It happened, all in all, rather suddenly. Not as suddenly as first sight and all, but more quickly than anyone had a right to expect. I was always told that within the first two months is when they fell in love. I don't know for certain -- from everything else I've heard, I wouldn't be surprised if it was two weeks. But you know, it really doesn't matter. How fast it happened, how long before they realised what they were feeling. All I know is one day they were in love.
They were *the* most in love pair I've ever heard of. I don't mean it like they were perfect. I don't even think I mean it like they're the only ones who ever felt like that. But everything I hear about them makes me realise that there is something humans are capable of which is so far above anything else we can do that everything else seems pointless. No, not pointless. Like, if you've this kind of love then you can do anything and your choices don't make a bit of difference. Nothing else we do can match this. No matter what horrors we commit, intentionally or not, if we have this we can always be redeemed in the eyes of the universe.
If those two had become the scourges of the waterways, stealing and killing and burning cities down... I suspect I'd have heard all the stories anyway. The details would change, but they'd still be the most in love pair I've ever known. Does any of that make sense? They could have been *rotten* and I'd still sigh -- hopeless romantic, that's me. I'd still have their photo kept safe, still carry it with me everywhere I go. It's just something about their faces... they're so happy, so content, so... in love. Some people carry religious icons to bring them peace and hope. I carry their picture.
So it's a bit cheesy. Or weird, idolising them like this. I'm sure they'd laugh hysterically if they knew -- or get embarrassed. Both, maybe. I can hear Blair's voice, telling me "Hey man, it's just... me and Jim, you know? Lighten up!" He'd be grinning... Jim would probably just shake his head and not say anything. But what do they know? They're just the ones in love. I bet it was perfectly normal to them. It's the rest of us, who can only watch, that think of it as... something else.
I keep wondering which story to tell you. What makes the point, best? What can I say, where should I start? If I told you only one story about them, which should it be? That's the trouble, really -- there is no *one* story. There's no Epitome of Love to regale you with, no moment that emcompasses everything. No shining moment of love, or sacrifice, or recognition. Like I said, it took them a while to realise they were in love -- and don't all the romances have the characters falling in love on sight? Winning great battles for each other, killing the demons and saving the princes? Or princesses, whatever. I don't know any stories like that. There may have been some -- I don't know.
Oh sure, they saved each other's lives -- a lot, actually. Saved each other's sanity more times than you could count. Oh, all right. 1247. But only because I *insisted* on hearing each story, with pad in hand so I could mark each one. Maybe... maybe I should just tell you my favourite story. It was about a week after they met, before the great falling in love which makes it -- I think -- more telling.
Blair had saved Jim's life. First Official Act as a Guide if someone were handing out certificates. But he had saved the man's life, with no thought to his own (should that be said more solemnly? Hand over heart? Who knows... Blair just demanded dinner and a beer... not in that order. And not until much later, either.) The incident served to drive (oh, sorry that's a pun.. I'll explain later) home the fact that Jim needed something. Someone. Blair. He'd been fighting with his erratic senses for a few days and had only thought he needed something to calm them down. Explain them, but then calm them down.
Talking to Blair showed him that he might not be able to calm them down -- genetic advantage to protect the tribe was, admitedly, a bit fairytale-ish. Hearing that, instead of being able to get rid of these new freaky senses, he was expected to *cultivate* them freaked him out. He ran off, zoned out -- apparently the first time it had ever happened. Nearly got run over... well, actually he *did* get run over by a truck. But since Blair had knocked him down so that it passed over them both, safely, he was all right.
Still freaked out, though. He let Blair help him with a case he was working on, found out that his senses could be controled and even useful. So he let Blair stick around. Got him signed on as his partner, working as a Police Observer -- but that was a couple weeks after they met. Before that, something else happened.
And it wasn't even that monumentous.
After Jim got the case wrapped up, he kinda ignored Blair. Not completely, they were making plans to go ahead with tests, and the partnership and everything. But Jim backed off and I guess he just needed time. Time to get used to it, maybe he was still hoping his senses would go back to normal. Oh... I didn't explain that did I? Geez, I bet this makes no sense, does it? Jim's a Sentinel. Blair's his Guide. Yeah, a real one, all six senses enhanced, seven if you count Blair. So you can see why it wasn't so strange they got together. Why they paired off like they did.
So anyway, Blair left Jim alone for a few days. Let him back off and ruminate and try to accept what was happening. Then he went to Jim's apartment.
"Hey, Jim. How's it going?" Blair kept his tone light, casual. Didn't want to upset this man any more than he already was. He could see that in the glare Ellison had given him when he'd opened the door to see the student standing there. Obviously he'd been hoping it was a bad dream.
"Sandburg." Jim stepped back belatedly, to let Blair inside. He looked distracted. "I'm sorry I haven't called you yet. I was just...."
When the other man trailed away, staring off into space, Blair answered, "Hoping it would go away?" He felt sorry for the man; having your life turned upside-down was an unsettling event for those not used to it.
Jim shrugged. "Something like that. But it isn't... I keep hearing things, seeing things... sometimes I wonder if I'm going nuts and you're just humouring me." He gave Blair a sideways look. "You're not a doctor and I'm locked up, am I? If so, I'd like to know now."
Blair smiled; Jim was joking, with difficulty but joking. "This is real, Jim. I *am* here to help you through it, though. Look, there's... Mind if I sit down?"
"No, go ahead." Jim remained standing as Blair headed for the couch. "You want a beer?"
Blair nodded and watched him head for the kitchen. The man still seemed... shell-shocked. He was covering well, Blair suspected anyone else might not have noticed. But he.... he what? He wanted to laugh. Knew the man better? No, just knew that he was going through something. Knew to be watching. He accepted the beer and waited for Jim to settle into a chair. Then he asked carefully, "How do you want to do this?"
The question startled Jim. He looked at Blair for a moment, then shook his head. "I'm not sure... I thought you were the expert here?"
Blair gave him a reassuring smile. "I *am*. Don't worry about that, Jim. I know what's going on here... but you're the one living it. What do *you* want to do about this?"
"I thought you wanted to gather evidence for your paper?" Jim shifted uneasily in his chair.
"I do. But there's lots of ways I can do that. Depends on how you want to end up -- you're a Sentinel, man. You don't... do you really know what that means?" He watched as Jim met his gaze, then slowly shook his head. Blair was astounded at the man's strength. He'd have sworn the man would be all over him, demanding control or denying a lack of it. Macho posturing, pushing his problems, and Blair, around. Maybe he was just more subtle about it. Blair continued. "Being a Sentinel isn't just genetic. It's like... some people have gentic advantages with regards to intelligence and they become academics, inventors, philosophers. Some people have physical advantages and they become soldiers, or athletes, or labourers. Someone with 20/20 eyesight and great reflexes can be a great pilot. If he decides to be a farmer, he'll still have great eyesight and reflexes."
"So you're saying I don't have to be a Sentinel?"
"No, Jim." Blair shook his head, once. "I'm saying you'll still have these enhanced senses. But what you do with them is your choice." He shrugged casually. "Use them, or don't. Let yourself be a Sentinel... a cop, a protector of your tribe. Or be a guy who doesn't need binoculars to watch the football game from the stands. Be both, whichever, man."
Jim gave him a half-grin. "You make it sound obvious which choice I should make. I'm not even sure if I really have a choice."
"You always have choices, Jim. Look at it like this. When you go to work, you have a choice. You can be a cop, or you can be a guy with a gun and a badge. Every day, every minute you make that choice. Cop, or just a guy?"
"I'm not sure I follow this. What's the difference?"
"What's the difference? Man, it's like..." He shook his head. Maybe it wasn't obvious. He's the one living it, maybe he can't see it from the outside. Blair took a deep breath, ordering his thoughts. He continued in a less incredulous tone. "It's the difference between someone who puts everything they are, into their job, to the point where it *isn't* a job. It's a profession, a... a lifestyle. Then there somebody who punches a clock and spends their time thinking about the fun they're gonna have once they get off work. Have you ever found yourself off duty, and acting like a cop anyway?"
Slowly Jim nodded, his face having cleared halfway through Blair's speech. "So what this means is, I can either be a Sentinel, or just some guy with enhanced senses."
Blair grinned. "Right."
Jim stood up, shaking his head. "To be honest, it doesn't sound like much of a choice."
Grin fading, Blair stood up and walked up behind the other man. He stopped, just close enough to touch. "Why'd you become a cop?"
"What?" Jim turned, looking down at him. "What does that--"
"Just answer me, Jim. Why'd you become a cop?"
"It's... after I left the Army, it's what I was trained for."
"The Army trained you to be a detective?" He knew as much as anyone without security clearance could, about Jim Ellison's career in the armed forces.
"Well... they trained me for a lot of things. Police work is as close as it comes for a civilian."
He could tell Jim still didn't know where they were going with the conversation. He asked again, "So the Army taught you how to track down criminals, gather evidence, build a legal case and present it to the courts."
"Not... exactly." Blair watched as the light began to come on. "I guess the similarity is that the police and Army are both defenders. My job in the Army, and being a detective means defending before things get out of hand."
"Right! You're protactively protecting people." He stopped, and grinned. "Pardon the alliteration. So you're trained to protect your tribe. You've just become more local."
Blair watched as Jim assimilated the realisation. He could see the moment when he accepted it, but waited for him to speak. Finally Jim nodded. "Okay, Chief, I see your point. Now matter what I do, I'm a Sentinel. I just have to decide whether I want to use all the skills at my disposal."
With a triumphant grin, Blair nodded. "Right. So... what do you want to do?"
Jim finally answered his smile, gracefully surrendering. "Learn how to control my senses. That's where you come in."
"That's where I come in! Now, first we have to set up some tests, see what exactly your abilities *are*. Then we can figure out how much control you have, find out what you can do...." Blair began mentally taking notes as he talked. Sketching out basic experiments and proposing a timetable for their work, he only partially noticed when Jim shook his head, drained the last of his beer, and settled back to watch him.
As they worked more as partners, Blair spent a lot of time grousing about Jim's territorial gestures -- rules, demands, all the assumptions he made about Blair's place in his life. If he hadn't fallen in love Blair would have probably dumped him in a lake for treating him so badly. No, I mean if *Jim* hadn't fallen in love. That put a twist on what he did... I mean, if the person who loves you more than anything forgets to introduce you to someone you're probably not going to scream, right? Because you know it isn't that he forgot about you, or thinks you're not important. Rather it's like saying 'Hi this is the air I breathe and the ground I walk on and the sun that shines on me and the water I drink and the man I love'.
Yeah, okay, you're looking at me like I'm nuts again. Maybe the story doesn't make as much sense as it does once you've heard all the others. Let me try to explain -- for the first few years of their relationship, partnership and then everything else, Jim was in charge. Yeah, I mean it like that -- he made the rules, he made the demands, he assumed Blair would be there when needed and everytime, Blair was. I'm not saying Blair just got walked all over. Jim was actually very... amenable to Blair's needs. Okay, Blair had him wrapped around his little finger. But that's my point. Don't you get it?
From the very first, Blair saw what Jim needed -- control. So he gave it to him. Not just with his senses, although that was a big part of it. Blair let Jim have control over everything, because that's what he needed. They'd known each other a *week* and Blair is treating him with more consideration and respect and... love, than anyone else in the galaxy. The neat thing about it is, Blair apparently didn't think twice about it. Never once thought, okay how am I going to handle this guy? Maybe I should make some concessions so he'll relax? Instead he just... gives him what he needs. Because he needs it. And it wasn't long before Jim was doing the same thing for Blair. It was just... natural. Instinct, if you will.
*That's* why it's so incredible. Because they didn't have to create something between them. It already was. Genetic, environment, chance, whatever. I don't know. It was. It *was*.
"That's what you meant, when you said our love will never be perfect, that it has already happened and it can't happen again?"
He heard the sadness in his lover's voice, and whirled, out of the man's arms where he'd been lying against his chest. "No! God, no, that wasn't what I meant! Weren't you listening? Or didn't I say it..." he shook his head, thinking back through everything he'd said. He saw the sadness in his lover's eyes dim to confusion and tried to explain. "What those two had *wasn't* perfect. They fought, they had rough times, they didn't meet each other's every need.... but they didn't have to create something. Don't you get it?"
"I guess I don't. I get the impression you're trying to tell me how much I mean to you... but I think I'm hearing it wrong."
"Oh, gods," he pulled his lover close and kissed him. "Do you remember how this conversation started?"
"Of course. I asked you how long you thought this relationship would last. You said that you knew it wasn't perfect; then you started telling me about the ultimate love. What we have doesn't compare, so... I'm left wondering if you think this isn't going to last."
He shook his head. "You missed the important part, then. Love can make everything all right. Love can make you do things you wouldn't otherwise do, and let you accept things you wouldn't otherwise accept. Blair let himself be prodded and pushed around because it was by the man who loved him -- because it didn't mean what it would have meant, from anyone else. And you... find yourself forgiving me all the injustices I've done. Because you love me." He swallowed with difficulty, saying the last.
His lover stared, and he saw understanding dawning. He smiled, encouragingly. "What would I do without you, Tom?"
He grinned, happily, and settled himself back into Chakotey's embrace. "I imagine you'd be withering away from too little enticement."
"Don't you mean 'excitement'?" he whispered in Tom's ear.
"No," he wriggled slightly at the warm breath. "I mean--" He stopped as a warm tongue replaced the warm air. "Uh, that."
"So you think we compare to those two famous ancestors?"
"Not my ancestors... friends of the family. Legends in the Paris-Banks consortium."
"Mmm... know any more inspiring stories?" Chakotey continued nibbling gently. Tom leaned his head back and stared at the bulkhead.
"I could think of something...." He sighed, and relaxed suddenly. Deceptively. "There's the story about their first annivesary... something about waterfalls and shampoo..."