The Sentinel & Guide Fair
Authors Notes: The second part of a series of stories about a Sentinel and Guide Pair in a world that accepts them and celebrates them as Partners.
Warnings: AU, SIP (Series in Progress)
Disclaimers: As before, not mine. Just borrowed.
Story Two: The Sentinel & Guide Fair
Looking furious, the blonde woman hurled herself toward Blair and the man still holding him. Seeing her, the Sentinel dropped his duffle and shifted to stand between her and the Guide. "Let her try," he thought, hoping that she would see reason. Although she was likely feeling a slight attraction, perhaps even one as strong as the one hed felt with Carolyn, she had to know that the attraction between this Guide and himself was different, was stronger. He could sense the strengths of other Pairs Bonds; she should be able to do the same.
Startled and not a little distressed, Blair took a step back from the approaching confrontation. Then, when it became clear that the two Sentinels were closely focused on one another, he turned, moving quietly and quickly out of their immediate sphere, and then he simply fled. He knew he was fleeing; he knew he had to get away. The Guide part of Blair knew that eventually hed meet back up with the unknown male Sentinel, the pull was strong enough for the Sentinel to find him, unless he actually left the City right now, right now, right now. Yet, he also wanted to get away from that woman, that frighteningly broken female Sentinel, and from the whole concept of black bands.
As the woman, a silently proclaimed rival, came right up into the sphere of his personal space, the previously silent man, spoke two short words, "You know."
She smiled lazily and contradicted him, "I dont know. Maybe I can court him. Some Guides prefer freer Bonds."
He returned the smile, much less lazy, much more feral. "I see that your technique has worked. Six times. Weak Bonds, indeed."
Actually snarling, she pulled her right arm in preparation for a stinging slap to his face. It never struck. Despite the fact that she was in clearly superior physical form, her badge was purple, the insignia showing her to be a singer and a painter, and she was no match for a military and police-trained man. He caught her arm as she swung, and then he used her own momentum to spin her around and push her back toward her cabin.
Dismissively, he then turned his back on her, looking for the young man, his Guide. "Lost something?" The woman was stopped, partway back to her chosen cabin, laughing at him.
Damning her for frightening his Guide, who was clearly rather young, Jim turned to give a quick overview of the cabins. Ironically, the one he had used for his Bond with Carolyn was still empty, but he bypassed it, stunned to find that somehow one of the end of the row cabins was still empty. Those were usually claimed by the earliest arrivals. Hastening his steps, he entered it and saw the reason for this cabins emptiness. The walls of this particular cabin had for some reason been painted a dismal, sickly green. Someone should report it and get it changed. Pinching himself to use Touch for a distraction, he sent his Hearing and Scent to sweep the rest of the Sentinel Rows. Ah, another empty cabin stood in the middle of the second to last row , with a several rows between it and his surprising rival, if he could call her that.
Striding quickly, he claimed the cabin, noting the much more soothing light blue of this cabins walls, and, hastily unpacking his bag, and hanging his colors, he swept back out the door to find his Guide.
Getting his sense of panic under control, Blair went back to the Guide Hostel, hoping to find one of the older Guides who were usually on hand to answer questions. He had a lot of questions. Actually, what he needed was to sit and think. Clearly the unknown man was his Sentinel. But why the black band? He must have taken a chance on a weak Bond. He was definitely somewhat older. Maybe hed gotten tired of waiting and settled. Well, this Guide had come as soon as he could.
After a brief nap and some further thought, Blair went back to the common room for more coffee and some conversation. A "Guides Guide," an older Guide standing by to answer questions for the new Guides, was holding court at the far end of the room, dressed in the deep gray robes of the Bonded. His badge, not surprisingly, was bright red. Two other white-robed Guides sat at the table, and Blair moved to join them.
"Im Blair, Elder," he said politely, coming up and waiting to be asked to join the group.
"Call me Chaka, Blair," the other said in return, smiling and waving his hand at the empty chairs. "Join us. This fellow here is Gideon and the lady is Gwynn, his blood-sister. Weve been discussing strategies for keeping from being overwhelmed by competing requests and what to do if you dont find a true Bond. You know you can accept any of the offers, or you can wait, and try again at another Fair."
"Thank you for letting me join you. I need some help." Blair blushed. He hadnt intended to bring this up in front of anyone else, but these two were also new, and maybe theyd appreciate a, well, a kind of warning. "Theres a blond woman with six black stripes, and, well, she made me a little, I dont know, nervous."
Chaka looked momentarily startled, and then he started to speak. Then, just as quickly he clearly changed his mind and didnt. He took a deep breath, wanting to be more impartial than he knew he was. "Thats Alexia. Her first Guide was a woman in her early thirties who had been searching for a Sentinel for years. Then, when she got one, she got bored with being a Guide and abandoned Alexia. Their Bond was so weak it should never have been accepted by either side. Alexia fought bitterly with her next three Guides, who were all young men, and, although they tried to keep things together, Alexia chose to break all three of those Bonds. Her fifth Guide, a young woman, disappeared while they were on a trade trip overseas. No one is exactly sure what happened, but she came to the next Fair with five black bands." He paused, seeing and feeling the distress from all three of the young Guides before him. "Her last Guide was convicted of minor criminal offenses, and she abandoned him. His birth-family came to support him at the trial and claimed that he acted to force her to break the Bond."
"But, why? Why didnt he just break it himself and walk away?" Gwynn asked, looking confused.
Chaka looked carefully away from all three young people. "She may have been coercing him." He held up a hand to silence the dissent and distress he knew his words would cause.
Gwynn spoke up before her brother or Blair could. "But, Elder, Sentinels dont treat Guides that way."
Chaka just had been given the position because of his extreme patience with young people. He called upon all of it now as he struggled not to roll his eyes at the naiveté before him. All three of these very young Guides clearly had an elevated and idealistic view of Sentinels.
"Most dont. Most wont. However, like any other people, some Sentinels are good, and some are not. Some are kind, and some are not. Do you honestly believe all Guides are angelic? Are you?"
The three younger Guides looked at one another, blushing. Gwynn and Gideon exchanging knowing grins. Blair just looked stunned.
"Come on, lets get something to eat. Its almost lunchtime, and we can beat the rush. We can talk about other things for a bit and give this whole Family Fair thing a rest, okay?"
Discussion at lunch turned to the new badges all three Seekers displayed. Gwynn and Gideon, who were not just birth-siblings but actually twins, were from a long family line of Guides. Each had chosen a career path with that in mind. Gwynn had studied Medicine and Botany. She had the insignia for Nursing and Nutrition next to her Orange Badge. Gideon had chosen a Red Badge. His insignia showing that his choice was to be centered in the midst of a Family, running the Household, and perhaps Children, and supporting a Sentinel by making his or her environment safe and orderly.
The two were curious about Blairs career choices, and he admitted that he had not chosen anything because he was a Guide because he hadnt known he was one until relatively late. Hed Apprenticed with his mother for Art. She had been a Traveler, staying with a Family of Mechanics when she died. The Family had taken him as an Apprentice, and he found that he enjoyed the work, something solid to balance out the abstracts of his Mothers Art. Members of a large, sprawling family, with lots of connections to its members various birth-families, the other two Guides were unable to understand fully that Blair was alone in the world. He didnt even know anything about his Mothers birth-family. Shed never spoken of them.
"Twin Guides. I wonder if you could ever find Twin Sentinels," Blair said, blushing as he realized hed actually his spoken his idle thought aloud.
Not taking any offense, the other Guides merely laughed. Gideon spoke up. "If we were identical twins, we might take the same Sentinel; its been done. I think, however, that well be fine with our own. If we find them. We were at the Vancouver Fair in Canada last year, and we didnt make matches. We could have tried again, but last year only twenty three Sentinels showed up there. This year, with the cabins almost full, there almost a full two hundred."
Chaka smiled. His charges were much less nervous now that they had someone else to commiserate with, even Gwynn and Gideon need the reassurance that their fears and uncertainties were shared.
"Um, Elder?" Blair began.
"Wheres your Sentinel while youre here with us? You dont spend the whole Fair apart, do you?"
"Josephs in one of the cabins near the center of all the Sentinels, helping the young Sentinels in the same way Im with you. We meet up for a meal at least once a day, and I stay there with him at night."
"Oh," Gwynn guessed, "Then the woman who was here last night is spending the day with her Sentinel?"
The three young Guides spent the rest of the day together, the Twins sharing their experiences with Sentinels and Guides with their new friend. Three aunts, a cousin, and their two older half-brothers were all Guides. Gwynn noted that it was something she wanted to study, through her Medical training, because Sentinels and Guides werent known to run in Families this way. It was particular coincidental because they shared their father with one Guide half-brother and their mother with the other. Further, the cousin was on their mothers side and the aunts on their fathers. For his part, Blair was just bemused by the wealth of relatives the other two possessed, besides the obvious connection they had to one another. He felt a bit funny about it when he realized he was more than a little jealous.
Sensing his distress, the others turned the discussion to Blairs travels, feeling their own more minor jealousies flaring at the thought of the all the fascinating things hed done and all the people hed met. Theyd grown up within easy traveling distance of Vancouver, and this trip was the Big Adventure of their live so far. Theyd been nineteen at their first Fair, waiting an extra year while Gwynn finished her Nursing Apprenticeship, and, if pushed, they would have admitted that they hoped to convince their Sentinels, should they Bond, to return there with them.
As the late afternoon shadows began to fall, the three decided it was time to return to the Fair. Theyd stayed in long enough. Feeling a bit awkward, knowing that he hadnt mentioned the tall male Sentinel, Blair let the others head out while he went back to his room to change. Once there, he made the decision that had been in his mind for most of the afternoon. He repacked his duffle and put it over his shoulder. He would find his Sentinel and stay with him.
When Blair ventured back out of the Guide House, he saw his Sentinel standing across the road, arms crossed against his broad chest, eyes down, leaning back against a wall. He looked distracted and a bit stern. Blair thought briefly, knowing it was wrong, about turning around and going back into the Hostel. Then, the Sentinel raised his head, looked right at him, and broke into a broad, clearly delighted smile.
Feeling terribly shy, but also relieved, Blair smiled happily back. He was ready to meet and talk. He felt a bit guilty about behaving so like a child the day before. It was not an auspicious beginning for what would be the most important relationship of his life.
The Sentinel wouldnt break tradition and step onto the grounds of the Guide Hostel, so Blair made his feet move him down the path. He was unaware of the stares he and the other man were attracting from the watching Sentinels and Guides. All other activity seemed to have stopped. This was what they all hoped for, the true Bond, a strong, unbreakable connection. Sentinels and Guides accepted weaker Bonds through fatigue, desperation, friendship, fear, convenience, and a myriad of other reasons. Yet, in their hearts, they all knew that this what they were supposed to want and, more importantly, to have.
Joseph and Chaka stood quietly nearby, watching the new Bond begin. Theirs was such a Bond, as was that of the other Mentor Pair, Eva and Angela. Most Mentors were chosen based on the strengths of their Bonds. It would be useless, and downright foolish, to give new seekers the wrong impression about what the possibilities were.
Blairs feet began moving faster and faster the closer he got to end of his path. He had just enough sense of dignity to keep from running or skipping, although he almost felt like he should. Then, as he got to the edge of the property, he was stopped.
Stepping forward into his path, the beautiful, flawed Sentinel moved in front of him and reached a hand toward his arm. Startled, he stepped back. Surely she could feel the Bond between the other and himself. What was she doing? Taking a closer look, he realized she "felt" wrong. He didnt understand it, but the pull of a True Bond, after all her failures, was making her a little insane.
Joseph and Chaka had already begun moving as soon as they recognized her. They didnt want this new Bond to begin in strife and pain, and the other Sentinel looked upset enough to fight. Before she knew was happening, as the crowd stood by, watching the drama, Alexia was pulled away toward the Medical Center. She was clearly in need of some serious help. Fortunately, she was too stunned by the play of events to protest too vigorously or struggle too much.
As soon as she was gone from his line of sight, Blair took a deep breath and continued on his interrupted journey toward his Sentinel. Walking straight up to the man, close enough to touch, he spoke the formal invitation phrase, "I would take a Sentinel. Will you take a Guide?" His voice shook with force of his conviction that this was true and right and good.
His smile had faded while the small drama with Alexia played out, but now it came back full force. "I would take a Guide. Will you come to me?"
"I will. Will you open the door for me?"
With little further ado, the Sentinel reached out and took the small bag from his Guides hand and put it over his own shoulder. Then, reaching out, he clasped the other mans hand, and they moved together, feeling the beginning of the Bond through their sensitive fingers, toward the middle cabin in the second-to-last row of the Sentinels.