Cold and Consequence
I've got a cold, something that is not really all that surprising considering the fact that this is Cascade, it's late December, the Volvo left me stranded in the middle of a deluge and my lungs have never quite recovered in the aftermath of what happened at the fountain. Of course, the fact that it's not exactly unexpected doesn't make it any less unpleasant.
The problem is that ever since the incident at the fountain a cold is never just a cold... it is also the ideal excuse for Jim to go into Blessed Protector overdrive with a super-sized side order of guilt and self-flagellation. I've been through it often enough to know that much. As far as Jim is concerned the whole thing was his fault. He is convinced that he should have been there, that he should have kept me safe... and all the evidence pointing to the falsehood of such an assumption be damned.
I won't deny that when the whole thing went down I was more than a little pissed. I felt betrayed and a part of me did blame Jim, but in the years since I've come to accept what happened as all but unavoidable... and as being as much my fault as his.
It's true that Jim's reactions caught me off guard but I do know enough about sentinels to realize that at a primal level they are driven by instinct, not by logic... in fact I knew that even then but I never realized what it meant. I was so thrilled at the thought of having a second sentinel that I failed to consider what the obvious consequences of Alex's presence in Cascade were bound to be.
The thing is that I realize now as I should have realized then that Alex's presence was bound to trigger Jim's territorial instincts in a big way. As far as he could tell another sentinel had entered his territory and he found himself torn between several contradictory impulses. First of all, she was clearly trespassing and that was grating on his very soul. In addition to that there was the fact that I was working with her, he could smell her on me and in his eyes that was the ultimate betrayal... and on top of that the fact that she was a female sentinel was triggering his mating instincts. When all three of those aspects are taken into account it is hard to imagine how the whole thing could have possibly ended in anything but disaster.
In fact one of the things I realized about two dozen colds ago is that it probably wasn't a coincidence that while we were in Cascade the territorial instinct seemed to take precedence over everything else but that as soon as the two of them ran into each other again in Sierra Verde, in a place that could almost be described as a neutral territory, then the territorial imperative was swept aside and replaced by an almost uncontrollable mating urge.
Unfortunately, even though the sequence of events --of causes and consequences-- is extremely logical, when all the available information is combined in Jim's mind it doesn't really lead to the obvious, logical, explanation that there was nothing he could possibly have done to prevent what happened but rather it leads to a truckload of guilt... and the fact that he's not exactly eager to listen to anything remotely resembling a reasonable argument is not helping matters either.
For me the whole thing makes perfect sense, even if living through it was anything but fun, but for Jim there are no possible explanations. As far as he is concerned he let me down and that is the only thing that matters... and whenever he is confronted with a reminder of what happened --even if it is something as mundane as a cold-- his guilt surges to the forefront once more. When I get sick he is confronted once again with an impossible combination of guilt, instinct and awareness that he can barely control, but I can easily see where each one of those elements comes from.
The guilt comes from what he perceives to have been his failure to protect me, to keep me alive. That guilt is then combined with the sentinel's natural drive to keep the guide safe at all cost --an instinct I've had more than my fair share of trouble trying to come to terms with, even though I've all but given up on trying to fight it by now-- and on top of that is a modern man who has more than a little trouble with his own inability to control his natural instincts in the first place.
When those three elements are combined the end result adds up to a really unhappy sentinel and that unhappy sentinel in turn translates into a really over protective sentinel... and a really overprotective sentinel translates into an overprotected guide, which in turns translates into a really unhappy guide. It really is a fairly simple progression.
There is no real way around it and I know it... and the worst part is that it is barely late December and I still have over three months of this thing before the soggy mess that passes for spring in Cascade comes around. Did I mention that an unhappy/overprotective sentinel makes for an overprotected/unhappy guide? Well, let's just say that it's going to be a very long winter but I have no choice but to suck it up and deal... especially because my first cold of the season seems to have settled in for the duration and that means that I can look forward to a few days of Blessed Protector hell.
To make matters worse Simon has been through enough of these episodes by now to know that an overprotective sentinel obsessing over a sick guide is not a productive sentinel and that means that he is being extremely accommodating when it comes to giving Jim the time off he needs to stay home and take care of me... whether I want him here or not.