With very special thanks to my beta reader Susan.
The usual wide range of humanity thronged the bullpen of Major Crimes and contributed to the buzz of activity. It was a day that had started like many others. Detectives tried, with varying degrees of patience, to take down the life histories of the suspects, miscreants and potential witnesses seated before them. Later, the detectives would regale each other with the creative embellishments they had to sift through to get to “just the facts.” An abandoned electrical kit on Ellison's desk was mute testimony to the ordinariness of the day… the bugging equipment that had been needed to track down the harassers of Ellison's young guide was due to be disconnected. More than one cop was waiting for the electrician to return from lunch and close one of the more disagreeable chapters in Major Crime history.
Simon swept into the bullpen with an expansive smile on his face. He was having a wonderful morning! His son had asked if he could meet his father for lunch, despite their recent disagreements over Daryl's GDP student placement. //Looks like Daryl figured out that his old man could be right sometime.// In addition to the overture from his son, the departmental meeting with the Chief of Police and Commissioner had gone well for once. More than well. Simon himself had been singled out for praise for his handling of the whole “sentinel thing.” The Commissioner's words regarding the singular transfer of an entire sentinel clan to the Cascade Police Department were especially flattering. Simon Banks was becoming known as the Cascade PD “expert” on things sentinel. Simon chuckled again as he remembered thinking when Jim had first come on-line that he should get a pay raise for the additional duty of “Den Mother” to the sentinel and his guide. It sounded as if that might actually happen. Banks grinned as he spotted “his” sentinel over by the communal coffee pot. //What the heck, I should find out what they're drinking these days.// He sauntered over to get a cup of the bullpen's coffee. Jim Ellison was just putting another teaspoon of sugar into the dark brew and Simon grinned as the sentinel looked around nervously. //Making sure the kid doesn't spot him and give him another lecture on the evils of refined sugar.// The detective looked relaxed and almost friendly, a stark difference from the man's attitude a few short months ago. The sentinel quirked an eyebrow as Simon poured himself a cup of coffee.
“Hey, Captain. Something wrong with your coffee maker?” There was a note of humor in the quiet question. The times that Simon had poured himself a cup of the coffee that his detectives drank could be counted on the fingers of one hand… not including the thumb.
Simon shrugged. “Just making sure that this sludge won't poison my entire staff.”
“Always looking out for us. Right, Captain?” The humor was more pronounced had even invaded the icy blue eyes.
“And don't you forget it, Detective.” Simon commented as he took a deep pull on the coffee. He made a face that would not have been out of place on his teenager's face. "With your enhanced senses how can you drink this stuff?"
“Blair made it."
Simon grinned. Ellison's tone said plainer than any words that that was reason enough for him. Jim continued as if he hadn't noticed Simon's reaction.
"Can't you taste it, Captain? First the flavor of the coffee, then the slightest hint of vanilla and ...."
"Jim, we're not all sentinels. You don't have to convince me that this is superior coffee to someone with…”
…“superior senses.” Ellison interjected with a deadpan expression.
“Okay, Jim.” Simon raised both hands in a surrender gesture. The captain was surprised, and pleased, that Ellison had actually cracked a joke about his enhanced senses. It made a nice change from the surly dislike Ellison had always shown for his sentinel abilities. Another point in favor of the guide. “I retract any slur on the kid's coffee. But I think I'll stick with my own brews. Speaking of the kid… I was on the phone with Harris earlier. Tipp made the call to the station about your truck being stolen. He saw Blair with the truck and knew that Evans had a thing about guides. Lo and behold, Evans' son Trevor is studying at Rainier, so one guess where he got the information from for the call.” Simon held up a hand to stop Jim's protest. "Before you say anything, Jim, Evans is going to have an up close and personal talk with his son, so I think we can say that that is now covered. Right?" Simon willed Ellison to answer correctly. He got an absent nod in return and Simon realized that the sentinel was distracted. He followed Ellison's line of sight.
Banks wasn't even conscious of the fact that he moved. Anger flared and was reflected across his face as the primal need of a parent to protect his young surfaced at what he saw. Blair Sandburg was sitting in HIS office with HIS son. The guide was leaning forward, his face only inches away from his young son. One slender hand was holding Daryl's forearm and the other hand rested on the boy's shoulder. Daryl looked distressed and rational thought fled. Suddenly, all Simon's earlier fears and reservations about the tactile nature of the sentinel/guide bond resurfaced in one moment of blinding anger.
Jim was caught off-guard by his captain's reaction. He was still trying to find a reason for Simon's suddenly pounding heart, the increase in his respiration when the bigger man all but ran across to his office. A snarled oath was his first indication of just what had set the captain off… and the implications held Jim immobile for a shocked instant. An instant too long…
"The little pervert." Simon ground out between his teeth even as he crossed to his office in five long strides. The door rocked on its hinges as he erupted into the room. Two startled faces turned toward him. Simon heard his son cry out in protest as he reached for the guide but he ignored everything but his need to deal with the man touching his son.
Blair was deep into his scan when the door crashed against the wall. Before he could react, a large hand grabbed the nape of his neck. Anger, fear, worry, disgust flooded his empathic system and stole control of his body from him. The pain of the emotional attack was joined by pain of a more physical sort as he was tossed onto the top of the captain's desk. He crashed into the computer and took it with him as he rolled onto the floor. He landed heavily, re-igniting the pain from the injuries he had sustained in the hit and run attempt by the GDP officer. He almost blacked out from the combined assault but struggled to retain his hold on consciousness, trying desperately to understand what was happening…. He was dragged to his feet and through blurred eyesight he caught sight of Simon Banks. A huge fist blotted out the captain's face as it headed for his own. //Simon? Why?// The blow landed and pain tumbled him into nothingness before he could voice his shocked question. He never saw his enraged sentinel pull the captain off him…
The Dark Sentinel powered into Simon as the larger man went to hit his already unconscious victim. All thoughts of his friendship with the Captain, and the fact that the man was his superior officer, were forgotten in the fury raised by the unprovoked attack on his now silent guide. Even as Ellison was about to throw the blow which would have put his captain down, Rafe and H launched themselves at Jim. The ex-Ranger almost succeeded in brushing them away, so intent was he to get the person who had hurt his guide. Even as H yelled for Rhonda to get the GDP Commander up there fast, Captain Taggart came hurrying into the bullpen. The sounds of fighting had carried into his office across the hall.
Daryl was screaming at his father. Kept screaming until the sentinel threw his father away from Blair and the other detectives tackled him. Before his father could try for the guide again, the teenager skirted past the struggling men and knelt at Sandburg's side. He pulled the computer equipment off the limp body and gasped as he saw the blood that now coated the left side of the guide's face. Half remembered first aid lessons kicked in and Daryl felt for a pulse in the guide's throat. //Thank you, God!// The unvoiced prayer ran through his mind as a slow, steady beat met his touch. Daryl ignored his father's enraged shouts as he shifted papers and binders off the crumpled body of the man he had come to admire and begun to think of as a friend. He stayed by Sandburg's side as yet more cops rushed into the fray. Finally, Jim was pinned down as Taggart held Banks against the wall. The sentinel still struggled against his captors, sounding more like his panther spirit guide than human.
Dan Slater barrelled into Major Crime and focused in on the small office crowded with men. Rhonda hovered worriedly outside the door, her hands clasped together and a look of shock on her face. Slater moved her gently to one side and murmured a quick, “We'll get it sorted out.” He hurried into the captain's office and stopped short, not quite able to believe what his eyes seemed to be telling him. Taggart still kept hold of a now quiet Simon Banks. The Major Crime captain's face held a strange mix of fury and shame. Jim Ellison was pinned to the floor under the weight of three detectives. All that Slater saw in a glance before his attention was riveted on the crumpled body lying amidst the wreckage of a computer and desk chair. //Oh hell. Not Sandburg!// A young boy was crouched by the unconscious guide's side.
“What the hell happened here?” Slater snapped even as he went to his knees next to the guide. “Dad… Dad… went crazy. He *punched* Blair!” Daryl's voice held shock and disbelief. Slater watched as Ellison tried again to throw off his captors. The Commander wasn't sure if Ellison wanted to get to his guide… or to the man who had attacked the young empath. He was going to make the choice easy for the sentinel.
"Get Banks out of here, then release Jim." Taggart pushed Banks out into the bullpen and all but shoved him into the chair behind Rhonda's desk. Once Slater was sure Banks was gone he ordered, “Let him go."
The police officers scattered, hands held before them in a gesture of appeasement. The angry sentinel ignored them to go straight to his guide. He gathered the smaller body against his own and carried him into a more defensible corner. There the sentinel hunkered down, his guide clutched tightly; noise remarkably similar to growls vibrating from his throat.
Slater carefully backed every one out, leaving sentinel and guide alone. He even more carefully closed the door before turning to the Captain of Major Crime.
"What the hell happened in there, Simon?" Slater didn't know what to make of the outraged betrayal he thought he saw in Banks' dark eyes. He got his answer…
"Sandburg was all over my son. The little pervert was…" Gone was the urbane police captain Slater was beginning to call friend. In his place stood outraged fatherhood. Banks' tirade was stopped cold by the shaking voice of his son.
"He… he was helping me understand, Dad. I *asked* him to…" Daryl was interrupted by his father.
"Son, you don't understand what touch means to his kind. He…" Simon stepped forward to put an arm around his son, wanting to, needing to wipe away the distress on his son's face. Simon faltered as Daryl backed away from him, shaking his head in disbelief.
"DAD, I know touching and *touching* and it was not anything like that. I asked him if he could tell if I was an empath. He was helping me, explaining things and you hurt him. You hurt a guide." The accusation was said with such total disbelief that Simon cringed inwardly. "You hurt him." Daryl repeated, staring at his father as if he had never truly seen him before.
"Son, I…" A shudder ran through Simon's body as he remembered the startled blue eyes staring at him before he swung the fist that closed them. There had been no guilt on the guide's face, just shock… and then pain. Simon closed his eyes as he realized that he had taken an act of friendship and made it into something tawdry. "God, no." It was whispered…he had thought himself beyond that…had it only been minutes since he was congratulating himself on being the Cascade PD “expert” on things sentinel? //God… he had the lessons of Blair's dream journals and the example of the modern day sentinel and guide; how could he have misconstrued … how could he have thought? Dammit, he was still too much a product of his culture to be dealing with sentinels and guides for whom touch was as essential as breathing and not….// Simon forced himself to stop analysing his mistake and address its correction. Fortunately, he had a real expert at hand.
"Dan, how do we…" Simon looked at his friend, not quite sure what he was asking. He began again, gesturing in the direction of the feral being who had replaced his best detective. "Jim… well…" Slater answered the unfinished question.
"Very carefully, Simon. First off, get Edwards and Harvey up here and Lisa, if you can find her. He might not let me near him, but Lisa is from his clan, and the other two are Sentinel Primes who acknowledge his authority. It might calm him down if he has protection for his guide."
Blair was lost in an ocean of sensation, nothing existed outside the pain of body and mind. He didn't know how much time passed, couldn't even phrase the question, when he felt the aggressive emotions of his sentinel cascade through him. The killing rage awoke the Dark Guide and he responded, instinctively taking the edge off the sentinel's anger so that thought might return…. to both sentinel and guide. Blair struggled with *the other* but the argument was short-lived. The Dark Guide was ready to deal with the apparent betrayal by their leader. Blair was not. Dark blue eyes opened to assess the situation and then closed again as the guide fought to take small breaths to ease the pain in his ribs. Blair felt the other retreat momentarily although plans streamed through his mind.
Rafe watched cautiously from the door. He felt very much like he was guarding a bomb that was ticking down to an explosion. Ellison… if that still was Ellison… was crouched over the fallen guide. And he was not happy. Rafe had a clear understanding of the old saw, “If looks could kill.” Light blue eyes held an arctic cold and a blazing heat at the same time. He was grateful for Henri's comforting presence beside him. "Thank God we got his gun off him, H. It could have been a lot worse, you know." Brown shrugged. “It still could be a lot worse, babe, if Hairboy doesn't come around soon.” Both detectives let out an unconscious sigh of relief as dark blue eyes opened and scanned the room quickly before closing again. The sentinel ran a shaking hand down the side of the younger man's face. This time the guide's gaze locked onto the sentinel's eyes and stayed there.
The sentinel's attention was focused on his guide but he still kept track of the people outside the room. Rage still simmered beneath the guide's calming influence. The panther persona was screaming to be allowed out and only Blair's innate understanding kept it at bay. As one, Sentinel and Guide turned their faces to the doorway as someone entered. Silent communication determined that defense would take precedence over revenge.
Slater entered the room, carefully. "Jim, can you hear me?" Daniel mentally kicked himself. //Of course the sentinel heard him. Whether he was capable of understanding him was another question. A question about to be tested.// Slater refused to show fear, even though his heartbeat probably gave the lie to his calmness. He had seen Jim Ellison as detective, sentinel and Dark Sentinel. What was sizing him up now was something even more alien than the pure Dark Sentinel; it was something more dangerous even than that. He tempered his voice, tried to infuse certainty into his tone. "No one wants to hurt Blair, Jim.” That got him a wordless snarl. He changed tack. “Sentinel, no one wants to harm the guide. What happened was an accident, a misunderstanding. He is in no danger. Jim! Come on, it's all right to let go. The Sentinel is not needed but Jim Ellison is. Blair needs Jim…” Still talking softly, Slater inched closer… and stopped as the guide made the first move.
Blair was unsteady as he pushed out of his sentinel's hold. He patted his sentinel's arm absently as, with a snarl, the sentinel moved so that he could get between his headstrong guide and the perceived threat. Keeping an arm pressed against his ribs, Blair managed to get his knees under him and a hand onto his sentinel's shoulder. He struggled to rise. Ellison snapped something too quietly for anyone but the guide to hear. His protest, order, whatever was ignored and Ellison unhappily helped the younger man to his feet. Blair felt something strong and… dark… rise up in him and he gave it free reign. The plans he'd *shared* earlier had sounded good to him. He turned and faced the //GDP Commander// Blair supplied the identity to the Dark Guide.
Slater caught his breath. This was the Dark Guide, he knew that instinctively. Blair Sandburg had all the courage and tenacity that filled the blue eyes that met his but the mocking assessment in them did not belong to the compassionate grad student he had come to admire. //Great! Just great. Not one throwback but two!// One thing was clear, before he could tackle the appearance of the Dark Guide, he needed to get Jim to calm down. The sentinel was in blessed protector overdrive. He addressed his words to the Dark Guide.
"Do you think you can get him to stand down, Guide? The watchman is no longer needed." Dan asked it gently, making sure that he kept his voice soothing and his emotions firmly held in place.
"But the warrior is!" The comeback was snarled. Blair Sandburg's drive for understanding, his willingness to give anyone the benefit of the doubt had been superseded by the Dark Guide's wariness. Slater took an involuntary step backward. It was quite clear that this version of Sandburg did not recognize his authority. It was clearly evident to Simon Banks as well. Memories of the strong loyalties belonging to another time, another place prompted the Captain to action.
Simon swore as he brushed past the detectives. H dropped a cautioning hand on his arm and he snapped, “Let go of me.” The detective obeyed with gratifying speed. Simon ordered harshly, “Everyone back off, NOW.” They didn't move fast enough to suit him and Simon barked, "Do it." Then it was just Slater standing next to him inside his office. Slater spoke levelly, confirming what Simon already knew, "Blair has gone into the dark guide persona. We need to keep him calm and allow the real Blair to come back." Simon nodded. “My job, Dan. My men. And my mistake.”
He moved into the room toward the battered Guide and his protector. He kept his hands down even as Jim started to growl louder, his body coiling to spring. Simon spoke quietly, trying to keep his emotions calm. The worse thing that he could do was to allow his emotions to bleed through to the empath. "Blair, it was an accident, a stupid accident, I thought you were going to hurt Daryl. I am sorry." He reached a hand out "Please, Blair."
The Dark Guide shook his head. The younger man was clearly on edge, his hand moving in short sharp motions on the Dark Sentinel's shoulder. He challenged softly. “There was no threat, yet you attacked.” Simon wondered what optical illusion had him thinking that Sandburg's flannel and jeans had been replaced with black tunic and hose.
Simon answered quickly. "NO," then gentled his voice. "No, it was a misunderstanding. I thought you were hurting my son. Blair understands this, a father's love for his son can make him blind to the facts. Make him do the wrong thing for what he thinks are the best of reasons."
Sandburg tipped his head to one side. There was still that mocking assessment in the blue eyes but he seemed to be listening to him. Simon took that as a good sign. Maybe understanding, even forgiveness, was possible.
Slater listened and watched the by-play between the two men. He was surprised to see that the Dark Guide was actually calming down. A bit of the gentle, accepting anthropologist suffused the soft answer.
"Yes, it can."
Simon nodded and took a breath. //Now for the hard part// "Can you calm Jim down? The Clan will need him, they need their Sentinel Prime." No one moved as the young empath came to a decision. Slater gaped in surprise as Simon's request was honored. The fierceness of the Dark Guide was tempered by the compassion of the student of mankind as Blair turned to his sentinel.
Dark Blair's hand slowed and the short movements became a firm caress of his sentinel's shoulder. The deep, compelling voice talked softly, practically cooing as he calmed the rage of the sentinel. Blair looked past them and saw the panther pacing up and down in the office. The wolf was snarling by its side, lips pulled back showing large teeth as it stalked around Slater and Simon. As the sentinel calmed under his guide's soothing touch, the panther calmed as well. Eventually, the big cat allowed the wolf to lead it to the side of the sentinel. A nudge from the wolf and the panther persona folded back into the sentinel.
Ellison … //no, not just Ellison but Dark Sentinel// Slater corrected himself…reached for his guide. Slater relaxed. //Okay, now that Ellison's back… more or less… and Blair is safe… a little bonding and things will be back to normal.// Slater almost groaned aloud as his pleasant little fantasy was destroyed by the guide's recalcitrance.
"No. Not here.” Blair was swaying badly, keeping to his feet with effort and the crutch of the Captain's desk. The look he threw Simon was pure Dark Guide. He put a hand out and Jim slid an arm around his waist. "Get me out of here, Sentinel." Their reactions proved that neither Captain nor Commander mistook that for anything but what it was… an order. Had Blair been more himself he might have chuckled at their identical stunned expressions. A quiet commotion in the outer office heralded the arrival of reinforcements. Blair felt the churning emotions of the sentinels even through the efforts of their guides to damp them. But that trouble was nothing compared to the emotional upheaval of the Major Crime personnel. No one could believe what had happened… //Have to do so'thing about that later// Blair admonished himself. He had to lean into his sentinel; his legs felt like rubber and his head was thumping fiercely from the emotions he was channelling. He was losing control, was only vaguely aware of Jim helping him from the office. As he lost control, the Dark Sentinel came alert.
“Damn, Rafe. He needs help.” H put a hand out to offer that help only to have his wrist caught by Rafe. "Don't touch him, H, his barriers might be low. Let the experts help." Rafe nodded toward the three sentinel-guide pairs waiting at Rhonda's desk. They did not wait patiently. No sooner had Jim and Blair cleared Simon's doorway than they were moving… surprisingly, the guides took the lead.
David and Jon, the two Guide Primes, quickly left their sentinels and reached for Blair. Ellison pulled him back tightly against him. David said softly, "Please, Sentinel Prime, allow us to help him." When Ellison just glared at him, David tried another avenue. He hesitated and then requested formally, "Senior Guide Prime, let us help you." All the guides could feel Blair's distress. The young guide was holding it together only because he feared for his sentinel but he was tiring rapidly. And though Jon and David stood ready to assist, both men knew that caution was called for - both had felt the power of the dark guide before. Even physically and emotionally stressed, Blair could damage them even as he threw them out of any link they attempted. Now was not the time to push him, better that he allow them to help him. “Please, Blair," David coaxed, “Let us help you so you can help Jim.” Deep blue eyes tracked from guide to guide; a decision was made and a curly head nodded.
“S'lright, Jmm. Lemme settle, then you come, 'k?” Sandburg patted Ellison's arm comfortingly before tottering over to his fellow guides. Sentinel Prime Edwards stepped in front of Ellison and said quietly, “It is all right, Senior Prime. He needs the help of guides. My guide will help him until you arrive.” As Ellison started to push him away, Blair said with a touch of authority, "Lissen to him, Jim." Ellison grudgingly turned toward Edwards.
Blair reached a hand out and the two other guides collected him in. "We'll take him down to the sentinel suite and help him get centered.” Jon put all the assurance he could muster into his next words. "He will be all right, Senior Sentinel Prime." Despite the emotional turmoil Ellison was fighting he recognized that for a promise. And he knew that his young guide trusted his older counterpart, guide to Doctor Sentinel Harvey. Jon Windsor was in his mid-thirties, the seriousness with which he conducted himself tended to hide a wicked sense of humor that had more than once brought Blair to laughter in times of stress. Ellison approved of anyone who could do that. He nodded his head jerkily, ice blue eyes promising retribution if his promise wasn't kept.
Lisa released Karl with a nod and he followed the other three empaths out of the room. This was Guide Business and the sentinels would not be needed until later. Commander Slater went with them, opting to let Banks handle the sentinel end of things. The Commander got the distinct impression that his presence was only being tolerated because of the Dark Guide's acceptance of him at the Bonding.
The sentinels moved up on Ellison. The Dark Sentinel was still angry but the killing rage had been quashed. Simon could see they were talking but it was at sentinel level. When Jim looked at him he could see the anger flare and he knew his actions were the topic of discussion. It was an unnerving sensation, even more so when Ellison tried to move toward him. Doctor Harvey and Edwards blocked him, sparking another argument full of emotions but soundless to non-sentinel ears. Ellison tried once more to approach his captain and again, the sentinels blocked him. Harvey said something and Ellison deflated. Jim turned on his heel and headed out of the office, the door barely on its hinges in his wake. There was more subvocal conversation and then two female sentinels followed Ellison, leaving Edwards to sort everything else out.
Edwards turned toward Rafe and extended his hand. "I will take the Sentinel Prime's weapon and return it to him."
Rafe handed it across. "He, I mean, they will be okay, won't they?"
"Blair is in the care of the other guides. They will help him center and then Jim will join him and they will heal together. What I need to know now is what happened here. Captain?"
Simon took a shuddering breath. "It was my fault. All of it.” He gestured Edwards ahead of him and ordered. "My office."
Daryl had moved onto the edge of a chair in his father's office. He took no notice of the sentinel following his father but jumped in, reiterating his earlier protest. "Dad, Blair was not doing anything wrong. He wasn't in my space, he was explaining something to me and answering a question I had. That was all. There was no need to hurt him." Daryl's disappointment in his father was too evident in the dark eyes that avoided looking at Simon.
Simon nodded. "I know that now, son. If I had thought, I would have known it then too. It was just....", he trailed off, big hands rubbing weary eyes.
Daryl looked to the other sentinel and asked, "Is he okay?"
Edwards smiled reassuringly. "He will be, son. Between the guides and his sentinel, not to mention Doctor Harvey, he will be fine. I'm sure that Blair would not mind if you waited outside the sentinel suite until Doctor Harvey can tell you that herself." The boy was off like a shot.
Edwards watched as Simon Banks set his chair back in place and sank into it with a heavy sigh. The sentinel frowned. Something was not right here. He would have sworn that Simon Banks would be the last person to turn on Ellison's young guide… and not just because he knew how much his best detective depended on him. Banks had always struck him as a man of integrity who was well aware of the pitfalls of prejudice. What had changed that? "Do you need to talk Captain". The offer obviously surprised Banks as much as it surprised him to hear it come out of his mouth.
Simon wasn't sure that he had heard the sentinel correctly, at first. Edwards had never hit him as being the sort of person who would discuss anything emotional with anyone other than his guide. And Edwards had to know that any conversation about his…dammit, admit it!… attack on Blair Sandburg was bound to be emotional. Still, it wouldn't hurt to try to explain. Might even call it a dry run before I explain to another sentinel what an ass I was. Simon rubbed a large hand over his face. "How the hell did everything get out of control in such a short time, Edwards?"
“You know the answer to that better than I, Captain.” Edwards' voice was non-judgemental. It gave Simon the courage to continue.
“I… hell, all I could remember were the things I had heard about guides, especially rogue guides. And then there is the way that Blair is always plastered to Jim. I thought I had a handle on that. That I knew why touch is so important between sentinel and guide." Simon gave an embarrassed shrug. "Maybe I was wrong, no…I *was* wrong. I put two and two together and came up with eight. How the hell could I do that, Edwards? To a *kid*, for God's sake, who's had more than his fair share of trouble and hurt through no fault of his own. I thought I was beyond this. It was so easy to believe the lies. My own people suffered because of lies and bigotry and I still…God! What have I done?"
The guides settled down onto the bonding platform and eased the Dark Guide down onto the padded surface. The younger man was just barely conscious, dazed blue eyes flickering from face to face as if trying to decide if they were friends or foes. “Blair,” Jon spoke quietly, “you need to get your paths back under control. We can help but you must let us.”
“J...mm?” There was a plaintive quality to the slurred name, like a kid caught in a nightmare calling for a big brother to come make it right.
“Easy, Blair. Jim's coming but you could both be hurt if you're not centered. Let us help?” A glimmer of recognition entered the blue eyes. “jh..on? dave?”
“Karl is here too, kid. The guides of your clan. Here to help.” Slowly, Jon lay down and pulled the younger man into arms, spooning behind him, getting an arm around his waist. Dave lay down facing Blair and pulled a curly head onto his shoulder. He ran soothing fingers through the long dark hair, trying to erase the headache he knew the younger guide was suffering. Karl hovered, ready to assist in any way possible but letting the senior guides lead the way. Physical connection established, the guides reached out mentally. Dave bit back an oath as he experienced the… anger, shock, disbelief, mistrust, killing rage, sorrow… flashing through the kid's pathways. He was grateful for Karl's hand coming to rest on his shoulder, lending his support and strength.
“Dammit. How does he handle this?” Dave tightened his grip on the trembling body. Every single last, first and in-between emotion of all the people in Major Crime during the *incident* - that is what the *assault* would be called, Dave thought with well justified cynicism - was preserved in the young guide's mind and body. As they connected with ragged nerves, Jon's and Dave's own systems began to crackle and hum. They needed to get the kid calmed down before he overloaded them too. And the young guide needed to be centered before they brought him to his sentinel for bonding. The kid had done a good job of drawing off his sentinel's anger but if he bonded now the turmoil that ravaged the kid would re-ignite the anger in his sentinel. Both men could slip into a dangerous state. Dangerous to themselves and others.
David glanced at Jon over the curly head of Blair. "Don't try and channel it all yourself.”
"Okay, Dave. I'm ready. Let's see if we can get Dark Blair here to go back in his box." Karl's face mirrored his confusion at that identification. David saw and said quickly, “We'll explain later, Karl. As much as we know.” Then the men dove into the maelstrom.
As he felt them enter his mind, Blair tried to pull free from their hold. But there were too many hands and he hurt too badly and… He was pinned on his stomach, a knee in his back, and his hands held down on the platform above his head. Panic took over and he struggled, the accumulated emotions of the Bullpen burnt away by memory driven horror. The guides weathered the initial cleansing and then started to channel, but it was soon obvious that it was not working. The power was still blazing, fed by the young guide's own tormented past. They kept trying… and failing. Jon began a quiet, rhythmic chant. “Blair, Blair, Blair… it's okay. Jim's coming. It's okay. Jim's coming.” The repetition of his sentinel's name seemed to help as much, if not more, as their attempts to channel.
Jim stalked the corridors to the suite; the other sentinels running interference for him. Doctor Harvey called back over her shoulder. "We'll be back later to write out a statement, okay?" She shrugged as an awed agreement floated back. She could almost feel a little sorry for the thug; now was not the time to break custody and try an escape past the Dark Sentinel. Ellison had taken the escapee down without breaking stride, nothing and no one was going to get in his way to his guide.
Slater, unnoticed and forgotten in the background, could see that Sandburg was slowly calming down. The sweat on the faces of the other guides showed that their efforts were taking a toll from them. Finally, Blair's body went limp, his muscles relaxing. The older guides sat up, careful to keep a hand on their patient's arm. Blair curled up on the bonding platform, his arm supporting his ribs, eyes open and searching. What…who he searched for, arrived. Jim came through the door, a man on a mission. Jon and David rolled off the platform and joined Karl on the floor. Slater watched as the three guides folded to their knees and then touched their heads to the floor as the Dark Sentinel came in, an instinctive reaction to the emotions pouring off the man. Ellison went past them as if they didn't exist. Slater could no longer take for granted the *traditional* guide postures. It now bothered him to see other men kneeling to any man… even guides to a Dark Sentinel. The young guide's remembered voice filled his mind. They had been sitting in Blair's office waiting to lay the trap for the people harassing the young professor. Blair had been nervous and hiding it by lecturing Slater on his research into sentinel lore.
>>See, Commander, it's been hypothesised that guides and sentinels both are capable of tapping into the collective human experience. Many of the guide/sentinel behaviors were formulated in an era when gestures of obeisance were common among men and women of all ranks. Not that long ago, historically speaking, Englishmen knelt to be knighted. Many Catholics still kneel to kiss the Pope's ring. It was understood that it was the rank that entitled the courtesy. It had a different meaning when it was unforced. It was when the use of such gestures fell out of fashion and sent a different message that it began to imply a difference in actual worth of the individual doing the kneeling; that the gesture became associated with worship… and slavery. Sentinels are not gods, even though some of them act like it. That made guides slaves. Guides still kneel today - sometimes, when I do so to Jim, it is because we are not, at least emotionally, in the modern place or time, Commander. Our *memories,* our *sense* of ourselves are colored by a different understanding. But most times, guides kneel because we are made to kneel. It is not a gesture of respect but a symbol of subservience. Do you see the difference, Commander? Between a culturally significant gesture with layers of meaning and understanding tied into it and the use of the same gesture as a means to reinforce stereotypes? It was all right for Sir Raleigh to kneel to Elizabeth, no one thought less of him for doing so. But when I or Jon or David, when any guide kneels to a sentinel, or even worse, to a GDP guard, what the public sees is a person willing to abase himself. Jim, I think, understands this instinctively. It is why he does not want me to kneel in public… or private… but there are times when the old significance becomes real again. Then he does accept, even need, the gesture. The kid had flashed a wide smile and finished. Just call us throwbacks! <<
Something of Blair's “emotional other times and place” was in the air of the small room. But Slater recognized that, had he not had that so enlightening talk with the anthropologist, he would have seen men cowering before their superior. //What a mess. Atavistic instincts and modern culture clashing.// Slater was surprised to realize that he was hoping that two men could mediate that clash. Could come up with a way to give guides their freedom without condemning sentinels to madness and without starting witch hunts by the *normal* humans. As he watched Ellison sink onto the platform, observed the care and respect with which the larger man handled his younger companion, Dan began to believe they could do it. After all, they had already affected him!
Ellison gathered his guide to him, his hands running over the smaller man. Blair pushed Jim so that he was on his back and then leaned over him, looking down into blue eyes shades lighter than his own. Dark Guide and Dark Sentinel looked at each other. Blair linked and felt the panther's aggression course through his sentinel. The smile he gave one was of sardonic pleasure; this power was his to command, the most lethal of predators. The anthropologist recognized an atavistic memory being played out but the Dark Guide only knew that *this* felt right.
“Serve and protect, Sentinel." It was a command from the past.
"Protect and Serve you, Guide." But the answering promise was for the present and the future.
Slater suddenly moved forward. The last time he had heard that was in the bonding suite at the conference when Jim had sworn his life and strength to his guide. Just like then, Jim was no longer in charge of the partnership, had placed his power into the hands of the dark guide. When he edged closer, Doctor Harvey's hand lashed out, as she ordered,
"Stay out of it, Slater, this is sentinel business, not yours. You are permitted here because the Dark Pair believes you can learn. But don't press too close or you will press your luck."
Slater was about to argue. Then Lisa Pais was in front of him, anger radiating off her and he wisely backed away. He realised that whatever state the dark pair was in was affecting the other sentinels as well. His mind went back to the Hunting Pack and the legends of sentinels hunting down and pulling a man limb from limb with their bare hands for going against the Clan. Looking at Lisa, he could easily believe that.
Doctor Harvey spoke gently as she knelt down. “Senior Sentinel Prime, I need to check your guide for injuries. I am the Healer of your Clan and this is my right and duty.” Jim nodded. Secure in the bond, he could allow that approach. But Harvey was not yet finished. "Senior Guide Prime, my touch cannot hurt you. And your sentinel stands watch." Her hands were gentle as she used sentinel touch to identify cracked ribs and bruises. She murmured her findings. “He has not done his ribs any good but there has been no additional damage. He will be very sore tomorrow, Jim. I recommend a good hot soak and that he actually takes the medication I prescribe.” Asperity crept into her tone, she and the young guide had had their *discussions* about “natural remedies” versus “artificial chemical crap.” Sometimes the older sentinel thought that Ellison allowed his young guide a bit too much leeway. Even after all the years they had been together, Jon rarely forgot his place. She heard a gasp and wide blue eyes stared into her own with … disappointment? Regret? Sorrow? And she understood that somehow the young man she was treating had read her thought. //His place? What did I mean by that?// She whispered softly, “Senior Guide Prime, I respect your bonding and join in honor of it.”
She placed her hand onto the shoulder of the dark guide and felt his mind sweep across hers. She took a deep breath at the sensation, he was going deeper than any empath other than Jon had ever been able to go. For a moment, sheer reflex prompted her to fight. Then she looked into his eyes and saw knowledge and wisdom that should not belong to one so young. She opened up to him and reached for her guide. Jon connected into the link and the two empaths met. Blair brushed across Jon's mind, soothingly. Then Dark Blair opened his paths enough to allow Jon and *his* sentinel to feel the mind and soul of the dark guide, the aggression and strength of the dark sentinel, and the brilliant and complex web that bound them together.
Ellison said quietly, “Do you feel it, Doctor? This is how it was meant to be. A sharing of strengths, mutual respect and protection. A partnership, not master and slave. Guides are more than organic tools but part of a team.” Harvey had tears in her eyes. She ached for something she hadn't known existed. The physical and mental ease between the two men. The touches that comforted and supported and didn't tease or arouse as society warned they would. And a relationship that went beyond friendship and brotherhood into the comradeship of those tested and tried by danger and violence. She understood the complementary nature of their respective gifts; the physical problems of the hypersensitive state were alleviated by the guide's presence just as the empathic vulnerabilities were defended by the sentinel's strength. Ellison held out a hand to Lisa. She reached for Karl and sentinel and guide shared in the linkage. Finally, Jim put a hand out to David. For a moment Edward's guide hesitated but he was an empath, he knew that something extraordinary and important was happening, something that called to him. He accepted Jim's touch and swayed briefly as the dark guide linked with him. He knelt with the other sentinels and guides. A cone of linkage was coming into being and the center was the dark pair. With the link came knowledge and power as doors in the minds of the guides and sentinels opened that training and cultural conditioning had closed off.
Jim had become somewhat accustomed to the magic of a true bond. Even as his clan's sentinels and guides were enthralled by the potential and possibilities inherent in their natures, he had been monitoring his guide's condition. When he felt the stress of maintaining the linkage turn into distress, he tugged at his guide through the link. And smiled in satisfaction as his headstrong guide turned to him, nodded and withdrew the linkage. The young guide reached for his sentinel and Jim engulfed him in his arms.
Doctor Harvey and Lisa gathered their guides. Both pairs moved to bond without any conscious thought, or embarrassment, that others would see them link. The guides curled up, heads resting on their sentinels' laps, comforting arms draped around their shoulders. Their need to connect was very real, the sore pathways caused by the channelling of the Dark Guide's emotions in dire need of healing. But sore pathways were a small price to pay for the glimpse of how it could, should be, between sentinel and guide.
Slater was a silent and much bemused witness. Even he, with neither enhanced senses nor empathy, could tell that something had just occurred that had the potential to upset some jealously guarded apple carts.
Simon Banks hesitated outside of the sentinel suite. Talking with Edwards, and then his son, had calmed him somewhat but it would still not be easy to do what he knew he must. A proud man, apology didn't come easy to Simon Banks but it came easier than letting an injustice stand. He owed it to his friend, no… to his *friends,*for that is what the young guide had become. They both needed to hear his apology and to know that he knew why it had happened and that it wouldn't happen again. At least Daryl had understood. After they had talked, he had suggested that his son remain while he spoke to Blair. Daryl had been present when he had attacked the young guide, it seemed only fair that he be present when he apologised. But his son had shaken his head and said, “I know you will do the right thing, Dad. And you gave me a lot to think about. I'd rather go home. Okay?” They had shared a hug that had gone a long way to restoring the respect and trust father and son had been working on since Daryl's involvement with Blair's harassers. Daryl's last words still rang in Simon's ears. “Remember, Dad, you're not the only Banks man to let prejudice blind him to reality. You helped me see what I was doing. This will help you. Love you, Dad.” Simon shook his head. His son would be a fine man some day… and Simon knew that some of the credit for that belonged to men he was about to see. He squared his shoulders and opened the door.
Simon was surprised to see Slater. The GDP commander was tucked away in a corner of the suite, a watchful expression on his face. Harvey and Pais were on the platform, their guides tucked up against them. Wonderment was written on the women's faces. Karl was also on the platform, sitting cross-legged at a distance from the sentinel/guide pairs and a… wistful… expression in his eyes. None of the sentinels or guides paid any attention to his presence until the Senior Sentinel Prime looked up as he approached.
Tension crackled in the air as blue eyes met and held brown. Simon was relieved to see that Jim Ellison was now back firmly in place. At least he would be dealing with his friend and not… whatever that was in his office. Blair was cradled against Ellison's broad chest, his head resting on his sentinel's shoulder, his hands holding onto the back of Jim's sweater. Unbidden, Ellison's voice popped into Simon's mind. The sentinel had been musing on the differences in his life since his guide had erupted into it. Simon had commented on the kid's penchant for hanging onto Jim's shirts and sweaters. The sentinel had grinned and said wryly, “I'm going to need a whole new wardrobe if he makes it a habit.” Another sweater was being tugged out of shape and it was clearly evident that the state of his clothes was the least of Ellison's concerns. The sentinel's strong right hand was caressing his guide's back, his left around Blair's waist. Safe, and deep in the bond, the young guide was at peace. And practically asleep. Simon addressed his detective.
"Jim, I AM sorry. I don't know what happened back there. I just saw red. I....” He stopped and said sincerely, "You know I would not hurt the kid. I..…" He floundered to a halt as icy blue measured him.
"But you did, Simon.” The quietly spoken words had more impact than if Jim had yelled them at him. There was little comfort or forgiveness to be found in the sentinel's face. Then the sentinel's head tilted to one side and Simon knew he was listening to the only voice of reason he would follow.
"If you're sure, Chief?" Simon saw a slender hand flex on a broad shoulder.
"Blair said, "Give us this time and we will come to your office, Captain, but until then, please go."
Simon realised that he was being dismissed. For a moment he just stood there, studying them. He saw the way that Jim moved his hands more firmly over the smaller man before dropping his head to inhale the scent of his guide. "Only when you're ready, Chief, now rest." One hand went up to cradle the back of a curly head and Blair melted against Jim with all the trust that Daryl had once shown before he got “too big.” Simon realized that he missed the hugs and pats he and his son had once shared so often. Now they were so rare … he still carried the warmth of the hug Daryl had given earlier. Even more than the words, that embrace had told him they would be all right. Simon turned to go, nodding to Slater as he went out.
The commander's attention had been drawn to David. The guide was swaying slightly and Slater could see his need to be with his sentinel prime. Certainly, Jon and Karl had shown every evidence of needing their sentinels. Dan knew that David was leery of being on his own in the police station, for good reason, and offered, "I'll take you back to Sentinel Prime Edwards, if you want.” David rose shakily to his feet and nodded silently. Slater saw him shiver and asked, “May I touch you?" The guide glanced at him and then…
"Don't." Slater said it as soon as he saw the intention form but it was too late. David had folded to his knees to Slater.
Slater sighed. //The more he hung around Ellison and Sandburg the more he realized he was ruined as a conventional GDP officer.// He reached a hand down, his touch signalling David to come to his feet. The guide walked behind Slater's left shoulder, close but without touching. Not talking, a quiet shadow, the perfect guide, yet to Slater this total obedience now felt wrong.
The hands of the clock moved slowly across its face in the bonding suite. Eventually, Doctor Harvey and Lisa Pais withdrew with their guides, leaving the dark pair to their deep bond. Both pairs knew that something had happened to them in the linkage, that their relationships would never be quite the same anymore.
Much later, Jim escorted his guide into the Captain's office. Simon was reminded of the first time they had ever come into the office, not because of the similarities but because of the differences. Then the guide had been plastered to Jim's back, one hand fluttering over his sentinel's shoulders in unconscious distress and nervousness. Now he walked just behind his sentinel's shoulder with the confidence of a man who knew where he should be and what he wanted. Simon knew that he was looking at the dark guide, but not just Dark Guide. There was a trace of their Blair's humor and compassion in the dark blue eyes that met his fearlessly. Dark Blair walked half a step behind because it allowed the sentinel to protect him.
The sentinel looked around as if he had never been in Simon's office before. Satisfied that all was safe, he ushered he guide into a chair and stood behind it. He rested a hand on his guide's shoulder, his thumb slowly and gently rubbing the tense muscles, the motion calming. Blair… //Dark Blair// Simon amended… started without preamble.
"Your son, Captain, was frightened that he was going to develop into a guide. He had gotten into an argument with his mother and during the course of it she told him that her maternal mother was an empath. He found out in school today that the talent sometimes skips a generation. Given that Daryl had just learned the truth about us, he was running scared that that was to be his fate.” Dark Blair's lips twisted into a smile, but it lacked the usual warmth of the young man. "Ironic isn't it, Captain, for him to fear he would become what he reviled?” He didn't wait for an answer from the shocked captain. "He asked me to run a check on him to see if he was an empath."
"And is Daryl…?" Simon could not help but jump in.
"Daryl has some slight empathy but not enough to be classed as a guide. He would be well suited to the roll of counsellor, nothing more. He is certainly safe from the GDP"
Simon felt relief wash through that his son would not have to go through what this young man in front of him had suffered and then was ashamed of his relief. Blue eyes locked on his and he knew that the empath had read him… and not only understood but forgave the relief. Simon remembered telling Blair that a father's love for his son could drive him to the wrong thing. It could also give him the courage to ask a favor of a man he had attacked scant hours before.
"Can you help him, Blair, to understand his limited abilities?"
"Blair will be happy to help.” The sentinel cut in, anger coloring his voice. “He and Daryl have come to an understanding. Just leave it at that." Ellison wouldn't hurt Daryl to get back at Daryl's father but he wasn't happy with his captain. A slender hand reached up and circled his wrist and he made an effort to calm down.
"Blair." Simon knew he had to do this. "I am so sorry. I don't know what got in to me. I trust you. It was just that when I saw Daryl, I ...".
The guide reached a hand out and caught Simon's wrist, pulling him close so that he could look straight into his eyes. "I understand, Captain. The paternal instinct is one of the strongest things we have and you grew up in a culture that restricts touch to family or lover. I am neither to your son. It is all right, sir. I do understand. You categorised my touching your son as our culture predisposed you. Touch each other not… unless you are family or lovers or…” Blair grinned faintly…“on a sports field. Man is not meant to live like that. He needs to connect with his fellow man on many levels. A pat, a hug, an arm around a shoulder, sometime can mean more than words. It's sad; we teach children about bad touch but not good touch. We've corrupted our instinctive need for touch and we all pay a price for it. Empaths just pay a higher price than most.” Blair blushed as he realized he had been lecturing the captain. “Sorry, sir, that's the anthropologist talking.”
“The anthropologist makes sense, son.” The captain smiled at the anthropologist/guide's discomfiture. Only to show some discomfort of his own. Simon fidgeted, something he was *not* used to doing. Ellison almost smiled and Simon clearly detected a grin on the bruised face of the guide. Bruises he had put there. “I… I don't know what to say, Blair.”
“Don't say, Captain. Feel… and touch.”
A slender hand reached for his arm with those words and Blair began to channel Simon's emotions. The Captain's eyes opened wide at the sensation and he started to pull away. Jim grabbed his wrist and held him still. "You will let him do this, sir. He needs to know what you truly feel… and so do I." Blair brought his sentinel into the link and then allowed Jim to experience the Captain's emotions. Ellison could feel the guilt and the truth behind the Captain's words of sorrow. Only then did the sentinel accept that the assault had been a misguided error. For his part, Simon felt the fierce protective nature of the sentinel coursing through him and the equally protective but compassionate nature of the guide. Blair slowly released his hold on the Captain and turned his empathy fully onto his sentinel. The Captain saw the look of contentment on the big man's face as he gently stroked his guide's long hair. The Guide's eyes closed and his head rested on Ellison's hip. Jim looked at Simon as the Captain spoke from the heart. "I realise that I was privileged. I do understand now, Jim. My mother believed that some people have a pure soul. She tried to convince me of that but I knew better. I was wrong about that too. He has one, Jim." He put a hand out and gently stroked the curled head. "I am sorry." Blair didn't move. It was left to Ellison to answer.
"He knows, Simon. He felt it; emotions don't lie. I'm taking him home, Simon. He needs to rest. What he just did takes a lot out of him." It was stated in a straightforward way. Simon could take it or leave it; the Sentinel didn't care. Simon nodded. “Get him home, Jim. Come back when you're *both* ready.” He watched as Jim coaxed his sleepy guide to his feet and guided him out the door, supporting his wavering steps with a strong arm.
End of Part One
Story to be continued in Buried in the Past Part Two.
September 15th 2000