This story has been re-edited for inclusion in Susan's Sentinel Stories Volume 5

GDP Series

Sentinel Conference

By Susan Foster

The captain had to admit that the Sentinel Sanctuary had been quite restful...  well, once the excitement had died down.  And it had one hell of a trout stream; the fish he caught must have been all of 18 inches.  Simon was pleased he had the photographs to back up his story; he was going to get boasting rights on that fish for the next six months. 

While he fished, the Sentinel and his Guide had spent nearly all their waking time together, either working on their link or relaxing.  Sandburg had turned out to be surprisingly good at shooting hoops.  His ankle was still tender but he was getting around a lot better by the end of their vacation. 

Watching them together had been an education, like looking at the flip side of the same coin.  Oh, there had been some explosive arguments that had made him fear for the kid's life, but Jim had never raised a hand to his Guide.  The Sentinel had stormed out fuming on more than one occasion but had eventually returned, calmed down.  Blair had gone looking for him sometimes, which is what had led to their recent adventure but whether the Sentinel returned or the Guide went looking, the result was always the same, and the two men would be back in synch again. 

He couldn't help but chuckle softly as he remembered the GDP caretaker who had made the mistake of trying to stop Blair on a midnight run to the fridge.  Jim had made it clear that particular Guide ate when he was hungry and this particular Sentinel did not take kindly to anyone manhandling his Guide.  It was a mistake the man had never made again. 

Banks grinned at Captain Taggart, "How were things?" The captain smiled tolerantly, "So the mighty fisherman has returned.  Too bad some of us have to work for a living, Simon, and can't afford to be men of leisure.  Actually it was quiet for once; the biggest pain has been this Sentinel Conference coming up.  They've had three crank calls already threatening to disrupt the event and "liberate the Guides from slavery.”  Taggert's tone provided the quotation marks.  "The callers were all known to the GDP and we've started surveillance on them.  Personally, I think they're all bark and no bite, but since the Governor is going to be there for opening ceremonies we're not taking any chances.” 

Joel looked out across the bullpen to where Sandburg and Ellison were surrounded by Rafe, Brown and Anderson.  The Guide's hands were flying as he explained something at great length.  Ellison wore a tolerant look for his young partner's exuberance.  Taggert grimaced, "We're going to have a serious problem over this conference, Simon.” 

"In what way, Joel?"

"I read through the instructions for the event.  All the Guides have to attend wearing their graduation uniform.  Normally they wouldn't wear it but the GDP want to make some point or other.” 

"So?"

"So, Blair doesn't have one.  Remember, he was rogue.” 

"Tell me this is not going in the direction I think it is," Banks sounded as weary as he had not just come back from vacation. 

"I checked.  The GDP protocol people confirmed that Blair has to wear the uniform of the correction facility marking him a rogue.  I argued until I was blue in the face, they won't budge on their position.  All Guides that went through the correction facility have to wear the uniform, red coveralls with...” 

"A black circle on the front and back.  I've seen it, Joel.”  There was distaste in the captain's voice. 

"The kid is going to go ballistic over this, Simon.”  Worry was clear in the simple statement.  "Then we don't tell him until he has to know, Joel.  They've just been through a rough patch because of Jim's head injury.  I don't want them to have to deal with this now.  I'll tell them closer to the event.  In the meantime we keep quiet about it, okay?"

"Okay.  But, Simon, I don't like this.  That kid's one of us now.” 

"That makes two of us, Joel.” 

* * *

 

The next few weeks flew by.  Three cases were closed, the last one giving particular pleasure to the Sentinel because he hadn't needed his ‘Sentinel’ abilities to crack it. 

"Well done, Jim, you did some good work there.”  Simon congratulated him warmly. 

"Nice to know I haven't lost my touch, that I'm more than a genetic freak.” 

"What's wrong, Jim?" Simon didn't like the bitterness he heard in Ellison's voice. 

"Huh, 'what's right' is what you should be asking, Simon.  Every time I close a case I see the look on their faces.” 

"What look, Jim?"

"The look that says, "He wouldn't have solved that unless he was a Sentinel.”  Dammit, I was solving cases before the senses showed up and I'd still be a detective without them.” 

"Where's Sandburg?" Simon looked around for the Sentinel's ever present shadow; Blair would know how to get Ellison out of his funk. 

"He's at his University office.  Now that he's teaching and taking classes again, he's got paperwork to do.  You wouldn't believe the pile of tests he's got to grade for Anthro 101.  Not to mention the stuff he needs to get his own work done.  I swear, Simon, sometimes the loft looks as if a paper mill exploded over the place.”  Simon smiled slightly at the note of fond exasperation in Jim's complaint.  He nodded to himself, now he knew why Jim was acting like a bear with a sore head, his Guide was not where the Sentinel could keep an eye on him and Ellison was fretting about the kid. 

"How's he doing with the separation thing?  I mean his barriers?"

"Not too bad.  He managed to make it through yesterday without any problems, but I don't want to leave him there too long.  He's strong, Simon, but maintaining his own barriers really drains him.  Dr Woodward is keeping an eye on him for me and my cell phone is on his speed dial.” 

That same cell phone rang and Jim said a quick, "Speak of the devil" as he dug it out of his pocket.  "Ellison,” he growled into the phone and then his face clouded.  "Okay, I'm on my way.  Give him space and don't touch him.” 

"Jim?"

"Blair, he's in his office with a knife and he won't let anyone get near him.”  Jim was already moving towards the door. 

"Keep me informed.”  Ellison's pace didn't even slow as he answered Bank's order with a terse, "Yes, sir.” 

Ellison arrived at Hargrove Hall, cursing as he spotted a GDP van.  Next to it was a Cascade PD squad car.  The patrolman came over to him. 

"Detective Ellison, I called you as soon as we got here and recognized your Guide.” 

"What's the situation?" The uniform was practically jogging to keep up with the Sentinel's impatient strides. 

"Sandburg's in his office.  He's got a knife and won't let anyone near him.  He's screaming about people touching him.  Looks like he's on something, Detective.” 

"Blair's clean.  He doesn't do drugs.  I have to practically force him to take an aspirin.  Someone must have slipped him something.” 

When he reached Blair's office, Ellison saw two men in their twenties wearing GDP uniforms arguing with an older policeman.  He muttered something under his breath as he saw the restraints they carried.  He snarled, "You're not needed here" and then ignored the GDP officers. 

Worry shot through the Sentinel as he got his first good look at his Guide.  Blair was beyond hyper, pacing up and down the small office and gesturing with an old dagger that the detective mentally catalogued as one of the kid's artifacts.  Sandburg was yelling at the uniformed officer trying to talk him down.  Jim winced as he heard the terror in the kid's chanted, "Keep away...  just keep away from me.  Won't go.” 

It was obvious that the officer hadn't attempted to disarm the young Guide, just keep him in one place until his Sentinel arrived. 

Jim thankfully recognized Michael Lewis, an old-timer on the force who kept a cool head in any situation.  Lewis backed away from the office door and said, "We called it in as soon as I recognized him as your Guide, Jim.  We've got two other grad students, teaching assistants that have been drugged as well.  We're pretty sure someone spiked the coffee they were drinking; secretary says it came from the lounge.  The other two are unconscious but the same stuff has your Guide climbing the walls.  The GDP wanted to take him into custody but I figured it would be best if we waited for you.” 

"Thanks, Mike, you did good.  Whatever happens you let me deal with this.  Just keep those vultures off my back, understand?" A glare in the direction of the GDP officers identified the "vultures.” 

Lewis nodded, "It’s your call, Detective, just watch yourself.  He's pretty far gone.” 

Ellison went into the small office and closed the door behind him.  Sandburg backed away from him, into the far corner, holding the knife in front of him with both hands.  There was no recognition in the deep blue eyes that watched Jim's every move with suspicion and fear.  Ellison walked slowly toward his Guide, his voice a soothing murmur. 

"Blair, it's okay, kid.  I'm here.  I won't let anyone hurt you."  Jim reached for the knife. 

The knife slashed through the air.  Jim dodged back but not before the blade sliced through his upper arm.  The Sentinel bit down against the pain.  Blair was terrified.  He didn't need to hear Jim hurting.  Dialing down the pain, Ellison kept his voice soft. 

"Easy, Blair, no one’s going to touch you.” 

"I can feel them touching me.  Their hands all over me.  I can't go through it again, won't.  Sentinel...lost my Sentinel...  he didn't want me anymore and that's why I'm alone, all alone.  They'll take me back...  they'll...  not again, never again...”  Blair sounded totally lost.  Jim's heart ached at the despair in the shaking voice. 

Blair lowered the blade to his wrist and fear shot through the Sentinel. 

"Look at me, Blair.  Look at me!" The last three words were said with such force that their meaning penetrated the drugged confusion.  As blue eyes met blue eyes, hope dawned on the frightened face.  "Jim?"

"Yeah, Chief, it’s me, your Sentinel.  Listen, kid, you're my life, I need you, I can't lose you.  We can get through this together; you just have to trust me, Blair.”  He smiled at his Guide and then reached out again slowly.  His long fingers slid around the wrist of the knife-wielding hand while his other hand gently detached the blade from the tense grip.  Ellison dropped the knife on the floor and kicked it away.  The Sentinel opened his arms and his Guide scooted into them.  Jim lowered them both to the floor, sitting with Blair tucked under his arm. 

Blair clung to his Sentinel for dear life, his hands gripping the older man's jacket and shirt.  Jim's hands moved up and down his Guide's body trying to steady the uncontrollable trembling.  Blair was obviously disoriented, confused.  He was rambling on about losing Jim; that he couldn't find him; that he was alone.  He plastered himself against his Sentinel's body, his tears trickling down Jim's neck.  Jim whispered a litany of comfort into a curl-covered ear.  Slowly, the young Guide calmed.  Now that the arms of his Sentinel sheltered him, no one could hurt him ever again. 

As Blair settled against him, Jim carefully catalogued his Guide's vital signs.  Blair's eyes were dilated from the drug, his breathing erratic but the tremors were easing and the frantic pulse slowing.  A low voice spoke from the other side of the door, "Detective Ellison, is everything all right?"

"Yeah, Mike.  We've got it covered.  You can open the door now, but go slow.” 

The GDP officers came in.  The taller one said, "Good work, Sentinel, we can take him now.  He'll be...” 

"No!" The word was snarled.  Even drugged, Blair had recognized the GDP uniforms and his heart rate shot up again.  He started to struggle but Jim tightened his hold and turned his Guide's face into his chest. 

"Mike, get them out of here.  They are not helping.  Easy, Blair, I've got you, kid.  It's okay.  Everything's okay.” 

Lewis motioned the two men out of the room.  When they didn't move fast enough to suit him, he mentioned that he had his own set of restraints.  Mike grinned as they got the message and left hurriedly.  Sobering, he went into the office.  "Ambulance is here, Jim.” 

The paramedic was the same one who had attended Blair at the police station when the young Guide had gone into shock after Carolyn Plummer touched him when his barriers were gone. 

"Hey, Detective, how's he doing?"

"He's ingested something.”  The Sentinel looked down at the dark curls pressed against his chest.  The paramedic leaned forward, "Will you tell me his name this time, Detective?"

Jim flushed, he was well aware that he had not exactly been in control the last time they met.  Newly bonded, he had not wanted the medic to touch his Guide or even know his name.  "Blair Sandburg.” 

"Hey there, Blair.  I just want to check your pulse and blood pressure, and then we can get out of here.  Okay?"

Blair muttered something that only Jim could hear.  "He doesn't want to be touched; he thinks you're going to hurt him.” 

"Blair, I'm not going to hurt you.  May I make my check?" He put a hand out.  The empath made a frightened noise and tried to press deeper into his Sentinel. 

The paramedic nodded, "I'll take that as a no.  Can you tell me about his vital signs, Detective?"

Rafe stuck his head in the doorway and waited while Jim answered the paramedic.  As the medic spoke to the hospital, Jim went back to reassuring Blair he was safe, trying to calm his surging emotions through their link. 

"Blair," he spoke softly, "Your barriers, how are they?" Ellison had a pretty good idea of how they were from the way the young empath clung to him. 

Blair twisted Jim's shirt in his hand, "gone all gone all gone.”  The words were a mantra of pain and loss. 

"Easy, kid.”  Jim's voice broke across his whispered words.  "Just hang on, we'll take care of it.” 

Rafe approached carefully, all the signs said that Jim was in Blessed Protector overdrive, and only the Blessed Protectee could control him if he vented.  And the protectee was in no condition to stop him. 

"Jim?" Rafe said quietly. 

Ellison looked up and saw the younger GQ dressed cop. 

"Simon sent me, what do you need?"

"Get all the food and drinks on his desk bagged for forensics; I need to know what Blair's ingested.  And, for God's sake, keep those GDP goons away from him.” 

"What GDP?  They weren't called in on this, Jim.  Security only called dispatch.  We're handling this in house.” 

"They were here just now.  If they weren't called, what the hell were they doing here?  Something's not right here, Rafe.” 

Rafe's voice became very serious, "I'll look into it for you.” 

Jim got to his feet, taking the smaller man with him.  He could feel his Guide drawing on his strength but there was no way Ellison would block him.  In fact, he was pleased the kid had instinctively connected when he needed help.  "It's all right, buddy, I'll look after you," he reassured Blair yet again. 

The paramedic saw the blood on Ellison's arm but one look from the Sentinel stopped him before he could say anything.  Jim had dialed his pain down; the wound wasn't anything that couldn't wait until he knew his Guide was safe. 

The trip to the hospital was fast.  The entire time the Sentinel kept his Guide enfolded in his arms, talking softly, stroking and calming him. 

Once they were inside casualty and moved to an exam cubicle, the doctor came in.  He immediately saw the blood on Jim's coat.  "Nurse Thompson, get Orderly Benson and have the Guide moved to another cubicle.  I'll check him out after I've seen to the Sentinel.”  He dismissed Blair without another look.  While waiting for the orderly to arrive, the doctor glanced at his clipboard for a name.  "Sentinel Ellison, if you would...”  He moved closer to Ellison as he spoke.  Blair suddenly pulled free of Jim's hold and turned to face the doctor, putting himself between the doctor and the Sentinel.  When the doctor came forward, Blair violently pushed him away and pulled an instrument trolley in front of them.  Instruments crashed to the floor as he screamed, "Keep away from him.  He's my Sentinel; mine to protect.  MINE.”  Blair grabbed one of the scalpels from the trolley and slashed at the doctor, reinforcing his claim. 

Jim grabbed his Guide from behind and held on, trying to get him to calm down.  The doctor closed the distance and received a kick in the groin for his efforts.  The orderly rushed in but Jim roared at him to stand back as he twisted his Guide around.  He pushed the smaller man against the wall, pinning him there and the violent reaction ended as quickly as it started.  The scalpel fell to the floor as Blair raised a hand to his Sentinel's face just before his legs gave way.  Jim caught him before he hit the floor and settled his unconscious Guide on the gurney. 

The Sentinel paced up and down the waiting room with its yellowing paint and old magazines.  He had stayed with Blair until they had him settled with a physician who specialized in Sentinel/Guide medicine.  His own wound had been cleaned out and bandaged but he could not rest.  Finally, after a seeming eternity, the doctor came out, "Jim Ellison?"

"Yes,” Laser blue eyes demanded answers from the doctor. 

The doctor had dealt with Sentinels before and knew what was important, "He'll make a complete recovery, Sentinel.  He'll have a killer headache tomorrow and may feel like the living death, but he will be okay.” 

Jim felt the relief wash over him.  "What was the drug?"

"A particularly nasty designer drug.  We managed to flush it out of his system and he's resting.  We've got him sedated.  It looked as if his barriers were gone and we had to touch him to help him.” 

"I have to be with him.”  Ellison stated what to him was a self-evident fact of life.

The doctor smiled, "That's quite all right, Sentinel.  I've had a recliner moved in for you.  Now, don't get excited but we've got your Guide in restraints.  It's just until he wakes up and knows where he is and then they'll be removed.  It's for his protection, Detective.” 

Blair was sleeping when Jim came into his room.  He took a seat next to the bed and rested one hand on Blair's arm.  He sat unmoving as time passed slowly; the only sound the beeping of the monitors.  Jim was almost drifting off when Blair began to mumble, shifting uneasily against the pillows.  Ellison sat up and studied his Guide. 

Blair was dreaming and whatever his sleeping mind had conjured up was not nice.  Jim gently pushed against their connection, trying to ease Blair from his nightmare.  The younger man moaned softly, and then a pair of confused blue eyes opened. 

"Jim?" his voice was very rough.  Before Jim could answer, Blair began to struggle against the restraints as panic flooded their bond. 

"Easy, Buddy, you're safe.  I'm here.  The doctor will get them off, just hang on.”  Jim reached across the bed and pressed the call button.  He had been right to worry about what would have happened if his Guide woke up in restraints and alone.  It was why he had stayed in the less than comfortable chair the entire night; he could not do that to the kid. 

He gently brushed wayward curls back from the sweat stained face, smiling as his Guide turned into his touch.  Jim cradled the young empath's face in his big hands and said quietly, "You need to wake up now, Blair.” 

"'M 'wake.”  The words were slurred, the blue eyes struggling to stay open. 

"Yeah, buddy, you're awake.  Now let's try for aware, okay?" Jim talked softly until his Guide was finally with him. 

The doctor came in and smiled as he saw the patient awake.  "Hello, good to see you're back with us, can you tell me your name?"

"Blair Sandburg.” 

"The name of this gentleman here?"

"Detective James Ellison.  We're partners.”  Jim smiled at the touch of pride in his "partner's" voice. 

"Good, I'll just get these off you.”  The doctor worked quickly. 

"Jim, what happened?  How'd I get here?" Blair spoke over the doctor's head. 

"You were poisoned along with two other TAs.”  As Sandburg's eyes widened in concern, Ellison added quickly, "Everyone is going to be all right, Blair, and you just need to rest.” 

"Don't like hospitals.”  There was a definite plea for rescue in that short complaint. 

"Doctor, when can he get out of here?"

"Tomorrow morning.  I want to make sure that all the drug is out of his system.” 

"Jim, what happened to your arm?" Blair raised a hand to touch the bloodstained rent in Ellison's coat sleeve. 

"A little accident, Chief, nothing serious.” 

"What poison, Jim?  How'd it happen?"

"Not now, Chief.  It's all taken care of.  We'll talk later.  Now try to rest, I'll be here.  You're safe.” 

Only then did Blair close his eyes and let sleep claim him.

* * *

Simon came into the hospital room, wanting to speak to Jim and see how the kid was for himself.  He was not surprised when Jim nailed him with a frosty glare the moment he walked into the room. 

"Knock off the attitude, Ellison.  I'm not here to hurt Sandburg and you damn well know it.” 

"Sorry, Captain.”  Simon could almost see the Sentinel take a back seat to the detective.  But Jim's hand never left the kid's arm. 

Satisfied, Simon made himself comfortable.  "Okay, Jim, the drug was in the water filtering pitcher, so when the grad students made their coffee and tea they used the contaminated water.” 

"Do we know who it was aimed at?  Seems like a sloppy way to try to poison someone.  Anyone could have used that water.” 

Simon's face gave away the answer before he spoke.  "We think Blair was the target, Jim.  The drug just acts as a sedative on non-empaths.  On someone like Blair...well, it induces psychosis.  The docs are pretty impressed that you managed to talk him down and get the knife away from him.” 

"But why?  He can't have any enemies at Rainier.  He's just re-started.  Besides, the kid doesn't have a mean bone in his whole body.” 

"Rafe looked into the GDP officers that were at the crime scene.”  Banks paused; Ellison was not going to like the implications of his next words.  "Jim, he checked the GDP logs, no one was sent to Rainier University today.  Whoever they were, they were not GDP.  I spoke to Officer Lewis and he said they were already there, trying to get Blair when he arrived.  They only backed off when he and his partner got on their case.  Lewis said there was something about them he didn't like and decided to put in a call for you.  What do you remember about them, Jim?"

"I only saw them for a moment, didn't pay much attention to tell you the truth, Captain.  I was too concerned about Blair.” 

"You still remember it.”  The voice was shaky and without strength but it was the voice of a Guide. 

Jim got to his feet and smiled down at the younger man, "How're you feeling, Chief?"

"Sick and my head's splitting but...”  He paused to swallow, "We can do it, Jim, all you have to do is...”  He never got to finish his sentence. 

Jim cut across his words, "We'll do it tomorrow, Chief, when you're feeling better.  No, kid, listen to your Sentinel and try to sleep.”  Ellison gave him a warm smile.  Slender fingers reached out and curled around Jim's wrist, then pulled his hand against him.  "It’s alright, Blair, I'm not going anywhere.”  His Guide was already falling asleep again, secure in his Sentinel's protection. 

Simon watched as Jim resettled into the chair.  "Jim, one question, you can shut me up if you don't want to answer, but...”  "Spit it out, Simon.”  Jim's tone was friendly. 

"I know you.  You're not exactly a touchy feely person, yet you allow the kid to cling to you.  The way he runs his hands over your arms, it just doesn't seem natural.” 

Jim sighed and settled into a more comfortable position.  His Guide moaned softly and Ellison immediately reached out with his free hand and gently stroked the empath's face until the lines of tension smoothed out.  Blair pulled the hand he held captive tighter to him and slipped deeper into sleep. 

"That's just what I mean!  For God's sake, I would have been peeling him off the wall if he had done that to the old Jim Ellison.” 

Jim chuckled, recognizing himself in his captain's words.  "It's hard to explain, Simon, but the moment I came on-line and we bonded, I changed.  We changed.  I need his touch just as he needs contact with me.  He keeps me grounded; I can feel myself losing it, losing control, and his voice and touch give it back.  Simon, without Blair I would be dead.”  Jim said it with as much certainty as if it had been etched in stone. 

Simon was all too aware how frightening the loss of control was to a man like Jim Ellison.  The man had always been in control of his life and his destiny.  Then his senses had taken that control away from him and made him dependant on one hyperactive grad student for his very sanity.  Ellison's words and the emotion behind them worried him. 

"With Blair I feel balanced and in control.  Letting him connect with me is a small price to pay for that control.  When we bonded, it seriously affected his ability to create and maintain his empathic barriers.  My need for a Guide wounded him in a way that won't ever heal.  He needs me as much as I need him, Simon.  I can help him, protect him, and I WILL.”  The Sentinel switched tack suddenly; heart-to-hearts with anyone but Blair made him uncomfortable.  "So who the hell were those fake GDP officers?"

****

Blair came out of the bathroom where he had been changing into the clean clothes Jim had brought for him.  His head was still thumping and he could feel nausea wash through his body but he was determined to go home.  *HOME.* The loft was just that to him, now. 

Jim came in with two flat packs that he put in his jacket pocket.  Blair grimaced as he saw them.  "Jim, I don't like chemical drugs, I know where I can get some herbs that would...” 

"Forget it, Chief, the doctor says you take them, you take them.  There's painkiller for the headache and something for the nausea.  He said it would take 48 hours for the side effects to wear off and these will help.”  His voice dropped to a warning level, "and quit with the puppy dog eyes, Chief, it won't work.” 

Blair changed the subject, for now; he knew how stubborn his Sentinel could be, "How's the arm?"

"Fine, just a few stitches, that's all.”  He gently ruffled the long curls, careful not to aggravate the headache he saw in the younger man's eyes. 

"Jim, the doctor said...  he said I pulled a knife on you, on my Sentinel.”  Blair's self-loathing was all too evident to Ellison.  When would the kid stop blaming himself for every little mishap?  Ellison's anger at the GDP's treatment of his Guide surfaced and he unwittingly let it color the tone of his response. 

"Blair, you were drugged out of your mind.  You...”  Jim knew the instant the younger man dropped to his knees that Blair had misread his anger.  "DAMN IT TO HELL, SANDBURG.”  Jim exploded, sick to his soul that after everything they had been through his Guide was still haunted by his demons.  Jim closed his eyes and exhaled, forcing himself to keep calm.  He could not allow his emotions to take control, his Guide was ill and hurting and in no shape to handle them.  He was determined not to hurt him. 

"Guide, look up at me.  NOW.”  Jim allowed some of his anger to stay in his tone.  Blair slowly lifted his head, his eyes wary.  "God, Chief, I'm not about to punish you for something that was an accident.  You've got to understand that you were drugged and you reacted to a threat.  Hell, with the amount of crap you've had to deal with recently, I figure I got off easy.  Now, get up off that floor.”  Blair got to his feet but waved off Jim's helping hand. 

"I attacked my Sentinel.  I could have killed you.” 

"You also protected me, Chief, do you remember that?" His question was met with a small shake of a curly head. 

"You thought the doctor was going to hurt me.  You kicked him and then pulled a trolley in the way and grabbed a scalpel to protect me.  Blair, you were protecting your Sentinel.  I can't expect more of you than that.” 

"I kicked the doctor?" Disbelief was written on the expressive face. 

"You'll have to remember to apologize to Dr. Norton when we leave.” 

"Where?"

"Where what?"

"Where did I kick him?"

"In the examining room, Chief.”  Jim said it innocently and was rewarded with a whack to his uninjured arm. 

"Not that.  Where did I kick HIM?"

"Let's just say it might be putting a crimp in his love life for the next week or so.”  Jim grinned, that had effectively sidetracked his Guide's guilt trip. 

"I'm surprised I didn't wake up in a GDP cell.” 

"They would have had to go over my dead body to get to you, Blair.  Dr Norton understood.  He allowed me to get you settled, did the tests, and let me wait until the sedative kicked.”  Jim felt the need to add, "I only left while they did the tests, kid.” 

"Thanks, man.”  The feeling Blair put in that first word told it all. 

Jim tugged gently on a long curl, pleased that his Guide was going to be okay.  Blair saw his Sentinel's head tilt and knew he was listening to something.  Instinctively, he put his hand on Jim's arm to ground him. 

"DAMN GDP.”  The Sentinel turned, putting himself between the door and his Guide, hiding him from view. 

GDP officer Dan Slater knocked and came in slowly.  With a Sentinel in Blessed Protector mode, it was best not to take chances.  Alan Bieh had barged in on a Sentinel with an injured Guide and had been lucky to get away with just a broken arm, four broken ribs and a fractured jaw.  It had been a lesson Slater had taken to heart and he had read the history of this particular pairing. 

"Sentinel Ellison?" he made the name a question. 

"Yes.”  Ellison didn't care that his tone was icy.  His Guide was still ill from the after effects of the drug he had been given.  The doctor had told him it was one of a group of drugs used by the GDP for handling rogue Guides.  Sandburg had reacted badly to them.  He had added that Jim was not to worry; the young man would be fine.  But with his Guide sick and unknown GDP people seemingly involved, the Sentinel was walking a very thin line of tolerance. 

Blair spotted the uniform and dove back into the bathroom.  Jim turned and followed him.  He carefully held Blair's hair out of the way as he emptied his stomach of the small amount of food that he had managed to eat that morning.  With his other hand, he lightly rubbed his Guide's back, "Deep breaths, Chief, you're going to be alright.” 

"Sorry," Blair's voice was shaking slightly. 

"No need to be, Chief.  That drug was nasty stuff; you'll be feeling it for a while yet.” 

"Sentinel Ellison?" The voice was close to the door, "I am sorry to interrupt but you are to report to GDP Headquarters to see Consultant Doctor Speke.  You have a 10 o'clock appointment; I'm here to drive you to it.” 

Jim swore.  His whispered commentary was short, sharp, and very colorful.  The part of Blair's mind that wasn't quaking at the thought of GDP headquarters marveled at the physical impossibility of Jim's suggestion.  "If Dr Speke wants to see us, then she can come to the station.  And she had better not be late because I will be taking my Guide home.  Don't let the door hit you on your way out.”  He glared at the GDP officer before turning back to his Guide as he heard another bout of dry retching tear through an already sore throat. 

For a moment Dan Slater just stood there, working

 

 

through the possible responses he could make to Ellison's blunt statement.  He exhaled slowly; this case was going from bad to worse.  He had worked with his partner, Dr. Speke, on many cases and they had an enviable record of success.  But this Sentinel and Guide didn't know about their record and Slater doubted they would be impressed even if they did.  What counted now was that he had failed at the first hurdle with this pair. 

He decided the only thing he could do was back off for now.  The Sentinel was in Blessed Protector mode and whatever he said was going to piss the man off.  So he inched back slowly until he was out in the corridor; only then did he relax.  Slater took up watch in the corridor, keeping his distance from the Guide's room. 

When they finally emerged, the Sentinel's arm was around his Guide.  The younger man was enveloped in the larger man's coat.  He looked like a kid wearing his older brother's clothes; the coat much too large, only his fingers showing under the too long sleeves and the jacket covered him to mid-thigh.  Slater could see fine tremors shaking the compact body.  As he watched the careful way the Sentinel supported the other man, Slater revised his earlier impression—not someone's kid brother, Ellison's kid brother. 

Dan Slater decided to have one last go with the pairing.  "Sentinel, I mean your Guide no harm.  His barriers, are they low?"

For a moment, Jim just looked at him as if sizing up his threat to his Guide before he answered grudgingly, "They're down, and until the drug leaves his system he'll be wide open.  There is no way in hell I'm letting him set foot in GDP headquarters like that.” 

The GDP officer made sure the Sentinel could see him move even farther away, "I just wanted to make sure I maintained a proper distance.  I won't try and touch him, Sentinel.” 

"Do and I will kill you.”  The matter of fact words were clearly a statement of intent. 

          "Jim.”  Just one word from the Guide and the Sentinel's attention swung back to the younger man.  "He gets the message.”  Blair added to himself, he would have to be blind and deaf not to have gotten the message: "touch the Guide and die.”  Jim was at his most dangerous right now; his job was to defuse the situation.  He allowed Jim to fuss over him, to pull him into place at his side so that he was shielding him physically and mentally.  It was a quiet ride back to the precinct. 

          As they pulled into the garage, Ellison said, "Let's get this over with and go home, Chief.” 

          Sandburg nodded; he was not looking forward to spending time at the station with his barriers down.  But at least Jim's co-workers tried to understand, wouldn't willingly hurt him. 

 

* * *

 

Simon came into the bullpen just as Jim was about to take John Dawson's head off.  Dawson, new to Major Crime, was unused to the protocol that the rest of the department applied to this pairing.  Normally, it was all right to approach Blair and have a chat.  The grad student had proved to be more than willing to help out with the paperwork that accumulated on everyone's desks.  He was also the best person they had on computer; he could make that often frustrating machine do everything but tap dance.  All in all, Sandburg had carved out a niche for himself in the bullpen.  The wary caution with which Major Crime had treated him when he first appeared in the bullpen was easing into camaraderie.  But they also understood that if he was hurt or sick, then it was best to stay back.  If Sandburg had to be approached, they had learned to not make any sudden movements and to defer to the Sentinel in all things.  Dawson hadn't picked up on the rules of the Sandburg Zone and Ellison was providing painful remedial instruction. 

Jim had been called aside by Rhonda to deal with an expense report and Blair had seized the opportunity to get the prescription pills from Jim's coat pocket.  Blair figured that if he dumped them, the Sentinel would have to let him take his herbal remedies instead of the techno-crap the hospital passed out.  His fingers had just come up empty when someone grabbed him from behind.  The anger and disgust that flooded him at that touch froze him in his tracks.  He couldn't resist as he was thrown violently against the filing cabinets. 

          His Sentinel's roar brought him out of his daze and Blair turned to see Jim's hands locked around the new detective's throat.  The grad student plastered himself against the Sentinel's back and said harshly, "Sentinel, let him go.” 

          The pithy order was delivered in the command tone of a Guide and the Sentinel obeyed.  Jim tossed Sandburg's attacker aside and then turned to Blair.  Ellison's senses went on overdrive as he used them to thoroughly check out his Guide, hands ghosting lightly over the younger man's body. 

Rafe snagged Dawson's arm as the man tried to get on his feet.  He pushed him to the floor and hissed, "Stay down!" He added warningly, "Ellison rule number one DON'T TOUCH HIS PARTNER.” 

"That little freak is his partner?" Dawson snarled, "He's no better than the punks over at the University just begging to be put in their place.  He was going through coat pockets!  Should have hit him harder.”  Dawson had no idea he was flirting with death, hassling students at the University was one thing, messing with the Guide another. 

Jim turned on him with a growl.  Rafe jumped in front of him, "Easy, Jim.  The guy's a moron and you know Simon doesn't like you splattering them over the office walls.”  The young officer had been one of the first to actually understand the ins and outs of the Sentinel/Guide partnership and he was getting good at defusing situations when Ellison's Sentinel instincts got the better of him.  Rafe and his partner, Henri Brown, had appointed themselves unofficial bodyguards of the pair, watching their backs. 

"Ellison, collect your Guide and come into my office now.”  Simon barked the order and he expected to be obeyed.  For a moment Jim just glared at Dawson as if measuring him for a shroud.  Simon cleared his throat and Ellison threw him an apologetic look before tucking his Guide under his arm.  Shielding the younger man from the other detectives, Jim escorted him into the captain's office. 

Simon was shocked when he finally got a good look at Blair.  The kid was deathly white and literally shaking where he stood.  Jim got him seated on the sofa under the window and wrapped him in the coat Simon handed him.  Ellison took the tablets out of his pocket and read the instructions.  He popped two of the pills out and poured a glass of water from the jug by the coffee machine.  Handing the paper cup and the pills to his Guide, he ordered, "No argument on this, Chief, you take them.” 

The water slopped over the rim as Blair's hand trembled, "Jim.” 

"I said, no arguments, Chief.” 

With a grimace, Blair swallowed the pills.  Jim took a seat on the sofa that was really too big for the captain's office but just right for a sick Guide to rest on.  Simon watched with an expression of amused disbelief as Jim tugged his Guide so the younger man's head and shoulders rested in his lap.  Blair curled up with his back to Simon, one slim arm circled Jim's waist as he drew comfort from his Sentinel's nearness.  He was exhausted, still reeling from Dawson's attack and the drug assault that had landed him in the hospital.  Jim's reassuring presence and gentle voice was calming and he surrendered to the sleep that was tugging at him. 

The Sentinel monitored the younger man as he relaxed.  "Damn, Simon, he's running a temperature.”  Jim could feel the smaller body shivering as chills and fever fought it out, as muscles cramped from waves of nausea. 

"Look, Jim, we'll get this over as fast as we can and then you can take him home.” 

 

* * *

 

Dr Speke knocked on the door; she tried a smile to put everyone at ease as she came into the office.  It didn't work; Simon could see the Sentinel bristle the moment he saw her and his gaze swept past her to the man behind her. 

"Sentinel Ellison, I apologize for having to bring you in but it is rather important.”  Slater kept his eyes locked on the Sentinel's face. 

"Trying plain clothes this time, Officer?" he made the title an insult. 

The captain winced, when Jim Ellison spoke in that tone he was royally pissed and just waiting for a target to come into range. 

Dan Slater was experienced; he knew the Sentinel was watching him for any response, even just a change in his vital signs.  "I thought it might distress your Guide less this way.” 

Jim checked his heart beat and reluctantly realized that he was telling the truth. 

Simon said, "Doctor, Officer, let's sit down and discuss what you came here for.” 

Dr Speke settled in the chair that Simon had waved her to.  Slater smiled as he realized that the Major Crime captain had interposed his chair between his men and the GDP representatives. 

"So, what's so important?" Ellison demanded. 

"We have yet to receive confirmation that you are attending the Sentinel Conference.  As the only Dark Sentinel and as the Sentinel Prime of Cascade, you have to attend.  We are expecting around 30 Sentinels for the opening on Thursday.  Sentinel, you have to be there on Thursday.” 

"My Guide is ill, ask me again when he's feeling better,” Jim's tone was remarkably neutral. 

Dan Slater exhaled slowly in relief.  Maggie was playing it close to the chest here but from what he knew about this pair the truth would be more likely to get their help than all the lies.  A raised eyebrow asked Maggie a silent question and he got a nod in return.  Slater took up the conversation. 

"Okay, Sentinel, here's the story.  There have been four attacks on Guides at the GDP center.  All of them were bonded to Sentinels who were visiting.  Three of them were found unconscious.  They had been given a fancy cocktail of drugs and they had all been sexually assaulted.  When their Sentinels found them, they also found photographs of the Guides being "disciplined.”  Someone is getting off from hurting Guides.”  Slater let his anger show clearly. 

"Why wasn't this reported to us?" Simon cut in angrily.  Ellison smiled thinly.  Banks was always angry when his authority was undercut. 

"The GDP have been looking into it, Captain.”  Dr. Speke put in as if that made everything all right.  "And a fine job they have been doing, right?" Banks did sarcasm well.  Slater winced as the captain went on, "So, why come to us now?"

"Because of the conference," Jim answered smoothly.  "They're scared that one of the visiting Guides is going to be abducted and they don't want to have to admit that they never called in the police.” 

"Correct.”  keeping eye contact with the Sentinel Slater asked, "We believe the attack on your Guide might be connected.  Do you?"

"I'm a Sentinel, not a psychic.”  Jim growled.  His attention shifted to his Guide, "Sorry, Blair, didn't mean to wake you up.  Listen, kid, you don't want to have to deal with my emotions at the moment.  Why don't you disconnect?"

 

 

 

Jim's head tilted slightly as if he was listening to something.  He nodded, "Okay, but if you have to...  pull back.  Try and let the pills take effect.”  He waited a moment and only then turned back to the others. 

Dr Speke pulled herself together.  She had been looking at the darkly handsome Sentinel.  His gentleness with his Guide fascinated her and she had allowed her imagination to run wild.  Now she called herself to order and was all business again as Ellison spoke. 

"You mentioned four attacks and described three.  What about the fourth?" Jim asked. 

"The last attack, before your Guide was drugged, was on Lisa Pais' Guide.  She's out of the 23rd Precinct.  He was badly beaten, assaulted and his face slashed.  He was lucky he didn't lose an eye.  Lisa is with him now.  The degree of violence is escalating.” 

Simon nodded "So there's a possibility that whoever these people are, they could kill someone if they are not stopped.” 

"Yes.”  Slater put all his conviction in that one word. 

Jim checked on his Guide running a hand over his head and shoulders.  He knew that Blair was still awake but at least his heart rate had slowed and his body was more relaxed. 

"So, what's this got to do with us?" he asked.  Dr Speke felt herself pinned by the Sentinel's laser blue eyes. 

"We want you to take over the investigation.  You'll have full co-operation from the GDP.  Slater and I will be your liaisons with the department.  If we can tell the other Sentinels that the Sentinel Prime is on the case it will go along way to helping calm them down.” 

Jim said calmly, "Let me guess.  You want me to handle the Sentinel end" he glanced down and ran a gentling hand over his Guide "and Blair to keep a watch on the Guides.  Right?"

Speke and Slater nodded.  And wondered what was going on behind Ellison's stoic mask. 

"I'm taking Blair home, Simon.”  Jim stated it matter of fact, as if they had just been talking about the weather. 

"Sentinel," Speke started to protest," you have to listen...” 

Anger that his Guide had nearly been kidnapped by a gang that the GDP had not seen fit to warn the police about started to burn slowly through Ellison.  The thought that those same people now wanted his Guide to go where he would be a target, made it burst into flames and Jim exploded.  "No.  You listen to me, Doctor.  Leave now and you walk out.  Argue and you will be carried out.”  Jim's voice had changed, dropping to a low rumbling growl, and Speke realized she was looking at a dark Sentinel.  The cop was still there and that was possibly the only reason that they were still unhurt.  Ellison was holding the more feral part of his persona in check.  Even as she thought that, Ellison tilted his head to one side. 

He was listening to his Guide.  Hearing the voice, the one that anchored him, the one he had to obey, speaking to him, calming him.  Even though he himself was spooked, Blair was working to calm, center and focus his Sentinel.  Ellison altered his grip on his Guide, pulling him up so that his head was resting against the junction of his neck and shoulder.  Both Speke and Slater kept perfectly still as the Sentinel ran his hands over the man holding on to him.  He sent out his senses and closed his eyes as he wove a sensory net around them both.  He would know if Speke or Slater made a move towards them.  Now he could give over his full attention to his Guide. 

"Sentinel?" Maggie Speke spoke gently, this did not seem to be a bonding but her instincts told her that *something* was happening here.  She watched as the young Guide carefully eased back, his lips were moving but she heard nothing. 

"You think?  You got it, Chief.”  The Sentinel straightened up, taking his Guide with him, tucking him behind him, feeling one hand gripping the back of his shirt and the other moving over his forearm.  The weight of the curly head resting on his back told the Sentinel just how exhausted his Guide was. 

"He said, if you come around to the Loft late tomorrow and bring the files, we will listen to you.”  With that Ellison got his Guide onto his feet and out the door.  Simon grinned at the pole axed stares exchanged by the GDP officials as a Dark Sentinel deferred to his Guide.  Yep, hanging out with the Cascade PD might teach them a thing or two yet.  Simon thought smugly. 

 

* * *

 

Simon Banks pulled into the Loft's parking lot and looked at the other people in the car, Maggie Speke and Dan Slater.  "Before we go up there it is best you understand a few things about the Sentinel you want to separate from his Guide.  I know, I know, it's only for a few hours.  Still...  Jim was a loner when he came to me from Vice with one hell of a reputation for bad attitude.  Jack Pendergrass took him on and he changed for the better until Jack was killed.  I didn't think anyone could get through Jim's walls after that.  I was wrong.  This kid is making a difference in Jim's life and Jim is not going to lose him.  Anything, any person, Ellison sees as a threat to Sandburg he will remove.  Ellison's one of the most law abiding persons I know, but when it comes to his Guide...” 

"Where his Guide is concerned, he's different.  It's alright, Captain, it’s known as the Blessed Prot....”  Maggie Speke started to explain. 

 

 

 

Simon cut her off.  "I know what Blessed Protector mode is, Doctor, but I think it's beyond that.  And believe me; you don't want to be on the end of it.” 

He was not surprised when the door opened before he had a chance to knock.  He was surprised, and his face showed his shock, when he saw the Loft.  The last time he had been there the walls had been painted a stark white, all of the "touches" that had made it a home had gone with Carolyn when they divorced.  The whole place had been cold and clinical.  People like Speke would say it was the Sentinel unconsciously cutting down on stimuli, but Simon knew it was the man pulling back from the world. 

Now the Loft looked different, there was newly matted and framed pictures on the wall, aerial shots of some South American temples.  The coffee table was cluttered with several anthropology texts, exam booklets, binders and a pot of tea.  A laptop computer connected to a printer and a cell modem sat next to a mug of cooling tea.  Simon recognized the make of the laptop because Daryl had been ragging him about buying it for Christmas but it had been too expensive.  The whole package screamed top of the line and that told Simon a lot about Jim's concern for his Guide, that he would spend that kind of money for the kid's benefit.  Ellison's bookcases had always been half empty but now held a line of new books across the top shelf.  He wandered over and was not surprised to see the titles were more evidence that the kid was completely in Jim's life.  A faint scent of herbs and candle wax lingered in the air.  The place seemed more like a home than just a place to sleep and store clothes.  The door to the downstairs bedroom was open and a battered backpack sat just inside the room.  Simon jolted slightly as he suddenly saw Blair appear in the doorway; the kid gave him a small smile but didn't move into the main area. 

Jim closed the door behind them and then slowly circled them, assessing their threat risk.  He snarled and with one quick twist brought Dan Slater to his knees, his gun at the back of his head.  Simon yelled, "Jim.  NO.” 

"He's armed, Sir.  I can smell the gun oil.  Take the gun out with the tip of your fingers, put it on the floor, and then push it away from you.” 

Slater slanted a glance at Banks but the captain just shrugged and recommended, "Do it.” 

Dan shuddered and then slowly followed the orders; he should have left the gun at the station. 

"Jim, we're all on the same side here.”  The captain had the idea that the Sentinel was not listening to him. 

"The men who tried to take Blair at the University were GDP, so why should I trust him?" He watched the gun go sliding away. 

"Chief, get the gun.”  Only then did Blair join them.  "Okay on your feet now.” 

Slater got back up, "I am sorry, Sentinel, it was for our protection.  I meant no harm to your Guide.” 

Jim felt Blair connect to him, the younger man keeping him calm.  Only then did he holster his weapon and invite, or order, them to "take a seat.”  As Speke and Slater found seats on the sofa, Jim made sure his Guide was seated in the armchair and then perched on the arm next to him.  Simon just smiled as he lounged back in the other chair. 

Maggie settled herself and began her pitch.  "The Sentinel Conference starts on Thursday with an informal getting to know you gathering.  The Mayor and Governor will be there on Friday for the official opening.  Now the GDP will have a Guide suite for any Sentinels who want to place their Guides there for a short time but we have also arranged for the GDP to run a series of lectures at the Campus for the visiting Guides.  Sentinel Medicine, Control, protocol, it should be an interesting time for them.  All the Guides will be in attendance, that's why we need your Guide to be there.  He can keep an eye on them.  As an anthropologist, he's a trained observer and we hope he can spot any trouble in time to stop it.”  She trailed off as Sentinel and Guide communicated silently with a glance and two sets of blue eyes found their captain.  Simon shrugged and raised an eyebrow. 

Maggie found everything about this pairing interesting.  "If you'll allow me, I have the data here for you.”  She took the files out and offered them to Jim, who pointedly crossed his arms, "Its Sandburg's call, Doctor, he's the one you talk to.” 

Although she thought of herself as a liberal, and knew that many of her colleagues considered her and Slater too soft on the Guides, it was still a shock to be told to deal directly with a Guide and a rogue one at that. 

"He's going to decide?" She couldn't keep the disbelief from her voice. 

"If you want him to go into that place, you convince him.  He says NO and that's final.” 

"Er...  Guide Sandburg.”  The awkwardness in those two words showed how often she had actually spoken to a Guide and not over one.  She took a deep breath and started the briefing.  Jim, from his vantage point, read each file over Blair's shoulder and listened to the plan. 

"You see, Guide Sandburg, you would be able to detect any non-empaths, and should be able to see if anything is out of place.” 

Simon Banks had been a quiet spectator but his face had shown his every emotion as he realized just how much the GDP had hidden from the police.  He made a mental note to see the Commissioner; this secrecy had to stop now.  As he watched his detective struggle with the idea of putting his partner at risk and saw Sandburg rub a hand over weary eyes, he spoke. 

"Jim, we could put in a rookie.” 

"No, they would not be able to take part in the classes and that would tip off anyone watching.”  Sandburg eyes reflected his gratitude for the captain's concern but his face was determined as he said, "It has to be me.” 

Blair laid a hand Jim's hip, allowing himself to connect with his Sentinel.  He could feel the worry echoing through the man and, deep down, he knew it was not just the concern of a Sentinel for his Guide but of a man for his friend.  Warmth flooded him; an unlikely friendship was growing between the detective and the grad student. 

"Someone is attacking Guides, yet you didn't call the police.  I'll do it for the Guides; not to protect the GDP's reputation.” 

"Thank you, Guide Sandburg.  I know it's going to be difficult for you.”  Doctor Speke tried to not sound patronizing but the Sentinel's scowl told her she hadn't been very successful. 

"Lady, you don't know the half of it.”  Blair's voice carried a world of weariness.  Immediately, Jim stood up.  "We can finish this chat tomorrow.  I suggest you leave now.” 

Simon read the message in his detective's eyes and shepherded them out quickly.  Once the door was closed, Jim quickly went to his Guide and gathered him in, holding him close.  "Well, Chief?"

Blair exhaled softly, "Both of them were telling the truth about the case, they don't seem to have any hidden agenda.  They just want to catch the attackers.” 

"Feeling fried, Chief?" Ellison knew the answer to his question, read it in the minute shivers racking the man he supported. 

Jim felt the nod against his chest.  "Then we reaffirm the bond.”  He gently pulled his Guide down with him onto the sofa. 

The meeting had taken a toll on his Guide.  It had been the empath's idea to lower his barriers so that he could scan the people as they discussed the case.  Jim had been close so that he could reconnect when he needed to but he had gotten through most of the meeting without detecting any lies.  It appeared that Speke and Slater were being straight with them, so far; but Jim did not like what it cost Blair to get that knowledge. 

As Jim wrapped an arm around him and gently massaged his aching head, Blair allowed all conscious thought to leave him and reveled in the bonding, in the strength and power his Sentinel so freely offered to him. 

 

* * *

 

In Simon's office the next morning, Dr Speke put the bag down on the table.  She knew this was going to go down badly, the Guide looked better but he was still a little pale and Sentinel and police captain were hovering over him.  She pulled the overalls out of the bag and Blair shot to his feet.  "No.  NO way!  I am not wearing that again.  Jim, you promised!" he backed away from the cloth as if it was going to strike at him. 

The captain saw his detective's jaw grind.  "He doesn't wear that, Doctor.  You've read his record; he never should have been wearing it to begin with.  His entire time at the Institute was a gross miscarriage of what passes for even GDP justice.”  The words were ground out. 

"I have read his records, Sentinel, and anyone doing a check on him will have as well.  Miscarriage of justice or not those records state that Blair Sandburg is a rogue Guide and a killer.  He will be attending classes during the day without his Sentinel.  He needs to be easily spotted by the GDP; his tutors will have to be able to account for his presence.  If he turns up wearing just the ID badge like the other Guides they won't buy it.  Guide Sandburg," she decided to appeal straight to the young man, "I don't want to do this to you, but...”  She trailed off as remembered horror, fear, nausea and then determination flashed across the Guide's too expressive face. 

"If it's the only way they'll buy it, I'll wear them.  But not for a moment longer than I have to.”  He felt Jim's hand on his arm, the small squeeze his Sentinel gave him as he reached out for the overalls.  His hand was trembling as he pulled them to him and took a seat. 

Jim looked at him with concern.  His Guide seemed lost in thought, his slender fingers playing with the coarse material.  He could detect the small tremors running through the slim body.  All the crap the kid had put up with in his short life and he was still willing to try and help other people, a wave of pride in his Guide went through him. 

Jim leaned in to his Guide.  "When this is over we burn the thing, okay, Blair?  Just like we did the others, then that's it, Chief, once and for all.  You hear me, Doctor?  He does this and he never...  never wears them again *and* his GDP records are turned over to Captain Banks and sealed.  That's the price you pay for our cooperation.” 

"Okay.  I'll see that it's done once this is all over with.” 

 

* * *

 

Blair sat in the truck and stared at the main GDP building.  Students were moving towards the campus buildings to start their training; on the whole, they looked happy and relaxed.  Jim studied his Guide, he looked no different from the other Guides but he could feel tension and unease running through their connection.  He had insisted that Blair remain connected to him for as long as possible.  His Guide was spooked and very skittish at the moment and he needed all the help he could get.  He kept glancing down at the red and black overalls he was wearing.  Jim couldn't begin to imagine the nightmares that were running around his head.  After this was over, the GDP was going to owe them big time and he was going to make sure they paid. 

The other Sentinels and Guides were on the steps of the GDP building.  It reminded Jim of the first day at school, the parents reluctant to part with their children.  All the Sentinels were fussing over their Guides, petting and calming them and then watching almost fretfully as the GDP officers came and collected them for their first lesson.  Now it was their turn, he had been told that he had to bring Blair after the rest had gone in because of his rogue status.  Jim had firmly told the officer in short sharp phrases just where he could put the restraints when it was suggested that he put Blair on the leash.  The kid had enough crap to handle without adding to it.  Sandburg actually grinned at the mental image Jim's suggestion painted but he still flinched when a gentle hand landed on his shoulder.  He apologized when he recognized his Sentinel's touch, "Sorry, Jim.” 

"Its okay, Chief.  I'm not happy with this either.  We go in there, catch the bad guys and then you get to pick where we go on vacation.” 

"You mean that?" Blair sounded excited. 

"Sure, Chief, got a place in mind?"

"Yes!" then Blair halted.  "Out with it.  Where are we going?"

"The archaeological department at Rainier has a dig going on at Croxley Meadows, a couple hundred miles upstate.  I was asked if I could go for two weeks, they think it’s got Sentinel connections.  I...  I mean would you...  I don't...” 

"Chief," Jim smiled, "you have to learn to complete these sentences if you want me to understand you.  But yeah, we can go as long as you show me what to do.” 

"You mean it?" Jim's grin got bigger as Blair's excitement bubbled up again, for a moment he had forgotten overalls and conferences.  "Cool!" Then he took a steadying, deep breath.  "We do this now, Jim.” 

"Sure.  Now remember, if you need me, you tell the instructor and he will contact me right away.  Believe me, Chief, I made them realize that I wanted to know right away.” 

"Thanks, man.”  Deep blue eyes locked on the Sentinel's face as Blair drew strength from the promises he read there. 

"Any time, partner.  Listen, kid, I want you to think of this as a play.  You've got the starring role.  It isn't Blair Sandburg, Guide that's kneeling to these jerks; it's Blair Sandburg, grad student, doctoral candidate and actor playing a role.  Got it?"

"I can do that, Jim.” 

"I know you can, Chief.” 

The two men walked up the steps.  As a GDP officer approached them, Blair whispered, "Um, Jim?  Do I get roses if I get a standing ovation?"

Jim swatted the back of his head, glad to see that the kid could still joke.  Then Blair took up his normal position slightly behind his Sentinel's shoulder as they entered the admin block.  The receptionist put a call through and GDP Officer Morris Philips met them.  Immediately, Blair went down on his knees, hands behind his back, head down, his shoulder resting against the back of Jim's leg, the classic position of a working Guide. 

"Sentinel Ellison, so this is your Guide?  Huh, I have read his record and he has quite a history with us.  I have informed his instructors and they will be keeping a watch on him in your absence.” 

"I'd appreciate it.”  Jim sounded pleasant but Blair could feel the loathing for the man radiating from his Sentinel. 

"I'll take you to your first class of the day, Sentinel.”  Ellison glanced over his shoulder as another guard came over.  The man was as tall as Jim and just as powerfully built and wore the uniform of the Institute.  Instinctively, he moved in front of his Guide.  The big guard stopped his voice pleasant as he said, "It’s alright, Sentinel.  I'm just going to take Guide Sandburg to his first class.”  He handed Jim a slip of paper.  "this is the time table he will be following.”  Philips' scowl led Jim to believe that giving him Sandburg's schedule was not part of the program.  Jim's senses swept over the guard but he could not detect any animosity in him.  He slowly stepped to one side and the big man loomed over the bonded Guide. 

"Guide Sandburg, look up.” 

Blair followed the command.  "His barriers, Sentinel...  what's their status?"

"They are stable, Guard," Gibb heard the forced calm in the Sentinel's voice. 

The guard reached down, took Sandburg's arm and pulled him to his feet.  His grip was firm but gentle, he was actually being very careful with the Guide.  Like a lot of big men he was careful with the amount of strength he used on the much smaller man.  But it still tore at Jim when Blair was led away. 

"My name is Guard Gibb.  I'm sure we are going to get along, Guide Sandburg.”  The big man suddenly felt the Guide's body tense up and he mentally swore.  He had been sickened by what Senior Guard Wilson and his cronies had done to the small Guide.  As far as he could see the only thing rogue about Blair Sandburg was the natural desire to stay alive and not get beaten up at the whim of a Sentinel.  Gibb knew that Doctor Speke had personally assigned him to Sandburg.  He was all too aware that his gentler approach to Guides was the reason he was at the Institute and not at the correction facility or on the street.  He pulled his charge to a halt, "No one is going to hurt you, Guide Sandburg.  You're perfectly safe here.  I'm going to be your shadow for the first few days.  That's all I meant, nothing more.  Okay?"

Blue eyes fastened on his, wariness in their depths.  Gibb said quietly, "You may read me, Guide Sandburg, if it would ease your mind.”  Surprise and gratitude radiated from the young empath in a way Gibb had never experienced.  "That won't be necessary, Guard.  Thank you.”  The voice was low and musical, sure to be soothing to a Sentinel's ear. 

Gregory Gibb knocked on the door of the classroom and entered.  The GDP Instructor stopped in mid-sentence.  Blair went down on his knees at the side of the guard as the big man spoke briefly to the instructor and then, with a small pat to Blair's shoulder, left. 

He was all too aware of the other Guides staring at him, the clothes he wore marking him as a rogue and correction facility fodder.  The instructor ordered harshly, "Look up, Guide.” 

Blair obeyed.  "You will obey all commands Guide.  It's good to see that your Sentinel has at least installed the correct manners in you.  Your record is pitiful but we will correct that over the next two weeks.  You may rise and take a seat; any attempt to disrupt this class or any other will result in disciplinary action.  Do you understand?" He waited for Blair to answer but he kept quiet.  The instructor smiled.  "Good.  I see that you have leaned to wait for permission to speak.  Now, do you understand me, Guide?  You have permission to answer"

"Yes, Instructor.” 

"Williams.” 

"Yes, Instructor Williams.” 

"Good.  Now take a seat.”  Blair obeyed, trying to ignore the looks he was receiving from the other Guides.  He noticed how the one sharing the desk with him pointedly moved further away as if frightened that he would somehow contaminate her. 

The instructor continued, "Class, the new addition to your group was a rogue.  As you can see he wears the correction facility overalls.  His Sentinel has helped in his rehabilitation, which just goes to show the positive way that your Sentinel can help you.  Now we are going to cover the most common reasons for zone out.  Julian, I want you to name one.” 

The rest of the lesson passed without any hitches.  Blair found that the instructor picked on him a few times but other than that it went smoothly.  At class changeover he found Guard Gibb waiting for him near the door.  He caught Blair's arm as he started to kneel again.  "You can skip that.  You've done it once and that's enough for me, kid.  Next class is Instructor Nelson, nice lady.” 

Blair went through the ritual of kneeling to her, this time without the editorial comments, and then was assigned a seat in the class.  She was teaching Sentinel Medicine and first aid.  The class wasn't a complete loss as he actually learned some interesting pointers.  The morning was racing past and he was no nearer to making actual contact with the other Guides, in fact they where giving him a wide berth.  It was obvious he was the only rogue empath in the classes and for that reason the only one who had to pay respect to the instructor.  Between that and the overalls, Blair figured he must appear to be their worse nightmare.  They were not giving him the emotional support they extended so casually to each other and it was beginning to tell on him. 

The guard took him into the dining room.  He could feel the emotions of the students starting to crash around him, clawing at him.  The tremors were very faint to start with but increased as his tentative attempts to connect with his fellow empaths were harshly rebuffed.  The big guard carefully entered a number into the beeper; it was time to call the Sentinel.  Gibb found himself glaring at the other Guides, the kid certainly hadn't deserved what happened to him and hadn't deserved ending up in the correction's facility. 

Jim was listening to the lecture with only one ear when his beeper went off.  He glanced at the number and went flying out of the lecture hall.  He took the steps to the front of the GDP building two at the time and was waved through to the dining hall.  Jim's senses swept the hall and locked onto the figure of his Guide.  Blair was standing stock still as if he'd zoned himself.  Only his constant shudders imparted any motion to him at all.  Ellison didn't even realize that the other Guides were parting in front of him.  His stomach turned as he saw Blair go down onto his knees to him.  He reached down, quickly gathered his Guide to him and swept him out of the dining room, away from curious eyes. 

"Chief, I'm here now.  Let your barriers down, all the way.”  He felt the tug at the back of his mind that opened their connection, and the maelstrom of emotions churning inside his Guide horrified him.  Instinctively, he knew that Blair was not going to be able to survive the rest of the day with this sort of bombardment; he was in overload, on the verge of going into shock. 

"Guard Gibb.”  He was grateful that though the big man stood watching them it was from a distance so he didn't intrude.  "I have to get him out of here.  He's in a bad way, he's overloading.  Can you give my regrets to Doctor Speke?"

The guard nodded, "Of course, Sentinel.  I hope your Guide will be feeling better later.”  Jim scanned him and saw nothing to indicate that he was lying, the guy actually meant it.  "Sentinel?  A moment please.”  Jim nodded impatiently.  "Sentinel, I think the other empaths were refusing their support, afraid of being seen with a rogue.” 

"My Guide is no rogue, guard.  He's saved my life on more than one occasion.” 

Jim scooped his Guide up.  The kid's eyes were half closed and the fingers that caught his shirt had no strength in them. 

Ellison was so focused on his Guide he never saw the young man in the black car watching them with great interest, or the look of hunger on his face as he saw Jim help his almost catatonic partner into the truck. 

 

* * *

 

Simon hurried up the stairs to the third floor, this time the door didn't open to him.  He fished out the key that Jim had given right at the start of all this Sentinel business. 

He opened the door and found the room in half darkness, window shades closing out the daylight.  Jim was lying on the sofa, his voice was soft as he said, "Come in, Simon.  I've been smelling your cigar since you entered the building.” 

Simon came slowly around the end of the sofa and stopped in his tracks.  Jim was flat on his back with his Guide curled on top of him.  The Sentinel's hands moved over the smaller body in firm stroking motions as he tried to calm the trembling that racked his Guide.  The grad student was incoherent, broken words and soft whimpers the extent of his answers to his Sentinel's questions.  The connection between them was strong and Ellison focused his energy on supporting his Guide's empathic system, allowing him to draw whatever he wanted from him.  The full strength of the Dark Sentinel was open for him to tap, given without conscious thought to his Guide. 

The captain kept his voice to a whisper, knowing his detective would hear him.  "What happened there, Jim?"

"Blair was overloaded on the emotions from the other empaths; they had refused him support because he was rogue.  When I got to him he was going into shock.  He started to shut down, Simon.  If I had been any later...” 

"Is he going to be okay?" Simon would never admit it but he was actually quite fond of the Guide and had a grudging respect for the young grad student. 

"He's drawing from me now but his barriers are shot.  He needs time to build them up again.”  His head tipped to one side, his attention going to his Guide again.  He pulled him closer, "It’s alright, Blair, no one is going to hurt you, just let it all go.”  He smiled as his Guide tried to burrow closer to him.  Simon flashed on his son trying to crawl under his father's skin in the midst of a nightmare.  Suddenly, the physical closeness shared by the two men started making sense. 

Simon flinched as the Guide started making a terrible noise, a high, soft keening that tore at his nerves. 

"Jim, can't you get him to stop that?  For God's sake it’s enough to...” 

He trailed off as he saw the look the Sentinel gave him.  "He's been doing that off and on since I got him back.  He's in pain, Simon, and there is nothing I can do about it.”  The Sentinel's eyes told the captain what he thought about that fact. 

"What if I call Dr Speke, she's a specialist in Sentinel medicine.  Maybe she can...” 

"No.”  Jim sounded sure of that, "The further that woman is from him the better I like it.”  His attention returned to his Guide. 

Blair felt as if hot brands burned through his head, there was nowhere to hide from the pain.  He instinctively drew on his Sentinel's strength, going deeper into their bond than he had ever gone before.  Then something happened and he was falling, tumbling through swirling emotions as if a trap door had just opened under his feet.  His head snapped up and his eyes flew open.  They met those of his Sentinel, his Dark Sentinel. 

Simon kept perfectly still.  Ellison's lips had the slight

 

 

twist he equated with the Dark Sentinel.  Blair's expression was different, as if he suddenly knew all the answers.  A smile grew on his face to match that of the Dark Sentinel.  And Simon knew, without knowing how he knew, that Dark Sentinel now gazed into the eyes of a Dark Guide.  When Blair looked towards Simon, he knew that Sandburg was in his own personal zone out.  Jim's hand went to stroke the side of his Guide's face.  "Mo chridhe, mo sogoileir dubh". 

                Blair dipped his face into his Sentinel's hand at Jim's soft words.  Simon's slowly pulled out his pocket taper and hit the record button.  This was past weird; it was heading straight to the X- Files via the Sandburg zone. 

"Mo chridhe, mo sogoileir dubh." Ellison's voice was more insistent. 

Blair's rely was too soft for Simon to hear. 

Simon moved closer and Jim's head snapped towards him with a low growl.  Blair slid off him, allowing his Sentinel to get to his feet.  Simon never made it to the door; he was pinned by a primal strength. 

"Jim, let go of me.”  There was no response.  Simon looked past the Sentinel to his Guide, "Sandburg, get him off me.” 

Blair got to his feet and moved to them.  This wasn't the Sandburg he knew, the kid was moving differently with an almost sensual grace.  He was centered, focused; his hand caressed the shoulder of his Sentinel, the touch grounding him.  The kid's head tilted to one side as if seeing Simon for the first time.  Oh dear lord, both of them had gone weird on him. 

Sandburg's lips twitched in a chill smile as if he had heard Simon's thought.  He said something that only the Sentinel could hear and then Simon was released with a hard push against the wall and Jim backed off, a low growl deep in his throat.  Simon turned slowly around, his hands held out to his sides.  The two men were standing as they usually did, Jim in front with Blair to one side slightly behind.  But there was a difference, this was not a submissive Guide, this was a Guide with the power to control one of the most lethal of predators, an enhanced human who could and would hunt down and kill any threats to the person at his side. 

Sandburg turned and went up the stairs to Jim's bedroom.  The Sentinel waited until he was at the top and then followed, sinking down at the top of the stairs like a watchdog, protecting his Guide and his territory. 

Simon shrugged.  Well he was still alive and in one piece so he moved slowly to a seat where he was in clear view of the watching Sentinel, and waited.  Worry and long hours took their toll and he fell asleep. 

 

* * *

 

"Hello, Simon.”  Ellison's voice snapped him back from a weird dream. 

The big captain's head pulled up off his chest.  He hadn't realized how long it had been, he must have fallen asleep.  Jim was coming down the stairs, his arm supporting his Guide's wavering footsteps.  Blair looked dead on his feet. 

"Sorry I didn't hear you come in.  Have you been here long?"

Simon fought to keep the anger from his voice and lost.  "DON'T TELL ME THAT YOU DON'T REMEMBER ANYTHING THAT HAPPENED HERE.” 

"What happened?  I brought Blair back and we bonded.  The emotions of the other empaths at the training facility swamped him.”  Jim genuinely looked puzzled.  Blair's hand ran over his shoulder and forearm as much to ground Jim as give himself the much-needed comfort of his Sentinel's support. 

"Simon, what happened here?" The captain would have bet money that Sandburg would be the one to ask that question.  Not that anyone who knew the two men would have taken him up on such a sucker bet. 

Simon slowly removed the recorder from his pocket.  The two men seemed to be back to normal but he didn't want to spook them. 

"Listen.”  He pressed play and a voice that was easily recognized as Jim's growled, "Mo chridhe my sogoileir dubh.” 

"What the hell was that?" Jim sounded unnerved and Blair's hand moved slightly faster. 

"I need to run it through the computer.  Captain, did this happen when we bonded?" Blair had switched into academic mode. 

"As far as I could tell, yes.  You were both speaking whatever language that was. Sandburg, only I didn't get a chance to record you.  You were speaking it to Jim and I couldn't get it on tape.”  Simon took a deep breath, "That's not all, you were acting different, Sandburg.  The control you have over Jim is there for anyone who looks closely but this time it was very obvious.  It was as if you were holding him in check, for which, by the way, thank you.  I thought he was going to kill me.  He was deferring openly to you in a way his captain only dreams of.”  Ellison snorted at that.  "So, Sandburg what the hell is going on here?"

Blair flinched at the anger in the captain's voice and Jim moved so that he was totally blocked from Simon's view. 

Simon exhaled again, "Sorry, Jim, I didn't mean to frighten him, okay?" He read the look on the Sentinel's face; any apologies had to be given personally to his Guide.  "Sandburg, I...  look, I don't do good apologies, but, sorry, kid.” 

Blair slowly re-emerged. 

"Captain Banks, would you sit down and tell me everything you remember, please.” 

He nodded.  Blair sat on the sofa and pulled his laptop over to him.  Jim perched on the arm nearest him, violating one of his own house rules.  Simon took the hint and sat opposite Blair, leaning back carefully.  Reminding himself that the Sentinel was reading his vital signs and body language, he schooled himself to keep his tone level and non-threatening as he talked to Blair. 

As the time ticked by, the only noise outside of Blair's questions and Simon's answers was the clicking of the keyboard.  Suddenly, Blair stopped and looked at the screen.  The words made sense, how he knew he didn't know but what Jim had said was "My Heart, My Dark Scholar.”  And Blair knew that the Dark Sentinel was acknowledging the Dark Guide.  For a moment he felt a flare of fear; Jim let his hand drop on his shoulder to calm him.  He would not mention it until he knew more of what was going on and for that he needed Rainier University's Sentinel library. 

 

* * *

 

"Are you sure about this, Blair?  We can give the conference a miss.” 

"We can't, Jim, you're Senior Sentinel Prime.  You have to be there.”  Blair took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, finding his center.  "I'll be all right now.  It just caught up with me.  I was the only one from the correction facility there.  I should have expected the reactions I got.”  His face flushed with embarrassment, "It doesn't look good for the Sentinel Prime to have correction fodder as his Guide.  I'm sorry, Jim.” 

"Blair.”  Jim caught his chin and eased his face up so their eyes met.  "Personally, I don't give a damn about this Sentinel prime crap.  If they want to think I'm one, that's okay by me.  But, Chief, you're my Guide and I am grateful and honored that you are.  Without you, I would be dead and I don't give a damn what they think of you and neither should you, kid.”  Ellison's voice showed the emotion and sincerity of his words.  Then he added, "We'll go back to the conference, Blair, but only if you're sure you want to.  Are you sure?"

"More than sure, Jim, especially now.”  Blair wrapped his Sentinel's trust and caring around him like a shield. 

The next Guide lecture was not scheduled until Saturday morning so Blair was coming to the conference with him.  He was nearly plastering himself across Jim's back. 

One of the GDP guards moved to intercept Jim, "Sentinel Ellison, we can take your Guide for you if you wish.” 

For a moment Jim just looked at him, his words had not penetrated; his gaze was fixed on another Sentinel and Guide in conversation with a third pairing. 

"Sentinel, I said I could take your Guide...”  The guard never got to finish the sentence, a hand went around his throat and he was forced to his knees.  "No one takes my Guide.”  Jim growled and tossed the man aside before walking over to the other Sentinel. 

Blair's hands were fluttering over Jim's shoulders; he was fighting the flood of emotions that were running though him from his Sentinel and he was losing. 

The other Sentinel turned, moving his Guide behind him for security.  The third Sentinel backed away, instinct telling them that there was about to be a challenge. 

"Sentinel Prime Rees," one of the onlookers said as if in explanation, "this is Sentinel Prime Ellison.” 

The two Sentinel primes looked each other up and down as they slowly stalked each other.  This was pure instinctive behavior; a low growling came from the base of Jim's throat.  The Dark Sentinel was reacting to other Sentinel primes in his territory. 

"My territory.  MINE.” 

"Do you think you can hold it, Sentinel?"

"Yes, are you challenging me?"

"Challenge taken.” 

"The gym, now.” 

"Jim, man, I'm telling you.  You don't have to do this.  It's the twenty-first century, man!  I mean, it's not as if the guy is going to move to Cascade and take over your job.  So, what's with the macho posturing?" Blair's words were tumbling over themselves as he pleaded with his stubborn Sentinel. 

Jim said, "Listen, junior, you know and I know that Detective Ellison is not worried about someone grabbing off his job but the Sentinel wants this fight and the Sentinel is going to get it.” 

"Uh, Jim?  Which Sentinel is that?"

"Both of us.”  Ellison was practically dragging his Guide with him as he hurried to the gym. 

"Okay, man.  Maybe these confrontations still serve a purpose.  Or they would have faded away.  Maybe they...” 

"Chief.”  Ellison stopped in his tracks and swung his Guide in front of him. 

"Yeah, Jim?" Wide blue eyes stared up at him. 

"Don't analyze it to death, professor.  At least not until we're done.” 

The hotel gym had been kitted out just in case it was needed for this purpose in the hopes that no one would get seriously hurt if protective equipment was on hand. 

Blair tried to calm his Sentinel down but was swamped by the fierce emotions emanating from his partner.  And, suddenly, he wasn't trying to calm him down as the Dark Guide in him rose to the challenge.  He started feeding his Sentinel the control and strength needed to take the challenger out, aggression radiated from him. 

The Dark Sentinel turned to find two other Sentinels, female and male, each with their Guides, waiting on him.  "Sentinel Prime Ellison, Lisa Pais, 23rd Precinct Swat Team Alpha.  This is Sentinel Niven, Vice squad.  We are of your clan, sir, allow us to protect your Guide.  Jim looked them both in the eye and then gently handed Blair into their keeping.  This ritual was as old as Sentinels themselves, if the Sentinel prime fought, his clan kept his Guide safe to prevent others from attacking him. 

Rees was good and for a while the two traded blows.  But Jim was a Dark Sentinel, an ex-Black Ops Ranger and had Blair feeding him support.  His attack was vicious and he put Rees down hard, his hand stopping only half an inch short of a killing blow.  At that, it was a near thing, only Blair's whispered, "Don't, Jim!" stopping him. 

Rees said the necessary words, "I acknowledge you as Senior Sentinel Prime.”  Jim nodded and then released him, the two shaking hands.  Immediately Rees' Guide was with him, checking him over, helping him. 

"Congratulations Sentinel.  When is the baby due?"

"In four months time, I'm on desk duty at the moment.  I think I'm looking forward to the birth as much as Tina and her husband are.”  He reached a hand down and ghosted it lightly over her belly, Tina leaned slightly into his touch, it was obviously something he did often. 

"Your Guide is married?"

"Yes, to a man she's known since childhood.”  He said it defiantly as if daring Ellison, Sentinel Prime or not, to find fault with his Guide. 

"My congratulations, Tina," Jim spoke directly to the girl. 

She glanced at her Sentinel and at his nod, replied, "Thank you, Sentinel Prime.” 

Jim turned and swept Blair forward, "My Guide, Blair.” 

Lisa smiled, "My Guide, Karl.” 

Niven nodded and said, "My Guide, Tina.”  The two Sentinels exchanged a knowing look.  They had heard that Ellison was considered eccentric because he treated his Guide like a citizen.  Both were pleased they were no longer alone, now they had a Sentinel Prime who believed what they did. 

"Why don't we go to lunch early?  There are a few things we need to talk about.”  Both Niven and Lisa readily accepted the invitation. 

 

* * *

 

The host came up to them and pointed to a large table in the center of the nearly empty dining room.  "Please be seated, a waiter will be with you in a moment to take your order.” 

Jim shook his head and gestured off to one side.  "We'll take that one; they can have the one next to it.”  The Guides could sit and talk openly to each other, leaving their Sentinels to chat. 

Simon checked the dining room and found Jim having an early lunch with a man and woman.  Something in their posture, the way they held their heads, made it obvious they were also Sentinels.  This, Simon mused, would make the two young people at the next table over with Sandburg, Guides.  From the way Blair's hands were moving, he was in full flow, the young woman to his left laughing at whatever he said. 

Ellison spotted his captain and signaled a waiter to bring over another chair.  Even before he sat down, Simon was asking, "You okay, Jim?  I heard about the fights.” 

"Nothing I couldn't handle, sir.”  "A Sentinel thing.” 

"A Sentinel thing, Simon.”  Ellison paused, "Let me introduce you to...” 

Later, as Sentinel and Guide walked their captain out to the imposing entrance hall, Simon asked, "This Sentinel prime business, did you have to fight them Jim?"

"My territory, my city, my Guide.”  It was stated levelly and as a matter of fact. 

The rest of the day was uneventful.  Reluctantly, Jim allowed Doctor Speke to rope him and Blair into running some tests.  He couldn't help grinning at his Guide's excitement as they aced them.  Ellison was nowhere near as impressed with himself; he knew that with Blair guiding him there was nothing he could not do.  The only time he tensed was when Doctor Speke and a visiting GDP officer came over and Blair went down on his knees to them. 

Doctor Speke smiled.  "You did exceptionally well, Sentinel Ellison, Jim.  I checked your Guide's records.  His trainers never did manage to get an accurate reading on his empathic rating.  I would like to do that now.” 

Jim frowned as he felt a spike of fear from his Guide.  "Blair's an 8, doctor.” 

"Yes, well, we are of the opinion he'll rate much higher this time.  All we want to do is test him.  Since he's bonded, he won't be able to fight the procedure and we should get a true reading.  It doesn't take long.”  "What exactly do you do?"

"We make him drop his barriers and then...” 

Jim rested a hand on his Guide's head as distrust, dislike, and fear battled for control of Sandburg's emotions.  His answer was easy, "No.” 

"Sorry, Jim, I don't understand?" Maggie Speke was puzzled as to what the problem was. 

"What's to understand?  Blair is not dropping his barriers, especially now, end of matter.  Come on, Chief, we have work to do.”  Jim tucked his Guide into place; he could feel a hand moving on his shoulder as Blair took comfort in his Sentinel's shielding.  "Last time it hurt, Jim, so much.  It was like a migraine that never went away.” 

Jim covered his hand, stilling it.  "No one is going to experiment on you, Blair.  You're an eight.  They know that and that's all they need to know.” 

"Hey, Jim.”  The Sentinel turned fast, and then relaxed as he recognized Brown.  A quick hand stopped Blair's reflexive drop to his knees. 

"What have they got you doing here, H?"

"Oh, we mere mortals have each got to attend one day sometime during the seven day conference.  I thought this afternoon looked interesting.  I want to see that murder scene they're putting together.  You and the kid are going to take part, right?  Hey, Hairboy, how's it going?"

"We're down for it.  Why?" Jim studied Blair, concerned when he didn't answer Brown's greeting.  Since they had entered the conference hotel, Sandburg was being the perfectly trained Guide.  He could almost feel the tension coming off the younger man in waves.  Ellison realized that Blair never spoke unless he was sure that Jim and he were alone.  The lunch with his fellow Guides had been the exception, not the rule. 

Jim reached out and absently ruffled his Guide's hair.  He felt contentment run through their connection.  "This is H, Blair, remember, he's one of the good guys.” 

Blair managed a smile and Brown teased him affectionately, "You gotta keep your Sentinel in line, Hairboy, I've got twenty bucks down that says Major Crime's Sentinel and Guide won't miss a trick on the crime scenario.” 

"Well, we won't keep you H.  Come on, Chief.”  Jim started to relax only when they were out of the hotel. 

Blair kept a firm grip on his Sentinel's jacket.  As a group of high school students made their noisy way up the steps, the Guide plastered himself against his Sentinel's back.  He could feel their eyes on him; hear their sotto-voiced speculations.  He clutched tighter as he sensed their emotions bubbling around him.  Jim's voice was gentle and concerned, "Close the link down, Blair, in case they accidentally touch you.” 

Ellison felt the empath disengage and felt a moment of loss.  He put his hand over his Guide's and squeezed it lightly.  One of the penalties a Guide paid for bonding was a loss of control over his empathic abilities.  A strong empath like Sandburg could erect barriers that enabled him to work at Rainier for six or seven hours without his Sentinel's support.  But even he had to connect with his Sentinel to keep from overloading.  Blair staggered when he was jostled none too gently by a group of older students.  Jim grabbed for him quickly and kept him on his feet.  Ellison scowled as he heard their comments.  That shove had been deliberate; they had hoped to get a reaction from the empath.  One of them flushed red with embarrassment as he met Jim's eyes and the Sentinel recognized Daryl Banks.  Daryl raced off with the group hiding behind their laughter. 

"Chief?"

"It's okay, Jim.  Thanks, man.” 

A black car pulled past them into the underground parking.  Jim paused; something about that car put him on edge.  He shivered and tried to tell himself it was nothing more than a reaction to the change in temperature from the street to the parking area.  He tried to push back the wariness that stemmed from the instincts of the Dark Sentinel.  It was a mistake; Jim saw movement out of the corner of his eyes and just had time to push Blair out of the way before a car came towards him.  He managed to jump so that he bounced off the hood instead of ending up under the car but he landed heavily. 

His senses reeling, Ellison lifted his head just in time to see his Guide being dragged into the car.  The young empath was kicking and twisting, trying to get to his Sentinel, screaming that he had to help him.  A hand caught his hair and slammed his head into the side of the car.  The slender body went limp and he was thrown inside by the black dressed and ski masked men.  The Sentinel pulled his gun but his eyesight was blurring.  Before he could fire, he pitched forward unconscious. 

Jim came around to find Simon leaning over him.  Memory returning, he asked hoarsely, a world of fear in his eyes, "Blair?"

 

 

"I'm sorry, Jim, but he's vanished.  Can you tell me what happened?"

"Blair...  they kidnapped him.  He was hurt when they put him in the car.”  Jim concentrated; it was an effort to put words together.  He threw the blankets off himself and tried to get to his feet but Simon caught him.  He had to fight the swaying Sentinel to get him to lie down.  Finally, he resorted to logic, "Jim, you can't help him if you can't even stay on your feet.  Give yourself a moment until the dizziness passes.  Blair needs you fit, not in a hospital.”  But even as he got the man to lie back down, the Sentinel was fretting. 

Simon looked up as the door opened.  He recognized the young woman as one of the Cascade Sentinels he had met at lunch, Lisa Pais.  She came over, "Sentinel Ellison, we are here to help you find your Guide.  Let Karl help you remember.” 

Pais gently pushed her Guide forward.  He was visibly nervous, his tension a physical thing.  The man he had been asked to help was a Sentinel prime; this man could really hurt him. 

Karl took the seat next to Jim, "Your permission to touch you?" Jim barely nodded.  Fingers touched him gently and his skin crept.  The hand was that of a Guide but not his Guide.  He flinched at the alien touch and then pushed *not his Guide* away, growling low in his throat. 

Lisa caught her Guide as he stumbled; he was unhurt.  Ellison had just pushed him, not hit him.  Immediately, she saw the problem.  She had trained from birth to be a Sentinel and she had gotten used to the touch of many Guides.  Some of her early teachers had been Sentinels and they had allowed their students to touch their Guides.  The Guides had taught them the mechanics of Guide care and how to connect on an unbonded level.  But Ellison's Sentinel abilities had been latent and the only empathic touch he knew belonged to his Guide.  Karl's would appear alien...  wrong...  to him. 

"Ellison, you have to allow him to help you.  He can help you remember details of the attack.  Blair doesn't have much time, Jim.” 

Jim took a steadying breath; for Blair, he would allow this man to touch him. 

Karl moved forward again.  The Sentinel quivered under his hand but he responded to his voice and followed his directions as he was walked back through the attack, identifying the smallest clue enhanced senses could provide on the kidnappers.  Finally Karl eased back and Jim returned to the world of the present. 

How the hell did Blair handle his Sentinel's emotions?  Karl felt as if he was still caught in a whirlpool.  Chaotic and strong, Ellison's emotions were pulling at him; it was like eating ground glass.  Karl was sure, now, that there was something different about Blair; no normal Guide could handle the Dark Sentinel.  The Sentinels couldn't see the difference, but then they were not empaths.  Blair had told them he was an 8.  Karl shook his head in disbelief, an 8 and then some.  He allowed Lisa to pull him back, and then he connected with her; she needed it just as much as he did. 

 

* * *

 

Tony Howard was whooping as Ray Harper floored the car.  The Guide they'd grabbed was out cold.  Harry had stabbed him in the thigh with a syringe to make sure that he stayed that way.  This one was going to be fun; he was Correction fodder.  Even as he thought that, Harry worried about snatching him from right in front of his Sentinel.  Tony was taking wilder and wilder risks, soon the man was going to be a liability.  But right now, he was in charge, the MAN was his connection.  So far they had made good money and gotten away clean, but Tony's obsession with bonded Guides could eventually be their downfall.  Harry was not prepared to do time for kidnapping and white slaving.  So far the cops only knew about the kidnapping of the bonded Guides; they had no idea about the rogue Guides who thought they were being helped to safety only to find a worse fate. 

Ray checked in the rear view mirror again.  That was too damn close!  He didn't think they had killed the Sentinel; he had been trying to get to his feet when they left and the look on his face...  Ray took a shuddering breath. 

Tony grinned, "See what I mean?  The Old School can't even protect their Guides.  Their days are over and done with.  We are the new breed of Sentinels, faster and stronger.  The rules don't apply to us.” 

He twisted in his seat and grabbed a handful of the Guide's long hair, and pulled his head up.  This was going to be fun.  He had heard about the correction rogues.  A trainer who worked in the correction facility had told them they were morally bankrupt, depraved misfits who would sell their bodies to anyone who asked.  This was going to be good.  All the other Guides had fought him when he tried to bond with them; but this one would roll over on his belly and accept it.  The others always did something to make him lose control and he never reached satisfaction but this time the Man had given him the correct drugs straight from the GDP lab.  This Guide would be his, HIS.  Okay, he would let the others use him, the gang shared, but he would be his pet, his until the time came for him to bond with a virgin Guide fresh from the campus.  Until then this one would do; he was a neat package, beautiful face and killer body. 

 

* * *

 

When Jim entered the bullpen he found Sentinel Niven and Sentinel Doctor Harvey and four of her clan waiting for him.  They exchanged a few words before Sentinel Doctor Harvey laid an almost parental hand on Jim's shoulder.  Ellison nodded, then retrieved Blair's sweater from the desk.  Each of the Sentinels carefully fixed the scent of his Guide in their minds; they would help him find Blair. 

Lisa Pais was already out working with her Guide.  She kept giving Karl soft pats and touches as if reassuring herself that he was with her.  She never wanted to live through another five days like the ones when he was missing again.  Never wanted to sit by a hospital bed while the drugs were cleansed from his body.  The relief of his return was in no way diminished by the doctor's report of what he had suffered, just more relief that the drugs and trauma had left him with no memory of his captivity and what had been done to him. 

 

* * *

 

After the Guide had been dragged out of the car and dumped in their rented house, Harry headed back to the Institute.  He had lessons to attend and they didn't want anyone asking questions if they missed classes.  Ray had a meeting with the MAN to collect a payment that would sweeten the entertainment for tonight.  The Guide would be out cold for at least another four hours; it would be early evening before Tony could start on him.  Harry himself could not understand Tony's need to claim bonded Guides.  It was an obsession that had complicated what was a sweet deal.  The Man told them where the undetected rogues were, they hunted them down, turned them over and the MAN paid them well.  Harry didn't dwell on the arrangements made for the Guides' disposal.  But Tony's *complication* did not change the fact that the kidnappings had been his idea.  Until he really screwed up, he was still their leader.  And he had to admit he did enjoy putting the Guides through their paces.  Tony did share and let them play too. 

Tony ran a hand over the unconscious body, anticipating what would come later.  He wouldn't start until the others got back.  The Guide wouldn't feel it and without his fear to spice it up, it just wasn't as much fun.  Only a Sentinel could understand the excitement of smelling the fear rolling off his prisoner, of hearing a heartbeat speeding up and watching a pulse beat wildly as he realized what was going to happen to him.  Tony took a controlling breath; he would just have to be patient.  He took a box out of the cupboard and filled a syringe; carefully making sure there were no air bubbles in the syringe, he injected the Guide just below his elbow.  The damper drug would take the edge off his empathic powers so that he wouldn't overload as his barriers eroded.  He might want to purposely overload to escape the attentions of his captors in catatonia but he wouldn't be able to.  Of course, he would be completely at their mercy, needing the injections until they dumped his body where his Sentinel could find him. 

Tony grinned, they would dump this one on the steps of the conference hotel, a message to the old guard that they could take whatever they wanted.  He ran his hand up the inside of Blair's thigh as he wondered what it would be like to take a Guide with no barriers who was unable to stop others' emotions from crashing into him.  What it would be like to feel him respond to your every emotion, a slave to your desires.  Pity the others would not let him try that, but they insisted that the Guides be in reasonable shape when they returned them.  The other Guide, Karl, had been stubborn until he took a knife to him and then he had rolled over like the well-trained little pet he was.  He'd been good, but he wasn't the ONE who would be his, mind and body. 

 

* * *

 

The Sentinels were spread out, checking through the evidence at the scene of the kidnapping.  The Cascade forensics team chief, Carolyn Plummer was soon in Simon's office, complaining. 

"Carolyn, I can understand your feeling on this but I don't have any way of stopping them.  It’s a Sentinel thing.” 

"Simon, you say that as if it's a catch-all excuse.  It's a Sentinel thing.' They are making our work twice as hard.” 

"Actually, we found some evidence you missed," the voice was level.  Carolyn looked up at Dr Catherine Harvey.  The doctor was in her forties, her hair was pulled up into a tight professional bun and she had a no nonsense look on her face.  Her Guide stood behind her, one hand on her shoulder.  A man in his late thirties, he was about the only Guide at the conference that was actually taller than his Sentinel. 

Carolyn said slowly and deliberately, "You come in here and take over my investigation like God Almighty and you...” 

"Ladies, Ladies, please.”  Simon tried to defuse the situation before it came to blows.  He was pleased to note that the Guide was slowly stroking the doctor's shoulder, calming her down.  Harvey caught his hand and said, "Its alright, dear, I am not going to lose my temper.  We don't have time for that; Sentinel Prime Ellison needs his Guide.  Do you understand, Lieutenant Plummer, what happens to a Sentinel who loses his Guide?"

"No.”  Carolyn admitted grudgingly. 

"Well, I will tell you and then maybe you can understand why we don't have time for turf wars.  He mentally falls to pieces.  He is no longer one with his Guide; he is flawed and it kills him as surely as a bullet to the brain.” 

Carolyn paled at the thought and looked for a way out. 

"Can't he get another one?"

Any other time, any other situation, the expression on Dr Harvey's face would have been funny; it was as if Carolyn had proposed something obscene. 

"Lieutenant, Sentinel and Guide are life-bonded soul mates, one life two people.  No, Ellison could never bond again and that is why we must find Guide Sandburg quickly.  Do you still want to dispute territory?"

"No, Doctor, what have you found?" If Jim needed Blair, Jim would get him back, that she vowed.  Even if she had to work with pushy Sentinels. 

 

* * *

 

Tony looked down at His new Guide.  He had had to increase the drug and after an hour and a half it was finally beginning to work on him.  The kid was still holding out but he was making more mental slips, the first sign that the drug was effective. 

Tony was only a few years older than the man he held captive but had a good four inches and fifty pounds on him.  Like most Sentinels, he was in good physical condition; the Institute stressed physical as well as mental well-being. 

"Your Sentinel is dead, Guide.  You saw him die.”  Curls flew as the kid shook his head in denial, regardless of the nylon cord around his throat. 

"Nooo.  J...im...  Jim is alive never f...f...felt hi...m...m die.” 

"He's dead, Guide, you got him killed, knocked over by the car, remember?" Tony licked his lips, as he smelt the Guide's horror. 

"Noooo, nooooo!" Blair's mind was struggling to keep hold of the facts.  "Jimmm is a...l...live.  Y...  yy...ou're ly...ing.” 

Tony caught Sandburg's chin and forced his head up.  As he took in the dazed blue eyes he thought, damn but this kid is stubborn!  "No, Guide, you're the one lying.  You allowed your Sentinel to die.”  He repeated it time and time again to the Guide kneeling on the floor.  Tony had put his prisoner on the leash in the illegal form so that if the Guide attempted to move, either to lie down, or stand up he would choke himself with the coil around his neck.  The Guide had been on his knees for over two hours and Tony knew from his vital signs that his muscles were starting to hurt badly. 

"J...imm d...dead?" It was a broken, forlorn whisper and Tony grinned. 

"Yes, Guide, he's dead.  You're alone, all alone, unless I decide to take you on, make you mine.  Do you want that?" He squeezed and his fingers left bruises on the Guide's flesh.  Looking into gentle, deep blue eyes, Tony felt a thrill.  Oh, yes.  This was going to be the one. 

"Noooo!  Ji...m is alive!" There was a sudden strength to the words.  Tony's anger flared, the Guide would give in, whatever it took.  He pushed him hard so he lost his balance and fell. 

Blair struggled instinctively and the leash closed on his throat.  He couldn't breathe.  Sorry Jim, so sorry, please be all right.  Blackness was closing in. 

Tony clawed at the leash.  Blair's struggles were making it worse; his Guide was dying in front of his eyes.  With a surge of fear driven strength, the unbonded Sentinel managed to get enough slack to get the leash off him.  He watched his Guide pull in lungfuls of air.  Tony's hand was shaking badly.  He dropped the leash on the table and caught Blair's collar and threw him on the bed.  My bed, my Guide, this one would be his.  He landed on the bed, pushing the Guide face down as he straddled his thighs.  Sentinel hands began to move as he tried to imprint the Guide on his senses but he was nearly unseated by the kid's struggles.  Despite the drug, he was fighting every inch of the way; he would not allow the connection.  Tony swore, climbed off him and walked out, locking the door behind him. 

Blair lay panting on the bed.  It was hard to think but he knew that Jim was alive.  He would know, wouldn't he, if he was dead?  That other Sentinel kept telling him he had killed Jim, he knew he hadn't, had he?  No, he hadn't...  He heard a noise and rolled his head to see the panther and wolf standing there.  "Hi, guys," he had to suppress the urge to giggle, "don't suppose you'd do the Lassie thing and go get Jim?" The giggles broke free; part of his brain told him it was the chemicals they had pumped into him.  The wolf padded over and jumped onto the bed, then leaped into him.  Blair's body rocked under the impact and it was as if a door was thrown open in his brain; as if a switch was thrown and a current ran through his mind; everything was clearer, sharper—he understood.  He reached out a hand to the panther and commanded, "Here.”  The panther padded over to him straight away, then reared up, putting its paws on the edge of the bed.  It stared into his eyes before bending its head to rest it against his hand.  Finally, it carefully licked the inside of his wrist...  the spirit Guide acknowledging the Dark Guide. 

 

 

 

The Dark Guide put his hand out and firmly rubbed the solid head of the panther.  The Dark Guide's feet landed on the floor, he swayed slightly but stood; something the drug should have made impossible.  Barefooted, for just a second he puzzled over that fact, the Sentinel must have taken his shoes off.  Brushing the thought aside as of no importance he looked for a weapon.  The only thing he could find was the leash; he looped it around his hands.  He cocked his head to one side as he heard the Sentinel coming and waited.  As the door opened, he kicked the man's legs from under him and then twisted the leash around his exposed neck and tightened it.  A knee in the man's back kept him from fighting back. 

Tony yelled and swung both fists against a curly head as hard as he could.  The young Guide pitched off the twitching body, already unconscious as he hit the floor.  Harry pulled the leash off and pulled in great lungfuls of air.  When he could finally speak, he croaked out, "That bastard's dangerous, Tony, let's dump him now!" He punctuated his demand with a kick into the unconscious man's stomach. 

The two Sentinels looked challengingly at each other.  Tony shook his head, "Something's screwy here, Harry.  There is no way, given the amount of the drug I gave him, that he should have been able to move, let alone attack anyone.” 

 

* * *

 

Ray looked around the parking lot and finally saw the MAN approaching.  He straightened up as their contact put a hand in his pocket and handed over $10,000.  "That's your share of the last one.  The client was very pleased with her.  Now about Tony, what's happened to him?  And don't lie to me Ray; you do a piss poor job of it.” 

To the young unbonded Sentinel it seemed that the MAN could always read him even though he was not a Sentinel.  He himself had tried to monitor the MAN'S responses but he could never get anything; angry or happy, the heartbeat never changed. 

"Tony had us pick up another Guide today.  He had been through the Correction facility.  Tony's been mad for him ever since we nearly got him at the University.  We would have had him then if the cops hadn't arrived on the scene.”  Ray was surprised to see a reaction from the MAN; his voice had a slight tremor as he asked, "You got a name on him?"

Ray nodded.  "Blair Sandburg.  Why?"

The MAN laughed, "I had a client set up for him a few years back before he bonded.  When he saw a picture of that body and that face and an empath to boot, he offered me $50,000 for him.  Unfortunately, Alex Barnes and the GDP got in the way.” 

"He still worth anything?" Ray's mind processed the information; maybe they could get something for the Guide after all. 

"No.  He's badly damaged merchandise.  My advice is to have your fun, let Tony play out his Guide and Sentinel fantasy and then dump him.  You don't want to keep him around.  His Sentinel's pure poison.  Oh, here's a present for Tony.  Give the Guide the contents of these two vials and you will have to peel him off you.  He'll be as high as a kite and his libido will be on overdrive.  He'll be totally suggestible and will do anything you want.  It will work with the damper and he'll be your complete slave, my treat.” 

"Thanks, its time to PARTY!"

The MAN went back to his car and watched Ray pull away.  Only then did he pull the rear view mirror to an angle so that he could see himself.  He began to pull away the false beard and moustache, grinning at the usefulness of his drama minor.  Leo Kessler smiled; the unbonded Sentinels had outlived their usefulness.  Tony Howard had become unstable and it was only a matter of time before he got them caught.  The other two didn't have enough brains to come in out of the rain; the idiots had kidnapped the Guide of a Dark Sentinel.  They deserved all they had coming down on them.  All right, he would have to close his business down for a while until the heat was off.  His partner wouldn't be pleased to have to get used to living on a GDP officer's wages again but give it six months and they could start up again.  Right now, it was time for the MAN to disappear. 

 

* * *

 

Unbonded Sentinel Edward Grant was a little puzzled by the order to report to the Sentinel Conference, which was only for bonded Sentinels.  But you never questioned orders when they came from that high up and what the hell, it was a day off.  At least he didn't have to listen to another lecture by Clifford; God the man couldn't have changed his spiel in the last twenty years and he wasn't even a Sentinel.  Tony was right about one thing; the old guard needed sweeping away.  His head suddenly snapped round as he heard a voice with an edge of fear in it. 

"That's one of them.”  Karl was looking at the Sentinel, trying to get over the crawling feeling running over him, when the memory snapped into place.  Lisa turned to him as she sensed his panic.  Registering his words, she went after the cause of it. 

The unbonded Sentinel didn't stand a chance.  Lisa Pais took him down hard and one punch put him out.  The Amazon Sentinel straightened up and snapped an order at the guards who came running up, "Get him to Major Crime, he's one of the kidnappers.” 

She waited until he was handcuffed and dragged away and then reached for Karl.  She pulled him in until her forehead rested against his; she could feel him steadying under her touch.  His hands rested on her sides and then, with a soft sigh, he eased back.  "Let's go talk to the bastard, Sentinel.” 

 

* * *

Jim was prowling around the bullpen.  The Storm Warning had already gone out; the detective was barely keeping the Dark Sentinel in check. 

Simon looked at the smirking, unbonded Sentinel and then at Dan Slater.  They had gotten nowhere with him, had not even dented his cocky, smug superiority.  He knew that as a Sentinel he was allowed certain extraordinary privileges and protections.  At one point, Dan had nearly swung on the kid.  The captain pulled the GDP officer over, relying on the white noise generator to keep the Sentinel from hearing them, "You agree with me that the little bastard knows where Sandburg is?"

"I do.” 

"Then we play hard ball and it won't be by the book.  Are you sure you...” 

"No problem.  Let's break him.  I got Sandburg into this, I want to get him out; whatever it takes.” 

"A man after my own heart.”  To the police officer stationed inside the interrogation room, he said.  "Officer Fuller, keep an eye on our friend here, I'll be back shortly.” 

Dan Slater looked up as the door reopened a few minutes later.  Detective Jim Ellison entered.  He took another look at the detective and corrected himself; it was the Dark Sentinel in full hunt that walked through the door.  When cold blue eyes looked at the younger unbonded Sentinel it was the unblinking gaze of a predator, an avenger.  He was more dangerous than Dan had ever thought a man could be.  When the Sentinel's eyes swept over him, he shuddered; they had an unholy light in them and the promise of death. 

 

 

 

Jim reached over and switched the white noise generator off and then said coldly, "Unbonded Sentinel Edward Grant.” 

Grant knew instinctively he was looking at a bonded Sentinel.  No, he was more than that.  He paled as he realized what he was facing.  His voice was a scared whisper as he acknowledged, "Dark Sentinel.”  A cold shudder ran through him as the older Sentinel's head tilted to one side and he snarled.  It was low and deep throated and sounded too much like an angry large cat for comfort.  His hand lashed out and Grant hit the floor, then in the next second was caught and pushed up against the wall.  Simon winced at the sound of the impact.  He knew he should be pulling Jim off the kid but the arrogant little bastard had jerked them around for too long.  By now Blair could be in serious trouble.  His barriers would have eroded which could lead to overloading.  Simon did not want to follow that thought to its conclusion.  He had to believe that they would find the kid, maybe a bit worse for wear, but alive. 

The unbonded Sentinel thumped into the wall again.  Obviously, he was not giving Jim the answers he wanted.  Ellison's voice was level and ice cold, "You have my Guide, his scent is all over you.  I want him back.  You will tell me what I need to know, if you don't, I will...”  The detective's voice went Sentinel soft.  Neither Banks nor Slater could hear what he said but they saw and smelled the effects of the promise.  There was as acrid odor as the unbonded Sentinel's bladder gave way, staining his trousers.  Then the kid began to talk as if he could not speak quickly enough. 

Jim threw the kid away from him and paused only long enough to say, "I know where Blair is.  I'm going to get him.”  "Not alone, Jim, you'll need back up.” 

Edward Grant huddled in the corner of the room looking up at the deadly Dark Sentinel.  Tony thought he was something special, but he was nothing compared to this man.  Maybe if he kept still the Dark Sentinel would overlook him.  Jim's head snapped around as he heard an increase in the younger man's heartbeat as Grant remembered what they had planned to do with Sandburg tonight before dumping him on the steps of the GDP Institute.  They had felt safe going after the kid, after all who would care what they did to correction fodder.  Well, he had found out who would care.  He shuddered again.  The Dark Sentinel had told him what he would be missing if Sandburg had been hurt that way.  Grant knew with certainty that he would follow through.

 

* * *

 

Dan Slater's cell phone rang.  He yanked it out and listened as a near frantic Dr Speke spluttered about abandoned conferences and missing Sentinels and Guides.  He snapped at her, telling her to calm down and get security to look into it.  Closing the phone, he stared at Simon in disbelief; this could not be happening as well. 

"Captain Banks, I got a problem here.” 

"Not now, Slater.” 

"I've lost 30 Sentinels and Guides.” 

"What?  How do you go about losing 60 people?"

"None of the Sentinels turned up today for the Conference, none of the Guides for training.  What the hell is going on?  Where the hell are they?"

Simon was not really interested in Slater's problems.  He was too busy trying to keep Jim Ellison calm and stop him going off half-cocked. 

Slater nearly plowed into Simon as the captain stopped dead in his tracks.  The missing Sentinels, and their Guides, were in his bullpen.  Jim moved into the room and the four Sentinel primes from Seattle, Chicago, Boston and LA came to meet him. 

"Senior Sentinel Prime Ellison," the eldest acted as spokesman," we are here to help you claim back what is yours.”  

"Thank you.  Gather around and I'll tell you what we have.” 

"Dear God, it's a hunting pack!" Slater muttered. 

Simon turned to him, "A what?"

"A hunting pack.  This is not good, we have to stay with them and keep the other cops back.  This is a Sentinel thing now and we can't interfere.” 

"They're cops.”  Banks growled. 

"They're Sentinels, Captain Banks, pure Sentinel instinct now.  Look at their Guides.” 

Simon saw what he meant.  The Guides were making no attempt to calm their Sentinels.  Standing quietly at the shoulders of their respective Sentinels, they were equally grim. 

Simon watched as they circled Ellison for a briefing and wondered where he could get Sentinel 102, because this certainly had not been covered in the 101 handbook. 

As the briefing broke up, he followed them out, snapping, "Rafe.  Brown.  You're with me.  Adams, get the uniforms on the way.  They are to go in silent and are not to approach the house.  Make sure they understand that.” 

 

* * *

 

Dark Guide lay curled on the floor, pain exploding through his back and buttocks from the beating he had taken.  When he had come to, it was to find himself sprawled naked on the floor.  Then the Sentinel they called Tony had gone berserk; tearing his belt off and lashing him with the buckle until blood stained his back and lower body.  He was containing the pain using meditation techniques he had learned over the course of years.  His mind was clear and calm as Tony leaned over him. 

"Cold, Guide?" the voice was taunting him. 

He refused to answer. 

"Then you can't be.  On your knees.” 

Dark Guide shuddered as he felt the belt slide along his back over the abused areas.  He hauled himself up on his knees.  He could *feel* the pleasure that Howard was getting from this.  He bit down on his lip to focus himself.  He was not going to allow this jumped up little... 

"I got your record, Guide.  The GDP have quite a file on you.  You were quite the party animal, bending over for anyone who could pay you and corrupting three GDP guards along the way.” 

Dark Guide could feel cold anger building in him.  If this animal thought he was going to rape him, he had another think coming.  He would die fighting because no man was ever going to hurt him like that again.  He mentally apologized to his other half for leaving him but he knew the dark Sentinel would want him to fight, no matter the cost. 

The door opened behind him and another unbonded Sentinel came into the room.  He absently patted the kneeling man's head as if he was a pet dog but his attention was on the Sentinel.  "Foods on, Tony.” 

Dark Guide was hauled to his feet, manhandled into the next room and forced down by Tony's chair.  While the Sentinels were eating, he plotted his escape; one way or another, he was going to escape.  The Sentinel who had beaten him, Tony...  he would remember that name...thrust a crust at his mouth.  When he refused to take it from Tony's hands, the Sentinel caught his long hair, pulled his head back and forced it into his mouth.  He nearly choked on it.  From then on he took the food but his eyes never left the knife except to flick to Tony's throat.  No matter what happened he would kill the Sentinel.  Dark Guide settled back and made himself drink the water he was given.  And waited. 

Tony pushed back his plate and stretched his arms above his head.  "I think we've waited for Eddie long enough.  Maybe he got lucky at the conference.  I think we should take care of our guest.”  Grinning at his friends, he reached down and ran his hand across a bare shoulder.  "He feels a little chilly guys.  Got any ideas on how to warm him up?" Dark Guide did not react to the suggestions that flew fast and thick.  But when Tony grabbed his arm and pulled him to his feet he was ready.  His free hand flew to the table, closed on the knife and swung it toward his tormentor.  A voice that had been silent for hours screamed in his head NO!  You are no killer!  His hand faltered.  Dark Guide pushed that voice away but the momentary hesitation was costly.  The other Sentinels scrambled around the table and reached for him, he managed to slash out once before his hands were grabbed and he was wrestled to the floor. 

"Get the drugs, move it.  He's stronger than he looks.”  Tony panted, driving a fist into the Guide's belly to slow him down. 

Ray grabbed the vials and a syringe from the kitchen counter.  Tony's smile was evil as he leant over Blair and carefully expelled air from the syringe.  Dark Guide was struggling violently trying to pull free from the other two before he was injected.  Harry swore as the slash across his hand ached from pinning down the Guide, "You said he was docile.  Where the hell did he get the energy to grab that knife?"

Ray snarled, "You were lucky I got him off you.” 

Harry glared at the young empath as the needle went in, "Well, he's going to pay for that tonight.” 

"We can make him do anything but no permanent damage.  So watch it, Harry, still gives a wide choice.”  Ray cautioned even as he gloated. 

The Sentinels could feel the effects of the injection as the lean body under their hands stopped fighting.  Blue eyes that had glittered with defiance and anger became dazed. 

Tony grinned, "On your belly, Guide.” 

Dark Guide resisted and was forced on his stomach in the submissive Guide position.  He lay there, his mind floating.  He only vaguely heard the next command, "On your hands and knees.”  He complied only when a hand tangled in his hair and yanked him into position.  He tried desperately to throw off the drug but his mind felt as if it was wrapped in cotton wool, as if he was drowning in mud.  Still, Dark Guide kept fighting.  No unbonded Sentinel was going to have him.  His Dark Sentinel had fought others to keep him safe; he would not let them take him easily.” 

Tony knelt behind him and ran a hand from the empath's shoulder to his hip.  He was fumbling with his clothes as he started to push the smaller man's shoulders down.  Dark Guide dropped sideways and kicked out, his foot hitting Tony on the chin, the blow knocking him backward.  He tried to scramble away and was brought down hard on his stomach.  Then a weight landed heavily on his back before shifting to his hips and pinning him down.  His head was lifted and he saw Tony smile at him, fought to understand the words.  "Wouldn't make this easy would you?  Now you're going to get another injection.” 

Harry cocked his head to one side.  "Tony, he can't overdose on this stuff, can he?"

"You scared he'll die on us?" Tony stared at him challengingly. 

"Kidnapping is one thing, murder another," Harry protested. 

"He's correction scum, what does it matter?  Hold him down, Ray.” 

Tony liked the way the body bucked under him, "Oh, we're going to have fun tonight!" A part of him wished that this Guide had been different, had come to him willingly.  His anger grew at yet another rejection. 

Dark Guide tried to fight the new flood of drug but this time his head dropped and his body relaxed.  He couldn't fight anymore.  Blair Sandburg had been lost to the drugs hours ago, only the Dark Guide had remained to guard his body and mind and now that too was lost. 

Tony moved off him and ordered him to kneel; grinning madly as the lean body obeyed like an automaton. 

Ray looked impressed, "The MAN was right.  This stuff really works.” 

"Sure.  He'll be begging us to take him, see what I mean?" Tony said, "Harry wants a hug, Guide.”  The Sentinels laughed as the empath wrapped his arms around Harry.  "Man, Tony, this is going to be fun!"

"Yeah.  Here's what we do.  We tell him what we want, sort of program him if you know what I mean.  Get him all hot and bothered and then...  we par...ty! 

 

* * *

 

They were bickering amicably about where and how they would do the empath when Ray hesitated.  His hand went to his head, "What was that?  Did you feel that?" Tony's brain suddenly kicked in, "That's a white noise generator.  We're screwed.  Eddie, they must have caught Eddie!  We've got to get out of here!" He scrambled to his feet as the door came off its hinges.  James Ellison, Sentinel prime and cop stood there, cold blue eyes taking in the scene.  His eyes fell on his young Guide, lying naked on the floor, bruises and bloody welts covering his body; his gentle, intelligent blue eyes glazed from drugs. 

Without moving a muscle, James Ellison disappeared and the Dark Sentinel stood in his place.  Ray shuddered; death incarnate looked out of burning blue eyes.  The cop had willingly given full control to the Dark Sentinel, and he craved revenge on the people that dared to take his Guide and abuse him. 

Ray stepped back, his gaze sweeping over the people who followed Ellison.  His heart started to pound and several heads swiveled towards him, teeth showing in feral grins.  They had picked up his fear; full Sentinels all, and he could see their need for vengeance.  The unbonded Sentinels had broken all the rules when they had taken bonded Guides. 

 

 

 

Dark Guide sensed his Sentinel, tapped some deep well of ferocity to pull mind and body together long enough to weave his way to his side.  His lack of clothing was not important, the presence of others of no account; all he knew was that his Sentinel was here.  Dark Guide threw his arms around the Dark Sentinel and nuzzled into his neck, pressing his body tightly against the comforting strength of the older man. 

"Sandburg.”  As soon as his arms went around his Guide, Ellison was back, cop and Sentinel.  Jim laid a gentle hand on the younger man's chin and tilted his head back.  Deep blue eyes stared at him confusedly.  The eyes were too bright.  Jim's rage grew.  The kid was heavily drugged and as high as a kite; he could smell the chemically induced arousal that flushed the young face.  Jim tried to move him into his normal place behind him and gave a yelp as his Guide's slender hand pushed under his shirt, the fingers icy against his skin. 

          "I have...to...  Can be sooo gooood... to you.  Have...to...” 

Jim's heart broke as his aroused partner did his best to mold himself against him.  He could think of about 20 women at the precinct who would give anything to be in his position right now.  Jim's thoughts broke off as he caught the hand that was reaching for the top of his jeans.  He knew his voice sounded pleading, "Simon, help me.  Okay?"

Simon grinned, but there was sorrow and anger in his eyes as he said lightly, "Affectionate little thing, isn't he?" He pulled his own coat off and reached for the young empath.  Dark Guide sulked as Jim peeled him off yet again and gave him to Simon.  He was one of only a few people that he would trust with Blair in this condition.  Simon managed to get his coat on the kid and was rewarded with a mega-watt smile.  Dark Guide grinned; he would make his Sentinel jealous.  Then he frowned, as the voice was back.  No...no...it's the drugs...not me...  Curls flew as he shook his head in confusion.  He knew what he had to do. 

Simon's pretended amusement was short-lived as he realized that he was now the main target on Blair's drug addled radar.  Trying to keep his voice stern he commanded, "Quit it, Sandburg, or I'll have to cuff you.”  He rolled his eyes in disbelief as Sandburg pushed against him and crooned, "We...  we...play now?"

The kid Simon knew was going to be mortified when he found out what he had done and that would be a whole other problem but one that could wait, for the moment he had his hands full.  Simon looked over the curly head and saw Rafe and Brown.  He expected them to laugh but all he could see was a deep compassion as they came over. 

"Hey, Hairboy, what say you sit down, okay?"

The drugged empath focused bleary eyes on the three big men surrounding him.  He swayed on his feet, his hand going to his head.  "Three on one.”  It was whispered, a world of nightmare in the short sentence.  "Three on one...  three on one," his voice was getting more aggrieved as Blair Sandburg came crashing back, pushing Dark Guide back through one of the trap doors in his mind.  Simon suddenly remembered the video that Wilson had filmed of Blair's correction when three of the guards had... 

Blair released his hold on Simon and stumbled back, "No...  not again...  never again...  HE promised...  never...  Don't hurt me, please don't hurt me.”  Wide blue eyes stared at unseen horrors.  Slender hands locked onto dark curls as he struggled to remember how to breathe. 

Simon wrapped an arm around the shaking young man and tilted his face up, dismayed at the flinch.  "You're safe, Blair, you're safe now.  Your Sentinel will be here soon.”  He gently pulled him into a tight embrace, just as he would his son. 

"Jim?" it was a plaintive whisper. 

"Jim will be here soon, son.  Take it easy.  Everything will be okay.” 

"He's crashing and burning, Captain, but he'll be all right.”  Slater came up with drug vials in his hand.  "These drugs are nasty but once they're out of his system, he'll be fine.  If he goes to his own kind they'll...” 

"He's with his own kind, Slater, Cascade PD.”  Simon put in forcefully. 

A crash from the next room brought him back to the present and he handed his now shaking armful of Guide over to Rafe and Brown. 

Blair wrapped himself around Brown, his hands moving over him as he buried his face into the detective's grunge jacket.  Brown soothed him as he would his kid brother as Rafe gently stroked the Guide's back and head.  Blair was mumbling too softly for them to understand. 

Rafe looked at Slater, "What the hell did they give him?"

Slater shook his head, "They used a damper on him to weaken his empathic ability so that he wouldn't go crazy, mixed with an aphrodisiac to destroy his inhibitions to make him more pleasing.  From the looks of these vials, he got a hefty dose.  I'm surprised he has much control as he does.  He'll be okay; he just needs to sleep it off.” 

In the living room, the Sentinels had the unbonded Sentinels encircled.  They were a hunting pack and their quarry was caught.  Jim Ellison was the Dark Sentinel again; once his Guide was out of the room he had reverted to his most primal persona.  He was at his most lethal; dark Sentinel coupled with covert operative, a trained killer.  Ellison's voice was icy, "Did you rape my Guide?"

Ray hesitated and glanced at Tony.  Tony was glaring at the bonded Sentinels as if he didn't realize the trouble they were in.  Ray answered, "I didn't.  You would know if I had.”  Ellison nodded, "I wanted to hear you say it.  Rape...  not a nice word.  And you were going to rape him, weren't you?" Ray shook his head, trying to deny what everyone knew, "We played a few games.”  He paled as the Dark Sentinel's eyes burned into him, "A few games.  That's all, no real damage...”  he trailed off. 

"Those two were too chicken to do more than feel him up a bit.  They missed a good time.  Your Guide's got a killer body.  He put out at the correction facility so why shouldn't we get a bit of it.  The way he acted you would think he was a virgin not a slut.”  Tony smirked.  "Who do you think you're kidding, Sentinel?  All you're pissed about is that we wanted to enjoy what you've kept to yourself.  We've got money, we'll pay for his time.” 

Tony was unwittingly digging his own grave with both hands.  Ellison corrected him in a voice that was as gentle as it was deadly, "Blair is my Guide, not my lover.  He is brilliant, compassionate, courageous and gentle of heart.  He is no slut.”  The other Sentinels were nodding.  "Let me tell you what is going to happen here.  Now there are those who might say that you're all young and stupid and you'd eventually grow out of these warped ideas you have about the purpose of a Guide.  But to do that you would have to be able to grow old.  Sentinel Prime Edwards?"

"Senior Sentinel Prime Ellison.”  The Boston Sentinel acknowledged the Dark Sentinel and then turned to the unbonded Sentinels.  "You have taken his Guide and attempted to claim him.  By doing so, you have challenged him for ownership.”  He paused "You were expected to challenge him openly, young Sentinels, not by criminal actions.” 

Ray stuttered, "Come off it!  We didn't mean to challenge him.  All we did was have a bit of fun with his Guide.  For God's sake!  He's out of the correction facility.  He's no angel!  He probably enjoyed...”  Once again his voice failed him as Ellison's eyes tracked over him.  Ray went down on his knees, "Senior Sentinel Prime.”  Dear God, they had picked the Sentinel Prime's Guide, they were going to die, he would kill them, oh God, when did everything get out of control? 

"I am sorry.  I didn't know.  We never meant to challenge you, please...” 

"You call yourself a Sentinel?" Jim's voice dripped contempt.  "You're nothing more than jumped up, arrogant kids, picking on Guides because they can't fight back.  And when one does, despite cultural conditioning and his own empathic talents, you beat him.” 

"It was Tony who took the belt to him.  We didn't.  We only held him.”  Harry put in, seeing that Ray was trying to distance himself from them. 

The other Sentinels circling them growled like a pack of wolves.  These three had taken a belt to a Guide, beaten him, assaulted him, and then tried to dismiss it as of minor importance.  Each of them thought of what he or she would do if it had been his or her Guide they had found beaten and bloody. 

Tony fingered the knife he had intended to use on the Guide and then swung at Jim.  He might as well have telegraphed the move, Jim pulled back and his expression was one of savage pleasure.  Self-defense was lawful under both Sentinel and citizen law. 

Jim was tracking Tony's movement and when he lunged he caught the younger man's wrist.  He brought it down across his knee, breaking the arm in two places.  He slammed a fist into his opponent's ribs, once, twice and heard bones snapping.  Then he hit him across the face, only at the last moment pulling back enough to avoid killing him.  All his instincts as Sentinel and friend told him to kill his Guide's attacker, but the cop in him managed to claw it back in time.  He allowed the limp body to fall to the floor. 

"Challenger is defeated.  Your Guide is yours, Senior Prime.” 

Jim raised a fist and screamed his victory.  The other Sentinels took up his roar until the walls vibrated.  Simon crashed into the room and was pinned by the Sentinels' eyes.  He had never seen a more feral group, dear Lord, these were cops and forensic personnel but right now all he could think was that he had seen friendlier timber wolves.  Then Slater ushered the Guides into the room.  They split, each moving to his or her own Sentinel, reaching out to calm them, allowing them to pull them into tight embraces as their need to claim their own Guides overpowered the Sentinels. 

Simon approached Jim slowly; his Guide was in the next room.  Everything he'd read and observed told him he needed to connect the two back together again.  Over his shoulder he snapped at Thompson and Evans, "I want those three under arrest for kidnapping, assault, drug trafficking, hell, if it’s in the book and has a chance of sticking charge them with it.  We'll sort it out later.  Slater, you handle the Institute end and I don't want any whitewash on this!" It was a clear warning.  Slater nodded, "Director Claydove wants the same thing, Captain.  Changes are coming and it looks as if your men will be an integral part of them.” 

Simon exhaled slowly and said quietly, "Jim.”  There was no reaction.  Simon tried again, "Sentinel Prime Ellison.”  This time Ellison looked at him.  Okay, the dark Sentinel is still in control.  I can deal with that.  "Your Guide is outside, he needs you.” 

Jim moved quickly to the door and straight to his Guide.  Brown carefully transferred the nearly unconscious bundle in his arms to the person he belonged to.  He mentally corrected himself, No, to the person with who he belonged.  The Sentinel gently took Blair, pulling him close, supporting him against his chest.  His hand carded through the dark curls, powerful fingers massaging away the headache he knew his Guide was suffering.  Later, they would deal with the fallout of Blair's kidnapping but for now he gave all the comfort he could.  He scooped the kid up and carried him to the sofa, holding him close, as cop and Sentinel became Jim. 

Jim asked, "Do you know what they gave him?"

Brown said, gently, "It’s the new date rape drug, Jim.  It knocks out all inhibitions, heightens the libido and makes him very suggestible.  Those bastards must have been working on him to get him like this.  Don't worry, Jim, he won't remember anything.  He'll sleep for at least twelve hours straight and have one hell of a hangover but he will be okay.” 

"Sounds like you know about this stuff, H.” 

"My kid sister was slipped it at her graduation party.  Thank God we got to her in time.  I wish Blair hadn't had to go through this.  The kid doesn't deserve this crap.” 

Jim sounded worried, "I can't connect with him, the link is down.” 

"A damper drug.”  Slater had come in after seeing the unbonded Sentinels into custody.  He looked down at this very special Sentinel/Guide pairing. 

"Damper?" Jim tugged his Guide closer as the young man moaned softly.  "Slater?"

"They used a drug to knock...” 

"Brown told me about that.  What's a damper?"

"A damper stops the empath from overloading.  In laymen's terms it hinders transmissions along the empathic nerve ways.  They use it in the hostels when a Guide is left for any length of time.  This bunch mixed the two together.”  Seeing the fear in Ellison's eyes he reassured softly, "He will be alright, Detective.” 

Blair made a soft panicked noise. 

"He can't connect.”  The Sentinel sounded desperate, seeking help even if it had to come from the GDP Commander. 

"Blair.”  Dan spoke gently to the Guide; he could feel Jim Ellison's eyes burning through to his very soul.  The dark Sentinel growled a warning as frightened blue eyes opened. 

"May I call him Blair?" Ellison considered the question and the commander.  Deciding the man did only want to help, he nodded permission. 

"It’s alright, Blair.”  He smiled gently as if talking to a child.  "You will be able to connect to Jim.  The drug should wear off in about six hours.  In the meantime, can you tell me how low your barriers are?"

"G...  gone...  all gone.” 

"Okay, just hang in there.  You're going to be all right.  Jim's right here and isn't going anywhere without you.” 

Jim growled as the unbonded Sentinels were taken past him.  A slender hand came up and grabbed his shirt, the fingers flexing nervously.  "Easy, Blair, it’s alright.  Sshh, it’s all right now.”  He tugged Blair closer and gently rocked him. 

 

* * *

 

Jim woke to find Blair perched on the end of his bed, clutching his pillow.  The Sentinel could smell the salt tears that ran down his face.  There was a catch in his breathing.  Without saying a word, Jim held back the covers, inviting his Guide into his protection.  With a small noise, Blair scrambled into the warmth and comfort of his Sentinel's presence. 

 

 

 

"Jim I...  I'mm am sor...  ry.  I n...need I...," He trailed off, his face flushing flame red. 

The Sentinel opened his arms and allowed the younger man to come into them.  How long he held his Guide as Blair poured out his heart, speaking hesitantly of the other who had shared his mind, he would never know.  But finally the young empath was cried out, his body heaving with dry sobs.  Story told, confession made, he finally slept. 

Jim lowered his head to rest against his Guide's curls.  Blair had been returned to him.  He was alive and would heal.  His valiant spirit had not been broken, as Tony had found out to his cost, Jim thought with satisfaction and no little pride.  Tomorrow, he would tell Blair what it had been like when he first started to experience the Dark Sentinel persona.  How he had felt like a spectator in his own body at first but that it had soon passed, leaving him stronger.  Blair would experience that same melding and he would be stronger for it.  They would be stronger for it.  Dark Sentinel purred contentedly, his Dark Guide was nearly with him.  Once Blair metamorphosed into his fully realized self, no one could stop them. 

The Sentinel woke at a tug on his mind.  His face showed his pleasure; Blair was back, fully back, the damper gone.  The small empath was once again able to draw on his emotions, gain strength and vitality from the Dark Sentinel. 

Drowsing, the awful emptiness finally filled, Blair sighed and curled up tighter against Jim.  Suddenly, anxious blue eyes flew open, "Jim?  Work? 

"All fixed, Blair, just rest and sleep.” 

Obediently, the Guide closed his eyes and the Sentinel followed him into sleep. 

 

* * *

 

Simon stood with Dan Slater.  It was funny but he was actually beginning to like the GDP Commander.  He had shown himself to be human, after all, beneath the uniform.  The door to the hotel foyer opened and Simon's mouth dropped open and then snapped shut.  Jim was entering the Conference Hotel with Blair in place, one slender hand resting on his arm, finger flexing slightly.  Blair was dressed in black jeans, sweater and boots, his hair loose on his shoulders.  For a moment, Simon looked at him anxiously and then the penny dropped.  Blair was not just Blair; he was the Dark Guide.  His movements were different, the fluid sensual grace, the air of aggression and control was there again.  This time he wore no ID badge and no Correction Facility uniform.  The GDP guards that were about to move forward stopped when they saw the other Sentinels head toward the pair.  One look at their faces and they wisely stayed where they were.  Lisa and Roger moved forward first and after gaining permission, gently reached out to rest a hand on Blair's shoulder.  Only they had heard Blair tell Jim it was okay for them to touch him; to the GDP it looked as if Jim had ordered it.  In reality it was the Dark Guide allowing them the touch, his permission being the only thing that stopped Jim from reacting.  His hands controlling and holding his Sentinel back as he made him understand the need for the clan to see that he was reclaimed for them. 

Then the out-clan Sentinel Primes came over, each sought the same permission but they ran their hands over his shoulder and head at the same time as their Guides reached out to touch Blair's arm, making contact with the other, much stronger empath.  Then the pair was lost in a crowd of Sentinels and Guides, each making connection.  Jim monitored his Guide, making sure that he did not get overwhelmed.  At the first sign of it, he turned away, pulling Blair close to him, an arm around the slender shoulders.  The other Sentinels responded to their Guides, who took their cue from the Dark Guide, and pulled back.  They moved as one into the lecture hall, surrounding the returned Guide and the Senior Sentinel Prime. 

Simon turned to Slater, "You want to explain to me what that was all about?"

The GDP Commander smiled, "I wish I knew, Captain, I really wish I knew.  I've never seen, heard or read about anything like it.  But it feels right," he added under his breath. 

Simon returned the smile.  "There is hope for you yet, Commander.” 

Slater sobered.  "I suspect, Simon, that the hope for us all just went into that lecture hall.” 

 

 

The End