Thanks to Ophite for letting me using elements of "Alternate Route".
And my thanks to Susan my beta reader for all her help, advice, and for making it the story that your reading today.
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 is to serve their sentinel, they become their property. Some guides turn rogue, and are hunted down by the sinster GDP, who have total power over them.
Rated PG-13+ for implied rape, h/c some violence nothing graphic.
Simon looked at the detectives at work in the bullpen of Major Crime, and focused on Jim Ellison. The man was a good cop; okay, he could give you frost bite at a hundred yards, but there was something about the man that Simon thought was too good to be lost to a storm of bad attitude. His detective was a former Army Ranger who had survived a helicopter crash that had killed his team, including the solider acting as his unbonded guide. The accident had sentenced him to 18 months in the Peruvian jungle. Ellison had been a sentinel but upon returning to Cascade his ability had gone off-line. Only occasionally did his abilities manifest, but that had been enough to help them crack some high profile cases. The other detectives, especially Simon, acted as watchers for their colleague to prevent him zoning out. But lately the zoning was getting worse; Jim's abilities were beginning to return. He needed a guide, someone with empathic abilities who was trained to help him fully develop his senses. But Jim had no interest in gaining a guide, he was far from silent on the subject, he considered it wrong for one person to "own" another, to force them to give up their lives to serve a sentinel, the mere mention of a guide was enough to put him in a foul mood for the rest of the day. And Ellison, in a foul mood, was a man to be avoided. Still, Simon had no option; he had to find a guide for his detective. Jim was beginning to be a danger to himself and others.
Doctor Jenson from the Rainier University Department of Sentinel Studies, and Simon's friend, was more that happy to help. She even profiled a guide for him. But everything Simon had tried so far so far had failed. Threatened with suspension, Ellison had attended the mixer meetings at the University where sentinels and guides met in the hope of bonding; but that tactic had been a disaster. Ellison had ended up putting two people in hospital. Amy Jenson had diagnosed him as a Dark Sentinel, a more primitive and much stronger sentinel than was usual. He had the same instincts to protect the tribe, but added a well-developed sense of vengeance. Dark Sentinels were rare, only two had been documented, and even those reports were pitifully short of information.
Simon waved Doctor Amy Jenson to a seat, but his face hardened when he recognised Captain Arthur Mason of the Guide Development Project, (GDP),"have a seat, both of you."
"Captain Banks, it was good of you to see me." Mason had the kind of voice that made Simon's skin creep
"If it weren't for Amy we wouldn't be having this conversation. So what's this all about?"
Mason smiled, "It's about Sentinel Detective James Ellison. He has been unbonded for five years now. Now, I know that you and your officers have been helping him with his senses; but, as a Dark Sentinel, he is much too special, too unique, to have him only partly on line. I know he has refused to take a guide, won't even work with a partner since Jack Pendergrass died, but time is running out for him."
Simon Banks leaned forward. "Are you threatening one of my men?"
"You can't force him to bond, Mason."
"I know that. Sentinels retain their right to choose but Ellison is headed for trouble if he doesn't bond soon."
Amy impatiently cut in, "I have been working with Arthur on profiling a guide for him, and the GDP has recently acquired, or rather, reacquired, a new guide. We think Ellison would bond to our candidate and we believe the guide would be unable to resist that joining."
Simon moved slightly in his chair, he felt uncomfortable with Mason's casual assumption that he could order a "candidate" to bond as if the guide was a possession to be owned, a slave. The Captain's opinion of the GDP was well known. And he found the way his Amy was acting, her agreement with Mason, shocking. It was as if she were a different person, not the loving woman that he was growing close to.
Simon noticed the file in her hands.
"I have a candidate, but you have to listen to me in full, and don't get excited." Amy held Simon's eyes with her gaze.
"Okay, but why do I get the feeling that I am not going to like this?"
"I have a man who might be the one for Ellison, he has experience with a Dark Sentinel. His name is Blair Sandburg, he..."
Simon cut her off. "Sandburg! You mean", he exploded, "the little hippy bastard who killed his own sentinel? You want me to trust him with Jim? NO WAY!"
Amy's voice hardened "Simon, first off, Sandburg wasn't Alex Barnes' guide, in the full bonded sense. She needed a strong guide and picked him. She "killed" him, erased his identity and made him into the person she wanted. She was a psychotic killer, wanted for murder and terrorism, who threatened his mother's life if he didn't stay with her. She used physical violence on him to break him to her control; and there were strong indications that she also sexually abused him just for fun. He was hospitalised four times before he escaped. When his mother died, he managed to arrange her capture, risking his own sanity, if not his life, by returning to her compound. Yes, he killed her but he killed her in self-defense."
"So he's some kind of hero," sarcasm dripped off the words. "Get to the point, Amy."
"Simon," she exhaled, "this is the interesting point. Sandburg contacted Ellison to help him get away; and, Ellison was in close contact with Sandburg during the arrest and interrogation. Now, I have spoken to the other officers present and they said that Ellison's behavior was different. According to Detective Brown, a couple of times it looked like he was going to physically pull him and Detective Rafe away from Sandburg. To quote Detective Rafe, Ellison "was protective of the kid." After that case, Ellison began to come fully on-line. A tentative bonding would explain the incidents at the mixer; Ellison didn't want a guide he wanted his guide, Blair Sandburg."
"No way would Jim want that guy."
"He may not have a choice. For some reason he started to imprint Sandburg, unless the bonding is completed his problems will only get worse. It's called the Fincham syndrome; soon it will become impossible for you to pull him out of a zone out, his emotional control will erode away. His brain will be swamped with input, it will drive him insane before it kills him."
"No, he's started to imprint Sandburg. It's too late, Simon."
"And Sandburg can stop this?"
Amy nodded, "A guide is like the foundation of a building. His or her presence is what the sentinel uses to build his senses on. Sentinel and guide must re-affirm their bonding on a regular bases throughout their time together. Simon, without a guide, a sentinel is incomplete."
"Jim isn't an idiot, he would know that he's connected to this Sandburg."
Amy shook her head, "No, at this point he is purely instinct driven. He could be zoning because he is trying subconsciously to find his guide."
"So where is Sandburg?"
Mason answered him, he had been content to let Amy Jenson fight his battle, he knew Simon hated his guts and didn't want that coloring his views on the matter. "In the correction facility. He was still fighting his destiny as a guide. We can ..."
Henri burst into the office. "Sorry, Captain, it's Jim. He's going nuts out here." Mason said smugly, "It's happening, Captain, oversensitization, loss of emotional control..."
As he stalked out, Simon ordered, "Get Sandburg, Mason. Get him here, NOW."
The GDP building was situated in a quiet residential area, a perfect setting for the training of empathic guides; quiet, serene. But the experience of the potential guides in the correction facility housed in the shielded, underground level was anything but peaceful. The mandate of the personnel assigned to that unit was to correct 'rogue' guides any way they could. Blair Sandburg was proving to be particularly resistant to correction.
The two GDP guards holding Blair released their hold on him, letting his body collapse onto the concrete floor. Senior Guard Wilson frowned, the kid was still refusing to obey their commands. Over the last six weeks they had deprived him of food and clothing; kept him in the dark except during his 'training' sessions; used a variety of physical and psychological coercion on him; and still the little freak was holding out. Wilson allowed himself a smile as he looked down at the heaving body at his feet. The kid was breathing fast, his breath catching in his throat as he fought back sobs. Wilson leaned over him and slapped him hard on a bare flank before allowing his hand to drift lower, his touch rough and brutal. "That was real sweet, kid, no wonder that bitch Barnes wanted to keep you all to herself." The other guards laughed at the crude comment and slapped each other's backs in high glee as they left.
The young man on the floor waited until they were gone to pull himself into a tight defensive ball. The sobs he had refused his tormentors tore out of him convulsively, his whole body wracked by them as he rocked back and forth in misery. As his mind started to replay what had been done to him, he gagged, throwing up the small amount of food he had been allowed to eat. Pain was burning through his lower body as he squeezed his eyes closed, tears finally falling.
He wasn't sure how long he lay there, afraid to move, before he heard a noise. His eyes flew open; he jumped back, scooting away from the shape that detached itself from the corner of the cell. A large black panther paced towards him to settle on its haunches in front of him, tail twitching. A spirit guide, wonder fought with terror for control of the brutalized young man. Few people ever saw a spirit guide; most thought them legend. The panther inhaled deeply; then roared loudly, anger and rage almost a physical force as it detected and identified the scents on the young man cowering before it.
Doctor Jenson was watching Jim Ellison on the monitor. The detective was being held in a room designed to allow sentinels to regain control of senses gone crazy. She turned as Simon Banks entered and tried to reassure him. "He'll be fine, Simon, once we get him bonded."
"For god's sake! What's wrong with him?"
"About ten minutes ago he started to scream and throw himself against the door as if he was trying to break out. He failed but the door took one hell of a pounding."
"That can't be normal, Amy. Look at him."
Jim was pacing, no 'prowling' up and down the small room. He reminded Simon of nothing so much as the big cats he had seen in the zoo. Jim would only pause long enough to cock his head to one side in a listening stance, and then he would angrily shake his head and start pacing again.
"He's no longer a cop or a friend, Simon. He's a warrior, a dark sentinel avenger, instinct driven. He needs to bond, and he's moving toward a critical stage. What is interesting is that he is exhibiting all the signs of a bonded sentinel whose guide is in danger. I don't quite understand what is going on here, Simon." Yet again, Simon watched as the scientist submerged the woman; at this moment Jim was nothing more than a puzzle to be solved. Well, Simon remembered than Jim was a man, a good man.
"You think this Sandburg kid can really help him? You think that he'll want to help him?"
"Simon," she put a hand on his arm, "you have to understand that guides are not like us. They are born to serve a sentinel; it is their only function, their only purpose for being. This one, Sandburg, tried to remain hidden, tried to avoid his destiny. He was at Rainier University, had taken a BA and MA by the time he was twenty-three, would you believe that? When he was discovered, he was going for his PhD in anthropology." Much to Simon's disgust, Amy laughed as if Sandburg's accomplishments were a big joke.
As the panther screamed its rage, Blair threw his arms in front of his face just before he felt a heavy head butt against his arms. There was a pause, then a gentle shove insisted on his attention. Carefully, having nowhere to hide, he lowered his shielding arms and looked into the vivid blue eyes of the spirit animal. He felt a wave of peace run through him, calming the terror and horror that had been his world for weeks, for months. He reached a scraped hand out and, with only a slight hesitation, smoothed the square head and pointed ears. The cat purred low in its throat. The panther carefully turned to lie down next to him, facing the doors as if to protect him. Not quite believing in its presence but desperate for its comfort, Blair slowly eased down next to it and went to sleep. When he awoke the cat was gone, leaving behind only a great feeling of loss. He froze as he heard footsteps in the corridor, prayed that, this time, they would pass his door. Yet again, his prayers went unanswered as the door banged opened. Knowing he had nowhere to hide, still he pulled himself as close to the wall as he could. One of the guards held restraints, grinning as his partner hit him in the face with a pair of overalls. "Get dressed." Afraid of what would happen next but pathetically grateful he could cover himself from leering eyes, he fumbled the overalls onto his bruised and abused body.
Simon saw the GDP personnel arrive and focused on the small figure between them. This was going to be Jim's guide? This kid, barely five foot nine, dark brown hair touching his shoulders and falling into his eyes, nothing but a hippy punk? His nose wrinkled as the too thin body was dragged past him and he smelled the stench of old sweat and new fear. The kid had not bathed in days. There was no way he wanted this person near his friend.
Before he could say anything, Amy took it out of his hands. "Thank you for coming so fast, Senior Guard Wilson, we do have something of an emergency. We have a sentinel nearing critical zone out; he needs a guide and he has apparently formed a tentative connection with this person." Wilson sneered, "He's still a handful, ma'am. We need more time to discipline him." Captain Mason nodded, and cut in, "We'll put Sandburg to him now and see if they bond. I know he's a flight risk, but from what I understand, Ellison is more than capable of keeping him in line."
"No way, man, I am not bonding with anyone. You can't force me to bond with him," Sandburg spat the words out.
Captain Mason ignored him. Sandburg's wishes were not important, without a sentinel he was nothing. Mason did not even raise an eyebrow as the guard answered the defiant words. Wilson slammed the young man against the wall. His head hit hard against the plaster; a second impact and his eyes looked dazed. It was obvious to the Major Crime captain that the only thing keeping the kid upright was Wilson's grip. Simon cut the distance between them, ready to pull Wilson off, when Mason blocked him, "You're taking this too personally, Captain Banks. Sandburg is a rogue guide. He needs an attitude adjustment; once he learns his place in society he will be happier for it. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, Banks."
"He's a human being. He's got rights!"
"He does not have the right to refuse his duty. The moment he was identified as a guide, his future was mapped out for him. He was too corrupt, too stubborn, too selfish to see that."
Simon turned to Amy, and felt sick as she just nodded in agreement, "if Ellison doesn't get a guide, he's dead. Put him in there, Senior Guard." Wilson cursed as Sandburg twisted frantically in his hold, fighting to escape. Mason stepped in to help. Blair fought, terror lending him false strength; but mistreatment and starvation had robbed him of his stamina and it was only a matter of minutes before he hung limp in his captors' hands, too spent to fight. Banks shuddered at the despair he saw in the wide blue eyes that pleaded with him for help. But he had no option; his detective was falling apart in front of him and this kid could help. With a silent apology he opened the door.
Blair was thrown into the room; there was no way he could avoid hitting the floor and agony exploded through him, forcing out a groan. He rolled onto his side, his head aching from its meetings with the wall. The sentinel was prowling around him; Blair recognized him, he was part of the Alex nightmares. But this Ellison was nothing like the calm, confident cop he remembered from his escape. Still, Ellison had seemed then to acknowledge that Blair was a person, had rights. Maybe ... Blair tried to sit up but when he moved, the sentinel gave a low, almost feral, snarl. Blair froze; Ellison was a Dark Sentinel, had to be, and instinct was in the driver's seat. There would be a joining, regardless of either Blair's desires or Ellison's past avoidance of bonding.
The sentinel suddenly lunged for him, catching hold of Blair's hair and leg, trying to force him onto his stomach. "Claimed and Marked Guide," he snarled it at the struggling man in his grip.
"NO! Not like THIS!" Blair yelled at him.
Blair fought, he might be forced to bond but he would not be submissive. The sentinel yanked his head back hard, arching his body and Blair cried out in pain. The sentinel froze at the sound. In desperation, Blair hit out, his fist connected with the sentinel's jaw. Blair threw himself backward, his body crashing into the sentinel."
"NO! PLEASE!" Blair screamed again.
The sentinel tossed the smaller man away from him and the young guide hit the floor hard. As the sentinel moved back, Blair laid still, drawing in large gulps of air. He turned onto his side and saw the sentinel had settled down onto his haunches and was watching him. His head tilted and his nostrils flared as he took in the scent of the man in front of him. Suddenly, he roared like an enraged jungle cat as he detected and identified the scents coming off the guide's body. Blair scooted backwards to try and put distance between them; he knew the man facing him could break him like a twig.
For the second time Blair was distracted from his terror as a black panther came through the wall. It paused to look at him, and then jumped straight into the sentinel, man and panther morphing together.
Doctor Jenson, Mason and Banks were watching the monitors. She was shaking her head, "This is not good. I've never seen that happen, a guide strike out at their sentinel."
Mason cut in, "Little bastard, we nearly had him broken. Given a little more time I would have had him crawling on his belly, begging to bond."
Amy nodded in agreement, "Unfortunately we didn't have time for that." She failed to see the look of disgust that crossed Simon's face; any feelings he had for her on a personal level died at that moment.
"What the hell is going on in there? What is he looking at? There's nothing there? What's he playing at?" Mason was angry and confused. It certainly looked to Simon as if the kid was staring at something. And whatever that something was, it was calming him down.
This sentinel was meant to be his. The spirit guide had come to him and shown him that. This sentinel would care for him and protect him, just as the panther had done.
Blair exhaled slowly, his body slumping against the wall. This was the one thing that he had fought against his whole life, being a guide to a sentinel. Being owned by that sentinel; his whole life over, expected to dedicate himself to one person. No more learning, no more teaching, just obedience to his sentinel's every whim. That's why he had hid his empathy until mischance brought him to the attention of the GDP. Now he had no choice. He rolled onto his stomach, biting his lip to combat the pain that flared in his battered body, and folded his hands behind his back, turning his head to one side, the guide's classic stance of submission to a sentinel. One sentence and his hopes and dreams were dead.
"Mark and Claim, Sentinel," his voice was shaking as he intoned the age-old words.
Simon felt a pang in the vicinity of his heart at the hopeless bravery in that quavering voice. Then his detective caught his attention.
The sentinel moved to the younger man's side and for a moment he just looked down at him. Then he knelt and put a hand out, tactile senses hypersensitive as he carded his fingers through the long dark hair. The silken threads were committed to memory before he touched his guide's face. He hesitated, as if expecting Blair to struggle again; when he didn't, the sentinel gave a soft growl of contentment and returned to his exploration. His hands ghosted across slender shoulders, brushed down his guide's back to his waist. The body under his hands tensed as the horror of what Wilson had done crashed down on Blair. His guide moaned; his eyes squeezed shut as he tried to stop his tears falling. The sentinel smelled the salty liquid tracking over bruised features. The need to comfort his guide flooded him. His hands moved gently over his guide's hair and face until he settled down. Then, making soft, reassuring sounds, he returned to imprinting his guide onto his senses.
A look of anger spread across his face as he detected the injuries hidden beneath the coarse overalls. The guide, no, his guide... those two words were burned into his brain, had been hurt and was hurting. His hands moved faster as he skimmed down his guide's shivering body, almost frisking him, the need to imprint making him work quickly. Finished, the sentinel moved back up and gently ran his hand over the back of the younger man's head, halting when he heard the quick intake of breath. He gently fingered the lumps under the dark hair. When he placed his hand on the back of Blair's neck he felt the fear rolling off him. The need to complete the bond was burning through the sentinel; but the part of him that was Jim Ellison was ordering him to comfort and nurture the young man whose life he was about to change.
Blair felt the controlled strength his sentinel used to turn him onto his back, and then draw him up so that they were kneeling opposite each other. One big hand held the front of the overalls, the other cupped his face, tilting it so that they were looking into each other's eyes, blue meeting blue. Blair could see the need to bond in the sentinel's eyes, but instead of pinning him down in a posture of submission, Ellison had pulled him up to kneel with him... as if they were equals. Slowly he reached out a hand to touch his sentinel, expecting it to be batted away, but it wasn't. Encouraged, he placed the flat of his hand over the sentinel's heart, knowing that he would feel the warmth of his hand through the cloth.
The sentinel heard the rapid thumping of his guide's heart; with his thumb he lightly stroked the side of his jaw, calming him. Sense of touch had mapped his guide, now his eyesight focused on him, taking in every line of his guide's face; seeing old bruising under new along the jaw, and the split lip.
Blair concentrated; allowing the mental barriers he had created to slowly fall away. Like this, empathic ability wide open, he could be badly hurt; he was open to all the sentinel's emotions. Pheromones flooded off his body, the sentinel's nose twitched and he drew in a long breath; his brain chemistry began to change and he imprinted the scent of his guide onto his soul. He filtered out all other scents and found the very scent his guide, a musky, gingery smell; he was almost purring with contentment. Blair laid his other hand against the side of his sentinel's neck; the bigger man dipped his head so that he could inhale the scent of that hand.
The sentinel relaxed, the guide was his now, no other sentinel could claim him and live.
"Claimed and Marked Guide."
"Claimed and Marked, Sentinel."
At the exchange of vows it was as if the final piece of a jigsaw had fallen into place.
Slowly the sentinel pulled his guide to him gently, wrapping one arm around his back to hold him close, one hand on the back of his head to ease the long curls against his shoulder. He could feel the warmth of his guide's body; the sound of the air going through his lungs; the blood rushing through his veins; and the sentinel was relaxed and happy. Blair felt the last of the empathic connections with his sentinel flare and seal; it was like a warm blanket thrown around him, keeping him safe and protected, his barriers against other people back in place. Blair relaxed, exhausted.
It was then the sentinel's mind returned to the other scents on his guide and identified them. He tensed, a growl of rage rumbling in his throat. He felt the change in his guide, his returning fear; he pushed the rage to one side, as he tried to calm the younger man, his guide. His voice was whisper soft as he promised, "I'll kill anyone who tries to touch you. You're safe now, MY GUIDE." He was rewarded when a slender hand came up to grab his shirtfront, fingers scraped raw latching onto him for dear life as his guide attempted to burrow under his skin. Each of the sentinel's senses was fixed on the life that was now the centre of his world, his link to sanity. Later, the younger man would guide; but even now with Blair - Blair Sandburg, I know this kid! A distant, half-formed thought flitted through his mind and was gone.- half-asleep in his arms, his senses were stronger and more focused than ever before in his life. Their lives were now joined.
He had thrown a sensory net around them as he held his guide. The younger man needed to rest; it was obvious that someone had put him through the wringer. He was content to sit on the floor and hold his guide as long as necessary. His contentment ended as he heard someone coming; gently, he broke his guide's hold on his shirt, bringing him with him as he stood up. His brain was chanting, protect the guide, kill and destroy all who would hurt him.
The sentinel pulled his guide behind him, ready to protect him from whomever came through the door. He felt one of Blair's hands on his shoulder, the other twisted in the back of his shirt. As footsteps halted outside the door, he could hear the increase in his guide's heartbeat, and it fuelled his anger.
When Simon Banks entered the room he ground to a halt. Jim Ellison, cop, was gone. All that remained was one very pissed off Dark Sentinel. Blue eyes burned with a hatred and rage that he had never seen before and never wanted to see again. He was reminded that the man was a trained killer, could kill him before he even had a chance to react. Ellison was careful to keep his Ranger skills under control, using only enough force to subdue a suspect. He was careful not to overstep the boundary, but now that control had been totally stripped away.
Banks turned to the guide. The young man stood behind Jim, watching him; dark blue eyes were scared but he was holding it together. Amy had said that Sandburg had the makings of a powerful guide, if properly disciplined. Bonding with Ellison had made Blair come online as guide, gave him control.
Simon kept his voice level, "Guide Sandburg, I need you to calm Jim down."
"I'm not a pet, I can speak for myself," Jim spat the words, his eyes showing no recognition of Simon Banks.
"I didn't mean it like that, Jim. You're just a bit..." he trailed off, then swore, "For god's sakes, man, you looked like you were going to tear my throat out. You've got to let Sandburg help you."
Mentally taking a deep breath, Blair released his death grip on Jim's shirt and moved his hand in slow circles over the middle of Ellison's back. He began to talk to him, his voice only loud enough for the sentinel to hear. Touch and voice grounding the sentinel. Simon watched the interaction between the two of them. Jim seemed reluctant to take his eyes off Simon and the newly arrived Doctor Jenson. Sandburg moved in front of Jim; ignoring the others, he gently cupped his sentinel's face, turning it from Simon to look at him. Jim's head jerked back; Blair repeated the move and again he pulled away. The young guide tried a third time, and Jim locked onto his face. He saw the ghost of a smile twist his guide's lips, "Don't zone on me, man. Stay with the program, okay?"
Jim's arms went around the smaller man and pulled him into a hug; he buried his face into his guide's neck, opening up his senses to re-affirm their bonding.
Blair Sandburg leaned into the embrace, talking softly until the older man was ready to pull away. When the sentinel eased back, Jim Ellison, the cop, was in control. The Dark Sentinel was part of him, but pure instinct was curbed by logic. And Ellison was able to acknowledge what he had fleetingly recognized during the bonding... Blair Sandburg was his guide. Laser sharp blue eyes swept over Blair in the longest moment of the young man's life. Now that the intense, instinctive bonding was over, he expected Jim to push him away. Guides were there to be used as and when they're needed...Alex and the GDP had taught him that. And Ellison knew what Barnes had done to him, knew what he was.... Before he could continue on that train of thought, Ellison surprised him. He found himself tucked against Jim's side so that he was almost hidden by the broad shoulders, his sentinel protecting him from the others' eyes.
"What the hell is going on, Simon?" The voice was direct and demanding.
Banks grinned; this was the Ellison he knew. "Doctor Jenson recognised you were heading for a critical zone-out. If you had not bonded you would have lost control completely and died."
"And Sandburg volunteered to be my guide?" Ellison remembered the fear pouring off the kid when he had been thrown into the room; thought back to the trauma Blair had sustained at the hands of another sentinel; added it to the visible marks of abuse on the smaller body sheltered by his own and came to a conclusion he didn't like.
Doctor Jensen smiled, "He knows his place now, Sentinel Ellison. You will have no trouble with him. I am sure he will not need to return to the Institute for further training." Jim felt the shudder that went through the kid at those words.
Simon saw that shudder too, saw blue eyes darken with remembered horror. Then he noticed that Sandburg was still rubbing Jim's upper arm and he waited for Jim (touch me and I'll break you like a twig) Ellison to flatten the longhaired kid; but he didn't, just reached over and stilled the hand.
Simon turned to Amy, "is it okay for Jim to leave now?"
"The crisis is over. That was amazing, Simon, I have never seen a bonding like that. He didn't force the guide to submit, I would have thought being a dark sentinel he would have...", her voice trailed off. "We will discuss this later, Guide Sandburg."
Ellison snapped out, "At his pleasure and my convenience, Lady." Blair's deep blue eyes widened in shocked joy as he heard his sentinel's words.
"Okay, then. Amy, I'll call you if I need any answers. Jim, my office, now." Banks wasn't the only one who saw the wolfish leer Wilson aimed in the kid's direction. A cold hand on his arm stopped Jim's start in his direction. The GDP personnel left, taking Doctor Jenson with them.
For the first time, Blair spoke directly to Simon, "are there any other sentinels in the building?"
"James in Homicide, Robinson in uniform. Why?"
"Jim is newly bonded and he's a dark sentinel; he would react badly to meeting another, unbonded, sentinel."
"Jim's instinctive behavior would be to kill them on sight."
"Because of me."
"You?" there was disbelief in the captain's voice.
"I am his guide, marked and claimed. Another sentinel would be challenging his territory and would be met with lethal force."
Jim was listening to his guide; after what he had gone through he was standing up to Banks remarkably well. He was drawn into that calm, musical voice.
"Will he always be like this?"
"No, Jim will settle down...", He broke off as he felt his sentinel's hand twine through his hair again, felt him losing himself in the changing colours of it under the lights.
Blair's head snapped around, "Shit, he's zoned." Turning away from Simon, he started to draw him back, his voice deepening to guide tones. He saw the confusion in his sentinel's eyes as he returned.
"Easy, Jim, you zoned for a minute."
"I thought you could stop him zoning, Sandburg?" Simon sounded angry, almost accusing him of lying.
"It's early days, he needs to settle into the bond and process the information."
The whole affair was making Simon nervous, "My office, both of you, now."
Simon picked up on the way Jim kept his guide close to him all the time as they walked back to the bullpen; Sandburg remained in place, to the side and behind him, so that his sentinel hid him from any enemies.
In the office, he waved Jim to a seat while he turned to pour himself a cup of coffee. He turned with the pot in his hand, "my cousin sent this. It all tastes like Maxwell house to me, you want to try some?" Jim ignored him in favor of prowling the office as if seeing it for the first time.
"Sandburg," he saw the kid flinch when he spoke to him, was rewarded with a chilling look from Jim. The man looked like he would like to tear him apart with his bare hands for frightening his guide. Banks lowered his voice.
"What's he doing?"
"It's all right. It's just a reflex, he'll settle down as soon as he's checked the boundaries."
Simon tried again, "Coffee, Jim?" Then belatedly added, ""Guide Sandburg?" . "Blair, just Blair, please."
He hesitated. He needed a drink, but was afraid to ask; asking got him in trouble. Simon seemed to realise his fear because he smiled gently and poured him a cup of coffee. "Thank you," Blair managed to keep his voice steady as he accepted his first cup of coffee in weeks. As Simon handed him the cup, he saw the angry welts on the guide's slender wrists. Blair took a sip of the coffee, holding the cup in both hands to try and hide the shaking in his hands; and to try and keep Simon from grabbing the mug away from him. At least he knew it was safe; he didn't have to worry about the drugs the GDP put into the little water he had been allowed to drink.
Simon poured himself a cup and sat down watching in some amusement as Jim positioned himself to the left of Sandburg's chair, protectively.
"How long before you'll be back in the bullpen, Jim?"
"No", Blair cut in quickly. The big Captain made him nervous but he remembered the look on his face in the corridor when Wilson slammed him into the wall. He knew then that Banks would never hurt him. And now he had a job to do. Not the job he wanted, but the job he had.
"Chief, you don't have a say in this," his sentinel warned.
"I am your guide, and I have everything to say. You will start back when I say so and not before." He would do his job, keep his sentinel safe; and maybe his sentinel would return the favor.
Simon eased back in his chair as he noticed the hardening of the muscles along Jim's jaw. It always amazed him the man had any teeth left, the way he ground them together. He gave every indication that the release of the legendary Jim Ellison temper was imminent, and if that happened they would be scraping the new guide off the wall.
"You don't have a say, Chief," Ellison said it again.
"Try me and see."
Simon shook his head slowly; Sandburg was doing better than he thought he would.
"As your guide, I am officially telling Captain Banks to keep you off work until I say different. If needs be, I can quote the directive."
"Sorry, Jim. He's the expert."
The sentinel towered over the smaller, younger man, who flinched back, clinging to the mug, as if it was a life preserver.
Ellison stormed out of the office; slamming the door behind him so hard the hinges nearly came off.
It was then Simon noticed the tremors that were running though the young guide. He was starting to breathe fast, beginning to hyperventilate, heading for a full-blown panic attack as he realized his sentinel had walked out on him. If Wilson was still there...
Simon bent over him, reaching to take the mug from his white-knuckled grip before it broke from the pressure. As he touched Blair's hand, the young man jerked away; the mug hit the floor and shattered. Blair went to his knees, tried to pick up the shards with hands that shook. Tears where running down his face, blind panic in his wide blue eyes. Simon tried to ease him into the chair but with a cry of fear, Blair scuttled backward. Colliding with the desk, he fell backward with a whimper of terror. He was curled into defensive ball when the sentinel came storming back in. Simon quickly backed away, "he's having a panic attack."
"I know," the words were grim, "he's had reason."
Kneeling down he tilted Blair's face so he could look into his eyes. He felt his guide flinch at his touch, "Easy, Chief, I am not going to hurt you. I am never going to hurt you. Take slow breaths; slow, deep breaths. That's it." Under his gentle ministrations, Blair's breathing calmed gradually. Finally it returned to normal, the trembling in his body lessening.
"Sorry, bad reaction", he tried to laugh it off, but it came out hollow.
Simon watched the two of them together; matching the young man brought in between the guards to the man in his office now. Okay, he might not have wanted this kid for Ellison, he was a rogue for god's sake; but once bonded the kid had been focused and professional until something had terrified him.
Blair tentatively latched a hand onto Jim's arm; he felt the sentinel's hand cover his own with a gentle squeeze. Jim dropped his voice to a low whisper, as he leaned over his guide. Simon could not hear what he said but Blair Sandburg flushed a bright red as he nodded slightly at the sentinel's question.
"Simon, we need to get him to the hospital now." . "He sick?"
"No, the GDP goons assaulted him."
"I'll take you." He waited for Jim to move away from Blair before he asked quietly, "Are we talking rape here, Jim?"
"Among other things," there was an icy rage and a deep sorrow in Ellison's voice.
Simon's jaw clamped down on his cigar, "those bastards. They said they had been adjusting his attitude."
"If a person won't break, sexual assault, rape can be used to break down their last barriers of resistance, take away their self-worth. It's the ultimate expression of power over another person's body."
Jim sounded as if he was quoting from a book; he saw the expression on his Captain's face, "Covert Ops, what to expect if you got caught." Simon handed his jacket over to Jim, "get that on the kid and keep him close." He knew he didn't have to say that; one look at his friend showed he would tear apart with his bare hands anyone foolish enough to threaten his guide. And thinking over everything that one young man had endured over the last few years, Simon found himself in agreement with the sentinel's intent.
Jim unlocked the front door of the loft, and then stepped back to allow his guide to enter. For a moment he watched the younger man walk round the living room, clutching his backpack in his hand like a security blanket. He never touched anything, just seemed lost in a study of the room. Jim made a mental note to thank Brown for getting Blair's backpack and other belongings from the GDP facility, they provided a touch of normalcy for a young man who had lost everything he had wanted out of life. Jim pulled the curtain back on a room under his loft bedroom. The small room had formerly been his ex-wife's study: now it contained a futon made up with new blankets, sheets and pillows. There was a table and a small bureau, "Sorry, Chief, it's not much." . "It's fine, Jim."
Blair laid his backpack on the bed and pulled his coat around him as he shivered. He turned and found that Jim still stood there.
"You won't know I am here." God, please don't know that I am here.
"Chief, you are more than welcome to stay here. There was no way you were going to go to any GDP hostel or stay in that hospital, not while I'm around. Tomorrow, we'll go over and get the rest of your stuff out of lock- up."
"Okay, thanks", Blair gave him a ghost of a smile. The doctor had Ellison to go easy with his guide; Blair needed to feel safe, secure and protected after the ordeal he had been through. But, after seeing Jim in full Blessed Protector mode, the doctor had conceded that a sentinel was ideally suited to accomplish just that. The fact that Blair had been raped by the guards at the facility was something they would have to face together; and together they would get through it. Jim intended to make certain that Blair knew he was no longer alone. Now that the physical examinations were over, Blair could start healing. But Ellison vowed that Wilson and the others would not be forgotten. They would pay for what they had done to his guide. Jim looked at him critically his guide needed to eat more, and put some weight on. He was dressed in surgical scrubs, they hung on his too thin body. But too big or not, they were better than the overalls he had been wearing; clothes that had too many nightmares bound up in their threads. Jim made a mental note to take Blair shopping and get him some clothes. He could tell that Blair was getting uneasy under his continued scrutiny and he was almost ready to give the kid some privacy. But first, Blair had to get something straight.
"One thing, Chief", Jim's tone was serious. He saw fear in the younger man's face, saw him pull into himself as if waiting for some punishment. Watch your tone of voice, Jim cautioned himself, he's skittish and scared. He's got no reason to trust you and nowhere to run. He softened his voice, "If you ever get in trouble, no matter what it is, come to me. I might not always understand, but I will protect you." He held Blair's eyes, making sure the younger man understood then added "hungry?"
"No." Too much had happened, too quickly. He needed time to process it all.
"Wrong answer, Chief. I'm cooking, you're eating."
With that he turned on his heel and walked towards the kitchen. He couldn't but smile as he heard a soft thud as the backpack landed on the floor. There was a quick intake of breath and the sound of fingers trailing across the keyboard of a lap top computer. One whispered word, "Mine?" Hope and longing in that single syllable. Jim raised his voice, "Yes, yours, Chief." Jim turned and was hit by a Blair sized object as his guide hurtled from his room to catch him in a massive hug. Jim lightly tightened his arms around the smaller man to return it. "Thank you", the words were breathed against his chest. Then, slowly, Blair straightened up, "Why, Jim?"
"Your old one was completely trashed when the GDP arrested you, and you'll need one if you're going to finish your PhD."
"Don't joke about that, man, okay," his voice was unsure.
"No joke, Chief."
"Stephen", when he saw the puzzled look, he added, "my brother, went to the University today. He spoke to Doctor Woodward and he has agreed to let you continue work on your PhD at the start of next term. That will give you eight weeks time to get settled in. He wants to offer you a TA position, too. If you're interested." Stephen had quite a lot to say after his meeting with Woodward. Seemed the kid was highly regarded by his professors, and there were still some bad feelings about the way sentinels had "ruined" his life. But Woodward had added, "He's a strong young man, Mr. Ellison. If your brother treats him with a modicum of courtesy, he will be well repaid. Blair is often too loyal for his own good." Remembering that Blair had lived in hell with Barnes for almost three years to protect his mother, Jim had to agree.
"You would allow me to do that", the surprise in Blair's voice brought Jim out of his musings. "But you need me at the police station, don't you?" Jim smiled, there was disappointment in the kid's voice and, maybe, some fear. Sandburg was still afraid he would be turned back to the GDP.
"Not all the time, Chief, and we can work around it. Look, kid, you're my guide and I need you, but I am not going to stop you living your own life. You're not my slave, or my pet. You have a right to your own life and your own ambitions. One thing, and I want you to always remember this, we may argue, hell we will argue. But you're entitled to your own opinions. I won't always agree with them, but I won't punish you for them, either. Okay, you got all that, Chief."
For the first time he saw his guide really smile, tentative happiness creeping into deep blue eyes. Yep, Chief, you're still in there somewhere, kid. You've had a crappy few years but it won't happen again. God, what a pair we are; a sentinel who didn't want a guide and a guide who didn't want a sentinel. We'll make out, Chief, you'll see. He returned Blair's smile with one of his own before mock growling, "Good, lets eat."
Blair Sandburg handed the glass back to his sentinel and allowed the older man to fuss with the blankets creating a cocoon of warmth around him. The pills from the doctor would cut in soon; already he could feel sleep tugging at him. He didn't want to close his eyes; he was afraid that when he awoke he would be back in the cell in the Adjustment Centre.
As Jim closed the door curtain he heard Blair's heartbeat increase; he pulled it back, "why don't we keep this open for a while, Chief. If you need anything call. Okay?" He went out to the sofa and grabbed the newspaper. He was too wired to rest and he wanted to monitor his guide until the kid fell asleep. His eyes on the newspaper, he extended his hearing into Blair's room.
Last night he had slept on a cot next to Blair's hospital bed. Fortunately, the doctor had dealt with Sentinel/Guide partnerships before and had allowed Jim to remain close to Blair, giving him the support he needed. Jim had thought Blair would lose it during the rape examination, but he had held onto his guide's hand with his right hand while his left brushed over the silken curls. He had been amazed at the way his guide had calmed under his touch; he suspected it had something to do with their bonding, part of the empathic link they now shared.
Jim had stepped out of the room for a minute, only to return and find his guide's bed empty. Alarmed, the sentinel had extended his senses and found him hidden in the corner between the bed and the wall. He was huddled in on himself, his knees pulled up and held close to his body by his arms. He was rocking back and forth, silent desperation pouring off his shivering body. Jim had slowly pulled away the bed to make room for him to kneel beside Blair. The younger man had kept rocking.
"Blair, it's okay. Tell me what's wrong."
There was no answer; Jim wondered if the kid had even heard him.
The sentinel laid his hand on his guide's shoulder and felt him flinch away from his touch.
"Blair, look at me." With his other hand he tipped his guide's face up to look at him and saw the reddened eyes, tears running silently down the pale face.
"I thought you had gone." Only a sentinel could have heard those words.
Jim smiled, "You can't get rid of me that easily, Blair." With his thumb he carefully wiped away the tears. He pulled his guide to his feet and wrapped him in his arms, allowing him to feel safe again. When Blair's heartbeat had slowed, he settled him back on the bed.
"The doctor said you would be released in a day or so."
"Back to the Centre?" His voice trembled slightly.
"No, to my place, I've got a spare room."
"I can't pay."
Jim hadn't known what to make of the tone in the kid's voice; defiance, fear, desolation, pride, he thought he heard them all. He was just about to snap at the kid when he caught himself. He took a mental deep breath before saying calmly, "It's all taken care of, Chief. You help me with the police work and my senses; and I give you room and board."
"No buts, Chief."
Once he had calmed Blair enough for sleep to overcome him, Jim had gone to the doctor and rather forcefully expressed a desire to take his guide home the next day. He had listened carefully as the doctor explained what he could expect and how he should look after his guide. "Right now, Detective Ellison," the doctor had said, "more than anything, Blair needs to feel safe. His injuries will slow him down for the next week or so but, quite frankly, I'm more concerned with the mental trauma he sustained."
"I'll take care of him, Doctor." The doctor had measured him with bright green eyes and nodded. One look at the towering sentinel's grim face and he was sure the guide would be well cared for. It had been a long night for Ellison. Off and on during the night, despite the pain medications, Blair would move restlessly, murmuring in his sleep as nightmares visited him. Jim found himself inordinately pleased that his voice and touch could soothe his fretful guide into peaceful sleep. By morning, both men were ready to leave the hospital. Blair had had enough of strangers' hands ministering to his body and Jim had had more than enough of the fear that filled the wide blue eyes of his guide at their touch.
Jim had waited patiently in Blair's hospital room for his guide to come out of the attached bathroom. He had heard the kid's heart rate increase when Brown had stopped by with the items Jim had asked him to get. One of those items, a battered leather backpack, rested on the bed. Blair had waited until Brown had left to come out wearing the surgical scrubs one of the nurses had brought him. The Sentinel had seen his guide's face light up when he saw the backpack. He had reached for it eagerly and then froze before he touched it; he had not received his sentinel's permission to take what was his. He had been punished for daring to do less. Jim read the fear in the wide blue eyes and found yet another reason to curse Alex Barnes and the GDP.
"It's okay, Blair, its yours. Brown got it from the GDP lock-up," he offered it to his guide, who slowly put a hand out to take it. Blair's eyes were locked on Jim's face as if looking for warning signals while his fingers caught hold of the strap. When Jim just smiled at him, he pulled it to him, hugging it fiercely as if it contained the riches of the world. Probably does contain everything they left him of his world, Jim had thought before easing back in his chair.
Jim had sat there watching his guide's hands smooth over the old leather and reach inside with an almost reverent touch. Jim hadn't interrupted Blair's reunion with his past, content just to be near his guide and consider their future. He wouldn't kid himself that it was going to be easy. He knew they were in for some rough times, but the bonding was strong and the fragile young man would have someone to hold onto while he healed. Still there would be no quick fix. Blair had been beaten, starved, assaulted, abused; from what he could see they had tried every trick in the book to break his will. He had seen tough covert ops guys fold under less pressure but they had failed to break his spirit. There was a lot of moral strength in that deceptively frail body but there were wounds, physical and mental, still there for anyone to see. At the precinct, before the panic attack, he had been in control, even handling Simon well. When he was focused on his sentinel he had shown great promise; that brilliant, capable man was still there, underneath the fear. It would just take some careful handling to get him to come out.
Simon had given him the week off, per regulations, to continue bonding with his guide. Jim hadn't been happy about that; but now saw that it was needed to settle Blair into his life. When the nurse had come with the release papers and wheelchair, Ellison had walked beside his guide, keeping one hand on a bony shoulder until they reached his truck. Sandburg had broken into a sweat as he tried to raise his hurting body into the seat. That time, he hadn't flinched when the sentinel gave him a hand, had even managed to fall into a doze on the way to the loft. Jim had smiled at this sign of growing trust on the kid's part.
It had been hours since Sandburg had gone to sleep; and Jim was in bed, half-asleep himself, when he heard someone moving around downstairs. He rolled out of bed; one hand grabbing his gun, before he realized Blair was in the kitchen. He stowed his gun before he went down the steps; the last thing he wanted to do was frighten the younger man. To sentinel eyesight the light coming in from the balcony and the faint glow from an opened refrigerator were enough to see the room, and his guide, clearly. Blair was pouring a glass of juice with a hand so shaky some of it was slopping on the counter.
"You okay, Chief?"
Blair jumped, knocking the refrigerator door shut, his breath catching on a scream at Jim's soft question. The glass bottle dropped from suddenly nerveless fingers and shattered on the floor. Jim moved toward him, worried that his guide would step on glass in the dim lighting. He stopped short as Blair cowered away from him, hands coming up to protect his face from a blow. Not for the first time since he acquired his reluctant guide, Jim felt rage as the younger man stuttered, "S-s-sorry, J-J-Jim, I'll c-clean it up. I w-won't do it again. I p-promise." He saw his guide tense as his rage leaked through their empathic bond; his lean body held ready for the first blow.
Jim exhaled slowly, got the rage under control and reached out, taking Blair's wrists in his hands and lowering them so he could see the frightened face. "It's all right, Blair, no damage done." Sandburg tried to kneel down to clean up the pieces, but the sentinel kept him on his feet.
"I'll take care of it, Chief, you need to be in bed. You're shivering." Ellison carefully guided Sandburg around the broken glass to his room. "Go get under the covers and I'll bring you some juice. Would you rather have something hot? Tea maybe?" Blair shook his head and went silently into his room.
Jim quickly cleared the broken glass, sentinel vision finding the smallest slivers. When he carried the juice to his guide, the younger man was sitting on the side of the bed in the dark, his tension clearly visible to the sentinel. "Covers, Chief, remember?" He flipped on the small bedside lamp while he waited for Blair to stiffly work his way under the comforter and lean against the wall. "Here you go, Chief," he handed over the juice. Blair took a sip, his hand shaking.
Jim cut short what he suspected would be an apology all out of proportion to the 'crime.' "Blair, you didn't do anything wrong. This is now your home. If you want something, go get it. Barring my truck, of course, and there's a blue flannel shirt that's definitely off-limits." His attempt at humor fell flat; clearly his guide was not used to being accorded the most basic courtesies and rights. Something else to work on. Ellison sobered," Look, Chief, accidents happen. Why would you think I would attack you over something as trivial as a broken glass?"
"Alex," the name was whispered, "I needed permission to eat or drink. Sometimes I would be so hungry I'd try to sneak something. The first time I did it she told me it was okay, a first offense. But... but when I went back to bed she... she had them..."
Jim sat on the bed next to his guide, "Blair, I am not Alex Barnes. I never wanted a guide, you never wanted a sentinel but it looks like we're stuck with each other, kid. I think we'll both be happier if we treat each other like colleagues. We each bring something to the partnership. I've got the senses, you've got the sense." That did surprise a quick laugh out of the younger man and then a brilliant smile as Ellison chuckled with him. "It'll work out, Chief, you'll see. Now, get some sleep. I don't want to have to haul your butt back to the hospital." He waited patiently as Sandburg finished the juice and eased down on the pillows. Jim pulled the covers up over him and patted his leg. "I'll be right upstairs if you need anything." He snapped off the light and left.
Sliding back under his own waiting covers, Ellison monitored his guide, hoping to hear the sounds of slumber. Five minutes passed before he clearly heard a soft "Thank you", then Blair turned over and surrendered to sleep. Satisfied that the crisis was over, Jim let sleep take him.
With his guide still getting some much needed sleep, Jim had the phone ringer on the lowest setting. That was loud enough for sentinel ears to pick-up as he pulled his head from a perusal of the kitchen pantry and reached for the phone.
"Ellison," his standard answer at the station or at home. It provided enough information for the caller to decide to carry on or hang-up.
"Jim, I need you to come down the station. The DA needs to go over your statement on the Philip Mears case." Banks' voice held an unaccustomed note of apology. "If it were anything else I wouldn't call you in on your day off but you know how important this is."
Ellison glanced at the small bedroom where he could hear his guide stirring at last. "I can't leave Sandburg."
"Wouldn't ask you to. Bring him along."
"1:00 o'clock, Simon. Best I can do. Okay?"
"Alright, but no later". Simon's tone indicated that he expected the Sentinel to be on time.
12:45 saw Sentinel and Guide making the final turn toward the precinct. Jim was still a little flustered; they had been getting funny looks all morning while they shopped for clothes for Sandburg. Jim was no clothes horse, preferring casual attire to suits, but the kid's choices! Jim understood, hell, agreed with, the side glances. But his guide was happy, and certainly the jeans, flannel shirt and woven vest were an improvement over the hospital scrubs.
The blue and white truck pulled into underground parking at the police station and Jim killed the engine. He looked across at his guide. Since Jim had announced their destination after a relaxing lunch at the mall, he had been hearing the rapid pounding of Blair's heart. As they got closer to the station he had smelled the fear starting to roll off Blair's body. Now, the catches in his breathing told him the younger man was heading towards an anxiety attack.
"Easy, Chief, no one is going to hurt you. Just try to breathe for me," he gently coached his guide until his breathing returned to normal. It was the first time they had been back to the station since Blair had been dragged there in cuffs for the bonding; Jim could imagine what was going through the kid's head.
Blair tensed as he saw the uniformed police officers.
"They're policemen not GDP, Blair, you're perfectly safe here."
Sandburg nodded jerkily. "I'm sorry, I couldn't...", he broke off, dropping his head to avoid eye contact.
Jim shook his head; he was not going to let Blair get away with this.
"There's nothing to be sorry about."
"Chief", Ellison's tone was a warning, "you obey your sentinel on this one." His smile took the sting from the words, and he was rewarded when Blair raised his head to look at him, a ghost of a smile on his lips.
"Let's go get this over with, Chief, then head home."
Simon Banks settled back to re-read the book on his desk. He had been through it once already and large sections of it were highlighted.
After the initial bonding, sentinels and guides require a period of isolation together to confirm and strengthen their bond. This isolation should last a minimum of seven to 14 days, during which time the Sentinel will be particularly protective of his or her guide. The Sentinel will confront anyone who seems to threaten his/her "ownership" of the guide. (see Territorial Behavior, Chapter 8). The sentinel and guide generally settle into their bond and work through their differences during this period.
Okay, its only been four days since their bonding, so Jim's going to be on edge.
It is recommended that during this time no one attempt to talk to or touch the guide. He or she is considered by the sentinel to be his or her "property" and at this early stage of the relationship detection of another's scent on the guide could cause a violent reaction. Case history .....
He moved to the next section.
During their lifetime together, Sentinel and Guide will reaffirm their bond on a regular basis. This is especially so when either Sentinel or Guide is sick or injured.
Simon quickly leafed through a few chapters until he found the information he needed.
Bonding: When bonding, the empathic guide completely lowers all the natural barriers that shield him or her from the emotions of the people around them. While this enables them to become sensitised to their sentinel and capable of feeling their emotions, it also leaves the guide totally vulnerable to ambient emotion. A touch from a person not the sentinel can cause extreme pain. Because this pain would be transmitted to the sentinel, whose protective instincts are already on the alert, the sentinel is to be considered very dangerous. There have been cases reported when a bonding sentinel has killed someone who touched the guide, causing pain. When the bond has been sealed, the guide will again raise the emotive barriers and can be safely approached.
Don't touch the guide; I think I've got that.
Simon shook his head and then turned to the next page.
An enraged, bonded sentinel is genetically programmed to respond only to his or her bonded guide.
God, it was like a minefield. He glanced at the clock; he had 40 minutes until his own personal Sentinel/Guide pair arrived. He had just enough time to warn his detectives and the Assistant DA about Ellison's probable condition. If the DA had wanted to talk about anything less high-profile than the Mear's case, he would have allowed the two men to finish the bonding period in peace. If the book was correct, he was going to have a detective in a highly volatile state compounded of a too recent bonding with an already injured guide. Territorial and protective instincts would be operating on high; whichever was triggered, somebody could easily get hurt if they didn't understand the ground rules.
Jim stalked along the corridors leading to the bullpen of Major Crime. He had his guide tucked against him, keeping him next to the wall; each person they passed was evaluated for potential danger to his guide. Then he saw Simon in the doorway of his office.
"Ellison, in here."
Simon waved them to seats, "Coffee", the offer was ritual, and Ellison usually ignored it.
Simon was just about to offer some to Sandburg when he remembered the ground rules and hesitated. According to the book, Jim would not take kindly to anyone talking directly to his guide.
"Would the guide like a cup?"
He let his gaze slide over Sandburg, who had remained standing behind his sentinel. Blair had dropped his empathic barriers so that he could calm his sentinel. He stood with one hand resting on Jim's shoulder to anchor him and keep in check the aggressive feelings that were racing through Ellison. Jim was naturally protective of him but in his current primal state, his aggression was feeding off his guide's fear, sending him into Blessed Protector overdrive.
Banks saw Sandburg shake his head. He would have let it stand at that but Ellison answered, "He said, no thank you."
"You answering for him now, Jim?" He voice trailed off as he saw the look on Jim's face. He carefully held up his hands to ward off his anger, "Easy, Jim, cut me some slack. Remember, I'm new to all this sentinel stuff."
Banks looked at his friend and saw only the sentinel, instinct-driven, aggressive, and dangerous. It was as if he had lost all control of the things that made him Jim Ellison. Irrationally, he found himself blaming the guide. He glared at Blair Sandburg and his anger hit the empath with the force of a physical blow. The young guide immediately shifted closer to his sentinel. Ellison growled and left his seat. A bruised and scraped hand gently stopped Ellison's advance on Banks.
"Jim, no. Breathe out slowly, follow my lead."
Just that much guidance and Simon watched as, with a small headshake and a sheepish grimace, his Jim Ellison returned. Banks breathed a sigh of relief. Let's get this over with.
"Okay, Detective, the Assistant DA is in room 210 waiting for you to go over your statement for the case. Get that done and you're out of here."
"Come on, Chief."
Simon shook his head, "Sorry, Jim, he can't go with you. Ms. Swift is adamant on that; he has to wait here."
"NO." The sentinel was reappearing
"JIM", Simon snapped, "you've got no choice in this. He can wait here in my office where no one will bother him. I'll have him fill out the forms he needs to ride along with you. He'll be fine. Now get out if here." He made a shooing motion with his hands, hoping to defuse the situation.
The sentinel turned and for a moment was lost in his guide; his hands gently brushing over his shoulders and arms as he opened his senses and took in the essence of the man, reassuring himself that the only scent on the smaller man was his. Allowing the physical presence of his guide to calm him until Ellison the detective was back in place.
"He's in your care, Simon." There was trust and threat in that sentence.
Simon watched Ellison leave, then turned to Sandburg, "take a seat, Sandburg, this could take a while."
Pressing the intercom, he asked, "Rhonda, bring the guide paper work in for Mr. Sandburg, please."
Carolyn Plummer turned the corner and saw her ex-husband pacing the corridor outside of room 210. He was a bundle of nervous energy and everyone was giving him a wide berth. She knew now why their marriage had failed. It hadn't been her fault, and certainly hadn't been his; it was the latent sentinel in him that had been the reason. Now that he had it under control, they could pick up from where they had left off before it all went wrong. She knew he still had feelings for her and she still had them for him. Where that Barnes creature's play toy fitted in with Jim's sentinel abilities she neither understood nor cared to. Regardless, once he had played his part and given Jim control, they could have him put away. As she came closer her ex-husband turned towards her. First he had smelled her overly sweet flower-scented perfume, then he started picking up the natural herbal shampoo that she always used; he began to lose himself in the scents, everything about her was so sharp. The world began to go black.
Simon answered the phone. "Banks." A moment's silence then a resounding, "Damn." He slammed the phone down and growled, "Sandburg, Jim needs you. He's in a zone, not responding."
"Where is he?"
"Room 210. I'll take..." Blair was already out the door. "Sandburg, get back here, NOW!" Simon swore, he might as well have yelled at the wall. He took off after the guide and saw his detectives turn to stare at the long-haired young man who came flying out of the office. A couple of the uniforms started to intercept him but the Captain yelled, "He's with me." He increased his speed to catch up with the younger man.
Blair took the stairs as fast as he could from the seventh to the second floor. Pain cut through his body as he hit each step at speed, reminding him that he was far from recovered; but his over-riding concern was to get to his sentinel, he blocked out everything else.
His shoes slid as he careened out of the stairwell; he could hear Simon Banks pounding along behind him as he saw the woman standing in front of Jim and shaking him.
Over his shoulder, he snapped to Banks, "get her away from him."
Simon caught Carolyn's arm and pulled her away, "Jim will be okay. Let his guide help him."
Blair moved close to his sentinel. He touched Jim's face, his fingertips ghosting along the side of his jaw. "Jim, you have to listen to me and come back to me, now." His tone was low and level and... compelling. "Come on, Jim. Follow my voice back, use it as a path to guide you."
Ellison was in a very deep zone out. This type of occurrence was the reason for isolating guide and sentinel just after bonding, so that they could learn to adapt to each other without outside influences. Jim crumbled and Blair caught him, struggling to ease the larger man gently to the floor. "He's stopped breathing. Get him into the office." Simon caught Jim's feet and he and Blair lay Ellison on the carpeted floor. The Captain was dialling for the paramedics as Blair ignored everyone. He knew he had to get into physical contact with his sentinel. He lay on his side next to him, his body in full contact along the solid length of the zoned man.
He reached an arm out and pulled Jim against him, resting Ellison's head over his own heart. All the time he was talking in low, urgent whispers that only the sentinel could hear, his hands moving over the muscular body providing contact and reassurance. His empathic powers were pushed to their fullest; he could feel his connection to his sentinel strengthen. Jim knew he was here and that it was safe for him to come back.
Banks jumped as Jim suddenly heaved a shuddering breath. Blue eyes flew open and flickered back and forth in disorientation. Jim was breathing harshly as he rolled away from his guide and got up on all fours. He tried frantically to get to his feet, driven to protect his guide. His guide was vulnerable and must be protected.
Blair was reaching to help him when Carolyn caught his shoulder; his barriers were still wide open and the full hatred and loathing rolling off her crashed over him. There were burning needles in his head and he screamed. Carolyn pushed him back hard, "keep away from him, you little freak." Blair was caught off balance and he sprawled on the floor.
Jim staggered, and then his guide was in his arms and he was rocking him slowly, "Blair, you have to close the barriers, you're hurting too much. That's it. Close them, block the pain." Slowly the pain left the young guide's face; he turned his face into his sentinel's chest and wrapped his arms around him. Sandburg was shivering badly, as if he were in shock. "How you doing there, Chief?" His voice was soft. His guide murmured a shaky reply.
The paramedics rushed in then and moved toward the men on the floor. Jim snarled, "stay back." It sounded like the cry of a large jungle cat; he looked positively feral. He tightened his hold on his guide.
Captain Simon Banks moved in to block them, "they're newly bonded. He zoned out, stopped breathing." He motioned toward the smaller man, " He brought him back, but he was touched."
"He could be in shock." The older paramedic said grimly, "What's his name?"
"No, the sentinel."
"Okay, Jim. I'm Larry Henderson. I'm a medic. I'm not going to try to take your guide away from you, but he's in shock and we have to help him. I'd guess that his empathic pathways where fully open when he was touched, right?"
"Right. Has he spoken to you?"
"Good. You need to keep him warm, get him to close the paths down completely and let him rest." Henderson pulled out a foil blanket, opened it up, and shook it out. He moved forward carefully, making no sudden movements.
"Can I touch him, check his vital signs?" There was a pause as he read the sentinel's reaction, then answered his own question, "that's okay, you'd tell me if anything was wrong."
Jim reached out, took the blanket from him and pulled it around his guide. His voice was a harsh whisper, "get them out of here, Simon, all of them, NOW."
Simon was visibly worried. The paramedic nodded, "it's best we do what he asks." Henderson closed the door behind them, "How long since they bonded?"
"Three, four days..." Simon stopped in mid-sentence as his head snapped around at the loud roar of anger from the room. It was the same jungle cat cry that had sent shivers down his spine before.
"Who was the idiot who called them in? There is no way a sentinel and guide pairing should be here that soon. No wonder they had a bad reaction. My advice is to get them out of here and into isolation, and do it fast. Home would be best."
Simon reached for the door handle; the paramedic caught his wrist, "Don't, not yet. They're reaffirming the bond. Once they are re-bonded, they'll come out. Make damn sure that no one touches the guide. Who ever did it before is lucky to still be alive. My guess is that if the sentinel hadn't still been weakened by the effects of the zone-out, he or she would be dead."
Simon turned to Carolyn, "What the hell were you doing, Carolyn?" She became defensive, "Didn't you see? His hands were all over Jim; he was getting a kick out of it, the little..."
"He's a guide; they have to have physical contact with their sentinels. Sentinels react to touch, they have a very tactile relationship with their guides. How the hell did you think he managed to pull him out of that zone-out?"
Simon put a hand on Carolyn's arm, "If you want to help Jim then read the book, and learn, because the next time he could kill you."
"Jim would never hurt me, Simon."
"Jim is a dark sentinel, Carolyn. He's a more primal form of sentinel and they react more aggressively to some things, and believe me, I think that hurting his guide is pretty high on that list, don't you? For now, I suggest that you get of here; I'm sure you have work to do Lieutenant Plummer."
"Not until I know that Jim's okay, Simon."
"All right, but keep out of his way. And don't even look at Sandburg."
Time ticked by slowly. Jim finally emerged with a blanket wrapped Blair tucked against him, clinging to him for support.
"We're going home, Simon."
"Jim, the Assistant DA, remember?"
"If she wants the statement then she comes to the loft. I'm taking him home now," there was a tone of finality in his voice.
Carolyn started forward "Jim, I ..."
Ellison completely ignored her, "That's the deal. Take it or leave it, Simon."
He nodded to the paramedics and left, gently shepherding his guide along.
Back in his office, Simon again picked up the book Sentinel 101 and began to read. He had a feeling that he was going to need this book, because life was going to get a whole lot more interesting when Ellison and Sandburg started back to work.
Simon Banks lay his cigar down as he answered the phone; cigars were one of his few luxuries in this world; cigars, and a decent cup of coffee.
"Speaking", he could not place the voice.
"It's Blair Sandburg, I need you to come over to the loft now. I..." his voice was suddenly drowned out by a roar from his end of the line. Blair's voice had a shaky quality that worried the captain, "as soon as possible." The phone was suddenly slammed down.
Simon snagged his coat on his way to the garage; the trip to the loft was filled with dire possibilities he had read about in Sentinel 101. When he reached his destination he took the stairs two at a time. He paused to catch his breath and the door to the loft opened before he got a chance to knock. A tense Jim Ellison snapped, "Come in."
The big Captain took in the scene in front of him; the place was untidy, a first for Ellison. Sitting hunched in a corner of the room, on the floor, was Blair Sandburg. He was slowly rocking back and forward, his arms protecting his head. Jim shook his head; "I need your help with him, Simon."
"Wait up, Jim, Blair called me. WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE TO HIM?"
"Nothing, Simon, NOTHING."
"Well, it didn't sound like nothing on the phone. Come on, talk to me here, Jim."
"Blair was trying a meditation technique with me to try and release the aggressive side of the sentinel nature. It got a bit out of control there for a moment and I had told Blair to phone you if anything went wrong."
"Did you hit the kid?" Jim was puzzled by Simon's reaction. He had thought that the captain had very little tolerance for the young guide, but there was genuine concern in the big man's voice.
No, I CAN'T hurt him, but something in my reaction must have triggered a flashback because when I snapped out of the trance he was screaming at me to not hurt him." Jim stared at his guide; Simon could feel his need to go to the younger man, "Simon, I had overturned the coffee pot on him, or the coffee pot got overturned, I'm not really sure what happened. He kept pleading with me to not hurt him, wrapped around himself in a ball on the floor. Simon, he was... God, he was whimpering. I tried to get him straightened up so I could check for burns. It wasn't easy, but I finally got him calmed down enough to try to pull up his shirt. God, Simon, he went berserk on me. Kept screaming that he was "nobody's whore", that I'd have to kill him before I could do "that" to him." Jim took a long, shuddering breath. Then, with a heartfelt plea, he asked, "Captain, what did they do him?"
Simon drew Jim to one side, he didn't know why he bothered; he doubted the kid was aware of anything but his own terror. "I didn't want to have to tell you this, not so soon. I got some information from one of the new patrolmen; he's former GDP, but he couldn't stomach what they were doing in the Corrections Unit. Jim, he was there while he," he indicated Blair," was being "corrected. It's why he's a cop now, what they did to Sandburg was the last straw."
"What did they do, Simon?" it was growled.
"There were three guards under a supervisor named Wilson, and if I had known this about that bastard when he was in my station he'd still be walking funny, who specialised in "breaking" guides. They normally had some restrictions on their actions but Blair was given to them, unofficially and unrestricted. Their superiors didn't care what they did to Sandburg as long as when they were done, he toed the line." Simon took a steadying breath, the worst had yet to be reported, "from what I found out they raped Sandburg repeatedly over a six week period. They beat him, forced him to do unspeakable things, move in certain ways. They kept him in a small, cold dark room on starvation rations. Jim, you knew what had happened to him right before you bonded. You smelled them on him, didn't you?" Ellison nodded silently, something in the blue eyes that met his told Simon that the sentinel had not forgotten what had been done to his guide, that he was waiting for the right moment to "correct" those who had "corrected" his guide. Simon pushed that thought away for later discussion. "By the way you're looking at me, he didn't tell you the full story in my office or since you brought him home."
The sentinel look almost distraught, Simon was uncomfortable seeing the normally stoic, ice-cold Ellison like this.
Jim's voice was a cry for help, "I tried to get near him a couple of times but he...." He gestured to where Blair was now crouched.
"You're his sentinel, Jim, he needs you. You've got to hold him until you get through to him. He might pull away but hold on until he knows he's safe. And for God's sake, don't let him feel the rage I saw in your eyes a moment ago. I doubt he's in any shape right now to know who's its aimed at."
Jim moved slowly over to kneel by his guide. Gently, he laid a hand on the arms the younger man had wrapped protectively around himself. The smaller man shuddered at his touch. "Blair, come on, Chief, you're scaring me here." He kept his voice light and friendly.
Very slowly, Blair's head came up, but he kept his arms tensed in place, in case he was making a mistake. There were tears on his face. Jim carefully moved so he wouldn't spook his guide; his fingers supported the sides of Blair's face while his thumbs brushed the tears away. "Its okay, Blair. I'm not going to hurt you," he forced a smile he didn't feel, "I scared you a bit there, didn't I, Chief?" He paused, "you should know I'm all bark and no bite where you're concerned. I could never hurt you; don't you know that? You're my guide."
He felt the curly head lean into his hand. The voice, when it came, was shaky, "All I could remember is what happened in the cell."
"Is that why you..." Jim words trailed off as he saw the color flood into his guide's face. Blair started to pull away, but his sentinel was not about to let him do that. Jim pulled his guide into his arms; for a moment the younger man struggled against his hold; then his body went limp and he began to sob as if his very heart would break. Nestled against his sentinel's chest, face pushed into the older man's neck, Blair began to speak; his words so quiet only a sentinel could hear. Jim made himself keep calm and whispered soft words of encouragement when the voice faltered, made reassuring sounds as he was told about the harrowing ordeal the man in his arms had suffered. Fought back rage and sickness as he heard the details of the frequent, prolonged sexual assaults and the physical and mental abuse his young guide had been put through. All the time, Ellison's hands moved in slow strokes on his guide's head, shoulders and back as Blair tried to burrow as close as he could.
Simon had sat down to watch and wait. He knew that Jim would need him when this was finished. Ellison might put up a public fa‡ade of ice-cold stoicism, but since taking the ex-black ops ranger under his command, Simon had seen the changes come over the man. He had opened up slowly to the people he trusted. But the biggest change in the man had taken place in the past four days since his bonding to this fragile, nearly broken young man. Banks knew he would never tell anyone about the caring, nurturing Ellison he had seen this day. Hell, they wouldn't believe me anyway. I'm not sure I believe it!
Blair pulled away from his sentinel's hold, his movements stilted, "I can understand if you don't want me as your guide now."
Jim exhaled with a shudder, "You're my guide, Blair. I wouldn't swap you for anyone. I just wish I could have been there for you to keep this from happening. God, Chief, I should have acted when we first met. I should have forced you to come with me, never let you return to that bitch Barnes; claimed you there and then."
"You weren't ready then; neither of us were ready."
"I can still wish, can't I?"
With a tired sigh, Blair returned his head to Jim's shoulder and rested in the presence that gave him what he needed. Jim detected the slowing heartbeat as his guide slipped into an exhausted sleep. Once he was sure Blair would not wake, he got to his feet, keeping his guide in his arms. Simon pushed a pillow into position as Jim laid him on the sofa and pulled the afghan over him.
"Wouldn't he be more comfortable in his bed."
Jim shook his head, "I don't want him to wake up alone."
Simon reached down and snagged the afghan, easing it up a little higher as Blair moved and it slid down. He heard Jim's unspoken need for someone to stay with him while he processed everything that he had heard that night. "I'll hang around for a while, if that's okay?"
"That would be good, Simon, thanks."
"He's not what I thought he was, Jim. There's a hell of a lot of courage in that young man. I'm not sure I would've survived what he went through." Jim nodded jerkily, "He's never going to have to go through it again. I'll see to that."
They talked through the following hours; every now and then Jim would tilt his head to one side and listen to the steady breathing of his guide in a deep healing sleep.
"And there is nothing we can do about this? Those bastards raped and brutalised my guide," he shook his head at the thought, "and you're telling me there is nothing we can do about them?"
"The GDP is a self-governing organisation, Jim. I went to Justice and one of their lawyers said that if we put in a complaint, they would act on it. They'd hold an Inquiry and speak to the guards involved, but you know the track record on those. Regardless of what the laws say, the truth of the matter is that a guide is the property of the GDP. Too many people are too afraid of unbonded sentinels to change that. Given that fact, there is no way they are going public with the information that some of their guards are sick, perverted scum. It would spoil their image."
Jim swore, it was short and sharp and to the point. He suddenly got up and walked across to the sofa. He had heard a soft moan from his guide; he was starting to dream, and from all indications, it wasn't a pleasant one. Jim moved to the sofa, "Simon?" The big Captain lifted Blair as tenderly as if he was his own child while Jim slid in under him and then lowered him so that his head was resting on a pillow in Jim's lap. The sentinel gently moved his hand over his guide's head, smoothing back the long unruly curls from his face. Blair turned into him, his arm reaching to encircle Jim's waist, pulling himself tight against him, murmuring softly. Several times in the next hours, the night terrors threatened, but each time, the soft words and attentions of the sentinel drove them away.
Simon woke up with a start, wondering foggily when he had fallen asleep, and looked across to the sofa. He started to get up and leave when the Sentinel awoke. Laser blue eyes pinned Simon into his seat. He knew instinctively that this was not his detective he was looking at. The sentinel blinked, recognition returning to his eyes. Sometime during the night he had moved so that he was stretched out on his side, curled around his guide on the narrow sofa. Now, he rolled onto his back, gently bringing the smaller man on top of him. He ran a hand soothingly down Sandburg's back and talked softly, reassuringly to his guide as he woke from the start of a night terror. Jim looked into the expressive blue eyes; he could see the fear lurking in the back of them. That fear faded slowly, to be replaced with contentment as Blair opened up empathic pathways that had felt too many hateful emotions for too long, and basked in the feeling of warmth and security his sentinel was projecting. He gasped, a quick intake of breath, as he glimpsed the barely controlled aggression channelled into his sentinel's need to protect him. Blair shifted so that his sentinel could inhale the scent at the point his neck and shoulder met. The scent calmed the sentinel down, the aggression disappeared and Blair eased away and yawned. Jim's hand lifted, ever so gently, and guided Blair's head back down on his chest, "Sleep, you're safe now."
"What about him?" the voice was very tired and a little embarrassed.
"Simon's a friend, Chief, remember that."
He felt a nod and then another yawn as the younger man snuggled closer and fell asleep.
Jim's attention remained focused on his guide, feeding him the emotional support the empath needed. Only when he was sure Blair was sound asleep did he open up his senses fully, allowing each one to range over the smaller man to re-enforce the bonding; just as his guide had done when he opened the empathic pathways and allowed the sentinel's emotions to wash over him.
Simon sat back and watched them. This was a side of Jim Ellison that few were privileged to see, the side he kept hidden from the world. He knew then that the sentinel would protect this young man with his life. That settled, he shifted into a more comfortable position and joined his men in sleep.
The story will be continued in "Living With The Past"Written by Susan Foster