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Canyons of Your Soul, Part II


Oh, man, could a day be any worse? Geez, an undercover cop gets murdered during a sting, and Jim decides this is a great time to move in undercover himself. Only, he can’t drive a rig, so he wants me to drive it. And I wanted to refuse, I really did. I tried. I mean, it’s one thing to go into something to back Jim up, and another to … to go in undercover myself. That guy, Gary? He scares me – real loose cannon, and speaking of cannons, he’s always waving his around, like he’s primed to shoot someone. I really don’t want that someone to be me, you know? So, wonderful, I decide to hold the line even if Jim does think I’m a wuss, because I’m really not trained for this, and I really, really don’t want to die. Am I wrong to have some sense of enlightened self-preservation? I’ll do anything to back Jim up, take any risk, but this … this is just police work. His work. Not my work.

Only, then Naomi wades in and makes me feel about five years old and completely incompetent, like some kind of hot house flower that needs protection and just ‘isn’t cut out for this sort of thing’. Like I’m weak or stupid or need a mother’s protection. And does she do this privately? Oh, no. She has to sound off about how little confidence she has in me and how I just don’t belong in this world of cops and robbers – in front of Jim and Simon! Talk about emasculating. So, what do I do? Agree with her, because she is right? No, I need to go the route of ‘I’m all grown up and make my own decisions,’ and stubbornly, just to prove it, insist that I’m going to keep working with Jim. Simon stood up for me, which, um, made me feel pretty good, actually, but she wasn’t at all happy when she stormed out of his office.

So, let’s sum up. I refuse to do what Jim wants me to do, even if it blows the case, because I’m a scared wimp. Mom blows in, practically hysterical after seeing me taken at gunpoint earlier, and generally portrays me as ‘poor little Blair’ who can’t tie his shoes on his own. In retaliation, I insist I’m all grown up and will make my own decisions and piss her off.

And the upshot is that I’m going to be driving that damned rig with that wacko Gary beside me with a gun, and I’m … I’m scared.

Ah, well, guess I made my bed and all that shit. Looks like I’m going undercover in the morning. At least Jim’s happy – I think he figures it’s ‘fair trade’ for allowing Naomi to stay in the loft for a few days.

**

Been a busy few days. Maya came back, pretended she still cared about me, but it was all a set-up. Guess, maybe, that makes us even, doesn’t it?

Jim seemed worried that I’d be wrecked again when it was all over and upset that she’s being deported and won’t ever be able to return to the US. But, I’m not, really. I’m not sure what I felt for her before – thought it might be love at the time, and I still cared about her when I saw her again. Guess part of me will always care about her. When I thought she was in trouble, vulnerable, I wanted to protect her, sure. But what I feel for her is nothing like what I feel for Jim. Still, I guess it doesn’t hurt to have some camouflage once in a while, to let him think I’m still looking for the perfect woman so he never guesses that I’ve already found the perfect man.

**

Golden. Such a pretty, evocative name for such insidious, deadly shit. God, I hate mind-bending, toxic, hallucinogenic, addictive garbage. I guess some see it like getting on a big rollercoaster and taking a wild ride, feeling the exhilaration and magic of addled senses. Me? The stuff terrifies me and has since I was a kid and had a front row seat to how it could mess with people’s heads, make them act all weird and took them along on a fast ride to hell. Oh, sure, I’ve toqued up – who hasn’t? And I’ve taken God knows what around campfires in villages around the world, sharing a communal, spiritual journey. I guess that sorta makes me a hypocrite, but there’s a difference, I think, in … well, maybe there isn’t a difference, and it’s all risky. I don’t do any of it anymore, not willingly or knowingly. I don’t like how it messes with my head. I tease Jim a lot about being anal and his need for control, but he’s not the only one who lives in this apartment who doesn’t want to scramble his brain. Ironic, isn’t it, that both us got poisoned by the stuff?

I’ve never seen anything as vicious as Golden. Man, Jim was blinded just from accidentally inhaling what couldn’t have been more than a few, tiny grains. I can’t tell you had badly I felt for him, how sick to think he might not recover. The fact that it could have been permanent tore my heart out. But Jim … man, even being blinded doesn’t scare him out of doing his job. He was amazing, just like always, but the sheer, determined courage he revealed, both with the sleazy and dangerous distributors and at home, grappling with it, fighting the symptoms, trying to make himself better, well, I was even more awed than usual, and absolutely committed to helping him as well as I could, forever if need be. Actually, I was astonished at how he just took it for granted that I could help him through it all, not only with coming up with suggestions about how to handle the blindness, but back him up in dangerous situations. I mean, I’m glad he trusts me, but sometimes his belief in me is a little overwhelming, you know? What if I’d screwed up? And when did he start trusting me that much? Or was it just like always – not trust in me so much as not having any other choices? The important thing, though, is that it looks like he’s going to be okay, thank God.

And me? I don’t remember much after taking a few bites of that laced pizza. Fire people. I remember them. Truth to tell, I think a few of them are still hanging around the edges of my vision, but I haven’t told Jim. Don’t want to worry him, and the doctor said they’d eventually go, probably. I just have to keep reminding myself that the fiendishly hideous demons aren’t real. The doctor also told me I was damned lucky to be alive, that it had been touch and go for hours. Simon told me what happened in the garage, how I was shooting up the place, and even turned the gun on Jim when he stepped out of shelter to approach me and bring me down before anyone was forced to shoot me. Man, now that took guts – approaching a mad man shooting up the place, coming up to me alone and blind. Huge risk. Enormous risk. Devastates me to think how easily I might have killed him. Just writing those words makes me freeze with horror. If I’d hurt him, murdered him, I’d … I couldn’t live with that, you know? Some things are too huge to absorb and move on. Some things can’t be borne.

But what blows me away is that Jim must have, at some level, believed I wouldn’t shoot him – believed that he could get through the confusion of the drug and get me to hear him. Or, is he just that brave, that he’d face any maniac and try to get the gun from them, even if he was blind and pretty much helpless in the situation? Or, does he simply care about me that much, to take the risk of not knowing if I’d shoot him or not, but having to try before someone shot me? I’d like to think he has that kind of belief in me, that level of trust; that he knows at a gut level that no part of me would ever do anything to intentionally hurt him. But, honestly? It’s probably just that he really is that incredibly brave.

The doctor said that Jim sat with me for hours, listening to the sound of the respirator and heart monitor, holding my hand, often murmuring soothing stuff too low for the staff to hear. A nurse also told me, when I woke up confused and was alone – guess that’s when he went with Simon to capture the creeps. Anyway, I must’ve looked like I was feeling sorry for myself, and wondering if I’d done something unforgivable while ‘flying’, but she said, no, she didn’t think so. She said there’d been a lot of cops in and out, checking on me, all of them looking really worried and rumbling angrily about the men who’d hurt me. And she said there’d been one man, a blind man named Jim, who had hardly ever left my side. She said the expression on his face was almost too painful to look at, that she’d never seen anyone who wasn’t family seem as deeply worried, as sick with fear for a patient, or reveal the depth of so much love. She wondered if he was my brother, even if we did have different last names, because she said that only family ever came close to that kind of suffering vigil. Families or … or lovers, she added, just before she left the room.

Family or lovers, huh? I’ve known for a long time now that Jim cares for me, like a friend, anyway. Was good to hear that he seemed more like family to a person who has probably seen more bedside vigils than she can count. Maybe he’s begun to think of me as a kid brother. The thought warms me, makes me smile – and sure helps keep those golden demons off on the fringe of my vision. Family means that even when the time comes that I have to go, there may still be room in his life for me, and that leaving won’t have to be the end. Gives me hope to hold onto. Makes me smile like Scrooge on Christmas morning, to know he loves me, that he was there with me. Jim scares away the fire people. His love surrounds me and keeps me safe from them.

Okay, that was a bit much; sounds like something out of a romance novel, and I don’t mean it that way. I guess I just mean that … that for the first time in my life, I’m not alone, having to deal with everything, just everything, on my own. I’ve managed okay, and I’ll manage again when this ride is over, but it’s been such a relief to know there’s someone in my corner if I need him. Before Jim, I never knew what that was like, didn’t know what I was missing in not having someone to share life with. I know I’m safe with him. Safe from demons I can’t always fight on my own, whether they’re golden or my own insecurities or real monsters in human form. And, so much as I can, I’ll keep him safe, too.

Guess I should finish this up. Margaret’s coming over and I need to clear out, give them some space. Wish I could feel more noble for giving Jim the room to let his heart decide on whether he likes her enough for a relationship to really get started between them. Really, mostly, I just want him to be happy. But I’m still working on this unconditional love thing, so just about everything in me is telling me I’m a fool for having invited her over today. Even when I’ve accepted that it’s not about me, but about loving Jim and only wanting the best for him, it still hurts, you know? Still hurts … guess I have to accept that maybe it always will. I’d rather the hurt than not have him in my life on whatever terms work for him. We can’t always have what we want and, sometimes, what we have is so good that it’s more than enough.

**

Somebody else was here before,
He treated you unkind;
But broken wings need time to heal,
Before a heart can fly….
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 I’m the one.


I thought he was dead and that we’d never know – or worse, that he was locked away somewhere and we wouldn’t ever be able to find him. It was like being caught like a rat in a maze, chasing around, trying to avoid being shot, trying to figure out what the hell was going on, trying to convince Simon that Jim was in real trouble. At least he started to listen to me. But, God, poor Jack – I feel really badly about him being shot because I think that bullet was being aimed at me.

When we found him, my knees nearly gave out; I was so damned glad to see he was okay. But, man, that Oliver was … I can’t think of a word that is big enough, evil enough, despicable enough to describe that bastard. God damn him. Setting up Jim’s team to be shot down over Peru. They were his men! He was supposed to be their leader, someone they could trust and he betrayed them completely for personal gain. I’m glad he’s dead. He deserves to rot in hell.

I don’t know what learning about Oliver’s role in bringing about the death of his team members in Peru means to Jim. I don’t know if he feels less guilty about their deaths, if he thinks he’s achieved some measure of justice for them by stopping Oliver from doing more harm, or if it’s just more proof for him that he’s right not to trust, right to pretty much assume people will let him down, betray him, abandon him, use him for their own ends. And I have to wonder if that’s how he sees me, as someone who is using him for my own ends, to get my doctorate. A couple weeks ago, when he was going for a routine physical and was afraid he’d somehow give his heightened senses away, I teased him about my vested interest – that if the secret was blown, there went my hopes for movie rights. I was kidding, but the look he gave me …. After a year of working together, nearly a year of living together, of being friends, there’s still a part of him that doesn’t trust me. As usual, he doesn’t want to discuss what happened or how he feels. I don’t know what else I can do that I’m not already doing to convince him that I won’t betray him. I won’t deliberately hurt or abandon him. Yes, sure, I have a dissertation to write, but … nobody will know it’s primarily about him.

Shit. If I thought that … that what we have now could go on forever, then I think I’d ditch the dissertation and the PhD. But I know it won’t go on forever. Is it wrong to have some sense of rational self-interest, to be preparing for a life apart from him? He doesn’t know it, but I’ve got enough now, and have had enough for some time, to write the paper. But once I write it, then my legitimacy in riding around with him is gone, right? He’s doing pretty well with his senses, though we still get surprises, like how incredible his hearing really is, so much more than we realized until his physical. But, basically, he’s doing really good and I’m never sure how much he really needs me around anymore. He’d never admit that he needs me, so if the dissertation was done, well, then he’d tell me to get on with my own career. He wouldn’t ever want to think he was holding me back. I saw that pretty clearly over the whole Borneo thing. So, am I using him, too? Living a lie that I still need more research? Can he sense that? Is that why he doesn’t completely trust me? Or is it still the Borneo thing? That he figures I’ll up and leave some day, when I’ve gotten all I need from him? I should tell him, I guess. But I’m so afraid of losing what I have with him now. I love him, and I love this life with him too much to take any chances of losing it all.

It’s a loser’s game that I’m playing, and I know it. The day will come when it will end. I just don’t want that day to come anytime soon. Is that so wrong?

**

Pretty wild elevator ride today. Gives me the shakes to think too much about how close it was. Nope, definitely do not want to think about it right now.

Skipping ahead, Simon was waiting for Jim and me when we left the Wilkinson Tower this afternoon – he’d been using the time to smoke a cigar and maybe let go of some of his own tension. He surprised me when he looped an arm around my shoulders to walk me to his car and said, “Good job, Blair. I’m glad you’re okay.” I mean, I know he wouldn’t’ve wanted me or anyone else to be blown to smithereens, but he doesn’t usually actually say so. Anyway, Jim had left his truck back at the PD, so we all went back there to do the reports on the case and Rachins’ arrest. Jim didn’t say much on the way back to work, or at the office, or on the way home when Simon let us go early. Have to say, I wasn’t all that talkative, either, beyond what I had to be to give my statement to Jim. God, I can still feel the searing heat from the explosion fill that elevator car. Too close. Too damned close.

I guess I figured we’d just go home and get shit-faced maybe, or I would – Jim can’t drink much or he really pays for it the next day. Times like this, I can understand some of the resentment he feels for his heightened senses. Anyway, we got home and hung up our coats and I started toward the kitchen, but Jim caught my arm and held me. I looked up at him, and he looked so … so shell-shocked, I guess. He was really pale and his eyes looked haunted. “What?” I asked, worried, wondering if he’d somehow been hurt at the tower, what with dropping off the roof, slamming through the window, fighting Rachins – and that was after he’d ridden a fast-falling elevator car five floors with only a steel beam to hang onto. The overload on his eardrums must’ve nearly knocked him out. The pain would have been terrible. I was so caught up in my own shudders that I hadn’t even thought to see if he was okay – some backup I am, huh? Some wannabe lover.

But he didn’t say anything, not then. He just pulled me closer and then wrapped his arms around me, hugging me so tightly I could hardly breathe, and I could feel shudders rippling through his body. “What?” I asked again. “Jim, what is it? Are you hurt? What do you need, man? Tell me.” I couldn’t see his face at that point, but I felt him drag in air; almost sounded like a sob, and I was really getting scared for him, you know? And then he said, his voice cracking, “I’m just glad you’re okay, Chief. When I heard the bomb blow, I thought … I thought….” But his voice broke and he just held me tighter.

I nearly lost it, you know. That it had hit him so hard. That he cared that much. I mean, it would destroy me, I think, if anything happened to him. But for the first time, I realized that if something ever happened to me, it would hit him really hard. Really hard. I got this lump in my throat the size of the Titanic and couldn’t speak, so I just hugged him back, as hard as I could – like I was trying to climb inside him or meld with him or something. And we stood like that for a long time, just holding on to one another. Finally, I managed to say, “I’m here, Jim. It’s okay. I’m here.” And gradually, he stopped shaking. When we finally broke apart, he scrubbed at his face and turned away, went to the fridge and asked, “Wanna beer?”

And that was it. We moved on to telling each other that we should eat something, decided to shower off the sweat and filth of the afternoon, and went out for dinner. And then we walked in the park for awhile. Normal stuff, not saying anything about what had happened, or almost happened. Not directly, anyway. Guess we talked about what a headcase Rachins was, and debated Wilkinson’s stance about not giving in to terrorists. Intellectually, the man is one hundred per cent right – emotionally? Well, that’s another story. But underneath it all, my nerves were humming and, in my head, I kept telling myself that we were friends, good friends, the best of friends … that maybe Jim even thought of me as a kind of kid brother. But that’s all that hug was about.

I’m not saying it wasn’t just about the most moving moment in my life, because it was. I’ve never experienced that degree of caring before from anyone but Naomi – and that tremble of fear of loss, of near escape, is something I haven’t felt even from her since I was a kid. It means everything to me that Jim cares about me that much.

But I can’t let myself hope or believe it was more than it was.

**

Man, oh, man, Jim was awesome out there, tracking Simon by the scent of tobacco from his cigars and on his clothing. Awesome. He never faltered, not once, not even when those lunatics from Deliverance got on our tail. Or when we were down to one bullet against three murderers with automatic weapons. Well, two, once they had a falling out amongst themselves. And Simon was right – he wouldn’t have dropped Quinn down that well, no matter how much he wanted to. But Quinn deserved to know the taste of fear – he probably won’t forget it for a long time. Probably never. So we just gotta hope he never, ever, gets loose again, or Jim will be number one on his hit parade. Oh, bad pun. Shows that I’m either having a hard time keeping it together or it’s the drugs. Pain meds and antibiotics, chemical cocktails pickling my brain, but Jim insists I take them.

Not that I’ve put up much of a fight.

I’ve given him enough trouble in the last few days.

Like being absolutely no help when he set off after Simon. Worse, being a liability, a distraction, first by not being able to keep up after we came out of the river, then by nearly getting killed by those he-man hunters before one of them killed the other one, the ‘good one’, the one who didn’t want to kill me. As if that wasn’t enough, then I got shot, so Simon couldn’t just follow him out of the tunnel with the money and, as if all that still wasn’t enough, I ended up screaming my fool head off when they flew me out under the helicopter, like some Victorian maiden with the vapors at the sight of a spider or rat. Yep, that’s me. Not brave. A wuss, actually. It’s embarrassing to be so … unable to harness my fear or hide it. To be so extreme about expressing it.

Useless. Worse than useless. I could have gotten Simon killed because he felt he had to stay with me.

So the last thing I’m going to do now that I’m finally home is bitch about how f-ing much my leg hurts, or how sick the antibiotics are making me feel. Nope. Gonna lie here and suck it up.

And hope he doesn’t finally decide that I’m a whole lot more trouble than I’m worth.

I should have let him go alone, like he wanted to do in the first place. Only … I couldn’t. Like I couldn’t let him go to Peru alone after Simon and Darryl. At least I wasn’t completely useless and a total liability on that little jaunt.

And I have to say, getting shot SUCKS. Man, I am so out of my mind. What the hell do I think I’m doing, playing cops and robbers when there’s real ammo in the game? I should cut and run, like the coward I am. Okay, first, I’d work with Jim and Simon to get him a partner that also packed, and teach the new backup everything I know about how to help Jim. That’s exactly what I should do.

Funny how knowing intellectually what would be the only sensible thing to do has absolutely no impact on the emotions. If he’d give me a sign, maybe – if he seemed frustrated with me, or impatient; if he said even one word about how I should have listened to him and never followed him into the woods – maybe then I’d know he was done with me, ready to cut me loose. Maybe then I’d find the guts to go. But he’s been so gentle, and he looks worried, like he did after Lash and he thought I was going to pull the plug on our deal. I promised him then that I’d stay so long as he had need of me. So, it’s his call. Right? Right?

It’s not just about how I … I just don’t have the strength to leave him. That nothing, not even getting shot is enough to make me want to be anywhere else. I’m scared, honestly scared, of that day coming; scared of caring so damned much for him, about him. But even that’s not enough to get me to leave while I might still get out in one piece. Oh, I don’t mean a worse physical injury; I mean being whole inside. It’s already too late for that. I honestly think that when I finally have to leave Jim that something inside will die. But … I can’t be afraid of that. I can’t allow myself to fear love. Because then I really would be worthless, too self-absorbed and cowardly for words. When we give love, we give the best of ourselves.

That’s what Jim deserves. The best I’ve got to give.

I think I’m rambling here and getting maudlin. I wonder if any of this will make sense when the meds wear off and I’m in my right mind. Then again, that presumes I have a right mind to be in. LOL. I just asked Jim what he thought about that and he gave me an odd look of bemused indulgence, like I’m making less sense than usual, and then got all tough and worried-looking, growling at me to stop writing whatever and go to sleep. See, that’s one of the things I love about the guy. He ignores the fluff and goes straight to the heart of the matter. I wonder if he knows how incredibly cute and sweet he looks, this big, tough, ex-ranger cop, when he’s being all concerned and solicitous and tender. Uh, oh, he’s eying my journal like he’s going to do serious damage to it, so I guess I’d better call it a night. Sleep is definitely a good idea. The best idea. Things don’t hurt when I’m asleep – and in my dreams, well, as Jim would say, “In your dreams, Sandburg. Only in your dreams.”

But, honestly, despite my propensity to whine about stuff (like this hole in my leg that really does hurt like hell), I’ve never been happier in my life than I am now, here, with him.

**

I can’t believe this. Jim has a brother? Living here in Cascade? And a father? And I didn’t know? What the hell is wrong with me? This is basic research and if there is anything I should have been tuned into, it’s the possibility that if Jim has genetically enhanced senses, then so might others in his family. Fuck. I can’t believe I didn’t do independent research on this way back in the beginning. But I took what he told me, when I asked if he had family, at face value. What did he say, exactly? I need to go through my research notes.

Found it! He said, “Let’s not go there, Chief. There’s nothing to find.” I remember he looked tense, upset, and I thought they must all be dead. Given what I knew about his experience in Peru, losing his whole team, and how he didn’t ever want to talk about that, at least not when we first met, I just assumed his family were all dead, too.

But he’s got family, right here in town. Oh, sure, I get that they had problems – what family doesn’t? But Steven seems like an okay guy, and Jim’s a straight shooter, so how terrible could it all have been? They ended up with the right values, they’re both successful men. Well, fine, his father sounds like a martinet and he sure played head games with them, and it had to hurt, big time, when his mother took off. I can see why Jim wouldn’t have been happy as a kid, and that’s sad because it sounds like he had all the superficial stuff locked down: a home, good neighborhood, did well at school, he would have had friends – stable, safe.

It worries me that he’s never been able to let that go, never tried for any kind of reconciliation when he got back from Peru. But, then, it seems they didn’t try, either. How dysfunctional is that? To carry childhood grudges for more than fifteen years? Also tells me that once he’s cut his ties, he doesn’t forgive. But at what cost? I mean … what do I mean? To turn your back on your kid brother and father – how much hurt does that mean he’s been carrying around deep inside? Man, I’d give anything for a kid brother and I can’t imagine ever turning my back on Naomi. Did he ever love them? He must have. Kids love almost instinctively. So to deny your familial love out of what? Anger? Pride? Frustration?

Man, I hope I never seriously piss him off.

Or … wait. He’s not happy about any of this. I could see it on his face, the way he tightened up, when I first asked about his family. Was he hurt so badly that he just can’t risk being hurt like that again? But, hurt how? By whom? Steven … Steven was just a kid. And Jim seems okay with him now, willing to reconcile. His father? What did his father do to him?

Man, it would be so much easier if Jim would just talk about this stuff, would be more open about how he feels. But it’s like an excavation with him. Going down, layer by layer, sifting carefully, very carefully so as not to damage anything rare and priceless, irreplaceable, along the way. Like … like as if he’s buried part of his soul, like time and trauma, earthquakes, bury a canyon, hiding it. Protecting its secrets until someone realizes the canyon is there, underneath all the rubble, but still there, waiting to be found.

But Jim, man, Jim – how many earthquakes has he suffered in his life? His mom leaving when he was too young to understand, and he still doesn’t know why she left. And whatever happened with his dad, something that still hurts so much he couldn’t go home after Peru. And he would have needed a home, a safe place, so much after that. Hell, he came back here to Cascade ‘cause this is ‘home’ to him. The men he lost. The betrayal by Oliver. What he believes was his betrayal of Jack. Danny, who became a cop to emulate him – Danny, a kind of replacement for the kid brother he’d lost in Steven? His first partner when he was a rookie – I know he thinks there’s something he should have done to save his partner’s life. His failed marriage to Carolyn. So many earthquakes. So many canyons of his soul covered over to hide the hurt and pain, the grief and … sense of failure?

Oh, man. No wonder he became such a loner. No wonder it’s so hard for him to really trust, to get close to anyone. He has to wonder how much more he can stand to lose. But maybe this is a chance for him to rebuild his relationship with Steven, at least. A chance for a new beginning.

**

Tonight, at the track, when we were talking about Steven, Jim told me that he considers me family. Man, I nearly lost it in SO many ways. Words that said he loves me – man, he blew me away. He was leaning down a bit, and we were standing so close, and he had this look on his face, in his eyes, that for a minute I thought … I felt … and I remember grabbing his arm and, God, I almost kissed him. Shit.

But ‘family’ is good. Hell, it’s great. Not that this means it wouldn’t also be good for him to get to know Steven, to reconcile their relationship. I’ve suspected that he kinda sees me as a kid brother for some time now, but Steven is his real brother, his real family. And I can tell that Steven would really like to mend their bridges. I can see that every time I look at the man, and see the way he watches Jim. And I can see something else when I look at him – Steven isn’t a sentinel. There’s no indication that he has any heightened senses, whatsoever. Unless, maybe, he just hasn’t been in an isolated, dangerous situation that would have ‘turned them on’. But there’s another indication, too. Maybe an even more important one. Even before his senses came on line, Jim sought roles as a watchman, a protector – whether as a soldier or a cop. But Steven has chosen to be a businessman, like his father. Nothing wrong with that, obviously. But it’s not a career a latent sentinel would choose. It’s too bad. I think it would mean a lot to Jim if he wasn’t so unique, so different – if he had someone close who could understand what he experiences.

Family. Huh. It’s a lot more than I ever dared hope for, that’s for sure.

**

You know, when Jim said he considered us family, I thought that was a good thing. Maybe I should have thought more about what the word, the concept, means to him, because it’s not been a source of happiness or well-being or comfort in his life. I thought we’d get closer, or something. Not sure, exactly. I mean, we’ve been getting along really well for nearly two years now.

But … ever since that night, he’s changed. He seems less comfortable with me now. I know, for sure, he touches me less. A lot less. He keeps more distance between us now. And he’s even less open now than he’d become, but it’s not an easy silence – more like there’s something he’d like to say but is holding back for some reason.

Maybe he regrets what he said. Maybe he’s embarrassed about it and would like to retract those words, but he’s afraid of hurting my feelings or something. I don’t know. Just guessing here. But something’s off, not right.

Is it me? Did he pick up on my uncontrolled burst of pheromones or something that night? Or since? Have I done something to make him uncomfortable? I don’t think I’ve been doing anything different. I thought my ‘hiding in plain sight’ approach was working pretty well. Touching him when I’m helping him focus and sometimes when we’re kidding around or to get his attention, standing close when we’re at the PD or at a crime scene, again to lend assistance or indicate a kind of affiliation – well, I have become his unofficial partner, sort of. Looking at him with open admiration that’s entirely unfeigned, but I think he and others attribute it to hero worship – fair enough. That’s how it started out. And whenever he makes a comment that ribs me about my insatiable appetite for anyone in a skirt, which lets me know my fantasy life has inadvertently loosened my physical control and he’s scenting pheromones, I just mention whatever woman I’ve seen last and he thinks I’m on the hunt or something, and he laughs or shakes his head and that’s usually that. Besides, people usually only notice what they’re looking for, and I seriously doubt he has any idea about how I feel about him.

Man, I just wish he’d say whatever it is that’s bothering him. Or maybe I’m just imagining things. Maybe I was so blown away by what he said and how he said it that I expected … I don’t know what I expected.

**

The last few days have been so terrible, so tragic. I feel so badly about Janet. She only wanted to help protect the environment, and help us get the facts about what was going on with Cyclops Oil in Peru, and she ended up being murdered for her commitment and efforts. Could we have saved her? If we hadn’t driven around looking for Incacha? I don’t know. She was probably killed within a few minutes of calling me. She had so much to do, yet, you know? Get married, have a family, live a full life. And now that beautiful, generous, passionate, intelligent woman is gone forever. Such a terrible loss and waste. I don’t know how her fiancé can bear losing her like that. If it was me, if anything ever happened to Jim, I’d … I’d be lost, completely lost. I don’t know how I’d ever deal with such devastation, or how I’d be able to go on.

And Incacha? Oh, man … how terrible was that? He and his followers came here to protect their land, their people against corporate greed and exploitation. Talk about an uneven battle, but they were all so incredibly brave and resolute, you know? And they held their own, even in the jungle of a city, a place that had to be so foreign and inexplicable to them – with only blow darts against modern automatic weapons. But Incacha paid the ultimate price, as did Janet, for his courage. It was awful to watch him die, bleed to death, right there in the living room and truly terrible to see how his death hurt Jim. And there was no time to absorb it, to deal with it – God, Jim was beside himself with rage and pain. But we had to get the guys responsible, had to stop them, arrest them.

I wish I could have known Incacha better, had had a chance to learn from him – there was so incredibly much he could have taught me about all kinds of things, not least of which would be how to be the best support I can to Jim. I do my best, but I’m guessing all the time, putting together ideas from research, acting on intuition, but Incacha knew, he knew what Jim needs. Man, I sure wish I had a better idea of what he meant when he passed me the way of the shaman. That’s not something that is just conveyed upon a person, you know? It takes years of study, experience … and a whole lot more wisdom than I’ve got.

This whole week has been so hard on Jim. First losing faith in his senses when he shot that security guard by accident, so they disappeared on him; and then seeing Incacha and the warriors he knew in Peru again; Incacha telling him plainly that a sentinel is a sentinel because he chooses to be. And I can’t begin to imagine how long it will be before he’ll be able to reconcile Incacha’s death without being mired in guilt and remorse. You know, I honestly don’t think Incacha would want his guilt, or his regret – I think Incacha would want him to celebrate his life and their extraordinary friendship – but Jim’s got to get past the grief first, I guess. I don’t really know how to help him with that. Oh, I can keep him focused on his senses; help him rein in his temper. But he’s lost so many, too many. If he’d talk about it, I’d listen and I’d hold him if he needed or wanted to weep, but that’s not Jim’s way. He holds it all inside. One more canyon in his soul covered over by scars.

Guess all I can do is be here for him, be his friend.

**

Okay, there is definitely something up with Jim. I’m not imagining things. He has definitely changed toward me, how he is with me, in the last few months. He’s more abrupt with me now than he was when we first met, let alone all of the past year. He hardly ever touches me anymore – hell, he hardly looks at me. He stands a pace, at least, away. And … and he’s been putting me down and not in a fun, teasing way. He gave no credence to my input or what I learned from Glimmerman (and he hardly even reacted to the fact that I know the guy – what was up with that? I expected a third degree!) And then he and Simon thought it would be funny to charge me when what they were doing was rescuing me from Iris and her wacko brother and murderous business colleague. Is that it? Is he affiliating more with Simon? Their friendship has grown over the years and, well, they have their work in common. But where does that leave me? And then he ditches me entirely to go undercover with the mob. Like, what’s that about? Okay, okay, I know it’s his job, but how the hell am I supposed to provide backup or support if I’m not even in the neighborhood, let alone beside him? Man, he was not pleased when I showed up with my own undercover gig. I know, he wants to protect me and hates me doing anything that might be dangerous, but it’s more than that. He’s been dating more, just ‘out’ more, so we don’t spend much time together anymore.

Is he trying in his own inimitable way to give me a message here? Like, is he getting tired of having me underfoot, despite having told me he was ‘happy with the family’ he has, meaning me? Did getting together with Steven again only remind him that he’s not close to ‘family’ and being labeled as such is a kind of kiss of death?

Well, fuck that, frankly. If he wants me out of here, or wants to stop working together, he can come right out and say it. I am not going to make it easy for him by quietly taking the hints, if that’s what it’s all about, and detaching with love. That’s Naomi’s gig, not mine. I’m not saying he’ll have to physically toss me out, or anything. But he has to say he wants me to go, that it’s time to move on. I will not volunteer to leave the best home, the only real home, I’ve ever had … or him. I will not, not ever, voluntarily leave him unless and until he’s very clear that that’s what he wants.

And, even then, I’ll probably argue until I’m blue in the face to change his mind.

You know what I really think? I think he’s still working through Incacha’s death and is distancing himself from me because he doesn’t want it to hurt when I’m gone, or if anything ever happens to me. He’s tired of being bereft of people he cares about. I can understand that, I really can, and I ache for him. I figure the best thing I can do is just stay, just be here, be his friend, no matter what. Maybe, someday, he’ll ease up, relax again, and we can get back to the easiness between us. Maybe someday he won’t be afraid that he’s going to lose me, too.

I’m not that easy to lose, you know? Not when I’m where I really want to be.

**

What a weekend this turned out to be! I was really pleased, you know, when he suggested I go with him to celebrate his cousin, Rucker’s, birthday. That was the most friendly thing he’s suggested we do together since he and Simon and I went fishing a couple of months ago – and promptly ran into poachers. Anyway, this seemed like it was going to be a great, uncomplicated weekend out on an island where Rucker is the assigned Coast Guard office.

I was really excited to meet him, actually. I mean – living in isolated circumstances? Working for the Coast Guard? A cousin? Can we say ‘genetically enhanced senses’? Not that I said anything about that to Jim. He wouldn’t have appreciated me going out there with research in mind. But if I could just find even one other sentinel, it would make Jim ‘safer’ – he wouldn’t be the sole subject of my dissertation, the only living example that I’d be able to refer to in the document.

Anyway, as it turns out, I think Rucker may have enhanced hearing and sight, though nothing like Jim’s. He might even be an incipient sentinel, but there was no chance to do any real observation. Not once the drug lord and his minions showed up shooting. I feel like such an idiot, believing Monique. I do that. I believe people, in people, until they prove me wrong, but sometimes it’s dangerous, you know? I should have listened to Jim. Been more suspicious. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever learn to put up walls rather than try to make friends with everyone who crosses my path. I guess it’s because, when I was a kid, I had to make friends quickly or, well, we’d already moved again and I wouldn’t have gotten to know anyone. Not really know them. Not sure I got to know many, anyway, not beyond superficialities. I have to learn, though, to be more circumspect. Not sure why Jim puts up with my persistent naiveté. Maybe that’s why he and Simon ‘arrested’ me after the night with Iris. Maybe they were trying to make a point I’d remember. Guess I’ll remember what happened on the island.

I … I shot at people today. There was no choice, really. They were going to kill us. I don’t think I killed anyone, but I don’t know for sure. Not sure I want to know. Okay, so … so it was necessary. Absolutely necessary. It’s not like I haven’t almost killed before. Kincaid is lucky he’s still breathing and didn’t go splat years ago. God, I really didn’t need that image in my head. I don’t want to kill anyone. But I guess it’s pretty clear that I will, if I have to, if there’s no choice. Really accepting that is like letting go of a piece of me. A piece of my innocence, I guess. Welcome to the real world, Sandburg. Man, I hope Naomi never finds out. She’d be burning sage from now until doomsday.

Jim and Rucker were great. It’s because of them that we’re still alive. Not sure how I can ever find out if Rucker is a latent sentinel. Jim would kill me if I started asking him questions – just a little too close to home for him. But I really need to find another sentinel, to validate my research but, mostly, to safeguard Jim’s identity. There have to be others out there, don’t there?

As usual, when my adrenaline was still pumping when we left the island, I was feeling pretty good. Hey, we were still alive and that was reason enough to celebrate. But now, I’m just really tired. And … and I’m uncomfortable in my own skin. I’m not sure I really know who I am, anymore.

Or, maybe to the point, I’m not sure if I like who I am and who I’m becoming. I guess everyone changes as the years pass. I guess, maybe, I’m growing up. About time. It’s not like I’m a kid anymore. Sigh. Why do I think that some part of me will always be a kid – and that some part of me never was? Man, I’m rambling. It’s late. Better turn in. Got an early lecture in the morning.

**

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Dorian
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