Author’s Notes: The fifth story in this alternate universe where Sentinel/Guide Pairs are known. The first story provides (what I hope is) useful background for this story. In fact, this one might make less sense if you haven’t read the others first. Please, forgive the typo in story four that changed Blair’s age. As noted in the first story, he’s seventeen, not sixteen.

Warnings: AU, WIP

Disclaimers: As before, as always, not mine. Just borrowed.

 

For a Male Guide 5:

Cascading Troubles

By Jayed

EMAIL: Jayed

The two exited the elevator on the seventh floor, arriving in the lobby of the Major Crimes Unit, the unit that handled kidnapping in conjunction with other agencies, as well as most Pair issues. It would be useful not to have to deal with two different sets of officers.

Ironically, the first person they met when they exited the elevator was an unbonded Sentinel. He, if anything, was more startled than they were. He stared at the younger man in fascination, having heard, as had almost everyone by this time, about the Guidefinder. If only he’d known more earlier. With several other Sentinels, he had been drawn to Ranier, but he’d wasted his time chatting with women, secretaries, and one professor of Anthropology. He’d not looked for a man, and certainly not a boy.

Blair, looking around the room curiously, had not kept his focus on the other Sentinel, cataloging him as not a threat, and not his Sentinel, and moving his gaze onward. Jim had stopped his eyes, although his ears and other senses continued to monitor the rest of the room. He didn’t like how the unbonded Sentinel was staring at his Guide. "First Week. First Warning. Only Warning."

"First Week. Your Guide, Sentinel. Heard and Accepted." The other Sentinel lowered his gaze and turned his attention to the papers on his desk.

"First Week Warning. Heard and Witnessed." Two detectives sitting nearby confirmed that they had heard the exchange. Witnesses weren’t necessary, but it said a lot for Major Crimes’ commitment to Pair Issues that they knew the right words. Jim took a closer look and realized that the larger of the two witnesses was one of the men he had seen in the diner that morning with Blair. He nodded his thanks to the two.

A door at the back of the large room opened and one of the other men from the diner stepped out and walked up to the Pair. "I’m Simon Banks," he said. "I’m the Captain of this unit. If you follow me, we’ll go into my conference room. A couple of FBI agents are meeting us here. This was an interstate kidnapping, and, although I’ve been told that the Army is already handling court martials in Arkansas, we’ve got to find out what happened here in Washington. We’ll get some information today."

Suddenly Jim noted that his Guide’s heart has started to beat a little too quickly. "Jim…my car," he said.

Softly, "What about your car?"

"I just realized, thinking about clues and all. It was at the apartment complex, but when I … when I … it was at school. How did my car get back to my apartment?"

Banks, listening, spoke up, "That’s an intriguing question. I’ll have someone get on that." After getting the Pair settled in his office, he took the information about Blair’s car and carried it out to ask one of his men to begin that part of the investigation. There was a possibility that something would have been left behind, a loose hair if not a fingerprint.

A coffeepot finished filling with vanilla and hazelnut scented coffee and soon a cup was before each man. Blair took a moment to add some sugar to Jim’s cup and then milk to his own. He had been observing his Sentinel’s sweet tooth.

Jim smiled his appreciation and then turned to Banks. "I think the FBI agents are on their way up. I hear two people talking about kidnapping coming up the elevator." The two agents swept into the room after an almost perfunctory knock, and then the taller of the two took a moment for introductions. "FBI. I’m Agent Enrique Esquival. That’s Agent Mary Smith. Yeah, that’s really her name." He smiled ruefully. "No one ever wants to believe it."

Blair was prompted to tell his story, what he remembered. He mentioned his party and heading to his car. He remembered that someone had called him by name, but he didn’t remember recognizing the voice. Then, he’d awakened in the little room in Arkansas. As he spoke, he clearly grew more and more upset. Soon he would have to tell who knew he was a Guide, or potentially a Guide.

Trying to make it easier, Jim put a gentle hand on the young man’s shoulder. "Do you need a break, Chief?"

"No, I…Hey," He looked over at Mary Smith and smiled a particular broad smile that Jim was coming to recognize. "Your Sentinel is that fellow sitting at the third desk under the window." Realizing what he’d said, he blushed scarlet and started to get out of his chair. Jim’s hand kept him in the seat.

"What did you say?" The woman was clearly startled by this non sequitur and revelation, and then she exchanged a nervous smile with her partner before she excused herself, carefully closing the door behind her. It didn’t matter. The excitement in the outer room could be heard through the door, even by non-Sentinels.

"Well, Blair," Agent Esquival joked, "That’s one way to end an interview." Then, seeing that the young man really was upset, he decided to give him some time to compose himself. "Let’s try again after lunch, okay? I have to go meet the person who’s going to take away my partner."

Captain Banks followed Esquival from the room, choosing to let the Pair have a moment to themselves.

"I’m sorry, Jim," Blair started. "I didn’t mean to."

"Why are you apologizing? You just made two people very happy."

"I don’t know. It just seems like stranger and stranger things are happening. A week ago my biggest worry was which of my new books to read first."

"You’re not sorry to be a Guide, are you?"

"No! That’s a wonderful thing, the best." He leaned over and placed his head on Jim’s arm for a moment. "It’s just hard to take it all in, especially when I keep surprising myself. I thought she might be his Guide, but I didn’t know I was going to say anything until I heard myself talking."

Captain Banks had Chinese food delivered to the office for the Pair, Agent Esquival, and himself. Agent Smith and Detective Chen were gone. Banks turned a mock glare at the young man and accused him of aiding and abetting the FBI in stealing one of his best detectives. On behalf of the FBI, Esquival tried to look guilty, but only wound up looking smug. In the unofficial rivalry between various governmental agencies, a new Pair would put the FBI back on top.

After lunch, Blair finally had the to list out the names he had spent so much time denying: Professor Stoddard, his mentor; Professor Hamilton, the second reader for his Master’s; Kevin Hargrove, former roommate and good friend; and Leslie Donovan, department secretary and surrogate grandmother. He hadn’t sworn any of them to secrecy, but he couldn’t believe that any of them would have turned him into the Army. One of them might have said something, innocently enough, to someone who turned out to be less trustworthy or to a third party eavesdropping. He was especially sensitive to the fact that they would all be hurt to be questioned as potential suspects, standard procedure or not.

When the Pair left the Station later that afternoon, Jim asked Blair to take him over to the University for a quick tour. Blair would be safe in Jim’s presence, and he could start to get a feel for the place where his Guide would be spending so much of his time. Actually, so long as his Guide was spending so much time there, the likelihood was that the Sentinel would be there as well. He might as well take some time to look into the library, the gym, and maybe the cafeteria. He could see what he was going to be seeing.

The visit did much to revive Blair’s spirit. He loved this place, and he always had. He was comfortable and accepted here, despite his youth and his choice of attire and his verbal effusions. He’d had his office longer than he’d had any place he’d ever lived, including his current apartment.

Jim was quite taken with the campus. It was pretty and logical. The grounds were kept green and flowering, and the arrangement of buildings actually made sense, with like departments clustered together and Student Activity buildings also sharing a quad. As luck would have it, the Social Sciences buildings were near the Student Activity buildings, so Blair was able to convince Jim to spend a few minutes in the library while he ran back to his office for a book he wanted to bring home. "It’ll be a good test for hearing range. You can see if you can follow me as I go there and back."

"Or not," Jim returned. "Maybe I’ll just sit here and think about that gym. You think you can get me a Guest Pass?"

Blair laughed, nodded, and headed a few buildings away. The sound of running feet coming up behind made him move over and off the path. Suddenly, he was surrounded by four large undergraduates wearing the practice uniforms for the Rainier football team.

"Hey, you Blair? The guy who’s the Guidefinder?"

Blair was startled. "Um, yeah, I’m Blair."

The largest of the four students moved to stand right up in front of him. "I’m gonna be a Sentinel," he bragged. "So, start looking."

Blair was confused. "You’re a Sentinel? But …Are you sure?"

"You doubting me, Little Man? You calling me a liar?" The football player was clearly becoming angry. He three friends buzzed and looked angry, too.

Blair didn’t know quite what to say. This was not a Sentinel. Any Guide could have told him that. Further, if he was a Sentinel, he’d never be treating Blair like this, trying to intimidate him, nor would he allow his friends to do so.

"Wait," Blair said, trying to defuse the situation. "Did you say that you were going to be a Sentinel?"

"Yeah. So, I’m not exactly a Sentinel yet, but my uncle’s one and so are two of my cousins, so it’s a family tradition. It’s Fate."

Blair thought he’d found a way to make the other back off. "Well," he said, "I can’t do anything now, but come see me when you come online. I can’t do anything until then."

"Well, I’m gonna keep an eye out and so should you. Listen up, careful like, ‘cause this is important. I don’t want an old broad. I want a young, good-looking Guide, or, hey, I bet I could get a ‘real’ male Guide." He gave Blair an insulting once over and grinned cruelly. "A real man. You know, I bet Army would just love to have us work for them." Laughing at the white-faced and stunned Guide, he high-fived each of his buddies, and then turned to continue on to the practice field behind the gym. Except he didn’t continue. He found himself staring into the icy blue eyes of an angry Sentinel.

Moving to stand with his distressed Guide, Jim spoke, "Blair, these…gentlemen…bothering you?"

"Ah, Man, chill, …" began one of the others..

"First Warning. Only Warning. First Week." Jim barely got the words out, glaring at the four and letting them know he could and would take them all on and out.

"Just talking to Blair, friendly-like," the spokesman interjected.

"No, not friendly. I heard you." Jim stared at the potential Sentinel, mind racing. "Think for a minute here, okay? Blair’s a Guide, right?"

"Right, so?" Bored already.

Jim took a deep breath to keep from punching the other’s lights out. "So…let’s see…how did you just treat him? How do Sentinels treat Guides? What would your uncle or cousins say if you spoke to their Guides the way you just spoke to mine?"

For a minute, Jim thought the younger man would bluster on and ignore his questions, but then suddenly a light seemed to go on. He had the grace to blush furiously, looking first at the dejected figure of Blair, now standing slightly behind his angry Sentinel, and then at his three erstwhile companions.

"Blair," he said tentatively, "I wasn’t…um…I’m, ah, sorry." Suddenly he looked about five years old, eyes down, hand clasped, almost, but not quite, scuffling one foot in the dirt. "Really." He looked up first at Jim and then at Blair. "I guess I need to think about this a little more." He looked Jim in the eye, "You’re right, you know. If I said anything like that to Margo or Charlotte or Keisha, my uncle and cousins would have my head."

Completely unable to understand the change in their friend’s demeanor, the other football players took off, leaving him behind. After a moment, he, too, turned to go. "I won’t do anything like that again," he promised. "And I won’t let the others do it, either. Anybody on the team gives you any grief, you tell them that I, Brady Allen, told you to tell them to back the hell off." Looking Blair in the eye, he held out his hand. "I am sorry. And, I’d be happy with any Guide, if I’m a Sentinel someday."

-----------------------------------------

With Brady’s change in demeanor and promise, it seemed like the visit to Rainier was a good one, all around. Jim even made a date with the receptionist in Sociology after his Guide played matchmak…er… introduced them. The unfortunate thing was that Pratt took Jim’s night out as an excuse to call in on Blair.