Thanks to Susan for doing an excellent job of Beta Reading for me yet again.
To all the people who have been kind enough to encourage me with my stories, including Deb H, Julia R, and all the others that I have not the space to thank. Please accept this story with my wishes.
This story is set early in the GDP series soon after Blair and Jim have bonded; this is just after "Living with the Past"
Blair Sandburg was sitting behind his sentinel, using him as a shield from the emotions of the people in the bullpen. His fingers tapped out a staccato rhythm on the computer keyboard as he pulled information off the net for his oblivious partner. Detective Jim Ellison was reading through the file that had captured his full and entire attention, muttering under his breath what could either be curses or pleas to the gods for help. Blair grinned; he knew which option he'd bet on if the cops around him started a pool on the subject. Dark Sentinel that he was, Ellison preferred to rely on himself rather than anything else natural or supernatural. The grin faltered as the young empath realized that Ellison would have to rely on him now... on a guide he never wanted, a guide who came to him, if not broken at least badly bruised, from the cells of the Correction Facility. He wasn't sure if he could...
Ellison looked from his paperwork and smiled at him. "You doing okay there, Chief?" There was warm concern in the usually icy eyes that met his abashed gaze. "Umm, yeah, man. Everything's cool." There, that sounded pretty confident. He didn't want his new sentinel to think he wasn't up to the job. Jim had said he would never send him back to the GDP but somehow that made it worse. He deserved better than "correction fodder." A warm hand landed on the back of his neck and he flinched but stopped himself from pulling away. Jim wasn't Alex. The big detective had proven that when Mason had come after him and he had told Ellison what they had done to him, what he had done to survive and yet he still let him stay in the loft.
Jim felt the slight shudder in the smaller man's body at the touch of his hand and closed his eyes for a moment. He did not want the kid to misinterpret the anger he was sure was in them. Damn Barnes and those bastards for what they had done to the man who was now his guide. Jim often wondered what Sandburg had been like before Barnes had discovered his empathy and before he had been taken into custody by the GDP. Every now and then, when Blair's attention would be caught by a conversation and he would forget for a moment where he was, Jim would catch glimpses of a vivid wit, a brilliant intellect, and a gentle, compassionate heart. And would silently promise that Blair Sandburg would find himself again. As he made that unspoken vow yet again, he realized that Blair had flinched but he hadn't pulled away... progress then.
"Hey, kid. What say we go get some lunch? I'm buying. I owe you that for getting this computer to cooperate." Deep, blue eyes met his and a shy smile graced the young face. "Sure, Jim. That'd be cool. I know this place that has the best Chine -"
A resounding crash rose above the normal noise of the bullpen. Ellison looked away from his guide in time to see a prisoner leap over the filing cabinet which he had overturned trying to escape custody. Jim grabbed Sandburg by the scruff of his multicolored shirt and pushed him to the floor under the desk. Satisfied that his guide was safe for the moment, he hurried to help subdue the suspect currently holding his colleagues at bay by swinging a chair like a lion tamer.
Under the desk, Blair pulled himself into a tight ball. He didn't know what was happening but the emotions hitting him from all sides were angry and chaotic. Hard learned lessons kicked in and he whispered under his breath, "keep down, keep quiet, be as small as possible and they won't notice." Hidden under the desk, he opened his link to his sentinel and rode his raging emotions, turning excitement into cold calculation. He *felt* the predatory thrill when Jim took advantage of a skidding desk chair to get the drop on the suspect and take him to the floor. *Felt* the satisfaction when Rafe cuffed the man and took him back to booking. And then *felt* his sentinel's concern when he realized that he had shoved his guide under the desk with no regard for bruises and bumps.
When Jim returned and peered under the desk, his guide was shaking. "Blair. It's all right, kid. Sorry I scared you, Chief, but I didn't want you hurt. It's over now. You can come out of there." Jim kept his words soft and soothing as he reached to gently brush some of the long hair back from the younger man's face. The deep blue eyes that met his were frightened and confused.
Jim held back the tearing anger aimed at the bastards responsible for his guide's sensitivities. The kid was skittish at the best of times thanks to the GDP's untender care and was now badly spooked. The doctors had assured him that Sandburg's emotional balance would even out given the right support; that his almost constant state of near panic would dissipate with time. But in the meantime, whenever he got into a situation he wasn't ready for, adrenaline flooded the young guide's body. And what with Jim's job as a police officer, those situations arose several times a day. Fight or flight instincts, the doctor had called it. As a guide, Blair seldom had the freedom to act on either option. All too often, by the end of the day, the unexpended adrenaline rushes left Sandburg exhausted, physically and emotionally. But he still tried to "earn his keep" around the loft by doing the lion's share of cooking and cleaning. Jim was resigned to taking things one day at a time, giving Blair as much of a sense of control over his own life as he could without letting the kid get into trouble.
"Come on, Chief, you can't be comfortable down there." Jim knew the young man was still healing from the assaults on him by the GDP officers at the Correction Facility. As Blair crawled out from under the desk, he eased an arm around his guide and pulled him firmly but gently into a sitting position. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"
"No, Jim. It just surprised me, that's all." The kid tried to make light of his scare but his voice was shaky enough for sentinel hearing to catch it.
Ellison got him seated again and then ran his hands over Sandburg's body, the sentinel needing to check on his guide's condition. His quick examination served another purpose; the feel of his hands soothed and calmed Blair down. Sandburg's heart rate and respiration were almost back to normal and he managed a smile when H and Rafe came over.
Brown grinned at Blair, "Hey, kid. You still in one piece?"
Blair nodded, curls flying, "Yeah, H. No problem, man."
The detective's grin got bigger as he gave the guide a "thumbs up" before turning to Ellison. "Thanks for the help, Jim, it was getting a bit rough there."
"Anytime, H. You can owe me one." There was an easy good humor in Ellison's words that would have been unknown a few short weeks ago... before Sandburg.
Rafe looked thoughtfully at sentinel and guide. He knew what Ellison was trying to accomplish with his young partner and was more than willing to help. "Look we were just about to go get some coffee. Why don't we take Sandburg down and show him where everything is?"
Jim looked at his guide and got a nervous nod to his unspoken question. "Sure, why not. Keep him out of trouble. Chief, bring me back a coffee too. We're going to have wait on lunch for a while."
Blair slowly moved around the desk. He was on edge as soon as he left his sentinel's side. Jim tried to ignore the pounding of his guide's heart; he had seen nothing in Rafe or H to make him worry about his guide being with them. He wasn't going to tie the kid to him. Blair should and would have his own life and this was a first step toward some measure of independence. In eight weeks, Sandburg would start back at Rainier. In the meantime he needed to get back the confidence that had been brutally taken from him when he lost his freedom. His guide was his partner, not his slave or his pet but his equal. Anything Ellison could do to convince him of that would be done.
Rafe moved to one side of the younger, smaller man, while H took the other, providing an escort of sorts through the halls. Blair's ID badge caught Brown's eye as the three men strolled unhurriedly to the break room. H stopped and turned to face Blair.
"Mind if I see that, Blair?" He reached out and unclipped the badge, then studied it. The small plastic oblong had Sandburg's picture centered over the red diagonal lines that identified him as a guide and under the words 'Police Observer.' Under the photograph, where H expected to see Sandburg's name was "Sntl Det. James J. Ellison". Brown's surprise was expressed in a quiet "huh" before he handed the badge off to Rafe. Rafe's eyebrows slid toward his hairline as he too caught the implications of the identification. Suddenly, H realised that Sandburg was starting to get worried, that he didn't understand what was happening, why his badge was of such interest.
"Its okay, Blair. I just never had a chance to see a Guide pass up close." Rafe returned the badge and as the young empath clipped it back to his collar, the older men could see him relax. Blair breathed a soft sigh of relief; he was clearly marked again as Jim's property, his guide, and as such could not be claimed by anyone else.
"Doesn't it bother you that your ID more or less says that Ellison owns you?" Blair looked up, surprised by Brown's question and the emotion that accompanied it. The detective was ready to take offense on Blair's behalf.
After a minute, when no one said anything, Blair realized they expected him to answer. He had to be careful here, he didn't want them to think Jim was at fault. "The GDP wanted it marked it to show that I was a rogue, that I couldn't be trusted not to run and needed watching. My sentinel wouldn't let them do that, so they told him it was, I was, his responsibility. He told me this just means that I am his guide and that's why I have the Observer pass."
"Sure, kid. That makes sense." Rafe put in gently, he could almost see tension radiating off the 'observer.'
The break room was half empty when they arrived but a couple of civilian file clerks were getting sodas. H nudged Rafe and grinned as he saw the girls giving Blair the once over before drifting over to the newcomer.
"Hey, there. Haven't seen you around before." The pert blond held out a hand to Blair, making it quite clear that she was anticipating seeing him around again. Sandburg flashed a look at Rafe and Brown. The older men had wandered over to the coffee set-up and were arguing playfully about whose turn it was to buy. Brown caught his glance and winked at him.
"Polly, Sherry, this is Blair Sandburg. He's an observer assigned to Ellison. Blair, Polly Brown and Sherry Landis. They both work down in records." Rafe made quick introductions before turning back to Brown and reminding him that he had paid for the coffee on stakeout two nights ago. Blair grinned as he realized that Rafe and H were not going to shut him up or hang a guide label on him.
Blair began to chat with the young women. It was the first time in a long while that he had a normal conversation with a pretty girl. The girls had only a few minutes but they used them to find out that Blair was working towards his doctorate at Rainier and that Ellison wasn't as bad as everyone seemed to think he was. They also managed to let Blair know when they took their breaks. For almost five minutes Blair managed to forget his recent past in light-hearted, almost flirtatious chatter. He was grinning widely when the girls left and he rejoined Rafe and H at the coffee urn.
"Fast work there, Hairboy." H gave him another thumbs up.
"Hey, man. We were just talking." The grin got wider as Sandburg grabbed a cup and teabag. Rafe nudged Brown in the ribs. "Polly never "just talked" with us, kid. I think you made a conquest there." The detectives smiled wickedly as Sandburg blushed. Before Sandburg got too uncomfortable with their teasing Rafe changed the subject, "Ellison wanted coffee?"
"Yeah, man. It's one of his four major food groups." Blair splashed boiling water onto his teabag.
"Four food groups, Sandburg?" Brown prompted.
"You know, salt, sugar, grease and coffee. From what I've observed, all you cops live on 'em." This was the most animated Brown and Rafe had ever seen the kid when he wasn't safe in Ellison's shadow and they exchanged a nod of mutual satisfaction over the guide's head.
Blair turned to get a lid for his cup and banged into an older woman who was tossing out a half-full cup of coffee. She had short dark hair and tear stained brown eyes. Blair managed to catch hold of her before she fell. He murmured his apologies but had the distinct sense that she barely heard them. She seemed so distant that he instinctively 'reached' for her with his empathy... and froze. By the time he managed to sort through what he picked up from her, she was gone. He shook his head, trying to deny what her emotions portended. He couldn't and he knew he had to do something.
"Sandburg?" Rafe didn't like the look in the kid's eyes, a deep, sorrowful understanding completely at odds with the cheerful bantering they had just shared.
"That woman, she..." Blair was talking almost to himself. "I have to speak to her. She wants to..." He headed after the woman. Rafe hesitated, letting the kid go off on his own was not on the agenda. Jim had trusted them with Blair and he expected his guide to be returned safely to him. There were still some ignorant police officers at the station who had decided that Jim Ellison had caught the short end of the stick when he had been "saddled" with a "degenerate, perverted neo-hippy punk" as a bonded guide. Both Rafe and Brown had heard more than one state that it would be a great pleasure to show their disapproval up front and personal. A couple had already tried and ended up in the nursing station, the result of *an argument with a door.* But a few had not yet received an Ellison attitude adjustment and the two older men did not want Blair to meet up with any of them on their watch.
Rafe caught Sandburg's arm and, unexpectedly, Blair twisted out of his grip and pushed him hard. As Rafe fought for his balance, the empath took off at a run. H instinctively caught his partner before he hit the floor even as he shouted, "Blair, wait!"
Blair was running. He had to find that woman. Stop her before she... He was surprised, that after H's first shout, neither detective tried to get any of the cops he passed to stop him. He would worry about that later. It wasn't as if he was trying to escape, // please God that Jim wouldn't think he was trying to escape//.
He spotted her turning into an office and slowed down. Maybe he was wrong, she looked as if she was fine, but... emotions didn't lie. And he didn't think he had misread them. The GDP had him down as an <8> on the sensitivity scale, which was a powerful empath. An unofficial check by one of the people who had helped him hide from the GDP before Barnes had found him had put him at <15>, the top of the scale. They had dismissed the test results, given that a score that high was unheard of, figuring the test had gone screwy on them. Blair was sure he was more than an <8> and that was reason enough for *knowing* she was a danger to herself.
Blair slid to a stop as he recognized the two cops talking outside the office the woman had entered, Henderson and his partner. He remembered them from his third day at the station. He and Jim had gone out to a crime scene and they had deliberately made it hard for him to keep his mind on his job. They had hovered close, almost touching him, when he was working and had no barriers. Blair ducked into a doorway before they saw him. He did not want to give them any reason to talk to him while he was away from Jim. Finally they moved away and he quickly went to the office. He looked through the open door and was puzzled; there was no one there. A breeze stirred his hair and he realized, with chilling clarity, that the window was open. Blair moved forward slowly until he could look out the window. The woman was standing on the ledge, one hand resting on the window casement, the other holding her skirt down against the wind. Blair flashed back to his psychology classes. Supposedly, if suicides meant business, they jumped right away. She was still studying the ground as if trying to find answers written on the pavement below. So... she was of two minds, maybe he could help her choose life. He sidled up to the window carefully.
"Hi. Isn't it cold out there?" // He knew it sounded stupid, but what the hell do you say to someone on a ledge?//
"Get away from me." She didn't even look at him.
"Just want to talk." Blair automatically eased into the soft, soothing tones he used to talk Jim out of a zone.
"I said, get away!"
"Talking won't hurt anything." Blair pointed out calmly.
"You just want to grab me."
//Of course I do// "No, just talk. I sense some strong emotions there, Ma'am. You're upset, talking helps."
Her laugh was brittle. "You *sense*, that what they teach you to say to jumpers?"
"No. No one taught me what to say... and you're not a jumper yet. I'm an empath, I felt them when we bumped into each other in the break room."
For the first time, the woman looked down at him.
"You're an empath?" Blair didn't know what to make of the tone in her voice. He extended his empathy just a little as he answered her.
"Then maybe you can understand. My husband was diagnosed as an empath last week. He was due to start guide training today. Last night he got drunk. He said that he wouldn't go rogue and leave me but he couldn't be a guide. He's been worried about this for months ever since he started feeling emotions that weren't his. He tried to control it but at his last work physical they caught him. He convinced them, the GDP officers who came to interview him at the doctor's office, that he was ready to be a guide but wanted to get some affairs in order for me before starting training. He talked to a lawyer and found out that most of his property would be transferred to whomever he got for a sentinel. If we got divorced, I would get a flat settlement fee. A GDP counsellor came and talked to me and said that if we stayed married, I would get an "allowance" from the GDP and was guaranteed one weekend a month with my husband. I think they were hoping I'd have children who were also empaths. One weekend guaranteed; if the sentinel was feeling particularly generous, it might be more. I was willing... anytime was better than no time."
Blair tried to inch closer as her rapid words slowed and she looked off into the distance. Brown eyes swung back to him and he stopped, holding his breath until she started talking again.
"But David didn't agree. He got our affairs in order all right and then... he killed himself. I got the entire estate because he hadn't formally started the training program. I got the estate but I lost David. His letter said that I WOULD BE BETTER OFF WITHOUT HIM, the stigma of being married to a guide... I didn't care if he was an empath, didn't care if he was a guide as long as I had him... as long as we could be together..."
She sobbed and Blair reached out to her. "Please, come in. He wouldn't want you to do this. He wanted you to have a good life."
She shook her head and moved farther along the ledge, "How do I have a good life without him in it?"
Blair glanced down and took a deep breath. He shoved his fear of heights into the back of his mind and started to climb out the window.
Rafe finally spotted the kid disappearing into an office down the hall. He waited until Henri caught up and said, "I don't know what's going on here, H, but maybe you'd better get Jim." Brown nodded but said, "Let me just get an idea of what's going down, Rafe." The two detectives followed the kid into the office just as Blair was climbing out the window.
"Sandburg!" The name burst out of two throats in stereo.
Blair twisted his head around to answer them but kept moving onto the ledge. "KEEP BACK, RAFE, H." His voice was a snarl.
"Come back in, Blair. You don't wanna get us killed by Jim, do you?"
"Don't have a choice here, man. Needs help if..." he trailed off as he saw her lean forward. "NO!" He hauled himself onto the ledge and for a moment he was dizzy. //God, he hated heights.// He felt sick but managed to push it down as he tried to move towards her.
Rafe grabbed H, "Get Jim, now!" He blocked the door into the room.
The young GQ dressed detective was unable to see the woman on the ledge.
Ellison came pounding up the corridor and Rafe stepped away from the door just in time to avoid being overrun. Jim zeroed in on his guide... one slender hand was clutching frantically at the casement but he was moving determinedly away from the window. The sentinel stopped as if shot. H had told him that Blair had suddenly flown off the handle and run out of the break room and into this office where he had proceeded to crawl out the window. This was Ellison's nightmare come to life. This was what he had feared since bonding with the young empath; that his guide would finally break under all the crap he had had to face in the past few years. Blair had been not so quietly victorious when they had put the GDP guards who had assaulted him behind bars. Ellison had believed that his guide was strong enough to handle his part in their set-up and he had thought that Blair had come through it fine, despite the drugs and the manhandling he had endured before Jim could get to him. But what if he had been wrong? What if the need to take vengeance on his tormentors had been all that held the young man together? A need that had been met in a squalid apartment when a senior GDP Guard named Wilson was taken away in handcuffs. Would a sentinel he never wanted be enough to hold him to a life he had fought against since he felt the first stirrings of his empathy? Ellison was afraid he was about to find out as he edged forward carefully.
"Chief, come on. It's all right. Talk to me, kid." He was near the windowsill when he stretched his hand out to hover near his guide.
The sentinel's senses began to spike and go crazy. All he could hear was the loud hammering of his guide's heart and his harsh breathing.
"No. No, everything is going to be okay." Blair's voice was strained as if he was trying to force himself to stay calm.
//Sure it will be, Chief, we'll get you through this together. Only, why the hell was Sandburg trying to reassure him when he was the one out on that damn ledge?//
Jim suddenly heard an echoing heart beat and realized that Blair's words were not for him. His guide was not alone on the ledge. Ellison eased forward until he could focus past Sandburg's body and just make out another figure on the ledge.
Anger flared up. //Stupid kid went out on a ledge to stop a jumper! What the hell did he think he was doing taking that kind of risk?// Ellison's forced himself to calm down and his senses began to settle.
H was holding back the crowd of onlookers who had been attracted by Ellison's mad dash through the hallways. The last thing they needed was a bunch of busybodies in the office while Jim was trying to talk Sandburg down. Brown felt guilt; they must have missed something that set the kid off, made him think this was his only way out. He turned his attention back to the sentinel and tried to convince himself that Jim would talk the kid back in. Ellison's body suddenly stilled; H could have sworn he *saw* the sentinel's senses latch onto his guide. And then he turned away from the window, his face grim. "H, get me a rope. The kid's gone out after a jumper. If she goes over, she could take him down with her and I am not going to let that happen." Orders given and oath sworn, Jim reached out with voice and hands, "I'm here, Blair, easy kid."
"Jim." The voice was sentinel soft and shaky, "Oh man, I don't like heights. Jim, she was going to jump! Oh, man. I need to get off of this ledge."
"Blair, grab my hand and I'll get you in." Ellison wasn't aware of the fear that colored his voice under that terse command.
"Can't leave her, Jim. She'll jump." Compassion pushed panic aside as Sandburg started talking soothingly to the distraught woman again.
Ellison said quietly, "I'm going to get a grip on you, Blair. You can't fall. I won't let you. If she goes, don't let her grab you." Jim pulled his gun out and chambered a round before laying it down in easy reach. //If she grabbed Sandburg and he couldn't hold the two of them and she wouldn't release the kid... she would not be allowed to take his guide to his death, if he could help it.//
Simon came up behind him, "Jim? What've we got?"
"Blair's got a jumper out there. He's trying to talk her down. I need to make sure he doesn't fall. Simon, he can't fall." Banks felt a frisson of horror at the terror in his detective's voice.
"He won't, Jim." Ellison reached out and took a firm grip on his guide's ankle while Simon wrapped an arm around his detective's waist. The captain could just barely hear the murmur of voices carried away on the wind that buffeted the ledge but he knew that sentinel hearing caught every word. "Damitall, Simon! She's gonna jump!" The fear-laden curse and Blair's strangled "Noooo!" was all the warning Simon had before Jim's body jerked in his arms. Sandburg had lunged forward and managed to get a grip on the woman's wrist. Banks heard Sandburg's choked cry of pain as his healing body was cruelly wrenched by the woman's weight dangling from his hand and the fierce hold Jim maintained on his ankle. Simon tightened his grip on Jim's waist and yelled, "Brown! Rafe! Hang onto Ellison, move it!"
When the two detectives had gotten into position, Simon reached past them and got a grip on the guide's belt. He heard the kid choke back a scream as he and Ellison hauled him up until Brown and Rafe could grab the now unconscious woman between them.
"Sandburg... we've got her. Turn her loose." Banks ordered. A curl covered head twisted painfully until a sweat streaked, ashen face came into Simon's view. Deep blue eyes stared confusedly at him. Simon said softly, "It's okay, son. We've got her. You can let go now." Slender hands loosed their hold on the woman's wrist and Rafe and Brown yanked her up and over Ellison's sprawled body. The detective grunted as his stomach was forced even harder against the sill by the woman's weight. Then he was pulling his guide back through the window and collapsing with him onto the floor. For a long moment the two men just sat there, Ellison hanging onto the younger man as if he still dangled off the ledge. Simon was peripherally aware that medical personnel had arrived and were examining the rescued woman. But most of his attention was on his detective and his 'observer.'
Blair was deathly pale and shaking as he finally pulled away from Ellison's hold. The empath knew that many people were uncomfortable with the tactile relationship that existed between Sentinel and Guide and all too often read into it what was not there. So even if right at that moment he wanted nothing more than to hide in his sentinel's embrace until his heart stopped pounding and his body stopped aching, he scrambled to his feet and said lightly, "That was soo not coool, man."
Jim's face went from concerned to flushed with anger. He sprang to his feet, grabbed his guide and pushed him through the crowd and into the corridor. Blair tried to protest but the hands tightened on his shoulders warningly and a hot wave of anger washed through the bond, silencing him. Ellison shoved him into the first empty office they came to and slammed the door shut with such force, it rocked on its hinges.
"What the **** did you think you were playing at, Guide?" His voice was a deadly growl and Blair backed away in fear. A hand lashed out and caught the front of his jacket and he was lifted off his feet and smashed into the wall. "You could have gotten yourself killed." The sentence was punctuated by a thump against the wall, "You have a death wish, kid?"
Blair tried to raise a hand to make contact with his sentinel but it was batted down with a snarled, "Don't touch me, Guide!"
"Ji... Sentinel... I..." Light blue eyes finally looked at him and Blair gasped at the depth of emotion he saw in the normally reserved depths
"I could not let her die. Please, Sentinel, I'm sorry. Please don't..." Blair finished the sentence with a rush and then added a heartfelt plea. Jim exhaled slowly and lowered Blair until his feet rested on the floor again. Ellison released him and, immediately, his guide folded onto his hands and knees, his head down and touching the floor. The position was seldom used by the GDP except for extreme *training* sessions and Ellison could guess how traumatic this was for Blair. //Sandburg saves a life and almost loses his own and you respond by scaring the kid to death. Way to go, Ellison.//
Jim closed his eyes. //Dear God, what had he done to the kid with his misplaced fear and anger.// Carefully, he knelt down and his hand hovered over the kid's shoulder. He changed his touch to hypersensitive before gently grasping the too thin shoulder and felt Sandburg's minute flinch and the tension in his body. Ellison forced himself to repress the revulsion he felt that, this time, he had been the cause of his guide's fear.
"Blair, on your stomach." Ellison tried to keep his tone calm, keep his anger at himself out of the bond. As Sandburg shakily complied with his order, his heart rate increased and he gasped. Jim shook his head. //Let's see how many times you can screw up in five minutes, Ellison. The kid's got to be hurting big time. He kept a 140 pounds of jumper from becoming a dead weight on the pavement and all that weight plus his own was supported by your hold on his ankle.// Jim cut off his self-recriminations and moved to help Blair ease his stiffened body to the floor. When trembling hands went to the small of a lean back, Ellison's larger hands intercepted them and gently eased them up by a curl-covered head. He rose quickly and locked the door, then returned to his guide. He lay down on his side, put an arm around his guide, and then rested his head on the silent man's back. Ellison pushed against their bond. "Open up, Blair." What he couldn't say in words, the empath could *hear* through the link.
He felt the tug on his mind and was relieved that Blair had responded to his order. Jim was still too new to this whole bonding thing; he was afraid he might have hurt Blair by pushing too hard. He allowed his guide to absorb the emotions he felt. Jim had always had trouble verbalizing his feelings; he was a private person to the extent that his own wife had once called him emotionally dead. Happiness and anger were his two main emotions with anger so prevalent it sometimes seemed as if there was nothing else except a refusal to feel anything. He tried to explain, "Look, Chief, I'm not angry at you. I am angry that you were put in a position where you risked your life. I was scared, Kid, afraid that I'd lose you." Ellison wondered if Sandburg had any idea of how rare it was for him to confess to feeling afraid. He heard a soft sigh and cold fingers covered his larger hand. Acceptance and comfort pulsed across the bond and Jim knew that his guide did understand. "Blair, I am so sorry I scared you. I..."
"I couldn't let her kill herself, Jim. Her husband killed himself because he was discovered to be an empath and was going to undergo guide training. Those of us who weren't raised to be guides, who had a life before the GDP... he couldn't live with the stigma of being one of us, a freak, a..."
Jim gently touched the young empath's face with the back of his fingers. "If you're a freak, Chief, then so am I. When I saw you on the ledge, I though you were going to ...jump. God, Blair, I thought that I would lose you and with you my sanity and my life. I can't lose you now, Kid, not now, not ever."
"NO, Jim, NO! I would never, never do that, how could you think that?" Sandburg rolled out from under Ellison's head and pushed himself into a sitting position. He reached for his sentinel and pulled him against him, his heart thumping comfortingly under an enhanced ear. "I would never leave you. NEVER." Ellison clung to him for dear life, unstinting now in letting Blair feel his sense of loss, his fear. "You're my sentinel. The ancients believed that a sentinel and guide shared one soul. We are one, Jim. Believe me on that!" The last words were said with all the strength of purpose a soul-bound Guide could muster. Jim had to believe him! He wrapped himself around Jim, his body shaking violently with the intensity of the emotions each man was feeling.
How long they stayed like that Jim did not know. But eventually, realizing that a hard floor was not the best place for an aching guide to sit, he helped the young empath to his feet and threw a supportive arm around his waist. Blair groaned theatrically and said with a laugh, "Oh, man. Would hot water feel good about now." Jim cuffed the back of the curly head lightly and promised, "When I get you home, you can wallow in a tub until you shrivel up, Junior." He unlocked the door and found H waiting. Brown moved forward and handed Jim his gun back. He made sure that he didn't touch Blair but he needed to know the kid was okay, "Sentinel..." Two sets of blue eyes fastened on him and Ellison made a face. Brown amended his words, "Jim. Is he okay?"
"Blair's shook up some, but he's... we're okay." Brown saw the nod from the smaller figure. A smile lit the kid's face as he expanded on Ellison's answer, "Nothing a long, hot soak and a short, cold beer won't fix."
"I've never seen you drink, Sandburg. I thought it wasn't allowed or something." Brown glanced at Ellison who scowled good-naturedly back at him. "Hey, he's over 21... barely." Jim waited for Blair's indignant response and wasn't disappointed.
"Jim!" It was a squawk of falsely outraged pride. Ellison smiled to himself as he realized that his willingness to let the empath read his emotions had healed something in the younger man, brought them closer. Sandburg batted at his shoulder before answering Brown. "No, really, H, I haven't had any alcohol since I came on-line. Wasn't sure what it would do. But then again I haven't dangled upside down off a ledge either. Maybe a beer is just what the doctor ordered."
Brown gaped as hard-ass Ellison rolled his eyes and teased, "Just what I need, a giddy guide. Oh, wait... I already have one of those. I'd never know the difference." Jim knew that Blair had no intention of having that medicinal beer but he was grateful that Sandburg could joke about it. The kid's whiny imitation of a disgruntled teenager was a much better ending to the day than the tragedy that had almost happened.
"Jim! I'll have you know I'm never giddy...well, hardly ever... okay, once when I was on this expedition as a sophomore and I took part in this tribe's ritual..." Hands were flying as the voice rose and fell in a truly hysterical story of the anthropological misadventures of an under-aged undergrad. Brown looked over at Ellison and was struck by the calm contentment on the man's face. //Damn. Somebody should have gotten old stone face a guide years ago!// He looked from one man to the other and wondered if it was the fact that Blair Sandburg was the guide that made all the difference.
Simon came to the door of his office and barked, "Ellison, Sandburg, my office NOW."
Sandburg sent a questioning glance Ellison's way and received a shrug in answer. Banks noticed how Jim shepherded his guide in front of him into the office and he realised their "neo-hippy grad student" was scared of him. He had never meant that to happen. //Okay, the kid had to understand the chain of command but he needed to know that he would protect him. He just hoped he *could* save the kid from the repercussions of his lifesaving heroics yesterday.// Even with the seriousness of the situation he had called them in to discuss, it still amused him that the same kid who conquered his fear of heights to crawl out on a ledge to rescue a jumper could look like he was about to be thrown to a lion named Simon Banks. Courage and trepidation, wisdom and naivety... the kid was a walking contradiction.
"I read your report on Sandburg's stunt, Jim, and so did the GDP." Simon watched Blair as he spoke. //Yep, there it was; an immediate stiffening of the slender body and a look of wariness creeping into the deep blue eyes.//
"What's it to them?" Ellison wasn't concerned about GDP involvement, yet, but he was aware of his guide's reaction and didn't like it.
"One of their shrinks read the report and expressed a "concern" that events did not transpire just as you reported."
"What the hell are they talking about, Simon? Blair crawled out after a jumper because he felt she was gonna jump and was right. End of report."
"Jim, they have suggested that since Blair went out on that ledge even though he is severely acrophobic it might be "indicative of a subconscious death wish" that could pose a danger to you and others."
"Simon, that's a bunch of ... "
"Ellison, shut up and listen to me, then you get your turn."
Jim ground to a halt. "Yes, Sir."
Simon took a mental deep breath, "Captain Mason feels that if they have documented evidence that Sandburg was out on that ledge they have the right to call a Section 8 on him." Sandburg gasped and grabbed for his sentinel's arm.
"Section 8? What the hell is that?" Ellison was getting angry. Blair's heart stuttered in fear and he reached to touch Jim as he explained.
"Section 8 is a full blown psychological and physical testing regime with automatic "c...corrective t...training." When Alex died and I... the GDP got me... I was handled under Section 8." Sandburg only stumbled over his explanation twice but it was enough to tell Simon and Jim just how bad a Section 8 could be.
"Simon, this is ridiculous! Blair only went out on that ledge to save a woman's life... and they think that shows a "deep-seated death wish?" Who are they trying to kid? We should be pinning a medal on him, not a bum rap." Banks watched as the young Guide flushed with pleased surprise at his sentinel's defense.
Banks was grave as he paged through the report on his desk and read, "Guide Sandburg is an unusually strong empath and it is possible that he subconsciously projected his depression and suicidal tendencies onto the woman, driving her to the suicide attempt."
Simon didn't think it was possible for a man to go as pale as Sandburg did. Wide blue eyes closed tightly and he swayed where he sat. Ellison was on his knees by the chair and gently pushing the kid's head between his knees. "Deep breaths, Chief. That's all a bunch of bull and you know it. Marva Jenkins had every reason to want to jump off that ledge and none of it was your doing. You know that... and so does the GDP." Simon got up and poured a glass of water and had it ready when Ellison finally let his guide sit up. Blair took the water with a trembling hand and drank it thirstily before handing it back with an apologetic smile.
"Sorry, Captain. Jim. Don't know why I..."
"No apologies, Chief. You don't ever apologize for anything to do with those bastards. Okay, Simon. What do they want?"
"They want the report rewritten so that all reference to Sandburg's actions are left out. That's what they want. You do that and they have no "evidentiary reason to pursue this matter" further."
"Bastards. Captain, they don't want any evidence that a guide can be capable of anything other than being the tool of a sentinel. If the media got wind that it was a guide out on that ledge, it might start them asking questions as to why every guide needs a sentinel keeper."
"Yeah, kid?" Blair's hand was fluttering on his sentinel's arm, a sure sign of his agitation.
"Some empaths do... need a keeper, I mean. Some really are overwhelmed by ambient emotion and need a bond to raise the barriers. They... the GDP... used that to get the laws passed. It's actually quite an interesting anthropological study as to how the GDP came about." Banks was impressed that the kid... no, the anthropologist... was able to put aside his very real fear to distract his sentinel from his anger with facts. Ellison calmed down as he listened to that soothing voice. When he spoke, his voice was resigned.
"Okay, Simon, this stinks but I'll rewrite it. Just tell them to keep their hands off Sandburg or I'll call a press conference." Blair's hand tightened on Ellison's arm at that cold statement. Small tremors shook the empath's body and Jim responded with a gentleness that Banks still found hard to believe.
"You're safe, Blair, no one is taking you anywhere."
"Sandburg." Simon made the name a command and wide blue eyes met his.
"Y... yes, Captain Banks?"
"We know the truth, son, well done."
"Thank you, sir."
Jim beamed, pleased that his guide was at least getting recognition where it mattered, in Major Crime.
Carolyn Plummer, Jim's ex, was waiting for them at his desk. A petite woman with short blond hair, she was the epitome of the professional career woman but she still harboured notions of domestic bliss with James Ellison. She was trying to come to terms with the whole sentinel concept and had decided that the enhanced senses were the cause of their failed marriage. She was convinced that there was still magic between them and now that he had his senses under control, it was time to rekindle their relationship. Today was to be the first step towards that goal.
"Jim, why don't I take you to lunch, my treat." She hesitated, remembering that last time she had asked Ellison to lunch and wanted him to leave the hippy behind. That had been a disaster. "Both of you", she added a little self-consciously.
Jim grinned at her. "Our bet on the Murphy case, I thought you had forgotten."
"No, Jim. As if you would let me. I have a reservation at the Apollo."
"No. I thought more Wonder Burger." He teased her while Blair looked on wide-eyed.
"No way, Jim, this is my treat and... and..."
"Okay, Caro, you win." He held his hand up in mock surrender.
//Caro, he called her Caro. He hadn't done that since the divorce. It was looking good for her plans.// Her face hardened as she saw her ex turn and collect his guide.
The restaurant was full but there was a corner table waiting for them. Jim, ever the gentleman pulled the chair out and seated his ex-wife. A voice spoke behind him, "Just like old time, James."
Jim turned, his body was rigid and Blair noticed his jaw muscles start to flex. Blair had quickly learned to interpret the body language of his sentinel and Jim's posture shouted "upset." He looked critically at the older man that had come up to the table. The well-dressed man was slightly smaller than Jim and had grey hair but he was fit for his age and exuded self-confidence. Blair's eyes widened as he noticed the family resemblance.
"Hello, Dad." Jim's voice was stilted. Then he added. "Were you planning to join us?"
He cast a meaningful glance at the table. There were only three place settings and Carolyn had known that Blair was coming.
"Certainly, Jimmy." Jim flinched at the old childhood nickname. "The management has a table in the kitchen for your guide. He will be quite safe there... and warm." He added as an afterthought as he saw the young guide shiver.
"Come on, Chief, suddenly I feel like Wonder Burger. We're leaving. Nice try, Carolyn."
"Jim, wait up, please." He turned to her, one hand already on Blair's shoulder. Sandburg looked as if he wanted to die of embarrassment.
"I made a mistake. Okay? I thought... well, I didn't think. Look, I was wrong, I admit it. Can't we start again?" Ellison studied his guide. The kid was glancing nervously between Carolyn and his father but there was compassion and understanding in the deep blue eyes. Ellison was sure he wouldn't be so forgiving.
"Jimmy, I can't see the problem. Put your guide in the kitchen and we'll..."
"Blair Sandburg is not a servant or a pet or anything other than my friend, my partner, and my guide. Live with it or leave me alone."
William Ellison had brokered deals all across the world and he knew when people were bluffing and when they where serious. His son was serious, the kid was that important to Jim, long hair and ...colorful... dress and all. He took a breath, "Would you join us, Mr Sandburg?"
Blair glanced at Jim. "It's your call, Chief." The sentinel tried to be noncommittal but Blair, who had never known a father, could feel an old, unhealed wound in Jim that had William Ellison's name on it. Maybe it was time to mend old hurts.
"I would like that, Mr. Ellison."
William Ellison called the headwaiter over, "Another placement please, Paul."
The dinner was pleasant. Blair sat next to Jim so he could connect with his sentinel if he needed help with his empathy. He took refuge in Jim's strength when his barriers started to fry from being near so many people and hostility started to leak into him from across the table. Before he shut down totally, he sought for the source and was surprised to find that it was all from Jim's ex. His father was curious, surprised but not hostile. He struck Blair as someone who had never thought about guides and only did now because it had become a personal issue when his son acquired one. He was clinically indifferent to Blair as a person.
Blair was conscious of Jim watching him covertly, making sure that he ate enough. His sentinel was still not satisfied with the weight he had gained since moving into the Loft. Blair refused the wine; joking with Brown aside, he had not drunk alcohol since going on-line as a guide. He didn't know how it would affect him, or his sentinel, if it brought his barriers down. He flushed slightly as Jim's watch chimed and he dug out the flat pack of pills. Ellison popped two out and dropped them into his guide's hand with a curt, "Chief, you forgot these at home."
William Ellison smiled. This was a side of his tough ex- military, top- cop son that he had never seen, the mother hen. His smile died as he remembered a much younger Jimmy Ellison being like that with his even younger brother, Stephen. He had come to realise that he had destroyed that protectiveness by pitting his sons against each other in the name of competitiveness and excellence. But those instincts were obviously still there. William Ellison watched the careful way his son included his guide in the table talk, and was surprised to discover that Sandburg was a brilliant, if somewhat nervous, conversationalist. Studied the gentle pats and mock cuffs that Jim directed at the young man sitting beside him and read in them a strong fraternal affection. And the guide...Blair... gazed at Jim with all the wondering admiration of a kid for an attentive big brother. Stephen had looked at Jim that way a long time ago before his oldest son had killed those feelings in a vain attempt to please his father. William realized then that everything the young empath said was aimed at defusing the tension between father and son. William looked into the compassionate eyes of the man who had made sense of out-of-control senses and had even restored his son's sense of humor. If he wanted to rebuild his relationship with his son, Blair would be a willing ally. Maybe Jimmy could even regain a sense of brotherhood with Stephen through the silent lessons of a guide's generous heart.
Ellison raised a glass in silent toast to his son and his son's guide.
//This might be a new start for them all.//
The series will carry on with "Happy America's Day"