Storm's Eye

Summary: Early on in the series, an unusually violent thunderstorm has Jim's senses jittering. Blair helps him dial down and recites a bit of poetry.

Rating: G

Disclaimer: None of it's mine. If the boys were mine… evil grin You know what? Since this is a G-rated fic, I'm not going to finish that sentence.

Author's Note: Thanks to Kameka for the read-over. hugs

Author's Note: The poem quoted later is Auguries of Innocence by Blake. It was just too perfect not to use. Also, that title is so going to be used by me for a future Sentinel fic, because it's just that awesome.

Storm's Eye

Jim's pacing in the living room woke Blair up. It took the anthropologist a moment to orient; his first observation was that rain and the occasional spat of hail were pounding against the windows. The wind was howling loudly, at times almost muffling the sound of rain and hail, at others only making it worse as it lashed against the walls and windows. Lightening flashed so close by that Blair felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. The resultant thunder, though expected, lodged his heart in his throat.

Cascade was a rainy place, but this particular storm meant business in a way that the frequent drizzle and cloudbursts never did.

Having registered and dismissed all of this data, Blair heard the sound of restless footsteps nearby, shifting back and forth, forth and back.

He had not been properly living there for long, but he had started to attune himself to the Sentinel's movements all the same. Despite his Sentinel senses, Jim was a heavy enough sleeper under normal circumstances. The fact that he was up and restless tonight meant something was wrong.

So Blair hauled himself up off the futon in the spare bedroom and headed for the living room. He flipped on his bedroom light to guide his steps, but the power had gone.

Jim was pacing the living room, his expression distracted. It was not a Zone, precisely. Rather something more. Or maybe just something different. Jim was lost in some kind of thought, but clearly completely aware of every detail of his surroundings. The water-heater kicked on inside the walls and the Sentinel flinched away, nearly losing his footing.

Blair was at his side in a heartbeat, grasping his arm to orient the older man. "Jim, buddy. Jim, are you okay?"

Ellison shook his head, never losing his distracted expression. "I have it under control."

"Do you? I couldn't tell."

Jim glared at him. The effect was lost as the wind picked up speed in a high-pitched moan. The Sentinel jerked around to track the sound, eyes darting.

"Jim?" Blair prompted. "Come on, man. Let me help you," he urged.

"I don't need help. There's just so damned much here…"

"Huh?" Blair asked, steering him to the couch.

He went without resistance, explaining in a distracted tone, "Every sound, every smell, every damned shift in barometric pressure…"

"It's the storm that's bothering you?"

Jim shook his head, letting Blair push him onto the couch. "Not entirely, I don't think. I feel… I feel like I'm going crazy here. My skin's crawling, my ears are ringing, I know the wind's going to shift before it does. The guy in the apartment above us has sleep apnea. He stops breathing every fifteen, twenty minutes. There's an alarm. His wife has to wake him up. Next door neighbor burnt supper so bad I can't even tell what it was…"

"So it's all of your senses?" Blair asked, not sure whether to be relieved or alarmed.

On the one hand, having all your senses in overdrive at once would be nigh on overwhelming. Maddening, even. On the other, it meant he could not possibly suffer a Zone Out, even if he wanted to.

His voice a bare whisper, Jim admitted, "I feel like I'm going crazy here, Chief…"

Blair blinked. That was not like Jim at all. The guy was typically so repressed. Actually admitting how badly his senses were troubling him seemed out of character. The combination of the unusually violent storm, the whacked-out senses, and the big man's obvious fatigue were clearly taking their toll on him.

"It's going to be okay, Jim," he promised. "I need you to let me help you."

Blair dropped into a crouch before him, ready to do what it took to help his newfound friend regain equilibrium. He leaned forward slightly so that his knees were touching Jim's, but the Sentinel seemed not to notice. Well, Blair could engage and examine Jim's individual senses later. For now, Jim was suffering and Blair had to do something to make that right. Academic possibilities aside, he was a nothing but a useless hindrance if he could not help Jim Ellison to keep his senses in check.

"Tell me what you're experiencing," Blair urged.

Lightening flickered and Jim flinched away from the light that came flashing in through the window. Then he flinched again, a heartbeat before a crack of thunder seemed to shake the loft.

"All of it," Jim answered in a ragged, almost frantic voice. "The light, the sound, the smell, the feel… The damned air tastes different tonight." He shook his head. "I really do think I'm losing it here…"

"No," Blair protested, shaking his head and grasping Jim's shoulders, maintaining that awkward crouch that kept their legs in contact. His back was going to be sore in the morning, but keeping Jim grounded was more important. "Your senses are in overdrive, that's all," he soothed, absently digging his fingertips into the tense muscles of the shoulders he was grasping, massaging as he tried to comfort.

"It hasn't been this bad since Peru... How do I deal with it?"

"Uh, you…" Blair drew a deep breath, considering. He knew all about how to help control one sense, about how to prevent a Zone Out. But dialing back all the senses? That felt a little out of his league.

"Please," Jim asked weakly, flinching as another peel of thunder shattered the near-silence of the loft. "What's happening to me?"

Blair stared. Jim had never asked that before, no matter how much his Sentinel senses were bothering him.

"You're seeing it all in a grain of sand, man," Blair answered apologetically.

"Huh?" Jim closed his eyes, leaning forward and inhaling deeply. "I don't understand, Chief."

"It's from an old poem by Blake. It describes being a Sentinel, whether that was the intention or not. If he wasn't one himself, he must have known someone who was, that's all I can think."

"Sandburg!" Jim growled. "Give me something I can use!"

Well, now, that was more in-character.

"To see a world in a grain of sand, and nature in a wildflower. To hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour," Blair recited for him. "That's what you're doing right now. All of it. The whole universe is out there, just begging to be experienced. Most of us poor bastards can't manage that on even a microscopic level. You're doing it in the macro. It's all there for you. Every last bit of it."

"I don't want it!" Jim moaned, jumping to his feet and pushing around Blair, hurrying to the sliding glass door onto the balcony. "It was one thing in Peru; it kept me alive there. But here? It's driving me out of my mind!"

Blair moved to stand behind him, grasping his shoulders. "There were thunderstorms in Peru, too. I know you can handle this now because you've done it before."

"This is different."

"It only seems that way because your life isn't on the line this time. Come back to the couch with me. I'll help you dial down your senses so you can get some sleep."

Jim looked reluctant, but let himself be drawn back into the living room. He had a problem with Blair's 'ridiculous touchy-feely, New Age alternative methods', but Blair was convinced that he would grow out of that prejudice in time, especially once the methods in question started taking the edge off for the beleaguered Sentinel.

Blair made him sit down and then sat down next to him, wrapping an arm around Jim's shoulder and chanting advice. He had taken lessons in guiding biofeedback sessions, which helped now. Talking a woman into breathing through the pain of a migraine was not so different from talking a Sentinel through the agony of unchecked senses in an over-stimulating environment.

With times, Jim's shoulder-muscles relaxed under his hand. Blair kept talking, half-chanting and half offering advice, until Jim went completely limp on the couch.

Blair considered putting the exhausted Sentinel to sleep there, but he was a tall man and it was a shortish couch. So he climbed slowly to his feet and hauled the half-sleeping Jim with him. It was not so unlike helping any of dozens of grad-school friends get to bed after one too many drinks. Jim moved more or less with him and, being sober, was more helpful than a drunk would have been. But he was clearly exhausted. He tumbled into bed and was asleep before his head hit the pillow.

Smiling and shaking his head, Blair turned to leave, pausing when another peal of thunder shattered the peace of the loft. Jim twitched in his sleep. Senses under control or not, he was obviously still on high-alert.

Blair sighed and went downstairs. But only long enough to grab a chair and haul it back up the stairs to Jim's room. Leaving a Sentinel alone on a night like this would have been just short of sinful. Exhausted, he might not rise again but, if he did, he deserved not to have to be alone with it.

So Blair positioned the chair next to the bed and watched the sleeping man. He had sat up with sick men before, but this was the first time he had ever stood watch over a healthy man's dreams. Somehow, though, it seemed right. Jim would, at least, have someone there if he were to wake up frightened or confused. Experiences both sweet and bitter told Blair what that could be worth.

So he watched.

Jim made a face every time there was thunder but, as the storm passed, so did the Sentinel's agitation. That did not stop Blair watching him. It occurred to him that he had, perhaps, gotten into more than another research project here. 'Going native' was the term that anthropologists shrunk from applying to themselves, even though so many of them did in one way or the other.

Without even meaning to, Blair had gone beyond Native. Going native was making special friends, taking lovers, adopting customs. It had nothing to do with meeting a man who needed something that only you could offer, nothing to do with offering something that only you could give. Their lives were interlaced whether either liked it or not.

Just like that. Without ceremony or any obvious change. Jim was unlikely to have an easy time of things without Blair, and Blair was unlikely to ever go back to the way things had been before Jim.

And, just somehow, that seemed exactly right, perfectly natural.

So Blair watched Jim's sleep go deep, and felt himself clung to and let go of at once. He could not have prayed for anything resembling a normal role in Jim Ellison's life, but he also refused to accept anything other than an active role in the man's evolution.

Smiling to himself, feeling a sense of meaning for the first time in his life, Blair settled back in the chair and fell asleep, lulled by the deep, steady breathing of the Sentinel.

His last conscious thought was straight out of the Bible.

And he saw that it was good.

And then that ridiculous poem, written by a Sentinel or by a Sentinel's friend or lover, underlining everything that it meant to be born to such a life.

Blair smiled and fell asleep within arm's reach of his new friend, knowing that he would be able to wake if anything were amiss, knowing that he had just proven himself useful, that it meant that he would be able to be of use to Jim in the future.

He smiled and leaned back in the chair, closing his eyes and reciting as he drifted off to sleep:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And nature in a wildflower.
To hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour…

The End