A Life Was Lived...
Notes: beta-ed by Cheryl Richardson. Originally submitted to SA as a dues story.
Disclaimer: Jim and Blair belong to Pet Fly. I'm just borrowing them for the month. All original characters are mine.
Jim stood staring out the balcony doors, his gaze distant but unfocused. He was wound so tightly that he jumped at every sound. The creaks and groans of the loft settling sounded like the anguished cries of a dying animal. He couldn't dial down the sound so he was taunted and harassed with it's mournful cry. The sudden jangling of the phone ringing in the apartment below made him suddenly realize he'd been waiting. Waiting all this time for a call that had already come.
Once again, as if he were hearing it for the first time, his ears remembered the tearful sound of his ex-wife's voice sobbing as she told Jim about the death of her father. A man who'd surrounded his family with quiet strength and irrepressible humor. One who had welcomed Jim into his domain, as a son, the lost, lonely but eager to please husband of his eldest daughter.
Jim was stunned by the amount of grief he felt and the lost, empty feeling in his chest at the sudden news.
Carolyn had only just heard from her younger sister. The first call had been so jumbled and confused, Carolyn thought her father lay dying with no medical help in sight. Her mother's call a short time after cleared that up and she knew that her father was gone. The second call had interrupted her frantic packing. She had been throwing clothes haphazardly into her bags trying to make plane reservations...desperately hoping to get home before it was too late.
Her grief stricken words echoed loudly out of the phone and into the silent Loft. "My father's gone. My Daddy's dead." Jim had been so shocked he hadn't been able to say anything but, "My God! I'm sorry Caro. Are you all right?"
He had winced at the stupid words knowing obviously, she wasn't all right. And what comfort was his sorrow. She and her mother and sister needed his strength not his misplaced sorrow. My father isn't dead, he thought deprecatingly. He had no reason to grieve. And yet he couldn't push down his very real and debilitating pain. Frank Plummer had accepted him from the start even before his wife and younger daughter.
Frank had become a father to a man whose only experience with that institution was harsh, destructive words and a competition for a love that was all too conditional . Frank had introduced the true meaning of fatherhood: unconditional love, true support and gentle words. After Bud's death Jim hadn't known a positive male role model until Frank took an interest in him. Jack Pendergast his first and only Major Crime partner until Blair's appearance almost three years ago was more like that of a big brother or older cousin and in some ways he wasn't the best at modeling sterling behavior. Still he too had disappeared from Jim's life, unexpectedly and with controversy surrounding his absence. It wasn't until later Jim knew he had been killed and always a part of those memories would be tarnished by what he had been doing when Jack died.
This kind of pain didn't make any sense to the Sentinel. He hadn't seen Frank since he and Carolyn divorced but Frank always kept in contact even after Ellison reconciled with his own father. Frank had been excited and pleased to hear that. He had promised to come down to and visit Jim and take him on a fishing trip.
Clenching his fist Jim tried to force back the mutinous tears that gathered and overflowed his tightly closed eyes. The tears ignored his efforts and ran over his red, blotched cheeks. Another promise had been broken, another person Jim had trusted and loved had left him. He had been abandoned by another parent. Breathing in harsh breaths he turned from the balcony doors and stumbled over to the couch. Sinking down heavily onto the cushions he lowered his face into his hands and scrubbed his cheeks with his fingers. The sigh that escaped him was deep and shook his body. He felt himself getting caught up in the deepness of the breath, his hearing spiking to follow the sound all the way down into his lungs and his sense of touch captivated by the feel of his muscles releasing. He knew he was slipping into a zone but was unwilling to stop the slow inexorable slide into the gray swirling mist.
With another gentle sigh he slumped down onto the couch lost to the world and his devastating pain and loss.
Blair climbed the stairs quickly. He knew something was wrong, something with Jim. He reached the third floor out of breath and anxious. The Guides anxiety caused his hands to shake so badly, that he dropped his keys three times,before he managed to finally get them in the lock. With a curse he turned the key. The lock released and he shoved the door open almost falling over the threshold. Getting his balance he tossed his backpack and jacket into the corner by the door and his keys toward the basket on the table by the door. He didn't notice he missed.
Moving into the Loft, he hurried toward the stairs leading up to Jim's bedroom. He knew the sentinel was home because he'd seen the truck parked across the street from the building. Something, he would never be able to define what, caught his attention and almost dragged him over to the couch. He stared down in horror at his deeply zoned sentinel.
At first he thought Jim was dead, then he saw the almost imperceptible rise and fall of his chest. Moving around the sofa he dropped to his knees before the slumped figure and reached out to touch Jim's face.
Blair's breath hitched as he felt the coolness of his friend's skin and the very faint puffs of breath on his palm. Slowly and then more firmly he began to rub his hands over Jim's face down his neck to his shoulder and his arms. Again and again he stroked Jim leaning over him, breathing into his face and gently but firmly calling him home.
"Come on Jim, it's time to come back. It's safe now Jim, I'm here. Come on back Big Guy. It's time to wake up. Come on Jim I need you here man."
Blair wasn't sure how long he talked and stroked Jim until he felt movement under his hand. He glanced down and saw intelligence in the electric, blue eyes of his partner. He watched Jim blink then raise a shaky hand to brush at cheeks which felt strange and stretched. Sensitive fingers coming in contact with the dried tear tracks, Jim came up into a sitting position so fast it knocked Blair off balance sending him crashing into the coffee table. Jim looked around the room in confusion. When his eyes finally came to rest on Blair he pinned him with his 'no nonsense you better have an answer glare'.
"What" he grated out surprised at the rusty sound of his voice. Clearing his throat he tried again. "What are you doing?" He looked around noticing immediately how the light had faded from the room leaving it in a shadowed darkness. "I zoned?"
Blair pushed himself up away from the table. His answer was cautious. "Yes. I came home and found you zoned out. You were so deep I was afraid I wouldn't get you back..." Blair stopped at the panicked look that grew on Jim's face. "What? What's wrong Jim?" He asked urgently. The Guide moved closer to the Sentinel, fear evident in his eyes. Still Blair's fear was eclipsed by Jim's own raging terror.
He looked up at Blair pressing his hands tightly to his ears. "I can't hear" He said to loudly. He winced at Blair's reaction and dropped his eyes but Blair wouldn't let him retreat. He grabbed Jim's face forcing his head up and looked him in the eyes as he slowly enunciated, "What's going on Jim?"
Jim's glared at his Guide. "I don't know?" He growled and then pressed his lips shut in a tight line. He was frustrated with his inability to intimidate his guide when others got out of his way at his famous stares. "Isn't it your job to know these things?" Jim looked away again but Blair refused to allow his withdrawal. He grabbed Jim's chin and forced his eyes back to Blair's sparking orbs.
"NO! You.Tell.Me.What's.Going.On. Why.Were.You.Crying?"
Jim tried to jerk his head away but Blair wouldn't let go. He hit out not aiming to hurt or connect, but to dislodge his persistent guide. Blair managed to easily dodge Jim's blow because Jim's sight cut out just as he swung his arm. "Leave me alone! Northing's wrong with me. Just leave me alone. Please Blair" Jim pleaded at last unwilling to share his sudden dark world with his friend.
But Blair knew. He was sure that Jim's sight was out even though Ellison was attempting to stare Sandburg down. What's going on he wondered. Why were Jim's senses' cutting out on him? Then he remembered the last time Jim had lost his senses. It was when Incacha and the Chopek warriors had showed up in Cascade just after Jim had accidently shot the security guard. Incacha's death had not helped. Only Blair's insistence and unwillingness to give up had forced Jim to take back the senses to avenge his first Shaman and guide. Danny Choi's death had also left him without normally working senses. "Jim who died?" Blair asked breathless with fear.
Jim heard the fear in his Guides voice and was unable to allow him to go on believing one of their friends had died. "It's...no one you know." He took another deep breath not pleased with the trembling evident in his voice. "Carolyn called. Her father... -" For a moment he couldn't go on.
"Oh Jim," Blair said sympathetically, "I'm so sorry. Were you close to him? No forget that, it was a dumb question." Blair said shutting his eyes and shaking his head at his own stupidity.
"It was her father. She asked me to come down and help her get everything in order."
Blair noted that Jim could hear and see him now. He still didn't believe a word of his friends disavowal. "Maybe it was her father, Jim, but it seemed he made quite an impression on you."
"Leave it alone Blair!" Jim snapped pushing himself up from the couch. He grunted in surprise as he found himself landing with a thump back onto the plush cushions. He looked up in shock and outrage.
"What the hell do you think you're..." Jim started to shout, but Blair interrupted him, "I think I'm not going to let you get away with your usual withdrawal and recanting of any feeling about something that has deeply affected you Jim. I'm tired of it man. Sick and tired of you being there for me, supporting me, comforting me, carrying me but when it comes to you... . I'm not good enough or capable enough to do it for you."
Jim's mouth was left hanging open at Blair's aggrieved reply. "Tell me now Jim because I really want to know, do you really think I'm incapable of helping you through your pain? Think carefully because if you say yes I'm going to have to doubt everything you've told me about how strong I am. I'm going to know that you think of me as weak and ineffectual and I'll be sure to keep my feelings to myself in the future. I won't burden you with my problems when you're unable to share yours. That's to much pressure for anyone and it would explain your frequent outburst's and frustration with me."
Jim was floored by Blair's supposition. He shook his head and finally sank, defeated back onto the couch. "I know you can bear my burdens Blair. You're not a wuss. I,-... It's just I was taught-... I was taught you don't share your feelings. A man doesn't have any." He looked up at Blair pleading.
"I know Jim, but you need to share with me. You zoned for goodness sake. I need to know why as your guide and as your friend I want to know."
Jim sighed. "He was like a father to me. He showed me what a father was supposed to be like. He accepted me and treated me like a son. I'd never felt that before. It was a heady feeling. I think I loved him more than I loved Carolyn. It's one of the reasons we broke up."
Blair sat down beside Jim and put his hand on his leg. "And you think you can't grieve because he wasn't your dad?"
"Carolyn, Esther and Julie need my strength, not me falling apart and sharing their grief. They want me there as the man of the family not another sister to share their pain." Jim said harshly.
"You think crying; grieving is only what women do? So you do think I'm a wuss or worse maybe you believe what they say about me being feminine."
"What are you talking about!" Jim almost shouted "This isn't about you. Why do you keep bringing it around to how I feel about you?"
"Because if you feel it isn't manly to cry then I wonder what you really think about a man who does cry?"
Jim sighed then pulled Blair into a secure hug. Ellison had no idea that he was almost smothering Blair as he attempted to draw strength from his partner for to comfort his own anguished soul and to prove to Blair he didn't think less of him as a man. He buried his face in Blair's wild, wind blown, curls letting the soft silk of the reddish, brown hair brush against his raw eyelids and tight face. His voice was soft. "You are the bravest, most courageous, strongest man I know. Your tears don't make you weak, they make you stronger. But I'm not you Blair. I was raised a whole different way and while crying doesn't make you weak, they weaken me. I don't know any other way to be."
Blair turned pulling Jim hard to his own chest, his voice muffled in Jim's sweater. "You're wrong you know? Tears don't weaken you Jim. They make you stronger and better able to deal with the situation when you're called on to be strong. Go ahead and cry my brother. I'll hold you together and when you're done we will rebuild your walls. I think you'll find them stronger than they were before."
At these words Jim was unable to hold back his sobs. The tears broke away from his rigid control and shook his body leaving him weak and his throat raw from his soul deep cries. But it was okay... because as the cathartic tears washed away the cold, knot of grief and anger, Jim felt cleansed. He'd been washed with the healing powers of his brother's love and his ability to finally express his true feelings for Carolyn's father's death. Finally the tears slowed and he slipped into an exhausted but relieved sleep, wetness still seeping from closed eyelids.
Blair held him tightly, rocking him gently, softly humming a song his mother had sung to him when he had lost a friend to a childhood disease. It was a song that she had heard from her own mother when she was a small child.
He felt Jim slip into sleep and he adjusted his roommate's slumping form so that Jim's head was resting on Blair's lap. He brushed his hand through Jim's soft, hair smiling tremulously as the strands tickled his palm. He was glad Jim had shared his pain with him but he wished it hadn't been needed. Wished Jim hadn't had to lose someone else he loved, someone else who loved him. Blair sighed as he stared through the balcony doors, off into the distance wondering why his friend seemed destined for so much pain.
When Jim awoke he was surprised at how much better he felt. The horrible weight of pain had been lifted off his chest. He sat up and looked fondly at his sleeping guide sprawled across the back of the couch. One hand thrown out and the other resting in his lap where it had been on Jim's head.
Jim stealthily rose from the couch and went to the bathroom. After finishing that chore, he grabbed the phone sitting on the kitchen counter. A quick glance at Blair showed he was still conked out. Ellison lifted the phone and after checking through the new messages he placed a call to Carolyn.
The phone rang and rang. Jim looked at the clock and almost hung up when he realized it was probably too early.
"Hello?" came a scratchy, tired voice over the line.
"Carolyn? This is Jim.I just want you to know that I'll be arriving sometime today. I'll be bringing a friend with me. You remember Blair Sandburg, the police observer who started riding with me? He's still my partner and he's coming down with me."
"Because I need him and he's my friend" Jim interrupted firmly.
"Okay Jim, that's fine we'll be looking out for you. Just get here as soon as you can. Mom wants us together to share our grief and bear each other up. I told her you probably didn't have any grief to share but I never could tell her anything."
"You might be surprised Caro."
"You surprise me, with emotion?" Caroline's laugh was brittle "That'll be the day." As Jim hung up the phone he said quietly "It just might."
A sound made Jim turn and he saw that Blair was awake and looking at him with pride and awe in his eyes. Jim dropped his eyes in embarrassment and confusion but he didn't turn his hearing down low enough not to hear Blair's words. "I'm so proud of you Jim and thank you for taking me with you. I want to share this moment with you and help you as you help Carolyn and her family.
Jim's eyes came up and he smiled a slow, smile that lit up his face. "No thank you, Chief. Thank you for being there and always knowing what I need and making me accept it even when I don't want to."
They smiled at each other before turning away uncomfortable with such strong emotions. Blair hurried off to the bathroom to start his morning shower while Jim turned back to the kitchen to start breakfast.
"Don't steal all the hot water. And clean up behind yourself." Jim yelled over the shower knowing Blair probably wouldn't hear him but needing to say something to bring back a sense of normalcy.
He turned back to the stove and started breaking the eggs into a bowl, his heart lighter and his expression at peace.
Jim carried that peace with him to Frank Plummer's house as he faced Frank's distraught daughters and wife. His calm and emotional stability helped them all make it through and allowed Frank to be buried with dignity and fond memories. Blair stayed near him, a quiet source of support and strength.
When Jim returned home with the small inheritance Frank had left him he found himself stronger and better able to deal with his loss. All because his guide refused to let him go through it all alone. He wasn't alone anymore.