Authors Notes: A second story in this alternate universe where Sentinel/Guide Pairs are known. The first story provides (what I hope is) useful background for this story.
Warnings: AU, WIP, minor language (a bad word or two)
Disclaimers: As before, not mine. Just borrowed.
For a Male Guide 2
The day after his rescue from the Armys latest incredible Sentinel fuck-up, its latest miscue, mistake, disaster, whatever, Blair woke in much happier circumstances at the home of Moe Washington and his wife, Ida-Mary. Hed slept on the couch in the living room with the four former Army officersTom Pratt, Jim Ellison, Moe Washington, and JJ Gomezsleeping about him on the floor. None of the four Sentinels had been willing to leave him alone in a guestroom, and none of the four wanted to leave the others a possible opportunity with the unbonded Guide.
Moes wife, who had married her husband before he came online and before they knew he was of a Sentinel line, was bemused when her husband joined the others on the floor, but she was beginning to accept a lot of Sentinel "weirdness," having joined a Sentinel Wife Support Group and having made some friends online with other wives of new Sentinels. She provided blankets and sleeping bags to the four men and made a comfortable nest, with several handmade quilts and down pillows, for the boy.
Having missed meals the day before, Blair awoke hungry. He ate an astonishingly large breakfast for a person his size. The four Sentinels watched in bemusement as food disappeared at an alarming rate. Yes, teenage metabolism was in high gear. Even more astonishing was the boys ability to keep up a "robust conversation," without choking, while he ate. He spent the meal chatting with Ida-Mary about cooking, quilting, and other handicrafts.
Ida-Mary was quite taken with him and happily let him chat at her while she refilled his plate twice with pancakes and sausages and eggs. He managed, between bites and words, to drink four large glasses of milk. He finished his meal with two bananas.
Coffee was the order of the day for the four Sentinels as they had stayed up much later than the Guide, trying to decide how they were going to handle the situation in which they all found themselves. Each man had a small duffle with civilian clothes and some Sentinel safe toiletries. The boy had nothing, not even a full set of clothes. Somehow the Army had managed to keep the clothes, including his shoes, that had been taken from him. So, they needed to get him some clothes.
The bigger questions, of course, were hashed out with a little more arguing. How were they to get him home, and what were they going to do about him when they got there? Although they hadnt wanted to admit it, Pratt forced them to see that they were not the ones in control of what happened then. Yes, they had taken the responsibility to see the young man home, but, once there, he had a life, and he didnt need four hovering Blessed Protectors in that life. The threat was gone; the Army wouldnt do anything like this again.
On the other hand, it was undeniable that someone that the young man knew and probably trusted has assisted in his abduction. The Army had probably put out "feelers," but someone had provided the information and, at the least, was an accessory to his kidnapping. Who could say what else that person might try?
Finally, a consensus was reached. If the Guide agreed, they would rent a vehicle and drive him back to Cascade. That would allow more time for the police to work the case in Cascade, the boys hometown, and more particularly, Rainier University, the place of the actual kidnapping. Unspoken, but clearly acknowledged by each man, was the wish that, despite the inauspicious beginning, that he was nevertheless the Guides Sentinel.
When breakfast was over, Pratt, by design, brought up the possibility of a shopping expedition.
"What? Oh, youre right. Man, those guys didnt even give me back my shoes," suddenly he looked embarrassed. "These clothes must really be something after three days, huh? Have you all got it dialed down?" He thought again, "I guess I could, you know, borrow some money and pay you back when I get to Cascade. I dont even have my wallet let alone any money." His voice got softer and softer as he spoke, the animation with which he had been speaking with Ida-Mary slowly fading from his voice. Wow, this was really awful.
"Blair," Moe said, stepping in, "I know you are used to living by yourself and looking out for yourself, but the Army is responsible for what happened to you, and its the Armys responsibility to get you home. You get what you need, and the four of us will drive you home to Cascade. You understand BP Syndrome, right? Well, its in all four of us, and we need to do this for you. Please, let us, okay?"
Looking at each of the four men in turn, Blair tried to relax. Yes, he was used to being independent, but he understood what Moe was telling him, and he admitted that after his fright the day before it felt good to be under the care of people who were willing to look out for him. Suddenly a thought occurred to him. "Drive home? You know, I dont even know where we are. What base was I on?" Standing, he went to the window and looked out. "Oh," he said softly. "Im not even in the Northwest anymore, am I?"
Ida-Mary put a gentle hand on his back, coming to stand next to him as he looked out at the trees in her backyard. "You have a good eye for plants if you knew that just from one quick look. This is Arkansas, child."
Blairs eyebrows rose into his hairline. His heart rate and breathing briefly spiked and then calmed. Okay, so he was a long way from home, but he could get back there. These men were going to help him get back there.
The day passed quickly in a flurry of activities. Moe took JJ Gomez with him to a rental car agency, and they acquired an SUV, making sure that the backseat was comfortable for two large men and one somewhat smaller one. They also got a new cooler and filled it with a variety of juices and bottled water. Ida-Mary took charge of the clothes shopping expedition, allowing Jim and Tom to accompany her and Blair. With some prompting, he accepted the purchase of enough clothes for a week, although he didnt think that the road trip would take that long.
Just thinking about it as a Road Trip made it all suddenly less frightening, and more of an adventure. How often did anyone get to spend time with four unbonded Sentinels anyway? Maybe they could stop at interesting places on the way, rather than driving right back. He needed a map or maybe a guidebook. "Oh," he groaned at himself, "that was a terrible pun."
On the first day of the journey from Arkansas to Washington, the teen slept away most of the morning, having been too keyed up to sleep much the night before. He wanted to curl up in the open space in the back of the SUV, but his four Guardians refused to allow him to be bounced around in the open and unsecured area.
So, with Moe Washington driving and JJ Gomez riding shotgun, Jim Ellison and Tom Pratt settled the young man between them in the backseat, making sure he was in the most secure spot in the vehicle and seat-belted in. Even though he felt as though he was being treated as a much younger child, Blair allowed them to fuss. As they drove off down the highway, the four men held their conversation to Sentinel soft levels, and Blair fell asleep, slowly leaning further and further over until his curly head was resting on Jims shoulder. Putting a careful arm around the sleeper, Jim didnt let the little puddle of drool bother him (and he made a mental note not to tease about it), and he tried not to act too smug at this evidence of trust. Tom, watching closely, tried to keep his jealousy in bounds. After all, the boy was asleep; its not like he purposely chose Jim.
When they stopped for lunch, Blair held back from the first fast food restaurant that Moe had chosen. Trying to understand his reluctance, the four men looked through the window at the dining room. It was full of off-duty enlisted men. The sight was still so normal to the four that they hadnt taken into account that uniformed men were not currently Blairs favorite people.
Without a word, the four steered their charge to a second restaurant, next to the first. It was a slightly higher class establishment, with a more formal dining room. Here, there were no servicemen, at least not in uniform, and Blair happily slid into the middle seat of the circular booth the hostess directed the party to take. Relieved, and now awake, Blair kept the four men off-balance with a stream-of-consciousness series of comments and questions about their lives, their families, his travels, Sentinels in general, fried food, and college life. When he paused for air, one of the four would try to answer, and then hed be off again.
As he polished off his second soda, all that talking was thirsty work, and the meal havent even come yet, when he suddenly stopped talking and stared around the restaurant in confusion, although his eyes were serious and intent.
One thought immediately crossed the minds of all four of his companions, "No, he just couldnt have found another Sentinel!" Yet, as soon as the though crossed their minds, they all knew it was not so. None of them sensed another Sentinel, bonded or unbonded, in the immediate vicinity. So, what was attracting the Guides attention so fiercely?
After a few minutes, Blairs attention finally focused on one person, a woman standing by the door, clearly waiting for someone. She had the kind of white blonde hair usually seen on small children and shockingly dark brown eyes. Nodding to himself, once, emphatically, Blair turned to look at one of his companions, "JJ, thats your Guide."
"What?" Exclaimed four voices, almost in unison. Tom added, "She doesnt feel like a Guide, Blair."
"Please," Blair said, ignoring Tom and looking at JJ, "You have to go over there. Look, you can pretend you are going to the door or the payphone or something."
JJ shared a look and a shrug with the other three men, and then he slowly stood. As he moved in the womans general direction, she suddenly focused his eyes upon him. Her heart rate sped up, and she took a deep breath. Instinctively, she spoke the right word, "Mine?"
Grinning so hard he thought hed hurt himself (but he didnt care), JJ gave the answer, "Yours. Mine?"
"Yours," she said. Then, quietly, "Oh, Good Lord, Im a Guide. I didnt know I was a Guide. I was just meeting my mother for lunch."
The new Pair took a few moments to just stare at one another, and then exchanged names. "Hi," JJ laughed, "Im your Sentinel. Im JJ Gomez, well, Juan-Jose, but everyone calls me JJ."
The woman, his Guide, laughed back at him, just as happy, and just as surprised, as he was, "Im Arianna Moretti, your Guide." She paused and said again, "Oh, Good Lord, Im a Guide. I didnt know photojournalists could be Guides. I thought you had to be a police officer or a chemist or something. My Mom is going to flip. I think I might flip. Maybe we should sit down." JJ smiled to himself. Maybe all Guides were chatterers. Hed never spent a whole lot of time around any before.
The three Sentinels, back at the original table with Blair, were stunned as they listened to the conversation taking place across the room. They had become aware of the womans status as Guide as she turned and accepted her new role with JJ. Shed come online and gotten her Sentinel in the same moment. The early bond was clear to their Sentinel sensibilities.
Tom spoke first, turning his stunned gaze at the happy young man at his table, "Guidefinder. Youre a Guidefinder."
Blair looked puzzled. "Did you hear? Oh, silly. What did you hear? I was right, wasnt I? Its a go? Cool, man. I just knew it." His words sunk in. "Oh, man I really did just know..it."