The Awakening- Part Two

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

Keira Marcos

In my spare time I write fan fiction and lead a cult of cock worshippers on Facebook. It’s not the usual kind of hobby for a “domestic engineer” in her 30’s but we live in a modern world and I like fucking with people’s expectations.

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