With many thanks to my beta reader, great job as always. And for my sister Eileen, for all her hard work on setting up and managing my web site.
Jim Ellison pulled into the parking lot at the edge of Rainier University and turned off the engine of his "classic" blue and white truck. His icy blue eyes scanned the University's GDP office before settling on his companion. Blair Sandburg, his newly bonded and reluctant guide, was like a cat on a hot tin roof; he practically vibrated with barely suppressed energy. One slender hand rested on his sentinel's leg where the strong fingers gave an impromptu and unconscious massage to Ellison's muscles. Icy eyes warmed with hidden amusement as the sentinel studied his guide of five weeks. It was obvious that the younger man's emotions were at fever pitch.
Jim smiled, "Calm down, Sandburg. Take some nice, slow, easy breaths. Listen to your sentinel, kid."
Blair froze at the gentle rebuke and then followed the smiling command. Once Jim was happy with the slowed heartbeat, he said, "Okay, let's get this over and done with. We see this Dexter character and then we're out of there for good. After that we see Dr. Woodward, check out your office and you're in business. Right?"
"Right." Jim heard the nervous edge to his guide's voice.
Ellison exited his truck and joined his guide on the pavement. As they walked toward the GDP office, he could feel Blair's steps slow in reluctance. Ellison paused before entering to let his guide catch up with him. "Remember, Sandburg, it's in and out. No one is going to hold you here." Blair nodded but reached for the sentinel's arm with a shaking hand. Ellison caught the cold hand and squeezed it comfortingly.
A long, steadying breath later, Ellison got his answer. "As I'll ever be. Yes."
The receptionist wore the uniform of the GDP administration corps. She looked up at Jim and Blair and smiled, liking what she saw. "Can I help you, sirs?" Please make it something I can help you with. The young guy is kinda cute.
"I'm Sentinel James Ellison. Mr. Sandburg, who is my guide, is resuming his doctoral studies at Rainier today. I was told there was documentation we needed to take care of here."
"Of course, Sentinel, please take a seat." Her gaze slid over Blair as if he suddenly had ceased to exist, all her previous admiration gone when she realized he was a guide, a nobody. She almost commented on the sentinel's mode of address for his guide, "Mr. Sandburg" but decided against it as she met his unfriendly chill blue gaze. Experience told her that sentinels didn't take kindly to anyone telling them what they could or couldn't do with their guides... intuition told her this one would resent interference more than most.
Jim had watched as Blair noted the receptionist's dismissal of his presence and blushed in unwarranted embarrassment. The deep blue eyes fixed on the carpet as Jim placed him in a chair next to him.
The receptionist pressed the intercom, "Officer Dexter, Sentinel Ellison is here."
The GDP officer came out of her office and headed for Jim. Blair slid down from the chair, onto his knees, and brought his hands behind his back. He bent his head down, torn between shame and fear. He felt Jim's hand on the back of his neck. Blair heard a babble of young voices and tried to hide behind a curtain of his hair. His embarrassment changed into the beginnings of anger. A teacher, a doctoral candidate... on his knees like...like...some... The warm hand tightened briefly on the back of his neck and Blair silently thanked his sentinel for centering him.
The kind of noise only a group of teenagers could make drew the GDP officer's attention went from the sentinel to the door. A group of high school students were crowding into the the reception area. She smiled briefly at Ellison and apologized,
"Sorry, Sentinel, one moment please while I settle these students."
"Good Morning, thank you for coming. I would like to welcome you to the Rainier GDP station. While you are visiting us, please take the opportunity to get to know who we are and what we accomplish. I am sure that you will find that a career in the GDP is an exacting, but rewarding, profession. We are here to help both Sentinels and Guides reach their full potential. If you decide to join us, you can be part of that exciting work."
Blair leaned into his sentinel's leg as he heard the loud comments of the students regarding the sentinel and guide... especially the guide... in the room.
Responding to the students' curiosity, Lieutenant Dexter turned, "I am sure that Sentinel Ellison won't mind if you see what...".
"He will and does lady," Jim's voice had gone ice cold. All they supposedly had to do was go in and sign some papers and now this clown of a woman was trying to involve them in a GDP recruitment drive. Fat chance, Lady.
As you wish Sentinel," she placated hurriedly. Dexter was a little taken aback by his tone and waved Ellison and his guide through to her office. "I'll be with you in a minute."
She returned to her group of students. When she was able to turn them over to Guard Knight for a tour of the facility she went to join Sentinel Ellison in her office. Sitting down she handed over a sheaf of papers. "You need to sign the top document confirming that Guide Sandburg has your permission to attend Rainier. The rest explains how we will handle your guide's presence on Campus." She settled back and watched the sentinel read. Ellison wasn't reacting to her carefully thought out plan as she had anticipated. Tentatively, she began to enumerate some of the more important features of the procedures she'd evolved to handle this singular case of a Guide attending University. "In the event your guide overloads, we will bring him to this station where we have an isolation room, and... " The sentinel interrupted her casually, waving aside her professional knowledge as if the time she had spent in University and GDP Training were nothing.
"No. If he overloads and is coherent, you put him in his office until I collect him. Now, what's this crap about non-fraternization? "Communication will be limited to professional topics during the normal working hours with students and staff?" Why the hell would you come up with something like that?"
Dexter cast a patronizing glance over the guide. "Well, given his sexual history, we thought precautions should be taken to avoid undue trouble, of course." She watched as color swept over the guide's cheeks and was puzzled. She wouldn't have expected such a one as that to feel shame. Her attempt to figure out the enigma that was Blair Sandburg ended with his sentinel's ice cold voice.
"Listen to me and listen good because I am ONLY SAYING THIS ONCE." She shivered as the cold voice mutated into the deep growl of a dark sentinel. "Blair Sandburg does not have a *sexual history.* What he has is a history of victimization by members of the very organization that pretends to... what was it you said?... help guides reach their full potential? Sandburg was *raped* by YOUR GDP guards and they went to prison for it. Now would you care to explain how that gives him a *sexual history?* He was the victim, you got that?"
Dexter had heard the rumors about the correction facility guards but had discounted them. Still did... but... why would Ellison be so... Oh. "Sentinel, I am sorry. I didn't mean to imply that he... that you..." She stopped and took a breath. "His past doesn't reflect on you, Sentinel Ellison."
"Lady, I don't give a damn if it does. There's nothing in his past except more courage in the face of atrocity than could be expected of anyone. Blair Sandburg is my guide and a doctoral student at this University. You will treat him with respect, as a person, a citizen, not some damn pet or slave. If I hear that you have kept him waiting, dragged him out of a lesson or lecture for any reason or just because you are having a slow day, then, lady, don't get in my way."
Dexter paled. She was relatively new to the GDP, the Rainier station was her first assignment, and this was the first time she had to deal with a royally pissed off sentinel. Well, the classes had taught her one thing... whenever possible, let the sentinel have his or her way.
"My mistake, Sentinel Ellison."
"That would be Sentinel Prime, Officer," Jim corrected; personally, he didn't give a damn for the title but the look on her face was priceless. "NOW get me the paper work that you want US to sign so that we can get on with OUR business. And you can just tear up your "rules of conduct" while you're at it. Sandburg will abide by the commonly accepted standards of behavior for a graduate student and teaching assistant at Rainier University. Period."
Blair kept his head down throughout his sentinel's "discussion" with the GDP officer, for once almost grateful for the convention that let him hide his embarrassment with a bent head. His embarrassment had changed from shamed to pleased when Jim had praised his *courage* of all things! He bit his lip to keep from cheering out loud when Jim causally tore up the conduct rules the GDP officer had made up. He absolutely could not prevent a twitch of a smile when Jim made his final majestic pronouncement. "US to sign"..."Our business"... Jim was including him, he wasn't just a guide to be pushed aside but a person. Jim wanted them to treat him properly.
Sandburg only came out of his musings when his sentinel tugged on his arm and got him seated so he could review and sign the paperwork. As he felt Officer Dexter's angry confusion, he pulled in on himself and inked his signature where Ellison indicated. When he finished he started to slide off the chair and back on his knees. A strong hand stopped him and a cool voice said, "We'll just take our copies and leave, Officer Dexter."
"If you have any questions, Sentinel..." she said it tentatively.
"Not at the moment. Let's go, Chief. I know you've still got to see your advisor."
Jim stuffed the papers in his pocket as he led his guide out of the GDP station. He was aware of Blair's hand moving across his arm nervously and his rapid, shallow breathing. The kid was still upset about what the GDP had tried to pull... "Rules of conduct"... what kind of crap is that? What a hell of a start to his first day back in his old life.
"Easy, Blair, just breathe for me, Chief. We're out of there now."
"Thanks, Jim. I mean for what... what you said... about me having... courage..." The voice was still a little too shaky for Ellison's comfort.
"Anytime, Chief, anytime. Just called it like I saw it, kid." Ellison raised a hand and gently ruffled his guide's hair. Blair gifted him with a warming smile of thanks before turning serious.
"Jim, I want to pull back from the link." It was said abruptly, as if Blair was worried about Jim's reaction.
"You know you don't have to ask, kid. You're the expert on this sentinel/guide stuff." Ellison's voice was easy.
"I want to try and keep my barriers up without help. See how long I can hold them." The determination with which Blair stated his intent faded to nervousness as he asked, "You are okay to spend the day with me, aren't you? I mean, Simon..." "Simon's exact words were "Take yourself down to the university and get the kid settled and I don't expect to see you back today, detective."
"*Simon* said that?"
Jim almost laughed at the astonishment on his young guide's face. But he kept his voice serious as he reassured, "He did. Blair, behind that rough facade of his, the guy actually likes you."
"No." Blair shook his head in disbelief.
Jim sighed softly. Blair was wrong; not only was the captain coming to care about Sandburg but a good many of the Major Crime detectives were as well. Now was not the time to argue the point but Jim was determined to undo the damage the GDP had done to Sandburg's sense of worth. He pulled his attention back to what he could do to make sure that the rest of his guide's day went better than his first stop. "So where to now?"
"I need to pick up my TA credentials and my University ID card."
"We talking proper IDs here or do I have to bend someone's ear?"
There was a growl to the words that delighted the younger man. His sentinel was prepared to go to war for him again. Blair smiled as he remembered the scared woman at the precinct's administration office who wanted to mark his police ID with the correction facility marking. She would not forget that conversation in a hurry.
Eleven o'clock found sentinel and guide entering Dr. Woodward's outer office. The grey-haired motherly secretary waved them through with a smile. She had known Blair since he was an undergraduate and had always liked him. It would be nice to have him around again.
Dr. Woodward got to his feet and came out from behind his desk to shake hands with both men. "Please take a seat, Blair, Sentinel Ellison. Did you get all the administrivia taken care of, Blair?"
Blair grinned as Woodward casually dismissed all the GDP clearances as trivial. He answered readily enough, "Yes, sir. And I had my ID picture taken over at Security too."
"Good. Good. Sarah will make up the ID as soon as we get the picture downloaded. Now then, Blair, your contract is a bit different than your last contract. We're bringing you on as a Teaching Fellow this time." Woodward waited for the reaction as that sank in.
"Doctor? Why? How? I mean, I'm a guide now, sir." Sandburg's pleased shock was clearly evident.
Woodward shrugged, "I spoke with Sentinel Ellison and he said that there shouldn't be a problem. I recognize that your primary responsibility is to your partner, Blair, but I'm sure we can cover any classes you'll have to miss." The professor did not miss the grateful look the young *professor* shot his sentinel. The older man smiled with evident pride in his guide's academic accomplishment.
When he had his new Teaching Fellow's attention Woodward continued, "Now then, you'll be responsible for teaching two sections of Anthro 101. I've got a basic syllabus available but if there are any changes you want to make, just stop by and let me know. I've taken a look at your proposed class schedule and I want to recommend that you drop the 400 course and substitute the dissertation seminar. I know you've been away from the field for a few years but I don't think you'll have any trouble getting caught up and the seminar would really help you to refine your dissertation proposal. Take a look at the class blurb and tell me what you think. We'll also go over topics that you might see on the qualifying exam... which I would like you to schedule as soon as possible, Blair. Maybe even as early as next summer."
Ellison watched as his guide quickly read over the seminar prospectus.
"You're teaching the seminar, sir?"
"Yes, I am... but don't let that put you off it, Blair." Woodward gently teased his favorite student. God, it was good to have Blair back where he belonged!
"Looks really interesting, Professor. Should I go over to..."
"Don't bother, Blair. I'll take care of it. Now then, Blair, you still get basic medical insurance with the fellowship. Unfortunately, it will not cover you for any guide related illnesses or injuries." "Don't worry about it, Chief." Jim made his first contribution to the conversation. "You're covered on my insurance. I brought a copy of the policy for your files, Doctor."
Blair looked at Ellison, clearly puzzled. He knew the GDP had basic guide coverage for him but this was the first he had heard of Jim having him put on his insurance.
Woodward read through the document and then looked at Blair. "It looks like your *friend* values you as much as we do, Blair. This is the Gold plan, top of the line coverage. This is more than adequate, Sentinel."
"I wanted Blair to have a choice as to where he was treated. GDP basic just offers GDP facility care. And, Doctor, that's Detective not sentinel," Jim corrected smoothly.
"My apologies, Detective Ellison." Dr. Woodward nodded gravely as if Jim had passed some sort of test. The secretary knocked on the door and said, "Excuse me, Doctor, but you wanted this right away." She handed a small package to Woodward. "Thank you, Sarah." After the woman had left, with a quick wink at Blair that had the young guide blushing, Woodward went on.
"Now, Blair, I have spoken to the faculty committee and they are more than willing to accept your dissertation topic on Dark Sentinels. You have the date when they need the first draft proposal in your orientation package, right?"
"Yes, sir. It arrived last Friday." Blair nodded, his eyes snapping with excitement. It was really happening! He was going to get his doctorate!
"If you have any problems with anything, you come back to me. I will be your major advisor until you are ready to put together a dissertation committee."
"Thank you, Sir." Blair took a steadying breath.
"Now then, one last thing. Your ID card." Woodward handed the small package that had just been delivered over to Sandburg. The professor looked Jim straight in the eye as he said, "I had all that guide rubbish taken off. While you are at Rainier, you are a TA and Grad Student. That's the only status we are concerned with."
Jim's grin surprised Woodward. "I wouldn't have it any other way, Doctor."
"Your name and number are the emergency contact, Detective."
Blair held the ID card in his hand. When Doctor Woodward had challenged Jim on the ID information, he had waited for his sentinel to explode. He understood Jim not wanting his "property" marked as correctional facility fodder but he did expect him to want the standard Guide ID. But Jim just sat there grinning like the Cheshire cat. He turned the badge over. It was like his old one. HIS photograph, HIS name were on it not Ellison's. The small piece of plastic had a huge significance for the young empath, it said he was a person in his own right and not a piece of property. He felt Jim's hand on his shoulder give a firm squeeze. Blair reached up and patted it. For the first time since his nightmare started when he woke up as Alex's possession, he could actually believe that he was getting his own life back. It was all the little things that Jim had done; allowing him to pick out things for his room; choose his own food. Even though he hadn't been observing the restrictions, it wasn't as if Alex or the GDP cared, Jim had respected the tradition.
Just that morning Jim had pulled him down onto the sofa next to him. The sentinel had then proceeded to pull out his wallet and take out a hundred dollar bill. Jim had held it out to him and Blair hadn't known what to do, what to say. Ellison had grinned at him and closed his hand around the bill. "Keep that in your wallet, kid, for emergencies." Blair remembered babbling something, he thought it was thanks and pulled out the shabby canvas folder that held his GDP identification. Ellison had frowned but wouldn't say why... just went on to explain that Blair had been added to Ellison's household accounts at all the stores so he could get what he needed when he needed it. He had then given him another fifty dollars in small bills, "to tide him over until he got paid." The final surprise had been an ATM cash card. Ellison had explained that his brother had opened an account for Blair under Jim's name into which his University stipend would be paid. The card would give Blair access to his money when he wanted it without having to go through Jim.
Blair felt tears threaten again, just as they had earlier that morning when he had been given control of his wages, his own money. Jim had suddenly found his arms full of guide; Blair had wrapped himself around his sentinel and hung on for dear life. Even now, Blair could feel the gentleness with which Jim had held him until the storm of emotion had passed. As Blair said his farewells to Doctor Woodward and watched Jim and his advisor speak to one another, he realized that the sentinel he had dreaded was giving his life back to him. And more ... Blair hadn't felt so loved or cherished since he had been small child in Naomi's arms.
Ellison grinned as his guide bounced down the stairs by his side. Woodward had apologized for not being able to give Blair a regular office. He had explained that all the single offices had been assigned before he knew that Sandburg would be coming back. The professor knew enough about empaths to understand that Blair would find it uncomfortable sharing a space with another person for hours at a time. Woodward's eyes had twinkled when he commented, "It's not a regular office, Blair, but it *is* interesting." He had passed over a key and Sandburg had grinned. Even after two years he recognized *that* key; he had spent many a happy hour in the room it opened.
When they got to the door, Blair stopped. His name had been printed out on cardboard that had then been laminated. He traced the name on the plaque with one shaking finger. "Mine." It was breathed out.
"Yours, Chief." Ellison confirmed. The sentinel smiled as he saw the look of pleasure and pride on the younger man's face. He was giving Blair his academic life back but it wasn't enough. Ellison made a silent vow that one day, soon, Blair would never have to kneel to another person because he was an empath, a guide. The time would come when his guide would have nothing to fear from obnoxious people wearing a GDP uniform. He didn't know how he knew that but he could feel the change coming just like he could scent rain in the air before it fell.
Blair pushed open the door and Jim grinned. The "office" was nothing more than a glorified artifact storage lockup but his young anthropological loftmate was delighted with the accommodations. He immediately took Jim on a tour, greeting various relics and unidentifiable "somethings" like long lost friends. It occurred to Jim that in a sense they were. Keen blue eyes studied the space, noting where there was room for a computer set-up and an audio system. Maybe even a microwave and electric teakettle. A new desk chair was added to the sentinel's mental list but he nodded his appreciation for whoever had thought to shove the old but comfortable looking sofa in one corner. With just a little effort, this would be a cozy, safe place for a young guide spending long hours apart from his sentinel. Ellison was determined to make that effort.
Freshmen students were still trying to master the layout of the campus on the golden late summer day when Blair left the Student Union with a group of fellow grad students. Blair held the door for the others and took the opportunity to breathe deeply and just enjoy the simple pleasure of being back where he belonged, back in the academic world. As the last student passed him, he let the door swing shut and was back in the middle of the animated discussion. He was talking a mile a minute as he argued a point with the other post-grad students around him. He had them on the ropes, was sure that it was just a matter of time before they conceded the argument, when a car suddenly turned in front of them on the campus road. Another car pulled in behind them as they stopped in confusion. Or at least the others were confused. Blair went right to frightened as he recognized Martin Evans from Vice get out of the first car.
There was no mistaking the older man. As head of the Mayor's Anti-drug Task Force, he was often in the news. In his late forties, Evans was a bulldog of a man who frequently skirted civil rights in his crusade against what he referred to as "the scum of the earth." Evans had already made clear his feelings on the subject of empaths. As cold eyes settled on him, Blair thought, Oh God, this can't be good...
Evans looked over the students with disgust seeing a lot of long-haired neo-hippies who thought their ivory towers should exempt them from the normal rules of behavior. His face hardened as he recognised one student in particular. He reached out and snagged Ellison's guide by the front of his jacket. He threw the smaller man against the police vehicle, dragging him up so that only his toes touched the ground. "Mister Sandburg, shouldn't you be with your sentinel? Oh, I forgot... Ellison misguidedly allowed you to resume your studies here. Is this the kind of company you keep away from his eyes? Why aren't I surprised? Degenerate scum always sinks to the bottom."
"Let me go, man. We weren't doing anything." Blair struggled to keep his barriers up as Evan's hatred washed over him. Evans didn't deserve an explanation but Blair didn't want to cause trouble and tried to defuse the situation.
"Look, we're all Teaching Assistants here and..."
Instead of letting him go, Evans tightened his grip and hauled him up higher. Blair stopped trying to explain and concentrated on breathing. Every instinct he possessed was screaming at him to try and pull free of the cop's punishing hold. He forced the need away. That was what Evans wanted him to do, Blair could see it in his face. "Resisting arrest" would give Evans the excuse he needed to take him in. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the other three policemen checking out the ID cards of his fellow students. He heard them protest Evan's treatment of him but they were quickly ordered away. Freddie shouted something about calling the Dean as they hurried off toward Hargrove Hall. Just hold it together, Blair. They'll get help, call Jim. Just hold it together. One of the uniforms came up and addressed Evans, it took a moment for his words to penetrate Blair's growing panic.
Officer Peterson did not like students. He recognized that bias in himself and tried to keep it out of the way he did his job. It wasn't easy. He worked with Evans and the Task Force leader encouraged his men to push the boundaries to get results. Generally, Peterson liked the freedom that gave him to roust those who needed it. But he remembered seeing the student Evans was manhandling around the police station. For a moment he had thought he was a snitch before the face had snapped into place. "Detective, I recognize him. That's Sandburg, he's Ellison's." He said it as if he was identifying a piece of property. Peterson stepped back at the look on Evan's face, it was clear the older man didn't want to give up his prey that easily.
"Just going to frisk him for drugs, Peterson. Never know what we might find."
Peterson looked from Evan's sneering face to Sandburg's carefully blank one. The uniformed officer had heard the rumors of what this kid had survived... and had seen the growing respect in which the Major Crime detectives held "their" young observer. The last thing he wanted was to make enemies of the elite unit of detectives. "He's clean, Detective." He tried to warn Evans off from what he feared the man intended.
"What?" Evans sounded surprised at the interruption.
"You think the kid would even try a bit of wacky tobacco while living in Ellison's home? The guy would smell it half a mile away. Right, Sandburg?"
"Right," Blair managed to croak.
Evan's tightened his hold on Sandburg's shirt and gave him a hard shake. "Right, what?"
"Sir." Blair gasped as the fists knotted in the shirt bunched at his throat.
"That's better. You need to learn to show your respect to your betters, GUIDE," he spat the title out as an insult. Evans threw the smaller man away from him, laughing as Blair staggered before finding his balance. "Get the hell out of here, Sandburg, before I run you in for polluting the atmosphere." He laughed at his own witticism while climbing back into his vehicle.
Blair was almost hyperventilating, struggling to control his breathing when the uniformed cop came over to him. He didn't know what to expect but it wasn't the calming "Easy kid, just try and breathe" that he got. He managed to gasp out a "Thanks, sir." as the cop led him toward a bench.
"Anytime, Sandburg. I owed Ellison one." The cop started to turn away, then he turned back and said, almost grudgingly, "You're good for him, kid." Blair stared after him in surprise until he drove away. Only then did Blair sink down on the bench and allow himself to think about what had almost happened. That had been too close. He knew Martin Evans didn't like him but would he have set him up? He didn't want to even think about that because if he had been arrested, for any reason or for no reason, the GDP would have taken him into custody until the trial and ...he shuddered as all the old fears surfaced again. A shadow fell over him and he looked up to find himself surrounded by six young men.
They were all much bigger than he was; all of them had the look of powerfully built jocks. Still rattled by his encounter with Evans, fear began to flare in his mind. What do they want??? Then, through the rising panic, he recognised them from his lecture. He was still learning the names of all his students but these clicked into place easily. They were members of Rainier's Soccer team, winners of the University Challenge Cup for the past two years. He had been more than a little worried when their coach had told him point blank that the soccer team was joining his Anthropology 101 class en masse. The previous semester, six of the players had barely avoided academic probation that would have benched them so the rest of their team mates had concocted the idea of taking the same classes to "encourage" them. It was just Blair's luck that Anthro 101 fulfilled the general education requirement expected of all students each year and so he got the entire team. He had expected there to be problems with them and it looked like he was right.
Instinctively, he pulled in on himself, preparing himself to handle whatever they chose to dish out. Despite what he had led his sentinel to believe, he had known that the initial ease of his return to Rainier could not last for long. And if the unsigned note he had received in his faculty mailbox was right, the fact that he was a guide was in the process of being transmitted around the whole campus. Jocks typically did not have much time for academics in any event. That he was a guide as well would just make it worse. He waited for their spokesman to start the ball rolling, gripping his backpack to remind himself of what was at stake.
Alan Fraser looked down at the smaller man and frowned when he saw the way his teacher gripped a battered backpack. Mr. Sandburg looked like he was expecting a blow. Then before he could reassure the professor, narrow shoulders straightened and a calm, authoritative voice challenged, "Can I help you, MISTER Fraser?"
Alan smiled. That was just what he expected from Mister Sandburg. After only a couple of lectures, it was already apparent that the young Teaching Fellow was *good people* as well as an excellent teacher. All the crap about him being a guide was not fair. The students in his section of Anthro 101 class had talked about the fact that Sandburg was a guide at length. A small clique had tried to talk all of them into boycotting the class until they got a teacher who wasn't a guide. Steadier heads had overruled them and Alan took some satisfaction in his role in the decision. He had asked two questions. Was Sandburg a good teacher? And if he was, wasn't his personal life his own business? He had carried the day but he also realized that there was still animosity present. After Mr. Sandburg had made time to give extra instruction to their academically challenged buddies, he had won the respect and loyalty of the whole team. When Freddie had told them what was happening on the Commons, they had sought out their guide professor. They had quickened their steps when they had seen Sandburg in the grip of the police officer but the crisis was over before they got there.
"You all right, Prof?" The title had come out without conscious thought.
"Yeah, thanks. What can I do for you all?" Intelligent blue eyes were still wary but there was nothing in his voice but a willingness to help.
"Nothing, just checking that you're all right. The damn cops are all over the campus today. The way they carry on, you'd think that students were public enemy number one. We heard that they stopped you and a bunch of grad students. Watch yourself with them, Prof. Just because you teach doesn't mean they won't hassle you." Everything else he wanted to say remained unsaid; whichever way he mentally phrased it sounded condescending. And he could not condescend to this man. It seemed as if he didn't need to worry... the deep blue eyes conveyed gratitude for what he had said, and understanding of what he hadn't. Alan felt a swell of protectiveness for HIS teacher.
"See you around, Prof," he said casually. Still a little overwhelmed by the moment he added seriously, "And watch your back, okay?"
Blair laughed. "I've got a sentinel for that job, Alan. I'll see you in class and don't forget to read chapter five."
A student watching from his position near the fountain frowned. A guide at his university? And one who not only admitted to having a sentinel but implying that he gave that sentinel a "job?" That was going to have to change and change fast. He tugged out a cell phone. "Lieutenant Dexter. I want to report a guide on campus without his sentinel. I just watched him...."
A few minutes later he clicked the phone shut, sat back and waited for the fun to start. He waited for the GDP to descend, and waited, and waited... until Sandburg got up from the bench and disappeared into Hargrove Hall.
Blair scanned the faces of his students and smiled. They were a pretty mixed bunch but he was beginning to get a sense of who they were as a class and as individuals. A bell rang in the distance and Blair shut his notebook signaling that the lecture was over. "All right, everybody, that's it for today. Don't forget to read Chapters six and seven on ritual Sacrifice. And... Philip, the assignment is theoretical not practical. No sacrificial maidens on the soccer field, please." There was a ripple of laughter as the big soccer player grinned and saluted the lecturer before pleading, "But we have a game this Friday, Professor." Blair returned his grin and said, "Burn incense, Philip, not virgins." More laughter ended the class on a high note. "Don't forget to drop off your reports before you leave." It had been a good session and Blair was smiling as he started to pack up his work.
The students filed past him, dropping their reports on the desk. A small group of students threw a couple of comments in his direction about guides who thought they were so smart. He studiously ignored them although he would have had to be deaf not to hear them. One of them, Robin Newman, a small petite girl with dark blond hair, tugged on the arm of her boyfriend, Ian Tipp and pulled him over to Blair. "Sorry Mark was not here today." False respect oozed through the words. "He's got that stomach bug that's going around."
"Make sure he gets the reading assignment, Miss Newman. He wouldn't want to get behind."
"Sure thing, Guide Sandburg." She smirked as she said the title.
"At Rainier, that's *Mister* Sandburg." Blair kept his voice calm as he corrected her.
"Your sentinel know that?" Ian Tipp tried to sound shocked but only sounded smug. "He knows." Blair met their gazes levelly. Ian Tipp held his essay out and then let it go so that it hit the floor. A few more students let their essays fall on the floor to join Tipp's. Blair stood very still, fighting down anger as the "good session" turned ugly. Tipp picked up on that anger and tried to turn it into fear.
He towered over Blair, crowding into his personal space. "Why don't you get down on your knees and pick them up, *Guide*? You've had a lot of practice down there." He stared down at the smaller man and waited to see fear in the deep blue eyes. What he saw instead frightened him and he laughed harshly as he said, "Come on gang. Let's get out of here."
Blair's hand tightened on the essays in his hand. "Bastards," he exhaled it slowly under his breath. He looked down at the essays on the floor. His remaining students were looking at him as if he were an exhibit in a freak show. The same students he had just held entranced with his tales of other cultures. He could feel a blush coloring his face. He had not expected it to be easy... but he had also not expected such blatant disrespect in his own lecture hall. His head came up and he met their eyes steadily, giving away nothing of his feelings. I will not let them get to me. "I hope the rest of you have better coordination than your classmates and can manage to get your papers on the desk instead of on the floor." There was a sigh and a whisper of comment from the seats as he brushed aside the incident as of no consequence.
Alan Fraser came down the steps backed by his team. The big athletes bent down and scooped up the dropped papers, making quite clear where their loyalties lay. If the action hadn't been clear enough, Fraser's words left no doubt. "Here you go, Prof. Hey, just forget about Tipp. He's as full of crap as he is clumsy. See you next class. Come on, boys. Coach'll skin us if we're late."
One of the team, Jerry Carver hung back a minute. "Mister Sandburg?" he questioned awkwardly.
"Jerry." Blair was patient. Jerry tried hard but he was definitely a better soccer player than he was a scholar. The student was smaller than his teammates, on the slender side and with long, dark hair. His brown eyes were pleading with Blair for understanding as he fingered his report, "I'm not really sure that I understood the assignment, sir."
"Jerry, you should have come and seen me about it before it was due. That's what office hours are for. And if you can't make it then, I can always come at a better time for you."
"Well... I wanted to try and do it myself. You make it sound so easy and I thought that maybe..."
"Okay, Jerry. I'll take a look at it and then we can talk it through. I can't let you do it again; it wouldn't be fair to the other students but maybe I can put you right for the next one. And don't worry about the grade, Jerry, you've got lots of time to bring it up. I'll help. Okay?"
"Thanks, Professor." Jerry smiled, relieved and turned to go. He froze in place as he saw a man come into the lecture hall. The stranger screamed "cop" from his short hair to the aura of disciplined control he exuded. Jerry glanced askance at the prof. "You okay, man, or should I hang around until you find out what the cop wants?" Carver was genuinely concerned. He liked Sandburg. The professor never made him feel stupid or slow like some of the other faculty did, and he had heard about the incident near the student union building. This guy looked like the worse type of cop... all "my way or the highway."
"I'm fine, Jerry. Go on and don't keep the Coach waiting."
Jerry didn't look too sure about that but one look from the cop and he melted into the background. He relaxed just a bit as the prof greeted the man by name.
"Hey, Jim. What's wrong?"
"Nothing, Chief, just thought I would check in to see that everything is okay in academia."
"Jim, this is your guide you're speaking to... now, why are you here?"
Jerry Carver smiled as the big cop... sentinel... looked like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar. Yeah, the prof would be okay with Kojak here. Carver slipped out. If he hurried he might get to practice before the coach really did go ballistic.
"Grapevine says that Martin Evans from Vice is on a stop and search round here. I just wanted to make sure you were all right, Chief."
Jim studied his guide with concern as the kid blushed. Detective Martin Evans had several major axes he liked to grind and Blair was one of his favorites. The kid had never done anything to him except draw breath but Evans hated guides and sentinels equally. The Vice cop *knew* his career had been blighted by the sensory advantages sentinels possessed. Jim remembered their run in when he had worked in Vice. Martin had soon backed down from the ex-covert ops Ranger but it worried Jim that Blair would be an easy target for him. He suspected that something had already happened, the increase in Blair's heart rate and respiration at Evan's name said as much. As if to confirm his worries, Blair rested a hand on Jim's arm and the sentinel felt the tug as his guide opened their connection. The guide's emotions were in turmoil but Jim sent thoughts of support his way and it seemed to steady Blair. Finally, Blair ended the connection and pulled away.
Blair smiled as the sentinel reached to gently ruffle his hair, substituting physical contact for emotional linkage. Jim hadn't been the most tactile person to start with, only rarely touching or hugging friends. But because of the sentinel/guide link, Jim was always reaching out to him, needing the contact to reassure him that everything was okay with is guide. As the weeks passed, Blair began to realize that it wasn't just a programmed sentinel response but a Jim Ellison action... the big cop actually needed to know, as a friend, that his friend was okay.
Blair smiled. It had taken a while, he had been through so much that trust no longer came easily to him but he now really believed that the big sentinel... correction... that Jim Ellison was his friend. It still surprised him sometimes that his sentinel would have taken that route and not just treated him as an intelligent guide dog to be used when needed. There were times when Blair could even imagine that Jim behaved like the older brother he had longed for as a kid. Sometimes when Jim was playful, he reminded him of a large cat trying to wrestle with a kitten, not quite sure how to avoid overpowering the smaller cat. Jim was always so careful that he didn't clip him too hard when he mock slapped him on the side of his head or grabbed the back of his neck.
The in-built need for a sentinel to make physical contact with his guide and the guide with his sentinel was something that people found hard to understand at first. Modern Western society saw most non-familial touching as carnal in nature, a fact that the anthropologist in Blair thought was a pity. Throughout history, even before there was history, humans had needed touch for emotional health, a need different from the desire for sexual congress . Blair had learned the hard way that most people misinterpreted the contact between a bonded pair and tried to not make them uneasy. He had seen, and felt, Simon's and Carolyn's first reactions to Jim's touching him and didn't want to go through that again. He thought that the captain, at least, now knew better but Blair was still trying not to upset anyone. A task that was made harder by Jim's blithe disregard of others' opinions. He caught Jim studying him quizzically. With chagrin, he realized that he had missed a question. Jim repeated it.
"Blair, what's wrong, kid?" There was no mistaking the sentinel's concern.
The guide looked at his sentinel and tried to find a way to phrase what he had to say without Jim flying off the handle.
"Martin Evans harassed some students this morning. I was one of them."
"Did he hurt you?" Jim growled.
"No. Pushed me up against a car, that's all. One of the uniforms, Peterson, helped me out. He told Evans that there was no way I'd do drugs around you. Evans let me go with a warning." Blair tried to downplay the whole incident but something told him that Jim wasn't buying it.
"That bastard! If he thinks..." Jim started for the door. . "JIM." Blair caught his jacket, stopping him. "I'm all right. He didn't hurt me. He just wanted to scare me, that's all."
Jim hesitated, then pulled his guide over to him. He began to run his hands over Blair's body, checking his back, shoulders and head for any damage or bruising. Only when he was satisfied that Blair wasn't hiding any injury, did he let go of him. Jim reluctantly acknowledged that part of his anger was directed at himself. Only a few short months ago, he would have been throwing Blair up against a wall. One look at his guide's long hair, weird clothes and hyper behavior and he too would have pegged him as a prime suspect for a drug bust. That scared him.
"Come on, kid, I'll buy you lunch. There's a Wonderburger over that way." He waited for his guide's typical response and wasn't disappointed. Blair set aside the morning's upset in favor of a long-standing concern... his sentinel's health.
"Jim! The so-called food at that place..."
Ellison tuned his guide out as he resigned himself to yet another lecture on his eating habits. He waited until Blair paused to interject a comment.
"Yes, Mother. I understand..."
"Cut it out, man. I'm not your mother, I'm your guide," was the indignant reply. Jim hid a smile as he felt Blair punch him on the arm.
Lunch had been relaxing, an oasis of calm that they had both needed. Blair had to do some fast-talking to convince his sentinel that he could go back to the station while his guide stayed at the University; Ellison was in serious hover mode. But finally he had won out and he had waved as Ellison had dropped him off at Hargrove hall and driven away. He did a quick check on his empathic barriers before he went back to his office. They were still high and he grinned. He was doing well; before the bonding he would not have had any problems but his bonding to Jim had stripped him of some of his control. He still worried sometimes that his barriers would give out on him, leaving him susceptible to a massive overload on all the emotions of the hundreds of people around him. His grin changed to a smile as he thought that Jim worried even more about that than he did... if his sentinel had his way, he would...
Blair halted in his tracks and turned his head trying to find the shouter. The flight instinct was trying to kick in but he held his ground, his eyes searching among the people around him. This was his campus and he had every right to be here.
The young woman coming towards him was older than him. She was also taller by at least five inches, even wearing the flats that were in keeping with the rest of her clothing, sensible rather than student chic. She moved like an athlete and had a no-nonsense air. A battered old leather handbag hung over her shoulder and she cradled a rather astonishing number of file folders in her arms. She seemed comfortable with who she was, a rare thing in this world. While Blair was still trying to remember if he had ever seen her before she spoke.
"Hi, I'm Carol Reeves, another of the long suffering TA's at Rainier. Welcome to the club." She juggled files until she could extend her hand to him. A mental check of his barriers and he returned her offered handshake. He thinned his barriers slightly and sensed the mellow feeling of her emotions. "Hi, Carol. You know who I am already." Blair tried a smile on her and she grinned back at him.
"Oh, yeah... you're the "cute new guy" according to the girls in my class." Carol's grin widened as the younger man blushed. "You're doing your PhD in Anthro, aren't you?" She didn't wait for an answer before going on, "What's your topic?"
She shook her head, impressed. "The Powers That Be accepted that? William will be put out. He tried to get that topic accepted for his dissertation and got turned down, not enough information was available. So how come they let you do it, Blair, friends in high places?" Her tone was joking but there was a real interest in those intelligent hazel eyes.
"I found a Dark Sentinel and he's willing to..."
"Be your lab rat. Cool."
Blair turned quickly, his eyes searching for the blue and white truck. He breathed a sigh of relief. Thank God Jim hadn't heard that crack. He had convinced his sentinel to reluctantly agree to the testing. Blair guessed it was more to humor him than out of any real interest in what made Dark Sentinels tick; it worked and that was enough for Ellison. But anything like calling him a lab rat would have sent the older man ballistic.
Blair held the door open for Carol and they made their way to their offices, chatting about inconsequentials. Reeves' office turned out to be four doors down from his own and was, if anything, even smaller than his. As she dumped her files on a desk that was piled even higher than his own, he suggested diffidently, "I've got some tea in my office. There's only powdered milk but..."
"Thanks, Blair. That would be a treat. Hang on, I've got some brownies here somewhere." She rummaged in a desk drawer and brought out a sealed Tupperware container. "I'm 28 years old and Mom still sends me care packages." Carol liked the smile that lit up the younger man's face. She had been curious about him and had looked up some of the articles he had published before disappearing from Rainier two years before. His work showed he was highly intelligent and she knew that Doctor Woodward thought highly enough of him to offer him a teaching fellowship. In addition, he was, she sought for just the right word, charming. An odd mixture of naiveté and wisdom, of energy and calm and there was no missing the compassion that shone in his beautiful blue eyes. There were shadows there too, and she found herself angry with whoever and whatever put them there. He was looking at her curiously and she shook off her thoughts and said gaily, "Let's go eat. I'm starved and I've got tutorials this afternoon."
Blair escorted her down the hall with a teasing air of old-fashioned courtliness. She fell into his play easily and Blair knew that he had met a kindred spirit. He got his key out and then realized that the door was ajar. He pushed it open and his heart went cold. Standing in his cluttered office were a GDP officer and guard. The smaller of the two men, the officer, ordered, "Come in, Guide."
Blair glanced at Carol. He could feel the heat coming up in his face as he saw the look on her face. Her mouth dropped open as she backed out of the room, the door closing behind her. There goes one friendship... Suddenly he was jerked back from his sorrowful musings by the hated command. "Show your respect, Guide." The order was delivered in a cold tone meant to remind him of his place. Blair folded gracefully down onto his knees, his hands behind his back crossed at his wrist, head down looking at the worn carpet. I can do this... it's not the same...
"Not good enough, Guide. You seem to think that just because your sentinel has been magnanimous enough to allow you to continue your studies that you can ignore your training." Blair saw black shoes come into view of his restricted vision. He shuddered as he felt the trail of a leash across his shoulders. His breath began to come quickly. They would not leash him, not here at the university, please God, not that.
Another order was barked into his ear. "Belly, Guide." Blair went flat in an instant. His hands broke his fall then quickly went to the center of his back again.
"Knees and head, Guide." Blair pulled his knees up under him, his forehead pushed into the carpeting and his hips raised in the most feared of the punishment positions. He hadn't done anything! Why were they... He could hear them circling him.
"Good little guide isn't he, Jack?"
"Wilson did a good job with this one."
"Yeah, sometimes you gotta just let them know where they stand in the scheme of things... or lie - as the case may be." A ribald laugh answered that sally.
Wilson! Blair felt nausea crash through him. That's over. Jim fixed it. But his sentinel wasn't here and he could not help flinching as the lash trailed down his back... and lower. A heavy hand fell on his hip and Blair fled into his mind as memories attacked him... Awareness faded.
The door to the office slammed open and the GDP officer started to order the person out. He was ignored and a furious Dr. Woodward stormed into the small room, slamming the door behind him. "What the hell is going on here?" he demanded.
"GDP business." The GDP officer said pompously. "Correction of a guide. He....."
"All he did was enter his office." The professor stated accusingly. "Miss Reeves told me all about it. Blair, get to your feet." He said it more gruffly that he meant. His anger was certainly not meant for his student. Woodward grew concerned as Blair made no effort to move. The young face, what he could see of it, was frozen into a mask of... terror? Fear? Hopelessness? Woodward got the impression that the empath's mind was somewhere else. Remembering what he had heard, what had been implied, before he opened the door, it was no wonder that Blair seemed to have checked out of the present.
"I'm reporting your actions to Lieutenant Harris. Is the harassment of members of my staff something you do on a regular basis now?"
"He's a guide, Doctor. Since his sentinel isn't here, we're responsible..." The guard's effort to smooth over the incident failed noticeably.
"Rubbish. He's a member of my staff now, with his sentinel's full consent. I expect him to be treated that way. NOW GET OUT before I call campus security and have you removed." He stared them down until their eyes dropped and they conceded the battle of wills.
Doctor Woodward waited until the two men left and Carol had come into the office before he bent over his new TA. Woodward took a calming breath, reminding himself that his anger could hurt Blair. The young man still hadn't moved. "Blair?" he questioned softly.
No answer. Blank staring eyes that held none of the vital intelligence and voracious curiosity Woodward was accustomed to seeing in them. God, What did those bastards do?
"Carol, stay with him." He added quickly, "But don't touch him. I think we'd better get his sentinel here fast."
Reeves knelt down next to her fellow TA. She tried to talk to him but she couldn't break through whatever it was that paralyzed his mind. She glanced up. Doctor Woodward was on the telephone. He was speaking quickly, answering questions succinctly, and it was obvious that the person asking them was not happy. He concluded the conversation with, "Get here as quick as you can. I'll meet you downstairs." The professor hung up the phone and paused to gather his resources before turning to Reeves.
"That was Blair's sentinel, Carol. I'm going to wait for him downstairs. Stay with Blair. Don't let anyone in for any reason. And for God's sake, try to stay calm. He's an empath."
Carol nodded her understanding, her mind racing. If Blair Sandburg was a guide, then the Dark Sentinel he was studying must be his. Blair was a guide... She paused on that thought, did a little soul-searching and found that she didn't give a damn. He was a fellow scholar and a gentle man and that's all that mattered.
Carol talked soothing nonsense to the insensible young man huddled on the floor. He still hadn't come out of it when the door opened again and another man came in. She took one look at the fury on his face and immediately tried to block him away from Blair. He was big and angry and all his attention was on her fellow student...
"Keep away from him, Dr. Woodward will...." She put herself between the stranger and the hurting guide.
"He's my guide. Get away from him." There was real menace in the words that were growled at her. She backed away.
My stars! This was Blair's sentinel. This rude, fierce... behemoth... Carol's angry thoughts shattered as the sentinel spoke.
"Chief." There was a wealth of emotion in that one word, sorrow and anger and even... compassion. Carol watched in surprise as the big man knelt down and placed a gentle hand on the back of his guide's neck.
"Chief? Blair? Come on, kid. It's okay, now." Jim tightened his grip and felt the flinch. He doesn't know it's me! What the hell?
"Onto your belly, Guide." Ellison's heart broke as his guide complied and he knew where the younger man's mind was. Blair was back in the correction cell, and would...could... only respond to the guide commands that had been hammered into him there with fear and pain. . "Good, Blair, that's good." Ellison comforted. He kept one hand resting on his guide's neck and with his other slowly drew circles on Blair's back. He felt the tight muscles begin to relax under his hands, as on some basic level Sandburg recognized his sentinel's touch. Jim pushed against their linkage. It was shut against him, not a good sign. Okay I can do this. Jim pushed against the shield the kid had on the pathway and heard a moan of pain. Blair wouldn't... or couldn't... let him in. Damn, this was serious now. Slowly, he pulled back from the linkage. He tugged out his cell phone and began to dial. This was beyond serious, into terrifying. Blair had shut down too much and was nearly catatonic. Jim could feel him slipping away from him. He needed real help as quickly as possible from someone he could trust. "Commander Slater." The name was barked out. A brief silence was followed by. "I don't care who he's with. You tell him that Sentinel Prime Ellison is on the phone and you get me him NOW." A fascinated Reeves got an inkling of the influence that a Sentinel Prime wielded in some circles as his order was carried out. Barely a minute later, Ellison was snarling into the phone, "Slater, your men at Rainier have been harassing my guide. They've driven him into a catatonic state and I can't bring him out or get him to link." Ellison kept up his soothing touch on the Guide's back as he listened closely then answered a question. "His vital signs are still strong." More silence. "Someone will be waiting for you at Hargrove Hall, Commander. Thank you." Those last two words were ground out as if Ellison was eating glass. He closed the connection and pocketed the phone. "Commander Slater is on his way here. Could someone wait for him?"
"Certainly," Woodward said quietly, "We'll leave you alone with Blair, Detective. Carol, could you watch for this Commander Slater downstairs and bring him here?"
"Certainly, sir. Who the hell do they think they are? Blair doesn't deserve any of this..."
Ellison looked up from his guide. The icy blue eyes were warm as they took in Carol's angry face. "Miss... Carol... Sandburg is going to be mortally ashamed that you witnessed this."
"Well, he has nothing to be ashamed of... it's those jackbooted thugs who should be ashamed of themselves. Don't worry, Detective..."
"Jim, please." Oh my, he's an altogether different man when he smiles...
"Jim, I'll make sure that Blair knows that. And no one will hear about any of this from me."
"Thank you, Carol." His attention had already drifted back to his young guide before he even finished her name. He didn't look up as Woodward and Reeves left the office, carefully closing the door behind them.
Slater must have broken all the traffic laws on his trip to Hargrove. Sooner than Jim would have thought possible the commander was knocking softly at the door and announcing himself. "Sentinel Ellison, it's Slater."
Ellison's curt, "Come in" softened into a "Thank you for coming" as Ellison noted that Slater wore an ordinary coat over his uniform. Sandburg would not have wanted Slater parading around in GDP uniform in his office hallway. The commander carried a black bag over one shoulder.
"Sentinel Ellison I ...." Ellison could read the distress in the GDP officer's voice.
"That can wait. Blair, he's...." Ellison didn't have to say any more. The sentinel had managed to ease his guide onto his back. But his arms and legs were still frozen in the kneeling position he had been in when his mind fled the expected horrors. The wide blue eyes set in an ashen young face were open and staring at nothing.
"Hell!" The epithet escaped Slater's lips before he could stop it.
"Yeah..." Ellison's agreement was heartfelt.
"I need you to roll up his sleeve for me."
Slater knelt down on the floor and opened his bag. He pulled out a disposable syringe and laid it on top of the bag and then removed a small bottle.
"You do know what you're doing, Slater?"
"I'm a GDP trained paramedic, Sentinel and Guide medicine. It looks to me as if Blair is in a fugue state. We have to give him the medical equivalent of a kick-start to get him back. He won't, or rather, can't link with you because his pathways are so overloaded nothing can get through."
Slater looked at Jim. "His vital signs?"
"Good. This isn't an easy way to bring him out of this... it's the chemical equivalent of electroshock therapy but if we want to keep this incident out of his records it's our only option. Now, I need you to lean over his body so that when he comes around... and he will come around violently... you are there for him and he can connect."
Jim watched the needle go in. It seemed as if the needle had scarcely left the flesh when Blair's whole body spasmed. The tight held arms and legs flailed wildly and he screamed, struggling against Jim's strong arms. Ellison pushed against the link and this time Blair let him in. With voice and the connection, the sentinel steadied his guide until the slim body lay still. Deep blue eyes opened and closed. Then opened again to fasten on Jim's face as a shaky voice pleaded, "J...Jm?"
"Here, Blair. It's all right, kid, I've got you."
"Th...they...ey were... h... h... here..."
"I know, Blair, but they're gone now and they won't come back. Will they?" The tone of voice was deceptively mild but one look into the laser blue eyes and Slater quickly confirmed, "No, Sentinel, I will make sure of that."
Jim nodded acceptance of the implied promise before his attention turned back to his guide. "Welcome back, Chief. How are your barriers?" God knows they'd been high enough to keep him out but who knew what that stuff Slater gave him could do?
"Jim." Sandburg pushed against his sentinel's hold. Jim eased back slowly and then caught Blair as he rolled over and tried to kneel.
"I'm sorry they called you, Jim. It won't happen again." Blair was staring at the floor, not wanting to see the disgust in Jim's face. He heard his sentinel sigh, and then a hand carefully tilted his head back up until he had no choice but to meet the older man's eyes.
"I will come as often as you need me, Blair, this is not a one time deal. Now, how are your barriers?"
"They're still up." Sorta, kinda, enough.
"Right." Jim's semi-sarcastic tone indicated that he didn't believe him. Then he felt the sentinel push against the link, testing. Blair held firm. Jim nodded. "Okay, Chief, you win. They're up. And I'd like to know how you managed that trick." But Ellison didn't push for an answer, he doubted that Blair had one. The kid's eyes were still somewhat dazed as they roved around the small office, never settling on any one object. Ellison got up and reached a hand down to pull the smaller man effortlessly to his feet. One hand hooked under the young guide's elbow to stop him trying to kneel to Slater as he suddenly realised who and what he was. Slater ignored both the aborted movement and Ellison's challenging stare.
"Sentinel, your guide will be on an adrenaline rush for the next few hours. Nothing serious," he added quickly, "but he's going to be hyperactive for a while." Slater paused as he saw Ellison smile wryly. "Sentinel?"
"I was just thinking "what's new?" He gave his guide's long hair a gentle tug. "Sandburg's like the Energizer Bunny on speed already."
Still a little dazed, Blair felt himself tucked against his sentinel's side by a strong arm. He slowly became more aware of his surroundings and his eyes found Carol. He blushed as he realized that she must have witnessed his humiliation and waited for the disgust to blossom in the hazel eyes. Instead, she just smiled at him as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. "That tea still on offer?" she asked.
"Sure, Carol." Blair stepped out of Jim's comforting hold and went over to the jug of water he kept for tea. As he filled the kettle, Ellison saw Slater out of the office. "Thanks, Commander. That's one I owe you."
"We're not all monsters, Sentinel Prime Ellison."
Jim watched the man walk away. He tilted his head to one side and listened in on the conversation in the office behind him. They were chatting about the cost of textbooks, Blair was asking about resale texts. Ellison scanned Blair's heartbeat. It was still faster than normal but his voice had lost some of the residual fear that had colored it so alarmingly earlier.
"Chief, come out here a minute?"
"Hang on, Carol. Be right back. Yeah, Jim?"
"Did you get those text books you needed?" "No. Not yet." Blair sounded a bit defensive.
"Chief, I didn't understand you. I may be a sentinel but even I couldn't hear that. Want to run it by me a little slower?"
"One hundred for the set."
"You need them for the course, right? Right." He waited until Blair had nodded before saying, "Then use the cash card."
"Jim, I haven't been paid..." Ellison knew that Sandburg wanted to be independent but this was ridiculous. All the time the kid devoted to Jim's sentinel abilities and helping down at the station and he didn't think it was worth a textbook or two?
"Sandburg, I think your help is worth a textbook or two. So not your account, Chief, the loft's." As Blair still hesitated, Jim ordered with mock severity, "Just do it, okay?"
"Okay... thanks, Jim." Ellison grabbed the back of the kid's neck and squeezed lightly.
"You're welcome, kid. Now, don't keep your friend waiting."
"Thanks, man..." Blair held his sentinel's eyes with his own for a beat longer "...for being there, as always." Then he turned on his heel and went back into the office.
The week that followed was one that Blair Sandburg would have loved to be able to forget. He had been abducted by an unbonded sentinel; discovered his mother was still alive and suspected of murder, found out who his father was and wished he hadn't, and had undergone a Dark bonding with his sentinel. Well, maybe he didn't want to forget the bonding and he was grateful that Naomi wasn't dead. The rest he didn't even want to think about. Too much had happened in too short a time and it had left him drained. Long needed changes were occurring among the sentinels and guides of Cascade and among the ordinary people with whom they worked. He and his sentinel had agreed that they needed to consolidate the gains won at the Sentinel Conference before they openly took on the system. Blair himself had argued the necessity of being sure that their support was solid before the Sunset Law would make obsolete the GDP legislation. That need and necessity didn't help in what he had to do now that the Conference was over. Their gains came with a price he had to pay.
He was back at Rainier but he still had to face a 14 day GDP disciplinary sentence for his part in helping members of the Guide Liberation Army escape a GDP raid. He had been lucky, but for Jim cutting a deal, he would have spent the next two weeks in the correction facility doing hard time. He knew it wasn't time to trade on what he was owed by Slater but if Jim hadn't managed to keep him out of the facility...He shuddered and his sentinel turned to look at him, "You all right there, Chief?"
"Sure, Jim. Just memories." He didn't have to elaborate.
"They can't hurt you, Junior." Ellison answered Blair's unspoken fears firmly, but all the same a hand on his arm and a quick pat from his sentinel reassured him that his friend understood. Today was the first day of the sentence.
Blair trailed up the stairs and found his sentinel waiting for him outside the door.
"Okay, Chief, let's get this over and done."
The guard on duty looked up from the log. "Can I help you, sirs?" His gaze drifted over Blair. He had a good idea who this was but he didn't want to jump to conclusions and treat a citizen like a guide. Lieutenant Dexter frowned on any such really bad PR.
"Senior Sentinel Prime Ellison."
At that, Blair folded into the guide position, his shoulder pressed against Jim's hip. He was the epitome of the perfectly trained guide. His head bent and his hair swung loose to hide the small smile he couldn't quite manage to keep from reaching his lips. Senior Sentinel Prime Ellison. Jim was going in with all barrels blazing, making sure that they were very much aware of just who they were dealing with.
"Of course, Senior Sentinel Prime, we were expecting you." He pressed the intercom key, "Lieutenant Harris, Sentinel Prime Ellison is here."
Lieutenant Harris came out, smiling, "Good morning, Sentinel Prime. If you would come into my office, we can complete the necessary paperwork and go through the guidelines."
Jim dropped a hand down to his guide's neck, his finger pattern telling Blair to get to his feet. His young guide slid back into his place behind his sentinel's shoulder, one hand twisted in the back of his jacket and the other resting on his shoulder. Jim couldn't help but wonder if the GDP gave clothing allowances to sentinels. His wardrobe was certainly suffering from having a guide. He already had two sweaters twisted out of shape. But shapeless sweaters were a small price to pay if the contact kept his guide calm. The idea of his guide having to visit the GDP office every day for fourteen days scared him almost as much as it did Blair.
In the office, Jim was waved into a chair and Blair took his place by his side. Harris leaned back in his chair.
"Your guide has been sentenced to 14 days curfew. I have his University schedule for the two weeks. He must attend his classes as student or teacher. We've blocked out study time and library time as well as office hours for his students. Any time he is not at one of the allowed activities he will report to us here and sign in. If for any reason he doesn't sign in, we will go looking for him and he will be brought back here for the remainder of the day regardless of his schedule. He will also have one day compulsory leash correction session for each infringement of the rules I've just explained."
Ellison frowned as he felt the shudder run through the younger man at his side. Harris wasn't finished.
"Let me clarify that last for you, Sentinel. The guide will be taken to the correction facility and will receive a day's training with one of our Guide Training Officers. You may, if you choose, collect him that evening." Harris held a hand up to stop the words he knew would come. "Not all training officers are like Wilson and his crew, Sentinel." Ellison's eyes said he doubted that and Harris found he could not quite meet that cool gaze.
"Sentinel Prime, you will drop him off each morning and pick him up at the end of each day. If for any reason you cannot pick him up, we will put him in the hostel until you can." Harris placed the paper in front of Ellison. "If you would read this and sign it, Sentinel, we can conclude our business."
Jim read through it carefully. It said exactly what Harris had explained, nothing more and nothing less. He critically examined the Lieutenant. The GDP officer held still for the scrutiny; he had been scanned before and knew that he had to meet the sentinel's eyes. Jim nodded. If he were honest, the only GDP personnel that he would tolerate were Commander Daniel Slater and Guard Gibb. And that only after they had proven themselves. Maybe this Harris would as well? He didn't seem to take any pleasure in the program he was outlining.
"You may leave your guide here. His first class is at 10:00 am; he will stay here until 9:45."
Ellison hesitated and Harris braced himself for the arguments. He watched as the sentinel tilted his head to one side and blue eyes looked down at the guide's bowed head. The lieutenant couldn't prove it and no one would believe it anyway but he could have sworn that the guide said something sentinel soft that stopped Ellison's tirade.
Blair's voice whispered for his ears only, "I'll be okay, man, it's okay. You can go." Ellison got to his feet. His face hardened and there was menace in his voice as he warned, "If I find he's been hurt in any way, there will be hell to pay. This whole thing is a crock anyway and you know it."
This time Harris saw the young guide's lips move and one slender hand tap the top of the sentinel's foot. The lieutenant's eyes narrowed as once again, the guide overruled the sentinel. Interesting.
"I understand, Sentinel, he will not be hurt."
Jim nodded and left. Blair had never had felt so lonely.
Harris pushed the intercom button. "Kerry, you can bring those letters in for me to sign now."
Blair slowly relaxed the muscles in his body, starting at his shoulders and working down his body in a technique he had mastered to see himself through his time in the correction facility. "Guide," Harris dropped an elastic tie on the floor in front of him, "tie your hair back."
Blair broke the position and scraped his hair back at the nape of his neck. Then he immediately went back to the working position.
"You will tie your hair back whenever you come into this office. I have a standard of dress that you will adhere to, Guide." Blair didn't answer verbally, he just chanced a nod.
The secretary came in and hesitated. Harris said, "It's all right, just ignore Guide Sandburg."
Blair saw a pair of shapely legs go past his line of vision. He tuned out the sound of their voices and ran through his lecture in his mind. Then she was gone.
Harris checked the clock. "You may go, Guide Sandburg."
Blair got to his feet; 30 minutes on his knees, he could do that. In the correction facility he had been down for hours in some of the worse leash wraps there were.
"Thank you, sir," he said the words automatically, the response learned to appease the "trainers" in an effort to escape the beatings.
He kept his head down. It was only when he was heading down the stairs of the office that he relaxed. He was free! Two GDP officers coming toward him cast measuring looks at him but Blair kept going. The rules were clear and straightforward; once on the campus he didn't have to kneel. He hurried to his class never noticing the interested eyes that followed him.
At the fountain a group of students were watching him carefully. "He's a bonded guide and he had the nerve to come to University."
A girl said mockingly, "As if it would do him any good, everyone knows that guides are incapable of going beyond high school, if that."
"Well, maybe. But if that's right how come he's got a BA, an MA and is going for a PhD?" A young man challenged, not sure he really wanted to have anything to do with this group. Although Robin was pretty and rumor had it that she never kept to one guy for long.
"That's easy. Because he's a freak and doesn't know his place," the first student grinned. "But he's going to find out we won't take any crap from him, won't he?" His words were greeted with a murmur of agreement. "I already called the GDP down on him once... they went to his office but I don't know what happened after that. No one's talking. But we'll get him yet."
Commander Slater was holding a steaming cup in his hand as he looked out the window of his office. He had just finished reading through his report and had decided he deserved a break. His musings were interrupted by a knock.
"Come in." No rest for the weary...
Guard Gibb put his head around the door, "Sentinel Prime Ellison to see you, Sir."
"Send him in." Slater set down his cup and prepared to welcome this most difficult... and interesting... sentinel.
Ellison gave him a slight smile, but to Commander Slater, used to the stern countenance that the sentinel showed the world, it was the equivalent of a full out grin. Slater watched as Sandburg knelt down, and saw Ellison's smile falter. He braced himself... this couldn't be good.
"Blair is on punishment detail at Rainier for fourteen days for his role in the failed GLA raid. He's supposed to report into the office first thing in the morning. He's working with me today, can you inform Lieutenant Harris that Blair actually did report in to GDP authorities."
"No problem, Sentinel."
"Thanks. Come on, Chief, let's get a move on before Simon puts out an APB."
Slater breathed a sigh of relief and then frowned in puzzlement. Why weren't guide and sentinel protesting the sentence? Judging by what went on at the Conference they would have had the backing of all the sentinels in the city. Just what was going on under the guide's curly head and behind the sentinel's icy blue eyes?
The day was overcast and it rather matched his mood. Before long, beads of rain started to run down the windscreen and onto the hood of the blue and white truck. Blair was a bit self-conscious as he drove the vehicle that was his sentinel's pride and joy even though it was old...correction *classic.* Eyebrows had been raised when Jim had asked him to take the truck and deliver a package to his father's office. Everyone knew that Jim Ellison did not let *anyone* drive his truck. But Jim was caught up in the bullpen that morning and the parcel needed to be dropped off today. Okay, he was pretty sure that Jim also wanted to avoid his father.
Blair was still feeling his way on Jim's relationship with his father. He had never known his own father; his usually talkative mother had been remarkably closed mouth on the subject. Only recently had he found out why but meeting his father for the first time as the man lay dying had not given Blair much experience in father/son interactions. Still he had read William Ellison's and his sentinel's emotions during a high-tension dinner he had shared with them and he knew both men wanted to work things out. They just didn't know how to go about it. Blair had decided to try and bring them closer together and was alert for any clues that might help him do that. He grinned, Wonder what Jim would say if he knew what I was up to?
He followed the directions Jim had written out for him until he reached the Ellison Corporation Building. Carefully, he pulled into a visitor's parking space in the huge underground parking lot. The building itself was an impressive multi-story edifice that covered an entire city block. Blair whistled silently; he hadn't known his sentinel was this well connected.
Blair took the elevator to the ground floor and bounced up to the reception desk. The receptionist looked up and smiled and was treated to a mega-wattage Sandburg special grin. It was nice to be treated as an ordinary person. He was finally getting used to it now; in the bullpen, the detectives followed Jim's lead and at Rainier he had Doctor Woodward and Carol and the entire soccer team to set the tone.
"Can I help you, sir?" Big green eyes batted at him and Blair read both messages she was trying to send easily. He was there on his sentinel's business but he took a moment to savor the address. Sir, she called me "sir" and not Guide! Maybe after he completed his mission, he could stop by the desk again.
"Yes, please. I have a parcel for hand delivery to Mr William Ellison."
Suddenly, she wasn't smiling as she looked him up and down. Her hand went to a button.
Blair heard someone...someones... come up behind him. He turned and found himself looking at two broad chests concealed behind cheap suits and rent-a-cop badges.
"Sylvia?" the taller one queried.
"He's got a parcel for Mr. Ellison. He looks like one of the hug-a-tree brigade from Crossfield." The shorter, relatively speaking anyway, reached for Blair's arm. Blair waved him off and stepped back, hands making "hold it" gestures in the air.
"Hey, man, I'm just here to deliver a parcel, that's all. Its from his son Jim... James... Detective Ellison, I..."
"Sure it is. Sylvia, is Mister Ellison expecting a parcel from his son Jim...James... whatever?"
"No," the receptionist stated it levelly.
Blair's shoulders were taken in vise-like grips. He shuddered at the malice that flowed into him at their touch. He strengthened his empathic barriers as he was pulled towards the security office, the package dropping on the floor.
"Leave it alone, Sylvia. I'll send someone to check it out after we run this guy through the security screen."
Blair's flight instincts kicked in and he twisted away from them. He wasn't going to wait around until they checked his identification and found out he was a guide. They'd call the GDP and ... He was bolting towards the door to the stairwell when he heard some one call his name. He recognized the voice and was turning to answer when he was tackled to the floor. His breath left him in a strangled grunt.
"Keep back, Sir, he's..."
"Let him up. NOW." There was authority behind that voice.
"Mr. Ellison..." the security guards chorused in protest.
"He's my son's guide."
Blair felt the weight come off his back and he was pulled to his feet. A big hand remained clamped on his shoulder despite Ellison's identification. Blair glanced at the receptionist and saw the look of disgust on her face as she heard Ellison's words. The change in attitude was almost like a physical blow. There goes ordinary...
"Let go of him." This time the order was obeyed. Blair made a show of pulling his sweater back into place before he raised his eyes to his sentinel's father.
"Hello again, Mister Sandburg, my apologies but there have been some threats made against me and my staff are a bit jumpy."
"Sentinel Ellison asked me to deliver this package for your birthday. He would have come himself but work....." Blair trailed off as William Ellison smiled sadly in acceptance of his son's absence.
William waved security back. "Thank you for bringing it to me." He stalled, not sure what else to say to his son's guide.
William looked up in relief as his second son arrived. "Are you all right, Dad? I heard the security alert." The newcomer was a smaller, younger version of the sentinel, only with more hair and fewer muscles. The man was looking him over with thinly veiled interest.
"I'm all right. Security made a mistake. This is Jimmy's Guide, Mister..."
"Sandburg." Stephen finished. His face split into a smile. "So, I finally get to meet Guide Sandburg."
Blair looked at him and moved back slightly, slap into one of the security guards who were still eyeing him suspiciously.
"Stephen Ellison." His sentinel's younger brother put a hand out. There was no hesitation in the offer and Blair took his hand. Stephen's grip was firm but not crushing.
"Thank you for getting me back to Rainier, Mister Ellison." Blair said it as if he meant it. Which he did.
"My pleasure, Mister Sand... no, it's Blair, isn't it? I'm Stephen. It seems silly to be so formal. Anyway, Blair, it didn't take much on my part, your colleagues at Rainier were delighted to have you back and I owed Jim one for saving my life. He would never let me help him, I'm glad he let me help you. You're doing a good job with him, Guide. I appreciate what you're doing for my brother and I hope that we can be friends."
Blair nodded, unsure of what to say.
William listened to the exchange and made a mental note to find out about the "lifesaving" escapade of his sons later.
The receptionist was suddenly aware that William Ellison was looking straight at her. Sylvia hurried to wipe the disgust from her face. She had a sinking feeling she hadn't succeeded in time as her employer excused himself from the guide and walked over to her desk.
"Miss Peters, if I ever hear or see you behave like that again towards my son's guide, you will be collecting your papers ten minutes later. Do we understand each other?"
She flushed red. "Yes, Sir."
"Good." He turned back to his son's guide. "You wouldn't mind coming up to my office for a moment, would you, *Mister* Sandburg?"
Blair was about to refuse. He just wanted to get out of there. Then he realized that William Ellison was making a point and he nodded. He could see the same stubborn trait in the older man that was in his sentinel. It was easier to let him have his way.
William Ellison tucked the parcel under his arm and belatedly felt a warm glow. It was the first birthday present he had received from his oldest son in 15 years. He knew that the reason he had holding it now was because of the young hippie dressed grad student. Not just because he had delivered it but because the guide had started to warm up his son's cold heart. If he was going to build bridges with his son, correction, sons, this strange young man was likely to be the mainstay of the whole operation. Fortunately for William, he seemed happy to do it.
Blair was nervous. So nervous, he had dipped his barriers slightly to get a bearing on the Ellisons and especially to try and understand his sentinel's father. He didn't have much information on how to deal with his sentinel's family. When he had spoken to other guides at the Conference, they had all admitted that they had rarely seen their sentinels' families. Usually, they would be put out of the way when there were family get-togethers. Blair's mind went back to the time in the cafe when Jim had stood up to his own father to have his guide sit with them for dinner rather than exiling him to the kitchen. It had been a nerve-racking meal for the empath but he had seen it as a new start for his sentinel. From what he had felt the older Ellison had been trying his best help him past the discomfort. There were nerves fluttering through the older man, he was scared of making a mistake with his son's guide as much as with his son. He's afraid of me. The thought had hit Blair like a ten-pound weight. He still didn't know why his sentinel's father would be afraid of him. He pulled himself back to the present as he realized that William Ellison was talking to him.
"I have a photo album that I want to give Jimmy, would you take it to him?" Blair read something that was almost desperation in him.
"Sure, Mister Ellison."
"This way...Mister Sandburg." William Ellison led the way to the elevator.
In the elevator, Blair kept his distance from the Ellisons until the car started to fill up. He took a deep breath and raised his barriers as high as he could, wishing his sentinel was there. Stephen moved forward and acted as a shield between him and the other people. It wasn't quite enough, Blair flinched as a hand caught his forearm. William Ellison pulled him behind him so that he and his son together carved out a space for the young guide. No one was willing to crowd the owner of the building. As Ellison released Blair, he gave the arm a small pat. "You all right, Mister Sandburg?"
"Yes, thanks, Mister Ellison." The next ten floors passed in silence.
Blair was ushered out of the lift, flanked by the two large Ellison men. A few heads turned to watch the mismatched trio and Blair couldn't fault their curiosity. There was their boss and his son in expensive business suits on either side of a "hippie wannabe." Blair didn't kid himself; he knew what many of the police officers at the station called him.
The secretary, looked up, and started to rise with a sheaf of paperwork, but was waved back to her seat. "Give me half an hour, Jilly." Ellison hesitated. "Jilly, this is Mister Sandburg. He is a friend of my oldest son, James. If at anytime he calls, in person or on the phone, you put him straight through."
"Yes, sir." She looked at Blair with interest. She had worked for William Ellison for three years and he had lived up to his reputation of hard-hearted businessman and yet here he was telling her this young *good looking * guy was to be given privileged access that even Commission Warren and the Mayor didn't have.
William picked up a bottle of brandy. "Can I offer you a drink, Mr. Sandburg?"
"No, thank you, sir. I... er.. don't drink."
"A guide thing?" Ellison seemed interested
"I haven't drunk since I came on-line as a guide. I don't know how it would affect my empathic barriers, Mister Ellison."
"Perhaps for the best." Ellison put down the bottle without pouring himself a drink.
William picked up a box. "This is a family photograph album. I think Jimmy would want to see this." Ellison went silent for a minute, then he went on tentatively, "I have a birthday party coming up soon. I would like Jimmy to attend, Mister Sandburg. Could you see that he does?"
"I can't order him around, Mister Ellison, but I can ask him. Where and when is it, sir?"
Stephen cut in quickly, "10:00 P.M. on the 28th. It should be convenient for him, its right after the Officer of the Year Awards at the same place, the Tower Hilton."
"I don't think Jim is planning to go to the Office of the Year Awards, he...."
Stephen laughed. "Jim doesn't like the Mayor and its mutual. Ever since he wrote off the Mayor's Limo trying to arrest a paramilitary commander who was trying to hijack the Picasso Art Show." The younger Ellison brother grinned lopsidedly. "Believe me, Blair, when Jim was finished with the limo, well, let's just say that I've seen better cars in the crusher."
William broke in harshly, "He has to go to the Officer of the Year Awards. He...."
"Mister Ellison, why is it so important?"
"Did you read me, Guide?" There was an edge to Ellison's voice.
Blair moved back from him. "N... no. I ... you just..." "Sorry, Mister Sandburg, my apologies. I didn't mean to snap."
Stephen followed his father's hesitant apology. "Jim is being made Officer of the Year, Blair, so we need you to make sure he goes, okay?"
Blair's smile was brilliant, *His* sentinel was being honored! He felt a swell of pride in him. "Certainly, Mister Ellison. I'll do my best."
Stephen said dryly, "Well, if your best isn't good enough it's a sure thing that no one else's would be either." Blair felt the ready color flood his face. He was relieved when father and son said their goodbyes a moment later and he could escape back to Jim. To his surprise, both men escorted him back to the elevator.
Only when the guide was on his way down did William turn to his son.
"Mind explaining how you knew of Blair Sandburg, Stephen? And what's this about Rainier? Not to mention life saving?"
Stephen took a deep breath. "It's a long story, Dad."
"Then get started, son." 0-0-0-0-0
Blair settled back into the truck and exhaled slowly. It was almost as if he had been holding his breath since he had entered the building. He had felt the Ellisons' need to connect with him. They both wanted his help with Jim. They were a divided family and they wanted to be whole again; he smiled, it gave him a warm feeling deep inside that they should see him as a means of achieving this. He started the *classic* and headed for the University.
He found a parking spot close to Hargrove Hall and stopped in long enough to collect some paperwork. He kept the truck keys in his hand, relishing the sense of independence they gave him. He hadn't said anything to Jim but he missed driving. He had owned a beaten up Corvair but that had disappeared when Barnes had taken him. Since then he had resigned himself to never driving again. Guides could have drivers' licenses but they could not own a car and the insurance companies would not cover them except on their sentinel's insurance policy. Running errands for his sentinel was more pleasure than work. His good mood continued as he bounced down the steps of Hargrove Hall and tossed the books and backpack on the passenger seat. Woodward had complimented him on the papers his students had produced and had asked him to prepare an article for publication. Blair was humming to himself as he turned onto a steep access road leading off campus. A horn blared behind him. Startled, he glanced into the rear view mirror and saw a car coming up behind him fast. It plowed into the back bumper of the truck, throwing him forward. "What the hell!"
He checked his mirror again and saw a woman staring at him, a panic stricken look on her face. The car hit him again. Mind whirling, he knew she was not trying to force him off the road. Her brakes must have failed and she couldn't stop. His heart went into his mouth.
Okay, Okay, calm down. You can do this.
Blair began to brake slowly but firmly. Soon he could smell rubber burning. There was a series of small jolts and then her front and his rear bumper made contact and stayed. He continued braking, the truck tried to fishtail and he had to fight the wheel to keep it straight. He had almost brought both vehicles to a stop when a SUV on a cross street ran a stop sign. There was nothing he could do, his overloaded brakes could not stop in time. Oh God, Jim's gonna kill me! The thought flitted through his mind as the truck smacked into the SUV behind the rear wheel. There was a screech of metal as all three vehicles slid into a parked vehicle. Blair's head came into hard contact with the steering wheel and, suddenly, everything went quiet but for the hissing of radiators and the creaking of over stressed metal.
Slowly, he lifted his head as he heard the shrill wail of a police siren. He carefully opened his door and dropped to the ground, hanging onto the truck for a moment until a wave of dizziness passed. Then he made his way back to the woman. She was an older woman with short greying brown hair, dressed in a comfortable two piece sweater set. Blair got the impression that she was normally confident if reserved. But right now she was as white as a sheet and shaking badly. She was trying to get out of her car. It looked as if her legs were going to fold and Blair took a quick stride forward. She caught hold of his arm and he helped her out and over to a garden wall. She hung onto him for dear life as she thanked him over and over again.
Blair blinked as the siren ran down and he saw the flashing lights of a police car. He wasn't quite sure when it had arrived but he was grateful for the help it promised.
"You people all right here?" It was an older officer with kind grey eyes. Blair nodded and said, "Yes, sir. Just shook up some. The other driver?"
The police officer snorted. "He's been drinking too much but other than that he's all right. Now then, what happened here?"
"My brakes failed. This young man used his truck to stop mine. If he hadn't... and I hit the intersection down there..." she shuddered badly.
The police officer nodded. "We need to get statements from everyone but I think you should take a seat in the patrol car for now." He could see shock had already settled in with the older woman and there was blood running down the side of the young man's face. "I'm Officer Verner and you are...?
Before the young man or the woman could answer, his partner came up. He spun the young man around and pushed him up against the side of the truck, none too gently. As he forced the smaller man to lean against the truck with his legs spread and his weight resting on his hands, he snarled, "Stupid move, punk, pinching a cop's car." He looked at the large dent in the front fender, "Ellison is going to have your hide for that."
Verner said, "Take it easy, Davidson, I want to hear his story before we go jumping to conclusions." Just then the woman moaned and almost fainted. Verner got an arm around her and supported her over to the police car. Behind him the young man started to speak...
"The truck's not stolen. Detective Ellison told me I should use it." Blair was feeling sick and dizzy. He wasn't quite sure what was happening... but he suspected that this cop was right about one thing...Jim *would* have his hide. Better Jim than this guy...
"Sure he did, so why did he report it missing at 2:00 o'clock and put an APB out on it?"
"That's got to be a mistake! My name's Blair Sandburg. I'm Jim's guide and he asked me to...."
He didn't finish his explanation as his hands were roughly pulled behind his back and handcuffs snapped on.
Verner got the woman seated in the police car and came over to the truck. He looked surprised as he saw the cuffed prisoner. His attention was distracted as he looked over his shoulder as another vehicle arrived. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the prisoner blanch. Verner looked more closely at the car; it was a black GDP vehicle. "What the hell are they doing here?"
"Yes?" Verner wasn't happy and he didn't care who knew it. He'd had run-ins with GDPers before. They seemed to think that there was one law for them and another for everybody else.
"Thompson and Baldwin, GDP. We got a report that a guide had stolen this vehicle. I see you have him, good work. We'll take the Guide into custody now." Davidson grinned and stepped away from his prisoner. The two GDP guards caught hold of the young guide and were pulling him none too gently towards the GDP car when their captive choked out, "You have to tell Jim, please, tell Jim."
Blair knew he was begging but couldn't help it. Someone has to tell Jim, Jim would fix it.
The older woman got out of the police car and grabbed Verner's arm.
"What's happening? Why is he in handcuffs? That young man saved my life!"
One of the GDP guards called over to her, "Rogue guide, ma'am. Don't worry, we've got it under control."
"Under control?! He saved my life, he's hurt, and you call handcuffing him, getting it under control!"
Verner tried to calm her down but her face showed her horror as she saw the GDP guards remove the handcuffs and begin to leash her rescuer. Verner snapped, "Here, Davidson. Help her while I call this in." He strode to the police car and radioed in. An ambulance arrived and the woman was loaded into the back to be taken to the hospital. She was still protesting as the door closed on her.
Jim answered the phone, glad for the excuse to put off the paperwork a little longer. "Ellison."
Rafe saw a look of disgust and anger on the sentinel's face and listened in on the conversation.
"No, of course I did not put an APB out on the truck. What's that?... I gave told him to use it it.... The GDP? What the hell? Now you listen and listen good, you hold onto Sandburg. I'm on my way.... I don't care what you have to do. Keep hold of him.....Well, think of something because if my guide isn't there when I arrive you're going to wish you were riding an ambulance!"
"Jim?" Rafe ventured.
"Blair was in a traffic accident. The patrol cops got a report that the truck was stolen and somehow the GDP arrived to take Blair into custody. I need a lift."
Rafe was already on his feet and grabbing his car keys.
Blair's mind was frozen. He was shaking violently when he was pulled out of the GDP car by one of the uniformed cops. Only part of the conversation going on around him got through his deepening shock . "Back off, officer, this is GDP business." That he heard and he shut his eyes tightly.
"Ellison...on... way..... no APB."
"....argue .... Ellison.... material witness...."
He felt himself pulled away from the guard's rough grip. Before he understood what had just happened he was manhandled into the police car. A rough blanket was pulled around his shoulders as shock wrapped him in blessed oblivion. He ignored the officer's questions, ignored the gentle pats on his face, ignored everything until a screech of brakes cut through the fog... and he heard his sentinel. He couldn't understand the words but Jim was angry. The cop's words came back to him Ellison is going to have your hide. He was wrong, he had to be wrong.
Jim disposed of the GDP guards with a few well-chosen threats. He could have said more, wanted to cast aspersions on the idiots' parentage at least, but he had something, someone, more important to attend to. He opened the back door of the police car and crouched down. "Blair." Ellison put a hand out and gently tipped his guide's face up. Dark blue eyes held a look of shock but the pupils were equal and responsive. Jim heaved a sigh of relief; it looked like the kid had escaped without a concussion. But there was a nasty bump developing on his forehead and a thin line of blood trickled down the side of the pale face.
"Jim... I didn't take the truck... I didn't..." The words were slurred.
"I know that, Chief. There was a mistake made at the precinct. You're okay, kid, just hang on for me for a bit longer. I'm just going to speak to the officer and then get you back to the station to get checked out."
"The truck, Jim, I'm sorry, I couldn't stop in time. I'm so sorry, Jim..."
"Sandburg!" Jim's voice hardened until it was the command tone that never failed to get Blair's attention. "The truck is nothing. That can be repaired or I can get another one. The only important thing here is you, that you are all right. You, I cannot replace. Understand me, Chief?" Blair nodded his head automatically but Jim wondered just how much he actually did understand.
Jim's senses ranged over his guide. He could feel the change in body temperature as Blair slid deeper into shock. Jim pulled back the blanket to check his guide's ribs and snarled an oath. He quickly removed the leash, his face showing his disgust. Ellison pulled up Blair's sweater and ran hypersensitive hands over the smaller man's torso. Nothing was broken or cracked, but Blair would have some spectacular bruising from the steering wheel. Finished with his check-up, he tugged the blanket closer to his guide's shivering body.
"Take it easy, kid. I'll be right back. You're safe now."
Blair nodded at his sentinel's words and returned the squeeze Ellison gave his hand. He watched his sentinel walk up to the two uniforms and the GDP officers and settled back to watch the floor show. His sentinel threw the leash at the guards. Whatever he said was short and sharp but it made one guard pale and the other turn red-faced. He was back almost straight away.
"It's all right, Chief, we're on our way."
Blair finally let himself believe that it was over as he was gathered up and escorted to Rafe's car. Something was missing... "My backpack ... my books!" "Jim, your dad gave me an album for you. I ......"
"Its all right, Chief, I'll get it." Jim gave his shoulder a firm squeeze. "You just stay put a minute. Okay?" He must have nodded because Jim gently smoothed a curl off his aching forehead and left.
The sentinel collected the things from his truck and dropped them into the trunk of Rafe's car before he climbed into the back seat with Blair. Ellison collected his guide against him and felt the shudders running through the smaller body. "Connect, Chief." It was not a request, nor was it permission, it was an order. He felt the tug on his mind then fear touched with panic flooded into him. Jim scowled, he put that reaction down to the GDP and the leash. Finally, as Jim rubbed soothing circles on his Guide's back, the younger man calmed.
Rafe watched them in the mirror. When he saw the deep blue eyes open he asked, "You all right, Blair?"
The young Guide nodded and Rafe relaxed. The younger cop watched sentinel and guide in the mirror, then he asked a question that puzzled him, "Jim, there was an APB on the truck, that explains the patrol, but how did the GDP get there so fast?"
"Good question, Rafe. We'll make a detective of you yet."
"Right." Rafe put as much disgust in that one word as he could and saw the answering smile on the older detective's face. It was Jim's first smile since they had heard about the crash. Rafe grinned to himself; the guide was safe and so all was right in the sentinel's world.
Simon Banks took a sip of his coffee, considered a moment and then shrugged. His cousin had sent yet another new blend, dark roast coffee laced with mint. It had sounded sickening but it actually had a nice kick to it. He laid the copy of Sentinel 102 he had been reading in an attempt to stay ahead of his sentinel's crises onto his desk as Rhonda came to the door.
"Daryl's here, Simon."
Simon sat up with a start, sharp brown eyes turning worried as his son entered. "Daryl, is everything all right?" He asked automatically as he noticed his son's nervous fidgeting.
"So why do you look nervous?" He watched his son make a noticeable effort to calm down.
"I have to go on a placement for three weeks, see what work is like."
"And you want to come to the station? No problem, son. Rhonda can sort that out for you. It will..."
"Dad, I told Miss Murphy that I was thinking of joining the GDP."
"WHAT?" Simon yelled loud enough that faces turned in the bullpen. Simon lowered his voice. "You want to work with that pack of idiots?"
Daryl looked puzzled. He couldn't understand why his dad was yelling at him. He'd never been upset with the GDP before, in fact he could not remember his dad even talking about them.
Simon was just about to snap at Daryl and demand that he drop this stupid idea when he remembered how stubborn his son could be. He's a chip off the old block, more I say no, the more Daryl will want to do this. He calmed himself down. The GDP, by and large, were asses. His son was smart, eventually, he'd see through them and it would be a learning experience. He personally would see to that. Simon hid an evil grin behind his coffee cup as he son explained.
"Mom said it would be a good career move. The GDP officer corps is made up of college graduates. I could get a scholarship at Rainier and then become an officer and ...."
"Your placement would be where? At the local GDP office?"
"At the office at Rainier University. I'd report first to an Officer Dexter and then I get to shadow some of the GDP graduates and see what they do. That sort of thing... it should be really cool, Dad." Daryl glanced around. "Is Sentinel Prime Ellison here?"
"No, Jim is out." Simon was short. He remembered, even if his son apparently didn't, how ticked off Jim had been the last time Daryl had tried to "discuss" sentinels with him. "Dad, you promised that I could talk to him again. I said I was sorry I made him angry. I didn't think talking about the guide was such a big deal."
Simon raised his eyes to the heavens for strength. "Son, you talked about Blair as if he was less than human. How did you think they would react?"
"I didn't know it would hurt him, the sentinel, I mean. I know better now. Please, Dad, it would really be something for me to be able tell Miss Murphy that I had interviewed a sentinel. Maybe I... you could even get him to come to the school. You know, show them how everything works. It would..."
Mentally sighing over the self-centeredness of adolescents, Simon interrupted the flow of words. "I'll ask Detective Ellison if he wouldn't mind talking with you but there will be certain guidelines..." Simon had to swallow a grin as he realized the inadvertent pun he had just made... "Son, because I don't want to see a repeat of what happened in the car. I can't promise you anything because he is a busy man, but I'll speak to him about it, okay?"
"Cool, dad!" Daryl was shifting in his seat, unable to keep still he was so excited. Simon knew he should have quashed Daryl's request to talk with Jim but he couldn't just turn his son down. Maybe if he set it up so that Sandburg would be there as well... perhaps the four of them could take in a Jags game... it would not be too much like pulling teeth.
His tentative plans were put on hold when he realized that Daryl was talking again. His son had picked up the book Simon had been reading and was looking through it.
"Sentinel 102. We get that next term, Dad. Miss Murphy.....".
Simon tuned his son out again. He didn't particularly want to hear more of the party line that the sainted Miss Murphy was spouting. He was more interested in making sure that Daryl got all the GDP crap out of his head once and for all. Simon would go to hell in a handcart before he let his son become one of the bigoted officers that he had met at the Sanctuary. He still remembered seeing Blair in the red correction uniform with the black circle. The way he was leashed and tagged in Gross' office as if he was a rabid animal. The mere memory still turned his stomach. There was no way that his son was going to become one of them and if that took talking to his ex-wife until she understood the evil that he had seen, that was what he would do.
Daryl waving a slip of paper in front of him brought Simon back to present concerns. "Dad, could you sign this? It gives me your permission to do the placement."
Simon pulled it towards him. Before he scrawled his signature on it, he cautioned, "You behave yourself, Daryl. Remember how Detective Ellison reacted and mind your manners around the Sentinel and his guide. Maybe especially around his guide." Simon saw the mutinous look in his son's eyes at the mention of the guide but before he could ask what the problem was, his phone rang.
"Banks..... Okay, I'll be with you in a minute." The captain rubbed a hand over a weary face and said, "Daryl, I have to leave the office for a while, then I'll take you to lunch. Okay?"
"Okay, Dad." The whine in Daryl's voice said it really wasn't okay.
"I'll be back as soon as I can, son."
Daryl Banks settled in his father's chair. There was nothing unusual about his dad being called away. Job 1, son 0, he thought cynically. He was so bored. He picked at the files in front of him, hoping to read about an interesting crime or two. All he found were expense vouchers that quickly lost his interest. He worked on swivelling the desk chair, seeing how many times he could go completely around on one push. Glancing up he saw Rhonda watching him, an amused look on her face. Daryl was suddenly embarrassed that he had been caught playing with the furniture. He was a teenager not some baby! His expression of indignant disgust only fuelled the secretary's amusement. She shook her head and Daryl could almost feel her words Was I ever that young? Once she took pity on him and looked away, he reached into the desk drawer. His dad usually kept a computer game in there for him. It was usually one that was long out of date but it was better than nothing.
Daryl had worked his way through twelve levels of the game and was plotting how he could get his father to replace the unit with something a little more challenging, maybe even something that had come out after he was born, when he heard loud voices out in the bullpen. He stared out his father's window and saw people scattering, finding work that needed to be done. The source of the disturbance was soon in view. Sentinel Ellison was dragging his guide along by one arm while keeping up a flow of angry words. This is way more interesting than some dumb game. Daryl abandoned the game and moved so he could peer through the blinds on the door's window.
The guide was literally pushed into the chair behind the sentinel's desk. When he tried to get up, a large hand pushed him back down and the sentinel snarled, "Stay put, Sandburg." Ellison moved away and the guide shifted in his seat. "Sandburg." The sentinel didn't even turn around. He just growled the command, threat(?) over his shoulder. The guide settled back down in the chair and rested his forehead in his hands. His long hair veiled his face from the other detectives and one curious teenager.
Blair was fighting to keep his vital signs level. If he gave into the panic that waited for him to relax his vigilance, his pounding heart would just inflame the sentinel's anger even more. The young guide took a deep breath and tried to steady himself. He had never seen Jim vent like this. The other detectives and patrolmen had told him what Jim had been like before they had bonded, but he hadn't really believed them. Now he did and just the thought of that much anger directed at him by his sentinel was enough to send him into hiding. He wouldn't! I know he wouldn't!
H edged near to the sentinel's desk. "You okay, Blair?" He hoped his tone, his emotions, conveyed to the empath the concern he tried to express in those few words. The younger, smaller man was rubbing his arms as if he were cold and when his head came up, Brown could see the beginnings of multi-colored bruises marking his face.
"Get away from him, H." Rafe issued the warning as he took in the sentinel's body language. Jim had stopped his pacing up and down the office and was bristling, just waiting for a person to make a wrong move that would let him tear someone apart. Ellison was totally unaware of what his state was doing to his already shaky guide.
H slowly raised his hands, palms out, in an appeasing gesture as he backed away.
The Dark Sentinel was now in total control, making Jim one of the most dangerous people alive. His emotions were all fixated on his guide. Someone would pay for the distress they had caused his guide. Thank God Verner had the presence of mind to call me. Jim started pacing again; the mere idea of Blair, in his current condition, back in the hands of the GDP was enough to send him into Blessed Protector overdrive.
The "storm warning" had gone out before Jim had arrived and most of the other detectives had found other things to do that did not include looking at or going near the sentinel/guide pairing. One of them ignored the good advice of her colleagues.
Detective Jenny Hunter moved toward Ellison carefully. A new arrival to the Major Crimes Department, and the only female detective currently assigned, she knew herself to be a good cop. She was put out that she hadn't been permanently assigned a partner yet and she had been looking at Jim Ellison with interest on many levels. "Er... Jim, I tracked down the APB and ..." she glanced over at Bank's office.
"And..." Hunter had only thought she knew what impatience sounded like before the sentinel snapped the single word at her.
"The phone connection was bad but it was Detective Martin Evans."
Jim Ellison went from calm to ballistic in one second flat. Then arms wrapped around him and he could feel his guide trying to calm him down. Habit, from the time when anger served as protection against life, called to him to break free so that he could vent but the newly born instinct to care for his guide was stronger. He felt the slender hand fluttering over his arm and down his shoulder and for one instant was irritated. Then anger was replaced by an awareness of his guide's needs. He gathered the younger man against him and half-carried/half-supported him to the sentinel suite. In his anger, he had forgotten that Blair was in shock, Jim could see it in the ocean blue eyes that were having trouble staying open. What he needed, what they needed, was to settle into their linkage.
Jenny watched as the sentinel left the bullpen with his guide. She leaned back against the desk, an acquisitive light in her eyes as they rested on Ellison's tall form. She was mentally preparing her request for Ellison as a partner when a woman's voice brought her head around.
"Forget it, lady, there are already two in that partnership," stated a laconic alto voice.
Hunter responded acidly to the caution. "Jim Ellison needs a real partner, not just a guide, but someone who can watch his back for him."
"If he did, that place is also already filled." There was a calm assurance to the words that made Hunter angry.
Jenny looked the speaker up and down, a long way up and down. A tall woman, at least six feet, lounged against Ellison's desk. Her long hair was twisted up in a French plait out of the way, her clothes were smart but casual, everything about her screamed competence and confidence. Standing beside her was a younger man whose hand rested casually on her shoulder. Another sentinel and guide pairing, I would think one would be enough for any department!
"And you are?" Jenny spoke in the sure knowledge that she belonged in Major Crime not this woman who acted as if she owned the place.
"Lisa Pais, this is my partner, Karl Faulkner."
Karl grinned as he nodded to the detective. Before coming in contact with Jim Ellison, Lisa had always referred to him as her guide, even addressed him as such in private. Since meeting the Senior Sentinel Prime, Lisa had openly treated him as if he was a member of a team, not just some sort of animated tool. The Dark Pair was indeed making a difference. Karl looked around the bullpen. His eye happened to catch that of a well-dressed detective. The young man smiled at him and Karl returned it. This station was so much better than the last one where Lisa had been stationed. By and large, the personnel working here tended to at least tolerate him and many were openly friendly. There were a few who made no effort to hide their dislike for him and all he stood for, but it never got physical. He could settle in here.
"Sentinel." Jenny almost made the title sound like an insult. She stared challengingly at the female sentinel, not liking what she saw.
"That would be Detective First Grade, Ms...?" Pais' said smoothly.
"Jenny Hunter, Detective, Major Crimes." Take that, you interloper! Unfortunately, the sentinel just looked bored.
"Huh. Well, Ms Hunter, Major Crime, you might want to mark your card with this little bit of data and save yourself some grief. Sentinel Prime Ellison is my Clan Leader and off limits to you, lady." Lisa knew her smile was pure predator and was counting on Ms Major Crime to get a clue as to where she stood.
Karl ran his hand over his sentinel's shoulder and forearm. Lisa's aggression level was going through the roof and an explosion was imminent if he couldn't cool things down. Female sentinels had a possessive nature where males were concerned and rivals were not tolerated. He hadn't realized that Lisa was attracted to Ellison but that had to be the reason for her current display. He made a mental note to speak to Blair the next time he saw the younger guide. If their sentinels started to get close then they, as guides, would have their hands full. Sentinel-Sentinel relationships were always volatile and God help anyone caught in the fallout of a disagreement.
Jenny was about to answer the Detective First Grade's challenge when another female voice cut in; the tone was icy cold and there was a hard edge of ownership to her words, "I already have prior claim to James Ellison, ladies, so don't get in my way." Hunter and Pais both turned to look at the elegant dark-haired woman standing behind them. Both of them identified the head of Forensics, Lieutenant Carolyn Plummer, before she turned on her heel and walked away leaving them both staring daggers at her departing back.
Oh my, he and Blair certainly needed to talk. A couple of poor hapless males did not want to get caught in the crossfire of those three ladies! Only when Jenny followed Plummer's example and left did Karl breathe a sigh of relief. Too soon as it turned out. The young GQ dressed detective who had smiled at him earlier was walking up to his sentinel.
"Hello, Ms Pais." Rafe had taken a liking to the female sentinel during that mess with the conference and, what the hell, he was willing to chance his luck.
"Rafe, isn't it?" Hmm, not overly friendly but she didn't bite my head off and she remembered my name.
"Yes, Lisa... I can call you Lisa?" Without waiting for an answer, Rafe went on, "Look, I'm off duty at 6:00 and I know you're new to this part of town. Perhaps we, I mean the three of us could go for a meal, nothing grand. Just someplace local so I can fill you in on the precinct." Rafe was careful to include Karl in the invitation to show that he was aware that Lisa would want to take her guide with her. Jim certainly was loath to part with his guide.
"It could be just the two of us, Rafe. Karl will be okay at the apartment." Lisa dismissed her guide casually and then seemed to take a deep breath. Rafe had offered to fill them in on the precinct. Karl was now a member of the precinct just as she was. The attitude that her guide could be parked somewhere as if he had no stake in matters would not exactly endear her to Jim Ellison. And if she were honest with herself, she admitted that it felt wrong now. "On the other hand, if you really don't mind I'm sure Karl would be interested as well." Rafe smiled. "No, Lisa, I don't mind. I know that sentinels and guides come as a matched set."
Lisa returned his smile gently and covered Karl's hand with her own. It was hard to remember to include Karl in things after several years at her previous station. There she had routinely left Karl behind because her colleagues objected to his presence. All too vividly she remembered returning from one date to find Karl in a near catatonic state from overload because she had been too caught up with her current boyfriend to get home on time. That would never happen again. She had begun to value the younger man for more than just sensory control.
Daryl had watched the comings and goings in the bullpen with fascination. He was no longer upset or impatient with his father's longer than promised absence. In fact, as he saw his father enter Major Crime he was sorry that the show was over as far as he was concerned. He scurried back to his chair, convinced that he didn't want his father to know he had been spying on his department. Daryl had just settled and powered on the game when his Dad walked in.
"Sorry, son, that got a bit more complicated than I expected. Do you mind just sitting in the break room for a few minutes while I speak to Detective Evans? This shouldn't take long."
"Sure, Dad." Simon smiled his thanks, unaware of the thought already starting to take root in his son's mind. He did wonder a bit at the expression of surprise that crossed the teen's face when he issued a cautionary note, "Daryl, keep away from Detective Ellison. His guide has been hurt and I don't want to scrape you off the walls. Okay?"
"Sure, Dad. I won't do anything stupid." As Daryl left Martin Evans passed him on his way into Simon's office. Simon polished his glasses as he let the detective stand in front of his desk until he was ready to acknowledge his presence.
"Detective Evans, why did you issue an ABP on Detective Ellison's vehicle?" Simon would have sworn that Evans was surprised at the question.
"I did no such thing. This is the first I've heard about it." Evans added quickly, "Why would I do it anyway?"
"Ellison told me that you pulled Sandburg over at Rainier and frisked him." Simon kept his voice neutral.
"Hey, Captain, I was just doing my job. The kid's a student and a wannabe hippie. They're all into drugs there. Just because he's Ellisons property doesn't give him a free pas..."
"Stop right there, Evans, and listen really good to what I'm about to tell you. Sandburg is Ellison's guide NOT his property. He's a person. Entitled to as much respect as you or I, maybe more. If I hear that you have been harassing him, your Captain and I are going to talk. Leave the kid alone, he doesn't need any more grief on top of what life's dished out already."
Evans exhaled, obviously reining in a too ready temper. "Look, Captain, I don't like Ellison, period. Okay, I jumped on the guide but he was one of a bunch of students I stopped. I never asked for an APB on him or the truck. You can ask my partner, Griffin. I never left the office since I got in at 11:00 a.m. and all my phone calls were made from the monitored desk set. Check with Grif, he will confirm this. I may not like sentinels and guides but I am a professional."
Simon looked at the man. His gut feeling was that the man was telling the truth. "Then I suggest you keep out of their way until we get this sorted out." Simon got up and went to the door of his office and bellowed, "Rafe!"
"Go down to Vice and talk to Detective Griffin, I want to know exactly what he and his partner were doing this morning." Looking over his shoulder, he strongly suggested to Evans, "You won't mind waiting, will you?"
As Evans took a seat out in the bullpen, Simon's mind turned to his sentinel/ guide pairing and he decided to check up on them. Experience, and Sentinel 102, told him to wait outside the suite. As he watched, the cautionary light came on and the sentinel suite opened. Jim Ellison came out, alone.
"Jim, where's Sandburg?" Simon's voice showed his concern.
"He's asleep at the moment. Look, Captain, I heard Evans. What did he...." Jim's words trailed off. "He's stirring." Ellison quickly went back into the suite. Simon followed and watched as the sentinel lay down on the platform and spooned up behind his guide. One brawny arm went around the younger man's waist and pulled him gently back against him. Ellison's voice was so soft, Simon couldn't make out the words but they were answered with a low moan. Blair's hand came up and closed around his sentinel's wrist, pulling it up against his heart. Shivers were still racking the small body sheltered in Ellison's embrace but they were gradually calming.
Simon shifted, uncomfortable with the intimacy of the scene.
Jim didn't even look around as he said softly, "He needs this, Simon, every bit as much as if he'd been caught out in a blizzard and needed to share body heat to prevent hypothermia. We need this, I could have lost him, Simon." His tone announced, live with it or leave us alone. Simon preferred to ignore the situation and get right down to business.
"Rafe checked out Evans personally. He has a rock solid alibi, Jim. He didn't put out the APB but whoever did knew his name and call sign. I checked on the woman driver, tell Blair she is going to be okay. The kid really did save her life, if she had hit the intersection at the bottom of that hill... The driver of the other car is in holding, his blood alcohol was twice over the limit."
"I'll tell Sandburg and thanks, Simon." Simon wasn't quite sure what he was being thanked for... passing on the news or managing to ignore his discomfort to do so. Before he left the suite, Simon turned for one last look at the two men. He thought about Jim's simile, sharing body heat in an emergency; all of a sudden it didn't seem that strange to see the young guide tucked in tightly against his sentinel. I guess the soul can freeze as much as the body if one is an empath.
Jim centered himself with a deep breath just as the younger man had coached him. He tuned his senses into Blair Sandburg and allowed himself to slide deep into the bond.
Coming out of the suite, Simon nearly bumped into his son and his face darkened. There was nothing this far down this particular corridor except the Sentinel Suite. Banks caught his son's arm in a firm grip and frog marched him back to his office.
"What the hell do you think you're playing at, Daryl?" He tried to keep his voice level.
"Nothing, Dad, I was only...."
"You were going to try and watch the bonding, Daryl. I'm a captain of detectives and your father. You are so transparent, so don't lie to me, young man."
"You promised I could talk to them, yet you won't let me near them. You said..." The whine that Banks hated was back in his son's voice. He strove for calm.
"Daryl, they are not some performing animals put here for your entertainment. These are people. Living, breathing people with the same feelings and rights that you and I have. Jim may have five enhanced senses, but he's still the same Jim Ellison that I have always known." Simon thought a moment, a wry smile pulled at his lips as he shrugged and continued, "Okay, the kid's improved his attitude but he's still the same cop. Right now, you're coming with me. Blair is hurting, Jim is upset and there is no way we are discussing this here." Banks almost dragged his son along. He stopped briefly at Rhonda's desk to inform her that he was taking his son home and would be back.
Daryl was fuming. This was all the guide's fault. Each time he tried to get to the sentinel it was the guide that got in the way. And now his father was dragging him out of Major Crime as if he were some kid that couldn't be trusted to stay out of trouble. Huh, he's just a dumb guide and Dad's taking his part over mine! It wasn't fair!
Rainier University Parts 6 to 10
Rainier University Parts 11 to EndWritten by Susan Foster