The Awakening – Part One – Five

Title: The Awakening
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: The Sentinel
Pairing: Blair/Jim
Betas: Ladyholder & Kelly
Rating: NC-17 (for sex, violence, and very adult themes)
Warnings: Foul language, male/male sex, violence, murder, blood, discussion of sexual abuse and violence against minor characters, and various other things you might suspect in a story about a Sentinel Cop and his Guide. Mean!Carolyn. Selfish!Naomi.
Summary: Detective Jim Ellison doesn’t want a Guide. What he wants is peace and quiet and maybe for his ex-wife to disappear. Dr. Blair Sandburg, a successful profiler with the FBI, has nearly given up on finding his Sentinel. Then the night came where one’s pain drew the other across the country – neither will ever be the same.
Disclaimer: I don’t own them. I don’t pretend to. I won’t make money off of them. I rarely spend my time doing things that actually make money—much to my husband’s utter dismay.

– – – – –

PART ONE

Detective Jim Ellison could label his good and bad days based on whether or not he ran into his ex-wife before he had his first cup of coffee. The best days were when he ended up at a crime scene at the ass crack of dawn and didn’t see the office until after lunch. Four months after their divorce had finalized, she’d been offered a job in Major Crimes. Thank God divorced still equaled a personal relationship or he might have found himself partnered with the woman. It wasn’t that he hated Carolyn Plummer—well it wasn’t just that he hated her—it was that he hated her a lot. She was abrasive, loud, and indiscreet. Unfortunately, he’d been so blinded by pussy when he’d dated and then married her that he hadn’t noticed until it was too late.

He cupped both hands around his giant mug and stared into his coffee. Today was not going to be a good day—she’d appeared by his side in the break room while he’d been waiting for the coffee to brew and then followed him to his desk. Maybe he should just give up and start visiting the Starbucks down the street from the loft before he came to work. That would solve a lot of problems for him. At least, in the short term. Carolyn had a way of totally killing a good caffeine buzz. Departmental statistics had come out in the early morning and it had become official that Jim had a ninety percent solve rate. Not only was it the highest in the city, it was probably the highest in the whole damn state.

“I just want to know how you do it.”

Jim sighed and sat back in his chair. Half the cops in the bullpen were staring now and his loud-mouthed ex-wife was to blame. He looked her dead in the eye and with his most serious face said, “I’m psychic.”

Henri Brown was the first to laugh and it was pure unadulterated amusement that poured out of the younger man’s mouth. He laughed with the kind of abandonment most adults could only aspire to and he was contagious. Soon every cop in the unit was laughing their asses off which brought their Captain, Simon Banks, out of his office to investigate.

Carolyn huffed. “It’s not funny, Jimmy. Hell, I’d say you get the easy cases, but we all know that the really fucked up ones end up on your desk. So, how do you do it? What are the rest of us missing?”

Jim knew exactly what they were missing but there was no way he was going to blurt it out. It wasn’t like he had kept the fact that he’d been identified as a latent Sentinel as a teenager a secret. He glanced towards his Captain and Simon shrugged. The biggest reason Jim had for keeping his online status a secret was that he would be asked to register and take a Guide. The last thing he wanted was a Guide. His gut clenched briefly and he went back to his coffee.

“You lost the right to pry in my business, Caro, when you decided your lawyer was a richer ride than I was.”

Carolyn flushed and crossed her arms. “That’s a little crude, Jimmy. I didn’t think you had it in you.”

“Well, I learned from the best.” Jim offered her a sincere smile and Brown started laughing again. It was no secret in the bullpen that Carolyn had sued Jim in the divorce; had tried unsuccessfully to take the trust fund his mother had left him. It hadn’t earned her any friends in the department. Divorcing a fellow cop was one thing—trying to fuck a fellow cop over was another matter altogether.

“Seriously.”

“I see dead people,” Jim responded seriously. And that wasn’t even a lie. He’d seen a couple of spirits in his time.

“Oh fuck you!” Carolyn ground out through clenched teeth and stalked away.

Simon sighed. “Jim, step into my office, will you?”

“Want some coffee?” Jim asked as he picked up the files on his pending cases and grabbed his mug.

“Nah, I’ve got a nice Arabian Mocha brewing.” Simon waved him in ahead of him and yanked the door shut behind him. He flipped the shades and then dropped into his chair. “The Chief of Police has the same questions that Plummer has. You’re out performing registered Sentinels, Jim, and it’s a problem.”

Jim sighed. “I can’t very well not solve cases, Simon. What am I supposed to do? If I register as a Sentinel—they’ll make me take a Guide.”

“Maybe it’s time you did. I know your time in Peru was difficult for you and the shaman you had there was… special but you yourself said that the two of you didn’t bond because you weren’t a complete match. That means—there is a Guide for you out there and he’s waiting, Jim. There is no telling how long he or she has waited for you.”

Jim grimaced. “Guides don’t do well in police work, Simon. You’ve seen the ones we have on the force. They’re often in the way and they slow down investigations by coddling their Sentinels. That’s why I have a higher solve rate than every Sentinel on the force—their Guides are a hindrance not a help.”

Simon chuckled. “I’d like to see the person that would try to coddle you.” He grew serious. “You’re having sensory spikes. You’ve taken four sick days in the past month—that’s more than you’ve taken in the past year until now. You zoned out on me during lunch yesterday.”

“Damn it, I know.” Jim pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. “I just… you have no idea what kind of commitment a Guide is. I was a bad husband, Simon. How can I possible inflict myself on a person who would have an empathic link to me for the rest of their life? A Sentinel-Guide bond ends at death and in some cases—the pair are so close that if one of them dies, the other follows. That is the level of commitment that is asked of a Sentinel and Guide.”

“I know. I’ve been reading up on it.” Simon sighed. “The Chief suspects and that means if he gets the slightest whiff of a verifiable rumor about you—we’ll both have our butts in a sling.”

“I told you, Simon, I’ll deny to the day I die that you knew when I came online.”

Simon chuckled. “The Chief isn’t stupid, Jim, he’ll see right through you like he was a Sentinel himself.”

“So, fine, want me to confess?” Jim crossed his arms, his ire obvious.

“Well, it sure as hell wouldn’t hurt.”

“I don’t even use my senses all that much, Simon. I really don’t have to. The only time they come in handy these days is in the interrogation room. I can’t use them in the field without a Guide and I don’t want the hassle of a Guide.”

Simon looked out his office window at the stellar view of the building across the street. The woman who had an office across from his was normally friendly enough to leave her blinds open and wave if they were both looking out at the same time. He’d once been tempted to trot over and ask her out to lunch. He just sort of kept hoping she’d beat him to it or something.

He was worried about Ellison on some level, but the promise he’d made the man kept life very difficult. Simon figured this is what he got for being friends with a subordinate. The line between friendship and work faded – became difficult to separate at times like this. Especially at times like this. If Jim were being a jackass—Simon could easily put him in his place and fast, but all he saw was the fear and worry that Jim couldn’t really hide from him.

Sentinels… so little was really known about them and their discovery had taken the world by storm one hundred and twenty years ago. Currently there were fewer than five thousand registered Sentinels in the United States—far more worldwide. Registration was slow in the US because at first Sentinels had been met with fear and, for a several weeks, intrusive government legislation. In the end, both the United Nations and Amnesty International had stepped in to protect Sentinels all over the planet. Their work, spear-headed by an international council of doctors and scientists had made it safe to be a Sentinel. Safe from government experimentation and safe from imprisonment. It had even helped create international laws to protect their rights. But that didn’t make Sentinels in countries that had lost their collective minds feel any better about stepping forward to register. Not even some fifty years after the Sentinel-Guide Protection Act had been signed into law in the United States.

“How are your senses?”

“Vision, hearing, and smell are fairly even. I’ve gathered all the non-classified information I could get from the Sentinel-Guide Center about controlling myself in an urban environment. I’ve been able to combine those techniques with the ones the shaman taught me in Peru. It’s been very helpful. Touch and taste sometimes spike out of control—they are my problem areas—always have been. I practically went naked in Peru just so I could be comfortable.”

Simon smirked. “As much as I’m sure some of these knuckleheads would like that—I’d prefer you stay dressed at work.”

“Yeah, just so you know I’m a nudist at home.” Jim chuckled and then sighed. “Simon, I don’t want to get you into trouble. I really don’t. With Carolyn all up in my business about my solve-rate, I know people are talking and she’s speculating. That I’ve been able to keep it to myself for ten months was something of a minor miracle, you know. I can tell them I emerged in Peru but repressed all of it when I came back to the States—which is true and that they only recently started to come back to me but I still don’t have many clear memories of my time in Peru. Some latent Sentinels start using their gifts without realizing it—only to spike or zone out and be discovered.”

“Plummer is just jealous. This is the first year she hasn’t had the highest solve rate for the precinct. She’s never beat out the entire city before.” Simon sighed. “She tried to get you pushed back to Vice when she came out of homicide and into Major Crimes. Said that your past would make work situations difficult, and cited her superior record as a reason to keep her and toss you back to Vice.”

Jim chuckled. “Well, that explains the mood this morning. I suppose I didn’t help matters by telling her I was psychic and that I saw dead people.”

“No, but you made Brown laugh his ass off and that put everyone in the bullpen but her in a good mood and you can’t buy a morale booster like that.”

“The second one wasn’t even a lie,” Jim admitted. “It’s a Sentinel intuition thing—I’ve never seen a victim or anything. At least not yet, but I have seen spirits, ghosts.”

“I read that Sentinels could do that.” Simon shuddered. “I prefer to think that part of the deal is all hocus-pocus. Please leave me with my illusions.”

“Understood, sir.” Jim waved the files he still had in his hand. “Want an update?”

“Yeah, that is actually why you are in here.”

– – – – –

“Naomi, we are not having this discussion again.” Dr. Blair Sandburg fastened his ankle holster and checked the position of his back-up weapon. “I’ve been in the FBI for nearly six years, you know. This isn’t new. Why are we having this conversation again? We’ve had it every six months since I graduated from the academy.”

“Because you’re still doing it! You’re still carrying a gun. You’re still putting on a badge!”

“Look, I’ve never pulled my weapon in the line of duty. I probably never will. Most of my work is in an office. I study crime scenes, create profiles, and sometimes I excavate old crime scenes in the search of evidence when all that is left is bones. I reconstruct the lives of people who were taken before their time—it’s my job. It’s me using my degrees in a real way to help people right now. It gives families closure.” He closed his eyes as he said. “Because not everyone can detach with love.” Blair ignored her in-take of breath, pulled his satchel over his shoulder, and then picked up his duffle. “I have a plane to catch, so we can drive to the airport together.”

“Where are you going?”

“I can’t discuss it. It’s an on-going case.”

Two hours, and one insanely long lecture on the evils of “the man” later Blair was on his way to Atlanta, GA. A string of child murders had the city near a melting point and, considering the history of the city, that wasn’t much of a surprise. Six dead little girls were represented in the case files he’d been given as he’d boarded the private jet that would take him to Atlanta. The crime scene photos were vivid, nightmarish, and every bit as revealing as he knew they would be. His on-sight presence was more of a political thing than anything else but it was good to get out of his office and speak head on with the cops he worked with.

A uniformed cop picked up him, none of the usual banter came and after reading the files Blair understood. Every cop in the city must be feeling the pain and the frustration of this case so he wasn’t surprised when he found that the briefing was full. The entire metro area of Atlanta was gearing up for a man-hunt and that was not a good situation in this instance.

He’s spoken briefly with the Chief of Police, and now he was standing in front of two hundred angry, frustrated cops. He almost wished he had his mother back bitching about his gun and his career and not so gently inferring that he was a ‘pig’. He forced himself to find his center, clear his mind so that he could focus, and thumbed on the digital recorder that he kept in his shirt pocket. It was for his personal research, as each profile he provided was unique and he studied himself as much as he studied the killers he profiled.

“Good afternoon, my name is Dr. Blair Sandburg and I am a criminal profiler and forensic anthropologist for the FBI. I am prepared to give you a preliminary profile on the UNSUB but I would remind you that a profile is a guideline and not an absolute.” He purposely shoved both hands into his pockets. If he didn’t, he would end up twirling his hair like a little girl and wouldn’t that look professional?

“What is your accuracy rate, Doc?”

Blair flushed. The question came from a detective he’d met briefly when he entered the room. The man was very attractive and while he hadn’t acted poorly—he’d made it clear he was interested personally. “There is a five percent chance what I’m about to tell you is absolutely wrong.”

The detective raised an eyebrow. “I can deal with five percent, Doc. Talk to me.” The cops around him agreed with a series of soft mumbles.

“The UNSUB is single, he’s never been married, finds adult women intimidating, lived with his mother, the father was absent from his life at an early age. The only females he’s ever been able to relate to have been very young and that probably stems from his own childhood. Once he hit puberty, he would have had a hard time relating to girls his own age and older. He works a menial job, did not finish high school, has no real skills, and likely has a history of leaving jobs without notice. He’s considered listless, difficult to manage, and past employers probably found him very frustrating. He is white, in his early thirties, and has had problems with impotency since puberty.”

Blair cleared his throat. “His mother died at least six weeks ago and the day after he buried her, he took Sheila Welling off the street and took her home with him. He kept her there for several days. While in his home, she took the place of his mother—he made her do all the cleaning, bring him his food, and punish him. It is entirely probable that he forced Sheila to strike him, or hit him with some object. She is by no means a surrogate mother to him. At most she’s a symbol of his own childhood. In the beginning, it could have easily been a little boy. The first victim he took defined his victomology. In taking her, having her in his home he defined his needs and his fantasy. It was during this time that our UNSUB figured out what turned him on.”

“Oh, Jesus.”

Blair ignored the whispered disgust. “Her autopsy shows how the last few days of her life went. When he accidently killed her, he immediately sought to replace her.”

“Doc, he beat her to death.”

“Yes, but it wasn’t on purpose and that was unfortunately another epiphany for our UNSUB because he realized that her death gave him the personal power his mother had spent his entire life stripping him of. He dumped Sheila’s body and immediately sought out another victim. As I stated earlier, Sheila defined his victimology. She was an easy target—easy to control and subjugate because of her size and her age. So, when he went hunting for someone to take her place—he searched for someone just like Sheila.”

He took a break and accepted a bottle of water from an officer near him with a small smile. He drank from it; his hands that were only slightly shaking. “Stephanie Carrs wasn’t as easy to control as Sheila. She’d never been disciplined at home, had very lenient parents, and was very comfortable telling an adult no. Her defiance made her useless which is why she was dumped two days later and Jennifer Terrance was taken that same afternoon. Jennifer proved to be perfect for him. That’s why she’s lived the longest of all of his victims.”

He turned and looked at the murder board that held head shots of each victim. Each one shining and beautiful—bright blue eyes and blonde hair. “His mother was a blonde and she likely had blue eyes. He probably had a social worker as a child but he always denied that he was being abused. Neighbors and teachers alike probably turned her in, but he would have never turned on his mother. She’ll have a criminal record—drunk and disorderly, drunk driving—nothing that would have put her in jail. This woman slipped through the system a lot and her son took the brunt of it every time she came home. It is entirely likely that she turned tricks, but it wasn’t a regular thing. She might have a few solicitation arrests.”

Blair turned and looked at the people in the room. “So you are looking for a thirtyish man who recently lost his mother. She has a record, probably died of natural causes and was likely in her sixties when she passed. I’d say died of a disease related to alcoholism. He would have let the city bury her, by the way.”

Bodies were starting to move, practically everyone in the room wanted to start acting on the information they’d already been given.

“I caution you against releasing the profile to the public, and when you find him—don’t send in a large team.”

“Dr. Sandburg, we know he has another victim.”

“And if he sees you coming or hears about himself on the news—he will kill her. I have no doubts about this. It’s been four days, so Casey Johnson is doing what is asked of her; I really believe she is alive. The best way to keep it that way is to be low-key. Go to the door, knock on it, and get yourself into the house. Once you have him in your sights, do not let him leave the room without you. He’ll give you all the cause you need to search his home within minutes—he’s a nervous man and he’s going to cave so fast under the pressure of you just being there that he’ll just lose it. Be prepared, be calm, act fast, and I firmly believe we can bring this little girl home.”

– – – – –

They hadn’t listened to him. It wasn’t the first time the locals had ignored his advice on suspect apprehension, but today three cops and a little girl had lost their lives. Blair carefully packed his satchel, refusing to meet the eye of the detective who had been assigned to take him to the airport. He hadn’t said a word to the Captain who had led the strike or the Chief of Police who now stood silently some feet away from the table where Blair was.

“I have to take these files back with me for reference.” He dropped them all back in the banker box he’d brought with him and turned to the detective. “I’m ready, Detective March.”

“Doc…”

“Don’t.” Blair shook his head. “It wasn’t your call, Detective, and I don’t need an apology from you. If you feel the need to say you’re sorry—talk to Casey Johnson’s parents. I’m sure after identifying their child’s remains; they’ll need some sympathy to ease knowing that their child had the back of her head blown out.”

“There is no need for that Dr. Sandburg. I made the call. What went down was unfortunate, but there is nothing to be done about it now.”

“No, there isn’t Captain Norton. Nothing can be done about it now.” Blair dropped his satchel over his head so that the strap crossed his chest. “I’ve already submitted my report to my superiors and to the mayor as requested—complete with an audio file of the profile I gave you and your men. Whatever will be done after I leave is not my problem.” He clenched one fist briefly and then took a deep breath. “Detective March, I am ready to leave.”

“No one can know for sure that doing it your way would have mattered.”

“Of course not, there was a five percent chance I was wrong,” Blair murmured. “What we do know, Captain, is that it couldn’t have been any worse. Now, I believe you have a city to support. Burying another little girl, three cops, and a dead suspect sure isn’t going to give anyone the closure they need.”

– – – – –

Ten hours later, Blair crawled into his own bed and pulled the covers over his head. He was really fucking tired of being alone and he wasn’t going to indulge in another empty relationship. There had been too many of those over the years—men and women who were nothing more than place holders and had never had hope of filling up the empty place inside of him that he’d been born with. He’s spoken to several unbonded Guides and they all said the same thing. They all felt the same emptiness.

He turned abruptly on his back and stared at the ceiling. “It would be nice, Sentinel, if you would wake and find me. I would very much like to be needed and honestly it would be great right now to have someone wrap themselves around me and tell the world to leave me the fuck alone. It would be nice to have someone to protect me, to hold me.”

– – – – –

Jim woke with a start, his heart pounding and aching at the same time. He rubbed at his chest but it did nothing take the dull pain away. For a few seconds, he wondered if he was having a heart attack but that made no sense, his body wasn’t telling him that. It was emotional pain—sharp and a near agony. It wasn’t like anything he’d ever known. He left his bed and made it to the steps before he just sat down. Loneliness and the need for something he didn’t understand rolled over him. New York. He leaned against the stair railing and took a deep breath. He was needed in New York.

When he could, he stood up, walked downstairs, and grabbed the phone. He dialed Simon’s number from memory and winced only briefly when he realized how late it was. “Yeah, Simon, I know it’s three AM.” Jim rubbed his face with one shaking hand. “Look, you aren’t going to believe this but I need to go to New York and I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“Jim?” Simon demanded, his voice rough. “What the fuck is this? Have you been reactivated by the Army or something?”

“No, nothing like that.” Jim started to pace. “I just need to go to New York. I can’t explain it. But I have to go and it can’t wait. I don’t know when I’ll be back. I have three months of accumulated vacation. I don’t think I’ll need all of that and if it works better for the budget if I just take a leave of absence… that’s fine, too. I have no choice. I have to go.”

“You can’t explain it or you won’t explain it?” Simon demanded.

“I can’t. I woke up from a dead sleep and all I can think is that I have to go New York. It can’t wait and…” Jim took a deep breath. “As soon as I made the decision to go to New York it stopped hurting as much.”

“Hurting?”

“Yeah, hurting like someone broke my heart.”

Fucking Sentinels,” Simon muttered. “I’ll get you as much leave as I can get away with and then do a leave of absence thereafter. Just call me. Keep me in the loop as much as possible.”

“I’ll do the best I can,” Jim promised and hung up the phone. He immediately went in search of a phone book. He tore six pages trying to find the airport’s number and by the time he did, his spirit animal was pacing on the other side of the room and hissing at him. He hadn’t seen his jaguar since Peru. “Great. Fucking great!”

He dialed the airport and after a few transfers found an airline that could get him in New York by morning if he hauled ass. He was prepared to haul ass. The jaguar was hissing again, his tail twitching, bright blue eyes sparkling with fury. Jim figured it was a very bad thing when one’s spirit animal decided to be pissed at you.

– – – – –

A wolf met him at the airport. He’d never seen anyone else’s spirit animal before but there it was plain as day—playfully smacking at his jaguar’s tail. His Guide. His Guide was in some kind of trouble. He shouldered the only bag he’d packed and went to the car rental place. He’d managed to find a car and a hotel room while he was driving to the airport. His cell phone hadn’t gotten that much use in he didn’t know when and his fellow drivers hadn’t thanked him.

Jim checked into his hotel, the empty gnawing sensation was stronger now—deeper as if he were actually in physical pain. It made no sense—he’d never experienced anything like it, not even Peru and he’d worked closely with Incacha on a daily basis. The wolf was pacing back and forth with the jaguar now—after a few minutes he stood and took a deep breath.

“Okay, wolf, lead the way.”

The wolf yipped in response.

It was clear he would have to walk but that didn’t put him off, he burrowed into his leather jacket and let the wolf take the lead. Instinct and a trust in his abilities he hadn’t had since Peru pushed him to do anything that might lead him to the source of sadness and loneliness. If anything, the need to find the source had intensified with each step he took until it hurt physically.

He wasn’t surprised at all to find himself in front of the Sentinel-Guide Center. Jim stared at the double doors, pain bursting in his chest and head. He pushed past the pain, forced it down so he could move, and entered the building. A woman at a large desk immediately stood as he approached.

“Oh.” Her eyes widened and she picked up the phone. “I have a Sentinel in distress in the lobby.”

“Guide.”

“We know,” a soft voice murmured. “We will do everything we can to find your Guide.”

“In trouble—hurt,” Jim insisted. “Hurting. Upset. He needs me.”

“We’ll find him,” the woman promised.

– – – – –

“No, I understand. I don’t need the problem or the situation repeated to me. I will not change my report, nor will I sign off on the edited version you’ve offered.” Blair raised one eyebrow when Special Agent in Charge Carl Wilbanks glared at him. “I’m not going to sacrifice my integrity to play your stupid political games, Wilbanks. If you don’t like it—edit the report yourself and submit your own. I won’t do it.”

“Do you want to be disciplined for failure to follow orders?” Wilbanks demanded, roughly.

“If that’s what it takes. I’ll be happy to face a disciplinary action committee and tell them I was formally reprimanded for refusing to lie.”

“You sanctimonious little bastard!”

“Their arrogance and stupidity killed a four year old child,” Blair snapped. “As far as I’m concerned they should face murder charges themselves and I will not under any circumstances lie to protect them. She’s dead and I don’t care what kind of shit storm it causes. I hope her parents sue the city. I hope they sue everyone they can get their hands on.”

“Including you?” Wilbanks asked smugly. “They’re prepared to name you in the lawsuit.”

“That’s fine,” Blair snapped. “I certainly feel like I failed their child.”

“I won’t let your guilt hurt the Bureau.”

“It’s not my guilt that’s the problem around here, Wilbanks.” Blair plucked his cell phone off his hip as it rang and frowned at the number that showed up on the caller ID. He hadn’t heard from the Center in over a year. He was a powerful Guide and there had been times when he’d been called into deal with damaged or fragile Sentinels. “Dr. Sandburg.” He felt the color drain out of his face as the words he thought he’d never hear were spoken in his ear. “Where do I have to go? I can be on a plane within the hour to anywhere I have to go.” His knees weakened briefly. “Here? Shit. He came here? God, that’s so… how in the hell? Alpha? Jesus. Okay, no, I’ll be there as soon as I can.” He shut his phone and picked up his satchel from the chair he’d dropped it in. “Wilbanks, I have to go. I have a personal matter to attend to.”

“This conversation isn’t over.”

“Whatever,” Blair snapped. “I’ve already secured a copy of my report, the audio file of the profile I gave the Atlanta PD, and all of my data on the cases there. You do whatever you want but I won’t take part in a cover up, not even if it means my badge.”

Wilbanks stood. “You aren’t leaving this building, Sandburg, until this matter is resolved to my satisfaction.”

Blair stared at him for a few seconds and then carefully slid his satchel onto his shoulder. “The phone call I just took? It was from the Sentinel-Guide Center, I’ve been recalled. If I don’t show up within the hour they’ll come get me. Now ask yourself, do you really want to stand between me and the Center? Interference in Center business is… dangerous.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“That is entirely up to you,” Blair checked his watch. “Considering the situation that I was called for they might not wait an hour.”

Wilbanks picked up his phone. “Davis, Dr. Sandburg isn’t cooperating and the director has decided to put him protective custody while the Atlanta case is reviewed. Call the Sentinel-Guide Center and tell them that Dr. Sandburg has decided not to come today due to work obligations.”

Blair just glared. “You’re a fucking idiot.”

– – – – –

Jim sat up, instantly awake –his senses blown wide open. “I have to go.”

“Sentinel Ellison, you are in no condition to leave.” Dr. Harold McCoy stood up from his chair. “We were able to find a genetic match in New York as you insisted we would. He proved very receptive to the phone call and is on his way.”

“I came here because he was hurting and upset. I felt it.” Jim started pulling off sensors. “He’s in trouble, I have to go.”

McCoy’s mouth dropped open. “Jim, you aren’t bonded. Whatever you are feeling, it has nothing to do with your Guide.”

“No, it’s my Guide.” Jim swung his legs around and sat up completely. “Where are my clothes? I have to get to him. He’s in trouble. I never should have come here first. That stupid wolf…”

“Wolf?” McCoy frowned. “What about a wolf?”

“The wolf that led me here. I thought my Guide was in the Center because the wolf led me here.”

“You said during in-take that your spirit animal is a jaguar.”

“Yes.” Jim stood and shed the silk hospital gown he’d been given to wear without a single ounce of shame. “My clothes. I need my clothes.”

“You’re saying that a wolf spirit animal brought you to the Center?”

“Yes, Christ. You’re a smart man, McCoy, they don’t pass out degrees in Sentinel Studies in Cracker Jack boxes so please keep the fuck up.” Jim jerked open a closet door and sighed when he found a plastic bag holding his clothes. “Where’s my badge and weapon?”

“They were locked in a safe box with your name on it. We don’t allow Sentinels to keep their weapons within the Center.”

“I want my gun and my badge.” Jim jerked on his boxers and then his jeans. “There was no need to take my badge. You never take a cop’s badge—that’s just fucked up. You should know better.” He pulled on his t-shirt and then sweater. “At least you didn’t cut me out of my clothes; that would have been irritating.”

“Jim, you were in a seriously fragile state when you entered the facility. You zoned out within a minute of your arrival. If a spirit animal led you to us, it had a good reason to do so. I can’t in good conscience let you leave. You are extremely gifted. We haven’t identified an Alpha of your level in twenty years. The Guide is on his way. We spoke with him just a few minutes ago.”

“You can’t stop me,” Jim snapped. “You can’t hold me here against my will unless I’m feral. And my Guide is not on his way—he’s very upset right now. Upset, angry – far more than he was last night and it was so bad last night that I woke from a dead sleep and got on a plane to New York.”

– – – – –

Jim did his best to ignore the three Sentinels that were trailing along behind him as he entered the New York field office of the FBI. It hadn’t taken him more than a few minutes to get his Guide’s name out of the Center but they hadn’t told him where he was. That was okay, because the wolf had been ready to lead again when he’s left the facility.

“Seriously, Ellison, how the fuck are you doing this?”

Jim looked at the Sentinel who had asked the question as he approached a large desk. “I can feel him, deep in my body like I’ve been shot or stabbed.” He stopped at the desk. “I’m here for Dr. Blair Sandburg. Tell me where he is.”

The woman’s eyes widened and she reached for the phone. “Who should I say is requesting him?”

“Alpha Sentinel James Ellison and guests.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the other Sentinels. “You don’t need their names because once they leave this lobby you’re going to forget you ever saw them.”

“He’s on the fifth floor, SAC Wilbanks will meet you. You’ll have surrender your weapons, gentlemen.”

“Sentinel law is clear. A Sentinel is not required to surrender his or her weapon unless it is to a licensed and registered Sentinel-Guide entity.” One of the Sentinel’s behind him responded evenly. “The FBI simply doesn’t qualify.”

– – – – –

Carl Wilbanks took a deep breath as the four Sentinels came off the elevator. Every one of them looked like a one-man war and all four turned and looked right at him. They could smell his nervousness, his fear. He couldn’t do much about it and they really had no business here. He could send them away and there wasn’t a damn thing they could do about it.

“I’m Special Agent in Charge, Carl Wilbanks. Dr. Sandburg is currently unavailable. He’s been placed in protective custody and is being moved out of the facility as we speak.”

“That’s a lie.” The largest of them returned without a single pause. “He’s in the building, in fact, he’s on this floor. You can take me to him or I can search the place. Your choice.”

“This is an FBI matter and is outside the jurisdiction of the Sentinel-Guide Center.”

“Guide Sandburg is a high ranking Guide and a practicing Shaman. If he’s in protective custody—his safety is our concern. When it comes to the physical and emotional well-being of a Guide—there is no higher authority than his own Sentinel.” One of the smaller men stepped forward and placed a hand on the man who had called him a liar. “You’ll surrender him to Alpha Sentinel Ellison immediately.”

“He is in no physical or emotional danger. The matter is internal and none of your concern.” Wilbanks straightened his sleeve. “Dr. Sandburg is in custody pending an investigation into his participation in a recent case. That is all that I can say.” He glared at all four of them. “And Dr. Sandburg is unbonded. We don’t employee bonded Guides unless we employ their Sentinels as well. It’s Bureau policy.”

“Interference in a pair bond is a violation of international law. Are you telling us that you are refusing to surrender Dr. Sandburg to his Sentinel?”

Jim tilted his head and disengaged from the conversation. The pounding that had started in his head the moment he entered the building had leveled out and he recognized it as a heartbeat. His Guide’s heartbeat, yet another thing he shouldn’t be able to isolate without a bond. The heart rate was even, and while he could feel anger and irritation pouring off his Guide, he wasn’t afraid or physically in danger.

He brushed past Wilbanks and started down a hallway that lead away from the large room that they’d entered upon leaving the elevator. He ignored the protests and trusted that his fellow Sentinels would deal with the irate and self-important FBI agent who was about to be schooled on Sentinel law. One of them had joined him, but he didn’t bother to look back to acknowledge him. He was entirely too focused on his Guide.

Jim pushed open a door and found his Guide sitting in a chair at the far end of the room with two agents between them. “You can leave this room on your own two feet or you can leave this room in body bags. I really don’t have a preference.”

One of them reached for his gun and Blair stood.

“Don’t do it, Martin, he’s a Sentinel and he’s practically feral. You don’t stand a chance.” Blair swallowed hard. “He’s my Sentinel. He could kill you both for pair-bond interference and no one would ask him a single question.”

Jim said nothing as the two agents fell all over themselves to get out of the room. He pulled the door shut. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah, just pissed.” Blair eyes widened. “Wow, you know, someone likes me a lot because you’re… fantastic.” He walked forward slowly and when he was standing in front of the Sentinel, he paused. “They told me you were in trouble.”

“Yeah, your distress at being put in protective custody woke me out of a pain induced zone-out,” Jim admitted his fingers hesitated against his Guide’s cheek. “I didn’t intend on this—I didn’t plan to ever register. But last night, I woke up and you were hurting. I could feel your pain like it was my own. Who hurt you, Chief?”

Blair closed his eyes. “I had a hard case. The last victim, a four year child, was killed during the arrest of the suspect because the locals didn’t listen to me. It was hard.” He leaned into the touch. “Your name?”

“James Joseph Ellison. Most people call me Jim.” Jim took a deep breath. “And you can call me anything you like.”

Blair smiled then. “Hello, Jim. I am so pleased to finally meet you.”

Jim pulled his Guide close without even recognizing how far gone he was and tucked his face against the side of Sandburg’s neck. He inhaled deeply, taking in a heady scent—a combination of soap and pheromones that would forever link him to his Guide. Blair’s hands clenched on his shoulder and he sighed softly.

“Sentinel.”

“Guide,” Jim responded. “So amazing. I don’t know how I waited so long. I’m so sorry I left you alone in the world.”

“It’s okay.” Blair moved closer and wrapped his arms around Jim. His fingers clenched against the firm muscles of Jim’s back. “You’re here now and everything will be fine.”

“It will. I won’t let anyone hurt you.” His lips brushed over Blair’s pulse point and they both shuddered at the contact. “I’ll keep you safe.”

“I know.” Blair rubbed his face against Jim’s chest and closed his eyes. “I know.”

“Tell me what’s going on.”

– – – – –

Wilbanks was waiting on them in the hall when Jim opened the door. The Sentinel hissed at him before he could say a single word. Startled, Wilbanks took several steps back and glared at Sandburg who slid out into the hall from behind his Sentinel.

“If this is how the FBI treats all of the unbonded Guides that work for them…” Jim paused and inclined his head. “I will be speaking to the Director of the Sentinel-Guide Center regarding protective procedures for those vulnerable to the influence and petty political maneuvering of mundanes.”

Wilbanks glared. “You think you’re special? Better than me.”

“Yes.” All four Sentinels responded without pause and Blair laughed a little before he could help himself.

Jim wrapped his fingers around one of Blair’s wrists and tugged gently. “Come, Guide.”

“Yes, Sentinel.”

“You can’t just take him…”

“You can’t keep him. It is a violation of Sentinel-Guide law to unlawfully detain and/or separate a Guide from his Sentinel.” Jim pushed Wilbanks up against the wall with his free hand and pinned him there. “You’ll leave Blair alone. He isn’t going to lie for you or for your friend in Atlanta. It is against the Sentinel-Guide code of ethics that we all swear to when we register to act against the public good or provide false testimony. In asking and then demanding he lie or participate in a cover up—you’ve violated the most basic of Sentinel-Guide imperatives. You’ve asked and then demanded that he cause harm to the tribe through deception.”

Wilbanks mouth dropped open in shock.

“The Sentinel-Guide Center will no doubt answer this situation formally. You are not to approach or contact my Guide in any way, shape, or form as long as you live. If you do, I’m going to come back here and explain to you in the most explicit and painful way I can imagine how disgusted I am by you. Are we clear Special Agent Carl Wilbanks?”

“Crystal.”

“Good.” Jim released him. “You can also explain to your superior how you just screwed the Bureau’s opportunity to employ an Alpha Sentinel and his Guide.”

Wilbanks lifted his chin. “The Bureau always retains the right to employ the Sentinels of Guides that bond while they work for us. It is part of our contract with the Sentinel-Guide Center. You’ll work for us if we want it and with attitude like yours—you can trust that my superiors will look forward to putting you in your place.”

“By the end of the day,” Blair murmured. “The FBI will have a hard time keeping a single Guide or Sentinel—no matter their bond status. I’ll make sure of it. In preventing me from leaving, and asking me to lie—you’ve already violated the contract you just quoted. I’m sure you won’t have a hard time explaining to the director how the Bureau lost the right to work with registered Sentinels and Guides.”

– – – – –

PART TWO

6 Weeks Later

“Glad to be back?”

Jim nodded. “Yeah, Chief, really glad.”

He tucked his white noise generating headphones into his pocket and shouldered their carry-on. They’d shipped the rest of their things back to Cascade, not trusting the airline to actually get it there in one piece or really at all.

“You said your Captain was okay meeting us for breakfast in the morning?”

“Yeah, look you need to stop worrying about this. Simon is going to like you just fine and trust me after the glowing recommendation you received from the Director of the FBI, you won’t have a problem getting a job with the department.” Jim laughed at Blair’s groan. “Look, it isn’t like you didn’t deserve it and you really did do a lot these last few weeks to make the job situations for the Guides still in the FBI a lot better. Wilbanks may never recover but that’s not our problem.”

“I really hate politics.”

“You and me both,” Jim admitted.

They made the trip to long term parking in silence and Blair spent the trip to the loft on his laptop checking his email and bitching about a recently released study on Sentinel-Guide relationships that he thought was ten kinds of wrong.

His Guide’s chatter had become such an integral part of his day that it flowed around Jim and made him feel safe. It was funny that a man nearly six years younger than him and a good eighty pounds lighter could be a source of safety for him but in the weeks since they’d met—Sandburg had become a haven for Jim.

“So, you don’t agree with Dr. Savoy that platonic Sentinel-Guide relationships are just as effective as sexual ones.”

Blair snorted. “The government should not let mundanes study us—they always ask the wrong questions and then pass guess work off like it’s fact. Dr. Madden in the UK proved more than ten years ago, with a very small margin of error, that platonic bonding can be detrimental to the Sentinel-Guide relationship especially if outside relationships are pursued.”

“Outside relationships?” Jim asked with a glare in his Guide’s direction.

Blair laughed. “Well, let’s be serious, Jim. If you aren’t going to fuck me… I’m eventually going to seek a sex partner outside our bond. If you tried to deny me such a relationship—it would damage our bond and cause us both pain. When we’re angry or upset with each other, we’ll both suffer for it.”

Jim refocused on the road. So far, their bond was platonic. He hadn’t pushed for sex because he hadn’t wanted to spook or hurt his Guide. Their relationship was new and while he knew many Sentinels jumped headlong into physical bonding—he’d wanted his Guide to feel safe with him. “I’m not against a sexual bond.”

“But?” Blair asked amused.

“I just think intimacy requires a level of knowledge about each other that we’re still developing. I know that once I do a full imprint on you—I’m probably going to be a tad more primal than I already am. I don’t think we could have handled that when we first met.”

Blair shivered a little at the idea of Jim imprinting on him at such an intimate level. “But you do want that?”

“Yes, for several reasons. I want us to have a close and strong bond—and that comes through sex. On the other side of things, I know damn well that I’ll never be able to share you with someone else. The thought of you touching another person besides me… has me sort of homicidal.”

“Your ex-wife cheated on you.”

“Yes.”

“Jim, I would never deceive you. I’ll always be honest about my needs and if they aren’t being met you’ll be the first to know.”

“Good.” Jim parked the truck and paused. “Huh, do you have any needs that aren’t being met?”

Blair chuckled. “I’d very much like to sleep beside you. Even if there is no sex. I think I would sleep better if you were there.”

Jim nodded. “Okay, yeah, Chief I can swing that.”

– – – – –

“He’ll have to do the small orientation course at the academy- six weeks.” Simon shrugged. “Just what any other law enforcement officer would have to do to come into the PD. Your place with Major Crimes hasn’t been altered but…” He pulled two sets of credentials and set them on the table. “There is new ID for you and the Chief of Police has already put Sandburg on the payroll. And you have to ride a desk while your Guide is at the academy.”

Blair walked over to the table and picked up the black case, he flipped it open and encountered a gold badge and an identification card that listed his vital data, and then Jim’s. His Guide status was bold and red. There would be no mistaking that. “Jim tells me that I’ll be the only Guide that is currently with the Cascade PD that actually carries a weapon.”

“They weren’t cops before bonding and they haven’t expressed interest in the academy or qualifying to carry. They are employed as ‘police consultants’.”

Blair snorted and went back to the stove. “I see. How do you like your eggs, Captain Banks?”

“Sunny side up.” Simon raised one eyebrow at Jim who just shrugged. “Bacon or sausage available?”

“Both,” Blair murmured. “Toast should be ready in a minute. Hashbrown casserole in the oven—about three minutes on everything, Captain.”

“Simon when we aren’t at work, Doctor.”

“Blair then.”

“Blair,” Simon agreed. “How are things going in Atlanta?”

“The FBI is fighting having me testify in a civil court case. They have my report and all of my data. They really don’t need me and I can’t really add anything to the case for either side. The Atlanta PD would have to make profiling out to be akin to voodoo in order to justify their failure to take my advice, which would be bad for law enforcement in general and the Judge is on the fence. He really doesn’t want to force a Guide to take the stand. We are rarely put on the stand because of our abilities. While I can certainly keep secrets, I would have to label such questions as having answers I can’t give due to other responsibilities, which in some cases is practically an omission.” Blair shrugged and pulled plates out of the cabinet to his left. “So, this quick course at the academy?”

“They want to test you—we’re all pretty sure you can test out of most of the courses which will leave physical endurance, hand to hand, and gun qualification.”

“I have reviewed the procedural guide you sent me. They really don’t differ all that much from department to department. I have an eidetic memory so… that’s a plus.”

“Eidetic?” Simon repeated.

“Photographic,” Jim murmured. “He remembers everything he reads, sees, or hears. Has total recall from age two—up.”

“Jesus.” Simon grimaced. “Both a gift and a curse.”

“Yes,” Blair agreed. “Not everyone gets that immediately.” He put a plate in front of Simon heaping with food and then refilled the man’s coffee. “Need butter or jam?”

Simon picked up his fork and shook his head. “I love you, Sandburg.”

Blair just laughed. “Don’t get used to it. This isn’t going to be an everyday thing.” He brought plates for himself and Jim and slid into his own chair. “Now, have there been any questions or problems since it was revealed that Jim was a Sentinel?”

“No. His abrupt disappearance pretty much convinced everyone that he must have been latent and that when he came online he immediately went to New York for treatment and Guide placement. I haven’t had to say a damn thing, so no lies.” Simon shrugged and took another sip of his coffee. “What brand is this?”

“Blair grinds his own. That is a blend he makes.”

“Seriously, Sandburg, this guy gives you any trouble you can come live with me.”

“And Jim’s ex-wife?” Blair continued, not content to be distracted from his purpose.

Jim grimaced.

Simon groaned.

“It’s not in my nature to ignore a subject because it might be uncomfortable or even undesirable all together.” Blair plucked up a piece of toast and started to munch on it. “I’ll tell you up front that I won’t tolerate bullshit from her. Guides are just as territorial as Sentinels when they feel threatened.”

“She hasn’t said much since I announced Jim’s leave of absence. I don’t know what she thinks about the development or even the timing of it. We all know she was suspicious of his investigative methods and was very vocal about it the day before he left for New York. Still, all of that could be chalked up to latent Sentinel behavior and bonded pairs are too valuable to question extensively. Since the two of you have already given the FBI the finger—the Chief has made it clear to me that any conflicts in my unit will result in transfers out—for anyone that doesn’t want the two of you there.”

Jim frowned. “Simon.”

“Not much of a choice, Jim.”

“You know why we gave the FBI the finger. I don’t want cops punished because they don’t like me. There were plenty who didn’t like me before and it never stopped them from doing their jobs.”

“It’s different,” Blair murmured. “You’ve never worked in a situation where people knew what you were.” He shrugged when his Sentinel looked at him hard. “I’ve been a registered Guide since I was in college, Jim. I came online my sophomore year and it altered my career path a great deal.”

“What do you mean?” Jim frowned.

“I was originally studying cultural anthropology. In fact, I was gearing up for a trip into the Amazon to study a pre-industrial tribe there. I had to fight to get permission to enter the country because I was only fifteen. I had, in fact, just turned fifteen and they didn’t want me without a parent. Then I came online. I wasn’t even old enough to bond. The Center was very relieved when I wasn’t paired immediately; they didn’t know what they were going to do with me if I were to be paired with an adult.”

“I was twenty-one,” Jim murmured. “I had been suppressing my gifts for years by that point. I would have never pushed to take you as a Guide at that age.”

Blair just smiled. “Not all Sentinels are so reasonable. The need to bond can be overwhelming. At any rate, after I came online I had to make some serious changes concerning my studies and what I was going to do.”

“Why?” Simon asked. “Most Guides continue on their own way until they are bonded.”

“Yeah, and look at them.” Blair waved off that idea with a dismissive hand. “No careers of their own, stuck in situations they are ill-prepared for and certainly untrained for. Statistically, I knew my Sentinel would gravitate towards law enforcement or the military. I couldn’t see myself joining the military so I changed my major to Forensic Anthropology, picked up Criminal Psychology, and a master’s degree in Sentinel Studies.”

“So you have…”

“PhDs in Criminal Psychology and Forensic Anthropology. Masters degrees in Sentinel Studies and Abnormal Psychology.” Blair shrugged. “I finished my last degree at twenty-two and enrolled in the FBI academy. I figured from there I could go anywhere with my Sentinel and if he was military—it wouldn’t be much of a problem to get him into the FBI with me. The Bureau recruits heavily from the ex-military because they have a good mindset for the Bureau’s goals.”

“So are you going to have a problem with the physical aspects?” Simon asked bluntly, reviewing Blair’s lean frame critically.

“I don’t think so.” Blair plucked up his empty plate and then retrieved the coffee pot. He filled his own cup and then waved the pot gently. “Last cup?”

Simon gratefully held his cup out. “You sure?”

“I jog five miles a day, have the highest level of certification possible in Eskrima, and I completed HRT the same year I graduated the academy.” Blair sat back in his chair and looked at Simon Banks with a thoughtful expression. “I know you’re used to Guides being a liability in the field, Captain Banks. I assure you I’ve spent the last ten years of my life making sure I won’t be.”

“What is Eskrima?” Simon asked, apparently unwilling to ask why Blair had enrolled and completed FBI Hostage Rescue Team Sniper School.

“It’s a martial art. You’ve seen me in the gym with Sergeant House from Vice?” Jim explained.

“The thing with the sticks?” Simon asked.

“Yeah.” Jim chuckled. “Blair is a master level fighter. He could, in theory, kick my ass.”

“I graduated at the top of my class at the Academy, Captain. I had to excel in all areas to do that. I’ll never be able to hold my own in a fair fight against a man your size. But if I break both of your legs, we’ll be more evenly matched.”

Simon laughed. “I just want to make sure nothing goes wrong.”

Blair grinned. “I’m a short, big mouthed, Jewish empath who is the bonded Guide of a male Sentinel. I assure you, Captain Banks, any flak I get won’t be for my qualifications or my ability to handle myself physically. You have to realize that many of the people that Jim and I will interact with everyday will assume I’m little more than his sex slave.”

Simon spewed his coffee and glared. “Sandburg!”

“What?” Blair tossed a couple of paper napkins his way. “You know it’s true. Not many people bother to actually read up Sentinel-Guide relationships. They live happily with their assumptions and act accordingly. It’s something I understood when I registered as a Guide. If I didn’t think I could handle it, I never would have registered no matter how much guilt the Center heaps on unregistered Guides.”

“Guilt?” Simon asked.

Blair shrugged. “When your existence can mean life or death for another human being—those in power aren’t too nice about saying so. I was diagnosed by a family doctor as a ‘sensitive’ at age twelve through DNA testing. They didn’t know if I’d ever come online as a Guide, but I received regular correspondence from the Center regarding my status and was actively encouraged to register. Three hours after I came online, I was in an emergency room having suffered an emotional overload and representatives of the Sentinel-Guide Center were there speaking with my mother about my registration. She refused them.”

“What happened?”

“A week after I got out of the hospital and had leveled out enough to be around mundanes they showed up at the university where I was a student.” Blair shrugged. “I had every intention of registering because I needed help, but they were prepared to do a hard sell.”

“How hard of a sell?” Jim asked carefully.

“Nothing physical or damaging. Just the kind of guilt trip that only a Jewish mother should be capable of.” Blair shrugged and stood. “Captain, it was nice to meet you. I have a fairly full day so please excuse me.”

Simon nodded. “Sure. Thanks for the meal.”

Jim snagged Blair’s hand as he walked by. “What’s up first?”

Blair touched his Sentinel’s face and then ran his finger tips along Jim’s jaw and down the side of his neck. “First, I’m going to make sure the cleaning service we hired did the job I asked of them. I want to check all the products they replaced, go through the cabinets to make sure they got all the brands I wanted and didn’t miss anything, and then I need to visit the area dry cleaners—the one you are using is using a chemical process that is giving you a slight skin irritation. After that, I’ve had several books put on hold for me with a rare book dealer downtown. I promised to pick them up. I have an appointment with Eli Stoddard at Rainier at 1:00 for lunch. He wants to discuss a few lectures that I did last year and see if I won’t do a seminar for his students in the fall. Probably a few hours a week. Nothing too big.”

“Full day.”

“Yeah, I should be done by three.”

“Meet me at the station. I’ll introduce you around.”

“Deal,” Blair agreed. “Call me if you have any problems.”

“I went a while unbonded, Chief.”

“Yeah.” Blair chuckled as he walked away. “And today will be the first day you’ve been by yourself for more than an hour since we met.”

– – – – –

“So, I researched your Guide.” Henri leaned against Jim’s desk. “He’s like a huge deal. They use the books he wrote on Sentinels and Guides in every major Sentinel Studies program in the country. Also, he has four books on criminal profiling that… well you know all of this right?”

Jim laughed. “Yes. I do, actually. Why the interest?”

Henri flushed. “I’ve worked with a couple of Sentinel-Guide pairs and the Guides—well shit Jim, they can be a real liability in the field. I wanted to see what you were going to be dealing with. All I can say is –dude you hit the lottery! He’s smart, top of his class at the FBI, certified as a sniper, and he’s pretty.”

Jim’s mouth dropped open briefly and then he started laughing. “Jesus, Brown, go sit at your desk.”

“Seriously, Jim, I can’t believe how much you lucked out.”

Carolyn snorted from her desk. “Yes, his new fuck-toy is all shiny and bright.”

“Actually, Caro, our bond is platonic but I’ll be sure to call you personally and let you know when that changes.” Jim smirked and Brian Rafe, Brown’s partner, snorted his coffee and started coughing. “Sorry, Brian.”

Brian wiped at his shirt with a napkin and cleared his throat. “No problem, Jim, it’s a rare day when you catch me by surprise. And that was worth the price of a new tie.”

“So, how much of this Sentinel bullshit is true?” Carolyn waved a procedural manual. “The Captain passed this out last week, said we needed to learn to work with you in the field.”

Jim looked over her face, caught the angry gleam in her eyes, and the slight increase in her heart rate. “I’m sure the manual covers the basics.”

“What about beyond the basics?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” she tossed the manual aside. “Everything in that thing is about you and what we have to do to make you comfortable. They even passed out a list of colognes and perfumes they don’t want us wearing because we work in such close proximity to you. What I want to know is what exactly we’re going to be getting for putting up with this freak show.”

“Hey,” Brown said with a frown. “Back off with that shit, Plummer. He isn’t a freak. You know, the Captain said if any of us were uncomfortable working with him because of his gifts, that we could transfer out. Why don’t you do us all a favor and hit the road?”

“It’s okay, H.” Jim turned slightly and tilted his head. “He’s here.”

“Oh yeah?” Henri leaned forward so he could see into the hall. “Nope.”

“He’s downstairs. I can hear his heartbeat.”

“That is cool.” Henri grinned.

Jim nodded. “He isn’t alone or he’s talking up a storm to himself. Which, I have to say, isn’t unlikely. He chatters almost non-stop when he is thinking and working.”

“Drive you crazy?”

“Not at all. I thought it would—because you know I’ve always liked things to be quiet and orderly. It’s almost like his chatter blocks out the rest of the world. Very stress relieving.” Jim closed the two files he had open his desk and smiled a little when the elevator doors opened. “Students. He went to Rainier this afternoon and he’s got a few students with him.”

Blair entered pulling off his coat and talking a mile a minute. “Look, Jim, I found some baby Guides. Can I keep them?”

Jim chuckled. “At least until you can find them good homes. What’s up, Chief?”

“Oh, Eli is doing a field study on bonded Guides and these three lost their field subject yesterday because he had to leave the country with his Sentinel. The study was supposed to start today and as luck would have it I was available.” Blair dumped his coat and bag in a chair near Jim’s desk and shrugged. “So they are going to follow me around for a week during working hours only.” He shot all three students a look. “I don’t know how long they’ll last honestly. Baby Number 3 got all winded just getting across campus.”

The Guide in question flushed, “Oh come on, Dr. Sandburg, how was I supposed to know I should stretch before going to find your car?”

Blair laughed. “For purposes of dignity, Jim, their names are Marc, Kyle, and Carson.” He pointed out each of them in turn. “Eli sends his regards and I invited him to dinner next week.”

“Works,” Jim murmured and looked over the three Guides. “Are they even old enough to bond?”

“Just barely,” Blair said dryly. “Only Marc has chosen a major field of study.”

Jim raised an eyebrow at Marc who blushed under the scrutiny of the Sentinel.

“Oh, I, huh, pre-med.” He fidgeted a little. “Dr. Sandburg said in his book, The Modern Urban Guide, that a Guide should be an asset and not a burden to his Sentinel in the field, no matter the environment.”

“Then you know who your Sentinel is?”

“Yes, I was matched when I was seventeen. She’s in medical school, her final year. We plan to bond after she graduates.”

Jim grinned and looked at his Guide who was leaning against his desk intent on his PDA. “Hey, Chief, what if I’d been a lawyer or something?”

“I’d have gone back to school.” Blair didn’t look up. “I could probably pass the Washington State Bar after a few months of study but I’d want to get a few practical courses under my belt before…” He flushed when one of the baby Guides started to snicker. “Shut up.”

Jim grinned. “Dr. Blair Sandburg meet Detective Henri Brown and his partner in crime prevention, Detective Brian Rafe.” He motioned across the aisle.

Blair offered each man in his hand in turn. “It’s a pleasure, gentlemen. Jim speaks highly of you both.”

Rafe snickered. “You’ll have to tell us all about that, Sandburg.”

“Sure, sure,” Blair glanced the man over. “What’s up with your tie?”

“Your Sentinel is evil,” Brian answered without pause.

“Yes, well, have you heard the house rules?” Blair asked and then laughed when Jim growled.

“Don’t I get an introduction?” Carolyn demanded.

“Oh, you hardly need one, Detective Plummer.” Blair offered her a shrewd smile. “I hope you found my FBI file entertaining. I’ve always found it a rather dry read myself.”

Carolyn flushed. “I have a friend…”

“Yes, Agent Kyle Harding. Good man, excellent kick boxer.” Blair leaned one hip on Jim’s desk, glanced briefly at the hand she offered, but didn’t offer his own and then turned to his students. “Keep in mind baby Guides that one of your duties is to provide an empathic and physical buffer for your Sentinel. While Sentinels have no overt empathic or psychic abilities that we’ve discovered –they are sensitive to the moods and personalities of others. It’s important that you keep your mind and your physical person from being tainted by outsiders.”

“Yeah,” Carson looked at Jim. “His body posture is fifty percent more relaxed than when we first entered.”

Blair shook a finger at him. “My Sentinel is not your test subject, Carson. Don’t look at him like he’s a lab rat.”

The young man flushed. “Wait, you said—‘that we’ve discovered’. Do you believe we could discover a Sentinel with a developed sixth sense?”

“It is entirely possible.” Blair checked his watch. “Sentinels have a documented affinity with the spirit world. Now, we have four dry cleaners on my list left to visit and then I have to go to the whole food health store down town.”

“Don’t forget you wanted to buy new linens.” Marc picked up his back pack. “There is a specialty store on Brant Ave that deals in one hundred percent cotton products—clothes, towels, sheets, the works.”

“Very nice. We’ll have to go. Is that where you bought that shirt?”

“Yeah, I try to keep all of my clothes natural fibers. My Sentinel has serious issues with ‘touch’ and her allergies are a daily concern. Over the last year, I’ve gotten into the habit of living as if she were with me already. I figured it would help with our adjustment period.” He flushed. “We only have phone and email contact, you know. It’s the only way we can keep from bonding.”

Jim chuckled. “I have no doubts, kid.” He reached out and snagged Blair’s hand. “I thought you were done for the day?”

“I should be but I struck out with all the dry cleaners that I visited this morning, and then I had to spend an hour on the phone expressing my displeasure with the cleaning service who did not send a Sentinel friendly team over to the loft as requested.” He frowned at his Sentinel. “You would not believe the crap they left behind and they didn’t replace any of the towels or sheets the way I asked. So, I have to do that myself.”

“That stuff can wait, you know.”

“No, I don’t know.” Blair patted his cheek. “It really can’t. Besides, this is good experience for the baby Guides.” He inclined his head. “But I can stay if…”

“No, I’m fine. Just bored out of my mind with paperwork and Brown doesn’t have any new jokes to tell me.”

“Hmm, okay. Walk me down to my car?”

“Sure, Chief,” Jim agreed with no small amount of relief.

A minute later, Blair watched the elevator doors shut and then he turned and looked at Jim. “Seriously, your ex-wife is a black hole of evil. Do you still have pussy blindness or were you cured by the divorce?”

Jim sighed and ignored the snickering baby Guides. “It was temporary, Chief, very temporary.”

“Thank God,” Kyle muttered. “Could you imagine having to share space with that woman?”

Blair shuddered at the thought and then focused on Jim. “What do you want to ground yourself on?”

His eyes darkened. “Everything I can get away with.”

“You know that’s greedy.”

“It’s a personality fault,” Jim agreed. “Come here, Guide.”

“Don’t traumatize the babies,” Blair murmured as he let his Sentinel pull him close. His hands clutched at Jim’s shoulders as soft lips settled against his pulse point. Blair shuddered as large hands slid under coat, untucked his shirt, and slid up under his t-shirt, claiming bare skin.

“Talk to me…” Jim whispered, his voice a little ragged.

Blair moved closer and his Sentinel took another deep breath, saturating himself in his Guide’s scent. Softly he spoke, his voice rich with the power he could wield as a Guide,

“Serene will be our days and bright,

And happy will our nature be,

When love is an unerring light,

And joy its own security.

And they a blissful course may hold

Even now, who, not unwisely bold,

Live in the spirit of this creed;

Yet seek thy firm support, according to their need.

 

I, loving freedom, and untried:

No sport of every random gust,

Yet being to myself a guide,

Too blindly have reposed my trust:

And oft, when in my heart was heard

Thy timely mandate, I deferred

The task, in smoother walks to stray;

But thee I now would serve more strictly, if I may.”

Jim took another deep breath and loosened his hold on his Guide as the elevator came to a jerking stop. “Thanks, Chief.”

Blair smiled softly. “Don’t let her get to you, Jim. If you do, I’ll have to file a complaint and get her transferred. You know I won’t be able to let her stay if she continues to upset you like this.”

“Yeah, I understand.” Jim relaxed against the wall and watched the students trail off the elevator in a stunned silence. “Too much for them?”

“It’s a good learning lesson. I can’t wait to see what they write about it.” Blair chuckled and then shook his head when Jim blushed. “They won’t use names, Eli would fry them if they did.” He rubbed his thumb over Jim’s bottom lip. “I’ll go home after I finish with my errands. Let me know if you need me and I mean it.”

“Yeah.” He let go of Blair and shoved his hands in his pockets to keep from grabbing him again. “What was that you quoted?”

“The Ode to Duty by William Wordsworth—well the good part of it anyway.” Blair offered him a little salute. “Only the good parts for my Sentinel.”

– – – – –

“I can’t believe you aren’t hittin’ that.”

Jim frowned and turned to Henri. “What?”

“You know…” He wiggled both eyebrows. “I mean, I know you swing both ways so that can’t be what’s stopping you from pinning that pretty boy to a flat surface and doing all kinds of wrong, but delicious things to him.”

“Christ, Henri, you really are a horrible person.” Jim laughed as he said it which took the sting out of the words. “Bonding is actually a very complicated process. It can take months to fall into place between a Sentinel and Guide. It’s far more than just physical intimacy and involves building layers of trust and understanding. We’ve already had some serious discussions about all of that. So we’re working through it.”

“But you’ll be exclusive?” Brown shrugged. “I read that bonded pairs who have outside relationships aren’t as productive or as happy.”

“Opinions differ on that but Blair and I are in agreement that we aren’t going to be able to share.”

Jim slid into his chair and started rearranging the reports he was supposed to be putting into the system. In the six weeks he’d had been away, no one had bothered to help him out in that area. He was disappointed that Blair hadn’t stayed, but he knew that nothing kept his Guide from completing the tasks he assigned himself.

“Plummer left in a snit shortly after you left with him.”

Jim sighed. “The woman cheated on me and then divorced me. Why the fuck does she care?”

“Because you don’t play the wounded and broken ex-husband role she had planned for you.” Brian Rafe relaxed in his chair and let it tilt back. “Seriously, if you looked at her all wounded and mooned over her—tried to get her back she would be one happy individual. You didn’t in the beginning, you certainly won’t now, and she feels like she ‘lost’ the game she was playing with you.”

“Ellison!”

Jim grimaced. “You’d think he’d stop yelling for me right?” He left his desk and crossed the bullpen to enter Simon’s office. “Hey, you look… pissed.”

Simon sighed. “I got Sandburg’s placement in the short-study course at the academy. Provided he can test out of the academics—we can probably have him on the street officially inside three weeks. That’s the good news.”

“What’s the bad news?”

“Internal Affairs wants to question you about your cases.”

“Which ones?”

“All of them.” Simon pursed his lips. “The Chief would rather the matter disappear, but he can’t make the appearance of covering something up.”

“Has there been an allegation?”

“IA received a ‘tip’ that informed them you were online as far back as the academy and managed to hide it for the past five years.”

Jim snorted. “I would have never made it that long and anyone who has ever studied Sentinels would know that. Most don’t last a year after they come online without a Guide. I would be in Conover by now… too far gone to even try to bond with a Guide.”

“Something that has already been explained to them. It doesn’t help that the Sentinel-Guide Center basically told the investigating team to go fuck themselves this morning.”

Jim laughed. “You know the policy of the Center on answering the questions of mundanes on Sentinel business—they just don’t.”

“Yeah, no joke.” Simon chewed on his cigar and then paused. “Does this thing bother you?”

“Nah, especially not since you can’t light up in the building anymore.” Jim grinned. “I’m quite used to your scents, Simon.” He shook his head. “So, Carolyn?”

“I understand she was put on a list of people to question. What can she tell them?”

Jim shrugged. “I’ve always had sensitive skin and chemical allergies—ever since I was a child. I was diagnosed as a latent Sentinel as a teenager and that is in my records. I did not lie about that when I entered the academy. It would have been impossible to lie about it—it’s all over my military records. The Army was very disappointed that I didn’t come online while I was in service. They even isolated me several times in survival exercises trying to get my gifts to come online. They failed every time.”

“You think Carolyn was the one who called IA?”

“I wouldn’t put it past her. She’s been trying to tear me down and ruin my life since our divorce. She has a corrupt soul, Simon, and I don’t know how long I can let Blair work in the same environment with her. He spent ten minutes in her company and barely spoke with her—yet when we were leaving he told me she was a ‘black hole of evil’.”

Simon snorted at the description and then sobered. “Then she goes. My orders from the Chief were very clear. Anyone that makes you or your Guide uncomfortable doesn’t get to stay in Major Crimes.”

“It shouldn’t take long for her to give you a legitimate reason to transfer her. She’s been a real asshole all day.”

“We’ll see how it plays out,” Simon agreed. “In the meantime, you should prepare for an IA evaluation and I know the Chief has pressured them to be quick about it. Even if they find something—they can’t do anything to you. The only power they would have had before was to force you to register.”

– – – – –

“Detective, at this point I’d like to remind you that you can have a union rep with you for this conversation or a lawyer if you prefer.”

Jim relaxed in his chair and rolled the bottle of spring water he’d brought with him around in his hands. “I don’t need either. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

“We’ve been led to believe that you lied about your status as a Sentinel since you joined the police department.”

“You were misinformed. I was diagnosed as a latent Sentinel at fourteen years old and it’s listed in my medical records—which I made available to the academy when I applied. I’ve never lied about my Sentinel gifts, never misled anyone who asked me about them.” Jim opened the bottle of water and shrugged. “I’m a registered, bonded Sentinel and that is all I’m required to do when it comes to my gifts to work in the department. Sentinel-Guide law prohibits any organization from preventing the use of my gifts. Nor is any organization allowed to demand that I use my gifts.”

“We will be going over all of your old case work to see if you used your senses in the past, before you were registered.”

“I see.” Jim smiled. “And if you found evidence that I did? What exactly would you do, Roger?”

Detective Roger Drake paused. “I don’t understand.”

“What would you do? The only course of action that can be taken against a Sentinel who is hiding his or her gifts is to compel them to register in order to keep their job. I’m registered. I’m bonded. So, if you’re going to waste time going through four years of my work—what exactly will you do if you find I did use my senses in some latent way all this time? Everyone knows I couldn’t have used them with purpose without a Guide.”

Drake frowned. “Well…”

“Because you can’t charge me with a crime. I’ve never once hidden that I was a latent Sentinel. It’s been in my records the entire time for anyone to see and even if I had hid it—it wouldn’t be a crime.”

“There may have been cases in your past that could have been successfully prosecuted or even solved if you had registered and used a Guide.”

“Good luck proving that. I have the highest solve rate in the city and my conviction rate is just as high. The vast majority of cases that have not panned out in court had nothing to do with me and everything to do with poor performance by the DA. Every case I’ve ever closed was tight, evidence heavy, and should have been a piece of cake to convict.” Jim took a deep breath and then wrinkled his nose in distaste. “And for the record, Roger, fucking my ex-wife isn’t the pleasure you think it is. It isn’t even a pleasure that is yours alone.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Jim laughed. “I can smell her on you, man. I’ll be sure to tell the Chief that I want another investigating officer assigned to my case. You have a personal interest that I believe would taint your findings.” He stood up. “You’ll have to get someone else to question me, Roger.”

– – – – –

Jim entered the loft, his head pounding more out of irritation than anything else. Blair rose gracefully from his meditation mat and met him as he was pulling out of his coat.

“Hey.” He frowned. “You’re upset.”

“Just Carolyn. IA is trying to investigate me. An anonymous source called in a tip saying I’d been a Sentinel basically since I got out of the Army.”

“So what?” Blair shrugged. “Even if it was true—there is no law against it.”

“Just hassle. IA is reviewing all of my old cases and the lead detective of the entire mess is sleeping with Carolyn. I’ve asked for a new detective, but we’ll see how that goes. The Chief was not pleased when he found out.”

Blair curled his fingers into one of Jim’s hands and tugged. “Okay, you need to relax. You’re a mess.” He led him over to the couch, pushed him to a sitting position, and slid astride his thighs with ease. “Close your eyes.”

Jim relaxed on the couch and let his head fall back as he closed his eyes. “This is… nice.”

“How long were you online before you came to New York?”

“About ten months,” Jim admitted softly. “I didn’t want a Guide… I’d seen too many of them in the field already and the thought of being tied to one was just…” He sighed. “If I’d known what I was denying myself—I would have registered the very day I came online.” He shuddered as Blair’s fingers traveled across his forehead in a firm massaging motion. “You’re perfect. So perfect.”

“I’m perfect for you,” Blair corrected. “No matter your perceptions, Jim, every bonded Sentinel you know gets exactly what they need and want from their bonded Guide. A Guide can do no less. So, if you see a Guide in the field coddling or sheltering their Sentinel in a way you’d find oppressive or ridiculous, just remember that your needs as a Sentinel are vastly different than any other’s.”

Jim ran his hands up Blair’s back and sighed. “Take off your shirt; I want skin.”

Blair chuckled but plucked his shirt off and tossed it aside. He ran his fingers through his short curls to put some order to his hair and went back to rubbing his Sentinel’s temples.

Jim opened his eyes and ran his fingers down the expanse of Blair’s hairless chest. “I thought you’d have hair on your chest.”

Blair paused and took a deep breath. “I took all of my body hair off when I registered with the Center, Jim. The only hair I kept was what is on my head, eyelashes, and eyebrows. I can’t even grow a beard anymore.”

Jim’s eyes widened. “What? Really? Why?”

“Yeah, really. The Center recommends it because of the ‘touch’ sense.” He sat back on Jim’s thighs and frowned. “Are you disappointed?”

“No,” Jim let his fingers trail down Blair’s stomach, lingering on the firm muscles he found there. “Not at all actually. I just didn’t know they did that. Did it hurt?”

“No, it was painless.” Blair smiled Jim’s fingers drifted into the waist band of the thin cotton pants he wore. “Did you want me to take those off as well?”

Jim blushed. “Sorry, we agreed to wait and here I am trying to get a peek.”

Blair laughed. “Some would say that you’re entitled to a peek.”

“I feel like you belong to me,” Jim admitted. “But not like a thing—not like a possession. I can’t really explain it.”

“You don’t have to,” Blair murmured. “I understand. I feel like you belong to me as well.”

“But I don’t feel entitled to anything, Blair. I’d never take from you like that. I only want what you’ll give me.”

“I’ll give you everything,” Blair responded.

“I’m a lucky bastard, Chief.”

“Jim it’s been weeks—if you need to imprint on me in the fullest measure—I understand.” Blair lifted slightly as large, warm hands drifted over the flesh of his back again and then dipped downward beneath the waistband of his pants. “Don’t deny yourself what you need.”

“Just this for now, Blair.” Jim pulled him close and buried his face against his neck. “Just this. I love the way you smell.”

– – – – –

PART THREE

The Police Academy was fascinating and Blair nested the very first day. Enthralling or alternately irritating instructors on every level—from procedures to target practice—he drew something of a crowd where ever he was. Jim stayed away the first week, as much as he hated it, because Blair told him to. So, he wasn’t surprised when he went to pick him up, near the end of week two, to find his Guide having a spirited discussion with half the faculty at the academy. He leaned in the doorway and watched Blair decimate the argument presented before him with the kind of grace and goodwill that won him smiles instead of anger.

“Oh, you can’t possibly believe that.” Blair waved the man off and plucked another fry from his plate. He pointed at the older man with it. “Ignorance of the law does not lay an individual blameless in the violation of the law – no matter the law. If it’s illegal to walk on the left side of the street in an orange shirt then if you get arrested for it—claiming you didn’t know the law is just an example of how poor a citizen you are. Therefore you deserve to be arrested just on general principal.”

The man started laughing. “Okay, okay, Doctor, I’ll give you the orange shirt. But there have to be situations where ignorance of the law must be taken into account.”

“Please, how did this bleeding heart get a position here? You let him teach the young and the impressionable? It’s travesty.” He sighed. “I’m just glad my baby Guides are back where they belong else they would have been exposed to that utter nonsense.” He glanced up and offered Jim a bright smile. “Hey, you’re early.”

“No,” Jim smiled. “You’re late, but if you’re trying to drive some sense into Watson’s head over there—I guess you are forgiven.”

“You should take your partner away from here, Ellison. He does nothing but show the rest of us up.” Watson grinned and sat back in his chair. “And he beat out your scores for the range this morning.”

Jim frowned. “What?”

Blair laughed. “Don’t be mean, Jerry. He’ll never recover.”

“That sucks, Chief. I’ve held that record…” He crossed his arms. “I bet I could do better now.”

“Yeah, well now you’d have to compete against the records of other Sentinels.” Blair grinned when Jim glared. “Not that I don’t think you could totally kick all of their asses.”

“It’s too late for asskissing now, Guide.”

Blair just laughed. “As you say, Sentinel.” He gathered up his things quickly and dropped the strap of his satchel over his head and across his chest. “Did you pick up the dry cleaning?”

“Yes.”

“Did you pick up the organic produce I ordered? I promised Mr. Jenkins that you would come by today before he closed.”

“Yes, dear. It’s all tucked away at home.”

“You’re going to pay for that later.” Blair promised as he shrugged on his coat. “I have to pick up a few things at the registrar’s office. So, why don’t you meet me over there with the truck?”

“Sure… how long?”

“Ten minutes.” Blair slipped past him and disappeared down the hallway, leaving Jim alone with ten veteran police officers—every single one of them looking at him like he was the snot nosed kid who had come to pick up their daughter for the prom in a van.

Jim raised an eyebrow at the looks. “Sirs.”

Watson looked him over with narrowed eyes. “He’s a good man, Ellison. I hope you know how lucky you are. I’ve seen how some Sentinels treat their Guides.”

Jim frowned. “What do you mean?”

“I mean they are practically servants in their own homes, that’s what I mean. They don’t have any say over their own career choices, and have no life outside their Sentinel. I would hate to see a man like Sandburg reduced to that.”

“Blair is and will remain my equal in every way. I do realize exactly how lucky I am.” He inclined his head. “What happened today?”

Watson sighed. “I overheard one of the other cadets ask him out—Sandburg told the man that protocol states that such interests should be passed to him through his Sentinel.”

Jim paused and then he laughed. “Wait! My Guide is using me as a cockblock and you think that I’m trying to control his life like he’s a slave?”

Watson flushed. “So, that rule doesn’t exist?”

“Actually, yes but it’s in place to offer Guides protection and shelter them from aggressive or unwanted attention. If Blair pulled that line out it was just to intimidate the other man with my presence. Very few men or women are prepared to go through a Sentinel to date a Guide. In most circumstances, I would have to drop him in someone’s lap and say ‘here, he likes you—go outside and play’.”

Watson snorted and then sobered. “So, we should watch this situation. If Sandburg all but threatened the man with you—is it a problem?”

“I’ll ask him. He won’t lie. If it is a problem—I’ll ask him to report the matter.” He checked his watch. “In the mean time, I have a Guide to collect.” He stopped and sighed. “Watson, warn this guy off. I’d hate to have to butcher a cadet for crowding my Guide, but if Blair throws off the slightest hint that he feels threatened—I doubt I could control myself. Our bond is too new for me not to hyper-react to perceived threats.”

– – – – –

“So, if you’re going to go around telling people they have to ask me if they want to go out with you…” Jim glanced his Guide’s way and was amused to see the blush stealing across the younger man’s face. “Come on, Chief. That is a pretty obscure rule you tossed around today.”

“Watson told ya, huh?”

“Yeah, after he warned me that he wouldn’t like it if I treated you like a slave and didn’t let you have your own life.”

Blair winced. “It’s not their fault really. Mundanes have no inkling of what the Sentinel-Guide bond truly is. Many Guides are very happy and comfortable living in a submissive role with their Sentinel. They are content to keep the home and provide comfort without having to worry about the details of life.”

“Would you be?” Jim asked.

“No, I’d be worried sick about you all day if I couldn’t work with you.” Blair answered honestly. “I do consider the loft my domain and I feel validated that I can manipulate our environment so that you feel safe in your own home. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

“No, it’s not too much to ask.” Jim sighed. “I just want you to know that you’re my partner and not some…”

“Sex slave Cinderella?” Blair asked amused. “Not that I wouldn’t mind be fucked raw right about now.”

Jim’s mouth dropped open. “Christ, Blair!”

He laughed. “You did say you wished be informed of my needs, Sentinel.”

“I did,” Jim murmured weakly. He cleared his throat. “So about this guy?”

“He’s in the accelerated program as well. Ex-military. First he asked me if I could spare some time to tutor him since I zipped through most the courses with a few tests earlier in the week. I suggested one of the other cadets who is doing well for that and then he asked me out.” Blair smoothed his hands over his satchel. “I told him that I was a newly bonded Guide and that I wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship outside my bond.”

“And he said?”

“He already knew I was a Guide and that I’d newly bonded.” Blair flushed. “He said he likes to fuck Guides because they enjoy sex more than normal people and that we could have a good time together.”

Jim’s jaw clinched in fury. “And that’s when you told him that anyone interested in dating you would have to go through me.”

“Yes.” Blair sighed. “I can take care of myself, Jim. That isn’t the problem or even the issue in this case. I’m not physically afraid of him. He has no respect for the Sentinel-Guide bond and that pissed me off. So, yeah, I sort of used you.”

“Chief.” Jim sighed. “You can use me to cockblock the entire Pacific North West coast if you want.”

Blair laughed. “What did you tell Watson?”

“I was caught a little off guard; I didn’t anticipate such a personal conversation and I don’t think the status of our bond is anyone’s business. You know how I feel and I think we are on the same page about involving outsiders in our lives.”

“We are.” Blair reached out and touched his arm. “Same page, same paragraph. You feel free to use me as a cockblock, too. Or in your case, to chase off evil red-headed women.”

Jim snorted and then relaxed. “Yeah, she was a real asshole today. Simon is on his last nerve with her and I don’t even think she gets it. Her partner is starting to avoid being anywhere near her when she’s in the office. I guess he doesn’t want it to rub off or something. Anyways, what’s left for you at the academy?”

“Not much actually. I qualified today with my Beretta but I do think they want me to qualify for sniper as well. It would go well with your own qualifications; but it would mean that SWAT could borrow us. If you don’t want that—I can decline.”

“No, that’s fine. SWAT rarely asks for me but when they do—their situation is dire. I don’t mind helping and it would be great if I could take you with me.”

“Good. I’ve got physical training tomorrow. I decided to take those classes with the other accelerated students because I figured it would look better if I did. My hand to hand was this morning – did very well. Put a guy your size on his back a couple of times before the instructor took me seriously, but that’s okay.”

“No one got rough with you?”

Blair snorted. “Are you kidding? Your reputation precedes you and me both into the room by several hours. My partner flipped me and knocked the wind out of me—he plucked me right off the ground, patted me, and asked me most sincerely not to tell you he did that.”

Jim couldn’t help but laugh. “Okay, but do let that guy know that I’d prefer you be able to handle yourself so he shouldn’t go lightly on you.”

“Yeah, well, all of you can kiss my ass. I was a real live FBI agent for six years you know.”

“Yeah.” Jim reached out and snagged his hand. “I know. Nobody is giving you grief?”

“One of the cadets in the regular program called me a fag yesterday.” Blair sighed. “Little does he know I haven’t even had all the gay sex I’m entitled to, yet.”

Jim’s fingers clenched against his. “Chief, you’ve never been with a man before?”

“No, I mean, not really.” Blair flushed and looked down at their joined hands. “I was saving that for my Sentinel. I knew—I think I’ve always known that I would pair with another man. I’ve dated a few men but it never got beyond hand-jobs…” He chuckled. “Too blunt?”

“No.” Jim shook his head. “I just…” He took a deep breath. “I was an ass to assume that you were experienced with that.”

“You have right?”

“Yeah, I’ve had a few male lovers.” Jim rubbed his thumb over the top of Blair’s hand in a gesture of comfort. “I’m very comfortable with the mechanics.”

“Top or bottom?”

“I’m good with both,” Jim admitted.

– – – – –

“I heard Sentinels are better lovers than regular men. I had a friend who dated a Sentinel-Guide pair, they would take her to bed and do things to her she will swear to this day were impossible. She would have totally stayed with them forever if they’d wanted her that way.”

Jim leaned against the counter in the break room with his coffee and wondered how long the conversation in the hallway was going to last because no one could have made him leave the break room now if his life depended on it. He winced as he realized the unknown female was talking to Carolyn.

“Jimmy was great in bed before he came online. He could fuck all night.”

“And yet you left him.”

 

“Yeah, well, being great in the sack isn’t everything. How a man with as much money as he has can be content to live on a cop’s salary is fucking beyond me. He’s got millions in the bank from his dead mother’s estate and he doesn’t touch it except to buy himself a new car when he kills one on duty.” She laughed bitterly. “I wonder if his little Guide knows he isn’t going to get to play in the money?”

 

“You are such a mercenary, Carolyn.” The other woman giggled he’d recognized as Samantha Jordan from Forensics. “When are you going to admit that you fucked up a good thing? Ellison would’ve never left you, you know. He treated you better when you were married than when you dated. If my husband gave me half the attention Jim used to give you when you were married I would be a happy woman. So, what if he likes to earn a living—frankly that’s not exactly a character flaw. Besides, didn’t you know? This time he married the money.”

 

“What do you mean?” Carolyn demanded.

“Sandburg is loaded.” Sam laughed. “I mean, not like Ellison-family loaded but he’s not hurting at all. All of his books have been best sellers and last year he signed a four book deal worth five hundred thousand dollars in advance. I mean the man has been on Larry King for fuck’s sake.”

”They aren’t married. Bonded doesn’t mean a damn thing in this state. That little fag wouldn’t even have the right to visit Jim in the hospital if he were injured. I have more rights as his ex-wife than Sandburg does. Hell in some instances, I would be Jim’s next of kin since he doesn’t give his father the time of day and I doubt he’s changed any of the power of attorney stuff since the divorce.”

Jim’s mouth dropped open and he sat aside his coffee, his stomach tight with anger at himself. He hadn’t changed a damn thing. He dropped back against the counter as he considered his options and the only thing that really made sense was a domestic partnership. It would give him the right to make care decisions for Blair—to make sure he was taken care of if something happened. Bonded Sentinel-Guide pairs had the right to domestic partnership on a federal level—so even states that didn’t allow gay marriage had to allow them that. Washington had allowed both civil unions and domestic partnerships between same-sex couples long before a federal law mandated the right to it for Sentinel-Guide pairs. That was something.

The two women finally left the hallway and he went back to his desk to find a lawyer. A lawyer that dealt specifically with Sentinel-Guide pairs would be ideal and after a quick call to the Seattle Center he was recommended one in Seattle. He called Blair and got him to clear the afternoon off so they could make the trip together. He was relieved when Blair took the entire thing in stride and didn’t ask any questions over the phone.

– – – – –

“Jim, you’re upset.”

Yeah, he was upset. He was very fucking upset. Jim forced himself to stay seated in the chair Blair had prodded him into after they’d signed in with the lawyer’s secretary. “Did you know that being bonded in the Washington state doesn’t give you the rights of a spouse? I wouldn’t be able to decide your care if you were injured. I wouldn’t even be considered family.”

“Oh.” Blair nodded. “Okay, so that’s a little upsetting for you, huh. Is that why we are seeing a lawyer that specializes in Sentinel-Guide law?”

“Yes,” Jim responded tightly. “I have to… I have to be able to decide, Blair.”

“I understand.” Blair took up his hand. “So, we’ll get all of that paperwork done so we can both decide if something happens. Will that make you feel better?”

“Yes.” Jim took a deep breath. “I asked him to set up domestic partnership papers when I called.”

Blair’s eyes widened briefly. “Okay, okay.”

“Is it?”

“Of course.” Blair tightened his fingers against Jim’s. “It’s unexpected, but it’s a good step. It’s all the legal protection of a marriage without the mess. It works.”

“It’s not too much?”

Blair smiled then. “Jim, I’ve already committed myself to you for life. What could be more than that? A few pieces of paper that give us the benefits and securities we should be afforded as a bonded-pair… it’s not too much.”

“Good.” Jim took a deep breath. “I don’t want to push too much onto you, but when I realized…” He took another breath. “I sort of freaked out.”

“Yeah.” Blair chuckled. “The drive here was some indication that you were a bit upset. I don’t think that you’ve said two words since you picked me up at the academy.” He relaxed in his chair. “Oh, I volunteered you for something.”

“What?” Jim asked with a little frown.

“I was telling Captain Woods about Eskrima and how it’s a good mental and physical exercise. They are thinking about offering some martial arts courses at the academy for both cadets and current members of the PD. Anyways, I mentioned Eskrima and told him that you were adept at it as well. He asked for a demonstration and I agreed.”

“Oh.” Jim nodded. “Okay, yeah. Just let me know when.”

“Friday morning.”

Jim chuckled. “Okay, Chief.”

A door near the back of the room opened and a man in his early thirties stepped out. “Sentinel Ellison, Guide Sandburg. I’m ready for you.”

Blair allowed himself to be prodded into the room with an indulgent smile. “Thank you for seeing us on such short notice, Mr. Bell. I hope we haven’t wrecked too much havoc with your schedule.”

“Not at all, nothing that can’t be rescheduled.” Derrick Bell assured as he led them to a small conference table. “I’ve set up standard medical and legal power of attorney in the event of incapacitation, the domestic partnership papers, and a standard last will and testament for each of you. You’ll just have to tell me what else you’ll need.”

“That’s a good start,” Blair murmured. “These will be effective as soon as we are done here today?”

“Yes, my father is actually on his way here. He’ll be signing off on the papers as well. He’s a Federal Court Judge for the state. You’ll be as legally protected as possible by the time you leave here today.” Jared grinned at the obvious relief Blair displayed. “You aren’t the first bonded pair who have had this realization and I know how disconcerting it can be. Just thank God you had it before you actually needed some kind of legal protection. It can be a nightmare. I’ve had to pull judges out of the bed at two in the morning to sign injunctions to prevent disapproving family members from separating a Sentinel-Guide pair during a medical emergency. Thankfully, the Sentinel-Guide Center is always quick to act and when you both registered with them—you gave them the ability to protect your pairing to the fullest measure of the law.”

“Thank you for doing all of this, Mr. Bell.”

“Call me Derrick,” The Sentinel smiled then. “It’s not often that I deal with an Alpha Sentinel much less an Alpha Sentinel Prime—I’m honored that you’re both trusting me with this.”

– – – – –

“Eskrima is a class of Filipino Martial Arts that utilizes the use of swords, sticks, knives, as well as the traditional hands and feet you see in most forms of martial arts. I have studied Eskrima since I was twelve years old. My mother, a consummate world traveler decided that if I was going to continue to be a short and vicious smart ass that it would be my benefit if I could defend myself.”

Jim chuckled and continued to stretch. The entire gym was full of people—cadets from both programs, faculty members, and God help him—half of Major Crime. Simon had got word of the demonstration and had arranged for most of the unit to attend. He could only be thankful that Carolyn had declined the honor.

“Eskrima or FMA was originally designed to give non-combatants within tribes the means to defend themselves as quickly as possible. The basic techniques can be taught quickly and mastered if practiced consistently. The ability to pick up nearly anything and use it as an effective weapon was considered an asset. In modern times, Eskrima is most often used to teach people to fight effectively in groups.”

Blair motioned to the array of weapons Jim had helped him pull out of the trunk they’d brought. “Traditionally, trainees are taught to fight with rattan wood sticks. They are sturdy, durable against the most strenuous fighting, but they are unlikely to break a bone. The second set of sticks in front of me are made of Kamagong which is a fruit tree in the Philippines. The wood from the Kamagong tree is often called “iron wood” because it is nearly unbreakable. Wielding a pair of Kamagong sticks, a master of Eskrima could break most of the bones in your body in a matter of minutes. Think of them as lighter, and easier to swing tire irons.”

Jim moved into the lotus position and focused on his center as his Guide continued to discuss the knives and swords they’d brought for display only. They would be using the rattan training sticks for the demonstration. He had no interest in anything more dangerous. They’d sparred in private, but never in public and the last thing he wanted was to get distracted by something in the room and hurt his Guide.

“Today we are going to demonstrate a series of drills that will illustrate both offensive and defensive maneuvers within the discipline.”

Jim tilted his head as Blair plucked up both sets of sparring sticks, but stayed still as he came to stand in front of him on the mat. Eyes closed he felt the air around him move and reached out and snatched both of his sticks out of the air above his head when Blair tossed them.

“Show off.” Blair laughed. “I ought to make you keep your eyes closed the entire time.”

“Not today,” Jim murmured and gracefully rose from the floor. “Too many distractions in here for that kind of risk.”

Simon took a deep breath as he watched them move around the mat in a series of maneuvers that had his heart in his throat. He’d seen Jim practice with a couple of uniforms in the gym but he’d never seen anything like this. It was almost like a dance—a dance that could be painful but a dance nonetheless. They complimented each other fully, both of them strong, lithe, and graceful despite their different body types. He’d never thought in a million years that Ellison was as limber as he’d proved to be before they’d even begun the demonstration. On the other hand, the strength and power that Sandburg used effortlessly was an immense surprise.

They moved into a quicker set of movements, and the amount of discipline it took from both of them not to draw blood was startling.

“Banks, I’ve been thinking…”

Simon snorted. “Forget it, Wilcox, you’re not getting him back and even if I was interested—no way would Jim let his Guide work in Vice.”

Wilcox chuckled. “Are you sure? That pretty little thing would do well under cover.”

“You have a death wish,” Simon said with a smile. “I don’t recommend you call Sandburg a pretty little thing when you ask Jim about it.”

The snap of sticks drew their attention and Simon could tell the demonstration was coming to a conclusion. He figured that the academy would be adding martial arts to their self-defense offerings as soon as they could find a teacher that could do it. He sure as hell wasn’t going to sacrifice Sandburg to such a project. He crossed his arms over his chest as they stopped completely, both covered in sweat and breathing only moderately hard. He was already going to fight off other departments in the state for his profiling skills. Why deal with a Fed when they get a fellow cop with the same kind of skills?

– – – – –

Jim let himself linger in his shower, listening to his Guide in the next stall and wishing like hell he’d taken the not so subtle invitation to share water. If Sandburg was out to seduce him, he was doing an excellent job of it. He’d been half-hard for a week. He turned off the spray, toweled dry quickly, and dressed while he listened to his Guide do the same.

“You did good out there, Chief.”

“Yeah,” Blair chuckled. “You, too. I could hardly concentrate. You had to go take off your shirt.”

“I knew it would get hot.” Jim repacked the duffle bag he’d brought for them both as he sat on a bench near the showers and waited for Blair to come out. “You’re the one wearing the see-through pants.”

“Only to someone with Sentinel vision,” Blair came out wearing a pair of Dockers, no shoes, and a polo shirt he hadn’t bothered to tuck in yet. “But those are just the pants I always use to work out in. Loose, cotton, and not prone to riding up. You can’t get better than that.”

“Yeah.” Jim pulled him close, tucked in his shirt, buttoned his pants, and fastened his belt. All the while wishing he was undressing his Guide instead. “You’ve got a lot of people talking, Chief.”

“I’m nothing special, you know.” Blair slid into his Sentinel’s lap without a single hesitation. “I disciplined myself so that I would be worthy of you. The academics—all of that is luck of the genetic draw. I wouldn’t wish my memory skills on anyone because as cool as it is to remember the statistics of every single man to play for the Jags—I also remember every crime scene I’ve ever been on. Every victim in the most vivid detail. I could do without those memories. I think that the brain is supposed to dull the most painful of memories—so they don’t fuck with us later. Pain isn’t as harsh when we remember it.”

“But it is for you?”

“It depends,” Blair admitted. “I have some very vivid memories that are painful–emotionally painful. Bright, hard, and a near agony if I let myself go there and then others not so much. The day I fell off the couch and broke my arm? The pain is distant and fuzzy. The day I found out my father was a Sentinel who had been rejected by his Guide… and he died as a result… remains one of the most painful moments in my life.”

“Your mother?”

Blair nodded. “Their pairing was arranged and they were a perfect match—even she admits that. They were together for a year when she got pregnant. She was just seventeen when she had me. They’d been paired at sixteen because he came online early and was fragile. When I was six months old, my mother met a man and fell in love with him.”

“And she left your father.”

“Yes and took me with her.” Blair bit down on his lip. “I don’t remember him, the one thing in my life I would give anything to remember and I don’t even remember his face. I found out when my gifts emerged. She had to admit to the Sentinel-Guide Center that she was a Guide and that her Sentinel was dead. She didn’t want me to register at all.” Blair wrapped his arms around his Sentinel and took a deep breath. “I promised myself I’d be everything my Sentinel needed me to be because of how my mother failed my father. It’s the only way I could think to honor him.”

“Ah, God, Blair.” Jim rubbed a circle against Blair’s back in an effort to soothe. “Does your mother know you’ve bonded?”

“I spoke to her right before I went to Atlanta but she was going on a retreat. I don’t expect to hear from her for at least six months.”

Jim swallowed back the desire to never meet Blair’s mother. “I am honored to have you in my life and every sacrifice you’ve made to become my partner in all things overwhelms me.”

– – – –

“So, do we call you detective or doctor when you’re introduced?” Rafe asked taking the coffee that Blair offered.

“In the FBI, my doctorate took precedence over my agent status,” Blair admitted. “The doctorate is a cut above most ranks – I found in cases where I worked with other law enforcement agencies that people were more comfortable if I was called doctor rather than agent.”

“Why?”

“A doctor is far less threatening to local law enforcement than an FBI agent,” Jim said as he transferred several dishes of food to the table. They’d invited all of the senior detectives to dinner at the loft including Carolyn so they could spend time with Blair before he started work the following week. Carolyn, thank God, had declined the invitation.

“Yeah,” Blair grinned. “A short, Jewish doctor is even less of a threat. I will say that I rarely announced I was a Guide to the people I worked with while I was with the Bureau. Those who are sensitive to Guides tended to notice immediately, but from experience most mundanes aren’t comfortable around us.”

“Why?” Henri Brown asked as he loaded up his plate and then nudged his captain for a roll.

Simon handed the bread basket over with a little glare. He hated being interrupted when he was communing with Sandburg’s cooking.

“Because I’m an empath and there is an overt sexuality to me that I can’t control,” Blair said bluntly. “I have a relatively high rating on the empath scale and there are people who find that very uncomfortable.”

“What can you do?” Henri asked with a grin.

Blair glanced at Jim who offered a small smile and nodded. “I know when you’re sad, when you’re happy, and when you’re angry. While Jim provides me a buffer against feeling these emotions with you—I’ll always know when you are hurt. Emotionally and physically.”

“Physically?” Rafe demanded. “Jesus, Sandburg, that sucks.”

Blair laughed. “It’s an echo of pain, really, and it’s not that bad. It can be a very useful tool.”

“How?”

“I’m hyper aware of the other bodies in this room. In a fight, that can be useful.”

“So anger directed at you?”

“You mean Carolyn?” Blair asked and then laughed. “Not at all actually, because Jim dislikes her so strongly he blocks her out completely—even when he isn’t with me. It’s a protective instinct on his part.”

“Joel refused our invitation because of Carolyn?” Jim asked with a raised eyebrow at his captain.

Simon shook his head. “Joel is out of town this weekend visiting his mother. He’s formally requested a new partner because Carolyn has been a real pain in the ass the last few weeks. He didn’t transfer out of the bomb squad and start working in Major Crimes so he could handle sensitive explosives every day. His words—not mine. He called her a human bomb.” He sighed. “If her record wasn’t better than most in the whole damn department, I could justify taking her out of Major Crimes without cause—as it stands she’s done nothing to really warrant it.”

“I think she will,” Blair murmured. “Her resentment of Jim certainly hasn’t waned since his registration as a Sentinel and the failed IA investigation she tried to instigate has to really be sticking in her craw.”

“Last week she spent most of the day while she was waiting on lab results bitching about how you just get to come into Major Crimes without having to work for it,” Henri blushed. “And she refers to you as the ‘little fag’.”

Blair stared for a second and then shook his head. “What do you think bothers her more? That her ex-husband bonded with a man, that she didn’t get Jim’s money, or that he has a higher solve rate than she does?”

“Oh, I think they all run equal.” Rafe announced. “I really do. Though she didn’t like it a couple of weeks back when I told her that just working in the same room with her was turning me gay.”

Jim snorted. “For that, Rafe, you get the first piece of cake.”

– – – – –

Blair dropped his toothbrush into the holder next to Jim’s and walked up the stairs to the bed he’d been sharing with his Sentinel for weeks. Jim was already there, a book in his hand. He stared at him for a long minute and then pulled his t-shirt over his head. He tossed it aside and grinned when the book in Jim’s hand jerked just a little. Good, he had the man’s attention.

He shimmied out of his pants and let them pool around his feet. Jim set aside the book and did a thorough visual inspection of his Guide’s nude, and increasingly aroused form. He catalogued, and memorized every single inch of golden, hairless skin – obviously pleased with the smooth, silky appearance of the body that was his to explore.

Jim cleared his throat. “Can you turn around?”

Blair turned carefully with a small grin on his mouth. “As you wish, Sentinel.”

Jim sucked in a deep breath as his gaze traveled over Blair’s lean back, following the line of his slim hipped frame with devotion. “Pretty ass, Chief.”

Blair chuckled. “I know.”

Jim stood from the bed, and threw off all of the covers and pillows. “Lay down on your back, please.”

“Yeah, I can do that.”

He went to the bed, crawled into the middle and spread himself out for his Sentinel’s exploration. Imprinting remained one of the most primitive and intimate rituals between Sentinel and Guide. Even pairs that lived with a strictly platonic bond had to imprint eventually if they wanted to achieve a full bond. He shivered slightly as Jim joined him on the bed and let his fingers drift over the bottom of Blair’s feet.

Warm, strong hands slid over his legs, up to his thighs and across his hip bones with careful attention to detail. He spread his legs wide when Jim cupped the back of his thighs and sighed when one hand wrapped around his cock. “Fuck.”

Jim chuckled. “I’ve often wondered how platonic pairs make it through this part. It must be a near agony to touch like this and to know that after it’s done you’ll never be allowed to touch this way again.”

“I think platonic pairs are unnatural,” Blair admitted. “I get a lot of grief for saying it aloud but I’ve always believed that.” He groaned and shifted slightly as Jim used his free hand to explore his balls. “Nothing is better than the Sentinel touch.”

“Oh, I beg to differ.” Jim chuckled. “Your touch amazes me, settles me, and pleasures me in a thousand ways. I can’t wait to have your hands on me this way.”

Blair arched under Jim’s hands as he released his cock and traveled upwards across his chest. “No one ever told me how much of a cock tease this process is.”

“I’m not teasing you, baby.” Jim tweaked his nipples and then rubbed his thumb over them with care. “I’m going to take care of you, I promise.”

Blair shuddered as Jim turned him over with gentle hands and explored his back with the same attention to detail he’d given his front. It had been three months since their initial bond and he was very glad they had waited to complete it. He knew this man, knew his desires and his wishes as much as he knew his own and having this intimacy with the stranger his Sentinel had been wouldn’t have been nearly as rewarding as what they were having now.

“Ah, Christ, Jim!” Blair rubbed his erection against the bed as fingers dipped casually between his cheeks and grazed his entrance.

“You’re my everything, Guide,” Jim admitted softly as he turned Blair once more on his back. He covered him, settling between spread thighs with ease.

Blair frowned. “You’re not naked.”

Jim laughed. “If I get naked we aren’t going to finish the imprint and I only have one sense left. I’ve had sound and scent imprints on you since we first met.” He nuzzled against his Guide’s neck and sighed his contentment. “Now, Blair… now I need taste. I need to taste you.”

“Yes,” Blair whispered. “Yes, whatever you need.”

Jim sought his mouth instantly and they both shuddered as their tongues met. Blair’s hands dug into Jim’s back in desperation as his Sentinel rocked gently against him. With a groan, he pulled his mouth from Blair’s and slid downward, his mouth automatically seeking the areas of his Guide’s body that would provide him with the textures and tastes his instincts craved. He laved and nibbled at hardened nipples, ran his tongue down the middle of Blair’s sleekly muscled stomach and dipped within intent into the shallow belly button he found there. His tongue darted around and he paused—then lifted his head.

“Is your belly button pierced?”

“Yeah.” Blair chuckled at the way his Sentinel’s eyes darkened. “I took it out because most Sentinels don’t want their Guides adorned in such a fashion.”

“You can put it back in,” Jim pressed a kiss against Blair’s belly. “Will it hurt to put it back?”

“Probably not,” Blair ran his fingers through his Sentinel’s hair. “Certainly not as much as when I first got it.”

“Only if it won’t be painful,” Jim murmured and then slipped lower. “One of those sexy little hoops?”

“Yeah.” Blair nodded. “I’ve got several.”

Jim’s lips grazed the head of Blair’s cock and then he sucked briefly. He lifted his head. “I want you to come for me, so don’t hold back.”

Blair blinked and then nodded. “Yeah, I can so do that, man.”

Jim chuckled. “I thought so, Chief.”

He licked the length of Blair’s cock and then hummed softly as he took the head in his mouth again. With ease, he swallowed and accepted as much of Blair’s cock into his mouth as he could. Blair’s choked sounds of shock and pleasure surprised him but he was too far gone to stop. He bobbed up and down on his Guide’s cock with a single purpose and purred with contentment when Blair shouted and filled his mouth with cum. He let it wallow on his tongue and then slide down his throat.

Jim released the spent cock from his mouth and immediately sought Blair’s balls, licking and sucking them with a single minded purpose until Blair was twisting and begging underneath the assault. Undeterred he turned his Guide over with firm hands, spread his cheeks and licked him from the hard edge of his perineum all the way up and across his entrance. Blair choked out something half between a protest and a prayer and rocked back against his Sentinel as Jim used his tongue to open up his passage.

On his knees, his ass in the air, and his face buried in the sheets—Blair could only fist his hands in the sheets and pray that his Sentinel would relieve the unbearable ache that overtook his whole body in a way he’d never known before. Jim left him and Blair rocked gently back and forth in frustration until the Sentinel returned with slick fingers.

“Oh,” Blair gasped against the sheets. “Yes, yes, fuck me.”

“Relax, Guide.” Jim kissed the small of Blair’s back as he explored and stretched him. He added a third finger without pause and groaned a little at the ease and trust of Blair’s response. “Yes, just like that.”

Blair arched his back and begged softly with words that made no sense to anyone but himself as Jim pressed his cock into him. The burn and stretch of the initial joining was so overwhelming and perfect that Blair’s only response was utter silence followed by gasping breaths that turned into soft pleasure filled sobs.

Their bond flowed between them, deepened and then wound around their souls so tightly that they both got lost in the dual pleasure. Emotional connections burned bright, turned white hot when blended with their physical needs. They came in the same instance—their bodies and minds humming with the most primal of bonds.

– – – – –

Blair shifted through another report and looked at his Sentinel with barely disguised horror. “You can’t do the paperwork anymore. You suck at it.”

Jim grinned. “Well, you do type faster than I do so that might work out just fine.”

Blair tapped one of the reports he’d read early. “This court appearance will be your first since you’ve registered as a Sentinel. We’ll need to prep your testimony with the DA.”

“Why? I didn’t offer any testimony or evidence in the case file that was sense related.”

“Yeah, and the DA will want to establish that before the defense can get a hold of you. An unregistered Sentinel can’t offer sense evidence of any kind and the defense might try to cherry pick the data and try to see if there is anything they can use against you to discredit you as a witness.”

Jim sighed. “I’ll call the DA and let her know it’s a concern. Anything else?”

“This case—the unsolved one.” Blair picked it up. “It’s been on your desk for a year. Tell me why it hasn’t been transferred to the cold case squad.”

Jim sighed. “I promised her parents I would keep it active. There was never enough evidence to go on and from the very first I knew something was wrong. The scene felt off from the very beginning.” He frowned. “She was five years old, Chief. No one should die the way she did, don’t get me wrong, but a five year old?”

“Yeah, okay.” He set the case in their current basket and filtered through the rest that he’d picked up. “Why don’t we do another round of questioning?”

“Why?”

“Because she deserves it, the case bothers you, and I’m an empath. I’ll be able to pick up nuances in the emotions of the people we talk to that you can’t sense. You can tell if someone is lying—I can tell why they are lying. Fear, guilt, or even confusion. I can pick all of that up.” Blair stood up. “Besides, we don’t have any other cases open and this little girl’s scene is troubling.”

“Troubling how?”

“Troubling—like we could see it again and maybe we already have seen it again and no one connected the dots.” Blair frowned as he said it. “We should stop by Records and ask the clerk to pull cases of small children being murdered in the last five years.”

– – – – –

PART FOUR

The drive to Stephanie Harvey’s house was done in silence, mostly because his Guide was on his laptop and hadn’t let up on the thing since they’d left the Records department. The clerk had set Blair up with access to the system without batting an eyelash, or well she’d tittered and smiled a lot through the whole process but not so much that it had pissed Jim off; it had just left him amused. Intellectually, he knew that Guides attracted both mundanes and Sentinels to them like moths to a flame. They were a source of goodwill, happiness, and sexuality—even the least powerful of them seemed to radiate it. It was something he had no choice but to accept and get used to.

Grace Harvey was opening the door before they even got onto the porch. “Detective Ellison.” She held out both hands. “Do you have news?”

“No, Grace, I’m sorry.” Jim accepted the light embrace and ignored the tremor that ran through the woman’s body. “Is Tom home as well?”

“Yes,” Grace urged them inside. “He’s at home… working is difficult.”

“I understand.”

“We’ve hired people to handle the business—neither one of us can really.” She sighed. “So, tell me what’s going on?”

“This is my partner and Guide, Dr. Blair Sandburg.” Jim touched Blair on the forearm and prodded him close. “We’re going to be doing some new interviews.”

She smiled then, soft and amazed. “A Guide?” She held out her hand. “Oh, Jim, you came online?”

“Yes.” Jim flushed in the face of her obvious pleasure on his behalf.

“What a gift.” She wrapped both her hands around Blair’s. “I’ve never met a bonded pair before. It’s an honor.”

“Thank you for having us in your home.” Blair led her to a chair. “Tell me about Stephanie, Grace.”

Jim stood where he was in the doorway of the spacious kitchen and notched to the side just enough that Tom Harvey could stand with him when he felt the man approach.

“She was a bright child—she was reading at three years old.” Grace smiled a little brighter when Blair settled his second hand over hers. “She laughed only the way a child can—you know? Never embarrassed or shy about how amused she was. She always had a smile for anyone she met. She trusted so easily and without reserve.” The woman took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “I tried so often tell her to beware of strangers but she said that people were good and that she would know when she met a bad one. She would just know.”

Jim swallowed hard and then jerked when he caught sight of his partner’s face. Blair was pale and his eyes were wet with unshed tears. “Blair?”

He cleared his throat. “Grace, was Stephanie a Guide? Had she been tested?”

“Tested? I mean the Guide gene is latent in my husband’s family but there hasn’t been a Guide come online in the family in over one hundred years. Her doctor said that the Center preferred to see children when they entered puberty that it provided better results for the rating system.” Grace’s fingers clenched on his. “Is that why I feel so much better with you here? It’s like part of her has been returned to me.”

Blair cleared his throat. “Was it difficult to be angry with her? Difficult to punish her when she did something against the rules?”

“Yes,” Tom murmured from the doorway. “She didn’t act out often—she said she hated for us to be upset with her.” He weaved a little and Jim reached out and caught him.

Jim guided the man to a chair and sat him down. “Did she ever attract the attention of a Sentinel? Was there a child at school she was especially close with?”

“She wasn’t in school.” Grace rubbed her fingers over Blair’s with a soft sigh. “She went one semester and asked to be home schooled. She said the other children were just too much and she couldn’t concentrate.” She bit down on her lip. “I should have her tested then. I should have known.”

“No.” Blair tightened his grips on her. “You didn’t do anything wrong. Guides are resilient and adept at protecting themselves even as small children. They aren’t like Sentinels. Even if you’d known about her latent status—nothing would have changed in your daily lives until she went online as an adult. She would have had the support of the Center and you would have learned about her gifts but that’s all.”

“Is there a way you can know for sure?” Tom asked.

“DNA tests would show her latent gene.” Jim squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. “Knowing this… it changes things a great deal.”

“I don’t understand.”

Jim grimaced. “I had to stop devoting so many hours to Stephanie’s case because there were no leads. This is new information, a new lead. And more than that—if she was a Guide it will give me and my partner a chance to work her case as active again. The murder of a Guide, even a latent one, can be categorized as a hate crime.”

“Even if no one knew she was a Guide?” Tom asked softly.

“You aren’t the only ones she gave emotional support to,” Blair murmured. “It’s entirely likely that many people who crossed her path knew instinctually what she was.”

– – – – –

“Her DNA was never tested, not even at birth.” Blair sat back in his chair. “It should have been. If the Guide gene runs in her family, she should have been tested at birth for the Guide gene.”

“I thank God we kept samples on file. I would hate to exhume her body for that. But, it’ll be weeks before we get a positive back on her DNA results.”

Blair shook his head. “No, we can get it rushed. If we put in a call to the Center—they’ll find a private lab to do it as soon as possible. A murdered Guide, Jim, you know what that is.”

“Is that why I was so…” Jim sighed. “From the beginning, her case was special to me. The moment I walked onto the scene, I wanted to pick her up and take her away from it. Clean her up; make her safe from what had happened to her.”

“Yes, she was only hours dead when you found her. Guides smell different to Sentinels, even in your latent state—you had to recognize what she was. Now that you’re online, you’ll recognize Guides by scent and be conscious of it. Even as a small child she would have put off Guide pheromones, they would have been muted and indistinct, but there nonetheless.” Blair glanced back at Simon’s office. “We need to update him on the status of this before it breaks to the public. Information like this won’t be kept quiet for very long.”

“Agreed.” Jim sighed. “We should let him make coffee; he really isn’t going to like this at all.”

Blair nodded and then frowned. “Huh, you know I have this search running for the state right? Well, I had a friend at the FBI running one for me as well.”

“And?”

“She has ten hits in the Pacific Northwest of children age five to eight.” Blair picked up his phone. “I’m going to call her and get details. Copies of those case files would be very nice.”

“How old?”

“Our case would be the newest.”

– – – – –

“We have five dead children with latent Guide genes,” Blair murmured. “The other children didn’t have latent genes, so we can’t be sure if they were the work of the same killer. The Director of the Center is livid that no one caught onto this when it started five years ago. The FBI wants to send an agent from the Seattle office but things are still a little strained between the Bureau and the Center.”

“Yeah.” Simon’s gaze flicked to the murder board Blair had spent the afternoon setting up. Four little girls and a boy. All four of them five or a bit older. “Anyone give you grief about case files?”

“No. The Center has already contacted all the departments and demanded they give me all the access I need. The families are being brought to Cascade and we’ll have access to them.” Blair paused and cleared his throat. “Jim and I will have access to them. The Center is closing ranks, Captain, and it’s probably going to get very bad very quickly. A child murderer is a heinous thing but a child murderer who kidnaps, rapes, and kills latent Guides?”

“Yeah.” Simon swallowed hard. “What do you think about his motivations?”

“Let’s wait for the rest of the team to get in here,” Blair suggested. “I really don’t want to say this more than once.”

– – – – –

Jim finished pouring his own coffee then he screwed the lid of Blair’s travel mug into place. “I don’t know, Henri, we’re doing our best to keep this out of the press but the Center is not going to last long on that. One of the best tools the Sentinel-Guide Center has is their outright manipulation of the media. They are masters of making newspapers and television news programs parrot their agenda.” He put the lid on his mug and grabbed the bag of sandwiches he’d brought with him. “I’ve asked the two other Sentinels in the building to attend this meeting with their Guides. It’s my preference to only have you and Brian from Major Crimes join the case. But the final decision will be Simon’s.”

“Yeah. I just want to help. I remember that scene, Jim. I don’t think I’ll ever get that little girl out of my head. I had nightmares about her for weeks.” Henri shuddered. “And who ever did that needs to be caught before he does it again.”

Jim grimaced. “Blair thinks he already has. We’re searching for a more recent case.”

He prodded Henri out of the break room and they entered the conference room just behind Carolyn and her partner, Captain Joel Taggert.

The two other registered Sentinels in the precinct were already there with their Guides. Detective Daniel Jamieson and his Guide Chad Moore, a computer analyst, worked Cyber Crimes and high profile financial crimes. Detective Markus Jergens and his Guide Thomas Howard worked in Homicide. They had impressive solve rates but not near as high as Jim’s when he’d worked alone. Both Chad and Thomas were over by the murder board with Blair and they were talking softly. Most of the mundanes in the room didn’t notice the tension between the three of them but Jim recognized it immediately and sought confirmation from the other two Sentinels in the room. Both Daniel and Markus were focused intently on their Guides, obviously worried.

“Blair.”

Blair turned and offered his Sentinel a strained smile. “We’ve reached a consensus but the conclusion is… a little horrific.”

“Okay.” Jim sat down next to Simon and glanced briefly at Carolyn before he pushed Blair’s coffee across the table. “Talk to me, Chief.”

Blair took a deep breath. “I need you to promise me that you’ll hear me out. All three of you.”

There was no question as to which three he was referring to.

Jim snorted. “Only I get to interrupt you when you speak, Chief and I’ll keep my own council until you’re done.”

“I want to talk about the victims first. We know there has been at least one child killed every year for the past five years.” Blair walked to the first picture. “This is Stacy Wallace from Seattle. She was taken while she played in her front yard. There were no reports of any strangers in the neighborhood, no one reported a screaming child during the time period the abduction took place. The lead detective in the case said it was like she vanished into thin air. She was taken June 3rd and her body was recovered August 15th whereupon the coroner estimated she’d been dead less than four hours. Her father, Justin, is a latent Guide and her mother, Carla, is a latent Sentinel. Both of her parents are registered and despite their latent status were paired through genetic testing as teenagers. They have a loving, devoted marriage and Stacy was their only child.”

“She was raped and murdered like our victim?” Henri asked.

“Yes. Her COD was strangulation but she was mutilated before and after death occurred. The ME also indicated that she’d been the victim of sexual abuse over an extended period of time. She had rectal and vaginal scarring and tears at the time of her death. The UNSUB also cut and dyed her hair—but we’ll discuss his motivations for doing that later.”

Blair moved to the next picture. “This is Tiffany Hanson. The Guide gene does run in her father’s family but it skipped him and all of his siblings. The last latent or online Guide was an aunt and an uncle, respectively. Her parents are Joe and Deena, they were separated at the time of Tiffany’s disappearance and as a result the case was slowed down by their accusations against each other. Eventually, the detectives in Everette cleared them both of wrongdoing in the abduction and eventual murder of their child. She was taken on June 1st and her body was recovered August 21st, the medical examiner estimated she’d been dead around six days. Again, she was raped, strangled, and mutilated.”

Blair drank from his bottle of water and took a minute to settle himself before he continued. “The third victim was a male, which from an outside perspective looks like a break in the killer’s pattern. His name was Christopher Harrison and he lived in Tacoma. His parents are David and Jared Harrison. Christopher was the product of a surrogate with Jared Harrison being the sperm donor. The Guide gene is present in his family and one of the reasons they chose him to be the biological father of their first child. Christopher has three other siblings—all with same surrogate mother. When Christopher first disappeared the police immediately investigated the surrogate mother but it was quickly decided that she was innocent of wrong doing. He was taken on June 1st and found August 15th; he’d been dead around six hours when he was discovered.”

“Is Jared Harrison a latent Guide?” Jim asked quietly.

“No, but his father was. He never came online and died ten years ago.” Blair put down the water bottle and drifted back to the white board he’d set up with all the victim’s details and pictures. “The fourth victim is Taylor Miller. Her parents are Amber and Frank Miller. They lived in Silverdale at the time of Taylor’s disappearance. She was taken June 12th and found dead August 16th, the ME for the case believed her to have been dead for less than a day when she was discovered. Frank Miller is a latent Guide but he’s never registered with the Center. The fifth victim was Stephanie Harvey and we are all familiar with her case file since she is the first victim to be recovered in Cascade. For reference she was taken June 1st of last year and found dead August 15th.”

“And the killer himself?”

“The UNSUB is a white male in his mid to late thirties. He is educated, probably holds down a job with little problem, suffered in an abusive home as a very young child, isn’t married, and has probably never maintained a healthy relationship with an adult woman.” He took a deep breath. “He is very familiar with Sentinels and Guides. It is extremely likely that his father is a Sentinel and came online sometime after his birth. There was a Guide in the home early on—and the mother of the child would’ve had a difficult time maintaining her position in the home at that point. The child would have preferred him or her to everyone else because he is a dormant Sentinel himself. Due to his mental defect, he will never come online. We’ve learned along the way that any mental or physical damage will prevent the Sentinel gene from activating under any circumstances.”

“His mother?” Simon asked.

“It’s a good guess. She would have a lot of reason to resent Guides. He was definitely raised by the mother and has no contact with his father as an adult. During the time period that he was raised—his father would have been demonized for accepting a Guide at all. It was the general consensus that a married man should value his family over everything else and should refuse to bond no matter how damaging or deadly it could be. The mother would have been able to completely cut off the father from any contact with the child after she waited a suitable time. She would have been viewed poorly if she hadn’t tried to make her marriage work.”

“What is the difference between a dormant and latent Sentinel?” Henri Brown asked.

“A dormant Sentinel is a person born with the Sentinel gene that will never activate. They are dormant because of some kind of damage—physical or mental. A latent Sentinel is someone who has an active gene but they haven’t come online, yet. Some latent Sentinels never come online but the general theory is that they aren’t needed. From an anthropological standpoint, Sentinels emerge in times of need—the larger the city population the more Sentinels will emerge or arrive. For instance, every major city in the US has at least one Alpha Sentinel once the city’s Sentinel population reaches a certain point.”

“Who is Cascade’s Alpha Sentinel?” Carolyn asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Ellison.” Daniel and Markus answered at the same time.

“He’s actually the Alpha Sentinel Prime for the entire Pacific Northwest.” Blair chuckled when Jim rolled his eyes. “Ask.”

Jim cleared his throat. “How much of this academic and how much of this empathy?”

“My impressions of him currently are based solely on his victim pathology and the violence of his crimes. The fact that he is locating off-line, unregistered Guides tells us that he’s reacting to them on some instinctual level. That means he’s a dormant Sentinel or a dormant Guide. I don’t believe he is a dormant Guide because even in a dormant state, a Guide has a certain level of empathy that can’t be turned off. He wouldn’t be able to torture these children if he were a Guide himself. A dormant Sentinel would have instinctual knowledge of Guides but he’ll never come online because he’s mentally ill.” Blair paused and took a deep breath. “He’s very angry and has a profound hatred for Guides. His victim pool represents the time in his life when everything changed for him. The Sentinel gene is passed from the male genome to off-spring. This means that his father was the Sentinel and came online around the time our UNSUB was four years of age. During that time period, the Sentinel would have had no legal rights regarding the custody of his child.”

“So his mother took the destruction of her marriage out on her child and created a psychopath in the process?” Henri asked.

“Sociopath,” Blair murmured. “This man isn’t legally insane, he isn’t being driven by feral Sentinel instincts, and he is fully in control of his actions. A fresh crime scene would give me more to work with. None of the previous scenes were documented by a Sentinel-Guide pair and that makes a difference in cases like this.” Blair looked at Stephanie’s picture. “If I’d been here—I could have got a lot from her scene. The coroner said she’d only been dead a few hours when the scene was processed.”

Chad shuddered. “Sandburg, you can’t be serious? You know how dangerous connecting with the dead is.”

“I’m an anointed shaman, Chad and I’ve walked the full path. Speaking to the dead is the least of my abilities.” His eyes darkened when Chad’s mouth dropped open briefly. “I’m a wolf Guide. You knew that, right?”

“It’s certainly not in your published bio,” Thomas muttered. “Is that how you called Ellison? That’s the rumor, you know—that you woke your Sentinel. That you brought him online because you were upset. That you pulled him across the country without a bond in place.”

Blair flushed and his gaze darted around the room at the mundanes in the room. “We can discuss that later, if you wish. Right now, we have an investigation to focus on.” He looked toward Banks. “Captain?”

Simon cleared his throat. “Let’s discuss options.”

Daniel Jamieson leaned forward. “Chad and I can do the Sentinel search for the father. Once we get a list of candidates, we can whittle it down until we find viable suspects. There couldn’t have been more than fifty or so registered Sentinels in Washington state thirty years ago. He would have had to register to get a Guide. Though back then—pairings were more hit and miss than anything else because we didn’t have DNA testing. The Center will give us all the access we need.”

Simon nodded. “I’ll let your Captain know that we’ll be borrowing the two of you for the forseeble future.”

“Thank you, sir.” Daniel sat back a little in his chair and he casually wrapped his fingers around Chad’s left wrist. As grounding rituals went, Blair thought, it was a nice unobtrusive one.

“We have four sets of parents to re-interview. They are currently being brought into the city by the Center.” Jim fiddled with a pen as he spoke. “Markus, Thomas, Blair, and I will have to handle those interviews—the Center is going to be very protective of them.”

“Why?” Carolyn asked snidely. “They are mundanes after all.”

“The Center honors and respects the parents of Sentinels and Guides—that these people lost their children will make them more protective,” Blair answered. “They will all receive the best care and support possible as a result of their loss.” He inclined his head as he spoke. “The Guide gene is also passed through the male genome. At least one of the fathers is a latent Guide himself. They will be treated with the utmost care during the remainder of this situation. The last thing we’d need is him to come online and have an emotional blow-out.”

She frowned. “If Guides are such a precious commodity why is this dormant Sentinel killing them?”

“We’re not a commodity, Detective Plummer,” Thomas ground out through clenched teeth. His Sentinel reached out and covered his hand with his own. “If you are going to continue to work with our Alpha and his Guide, I would suggest you educate yourself to the fullest measure. Otherwise you run the risk of offending the pride.”

“Cascade doesn’t have a Sentinel pride,” Carolyn snapped.

“Our pride was founded the moment our Alpha registered with the Sentinel-Guide Center.” Daniel Jamieson stood and offered his Guide his hand. “Captain, we’ll get started on those record searches.”

“Report to Ellison.” Simon stood. “Rafe, Brown—you’ll be working the case with Sandburg and Ellison. The rest of us will take the remaining cases in Major Crimes. Let’s move people.”

“I’m senior to both Rafe and Brown,” Carolyn protested. “Captain, this is a big case…”

“I won’t work with you, Detective Plummer,” Blair murmured from his place by the whiteboard. He’d started making notes next to each child’s picture. “Not today, and not in the future.”

“You don’t get to decide that,” Carolyn ground out through clenched teeth.

“Actually,” Blair said as he turned and stared at her. “I do. The Cascade police department signed a contract with the Sentinel-Guide Center that states plainly that a Guide cannot be forced or ordered to work with an individual they find intolerable. I find you intolerable.” Chad and Thomas exchanged wide-eyed glances. For a mundane to be labeled intolerable by a Guide of Blair’s standing was akin to banishment from the tribe. Blair studied them both briefly and then went back to his board. “Jim, I need a period of meditation.”

“Do you want to go home or would the gym downstairs do?” Jim asked, his gaze focused on the rigid line of his Guide’s back.

“Neither will do, I need an isolation room and we haven’t set that up at home yet.” Blair put down the dry erase marker. “We can’t see the parents until two—there should be a room at the Center I can use before we do that.”

– – – – –

“Guide Sandburg is very upset.”

Jim flinched at the implication and turned to stare at the Sentinel who had made the statement. “My Guide is none of your business, Wilson.”

“He has been in meditation for well over an hour and he’s obviously still…” Wilson trailed off as Jim’s eyes hardened in fury. “It’s obvious to anyone.”

“Your interest in my Guide is inappropriate,” Jim snapped out.

Wilson held up both hands in mock surrender. “I mean no offense. It is my job within the Center to see to the care of all Guides who come for meditation.”

Unbonded Guides.” A woman corrected from the doorway of the ante room that Jim was in. “You overstep yourself, Sentinel Wilson, and have insulted the Alpha. Leave this room immediately.”

“If he can’t protect his Guide…”

“Go no further, you idiot.” Her eyes darkened in anger. “Have you no sense of self-preservation?” She jerked him by the arm and pulled him towards the door. “Our apologies, Sentinel Ellison. Please let me know if you wish to file a formal complaint.”

Jim took a deep breath and tried to settle himself. He knew that Blair could feel his anger and that wasn’t good for his Guide not when he was already in such a vulnerable position. The door to the isolation chamber opened and Blair held out a hand. Jim took in willingly and allowed himself to be pulled into the room.

“Hey.”

Blair chuckled. “Do you know how many Sentinels offered themselves to me before you came along?”

“No.” But he hated every single one of the sons of bitches.

“I’d gone so long without a match many assumed my true-match was dead or was never going to come online. I’m powerful enough that I could have bonded with almost any Sentinel that crossed my path—I could have forced a connection between our minds and forged a bond but I didn’t. I waited for you.” Blair ran his hand down the center of Jim’s chest. “You’re my everything and you needn’t ever worry that another Sentinel would tempt me. I’ve been exposed to some of the most attractive and powerful Sentinels on the planet and none of them made an impression.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Blair took a deep breath. “She has to go, Jim. I can’t be in the same room with her every damn day. She’s jealous and twisted up with so much anger that I don’t know how she functions. I don’t want her around you, either.”

“I think Simon will see the matter resolved very quickly. He looked concerned when we left and she was still trying to argue with him about the case.”

– – – – –

Jim leaned against the window frame and stared out into the bullpen of Major Crimes. Carolyn’s desk was relatively empty—but it had been obviously cleaned and set up for someone new. “Are we getting a new detective?”

“Something like that,” Simon admitted. “I got Plummer transferred to the 1-4, into Priority Homicide. In exchange, I had to take their guest. It appears they have an exchange cop from Australia. An Inspector Megan Connor. She’ll be joining us this afternoon.”

“Good or bad?”

“Really good, apparently she’s a great investigator if a bit head strong and something of a blunt object. I told the Chief she would fit right in around here.”

Jim laughed. “Great.”

“Where is Blair?”

Jim tilted his head and his gaze darkened as he sought out his Guide with his senses. “Third floor filling out insurance forms and stuff. They cornered him this morning when we were coming in the building.”

“About yesterday?”

“He spent two hours in meditation.” Jim looked at Simon then. “As much as I buffer him from everyone else—I can’t buffer him from me. I was so irritated with Carolyn that all of it just poured onto him and he had no outlet for it. I don’t know why she can’t be a decent human being. She wasn’t this bad when we were married.”

“She took a lot of flak from around here about the cheating and the divorce. She complained more than once that everyone took your side in the divorce.”

Jim snorted. “If I’d had my way—the entire thing would have been settled out of court. She’s the one that wouldn’t leave it alone and dragged our personal lives through the court system.”

“Well it’s even worse now that you’re registered as a Sentinel. She feels like she’s missed out on the opportunity to be the wife of an important man.”

Jim frowned and looked at Simon in shock. “She can’t possible think that I would have stayed with her rather than take a Guide.”

Simon laughed at the horrified tone of Jim’s voice. “This from the man who fought bonding with a Guide for ten months.”

Jim flushed. “Still, I would have… well hell… Simon. The Guide comes first and once I bonded with a Guide I would have had no choice but to divorce her. My Sentinel instincts are too strong for a platonic relationship with my Guide.”

“Got that settled, did you?” Simon asked with a grin.

“Yeah, something like that.” Jim frowned and straightened up from the window. “Excuse me, Simon.”

“Jim?”

– – – – –

Blair took a deep breath and tried to find his center. “Detective Marshall, I made my lack of interest clear to you some time ago.”

“Look, I asked around. I know what a big macho bastard Ellison is. I know you aren’t getting what you need at home.” Phillip Marshall ran one finger tip along Blair’s jaw line. “I can help you out—you have needs Blair. I understand and your empathic abilities just make those needs stronger and harder to ignore.” He moved closer and ignored Blair’s intake of breath. “Trust me, you won’t regret it.”

“Stop touching me. Don’t you understand he’ll smell you on me?” Blair demanded in a hissed whisper. “I’m not interested, Marshall, so back the fuck off.”

“Don’t make things difficult, little man. We can have some fun or we can have a problem. Do you really want to have a problem with me? The guys in Vice talk—it won’t take long for me to make things difficult for you and your Sentinel if you can’t get with the program.”

Blair’s eyes darkened with temper. “Threatening a Sentinel is a dangerous thing to do, Detective.”

“Are you going to do something about it, little man?” Marshall asked in a whisper against his ear.

“Yes,” Blair whispered back and then he struck, but not the way Marshall anticipated—but then mundanes really never did see it coming.

He slithered into the other man’s mind without a single pause and Marshall stumbled away from him with a shout of horror. Blair stood where he was as the detective fell to his knees and clutched at his chest as if he’d been shot. He clawed at his clothes trying to find the wound, to try to hold the pain.

“Fuck! Stop it. Just stop it! Please!”

Blair released his mental hold on the other man as the door to the stairs slammed open and his Sentinel burst through them with Simon Banks and Henri Brown at his back. Blair shook his head and Jim came to an abrupt stop just short of grabbing the sobbing detective off the floor.

“Are we clear, Detective Marshall?”

Marshall jerked his head so he couldn’t see Blair.

Detective Marshall, do you understand?” Blair demanded in the power filled voice of a Guide.

The man jerked as if he’d been struck physically and reluctantly lifted his head. “Yes. I understand.”

“This is my city and all of the Guides in this city are mine. If you attempt with any one of them what you just attempted with me—I will find you and burn you out. You’ll spend the rest of your life the way you just spent the last minute. Is that understood?”

“Yes.”

Blair moved away from the wall and walked to stand in front of the man. He squatted down and looked him right in the eye. “And if you ever threaten my Sentinel again I’ll put a bullet in your head.” He tapped the other man’s forehead. “But don’t worry—I’ll make sure you see it coming.”

Marshall shuddered. “I understand.”

“Good. Get up, wash your face, and go home. Tell your Captain you don’t feel well, because you’re not physically capable of finishing your day.”

“Yeah.”

“You’ll be okay in the morning, Detective. This pain won’t feel so vivid but you won’t ever forget it. Do you understand that?”

“Yes.” Marshall took a deep breath. “Yes.” He stumbled to his feet and all but ran to the stairwell.

“Blair.”

“I’m fine.”

Jim took a deep breath in an obvious effort to calm himself. “You don’t look it, Chief.”

“He tried to coerce me into having sex with him,” Blair responded bluntly and Simon started cursing under his breath. “And then when I refused he threatened you because he thought he could blackmail me into fucking him.” Blair’s eyes darkened. “He won’t make that mistake again.”

“No. I don’t think he will,” Henri Brown whispered, his voice not completely normal. “Can I ask what you did to him?”

“Physically? Nothing.” Blair picked his back pack up from the floor where he’d dropped it. “Mentally—I made him think I was tearing his heart out of his chest.”

Jim rubbed his own chest for a few seconds before he caught himself and dropped his hand. “Okay.”

Blair patted him. “But thanks for running to the rescue, Jim. I appreciate the thought.” He urged Jim towards the stairs. “What tipped you off?”

“Your heart beat elevated,” Jim shared a glance with Simon and Henri. Both men looked equal parts horrified and proud. He totally understood. “And you’ve got a fine layer of ‘pissed off’ over your entire scent pile.”

Blair paused. “Do you need me to shower and change my clothes?”

“No, I can smell him on you—but it isn’t going to push me over the edge. He was putting off more dominance pheromones than he was sex.”

“You’re handling this better than I thought.”

Jim paused. “Oh, Chief, I could chew lead and spit out perfectly formed nails. I should get a medal for the amount of self-restraint I’m currently using. A medal, a commendation, a key to the city.”

“An Oscar and maybe a Grammy?” Blair asked with a cheeky smile.

Jim laughed reluctantly. “Yeah, those too.”

“Relax, Jim, if he’d been a serious threat I would have literally ripped his heart out.” Blair walked out of the stairwell and towards Major Crimes leaving the three of them to follow him.

“Chief, you can’t do that, can you?”

“Oh, yeah, I practiced on a few animals when I was trained by the Chopec. Nothing senseless, mind you, they were for dinner anyway. It was one the skills I had to master when I walked the shaman’s path with Incacha.” Blair grimaced as he dropped his backpack into his chair. “Sort of gross, actually, but he wouldn’t let me out of it. The role of a shaman in a tribal situation isn’t like… well it’s not the same.” He waved a hand in dismissal. “Never did it with a man—came close about three years ago.”

Henri dropped into his chair. “You must tell me how.”

“How to do it?” Blair asked with a frown.

“No, man, how you came close to ripping a man’s heart from his chest.”

“Well, my gun was empty,” Blair responded with a straight face and then grinned when Henri started to laugh. “Okay, for real, do you remember the hostage crisis in Dormaker Towers?”

“Yeah, ten terrorists – took over the building and tried to ransom this rich guy but everything went to shit because there was an FBI agent…” Henri’s mouth dropped open. “Holy shit that was you?”

“Yeah.” Blair dropped into his chair. “My partner and I were interviewing a woman in an unrelated matter on the fifth floor when it all went to hell. We split up and between the two of us we pretty much got them all but the leader. He escaped but he fixated on me as responsible—very bad television movie kind of fixation. He broke into my apartment and I woke up with him on top of me.”

“Shit,” Jim muttered. “Shit.”

“And you did the heart thing on him—the mental version?”

“Yeah, but he was high as a kite on meth and it wasn’t enough. I had to resort to physical violence and I hate to do that if I can avoid it.”

“So you killed him?”

“No, but he’ll never walk again. He’s in prison serving a life sentence.” Blair took a deep breath. “I broke his back. It isn’t something I would have ever done in any other circumstance but I couldn’t leave him able to get up and come after me—I would have had to kill him then.”

“I’d rather be dead,” Simon murmured.

“So would he.” Blair shot his Captain a glance. “But, that wouldn’t have been justice—certainly not for the twenty people he killed that day so he could hold one rich man hostage for a couple of million dollars.”

“Agreed,” Jim responded.

“For the tribe, man.” Blair looked his Sentinel over. “Do you need to ground yourself?”

Jim started to shake his head no but then changed his mind. “Yeah, Chief.”

“Is it rude if we ask if we can watch?” Henri asked. “I read about grounding rituals and bonding…”

Blair chuckled. “You’re never watching a bonding ritual, Henri. I can’t be that naked in front of you.”

“Oh come on, doc, you’re very pretty.”

“Yes, I know,” Blair sniped back. He shrugged out of his jacket and raised an eyebrow at Jim. “Where?”

“Break room has a door that locks.” Jim shot Henri a mock glare and Brown just laughed.

Blair followed and shook a finger at Henri when he acted like he was going to come along. “Due to the nature of our work, Detective Brown, I’m sure you’ll see one eventually.”

Jim snorted as he bodily pulled Blair into the break room and shut the door with a sharp snap. The moment they were alone, Jim took a deep breath. “I could kill that son of a bitch for touching you.”

“I know but you can’t go around butchering mundanes, it would be bad for other Sentinels in the area if people believed that their Alpha was so incapable of controlling himself.” Blair unbuttoned his shirt and tugged it off. “I have another set of clothes in my locker downstairs. Are you sure you don’t want me to change clothes?”

Jim watched him toss the shirt aside and shook his head as he pulled his Guide close and slid his hands up under the t-shirt the smaller man still wore. “No. I can deal with it. I don’t know what I would have done if he’d still been touching you when I got there.”

“I felt you coming,” Blair admitted. “I held off on responding; hoping that I could talk him away from me before things got ugly.”

Jim tucked his face against his neck. “Talk to me, Guide.”

Blair took a deep breath as he was pressed against the wall.

“I pray thee cease thy counsel,

Which falls into mine ears as profitless

As water in a sieve. Give not me counsel,

Nor let no comforter delight mine ear

But such a one whose wrongs do suit with mine.

Bring me a father that so loved his child,

Whose joy of her is overwhelmed like mine,

And bid him speak of patience.

Measure his woe the length and breadth of mine,

And let it answer every strain for strain,

As thus for thus, and such a grief for such,

In every lineament, branch, shape, and form.

If such a one will smile and stroke his beard,

Bid sorrow wag, cry ‘hem’ when he should groan,

Patch grief with proverbs, make misfortune drunk

With candle-wasters — bring him yet to me,

And I of him will gather patience.

But there is no such man; for, brother, men

Can counsel and speak comfort to that grief

Which they themselves not feel; but, tasting it,

Their counsel turns to passion, which before

Would give preceptial medicine to rage,

Fetter strong madness in a silken thread,

Charm ache with air and agony with words.

No, no! ‘Tis all men’s office to speak patience

To those that wring under the load of sorrow,

But no man’s virtue nor sufficiency

To be so moral when he shall endure

The like himself. Therefore give me no counsel.

My griefs cry louder than advertisement.”

Blair rubbed a circle between Jim’s shoulder blades as the Sentinel slowly lifted his head and brushed his mouth over his.

Jim let his forehead rest against Blair’s with a little sigh. “Shakespeare?”

“Yes. Much Ado About Nothing.” Blair took a deep breath. “I’m not her, Jim.”

“I know. I know.”

“I’m also not stupid enough to think I’d be able to hide a sexual affair from a Sentinel.”

Jim laughed reluctantly. “No, I can’t imagine you being that stupid.”

“You’re all I want. All I need.” He leaned in and kissed Jim’s mouth carefully as if they were both infinitely fragile. “Never doubt it.”

“I trust you.”

“I know.”

“I just don’t trust other people around you. I don’t trust them to respect you. I don’t trust them with anything,” Jim admitted. “I don’t know that I could leave you alone with Simon for an extended period of time and he’s one of my closest friends.”

“It’s instinctual, Jim. It has nothing to do with your friendship and everything to do with the primitive Sentinel you carry inside you.” He tilted his head back so he could meet his gaze. “I know. You don’t have to worry or apologize for being what you are. I knew exactly what you were the day I accepted you—the very moment I set eyes on you I understood, even better than you do, exactly who and what you were.”

“I worry that it’ll be too much… that I’ll do something you can’t handle and you’ll…”

“No.” Blair put his fingers over Jim’s lips. “Never, Jim. I won’t ever leave you. I doubt I could survive it and I know you wouldn’t. Our bond, it’s the most important thing – the only thing that matters. It matters more than I can possible say.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Blair smiled. “Now, we should go back out there before they think we’ve moved from a grounding period and straight into bonding. Henri will be at the door listening any second.”

Jim laughed aloud and shook his head. “You know I’d rather they never see any of it. I don’t like…”

“Being that vulnerable in front of people you work with everyday?” Blair finished. “I know but you have nothing to be ashamed of and you have to realize there may be situations in the future where privacy for such things will be impossible.”

“I know, Chief.”

“We did this at the Center during training with others present.”

“They were our kind, Blair.” Jim took a deep breath. “They understood what it means and how important it is. Mundanes really have a corrupt and perverse view of Sentinel-Guide relationships.”

– – – – –

PART FIVE

“None of the parents remember anyone new in their lives or in the peripheral of their lives during the disappearance of their child. They haven’t received anything that might be considered communication from the killer in the years since either.” Blair had two dry erase markers in hand and was moving around in front of a blank white board. There were three other boards in the room and they were full of notes on the individual victims. “Chad?”

“We have one hundred registered Sentinels during the ten year period you wanted us to focus on. Most of them were young and single when they came online but a lot of the records aren’t digital. We have an archivist at the Center going over old records and to search for records not online. We expanded the search to city records—searching for men who came online who worked for the city as we know most Sentinels are drawn to service jobs even before they come online.”

“You’ll cross reference those with divorce proceedings when you get all you need from the archivist?”

“Yes. We’re also looking at high profile custody disputes between Sentinels and mundanes. They would have made the news back then if he fought for his child—and we know that Sentinels are often very reluctant to let go of their offspring.” Daniel Jamieson looked up from his laptop. “We… we heard about Detective Marshall.”

Blair grimaced. “Really? What did you hear?”

“That he made a heavy handed pass at you and you made him cry like a girl,” Chad grinned. “Is that true?”

“He threatened my Sentinel; that’s why he was on the floor crying like a girl.” Blair focused on the empty board. “The UNSUB has been tested by the Center. If his father was online… they would have tested him for the gene and discovered that he was dormant. There would be records of it.”

“Getting records about dormant Sentinels will be tricky,” Thomas Howard sat back in his chair. “They aren’t going to give those up without a really good reason. They aren’t all that convinced that we are dealing with a dormant Sentinel at all, you know that.”

Blair tossed one of his markers. “Then perhaps they can explain how the killer is finding and killing latent Guides. He’s operating on pure instinct and mundanes aren’t capable of that kind of perception.”

“What if he isn’t dormant?” Chad asked quietly. “What if he’s… Blair, what if he’s online?”

He’d considered the possibility but he hadn’t wanted to say it aloud. “Then we have a serious problem and the entire community will suffer for it once the public finds out. Sentinels are protected and honored because the public believes them incapable of causing such harm. If they were faced with an online Sentinel who was raping and killing children… I don’t know what the fallout would be.” He cleared his throat. “But I don’t think it’s possible. He’s killing for at least five years and I’ve never met a Sentinel that could go five years without bonding with a Guide.”

“Did you wake your Sentinel?”

Blair hummed a little under his breath. It was a tricky question and one that he had to answer carefully. “I’d had a difficult case and a child was killed during the apprehension of the subject. I came home—very upset and hurt. Jim said he woke from a dead sleep and knew that he had to go to New York. So, he got on a plane and came to New York. By the time he reached the Sentinel-Guide Center he was in a very fragile state and had zoned on the emotional pain I was unwittingly projecting on him.”

“You pulled him from across the country.”

“I was awake anyway.” Jim leaned in the doorway. “What’s a plane ride after that?”

Blair chuckled as Jim came in and shut the door. “News?”

“The Chief wants us to accept the help of the local FBI. They are sending in a team to join our task force as consultants only. He says we’ll need it for when this case breaks in the press.”

“Agreed,” Blair murmured as the rest of the people in the room muttered complaints. “An FBI presence will make the mundanes in the city feel safer and the safer they feel the easier it will be to work and control the public response. We’ll eventually need their help because the Sentinel-Guide Center isn’t going to hold off forever on this issue. They’ll need to warn parents of latent Guides to watch their children very carefully.”

“He could be long gone.”

“I’ve a research team at Quantico searching for cases in other parts of the country,” Blair murmured. “A Sentinel-Guide pair that I’ve known for a few years. They’ll forward any results to me discreetly and then we’ll know for sure.”

“You think he’s still here?”

Blair turned to his Sentinel. “You’re a hunter.”

“Yes.”

“He has an established hunting ground—he’s stalked, hunted, and killed here undisturbed for at least five years. What are the reasons he would abandon a fertile and safe hunting ground?”

Jim sat down at the table and watched Blair go to the white board. “Other hunters can spoil things—if an area sees too much action the animal life gets spooked and the land can suffer.” He watched Blair write ‘active police presence’ on the board. “If the spot becomes well known; the popularity can lower the quality of game.” He winced as Blair wrote ‘press coverage’ and then ‘over protective parents’. “Weather, some grounds are easier to get to during the summer than they are during the winter.”

“And the legal ability to hunt game changes throughout the year,” Blair murmured. “All of the children were taken, held hostage, and then killed during the summer months. Taken in June and then killed in August.”

“So what’s special about summer for him?” Jim asked.

“Well, children are on the streets more,” Thomas said without looking up from his computer. “They are out of school. Parents have them under foot a lot at home so they get sent to summer camps, day camps, educational stuff during the day or the park.”

Blair turned back to the board. “So what you’re saying is that in the summer—it’s easier to mix among children in public.”

“Yeah.” Thomas sat back in his chair. “My sister made me take her kid to the zoo last summer. There must have been three hundred kids running around that place. But there wasn’t a special police presence or even more security guards like you would expect to see say on a field trip from school or something. Organizations make an effort to watch for predators when they organize children for school events but when a bunch of children just show up at a place and no one person is responsible for all of them…”

“No one would pay attention if a child molester was sitting on a bench watching three hundred children run around crazy in a zoo,” Blair muttered. “Jesus. We need to ask the parents if they took their children anywhere special shortly before they were abducted. Somewhere there were a lot of children.”

“Talk it out for me, Chief.” Jim watched his Guide settle himself. “Put yourself in his place and walk the hunt for me.”

Blair turned and faced him. “He’d pick a place where he could blend in… he’s an average guy so he isn’t going to stick out. If he is a dormant Sentinel he isn’t putting out any of the vibes you guys do—so no one is going to take notice of him. Latent Guides can sense Sentinels no matter their status—dormant, latent, or online. They’ll trust him, making it easy for him to cull them from the herd. She’ll go with him without protest, without a single question because her instincts tell her she can trust him. When she does feel the wrong in him—it will be too late. Too late to protest, too late to scream for help.” He looked at the boards. “All very public abductions. He isn’t afraid they’ll protest or refuse to go with him. They’ll be willing, docile, and maybe even excited to be with him until things get mean.” Blair scribbled on the board as he spoke.

“Excited,” Jim repeated with a frown.

“On an instinctive level these children are Guides. They all have the same empty place… that an adult Guide has. It’s just not pronounced because they aren’t online. In fact, they might not even notice it until they are exposed to a Sentinel in need. He will call to their instincts because he is hurt and damaged. They’ll want to help him and be validated and yes—excited that he sought them out.” Blair frowned as he said it, clearly disturbed the picture he was painting.

“A honey trap.”

“So to speak, yes. A damaged or fragile Sentinel is probably the hardest thing on Earth for a Guide to resist. It is in our basic nature to heal and nurture. These children have all of those same imperatives even in their latent state.”

“I was latent,” Chad said. “I was latent until Daniel walked into the Sentinel-Guide Center to register. I was working in their IT department and the moment he entered the building… I sort of… just flipped on.”

“It’s rare but it happens.” Blair tilted his head. “I bet that was an exciting day at the Center. I’ve never been present for an event like that.”

“People were a little freaked out,” Daniel admitted. “Especially when they tried to separate us and I completely lost it.”

“Do you think even in his dormant state that he is searching for a Guide?”

Blair paused and considered the question. It was the first time that Sentinel Markus Jergens had spoken since they’d all entered the conference room. “No. I don’t think he’s searching for his Guide. I think if he were searching for his Guide that he would release the children unharmed when he couldn’t bond with them.” Blair grimaced. “Christ. Just Jesus fucking Christ.”

“Yeah.” Markus agreed. “Will you tell us what Marshall said to you?”

Blair flushed but glanced only briefly at Jim who nodded before he spoke. “A few weeks ago, when I first met him he asked me out. I told him no and that I was newly bonded. He told me he knew that I was a Guide and knew that I had bonded. He said he liked to fuck Guides because the sex was better than it was with normal people.” He ignored the muttered cursing from the two Sentinels in the room that were not his own. “I told him he would have to ask my Sentinel for permission to see me socially.” Chad snorted. “And he left me alone. This morning, he cornered me outside of a restroom on the third floor in a small hallway leading to the stairs and told me that he’d decided I was going to be his new fuck toy. I declined that honor and he told me that if I didn’t play along he’d make things difficult for me and my Sentinel.”

“Then you…”

“Shoved my fist in his chest and jerked out his heart—at least I did that in his head and he cried and screamed on the floor in front of me until he couldn’t take any more. I released his mind and then told him if he ever threatened another Guide I would burn him out and I would shoot him in the head if he ever threatened Jim again.”

Daniel’s mouth dropped open and he turned to Chad. “Can you do that?”

“The pain thing?” Chad shook his head. “That’s… no… that’s a shaman thing. I can infiltrate someone’s mind and make them relive things they’d rather not which is an effective tool but not nearly as cool as making someone think their heart has been ripped out of their chest.”

“The good news is that Marshall has no idea that it’s not a skill that all Guides have.” Blair leaned on the table briefly. “I think he’ll discover that getting sex from Guides might not be worth the risk in the future.”

“If he tried it on a Guide of your status, he had to have been successful in the past,” Thomas murmured. “He was confident that he could get you to do what he wanted by threatening you.”

“Yes, he was.” Blair went back to the white board and uncapped his marker. “A different sort of predator wouldn’t you say, Thomas? Short on patience, into instant gratification, brazen enough to corner me with my Sentinel in the same building, verbally threatening but careful physically.”

“Hurting a Guide physically could get him in a lot of trouble. Attempting to manipulate one or threatening one verbally doesn’t really get him into any legal trouble as long as he doesn’t cross the line into menacing or stalking.” Thomas inclined his head. “Was he aroused?”

Blair snorted. “Yes, as unimpressive as the evidence was.”

Thomas laughed. “Really?”

“We were in the same classes at the academy. Including self defense.” Blair said as he drew a line down the center of the board and started making a new list. “If he’s more than four inches erect I’ll eat my new laptop.”

Chad spit coffee across the table. “Jesus Blair!”

Jim just laughed and reached out for a stack of napkins. “You should keep your Guide at home until he’s house broken, Jamieson.”

Chad blushed as the rest laughed. “All of you suck.” He looked toward the board. “Blair, what are you writing now?”

Blair paused. “Well, it’s hard to explain but when I build a profile I try to use all of my academic training without letting my empathic impressions of the crimes alter my perceptions. Once I’ve done that—I create an empathic profile based on the impressions I ignored earlier. Then I compare them.”

“Do they normally match up?”

“Yes, and often they contain different information. This is for our eyes only. We won’t be sharing this with the profiler they send in from the FBI.”

“Why?” Jim asked.

Blair shrugged. “First and foremost, I’d like independent verification that I’m on the right track from an empirical evidence point of view. Secondly, it’s professional courtesy to let someone do the job they were sent in for. If we don’t feel their profile fits the case as well as it should we will go from there.”

“Chief?”

Blair sighed. “I think the Center encouraged the Chief of Police to request an FBI profiler because they don’t like the direction of our investigation one bit and don’t want to admit that a dormant Sentinel is responsible for this. They don’t know how to spin it so they want me to be wrong.”

“And often have you been wrong in the past, Blair?” Chad asked.

“As a profiler, I had a ninety-five percent solve rate. To be honest, it would be higher but in the beginning I had problems getting local law enforcement to listen to me and take me seriously. The cases that weren’t solved with my help were eventually solved sometime years later—and my conclusions were accurate.”

“So your profiles… you’ve never been wrong.”

“No.” Blair met his Sentinel’s gaze without hesitating. “Just between us, I’ve never been wrong. I’ve had to deal with a lot of crap from others because of it—and often times it was chalked up to my empathic abilities as if all the years I spent training and studying were for nothing.”

“Empathy will only get you so far.”

“Right.” Blair sighed and turned back to the board. “It’s September.” Everyone in the room paused and turned to look at him. “If this pattern held for this year—there was a little girl that died in this area in August. Have there been any high profile kidnappings in Oregon or Washington?”

“No, there was a teenager abducted about ten months ago but she eventually got free on her own and came home. A neighbor was arrested for that.” Jim leaned forward. “Anything in the records search?”

“No, nothing that fits the profile.” Blair frowned. “Which is… we should check for attempted abductions or reports of stalking in regards to children from public places starting in May.”

– – – – –

“Special Agent Thomas Donaldson and Special Agent Jeanne Monroe.” Simon motioned them into the room. “Detective Brian Rafe, Detective Henri Brown, Sentinel Detective Daniel Jamieson, Guide Chad Moore, Sentinel Detective Markus Jergens, Guide Thomas Howard, and Sentinel Detective James Ellison and his Guide, Dr. Blair Sandburg.”

“Thank you for letting us join you.” Jeanne Monroe was the friendly of the two and she offered her hand to Brown and Rafe without hesitation and then held her hands out in formal greeting to Blair. “Alpha Guide Sandburg. I seek permission to work with you and your Sentinel.”

Blair took her hands. “Guide Monroe. Permission granted. Welcome to Cascade.” He smiled then. “I’m a little stunned to meet you. I assumed we would be getting a mundane profiler.”

“No one notified me you were a Guide, Agent Monroe.” Simon frowned at her.

“No, sir, the Director of the FBI specifically assigned me to liaison with you and the Bureau regarding this matter due to the sensitive nature of the case, the victims themselves, and of course the fact that you are here. I’m not sure why they didn’t pass the information about my status along. But considering the last several months, the last thing the Bureau wants to do is to piss off the Alpha Sentinel Prime of the Pacific Northwest, by disrespecting Dr. Sandburg again.” She greeted the other two Guides carefully and respectfully and then took a step back. She looked at each Sentinel in turn but did not attempt touch them. “Sirs.”

Simon was frowning a little. “I feel like I just entered into the twilight zone.”

Thomas Donaldson looked over the group. “An unbonded Guide is prohibited from touching a bonded Sentinel, Captain Banks, unless in cases of medical emergency or peril of some kind. It’s an extremely offensive thing to do. So, we’re here for politics, right?”

“Right.” Simon patted him. “Sucks, I know. We saved you room at the table.”

Jim waited until everyone was seated and then focused on Monroe. “You’ve reviewed the case files?”

“Yes.”

“Are you prepared to present a profile?”

Jeanne paused and then nodded. She pulled a laptop from her bag and settled it on the table in front of her but did not open it. “We’re dealing with a single killer. The UNSUB is a white male in his mid-thirties. He has a good job, doesn’t stick out in a crowd, and is capable of both finding and luring away latent Guides. Since none of the children taken were registered as sensitives or as Guides with the Center… all of which is public record, the only logical conclusion is that the UNSUB is a latent or dormant Sentinel. Considering the pathology of his crimes, I believe him to be a dormant Sentinel. He suffered mental abuse but probably not physical abuse as a child. I don’t believe he was sexually abused himself but considers the innate sexuality of a Guide to be a corruption and corruption he must get rid of.”

She grabbed a bottle of water from the center of the table and opened it as she gathered her thoughts. “His father was a Sentinel and likely lost custody and visitation rights after he bonded. Not uncommon for the time period. Since the UNSUB has demonstrated a working knowledge of police jurisdiction and evidence collection we have to assume that his custodial parent was or still is a cop and that he himself has some law enforcement background.”

“You think his mother was a cop.” Blair sat back and then nodded. “Yes, okay. What does that say about her?”

“That she was tough and very capable of taking care of herself.” Jeanne shrugged when all the men in the room looked her way. “I’m sorry but being a cop thirty years ago—a female cop would have been a nightmare. The brotherhood angle would have been so…” She waved a hand in disgust. “I can’t imagine it, to be honest. It would have been horrific.” She opened her laptop and powered it up. “Real believer in equal rights, probably married to avoid the dyke label, kid for the same reason, she would have worked in patrol for a long time before she got the chance to move up in the world because women didn’t get a lot of opportunities like that no matter what Cagney and Lacey had to say on the subject.”

“The kid would have had it rough,” Blair said. He stood and left the table in favor of his board. “She would have had him watched while she was at work and he wouldn’t have had access to his father—also probably a cop. Considering her career choice, she would have married within the blue to create a bond of sorts with her peers.”

“She would have remarried as quickly as possible to minimize the damage done by her husband coming online as a Sentinel and then taking a Guide into their home.” Jeanne offered without looking up from her laptop. “Step-father was probably a cop, too. A real hard ass, I would say—someone who would have made him hate his father and his father’s Guide.”

“Yeah.” Blair turned and frowned. “What is the percentage on female Guides, Monroe?”

“Less than ten percent today and only four percent of registered Guides were female between the years of 1970 and 1990.” She tucked a curl behind her ear. “The fact is that female Guides were discouraged from registering by the societal disapproval of sexual bonding. We still are.”

“Why did you register?” Jim asked.

Jeanne flushed under the Sentinel’s scrutiny but didn’t look away. “Because I started having nightmares about my Sentinel dying because I didn’t register. That was fifteen months ago. Most believe that when a Guide has nightmares about death—especially the death of their own Sentinel that their Sentinel must be ready to come online. After the first nightmare I took myself to the nearest Sentinel-Guide Center and registered to make sure… to make sure he or she wasn’t already online and in need of me.”

Jim turned and looked at his own Guide. Blair just raised one eyebrow in answer and Jim frowned. “Seriously?”

“Guides are sensitive to such things even if no one wants to talk about it.”

– – – – –

“You think he killed again this year.”

“Or he still has her,” Blair murmured. “What if something changed—something in the past that prevented him from keeping his victim is no longer a problem?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t know. Who wouldn’t report their child missing? Who wouldn’t report it?” He sat up even as he said it scrambled for his glasses. “Jesus, fuck. We need to go.”

“Blair?” Jim reached out and stilled his Guide with one hand. “Take a deep breath and tell me what epic thing you just realized.”

Blair turned in the bed and focused on Jim completely and forced himself to take a few deep breaths as instructed. “Foster care. A foster parent might be unwilling to report a missing child if they are doing it for money or if they are afraid they’ll get in trouble.”

“Seriously?” Jim demanded.

“Seriously. I was in foster care a few times as a kid. My mom wasn’t a bad parent but she was a sincerely irresponsible one. The last foster care situation in I was in… she came and took me without permission. The social services for the city of Orlando didn’t realize I was missing for two years and we only found out because my face ended up on a milk carton. Naomi freaked the hell out and I spent two years in Peru with her at a retreat until I was fifteen. At fifteen she sent me to college at Rainier here in Cascade and made Eli Stoddard my legal guardian who contacted the state of Florida and got everything settled.”

“So your mom is… huh… still wanted in Florida for Custodial Interference?”

Blair sighed. “Well, I would never testify against my mother and the state of Florida knows it. I told them the truth when they asked—as far as I was concerned; my mother rescued me from an overcrowded home where I was lucky to get one meal a day.”

“So you think, somewhere in this city—there is a foster child missing and he or she wasn’t reported missing.”

“Yes.”

It made him sick to think about it. Jim hadn’t had the best childhood but he’d never had to worry about not being fed or being safe. His father, such as he was, had provided him a secure home and a decent chance at life because of it. “We can’t do anything until the morning. You’ll need to build a victim profile so we can hit social services with the problem and hopefully they can help us identify the child.”

Blair let himself be pulled back into the bed with a frown and relaxed when his Sentinel wrapped around him. “This is what I wanted that night, you know.”

“What night, Chief?”

“The night I woke you and bum rushed you on to a plane to New York.” Blair laughed softly when Jim did. “I wanted someone to hold me. I was so upset, so lonely, and the emptiness was almost overwhelming.”

“You mentioned that before. An empty place.” Jim pulled him closer. “Is it still empty?”

“No,” Blair whispered. “It was a Jim-shaped place and you filled it perfectly.”

– – – – –

Jim came into the Major Crimes office pulling off his coat and lugging a back pack and Blair’s computer case. He felt something like a pack mule but that was okay—because even with the horrible set of circumstances in front of him and the cases that they were working his world felt new and amazing. Best of all, the office was now a Carolyn-free zone. It was the stuff of heaven. Blair came in behind him with coffee—they’d brought their own blend from home and installed it in the break room. No one had complained.

“Hey, you must be the exchange officer.” Blair waved at the attractive woman sitting in Carolyn’s old desk. “I’m Blair Sandburg and this is my Sentinel, Detective James Ellison.” He sat the coffee down and offered his hand.

“Inspector Megan Connor.” Megan took the hand he offered. “It’s a pleasure; I haven’t met many Sentinel-Guide pairs since I came over.” She took the hand Jim offered as well. “Nor have I met many I have to look up to.”

Jim laughed. “Welcome to Major Crimes, Inspector. Have you met your new partner yet?”

“Yeah, mate, he lost the coin toss and had to run out for donuts.”

“No.” Blair pointed at his Sentinel. “Don’t even think about it. Be content with the half pound of bacon I let you eat this morning.”

“Turkey bacon,” Jim muttered. “It can’t even count.”

“Oh, it counts. It all counts,” Blair assured. “We need to get over to social services, so let’s brief the others on the idea and then get a move on.”

An hour later, they were standing in front of a group of people all of whom looked on edge and generally pissed off. Blair wondered how anyone could work in social services for any length of time without losing their ever loving minds. He really had no clue how they did it but what he had already learned was that the city had cut their budget twice in the past four years; they were drastically under staffed, and under paid.

“Good morning, my name is Dr. Blair Sandburg and this is my partner, Detective James Ellison. I’d like to thank you all for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to attend this meeting. What we need from you is your attention, an open mind, and complete honesty. I may have to ask some very difficult questions of you.” He glanced over their faces and then looked at Jim who appeared a little bored and ready to leave—just the look they’d agreed on.

“I’m looking for a child. He or she is very special. When you first met this child it was easy to fall a little bit in love. She was easy to laugh, made you smile, and the entire time you were interviewing her, your workload felt manageable and doable. She made you feel like everything was going to be okay despite how upset she must have been to be in the situation that brought her to this office. She is between the ages of four and seven years old. She was easy to place in a foster care situation because she is an attractive, well mannered child who seems very eager to please.”

He glanced around the room. He had their attention and one of them he was certain was starting to panic a little. He felt the edge of it but it was indistinct and a little hysterical. “Her foster parents reported that she was a dream to have in their home. She gets along well with other children, extremely so. She’s outgoing, upbeat, and makes everyone around her happy just by being in the room with her.” People started to shift in their seats. “And you haven’t seen her personally since June of this year. Either you haven’t been to her foster home since that time period or she always seems to be out with someone when you drop by.”

Jim moved suddenly and walked to stand in front of a man in his mid-forties. “Sir, what’s your name?”

“Kevin Willis.” He rubbed a hand down his face. “Her name is Jessica. Jessica Martins and I haven’t seen her since the school year ended. Her foster parents report positively on her but in the three times I’ve been to the house since the end of school—she’s been away. First she was at swimming lessons, and then she was staying with a friend over night, and then the last time she was at the movies with her older foster siblings. Always an excuse. They are a good family; one of the best in the system. Always willing to take someone in at the last minute.”

“We need a private room for the rest of this conversation.” Blair murmured to the director of social services.

– – – –

“Her parents were killed in an auto accident late last year. Neither of them had any family to speak of and the one relative we did find refused to take her because… because she said she wouldn’t have I quote ‘that filthy child in my house’.” Kevin frowned. “At the time I didn’t understand but after the first home visit, it became clear to me that Jessica wasn’t like other children.”

“She was a Guide.”

“Yes, I don’t know if she was online and that isn’t something we’re allowed to ask. If they come to us and ask to be taken to the Sentinel-Guide Center we arrange it but we aren’t allowed to approach them and suggest they register. We are in a position of power and that would be a breach of ethics. Her Aunt didn’t want her because she had some ridiculous prejudice against Guides.” Kevin shook his head. “She’s a charming child. When you meet her; you’ll understand.”

“If you’re ready, Mr. Willis, we’d like to go meet her now.”

He nodded and looked at Jim. “You’re a Sentinel.”

“Yes.”

“If she’s in trouble—you’ll be able to help her then?”

“That’s why we’re here.”

– – – – –

The woman that answered the door looked like she’d seen better days and Blair could hear several screaming children deeper in the house. He touched his Sentinel and Jim only nodded.

“Ms. Daily, we are here to see Jessica.”

Her eyes clouded and she looked at Willis for some kind of reassurance but didn’t find it. “She’s not here. Our oldest took several of the little ones to the park.”

It wasn’t a lie but it wasn’t the complete truth either. Blair took a deep breath. “She hasn’t been here since June. You let her go to the park with the other children and she never came home. Isn’t that right, Ms. Daily?”

She paled and her fingers tightened on the door. “No, that’s not… just no.”

“We’re going to have to come in,” Willis said. “Call your oldest and have her come home. I’ll be doing a head count and I will be interviewing all of the children.”

Jim put his hand on the older man. “Mr. Willis, this is a criminal matter. While I will let you sit with Ms. Daily and her husband during questioning, I will be conducting the interviews.”

“Of course, Detective Ellison.”

– – – – –

“Jessie was a great kid. I’d never been tempted to adopt one of the children that we fostered until her. I always saw our home as a stopping place on the way to permanent homes. I wanted to provide them with a safe, creative place to be until they were placed with permanent families.”

“Tell us what happened, Ms. Daily.”

“My oldest child, Dana she likes to read in the park. She takes the children with her and they play on the swings. She’s very responsible and keeps track of them. I never worry…” She took a deep breath. “I never used to worry about them.”

“The date?”

“June 15th.” She rubbed her face with shaking hands. “Dana ran home and said that Jessie was gone that she’d… just disappeared. We searched the park for hours and hours.”

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

“We’d already had a complaint.” Jean Daily shook her head. “We had a hard case a few months before and the kid had hated us on sight. He caused so much trouble that a complaint was filed against us. Another problem so soon after that, they would have taken all of my children away or we could have faced a fine.” She bit down on her lip. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t risk that.”

Jim wanted to lash out but the woman was a walking pile of grief and it wouldn’t do him any good.

“You knew she was a Guide?” Blair asked.

“Yes.” Jean nodded. “It would be pretty hard not to notice actually—she came online two months after she came to live with us. My husband didn’t like it but he had a hard time resisting her little whims and her beautiful smiles. It was hard to deny her anything but she wasn’t cruel or manipulative. Just a happy and bright child who loves life. I felt safe when I was with her.” She looked up. “Like I do when you’re in the room. You’re a Guide?”

“Yes.” Blair took a deep breath. “Why didn’t you register her with the Sentinel-Guide Center?”

“We asked her if she wanted that but never tried to force it on her. I knew that it had to be her choice and her choice alone or we could face charges. I read online about what can happen if a parent forces or coerces a Guide or Sentinel into registering. It’s a free will process. I understood.”

“Her answer?”

“She said she wasn’t ready for a Sentinel and she would wait.” Jean bit down on her lip. “I tried to tell her that she wouldn’t meet her Sentinel until she was an adult that it would be okay if she registered earlier but she wouldn’t talk about it after that. I didn’t pursue it but I did buy books from the Sentinel-Guide Center to read in case she had questions later. I bought her DVDs about being a Guide and she learned to meditate with them. I could tell she enjoyed that.”

– – – – –

Blair held it together until they reached the bullpen. He tossed his backpack into his chair. “Jesus fucking Christ! She left an online Guide in the hands of a fucking sociopath because she was afraid she’d get fined or written up by Social Services?”

Jim watched his Guide process the rage that was burning through him. “Blair.”

“You don’t understand,” Blair finally said. “She’s online, Jim.”

“Do you think that’s why he hasn’t killed her?”

“Yes, that and the fact that no one is looking for her. He feels safe because there hasn’t been any press coverage. If her face were plastered all over the evening news he would kill her because the risk of keeping her would be too great. What if somebody came to the door and saw her by accident? He’s smart enough to limit his risks.” Blair rubbed his face with both hands. “She has a natural shield, all Guides do but she’s untrained and if she really is online she’s acting like a psychic sponge.”

“Explain,” Simon said entering the conversation that had the entire bullpen riveted.

“You drop a dry sponge into a bucket of water and it soaks up every bit of water it can,” Blair explained his voice subdued. “Imagine that her mind is that sponge and his damaged, malignant psyche is the water. She sees everything he is and has no refuge from it. All of his perversions, his hatred, and his crimes are hers to bear. Within the first week she was so damaged that recovery was impossible. Even if we found her then… it would have been too late. If we are able to take her back alive—she live the rest of her life in an institution.”

Jim watched his Guide for a long minute and then turned to Simon. “I want the foster parents charged with criminal negligence and accessory to felony kidnapping for not reporting the child abduction.”

“No.” Blair shook his head. “Not until we have recovered her.” He raised his head. “We need to keep this quiet. It’s been so long that the public isn’t going to be much of a help and if we put her face on the news he’ll kill her and dump the body to protect himself. We need to put a gag order on Social Services, too.”

– – – – –

The Director of the Sentinel Guide Center of Seattle was one of those ultra skinny women and Blair was sort of freaked out by her. He’d seen more attractive skeletons. She was a bonded Guide herself and her Sentinel was in her shadow throughout most of the meeting. The Sentinel-Guide Council for the Pacific Northwest was housed in the Seattle Center which was a point of pride for Guide Marie Edwards.

“Did you believe this woman about the child’s online status?”

“Yes.”

“Then we should hold a press conference. The kidnapping of an online Guide, registered or not is a federal crime and it…”

“No.” Blair interrupted. “If we put her face on the news he’ll kill her. The only reason he hasn’t killed and dumped her body already is that her kidnapping wasn’t reported.”

“Guide Sandburg, we can’t ignore that a Guide has been kidnapped!”

“If it is our goal to retrieve her alive than we need to act swiftly and as far under the radar as we possibly can. She’s damaged and fragile already.” Blair cleared her throat. “If he kills her I have no doubts that most of the Guides in Cascade will feel it.”

“You think she’s a wolf Guide?” Edwards demanded, her voice hoarse with shock. “Then we must act… we must inform the public.”

“He’ll kill her!” Blair shouted. “He will butcher her like he did the other five! Aren’t you fucking listening to me?” He ignored Jim’s hand on his arm as he stood up from the table. “Put aside your politics and your power mongering, Marie. This is no time for you petty public relations games.”

“I’m the director of this Center and the leader of this council.” Marie Edwards snapped. “I will…”

“I’m the Alpha Guide Prime of the Pacific Northwest,” Blair responded in the same tone. “You are a member of my pride, Marie. Do you really want to play that game?”

She paled and sat down. “No. No, I don’t. He’ll kill her? You’re sure?”

“One hundred percent,” Blair whispered. “You haven’t seen the pictures of the children after he’s done with them… you don’t want that in your head. None of you want that in your head.”

“You still believe it’s a dormant Sentinel?” Marie asked, her voice soft now with some pain that no one in the room wanted to touch on. “Really?”

“Who else would be able to seek out latent Guides? They would never willing go with a mundane as damaged as he is. All of the kidnappings were high profile yet no one reported a child leaving the area under duress. No screams, no shouts for parents who weren’t paying attention. They are putting themselves in this man’s hands without a single protest. Now, tell me, Marie when you were a child… when you were a latent child who could have made you walk away from your parents? What kind of person would you have walked off without a single worry?”

She closed her eyes. “It’s a dangerous thing, Blair. My brother is a dormant Sentinel. The public doesn’t understand what it means to be dormant; they just view them as damaged. My brother wouldn’t hurt anyone but I can’t imagine how things might change for him if the public finds out that a dormant Sentinel was out raping and murdering children.”

“I would remind anyone that 99.9 percent of child molesters and child killers in prison today are mundane,” Blair said. “Most dormant Sentinels that have a mental defect are so damaged they already in institutional care. Your brother is a gentle soul and anyone that met Matthew would understand that. Down’s Syndrome, while rare in Sentinels, isn’t unheard of. I know of ten dormant Sentinels with Downs and three that are autistic. Insanity isn’t the only mental defect that will keep a Sentinel from coming online permanently. It’s your job to educate the public as much as possible. If it comes out and I’m not sure we can prevent it—it’ll be your job to keep the public as informed as possible while maintaining the privacy of our population.”

“So what can we do?”

“We’re searching for her and I’m going to draw all the Guides in Cascade together tonight. Any of you are welcome to join me. We’re going to meet at Jim’s building on Prospect. We’re prepping the second floor as a large meditation space.”

“You’re going to search the spirit plane for her?” Marie asked. “While she’s alive?”

“I think as young as she is that her spirit animal is wounded beyond its ability to endure and if we enter the spirit plane en masse it will seek us out for comfort,” Blair murmured. “If I can connect with her spirit animal… it will seek help for her.”

“I’ve never known a spirit animal…” Marie paused. “Is that how you woke your Sentinel and pulled him across the country?”

“His wolf form did appear to me,” Jim responded. “The wolf lead me to help at the Center and then eventually lead to me to Blair’s location within the FBI building.”

Shock drifted through the room and Jim could tell that his Guide had won them over—they would trust him and they would follow his lead.

The door to the room opened and an unbonded Guide entered. His gaze was carefully averted as he moved to Marie’s side and spoke to directly to her. “Guide Edwards, an ADA Julie Phelps, with the Cascade District Attorney’s office, has released a public statement regarding the kidnapping of the child. She did not say that she was a Guide but did imply that she was the sixth victim of a serial sexual offender.”

Blair’s stomach dropped and he turned to Jim. “We were told they wouldn’t do that.”

“I know, Chief.”

“Did they release a picture?”

“Yes, Alpha.” The Guide swallowed hard and then finally looked away when he could no longer take the weight of Blair’s stare.

“We need to go back to Cascade and prepare our people for the murder of a wolf Guide. It isn’t going to be…” Blair took a deep breath. “It’s going to be bad. Marie you’ll need to prepare a statement of your own. Sensitive mundanes could easily pick it up as well.”

“There is no hope?”

Blair shook his head. “It won’t be long and we have absolutely no idea where to start looking. It would take several hours in meditation to find her spirit animal and we no longer have that kind of time.” He fisted his hands briefly and then forced himself to relax. “You’ll want to bring in any powerful but unbonded Guides. They shouldn’t be alone when this happens. We need to spread the word as quickly as possible. Try to avoid panic while preparing them all for a catastrophic empathic event. Do not mention the child or her status as a Guide.”

“Understood.” Marie cleared her throat. “Where will you be?”

“Explaining to the ADA of Cascade how she just personally saw to the murder of a five year old child.”

– – – – –

“We have a responsibility to the public to inform them of a dangerous situation.”

“Yes,” Blair nodded. “And we had a responsibility to Jessica Martins. She’s five years old and within the next two days someone is going to call 911 and let us know they found a stripped, mutilated corpse of a female child.”

“You can’t know that,” Julie Phelps ground out between clenched teeth. “I’m just doing my job, Detective.”

“No, what you’ve done is give a sociopath a reason to murder a child because you wanted to get on television. Because you wanted to inject yourself into a big serial murder case in the making. He likes the kill almost as much as he likes all the other things he does to her so right now he’s probably a little giddy with the knowledge that he can go there now. He was demonstrating a great deal of restraint; content that no one had missed her and that no one was looking for her. Now, he can’t afford to keep her. He can’t take that risk because the last thing he wants is to get caught.” Blair looked away from her. “I’m finished with this conversation and since this is my work space—I’d very much like you to leave.”

She opened her mouth to protest but Jim stood up. “No, he wants you to leave so you leave.”

“Ellison, you can’t be serious!”

“You can’t possibly think that your wishes would take precedence over my Guide’s.” Jim walked to the door and opened it. “Leave before I force the issue.”

“Captain Banks?” Phelps demanded, her eyes dark with anger.

“There is no higher authority than a Sentinel when it comes to the emotional and physical safety of his Guide,” Simon Banks responded coolly. He stood from the conference table. “I’ll be talking to the DA; our contract with the Sentinel-Guide Center is very clear and you’ll have to be replaced as the prosecuting ADA on this case. Dr. Sandburg can’t be forced to work with anyone that makes him uncomfortable. It would prevent him from using his empathic abilities to the fullest measure during the course of his job. Which means you’ll never be assigned another case from Major Crimes again.”

The room was silent as Banks escorted the sputtering woman out of the conference room and then Thomas cleared his throat. “I want to work for Banks. Captain Tilman has never taken my needs as a Guide that seriously.”

Markus touched his Guide. “I’ll ask but if we went to work in Major Crimes; you’d have to qualify to carry.”

Thomas nodded. “You know I could.”

“I also know you haven’t carried since you left the Navy,” Markus responded bluntly.

“You were in the Navy?” Jim frowned at the man. Thomas was beautiful, like most Guides, and his aura was heavy with comfort and sex. He really couldn’t picture him in the military.

“Yes,” Thomas smiled. “Eight years. I coordinated, planned, and supervised Special Operations for the Teams.”

Jim’s mouth dropped open. “You realize if you got into Major Crimes; Simon would make you take the short course at the academy and slap a badge on you?”

“I could handle it, Detective. You don’t lead Navy SEALS unless you can walk in their shoes. Well, you could try but they’d eat you alive and use your bones for tooth picks.”

“So you are, in fact, an ex-Navy SEAL.”

“As much as you are, in fact, an ex-Army Ranger,” Thomas murmured. “Doesn’t ever really bleed out, does it, Sentinel?”

“No, it doesn’t,” Jim conceded. “If you both really want it; I’ll put in a good word with Simon.”

– – – –

Part Six-Ten

 

Keira Marcos

In my spare time, I write fanfiction and lead a cult of cock worshippers on the Internet. It's not the usual kind of hobby for a 40ish "domestic engineer" but we live in a modern world and I like fucking with people's expectations.

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