Finding, Keeping, Losing, Weeping

By Jayed

EMAIL: Jayed

Warnings: AU. Xover. Angst. WiP.

Rating: Gen, for now.

Author’s Notes: Blair held his press conference to denounce himself and his work, but Simon, Jim, and Megan were not shot, and no one has offered Blair a badge. Post-TSbBS. Spoilers for S2 and other episodes. A much shorter version of this story (which was called “Sentinels”) appeared in the SenA list, but this longer version will include slash. ("Sentinels" can be found here: http://brothersinarms.tvheaven.com/jayed/jayedtsgen/sentinels.html).

My thanks to ljc, niki grace, and, of course, Annie for freelance betas. All errors are mine.

Disclaimers: Not mine. Just borrowed.

Almost before the anger of Jim’s accusatory shouts had died away, and even as Blair’s press conference was repeatedly shown on the televisions of a stunned station and city, gifts began arriving at that same station for “Honored Guide Blair Sandburg.” First to arrive were elegant and tasteful arrangements of flowers in fidelity’s blue and friendship’s yellow, but these were only the preliminary salvos. Food baskets followed, baskets put together by Cascade’s most upscale shops and restaurants. Crystal bowls of perfectly ripe tropical fruits, boxes of the finest and most intriguing chocolates, baskets centered around expensive and rare cognacs and liqueurs, and picnic baskets filled with exotic treats from the world over came as the second wave. Honeyed hams, smoked venison, and stuffed pheasants, the centerpieces of full meals, made up the final wave of the first salvo of gifts. Every gift came with a sealed card.

Because it was impossible that these courting gifts could be sent to the home of another Sentinel, and because the University was clearly not a viable possibility either, the gifts had been sent to the one other place Blair was known to spend his time, the Cascade Police Department. Confused by the strange turn of events, the front desk sergeant had the packages sent up to the break room on the seventh floor, outside the main offices of Major Crime.

Blair, located with some difficulty, was asked to come and decide what he wanted to do with all the largesse. First, he had just stared in stunned amazement, and then he reached for the cards. As he opened and read them, he found that they all contained some variation of the same message:

//Honored Guide,

I seek to court you to be my Companion. I will support you as you support me. Please accept this gift as a token without obligation.//

Each card was signed either with a name, proceeded by the word ‘Sentinel’ or ‘Watchman’ or by a name, followed by the name of the Sentinel or Watchman for whom the person was acting as agent. Apparently some of the Seekers were children or teenagers.

At first, Blair, and Simon who came to inspect the disruption on “his” floor, thought it was a hoax, and a cruel one at that. But it was too expensive. Too elaborate.

Jim arrived soon after and stood silently in the doorway. The cards showed that the gifts came variously from twenty three Sentinels. Twenty three Sentinels were freely offering Blair what Jim had refused or given grudgingly: honor, respect, open support, an admission of need, and, even sight unseen, trust. Jim had just spent most of the last year denying Blair all of these things, most recently this very day.

Rafe, H, Joel, and Megan came to see what all the fuss was about and slowly others filed in. Blair looked through everything carefully, making careful notes so he’d know who to thank for which items.

Then, he announced that lunch was served. He limited the first round to uniforms and staff, but he passed particular gifts along to the members of Major Crimes. A bottle of Krug 1990 Champagne went to Rafe, a pair of rare nut liqueurs—chestnut and black walnut-- to H and Joel, and an elegant crystal decanter of fine cognac to Simon. Megan got the Gold Edition Gift box of Cacao Anasa truffles, her eyes nearly popping out of her head.

Jim watched. Quietly. He was thinking, quickly and more carefully than he ever had. Memory was showing him a slideshow of every action and interaction between himself and the young man at the center of the room. He saw the good times. He saw Alex and Brad and Sid. He saw all the times Blair had been hurt physically doing Jim’s job and emotionally at Jim’s whim. “Oh, God.” He was going to lose his Guide, just as he had insisted, loudly and repeatedly, he wanted only hours before.

That stopped him. All of these other Sentinels knew what they were. They knew what a Guide was. They wanted a Guide. How did these others know what he had never known? And how was he going to keep his Guide?

All too soon, Blair was packing up the various leftovers. He gave the biggest box to Rhonda and then passed the rest of the “care packages” onto to the various other staff personnel who had shown up for the impromptu party. He’d already asked that the various plants and flowers be distributed throughout the station, reserving a large basket of mixed orchids for Joel’s wife. He had wanted to keep them before he remembered he didn’t have any place to take them. He couldn’t bring the courting gifts of other Sentinels into Jim’s loft, even if he still lived there, and, after this day, and Jim’s actions, it was clear that he did not, could not. He had no Home to bring plants to, no home period.

This latest fiasco had shown him that Jim had never, in all their four years together, learned to trust him. Faced with the release of Blair’s dissertation, he had acted to separate himself from the younger man as furiously and coldly as possible, assuming that Blair had sold him out for money and fame. All the care and concern, the long hours and dinners and camping trips, in the end, were just ashes and empty gestures.

Looking up, Blair stared at Jim for a moment before picking up the stack of cards and holding it his chest. He was barely holding back the pain and the tears. Could he? How could he? Yet, how could he not? He was a Guide. He had thought (and so, apparently, had Inchaca) that he was Jim’s Guide. Jim, it was all too apparent, did not agree, and his was the deciding vote.

Blair hardly knew what to do, where to go, what to think. He’d lost Jim and gained more than twenty other Sentinels. His dissertation was being tossed around by the Press and all over the Internet, and he’d lost Jim. Now. Now he had to figure out what to do. Without Jim.

Simon, father and true leader of men, saw the moment when it all became more than Blair could handle. “Blair?” He waited until the other man was looking at him. “Megan’s going to take you back to her place for the night. She’s got that spare room.” He paused. “I’ll take Jim with me. Get out of here and get some sleep. We can discuss it in the morning.”

Blair started, wordlessly for once, to follow Megan. Then, an obvious thought occurred to him. “Simon? I don’t … others Sentinels are coming…Keep an eye on Jim. Remember Alex.” And then he was gone, walking past the gossiping crowd of police officers and personnel and past Jim, standing silent and still. He was oddly proud that he made it to Megan’s house and into a borrowed shower before the tears began to fall.

Simon made sure all the traces of the impromptu feast were cleared away before he locked his gift in the bottom drawer of his desk. Then, collecting his unhappy and semi-unwilling houseguest, he went home. Jim was quiet and contemplative, clearly stunned by the events of the day. Yet, he also was not displaying the behaviors that had categorized his actions when Alex had been in town.

*****

Although he had barely picked at the fabulous treats at the station, Blair couldn’t force himself to eat more than a bite or two of the simple sandwich Megan put together for him. Instead, the two found themselves sitting in front of the open box of chocolates.

*****

Through their long years together, the Lead Pair had learned to hold entire conversations without speaking a single word aloud. This was no exception as the preliminary discussion was short and heartfelt. They had long suspected that the days of anonymity were coming to a close. It seemed that that day had arrived.

If only they had known of the young man’s search. If only either of them had learned enough to be computer savvy about a search for Sentinel information online. If only, however, wasn’t going to solve this crisis. The Sentinel might not want the Guide he could have had, but he probably wouldn’t want anyone else to have him either.

As a Shaman, with some training and power, the blonde man’s role had dictated that their Pair would be Lead. Since it seemed that the spirits had named this young man, this Blair Sandburg, a Shaman, he and his Sentinel would be the next Lead. Kenneth “Hutch” Hutchinson and his partner and Sentinel, David Starsky, were only in their fifties, but Sentinels, like all human beings, started losing some of the sharpness of their senses with age, and a Shaman, while gaining wisdom, lost some of the strength to handle the vigils and meditations. If only the young man didn’t find this whole thing too traumatizing.

Hutch tried to imagine what it would have been like, after he and Starsk had worked together, become partners and then Partners, if then the other man had casually dismissed him from his life. He imagined the additional traumas of losing the job he’d loved and having to show a face of fraud and humiliation to the world. He didn’t think he’d have been able to stand it.

His empathetic distress over the younger man’s situation was picked up immediately by his hyperaware Companion, and before he could get himself too upset, a pair of arms pulled him into a hug. “Shh. Let it go, Blondie. You’re not alone. I’m right here with you.” Sighing softly, he let himself return the hug, letting the Sentinel scent him as he was soothed back to calm.

Reaching for a special folder, Hutch set about contacting the other North American Pairs and the known unbonded Sentinels, wondering, as he often did now, how many other unknowns were out there, suffering, or even about those who’d found a Guide, but remained a lone Pair, without connection to their kind.

Maybe it really was time to step out of the shadows and reintroduce the world to their Protectors.

*****

The unbonded Sentinels gathered together in Seattle which was a neutral place, near the Guide, but not intruding on an obviously touchy Sentinel’s territory. Twenty three unbonded Sentinels, ranging in age from eleven to fifty-two, settled in uneasily, wanting to be friendly with their kind, but desperately aware that they were now rivals in the most important contest of their lives.. There were sixteen males and seven females. Despite their diverse ethnicities--seven Caucasian, six African-American, four Native-American, three Hispanic, and three Asian-American—they had one thing in common. They all had relatives who had been Sentinels or Watchmen, relatives whose stories and histories they knew. Relatives who left them records and hints, and who had prepared their families and family members for others of their line who would share the gifts. And, in all the stories, all the family histories, the happiest and most powerful of their ancestors were those Sentinels who had been fortunate and lucky enough to find and convince a Guide to Bind with them.

It was inconceivable to the subdued gathering that one of their kind, a Sentinel, existed who did not understand who he was and what a Guide was. Somehow his family must have lost or denied its history. It was the only way that group could accept that he would have allowed a Guide to sacrifice himself so thoroughly. No Sentinel who knew what was going on could have allowed a Guide to be in so much pain and done nothing.

The known Pairs were also planning to come, but they were staying away for a day or two, to allow the Leaders to establish themselves with the Unbonded, and to give the Sentinels some time to appreciate being around a Guide. The Shaman was powerful enough that his Sentinel never had any atavistic reactions to other Sentinels. The Sentinels needed to be sure that they would not, purposely or accidentally, give the impression that they were attracted to another Sentinel’s Guide. This would further prepare them to meet an available unbonded Guide without off-putting Neanderthal behaviors, behaviors that see them banned from the gathering and their chance at a Bond.

*****

After the first afternoon, when the Sentinels and such family or friends as had traveled with them, had all had a chance to meet one another and the Lead Pair, they retired to their individual rooms to establish small territories amid white noise generators, familiar scented “travel candles,” and the comfort of their own sheets and towels. Later, they would all venture out and eat special meals ordered for their group in the alternate dining room.

Starsky and Hutch retired to their rooms as well, discussing their possible strategies for contacting the Guide and introducing him to those who so eagerly sought him.

“DiNozzo and Gibbs will be here first tomorrow, “ Hutch said, looking over his notes. “Then, as the day progresses, I’m expecting Tanner and Standish, Hunter and McCall, Sloan and Travis, Stokes and Sanders, Duncan and Bosley, and Fraser and Vecchio. Everyone is making the effort to be here.” He sighed. “I still can’t believe Chris and Marybeth are gone. They were always the ones who helped us ease the tensions when we first got together.”

“I know, Babe. But even we aren’t immune to car crashes.” He paused. “It will be good to see everyone else again. Try to focus on that.”

*****

As Megan and Blair ate chocolates, and as the various unpaired Sentinels met with their Leaders, Simon and Jim talked long into the night, reviewing the past, examining the current situation as they understood it, and imagining various scenarios for the future.

As the night wore on, Jim got more and more agitated, turning defensive and angry to hide his fears. Finally, after he made one too many ill-advised comments about Blair’s supposed incompetence and betrayal, Simon had had enough. Steeling his expression, he spoke coldly and exactingly, staring straight into the other man’s eyes. “Well, I suppose it all comes down to this, Jim, and you’d better think carefully about your answer.” He took a deep breath. “What do you want, Sentinel? What is it that you want?”

To be continued

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