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Unexpected

by ljc

1/05



Summary: AU. Unrequited Guide finally bonds with stubborn Sentinel.



Warnings: None.



Rating: PG-13 for language.



Unbetaed.



Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, and Paramount. All stories are written with the love of the show in mind. No money is being made. All stories are property of the author.



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Simon watched his Detective with wary eyes. He knew Jim Ellison too well and they'd fought over this repeatedly over the last two months. There really was no other option and both knew it. But the man was stubborn as a rock. His senses were enhanced genetically, exceptionally so, even for a Sentinel. It would be a coup for Major Crimes Division to have their own Sentinel Detective.



When the forensics people got wind of this they would probably have a fit, but having an organic crime lab on the spot at undisturbed crime scenes couldn't help but cause a major boost in their precincts solve rate. Now, if he could only keep Ellison from tromping on their toes. He could understand their grievances. He knew Ellison was not the easiest person to work with at the best of times. They were well trained and dedicated. He could think of a couple that would be knocking on his door in short order.



“Jim, I didn't call you in here for a reprimand. Isn't standing at attention a little too formal?”



“Not a reprimand, Captain? Then what, Sir?”



Simon allowed a small sigh to escape, “Sit down Jim.” The man can even sit at attention. “We've come to the point where you're going to have to take a leave of absence Jim. We discussed this before. Try to make this easy for me if not for yourself. I'm your friend. Remember that.”



“You put me on desk duty a month ago, Captain. I remember that, of course, Sir.”



“I wanted to save your life Detective. Remember zoning? Repeatedly? How you survived that drug bust on the cartel amazes me. But now you're even zoning at your desk. You have sentinel safe computer graphics and they can still draw you into a zone, and don't try to tell me otherwise. I've tried to pull you out of a dozen minor ones and had to call the paramedics for three major zones. How many have you been able to forestall yourself?” The truth hurts right Jim? “There's a Bonding Mixer at the Center every Friday. I don't understand why you're so reluctant to find a Guide. Surely you've had enough time and enough reason to understand the need to bond again. Is it worth your life, and your career, to put it off any longer?”



<>



James Ellison felt and looked defeated. He'd tried so damned hard to control his senses. Life just wasn't fair sometimes. He should be well acquainted with that fact. But Simon wasn't just his Captain, he was his friend. He didn't have many friends left. He was estranged from his family. He was divorced. His military career ended under strained circumstances when his Special Ops teammates were all killed on their last mission. And his police coworkers were just colleagues, certainly not friends. Now years after his disastrous Ranger mission, he'd felt his senses slowly returning. The shock of that mission had knocked him off-line. He'd hoped the senses would never come back. He'd lost his team and his guide and it had almost killed him. Simon knew this. That's why he'd tried to give Jim time to come to the decision at his own pace.



Now his time was up. He found himself standing at the window, not even realizing he'd moved. Simon was waiting patiently. Yeah right. The cigar was a well worn prop by now. If Simon was any more tense he would have snapped it in two.



Jim knew he was so out of control he'd zone and die within weeks without help. If he didn't do something about it before then. Simon didn't know he'd never eat his gun. Some sentinels went berserk without a guide. But when he'd lost his guide he'd survived and gone on. If he'd been the kind to go crazy perhaps suicide would have looked more acceptable than possibly killing innocent civilians. But wasn't allowing himself to zone the same thing as suicide?



Jim's mind sifted through all the arguments. It was his life, his career, and the few friendships that had survived that gave Jim the only answer he found acceptable.



“Captain ... I know you're doing this in my best interests. I can't really deny it any longer. I've put my life on hold long enough.” Turning to face Simon, he squared his shoulders, “This Friday, right? I'll do my best to find a guide, Sir.”



Simon placed his cigar carefully on his desk and slowly looked up at his friend. A small smile graced his handsome face as he stood to clasp Jim's hand and then grip his shoulder. “I know it hasn't been easy since losing your guide, Jim. I can't really understand your loss, but I am glad that I'm not going to lose you over this.” His eyes showed his fear for his friend and the relief that had begun to take its place.



<>-<>-<>-<>



Dr. Eli Stoddard looked out on the small group of certified guides and sentinels in the Bonding Center's meeting room. Soothing earth tones and greenery adorned the room. It had small conversation areas with special acoustic dampers placed at strategic intervals. Few refreshments were offered since sentinels were a picky and sensitive lot. But warm drinks gave everyone something to do with their hands and provided small diversions from what could be tense first meetings.



Eli glanced toward the door at his favorite grad student. He only admitted his favoritism to himself, but this young man was special to him. He'd arrived at the University at fifteen with his mother, Naomi, in tow. He'd been a whirlwind of flying hands with a nonstop patter borne partly of nervousness, partly of exuberance, but mainly of sheer brilliance of thought. He'd immediately thought to mentor the boy. Blair had long known he'd wanted to be a guide since reading his first book about Sentinels. He'd heard the story from him many times, since young Blair never tired of telling it. How he'd discovered an old copy of a text by Sir Richard Burton, “the explorer, not the actor”. He chuckled to himself because Blair always said it just that way.



Blair's exuberance had dimmed over the years. He'd been so sure he was destined to be a guide. Eli worried about Blair now. He was still a star pupil. He was an excellent teacher, leading even the most reluctant student in small steps to understanding complicated topics. His research was impeccable and thought provoking and had been published in highly respected journals. But the research had changed its tone too over the years. Gone was the brashness, the aggressiveness. There was more introspection, as he questioned why some perfectly good guides didn't find a sentinel to bond with. Eli knew Blair wondered what was wrong with him that no sentinel would choose him.



Ah, Blair. He'd tried so hard. Hoped for so long. Rarely missed any mixer. Traveled to other Centers. Always searching and never finding. Eli didn't know how to help him. He'd done his own research and had passed on all his suggestions to Blair. Perhaps it just was not to be for his friend. Eli thought it would break Blair's heart. Oh, Blair tried to convince himself and others that he was happy with the academic life he'd attained, but the eyes tell the true story. Eli would gladly say goodbye to him if Blair could find his 'holy grail'. He'd truly like to see that spark return to his eyes.



“Blair, my boy, good to see you.”



“Eli, you know I never miss a mixer. You should after all these years,” Blair spoke wistfully, allowing his eyes to scan the small crowd. Seeing that he knew most of the sentinels and guides already, he let out a small sigh. A look of sadness showed briefly, before he forced a warm smile for his mentor. “I can't give up yet, Eli, although I have to admit it gets harder every Friday night to stay positive. Well, maybe tonight will be the lucky night.” Blair raised his glass to Eli in a mocking toast, “To luck, Eli.”



<>-<>



Ellison paced. He did it very well. Military you know. It was a very aggressive pacing. People got out of his way in a hurry. They surely didn't interrupt him.



Ellison was on edge. What's wrong? He'd never felt this agitated before. He had tried mixers after his mission, but his senses had shut down, and that was that. Well, they're back now. Nothing he'd tried had stirred them then. The doctors had said it was shock. They didn't know if they'd come back on-line or not. They wouldn't even guess. So he'd resigned his commission and left. The police force gave him direction, a purpose, even a reason to live. It had come slowly and at the expense of friendships. He hadn't been ready to be close to anyone yet. He'd tried. He'd thought he was ready at one point. Carolyn was the one to suffer the most. It was through her efforts that they were still friends even after the divorce.



He finally forced himself to parade rest, hands clasped in a death grip behind his back. He felt he knew the reason for his agitation. He tried telling himself that he didn't 'have' to find a guide tonight. He could just consider this reconnaissance. If he thought of it like that, perhaps he could get through this without humiliating himself. No zoning. Not tonight. He just had to remember the little tricks Zack ... No. He couldn't do this if he remembered Zack. Just remember the training.



<>-<>



Eli saw Ellison stalk through the door. He'd seen the list of attendees and knew that Ellison was new to the mixer, and that his background was unusual. Ex-military, a policeman, older than almost any sentinel he had seen in search of a guide, and a second guide at that. It would be a difficult match. He'd definitely have preferences and prejudices having had a previous guide. He wondered if Blair knew his background. He'd be an interesting subject for a research paper.



Eli turned and his breath caught in his throat. No, nononono .... Blair! He's not for you son!



It was obvious to everyone in the room. Blair stood in the center of the space and had already turned toward the door. He'd been on his way to get some tea. He never got there. He stood fixated on the door.



Ellison's march never hesitated. He stopped only so he wouldn't run Blair down. He seemed to hover over the smaller man, with everyone present sensing an odd sort of envelopment. Not a physical embrace, but perhaps a sensory net that no one dared infringe on. The net was thrown and pulled tight. Every nerve seemed to tingle, every hair stood on end. Everyone in the room was affected. This was no ordinary bond. This was exceptional in ways no one could have foreseen.



And it all fell apart.



<>



Ellison's gaze turned hard. This wasn't Zack. His senses didn't lie. This could never be Zack. This ... could not be his guide. Would not. He turned his back and marched away.



<>



Blair swayed. Eli took a step toward him and stopped. He didn't know what had happened to the pair. He didn't know why Ellison left. He only saw the look of devastation on Blair's face. Blair's collapse set things in motion. Rescue breathing was begun. So strong a bond so abruptly begun and ended had shocked the young man nearly to death. Eli feared for more than his life. His friend had found his sentinel and had been rejected. Would he want to survive if he could?



<>-<>



Eli's anger left him trembling. He tried to force a calm he wasn't sure he would feel again until his friend's life was assured. Seventh floor. Major Crimes. He had an appointment with the Captain. He didn't know if he could help, but he'd enlist any aid he could. He didn't stop in the outer office when he saw the Captain was alone, sitting behind his desk. “Captain, I'm Dr. Eli Stoddard. You were expecting me, yes?”



“Yes, of course Dr. Stoddard. Come in, have a seat.”



“I'm sorry Captain, but I need to pace this morning. I'm at my wits end about this situation. Have you located your Detective Ellison? Time is of the essence, sir.”



“I called him at his apartment over on Prospect. I convinced him to agree to our visit. Is the guide alright, Doctor?”



“The guide is dying. This young man is my friend Captain. The Detective, he's your friend, is that right?”



“Jim is a very private person, but I'm as close to him as anyone. I'll do what I can Doctor. I'm sorry this happened. I feel partly responsible. I practically forced Jim to go to the mixer last night. He needed to bond with a guide, at least that's what I thought. Was I so wrong? Was there another problem?” Simon asked, sincerely upset and questioning his own part in this fiasco.



“Let's talk on the way Captain. Blair Sandburg is in critical condition. I'd rather not waste any time. I'll explain what I know on the way.”



It was a grim and hurried trip to 852 Prospect Ave. Captain Banks' cigar took a beating when Dr. Stoddard told him of the bonding and subsequent rejection of the guide. Simon needed to hear why, from Jim, before he could forgive the man. Guides were well respected. Their dedication to the protection of their sentinel and society as a whole was well known. There'd better be a good reason for Ellison to put this man's life in danger.



<>-<>



Jim couldn't do it. He's NOT my GUIDE. Not MINE ... MINE. Damn it, how could this happen. This wasn't the way he and Zack had bonded. They had a chance to get to know each other. They had decided on a military career together. They had planned things. It wasn't forced on them. What did that kid do to him? What was he going to do?



Simon's coming with Dr. Stoddard. He knew Stoddard's name from the Center although he'd never met the man. What does he have to do with this Sandburg kid? Why did he insist on coming? Jim knew the kid was in trouble. He could feel it. Damn it. He shouldn't be able to feel it. He didn't want a kid for a guide. He looks like a teenager. No, not really, but close. He's small and sure doesn't pump iron. He's not at all like Zack. Sandburg would never make it being a cop's guide. They're here. Simon's blood pressure and heart rate are up. Stoddard's too. Might as well get this over with.



Jim saw Simon's surprise when Jim beat him to the door. His senses were up and running this morning. Is that because of the new guide? Jim crossed his arms protectively across his chest, not reaching to shake Dr. Stoddard's hand. Not that he was offering. Stoddard was as pissed off as any man he'd ever seen.



“Jim, have you and Dr. Stoddard met?” Simon tried the amenities but Jim wasn't cooperating. “Jim, you know why we're here. You bonded last night at the mixer, is that right?”



“Yes.”



“That's it? Yes? You almost killed that young man, Detective Ellison.” Stoddard exclaimed furiously. “You bonded in a way that is totally unheard of; so quickly that I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself; so securely that your new guide stopped breathing when you rejected him.”



Jim paled and his arms slowly dropped, hands clenching at his sides. “I didn't know ... I just couldn't ... He's too young ... He's not a cop ... He IS still alive?”



“Are you sure you care Detective Ellison? If you don't, I don't want you near him again. Do you care? Can you accept him as your guide? And he must be your full guide. Any less might not kill him immediately, but would surely kill his spirit,” Eli fumed, “ Why did you do it, man? Why try to stop the bond? Surely you felt the power of it. Everyone else in the room felt a physical response to your bond. That's never happened before. The strength of this pairing is unimaginable. And you just threw it away. I just don't understand. Your senses ... are they on-line now?”



“Yes,” Jim snapped.



“Strongly?” Stoddard prodded sharply.



Jim thought for a moment, he'd sensed these men's vitals before they'd reached his door. He'd been able to smell Simon's unlit cigar. Looking out the balcony doors he could see clearly to the bay. He sat with a thump on the coffee table. He'd never been this good with Zack right at his back. His guide? This Sandburg, was he responsible for this?



“Yes. Strongly and in control.” With a questioning, half fearful look, Jim asked, “Sandburg's the reason?”



“Yes, I believe so,” Stoddard's answer was strongly affirmative, and a little calmer seeing Ellison's dawning understanding.



“Ellison, where are you going?” was Simon's surprised question.



“To my guide, Simon. Are you coming? It would be better if someone else drove,” and Jim Ellison left the other's to hurry along in his wake.



<>-<>



The ICU was quiet thankfully. No one in crisis. His guide was not in crisis. He felt curiously numb. Rubbing his hand over his face, he tried one more deep breath as Zack had tried to teach him, to calm himself. He'd heard Blair's heartbeat as they drove up. He had been so shocked by that that he had told Stoddard about it. Eli said something about the bond being instantaneous and how incredible it was and unheard of and ... all he wanted to know was ... how was his guide?



The trip up the elevator took too long, and not long enough. What had he done to this young man? Would he even want me as his sentinel now? He had almost killed him. How could he face him?



Thank God, he's breathing on his own. He's still unconscious though. The doctors aren't happy about that. They've never had a rejected guide before. They babbled on about psychic or empathic shock as Jim stood staring. But he wasn't really listening. He just had to get to his guide. Now that he was here he had to touch him. Soothe the hurt somehow that he did to him.



They freaked when Jim started undoing all the sensors attached to Blair. Jim told them to get out, that he was monitoring his guide now. He told Simon and Dr. Stoddard to get everyone out when the medical staff didn't move fast enough. There was a bond to repair and they couldn't help him with something with which they had no personal knowledge. They'd only delay him and that could be fatal. He's in there. His guide. Lost and alone and afraid. He remembered those last moments at the mixer. He'd seen the hurt and loss in his guide's eyes. He needed to touch ... needed it so badly. Blair must need it too.



The monitors had all been silenced. Simon and Dr. Stoddard remained outside the windows with the doctors. He thought Simon looked a little shocked but the doctors seemed oddly understanding when he climbed on the bed beside his guide. He slid one arm under Blair's shoulders to lean him, back to chest, against his sentinel. He wanted to feel the beating, heart to heart. He needed to hear and feel the solid beat of it. His senses enveloped the guide once again. Cataloging and identifying. Cementing his identity further. He gazed at Blair's hands lying on the bed linen and wondered at the strength of them. An academics hands and yet not. His guide was sturdy in his arms and his strength somewhat relieved Jim's fears for him. And so he waited. Blair's vitals seemed to steady. He felt a faint stirring. Nothing the watchers would notice, just his sentinel ... and he waited. It hadn't been long. He'd been prepared to wait longer. Much longer. For his guide.



When Blair's eyes fluttered and slid open Jim held his breath. Jim claimed one strong hand with his own and shifted his guide gently to the side to rest in the crook of his arm. Their gazes locked. Blair's gaze widened and the hurt and loss returned to his eyes. Jim smiled and shook his head, “There's no need for fear now, my guide. I was so very wrong. I still feel the loss of my lost guide, Zack. I was afraid to bond again. I'm so sorry.” Blair returned a tiny smile and slid his arm upward to clasp Jim's hand within both of his.



Both of them felt the connection that Jim had so brutally rejected the night before. It grew stronger, as did Blair's vitals. When he raised his eyebrow in question to Jim, he just shrugged. He understood his guide's unspoken question but he didn't know what to answer. Then he mumbled something about Dr. Stoddard's mention of an empathic net or something, and the doctor's explanation of empathic shock. Even though exhausted Blair looked thoughtful. Jim was encouraged to see that a spark of excitement had been kindled in his eyes. Then he barely whispered, in Sentinel soft tones, “We'll have to do some tests.”



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finis