Author's Notes: Sentinels and Guides are known and Bond. It's just part of life. This is a follow-up to "Courtship." It's helpful to have read "Courtship," but, not, I think, essential.
Disclaimers: Not mine. Just borrowed.
Rated "E" for "Everybody"
As their first week came to a close, Jim and Blair were eligible to be sought by the various companies and agencies that needed or wanted a Pair on their payroll. Although many Pairs declared an agent through the Sentinel-Guide House, Jim and Blair had decided that Jim would act as their agent. Of course, since Blair was still a college student, that would also have to be taken into account, but Jim was convinced he could find something, and the search would be interesting. Blair's college situation could be easily accommodated by any reasonable employer, and, to secure a Pair, most employers would be quite reasonable indeed. Most.
The first phone call he got about job prospects came from the personnel manager at Ellison Enterprises. . The man had called, all charm and smarm, to offer Jim a rather amazing salary to step in as Head of Security. Before Jim could even ask, he was assured that the position was in recognition not only of his status as a Sentinel, but also in recognition of the fact that he had been an officer in the Army. No mention was made about a position or salary for Blair, for Jim's Guide. He wondered if the Personnel Manager was unaware of his status as a Bonded Sentinel. Deciding to be calm about the seeming insult, Jim politely declined the offer and hung up the phone.
His father called about twenty minutes later. He wondered what had taken so long, as he had been expecting the call for about ten minutes by then. "It's a good, serious offer, Jim. Take it." Demanding. No nonsense. Seemingly no room for negotiation or negation.
"You forgot to tell Personnel to give my Guide a job, Dad."
"So," Jim said, thoughtfully. "You okay with the freaky senses now, Dad?"
More stunned silence. Apparently it still shocked the elder Ellison when anyone questioned him rather than simply obeying. Jim hung up the phone.
After Jim turned him down so rudely and abruptly, even hanging up on him, William called his younger son, Stephen, into his office. He was determined to bring his elder son in line, and he was more than willing to use his younger son to accomplish his goal. Fortunately for him, Stephen saw eye-to-eye with his father on most things, including this one. The two men also shared a complete inability to understand the other man in their little dysfunctional family.
Stephen was waiting the next day when Jim left the loft without his companion. Not knowing how the long his brother would be gone, Stephen headed straight up the stairs.
Blair was trying to decide if he was happy or sad that Jim had left him alone for the first time since their Ceremony. A part of him missed, or maybe wanted to miss, the independent young man he'd been before he'd been Sought and Courted. A part of him missed Jim from the moment the door closed behind him.
Jim, on an errand to buy a few groceries and pick up some dry-cleaning, was using this first separation as a test. He had been grounding himself non-stop on his Guide, and he wanted to see if he could tell a difference away from him. He wanted to find out from how far he could track Blair's heartbeat and how his senses had settled now that he had his true Guide, the young man standing, well, in motion, at the center of his world.
When the knock came on the door, a surprised Blair got up form his chair and looked through the peep-hole which Jim had installed for him. He saw a well-dressed, somehow vaguely familiar man standing there. "Who is it?" he asked through the closed door.
"Stephen Ellison, I'm Jim's brother."
Surprised and curious, Blair opened the door. No family had attended their Ceremony, and Jim hadn't mentioned any family nearby, or at all for that matter. Before he had a chance to speak, Stephen had taken advantage of the open door to walk in and claim a seat on the sofa. "Blair, right?"
A bit bemused by the other man's air of ownership of the space, Blair put forth his hand, "Blair Sandburg. I guess you already know I'm Jim's Guide." He paused. "Would you like some coffee? I just put on a pot."
Blair spent the next few minutes putting together the tray, including sugar and milk for his guest. His concentration on the coffee preparation gave Stephen a chance to examine his host. He was quite young and quite pretty, really. Jim had done quite well for himself there. Despite his own confidence in his charms, he had just enough sense of self-preservation to avoid making any kind of overture in that vein.
When he wanted to be, Stephen could be quite personable. He made a good impression on Blair as he spoke about his unhappiness at the continued estrangement of Jim and himself. He enlisted Blair by claiming that he thought that Blair could serve as a necessary liaison between members of the family. Then, he brought up the job offer from Ellison Enterprises, noting the Jim had turned the job down once already. And, just like that, he lost Blair.
Missing Blair's change-of-heart, Stephen kept on, assuming that Blair was accepting his blather. Deciding on a small test, Stephen asked for a beer rather than a refill of his coffee. Blair, still playing the role of host, brought him one. Stephen then began to insist that he couldn't drink alone and that Blair should join him.
"Stephen, I'm only nineteen."
"Yeah? But you're a college student, right? And a sort of married man. Surely you can have one beer with me."
"No, I don't want one, and Jim wouldn't like it.
"It's not like I'm asking you to take a shot of whiskey. It's just a beer."
"Stephen, let it go, please. I've got my coffee."
Later that day, and ever after, when he thought back to that one meeting with Jim's Guide, Stephen could never understand how he'd come to say what he'd said. He was a successful business man and seasoned negotiator. He had maneuvered carefully through office politics for years. Perhaps he just wasn't willing to admit that he was out of his depth. Perhaps he just didn't know anything about Sentinels and Guides.
In the moment, however, Stephen had put on a carefully sympathetic expression and, oozing concern, asked quietly, "Blair? Are you afraid of Jim? Is he mean to you when you are alone with him?"
Blair stood before Stephen had finished speaking. Disgust and an odd dignity settled over him. "Stephen, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave now. I cannot have someone dissing Jim like that in his own home." He paused, and then continued. "He loves me. I love him. We're a Pair. You have you have no idea how wrong you are to even imply such a thing."
"Blair, I'm not leaving until I see Jim. You can't throw me out of my brother's house. Sit down and calm down." His voice had grown steadily sharper until the final works were snapped out as an order.
The door slammed open.
Stephen almost fell out of his seat when he saw expression on his brother's face. He knew enough about Sentinels to realize that the other man had probably heard most of what he'd said for the last several minutes. "Jim," he began.
"Stephen. Because you are my brother, I'm giving you one minute to be out the door." He paused to take a deep breath. Blair moved to stand next to him, ducking under the arm Jim raised to lay across the younger man's shoulders. He used the arm to pull his Guide closer to him. "Thirty seconds."
"Jim. Don't be "
"Stephen. Out. Now. Five four "
Stephen stood and stared at the united front presented by his brother and his Guide. His father was going to be furious with him for blowing this. He didn't screw up often, but this was a pretty spectacular effort. He wondered momentarily if the situation was still recoverable, but no. He made it through the door, but only just.
"I'm so sorry," Jim said. "I should have told you about my brother, my father, so that you would have known what to expect." He put his second arm around Blair and pulled him close, scenting his hair as he leaned down for kiss.
"I'm sorry, too," Blair said. "You shouldn't have to hear something like that in your own home." Suddenly his usual sense of humor returned. "Of course, you have to promise me something."
"Anything. You know that."
"Buy me my first beer on my twenty-first birthday."
Jim grinned. "It's a date."