Disclaimer: The main characters are not mine, this is an amateur effort written purely fort he fun of it, and no money has exchanged hands, and it is not intended to breach the copyright of Paramount and Pet Fly Publication
With thanks to my beta reader Susan and to Connie.
Note: This story is set in the near future in an America very different from today, Sentinels are acknowledged and their abilities are used in everyday life in Police Work, Military and Search and Rescue. Guides are thought of as second class citzens who's only function to serve their sentinel, they becomes their property. Some guides turn rogue and are hunted down by the GDP, who have total power over them.
Simon walked into the gym and paused for a moment to watch Detective Ellison working out on the mats. The former Ranger caught his attacker, swivelled and brought him down in a controlled fall to the mat. Watching him, Simon could not help but imagine the power that the man held in check. Jim Ellison had been a covert black ops officer; he could kill with his bare hands in more ways than the Police Captain even wanted to think about. But Ellison never let anger dictate his actions, and now, more than ever, Banks was thankful for that because Jim was a Dark Sentinel, a more primitive and powerful form of sentinel. Not only was he a protector, he was an avenger. Ellison effortlessly pulled his attacker to his feet. He towered over him by at least five inches, his opponent standing barely five foot nine with a slender build and shoulder length hair pulled back into a ponytail. The young man was listening intently to the sentinel as the older man carefully positioned his feet and talked him through the next move, taking him slowly down again onto the mat.
"Got it, Chief?"
"I think so." There wasn't a great deal of confidence in that voice but a world of determination.
"Ready?" Jim threw a blow at his partner's head. He did it slowly to give the kid a chance and the younger man caught his wrist and twisted it down. Shifting his weight, he swung a foot, catching the sentinel and taking him down. Releasing Ellison's arm the smaller man did a little jump, "I did it, Jim, I did it!" Simon smiled; the kid was actually bouncing.
"Good move, Chief. Well done." There was satisfaction in the sentinel's voice.
The younger man was grinning widely. As Jim rolled to his knees, he saw Simon. "Hello, Simon."
"Teaching self defense, Jim?"
"Only to Sandburg. He's coming on well, now." Ellison reached out a hand and ruffled his guide's hair.
Simon decided not to pry but he had heard on the grapevine that Blair Sandburg had signed up for the police self-defense course so that he could backup Jim on the streets. Sandburg's well-meant attempt had been a disaster. The first time the sergeant had trapped him face down on the mat he had flashed back to his abuse in the GDP correction cell. The Sergeant had immediately released him and watched in horror as the young man freaked out. Fortunately, Jim had been working out at the time. Ellison had always been fit, first with the Rangers and then with the Police. Now he had a more important reason, to be able to protect the very necessary addition to his life, his guide. Those protective instincts had surged as Sandburg had struggled wildly against the Sergeant.
By the time Jim reached the mat, Sandburg had scrambled to his knees and was staring at the instructor with frightened, cornered eyes. Jim had carefully gathered his guide to him. The Sergeant had waved away his apologies, grim understanding on his face. The young guide had calmed under the hands of his sentinel as Jim pulled him close and let the kid feel his promise of protection. That had ended Blair's enrolment in the course. It was obvious to Ellison that his guide was still too traumatized to allow anyone else to touch him, so Jim had started to teach him self-defense. Blair trusted him, didn't panic when Jim grabbed him. He still hit the mat, but Jim controlled each fall so that the smaller man wasn't hurt.
"What can I do for you, Simon?"
Simon came back from his musings with a start and took a deep breath. He was damn sure that Jim Ellison was going to go ballistic about this.
"The GDP have arranged a mixer at the station for this afternoon, Jim. You have to attend with Sandburg." Banks noticed the way that Jim's guide tucked himself behind his sentinel, saw the pale slender hand touch Jim's shoulder. Without looking at him, Ellison brushed it away. "Don't touch me, Chief."
Simon hadn't thought it was possible for the guide to draw in on himself even more. Then Jim added, "Its okay, Chief. I just don't want to hurt you." Simon knew the sentinel was referring to the fact that he was obviously angry, and he didn't want his guide to have to handle his anger. Ellison was going to vent and didn't want to hurt Sandburg with it.
"Simon, you can tell those GDP goons that they can go....."
"Ellison, this is not a request. Its an order," the Captain cut him off in mid-sentence. "The GDP are introducing two new unbonded sentinels to the precinct and you need to meet them since you're the *Sentinel*... what's the word, Sandburg?"
"Sentinel Prime, Captain," the guide supplied.
"Right. *Sentinel Prime*. You have to be there with Sandburg at 1:00 o'clock. This is not up for debate, so don't even start with me."
"Sir, yes, Sir."
Simon suppressed a smile, when Jim answered him like that it meant that he was royally pissed off, so much so that he fell back on his military training. Now was the time to offer the carrot, after threatening with the stick. "The other reason I'm here is that I wanted to ask what time you want to leave for the campsite next week. I thought we could get off to a good start at around 5:00 AM; take the tents and the fishing rods, and have a lazy week, see how the fish bite. Just you, me and Daryl."
"Sounds good." Jim's tone indicated that he was still annoyed.
Simon noticed that Sandburg paled.
"The hostel, you're putting me in the hostel." Blair flinched as his sentinel spun around on him at his whispered words. He shouldn't have spoken out loud. Maybe Jim would just let him stay at the loft if he promised to not go out. He could keep away from people, without his sentinel's presence his empathic barriers would erode and he would be in pain from the slightest touch anyway, so it wasn't as if he'd even want to go anywhere. He could do it, if only Jim wouldn't send him to the hostel. Then he realised that Jim was talking to him.
"Chief, you're not going into any GDP hostel. You're coming with us. There's no way that I'm leaving you on your own." Jim smiled, "You'll like it in the woods, the fishing and quiet. It will give you a chance to recharge your batteries."
Blair nodded; it was going to be all right after all.
Jim halted outside of the sentinel suite and turned to the younger man, stopping him with a hand to the kid's chest. He looked deep into his guide's eyes as if searching for something.
Blair lifted a hand and lightly laid it on the side of Jim's face. "I am your guide and no one else's. None of them are challenging your ownership of me," he smiled, "so, no smearing them over the wall, big guy, okay?"
"Okay." Ellison turned his head slightly so that he could inhale the scent of his guide's hand. The scent, sight, touch and sound of his guide grounded him. He reached out a hand and straightened Blair's Observer Pass. "Just a reminder for them that you belong here in your own right." He paused and then added, "You don't kneel to them, Blair, and you keep your barriers up if you need to."
Blair shook his head, "No, Jim."
"I have to kneel, Jim. You need me to, you just don't realise it. I am yours, claimed and marked. *They* have to be shown that in a way they can understand, and the Dark Sentinel in you needs the reassurance I can give you."
"But..." Ellison did not want to acknowledge the logic in his guide's words.
"I'm the guide, Jim, let me guide you on this." The words were spoken firmly, Blair would not be persuaded differently; he knew what he had to do.
Jim looked into his guide's eyes and heard what he said. The kid meant every word he said. Ellison knew how frightening the working guide posture was for Blair, yet he was willing to do it for him.
"Open the connection, Chief, now, before we go in. Let me feel you."
Blair smiled gently and Jim felt the tug in the back of his mind before the soothing balm of his guide's emotions washed through him.
"We can do this, Jim."
"With you here, I can." Jim grinned, "Well, at least I can do better than my last mixer."
"What happened?" Blair was curious.
"I put three people in hospital; I was looking for you."
"Well, you've found me now."
Jim took a deep breath, "Okay, lets get this over with."
Since their bonding, Jim always allowed Blair to connect with him when he needed his help to shield him against the emotions of the people around him. Sometimes Blair could hold his own barriers in place, he was a strong empath, but even so he had to return to Jim for shielding when he grew tired. Many sentinels demanded that their guides lower their empathic barriers at all times, allowing them no protection other than that provided by the bond. It made the guide dependent on the sentinel for his very sanity since emotional overload could drive a guide insane.
Jim looked up as Joel Taggart came down the hall. The Bomb Squad captain had agreed to attend the mixer as a neutral observer. The two Captains, Banks and Taggart, had taken it on themselves to protect this sentinel/guide pair. Taggart had found that he was drawn to the fragile guide. The kid had been through so much in such a short time and had come through it with a desperate courage that the big captain admired. But there had been damage done and Taggart had readily agreed to help in Sandburg's transition back to the person he had been before the GDP had gotten their hands on him.
Taggart coughed, "Nearly 1:00 o'clock, Jim."
"Simon drag you in on this, Joel?"
"He wanted to make sure you didn't slide out of it." Taggart grinned at him, then sobered.
"Here, guys, Simon was told that you had to wear these." He handed Jim a white badge with black diagonal lines and held out a red one with a central black spot to Blair. Taggart noticed the anger on the sentinel's face.
"Jim, what's wrong? Its just a badge." He saw that Blair was looking down at the floor.
"The badge, the red shows that Blair is a guide and the black spot shows that he went through the correction facility." Jim's tone was ice cold.
Taggart shook his head. "Sorry, Sandburg, but it was made really clear that you both have to wear them and they have to be visible."
Blair reached out and took both badges. He put his own on and then reached up and fixed the other one to his sentinel. "Go with the flow, big guy."
"Chief, you should not be marked like that."
"It's okay... really. Lets get this over and done with," there was resignation in his voice.
Taggart felt his heart sink for kid. He hadn't realised the full implication of the badge; hadn't imagined that something so simple could be so bad. He nodded to Jim and went into the room, leaving the sentinel alone with his guide.
Jim felt along the connection he shared with his guide. He could feel the nerves bubbling in Blair. The kid was scared, one hand clutched at the older man's coat, his other hand moved up and down his arm trying to draw comfort from his sentinel's presence. Jim covered that cold hand with his own and held on until Blair settled. He nodded and then opened the door.
"Dr Jenson." Jim's voice was icy. The last time he had spoken with the doctor was at GDP headquarters when she had attempted to interrogate Blair. Jim had made sure that her attempt had failed. The woman's contempt for guides was an almost physical thing; her mere presence was annoying him.
Blair could feel the irritation and tried to calm Jim down. Then Jim bristled as if there was an itch he couldn't scratch, and he felt the detective heading towards a Dark Sentinel zone out. He started to talk softly, his voice an encouraging murmur that grounded his sentinel.
Ellison's gaze was fixed on the new sentinels and his anger flared. There were not just the two unbonded sentinels he had been told about, but eight of them, six men and two women. All were young, in their early twenties; they immediately got to their feet as they acknowledged the Sentinel Prime.
Dr Jenson's voice was stern. "Guide, show your respect."
Jim's reached for Blair's hand, "You stay where you are, Sandburg." His voice dropped to an artic whisper, "You dare to order around my guide, woman? Are you challenging for ownership of him?"
Dr Jenson blanched, Ellison sounded like death incarnate. She tried to tell herself that he was a cop and would not do anything to harm her. But just looking at him, she knew he was a Dark Sentinel and a trained killer, one who needed only the slightest justification to attack. Suddenly the idea of this mixer seemed a very bad one.
"My apologies, Sentinel Ellison, I meant no disrespect."
Jim touched Blair's shoulder, and the young man folded onto his knees, his hand transferring from Jim's arm to his hip. Blair leaned forward so that his shoulder rested against the sentinel's legs before he crossed his hands behind his back and lowered his head. Jim's hand rested on the back of his neck, the fingers slowly messaging tense muscles.
Jim's anger was very near the surface, he could feel the fear and distress in his guide.
"We're here because we have to be, so let's get on with it, Doctor."
"Please take a seat, Sentinel Ellison."
Jim noted that one chair was set apart, the others were in a semi-circle before it. He reached for it and pulled the chair to him, putting more distance between his guide and the unbonded sentinels. He did not like the way they were looking at his young guide; two of them were grinning, and it made his anger flare.
"What's so funny?" Jim snarled.
The two unbonded sentinels dropped their gaze to his guide. The bastards actually thought it was funny that his guide was scared. God! He'd like to see how brave they'd be if they had gone through what Blair had. Only the continuing soothing emotions of his guide kept him from crossing the short distance and putting them down. Jim reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a white noise generator. He flicked the switch and felt as if his ears had popped then a bubble of silence surrounded him.
"Sentinel Ellison, I think..." Dr Jenson started to complain, but one look at Ellison and she backed down, "as you wish, sentinel."
Ellison had half a mind to give Blair to Joel and get him out of there. Despite Blair's best efforts to keep his fear from their link, he could feel Blair cringing. The young guide's skin was creeping at being so close to the unbonded sentinels. Blair had admitted, after his first run in with an unbonded sentinel, Robison, that he had felt the hunger in the man as he looked at him. Felt it clawing at him as if he was the only meal in a famine and now that feeling was multiplied by eight. Jim glanced briefly at Joel before he rejected the idea. His guide was too stubborn to leave when he thought his sentinel needed him and the last thing he wanted was an argument in front of Dr Jenson. Personally, he didn't give a damn if his guide argued with him, but he was concerned about Blair; the kid was already considered a rogue, no need to give the GDP more ammunition.
Joel leaned forward; he could see the muscles rippling across Jim's jaw. That was never a good sign, it meant that the Ellison temper was simmering, but these idiots couldn't see it. Then he watched as Blair looked up and turned to his sentinel. His hands came from behind his back to stroke and flutter over Jim's shoulders and arms as he tried to soothe the volcano that was about to erupt. His sentinel gave one last glare at the younger sentinels and turned to his guide. Ellison exhaled and harnessed the Dark Sentinel's rage. Blair's hands slowed as he felt some of the tension release and for the moment the crisis was over. Jim's hands moved to support him as Blair eased back into place, comforted by the slow massage on his neck and shoulders.
Joel relaxed back in his chair and breathed a sigh of relief.
What Jim disliked most was the arrogance of the young, unbonded sentinels and their off-hand cruel indifference to working guides. Sentinels such as these, identified in early childhood, lived in isolation from guides until they were allowed to meet in a controlled mixer in their last year at the Institute. They had no way of connecting to their bonded partner on a normal level because nothing in their training or experience taught them to view the guides as anything but necessary tools for their use. It was a sickness, Ellison thought, and he couldn't see any cure for it yet. He was jolted out of his thoughts by one of the female sentinels; she had turned her attention to Blair, noting the red and black badge.
"Dr Jenson has been telling us of your guide's history, Sentinel Ellison. The way he prostituted himself at the facility, the typically depraved act of a rogue guide, despite the care and attention devoted to..."
The look Jim shot at Dr Jenson was one of pure venom.
Jim next turned on the young woman as he felt Blair's heart rate skyrocket and a hot flush of embarrassment run through the still too thin frame next to him. Her words caught in her throat.
"Sylvia," Jim easily picked out her name, his voice was calm and arctic cold, "a few ground rules. First, you don't know what the hell you're talking about. My guide was physically abused and raped by three of the facility's senior guards. It happened repeatedly while he was in that caring facility Dr Jenson has been telling you about. That makes him the victim of those perverted bastards, a distinction I would hope a prospective cop could make. Secondly, you do not talk to my guide or about my guide. He is off bounds to you all, do you understand me?" Jim's eyes left Sylvia's face only long enough to enforce his will on the others. Sylvia swallowed hard and nodded.
"Good." The Dark Sentinel was in full force as he added, "Dr Jenson, we will have words about this later." His voice dropped to a sinister purr. All the time his hand was gently moving on his guide's shoulders and neck in reassurance, cloaking him in the protective aggression of the Dark Sentinel.
"Lets get this over with, I have work to do."
It was early evening and the call came through just as Jim was about to call it a day. He shrugged and shepherded his guide out to the truck with a wry, "A cop's work is never done, Sandburg." Blair was watching him carefully; the mixer had been just as bad as he had thought it would be. He had done his best to defuse the situation by kneeling at his sentinel's feet, living up... or down, Blair thought cynically... to their expectations. He had felt Jim's hand on the back of his neck as he leaned against his sentinel, keeping him grounded. Dealing with the sentinel's emotions had been like eating ground glass, the raw feelings had torn at him, but he had kept his sentinel calm. All the unbonded sentinels and the doctor had left not missing any vital parts. But the ordeal had left him tired and with a raging headache. All he wanted to do was go home and crash, but as he belted himself into the truck he knew that was not to be.
0-0-0-0-0-0-0 Rafe was watching the sentinel/guide pair. The things Jim could do constantly amazed him. Before he bonded, Jim's ability was erratic, to say the least, cutting in and out on him. But since Blair arrived he was focused and alert. It was something to see, the way he moved around a crime scene.
Jim slowly turned his head to one side and checked on his guide. The younger man was at his shoulder, his hands moving over him as he used voice, touch, and their link to ground the sentinel and prevent his zoning out. He was working hard as he directed his sentinel through the use of his five senses to collect information for later review.
Rafe saw them pause and moved forward. He received a piercing look from the sentinel and he pulled back in understanding. Blair would have his barriers down and the young empath could be badly hurt by the mere touch of a hand not his sentinel's. Rafe made sure the sentinel could see that he was not reaching out and waited until he received the sign to move forward. With other sentinels, the sign would be for the guide to kneel down by the side of his sentinel, head down, hands crossed behind his back, his shoulder resting against the back of his sentinel's leg. Anchored to his sentinel in the posture of the working guide, the empath was shielded from the emotions of the people around him but also completely dependent on the sentinel. But Jim Ellison did not force Blair into that position. Only rarely had Rafe seen the younger man kneel. Jim moved to catch and still his guide's hand. "I think that's all we're gonna get, Chief. Close the pathway down now." Jim sensed the guide pulling back from his mind before he turned to Rafe, "We found some threads that the forensic team missed and a blond hair. Since Asher is dark haired it might belong to his killer."
Brown came up fast. "Sorry, Jim, but Simon wants you over at Miller Road north. They think they have a zoned Sentinel and he appears to have killed two people. They think he's untrained."
"Doesn't the GDP deal with that sort of thing?" Jim was annoyed, he could tell that his guide was ill and wanted to get him home.
"Simon said to tell you that murder is in our jurisdiction, not theirs."
"We're on our way. Come on, Chief."
The suspect's car was parked half way down the road. The police had blocked the street off. Jim got out of the truck, then pulled his Kevlar vest from behind the seat and began to strap it on. As he started forward, Blair moved with him and then came to a halt, puzzled, as a big hand stopped him. Jim glared at him, "Sandburg, where is your vest?"
Blair looked down; he had forgotten it. Jim fished the vest from his truck, "You see me put on a vest, Chief, and you do the same." Sandburg pulled the vest on and adjusted the straps. White lettering marked the black vest, the words "GUIDE" and under it, "STNL ELLISON" making sure everyone knew whose property Blair was.
With a warning "Stay behind me, Chief," Ellison started forward, his gun held at the ready. He moved up behind the driver's side of the car. He could smell the blood dripping from the knife he spotted on the dashboard. Through the partially opened car door, he could see that the man wasn't moving. He looked as if he was carved from stone; his mouth was slightly open. God, do I look like that when I zone? Then a smaller figure ducked under him and pulled open the door, slender fingers reached out to touch the zoned sentinel and bring him back to the land of the living. The touch was feather light but Jim detected the change in the man's heartbeat; he was coming out of the zone. Jim's hand lashed out, catching Blair by the collar of the vest and pulling him roughly backward to drop him on his butt on the ground. Ellison slammed the other sentinel against the steering wheel, his gun going to the man's neck as he yelled, "Cascade Police. Freeze!" He called for backup over his headphone. Only when the suspect was cuffed and being pulled out of the car did he turn on his guide. Anger was written all over his face as he grabbed his guide and half dragged him to the nearest car before throwing him up against the side of the vehicle. He moved into the kid's personal space.
"What the hell did you think you were doing, Sandburg? I told you to stay behind me."
"He was zoned. He needed help," Blair pleaded with his angry sentinel.
"He could have come around and killed you. Don't you remember what Robinson did to you when he came around?"
"He was going deeper. He could have stopped breathing, Jim. And we don't know that he did anything wrong. For god's sake, I'm not your personal property. He needed help, I gave it to him." Blair was yelling back at his sentinel. He shoved Jim away from him, "and keep your hands to yourself."
Before Jim could answer, another voice cut in.
"Having a problem, Sentinel?" The voice was right behind him; Jim spun around fast to see two GDP officers.
"Nothing that I can't handle." He caught Blair by the shoulder and forced him down by his side. He saw the look on his guide's face, the kid was scared and his heart was pounding.
"He was showing disrespect, Sentinel, in public." The guards were waiting for Jim to punish his guide.
Jim moved away from Blair, and crossed to them. Blair kept his position, his head down, his breathing harsh. If he were lucky, Jim would just punish him and not turn him over to the GDP. His sentinel had always been kind to him but this was the first time that Blair had yelled at him. And he had done it in public, in front of two GDP guards.
He could remember how his previous unbonded sentinel had dealt with lesser transgressions. His body still bore scars from some of his more severe punishment sessions. Unconsciously, he shuddered when Jim's hand touched his shoulder before a calming voice said, "Easy, Chief, no one is going to hurt you."
Ellison watched as his guide slowly lifted his head and looked up at him. The sentinel could detect the shivering and he knew without asking that Blair was suffering through another flashback. The kid was a minefield of emotions. Just when he thought he had a handle on them, another one would come up. Blair was finally coming out of his shell, yelling back at him, standing up for himself. He needed encouragement that it was okay for him to disagree with his sentinel, not the sight of GDP goons waiting with avid eyes for his "correction." Ellison glared at the guards until they got the message and moved away.
"Sorry about forcing you down, Blair, but I didn't want to give them any reason to try and take you in. Come on, it must be cold down there." He reached down and pulled his guide to his feet. He felt the slender fingers latch onto his arm and the tug in his mind as the connection between them opened again. Blair needed reassurance and there was no way he could lie in the link. He could feel the relaxation radiate through his guide.
"I shouldn't have argued with you. As the sentinel, you're always right in all things." Sandburg lowered his head.
"Blair," Jim gently tilted his head up, "I am not, repeat NOT, always right. If you believe that, I wonder how you ever got your BA and MA, kid. If I do something wrong, I expect you to call me on it in public or in private. Those are the ground rules. Remember, I told you we wouldn't always agree but I would NEVER send you away. The reason I reacted the way I did was..." Jim paused. It was hard, very hard, for him to admit to any emotions, "you're too important for me to risk losing you, Chief." His hand kneaded the side of Blair's neck and he felt the younger man lean into the touch. And the sentinel was content.
Blair huddled in the truck, his headache was still raging and on it's way to a full migraine. He bit back a moan as he felt the vehicle jolt forward. The journey was a short one but it felt like forever before he was being helped up to the loft. His attempt to argue that he was all right was pushed aside and he found himself lying on the sofa in a darkened room with Jim hovering over him in blessed protector mode. A glass of water and two painkillers were pushed into his hands and Jim helped him sit up long enough to choke them down. Then he felt his head guided onto a cushion that rested on Jim's lap and hypersensitive fingers began to massage his temples with feather light touches. He sighed softly as his body unconsciously relaxed against his sentinel. Sleep slowly claimed him.
Jim was en-route to the police station the next morning when the call came over the radio. There was a siege in progress and Jim responded along with all the officers of Major Crime.
The other police officers had learned not to try and interfere with the guide. Jim was not unaware of the hostility that was aimed at Sandburg. Some policemen resented the fact that Sandburg had been the guide of Alex Barnes, a cop killer. He had killed her before becoming Ellison's partner. Sandburg had not served a day in prison for the crimes he helped commit. To the uniforms, Sandburg was a criminal and when he walked around the station they felt he was rubbing their noses into that fact. But to the cops in Major Crime, Blair was the victim of a psychopath. Tortured and sexually abused by Barnes to condition him to obedience, Sandburg had overcome his fear of the woman and killed her to save Jim Ellison's life. Following which rescue, he had been "sentenced" to worse than prison. Taken to the GDP facility and handed over to the corrections unit where he had been treated worse than a dog, physically, sexually and mentally abused. He had been forced into a bonding with Ellison while still reeling from his mistreatment, despite that inauspicious beginning there had developed a strong bond between the two men. Sandburg was loyal and trustworthy and that was all that mattered to Ellison's co-workers.
Officer Henderson looked across at the sentinel and Guide pairing as they arrived and shook his head as he said to his partner, "Its disgusting that a cop like Ellison should have that punk as his guide."
"I never knew you liked Ellison."
"Ben, Ellison might be a hard-nosed bastard but he's always backed us up when we've needed it. Remember the Woodhouse bust?" His partner nodded and he went on, "And look what he gets, that little pervert, Barnes' pet, as his guide. I bet that kid's laughing at us behind Ellison's back when he goes swishing round the bullpen as if he owns the place."
"Well, it doesn't seem to bother Ellison. He seems friendly enough with his guide, doesn't he?" Jim was carefully pulling the vest on his guide before drawing his weapon and ordering the younger man to "Keep behind me, Sandburg."
They were approaching the building with the other police teams when Jim stopped in his tracks. He only had enough time to yell, "There's a bomb. Get down!" The sentinel spun around and pushed Blair down before throwing himself on top of his guide as the explosion tore the building to pieces. Then there was a rainstorm of materials coming down. Blair heard a painful grunt against his ear and then his sentinel went limp. Then everyone was yelling and everything was confusion.
Simon came up in time to see Jim Ellison being removed on a stretcher. Blair was hanging onto one of his hands, the link opened between them, waiting for the first sign of returning consciousness. The captain saw the incipient panic in the wide blue eyes fastened on the Sentinel's still form.
"Rafe, go with Sandburg and stay with him."
Rafe nodded. He had taken a liking to the kid and readily went along.
Simon arrived at the hospital several hours later to check on the condition of all the officers injured in the blast. Luckily, Jim's warning had prevented any serious injuries. When he got to Jim's room he found Rafe still waiting with the guide. Sandburg looked as white as a sheet as he huddled in a chair by the side of his sentinel.
"Jim took a blow to the head. The doctors have done some tests and he should be okay, it's just a matter of waiting for him to come around. Sandburg is ... well ... listless. He hasn't moved in two hours. I don't think he's actually... well, all there at the moment. I haven't touched him. I'm afraid I'll hurt him."
"Let me take a look."
Simon leaned over him, careful to not touch the guide. "Sandburg... Blair, can you hear me?"
Blair's head came up and excitement shone in the deep blue eyes, "He's coming around. Jim, Jim, can you hear me?" The younger man's hands moved on his sentinel's arm and shoulder, fingers fluttering as he rejoiced in the renewed contact with his sentinel. Then a worried look marred the expressive face.
Jim started to come around slowly. At first, he was conscious of the pull at the back of his mind that carried the feeling of calming support and concern. Then he smelled a musky ginger scent mixed with the aroma of herbal shampoo. His brain connected that with someone important... his guide, his guide was here. He opened his eyes for a moment and moaned in pain. The voice was loud, "Simon, shut the light off now." It went dark and he focused on the person leaning over him, long hair swinging around a face with a concerned look, his guide. His guide's voice came again, "Jim, I need you to dial your eyesight down, imagine a dial, turn it from ten to three, can you do that for me? We need to see you and for that we need light. Jim, man, can you dial it down?"
Jim took a deep breath and slowly inched the dial down. The guide's face began to fade into shadows. The voice was still too loud, "Simon, put the light on."
Banks followed the guide's orders, noticing that Sandburg had addressed him by his first name. Kid must be really scared.
This time the light didn't bother him and he carefully inched the dial back up to a five, his normal tolerance.
A doctor was there. Dr Thompson was a GDP doctor, one of several working at Cascade Central trained to deal with sentinel or guide injuries. He was careful not to touch the guide as he asked,
"Guide, your barriers. How are they?"
Blair looked up and saw the black lines on the ID badge showing he was a GDP Doctor. He swiftly dropped his head and looked down, "My barriers are still up, Officer Doctor." He remembered the correct form of address from the correction facility. He could understand why the doctor was there to look after Jim, but his presence brought back memories of the cold clinical touch he had endured after Wilson's disciplines. He had always been treated as if it was his fault.
Seeing the guide's very real fear for his sentinel, Dr Thompson allowed his tone to soften and become reassuring. He could see some of the tension drain from the guide as he learned that his sentinel was going to be okay; that all he needed was rest and he would be fine.
"Can you tell me the name of your guide?" Thompson directed the question to the sentinel.
Jim looked at the young man, "He's my guide, what other name does he need?"
The doctor saw Sandburg's worry, guides were always nervous when their sentinels were injured. "Right, Sentinel. Can you tell me your name?"
"Sentinel Ellison," Ellison's voice was matter of fact.
Sandburg's look of concern became one of alarm. Jim never called himself Sentinel Ellison, he always said that he had worked to be a detective, and being a sentinel was just genetic. Something was wrong here. Blair shot a scared glance at Captain Banks.
"Can you remember what you were doing when you got injured?"
"We approached a vehicle in which was a sentinel who had zoned." Ellison's tone went hard, "My guide disobeyed me, disgraced me in public." His hand suddenly lashed out and he caught Blair's long hair and yanked him over. Blue eyes were ice cold as he snapped, "We will discuss that later, Guide." Simon shivered at the feral threat in that promise. Ellison released the young man with a hard shove so that he landed on the floor. "Stay there, Guide." As if Blair had ceased to exist, he turned his attention to Simon, "Captain Banks, when can I get out of here?"
"Doctor?" Simon was looking with concern at his detective. Ellison could be impatient, he could be hard, but he would never knowingly treat the kid the way he just did. Unknowingly, Banks echoed Sandburg's thoughts, Something is wrong here.
"The test results have come in. If there are no complications he can leave tomorrow morning. I'll have a bed made up for your guide in here." As Jim nodded the doctor turned to Simon, "Captain Banks, we have some paper work to complete, just one moment."
Simon Banks caught up with the doctor at the nurses' station, "Doctor, what's going on? I have never seen Jim act that way. He would never throw his guide to the floor like that. He was hurt when the building exploded today. The incident he spoke about with the sentinel happened yesterday."
"Captain Banks, I can understand your concern about Sentinel Ellison but his actions towards his guide are perfectly natural. To us they may seem harsh but it is in the guide's best interests to be kept controlled. He can easily get overloaded."
Simon began to fume. Why couldn't this moron see there was something seriously wrong with Jim Ellison? The Jim Ellison he knew would never have thrown the kid to the floor.
"So what is wrong with Detective Ellison?" Maybe he could get a straight answer if he kept the question simple.
"Sentinel Ellison has traumatic amnesia. He appears to have forgotten the last 24 hours. His memory should return in the next few days but until then there really is nothing to worry about, Captain. He appears to be behaving perfectly natural. I can understand your fears but don't worry. I expect a complete recovery for Sentinel Ellison."
"We were going camping this weekend." Simon wasn't sure why he said that but Thompson took it as a question.
" Well, if no complications develop tonight Ellison may go. It could help him. He would be relaxed and it could speed up the recovery of his memory, but he would need watching."
"We can do that, Doctor." Banks smiled in relief. Yes, that might do it. Get Jim, and the kid, away from everything.
"We, Captain?" the doctor queried.
"Yes, Jim was going with me, my son, and his guide."
"Captain, Captain, you don't have to take the guide with you. Sentinel Ellison is well able to manage without him as long as he doesn't use his senses. We can easily have him put in a GDP hostel while you're camping. He will be looked after in the best possible place for him and Sentinel Ellison will not be burdened with his care while he is recovering."
Simon shook his head. "Won't he overload without his sentinel there? In Sentinel 101, it said that..."
"I'm pleased that you bothered to read that book, Captain, many people don't and it can lead to problems. But let me put your mind at rest on this point. The hostel has specially prepared rooms; the guide is cut off from stimuli so that even if his barriers do erode he can't be hurt. We have found that a course of IV medication also helps."
"I've seen that." Simon remembered all too vividly picking Blair up from the hostel when Jim had been shot working the Robinson murder case. The kid had been doped up to the eyeballs, his barriers almost nil. He had been highly suggestible and Simon had had to treat him with kid gloves. No way was he going to let that happen to the kid again. Jim had better get his memory, and his act, together fast or everything he had accomplished with the kid would go down the tubes.
"I would suggest that you go now, Captain, and let Sentinel Ellison get some sleep."
Simon decided to look in on Jim on his way home. He had received word that the sentinel was back at the loft and to be honest he was concerned about his friend.
The door was opened just before he could knock. He grinned at the sentinel and mock complained, "I hate it when you do that, Jim. One of these days you're going to have to let me at least knock."
He stepped through the door and stopped dead in his tracks. "JIM, what the hell's going on here?" Sandburg was on his knees, hands behind his back, head down; an obvious tremor ran through the younger man's body.
Jim totally ignored his guide, "Coffee, Simon?"
"Jim, you didn't answer me. Why is Sandburg on his knees in the middle of your living room?"
"My guide disobeyed me in public. He must learn to show respect for his betters." Ellison's words were casual, as if he didn't see his captain's shocked expression or hear the disapproval in his voice.
"For gods' sake, how long has he been down there?"
"Two hours." Ellison turned toward the refrigerator, "Milk and sugar, Simon?"
"Jim, get him up now." Banks put every ounce of authority he owned into that order.
Ellison just looked straight at Simon and shrugged, "Guide, to your room."
Blair slowly straightened up. Simon's breath caught in his throat as he saw the bloody lip and the bruises on Sandburg's face and jaw. Simon ignored the sentinel and quickly bent to help the younger man up to his feet. Simon could feel the pain shuddering through the slight body he supported. The guide could barely walk for the cramping in his legs.
Blair avoided looking at Simon as he murmured his thanks before pulling away from the captain. He managed to get to his room and sink down on the bed. He heard a plate bang down outside of his room. The food on it would be cold, scraps from the meal he had cooked Jim earlier. He closed his arms around himself and hugged tightly. There was something seriously wrong with Jim. He had known the guy for a month now and Ellison had never raised a hand to him; yet the moment they had set foot in the loft, a backhanded blow across his face had knocked him down. Coldly and efficiently, his sentinel had informed him of his failings, punctuating his remarks with additional slaps. Then he'd been forced onto his knees and ordered to remain there. He grimaced; he'd been too scared to do anything but furtively watch Ellison as best he could, not sure what he'd do if the sentinel came after him again. Simon's arrival had been both a relief and an embarrassment. Jim had always treated him with respect, had demanded that the other officers do the same. But now Jim was behaving as if he was an errant puppy and Simon had watched him do it. But why, what had happened to turn Jim into his worst nightmare?
Okay, Sandburg, use the academic mind that got you your BA and MA. What exactly was happening to Jim? Start from when Jim woke up at the hospital, what was different? Their connection, Jim always opened up to him, okay there was that deep area closed to him at the beginning, but since the deeper bonding all that was open to him, all levels of Jim's emotions. At the hospital, it was as if he was caught in a corridor, the doors on both sides closed to him. The head injury had taken the real Jim Ellison away from him, and replaced him with the dark sentinel's blacker emotions. The primal sentinel and Jim were now tightly bound together and he had lost the most important part of Jim, the caring, intelligent man Blair had grown to trust. What was he facing now?
Blair lay back on the bed and pulled his knees up. He could hear Simon and Jim talking, the Captain complaining about Jim's treatment of him. So what could he do? Jim had demanded that he keep his barriers down, so he was relying only on him for protection. He could wait for Jim to come out of this himself or help it along. Blair gingerly fingered his face, the bruises were coming up on his jaw, and his lip was crusted with dry blood. Jim's actions had to be caused by some type of massive trauma induced zone out.
The events of the day caught up with him while he was still trying to figure out a plan and he fell asleep on top of the bed. When he awoke it was three o'clock in the morning. Carefully, he got out of the bed, keeping sound to a minimum. While he slept, he had made up his mind and he moved slowly towards the door, all too aware that his sentinel would have thrown a sensory net over the loft. With a bit of luck, Jim would be used to his movements at night and just dismiss them. His goal was Jim's jacket. The sentinel still had the white noise generator there and if he was to use the phone he needed it to cover any noise. He didn't even want to think about what Jim would do in his current state if he found him on the phone.
He breathed a sigh of relief that Jim hadn't taken it up to bed with him. His sentinel sometimes used it to help him get to sleep at night if he was overloaded. Blair switched it on and pulled out his cell phone and began to dial. He prayed that Leo Kessler was still at the same North Street apartment he lived in when they were both at Rainier. An eccentric, Leo had helped him hide from the GDP. He knew more about the sentinel/guide condition than the quacks from the GDP, if anyone could help him pull Jim out of it he could. Blair waited on edge while the phone rang. When he finally heard a voice on the other end of the line, he breathed a sigh of relief. Thank God Kessler was still a night person. Blair paused, if Jim had detected the white noise generator he would have stormed down the stairs and kicked the door in. Nothing happened and he exhaled slowly, he had managed to pull it off. Keeping his voice down, he began to quickly explain the problem. Ten minutes later, he switched the generator off and returned it to Jim's jacket. He retrieved the food but the sight of it made him sick to his stomach. He pushed the cold food away from him in disgust.
He had seen another type of life open to him, one where he was treated with respect as an equal. He had gained a friend, as well as a sentinel, in Jim Ellison and he wasn't going to give that up without a struggle.
Simon was in his office, debating whether he should call and check up on Jim. Without Ellison and his guide, things were back to normal, or what passed for normal at Major Crimes. That somewhat guilty thought had just crossed his mind when Rafe came rushing in with only a small knock, almost as an afterthought, on the door. He sounded disbelieving as he reported, "Captain, Jim's here and, and you won't believe what he's doing." Simon hurriedly put the file down, concerned by the worry in Rafe's voice. He looked out into the bullpen, took one look at what was going on and yelled, "Ellison, my office NOW."
Jim came in with his guide at his shoulder. He took the offered seat and Blair sank to his knees, his head down in the perfect posture of a working guide. Simon noticed that Jim's hand rested on the back of the younger man's neck. The captain had come to realize that particular touch meant that Ellison was allowing his guide to connect through the pathway to him; at least he was helping the kid keep his barriers up.
"What the hell are you doing at work, Ellison? The doctor told you to take the week off." Simon wasn't quite ready to tackle the sentinel issues.
"I have cases to work on, Captain, a city to protect. I can't do that at home." Ellison sounded surprised that he should have to point out something so obvious to his superior.
"Go home, Jim, and take your guide with you. And I don't want to see you making him do that in the bullpen again, understand me?"
"He's still on punishment," Jim looked down at his guide thoughtfully and flexed his fingers. Simon saw Sandburg flinch but he made no sound. Ellison considered a moment and then said grudgingly, "You're right, Captain, my apologies for bringing it into the bullpen."
"Right." Thank God that Jim was starting to see sense, but what still worried him was the man's iciness. He had known Jim since he first arrived in Major Crimes, the man could be stoic but he had never seen him this distanced.
Ellison sounded thoughtful as he said, "I'll put him in the GDP hostel. They warned me he was rogue, that he hadn't finished his training, and they were right. They'll put him through his paces. I can collect him when we come back from camping next week; they should have taught him some manners by then."
Simon heard the guide's muffled gasp, knew the terror Ellison's words must hold for the young man. He knew his face must show his total shock as he ground out, "For God's sake, Jim, you know what those bastards did to him. You can't send him back there, not for one hour, much less a week."
Jim could hear his guide's heart rate skyrocketing and felt the tremors racing through his body. For a moment there was a blinding pain in his head as he thought of something. Then the pain was gone but so was the thought, he tried to recapture it but it had been too fleeting.
"You're on the sick list, detective. Take your guide, go home and rest."
Jim nodded, maybe he should. He couldn't shake the feeling that there was something very wrong going on here. The fear coming off his guide was un-nerving him.
As he got up, he tapped his guide on the shoulder in the signal for him to get to his feet. The sentinel didn't even have to speak to a properly trained guide to get him to obey. Blair tucked himself behind his sentinel. He had to be properly trained now; Jim wasn't Jim anymore. Remembering his training, he acknowledged no one nor would he speak to anyone without the sentinel's permission. He had already received a sharp clip on the head as a reminder earlier. To repeat the crime would enrage this version of his sentinel. Alex Barnes had been like this. If she saw him speak to anyone in public, he would pay for it in private. When she got him back to their room, she would punish him; his body still bore the scars. Jim was a lot stronger and could inflict more damage.
Blair held tight to the fabric of Jim's coat with one hand; the other was resting on the sentinel's forearm. His fingers flexed against the muscles as the pathway opened to him. At least Jim had not slammed the connection shut. Isolation from his sentinel was the worst thing that could happen to a guide; it left him exposed to the emotions of others. Even now, when Jim had turned into someone Blair no longer recognized, his sentinel shielded him. The young guide tried desperately to find some hope in that simple act.
Henderson grinned as he saw Ellison stop to talk to Carolyn Plummer and the guide took his proper position on the floor. Ellison's hand touched his guide's back in the signal that he was to stay before he moved away, severing the connection between the two of them. Sandburg's barriers must be low, Henderson thought, the guide visibly trembled as if buffeted by the emotions of the people around him.
Henderson's smile widened. This was more like it; he was making the kid toe the line. Ellison must have finally seen through all the crap the kid was putting out. As he walked past Sandburg, he deliberately touched the guide. Blair could not stop a moan of pain as Henderson's hatred and loathing tore through him.
Ellison turned fast at the sound. He caught Henderson and slammed him into the wall. His face contorted into a savage mask as his hand tightened on Henderson's neck.
Henderson's partner made a lunge at Jim. Blair pushed the pain back and threw himself at the police officer, bringing him down in a bone-jarring fall. Blair bit his lip to keep from screaming as the man's emotions flooded him. "Keep him out of the way," Blair snapped at Carolyn as he got to his feet and went to his sentinel.
Blair was shaking with the aftershock of being touched but he managed to hook his left arm around Jim's left arm as his right hand played along Jim's back in long strokes. Using touch, voice and his empathic skills, he tried to calm the raging temper of the dark sentinel. Jim felt the hand on his back, the gentle push in his mind and then the calming presence of his guide as he channelled away the anger. He could feel the warmth of his guide's body as it pressed against him, he felt centered again, whole. His voice was a low snarl as he warned the man who had dared touch his guide, "If you ever touch him again, I will kill you, Henderson." He threw the police officer aside, dismissing him from his attention once the message was delivered.
At the sound of footsteps, he turned and snagged his guide, pushing him down to the floor. Blair slid down into position, hands behind his back, head down. His pathways were wide open; Henderson's brutal emotions and his sentinel's rage had robbed him of any control over his barriers. Only Jim's touch on the back of his neck kept him linked to his sentinel, to the man he was dependant on to keep him safe. Blair fought to stay conscious as his body shivered in shock.
Carolyn ignored Jim's conversation with Simon and moved forward slowly. Her initial dislike of Blair had slowly changed to acceptance as she saw the effect the young guide had on her ex-husband. She bent over, "Blair, are you all right?" Sandburg didn't answer, only shook harder. "Its okay, Blair. It's only me, Carolyn, can you look at me?"
She saw him shake his head, hair hiding his face. That single movement drew the sentinel's attention to him and she watched as his hand flexed on the back of the guide's neck. Carolyn didn't think he hurt him, but it was obviously a reminder of his place.
Jim looked down at his guide, taking in the shudders that raced through the young man kneeling at his feet. Hands that had been like steel softened their touch. Ellison knelt down, his fingers ghosted over the too-thin body, checking that he was unhurt. He could sense the aftermath of Henderson's assault in the guide's ragged breathing and cold, clammy skin. Jim gathered his guide to him and escorted him out, ignoring Carolyn and Simon.
Carolyn turned, "Simon, we need to talk. That's just not JIM!"
"My office." Carolyn read Simon's agreement and concern in the dark eyes that met hers.
Simon poured coffee and handed a cup to Carolyn. As she took a seat, he Spotted a piece of white paper pressed into the side of the chair where Sandburg had been kneeling. He bent and retrieved it. The writing was cramped but it was recognizably Sandburg's. Simon read what the guide thought was going on with his sentinel. Sandburg had given them a real starting point in figuring out what was wrong but Banks could only think of the risk the kid had taken in leaving the note. Once again, Simon was impressed with the courage shown by a young man who had known more than his share of trouble.
"What is it, Simon?" Plummer's voice called him back from his musings.
"A message from Sandburg, he thinks he knows what's wrong with Jim. Dammit, we need a doctor, but one who's at least sympathetic not a cold GDP bastard... Sorry, Carolyn, its just..."
"Its okay, Simon, you're upset and worried about Jim." And Blair, she thought, watching as Simon twisted the note into a ball. "Look, there's a doctor I know, names Samuel Hurst. He works as a consultant at Cascade General, he's dealt with guides and sentinels before." She didn't add that she had sought him out after her first meeting with her newly on-line sentinel ex-husband. She had touched Sandburg at the wrong time, sending him into massive shock, and had narrowly escaped serious injury at Jim's hands.
"Can you get him over here now?"
"I'll do my best. We have to help them both. Jim will hate what he's doing to Blair."
Carolyn returned, shaking her head slowly. "All Dr Hurst said was that Jim is acting in a normal way towards his guide and there's no problem. Jerk!" she added angrily.
Simon snapped out an impatient, "Yes?" when his secretary Rhonda came in. She gave him her patented look of patience; the one that said she knew his bark was worse than his bite and she wasn't afraid of either.
"I have a Mr Kessler here for you."
"Kessler. Never heard of him. I'll see him later. Right now I've got bigger..."
"It's important, Captain. He said Blair contacted him."
Simon and Carolyn exchanged looks before the captain said, "Send him in, Rhonda."
Leo Kessler was a surprise, not what Simon had expected. He was a buff looking man in his late twenties and built more like a linebacker than an academic.
"Captain Banks? I'm Leo Kessler, a friend of Blair Sandburg."
"This is Lieutenant Carolyn Plummer. Please take a seat, Mr Kessler, and tell us how we can help you."
"Lets cut through the crap, Captain," he nodded at Carolyn. "Sorry for the language but we can spend the next half hour making polite conversation or we can get down to the reason I am here." Banks said gruffly, "By all means, Mr. Kessler, tell us why you are here."
"Last night I got a call from Blair Sandburg. I knew him at Rainier and was one of those who tried to protect him from the GDP." Kessler was all too aware that he was confessing to a crime here, there was a certain amount of defiance in his tone.
Simon leaned back in his chair. "I wondered how Sandburg kept out of their clutches as long as he did. Don't worry, Kessler, we're all friends here, aren't we, Carolyn?"
"Yes." She surprised herself in that she actually meant it.
"Blair was concerned about his sentinel," Kessler snorted in amusement, "He actually likes the guy. Anyway, he wanted to know what he could do to help him, I..."
"Mr Kessler..." Simon began.
"Leo, please, if we're all friends here."
"Leo, right. I got a note from Sandburg but maybe you can explain what the hell is really going on here."
Kessler settled himself in the chair and Simon gave a mental groan, he was in for a lecture.
"Blair said his sentinel has a memory problem. What appears to have happened is that when his sentinel..."
"Jim." Simon cut in, somehow that would make it sound less clinical.
"Okay, Jim. When Jim had a head injury it caused his behaviour to change. You've read Sentinel 101?" He waited until Simon nodded, "Good, now sentinels are born not created. If they are detected at birth, they go into the program run by the Sentinel Institute and its controlling body the GDP. There they are taught from a very young age that the guide is to be used to help them achieve their sentinel potential and that it is natural to treat them as a blind man would treat his seeing-eye dog." Kessler broke off as Banks snorted. "Captain, I'm merely reporting what happens during training. In these cases the sentinel and the man or woman is one and the same person, drawing on the same experiences and education to formulate their opinions and beliefs as to the worth of the guides. With a latent sentinel, which is what Blair described Ellison as, the personality of the man is already defined; he is his own person before the senses ever come into play. The sentinel persona is an addition to that, the two collide, the sentinel is instinct and the man is reason. As time passes, the sentinel tries to "take over" and that leads to the Fincham Syndrome"
Simon cut in, "That's when the sentinel's abilities go on-line and, without a guide to help him, his senses can overload and insanity and death follow. I'm aware of that. In fact, Jim was heading for that when he and Sandburg bonded."
"Damn! Blair didn't mention that. Must have been a hell of a bonding experience for him, poor kid. Anyway, when Blair meshed with him, he was able to use his empathic ability to calm and control his sentinel, absorbing his anger, keeping him from zoning or bringing him out of them with their connection. Most sentinels demand that their guides suppress their barriers all the time. They are then dependant on their sentinels to shield them from outside emotions. Jim, it appears, allows Blair to keep his barriers up and to decide himself when he wants to lower them, only occasionally ordering him to lower them. He also allows Blair to connect whenever he needs the sentinel's own emotional strength to steady and support him. I'm not sure you two are aware of how incredibly rare that kind of forbearance on the part of a sentinel is. For someone like Blair, who fought against bonding his whole life, it was a Godsend."
Simon thought back to Sandburg's first weeks in the bullpen. The young guide had been severely traumatized by the brutal "training" regime of the GDP correction facility, afraid to so much as breathe without the express permission of his sentinel. Gradually, Ellison had gotten the kid to relax, to start thinking of himself as a person in his own right again and not just a handy tool for the sentinel's use. He hated to think that an accident would send Sandburg back into his shell, and it would kill Jim, in his right mind, to know he caused it. Kessler was lecturing again.
"Now Jim is a Dark Sentinel, that is, the most powerful and primal sentinel there is. When Blair meshed with him, he was allowed access to most of Jim's emotions but there was a section that was blocked off. He wasn't worried because, to quote him, "The guy's a private person and he wasn't shutting him out deliberately." Anyway, there was an incident and Jim went ballistic on him, turned feral." Carolyn made a small sound of surprise and even Simon looked taken aback.
"Okay, you obviously don't know about this. Right... okay..." Kessler hesitated.
"Go ahead, Jim's a friend and so is Blair, only don't tell him that." Simon put in with a wry smile.
"Blair came back with the scent of another sentinel on him and Jim went into a dark zone. He was operating on pure instinct. He re-affirmed their bonding and bit Blair on the neck."
"I saw that." Simon looked shocked, "I thought it was the girl Blair went home with..."
"No, we believe that was the way a primitive sentinel marked his guide. We actually know very little about dark sentinels and their behavior. Ellison's actions must have been a racial memory and that brings up some fascinating questions for study." Kessler trailed off as he realized that his audience couldn't care less about the research possibilities of this particular sentinel/guide pair. He coughed and got back on track. "Anyway, they bonded and Blair said the connection went much deeper than before and the block broke open. The Dark Sentinel completely merged with Ellison's personality; they are one and the same now with the "Jim" personality in control, the sentinel coming to the fore as and when needed, two halves of the same coin. Jim is a decent person, so Blair tells me, so his personality and his sentinel persona mix to create the man that you know, sensory power and ability mixed with compassion and humanity. This blockage that Blair talks of has trapped, for want of a better word, Jim's joint persona behind it, leaving only the incomplete Dark Sentinel in control. This Dark Sentinel is confused and therefore applying what he was taught, perhaps feeling more in control if he makes his guide conform to the normal standards of guide behavior as laid down by the GDP. Ellison did a year at the Sentinel Institute, right?"
"Yes, when he was in the army." Simon was impatient, "Would drugs clear the blockage? The hospital doctors said..." Kessler interrupted him.
"Most times sentinels "re-set" themselves, their body and mind healing without outside intervention. Ellison should pull out of this but Blair wanted to try something and I agreed with him that it was worth the risk. If only for the knowledge we could gain."
"I don't think that Sandburg's primary motive is research, Kessler," Simon said dryly, "What's Blair planning?"
"Blair's idea is to push against the blockage and try to force himself through it. They are already deeply meshed and he gets deep into Jim's mind when they connect. This would build on what they already have."
Simon nodded, "They are very close, almost like brothers. Everyone can see that."
"Surprised the hell out of us," Carolyn murmured.
"How long have they been bonded, Captain Banks?"
"Approximately four weeks." Seems much longer.
"Ideally, I would prefer it to be much longer but... any idea how strong an empath Blair is?"
"His record said that he was at least an eight, he wasn't very cooperative so they weren't sure exactly where he rated. Is that strong?"
"At least an eight. He *is* strong; he should be able to do this."
"Is he in any danger? I mean, Jim was not exactly gentle with him."
Kessler shrugged, "Well, breaking the blockage could drain Blair badly. I would be surprised if Ellison did hurt him but breaking the blockage could be very painful for the sentinel and he might lash out. I don't think he would damage him too badly. And, after all, Sandburg's a guide; they have to expect this sort of thing."
Simon just looked at him and schooled his features so they wouldn't show his disgust. He couldn't believe that Kessler would dismiss a sentinel assaulting a guide as normal. For Gods' sake, the guy was supposedly Blair's friend! Have we all been so brainwashed that we don't see the slavery of the guides right in front of our own eyes? How can intelligent people accept this? No, Simon, keep calm. Yelling at the man won't help Jim or Blair.
"If Sandburg's successful, the guide and sentinel will need to come together again. The best thing would be to isolate them somewhere."
"Well, Jim was going camping."
"Just the two of them?" Kessler asked. He shook his head. "I suggest you go with them. If the sentinel meets other people it could spark his territorial imperative. I know you've read Sentinel 101. Follow that book to the letter and let the isolation do the rest." Kessler was thoughtful, "There is a sentinel retreat in the mountains. Check with the GDP, if no one is using it book it for Ellison and Sandburg. They'll need to go through the rituals to renew their bonding and the retreat is a perfect place for that."
"Even if Sandburg is successful?" Simon asked.
"If he can do it, the answer is still yes. Even if the blockage clears naturally then yes again. This is needed. Its very important to help them regain their balance as a pair."
"When should they go?"
"As soon as possible. Captain, please don't worry. You will get your detective back; it will just take time. The retreat could speed up the process."
"We'll do it. If he hurts the kid, Jim would never be able to live with himself. Thank you for coming in, Leo."
"Like I said Blair is a friend. Get him to call me when this has been sorted out."
"I'll do that." Simon rose and offered his hand to the other man. Carolyn offered to see him out. As Simon watched Leo Kessler leave he couldn't rid himself of the notion that he had missed something important. Kessler had been a great help and Blair knew him, so why did he get the feeling there was something wrong with him? He pushed the thought aside; his personal feelings could wait. Right now he had reservations to make and a trip to plan. Banks picked up the phone, "Rhonda, get me GDP headquarters, Captain Mason, now."
Once back at the loft, Jim secured his territory, scanning his surroundings and locking the doors and windows. Then he picked up the afghan from the back of the sofa and tossed it onto the floor. He pushed his guide down with a curt command, "Stay."
Blair's temper flared and before he knew what he was doing he got to his feet and challenged the sentinel, "What the hell do you think I am? Some sort of pet you can order around? If that's what you think you can go &*&* yourself, you emotionally retarded throwback."
Jim turned back to him slowly and Blair had a sudden vision of how his prior sentinel had answered his rare moments of defiance. Blair dove for his room. He slammed the lock on the door and then threw the ones on the fire exit. Blair was already flying down the fire escape when he heard the sentinel scream his name.
Blair dropped the last six feet and pain knifed through his ankle as he landed. He fell sideways, landing in the large puddle that always collected under the fire escape. Rain was beating down heavily as he pulled himself to his feet and limped away. He hid in one of the alleys, his heart thumping wildly. He was alone, his barriers were almost gone and he had no sentinel to shield him. At that thought, he flinched. Jim would be hunting him but not to shield him. No sentinel would let his guide get away with what he had just done. Blair edged to the mouth of the alley and saw the blue and white truck pull out from the parking lot. He had nowhere to run. All he could do was go back to the loft and pray that by the time Jim arrived home he would have cooled off. God, who was he kidding? Jim would hospitalise him for daring to talk to him like that. He shuddered, already he could feel the emotions of the people around him starting to creep into him. He limped heavily back towards the loft, keeping himself against the wall to avoid any contact with the people on the street. Another touch would ... he didn't want to even think about it.
He fished out his key, unlocking the door. His hand hit the light switch and nothing happened. Puzzled, he moved into the loft. The lights were on elsewhere in the building so why...
"Finished running, Guide?" Cold, flat words came from behind him.
Blair spun around and saw the sentinel come through the door, backlit by the light from the corridor. He looked lethal before the door closed behind him and his expression was lost in the gloom.
Blair froze. God no, God no, God no. Please, please no! Panicked, he dropped onto his knees. Hot pain shot through his ankle and he fell onto his side. He couldn't get back on his knees so he stretched out on his stomach and pulled his hands behind his back, in the most submissive posture a guide could assume. It was too dark for him to see anything and if Jim was making any noise, Blair couldn't hear it over the pounding of his heart.
Ellison closed the distance between them. When he reached out, Blair seemed to sense it and attempted to pull away. Jim flipped him roughly on his back and grabbed the front of his guide's jacket, pulling him close. The darkness was no obstacle to sentinel eyes and he could see the confusion and fear on his guide's face. Ellison's nose twitched as he smelled the terror rolling off the younger man in waves. He could see his guide shivering and hear the chattering of his teeth. He felt a cold hand touch his arm and the attempt to connect with him. Jim slammed the path shut on his end and his guide flinched and gasped sharply. Fierce instincts demanded that the young man he held be punished for what he had dared to do, for running from his sentinel. The guide was claimed and marked, his property, yet he had dared to run. But at the same time, his heart knew that would be a betrayal of everything they meant to each other. He felt another vicious shudder run through the fragile body, the guide was cold and he could see the blue tint to his lips even in the dark. He was hurting, pain etched on the expressive face.
Ellison swayed as pain knifed through his head and vertigo threatened his balance. The need to punish the guide warred with the need to care for the guide and his brain was the battlefield. The pain burned through his head again and he stopped fighting. He went with the strongest need, the one that was now overtaking his conscious mind. The sentinel changed his hold on his captive and half-carried/half-dragged him to the sofa. He pushed him firmly onto it and ordered sharply, "Stay put this time, guide." Straightening up, he rubbed his temples as he walked away.
Blair sat shivering with cold and shock, afraid to move. He could draw no strength from his sentinel, could not connect to the bond they shared but he had been battered by the sentinel's warring emotions. Knew that if the primal sentinel won, he was going to be hurt, hurt badly. He could see only vague shadows as Jim moved around the loft. He wondered when he'd feel the first blow, wondered if he'd gone for the restraints every rogue guide was required to keep handy for his sentinel's use. The loud pop as the fire came on made him jump. It lit the room with a reddish glow that was enough to let him see the sentinel return with an armful of blankets. They were deposited on the floor in front of the fireplace.
Jim suddenly seemed to appear in front of him. He reached down and collected Blair in his arms. Blair made himself stay still as he was moved over to the pile of blankets. Firm hands pushed him down and started to slowly strip him off. Blair choked on a muted scream and began to struggle violently. He swung a fist from his awkward position, it connected with Ellison's head but there was no power behind the blow. Ellison caught his hands and pinned them above his head even as he straddled the thrashing body. God, no! He was helpless, unable to free himself from the sentinel's hold. But he tried, God, he tried. Twisting and turning, bucking against the larger body straddling his thighs, he tried until his strength drained away. Finally, he lay still, his breath coming in tearing gasps as he fought to hang onto what remained of his center, of his sanity. He reminded himself fiercely that this was not Jim, that in his right mind, Jim would not...would not...
Jim's free hand cupped his face, the thumb along the side of his jaw, strong fingers gently stroking his cheek. The sentinel was making low soothing noises deep in his throat even as his hand slipped from his face to cradle the back of his neck, offering connection. Tentatively, Blair reached for the bond between them. For a moment, he flinched at the intense emotions that were running through his sentinel. Then as he sorted through them, his terror calmed. Jim wasn't all the way back yet but the sentinel was not being driven by thoughts of punishment. Uppermost in his mind was the need to protect his guide, to care for him, with an underlying confusion at his guide's fear. One side of the blockage had splintered, releasing the protective, possessive emotions of the Dark Sentinel. The older man still lacked the direction of the mixed Jim Ellison/Sentinel persona, but Blair knew that even instinct-driven, Jim would not hurt him. He sent his trust and a sense of peace back to the sentinel and relaxed under Ellison's weight, comforted by and secure in their connection.
The sentinel smiled, everything was going to be all right now. Ellison released Blair's hands and moved off his legs to kneel at his side. His voice was a low rumble, "You're cold. These wet things must come off." Blair allowed his sentinel to help him shed his clothes, which were tossed out of the way. Then he was wrapped up in the blankets. Only then, when he was covered, did Ellison start to massage some warmth back into the chilled limbs. Jim's head was tilted to one side as he monitored his guide's body temperature, it had risen a few degrees but he was still cold. Laying a reassuring hand on his guide's shoulder, Jim got up and went into the kitchen.
Curled up in the blankets, Blair's mind went into overdrive. Jim had scared him. When he had started to pull at his clothing, all the old nightmares had come back to haunt him. Even after Jim had stopped undressing him and just let him exhaust himself he had to fight against his fears. Only the knowledge that this was Jim had kept him from completely freaking out.
Blair's eyes widened as he saw the panther come out of the darkness. It padded towards him and he lay perfectly still as it sniffed his hair. Its broad head knocked him gently under the chin as purrs rumbled in its throat. The big cat looked over its shoulder and growled. A wolf trotted out and despite the events of the night, Blair felt a smile on his lips. The panther growled again and then flattened the wolf, pinning it down and grooming it with rough strokes of its tongue. For a moment human eyes met canine eyes, human guide and spirit guide passing a message. "Brother, I know what you're going through. Sentinels, huh?" The wolf wrinkled its nose as if in agreement with Blair's thought. Only then did Blair realise that it was the spirit guides that he had been missing. This was the first time he had seen them since Jim's head injury, it gave him hope that Jim was returning to him.
The sentinel returned with a packet of frozen peas. He sat back down and lifted Blair's foot into his lap. He had detected the injured ankle when he had pulled off Blair's sneakers. The ankle was swollen and his touch was firm but careful not to inflict pain on his guide as he gently probed the injury. "No bones broken but its badly sprained. You'll have to keep off it." Ellison placed the peas over the ankle and used cushions to elevate the foot before carefully draping a blanket over it. Ellison went to throw another log on the fire. Coming back past the nest on the floor, his hand dropped onto Blair's head in a gentle benediction before he was gone. Blair snuggled into the blankets; the warmth from the fire was finally seeping into his chilled flesh and drowsiness accompanied it. He could hear his sentinel walking around the loft; he would swear that Jim was patrolling his territory.
When Blair awoke, the loft was still dark. But he could see Jim by the flickering firelight. The sentinel sat some distance away from him, legs crossed, hands resting on his knees, back straight. He was so motionless that for a moment Blair panicked, thinking Jim had zoned. Then he saw that the sentinel was moving his head slightly, tracking something normal ears couldn't hear. Blair shuddered as he realized that his barriers had completely eroded while he slept.
"Sentinel, I..." His voice faltered, Jim had told him to never be afraid to ask if he ever needed to bond but he was now unsure.
He started to push himself up and Ellison snapped, "Stay still, guide." Blair subsided; Jim wasn't back yet. Then the sentinel added, "Your barriers are gone aren't they?"
"Yes." There was no point in lying. The sentinel seemed to look straight through him for a moment.
Ellison studied his guide. While the younger man had slept, the sentinel had found himself summoned to a dream. He had stood guard in the ruins of the sentinel temple as the shaman worked. Another part of the blockage had cleared from his mind and he had been overwhelmed with the need to protect his guide. When his guide had settled for the night, he had curled himself around the smaller body and anchored his senses to the younger man's unique smell and sound and taste and feel. Then he had cast them out to form a sensory net to protect them both. He had been more on line than ever before in his life. Only with his guide could he protect his tribe or avenge them against evil. When he felt his guide beginning to awaken, he sat up and waited until deep blue eyes opened sleepily. As the younger man obeyed his command to be still, he swept him with his senses. His guide was hungry, cold, and needed contact to maintain his barriers. At least he wouldn't try to run again until his sentinel got him back on his feet.
Ellison got to his feet and went to the kitchen. He microwaved a plate of food and brought it back to the living room. Setting it down by the makeshift bed, he sat down and gently propped his guide against his chest. He pushed the plate into still shaky hands and commanded softly, "Eat." He encouraged his guide to eat, rubbing his shoulders and arms, sheltering him with his own body until the plate was empty and the younger man was drowsy. Jim felt contentment settle over him, his guide was safe in his territory, he was warm, he had a full stomach, and was sliding into sleep; he was where he belonged.
On the edge of sleep, Blair heard the sentinel make a contented noise, almost a purr. Blair yawned, his barriers were gone but he could feel the shielding of his sentinel, his burning need to protect him. Warm hands carded through his hair, easing the headache that was the legacy of the intense events of the day, soothed tight muscles in his neck and shoulders. His body slowly began to relax and he eased into sleep under his sentinel's hands.
Blair awoke as early morning light crept through the windows. Jim lay atop the nest of blankets that he was buried in, his head rested against Jim's hip, Jim's hand on his shoulder.
"You awake, Sandburg?" Blair lifted his head and looked up, only to feel a large hand ease him back down. His heart jumped, the sentinel had called him Sandburg not guide; maybe Jim was starting to come back.
"If you need to connect, do it now. Its alright." There was a softness to that voice that hadn't been there before. The sentinel patted him absently before he went back to sleep. Blair felt along the pathway. He was able to get deep this time and there was only one block left. He pushed against it, judging its strength and then relaxed. He decided to risk it, the worse thing Jim could do was beat him and he had survived that before from the hands of Barnes and the GDP correction guards. He channelled all his power into pushing against the block and then tried again harder. He could feel it bend and buckle but his strength was nearly exhausted and there was a sharp, burning pain in his head. He would have tried again but Jim moaned in pain. The sentinel's shoulders and head lifted up as he woke and searched for what had awakened him but his mind was not clear. Instinctively, he leaned forward and pulled Blair against him, wrapping him in his arms. He inhaled the scent of his guide and slid peacefully back into sleep, his face pressed against the junction of Blair's shoulder and neck. This time Blair allowed their connection to be dormant, content to allow his sentinel's closeness to start rebuilding his fried barriers. With a soft sigh, he huddled closer. Jim felt a wave of contentment and drifted deeper into sleep. Somehow everything seemed righted, and another piece of the last block shimmered, weakened and cracked.
Simon pulled up in front of the loft and tried not to worry about what he was going to find this time. He had read Ellison the riot act on his last visit when he had discovered Blair on his knees with bruises on his face in some sort of bizarre punishment. Ellison had heard him out but with a smug look on his face that had nearly made him take a swing at him. He just hoped that this time he had not hurt the kid. At least Ellison had taken Banks' news that they would be using the sentinel retreat for their camping trip well. He threw his cigar down and ground it out with his heel. He got his emotions firmly under control and entered the building.
Jim opened the door an instant before he knocked and left it open for him to enter. The sentinel seemed happy, happier than he had seen him since the head injury, but at the same time he looked worried.
Simon followed his gaze to the corner of the room in time to see Sandburg slowly getting to his feet. The young man was clutching blankets around himself but enough of the fabric had slipped to allow Simon to see his lack of attire. Simon's voice went up an octave, "Sandburg, what happened to your clothes?" As the guide blushed, but didn't seem panicked, he added, "Just tell me it's a sentinel thing."
"It's a sentinel thing." Blair shot Jim a worried look as he automatically answered the Captain. He dropped his head, not meeting his sentinel's eyes.
Jim confirmed, "A sentinel thing, Simon. Sandburg, go get changed and start breakfast." Blair's head came up as he realised there was no anger in Jim's voice.
Blair was lost in thought as he cooked breakfast for his sentinel and captain. Once they had eaten, he would be allowed to eat the leftovers. Since Jim's injury, that had been their routine, a reminder that the guide was dependant on his sentinel for the very food that he ate. This morning, Jim had placed another two eggs in front of him as he was beating the eggs. "Make sure you make plenty, you still need to put some meat back on your bones." He'd said that casually before leaving to check on the camping gear. Blair wondered at that, it almost sounded as if Jim was allotting him a portion of his own.
When they had connected that morning, Blair had still detected a partial block but Jim looked and behaved as if he was almost back to normal. The Dark Sentinel was fully in control and only the Jim persona was waiting to return. The Dark Sentinel was hovering over him all the time, shadowing him, as if frightened that he would try and leave.
"Do you think the fishing's good up there, Jim?" Simon asked, trying to get things back on a more normal footing.
"They don't get many fishermen, so hopefully yes."
Blair tuned out on their talk and tried to figure out a way to finish getting rid of the blockage. He wanted, needed, his sentinel back. There was a knock at the door and Blair went to answer it. His heart shot into his mouth as two smiling GDP guards confronted him. He backed away, his face draining of color, his eyes flickering to the restraints and the overalls in the second guard's hands. He could see part of the black circle on the red material, marking him as correction facility fodder. Blair tried frantically to raise what little shields he had rebuilt as he felt the guards' eagerness to get their hands on him.
"Jim." He took another step back, pure panic in his voice. He saw the rage on his sentinel's face and fell to his knees. He dropped onto his stomach, his hands behind his back. The sentinel looked as if he was ready to kill someone and with dread he realised in his horror he had called him Jim. Had shown disrespect in front of the GDP. Guess I'm gonna find out how much of Jim is back, he thought, his panic growing.
Jim moved, a human blockade between his guide and the GDP. He could smell the fear rolling off his guide; hear the speeding up of his breathing. Jim's hand flew to his head. He felt as if his brain was being torn apart and then, suddenly, everything snapped back into focus.
"You're not needed." Blair's eyes went to his sentinel. That had sounded like Jim!
"Sentinel, you requested we take your guide into protective custody while you're on vacation."
"I've changed my mind. My senses have been acting up and I may need him."
"It's your decision but he is a rogue. I suggest you use these on him." The guard held out the restraints.
Jim's tone went ice cold and deadly. "You doubt my ability to control my guide?"
"No, sentinel, of course not." The guards backed up. They had seen Ellison's file, you simply did not mess with Dark Sentinels. Simon choked back a laugh as they left with comic haste.
The sentinel looked down at his guide and his heart fell. "Blair." He bent down and drew his guide to him. He gently lifted a too expressive face and cringed at the emotions written there... fear and, maybe he thought with a lifting of his heart, the beginnings of hope. He felt sickened as he traced the fading bruises with hypersensitive fingers. He could feel and hear a heart beating wildly as well as heat from the bruises he had inflicted on the slender body. He enfolded his guide in a protective embrace.
"I am so sorry, Blair. I don't know what happened. I could never..." he broke off, his voice shaking. Simon had never heard such emotion from the stoic detective.
"Jim?" Blair made the name a question.
"Chief." Blair pressed closer and clutched Ellison's shirt in both hands. Everything was going to be all right now. He relaxed into the embrace as a big hand guided his head down onto his sentinel's chest.
"Your barriers, Chief, let them go, all of them. I'm here. I won't let you get hurt."
Blair opened the link. Jim's emotions rushed through him for an endless moment: the fear, the shame, the remorse. Then he felt Jim's deep concern and caring warmth. He pushed deeper and the Dark Sentinel was there with all his fierce nature, the panther protecting its cub. Tempering that fierceness was the compassion and humanity that was so much a part of the powerful man who held him so tenderly in hands that could inflict so much damage. Blair's heart soared as he finally believed that his sentinel, his Jim Ellison was back.
The connection was wide open both ways. The sentinel allowed his senses to roam over the body he held as he checked his guide out, making sure that he was all right and that he hadn't hurt him. God, what had he done? What had happened to him? Ellison began to panic, his hands frantically skimming over the slender form pausing wherever he felt the heat of bruising, returning in ever-growing dismay to the injuries that were the result of his loss of control.
He heard a small intake of breath.
"Sorry, Chief." He breathed the words into the curly head pressed against his shoulder as he deeply inhaled the musky ginger scent of his guide underlying the fading smell of fear. He could feel his guide's presence calming him. Everything was going to be all right, his guide would see to that.
Simon sank down on a chair. Thank God, the two men were back in sync. The kid was clinging to Jim like he was the only thing he had. Simon relief was tempered by the sobering thought that he was right.
"We okay now, Chief?"
The truth of that one word flared through the pathway.
Jim carried Blair over to the sofa. He sat them down and settled Blair close to his side. The younger man rested his head against Jim, his hands closing over his sentinel's. Jim sighed in contentment. His guide was back where he should be, his equal, at this side.
They had plenty of time to go camping. The two of them needed this time of peace, sentinel and guide drawing strength from each other. Simon knew instinctively that Jim would not leave until Blair's barriers were in place again and he could protect himself. Then Simon would take them to the sentinel retreat to complete their healing.
The story continues in Sentinel Sanctuary.
Written by Susan Foster