Author’s Notes: The sixth story in this alternate universe where Sentinel/Guide Pairs are known. In fact, this one might make less sense if you haven’t read the others first, but each story can stand on its own.

Warnings: AU, SIP (Series in Progress.), mild violence, blatant prejudice

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

For a Male Guide 6:

Pratt Falls

By Jayed

EMAIL: Jayed

 

The history of the First Week Warning involved more than just first week "jitters" on the part of the new Pair. The First Week was an important time when the Bond set its first important parameters, linking Guide and Sentinel for the relationship to come. It was a week when the two had the chance to live closely (if not always together) and spend as much of their time together as seemed appropriate to each individual Pair. The Sentinel would slowly absorb the Guide into his senses, and the Guide would get a baseline for the Sentinel’s emotional life and needs.

Here, too, was the possibility of the stronger bond, the Spiritual Bond, that very few Pairs achieved, even those who were lovers or married to one another. The fifth or sixth day was often crucial, although this fact wasn’t well-known. If the Pair was ever to develop the telepathy of a Spiritual bond, they would have their first indication on those days. If they were to be only weakly linked, they would often, without conscious thought, spend those two days mostly apart. This was particularly true of the weakest Sentinels, some of the Fours.

Jim and Blair spent Day Five pouring over the Real Estate advertisements, leaning into each others’ space as they examined the newspaper and the Area listings put out by the various agencies. Having recognized that they wanted a place together, they were trying to decide what kinds of things a joint house would need.

Blair insisted that they needed three bedrooms, so that neither of them would feel obligated to take a couch should they have visitors overnight. Recognizing the need for some personal space, Jim agreed that that was a good idea. Moreover, Jim thought Blair should have a separate study so that he didn’t use all the books in his room as an excuse to stay up all night rather than sleep. He actually had in mind a kind of den, where Blair would have his computer and books and Jim, himself, could watch TV with the sound Sentinel low. Blair was pleased with the idea that his Sentinel wanted to be with him, even when he was distracted by his studies. Finally, Blair insisted on a large kitchen, one where he could indulge in his love of cooking, pointing out that it would be easier to make sure that the Sentinel ate safely and well. Not a cook himself (although he could barbeque with the best of them), Jim had already begun to look forward to home-cooked meals.

At first, Blair had been a little disconcerted by the idea of home-buying. He didn’t want Jim to buy a house for them as if he was a child who needed to be taken care of and supported financially. Recognizing his young partner’s need to really be his partner in this venture, Jim recommended that he talk to the lawyer who handled his trust fund. Surely some money for a down payment would not be seen as an unwise expenditure, and Blair’s rent money could just as easily go toward a mortgage payment.

Although Blair was happy about the potential move to a shared house, a true Home, it was also a little unsettling, for reasons beyond the money involved. A great deal has happened to him in a very short period of time, and it finally caught up with him. He went to sleep happily contemplating a place where he could grow organic vegetables in a little backyard garden, but nevertheless found himself in the middle of a nightmare. His Sentinel, still sleeping next to him in a sleeping bag on the floor, woke even before the Guide began to cry out in his sleep, alerted by the rising heart-rate. In the dream, Blair woke, captive, head shaved, already dressed in uniform, and a faceless, looming Sentinel demanded a Bond, grabbing for him as he tried fruitlessly to find a way to escape.

He came half-awake with arms firmly around him, but even before further fright could take hold, he knew he was safe, that this was his true Sentinel, and his heartbeat eased quickly back to calm. He snuggled closer, sighing, and fell back to dreamless sleep, all without really waking to true consciousness. Jim, for his part, was a little bemused. The bed was barely big enough for both of them, but, well, he was warm and comfortable and surrounded by the scents and touch of his Guide. Not a snuggler himself, well, usually, he went with it, falling back to sleep almost as quickly as his companion.

Upon waking, neither man was aware that their first conversation did not take place aloud. Blair was a bit embarrassed, and Jim reassuring. There would be no teasing about this. In fact, that fifth night became a lifelong tradition. Once a week, at least, Sentinel and Guide slept in the same bed, sometimes the Sentinel’s, sometimes the Guide’s. When one was ill or injured, stressed or distressed, they might share a bed for longer. Later, other factors might intrude, but neither ever made a date or purposely planned anything for Thursdays. That was their own declared Sentinel & Guide Day. Unknown to them at the time, this was also one of the physical signs of the Spiritual Bond, a need for an extended period of physical closeness. In some couples, that might mean sex. In others, "snuggling" worked just fine.

Their Sixth Day saw a heightening of Jim’s senses. The Bond bloomed, and Jim easily used his Guide’s voice and presence to fine-tune and handle the additional strengths of his senses, setting up new baselines of "normal" without any conscious difficulty. Instinctively, he and his Guide had been doing everything that made for a stronger Bond and, thereby, a stronger Sentinel.

Day Seven, the final day of their "honeymoon" First Week, Jim and Blair met the their first potential real estate agent. Unfortunately, the man refused to acknowledge Blair as Jim’s partner, treating him like he was seven rather than seventeen, when he paid any attention to him at all. There was no way to work with him, even if Jim hadn’t had the urge to punch him. In fact, Jim was finally goaded into delivering his final First Week warning.

The next week saw a series of agents, from the bad to the worse, vying for their business. The second agent they dealt with asked way too many nosy questions about Sentinels and Guides, continually acting in surprise when presented with the idea that the Pair wanted a house wherein they’d have their own rooms. He was sure that all Pairs were sexually involved, even though he admitted to knowing a Pair who had married other people. The fact that his Guide was so young made the Agent’s insinuations doubly disturbing to the Sentinel, but, fortunately, this time Blair saw some humor in the situation. The agent was just so completely clueless.

The third agent had apparently never heard of Pairs. Or so it seemed. Every house she showed them was wrong for a Sentinel. Despite repeated assurances that she "now understood" what they were looking for, she kept trying to steer them to houses close to busy roads, houses on streets full of young children, and houses near industrial parks. The fourth agent was way too interested in Blair, recognizing him as the Guidefinder from the news stories. He spent most of his time with the Pair trying to convince Blair to let him use Blair’s talent to make them both (especially himself) wealthy. He seemed to think he could take advantage of a na´ve young man, somehow ignoring--until Jim made it impossible--the angry, alert Sentinel who was listening to his every word.

When Simon Banks called with an update toward the end of the week, Jim mentioned their difficulties, mostly out of his own sense of frustration. Banks made sympathetic noises and then mentioned that the wife of Henri Brown was an agent. Knowing that Brown was part of the police unit that handled Pair issues, Jim figured (correctly as it turned out) that his wife would be a little more prepared to deal with them.

Oleta Brown turned out to be the perfect agent for a Sentinel and Guide. She was willing to listen to what they wanted, steer them away from neighborhoods with potential noise or scent problems, and accept them as a Pair. She knew which houses were ready for occupancy, which needed some work, and which had owners unable or unwilling to move in the short term.

Everything moved very quickly after that and almost before he knew it, Blair found himself collecting boxes from the grocery and a neighborhood liquor store. He’d found out which of his friends and acquaintances were in town and free, and he’d organized a Moving Day squad, ready to be paid in gas money and pizza.

The house they finally agreed upon was alone on a quiet cul-de-sac. It had three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a large kitchen with a separate dining area, and a comfortable living room. Both Jim and Blair agreed that the living room would house Blair’s books and the TV in the absence of a separate den. One bonus to this house was the fact that a small greenhouse graced the backyard. Blair would be able to grow his organic herbs and so forth year round.

Another advantage to the neighborhood was that Simon Banks lived two streets away. Jim had gotten good vibes from the man and looked forward to getting to know him, especially to asking him about becoming a police officer. Since Major Crimes had lost its Sentinel to the FBI, he figured he had an "in." Additionally, Banks had a fifteen year old son, and Jim hoped that maybe Daryl would be company for Blair, overly used to spending time with fellow students older than himself. It would be good for him to have a companion to remind him once in a while that he was a teenager, especially since he now had the added responsibilities of being a Guide on top of his various duties and classes at the University.

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While Jim and Blair looked at Real Estate and planned their move, the Major Crimes unit had been looking into the Cascade connection to Blair’s abduction by the Army. Two of the four people who knew that Blair was a potential Guide had been out-of-town, and the detectives assigned to the case had put off questioning any of them until they were all back in town. There was no sense in alerting any of them ahead of time, especially if it meant that the guilty party never came back to Cascade.

Notes from the court martial had been shared with the Cascade PD and the FBI. Although the contact hadn’t been named, two things were clear. One, the contact had almost certainly been male, and, two, he’d received a significant sum of money for his assistance. A preliminary chat with Leslie Donovan rapidly cleared her as it was obvious to the detectives that she had no idea what had happened to Blair, and her affection for him was obvious.

Kevin Hargrove, Blair’s most recent college roommate, was also an anthropology graduate student. The two had shared a small graduate student dorm room before Blair moved off-campus into his present apartment. Kevin had hastened Blair’s move by bringing his girlfriend back to their room a few nights too often. Although he and Blair had talked about Blair’s potential status as a Guide, Kevin admitted that he hadn’t actually believed. He knew most Guides were women and had only vague stereotypical ideas about male Guides, none of which Blair fit. He said that he had mentioned Blair’s "crazy idea" to his girlfriend and another couple, but only briefly, in passing, over dinner one night. He couldn’t remember exactly when, nor did he think that any of those he spoke to would have done anything to harm Blair. It turned out that all were part of Blair’s Moving Day crew.

Both Professors, Stoddard and Hamilton, professed their shock and dismay that someone at Rainier had connived in Blair’s kidnapping. Each man was also outwardly shocked that he could be considered a suspect. Ironically, each man had recently received a large sum of cash, Stoddard as the advance on his latest book, and Hamilton from the sale of a small property left to him by his parents. Neither man seemed the kind of person who would sell out a student, a child, for money. However, both men were very touchy when asked to share their financial records and to prove where their money had come from. Each man promised to get a lawyer and let the lawyer deal with what they did and didn’t have to share.

The investigation continued.

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At the end of their third week together, and their third day in their new home, Jim cleaned himself up from a day of unpacking and reshuffling furniture and, leaving Blair happily unpacking books, left for his postponed date with Kyra Everett, the Sociology Department’s secretary who he had met when Blair took him for that first tour of Rainier. It felt a little strange to be separate from his Guide, but he knew that they had to start spending some time apart, especially since Blair would be back in school shortly. He had grown incredibly fond of his enthusiastic young friend, but he needed to spend some time with another adult, and, well, female companionship had been scarce of late, between the new Bond and his most recent military postings.

For his part, Blair was glad to see Jim go out. He knew it had to be difficult for a grown man, one used to the Army, to the presence of large numbers of adult companions, to spend all of his time with a teenager, even if that teenager was his Guide. Blair had gotten to spend a little time with some of his friends while they helped with the move, but Jim was essentially cut off from his friends. He needed to make some new adult contacts, and Blair really liked Kyra; she was a good person.

Watching, waiting, Pratt knew when the Sentinel finally left the Guidefinder on his own. He saw a well-dressed Jim leave the house and suspected that he was off on a date. Perfect. He’d be gone for a long enough time for Blair to work out an answer to Pratt’s problem.

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Pratt had been growing progressively more depressed. He knew his time was winding down, and, although he’d never suspected he was a potential Sentinel growing up, he’d gotten used to his senses and the importance with which others treated him. His biological mother, who had died in his infancy, had been estranged from her family and neither his father nor he had ever met any of them. He’d been raised by a loving stepmother.

When he’d gotten his senses, his family had rejoiced. He’d joined the Army after earning his Bachelor’s degree, both because his military uncles had encouraged him and because it was a good way to pay for medical school. He was a full MD as well as a trained psychologist. Before his senses came online, he’d thought about getting the necessary final training to be a full psychiatrist.

He put off further medical school, however, in light of his need for a Guide. He knew that whoever she was, she would have something to say about what kind of careers they chose, and so he decided that he would stick with his position in the Army, despite its bad reputation among Sentinels and Guides, until she appeared.

He had access to large numbers of people, living on a large base near a large city. He spent time meeting with the families of the men on his base, mingling with the people in his clubs (MENSA, health, and officers’), and wandering around the nearby college campuses. All of these were places full of the kind of women who became Guides. But months went by, and he didn’t find her.

His two younger half-sisters tried to help, bringing him for visits to the campuses where they were students, taking him to football games at the stadium and to the large gatherings of fraternity parties. He had to dial down his senses to almost nothing, but that wouldn’t have stopped him from finding her, if she’d been there. In fact, he did sense Guides more than once.

He thought he’d found his Guide the first time when he was running on the treadmill at his gym. The young woman on the next machine had turned to stare at him, and they spent the next few days together, each clearly hoping for the spark that would tell them that they were meant for one another. He was a doctor, and she was an occupational therapist. That seemed like a good combination. Then, when they were back at the gym on the fourth day of their acquaintance, she suddenly left his side, walked up to another Sentinel, and spoke the magic word. The other Sentinel turned out to be a lifeguard, of all things, and how was that right or fair?

His second, and most major, disappointment came when his stepmother’s youngest sister proved to be a Guide. They spent long days together as well, but nothing ever sparked between them. They took a break and then met again, still nothing. Finally, she met another Sentinel, and the Pair took a job doing something (he didn’t care what) for the Canadian government.

His third almost-but-not was another doctor, a stunningly beautiful African-American woman who he met while treating a mutual patient for depression. He’d been sure they were growing closer when she suddenly disappeared for a week and came back not only Bonded but married to another Sentinel, a young man studying forestry at a nearby community college. She had barely introduced the two men when her Sentinel sensed Pratt’s aggressive and biased attitude and pronounced the First Week warning angrily. Although this Sentinel was atypically small, Pratt took the Warning as meant, stalking away in angry disappointment.

While he was still recovering from that most recent debacle, he was called to Arkansas, and he met the Army’s three other unbonded Sentinels, men who didn’t know anymore about their mothers and maternal families than he did about his. They knew something was up, but they could hardly be faulted for not suspecting what actually occurred. Two senior officers had located a male Guide and had had him kidnapped, hoping to Bond him to one of the four of them and thus gain a Pair for the Army and their own machinations. If that wasn’t bad enough, it turned out that the kidnapped Guide was also little more than a child. Before they even met him, the four Sentinels went into Blessed Protector mode, making the Army release not only the boy but themselves.

Shock building upon shock, the boy had turned out to be one of the almost legendary Guidefinders, easily pairing two of the former Army Sentinels with female Guides in as many days, and, then, turning to the other Sentinel and claiming him as his own. All of which left Pratt once again with nothing for all his hopes. It was not to be tolerated. The boy owed him what he given his other rescuers, a Guide. Then, Pratt pushed too hard, and the young Guide’s Sentinel pronounced the First Week warning against him. He’d had no choice but to back off, but he hadn’t backed far.

He kept a loose watch on the Pair over the course of the next couple of weeks, noting when the two packed up the boy’s small apartment and moved to the comfortable looking house across town. He had to be careful, but the Pair didn’t really expect any trouble, certainly not from him.

So, when he could no longer hear Jim’s car, Pratt began cautiously to approach the house. He was furious, therefore, when another car suddenly appeared and pulled into the driveway. The car was a sleek and clearly new Jaguar, and the driver, an elderly man, stepped out and up to the door, walking briskly and purposefully. Having no choice, and having lost this chance, Pratt pulled back to his hideaway to await another opportunity. He had, he figured, about three weeks left.

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When the doorbell rang, Blair was deeply engrossed in the pages of one of his favorite books, Urban Sentinels and Urban Legends, which had tumbled from of the boxes he was slowly unpacking. Jim had insisted that the living room’s largest wall be filled with bookcases so that Blair would have many of his books out and available. The problem with unpacking them was that he kept getting caught up in them. He’d lost twenty minutes earlier to a reread of the final chapter of Stoddard’s own Guiding Ethics.

Moving quickly, he put his book down on the coffee table and moved to the door. Jim’s cautions ringing in his ears, he looked through the door’s peephole. He saw a tall, elegantly dressed man standing there, and, curious, he opened the door.

"Yes? Can I help you?" Blair gave the man his usual bright smile.

The man was visibly startled by this enthusiastic greeting and by the young person who had delivered it. Unabashedly he stared for a moment at the teenager standing before him, dressed in ragged jeans and a brightly colored flannel shirt; the boy was barefoot. "Who are…What is…I though this James Ellison’s house," he finally stated.

"It is," Blair began, "I’m his housemate, his G…"

"Young man," the other man interrupted abruptly, "I do not want to know what my son is doing with a pretty little piece like you. Collect your things. I’ll take you to the bus station, and you can get on with your life away from my son. I’ll even buy you a ticket to the destination of your choice."

"Your son!?" Blair was stunned. Why was Jim’s father thinking he would leave? What was Jim’s father doing here?

"Young man," the elder prompted.

"Yes?"

"You aren’t packing. Go do it. Right now. Or I’m calling the police."

"Why would you do that? If I was doing something wrong, would I have opened the door?"

"Young man, you are not staying here in my son’s house. I won’t have it. You are leaving."

"But it’s my house, too," Blair protested indignantly.

Reaching out, William Ellison made his second mistake of the evening, first he attacked verbally and now he added a physical attack, adding injury to insult. He put his hand on the young Guide in anger, gripping him tightly enough to leave bruises on the pale skin. "I’m only going to tell you this one more time. Get your bag. You are leaving." Giving the teen a final shake, he pushed him toward the hallway, trying to motivate him to collect whatever rags he owned before he was thrown out without them.

Off balance, Blair fell heavily to the floor, landing hard on his outstretched hand, feeling the small bones in his wrist shifting, hearing them snapping. A small cry escaped him, and he sat up, cradling the injured limb.

"Stop sniveling, and stop stalling. I’m making that phone call now." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a cell phone and dialed 911. "You had your chance," he said. "Yes, operator, this is William Ellison. I’d like to report a break-in at my son’s home. Yes, the young man is here now. No, he’s not dangerous. I have him under control, but I need you to send a car to pick him up."

For his part, Blair was still sitting in stunned dismay on the floor, trying to understand what had happened. He’d been putting up his books, Mr. Ellison had come to the door, and then nothing made any sense. Then, suddenly, he got it. His face went from a pained and shocky white to a mortified red. "Pretty piece." Jim’s father thought he was some kind of rent boy.

Desperate now to escape this awful scene, Blair scrambled ungracefully to his feet and fled to his room, locking himself in. He knew he should contact Jim, but how could he ever hope to explain that Jim’s own father had attacked him? What was he going to do when the police came?

He could call Simon Banks. Cradling the handset carefully in his injured hand, he punched in the number on the card the police captain had given him. It was answered almost immediately.

"Banks."

"Captain Banks? It’s Blair…Blair Sandburg."

Simon Banks was not only a detective, he was the father of a teenaged boy. He heard the unspoken panic in the young voice. "What’s wrong, Blair?"

"It’s…it’s Jim’s Dad…and he wants me to leave…and he called the police and told them I’m a thief…and my arm hurts…and Jim’s not here."

It took Simon a minute to put all of that together, and he still wasn’t sure he understood all of it, but he knew that the young man was in trouble. The part about calling the police was the easiest to deal with. Assuring the young man that he was on his way over, he called the police dispatcher on his cell phone as he made his way to his car and asked to be patched through to the car which was responding to the call. Fortunately he knew the team in question, Kent Davenport and Lauryn Hughes. He filled them in on the situation as he understood it and requested that they await his imminent arrival before they approached the house. Since the man who had called in the alleged burglary had said that he had everything under control, the two agreed to wait even as Simon was pulling up in the driveway almost immediately behind them.

The three officers approached the door and knocked just as another vehicle came screeching up, and a Sentinel in full Blessed Protector mode flung himself out of the driver’s side, running toward the house.

The door had started to slowly open, but the distraught Sentinel slammed his way through. "Blair," he called, moving unerringly toward the agitated heartbeat of his Guide.

Hearing his Sentinel, relieved beyond measure, Blair unlocked his door and hurried toward rescue, turning slightly as he reached Jim to protect his injured wrist. Giving his Guide a reassuring hug, and a quick full sensory body check, Jim released him more quickly than he might have otherwise done so that he could check the injury.

"What happened? Nevermind now. Blair, this is broken. We need to get you to the hospital."

Gently he began to steer the young man back toward the front door, only then registering the strange collection of people currently occupying their living room: three police officers and his father. None of them registered immediately as a threat, and so he prepared to leave them behind, in his territory, in light of the more urgent demands of his injured companion. "I’m taking my Guide to the hospital," he began, only to be cut off.

Here William Ellison, in front of three police witnesses, made his third mistake of the evening. "Guide? Guides are women. What kind of scam is this? Jim, do you really think you can make people think your little boytoy is a Guide? I gave him a chance to get out of your house peacefully, and he wouldn’t go. These police officers have come to take him away. Come away from him, and let them take him."

If it had been their First Week, William Ellison would probably have died that night. As it was, it took all three police officers and his severely stressed Guide to keep Jim from causing serious bodily injury to the man he had once called Father. Asking Hughes and Davenport to take Jim and Blair to the hospital, Simon Banks assured the Sentinel that he would clear out the final intruder and lock up the house. His attention turned once again to his Guide, the Sentinel allowed himself to be placed in the back of the squad car for the ride to the hospital. Overwhelmed and in pain, his Guide plastered himself to Jim’s side.

Waiting until the cruiser had driven away, despite knowing that Jim would now be focusing all of his attention on Blair, Simon turned to the interloper still standing in righteous indignation in the middle of Jim’s and Blair’s living room.

"Mr. Ellison?"

"Captain Banks?"

"We need to discuss a few things. First, you must be one of the last people in America, Hell, on the planet, not to know that not all Guides are women and that Blair is Jim’s Guide. There was even a Special TV Report on him a few weeks back. He’s not only Jim’s Guide; he’s a kind of Super Guide, a Guidefinder. Second, he and Jim bought this house together. He’s not just living here on Jim. He owns half the house. He’s certainly not a burglar. Third, I need you to tell me how he came to have a broken wrist."

William Ellison just laughed. It was not a good sound. "That pretty boy has you all bamboozled. Guides are women, Banks, all of them. I never suspected my son of being one of those kind of men. As for the arm, he was faking that for sympathy and a lawsuit. I didn’t push him that hard."

It was then that William Ellison, CEO, found himself handcuffed and in the back of a second cruiser before he quite realized what had occurred. Spluttered threats were ignored. He was taken to the station and processed like any other alleged felon, up on charges of assault and battery. Eventually, to avoid the publicity and humiliation of a trial, he pled guilty to a reduced charge, accepted an embarrassing year of probation, and paid a large monetary fine. He also paid in the irreversible loss of his son because Jim refused all of his overtures and never spoke to him again.

In the years to come, the elder Ellison watched from afar as his son and his son’s Guide became a Pair to be proud of. He had to listen to others tell him of that pride, and he had to listen to them ask him about his own feelings. He claimed that he, too, was proud, but all he really felt, at night, when he was willing to admit it to himself, was sorrow and sorrow’s ever more bitter cousin, regret.

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Jim had been enjoying his dinner with Kyra when he began to feel vaguely uneasy. He reached to take a drink of his water, but before his hand reached the glass he felt an odd twinge in his wrist. Then, clearly, he heard his Guide’s voice, "Jim. Jim. Help me. I called Captain Banks, Jim, but I need you."

Throwing a handful of bills on the table, more than enough for their meals and a generous tip, Jim struggled to his feet. "Blair," he said aloud, that one word both an explanation and a kind of apology. Kyra understood immediately, and she nodded her understanding, even if it was only to Jim’s back. Then, she settled in to finish her own meal, helping herself to Jim’s wine when she had finished her own, and enjoying the food if not the solitude. She knew Blair, and she knew a little about Sentinels. She and Jim would have another chance.

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Pratt, still watching from afar, wondered what all the excitement had been about.