Disclaimer: Just borrowed, briefly
Warning/Notes: Standalone. AU. Sentinel-Guide "Bond" Story.
The expedition was offered at just the right moment. Blair needed a break. He had to get away or lose his temper, or his mind. Hed lived and worked with and for his Sentinel for more than two years. Theyd been busy, happy, interesting years, and he wouldnt have traded them for anything, but lately things hadnt been well between Sentinel and Guide. Nothing Blair did seemed to be right.
Serve as unpaid private secretary, researcher, and computer consultant? Sure. Do most of the cooking, cleaning, and shopping? Sure. Keep up his own work, both as student and teacher? Sure.
But the Sentinel was unhappy with all of it. He didnt like the way reports were being written, although Simon had actually taken a surprising moment to praise them. Jim didnt like how long research took, especially when Blair took an hour to help Rafe track down an elusive clue one afternoon. Rafe might have been effusively thankful, but the Sentinel resented the time Blair had "wasted." He grumbled about Blairs commitments at Rainier, all but claiming Blairs academics were unimportant. Further, he didnt like the scent of the laundry detergent, the level of cleanliness in the bathroom, or the meals his Guide prepared. It availed Blair not at all that the laundry detergent had not changed, the bathroom was cleaner than it had ever been, and most meals were meticulously crafted from fresh ingredients and recipes that Jim had always loved in the past.
So, offered a chance for a six week dig at site in northern Washington, Blair gave Simon a weeks notice, warning him that he would not be giving Jim the same. He was afraid of what Jim would do with seven days. Not that he was physically afraid, but it didnt hurt that Jim had been so blatant that Simon had noticed how badly Jim had been treating Blair as well as his colleagues, especially Rafe. Simon told Blair that he understood and reminded him to come back.
Blair spent the day before he was to leave re-cleaning the loft, stocking Sentinel-safe products, and freezing a few good meals. He left a meticulous note for Jim about what hed done, where things were, and how to contact him in an emergency. Before he left the loft, he put one copy of the note on Jims pillow, attached a second to the refrigerator door, and took a third copy to leave with Simon.
Shortly before Blair headed to campus and the bus to the dig, he detoured to the Station and went up to Major Crimes. By design, he found Jim in Simons office and told him about the dig as he handed Simon his copy of the note. As he had predicted, Jim was furious, but Simon managed to step in before he really got rolling, and Blair was able to flee relatively unscathed, with the full knowledge that he was, indeed, at least on one level, running away.
Jim, for his part, knew that hed been unreasonable, but hadnt really been aware of the extent of his boorish behavior. All he knew for sure was that he found himself more and more dependent upon on the physical presence of his Guide. And he resented it.
Recognizing his resentment didnt cure it. He was stunned and angry when his Guide made plans to leave him, even for only six weeks, without warning. Only Simon kept him from doing something or saying something he might have, probably would have, regretted and that he might not, probably would not, have been able to fix.
For the first week, Jim was angry and resentful. Blair, for his part, was calm and generally relieved to have gotten away from all the stress. He hadnt been on a dig in some time, and he was reminded over and over why he had always enjoyed them. Besides the constant little thrills of discovery, he was also relishing the company of enthusiastic students, a friendly peer, and a generous advisor.
During the second week, Jim became anxious. By the end of the week, he had moved into Blairs room to sleep on the futon, surrounded by his Guides scent and his Guides things. These reminded him that the Guide would return. He did wonder how Blair managed to sleep on the futon; it was pretty uncomfortable. Blair, on the other hand, slept peacefully, better than he had in weeks.
During the third week, Jim couldnt leave the loft, and he began to see that he had made a serious mistake in being so unreasonable toward his Guide, and the full extent of his behavior was now much clearer to him. Blair, for the first time in too long, didnt spend too much time worrying about his Sentinel and all the recent aggravations. The dig was fascinating.
During the fourth week, Simon visited the loft and found the Sentinel sleeping in his Guides bed, clutching a shirt hed taken from the pile of laundry Blair hadnt gotten to before hed left. Realizing that he should have come by sooner and regretting that hed just thought that Jim was having the Sentinel equivalent of a temper tantrum, Simon realized it was too late to merely call Blair for advice. Packing a small bag with some of Jims clothes and gathering a collection of what he hoped were the correct toiletries from the bathroom, Simon led the remarkably docile Sentinel to his car. Using his cell phone as he headed toward the highway, he contacted the University and got the directions to the dig.
Blair, informed that Simon and Jim were coming, became anxious in turn. Hed been able to focus on something other than the Sentinel for three and a half weeks, only just then realizing how all encompassing the Sentinel had been. Was it so wrong for him to have wanted a little time to focus on himself, his own life, his own interests?
As Simons car got closer to the dig site, Jim came more and more back to his old self. He was able to release Blairs shirt and set it on the backseat of the car. He and Simon were able to have a quick chat, to plan a strategy. Jim now knew that if he started making demands or accusations he would risk losing his Guide for real. A safeguard was clearly in place to keep larger, stronger Sentinels from dominating or abusing their Guides.
So, Jim got out of the car and approached his Guide slowly. Meeting the younger mans eyes, he asked only that he be allowed to stay on at the dig as a volunteer-worker for however long Blair remained.
Dr. Max Stein, the dig supervisor, was a little startled by the sudden appearance of Blairs friends. He knew that the grad student was working with the police for his dissertation, but he didnt really understand why the two men had come out to the dig. He made himself welcome them, and he accepted the surprising news that one of them wanted to remain at the site and to work as a volunteer. Stein put Blair in charge of training him what to look for and how to avoid damaging anything he might find. He was a bit confused by Blairs seeming lack of enthusiasm, but he put that down to the younger mans being tired by the long day. With a little shuffling of the undergraduates, he cleared a two man tent for the police officer to share with his friend.
Simon took his leave quickly, thinking that if he stayed Blair might find a reason why Jim should return to Cascade with him. Part of him wanted that to happen, but another part of him, the part of him that was a good detective, realized that Jim needed Blair to function and to keep up with the work that had made him Major Crimes, indeed Cascades and even Washingtons, best detective. He further realized that he and his department had been taking advantage of the unconventional partnership. He, himself, often expected Blair to do the work of a cop, and frequently that of a secretary and a computer consultant as well, but he never gave Blair the credit for all his hard work. Hell, Blair put in more overtime than half the department.
The young man had ceased to be an observer almost as soon as he signed up to help to Jim, and no one at the PD had taken that into account in any of the ways that they should have. At the very least, the very least, Blair should have been getting paid for all the office work he did, even if most of it was in the service of just one officer. Simon decided it was time he did his part to encourage the younger man to stay. Surely there was some money that could be shaken loose in support of the high solved rate of his department.
Watching Simon drive away had been difficult, but Jims first night in the camp was a quiet one. He spent the evening quietly soaking up the sounds and scent of his Guide, grounding his senses and thinking about his epiphany. He wasnt quite sure how to bring up his revelations, especially since he knew that Blair wasnt actually happy to see him. He had a lot of ground to make up.
Blair spent that first night in fitful sleep. Much of the stress he had managed to escape returned and settled in his shoulders and neck, making him stiff and uncomfortable. He was, he admitted to himself, fond of his gruff roommate, but he was also exasperated with him. Why couldnt Jim have just given him his time off? Why had he come?
The next couple of days were a revelation for the Sentinel. Here his Guide was in his own element. Here no one put him down, shouted at him, or ignored him. His students clearly admired, trusted, and liked him. They asked him questions, fully expecting him to be able to provide answers or to help them to find their own answers. His fellow graduate student, Eddie Ruiz, had a complementary set of skills and knowledge, and the two worked well together, sharing information almost without thought. Dr. Stein clearly respected his young colleagues and showed his affection for them in quiet teasing. Yet, he was also willing to help, without judging them, when they had a question or concern.
Here Blairs character traits were celebrated, not wished away. His stories tying what they found to other cultures were appreciated, especially by his note-taking students. Other stories made the nightly campfires enjoyable, and he helped the nightly gatherings further by playing a small drum while Eddie told his own stories and by playing his guitar while the students sang.
When Simon returned during the fifth week of the dig, bringing pizza for the whole group, the paperwork for Jims abrupt "vacation," and some extra sunscreen and socks for both Blair and Jim from the loft, Jim hadnt yet had the opportunity to really talk to Blair. He still wasnt completely sure what he wanted to say to him. The few days since Simon had left him here had been quiet days of discovery.
Blair, for his part, snagged a piece of vegetable-covered pizza, but he wished that Simon would go. He also wished that Jim would go. While it was clear to him that Jim found the dig a quiet and relaxing place, it had ceased to be either for Blair because he was so unclear about why Jim had come. The silent, contemplative Sentinel was driving Blair almost as crazy as the angry one whod driven him from the loft. However, when Simon drove away, he was once again alone. Jim stayed.
Further, Jim knew that he was making Blair unhappy, intruding upon what had been a peaceful time, a stress-free break, from the world of his Sentinel and the Cascade PD. His senses, freed from the citys overwhelming stimuli, and grounded by his Guide, were back in his firm control. The pristine area around the dig was full of quiet natural sounds and scents and sights. Except for the question of his Guide, Jim could have been content here.
Finally, as the sixth week moved inevitably toward the end of the dig, Jim spoke into the quiet of the tent he shared with an unsleeping Blair. "Chief?"
"Jim? What, um, exactly are you sorry for?" Blair rolled over in his sleeping bag, trying to make his eyes see across the darkness to his tent-mate, knowing the Jim could easily see him.
"For being so difficult back home. For intruding on you here. I know you wanted a break from me. Simon brought me because I I couldnt leave the loft. I was sleeping in your room. You werent there, and I needed need a my Guide." He waited, but Blair for once was silent. "I cant do this without you, and, Chief, I took that out on you. Its not your fault." He ran a hand over his short hair. "Chief?"
"I dont know what you want me to say here, Jim. You tell me you need me, but youre also telling me that you treated me like shit because you needed me." He sighed. "What am I supposed to do with that information?"
"Chief, Blair, I understand what it is now. Ill be more careful. I even understand your academics a bit better now." He paused, swallowing painfully, "Youll come home, right?"
"Oh, Jim," Blair sighed again. "Of course Im not going to leave you while you need me, not for long anyway, but, Jim, man, you gotta cut me some slack. I have other commitments. I have to have a job that pays me something so I can eat and put gas in my car. You dont seem to understand that I love what I do as much as you love what you do. You dont seem to understand that the PD is your job, but that they dont pay me. At the University, Im someone with a reputation and a recognized, appreciated set of skills. For most of the PD, Im just some weirdo who follows you around, and they probably make bets about when youre gonna get tired of me and throw me through a window."
"For the first time, Chief, I think I do know all that. But. But I really do need you. I cant function, really cant function, without you." Jim turned to stare into Blairs eyes, although he knew that the other man couldnt see him. "Do you know how hard it is for me? Im a cop. I was a Ranger. But I somehow I ended up needing a neo-pagan hippy witchdoctor punk anthropologist just to get through the day." As he spoke his voice got softer and softer as he realized, himself, just what he was saying. Half-choking on tears he refused to let loose, he forced the final words out, "Blair, dont leave me."
A rustling noise alerted him that Blair was moving, and then arms were pulling him into a tight, warm embrace. One hand moved to rub soft circles over his back. "Ah, Jim, I wont leave you. Well work it out."
And Jim Ellison wept and was comforted. He vaguely remembered something Blair had once told him. Sometimes those on digs discover all sort of unexpected things.