Disclaimers: Boys not mine; I just borrow them from time to time when the muse moves me.
Special Thanks to my Beta Queen, Zoe, without whom I'd be doomed to a life of grammatical inaccuracy. Also God bless my beta Ari, who has the kindness and tenacity to ensure that what you read is worthy.
Thank you to wolfpup for giving my work a great home.
Warnings: H/C, Angst, Smarm, and usually a bit of colorful language.
Spoilers: Definitely TSbyBS and a little one for Switchman.
The following sites were very helpful to gain insight on Thailand and it's traditions etc. en/wikipedia/c/cu/cuisine_of_
NOTE: This story was inspired by J.C.'s No Goodbyes. I read this story and it was wonderfully written. It just wouldn't shut the hell up and thus this story was born.
Here's the link: /~ (This leads to a slash story!)
If you don't have time to read the first story, here's the basic plot: Jim is depressed having received a letter from Blair post TSbyBS. Blair, after promising he'd only be gone a year, has left with Eli Stoddard to go to Borneo and is doing very well there. This story tells of Jim's feelings toward Blair getting this second chance and Jim is trying to write him a letter asking him to not waste the opportunities that he's been given by Stoddard. Instead, Jim just wants him to be happy and is willing to give him up to ensure it.
Blair's hands shook as he gently removed the well traveled letter from its envelope. It was a letter from Jim postmarked nearly two weeks previous. Jim hadn't written to him since he'd left. This particular letter had thrown him for a loop.
Wiping his hair back from his tanned face with palsied fingers, he unfolded the letter as he fell onto his mat in the tiny hut.
I hope that this letter finds you well and still enjoying the everyday grind of anthropology. It's been a little slow here, but all is well and work is fine.
I've been thinking a lot (don't say it) about so many things since you've been gone. I know we never really talked about it, but it's been weighing on me a lot since you left. I want to apologize for my accusations with the diss. I knew that you would not betray me that way, but I was hurting and couldn't see past it. I hurt, so I wanted you to hurt too. You deserve so much better than that.
For much of your life, you dreamed of Sentinels. I bet you never thought you'd meet one that was such a pain in the ass. All kidding aside, Chief, you gave me my life when you saved me from getting plowed over by that garbage truck, but more importantly you saved my sanity everyday just by being my friend. I know I never thanked you for that and it's damn well about time that I did.
You can't possibly know all the ways in which you saved me. The crap with Alex? You could have just walked away, but you didn't. You stayed and consequently, our friendship, while suffering unknowingly for awhile, became stronger because of it.
I want you to understand the incredible amount of respect that I have for you, Chief. You've always been there for me and I hope to be able to do the same. Please, don't let the opportunity that Stoddard's giving you go to waste. As much as I want you to be my partner, I can't justify yet another loss of the essential part of who you are.
You were born to teach and learn and most importantly be free. It's who you are. I look at this picture you sent and can't remember a time when you looked this happy or this free. It warms me to know that you're finding that place again and I am thankful to Stoddard for helping you to find it.
I miss you, Chief, but all in all, things are well. I know you would do anything if you thought it would help me so I'm going to capitalize on it right now. Please... please find your very own place in this world. You are much to brilliant to spend your life being a cop. As my good friend, Blair Sandburg, would say, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."
Thanks again for all the sacrifices you knowingly made to save my ass. You are truly the best man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Good luck to you, Blair.
Blair sighed deeply as he finished the letter and carefully folded it and placed it back into its envelope with trembling hands. Folding in on himself, he curled up onto the mat stunned and began quaking as gentle rasps of emotion escaped his full lips, taut with the effort.
"My Sentinel's leaving me..." he gasped, folding his hands under his head. "He's leaving... he's leaving..." He mumbled repetitively, his mind incapable of letting go.
"Because he's one of the best!" Dr. Stoddard affirmed as Ben Davis, the language expert grumbled.
Ben sighed, "Look, Eli, I'm not faulting your choice..."
"Yes, you are, dear boy," Stoddard corrected gently, pulling at his aged white beard. "Look, Ben. Blair was the most brilliant student I ever had the privilege of teaching. There is no way he produced his diss fraudulently. Something happened to cause him to choose that path and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let that choice destroy that boy's life!"
Ben heaved his shoulders with exasperation. "Yeah, but at what cost, Eli? Your status? Your professional reputation? Everything you've ever worked for?" Ben spat as he tried to get his mentor to see reason.
"YES," Stoddard replied with intense conviction. "At the very least," he finished tenderly, then turned away.
Ben staggered under Eli's conviction before realizing the truth and unintentionally blurting, "You love that boy..."
Eli allowed a minute break in his decades old facade, "as much as my own son," he promised with a genteel smile.
The stirring at the hut's edge brought the practiced visage back into place. "What is it, Amanda?" he demanded, the pleasant tone of his voice belying his stony facade.
"It's Blair, Eli," she responded tentatively. "He's... uh... He's," she stammered.
"Well, spit it out, young lady. Blair's," Eli prompted.
"He's packing," Amanda strained, pulling her hands through her dirty blond hair.
Eli was stunned for only a moment before recovering and departing the hut in search of his friend and student. Pushing his way into the hut with a courtesy knock at the door's edge, he entered hastily.
"Leave us," he commanded Amanda and Ben who had unwittingly followed him from his hut.
Waiting for their departure, he surveyed his young protege. "What's happened to Jim?"
Blair gasped, but did not turn to face his mentor. "I don't wanna talk about it, Eli. Look, I'm sorry. You know I would never bail on you if it wasn't necessary. I just can't stay here anymore. I can't pretend..." Blair faded as he realized he was about to make a revealing admission.
"You can't pretend what, Blair?" Eli incited patiently.
"Nothing. Look, I called Ted Riley and he said he could be here two days from now. He's a good man," Blair articulated carefully, hoping not to give anything away.
Eli studied the tense back before him. "Blair, you know that if you have to get back to Cascade, I understand. That was part of your contract anyway. I'm just worried about you."
"I know and thanks," Blair replied, still unable to face the man he truly respected, even possibly loved like a father, although he had never known his own. "I'm leaving as soon as I get packed. Rachel said she could handle my load until Ted gets here. Sorry, but I need to get going."
Blair stood statuesque for a moment more, before Eli's supportive hand on his shoulder sent him rushing from the tent to break all contact. He didn't want to be touched. He didn't want to be cared for. He only wanted to run away. Far away.
"Banks," Simon growled into the phone, throwing the files on the Cherne case down with disgust.
"Captain Banks?" the gruff voice queried uncertainly.
"Yes, this is Captain Banks. What can I do for you?"
"This is Eli Stoddard and I'm hoping you can help me track down a mutual friend," Eli began, sincerely hoping he was making the right decision. He had returned from Borneo to Washington D.C. to a letter from the Osiris Foundation stating that Blair Sandburg's research notes had arrived over two months ago.
Upon checking with several contacts of the University he found that no one had heard one word breathed about his former student. After a week of searching Blair's usual haunts, Eli broke down and contacted Naomi Sandburg.
Naomi had told him she thought he was still in Borneo and if he wasn't there, not to worry about it. 'He's a free spirit, Dr. Stoddard. He's off traveling the world as he should be,' the inane woman had replied cheerfully to his inquiries.
"What mutual friend might that be, Mr. Stoddard?" Banks asked, immediately suspicious when he had not recognized either voice or name.
"It's Dr. Stoddard and Blair was in Borneo with me up until nearly three months ago," Eli informed the suspecting captain.
"What?" Banks shouted into the phone. "Maybe, you should start at the beginning," Banks suggested, channeling his energy into quiet worry.
Dr. Stoddard drew in a deep breath. "I don't really know much, but I'll tell you what I do know. A few months ago, Blair hurriedly packed his bags on site and told me he had to leave," Eli began uncertainly, then continued when Simon indicated.
"He had covered his slot, so there really was no way to stop him. I was worried that something had happened to Detective Ellison. Amy, my assistant at the camp said he received a letter from the detective the day he left, so I just assumed that to be the reason," Eli finished, a bit winded by the long diatribe.
"As far as I know, the kid was still in Borneo. I'll talk to Ellison. Maybe he'll know better. Thanks for calling and don't worry. You know Blair. That kid always lands on his feet," Simon remarked with pride, stuffing his cigar in his mouth to cover his smile.
Hanging up, he bellowed, "Ellison!"
Jim started as he heard the bellow. "Hell," he cursed as he stood up slowly and trudged into the Captain's office.
"You wanted to see me, Captain?" Jim asked tiredly.
"Yeah, come on in, Jim and have a seat," Banks invited, poking his cigar to gesture to a particular seat.
Jim closed the door and sighed softly as he settled into the hard-backed chair. "Is this about the Cherne case, because I know there's something there at the scene. I just can't quite put my finger on it," the tension in his face clearly showing his frustration.
"Maybe if you had a Guide?" Simon suggested helpfully.
"Don't start, okay? Blair's in Borneo and there's not a damn thing I can do about it! He has his own life, Simon! He doesn't exist just to be at my beck and call!" Jim fumed, flushing slightly at the realization that that's exactly what Blair had done for the four years before he left for Borneo.
"No," Simon stated with quiet conviction.
"What do you mean no? You think he does exist to be at my beck and call?" Jim asked, deliberately obtuse.
"Don't be an ass, Jim!" Simon drew out in low baritone notes, then smiled as he realized his detective was completely confused. "He's not in Borneo," Simon supplied, awaiting Jim's reaction.
Jim's smile could have lit downtown during a blackout. "He's back?" he whispered still unsure of where this was going.
"He left Borneo about three months ago, Jim. Stoddard called concerned that you were in trouble. According to Dr. Stoddard, he left the same day he got your letter. Just packed his bag and left," Simon paused to gauge Jim's reaction. "I'll assume that because you thought he was still in Borneo that you have absolutely no idea where your Guide is?"
Jim sat there in stunned silence as the implication set in. He left the same day he got the letter. The same day.
Simon watched with amusement tinged anger as he saw the difference in Jim Ellison when realization finally struck home.
"Oh God, Simon. What have I done?" Jim asked despairingly, his head lowering into his hands.
Simon pulled out a new cigar to abuse, while awaiting an explanation. "Okay, Jim. You said you'd tell me what was going on as soon as we got back to the loft, so spill," Simon demanded anxiously.
Jim sat down heavily on the couch cushions and locked his fingers behind his head. Pulling his head down, folding in on himself, he exhaled heavily and allowed his arms to flop listlessly at his sides.
"God, Simon. I should have know, but I just couldn't tell him in person. I just couldn't," he informed his friend sadly.
Simon leaned forward and placed a supportive hand on his friend's shoulder. "C'mon, Jim. It's obvious you need to get this out. Just let it go and tell me why everything's been falling apart lately. What was in the letter you sent Sandburg?" Simon pried, squeezing Jim's shoulder in a silent show of support.
Jim sighed and brought his steel blue eyes up to meet the questioning brown eyes before him. "I fucked up, Simon. He's gone," Jim admitted deflated.
"How, Jim? What could you have said in that letter?" Simon coaxed, his brown eyes softly demanding.
Jim turned away slightly, unable to face his Captain and friend, let alone the words that had taken his Guide away.
"C'mon, Jim. This is eating you up. You haven't been sleeping. You barely touch your food. Don't think I haven't noticed that you've been losing weight, not to mention that you've been a surly bastard the past few months. I was once a detective, you know. Spill it," Simon commanded, his expression taking the sting from the words.
"I know you're right, Simon. I'm just not sure how to do it!"
"Just open your mouth," Simon started with a smile, eyes twinkling mischievously. "Remember, the truth shall set you free."
Jim grimaced at the saying and stood briskly. Turning away from Simon, he made his way to the balcony doors before beginning to speak again.
"I got a letter from Blair. Actually, not just one," Jim admitted quietly. "He sent me a letter every month," he paused as he remembered the last letter fondly. "Anyway, he was just telling me about what he was doing and asking about the senses. You know," he continued when Simon nodded. "There was this picture in there, Simon. He looked genuinely happy. Happier than I'd seen him in a real long time. Pre-Alex, at least."
Simon grinned as he thought about the kid's smile and vivacious personality. Many times, Blair distracted the guys with a story or anecdote during a particularly grueling case, only to come up with the key to solving it as well. He sobered as Jim continued.
"I missed him a lot, Simon, but I have to tell you I was glad to see that smile. It'd been so long. I decided then that he had to be happy. I didn't want him suffering for the diss crap any more. He deserved so much better, so I told him that he should take any chance Stoddard offered him. I apologized for being such a shit and told him that I was grateful to him for saving my life. I wanted him to know how proud I was of him and how sorry I was for fucking up his dreams," Jim finished, his voice choked with emotion.
Simon was rarely at a loss for words. His job did not afford him that luxury. Looking at the raw pain in the turbulent blue eyes before him, he knew that he had no words to give. No words would comfort. No words would bring back the one thing the Sentinel needed more than his next breath - his Guide.
Blair awoke with a gasp that brought him out of the low bed and to his knees in one swift motion. Cradling his head in his hands, he curled his body inward, bringing his head to rest on the side of the bed. He inhaled deeply and held it for a few seconds in an effort to calm his pounding heart.
"Blair?" the velvet voice questioned as dark green eyes opened to peer down at him from the bed. "Are you okay?" she asked, her tones softly accented by her British upbringing. She reached out to him, resting one delicate hand on his trembling shoulder as the other served to prop up her head.
Blair gently patted the hand at his shoulder. "I'm okay, Amaris. Go back to sleep," he whispered, his blue eyes alight with sweet affection.
"You had the dream again, didn't you? About the panther..." she prodded gently, her hand moving from his shoulder to his hair, wrapping the curls around graceful fingers.
Blair shook his head sadly, placing a finger over her beautiful lips. "Not now, beloved. We'll wake Damara," he sighed, his hands now ghosting over the delicate planes of her stunning face.
The corners of her mouth upturned into the most beauteous smile. "Damara can sleep through a typhoon, Blair. Now, please, don't carry this any longer. I know you. I've known you for nearly ever and you need to talk about this whether you want to or not. It's affecting your work with the children. It's affecting your life here at home. Please, Blair. You know how I hate to beg," Amaris intoned, her hands grasping his angular face in return. "Please."
Blair felt his resolve crumble as he stared into her compassionate, yet pleading green eyes. He sighed with resignation, removing his right hand from caressing her face to pinch the bridge of his nose.
"Do you know what a Shaman is, Amaris?" Blair asked, his eyes shining a bit too brightly with a bone deep sadness. He continued at her nod. "I... inherited the rite of the Shaman when I was living in Cascade," he started, watching her intently and pulling himself from her hands so as to move around the small bedroom.
"I was living with a cop named Jim Ellison. When he was an army ranger, his chopper was shot down in Peru, killing his entire crew and leaving him stranded for 18 months," Blair paused to caress her face when her eyes widened in reaction to the tragedy.
"You have such a good heart," he whispered, lovingly placing a kiss on her forehead, swiping aside the swoop of auburn curls surrounding her face.
Blair kissed her once again, slowly, allowing him the time needed to organize his thoughts. Pulling away with great care, he continued. "Jim was rescued from the jungle by a tribe called the Chopec. Their shaman, Incacha, taught him how to survive and he became a watchman for their tribe. He was rescued after 18 months and eventually became a Detective in Major Crimes in Cascade."
Crossing to the small bathroom, he filled a cup with water and gulped it greedily considering his next words carefully.
"You know I was studying for my Doctorate and my thesis was going nowhere, but then I met Jim. He helped me get a handle on my thesis. Hell, I finished it before all hell broke loose," he sighed, wishing he could escape the pain these memories were dredging up.
Holding his arms across his chest protectively, he went on. "The press made an unholy mess of my life and between that and the depression, I didn't think I would survive, but then along came Eli Stoddard and offered me a second chance. All I could think about was how great it would be to run away from all the shit, Amaris. I was just so sick of it all. The damn reporters always in my face, the cops who just couldn't leave it the fuck alone, Jim barely speaking to me. We were best friends, closer than that. It's like we were inseparable, like we'd shared so many lifetimes as brothers that we were destined to share this one as well," he hissed, slamming the cup on the narrow bedside table, spilling the water everywhere.
"Damnit," Blair cursed as he mopped up the mess with a t-shirt from the floor.
Amaris wiped the moisture from her eyes and reached her hands to clasp his shoulders.
Smiling sadly, she ventured, "he was your brother. You loved him, beloved."
Blair nodded, his chestnut curls bobbing up and down with the movement. "Yes, I loved him. I... still do," he finished quietly.
"You should call him," she suggested helpfully.
"Yeah," Blair huffed, turning his back to her and looking out at the rising sun. "It's not that easy," he complained, his heart heavy.
Amaris smiled, her voice laden with emotion. "It never is, love." She squeezed his bare shoulders gently before kissing him between his shoulder blades. Placing several small kisses on his tension wrought back, she turned to step away. "I better get ready for work. Think about what I said, Blair. If he means that much to you, maybe you were never meant to let him go."
Blair sighed as he glimpsed her fleeting figure. A genteel smile broached his face when he heard her wake Damara, before returning to his contemplation, staring unseeingly out at the terrain before beginning his own morning ablutions.
"I found him," the voice stated hopefully on the phone.
Jim held his breath in anticipation, before asking the one question that he needed the answer to. "Is he okay, Jack?"
"From what I can tell. My sources tell me he's in Thailand," Jack responded hesitantly.
Jim took a moment to absorb this new piece of information. "Thailand?" He inquired disbelievingly.
"That's what I was told. He was able to get a work address for him, but that's all he sent. Do you want the address?" Jack asked knowing that the question was moot.
"Yeah, fire away," Jim responded as he grabbed a pen and some paper. He scribbled down the address with emphasized care and clutched the paper tightly in his right hand, closing his eyes tightly to ward off any approaching emotion. "Thanks, Jack. You're the best!" He complimented as he replaced the phone in the charger.
Then taking a deep breath, his palsied fingers reached for the phone once again.
"Banks!" Simon grumbled, having been interrupted from his first early night to bed in weeks.
"Sir, it's Jim. I need to take a leave of absence as soon as possible," Jim expelled in one breath.
"You found him!" Simon's ecstatic cry erupted over the phone lines.
"Yes, sir," Jim replied, his voice a bit strained.
"Well, take the next couple of days to clear out your paperwork and then you can take off," Simon granted, scrubbing his face to dispel the sleepiness.
"Thank you, sir. I'll see you tomorrow," Jim promised as he hung up the phone. After making travel arrangements with a travel agent, he strode up the stairs to pack his bag.
Jim double checked the address with more than a bit of confusion. He wasn't sure what to expect when he got here, but this wasn't it. Checking the address for the third time, he ran the fingers of his left hand through his hair and started to go inside.
He heard the children's laughter clearly as he opened the door wide and stepped inside.
A diminutive woman greeted him as he entered and as he turned toward her, his ears were bludgeoned with the sound he had missed so much over the past 18 months - Blair's heartbeat.
Smiling in relief, he wet his lips. "I'm looking for Blair Sandburg," he informed the wizened woman.
"Yes, he is in class now, but I will take you to him," she replied evenly, her English well practiced.
Following the older woman, Jim could not help the thrill of anticipation that shot through him at the prospect of finding his Guide. It had been so long. He paused as the woman gestured to the classroom. "Please wait until the lesson is finished," she commanded politely.
Jim nodded his acquiescence and turned to view his best friend through the glass near the door. He couldn't help but smile as he watched Blair teaching the small energetic children. They were maybe five or six years old and were beaming at their animated teacher.
Once the children filed out of the room, Jim entered quietly. Blair was thinner and looked a bit more tired, but he was one of the best sites that his Sentinel could have imagined.
Moving closer to the blackboard, Jim inhaled deeply to catch Blair's scent and was pleased to find that for the first time in a long time, his senses were actually responding to him. They seemed stronger than they had been in over a year. Jim shook his head amusedly, then came back to the present as he sensed Blair about to turn.
Taking a deep breath, he let out a "Hi, Blair."
Blair whirled away from the blackboard. "Jim! Oh wow, what are you doing here?" Blair gasped in utter shock at the smiling man before him.
"Well, I was nowhere near the neighborhood and thought I'd drop by," Jim replied, his mischievousness sparkling from his blue eyes.
Blair huffed out a nervous laugh as his eyes searched the room in discomfort. "It's been..."
"...a long time. I know, Blair. It's been too long," Jim whispered, his blue eyes shining with unshed tears.
Blair took a deep breath in a fruitless effort to control his own roiling emotions. Inhaling as if about to speak, he stopped bluntly as Jim interrupted him.
"It's been way too long," Jim reconfirmed, looking over his emotive Guide. "Blair, I never meant for you to leave for good," Jim started, then sighed, trying in vain to organize his rampant thoughts. "I never meant for you to leave at all," he admitted, running apprehensive finger through his slightly longer hair.
Blair nodded affirmatively with a hint of hurt confusion in his eyes. "I read the letter, Jim," he reminded, every word tinged with anger and remorse.
Jim laughed beneath his breath. "Yeah, Chief, but you of all people should know how much I suck at words and saying what I really mean," he reaffirmed gently, rubbing the side of his face with his hand.
Jim continued, a trace smile playing at his lips. "I obviously didn't say it right. So, this time I thought it would be better to talk face to face. That way, you know..." he expanded, gesturing to his reluctant Guide. "That way you could help me to not fuck it up," he finished with a vague smile, reminiscent of so many times before.
Blair chuckled and looked away momentarily, only to bring his dancing blue eyes back to rest with Jim's own eyes. "Yeah, well... I'll do what I can, but I can't promise anything, you know," Blair assuaged, his eyes restored to a tired glimmer. "Come on, man, I'll let you walk me home. We can talk there."
Jim gesticulated to the open classroom. "Are you sure it's okay? I can wait until you're through for the day."
Blair shook his head, "Nah, I'm through for the day. I team teach Kindergarten, so they have another teacher for the rest of the day."
Jim smiled at his fortune. "Great, lead the way," he suggested, his right arm sweeping the room in a grand gesture.
Blair grabbed his backpack and headed for the door. Checking back over his shoulder to ensure that Jim was following, he swung back around and continued down the corridor to the outside exit.
Jim sighed as he realized how right it seemed to be following Blair again. How right the banter had made him feel inside. He smiled and shook his head in wonder. Damn, I've missed him, he thought regretfully as he followed his Guide outside.
Blair paused a few blocks from the school and turned suddenly. "I need to make a stop first! Damn, in all the excitement, I almost forgot Damara," Blair chided himself unyieldingly.
"What's Damara?" Jim asked hesitantly.
"Who," Blair replied, his thoughts elsewhere.
Jim's brows knitted together in confusion.
Blair, perplexed as well about the turn in conversation, spoke up as he realized. "You said 'what's Damara?'. Damara is a who not a what, Jim," he explained carefully.
"Oh," Jim intoned thoughtfully, wondering who this Damara was.
Blair smiled as he noted his ex-partner's confusion, but he was as of yet unwilling to cut the older man a break. Bounding up the stairs into the building, he opened the door and went inside.
Jim looked around and realized that he was in another school. Something was different here, though. It took him a minute to realize that all the children were younger than the one's that had been in Blair's class. His thoughts moved from confusion to consternation as he realized that he had no idea why on earth they would be picking up a child. Sandburg hadn't been gone that long.
Blair returned, his eyes dancing, the most beautiful child securely in his arms.
"Well, who do we have here?" Jim asked, turning on the charm.
The little girl's greenish blue eyes darted from her father to the man that was with him. "Who is he, papa?" She inquired, shyly avoiding Jim's gaze.
Blair's smile widened as he took in the look of absolute shock on his Sentinel's face. "This is my friend, Jim. Can you say hello, Damara" he introduced, his tone light.
Damara turned doe-like eyes toward Jim and smiled sheepishly. "Hello," she greeted in a small, but lilting voice.
Jim's expression of shock lessened as he smiled at the angel before him. "Well, hello yourself. You must be Damara," he reasoned, then looking at Blair he added, "your papa," he choked barely noticeably on the word, "said we were coming to get you. It's very nice to finally meet you."
Blair smiled as his daughter held her arms out faithfully to be taken into the arms of his Sentinel.
Blair re-entered the small living area after settling Damara down for her nap. He sighed as he took in the sight of his Sentinel settling in on the small futon in the center of the room. "You want anything to drink?" He asked, opening the small fridge to grab a bottled water.
"A beer would be great," Jim conceded as he watched his Guide contemplating the fridge.
Blair cringed at his answer. "Um..." he hesitated guiltily, then replied, "we don't have any alcohol in the house. Sorry. We've got coconut milk, bottled water and that's about it. We don't go to the Chantuchak until Saturday," Blair finished with a shrug.
"Water's fine, Chief," Jim answered agreeably.
Blair handed him the water as he folded himself onto the other side of the futon. He chanced a glance at his Sentinel and inhaling deeply, prodded, "so... so, you really came all this way just to tell me, what? Um, sorry I was so abrupt and fucked up my goodbye, but now I just want you to know it's okay now," Blair baited maliciously.
Jim cringed at the anger radiating from his Guide. "Basically, yeah. Look, I already told you that I totally suck at saying what I mean..."
Blair's eyes narrowed dangerously as he demanded tightly. "Give it a try, Jim. I mean it's not like I just got back to sanity a couple of months ago," he spat out as he leapt up from the couch.
Blair sighed heavily. "Look, Jim. I'm sorry. You kinda threw me by showing up here. There's a lot you just don't know about..."
Jim reached forward with apprehension. "So tell me about it, Blair. Damn, Chief, I missed you so damned much. It was hard enough to fucking breathe while you were gone, let alone do much of anything else," Jim admitted as he scrubbed tearing eyes with weary hands.
"When I got that letter, Jim. It... it was like..." Blair paused, wiping away the forming tears with frustration. "It was like my whole world shattered into millions of pieces. I missed hanging out with you. Hell, I missed our friendship, but I could keep going because as bad as it was missing you, I knew that I was going home."
Blair looked into Jim's comprehending eyes before continuing. "That letter changed everything. I left Borneo because I couldn't breathe there. Everything hurt so bad, it was like one never-ending sensory spike that filled every moment with insurmountable pain."
"I never meant..."
"Let me finish, Jim. This is very important if we ever hope to move past this," Blair replied as he held his hands up warding off Jim's interruptions and explanations.
Jim sensed a ray of hope before asking, "So we can move past this?"
Blair nodded. "Yeah, I really think so, but first I need to tell you about what happened," he finished as he settled back onto the futon. "See, I didn't really care about anything anymore after the shit hit the fan with the diss. I just wanted the pain to stop. I thought going to Borneo would help stop it, but it just made me feel more empty. If I didn't owe Dr. Stoddard so much for the opportunity and the faith that he placed in me, I would have left sooner. All I really wanted was to come home, but I just couldn't face another round of reporter roulette," he joked lamely, trying to tame the tension.
"With only two short months to go before going home, I get your letter. I know you just wanted the best for me, even if it wasn't what was best for you. But I just couldn't see passed all the pain of being let go. My mother always said to 'detach with love,' and I gotta tell you that was one of the most annoying fucking things she ever said to me. You see, in my mind, if you love then you damn well don't detach. Love is too rare a thing to fuck it up like that."
Jim shook his head sadly as he thought of all the pain he had heaped onto his already fragile Guide. "Chief, writing that letter was the second hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. The first was actually mailing it. I can't tell you how much I needed to say those things to you. I know how much you gave up for me and it took awhile, but I'm no longer the selfish prick that I was. You taught me that. Your sacrifice taught me that. I meant what I said in that letter and you are truly one of the best people that I have ever met. I just wanted to say thank you and to let you know that I wanted you to get back some of what you lost. I wanted you to keep being my Guide. I still do, but not at the expense of your life. You deserve a lot more than that." Jim smiled as he met his partner's eyes.
"I can't go back, Jim," Blair warned openly, his expression wary.
Jim sighed. "I know, Chief. I could never ask you to. I've seen a wonderful part of the new life you've started," Jim paused as he looked toward the room where Blair's daughter slept. "She's beautiful, Blair."
"Yes, she is," Blair responded with a fond smile. "Her mother's name is Amaris. She's a teacher. We met my second year at Rainier. She was beautiful and brilliant and I knew my life would never be the same the first time she smiled at me. The problem was that we were on different paths and never seemed to want the same things at the same time."
Jim smiled as he watched Blair talk about his new life. "And Damara?"
"I didn't know about her, Jim. Amaris and I met up again at a conference in Chicago that I went to about five years ago. What I didn't know is that she got more than she bargained for at that little conference," Blair relayed with a rueful smile. "When I got up here, I was a mess. I hadn't eaten for days, maybe longer. I don't really recall. I spent most of my time in the bars drinking anything they'd put in front of me. I ran into Amaris and she took me back to her place, sobered my inebriated ass and told me if I didn't get my shit together, I wouldn't live long enough to see the beautiful little girl that we had brought into this world."
Jim picked up the story from there. "So you decided that you were being a broody little ass like someone else you know who will remain nameless," he filled in, smiling mischievously as he gestured to himself.
"Exactly," Blair replied with the most genuine smile Jim had seen since his arrival.
Jim looked up into the shining face of his Guide. "You know that I could never ask you to leave them."
"I know, Jim. Just as you know that I could never ask you to leave your home and your tribe," Blair retorted softly.
Jim and Blair exchanged pained looks briefly as each realized the implications of the lives they had chosen.
"Are you happy, Chief?" Jim asked, his eyes brightly shining with unshed tears.
"I know I can be, now," Blair replied, holding Jim's gaze steadily. "You?" Blair asked pointing to Jim.
"I know I can be, knowing that you have such a good life here. All I want is for you to have the life you deserve, Blair," Jim choked on the words as they escaped from his clenching jaw.
"Me too, Jim. You know you deserve to have it all, don't you?" Blair coaxed gently.
Jim nodded, as he finally let go of the pain he'd been holding onto the past eighteen months. "Well, I should probably get going," Jim suggested reluctantly, moving toward the door.
"Jim," Blair called, causing the detective to turn toward him. "Why don't you stay and visit for a little longer. I'd like to introduce you to Amaris."
"I'd like that, Chief. I'd like that a lot," Jim replied, feeling as though the weight of the world had been removed from his shoulders.
And so Jim took his place at one end of the futon as Blair reclaimed his own place and together they knew that while life had put them on separate paths, disaster wasn't imminent, for once. In that moment, each realized that it wasn't necessary to let go.