|After watching Jim take his father toward the paramedics,
Blair caught a ride back to the loft from Simon. The trip was a silent
one, while Blair contemplated the recent events concerning Jim and his
father. He knew something happened at William Ellison's house. Jim was
all nervous tension and energy, never even thinking twice about allowing
Blair to come to the football field with him.
On arriving home, Blair decided to start dinner, figuring Jim would be hungry; maybe not right away, but eventually they had to eat. Blair had bought a roast earlier in the week and decided to fix that; comfort food for Jim. He beamed proudly as he prepared the meat, resolving not to mention the cholesterol and even prepared buttery mashed potatoes. Yeah, Jim would like it.
Blair attacked the preparation of the meal like a man possessed, all the while thinking about Jim. After an hour, the roast was in the oven, the potatoes were being kept warm on the stove, the salad was tossed, all Blair needed was Jim. At the sound of a key in the door, he turned, and watched Jim enter, throwing his keys in the basket.
"Hey," said Blair.
Jim tossed a glance his way and responded, "Hey. Dinner?"
"Um, a little while longer."
Blair stood in the kitchen holding two beers and watched Jim drift to the balcony windows. As he stood there, wrapped in silence, Blair could almost see the emotions rolling off his friend. It was almost as if he could sense each feeling as a defining layer. The surface walls were already erected, but Blair had overcome them in the past. The anger was unsettling; hot and heavy. The betrayal was also clearly there. But the one that tore Blair up the most was the deep hurt he could see reflected in Jim's face.
Blair started toward his friend. "Jim, man, are you ok? I know this has brought up a lot of bad memories for you and...." he trailed off uncertainly, handing him a bottle.
Jim barely looked at Blair as he accepted the offered beer. "Thanks." He had a long drink but didn't address the unspoken question.
The anger and pain were all too familiar, though they hadn't plagued him like this in a very long time. Maybe even since the army. But the familiarity just brought home the realization that he no longer wanted to deal with feelings like this any more. He had enough of them from the past
"Jim you need to talk about this..." Blair started before Jim cut him off.
Jim spun away from the windows, anger temporarily overcoming all the other emotions. "Talk?? That's how I got where I am now. 'Go see your father,' you said. 'You can't keep running,' you said. Great advice, Chief! Thanks!" Jim took another swallow of the beer and, looking down, realized he'd finished it. Without looking back at Sandburg, he went to retrieve another one from the refrigerator.
Returning to his earlier stance, he stared out. The city hadn't changed. Neither had the fact that his father knew about his senses and didn't do a thing to help him. Jim sighed...
He'd regretted his angry words to Blair as soon as he said them. He knew his friend was trying to help, but Jim didn't seem to have a firm control over his emotions yet. He was just so angry.
His father knew?! Yet, he told Jim he didn't believe his story. Idly, Jim wondered what high school would have been like if he hadn't stuffed his senses so deeply inside, if he hadn't changed who he was. That was the worst aspect of the whole thing; that he'd changed to suit his father. The idea made him cringe. But it was undeniably true: he'd hidden his senses so far within himself he'd forgotten they even existed.
Jim mentally shook his head. His life might have been so different if he'd had his abilities all his life. Would he have gone into the army? Become a cop? Met Blair? Jim smiled inwardly. His friendship with Blair was the most redeeming thing about the reemergence of his senses. He was an anchor for Jim to hold onto when things got rough. Well, this was rough, and Blair was still here even after Jim just took off his head.
Blair had sat down on the coffee table when Jim had left to get his beer. He realized he'd pushed too hard, but even so the intensity of the hatred that had poured from Jim was startling. Blair continued to sip his beer as Jim returned to the window. He ran a hand through his hair, a nervous reaction, as he wondered what to do next. The Guide knew that his Sentinel needed to talk, but Blair also knew that, at least on the surface, Jim blamed him for the situation. Blair shook his head. That didn't matter. He would get Jim to open up. If not, the festering emotions would eat him alive.
The grad student took a deep breath and stood to try again. "Jim, I know something happened with your Dad, I don't need to be a detective to figure that one out." He paused, "You need to talk, I want to be the one to help. Please let me." He placed a tentative hand on Jim's arm, trying to convey support.
The hand on his arm brought his Guide's heartbeat to Jim's attention. The rhythmic beat throbbed up his arm in direct competition with the pounding in his head. After a few seconds the rhythms altered, matched up and faded. Jim sighed, relaxing minutely.
At Jim's acceptance of the gesture, Blair forged ahead. "This whole case has thrown you off balance; shown you things that you had forgotten and repressed for years. It's understandable to be unnerved by it all." Blair removed his hand, but didn't step back. He shoved down the desire to run his hand through his hair again. "Seeing your Dad after all these years, under these circumstances, didn't help. You two probably need a proper reintroduction, to get things ironed out."
"Reintroduction??!!" The outrage in Jim's voice was obvious. "We don't need a reintroduction, Chief. He's never known me at all! And what he did know, he tried to change! I'm not even sure at this point that I want things 'ironed out'."
Blair just stared at Jim. He wasn't prepared for Jim to be so angry with his father. Clearly this went beyond years of distance. He shook his head a little. "Um, Jim. Why don't you tell me what the real problem is? I know you and your Dad parted ways years ago, but, well, you are retaliating as if you were wronged…" Blair shifted the beer bottle from his right to his left and finally allowed the hand to comb through his curls. "Jim, what happened at the house? Before we went to Aaron's father's place?"
After being met with silence for a moment, and Blair sighed and allowed some of the frustration he was feeling to come through in his words. "Come on man, talk to me!"
Jim clenched his jaw, his face going stony. He struggled with himself. Long years of repression, divulging only enough information to keep the shrinks happy, warred with a more recent tendency toward sharing his problems, if reluctantly, with his friends. He took a deep shaking breath, then another, and gritted out between clenched teeth, "He called me a liar. Told me to wise up or people would think I was a freak." Jim's gaze never left the city's skyline.
Blair was confused. Freak? Liar? "Jim, he called you a freak? Why would he do that?" He didn't understand. There was no way Jim's father could have seen Jim use his senses today. Jim was usually careful not to let it show in front of many people. Why else would William call his son a freak?
Blair's eyes shot up from the bottle he was examining. Jim was stock-still. Oh god. Blair wasn't sure he wanted the answer anymore. If William wasn't talking about the present... He sighed, and closed his eyes for a moment. Maybe it was his imagination or his train of thought that was bringing images of a father berating his son to his mind.
Blair waited a few minutes more before pushing again, quietly. "Jim?"
Jim blinked, tearing his gaze off the distant water to glance at his friend. Running the last few sentences through his mind, he realized they weren't quite as explanatory as they had sounded in his head. The pain of the betrayal made longer thoughts almost impossible. He took another sip of the slowly warming beer and tried to find the words. They stubbornly escaped him. He already had the whole concept whittled down to just its bare essence, but for Blair's sake he'd try one more time. The Sentinel needed to explain to his Guide.
Waving his free hand vaguely in the air in front of him, the final words seemed trapped on the tip of his tongue. The hand tightened into a fist, paused and tapped the glass, before returning one last time to the unformed gestures. He rested his hand gently on the glass, shook his head and said, "No. When I was ten."
Blair was shocked into stillness for a moment until the words and the inevitable conclusions sank into his mind. Ten?!? He put his nearly empty bottle on the table and crossed the few feet to Jim.
"Ten?" Blair asked incredulously. "Ten? The bastard knew about your senses..." Blair cut himself off, knowing that this was not the way to go. His anger would only give Jim more fire. He needed to be level headed. There would be time for Blair to be pissed off at William Ellison later. Blair turned away for a moment, taking a deep breath and trying to reign in his emotions. As long as the words came out calmly, it wouldn't matter what was reflected in his eyes.
He faced Jim once more. "He knew about your senses when you were a child?" No answer was forthcoming, so after a moment he continued. "You said he called you a liar, so he didn't believe you?" He stood by Jim's side now, looking at the same view Jim had been finding so fascinating.
Jim turned to look at his Guide and sighed. "I don't know. When I was ten..." The words flowed more easily now. Now that someone else knew. Someone who could share the pain. "When I was ten and we got home from the crime scene he called me a liar. I tried to explain that I could sometimes hear or see things but he called it nonsense. Said it was my imagination. Then he said I would be only impeding the investigation." Jim paused, then turned and paced a few steps toward the sofa and turned back to the windows. "Today, I remembered what I saw. I remembered that I was telling the truth. And Dad, Dad said that he knew. He knew I was telling the truth all along. He was trying to keep people from thinking I was a freak or more likely to keep people from thinking William Ellison's son was a freak." The words now tumbled free in a soft, defeated tone.
Jim's confession confirmed that it was not Blair's imagination. William Ellison had punished his son for his abilities. Blair couldn't understand why, but that wasn't nearly as important as dealing with the broken man in front of him. He walked over to Jim, moved the beer bottle from his hands to the coffee table and grasped his arm before speaking. "Jim, he was wrong. You did nothing wrong then. You were telling the truth. I'm sorry that your father made you think you were a freak. You're not."
Blair received no response, but could see the emotions flicking across his partners face and eyes. Guilt. Jim always carried the burden of things out of his control, and this was no different. Blair's grip tightened, he wanted Jim's undivided attention.
Jim's head shifted and he finally looked his Guide in the eye for the first time since arriving home.
"You know this isn't your fault." Jim's jaw twitched and Blair knew he'd hit on part of the problem. "You did all you could at ten years old. You told the truth."
"I did. I did tell the truth. But no one believed me...as usual." Jim shook his head. Childhood memories floated back to him, once again unleashed. Complaints about a neighbor's baby crying all night long, seeing eagles overhead when everyone else saw nothing, that damned incident with Stevie and his father's car. No one had taken him seriously. These things, he suddenly realized, had helped to form his personality. No doubt this was why he found it so hard to trust and so easy to find betrayal or for betrayal to find him.
"No one believed me until you. And then I didn't believe myself."
Blair was speechless, well almost speechless. Jim wasn't a fan of revealing his inner thoughts, but when he did they tended to hit you right in the heart. The Sentinel had gone through so much in his life. Berated for being different as a child. Forced to compete for his father's affections. Fighting for survival in the jungle. And during all that time Jim had had no one to turn to, so when the opportunity presented itself, he didn't know what to do.
Blair gave Jim's arm one last squeeze then backed away and started pacing. He always thought better moving and gesturing. "Jim, for most of your life you were forced to 'fit in.' Your father started it, the military encouraged it, and the police force expects it." Blair shrugged his shoulders, arms stretched out to the side. "What were you supposed to do?"
Jim didn't answer, but Blair didn't want an answer anyway. "You were alone with yourself. You became accustomed to the person you had become. When your senses came online it was a ripple in an otherwise still lake." Blair liked his analogy. Jim just raised an eyebrow.
The anthropologist smiled, noticing the movement, and forged ahead. "You know the effect one pebble has on a lake, the ripples go on and on, changing the surface. Imagine a stone being thrown into it! That's what happened with you." As Blair expounded on his theory, his hands and mouth moved more and more quickly.
Jim folded his arms lightly across his chest, assuming the natural pose for listening to one of Blair's lectures or ideas. Blair continued without missing a beat. "You had moved from the army to the police force without many problems. Sure you were a surly son of a bitch…" At Jim's warning glare, he hastened to explain. "Hey! Hey! This is what I've heard!!"
"Anyway, so when your senses clicked on, the stone was throne into the lake, causing a huge disturbance. You're still feeling the effects of that. For you not to trust yourself, not to remember about your senses as a ten-year-old and to doubt the usefulness or legitimacy of them was natural. And now, beginning to remember the past, finding all these memories connected to something you pushed deep inside yourself, is also natural."
Blair came to a stop in front of Jim, looked up at him intently, and took a deep breath. "Jim, you have adapted so well to your senses. You should be proud of that. Be proud of the man you have become because of them. Don't worry about what you felt like years ago. It's over. You have accepted yourself for what you are. A Sentinel. A great cop. A good friend and partner. That's what you should dwell on instead of the misgivings of a scared man." Blair gave his Sentinel a small smile to take the sting out of the words.
Jim blinked. His father? A scared man? The image that created was almost blasphemous. It was so diametrically opposed to anything Jim had considered before. But now, looking back on the incidents with new adult maturity, he could see signs of that fear. He didn't know what to do with that.
"My father was scared?" He tried the concept aloud. "He did all that, said all that, because he was scared?" He fought down the rising anger. "What am I supposed to do now? How can I face him again knowing…knowing what he did to me? What he forced me to do to myself?" The words had taken on a child's plaintive tone.
Blair gently pushed Jim toward the couch and took a place next to him when the big man dropped unceremoniously onto the cushions. His voice was low and soft to the Sentinel's ears. "Jim, I can't tell you what to do man. You have to decide."
Jim inhaled as though he was about to speak, but Blair continued, not allowing Jim to interrupt. "I'm not condoning what your father did. Actually it pretty much pisses me off. He alienated you and didn't give you a chance to be your own person." Blair paused to push down his own anger. He couldn't let that out now. Jim needed calmness and sensibility. Continuing, he stated, "But I can understand why he did what he did. Most fathers will do anything to protect their children, even if that means hurting them, and that's what he did. He didn't want you to be different. Didn't want you to have to explain or be ostracized by the other kids."
Blair shook his head slightly. "I can't tell you what to do. You've missed all these years with your dad already. Do you want to miss more? I'd hate for you to regret never talking to him again. Maybe after the pain subsides a little?"
Jim sighed. The caring words of his Guide eased the broken glass edges of his immediate feelings, but the lingering sensations of his father's betrayal still existed. He sighed again. "Yeah - maybe one day. Maybe one day soon." Throwing an arm over the younger man's shoulders he gave them a quick squeeze and murmured, "Thanks, Chief."