Love is a Bridge - Lyn

~~~~~

How can I last another night alone without you?
So far away, and missing all the things that you do
If I could hold you in my arms for just one minute of tonight
I know I'd say the words I find so hard to say to make it right
Each night away from you I see
All the things you really mean to me
Love is a bridge that links our hearts
Keeping us close when we'are apart
I always knew, right from the start
Love is a bridge that runs from heart to heart

~~ Love is a Bridge - Little River Band

~~~~~

Jim stared in surprise at the boxes cluttering the living room when he came downstairs. "What's all this, Chief? You having a rummage sale?"

Blair looked up from fastening a box with tape, his expression startled and a little wary. He placed the tape and box cutters on the coffee table, then shook his head. "No. I, um, I did some thinking last night… about Simon's offer."

Dread struck Jim like a physical blow to the gut. "I heard you pacing half the night. So, what did you come up with?" He wasn't entirely sure… no, he was certain he didn't want to hear Blair's reply.

"I'm leaving," Blair said simply.

Jim's eyes widened and he felt the blood rush to his feet, leaving him feeling dazed and shaky. "Why? Because you don't want to be a cop? That's not a problem. We can work something else out…"

Blair held up a hand to halt the flow of words. "Wait, please. Jim, let me try to explain, okay?" When Jim nodded, he went on. "I told you once that giving up all of this would be like jumping off the roller coaster and climbing back on the merry go round, and it would be - "

"Then why - "

"Let me finish." Blair began to pace. "It would be," he repeated, "but this is your life, not mine. Having a badge and a gun and a license to shoot people… I don't know that I could do that. The adrenaline, that's been fine to now, kind of exciting, because you've always been there to protect me, to rescue me from all the crazies."

"I still would be," Jim interjected.

"This isn't what my life was supposed to be," Blair said firmly. He picked up a folder from the coffee table - his thesis - "This is… was my life."

"I'm sorry."

Blair shook his head vehemently. "Let's not go there again. It's over." He walked over and stood in front of Jim, his eyes glistening with tears but his shoulders squared and straight - determination oozing from him. "You don't need me anymore. You haven't zoned in over a year. I can't remember the last time I had to guide you in using your senses -"

"Because you've been there beside me."

"No, because you're okay now. Together we figured out the bits and pieces of this sentinel thing, made it work. Now it's time for you to get on with doing your job, and time for me to find out where my life begins from here on. It’s what I want."

"You said once it was about friendship," Jim said quietly.

Blair reached up and gripped Jim's shoulders with surprising strength. "And it still is. I mean, I'll stay in touch. Any problems, anything you need to know, I'll just be a phone call away."

Jim shrugged Blair's hands off and strode to the window. He stared out unseeing at the horizon, for long moments before speaking again. "So this is it, huh? You've done your bit, so you're moving on."

"If you want to put it like that, yeah," Blair replied in resignation. He stepped up behind his partner. "Look, Jim, the sentinel thing is over, for me, at least. It's time for us both to get on with our lives. What happens if you meet someone? I mean how long do you think your wife would be happy having me living in the spare room? I mean, Carolyn hated me being here, and she was your ex."

"She didn't hate you, Chief," Jim said automatically. "You just annoyed her a little."

"Yeah, like a snake annoys a rat," Blair muttered. "Jim… Jim, look at me." Jim did as he asked. Blair sighed and scrubbed a hand through his unruly curls, loosening several strands from his ponytail in the process. "I need to figure out what to do with my life now and you need to get on with yours. You've got these incredible senses, use them to make a difference. You don't need me for that any more."

"Where are you going to go?"

Blair shrugged. "I haven't quite figured that out yet. Megan told me once that I should check out Australia - the far north - Uluru, The Olgas. She has a friend," he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, "who works with the Aboriginal tribes there. He said he'd try to get permission for some of the elders to talk to me, about the Dreamtime, their beliefs and cultural history. It would be a great opportunity for me." He smiled, his excitement at the prospect already shining in his eyes.

Jim nodded, a part of him shriveling up inside at the finality of Blair's words. "It sounds like your mind's already made up. When do you plan on leaving?"

"Well, it'll be a couple of weeks, before I know for sure, but if not, I'll find something else. I need this, Jim." He waved a hand at the tribal mask that sat on the floor, too large for any box. "This is who I am." He walked back over and picked up the packing tape, then stared for a moment at the paltry collection of boxes; his life packed up in a matter of hours. "You'd think after four years I'd have a little more to show for my being here."

"You have," Jim said softly. "Friendship." With that, he pushed past Blair and strode back up the stairs to the loft.

~o0o~

Jim lay on his bed and stared up at the ceiling, his sight automatically dialing up to take in the even brush strokes and the patches faded by sunlight.

He thought back to that fateful first day in Blair's office, when the grad student had offered what appeared to be at the time, a simple deal. Blair would study Jim's sentinel abilities, committing to paper the secret Jim had buried for so long, and in return, teach Jim how to use his hyperactive senses to his benefit.

It had come to be so much more than that. The basic quid pro quo they had both envisaged at the beginning had never really eventuated. Blair's dissertation and research often had to take a back seat to the more pressing demands of Jim's job. His guide's knowledge, limited though it was on the subject of sentinels and his innate gift of being able to think outside the square when it came to Jim's senses had become invaluable. The grad student's seemingly inborn ability to get in the firing line of any crazy or perp in Cascade with a chip on his shoulder, meant that he had been hauled over the carpet on numerous occasions for his sometimes unexplainable absences from the university.

Blair had taken it all in his stride, bouncing back from heartaches over lost loves, the horrifying deaths of friends and strangers alike, injuries and his own death at the hands of an enraged sentinel with a grudge. Even the worst of it all, the loss of Jim's faith and belief in him, the fracturing of their friendship and bond as Sentinel and Shaman of the great city, had been dealt with, mourned over, then put aside, with Blair returning faithfully to his sentinel's side. Like… Like what? Jim thought now, some kind of obedient puppy?

Blair was right. They both needed to move on. Blair, especially, deserved the chance to live the life he had abandoned in Jim's favor, from the time he said no to Eli Stoddard and set in motion what had become routine and expected to them both; that he would put Jim's needs first, always before his own. It had been about Jim for too long. Now he had the chance to give Blair back his life.

He could hear Blair moving around downstairs, the scrape of a dining room chair against the hardwood floor. Blair's laptop computer powered up and after a moment, came the soft clicking of computer keys, the rustling of pages being turned in a book, and above it all, the soothing cadence of his guide's heartbeat.

Resolutely, Jim dialed down his hearing, until all that was discernible was the sound of his own breathing and the rustle of the bedclothes on which he lay. His decision made, his conscience assuaged, he drifted off to sleep.

~o0o~

"You got everything, Chief?" Jim hefted Blair's suitcase in one hand and fished in his pocket for his truck keys with the other.

Blair stopped in the middle of the living room, a look of intense concentration creasing his forehead. "Yeah, I think so." He performed a slow full circle, his eyes taking a final look at the place that had been home to him for so long. Finally he nodded and walked to the door, stooping to pick up his backpack from the floor. "I'm going to miss this place," he said softly.

"There's always a spare bed if you want to come back for a visit," Jim replied. He dropped the suitcase with a thud when he was suddenly enveloped in a bear hug from his friend.

"I'm gonna miss *you*," Blair whispered hoarsely in his ear.

Jim hugged his guide tightly to him, reaching up to tousle the wild curls. "Ditto, Chief." He pulled back and waggled a finger. "I am not, however, going to miss your typing at two in the morning, your never-ending and bottomless font of obscure information, your algae shakes or the hair in the bathroom drain." Grinning, he pushed Blair in front of him and closed the front door.

"You make sure you stay out of trouble down there, Chief," he admonished as Blair pulled a wry face at the out of order sign on the elevator and headed for the stairs.

"Who, me?" Blair asked in mock indignation as he clattered down the first flight.

"You have a reputation to uphold," Jim continued. "Remember, you're the Shaman of the Great City."

~o0o~

Blair settled into his seat and stared out the tiny airplane window, wishing he had sentinel sight, knowing Jim would still be standing in the departure lounge, would stay there until Blair's flight took off. He closed his eyes for a moment, fixing Jim's face in his mind - the beautiful blue eyes, the strong jaw that clenched so tightly when Jim needed to hold his emotions at bay, the mouth that curved so sweetly into a gentle smile, the big hands that touched, comforted and protected…

He was jostled suddenly, his eyes snapping open. Beside him, a large man struggled to fit his bulky frame into the seat beside Blair.

"Sorry, mate," he said as he finally settled himself with a sigh. "You'd think they make these seats large enough for blokes like me."

Blair gave him a brief smile then turned his attention back to the window as the plane left earth with a small jolt. "Goodbye, Jim," he whispered. "I love you."

~o0o~

Jim watched the sky until Blair's plane was just a dot even to sentinel sight. With a heavy sigh, his heart weighted with grief, he turned and strode out of the terminal.

He kept his mind deliberately blank on the drive home, not wanting his muddled thoughts to be the cause of an accident, but when he walked back in the door of the apartment, the reality of his loss came crashing back. He avoided Blair's room all night, keeping his gaze steadfastly ahead when he went into the bathroom to shower before bed, and really thought he was handling it well until he opened the bathroom cabinet to retrieve his shaving gear. It was an innocuous bottle of herbal shampoo, no more than half full. Jim knew he should just leave it where it was, but it would be a constant, dreadful reminder of Blair. He'd throw it away, just as he had Blair, because in a sense that's exactly what he'd done by not admitting to his true feelings for his partner.

Taking the bottle from the shelf, he unscrewed the cap and his sense of smell automatically dialed up, seeking…. His senses amplified, searching for the elusive presence of his guide. His ears rang, and bile burned his tongue, the glare from the cabinet mirror flared, searing his eyeballs, and the hand clutched around the bottle, cramped. With a growl of frustration, Jim slammed the bottle against the cabinet door over and over, feeling tiny stabs of fiery pain where the shards of glass bit into his skin.

His anger depleted, his sorrow overwhelming him, he pulled a towel off the rack and wiped perfunctorily at the spots of blood on his hand. Glaring up at the crazed, warped image of his scowling, despair-filled face, he muttered, "You're a fucking fool, Ellison. Why the hell did you let him go?"

~o0o~

Three months later

The heat was oppressive, searing his skin, parching his throat and lungs. The glare of the sun shimmered the landscape, making him feel slightly dizzy and nauseous and he sneezed violently as dry red dust seeped into his sinuses. Jim tried desperately to use the mental dials Blair had helped him develop so many years before, but he was unable to even perceive them. Since Blair had left, he'd found that his senses had begun to wane, until eventually there was no need for him to consciously dial them down. It seemed as though they barely existed. But now, they went haywire, the overload threatening to send him spiraling into a zone-out.

"G'day, mate. You're a long way off the beaten track."

Jim smiled, his discomfort forgotten. The Australian accent was alien to his ears but the voice was familiar and welcome. He turned and his sensory acuity sharpened; all of his senses ranging out, homing in on the presence of his guide.

Blair smiled sweetly at him. "Hey, Jim."

~o0o~

Settled on the battered sofa in the living room of the small timber-framed house that Blair now called home, Jim took the chance to drink in the sight of his partner, while Blair poured cold drinks into frosted glasses and carried them over before seating himself on the armchair opposite.

"You look different," Jim finally said, after swallowing a mouthful of the refreshing soft drink, " but not."

Blair's hair was shorter. Tendrils curled at the nape of his neck, damp strands were plastered to his forehead by the heat. He was bare-chested, his skin as brown as a nut and glistening with sweat. He was broader, more muscled, and more content than Jim had ever seen him. Jim's heart lurched and he suddenly had the urge to get up and run, terrified that what he was about to say would banish Blair from his life forever.

Blair ran a hand through his hair, unruly curls springing up in its wake. "The hair, you mean? I was going to cut it really short, but I couldn't do it." He leaned back and studied Jim carefully. "You haven't changed a bit."

"I've got a lot less hair than when you left," Jim replied ruefully.

Blair shook his head. "You look good, better than good. You look great. How have your senses been? Any problems? You never mention them in your letters or calls."

Jim shrugged, toying with his glass. "Everything's been fine."

Blair leaned forward, clasping his hands together and resting them on his knees. "Why are you here then if everything's fine?"

"I missed you."

"I've missed you too."

Jim stood and paced to the front door, staring out at the dry grass in the yard and the dirt road beyond the fence. "I can't do it anymore. Since you've been gone, I feel empty. My senses just seemed to fade away…"

He startled as Blair touched his arm, not having noticed the other man approach. "What? Like in Peru?"

"Yeah."

"Well, I'm glad you came then. I've got a few days off. We can work on it, see if we can jumpstart them."

"They're fine now," Jim said. He turned to look at Blair, placing his hand over Blair's where it clasped his forearm. "As soon as I saw you, they came back online."

"Oh boy." Blair frowned. "That doesn't make sense… unless it's…" He paused a moment, thinking. "Maybe it's just because you became so accustomed to having me there. You just need time to adjust. Jim, I can't leave right now, for another month at least. After that, I'll come back with you if I have to, until we can figure out how to get you working independently again."

"I didn't come because of my senses, Blair. I could care less whether I get them back or not."

"Then why?"

"Because of you."

Confusion flittered over Blair's face, then understanding seemed to dawn. His eyes widened and his hand slipped from beneath Jim's. He took a step back. "I don't understand."

"Yes, you do," Jim said firmly. "I wasn't going to come here. I didn't want to uproot you or beg you to come back with me. I didn't want to tell you I loved you, if it meant it would drive you away."

"Why come then?" Blair's voice was hoarse, his eyes downcast as though he suddenly found his feet enormously riveting.

"For weeks before you left, I kept picking up on something whenever you were around. I couldn't identify it. It wasn't a smell exactly, more a feeling, a sensation…" Jim's hands flailed uselessly in the air. "Something. It wasn't until after you had already been gone for six weeks that I figured it out."

"What?" Despite his apparent reticence, Blair's innate curiosity seemed to be aroused. Jim couldn't help smiling.

"Remember Laura? The pheromones?"

Blair nodded and Jim could see his Adam's apple bobbing convulsively as he swallowed. "That's what I was sensing from you. Pheromones, need, arousal. Once I got that, it all came together. You left because you loved me."

"Of course I love you. You're my best friend." Blair's chin squared, his eyes defiant.

Jim shook his head. "It's more than that." He took a step forward, reached and captured Blair's hands, holding them against his chest. "Tell me now, do you love me the way that I love you? That's all I need to know. If you say no, I'll walk away right now and let you get on with your life… but remember, I'm a sentinel. I'll know."

"Yes," Blair breathed. His eyes suddenly filled with tears. "Yes, I'm in love with you, and yes, that's why I left, because I didn't think you felt the same way about me."

Jim smiled, drew the other man to him, cradling him against his body. He rested his chin on Blair's sweat-damp hair. "I'll do whatever you want, Blair. If you ask me to leave, I will. If you ask me to stay, I'll do that."

"Stay," Blair said against his chest. He lifted his head and smiled back at Jim. "At least until I finish my study, then we'll go home together."

"What about teaching?"

"I'll always miss it, but… I'll do whatever I can to keep us together. Do you think Simon can still get me into the Academy?"

Jim shook his head. "No need. I spoke to Simon before I left. He mentioned a few things to the Commissioner, how I was planning on holding my own press conference -"

Blair's eyes widened. "You wouldn't! Jim, after all we went through -"

"Hold up, Darwin, let me finish. If I had to, I would have because you… us, is more important to me than my senses, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't have to. You have a job, if you want it, as a paid consultant to the Major Crime Department."

"Really?"

"Really. So, what do you say?"

"I say I want to go home with you as soon as I'm finished here, and right now, I want you to make love to me."

"I feel like I've been waiting forever to hear those words, Chief."

"Then I won't make you wait any longer."

~o0o~

Hunger flared through Jim, the air that he breathed seemed too thin when his lips met Blair's. His senses soared; higher than ever before, mapping all that was his guide, his lover.

They moved together slowly at first, needing to learn every new, undiscovered part of each other. Time had no meaning; the hot night frittered away by their passion. Primal urges took over, pushing them toward completion, far sooner than either of them wanted. They pressed against each other, seeming to become one as their climax overtook them, their seed spilling and blending between them, a physical symbol of their spiritual union.

The end.

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