Unknown

By: Sharilyn

EMAIL: Sharilyn

Rating: PG13ish for language mainly

Summary: Yet another post-TSByBS study; introspection and angst on Blair's part, told in the dreaded first person pov (so sue me, I was channeling Blair for a bit!). And yes, in this one Blair really does take on most of the blame and really berate himself, which does not mean that I don't think Jim didn't have his own level of culpability in all this, snort; but I was just mainly trying to fit the song lyrics to what was going on with Blair in this particular version.

*Note* - This is also a songfic, the lyrics in the fic are from "Unknown" by Lifehouse.

 

*****

This doubt is screaming in my face

In this familiar place, sheltered and concealed...

 

It's hard, so hard, to stay here now, to sit down across the table from Jim every morning and evening and pretend that nothing's wrong. The whole dissertation fiasco still looms between us like the proverbial elephant in the living room, no matter how vociferous our protestations to the contrary; and even though it seems--at least on the surface--that we're all talked out on the subject, I think that both of us know we've actually barely scratched that surface, much less delved deeply enough beneath it to reach any real closure concerning the recent, near-fatal blow to our friendship.

It's so damned frustrating to find myself balancing daily on this precarious tightrope that stretches gossamer-thin between past hurts and insinuations of betrayal towards a murky, uncertain future whose parameters and permutations I can't even begin to descry. I wake up each morning telling myself I should make this easy for both of us and just leave; but even with all the bad that's ridden hard on our tails this past month, all I know--all I FEEL--for sure at the end of each exhausting day is the grimly unwavering certainty that every doubt and fear I have about my partnership with Jim pales in comparison to the overriding need I have to remain connected to him.

I can't begin to explain, either to myself or to anyone else, the nearly irresistible compulsion burning within me to stay in close proximity to this man who has been by turns my holy grail, my friend, my purpose and my madness...and very nearly my professional ruination, albeit through no fault of his own. It doesn't seem to matter that the man in question seems barely able to stand the sight of me sometimes now; if anything, Jim's poorly-veiled anger and ambivalence toward me only serve to stir the flames of this stubborn compulsion burning in my soul to keep clinging to the few, fragile threads of emotional connection still remaining between us.

And it's not as though I don't have my own share of dark, angry sentiments concerning Jim's part in all this festering and brewing inside the cauldron of my mind; but I guess I'm just a sucker for suffering. Cause even with my own anger back at him factored into the equation, I can't just walk away; it's like the colder the shoulder Jim turns to me, the more intensely rises this perverse, pathetically strong sense of need uncurling from deep within my gut. I NEED for things to be okay again between us, for this bond we've developed over the past three years to survive the torment of the past month and the mistakes we've both made. I know things can never go back to the way they were; but I also know that Jim and I have invested too much of ourselves, both personally and professionally, to just throw it all away. Even over something this tremendously dark and hurtful and damaging.

God, Jim, I never meant for it to go down like it did, never intended for you to become the target of so much hysterical, intrusive attention. But no amount of feeble apologizing and breast-beating on my part can rewind time and make it all go away; and I guess accepting and coming to terms with that harsh reality is the rocky starting point from which we have to move forward--TOGETHER, if we both so choose.

God knows I've struggled mightily over these past few days to make that choice for myself, and for a few agonizing hours I truly wasn't sure if I could live with the fallout from such a momentous decision. On some levels it would have been so much easier just to end it right here and now between Jim and myself, to bow my head before his disgusted rage and concede silent defeat. So much easier to destroy this friendship we've built so painstakingly (and at times, so joyfully) rather than seek to salvage the dregs of it and start building anew, creating a relationship with the potential to be even better and stronger than before. Neither one of us seems to have the mental, emotional, or spiritual energy left to tackle such a gargantuan task, and yet...and yet, I've discovered that the idea of NOT trying, of failing to even make the attempt, is such anathema to my soul that every fiber of my being shies away from the very notion of giving up without a fight. It's this sick, shaky fear at the core of me, this terror of never having Jim at my side again, that has ultimately made the choice FOR me where this matter is concerned. And now all I can do is wait for Jim's response, for him to make HIS choice.

...And if this night won't let me rest

Don't let me second guess what I know to be real...

He's out late tonight, ostensibly checking in on Simon and Megan and knocking back a few with the rest of the gang; it still troubles me more than a bit that Jim and I aren't the only ones who've been negatively affected by my ill-conceived grab at scholarly fame and fortune. And even though I know Joel and Rafe and Henri and all the rest have forgiven me for my part in the media debacle that ultimately endangered all their lives (however indirectly), I've had a hard time forgiving myself. But I've had time this week, isolated as I've been from what used to be my life, to reflect long and hard on the ripples of consequence created by the combination of my own sloppy methodology and my mother's incorrigible meddling; and I've come to see that on many levels I've been selling my friends short. I was just so caught up in my own pain and misery and shame that I failed to see the truth, failed to grasp and hang onto the things that stayed solid and dependable and REAL about my friends even during the worst moments of the sentinel scandal I created. I did them a great disservice two times over, first by dragging them through the muck of my mistakes and then by not trusting the inherent goodness of their natures when prostrating myself before them in my self-pitying, abject misery. I was so intent on using their expected disgust with me to further punish myself that I failed to see the truth staring mournfully, even somewhat angrily, back at me from several sets of familiar, loving eyes. All I knew--or thought I knew--was that if Jim couldn't forgive me, then no one else should, either; but Joel and the others let me know in no uncertain terms that I wasn't about to get off that easy. No; as Megan informed me rather stingingly from her hospital bed a couple of days after Zeller's insane attack on Major Crimes, they'd all put WAY too many man hours in on me to just let me give up and slink away like a thief in the night. As first-rate detectives, she tartly reminded me, they had ways of tracking me down if I so much as even THOUGHT about running away. And as for Jim and the undeniably rocky state of our friendship at this juncture, it seemed to be the concerted opinion of all of Major Crimes that the two of us HAD to work it out or all life on earth would surely end.

No pressure from THAT quarter, I think dryly to myself now as I wander rather forlornly into the kitchen and make a half-hearted attempt at putting a sandwich together. I just wish one of the gang had bothered to let Jim in on such a shattering revelation, as he still seems to be of the opinion that life as we knew it has already ended and maybe it's time now for the next phase of his new existence to begin--a phase that doesn't include his former roomie and partner, Blair Sandburg. But even as the constant, unrelenting fear of my own future without Jim in it pulses in tandem with my heart beat, I find myself clinging tenaciously to the one, irrefutable personal truth that I've managed to retain in the midst of all this madness. It's both a comfort and a revelation to me, this truth, and I refuse to doubt or second guess what my very soul tells me is real. The kind of friendship that Jim and I have shared these past three years is one of surpassing rareness, a bond unlike any that I've ever known or heard of between even the closest of friends I've observed; and I won't willingly let it go now, despite the cold distance Jim has erected against me.

...Put away all I know for tonight

And maybe I just might learn to let it go...

But I can't keep agonizing over Jim's reactions, can't allow this burning, churning rush of acid doubt raging within my gut right now to flood up from my stomach and force me, retching and weeping and broken, to my knees. I've thought and thought about our damaged friendship until I'm sick of thinking, have been by turns defensively angry and hostile toward Jim while simultaneously filled with a level of guilt and self-loathing that has kept me chronically sleep-deprived and morbidly depressed. But tonight I'm finally ready to let it all go; finally I've managed to drag my head far enough above the surface of my own personal drowning pool long enough to suck in a desperate breath of air and kick free of the heavy weight of misery dragging me down. I realize now that while I can't control Jim's responses to everything that's happened, I CAN understand and empathize with the reasons for those responses. Heck, I more than anyone should KNOW why he's reacted as he's done, and I have no right to tell him how he SHOULD be feeling, or to expect him to be at the same stage emotionally that I now find myself. All the accusations and recriminations we've exchanged this past month suddenly seem meaningless to me, just a vast sea of flotsam and jetsam churning in the unsteady wake of our laborious passing as we seek safe harbor in the aftermath of the terrible storm that almost swept us away forever. But I think--at least I HOPE--that I can see solid land in sight just ahead, and it is my silent, desperate prayer that when the battered boat of our friendship scrapes aground, I won't be the lone occupant staggering out onto the beach to press a fervent, grateful kiss to the sandy shoreline. I want Jim to be there with me, maybe still angry as hell but warm and solid and BESIDE me nonetheless, clutching fists full of wet, grainy sand like an offering to the gods as the last remnants of the emotional hurricane that tossed us here break apart on the waves behind us. Please, Jim, I plead now in the nighttime silence of this lonely loft, the lump in my throat much too large to even think about swallowing the dry bits of bread and turkey clutched in my hands. Please, Jim, let it all go, let our journey continue, TOGETHER...

...Take my security from me and maybe, finally,

I won't have to know everything...

God, I was such a putz, so sure of my own cleverness as a researcher and a scholar that I ignored some of the most basic requirements for crafting a proper dissertation. I allowed myself to become so caught up in my own part of 'the legend that is James Ellison' that I lost all my objectivity and most of my common sense into the bargain. And I can't really blame any of that on Jim; I approached him first, I was the one who insinuated myself into his life and started the both of us on the journey that ultimately turned into the voyage to hell.

Oh, I started out with the best of intentions, so naively certain that I could kill two birds with one stone by actively and sincerely helping Jim with his heightened senses while simultaneously furthering my own personal agenda. But somewhere along the way I fell just a little TOO in love with the notion of myself as Jim's indispensable back-up; and even though I knew deep down that three years of practically living in his back pocket had shown me nothing so much as my own lack of TRUE knowledge concerning his abilities, I tried to fool both Jim and myself that my skills as some sort of sentinel 'guide' were vital to his chances for leading a halfway normal life. But I guess I conveniently forgot that Jim isn't easy to fool; he knew all along that for the most part I was just 'winging it,' trying desperately to figure out the bewildering complexities of his sentinel abilities a bare half step ahead of the next, possibly deadly zone-out waiting just around the bend to claim his life or his sanity or maybe both. And yet, for some reason, he always gave me the benefit of the doubt concerning my uneasy role as shaman to his sentinel. I tried to live up to that trust, but sometimes late at night, in the quasi-privacy of my own little nook here in the loft, I used to ask myself how I even had the balls to keep putting myself out there as ANY kind of useful assistant to this man who took me in and trusted me enough to place himself and his unusual gift into my all-too-inexperienced hands. God, looking back now at the haphazard, hit-and-miss nature of the 'help' I offered to Jim, I find myself thinking, is it any wonder it all went so badly to shit in the end?

And yet...and yet, still I yearn for one more chance to be at Jim's side; my heart feels like it might burst with the intensity of the pain and need building up inside my chest as I admit to myself that as far as Jim's sentinel abilities are concerned, I no longer want or need cold, hard data that might satisfy some shallow, scholarly curiosity on my part without ever reaching down to the true heart and soul of what it is that Jim has given me and shared with me over these past three years. From the start I genuinely wanted to help Jim with his senses, to assist him in controlling and directing them to maximum effect so that he could live and function at his best; but somewhere along the way my interest in his abilities became woefully misguided. Now, if only we can start again, I'll be the first to admit to him all the things I DON'T know about this sentinel/shaman business but am still so eager to learn; I just hope he'll see and believe that my motivation this time around is pure and based on simple love and my desire to preserve the best, closest friendship I've ever known. But to do that, to convince him that the bond between us is truly worth salvaging, I'd have to actually see and speak to him. I just hope he's planning on coming home this evening; if he doesn't, it won't be the first time since my dissertation went public that he's found other digs for the night.

...I am falling into grace, to the unknown,

To where you are...

 

Where are you, Jim? I think almost desperately now as I absently set my uneaten sandwich back onto the kitchen counter and head for the expanse of windows stretching along one wall of the loft. Even though I know how foolishly useless it is to attempt to catch some sight of my missing roommate through the rain-streaked panes of glass, I find myself moving to stand right up against the glassed-in doors leading out onto the balcony, my tired eyes squinting grittily into the growing blackness of night as if I could claim a bit of Jim's stunning visual acuity for myself and track him across the miles of bustling city that both encloses and separates us at this moment.

Part of me is irrationally worried that he might be in trouble out there somewhere, lost within some unexpected, sensory-induced zone or injured because he's allowed the anger churning in his soul to distract him from his surroundings and deprive him of his usual inherent caution. I know that his leg still bothers him, that despite his surly assurances that he's fully recovered now, he still suffers intermittent twinges of near-debilitating pain from the bullet Zeller pumped into his leg on that roof a month ago. With his enhanced senses I can only imagine how much sharper each ache or muscle spasm must feel to him, and it breaks my heart that he refuses to even let me attempt to help him alleviate the worst of his physical suffering. These days I know that even a tentative 'dial it down, Jim' would not be appreciated coming from me, so each time I catch him moving a bit more stiffly than usual or clenching his already-taut jaw even tighter with stubbornly unvoiced pain, I restrain my instinctive need to leap forward with offers of assistance and instead tell myself that Jim is doing just fine on his own now, that he's coolly shown me that he can function quite well on his own and no longer needs me to keep him grounded and focused. Never mind that there have been odd moments, especially lately, when he seems to hesitate during the worst of his discomfort and almost turn toward me with some definite purpose in mind; I've pretty much convinced myself that those alleged 'moments' are really nothing more than wishful thinking on my part, and in every instance where I've almost fallen prey to these hopeful 'delusions' that Jim might actually ask for my help, he has rather abruptly turned away from me instead and left me empty in the wake of his cool, silent rejection.

But I still refuse to believe that it's too late for us, too late to save the core of our bond and our working partnership; despite all the apparent evidence to the contrary, I've found myself waking up these past few mornings with a strange, trembling sense of cautious hopefulness and expectation blooming weakly in my chest. On the surface Jim hasn't been any friendlier to me, his tone no warmer and no less brusque as he utters little more than monosyllabic grunts on the rare occasions when he's even speaking to me at all. But I can't help remembering that day at the hospital, after my impromptu press conference, when the dark glint of pained betrayal and disappointment in Jim's eyes softened into a form of regretful affection; over and over the words he spoke to me then, seemingly reaffirming our friendship, reverberate in my head in my lowest moments. I'm not sure how or why things turned so sour again between us afterwards; part of it was a result of outside pressure and flak from the giant, talking heads at the Cascade PD, coming down hard on Jim's and Simon's and even my own ass...and part of it was the sporadic, ongoing attention from the press that made it almost impossible for any of us to return to any semblance of a normal life again right away. Maybe most of Jim's resurging anger could be attributed to too many late nights where he merely lay wide-eyed in bed, rehashing and replaying events of the past few weeks in his mind until the memories became an acidic irritant that left his soul raw and abraded.

But as I stand here now, waiting for him to come home, I can only hope that the almost surrealistic sense of impending grace I seem to feel settling around me here is much more than my pathetic imagination running away with me. The arrival of night's shadows settling like a heavy curtain over Cascade would seem to exacerbate the persistent melancholy that has been my constant companion over the past few weeks; but as my eyes pick out the bright lights of residences and businesses and of cars heading eagerly home at the end of another long work day, I am filled with a strange sense of euphoric excitement instead of the woe that usually grips me every evening now. It almost seems like I can FEEL Jim's approach to the loft, that with just a bit of effort I should be able to pinpoint which one of those vehicle lights is his as he wraps up another grueling shift at Major Crimes and joins the throngs surging toward the comfort of dinner and tv and other familiar routines. And something deep inside me seems to whisper that, just as I long to escape this loft and fall to where he is, zeroing in on the white-hot flame of his unique essence out there in the midst of so many other souls, he might just be zeroing back in on me in return, some part of his troubled spirit recognizing and opening up to the sense of ineffable grace that seems to permeate the loft around me.

Something unusual is going on here, and I almost expect to turn and find both Jim's spirit animal and my own restlessly pacing back and forth in front of the couch as they, too, await the sentinel Enquiri's return. But when I turn to look, feeling slightly embarrassed that I'm even giving in to such foolish notions, there's nothing there. For the briefest instant a sharp pang of disappointment and something close to fear twists in my gut, but then the overriding sense of this other, lighter essence rises up around me again, and I grasp eagerly at the burgeoning sense of hope that has taken fragile hold of my soul. Come home NOW, Jim, I think with silent urgency as I move back to the windows and the deepening shades of night beyond the glass. Don't make this be nothing, don't take away all my hopes for a future for us, my dreams of our working together to take back all we've lost.

...And faith makes everybody scared

It's the unknown, the don't-know

That keeps me hanging on

to you...

I know in a sense I've been a big drain on Jim, at times using this whole sentinel/shaman thing as an excuse to hang on to him like some scaredy-cat little brother in need of his bigger, older sibling to help him fight his playground battles and in whose footsteps he doggedly trods, grabbing onto big bro's shirt tail for fear of being left too far behind. And stepping out into the great unknown on this strange journey we've taken together has been one of the wildest, scariest rides I've ever had the sometimes dubious pleasure of going on; so I confess there have been plenty of times when I've doubtless leaned on Jim's strength too much, when I've been too tentative in my efforts to help him manage his senses or have made one too many stupid, rookie mistakes in my unofficial capacity as a police observer at his side.

But through all of it Jim's always had some strangely reassuring and affirming level of faith in me, a faith that I can and often DO help him with his senses, a faith that if and when he really needs me on a stake-out or a case at work, I'll be there for him, USUALLY following his instructions and doing whatever he needs me to do to keep the both of us safe and to facilitate his getting the job done. That's maybe the scariest thing of all to me about our whole relationship--Jim's faith in me DESPITE my many instances of flub-ups and errors and the often hit-or-miss nature of my sentinel experiments with him as my grudgingly aquiescent test subject. It's been the lack of that faith in me that has hit me hardest over the past month, and as I stand here now I realize that I want it back; with desperate urgency I NEED to see that calm gleam of trust, of belief, in Jim's eyes again when he looks at me.

And I've a feeling he needs to see something more than guilt and defensive anger and silent recrimination in MY eyes when I look at him. I have a feeling that maybe--just maybe--Jim longs to see that old, impish gleam back in my gaze, the one that presages one of my wilder reminiscences as a wayward anthro major; or even that certain pleading, guilelessly soulful look I've perfected when I really, really want to try out a new experiment with Jim's senses. I know firsthand now how scary faith like that can be, especially the faith to trust in a friendship where both participants are playing around with a power unlike anything known to your average, 'civilized' modern man. The potential for the misuse or abuse of that power on the part of either its possessor or his partner is enormous; and over the past three years, it's sometimes taken an equally enormous amount of faith and trust on both sides to keep the friendship--and Jim's sentinel abilities--functioning smoothly and working to our mutual benefit. That level of trust has been sorely absent over these past weeks, but the very fact that both of us are still here, still living--however uneasily--under one roof together, has to hold some pretty deep significance.

Now maybe it's just time for both of us to stop posturing and side-stepping and put this behind us once and for all.

...I got nothing left to defend

I cannot pretend that everything makes sense

But does it really matter now if I do not know how

To figure this thing out...

He'll be home soon, I can just feel it in my bones, in my very marrow; and as my heart starts thudding dully in my chest like some silly school girl with her first crush, I shake my head and smile ruefully, imagining the drily amused look Jim would get on his face if he knew I was comparing my feelings about our friendship to some teenage girl's first romance. Well, hell, maybe I'm not all that far off the mark, I think with a discomfited blush staining my cheeks; being Jim's room mate and friend for these past few years HAS been somewhat similar adrenaline-wise to that first, crazy rush of excited hormones that a body gets when entering into a new love relationship. And if I'm to be perfectly honest, this whole sentinel/shaman bonding thing might be seen as just another form of courtship ritual if viewed under a different cultural standard from our own.

Right now I don't really know how to characterize what Jim and I have meant to each other, above and beyond the basic parameters of two hetero males hooking up as buddies and coworkers, that is; but I'm beginning to realize that labels and categories don't apply very well to the unique bond that Jim and I have come to share. And I really don't care if I can't quite figure out the intricate ins and outs of the way Jim and I live our lives together here; maybe it doesn't really even NEED to make sense in any conventional form. Suddenly none of that seems to matter; all that does matter is the knowledge that Jim and I have had one hell of a strong, vital friendship and have shared so many incredible adventures together that it would be nothing short of sinful to declare that friendship null and void now, effectively saying that none of these past three years meant anything special. We both know that would be a lie; working with Jim has been THE greatest, most fulfilling thing I've ever done in my life, and I can only hope that he feels at least a marginally reciprocal appreciation for the small part I've played in adding interest to his life in return.

...I am against myself again

Trying to fit these pieces in

Walking on a cloud of dust to get to you...

God, now I've given myself a headache with all this thinking, and darkest night has well and truly fallen outside the loft, with me still moping inside and no sign yet of Jim. As I move away from the windows and wander distractedly over to the couch, my recent, momentary burst of hopeful ebullience suddenly deflates into a weary uncertainty that anything will EVER come right again between Jim and myself. Just who did I think I was, trying to take one man's very personal, very private struggles with his extraordinary sensory abilities and turn them into my very own fantasy success story? How the hell did I ever even DARE to mess around with Jim's life and feelings like that? Sure, I might have had a few valid points on my side, and it's true that Jim can be a royal dickhead at times; but when it comes right down to it, I went about this whole thing completely wrong. And now...now I just don't care about any of it anymore, I just want to fit these broken pieces of our friendship back together again and do whatever it takes to get us back on track, back in sync together and moving forward to the next great thing...

"Sandburg!"

Jim's voice right next to my ear isn't all that loud, but the total unexpectedness of his presence here where he simply WASN'T a scant minute ago has me shrieking like a girl and leaping off the couch as if my ass has suddenly caught fire.

"Jim, JEEZ, what the---!" I choke out, dramatically slapping a hand to my chest as my terrified heart tries to pound its way right through my flesh. "God, man, don't DO that!" I add grimly as Jim stands behind the couch, the expression on his face a bemused mix of weary ire and grudging amusement.

"I--I didn't hear you come in," I mutter brusquely, lifting a disgustingly shaky hand to push my out-of-control curls behind one ear. "I guess I was...thinking. About something," I add lamely as Jim lifts one mocking eyebrow and turns aside to shrug out of his jacket. He never comes inside to the living area without hanging that jacket up first, I think absently as I watch him struggle to make it back over to the row of hooks by the front door without limping. He's working hard at not letting me see any sign of pain in his body, but I know him too well; he has to be hurting really bad for him to be so distracted that he'd forget to hang his jacket up first.

And as I watch his ridiculous charade of pretending his damned leg is just hunky-dory when his senses are obviously all over the map and making his half-healed injury seem magnitudes worse as a result, I have suddenly had enough of backing off and letting him push me away. I've done my time now, paid my dues, and if he wants to keep punishing me later, so be it; but right now, at this very moment, he WILL listen to me and let me help him. I can feel it building in me, the uncontrollable need to fulfill my purpose as his shaman, to be his helper now in dealing with his senses and his pain; and even as he turns back to me with a look of mingled anger and foreboding and--dare I think it--HOPE? carving lines into his exhausted forehead, I take one step forward, then two, and before he can summon the will to push me away one more time, I've wrapped both hands gently but firmly around his upper arm and am tugging him back toward the couch, using the confusion of his out-of-kilter senses to guide his body just where I want it to go. I know that he wants to protest, can feel his arm muscles stiffening rigidly beneath my fingers as he tries to pull back; but with smoothness born of long practice and numerous previous encounters with a fractious, over-tired sentinel, I manage to direct his movements so that he ends up practically leaning against me for strength and balance as I manuever the both of us over to the couch.

"Chief..." he tries gruffly, his eyes flitting briefly to mine with an expression that tries for anger but is just too filled with the ache from his bad leg to bother any longer with the pretense. Seeing nothing in my return gaze but the calm, simple knowledge and understanding of every impulse skittering haphazardly along his fractured nerve endings, Jim suddenly, almost relievedly, gives up all pretense at being strong and invincible and allows me to settle him onto the couch, a low groan escaping his lips as I toss a throw pillow onto the coffee table and then move with exquisite gentleness to lift his injured leg and position it atop the pillow.

"What scale are we talking here, Jim?" I ask quietly as he lets his head fall back against the back of the couch, his eyes mere slits in a face that has gone much too pale with the nauseating pain he's feeling. "Never mind, this one ranks a nine, easy," I mutter more to myself than to him, and he cracks one eye open wider than the other and gives me the barest ghost of a genuine smile. It has to be the most beautiful sight I've ever seen, that smile meant just for me, and a stupidly huge lump rises in my throat as I reach to give his left forearm a gentle, reassuring squeeze.

"Hang tight, my brother," I murmur to him as I straighten up, already making a mental list of the things I'm going to need to doctor Jim's leg and help him manage his pain levels. "I've got you now, and before you know it, Zeller's nasty souvenir is going to be nothing but a very faint memory."

"Blair, I--" Jim tries gamely, his exhausted blue eyes struggling to focus on mine as he lifts his right hand and tries to snag my shirt sleeve to hold me in place. "I--" he tries again, but I merely curl my fingers around his and gently pry them from my sleeve.

"Shut up, Jim," I order with a smile, and as another wave of relentless pain courses through his body, Jim finally gives up and gives in, his clenched jaw relaxing minutely as he gazes up at me through eyes softened with chagrined relief at my presence here with him. There is gratitude for my help in his stare, along with a sudden burst of sorrow that has me blinking back heated tears of release as the hard, agonizing lump of grief in my own chest suddenly begins to break up and melt away.

"Rest," I instruct him, and he merely nods this time, eyes sliding closed without argument as an almost inaudible groan sneaks past his pale lips. And as I move with quiet urgency to gather up the things I'll need to tend to Jim's leg, I muse to myself that everything I really need is already right here inside me, the shamanic part of my soul geared up and prepared to attend to my sentinel, my friend, both of us moving toward the restoration of the delicate but blessedly unbreakable bond stretching between us.

 

The End***

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