Disclaimer: The main characters are not mine, this is an amateur effort written purely for the 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 Nancy, Gail and Lois for all your help, the story would not be here today without your input, and your beta reading.
This story is part one of a new series called Ghoul Central.
Warning for a few bad words.
For Alice on her birthday.
Ghoul Central was the nickname for the city of Cascade; it was one of many cities where the supernatural met the normal head on. The increase in the supernatural had started a few years after the War had ended. Both sides had turned to the Black Arts to try and win, and now Cascade was living with the results.
Captain Simon Banks looked around the Major Crimes bullpen and sighed. It was a slow night, so far only three murders and two of those had belonged to the Cult of the Three Pools. They were currently at war with one of the other gangs for the north side of Cascade. It looked like the war was heating up.
His gaze settled on Sentinel James Joseph Ellison. CorrectionÖun-bonded Sentinel. Jim had yet to find his own Guide. He had attended various meetings where he was introduced to the specially trained Academy Guides, but so far he just hadnít clicked with one. His abilities had begun to flare and the risk of zoning was much worse now. Frankly, Simon was worried about his friend. The Academy had sent various Guides to work with Jim; the record of one week was the best that any of them had stayed the course.
Jim looked up from his report and gave the computer a hard hit causing the monitor to rock.
"Sure, hit the technology, Ellison. It's sure to work better that way."
Jim turned to glare at Megan Connor, the only female member of Major Crimes. "It worked fine until that gremlin was let loose by Freddie Kay last week. The thing took up residence in my monitor." He hit the display again, and something the size of a thumbnail jumped out. There was a splat as Jim flattened it with a rolled up report.
"Wasnít that endangered?"
"If it wasn't, it is now." He turned back to his report. Even though he was a Sentinel, Ellison had absolutely no tolerance for anything remotely supernatural.
With a sigh the Sentinel looked up at the newcomer, Jack Pendergast, his former partner. His face lit up. Jack and Simon were the only people that he could honestly say he trusted. "Well, well, Lieutenant Pendergast, looking sharp there, sir."
"Shut it, Ellison. I can stomach that from anyone but you. So you still working here? Simon hasnít sent you back to traffic yet? I heard you totalled the car last week."
"Accident, pure and simple." His grin was breathtaking. "So, what can I do for you Jack?"
"Got a Vamp nest down on Lexton and Fern, near the University. The Dean wants them flushed out before the start of term, and Major crimes get the job. It's shake and stake time, gentlemen."
Jim Ellison looked round the bullpen and watched as his Guide came towards him balancing two cups of coffee. "Put those down, Murray. We have a Vamp nest to dust."
"Vamps!" Murray couldn't help but sound nervous; he had been selected as a possible Guide to Detective Ellison three days ago, and already he was beginning to mentally draft his resignation.
The man, even for a Sentinel, was dangerous. The way he drove, he should have been banned years ago. In the past three days Murray had been shot at and had a loony with a knife try to carve his initial in his hide. Plus Ellison showed no sign of wanting to take them to the bonding stage.
Murray had barely put the coffee down when he was hit in the chest by a vest and protectors.
"Saddle up, Murray, weíre on our way." Without a backward glance, the Sentinel was leaving the bullpen, and he was having to hurry to catch up.
Rafe and H followed, the GQ detective shaking his head. "Looks like youíre going to win the pool, H. I canít see Murray lasting beyond today, can you?"
"Well, given Eerie Ellison is already icing him out, I think I am on a winner. Now if he would only resign tomorrow morning, I have the money. The afternoon, and Rhonda gets it. Think we can suggest it to Murray?"
"No cheating, boys." The soft female voice made them turn to see Rhonda Phillips standing there, holding a pile of files. She was Captain Banks' secretary and the resident siren of Major Crimes, only she had no idea about it.
"Certainly not, Miss Rhonda," Rafe assured, but before he could say more, Captain Simon Banks coughed, "You still here, Detective? Do you want an engraved invitation?"
"No, sir!" It was almost comical the speed that Rafe and H exited Major Crime.
Early afternoon, and Major Crimes had gathered around a house in the warehouse district of the City. Surveillance monitoring had confirmed several demons entering the place.
Simon arrived just before the main assault. Like all his detectives, he not only wore a vest, but neck protectors, as well as gloves. He saw Jim checking two stakes, both in a harness over his shoulder. The man was the total professional. Hanging around his neck was the air filter he would be wearing since, as a Sentinel, he had an allergy for vampire dust, a fact that had nearly gotten him killed the first time he had done a shake and stake.
"Okay, Ladies and Gentlemen, we go in two by two, usual pattern. This is an illegal nest. They have been responsible for several killings among the street people." The judge's warrant was in Simon's pocket. "This nest has to be removed, and any Vampires in it destroyed, under Regulation 178 of the Revised Penal Code. Their Master is in there. We have identified him as Raul; heís about 100 years old, has about 15 apprentices under him, and a few fledglings. So we take them all down." Simon took his own stake out. "RightÖ let's do it."
As they moved forward he caught Jimís arm. "Where is your Guide?"
"He said he would stay with the truck and monitor the raid." Jim tapped the light headset he and the rest of the group wore, and shrugged.
The warehouse was large and it soon turned into a running battle. One of the Vamps dropped down behind Jim as he faced off a second, so he brought the stake back under his arm and that vampire turned to dust. The one in front lunged; he ducked and brought the stake up and into its heart. Then he spun round as he heard a can being kicked nearby. His eyesight narrowed even more and he saw a small longhaired man running towards the exit door to the warehouse.
The first thing that surprised him was the man hit the fire door and was out in the sunlight. Jim stumbled as he forgot to tune his eyesight down. For a moment he was blinded by the light, then he was running after the other.
"Simon, I have a target on the run. I'm going to bring him down."
"What? He might be a fledgling, and we can turn him back. RepeatÖ we have taken the Master down, we might be able to turn him back."
"Roger that." Jim increased his speed and then launched himself, catching the fleeing figure by the waist and bringing him down in a tackle. The smaller man ploughed into the pavement.
They rolled, with Jim trying to pin the squirming body under him. Finally he managed to flip the man onto his back and pushed one arm up high. "Now quit struggling, or you'll break your arm."
"Okay, man, okay. Just let up all right?"
Jim reached behind him and tugged out his cuffs, and only once his prisoner was secure did he pull him to his feet.
The first thing he did was push him against the wall and checked his throat for any bite marks the kid, because the man turned out to be a young man in his mid twenties, might have. But his neck was clear.
"Okay. Cascade PD. Mind telling me why youíre in an unregistered Vamp nest."
The younger manís breath caught. "I am a post grad student at Rainier. I am doing my diss on alternative social groups, and I got an in with this group. One of my students is a Vamp, strictly night class, but she said their Master might let me study them."
"Like Little Red Riding Hood to the Wolf." Jim gave him a shake. "And the fact they could have made a student snack out of you never entered that brain of yours, chief?"
"I have been going there for the last month, and everything is cool. Well, it was before your jackbooted cronies crashed the scene." The student could have bitten his tongue. The cop went from looking concerned to grim.
"Well, mister, youíve got a ride to the PD, and I am sure your adviser is going to be really interested in what youíre doing downtown."
"MrÖ Detective. Come on, man, the crack was out of line, but if I am taken down townÖ please, Iíll be more careful." The younger man was pleading now.
Jim heard Simon calling him on the headset. "Did you get him Jim?"
"Heís clean. We got to him in time. Iíve checked him over. No, sir, I think just let him go with a warning."
Jim uncuffed the younger man. "Now get, kid, before I change my mind." He started to turn away when there was a loud whistle. Jim threw his hands up to try and block the sound. He faltered and then fell into the void. As his knees buckled, he never felt the younger man catch hold of his arm and ease him down.
Blair Sandburg looked round, he could get the hell out of there and leave the cop, trusting that the big manís friends would find him and know what to doÖ or help him out. "Where the hell is your Guide?"
Blair leaned over the Sentinel, his hand lightly brushing the short dark hair. "Youíre going to be okay, man. You just have to listen to my voice. I know I am not your Guide, but they say I have it in me." He gave a harsh laugh. "Much good itís going to do me, but you might just hear me. My name's Blair, by the way, and I do appreciate you giving me the benefit of the doubt. So you just follow my voice. I know youíre in a not nice place, my voice is a line, you can see it, my hand is the anchor to that line, and youíre going to grasp it and pull yourself back to me."
Through the tentative connection, Blair could feel the cop slowly bring himself back to consciousness. Then like a jolt that made him sway, he knew suddenly that this Sentinel was not bonded. Unbonded, and the Sentinel had without realising it sought Blair through the bond. It was like molten metal surging through his head, his hands tightened on the Sentinel's shoulders, his fingers digging into the man. As strong arms wound their way around his thighs and pulled him closer, Jimís head pressed against his stomach. This was not a three or four senses Sentinel. This was the real thing, a full five-sensor. The rarest of the rare.
Blair somehow found the strength to pull himself back from the Sentinel and stumbled away. The manís eyes were still closed. "CanítÖ we canít, you donít understandÖ"
He took to his heels, and as he did so, he heard a scream. It echoed from the walls of the alleyway, the cry of a large cat, in pain, of loss. He ran until he could no longer breathe, then collapsed onto the ground and pulled himself up into a ball as he tried to steady his breathing.
"Oh god, what am I going to do?"
Murray was walking towards his Sentinel. He was not looking forward to talking to him. Ellison looked major league pissed off; mentally he began to prepare his resignation. If he had to talk Ellison through another crime scene, he was going to throw up his guts again, which would really go down well with Ellison, since it was his shoes he had thrown up on last time.
He slowed slightly. Ellison looked distant, almost as if he had recovered from a zone out and was still feeling the effect. Murray shook his head, no way a Sentinel could bring himself or herself out of one. Then, with a whoosh, the warehouse turned into a fireball, knocking everyone off their feet.
Captain Simon Banks got up. "Everyone okay?"
Detective H Brown yelled out, "Jim's down, Captain."
Murray just stood there, so Simon caught his arm. "Get your ass over there. Your Sentinelís hurt." Then in disgust he pushed the younger man away from him and began to run to Jim Ellisonís side. Murray just stood there, it was only when Brown grabbed him and frog marched him over to Jim, that he pulled himself together and went to the Sentinel's aid.
Cascade General Hospital
Nurse Braybrook picked up the phone and began to dial. She glanced around; she knew that Blair had been suspended after his last stunt, but then he had also been evicted from his rat-infested apartment and was living in his car and office. The phone rang, then rang again.
"Yes." Blairís voice was slightly vague.
"Blair? Itís Clare. We just had a police officer brought in. Heís a full five-sensor. And BlairÖ the guy is unbonded! Heís zoned, and they are threatening to use a chemical kick starter on him." She pulled the phone from her ear as her friend vented. "Look, I'm not supposed to do this, but I am faxing through his file. No, heís got this probationary Guide, but the guy is useless. He doesnít even want to touch the Sentinel, and we all know how tactile they are." She paused. "And Blair, you didnít get it from me, okay?"
Dr. Sainsbury Seal moved around the hospital bed, from time to time looking at the large solemn faced captain who sat beside it.
"How is he, Doctor?"
"No change, Captain. He's in a very serious zone out. Sentinel Detective Ellison is un-bonded, and that complicates the matter."
"Well, get it uncomplicated, real fast."
"I have arranged for Rainier to send over three of their newly listed Guides. Mr. King has said that he doesnít think that he can connect with Detective Ellison. It is possible that they could talk him out of the zone. Maybe one will make a connection with him which would lead to their bonding."
"Jim doesnít want to bond, Doctor," Simon said levelly.
"He may not have a choice, Captain, if you want him to live."
"Is there any other way?" Simon put in, looking for another option.
"I could use a chemical kick start, but it would cause additional health problems. I see that as a last resort."
Simonís anger steadily built up. Okay, each Guide was a trained professional. They all tried their best, but none of them could get through to the detective. Reluctantly the chemical procedure was arranged for the next day. Ellisonís condition was deteriorating fast.
Bryan Rafe was sitting by Jim Ellisonís bed. His captain had been called back to the station, and he had volunteered to take over the watch. He had newly joined Major Crimes, and the smartly dressed young cop was afraid of James Ellison. His temper was legend at the PD. A damn good detective, one of the best, but with an attitude problem that made him a loner, a cold fish. A former black ops Ranger, Ellison was one dangerous individual and had a look that seemed to chill the heart.
A young doctor came into the room, pushing his glasses back up his face with one finger, while juggling a file with another. His long curly dark hair was tied back into a ponytail; his smile was wide, and pleasant.
"Hi, Detective. I am going to have to ask you to leave the room while I do my examination."
"And you'reÖ," Rafe prompted.
"Your badge says McCoy."
"The proper Gaelic pronunciation of the name is McKay," the young doctor corrected as Rafe got up and left the room.
Once alone, the 'doctor' closed the door behind them. Forcing a chair under the doorknob and clicking the lock, he turned to his prize.
Blair Sandburg looked down at Detective Sentinel James Ellison, quickly running his gaze over the bed chart and then throwing it onto the chair.
Carefully he centred himself as he sat on the side of the bed. That chart was all techno-babble. The Sentinel wasn't lost. He just hadnít heard the right things to bring him back *yet*.
"Can you hear me, Sentinel?" His voice took on the bite of a Guide. "You might remember me. We have met before, you know, before the building went ballistic. Sure you do, big guy."
No movements, nothing. "Right, so hearing might be out, considering the explosion, so we try the other senses."
He reached his hands out, placing one each side of the Sentinel's head, gently cupping it, and began to slowly stroke the face in soothing circles. He leaned over so that his face was only inches from that of the Sentinel and slowly breathed his scent over the unconscious man.
Blair saw the other's nose twitch, and grinned. "That's my boy. You know I'm here now. None of those Guides tried this, did they? Okay, big guy, I am going to bring you out of it." He moved his hands down to stroke the neck and shoulders, in the same soothing manner.
A hand came up and wrapped into his hair.
Jim Ellison was in a safe place, dark and warm, nothing could hurt him, when he smelled a scent; it was musky with a spicy underlay. It called to him. Then his sense of smell intertwined with a voice, warm and comforting. The tone had to be obeyed. His sense of touch came back. One hand was wrapped into something like raw silk, under the other was the beating of a heart, and his hearing went up a notch. Then his eyes had to open to see the source of this scent that was calling to him. Slowly they focused on a young man, mid-twenties, and white coat, sweat beading his upper lip, and fear rolling off him like water.
Then he heard the words in his head and his heart lifted. //Un-bonded Guide!// Instinct and need cut in, and out loud he muttered one word, "Bond."
Blair heard the one word and swore. That wasnít what he wanted. He tried to pull back, but the Sentinelís teeth were now bared in a snarl. He was in the feral state. He had what he wanted in his grasp, and nothing was going to make him let go of his prize.
//Hell, as if I am that much of a prize.//
The hand snapped up from resting against his chest to circling his neck, and the fingers and thumb squeezed against his throat. Blair managed to force the words even as he felt as if his air was about to be cut off. "No, big guy, you donít have to do this. We donít have to bond now. We can, you know, talk, go to a few mixers."
As the Sentinel spoke, Blair was pushed back from the bed, and the Sentinel was on his feet. Three strides, and the smaller man was pushed back against the wall. The Sentinelís other hand caught the front of the white coat, and Blair found himself lifted off the floor and pushed against the wall. A hard knee was pushed up between his legs, and the Sentinel leaned into him, pinning him against the wall. One hand moved from his throat and began to run heavily over his head, all the time the laser blue eyes burning into him.
Blair could no longer struggle, his will to escape from the attempted bond was growing weaker by the moment, the connection between them that had started in the alleyway, was growing stronger. He could feel a burning through his head, then it ran down his body and pooled in his stomach. It was as if his whole body was on fire. The need of the Sentinel was engulfing him, and for the first time, he reached out for the man. One hand hesitantly pressed against a broad shoulder.
He heard a bang on the door of the room, and a voice yelling to open up. Then he panicked when he felt the Sentinel loosen his grip. Blair hooked one leg around the Sentinelís as he gripped onto the hospital grown and his other hand hooked around the Sentinel's neck.
The Sentinelís head lowered. Blair jerked up as louder bangs landed on the door, this time followed by a heavy thud.
"Yours," Blair breathed. The feeling of being possessed ran though him, sucking all the air out of his lungs. His breath caught.
One larger hand moved and tore open his shirt at the throat, and then the Sentinel's head came down and buried against Blairís throat. With a growl, drawing in a lungfull of the Guideís scent, the Sentinelís tongue flicked out and swiped across the younger manís throat, tasting his scent.
The Sentinel lifted his head and seemed to be pleased with the answering light he saw in the Guideís eye, then his head dipped down again and he bit hard into Blairís throat, his teeth breaking the skin. The copper taste of blood hit his mouth. The life essence of his Guide was recorded.
The Sentinel suddenly pulled back, and for a split second, frightened eyes met frightened eyes. "My god," was all the Sentinel managed before he tumbled back down into a zone out.
Then the door to the hospital room was crashing in, and the Guide was torn away from him. He felt himself sliding back into the void, as he heard *the voice* yelling, and fading into the background, one word wailing, "NO."
In the interrogation room, Captain Simon Banks was slowly circling. "Blair Sandburg, Teaching Assistant at Rainier University, BA, MA," he read the small white cardboard business card out loud, then flipped the card down on the table in front of the suspect.
"So far, Mr. Sandburg, we have you impersonating a doctor and assaulting a police officer."
"I didnít do that. Okay, I dressed as a doctor, but I didnít assault a cop."
"What do you call what you did to Jim Ellison?"
"I was bringing him out of a zone out."
"Dr. Sainsbury Seal has said that Jim is still zoned, so you did nothing, Mr. Sandburg."
"The doctor doesnít know anything. Heís still in the dark ages."
"And I suppose that you have the answers." The sarcasm rolled over Blair.
"Better than those idiots." Blair leaned forward. "Captain, you have to let me go back. I can get him out of the zone out."
"No, Mr. Sandburg. You see, I had a search done on your records. You were suspended from the University's Sentinel Studies department for -- how did they phase it? -- unethical behaviour. There is no way that I am letting a degenerate like you near Jim Ellison. Oh, and they told me all what you did, or rather tried to do. "
"Thatís not true, I never, Dr. StewartÖ" Blair trailed off. A man like the captain would never believe him over a suit like Stewart. He only had another month to go and he would be reinstated. But that would be a lost dream if he was charged, then there would be no way back for him to Rainier.
Simon Banks continued. "You were evicted from your room at the University, and you moved into a room over in Southend and got evicted from there. You now live in your car. You are a vagrant, Mr Sandburg."
Simon watched as the student seemed to collapse in on himself. //Not so sure of yourself now, are you, kid?//
"I-it's not like that. It wasnít like that."
"So tell me what it's like."
For a moment Blair just looked at the other. He was mildly surprised that the captain was actually giving him a chance to explain and not just throwing him into lock up. Thatís what the officers hovering in the background had told him they would do, and they had been really graphic about what the usual crowd would do with him.
Blairís hand was shaking as he reached for the glass of water. "The others rely on their books too much. Ellison is the real thing, man. Full five senses. Heís strong. His records say that. Heís not going to come out of his zone out because some wet behind the ears Guide is calling to him. He needs all of his senses to be engaged on his Guide. You have to understand, I can bring him out of the zone out. You have to let me go back."
Simon saw the smaller man jump up, his fists hitting the table, the chair skidding back and falling on the floor. The kid looked scared as if he had just stepped over some unseen mark. Simon waved the other police officer back.
For a moment he just looked at Blair and then the captain shook his head. "Itís pretty plain that you didnít mean Detective Ellison any harm. So get out, kid, but donít go near him again, otherwise I will lock you up and throw away the key." Although the captain spoke gruffly, there was no anger in his voice or body language. "Parr, get him out of here."
Blair did not really concentrate on what was going on. One minute he was walking along the corridor, the next he was pulled through the fire door into the emergency stairs. Then he collided heavily with the wall, was spun round, and a fist like a steam shovel slammed into his stomach.
Parr had his face right into the smaller man, only the otherís grasp on Blairís hair stopped him from falling forward. It felt as if his scalp was going to be torn out.
Parr sneered, "Captain Banks might believe that crap you were telling him, but I know what you are, Sandburg. Youíre a stinking..." Before he could finish the door to the stairway above was pulled open. Parr swore and dragged his charge out of the building, giving him a push that put the smaller man down onto his knees. In his pocket he had the location of the kid's office. Kincaid would be more than happy to pay a visit to him in the near future. Then there would be one less Ghoul lover to pollute the planet.
He returned to the business at hand "Get the message? Donít ever go near Ellison again." Then the door was slammed shut.
Blair slowly got to his feet and began to walk away. He had to find somewhere to live, at least to give him an address, because he had a feeling that Captain Banks was going to be keeping an eye on him. He fumbled through his pockets and pulled out a cigarette and lit it up. Where the hell was he going to get enough money to get the last and first down on a room? Let alone buy food!
But those thoughts got banished. All he could think of was that Ellison was lying in a hospital bed, zoned, and he could have helped him.
Dr. Sainsburg Seal came running as the alarm went off in Detective Ellisonís room. The heart monitor was signalling a code blue. When he rushed in, James Ellison was sitting up on the bed, demanding his clothes. All Ellison knew was that there was something he had to do and lying in the hospital would not get it done.
Three days later.
Jim Ellison knocked on the door of his captain's office and slumped down in the offered chair. The chilled cold blue eyes swept over the man already seated at Simonís desk.
Simon took in Jimís appearance. He had a butterfly bandage to his forehead. His memory of the raid was pretty much non-existent, apparently caused by the head injury. His mood had gotten worse, if that was possible, from the moment heíd come back to work. Simon knew with certainly it was just about to get even worse.
"I heard from Rainier," he glared at the other man. "Jim, they didnít exactly appreciate what you told Kim Harper. Apart from the fact itís physically impossible to do, she did get you out of the zone."
"That Guide couldn't find her...."
"Jim!" Simon cut in quickly before Jim could get going. He had heard the Sentinel's views on the Rainier Guides before, and although it might do him good to vent, it would not get them nearer the truth of what had happened.
"You didnít bond with her. Why was that?" The voice had the gentle tones of a working Guide trying to calm an irate Sentinel. Rob Webb was seated in the corner, a teacher at Rainier along with his Sentinel, Webb, who was a doctor who specialised in Guide / Sentinel medicine. He tried not to pull back as he found himself looking into the coldest blue eyes he had ever seen. For a moment he didn't think that James Ellison was going to speak to him. He could feel the aggression and power rolling off the man in waves.
Ellison's answer was short and to the point. "Heís not my Guide."
Ron Webb heard those four words and knew that they changed everything. This wasn't a latent Sentinel; this was a bondedÖ or bonding, Sentinel.
"Detective Ellison," Webb spoke levelly, as he had been trained. Even so, he had to prevent a shudder at the vibes that he was picking up. "I need you to close your eyes, andÖ"
Jim was on his feet in an instant, his protests only half uttered, when Simonís voice cut across him. "Ellison!" Simon snapped. "Sit down and do as you're told." Normally, he had no time for these Guides, but Webb had proven down to earth, without any of the BS that usually marked them. The man had things to say, and Jim was going to listen to him
With a show of great reluctance, Jim sat and closed his eyes. The voice grated on his nerves. It was not *the voice*, the scent not *the scent *.
Webb slowly, as if treading on eggs, brought Jim back from the meditation state. He used extra care because this was not his Sentinel, and in his bonding state, the man could easily fall into a zone again.
"Detective, you're in the process of bonding, that is why you could not bond with Kim. We need to find your Guide, Detective, and quickly." Webb knew that if Jim Ellison zoned again, no other Guide would be able to bring him out. He now belonged to his Guide, and that was the only voice he would listen to. This bond had gone too far to be broken. The Guide must be found.
Jim shook his head, his hand coming down in a slashing motion. "Youíre out of your mind. I sure as hell am not bonded to anyone, so forget it." He stormed out of the office, the door rocking on its hinges.
"Captain, think back. Who was with him while he was in hospital?"
Simon watched Jimís retreating back. "The only person who was with him any length of time was Blair Sandburg."
"I know Blair." Rob Webb sounded thoughtful.
"Okay, spill it. Whatís wrong with him?"
"Captain Banks, Blair is an intelligent and pleasant young man. He entered Rainier with the highest stats ever recorded. Heís brilliant, and will go far in his chosen field. But heís, well, rather hyper, and heís a Ghoul."
"What!" Simon was on his feet, his hand slashing down in a cutting motion. "Then you break the bond. I am not having Jim bonding with any Ghoul."
"Captain, itís not as bad as that. Sandburg is part Ghoul, his mother had a relationship with a, well, with a member of theÖ" Webb hesitated again.
"Spit it out."
"Blair is a Carnac, that is a half breed." Webb took a breath. "I have no hatred of half breeds. A Carnac has one parent that is a vampire. They are mortal, but have some of the abilities of the undead. He is registered with the University and is an excellent teacher. But the Chancellor ruled that Blair could never bond; it would be unfair to inflect his medical condition on a Sentinel. But it appears that he didnít take it seriously. I will have to report it to the Chancellor for her to take measures. But in the meantime, we need to get the two together. It will stabilize Detective Ellison. Then the Shaman of the Great City can break the bond when we have another Guide to help him."
To say that Simon was unhappy was an understatement, but all the same he reached down and pressed the intercom. "Rhonda, I want a APB put out on a Blair Sandburg." //You can run, but you canít hide, kid. Jim might need you now, but if you hurt him, I will personally stake you.//
Blair stood in the dark alleyway opposite the PD, the cigarette in his hand cupped against the icy wind that funnelled down the alley and cut him to the core. He coughed. He had given them up, but they at least cut down on his hunger. In his pockets was the bruised fruit he had been able to bum off his TA colleagues. He had seen Ellison arrive earlier in that blue and white truck. He tossed the cigarette down and walked away. It was a nice dream to keep him warm on a winter night, but in the mornings the reality hit him even harder. He was a half-breed and no way would he be allowed to ever bond. They were too scared of his genes.
Simon kept a close watch on his friend, but it became clear that Jim needed to bond, and bond soon. But the man had no knowledge of who Sandburg was. When he had suggested showing the Sentinel a picture of the kid taken from his driving licence, Rob had just shaken his head. The Sentinel had to find his Guide. If the union was destined, Jim would find him without the need of photographs. This was the leap of faith that all Sentinels and Guides took when they bonded.
The week passed slowly. Although the ABP had been put out on Sandburg, he had so far avoided the search net. He appeared to be staying away from all his usual haunts.
He would be found, and he would bond. As far as Simon was concerned that was already a done deal. Jim had been his friend for the last three years, and he wasnít going to lose him now.
Jim was royally pissed off, since following the Sentinel Guidelines he had been put on desk duty until his Guide could be located, since the risk of zone outs increased each day he was separated from his new focus. And no matter how he protested, Simon was immovable on that. No Guide, no field duty.
The paperwork had dragged out into the evening. It seemed that each staked Vampire or Demon killed, increased the forms that needed filling in by five. Jim glanced at the clock; he had agreed to pull a double shift. All he could do was hope that he was in for a quiet night.
Jim was seated at his computer, his fingers stabbing down at the keyboard as if it had caused him personal insult. Then two uniforms came into the bullpen, both of them towering over the smaller, younger man. His clothes screamed student from the multi-layers to the ex-army long coat. His long curly hair was filthy; it looked as if he had been thrown into a trash heap. He was handcuffed. A trickle of blood was coming from his lip and nose, and a large bruise was beginning to show on his pale face.
"Ellison, got a live one for you here. Watch him, heís a smart-mouthed SOB, but heís been taught a few manners. He was breaking into the University clinic."
The younger man was thrown into a chair opposite the Sentinel detective.
"Okay, punk, what's your story?"
"Go stuff your head up your ass pigÖ"
The Sentinelís head jerked up. "Keep your mouth clean, kid, before I wash it out for you."
"You're not my mother, pig, so go fuck yourself, you Ö." But he never got to finish.
"You kiss your mother with that mouth, kid? Now I'm warning you, push me and you'll be breathing bubbles." Jim reached down to get a fresh form.
There was a thud as two feet covered in ratty sneakers landed on the edge of the desk. Jim leaned forward and knocked them down, jolting the kid forward. "Mind your manners, before I do it for you."
His hearing suddenly focused on the man, and he frowned. The kid's heart was going faster; okay, he might be scared of the cops, but there was something more. He pushed the thoughts away. He had a job to do, this was just another student punk who thought drug dealing was an easy way to support his habit. One glance at the kid supported his view. He didn't need to look to know that he would have tracks like tramlines on both arms.
But even as he hit the keyboard to bring up the forms he needed, his senses began, against his bidding, to lock in on the younger man. His brain began to be flooded with input. There was something not right about the kid. His eyes suddenly fixed on the thin trace of blood smeared across his mouth; he could smell the metallic scent of the blood.
"What are you going to do about it, cop? Knock me about like those jackbooted..."
Jim was jolted out of his thoughts. Puzzled, he looked at the kid and was surprised to see concern on the expressive face. The words and attitude didnít jell with what he saw there.
The kid started out of the chair, with something akin to fear on his face, the expressive blue eyes widened. Suddenly those eyes were all that Jim could see. They became his world.
The uniformed officer who was hovering in the background caught Blair brutally by his hair. He had seen Ellison freeze and knew the kid had done something to him. He pushed the smaller manís head forward onto the desk with a sickening thud, as cuffed hands had been unable to catch himself in time.
Ellison snapped out of the light zone. In one smooth move he was out of his chair and around the desk, pushing Moore off the kid as he snarled. "Back off him, Moore."
The student slumped forward. When he tried to push himself up, obviously dazed, Jim said quickly, "Easy kid." The Sentinel pressed against the kidís shoulders, keeping him down, one hand already moving over Blairís head, checking for damage.
Moore reached for him again, and Jim Ellison snarled. "Touch him again, and I'll put you in plaster. Now back off!" It was said with the fury of a Sentinel.
Moore looked around, puzzled. Detective H Brown threw his pen down and rushed across the room. His partner had been working as Jim's temporary Guide, and he had learned from him. He could see that Jim had jumped straight into Blessed Protector state and was ready to tear the uniform's head off. He had the kid's head eased back, and hypersensitive fingers were checking over the lump on his forehead.
H approached slowly, hands held out to appease. "It's okay, Jim, no one is going to hurt him. Moore is an idiot. The kid is safe. Just let me..." He trailed off at the low, deep-throated snarl coming from the Sentinel's throat. //This is bad.// H backed away.
"Derry," he ordered the young, newly promoted female Detective, "keep everyone back."
Jim was crouched over the younger man, the growl now low and deep rolling.
H knocked and entered Captain Simon Bank's office.
Simon was about to yell about coming in without waiting to be called; this was his office, not Grand Central Station.
"It's Jim Ellison. Moore brought some kid in, and I think heís connected -- hell -- bonded, with Ellison. Moore hurt the kid, and Jim went straight into Blessed Protector mode. He's ready to kill."
Simon was on his feet and powering out of his office. The kid was hanging limply in the Detective's arms, his face pressed against the Sentinel's chest, hidden beneath the long hair. Jim was cradling him, like a mother bear protecting its cub.
"Okay, people, just what happened here? Moore?"
"The kid was bad-mouthing Ellison. He's a blasphemer, and I showed him the error of his ways."
"He knocked the kid out, and Ellison went ballistic," H put in quickly.
"Tell me that kid's not from the University." Simon was getting a terrible sinking feeling.
"He was caught breaking into the University clinic." Moore supplied the information; he had heard enough to know that he was in serious trouble.
"You got a name on him?"
Moore dug the wallet out, and flicked it open, "Blair Sandburg."
"If that's correct, I want to know how the hell it happened, Moore. I have had an APB out on that kid, and there is no way you should have let him come within spitting distance of Ellison without Webb being present. Your captain is going to hear about this. Now get out of here!"
Even though the logical part of Jimís brain had trouble identifying who this was he held, the instinctive Sentinel didnít. This was his Guide, from the hospital and before. The bond had called to him both those times, and now was the time for him to answer, to make the Guide his. They had tried to stop him once, but they would not stop him again. He tightened his hold on the smaller man. They had hurt his Guide, and he was ready to tear and destroy anyone else who tried.
The logical Jim could see himself, but he had no control over his actions. The Sentinel had come out fully. He was online totally; he could count the number of eyelashes on his Guide'sÖ*his Guide's* face. Jim could see the abrasions on the kidís hands, smell the stale scent of blood on him. *His Guide, and only his.* The scent of his Guide was calling to him, and only to him. His head came up; he was just starting forward when a pale hand caught his jacket.
"Sentinel." The voice sounded lost, weak and frightened, but he had to listen to it.
Jim leaned down so that lips brushed his ear. The voice was fading, then his Guide's hand dropped away. Jimís roar echoed round the bullpen.
Banks swore. "From bad to worse, in one step." The captain took a deep breath. "Okay, Jim, heís your Guide, but heís hurting, so I need you to let us help him."
Jim shook his head. For a moment Simon held his breath, and then he saw *their* Jim Ellison return. "Simon what...?" Ellison's voice trailed off as the memories came back.
The kid had been attacked. He had smelled his blood, and then when he touched him it had been like an electric current running between them.
The whole world had changed, the colors were brighter, and the scent of his Guide had been calling to him. He hugged the younger man to him and took a deep breath, inhaling the white chocolate musk smell that would mark his Guide. //His Guide.// The thought should have made him throw the kid away from him. It was something that he had never wanted. The idea of giving some measure of control over his life to another person frightened him. He couldn't give in now, but "the Sentinel protects the Guide" was engraved onto his very soul.
"Simon, heís hurt. We need to get him to the hospital."
"We will, Jim, we will." //Thank god, you're back.//
Jim was no longer responding, just looking down at his Guide, as in the back of his mind his memories began to return. He realised that this kid was the same one as in the alleyway and the hospital. But suddenly it didn't matter. All that mattered was that he was his.
ER was busy; the usual accidents and Ghoul related injuries. Jim was striding along beside the gurney, his Guide still unconscious. He had to pull back his senses as the noise and smell threatened to send him into a zone out. The doctors soon learned that it was best to deal with the Guide first, and worry about any oddities later, after the large, angry Sentinel had nearly taken their heads off. Simon had gone along with them, knowing that he was needed to keep Jim anchored in the present.
Simon had pulled the doctor to one side and explained about Sandburgís mixed heritage. The doctor had ordered Sandburg be taken to the Ghoul wards, but the moment that Simon and Jim had set foot in one, they had turned round and pushed Blair back into the elevator. There was no way the young man was going to be treated on a Ghoul ward.
Now Jim sat next to the hospital bed of his Guide, in a spotless room, with clean sheets and heating. The kid had no money, and only basic TA medical coverage, which had been suspended when he had been. So Jim had immediately paid for him, paying the extra to cover the fact he was a Ghoul.
Blair Sandburg, grad student, opened his eyes and snapped them shut again, the light burning through his head, when he became aware of the man near him. Without looking, he knew that the man was putting a hand out to touch him, that that hand was hovering just above him, and.... he took a shuddering breath, he was bonded. He could feel the power crackling between them. They had not performed the ritual that would bond them in the eyes of the Sentinel world, but the connection was there.
His heart soared. The one thing that he thought was lost to him was now his. He slowly opened his eyes again. The light this time was set low, and his Sentinel had moved closer to him.
"How are you feeling, Chief?" It was said in a low timber, concern showing in it.
"Head hurts." Did his voice really sound that weak?
"You have concussion; you have to rest." Jim pressed the nurse call button.
Blair caught hold of it, trying to sit up, but pain knifed through his head, and he had to fall back on his pillow. "Please, no. You have to get me out of here, now."
"Later, okay, man? Just help me up."
"No, you're hurt; this is the best place for you."
"You donít understand." Blair beat one fist against the blankets. Jim could hear the defiance in the tone, and the increase in the heartbeat. The kid was scared.
"You're my Guide; you stay here."
To Blair the big cop's tone was final.
Jim had to do something; he couldn't sit by and let his Guide be frightened. He sat down on the side of the bed. His hand moved and lightly cupped Blairís face. He gently stroked it, feeling the bristles, each individual one, and under it the softness of his skin, the tang of sweat, and the sweet scent of his Guide. Suddenly he heard *that* voice, the one of a fully bonded Guide, kicking him back.
"Thank god, man, I was scared that you wouldnít come back. You were zoning there. I..."
"I heard you, Chief, and followed you back, *my Guide*."
Blair tried again; there was a tremor to his voice. "You cannot bond with me; itís not allowed. I am out of the Sentinel Program now."
"Because I am a Ghoul, okay?" Blair flinched back waiting for the big Sentinel to go ballistic. //At least I am in hospital.// Blair thought. He waited for the words and blows.
The Chancellor had made it all too clear to him, no Sentinel -- and especially a five-sensor -- would ever bond with the blowback of a Vampire. Her voice echoed through his head. "A Sentinel will want a pureblood human, not a Carnac. Lower your sights, Blair, and you might just get somewhere in this life."
The reaction this got was for the Sentinel to loom over him. Blair tried to push backward, away from the bigger man. He could feel the Sentinelís aggression level go through the roof. Then he realised that the anger was not aimed at him. It was aimed at the people who would try and break their bond, and he had to calm him down, otherwise the first person through the door was going to get flattened, seen as a threat to their bond.
Blair allowed Ellison to fuss over him. It occupied the older man and seemed to calm him. To protect the Guide was throwback emotion, but still the strongest one in the Sentinel armoury.
"EASY, SANDBURG." More aggressive petting followed and finally he calmed, believing that this Sentinel, his Sentinel, would not let anyone harm him.
"I know what you are. Simon, explained it to me." The Sentinel paused and then added. "You are mine, and no one will take you."
The doctor arrived and then waited until he had the Sentinelís attention before moving forward. He had seen the carnage that resulted from startling a Sentinel in BP mode; it could get really messy fast. The doctorís verdict was that Blair could leave the next day as long as he had somewhere to stay, and someone to look after him.
Jimís eyes had never left Blairís face, and he had told the doctor that Blair was coming home with him. Once alone again, the questions Jim had lined up for the younger man were forgotten for the moment. Blair was in no shape to answer them. They could come later. "Rest now, we'll talk later. Be back in a moment."
Blair lay there, knowing that he had to get out, despite the seductive sense of security and the caring that he had felt in the arms of his Sentinel. //No, not his. Never his. A shaman could break their bond. They hadnít fully bonded. He could get another Guide, a pure soul, not a....//
Pushing back, he pulled his legs off the bed, and nearly fell flat on his face as his legs almost folded. //Okay, okay, I can do this.// He couldn't let Jim suffer the stigma of having a Ghoul for a Guide. He launched himself at the closet door. Hanging on, he pulled his clothes out and began to tug them on. He had to get out.
The nurse saw the patient at the door to the fire escape and hurried. She had seen him brought in. Her hand dropped on his shoulder. Blair turned fast and snarled, and the nurse backed off and ran. What the hell was he doing on this floor?
Blair stumbled down the stairs, nearly falling, hanging on for dear life to the banisters. //Have to get away from here.// He could not let them take him back.
Jim came out of the now empty room and headed for the exit. His Guide had run. He would get him back; he would learn he couldnít run. The Sentinel was blocked and reached out to remove the obstacle, freezing as he recognized the person. Who wouldn't? She had been their main help at the beginning of this Ghoul-ridden mess of a world. Cynthia River, the Shaman of the Great City.
"Shaman, my Guide. I have to find him. Heís hurt."
"First we must talk, Sentinel, or all that will follow will have no meaning." She caught his arm and pulled him into the hospital room. The sight would have made him laugh on a good day; this five-foot nothing, grey haired lady tugging on the arm of a six-foot-two Sentinel, and him following her lead.
"Dr. Long called me. He told me he has a Carnac and my heart lifted with joy, that this little one has come at this time to join with you, and partner you."
"Simon told me he was part Vampire, I would have thought that you would have forbidden the union."
The Shaman smiled and lightly brushed Jimís face. "So new a bond, and yet so passionate in your defence of your Guide. This shows that you will form a strong union with him. Now listen to me, Sentinel, and not to the words of those fools who see evil in all of mixed heritage. The Carnac have strong earth powers. They see the spirit world, and they are the true Shamans. They have a pure heart, which is why the Vampire is frightened of them. He is unique, a treasure! Once his power is harnessed, he will have the power of the ages at his command. But the journey is dangerous. If he lives long enough, he will stand as an equal at your shoulder. The Carnac has a foot in the supernatural. They have certain defences that can be mistaken for vampirism, but they are the healers and Shamans, Sentinel. They are the true Guides of the Sentinel. But our eyes became covered, and as the supernatural became nothing but myth and legends, so they were forgotten, along with the existence of Sentinels. Now you are back, so they will come back. This little one is the first. He will serve you well, as you will serve him. Take him, and claim what is yours, for your destinies are joined. He is the next Shaman of the Great City; I have seen it in the runes. Time is short; bring him to me at the next full moon, and I will see him before I pass behind the veil."
"No, Sentinel, but my time on this plane is limited. Now go and find him." She pushed firmly. "Go, Sentinel, and do not waste my time or your destiny. The little one needs you. Go now."
Blair Sandburg entered the warehouse that was his home. He had been lucky to get it. After the veiled warnings from the big captain about vagrancy, he had made sure that he had somewhere to live, or rather an address he could give. Mr. Farmer had given him an old office room if he worked as a caretaker and made sure no Ghouls or demons took up residence here. It was icy cold.
He put a hand to his head as he swayed. He was all right; all he needed was time to rest.
The small living space was icy; the space heaters did nothing to warm him. He looked at the mildew on the walls, but this was his home. He collapsed on the futon. His head was hurting. He needed time to heal.
Blair hugged the blanket around him and shuddered. Forget the Sentinel; he was a lost dream. //If it hadn't been for that cop, I would have been all right.// Ellison didnít remember him. A few questions, and he would have been in holding. //Why the hell did I let my mouth run off like that?// But the moment that he had been attacked, the Sentinel had reacted and had known him.
God, what the hell was he going to do?
Outside in the dockland area, the Redeemers sat in their van, as their leader, Kincaid, fingered the stake. They all had the same classic clean-cut look, with short, almost military haircuts. They were the soldiers of their beliefs, recruited to repel the unclean abominations. They had been told all about the creature that lived here. And they were going to remove it. There was only one thing worse than a Ghoul, and that was a liberal minded Ghoul lover.
Blair woke with a start as the defence web of power he had woven around his living quarters was breached. He could then hear a pounding on the door, a sledgehammer. The locked door would soon be broken through. He grabbed his backpack and made for his bolthole. He was halfway out when he felt a hard blow to his back. He made himself keep moving, twisting through the hole. Their footsteps rang out as they hurried to take up the chase. Then there was a loud crack as a section of the wall was blown in as they tried to follow him. All he could hope was it held them long enough for his escape.
Blairís breath was coming in shallow gasps, his hand moved to his shoulder and he looked almost dumbly at the point of the bolt as it stuck through his shoulder. Then he heard them yelling, and he pushed himself off the wall he was leaning on and started to run again.
Jim put the phone down. It had taken time for him to find Blair Sandburgís address. To begin with, his fellow students had closed their ranks on him. Then one of them, a student nurse, had stared hard at him, and then told him about a warehouse on the bad side of town. She had said something about him being Blairís holy grail. But he had no time to query that now.
Driving up, the Sentinel saw the tire marks on the concrete outside of the warehouse and the door busted open. He pulled his gun, moving in slowly, checking out with his senses. The warehouse was a mess, books and clothes scattered in all directions, but no sign of his Guide. For a moment he nearly panicked as he saw the whitewashed markings on the wall, the sign of the Redeemers. Had they taken his Guide?
Jim took a deep breath and caught the scent of his Guide, edged with fear. He tried to tune out the scent of blood and followed. As he tracked, Detective Ellison began to be pushed back and the pure Sentinel came forward with one thought in his mind, //Find the Guide, protect him.//
The pain was causing Blair to hover on the edge of blackout. He tripped and staggered through the rubbish, but kept going. Finally he dragged himself into the small doorway hidden by a dumpster, then blacked out, unable to fight against it any longer.
Blair woke. He was being held tightly; he tried to fight free, but was pulled tighter against a warm body.
"Itís all right; I have you." Jim was holding him close, one hand running over him, trying to check on him.
"El-El-Ellison." One word said volumes; he was safe now. His Sentinel had found him.
His eyes closed again.
The Sentinel would care for the Guide until he was fit. Jim had been a medic in the Army, and that had proved useful more than once before. Now he was carefully tending to the smaller man.
His Guide had been hit by a crossbow bolt. Carefully he cut away the stained jacket and shirt, and then explored Blairís chest. He could just see the tip of the bolt as it had nearly gone straight through the kid's shoulder. The tip was barbed. It could not be pulled back out; it had to be forced the rest of the way through so the barbs could be cut off.
Jim wiped the blood off his fingers and picked up the phone, his fingers tapped impatiently.
Blairís eyes opened. He was in pain; when he moved, he nearly blacked out. He rolled his head to one side and saw the Sentinel holding a phone. He had to concentrate to try and follow the one-sided telephone conversation.
"Jeff, itís Jim Ellison. Long time no see, buddy.You still got that doctor's shingle hanging outside of your front door? I need your help. My Guide's been injured. No, I canít take him to the hospital; heís a Carnac." Jim paused then added, "I knew that would get your interest." Jim nodded as Jeff asked a series of questions. "He was hit by a crossbow bolt. Itís still in his shoulder. No, I donít know if itís infected. I am still at Prospect. See you in twenty, and thanks."
Jim put the phone down and crossed to Blair, kneeling down so that he was eye level with his injured guide. Blair tried to sit up and was held down. "Donít even think about it, kid. We need to get that bolt out of you."
"You donít want me, man. I am a Carnac."
"I know exactly what you are. Youíre my Guide, so live with it. You canít get rid of me that easy, Chief."
Whatever Blair was going to say was lost in a groan of pain. His hand automatically caught hold of Jimís, his fingers tightening until they were white. Blair tried to remember the meditation mantra that would help him, but the pain was too bad. It was as if the wound was on fire. Sweat began to pour off him.
"Hang on, Blair. Jeffís coming."
Then he felt his Sentinelís hand cover his. "Blair, breathe with meÖ in and 1,2,3. Now out. In again, 1,2,3, and out."
Slowly Blair found that he was concentrating on his Sentinelís voice. As in his head he felt the connection between them come alive, his breathing slowed and the pain began to fade.
When the knock on the door came, Blair tried to move, only to be held down. "Easy Chief. Itís Jeff."
Jeff was in his late thirties and was only a couple of inches shorter than Jim. He grinned, as they shook hands. "Itís been a while, Captain. Now where is your Guide?"
The doctor made his way around the side of the sofa and put his bag down, "So youíre a Carnac? First time Iíve ever seen one, but I have read up on your breed. Jim, I am going to need your help. We need to get this bolt out of him, and then I need to check for garlic. If they have tipped the bolt with it, I am going to have to flush it out." He gently patted Blairís good arm.
Even though Blair was loaded with painkillers, there was no way that the next few minutes were not going to feature in his nightmares for the next three decades. Jeff confirmed what Jim had known: the crossbow bolt could not come out through the entrance wound, it was too deep, and it had a barbed head. It would have to be forced through.
"Jim, we need to lay him flat. Clean the stuff off the kitchen table. Once we start this, we are going to have to finish it. The barbed head of the bolt has to be hit through, and then once itís clear and cut off, we can remove the shaft. I need you to hold him flat, because if he movesÖ" Jeff let the sentence hang in the air.
Jeff hammered the end of the bolt, but it wasnít hard enough. Blairís body bucked, but was held down.
Jim snapped, "Do it again."
This time, Jeff hit harder and the bolt came through. Jim pulled Blair onto his side. The doctor quickly cut the end off the bolt, pulled the shaft out, and then began to work on the wounds, cleaning and padding them. By then, Blair was thankfully out of it.
Finally Jeff removed his gloves and dropped them into the waste bin that contained more of his Guideís blood than Jim would have liked. "On the plus side, Jim, heís young, and the wound was not infected. The Redeemers also used just an ordinary bolt. Sometimes they load it with garlic, and that can be a real bastard, Jim, but he should make a full recovery." Jeff hesitated. "Donít take this wrong, Jim, but considering what happened to your mother, I canít understand you taking a Carnac as a Guide." For a moment he was worried that he had said the wrong thing, then Jim ran a light hand over his Guide's pale face, his touch seeming to calm the injured man down, as he had started to fret in his sleep.
"Heís not a Vampire. If he was, I would have staked him before he opened his mouth. The Shaman of the City has said he is my Guide, and if sheís wrong, then we are all in above our head." Jim exhaled. "And when I touch him I know that heís mine. The linkÖ itís already there. We havenít bonded, but still itís there."
Jeff patted his arm. "I am pleased you found him at last. Now if his temperature begins to build up, put him in a bath of cold water. If that fails, then call me. And I canít rule out taking him to hospital. I know you donít want to do that, because of the series of unexplained deaths there, but it might have to be."
Once Jeff left, Jim went back to his Guide, his shoulder now heavily bandaged. The Sentinel lowered his hand and lightly stroked it across his Guideís ribs. He could feel them clearly. His Guide was seriously underweight, even for his smaller build. He found himself being pushed even further into Blessed Protector Mode. Now he had his Guide, he would make sure that he eat regularly. Checking that Blair was still out, Jim went up to his room and made up the bed. Upstairs Blair would be better protected and in his territory. The sofa was not good enough.
He pulled the comforter back, and then went for his Guide. First he undressed him, then filled a bowl of water and began to wipe him down. Cleaning him, he dropped the filthy clothes onto the floor.
As he accidentally stepped on the pants, he frowned. He had heard something. Bending he picked up the garment, went through the pockets, and pulled out a packet of cigarettes. His hand closed on the packet and ground it into pulp. Cigarettes had been made illegal ten years ago, and it was an offence to have them. This was one habit his Guide was going to kick. He threw the mashed package into the waste paper bin, gathered his Guide up, and carried him to bed, settling him in a warm nest of blanket and comforter.
It was early morning when Jim woke. He was lying on top of the bed, his arm around the sleeping Guide. But what had woken him was the heat radiating from the smaller man. The sweat had soaked through his clothes wherever they touched Blair.
He had to break the fever before it took its toll on Blair. Jim picked his Guide up in his arms and went into the bathroom. Carefully laying him down on the mat, he ran water into the bath, then tried the temperature. Iit was cold enough. Satisfied, Jim laid the feverish man into the water, supporting his head and shoulders, keeping the bandages as dry as he could. With his other hand, the Sentinel carefully began to soak away the sweat from the too thin body.
Blair began to talk in his fevered state. He was rambling, his mind spinning in all directions.
Jim spoke soothingly to him, and gradually he calmed. He kept wiping his Guide down until he was sure that the fever was well on the way to breaking. Only then did he pick Blair up and dry him off, taking him back to the bed.
Jim pulled the younger man closer and supported his head as Blair opened his eyes. Jim took a drink off the side table and managed to coax some of it into him. "You did well, kid. You're going to be all right. The first thing we're going to do is get you out of that filthy nest, and youíre coming to live here, safe from the Redeemers. And no one is going to hurt you again."
Blairís eyes opened wide and blue. He reached for Jim and tried to climb into his lap. The Sentinel didnít hesitate; he just opened his arms and tugged the smaller man into their shelter. The Guide was not very coherent; he made a needful noise and burrowed deeply into Jimís chest. Large, strong hands ran up and down the thin body. Jim talked about everything and nothing, but his voice and touch seemed to settle his Guide down. He petted Blair's long dark curls lightly. He could feel a sense of comfort from just touching his Guide, smelling his scent. Time no longer mattered.
For Blair, the first thing he knew was that he was held, and he felt safe. He tried to lift his head, only to have it pushed gently back down again. He felt for the first time the connection start to sing between him and his Sentinel, and he actually began to believe that this could happen.
Jim yawned. "How do you feel, Chief?"
"Tired." His breath caught as the pain flared in his chest.
"Lay still. We donít have anywhere to go."
"Youíre my Guide, Chief, and I'm not letting you go." It was said with the possessive force of a bonding Sentinel.
"You got shot, but youíre going to be okay, Just rest." Jim shifted to ease the ache in the middle of his back. Blair was confused, so Jim was more than happy to take things slowly and explain things as many times as he needed to.
"Donít go." Panic coloured Blairís voice.
"I'm here. I'm not going anywhere," he quickly reassured the younger man.
Blair paled as the true nature of his situation caught up with him. As seductive as it was to believe that he could be Guide to a Sentinel, he couldnít do it. They would never allow him. "I'm a Ghoul, you canít even think of bonding with me. I donít even know if I can bond."
There was such distress in his voice that Jim pulled him closer and cuddled him harder. The kid had to understand. "Youíre a Carnac, Chief, and that makes you one of the good guys. If the Shaman herself said we can bond, Iím not going to call her a liar."
"She said we could?" There was a touch of hope to his words he so wanted to believe.
"She said so, and you have to get well because she wants to see you, on the full moon."
"Your destiny calls you." He tugged his Guide closer, hugging him.
Blairís body went limp. For a moment the Sentinel froze, his senses wrapping around the smaller man in his arms, then relaxed as he realized it was only sleep claiming his Guide.
The Shaman of the Great City smiled as she saw the blue and white truck pull up. The Sentinel got out, then crossed to the passenger door and helped the young, almost fragile, Guide out. A strong arm slid around the smaller manís waist, as he was pulled close to the older, larger man. She nodded. //A Sentinel in full Blessed Protector state. He will protect the little one well.//
Looking at them, she could see the power that rippled from them, but the colour of the power was not yet mixed. The Sentinel's power was red, the young Carnac's yellow, but each was tinged with the blue of their unbonded state. The Carnac was in pain, of mind, soul and body. But that, she mused, was why she was here, to watch over the bonding.
She moved forward and took Blairís hand in one of hers; her other touched his chest, feeling the beat of his heart. "It is all right, Little One. You will be bonded with your Sentinel tonight, a bond that will be strong and true." She smiled at him kindly. "Sentinel, I'm not going to harm him, but he needs to be centred for what will soon come." She then turned to Blair. "Carnac, it will not be an easy journey for you, but at the end of it you will have your Sentinel, and the bond will be strong and true. Hold those words in your heart, and they will be your talisman."
Blair sat down in the middle of the circle and settled himself. He had read the symbols on the ground; it was a power circle. The Shaman waved Jim to sit down by the outside of the circle. His time would come later, if his tie to this little one were strong enough.
She picked up a dish and sprinkled a white powder into it, then held the dish up to the moon. The light caught on the surface of the liquid; her chant was in the oldest tongue. Then she handed the dish to Blair, "Drink deeply, Carnac."
Blair met her gaze, and then drank it down. His body began to spasm as it hit him. He went down onto his side, no longer able to hold himself upright, his body arching as the pain knifed through him. He screamed, as the very pathways of his mind were burned open.
To Blair, his mind seemed on the point of explosion, his mouth was open, but he had no voice left with which to scream. His empathic pathways were nothing more than raw wounds. The emotions of another began to crash around him; they belonged to only one person, Jim Ellison
The pain made it more and more difficult for him to stop his slide into the void of a black out that offered peace and death. He had never known such pain. But then he could hear Jim's voice calling to him. His mouth formed one word, "Jim."
Jim Ellison was on his feet in an instant, and was about to cross the line making up the circle when it became a wall of white fire. Blair was screaming, he was beyond any words. Jim put a hand out and jerked it back from the white flame, the barrier between him and his Guide. Then he met the Shaman's eyes full on, and in his eyes she saw strength and rage. The eyes of his spirit Guide shone through, and when his head went back, it was the spirit of the panther that answered the cry of the Guide.
He walked into the white flames, screaming in pain as the flames ran over his body, but he stepped through it and knelt by the side of his Guide. He gathered the small body to him. Vulnerable, Blair reached out for him with mind and body, the empath making the connection with Jim's mind.
The Sentinel felt the pull on his mind, and then the almost timid entry of his Guide. Jim had no light touch, and he was untrained, so Blair was staggered by the raw emotions that swamped him. But they wove around him, creating a cocoon of peace and protection. No stray emotions came through, only his Sentinel's. Through the link Blair felt it as Jim committed his mind and body to the protection of his Guide.
Blair, for the first time, felt the warmth of the bond. He was no longer going to be alone. His soul mate had found him, and he gave over totally to being claimed.
The flames suddenly vanished, with not even a scorch to the ground. Only then did Ellison look up at the Shaman. She laid a hand on his head and on that of the Guide. "A good pairing, a strong pairing. Take him and rest, you have a long way to travel before this evil that engulfs the city is destroyed." She looked at the power signature coming off the pair and smiled. Blairís was now intertwined with that of Jim Ellison. Sentinel and Guide were joined.
Simon Banks was worried. It was as if his detective, his friend, had fallen off the face of the earth. When the phone rang he scooped it up. "Banks."
His worry turned to anger as he recognized the voice on the other end of the line. "Ellison? What do you mean you want...?" He broke off as he heard the curt words from James Ellison. "You have the week off, Detective. Sort out your problem, and we will talk Monday morning. Believe me, we will talk."
Jim came into the bullpen, his Guide almost hidden behind him. Rafe looked up, and smiled. Jim Ellison, mean, moody loner, was carrying a battered backpack in one hand and had a firm grip on the smaller, younger man with the other. Supporting his elbow, he pushed his Guide into a chair at his desk, and then fussed over him.
Rafe leaned forward. "Mother Hen Ellison." He took a shuddering breath as Jim Ellison turned and looked at him.
"Bruuh," H said softly, "frostbite warning." Their heads went down; out of sight, out of mind.
Jim looked towards the office, then back at his Guide. He didnít like to move Blair again, now that he had him comfortable, but he could see that Simon Banks was waiting. "Best get this over with, Chief."
Simon looked up and frowned as Jim Ellison looked around the door.
"Got a minute, Simon?"
"Come in, Jim." His face took on a sterner cast as he saw the smaller figure just behind him. His tone was official. "If you have forgotten, Detective Ellison, we are police officers; we work in Ghoul Central. We have enough problems without importing them into the building."
"Heís a Carnac, Simon. I donít really understand it; they're a kind of offshoot to the Vampire. He's alive and mortal, and all I know is that we have bonded, under the sponsorship of the Shaman of the Great City. My Guide is her successor."
"WHAT?" Simon exploded. "She let you bond with that creature? There is no way a Sentinel, and hell, a friend, is going to stay bonded with him." He reached for the phone. "She can just come over here and break the bond right now."
Blair was between them, lips pulled back over bared teeth, long fangs showing, eyes flashing red, his nails like long claws. The snarl rumbled low in his throat. It was enough to make the hair on the back of Simonís neck stand up. The Guide's need to protect his Sentinel was mixed with the strength of the Carnac.
Jim pulled Blair around and gave him a shake. "Blair, Simon is our friend. He is no threat to US." He pulled him close, feeling the whipcord tension in the smaller grad student. Cynthia had warned him that Blair would be a little volatile until he relaxed into the bond and would listen only to Jimís guidance. He moved his hands over his Guideís smaller ones, catching them in one hand. With his other he stroked and petted Blair, letting him feel his emotions through the empathic link that was so much a part of the bond. Then he felt the weight of Blair's head resting so trustingly on his shoulder. The fangs and nails contracted, and the red eyes faded to blue.
"Heís my Guide, Simon. He's where he should be, and where he belongs." His head tilted to one side, he cooed almost softly to his Guide, using touch to re-enforce what he said. "He didnít mean to threaten the bond, you're *MINE*, BLAIR."
Simon frowned. This wasnít what he wanted for his friend. But it looked like forces beyond his power had taken a hand in this, so he had to resign himself to it. "He will need Guide status." Then he added, remembering Sandburgís lack of accommodation. "Donít tell me youíre letting him live with you, as well. You know the rules, Jim. You have to notify the landlord of the building to get his clearance too, if you're going to keep him at home with you."
Jim was all too aware of the ruling. The rest of the residence would have to be served with a P803, which would give them four days to register their objections to the landlord about having a Ghoul in the building. If he agreed with them, then Blair would have to move into the Ghoul sector of town. That, Jim would never allow.
Then Jim smiled and it was not pleasant. "A little bit of information Simon, I own the building, and I was onto my lawyers last night. Since I donít object to the a Ghoul living at Prospect, the occupants have a choice, either accept Blair or find themselves a new home." Simon had heard William Ellison, Jimís estranged father, talking once, and in that moment he was his father's son, prepared to bring out the big guns to protect what was his.
Simon shook his head. "Get him the ID, and the rest can wait for the moment." Then he added gruffly, "You still here, Detective? You have work to do, so take your Guide and get on with it."
"Yes, sir." Then to Blair he added, "Come on, Chief."
Simon watched the pair leave his office. //A Sentinel Cop and a Carnac Guide. Hell, a Ghoul, no matter which way it was sliced and diced. The bullpen's certainly going to get interesting.//