Summary: Jim has a bit of trouble now and then with his bond to Blair,especially the tactile elements of their relationship.
**Notes: While I do NOT subscribe to the belief that
Jim is this dysfunctional, emotionally stunted neanderthal who can't show any emotion,
etc., this particular fic might come across that way, sigh. I don't mean for it to, I just
had this image in my head for some reason of Jim having some part of his soul that might
still occasionally feel threatened by being so 'enmeshed' (for lack of a better term) with
Blair and their unique friendship; and I wanted to explore that without completely ruining
each man's general reverence and appreciation of the bond they share. I know there's no
real action or drama in this fic, just a sort of reflective character study of a sort. So
if you make it through it after all this, I hope it isn't too disappointing.
taction: a touching or being touched; contact. [rare] (Webster's New World Dictionary)
It had nothing to do with sex, but everything to do with spirit, Jim thought to himself with something like desperation. That's exactly what he thought each time the edges of his life grew sharp and jagged again and the old, uncontrollable urgency began its work of breaking down his resistance, of overwhelming all reason. When the physical duress came upon him, he knew the particular need he felt wasn't carnal, at least not in the way that most people would classify the
term. Especially considering the person it was aimed at, he thought wryly to himself. No, it was something deeper, something on a decidedly spiritual level; and he was never quite sure why the realization was always so torturous, why it was so very difficult for him to relinquish the deepest parts of his soul to the bond that always existed to a greater or lesser degree between Sandburg and
It was the mutually exclusive combination of wanting and of resentment, of inchoate need melded with an instinctive, almost knee-jerk denial against such deep-seated yearning, that made Jim the craziest during certain phases of his partnership with Blair. But as much as he struggled to make all the disparate pieces of his body, soul, and mind fit and meld into a seamless whole inside his head, the sentinel's stubborn heart seemingly had its own agenda and had no desire to listen to the logic or reason of the mind. And since his heart seemed to be impossibly tangled inside the bewildering maelstrom of his oft-rampaging senses, Jim always ended up at a complete loss when the conflict escalated between the behaviors his conscious will dictated that he should follow and those that his body/soul demanded he pursue. Despite his mind's stubborn insistence that he could deal with this whole sentinel business pretty much on his own--that his soul needed nothing more than what it already possessed and that there was nothing Sandburg could give him that he couldn't dredge up from within himself-- some part of him knew it was a lie. For each time the restless, skin-crawling WANTING crept upon him anew, stealing his rest, his peace, and driving him to distraction, Jim recognized that there was only one person who could make it all go away. His best friend, his guide--Blair.
This need periodically rising within him--a need with which his partner was all too intimately familiar--was about friendship, about the spiritual side of things, Jim insisted stubbornly, over and over, knowing it was true but only partially true; for it wasn't JUST spiritual succor that his deepest essence craved from Blair at unpredictable intervals, wasn't JUST the hit-and-miss, quasi-psychic melding that he and Sandburg were able to sustain between them on a fairly consistent basis. No, it was paradoxically far deeper and simultaneously far more superficial than that; on some level, it came down in the end to the purely physical, after all--to the tactile, to the kinesthetic rush that his body and soul craved in equal measure from the slightest skin-on-skin contact with his best friend and partner.
If he was totally honest with himself, Jim had to admit that sometimes the urge just to TOUCH Sandburg was almost too much for him to bear; if left unchecked, the compulsion that regularly arose inside him to lay his hands on the other man's warm, living flesh and just...absorb...the pure, undiluted essence of his guide's unique energy became a tangible physical pain, one that gnawed relentlessly at the sentinel's gut until he could think of nothing beyond alleviating the insatiable tactile void yawning within him. And it was a void that no one else could fill--no woman, no matter how attractiveor alluring, held the power in her fingertips to bring Jim the relief both his soul and his hungry skin craved at such times. Going too long without that certain connection with his guide was like being in withdrawal from some powerful drug; when the pain hit, the yearning for even the most rudimentary level of physical connection with Blair was so overpowering that he found himself instinctively fighting against it, holding out for as long as he could in a vain effort to deny what had become a seemingly essential requirement for his soul and his sanity.
But it was always useless; when the 'touch madness' hit him--as he had come to drily label this intermittent malady--it didn't matter where he was or what he was doing. When the need hit his veins and began to spread throughout his system, his temper grew incrementally shorter with each sensory-deprived hour, his mute, diamond-hard gaze warning off everyone in his path lest they risk incurring the Wrath of Ellison. A wrath that was greatly embellished and exaggerated for the most part, Jim thought drily to himself; it was only on the rare occasions when this...NEED...awoke within him like some ravening beast that he could see how he might have come by that misappellation.
And it never helped matters that Blair always suffered in silence right alongside Jim during these episodes; while everyone else at work veered cautiously away from the unspoken menace in the sentinel's taut-jawed scowl, Blair merely sat quietly in his little corner of the Major Crimes bullpen, his steady blue eyes resting on his partner from time to time with a calm forebearance that made Jim clench his jaw even tighter, his molars grinding together with near-painful force. Oh, yes, at such moments Blair Sandburg was Stoicism itself, Jim reflected bitterly, but with the slightest twinge of accompanying guilt, some part of his soul sick with the knowledge that the younger man would be helplessly drawn headlong into Jim's pain along with him. And would stay calm despite his own suffering, saying nothing, conserving his own strength and will for the time when he knew Jim would need him the most.
Ellison knew from longstanding experience that Blair could always read the escalating hunger behind his partner's piercing glower, that Blair could sense his sentinel's growing tension as Jim moved with barely-restrained violence about the confines of the bullpen, fighting in grim silence against the raging beast clawing its way to life inside him. And when his growing irascibility eventually merited a summons to Captain Banks's office for a stern talking to, Jim was always aware of Blair coming to stand right outside Simon's closed door at the tail end of his sentinel's dressing down, patiently awaiting his own turn on the carpet once his disgruntled partner had brushed past him on his way back to the bullpen.
"Whatever's going on with you two, fix it!" Banks would growl at Blair, chomping down furiously on one of his ubiquitous cigars while glaring across his desk at the uncharacteristically reserved young man standing before him. And Blair would have liked to explain that it wasn't that easy, that it wasn't always HIS place but was instead sometimes JIM'S prerogative to make the first move back toward a state approaching normality for the both of them (normal for a sentinel and his guide, that is). But the police observer never actually said those words aloud to the man glaring at him from the other side of the desk. Instead, each time he was called onto the carpet in the wake of Jim's latest bout of boorish behavior, Blair merely lifted one longsuffering brow and in a quiet, rather dry tone dutifully acquiesced to the captain's impatient command for him to 'straighten out' his taciturn partner, as if Jim was some miscreant pet in need of a good whack on the nose from a rolled-up newspaper.
And it wasn't that Simon was deliberately trying to humiliate or demean Ellison; the truth was that he and pretty much ALL of the Major Crimes personnel had come to depend on Blair to keep Jim on an even keel and just took it for granted that he would be the one to help the other man restore his equilibrium whenever the detective seemed to be a bit 'off' now and then.
Blair always felt a strong measure of indignation on Jim's behalf at such cavalier treatment of his best friend's occasional struggles with his senses and with the demands of the unusual bond the two of them shared; the 'episodes' Jim had were actually few and far between, and it didn't seem quite fair that this strange sort of mythology seemed to have grown up around his truculent demeanor during those times. And Blair knew that each time he was called into the captain's office because Jim was a being a bit more...hostile...than usual, Jim always listened from his desk in the bullpen to Simon's barked commands for Blair to make everything bright and sunny again in the Mysterious Land of Ellison and Sandburg. Blair didn't even like to think about how humiliating it must be for the sentinel to have to sit there and listen to his younger, much less experienced partner being charged with keeping him in line; and he knew with a sense of weary resignation that his own growing angst and pain at the other end of their bond would become subsumed within Jim's steadily escalating ire as the day wore on, until at length the whole sordid mess would explode into a tense, emotionally super-charged exchange between them, hopefully in the privacy of the loft after work.
And all because I won't force him, because I won't just MAKE him take what he needs...what we BOTH need, Blair thought ruefully at such times, the hollow ache that usually lay dormant deep in the center of his chest reawakening and opening up and outward till it became a raw, gaping wound that he felt must surely be visible to everyone around him. But no one ever knew--no one ever even suspected the existence of the pain inside Sandburg that was almost a mirror to the anguish building in Jim Ellison's soul. Blair had become an expert at hiding his own discomfort, had even sometimes rather guiltily found relief in the notion that everyone was so caught up in Jim's temporarily anti-social behaviors that his own suffering wasn't even a blip on their radar screens. At such times he knew that his coworkers were aware only that SOMETHING was amiss in the Ellison/Sandburg Zone, but none of them wanted to delve too closely into the intricate details of the matter. They just wanted the endearingly offbeat duo of 'former military covert ops guy' and 'wild-child, hippie anthropology guy' back to their quasi-normal selves without any blood loss or permanent maiming in the process. And Blair really couldn't blame them; after all, he and Jim lived this whole sentinel/guide madness week after week, month after month, to the tune of almost three years as roommates and partners now, and even they couldn't make heads or tails of the whole mess some days.
So during Jim's rougher times, Blair tried to be patient with Megan's and Henri's and Rafe's hastily whispered pleas in his ear for him to 'fix' the other man as they all scuttled almost fearfully past Jim's glacially frozen scowls of doom; hiding his own surge of uncivilized hostility at their demands, Blair would crinkle up his forehead in a laborious show of deep thought, then make vague, endearingly hapless hand gestures in the air while blowing out a longsuffering puff of breath that conveyed the message to his anxious coworkers that for their sakes he would try. Try to make everyone's little world all cozy and serene again, even though the combined stress levels between Jim and himself might soon be reaching astronomical proportions...and at such moments Blair sensed that neither one of them would be able to withstand much more without some sort of major eruption looming just ahead. But he also knew when it was 'safe' to make the first move and when it wasn't; and when Jim got like this, it was most definitely not wise for Blair to press the issue and try to force Jim into doing something he just wasn't emotionally prepared to do.
No; Jim had to approach these periodic sentinel/guide bonding emergencies in his own way and on his own terms. And even though both of them always knew how it had to end, Jim at least deserved the respect and the courtesy of briefly maintaining the illusion of control over this sometimes uncontrollable area of their lives together. A part of Blair always wanted to ask Jim why he fought so
hard against the periodic renewal of their bond, why the simple expedient of the slightest, most basic physical contact between them to reestablish the vital link they shared should have to become such a huge, glaring issue. After all, it wasn't like they didn't touch each other all the time, anyway--Jim was notorious for teasingly ruffling Blair's wild halo of hair at odd moments or giving him light pats or squeezes on his arm just in passing, as if offering silent praise or encouragement for whatever his partner might be working on at the moment. And in return Blair was forever reaching out to pluck imperatively at Jim's shoulder or jacket or to catch at his wrist to gain the other man's attention when he had some bit of news or information he wanted to share with his partner. So it wasn't like
either of them was afraid to be seen touching each other or displaying the genuine friendship and affection they held for one another.
But the whole bonding scenario was definitely a horse of a different color, for all that the basic level of physical contact between them at such times was no more intimate at first glance than the lightest of arm brushes or the gentlest slap on the back. There was nothing...improper...about the ways they touched during moments of bonding, but the energy was just so different then, so much more intense, that Blair knew it was difficult sometimes for Jim to process the power of it, to open himself completely to Blair and to this one-on-one connection whose true immensity was almost impossible to describe.
And therein lay the reason for Jim's stubborn resistance to the need that surged to life within both Blair and himself from time to time. Jim had his rules, his boundaries; he was a pragmatic, self-sufficient man, but his confident temperament concealed a soul possessed of a much greater sensitivity than anyone peering into his cool blue eyes could ever imagine. Every soul picks up scars along its journey, and Jim certainly had his fair share; Blair had a feeling that the bits and pieces of past traumatic events that Jim had deigned to reveal to him thus far in their friendship might only be the tip of a very large iceberg where such matters were concerned. And for such a soul, the desire for a measure of protective distance between itself and the outside world was easily understandable.
Jim was not a hard or a cold man, not at all; nor was he unduly depressed or angry concerning the unpredictable vicissitudes of life in general and of his own life in particular. But in many ways he was a very private man, and Blair both understood and honored that aspect of his best friend's nature. In that respect, they were more alike than people knew; for all of his own surface openness and garrulity, Blair himself kept back a great portion of his inner soul from the prying regard of others. And aside from his mother, Naomi, Jim was the only other person on the whole damned planet to have successfully worked his way past so many of the barriers Blair had erected to protect and conceal the deeper levels of his own spirit. But the sentinel never presumed to intrude deeper into Blair's life and heart than Blair was prepared to invite him, and Blair did his best to repay the courtesy by respecting his partner's boundaries in return. At least until another of these bonding crises arose once again, and then Jim's worried and increasingly harried guide would begin to reconsider the uncomfortable notion that maybe he SHOULD intervene for both their sakes, even if such interference initially proved to be against his partner's will.
We're true soul brothers, indeed, my friend, Blair wanted to remind Jim each time these outbreaks of need and his sentinel's stubborn resistance to that need flared up between them. I would never intentionally hurt you, Jim, never force you to do anything you don't want to do, to feel anything you don't want to feel. And I know that sometimes this whole sentinel/guide business can get to be tedious and overwhelming, especially when your senses are acting up and seemingly taking over your whole world--meaning I get dragged right into the thick of it, and you're forced to deal with conflicting measures of both need and resentment toward me concerning my part in all this. But I know you, man, know in these instances just what you need...what we both need, together, Blair mused privately to himself each time the driving desire to physically reconnect and rebond with his sentinel washed over him. And the longing to take the reins and help Jim, to make it all better for the both of them, framed a compulsion so strong that Blair could barely bring himself to fight against it. But for Jim's sake he had to restrain himself; for Jim's sake he had to let his best friend come once again to his own realization that he and Blair were inextricably bound together, their destinies intertwined and overlapping in a partnership more wonderfully strange and powerful than any of their other friends could ever begin to imagine.
The beleaguered anthropologist-cum-police-observer just wished that it wasn't always so difficult for Jim to come to grips with the overwhelmingly powerful compulsion both men experienced periodically to rekindle and strengthen anew the unique bond they shared as sentinel and guide. Jim might fight with all his might the overwhelming urge he felt to make contact with Blair at such times,
just as Blair sometimes struggled with his own doubts and ambivalence concerning the formidably intense link between them. But when all was said and done, each man knew that for his own sake and for the sake of his partner, he must eventually reach out and physically connect with the other in the deeper soul bonding they both required--either through the slow, deliberate caress of fingers stroking one another's faces or encircling each other's wrists or through the clasping together of hands, Jim's fingers and Blair's entwining in a joint grasp of ineffable power. And when the bonding heat was fully on them, with even the lightest brush of skin on skin, for one brief, incredibly dramatic moment in time they would find themselves relinquishing any illusion of control and would give themselves completely to the electric rush of kinetic energy that snapped and crackled between them in the midst of their bonding, their touching forging new links and re-fashioning those already established to near-unbreakable strength.
He needs me then, more than he'll ever admit; and I need him, too, Blair mused wistfully to himself each time the first, faint stirrings of restless yearning began low in his belly, signalling the approaching pains of a bond in need of a little tlc. And even though Jim's increasingly harried and irate glowers at such times sometimes cut Blair to the quick, the guide knew that they were really nothing more than a knee-jerk panic reaction on Jim's part to giving up such a large measure of that infamous Ellison self-control. When they both became caught up in the bonding ritual itself, Blair was always amazed and humbled by the depth and intensity of affection and fierce loyalty that radiated from Jim's spirit to his own through the opened link between their two souls. The surge of unconditional love that each offered to the other during the bonding could neither be faked nor concealed, and Blair knew that it was this connection that kept them both strong and sane and complete. So if he had to put up with three or four days of truculent, crabby, monosyllabic Ellison ever so often to get to the good stuff again, then so be it; what it all came down to in the end was the knowledge that they belonged together, two parts making up a seamless whole that was far stronger than either of them could ever hope to be on his own.
And so the cycle started anew, Blair thought to himself when he awoke one cold, rainy morning to that certain gnawing feeling rising again in the center of his chest; and when Jim was uncustomarily abrupt with him at breakfast and could do little more than issue a few guttural grunts in response to Blair's patient explanation of why he might be late showing up at Major Crimes that afternoon, Blair merely drew in a deep, fortifying breath and ran one hand lightly, so very lightly, down the side of Jim's arm when the two of them converged at the coat rack to fumble simultaneously for their jackets.
"What?" Jim snapped acerbically, flinching away from his guide's ethereal touch as his blue eyes darkened and narrowed with suspicion. And Blair could see that Jim KNEW; he could tell from the faintest of electric tingles in the tips of his fingers where they'd made contact with Jim's arm that Jim had felt it--that quickly truncated jolt of yearning connection between them--as keenly as Blair had felt it himself. But Jim wasn't emotionally ready for the bonding, not even close; Blair knew that, as well, and with an inward groan of regret, the always-running-late anthropologist tamped down the growing sense of discomfort he could feel rising in his own body and mind and forced an innocent, somewhat befuddled smile onto his face.
"Sorry, man; just thought you had something on your sleeve," he murmured easily to the scowling detective looming like a storm cloud on the younger man's otherwise clear horizon. And Jim, knowing that he could hide nothing from his guide--knowing that Blair KNEW his sentinel had felt that delicious, compelling frisson of soul connection between them, could only snort in mingled self-disgust and dry amusement and find the agitated hardness of his gaze softening briefly as he stared down into Blair's earnest, up-turned face.
"Thanks for the valet service, Chief," Jim murmured, and for the merest second his lips fought to twitch in something near to a half smile. But he had a headache, a damnably rotten and intense headache, and stubbornly he didn't want Blair's help with it, didn't want any more touches, any more of the quietly measured cadence of Blair's voice soothing and calming him and drawing him in closer, ever closer, to that moment when all barriers would have to be demolished, all his senses opened wide to accept the unbelievable energy surging from Blair's body and spirit to his own, even as he sent all that he was hurtling back toward his guide in a wildly intoxicating rush that scared Jim to death because it was so much, it was too much, it was...everything. It was almost like sex, almost like dying, but at the same time it was nowhere close to either one; it was spiritual, it was eternal, it was life and need and Blair, in and around and all through him.
And Jim knew that when he finally gave in (not today but soon, very soon) and let the great wave take him--take them both--it would, as always, be the most intensely unforgettable ride of their lives. And it was one they would take together, again and again as the years passed and the connection thrummed strong and true between them. For now the headache would bait him, taunt him, excoriate him for his foolishness even as his nerves drew tighter and tighter and his scowl deepened as the day lengthened; but he knew that at the end of it all Blair would be there waiting, with the sardonic, half-peeved glint in his fathomless blue eyes giving way to the terrible gentleness that always made Jim come undone and ultimately sent him, shaking with relief, to the core of what he was meant to be. To what THEY were meant to be, together: sentinel and guide. Brothers. Eternal.