it's the opposite direction of where she's headed. You in your car, her in her plane, and the expanse between grows with every passing milepost.

You did your job, you think as you drive through the night. You kept your distance.

[ end ]

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