Two-Way Communication

by ljc


Summary: Blair talks and talks, and Jim comments in his own way.

Warnings, Ratings: PG for a few words. There are many spoilers.

Thank You Note: to the ladies on Cascade Times for answering my question about Blair's girlfriends.

Biggest THANK YOU goes to Jaye Daver. She listened to my woes in completing this story and immediately offered to beta. It was a very brave thing to do.

Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, Paramount and the SciFi Channel. No money is being made. No copyright infringement is intended. This story was written by ljc with the love of the show in mind.



"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but

I think I have ended up where I intended to be."

--Douglas Adams


Hey man, it's late. Are you making another pot of coffee?” Blair asked as he sat down at the table and yawned mightily. He rubbed his eyes then continued, “I hope you're making decaf. It's been a long day.” He paused for a moment before stating suspiciously, “Tell me we're not going to clean this up tonight.”

Jim just grinned and shook his head.

It was a great party, wasn't it?” Blair said, never intending for it to be a question, just a statement of satisfaction on his part. “Simon will never live down that little impromptu sing-along he organized. I'll make sure of that! Man, I've only seen Simon tipsy twice, but this time I have proof! ... Pictures ... Video ... SOUND! Yeah, this turned out to be a great party!” He saw Jim glance at him and lift a questioning eyebrow at his 'cat ate the canary' grin. Blair grinned wider and just said, “I know, I know. He IS the Captain. I'll be good.”

He sighed deeply before beginning to speak again. He wanted Jim to know he was sincere as he continued, “The last four years have been unbelievable, man. Sometimes it's been the 'field trip' from hell ... but, now I wouldn't trade it, trade you, for anything. I've never been able to understand how other observers just ... observe. Man, there was no way I could remain a spectator, not with car chases, bullets flying, and DBs turning up in various states of decay practically every week. I, ah, I think I've changed a lot from that kid that bounced into your exam room four years ago. Did I ever tell you how lucky I felt?”

Jim leaned back against the counter with his arms gently crossed in as relaxed a pose as Blair had observed in weeks. Since before he'd started at the Police Academy, if he remembered correctly.

Blair leaned forward to lay his arms on the table. “You know, we make a great team, the Sentinel of Great City, and his guide and shaman.” And, as he did 'every' time he thought about Incacha and his legacy to him, Blair rubbed absently at his arm. He only stopped when he chanced to meet Jim's solemn gaze. “I'm okay, man. I'm okay,” Blair whispered tightly. He forced his hands down onto the table. He had seen the empathy in his friend's eyes. He knew he would never forget the feel of Incacha's bloody hand, as he knew Jim would always feel grief at the loss of his friend.

He tried to continue with his thought, “You know, I was so thrilled to find a sentinel, and he turned out to be 'my' sentinel,” at which Blair threw Jim a little grin. He was glad to see Jim return it. “But I really had no clue, Jim. I really 'was' just 'making it up as we went along'. I so scared that I'd do something wrong, something that would get you hurt.” Jim shook his head in denial.

I know what I felt, Jim. There you were, trying to cope with the senses and the spikes and the job pressures and 'me'. And I was doing my best to help you cope. Jim leaned back on the counter again, with his hands tucked loosely in his pockets, waiting for him to go on.

Our early days together were full of misunderstandings, but we weathered those, only to nearly give way to our own fears.” Blair watched Jim closely as he admitted, “Yeah, my fears, too. My ignorance could have hurt you. I was terrified that I'd lose you. You're the best friend I've ever had, man. Finally I realized how far you'd let me into your life, not just at work, not just at home. You let me into your senses. I don't know if I'll ever really come close to understanding what that means to a sentinel.”

Blair did a little Jim watching, waiting to see if he had anything he wanted to say, but gave up when Jim shifted uneasily. He grinned as he continued, “Too mushy? It's okay, Jim.”

After settling back in his chair again he said, “You know, I've recorded the minutest things in my journals. Still do. Some of it is just odd stuff, and some has come to represent the best of our friendship. Like all those little touches you've always bestowed on me. That started even before I moved into the loft. I'm an observer of human nature, human culture, and those touches weren't like typical 'male bonding'. They were special. It was okay though ... good even. Bonding is still 'bonding'. It has real influence. That's why I gave up the trip to Borneo. I told you I knew it was about friendship. It was a good feeling, Jim.”

Blair thought for a minute, and then chuckled softly, “When we first made our deal, I didn't really understand what it would mean to go to the police department to work with you. Those first days, I'd arrive at the police department, clip on my observer's badge, and make my way to Major Crimes. Naomi's opinions of cops must have sunk in because making my way through a crowd of police officers made me very nervous. And they were wary of me, too. Did you know that? What am I saying? Of course you knew. I'd get to the seventh floor, and you'd catch my eye as soon as I came through the door. I felt instant relief. And I could see you relax, too.” Blair glanced down as he admitted, “Of course, I told myself that you were probably impatient at my being late again, and you were just relieved that my 'classic' had started, and you didn't have to come and 'rescue' me again.” When he glanced back up at Jim, he just answered with a slow negative shake of the head. Blair breathed a soft answer, “Thanks, man. It was so cool that just seeing each other gave us reassurance. That gives the 'bonding' idea even more credence.”

Isn't it funny that the important moments, the ones that stick with you, that turn out to feel special ... aren't necessarily big things at all. I remember one of my first nights in the loft. A meeting had run late. I had called, so I hoped you wouldn't be mad, because it was my turn to cook dinner. But there you were, decked out in your flowered apron, taking supper out of the microwave. It was all hot and steamy, and there was a cold, crisp salad on the table. I realized you'd been listening for me. I don't know why that surprised me so much. I guess it was just the first time I'd consciously noticed it. It was thoughtful, and touching, and it made me feel warm. It made him feel ... like your friend.”

Blair blushed deeply and squirmed in his seat. He had another admission to make and it embarrassed him to admit it. Jim had always said Blair wore his emotions on his face. But they weren't the only clues Jim had,

were they? “You know, I did finally get it about the teasing. You know, about using the bathroom spray. That wasn't the real reason you teased me was it? All my talk about scientific theory, testing, and quantifying my data. Where was my reasoning when it came to pheromones? Maybe I had a blind spot, huh? The tests were to find the range and limitations of your abilities. How dense could I be, especially after the 'table leg' comment. Well, Christine was the first, but was not the last, lady I brought to the loft. It took me long enough to catch on, and when I did it sure put a damper on my private life ... for a while anyway. I paid more attention to your house rules after that.” He glanced at Jim as he felt the blush deepen. Jim just smirked at him.

Maybe you think that's funny! Yeah, laugh it up, man. I remember the time you demonstrated that you knew my 'taste'. That's right! I have that in my journal 'for posterity', my friend. I had just tasted the spaghetti sauce, and I thought you were going to, too. But you did a real slow 'taste' ... so I'd know what you were up to. Eeww!” Blair was pleased to see he'd made Jim blush this time.

When Blair went on his tone had become more serious, “I mean, I knew you were grounding your senses on me, but it was still a shock because it seemed so casual an admission on the surface. Yet, it was so profound. 'You' wound your senses around 'me'. It seemed to indicate a partnership like no other.” Blair had slowly wound down to a hushed whisper that seemed to draw the sentinel's focus to his guide's eyes.

The moment was broken when Blair snorted inelegantly. His thoughts had strayed to a certain black jaguar spirit animal and 'feline territorial behavior'. When Blair saw Jim's questioning look, he laughed till the tears came.

At least Jim was grinning now. Then he shook his head and turned to set their mugs on the countertop.

Blair managed to settle down as his thoughts spun onward, again taking a serious turn. “You know, it occurred to me that a sentinel's 'guide' might be his lifeline. A sentinel would have to 'know' his guide, be able to differentiate him from anyone else, find him if separated from him, keep him safe from 'all' dangers. That's why I made that 'Blessed Protector'

comment after Lash kidnapped me, and you found me. I still don't know how you pulled that off. But I'm grateful.”

Blair tapped his fingers nervously on the tabletop, trying to get up his nerve. His thoughts often strayed to these memories, but he'd never pushed Jim into a discussion before. “Ah ... I've been trying to find a way to bring up another subject. And tonight is probably the best opportunity I've had. I know you don't want to talk about Alex, but there's something I need to say. Alex gave me a lot to think about.”

When Jim turned away, Blair hurried on, “Please, Jim. You caused me a lot of grief then. You owe me. You can at least hear me out. This may be important. After all, two sentinels in an area the size of Cascade. Well, what are the odds? We 'could' meet up with another sentinel.”

Jim's stiff stance eased slightly in surrender, and he nodded his willingness to listen.

Blair was relieved, and he continued before he lost his nerve, “As a guideless female sentinel, was Alex a danger to me? I really didn't think so at the time ... at least, not as much as she was a danger to you.” Jim's head came up sharply, showing clearly that Blair had surprised him.

Blair let Jim think about it for a moment before he went on, “I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but you were acting so strangely. You'd seen another spirit animal. You seemed distant and uncommunicative. And when you met me at the door and put that gun in my face, that seriously freaked me out. Well, how could I just throw the two of you together? I didn't know what would happen. Believe me, I know I should have told you. I know now, of course, that your 'vision' was right, that I was in danger. But I need you to know what I think I figured out, so you understand yourself a little better ... the sentinel part of you.”

Blair waited a beat to see if Jim was okay with this, and Jim turned to watch as Blair's voice became whisper soft, “I think that I was at the center of two different territorial imperatives. I learned the hard way that Alex had wanted me in an entirely different way than she had wanted you. I think she was grounding her senses on me.” At this point Blair shuddered deeply. “Jim, she even knew me by taste. She kissed me, man. See, you and Alex were of a kind, and, even untrained as she was, she still suspected my importance in your life. If she couldn't have you or have me, then she couldn't let you have me either. There 'had' been a danger to me after all. As she said, she 'couldn't' leave me alive.”

Blair looked up to find his sentinel by his side, crouched at eye level. Blair's voice was cracking with emotion, “I often wondered just how badly my 'death' in the fountain affected you. You know what it was like after that. The stress between us just seemed to escalate. If we were so unsettled by that, what would it feel like for our bond to be severed completely? I did wonder if that was perhaps what you fear most of all, the most permanent of betrayals ... death.”

I have a few abandonment issues myself, man. It hurts like hell, even when it isn't intentional. We both remember the night you threw me out. And I saw your face when I asked you to take that trip with me. You withdrew from me physically and emotionally with no explanation.”

But all that time we'd been living and working together, and you had been grounding your senses on me, and then ... no heart to hear. Oh, man ... you know I'd seen drowning victims before the fountain. You know that it's worse for me now. It's worse because I remember what fountain water smells and tastes like. You remember, too. You saw me. You touched me, cold and wet and still ... and tasting of ... that place.”

Blair 's shudder this time was worse as he was overcome with the memories. He came back to awareness with Jim's warm hand rubbing gentle circles on his back, soothing away the deep shudder that had shaken him to paleness. Blair smiled wanly, trying to reassure Jim, and himself.

It hadn't escaped Blair's notice that Jim still hadn't broken his silence. He had just watched Blair sit and think out loud, and then had comforted Blair for the upsets he had witnessed. Jim straightened slowly, giving his friend a light tap on the cheek before going to pour two fresh cups of coffee. The silence endured as he joined Blair at the table, sitting across from him.

It was just the two of them now. The party was over. The loft was a mess. And Blair's new badge was on the table in plain sight. The silence wasn't awkward exactly, but Jim still held to his silence. Blair sipped his freshly brewed coffee as he continued to struggle with his wandering thoughts. What was his friend and partner, his sentinel, waiting for in patient silence?

Was trust still an issue? Blair had no reservations about being his friend, guide and shaman, and sentinel tests, and shaman training still continued.

You have no idea how much research I've done on one particular subject. And 'no' it's not about 'Sex in Tribal Cultures'!” Blair flushed slightly, then grinned at his own joke. “No, it's just that I had often wondered if there were vows or rituals the ancient sentinels and guides had used. I didn't find any, and it wasn't from a lack of trying.”

Blair knew that words were not Jim's forte, but he'd said so much tonight with just a look, and a touch. Much more than a thousand words could convey. “And then I wondered if a ritual would be more meaningful for a sentinel, grounded as they had to be in their senses. You know, human societies through the ages have relied on rituals to confirm trust, to seal vows .... But how could something so important as trust and friendship be reduced to a vow or a ceremony?”

Maybe talking this out, even though it was mostly one-sided, was worth the effort because suddenly it did seem clear. Maybe there was a simple answer after all ...

They still sat on either side of the table so Blair had only to look Jim in the eye. He smiled softly. He raised the cup slowly with both hands wrapped around its warmth until their eyes met, and held, across the top of the steaming brew. After he took another sip of his coffee he set the cup down on the table, turned it around, and slid it slowly toward Jim. He didn't let go until Jim's fingers reached out to brush his. Then Jim lifted it to drink slowly from Blair's cup, never taking his eyes off his guide's ....

Well, it wasn't much as far as rituals go. It wasn't filled with pageantry or witnessed by any of the 'tribe'. There were certainly no gold cups filled with fine wine. No scrolls signed in blood. Not even any eloquent, vocal declarations. But Blair thought it was just what they both needed. At this moment it seemed to Blair that he held their future before them. They had met. They had lived as close as brothers. Sacrifice had sealed a bond that had already been forged. This joining together sealed a commitment more binding than any other ceremony could compel.