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Janet has just let me know that she has read the second Moonridge Auction story she won from me and that she'd like it released immediately! Given she also donated over $120 for this story, her generosity is truly amazing!

Just a word about this story, though, before you read it. Written entirely as extracts from Blair's journal, it's a companion piece to If You Go Away (Jim's story). Both stories are slash, and both cover the span of the entire series. This story, in part, directly mirrors Jim's actions in the preceding story so you will want to read Jim's story first. Since my TS slash site has come down from the web, if you haven't already read it and would like to, mail me at mhay18@shaw.ca for a copy.

I'll be posting Canyons of Your Soul here in three parts.



CANYONS OF YOUR SOUL
(Blair’s Story)

by Arianna

The song lyrics quoted in this story are Canyons of Your Soul, by Gary Allan. Also, while Blair’s journal is handwritten, italics that go on for pages and pages are hard on the eyes so, for the comfort of the reader, the excerpts are transcribed in regular font.


Dedicated to Janet, for her outstanding generosity and contribution to Moonridge 2006



Extracts from Blair Sandburg’s Journal …

I found him! Oh, my God, I can hardly believe it! I found a sentinel! And he’s, well, he’s everything that I expected … and nothing that I expected. Where to start? Okay, okay, first, his name’s James Joseph Ellison, and he’s a detective with the Cascade Police Department. So that’s like expected. He’s a guardian, a watchman, a protector who serves his tribe – and, man, does this guy serve. He doesn’t quit, even when he’s frustrated; not even when he’s ordered to let a lead go. When he knows he’s right, he acts. And nothing, but nothing stops him! When he came bursting through the back window of that bus, it was like, like, well, like nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced before.

The man’s a hero.

Well, I knew that from the research I’d done on him, about his time in Peru. What he did there was incredible. Surviving the explosion of the helicopter he and his team were in, carrying on with his mission alone in the jungle for eighteen long months, engaging the Chopec to help him hold the pass against the drug and gun runners so that nobody – nobody – got through the whole time he was there. Amazing. I need to learn more about that time in his life, about what he learned from the Chopec, but he … he’s blocked most of it out. Can’t say as I blame him. Poor guy. It had to have been a soul-wrenching experience to lose his teammates and friends like that, to be alone so long, to never know when or if he’d be relieved. But he did it; he fulfilled his mission whatever the cost to him. Man, I can’t even imagine what that must have been like for him. How hard it must have been. How lonely.

And his senses are so … well, just incredible. I knew they’d be good, from my other research with people who have one or two enhanced senses, but his senses are way off the scale of anything I’ve seen before, and we’ve only just hardly started. He learns so fast. His sense of smell is so refined, so exact. And his eyesight? God, he shot a bullet right into the barrel of the bomber’s gun from the back of the bus! Breathtaking. I wonder if he has any idea how special he is; how wondrous his abilities are? He seems more resentful of them than grateful to have them. I guess, well, I guess having such sensitive perception of the world has to be hard a lot of the time. Just the smells of a city, hell, of an ordinary office. The rough feel of clothes or sheets. The sharp, burning reaction to spices in food. The glare of street lights or even just from a computer screen. Got to be uncomfortable. Maybe a whole lot worse than uncomfortable. I need to think about how to help him with all of that. To tone things down and to modify his personal environment, at least, to be as comfortable as he can be. And the zoning can be downright dangerous, as we’ve already discovered. This was a surprise. That he’s gotten to his mid-thirties without learning to handle them, but I guess he repressed them for most of his life. I wonder why. But they’re clearly all a mystery to him, and not a welcome one – his senses scare him, because he doesn’t know how to control them and they’re painful. He needs help.

God, I hope he lets me help him.

Well, I guess he will, for a while, anyway. Not because he wants much to do with me, personally, I can see that. We’re just such opposites and he probably thinks I’m a flake. But he’s pretty desperate to get a handle on them, and I’m the only game in town. Actually, given the dearth of any research on sentinels, I might be the only game in the world – and, man, that’s a scary thought. I mean, his abilities are awesome, but they could also get him killed if he has a spike or a zone-out at the wrong time. There’s so much we need to learn about his limits, about how to manage and use them, so he’s not overwhelmed and discouraged, or hurt. We’re meeting with his boss tomorrow morning to pitch a rationale for having me work with him. He seems pretty sure that he can get me on as an observer.

Oh, man. My gut is just chock-full of butterflies, you know? This is … important. So important. Not just for my research. Hell, that’s all I cared about before he came into my office and threw me up against the wall. But in those moments, I saw the fear in his eyes, fear he masks with aggression. But it was still fear. And confusion. And a kind of vulnerability, a helplessness, that I’d guess is pretty foreign to his nature. He seems a ‘take charge’ kind of guy. Must be hard for him to have to count on someone he thinks of as a ‘neohippy, witchdoctor punk’. Damned hard, actually. Says something about him that he’s even willing to try. Something about his level of desperation and, well, just his willingness to get past how bizarre he seems to find me to give me a chance to help him. I guess it stopped being just about my research when I saw all those things in his eyes. And when I saw him about to be run over by that garbage truck. Vulnerable. So vulnerable. Worries me to know I’m responsible for him now, in a way. To keep him from being hurt by his senses until we figure out how he can control them, master them. I’ve never been responsible for as much as a goldfish before. And now this strong, brave man’s life is in my hands. Scares the shit out of me.

Will I be good enough? I have to be good enough. I just have to be. I can’t let him down.

**

God, I’ve got to stop shaking. And I thought I was scared yesterday. Man, I didn’t know what fear was. I’ve had some pretty hairy experiences on field trips, even had my life threatened before, but a few frightening moments don’t compare to the more than an hour trapped inside that building with Kincaid and his merry band of Sunrise Patriots. Homicidal maniacs, all of them. I’ve never been shot at before. I’ve been in fights, sure, but never against armed and very dangerous men. I don’t even remember how many times I thought I was going to get shot today. Thank God that Joel Taggart backed me up when I claimed to be Jim’s partner, or I really think Kincaid would have blown my head off then and there. And being dragged out to the helicopter as a hostage? I knew he’d never let me go. I could see it in his eyes, his contempt for me, how much he despised me. Oh, God, I was scared … terrified. Never been so terrified.

And then, when I realized Jim was riding on the skid outside the helicopter, and Kincaid was going to kill him, I guess I went a little nuts. I didn’t even think about it. Just shoved that bastard right out into thin air. Man, I nearly killed that man today. A monster, sure. But still a human being. But he would have shot Jim, murdered him, and I … I couldn’t let that happen. I guess it’s true that anyone can kill in the right circumstances. Funny, I always doubted that. Oh, I know mothers will do anything to protect their young; lovers will protect one another at whatever cost; soldiers will kill to protect their nation; cops will kill if they have to, to protect others and themselves. But I always figured it was either some kind of biological imperative or a conscious choice, like deciding to become a soldier or a cop, and accepting what that meant. I never thought that I’d be able to take that step, be that physically aggressive. It didn’t even occur to me to try to kill any of the terrorists in that building today, as a way of getting away or protecting myself, or even to help all those others were being held hostage. I’ve spent twenty-five years believing that all life is sacred, that no one ever has the right to take another life. But when he was going to shoot Jim in cold blood, there wasn’t a choice, not a conscious one, just … just instinct, maybe. Not a survival instinct, as powerful as that can be, because in those moments, it wasn’t my life that was on the line. A protective instinct, maybe? I don’t know, I really don’t. I just know that when I think of how easily Jim could have been killed today, I feel like I’m going to throw up and I start shaking all over again.

I can’t explain it, this feeling I’ve got inside. Probably because it’s more than one emotion roiling around in my belly and tightening my chest, making me feel twitchy and sick and more than a little breathless. All I know is, as bad as today was, I’m not going to quit. Jim … Jim needs me. Whether he wants to need me or not, that’s not relevant or important. What’s important is that I guess I’ll do just about anything it takes to help this guy. To keep him as safe as I can. It’s crazy, you know? Really crazy to feel this so strongly, or even at all, about someone I don’t even know, not really. It’s not like we’re friends, or are ever likely to be, that’s for sure. It’s ridiculous, really: a grad student geek being responsible for the safety of a former Army Ranger and experienced cop, a guy that doesn’t exactly radiate vulnerability; he’d either laugh himself silly or be furious if he knew how I feel. It’s definitely nuts to feel like this. And, well, I’ve gotten a pretty quick orientation into how dangerous his world is, how risky it could be to work with him. But it’s like none of that matters. Definitely nuts. I can’t explain it. I’ve never felt anything like this before. But … but it’s as if in the moment when I pulled him under that garbage truck, I took responsibility for him.

Good thing he probably won’t need the kind of help he needed today on that helicopter ever again. Much as I feel responsible, and even feel a weird sort of compulsion to do all I can to safeguard him, if he really had to rely on me in that world he inhabits, I don’t think he’d last long. Cause I’m sure not trained for this and I don’t have a clue about what I’m doing – and that’s the scariest thought of all. That I could screw up and get him killed.

God, I have GOT to stop shaking.

**

Courtship behavior? Man, I laughed when Jim said that this morning. I know the deal is only for a week and between me and Larry, we’ve pretty much made him regret agreeing to even that long. Still, it’s been nice crashing here, and it was really good of him to give in and let me stay, especially with Larry. Who am I kidding? Larry’s the only reason I got in the front door. Jim had no problem with the idea of me finding a hostel. Well, it’s not like he owes me a roof over my head. Or that I’m some kind of waif that needs to be taken in. I’ve taken care of myself for a lot of years and done pretty well, when my digs aren’t blowing up and burning down around me.

But it’s been good to be here, to get a look at his lifestyle. And it’s made it a lot more convenient to fit tests into our hectic schedules. We made quite a bit of progress, just in the last few days. And I’ve got to do some shopping. Man, the soaps he uses, whether in the shower, the laundry or just to do the dishes couldn’t be more harsh or full of chemicals. No wonder he looks uncomfortable in his clothes and his skin is so dry and easily irritated. Well, easy enough to fix that. He probably hasn’t bothered to buy himself good quality sheets, either – and I’d bet Carolyn took whatever they did have that was decent. Women just seem to naturally notice and care about that kind of thing. LOL! Just call me Suzie Homemaker. God, he’s even telling me how to clean the place properly to meet his exacting standards.

I wonder if Carolyn cleaned well enough to meet those standards? I mean, he’s really pretty anal, but maybe that’s the sentinel in him, or maybe the soldier. Or maybe it’s reflective of his need to be in control of his environment.

I wonder why they broke up? I mean, Jim’s a little compulsive, sure, but he’s a good guy, not hard to be around once you realize his irritation is kinda generic and not personal. He’s private, but then so are a lot of people. And, well, he’s kind. And … decent. Really decent. And, um, well, a person doesn’t have to be a sentinel to see that Apollo hasn’t got anything on him. I wonder if he called it quits or if Carolyn did. I can see they still care about one another. Maybe they both just had too many rough edges. Who ever really knows what goes on between a man and his wife?

But it’s just that I get the feeling that as much as he’s so self-sufficient and, well, a self-proclaimed loner, that he’s lonely. Sometimes I see these shadows in his eyes and I wonder just how much this guy has been hurt in his life. I wonder if he’s a loner because he wants to be, or if because he learned that being a loner is just safer.

And how sad is that?

Man, I’m going to have to find a way to get information from Carolyn about her experiences sharing a life with Jim and her insights into his character. It’s standard research protocol to interview significant others, especially in a situation like this. But it makes me feel uncomfortable. Jim is SO private. I don’t think he’d be happy to know I was talking about him with her. Maybe I can keep it casual, a breakroom chat about the adventure of sharing an apartment with him or something like that. Maybe edge around how she dealt with him when he was tense or uptight about a case. Have to think about this. Can’t risk too much, cause she’s sharp and he doesn’t want anyone, even her, I guess, knowing about his senses.

**

Oh My God. Where do I even begin to capture what happened over the past few days? To process it all? To, uh, make some kind of peace with it. I guess chronologically is easiest, and that also works from the least of the issues to the most significant. Okay, first? Seeing Susan’s dead body really freaked me out. Man, I can’t seem to get her eyes out of my head – the empty hollowness where there’d been vibrancy and life. The hideous indignity of being left nude in her bath, to be gawked at by strangers. The horror of being murdered in the first place. I shudder every time I think about it … her. But I have to get past that, right? I mean, I work with a detective. I’m going to see other dead bodies. Well, actually, I have already, but there was just something so pathetic and chilling about finding her like that. So vulnerable. An innocent victim. Not one or other of the Junos, who both lived by the gun and died by it, like old West outlaws. Danny was hard, but it was so fast, so shocking, and Jim was so devastated that it just happened with no time to really register it all and I was more focused on Jim than Danny.

So, death. It’s not like it’s a new concept, you know? I’m an anthropologist. I deal in death rituals and beliefs about mortality, spirituality and the afterlife. But it was all kind of academic before. Not so real. So personal. God, personal ….

Anyway, I need to deal with coming face to face with death on a routine basis. Otherwise, I won’t be any good in helping Jim to focus his senses at crime scenes. And if I’m no help, then what am I doing hanging around with him? It’s not all about studying him. In fact, more and more, it’s becoming less and less about studying him as a thesis subject. He’s not a thing. Not just a concept. He’s, well, he’s my friend and I want to do right by him.

The next thing is that I really screwed up at Susan’s funeral. Man, what an idiot, to stand there and point right at a potential suspect, as if I couldn’t have just whispered or something, because Jim would have heard me, I know he would. I just … I just freaked, I think, when I saw that yellow scarf and stopped thinking. And, as a result, the bad guy got away when Jim might have gotten him then and there. I just felt sick when I realized how stupid I’d been and the implications of that. I have got to get a grip – got to stay focused, not be thrown when we’re in the midst of an investigation. I can’t keep making these dumbass mistakes. Yeah, sure, I’m untrained. But I’m also not usually so monumentally stupid. I’ve got a brain. I need to start using it more consciously and not let my emotions keep getting the better of me.

And then there’s the whole trust thing. Simon not trusting me, thinking I was the leak on the evidence. Me not trusting Chris, thinking she might be the leak. How could I do that, say that to her, when I knew how much it hurt to have Simon doubt me? It’s a matter of integrity. I guess I can understand Simon being unsure of me. He doesn’t know me that well. But I should never have doubted Chris, ‘cause I do know she’d never betray a friend. More evidence that I need to be using my head more and not get all wound up in the emotions generated by the cases we work on. Jim says I need to learn to park my emotions, separate from them. I’m not sure I can do that. But I am sure I can be less a slave to my feelings and more rational about how I’m acting in these situations. Panicking, getting overwhelmed, doesn’t help anything and, as I’ve seen too well, can make a real mess of things. I’m not a kid. I’ve chosen to work with Jim, to become part of his environment. So, I have to learn to deal with all of it. It’s not fun and games. Not just research. This is about real lives; real, immediate deaths; real, not theoretical danger. If I’m going to win Simon’s trust, hell, Jim’s trust, I need to show that I can handle it all in a professional, responsible way.

For awhile over the last day or so, I wasn’t sure I have the courage to even try to come to grips with all this. After Lash took me to that warehouse, well, when I thought for sure that I was going to die, and the whole issue of mortality was suddenly very personal … I thought that if I ever got out of it alive, I’d run back to the safe, ivory towers of academia as fast as I could. It’s a bit humiliating to realize one is such an abject coward, but I sincerely do not want to die, not for a long, long time. Man, Jim was amazing. Finding me. Rescuing me. And he was so supportive when we got home that night. He wants people to think he’s such a tough guy. Well, I’ve got his number. He’s a good, kind man. He didn’t make me feel badly for being so afraid, for not even believing at first that I was really still alive and safe. And today, well, he even said he’d been afraid, scared of not getting to me in time. And he said I did everything right; that by fighting back, even just verbally in those last terrible minutes, I won the time he needed to save me … so he tried to let me believe I was party to my own rescue. How sensitive and supportive is that?

But I was still going to tell him that I can’t keep doing this. That I can’t handle this much danger. This much fear. Only … only he told me he still needs me. And he told me he’d miss me if I left. I wonder what that cost him? To admit dependency and need? Blew me away, actually. And, and all that really told me that we are friends, maybe even partners, not just associates of convenience until he knows enough about how to manage his senses to say, ‘Sayonara.’ It also told me that he really does trust me, or he wouldn’t reveal those vulnerabilities. And he told me how he sees me, as someone who lives up to commitments, who is resilient and brave and resourceful. Makes my throat tight to remember his voice as he said all that. To know he actually respects me when I thought he was basically just tolerating me.

Man, what does it say that his trust and respect, his need of me, matters so much to me? It’s not like I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about having the good opinion of others, well, except academically. Sure, I like it when people realize I’m a man of my word and that I can be trusted, but if I really cared about being generically accepted by everyone around me, I wouldn’t make a point of being different, with the hair and earrings and the way I dress for comfort or to celebrate cultural values. My values, not necessarily the values of the society I live or work within. But his regard matters a lot, a huge amount. The fact that he sees us as friends matters even more.

What does it say about how I feel about him?

Of course, I told him I’d stick it out. How could I not? But … but it’s not just about him needing me. Not just about being there for him, to help him with his senses, to safeguard him as much as I can. I don’t want to do that just because he’s a sentinel and so very special for that reason alone. I realized … I realized, when I was chained in that chair and that I was going to die, that the worst, the very worst thing about that was how it would impact on Jim, how it would hurt him, and how furious I was that I wouldn’t get to know him better. That I was losing … something really special. Or the opportunity for something really special. Funny, I was upset when Chris was so mad at me and took off – but thinking I’d never see Jim again left me devastated. And, only minutes later, thinking that Lash might have killed him were the worst, worst, most wretched moments of my entire life.

Okay, okay, so I should spit it out. At least here, to myself, if absolutely never, ever anywhere else.

I love the big lug. Yeah, okay, sorta like a big brother … but it’s more than that, I think.

I think I’m falling in love with him.

And that’s not a good thing.

Because if he ever knew, that would be the one sure way to destroy the friendship that is beginning to grow between us. Man, he would be so creeped out. And forget any sense of objectivity in terms of my research. If I’m not very careful, I could blow everything, ruin everything.

It’s probably just infatuation, anyway, borne of hero worship. There is just so damned much to admire about the man. His strength and courage. His integrity. And at the same time, he’s so … vulnerable. It’s staggering to think he needs me, that I can play a vital role in his life. And he’s a lot of fun, easy to be around. He makes me laugh, makes me feel good, happy. God, and he is beautiful to behold. Like an Adonis. When he appeared like magic in that warehouse, when he fought to save my life, and then released me from those chains and held me, watched over me, until I could function again – protected me – and then when he held me last night when I was so, so scared and falling apart … I’ve never felt so cherished.

But it was weird, too. Too much a ‘damsel in distress’ kind of thing. Not the way I like to see myself, you know? As a man who can take care of himself, thank you very much. And, uh, I don’t like feeling so vulnerable. Chained like that, feeling helpless and hopeless, being ‘victimized’ … hated it. Hated all of it. What’s not to hate about the whole damned experience? But he gave my dignity back to me when he kept telling me that I did everything right, that I was braver than I was giving myself credit for, and when he said he needed me and wanted me to stick around because he, well, he’d miss me if I was gone. So, cherished and respected. Powerful combination. No wonder I’m infatuated with the man. It’s all so weird. I’ve never actually felt this way about another guy before. Not that I think it’s wrong, far from it. From my perspective, it’s all perfectly understandable, even inevitable, given our constant proximity to one another, his penchant for touching me, probably to ground himself, his senses; and, well, the fact that the man really is a veritable hero, not to mention the sentinel I’ve been looking for, for most of my life. Sigh. I really like him. Something about him just gets to me, down deep. Makes the breath tight in my chest; makes me ache for all the hurts he’s suffered in his life. Makes me want to, I don’t know, make him happy, I guess, even though I know happiness is a choice we all make individually in terms of how we see the circumstances of our lives. But … I really like to make him laugh.

Still, falling in love with him is SO not a good idea. I’m not masochistic enough to want to hopelessly pine all my life over someone who is never going to feel the same things for me, and I’m not about to risk the friendship we have by letting my gonads get out of control. I need to either make up with Chris or find myself a new girlfriend in a hurry, to get my emotions back on the right track.

So, yeah, the last few days have been mind-blowing, to say the least. To say the very least. What have I learned?

Well, that I really am mortal; that one day I will, for sure, die. Sounds stupid – but though I’ve always ‘known’ that, I’ve never ‘felt’ it so clearly, so emphatically, before. And that makes it essential to live every day from here on to the fullest, so I’ll have no regrets when it’s all over. Give as much, get as much, live as much, love as much, do as much, experience as much, as I possibly can; and let the people I care about know they are important in my life – that’s how I have to live every day, or try to, at least – in case either they or I aren’t there the next day. But, at the same time, I need to be much more responsible for my emotions, and I need to balance them with reason. I’ve always known that intellectually, but now it’s a gut-level awareness and reality.

And I’ve learned that the love I feel for Jim is greater than my fear of being killed. Whether that’s infatuation or simply soul-deep friendship really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I know without doubt that I’ll always put him first. That I’ll do whatever it takes to be there for him when he needs me. I know this with both my head and my heart.

And, finally, I also know he’ll always, always, do his best to protect me in dangerous situations. I trust him. More than I’ve ever trusted anybody in my life. Anybody.

**

Interesting few days. I wonder if there are other ‘Lee Brackets’ out there who have figured out Jim’s secret. Gives me a bad feeling to think papers I wrote helped him put the pieces together. Makes me wonder if I shouldn’t be more circumspect about my relationship with Jim – maybe I should move out, or work with him less. He’s getting better with his senses, but there always seem to be new things about them that crop up every other week or so. I’m not really sure what to do – man, I hope working with him isn’t increasing the level of potential threat in his life. I bet Jack Kelso has figured it out – he’d be wondering why Brackett would be targeting Jim, and he’s one bright guy. If Brackett could figure it out, then Jack sure as hell could.

I wonder how many other people are noticing stuff and wondering. Like the techs in Forensics, when Jim is always coming up with stuff before they do. There’s a woman there, Sam … maybe I should ask her out from time to time, just to see if they’re gossiping about Jim, speculating about him. And I gotta think that Brown and Rafe and Joel notice things, that Jim can hear and see better than anyone else they’ve ever known. He’s not all that careful around them. I’ve got to get a few better lines than attributing his abilities to eating a lot of carrots or having had special Ranger training. And they must all wonder why I’m still living under his roof. I mean, they might believe I need a cheap place to crash, being a poor student and all (they obviously don’t know that being a teaching fellow is a living wage, even if I’ll never get rich on it), but they have to wonder why Jim is so prepared to put up with me for an indefinite period. Maybe I should be looking for another place.

Only … I don’t want to. Truth be told, I don’t want that much space between us. Man, I have got to get a grip here. It’s just hero worship and the impact of watching a dream come true in action every day, of getting to really appreciate the man as separate from that lifelong dream of finding a sentinel – and, probably, the fact of living in such a decent place. The loft is starting to feel like ‘home’, and that’s not a good thing, is it? I can’t live in this cubbyhole under the stairs forever.

I’ve got to get out more. Find a beautiful, sweet woman to love, who’ll love me back, get my life on track, grow up.

I really need to get a grip.

**

What’s that saying? Be careful what you wish for? Maya is sure beautiful and sweet, and I really think she loved me … until she figured out I was using her, however much I protested that I really love her, too. And I think I did, or could have, or at least fallen in love with the idea of being in love. I’m so screwed up here. I feel like my heart is being torn apart or crushed – but is it because Maya left me and I feel like a first class heel – cause I really do – or because Jim is out there cooking dinner for a gorgeous fed? Maya doesn’t love me, Jim doesn’t love me … maybe I should go out to the alley and eat worms.

There are moments when I wonder if all this angst is simply because I’m nearly twenty-six years old, in the midst of my sexual prime and feeling a huge drive to have sex on a regular basis, but I’m dressing it all up in socially acceptable trappings of seeking love and wanting to give love. I’m sure that’s what Naomi would tell me, if I was ever idiot enough to be inclined to discuss any of this with her. She’s convinced that love is nothing more than hormones, so a person should enjoy the highs and get out before the lows hit, as she’s certain they inevitably do. Love ‘em and leave ‘em, detach with love.

It’s probably no surprise that I haven’t got clue, really, about commitment and healthy, long term relationships. Freud would say that not only am I in love with my mother – a concept that, uh, makes me shudder, actually – but that I’m on a quest to find a father-figure, someone to look up to, admire, respect, emulate, want close affiliation with, and that has all gotten mixed up in the roiling muck of my id to leave me thinking I’m in love with Jim, when really it’s just that he’s the best man I’ve ever known, and I … I really want and need him in my life.

Maybe my problem is that I over-analyze things, over-intellectualize them. Maybe it’s just that Jim’s the best friend I’ve ever had. I do love him. Maybe that’s all that’s important and the rest is just fluff.

Yeah, right. And maybe I should go out and look for someone who’d like to sell me a bridge.

**

Pheromones. Sheesh. Sigh. Well, it’s one sure indication that Jim isn’t suffering from any attraction to me. And either he’s not picking up on the ones I’m emoting, or he’s ignoring them, figuring I’m just thinking about someone else … like all the time that we’re together. He must figure that I’ve got an awfully active imagination. But then, most of the time I suspect he thinks I’m seriously nuts.

Face it, man. Your pheromones just are not on his radar screen. He’s probably not sensing them at all because they’re meaningless to him, hold no capacity to attract his attention, and are just part of the miasma of odors he lives within every damned day and has had to learn to ignore or he’d go nuts.

I really need to shelve this fantasy and move on. He’s never going to be interested in me. I should get out before I end up making him really uncomfortable, and leave myself looking like the world’s biggest fool. Yeah, sure, he’s always touching me, and he’s fond of me. But it’s a buddy thing, that’s all. Nothing more than that. Won’t ever be more than that. And … and that’s okay, I guess. Has to be okay.

‘Cause the day it isn’t really will be the day I’ll have to move on. And, God help me, I don’t want to go.

**

I wonder if this is a sign, a cosmic signpost telling me it’s time to pack up and move on. Man, when Eli called today, and offered me a place on his team, I was stunned. And I was thrilled. I mean, it’s a fantastic honor and a great opportunity … and, and all I could think about what how excited I should be, but, uh, wasn’t. At all. In fact, a lump of lead took up residence in my gut. But it’s such a great opportunity. I really can’t just let it slip away without serious consideration.

Okay, so let’s lay it out here, the good old pros and cons about going to Borneo. On the ‘pro’ side, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, it really is. There is SO much I could learn from Eli on a project like this, working with him every day for a year or more. There’s no more respected anthropologist in the world today. I’d garner enough knowledge and experience to write articles for years, and that’s after I earned my doctorate from the dissertation I’d also get out of it. Opportunities like this are so incredibly rare … if I’m serious about being an anthropologist, I really can’t afford not to take it. And if I ever thought of anyone as a father figure, it’s Eli. He’s been so good to me over the years, so generous with his time and knowledge. If he wants me on this project, I even owe it to him to go. And, I guess, it would give me the space I really should put between me and Jim. Lots and lots of space, measured in miles and months. It would be the smart thing to do, for all kinds of reasons.

On the ‘con’ side … I don’t want to go. And I promised Jim I’d stick with him as long as he needed me. I gave my word about that. And I’m already living the opportunity of a lifetime. I’ve searched for sentinels for half my life and now I’m working with one, living under the same roof with him. I can’t believe Jim is the only one out there, just some freak of nature. To the contrary, I’m more and more convinced that there are probably lots of others … locked up in mental institutions, considered delusional and believed to be hallucinating, lost in a world that makes no sense to them, in unimaginable physical and psychic pain. My work with Jim, ultimately my dissertation, could make a real difference in countless lives. And could better our society because fully functioning sentinels have such incredible gifts to share. It’s not only or all about how I feel about him. How much I love him and don’t want to leave him. The work I’m doing with him has real value – now, for him, but in the future, maybe for lots of people.

Go … stay. I don’t know what to do. Maybe this isn’t something I can decide on my own. I owe it to Jim to ask him what he thinks about it. If … if he doesn’t think he needs me anymore, that he’s learned enough control, then maybe I’m really just imposing on him. Delaying the inevitable. But if he needs me to stay, then … then I can’t go. I just can’t. For all kinds of reasons.

**

It’s been a few days and a lot has happened, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Where to start? Jim and I got back from Peru a few hours ago and we’d hardly gotten in the door when I told him that I’d decided to turn down the chance to go to Borneo with Eli, because I’d realized ‘it was about friendship’. Simple statement and Jim seemed to take it at face value and he seemed … pleased, I guess. But it took me awhile to get to that realization, to understand why it’s about friendship. And why that makes everything else make sense.

First off, hearing that Simon and Daryl were lost and maybe dead was so … so shattering that something as prosaic as a career decision was revealed as a pretty shallow and self-absorbed dilemma. Sure, what we do in life, how we contribute is important. But, somehow, all that paled against the possibility that two good friends might have been killed. I had to go with Jim, to find out, to help them and him if I could. I had to. What we are in life isn’t as important as who we are, not as significant as the choices we make based on what we stand for and what we’re prepared to risk our lives for. I’ve realized that my life is here, in Cascade. Because the people I care about are here. I can’t say I wasn’t scared, because I was – but I couldn’t let my fear determine my choices and actions. The fear was about me, and what was important was doing all we could to find Simon and Darryl, and bring them home if we could. Thank God, we found them and we all got home safe and sound. And, along the way, because of our friendship for one another, we all helped save a whole community of men, women and children who were being held as slaves by unscrupulous cocaine manufacturers. I only played a small part in what happened, but if I’d let my fear rule me, rather than be guided by my concern for my friends, I wouldn’t have been there … and there wouldn’t have been anyone to drive the truck out of the compound, while Jim and Simon held off the bad guys. The choices we make can have outcomes far beyond our imaginings.

Thinking about how self-absorbed fear is, got me thinking about how self-absorbed I’ve been about everything, and have been for a long time. I’ve been getting all bent out of shape because of this unrequited love I feel for Jim – but, that’s all about me and doesn’t have a whole lot to do with what love is really about. The Ancient Greeks delineated the different kinds of love we feel in our lives: familial and fraternal love, platonic love, self-love, and erotic love. But the real bottom line of honest, true love in whatever form it takes, is that it’s unconditional. If it’s not unconditional, then it’s not really love but about, I don’t know, basically about what we get out of it, what’s in it for us, what makes us feel good or comfortable or cherished and that’s not about the other person at all, is it?

What matters from Jim’s perspective is our friendship, and the fact that I help him manage and use his senses to the best of his ability. If I really love him, then that’s what has to matter most to me, too. If I’d been clear on this before we went to Peru, I wouldn’t have asked him if he minded if I went to Borneo for a year – wouldn’t have suggested I was prepared to walk away before he’d signaled that he was ready to fly on his own. I could tell he was upset, and I understand now why. He thought he had a commitment from me and it seemed I was waffling and was ready to bail on him. I don’t know if that was partly why he had problems with his senses in Peru, but I have observed that when he’s emotionally upset or threatened, whether he’d admit it or not, his senses quickly slip out of control. Between me and his worry about Simon and Darryl, it’s no wonder he was experiencing problems with focus and control.

But I also think something more was going on, something he was and remains uncomfortable with revealing. And I think that’s my fault. I think I shook the trust he had in me when I suggested I might leave to pursue other interests. Man … that was so insensitive. As if he’s just a project, a passing academic interest and something more intriguing or exciting had come along. For a fairly bright guy, I can sometimes be amazingly stupid and obtuse. Trust is a big deal for Jim, and isn’t easy for him. I can only hope I haven’t done irreparable damage to our relationship by causing him to doubt my commitment to him.

So, that’s it. From here on until he has no more need of me, I’m where I need to be – where I want to be. It’s no sacrifice, that’s for sure. It’s about friendship. And it’s about love, as a friend, as a brother, as whatever he needs and wants me to be in his life.

**

Oh, man, am I just plain incredibly stupid or too simply too naïve for words? God, I let my awe of Angie Ferris and the chance to hear the track of her upcoming CD get in the way of doing the very simple thing Jim asked me to do. Keep an eye on her and her daughter, Pam. But do I do that? Oh, no. I lose myself in music cranked so high into the head phones I’d’ve missed a nuclear explosion let alone the sounds of Angie taking a hike. And what if it had been worse? What if that psycho, Ray Weston, had found her and broken in? Some watch dog I turned out to be. Can’t even follow a simple direction to sit and pay attention. Jim’s never going to trust me, or my judgment, if I keep acting like a dumbass kid.

I suppose I redeemed myself, somewhat, by helping him figure out how to use his senses to get a lead on where she went. And I’m really glad I was able to help him find a way to turn down his senses when they’re too high and causing him pain. Like being shot isn’t going to cause a ton of pain without the added sensory input. I just begin to think I’ve done as much as I can to help him and then I realize we’re barely scratching the surface of what’s possible for him. Man, I wish I wasn’t just flying by the seat of my pants here, and had more than last minute research and intuition to give him ideas. I’ve got to spend more time in the library checking out hypersensitivity references – there’s gotta be more clues in the field of medical research into brain function and perception.

Shit, my head is killing me – like I’ve got anything to complain about. Getting knocked out a couple times pales beside Jim being shot and the vicious beating he got subduing Weston. I think he’s okay, though. He felt asleep as soon as we got home. Man, the guy is awesome. Takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. He’s like … unstoppable. Only, only I hate to see him hurt like that – gives me this weird sinking, twisting feeling in my gut and I feel like I just want to take all his pain away and it hurts that I can’t. And I really hate that, even in front of me, he never seems to be able to let himself go and admit he’s hurting. Always has to be such a tough guy. Is that because he used to be a Ranger, or is there something more going on here? Did he learn somewhere, sometime, that it’s wrong for a guy to accept, even ask, for help when he needs it? To admit that he hurts like hell? Still, he let me fuss over him a little, make sure he was comfortable, suffered through a check of his new dials to be sure they were turned down so he could relax and sleep. Maybe he’s learning that he can relax around me, that I won’t think less of him if I find out that he’s only human, just like the rest of us.

**

No rush, though I need your touch,
I won’t rush your heart.
Until you feel on solid ground,
Until your strength is found,
I’ll fill those canyons in your soul,
Like a river lead you home;
And I’ll walk a step behind
In the shadows, so you shine.
Just ask, it will be done.
And I will prove my love to you,
Until you’re sure that I’m the one


Ah, Jim. So, so much guilt that you’ve been carrying alone for so many years. So much hurt and grief. Did I help you, man? When I helped you access those memories and you realized, for sure, that Jack had called for backup and … or did I just make it worse because you now know and don’t just suspect that that call was critical. God, I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for you. But you didn’t know he was going to get killed that night. You can’t read the future, man. At least you were able to clear his name and bring his killers to justice, and you found him, man. He’s not lost anymore. I know that’s not enough, that when I said as much to you earlier tonight you just shrugged and looked away – and I know what that means. Your version of ‘I hear you,’ meaning ‘Fine, but it doesn’t help.’ I’m so, so sorry that you’ll always believe his death was your fault, whether it was or wasn’t. But … you didn’t kill him, man. And, and what you did that night was maybe wrong, but it was also only human. You’re not Superman, Jim, or some kind of angel. You’re just a man, with all the frailties and faults, and all the temptations and regrets that being human means. That doesn’t make you a bad person, Jim.

God, this is worse than seeing you getting wounded by that bullet. That wound has already healed but I’m really afraid that this one never will. It’s going to always be there, deep down, right beside your belief and guilt that it’s because of you that Danny became a cop, and so it’s because of you that he died. Utter crap, but I know that’s what you believe. I wish that … that you didn’t feel that you have to carry all this inside, alone. That it makes you feel less as a human being when, in reality, you’re such an extraordinarily good man. I wish I could take that hurt away.

**

Oh, God, I thought I was losing him tonight, when he was drowning in that vat of oil. I thought I was scared when Lash had me and I thought I was going to die – but that was nothing like those moments when I couldn’t pull Jim out and thought he was going to …. Shit. If I keep thinking about it, I’m going to vomit.

Breathe, Sandburg. He’s okay. You got him out. And you made him shower again when you got home, to be sure all trace of those chemicals are off his skin. And you’ve been watching his breathing, to make sure there’s no delayed respiratory reaction. He doesn’t have any rash or hives, no itchiness. He doesn’t feel sick. Pissed off, maybe, that I didn’t get the hell off that rig and went searching for the bomb, but not sick. He’s okay. Thinks I’m an obsessive nut-case, maybe, for forcing him to let me examine every inch of his skin to make sure there was no reaction, but I don’t care. This is what I’m here for, man. To help you, to take care of you, at least so far as your senses are concerned.

Oh, and just as an aside – God, he’s beautiful. Good thing I was so damned worried about him that the last thing I was thinking about was what I’d like to do to that body, with that body, with him. Like that’s ever going to happen.

But he trusted me enough today to admit his fear of open water. Made me feel good – made me feel even better to know I was able to help him deal with it.

Made me feel great when he teased me about the house rules and breaking me in. His way of letting me know that he likes having me around and plans on maintaining the status quo for the foreseeable future.

God, I love this man. When the day comes and it’s finally time for me to move on, I don’t know how I’m going to get through it. I … I can’t imagine life without being with him everyday. Maybe because I can’t allow myself to imagine it. Can’t handle the anguish of such thoughts. Best to just keep going, a day at a time, hoping for a miracle that will allow it all to go on forever, enjoying every moment, cherishing every blessed day that I’m here, and storing up memories for when it’s all over. I’m so lucky to have found him, to know him … to be his friend. So, so lucky.

**

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