It's About Trust - Epilogue to Sentinel Too, Part Two
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"Where do you want me to put this, Chief?" Jim held up one of Blair's tribal masks.
"Back in the box you pulled it out of," he said from his spot by the front door. He hadn't moved from there since they'd returned to the loft from the airport. Blair couldn't bring himself to call it home again. The last thing he wanted was to get comfortable only to have Jim freak and kick him out again. There was no way he was going through that. Not again.
"Come on, Chief, we can't just leave your stuff in these boxes."
"Yes, we can. Why unpack when I'm moving out as soon as I can find a place?"
"What? Why? I thought we'd squared things between us before we left Sierra Verde."
"No, man, you decided things were cool between us. You never asked how I felt. The great Jim Ellison decided everything was okay so therefore it must be. But it's not. I apologized for not telling you about Alex Barnes sooner and I'm sorry you felt like I betrayed you but I really don't give a shit about that right now."
Jim stared at him in shock as Blair moved a couple of angry steps into the room. He couldn't remember seeing Blair this pissed off and he was really starting to get worked up.
"I have yet to hear you utter one word of apology. You know, a sorry I freaked and kicked you out without giving you a chance to explain anything. Sorry I let you get killed. Sorry I had the hots for the woman who killed you and kept trying to protect her. Sorry I don't give a shit about how you feel. Something along those lines would have been nice. Now unless drowning has made me hard of hearing I haven't heard anything like that come from your mouth, so you know what? Screw you, man. I'll still come by the station and help you with your senses, otherwise you live your life and I'll live mine. End of the damn story." That said, Blair stormed across the loft and slammed the door to his room closed making the glass rattle.
After a moment of stunned silence Jim placed the mask on the shelf he was pretty sure he'd taken it off of. Quietly he set about unpacking all of the items he'd packed up just before shoving them at Sandburg. He was not going to lose his Guide again. If he had to he would cuff Sandburg to him before allowing him to leave. He wouldn't lose him. Blair was his Guide. His Guide to protect and cherish. Not that he had done either lately.
Sinking down onto the couch, he ran his fingertips over the glass covering a photo of him and Sandburg at a Police picnic last summer. He had his arm slung over Sandburg's shoulder and they were smiling. They had been happy that day. He remembered Sandburg gloating the entire ride home about how they'd beaten Vice in the softball game. It was hard to admit he had feelings for the kid. Hell, it was hard for him to admit he had feelings for anyone. Some how in the three years they had known each other Blair had become his Guide, his best friend, and younger brother. While Steven was his brother by blood their father had seen to it that any feelings of closeness they had with each other were destroyed by the need to please him, to compete with each other. He didn't feel any of that competitiveness with Sandburg. Just the need to protect and cherish him the way he should have done with Steven.
Instead of doing that he was constantly pushing him away, hurting him with out meaning to, trying to ease the guilt he felt inside. Jim didn't know what to do. He couldn't let Sandburg leave, but at the same time he was afraid of what other hurts he might inflict upon him if he stayed.
Hugging the picture frame to his chest, Jim stretched out on the couch. Without thinking about it he extended his hearing and latched onto Blair's heartbeat, letting its' steady rhythm lull him to sleep.
Jim found himself standing in the jungle at the edge of a small clearing. Incacha stood beside him, but before he could say anything the snarl of a wolf caught his attention. On the other side of the clearing stood the grey wolf he recognized as Blair's spirit animal, its' back against a tree. Blood covered its' front left leg, seeping from a wound in the shoulder. In front of the wolf his black jaguar paced, making a soft whimpering sound. Every time the jaguar tried to get closer to the wolf, it snarled making the jaguar back off.
"What's going on, Incacha? I don't understand."
"The panther has wounded the wolf and broken the trust between them, much as you have done to your Guide."
"I broke the trust? He's the one who broke the trust. He never even tried to tell me about Alex."
"Didn't he? Or were you just not listening?"
A scene from the past appeared before him. Blair was following him through Major Crimes.
"Hey, Jim, I've gotta talk to you. I met this woman and you are so not going to believe this, but I think..."
"Not now, Sandburg."
"But, Jim, I..."
"I don't care about your love life, Sandburg. Now leave me alone."
"Love? No, Jim..."
Jim turned so suddenly the younger man bumped into him. "What part of leave me alone didn't you understand? Go away, Sandburg."
With that Jim turned and stalked into the elevator, leaving Blair to stare uncertainly after him. "Sure, Jim. I'll talk to you later."
As the scene faded away Jim let his gaze drop to the ground. "He tried to tell me, but I could already sense her and it was driving me nuts. She was in my territory and I could smell her on my Guide and it infuriated me, but at the same time...at the same time I was drawn to her. He said he understood."
"The Guide understood the animosity two Sentinels would have for each other as well as the attraction, but the man does not always understand these things. Are there not times when you understand something as a Sentinel and not as a man?"
"Yes, but Blair always has an explanation."
"And who explains things to him? Who does he turn to for answers?"
"I...," Jim stopped finally realizing. "No one. There is no one for him to turn to. He's always been alone in this. Why didn't I realize that? Why didn't I see it, Incacha?"
"The Sentinel relies on the Guide to anchor him. The Guide understands this. The Guide relies on the Sentinel to protect him so that he may anchor the Sentinel. When the two fall out of balance one is always injured."
"When you stopped protecting your Guide he was injured."
"I never meant for that to happen. I didn't know what was going on. I was so angry. Every nerve felt like it was on fire. I never meant to hurt him."
"Didn't you? Did you not want to teach him a lesson for going near another Sentinel?"
Jim couldn't answer for a moment. Guilt made his voice a bare whisper, "Yes. He's my Guide. He never should have been anywhere near her. My Guide, not hers."
"The Guide understood this and would have forgiven this, but you still turned your back on him. You chose his killer over him. Even the Guide cannot explain this. It is you who has broken the trust."
Jim stared at the wolf seeing the fine tremors that wracked the slender body. He saw the hurt and fear and anger in the deep blue eyes. He had caused that pain and he couldn't expect it to go away just because he wanted it to. This wasn't something he could control. Only Blair could tell him when things were right between them.
The panther moving caught his attention. The panther was flat on his belly edging towards the wolf, the sound of his low whine filled the clearing. The wolf started to growl but didn't snap. He just watched the panther warily. At the wolf's feet the panther rolled on to his back exposing his throat. In an instant the wolf's mouth closed over the offered throat. Jim froze, his own throat constricting in sympathy.
"You must face your Guide," Incacha said.
Suddenly Jim was staring up at the ceiling of the loft. Extending his hearing, he found Blair's heartbeat in the kitchen. By the smell he was making coffee. Sitting up, he put the picture down on the table and started absently rubbing the creases out of his arms. Blair's heart rate had jumped a little when he sat up, but quickly settled back down.
"You shouldn't be sleeping on the couch. It's bad for your back." There was a slight pause. "Or were you making sure I couldn't disappear in the middle of night? I noticed you unpacked most of my stuff. You can put it all back cause I'm still moving out. You don't control my life, man."
"I failed you," he said quietly. When there was no immediate reply he turned around. "I said I failed you."
"I heard you. I'm just not sure I -heard- you."
"I failed you as your Sentinel and as your friend. I couldn't...no, I didn't want to face that fact. I wanted to pretend the whole thing never happened because then I wouldn't have to admit that I failed you. You need to be able to believe that you can trust me to protect you. If you can't trust me you can't Guide me."
Blair's eyes narrowed suspiciously, "Who are you and what have you done with Jim?"
"I'm being serious, Chief."
"So am I. The Jim I know never apologizes for anything."
"And look where that's gotten us." Jim rose from the couch. Crossing to the counter he pulled out his gun and placed it in front of Blair.
"Um, Jim? What are you doing?"
"I'm giving you control. Whether you shoot me now or you move out the end result is the same. Maybe it won't happen today or it maybe not next week, but some day the breach between us will have grown so far that you're not going to be able to bring me out of a zone. So we might as well get this over with now and just shoot me. You have complete control over this situation, Blair. Because I can't tell you to trust me. Hell, I wouldn't trust me after what I did to you. All I can say is that I am very and truly sorry. I wish to God that I had never turned my back on you the way I did and I won't blame you if you want to end the whole thing right now."
Blair stared down at the gun, for once his face completely unreadable to Jim. Slowly he reached out for the gun, running his fingertips over the barrel lightly before picking it up. He checked the magazine to see if there were actually bullets in it, then turned off the safety. Jim didn't move as Blair leveled the gun at his chest, he barely even breathed, waiting for his next move. He saw all the same hurt and fear and anger reflected in Blair's eyes that he had seen in the wolf's. His throat tightened until he thought he was going to asphyxiate himself. Blair stared at him, seeming to see into Jim's very soul, reading everything through the surface of his eyes.
The loud clattering of the bullet magazine bouncing off the countertop echoed through the loft. Blair lay the gun down next to it. "I do trust you, Jim. You have to trust me. We're both going to do stupid things that hurt each other, but you have to realize and accept that it's rarely intentional. That's what friendship is all about. Trusting someone enough to look past the time or two when they hurt you. To always be there for them even when you're still so angry that it hurts. Can you do that, Jim? Can you trust me that much?"
"I'm trying, Chief. I'm really trying."
"Well, try hard, Jim. You only get so many chances." Blair picked up his coffee mug and walked towards his room. He paused in the doorway, his back to Jim. "I won't move out, not yet, but it doesn't mean things are right between us. It's going to take a while for things to be right. It doesn't just happen over night, but we'll work things out. We always do."
Jim watched the door close, the tightness in his throat easing up until he could breathe again. Blair hadn't shot him and he wasn't moving out. Things were going to be all right between them. Suddenly Jim felt very tired, the adrenaline that had sustained him since he woke from his vision drained out of him leaving him very tired. Climbing the stairs to the loft, Jim latched on to Blair's heartbeat letting it lull him to sleep before his head even reached the pillow. All was right in his world.