To Guide and Protect
by Chris J. Ueberall
Pairing: Jim Ellison/Blair Sandburg
Summary: A Sentinel needs a Guide.
Notes: First published in "The Sensual World 4", a 'The Sentinel' slash zine from Mkashef Enterprises.
"You were very lucky, Detective.” The doctor smiled at me and allowed me to get up from the examination table. "The burns will all heal and I'll prescribe you a salve so that you won't hurt... not too much anyway.” She stepped back and handed me my shirt which showed signs of the explosion just as much as my jacket and my skin.
"What about my ears?" I asked, putting the shirt on anyway.
"The ringing will stop eventually. There's no permanent damage. From what I've heard you've been very lucky," she repeated and I could only second that thought.
If I hadn't reacted to the appearance of my animal-spirit, if I hadn't realized what the panther had tried to tell me... if I hadn't risked to cancel the mission just because of a 'vision'... then I would be dead now. Me and at least a dozen other men and women of Cascade's Police Department. Blown away in a warehouse by a crazy bomber. But I had believed in my vision and acted accordingly. 'Thank God.'
I said good-bye to the doctor and then walked slowly along the corridors of the hospital, and suddenly I realized that today was the first time that I was actually thankful for my time in Peru.
I breathed deeply. I never spoke about my time there. Tried my best not to think about it, not that it worked most of the time. I didn't feel like a hero, I only felt like a loser, like a man who had to bury his whole squad and, although I knew rationally that it wasn't my fault, I couldn't get rid of the guilt.
I stopped in front of the elevators. In the last years I had always thought of my time in Peru as a failure and a waste. Not only did my men die there in the crash, but my job to organize the tribes and stop some guerillas or rebels or whatever they were called had been totally meaningless in the end. Nobody cared for what the Chopec and I had done. I could just have waited around until rescue day and nobody would have known or cared for the difference. The whole mission hadn't been necessary at all and that was what had hurt the most. Useless, unnecessary deaths. I left the Army as soon as possible and tried to forget Peru and the time with the tribe.
But today... today one good thing had come out of this. I was able to save my fellow officers today, because of something I had learned in the jungle. And somehow that knowledge lifted the burden a little.
Just when the elevator opened, I heard the growl of my animal-spirit nearby. Alerted, I looked around. The last time I had seen it it had warned me of the bomb. Surely there couldn’t be another bomb here?
The black panther sat some steps away and looked up at me expectantly. Then he started walking, looking back now and then to make sure that I was following. And I was following. After today I would never again ignore the spirit. The big cat walked right into a door and disappeared.
'Great.' I sighed. Obviously my animal-spirit wanted me to go into that room, but I couldn't just go in there, could I?
The next moment I heard a scream from behind that door and, before I realized it, I had opened it and walked into the room.
My first survey showed no reason for the scream. There was a man with long curly hair sitting on the bed, his hands in front of his eyes. A doctor stood close, holding a small flashlight in his hand while looking annoyed at the person on the bed. Neither man took notice of my entrance.
"Mr. Sandburg, I ask you once again not to act as if ...” The doctor began and was immediately interrupted by the curly haired guy.
"As if what? As if my eyes were burned by a laser?!” He was speaking through his fingers, as if he was afraid of being hurt again.
"You exaggerate," the doctor said and it was clear from his tone that he thought the man was a hypochondriac and nothing more.
"How would you know?" The man who had been called 'Sandburg' finally put his hands down and looked angrily at the doctor. "You keep telling me there’s nothing wrong with me, but that's not how it feels from my end. Out of the blue I hear things that aren’t there, then everything’s suddenly too loud. Then even the slightest touch feels like I've been hit or burned or something, sometimes I can't even stand to wear clothes. And right now... I told you I couldn't stand the light in this room and what do you do? You stab that lightsaber into my eyes, and don't grimace because that's exactly how it felt.”
He took a breath then continued. "Now, I accept that you can't find anything, my blood is still red, my vitals are great. Which is worth something, after all I’ve been living on health food for as long as I can remember. But no matter what your tests show or rather not show, I still feel that way, I'm not making things up. I really have better things to do than visit one doctor after another and actually I'm really not fond of western medicine to begin with. So if it isn't physical then it might, and I do mean might, be psychological. But I'm not exaggerating and I'm not making anything up. Is that clear?!" The speech halted and the young man massaged his temple.
The doctor said nothing, obviously shocked by the patient's outburst. Then he shrugged and said simply, "I'm sorry, but I can't help you.” With that he turned to the door, nodded towards me and just left.
I'm not sure what shocked me more, the doctor's words or the nonchalance with which he had just accepted and ignored the fact that there was a stranger in the room.
It took a moment to register that the greeting had been directed at me. Not knowing how to explain my presence, I just smiled uncertainly at the younger man and replied, "Hi yourself". When the other man only looked curious I explained, "Sorry, I heard you yell and just walked in. Instinct I guess."
"I'm a cop. I thought someone needed help."
The man grinned. "I needed help alright. But I guess a shrink would be more suited or maybe an exorcist.” Although the words were spoken with a hint of self-mocking, I could hear the real pain behind it, and fear.
And suddenly I knew why my animal-spirit had brought me here, knew what the young man was and what he needed. I swallowed. Telling the man what I knew wouldn't be enough, he needed help, the help of a shaman, but there weren't many around in Cascade.
He needs a Guide. Suddenly I heard the voice of the Chopec-Shaman in my mind. And the next moment I saw the panther again and heard him growl.
'God, I really have better things to do than play babysitter for this boy,' I argued with the voice in my head. 'I'm a cop, I have a job to do, I have to catch a crazy bomber.'
He needs a Guide. You are a Guide. It is your duty. Incacha's words left no room for argument.
"Are you all right?"
Sandburg's worried voice drew my attention back to the young man. Blue eyes met my gaze. Warm eyes, full of life, full of something that I couldn't quite pin down.
I breathed deeply. The guy was gorgeous, a beautiful man, if I ever saw one - and I surely had looked. But this sense of duty wasn't just because I felt attracted; there was more to it.
I just knew that I couldn't leave this young man alone. With nobody who knew how to help him, Sandburg would probably go crazy within the next weeks. He needed help and I could help him, it was as easy as that. Decision made, I walked over and settled down on the foot of the bed.
"I'm okay. I'm... I'm Jim Ellison, by the way.” I extended a hand and it was taken carefully.
"Blair Sandburg.” Taking his hand back, Sandburg let out a relieved sigh. "Sorry for being so reserved, but the last time somebody touched me ..."
I nodded. Not giving him the time to finish, I said, "I heard what you told the doctor. And I believe you, you are not making things up. But a shrink won't help you either."
"You believe me?" It was obvious that this was a first for him, because he gifted me with a grateful smile that took my breath away and touched something deeply hidden within my soul.
"Why? You don't even know me."
'Okay, here it comes,' I thought, wondering how to explain the whole thing to Blair. "I've seen it happen before, in a way."
"You have?" Sandburg's eyes grew wide. "What is it, what's causing it?"
"It's not an illness, if that’s your question. From what I've heard, it can be a curse, but it can also be looked at as a gift from the gods."
The young man looked at me incredulously. "What do you mean?"
"I mean... See, you have problems with light and touch and… I assume your other senses bother you, too? But not because you’re ill, but because you have enhanced senses. Your hearing is better, your eyesight. That’s why some things, like for example light ..."
"Get to me more than to other people. And the things I heard, the things that aren't there, were probably actually there, just not anywhere nearby.” The last was half question half statement.
I nodded. 'The boy is a quick thinker.' "Right. You’re over stimulated and you don't know how to cope with it. If this was a tribe in a jungle you would be highly appreciated, because someone with enhanced senses is a great advantage for a tribe."
"Of course. I could spy on other tribes or hear animals and all that."
"Yes. You would do that and also watch over the tribe. That's what Sentinels do, they guard, they protect."
"Sentinels?" Sandburg echoed.
I smiled. "That's what you are, a Sentinel. I think it’s an appropriate name, don't you?"
I looked at Sandburg and couldn't really believe that someone like him existed. He was so alive, so full of energy, bouncing through my loft full of excitement, his hands working overtime in accordance with his mouth. 'Boy, the guy can talk.'
When we left the hospital, I drove him home. Or rather to what was passing as his home; a small office at the University where he slept on an old couch.
I would have been surprised that he was almost a professor in anthropology if he hadn't told me all about it on our way there. He really had no problem opening up to strangers. I wasn't sure what I expected, but surely not that he'd drag me into the library book-hunting.
But what surprised me even more was the fact that he actually found something on the subject of 'Sentinels'. Not just people with enhanced senses, no 'Sentinels'. A guy named Richard Burton had written a book about some South-American tribes and their protectors. And he called those protectors 'Sentinels'. Seemed as if my translation was right on.
With that book and three others in hand, we left the campus and drove to the loft because his office made me feel claustrophobic.
We read in silence for a while, then Sandburg suddenly stopped and looked at me with laser-like intensity. "How do you know about all this? You said you’ve seen it before. Where? And what comes next? I mean how do I control it? Can you help me?"
Of course it had been stupid to hope that he wouldn't ask. But I really didn't like talking about my time in Peru. Too many painful memories. On the other hand, I had started this and the kid needed my help. He would have to trust me; it was only fair that I showed him a little trust myself.
"I lived in Peru for some time with a tribe called the Chopec. They had a Sentinel and when he... had some problems, the Shaman took me aside to tell me about Sentinels and their Guides.” The moment the words left my mouth I wanted to take them back. I had concentrated so much on telling him the bare facts without telling him anything compromising about my past that the last part, the part about the Guides, had just slipped out. I prayed he wouldn't ask, but of course he did.
"Their Guides? What do they do?"
How could I explain it? "They guide," I said briskly. But he wasn't impressed.
"Burton says that Sentinels have companions who help them. He says that they’re probably necessary because the Sentinels used to have a kind of fit, where they lose contact with their surroundings. He calls those fits 'zones'."
Amazing how he’d found exactly the right parts in that book. I looked at him in awe. It occurred to me that he was a kind of genius; fast and brilliant. And a Sentinel. The gods must really have smiled on his birth. Although it was an open question if he would see it that way. Being blessed could easily feel like being cursed. As many martyrs could have told him.
"Could that happen to me?"
I stopped gaping and nodded. "I'm afraid so, Chief. It happens when you concentrate too long on one sense alone. Then you lose it. A Guide is there to prevent that from happening by giving the Sentinel a hold to reality, like an anchor."
At that the bouncing and talking started again.
He was intrigued by the whole concept and worked through it and several theories he had just developed while walking through the living room.
I wondered more than once if he was still aware of me being there, if he was actually talking to me and expecting some comment or question, or if he was talking to himself aloud? Then suddenly he stopped, looked at me and asked if he was on the right track and all I could do was nod, because I had lost his point long ago. I was too aware of his attractive body to actually listen to his words. I hadn't been this attracted to anyone in a long time.
I looked up and met his sapphire blue eyes. "Yes?"
"Will you be my Guide?"
The question hit me like a truck. I swallowed. He didn't ask if I could help him, if I could be a Guide; he had just deduced that I was one and now he was asking me if I would be his.
When I made the decision to help him, I’d been ready to explain, to show, to teach. I had known it would take some time - such things couldn't be learned in a few days - I knew I was in it for at least a few months, maybe years. But that was helping… okay, guiding.
But it didn't mean being a Guide. Being a Guide meant being there for a lifetime. Never leaving. A Sentinel and his Guide were inseparable. I couldn't do that.
"I will guide you till you don't need me anymore," I answered hesitatingly.
He walked over until he stood directly in front of me, then he kneeled down, one hand on my knee, his eyes meeting mine.
"Will you be my Guide?"
I knew then that he understood the difference.
'No! I can't!' I wanted to shout but I couldn't find my voice.
And then I heard the Chopec shaman again: You are a Guide. You will find your Sentinel when the time is right. And you will know him like he will know you.
A lifetime commitment to this kid? It would mean more than friendship; Sentinels and Guides were always lovers. They might sleep with women, but they were always lovers too. 'Now, I wouldn't mind having Sandburg in my bed, oh no, not at all. But what about him? Would he be shocked, intrigued, would he back off then?'
I opened my mouth to tell him, but I never got that far. Suddenly his lips were on mine, his tongue caressed my teeth and then I was kissed like I had never been kissed before.
I felt our mouths fuse, felt his tongue touch my inner organs, burning them, melting them.
Blindly, I grabbed for him, pulled him to me, his body against mine.
We became one being, one creature, and then I found myself back in the jungle, giant trees surrounding me.
"It's beautiful," a voice said, and I looked down at the man in my arms.
"Yes.” It was a confirmation as well as an answer to another question.
He smiled at me, a brilliant smile that melted my heart and lifted my spirit.
"The moment I saw you in the hospital I knew I would love you forever. I knew we were meant to be. I swear I will always be there for you, no harm shall come to you, I will protect you with my life. This I swear as your Sentinel."
I knew it was an old oath, as old as the trees surrounding us.
"I swear to be with you wherever you go, to guide you, to take care. This I swear as your Guide."
We kissed to seal the vows.
And I knew then in a flash - not unlike a vision - that somehow he would become my partner at the police department. It was in his nature to 'serve and protect' and he couldn't do that as an anthropology professor.
And besides, he needed to be with me, to protect me when I was in danger. There was no choice for either of us, we had to find a way to work together. And Major Crimes could certainly make use of a Sentinel and his powers.
I smiled fondly down at Blair. He was so different from the way I had pictured Sentinels to be. The Chopec Sentinel had been almost as big as me, a calm, deadly warrior. Sandburg was anything but that. But then again, size wasn't everything and a small warrior was still as deadly. I remembered the Chopec Guide. He had been small, wiry, lively. And protective as hell of his lover.
No, size didn't matter at all. And if something came up, then I would be there to protect him. After all, that is what Guides do, they take care of their Sentinels.
In all cultures there have been guardians. People with enhanced senses who protected their tribe. Those people are called Sentinels. Today there are only few Sentinels left. In our so called ‘civilized’ countries, you might find people with one or two enhanced senses, but to find one with all five you will have to meet me. My name is Blair Sandburg. I'm an anthropologist and a police observer. I'm the real thing.
And this is the story about me and my Guide, Detective Jim Ellison ...
© 19.August 2000