Joan Z and Neichan
Gibbs smiled at the red-headed guide. “Guide 915,” he said. “I would like to hear the complete answers to the questions that Alpha Prime Harris asked. You have stated that you have an ability to sunder a guide/sentinel bond. Why do you feel your yes answer to that question may be misleading?”
The young woman looked up at him with grateful eyes, beautiful eyes. Almost as beautiful at those of his own guide, Tony, but Tony held the edge.
“I can only sever a bond under a narrow parameter of circumstances,” 915 said. She was sitting tall in the witness chair, her attention focused on the man questioning her. He nodded as she spoke.
“And those circumstances are?” Gibbs asked, when she had stopped speaking.
“The guide must be rated below a 6.5 or…” She stated, her voice growing stronger with each word. This man was listening to her, to what she said, not dismissing her as a guide who knew nothing and should follow commands or undergo reeducation.
“Objection,” Eldred yelled, his face flushed. “The guide has already stated that she has successfully broken a bond with a level 8.1 guide.”
Gibbs looked at the General. He looked like a man about to loose his chance at a tidy bribe. Which suited Gibbs just fine. Gibbs managed to keep his satisfaction secret and his expression only faintly disapproving. “Overruled,” Gibbs said with an unmistakable warning in his voice. “The purpose of this cross examination is to hear her complete answer. Please continue, Guide.”
“I have only successfully severed a bond with a guide rated over 6.5 when either the Sentinel or the guide is suffering from a terminal injury or illness,” The thin redhead said. “That is the only circumstance in which I have ever been successful.”
“In reference to the recently preformed sundering of a sentinel with a guide rated 8.1, was one of the pair terminally injured?” Gibbs asked, pointedly seeking unambiguous clarification. He’d be damned if he’d let anyone misconstrue the guide’s words at a later date. What she meant would be crystal clear.
The young woman was eager now; her words tumbled out. “Yes, both had a living will with a pre-signed request for a sundering should either of them be terminally injured. The sentinel received a gunshot wound to the head in the line of duty and was being kept alive on life support. The guide, although uninjured physically, was also in a coma due to his bond with the sentinel. He would have died if the sundering had not been successful. ”
Gibbs eyes lifted for an instant, finding Tony’s. The reality of such a possibility hung over them each day, as it did with all sentinels and guides that worked in the field. He tore his attention away from his guide and back to guide 915.
“I have a question for this guide,” General Sebastian Rigby said. “Are you telling this court that the reason you were able to successfully break the bond between that Sentinel and his guide was because both the sentinel and his guide were in a coma?”
Gibbs could predict just where this was going and he wasn’t going to have it. He decided to let it play out; these men were showing their true colors in an attempt to railroad Guide Pryce.
“That and the head injury to the sentinel were the factors that allowed the sundering to be successful.”
“Well that solves the problem,” the General said, feeling quite proud of himself for saving the day. “We simply induce a coma in the sentinel and his guide and 915 will be able to dissolve the bond with minimum risk of brain damage. This should have been documented as soon as it was discovered.”
Over my dead body, Gibbs thought. “General, you are disregarding the testimony that stated the Sentinel’s head wound was also a contributing factor. Surely you’re not advocating shooting Sentinel Wall in the head?”
“Of course not,” the General said. “Comas can be induced chemically with medical supervision. We have no reason to believe it would not work.”
“And no evidence to show it would,” Gibbs said.
Guide 915 cleared her throat. “I wish to make a statement to the court,” she said with her chin held high and her eyes snapping with fire. “I will not perform an order of sundering on guide Wesley Pryce or any other healthy sentinel and guide bond.”
“That’s our girl,” Xander whispered to Spike.
Peter squeezed Wesley’s hand.
Alpha Prime Harris jumped out of his seat, livid with rage “It is not your place, Guide,” the word was spit out in disgust, “to refuse an order of this court or the agency you serve. You are the property of the Agency of Sentinel Affairs and you will obey or I will remove all the skin from your back. Do you hear me?”
“Sit down,” General Gibbs said, clearly pissed. He locked eyes with Harris. “This tribunal has not yet made a decision. Your outburst is out of order.”
The Alpha Prime found himself slumping back down into his seat. He sat there in absolute shock. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d backed away from a fight, verbal or physical. Now he had lost his temper and gave his anger vent in the tribunal. There were powerful people that would see it as a weakness.
When it was apparent that Harris was going to remain in his seat Gibbs speared the audience with his steely blue gaze. “I’ve had all the theatrics I will tolerate. It stops now! What is this, the dark ages? We don’t flog Guides and we don’t threaten them with it or anything like it in my courtroom.” Gibbs turned his sight on the Alpha Prime. “You are hereby warned, Alpha Prime Harris. Now, if you think you can regain control of yourself we will continue. If not, I am ready to dismiss this case with prejudice, which means you will not be able to bring these charges up against Guide Pryce again. It’s up to you.” Gibbs settled back in his chair, hands folded on his desk, watching the Alpha Prime, he waited. It wasn’t difficult to tell he was serious.
The Alpha Prime rose and deliberately turned his back on the tribunal judges, as if he intended to address the proceeding's attendees. However, he looked over the heads of the sentinels and guides sitting in back of him and focused on the wall.
“I wish to apologize to the court for my inappropriate behavior. It was in my mind to remind the guide of her obligation to perform her duty as her superiors see fit. However it was not and is not proper for me to do so at this time. I give my word that my behavior for the remainder of this proceeding will confirm to the rules of the court.” The Alpha Prime turned back and sat in his chair, looked General Gibbs in the eye and with a flick of his announced, “You may continue.” There, AP Harris thought. Let’s see what you do about that.
General Gibbs understood exactly what Harris had done. He'd apologized for his behavior but not the content of his statement. By turning his back on the tribunal judges he was in essence baiting Gibbs. He decided to play Harris’s game. “General Eldred, do you find the Alpha Prime’s apology acceptable?” he asked, in a perfectly reasonable and calm voice.
Eldred turned white. To say Harris’s apology was anything but insulting to the court was unthinkable. But Harris was a staunch supporter of the new laws. He was a man strategically placed to be of service to their cause, to judge him in contempt was equally out of the question. Harris had put him in an untenable position. “I found his apology less then satisfying,” Eldred said. It was a weak answer but at least it would give Harris a chance to make it right.
“General Rigby,” Gibbs said. “Did you find the Alpha Prime’s apology acceptable?”
The general’s eyes darted from Harris to Eldred and back to Harris, he licked his lips nervously. “I have to agree with General Eldred. Alpha Prime’s apology was unsatisfactory.”
“I must agree with Generals Eldred and Rigby,” Gibbs said. “This is your last chance. Are you able to show this court the respect it deserves, Alpha Prime Harris, or shall I dismiss this proceeding?”
AP Harris clenched his jaw. He could not let the proceedings be dismissed. He decided that everything comes to those who wait and he could wait for Gibbs’ downfall. The bigger they are the harder they fall and he would be sure Gibbs fell very hard, in fact, he intended to be the one that pushed Gibbs over the cliff. His anger was replaced by a predatory smile and he stood up once more and this time facing the judges, in a calm voice, repeated his apology.
“Thank you A.P. Harris,” Gibbs said. “Do you have any more evidence to present?”
“I rest my case,” Harris said.
Gibbs turned to the defense table. “Do you have any questions of guide 915?” he asked.
Graham stood. “None, General,” he said.
“Guide 915 you may step down.” Gibbs turned to his guide. “Tony, I want you to stay with guide 915 until this proceeding is over and then I would like to speak to her in chambers.”
Tony nodded and followed Red out of the courtroom.
“The defense may state its case now,” Gibbs said.
“There are four sentinels present that would like to make statements in support of Guide Pryce’s competency.” Graham began.
“Four Sentinels?” Gibbs interrupted. “It was my understanding he was cross bonded to two sentinels.”
“Yes General,” Graham said. “Guide Price is fully bonded to both Sentinel Wall and myself. Sentinel Ellison and Sentinel Spikeman are sentinel brothers to Sentinel Wall and ask the court to let them testify in Guide Pryce’s behalf.
“Objection!” both General Eldred and General Rigby shouted at the same time.
“General Eldred,” Gibbs said. “State your objection.”
“Sentinels Ellison and Spikeman are police detectives, they have no knowledge of how the guide has performed during Agency assignments.”
Jim stood up. “If it please the court, the General is mistaken. Both Sentinel Spikeman and I worked alongside Sentinel Wall and Guide Pryce when our guide was kidnapped a few months ago. We can testify to how well Guide Pryce and Sentinel Prime Wall work together.”
Gibbs looked at Sentinel Rigby. “And your objection, General Rigby?”
“I don’t believe the cross bonding is anything more than an attempt to force this tribunal into refusing an order of sundering. I believe this cross bonding nothing but a show for the court.”
“General Rigby,” Gibbs said. “Turn up your sense of smell, the guide wears the scent of both sentinels. I have a report that states there was a challenge to the death over this cross bonding issue. That hardly speaks to a false bond. Your objection is overruled.”
“General Eldred,” Gibbs continued. “I find that Sentinels Ellison and Spikeman do have pertinent information for this court. Your objection is also overruled.”
Gibbs looked at Sentinel Miller. “This tribunal is ready to hear your statements.”
“I need to talk to Willow,” Xander said, as he looked toward the courtroom door. His ‘red alert’ siren was screaming. The court had adjourned for deliberation and as far as Xander was concerned it was emptying out far too slowly. He gave a low growl of frustration.
Spike leaned in and bit Xander’s guide gland. The action served its purpose; Xander stopped growling.
“Ow! Wha’cha do that for?” Xander asked, annoyed at the distraction.
“Guides don’t growl,” Spike whispered directly into his ear. “The wrong ears might hear you.”
Xander turned back to the crowd, scanning the wall of people for a glimpse of the exit. “Willow’s in danger, I can feel it.” Seeing an opening in the crowd, Xander pushed through, with Spike right on his heels. No way was the sentinel going to let his guide face any danger alone.
When Xander got to the hallway he saw Willow pushed behind Tony who was trying to protect her from Alpha Prime Harris. The big guide was strong, but he was no sentinel. He didn’t stand a chance without some serious help.
No one in the hall was moving, they were all frozen, watching the scene play out, A P Harris picked up Tony and threw him into the crowd. Several people screamed as Tony’s body knocked them down.
The Alpha Prime turned to Willow. “You will obey,” he said and raised his hand to strike the red head in the face.
Xander slid to a stop, taking up the place in front of Willow that Tony had occupied only a moment before. “Leave her alone!” he blazed at the Alpha Prime. The Sentinel’s face, twisted with rage, looked barely human. Xander braced himself for the coming blow.
The Alpha Prime laughed nastily and began to swing his arm at Xander.
Spike caught his wrist in both his hands, grinding the bones together with the power of his hold. “Touch my guide and I will see to it you never use this arm for anything again,” he said with a deep warning growl and glowing yellow eyes. Spike was prepared to rip the arm off the Alpha Prime’s body if he so much as touched Xander.
Harris, red with rage, growled at Spike and tried to jerk his arm free. “915 belongs to the Agency, I have the right to discipline her anyway I see fit. Get your guide out of my way, Sentinel.”
“Tony’s bleeding,” Blair shouted as he bent down to attend to the people on the floor. “Call an ambulance.” He pressed a corner of his shirt against the sluggishly oozing wound.
Jim moved up behind the Alpha Prime and snapped on handcuffs, taking delight in tightening them down. Not to the point of injury, but letting him know they were there. “You’re under arrest for the abuse of…”
“You can’t arrest me,” the Alpha Prime screamed, trying to break free of Spike and Jim’s grasp. “I am head of the Agency of Sentinel Affairs in Cascade.”
“You’re a menace is what you are.” Spike mumbled under his breath, but every sentinel in the hall heard it clearly.
“What the hell is going on out here?” Gibbs asked as he exited chambers. He dialed up his senses when he saw Tony on the floor and then he caught the odor of blood, Tony’s blood. “Jesus Christ, what the fuck is this!?” he asked as he bent down beside his guide and reached out to run his hands over Tony.
“I’ll be okay, boss,” Tony said, a little weakly. He coughed, pressing a hand over his side, as Blair moved away to give Gibbs access to his guide and to attend to a young woman who had a cut on her head. “I don’t think anything vital was hit. I think I just got stabbed with a pen, but I may have broken someone’s ribs when I landed on them.”
Gibbs could see his guide was in pain. He scanned the hallway and saw Jim and Spike holding the struggling and cuffed A P. The man was an out of control idiot, and made even more dangerous by the position he held. Gibbs had been willing to let things take their course through the courts, slow as that could be, but this incident made it abundantly clear that that was no longer possible. Harris had to be stopped ~ now.
“Did that asshole do this?” he asked Tony, even though he already had the answer. He could smell Harris on his guide.
“He picked me up and threw me into the crowd. Someone in the crowd must have been holding a pen. Man, that guy is strong.” Tony winced, trying to sit up. He was uncomfortable on his back and the center of everyone’s attention. “I’ll be fine.”
“Don’t move,” Gibbs said, putting a hand on his shoulder to keep him from sitting up. “The ambulance will be here in a few minutes.” He looked around the corridor; the court sentinels were busy trying to clear out the hallway. He caught the eye of one of them. “Get the A P out of here,” Gibbs ordered. “Before I rip his throat out. I want him taken to the NCSIA building and see to it that he is scheduled for a psychiatric exam.”
“Will do, Sir,” the court guards said as they took the Alpha Prime away, eager to make up for the fact that a guide and civilians has been injured on their watch.
Gibbs settled on the floor beside Tony to wait for the ambulance. He put his hand on Tony’s chest, as much to feel the comfort of Tony’s heartbeat as to keep him from trying to sit up again. “Graham,” Gibbs called when he spotted him standing beside Jim. “Watch over guide 915. I want to talk to her later.”
“I’m on it,” Graham said and then he turned to the others in his hive. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s find a private room.”
Jim walked over to assist Blair with the injured. There was no way he was leaving his guide alone in the charged up atmosphere that A P Harris’ actions had caused. “Blair and I will join you as soon as we get things cleared up out here,” he told the others.
Xander look into the red-head's eyes. “You okay, Willow?” he asked as soon as the group had gotten into a private room and turned on the sound deadeners so no sentinels could eavesdrop from the hallway.
The guide was surprised that her rescuer was making eye contact. Most, guides and sentinels alike, avoided eye contact with a mind walker. But this one not only looked her in the eye he was genuinely concerned for her well being, she could feel it. “My name isn’t Willow,” she told him as she searched his face for a clue as to why he thought he knew her.
“Oh… Well, I’m still Xander and Spike is still Spike… And hey…Oz and Tara are here too. It’s a regular Sunnydale reunion. So what's your name this go round?”
“I’m guide 915,” she said, her voice full of caution, this guide was beginning to sound more that a little nuts, he seemed friendly but acted a little too familiar, add to that how much he looked like the Alpha Prime…Well the whole thing was giving her a case of the wiggins. She knew the warmth she felt rolling off of him wouldn’t last. It never did.
“Xan,” Spike said. “She doesn’t have the memories.” He looked at the slim woman sadly. “Maybe she doesn’t even believe in reincarnation and from the look on her face she thinks you’re right bonkers.”
“She must have the memories, Spike,” Xander said as if it were the simplest thing in the world. “This is Willow, she helped us save the world.”
“My name isn’t Willow, I’ve never heard of Sunnydale and I have never helped anyone ‘save the world’; you’ve mistaken me for someone else,” the young woman said.
Xander looked at Willow, aghast. “You really don’t remember?” he asked, disappointment evident in his voice. Then his eyes lit up and he snapped his fingers. “The yellow crayon!” he said. “You have to remember the yellow crayon.”
“The only thing yellow I remember is his eyes,” she said pointing at Spike.
“All right, that’s enough,” Graham said; all the talk of past life memories and Sunnydale gave him the creeps. “Spike, get your guide under control.”
Xander whirled around in full sentinel mode. “Hey!” he said. “I’m no slave guide that’s going to kneel at your feet, if you want to stop me why don’t you stop me yourself,” he snarled at Graham, who raised a brow in the face of all that heat.
“Whoa,” Spike said, putting his hands on Xander’s trembling shoulders. “Graham’s on our side, Xan, there will be no challenges. Red doesn’t remember. You have to let it go.” Spike began purring and stroking Xander’s arm in an attempt to distract Xander from glaring at Graham. Wesley walked over and offered Xander his neck to suckle.
“Oh, my god,” Red said as she jumped up from her chair and backed away from what she was seeing. “He’s a high-bred.”
Peter walked over to the distraught guide. “It’s okay,” he said, stroking her arm and offering comfort. “He’s not going to hurt you.”
Red’s eyes squinted as she looked at Peter and felt his comforting energy course through her body, she didn’t pull away but she didn’t relax either. She was wary, on edge. “You’re a healer,” she said, her heart pounding, “a sentinel/ healer…” She looked around the room, pushing away the panic that began to rise within her. “Who are you people?”
The door to the conference room opened and Sentinel Jim Ellison stood in the doorway scanning the room with the precision of a laser. He scowled even more than usual when he saw the red headed guide pressed against the back wall.
“The ambulance is here” Jim said, making his way forward, cautious, not wanting to spook the guide in the midst of all the confusion. “General Gibbs wants Red to ride with him and Tony to the hospital.”
Jim knew the Guide had been threatened; he would let her come to him if she needed reassurance. But she didn’t step up to him for comfort, or protection, either of which he’d have offered her without question. He watched her gather her impressive composure and give him a quick nod of greeting. She did not have the appearance of one who had been traumatized or stressed. She was strong and solid. His admiration for her grew.
“Sorry, Gentlemen,” the guide said to the room in general. “Duty calls.” She never took her eyes off the odd group as she walked by. She was intrigued, curious, and she let her empathic abilities absorb whatever the group was broadcasting. They wanted to protect her, and not just the way any sentinel wanted to protect any Guide. For two of them it was personal. She filed away the information but she knew her work wasn’t here with them, not now…not yet.
“Over here, Red,” Gibbs called as soon as she came into view. He was standing next to his Guide who was stretched out flat and being strapped into the ambulance gurney. Tony’s shirt was unbuttoned and Gibb’s hand lay firmly on his guide’s chest monitoring his heart beat by touch as well as sound. Tony, who had insisted on waiting for all the other injured people to be taken care of first, wanted to walk out of the courthouse under his own power. But Gibbs wouldn’t hear of it. So now, he could do nothing but wait, helpless, until Gibbs gave the attendants permission to cart him off to the hospital.
Red walked to them. “May I help?” she asked, hiding her amusement at the rebellious light that gleamed in Tony’s eyes even as he lay still under Gibbs’ hold.
Tony knew the question was a formality that any healer went through before touching a Guide that was not a pack member. “Please do,” he said with a weak smile. “My side is throbbing and my head feels like someone is trying to tunnel their way out with a spoon,” he complained.
Blair stood back and watched the red-haired woman move in. He was a strong healer in his own right but he was no comparison to a mind walker. He opened his empathic channels in an attempt to learn what she was doing.
Red lightly laid her hand on Tony’s forehead. Her fingers folded to the contour of his brow. The tips of her fingers came to rest on his left temple, cool and soothing. “You don’t need the pain,” she said and just like that all the ache in Tony’s side and the throbbing in his skull were gone.
“Wow,” he said, “you’re better then a bottle of single malted scotch and a whole case of aspirin.”
“I should hope so,” she giggled, showing him a quirky smile, the same one he always loved to see on her too serious face. She walked along beside the gurney keeping her hand on the guide’s head to channel away his pain.
The ride to the Guide Hospital had been fast and bumpy but they were expecting the general so everything went smoothly. Tony’s wound was cleaned and deemed not serious, though he whined a bit for show. He and Gibbs were quickly assigned a nesting room, a necessity for a visiting sentinel and a wounded guide. Red was surprised when General Gibbs insisted that she join them.
“Tony is going to be fine. You don’t need me any longer,” she told him as soon as Tony stopped grumbling about being forced to ride to their room in a wheelchair.
“We need to talk in private and a nesting room is as private as it gets,” the General told her in his ‘not open for discussion’ voice. He wanted to be next to his guide, that was clear, and her protests were keeping him from that. She gracefully surrendered to his decision.
She had been in many nesting rooms, as a healer, and witnessed many a sentinel, coping and re-bonding, with their injured guide. But they had been strangers, men and women she had never seen before and, would most likely, never see again. This was different, she knew the General and his guide, they sent her Christmas Cards. It just seemed… overly intimate. She sat down at the edge of the nest just far enough away so as not to intrude in their personal space and watched while Gibbs efficiently got Tony settled in, his strong hands fussing as carefully as any mother’s.
When Gibbs was sure Tony was comfortable and sleeping he walked over and sat beside Red. “I’m sorry about what happened to you at the courthouse. Harris will be relieved of duty so you won’t have to worry about him coming after you and hurting you. He crossed over the line today.”
The guide scowled. “I think he probably crossed over the line a long time ago,” she said bluntly. “But he had power and no one was willing to question him or look too hard at what he was doing. They didn’t want him to concentrate on them. I think maybe Sentinel Miller and Sentinel Wall took a chance and looked too close. This legal case was the Alpha Prime’s way of punishing them.”
Gibbs agreed wholeheartedly. “You’re very astute, Red,” he told her. “Harris was not known as a forgiving man. Anyone who spoke against him, or disagreed with him paid a price. He didn’t care that the sundering could have caused brain damage or death. Sentinel Miller has been trying for a year to get enough evidence to have AP Harris removed. But Harris has always been careful and he has friends in very high places. What you did was very brave,” Gibbs said. “Standing up in court like that and refusing to do the sundering. It forced him out in the open. He’ll find his friends have deserted him now.”
“I just did what had to be done,” the slim woman said.
“There are things going on in the Agency right now, dangerous things,” Gibbs said. “These new laws make no sense, I believe they’re more than they appear to be. This crap they are feeding the public is just that, crap. It’s designed to get public support. There have been clues for a while now that there is another sentinel agency, a covert agency. I’ve been trying to get info on it, but I just run into dead ends. I need your help again.”
“What can I do?” Red asked. “I’ve been reassigned to the Department of Guide Proliferation. I’m going to be living in a fertility clinic, I doubt if I will have any access to the outside world.” She didn’t say that she would also be too busy getting and staying pregnant to do much else.
Gibbs lifted his hand and stroked the young woman’s hair. “I know, Red, and I’m sorry. I’d claim you myself, if I didn’t need someone on the inside so much. When this is over…”
“Don’t!” Red said her voice hard and commanding, it made Gibbs startle and he didn’t startle easily. “I know you mean well but you’ll never claim me.” She sighed and her voice softened as she continued. “I know how much you love Tony…I’d be in the way and I would know it, every second I’d know it. It would be a painful way for me and Tony to live and that would make it painful for you. So put away your guilt. What happens to me isn’t your fault. You’ve done more for me than you could ever know just by being my friend. So tell me what you need me to do.”
“You're an extraordinary woman,” Gibbs said with genuine sincerity. “I wish I didn’t have to ask this of you, but you’re the only one I can ask and there is no one I trust more. I need to know if the lab is conducting genetic experiments.”
Red could sense the general was telling the truth. There was no one he trusted more, a few people he trusted as much but no one more then her and Tony. “You want me to be a spy?” There was a note of interest and a flicker of humor in her bright eyes. She was intrigued with the proposal and at the same time it seemed a bit ludicrous.
“I want you to listen, that’s all, just listen. Don’t take any risks; I don’t want you getting hurt. You don’t have to invade anyone’s mind. Listen to what they’re thinking and report back to me if you find anything is going on.”
“How am I supposed to keep in touch? If these people are as dangerous and covert as you say I don’t think they’re going to let me use the phone or e-mail.”
“Is there a Guide or a Sentinel that you’ve healed and have a telepathic connection with, one that you can trust? They can’t block a telepathic message.”
“I would have to force my way into their minds, without permission. I won’t do that, I’m not a mind rapist. The only other being I have a telepathic connection with is Incacha, an ancient Chopec shaman, long dead.” Red tilted her head, lifted her hand and pointed. “And he is standing right there,” she said in a squeaky and mildly surprised voice.
Gibbs knew that it was not unusual for high rated Guides to see their animal sprit guides so he took the appearance of a dead shaman in stride. “Ask him if he’ll help us.”
Red nodded her head and seemed to be listening and then she turned to Gibbs. “He said he is in touch with Sentinel Ellison’s guide, Blair. He said I should trust his Hive, they were telling me the truth.”
“Telling you the truth?” Gibbs asked. “Ellison and his guide were in the hallway helping with the wounded, they never had a chance to talk to you. I told Graham to watch over you.”
“Graham is part of the Ellison Hive, two of the members said that they knew me in a past life, they kept calling me Willow. One of them was surprised that I didn’t have the memories. They weren’t normal sentinels and guides.”
“What do you mean by ‘not normal’?” Gibbs asked, his interest heightened.
Red gave a sarcastic laugh. “Where do I begin? There were three high-breeds in the room, two sentinels with healing abilities and one they referred to as a guide but he was a sentinel too, I’m sure of it. Spike, one of the Sentinel/healers, his eyes turned from blue to yellow in the hallway and he was preternaturally strong. He held off The Alpha Prime until Sentinel Ellison got him cuffed, the other one touched me, I felt his healing energy and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is as strong as the one called Spike, but I got an impression that he was a lot younger then Spike. Spike and his Guide are the ones that claimed to know me in a past life. And your friend Graham…his reaction was off somehow, he wasn’t surprised by any of it. The way he just raised his eyebrows when Xander challenged him was weird. Spike started stroking Xander and purring like a sentinel would do for a stressed guide and Wesley offered Xander his neck to suckle like he would do for a stressed sentinel and Graham didn’t object. The whole thing was very strange. They’ve formed a resistance and they want me safe. They think that these new laws will use me.”
“It looks like this new Hive, that Graham is in, has more to it than meets the eye. I’ll have to meet with Graham before I return to Washington,” Gibbs said, his thoughts racing.
Two Days Later
“Shit!” Gibbs said and threw his coffee cup against the nesting room’s wall.
“Well,” Tony said startled at the sudden outburst. “I guess it’s pretty obvious that you just read something you didn’t like.”
“That’s putting it mildly,” Gibbs said as he dropped the papers he was holding, got up and started pacing and kicking at nesting pillows.
Tony picked up the report and started to read. “Jesus, this Ethan Rayne guy used electric shock on a guide to develop telepathic hazard detection?”
“Not just any guide. Xander Harris, he carries both the sentinel and guide genes. He was trying to trigger his sentinel abilities. Instead the kid developed hazard detection. He’s like you Tony, he carries both genes and they did that to him.”
“Harris…Is he related to ‘The Harris’?” Tony asked.
“This Rayne guy took a hell of a chance torturing a Harris.”
“The Harris family abandoned Xander, for being a guide.”
“That makes no sense,” Tony said. “Sentinels take care of guides, protect them. They don’t abandon them.”
“The Harris’ are old school, guides are property.” Gibbs said. “Apparently he meant it when he threatened to flog Red”
“So, this Ethan Rayne guy, tell me we’re going to get him.”
“Ellison and Spikeman already did. He was involved with Xander’s kidnapping. They caught him and killed him along with six highly trained, covert ops sentinels.”
“I’d like to read that report,” Tony said.
“Everything is there,” Gibbs said as he sat down and shoved the pile of reports over to Tony. “It answers my questions as to why they’re committed to resistance. They know first hand what these bastards are up to. Red said that Harris’ sentinel abilities are triggered. If the wrong people find out every guide that carries the sentinel gene will be at risk. I have to talk to Graham.”
Gibbs sat in the back of the limo with his guide. Rank had its privileges and requisitioning a limo to take him to and from meetings was one of them. Meeting with the Sentinel Liaison officer for the Cascade area, Detective Ellison, was certainly one of the things that the director of Sentinel Internal Affairs was expected to do. When he talked to Graham on the phone, the captain had refused to give him any information that wasn’t included in the reports. He claimed, and rightly so, that it was Jim Ellison’s pack and the questions should be asked of him. So here he was, traveling to an Alpha Sentinel’s home, in hopes of forging an alliance for the purpose of resistance.
When the limo pulled up in front of the nesting house Gibbs and Tony got out and sent the limo away. Graham and his pack were waiting outside for Gibbs to arrive. “What are you doing out here?” Gibbs asked. “You could have waited for me inside.”
“I forgot to tell you not to sit next to Spike,” Graham said. “Xander gets very possessive of him. If you feel a pull to him sit next to Peter, he’ll channel it away from Spike to him.”
“Graham,” Gibbs said confused. “I haven’t felt any pull like that since I bonded with Tony. I’m not expecting it now, and certainly not to another sentinel.”
“There’s a lot that's going to surprise you,” Graham said. “Just keep an open mind.”
“Not the closed minded type, Graham.” Gibbs said as he walked toward the front door.
Gibbs sat in the living room holding a half empty bottle of beer. “Interesting history this little group has,” he said after Jim had finished filling him in on the happenings in their pack since it was formed. “So let me go over everything again and make sure I got all this right. Jim and Blair are pretty much normal sentinel and guide, Spike is a Sentinel with healing abilities and he has some non-traditional guide abilities. Xander is a guide that triggered as a sentinel after brain damage caused by the kidnapping. Graham also felt this guide pull I feel toward Spike. A Chopec Shaman sprit called Incacha, who by the way is also in touch with Red, told you that Spike could ‘teach’ his abilities to Peter so now Peter is a healer sentinel with guide abilities and your two packs have a telepathic link which makes you a hive. Did I get everything?”
“Not quite,” Blair said. “You left out the cross bonding.”
“Ahh, yes,” Gibbs said. “Everyone is bonded to everyone, within their respective packs.”
“Except for Riley,” Graham said. “He’s not cross bonded.”
“Why was he left out?” Gibbs asked. “You claim the cross bonds make you stronger, if that’s true why weaken yourself by leaving Riley out?”
“My guide, my choice,” Graham said.
“That brings us back to you,” Jim said to Gibbs, “We’d like you to join our hive.”
“I appreciate the offer,” Gibbs said. “But I have to go back to Washington, I can’t stay in Cascade. There's too much going on. I can best serve the resistance there.”
“We won’t ask you to stay,” Jim said. “But if you want us to be one of your resistance cells than you’ll need to join our hive. There's too much at risk for us to do this any other way.”
“I don’t have a problem with taking any of you as sentinel brothers,” Gibbs said, “and that includes Xander, but to join the hive we have to create a telepathic link. I don’t see how we could do that.”
“The link comes from Spike and I,” Peter said. “Whatever guide we claim has the link along with his sentinel.”
“You're telling me I have to allow my guide to cross bond,” Gibbs said, “you’ve got some nerve and you are way out of line if you think I’m going to order Tony to let some other sentinel claim him. I’ll take all of you for my brothers but no one touches my guide.”
“Tony’s in danger,” Xander said. “He’s like me, isn’t he? He carries both Guide and Sentinel genes. We’re keeping what I am secret, but we’re no fools, it’s not going to stay secret forever. Once it leaks out what I am, how long do you think it will be before Tony is taken, strapped down to a table and given an overdose of drugs, the same drug that was given to me, just to see if they can trigger him. I survived because Spike healed me. He kept me from having a brain cascade. We need you, and you need us. I don’t like sharing Spike. If you don’t believe that ask Graham. But there are people in the government that think of us as property, so if sharing Spike can stop the bastards I’ll do it.”
“I’m proud of you, Love,” Spike said as he nuzzled Xander’s neck.
“Is this speculation, on your part?” Gibbs asked. “Or is it your hazard detection at work?”
Tears filled Xander’s eyes and his voice cracked as he spoke, but he never broke eye contact with Gibbs. “Hazard detection,” he whispered. Then he turned to Spike and laid his head on his shoulder. “God, I hope I’m wrong.”
“Care to let me in on your thoughts?” Tony asked his sentinel, keeping his voice low. “I know you haven’t excluded the possibility of cross-bonding all together or we’d be back in D.C. by now.” He was intrigued. Gibbs was putting a lot of thought and energy into making this decision. Usually the sentinel made his decisions quickly. Not this time. This was a hard one.
“I don’t like ultimatums,” Gibbs said, frankly. And boy did Tony know that already. “This seems too much like an ultimatum to me.”
“So why don’t we just pack up and get out of Cascade?” Tony asked. He was ready to go. He missed DC and he missed their condo. He missed his own things, and their own, perfectly broken in bed. Hotels, no matter how expensive, never measured up.
“Because Xander is right, you are in danger,” Gibbs said. “I knew it as soon as I read what Rayne did to him, I can’t just dismiss what they're offering. The thing is, cross bonding with Spikeman won’t make you any safer. You’ll be in Washington and they will be here in Cascade. If these bastards want you they’ll take you and there is nothing their little hive, or I, can do about it.”
“Except to get me back, the way they got Xander back,” Tony said. “Alive.” Alive was a very important point to make.
“And brain damaged,” Gibbs added. “If that was done to you, I don’t think I could be the sentinel you need. I’ve watched Spikeman, he’s…”
“Weird?” Tony asked. Yeah, the man was weird. Gibbs nodded. That was precisely the right word to describe the other sentinel and whatever else he was.
“You don’t like him.” Gibbs said. “How can I ask you to bond with a sentinel you don’t like?”
“Never said I didn’t like him, Boss.” Tony responded immediately.
“So you do like him?” Gibbs asked, not sure that was what he wanted to hear either.
“He is deeply in love with Xander. I think if Xan had come back a blubbering idiot, Spikeman would take care of him, and I get the sense that Spike doesn’t do anything half way, I wouldn’t be surprised if his sprit guide is a Pitbull. If he does claim me as his third guide, it wouldn’t be lip service. It would be real; I can sense the connection he has with Blair, Jim and Peter. I have to admire him for that. What I’m apprehensive about is whether or not I can meet him half way. You’re my sentinel; I don’t want anyone else.”
Gibbs felt a warm wave of pleasure over that declaration. Of course he’d already known how Tony felt about him. But it was nice to hear it as often as his guide wanted to say it.
“Peter said it surprised the shit out of him that Ellison let Spikeman anywhere near Blair and that Blair wanted to bond with Spikeman. He said Ellison would have killed anyone who tried to lay a finger on Blair and still would, anyone except their little nest.” Gibbs looked Tony in the eyes. “So what is it with Spikeman; do you feel a pull to him or is it just me?”
“I think it may be time for a little guide wisdom here,” Tony said stroking Jethro's arm, sensing the stress in his sentinel. He moved his thumb in a soothing circle across his sentinel’s skin. “We are in a war and we need to form alliances, alliances that we can trust. We are at a crossroads boss. We either accept that we need each other to fight this war or we walk away and let someone else fight it.” And walking away was not something his sentinel would do.
Gibbs stood up and started pacing; he was counted and counted on when it came to fights like this one, and this one was going to be major. The future quality of life for all guides and sentinels depended on its outcome. Leroy Jethro Gibbs did not back down or wimp out from a fight worth fighting and this one was as worthy as they came.
Gibbs stopped pacing. “I know sentinel history, Tony,” he said laying his hand on the back of Tony’s and wondering why he wasn’t receiving the comfort he usually got from his guides touch. “Sentinel’s bond, sentinel-to-sentinel, they become brother in arms, but the guides have always remained sacrosanct; apart; inviolate. None of this makes any sense. What is it with that group? We need to get back to DC.”
The last sounded petulant. Tony hid his grin. “It’s the pull to Spikeman isn’t it?” Tony asked. “They said that a guide couldn’t channel it away.”
“I just need to get some distance and perspective. Once we get back home I’ll be fine,” Gibbs grumbled. He needed to get away from the temptation to bond with another sentinel and a freaky one at that. Christ, the consequences of a rash decision here was that his guide, his Tony, would be bonded with another man, another sentinel and linked telepathically to several of them. Gibbs felt his lips peel back from his teeth. But, darn it; he wasn’t as pissed as he should be. He was actually thinking about it.
“No you won’t be fine,” Tony said. “We’re finished going around in circles about this. If you won’t make the decision than I will. You’re going to take Spikeman, Ellison and maybe Harris for sentinel brothers and I’m cross bonding with Spikeman. It’s what we need to do. I’ve never asked anything of you Boss, and I’m not asking you now. I’m telling you, as your guide, its what we’re doing.” Tony walked over to the phone to call Ellison, but before he could pick it up Jethro’s hand stopped him.
“I don’t want to betray you,” the sentinel said looking into his guides beautiful eyes.
“Betray me? That’s not possible.” Tony said with a melancholy smile. “We’re both going into this with eyes wide open; that’s not betrayal.” His hands reached up to cup the lean, tanned face of his lover. God he loved this man. He loved him with every cell in his body. Gibbs turned his face and kissed one of Tony’s hands.
“You didn’t answer my question,” Gibbs said, enjoying the feel of Tony’s big hands. “Do you feel a pull to Spikeman?” He should feel jealous, well, more jealous. He didn’t want to share Tony. But he would. It was the smart thing to do, add one more layer of protection to the many that he’d constructed around the most precious being in his life.
“I told you boss, you’re the only sentinel I want.” Tony murmured. His hazel eyes testified to the truth of his words; the love in them was vast. Huge. Gibbs felt heat fill him.
“And you’re the only guide I want, but Spikeman is more than a Sentinel, he’s some kind of guide too. Jim said Blair felt a strong pull to Spike, I feel a strong pull too, strong enough to make it feel like I’m looking at betrayal. So tell me the truth, do you feel it too?”
“Blair felt the pull after Jim took Spike for his second. He said there was a part of his sentinel he couldn’t reach and Spike was the doorway. I belong by your side. I always have and I always will. If Spike is a doorway to a closer bond with you then hell yes, I want it. That’s not a betrayal to either of us.”
“I love you, Tony, this pull I feel toward Spike, it doesn’t change that.”
“Love you too, Boss, and that’s not going to change either.”
Gibbs made his decision. “Make the call, Guide.”
“We’ve been invited to dinner,” Tony said after he hung up the phone, “6 PM tonight the bonding will take place afterward, at the nest house.” He stood by the phone table, gazing down at it, feeling a tingle of nerves make its way through him. This was not going to be a night that was typical of any they’d had before. Gibbs made a sound and Tony glanced up to see his mate stop in front of him.
The Sentinel reached out his hand, sliding it up to cup around his Guide’s arm. Unusual, that kind of touch outside of the bedroom. Tony could count on one hand the number of times he’d been claimed anywhere else. Gibbs was a traditional guy. He liked beds and bedrooms, secure and private.
The Sentinel spoke, his voice a whisper of heat against his Guide’s ear. “Good, that gives me time to scent mark you,” Gibbs said as he half-pushed, half-dragged Tony toward the bedroom. The guide went along willingly; this he knew; this he loved. This wasn’t strange like the upcoming night promised to be. He let Gibbs pull him into the darkened bedroom.
“Do you think that’s wise?” Tony gave a token protest bringing up the possible problems that might arise from his being covered in Gibbs scent. “Spike will probably take me in the shower and wash it off before he claims me,” Tony warned. Sentinels were like that, wanting a clean canvas to do their work on. “It’s just one more thing to go through. I would rather just bond with him and be done with it. I can shower with you afterward.” He wanted to have the other sentinel’s scent on him only as long as he had to, to make the bond take. After that he was up for a long hot shower and getting as deep into Gibbs as he could and Gibbs getting just as deep into him.
“And you will guide, believe me, you will,” Gibbs said, a dark promise and a low growl in his voice. “But if he’s going to claim you he’s going to do it with my scent on you. I want him to know every second that you belong to me first. If he wants to shower it off then we’re going to have a little problem.” The growl was doing funny things to Tony’s insides.
Each beat of his heart sent blood to his cock hardening him and heating his body. Tony shifted onto his back, opening himself to Gibbs’ questing tongue.
They were both naked now, the sentinel licking him and purring. Tony moaned and quivered with desire. This wasn’t something Gibbs did often; lick his entire body like this. This was special and Tony was into every hot, wet second of it.
Tony fisted the sheets on either side of his body as Gibbs licked and nibbled at his sensitive inner thighs, lapping at them with his surprisingly agile tongue. The moist tip moved up, encountering silky, furred testicles. And then Gibbs sucked one sensitive orb into his mouth and rolled it over his tongue. Tony whimpered and gasped as a hot wave of sensation washed over him from head to foot. Jesus. If Gibbs would just…back a bit further, down… god if he’d just…
“Oh, oh, oh, sentinel please. Oh. Please my love.” Tony moaned as the tongue licked at him again, across the skin of his perineum, behind his tight balls. He was going to do it. Tony couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t…a flicker of tongue across his opening, kissing the furled flesh. He held so still he wasn’t even drawing in air. Shivering, hot. Tight skin contracted all over his body. God, god… then the mouth was gone, leaving Tony’s body singing and pliable, ready to surrender everything his Sentinel asked for, or wanted to take without asking.
Gibbs nuzzled Tony’s stomach, his cheek rough with the faint bite of whiskers, over Tony’s belly and then the warm wet mouth closed over his straining cock, tongue swirling. The subliminal purr changed to a hum and Tony screamed as he thrust into the willing mouth. “Jethro, my love, my love, God. Sentinel, what you do to me. All yours. All yours.” And then he felt it as the nerves started to fire, the sensation spreading across his body as he emptied himself into his sentinel’s demanding mouth.
Jethro swallowed and then lay down next to his guide and pulled him into a hug. He smeared the few drops of seed left in his mouth across his lips and then he kissed Tony’s throat and bit the tender flesh.
Tony groaned, he was spent, every muscle in his body relaxed. “I wasn’t expecting that,” Tony said in his sated, sultry, bedroom voice.
“Let him try to top that,” Gibbs said softly, brushing his hand through his guide’s hair. Let him try to make you his own.” There was a definite challenge in the tone. Tony stirred, rubbing his chin over the short bristles of hair at Gibbs’ temple.
“He couldn’t, not on his best day and your worst, he could never top you.” Tony said.
“And don’t you forget it Guide.”
Tony reached up and held Jethro’s face. “Never,” he said and then he kissed his sentinel on the lips, his tongue exploring his lover’s mouth, delving inside to taste the bitterness of his own seed. He didn’t have to be a sentinel to taste his cum in his lover’s mouth, it was unique, not as good to his palate as Gibbs’ flavor, but Gibbs said the same thing about his own flavor. Seems each preferred the other’s taste. Which was a good thing, a ~great~ thing. Tony grinned against Gibbs’ mouth.
“What?” Gibbs asked as he rolled Tony onto his back and slid a slickened finger into him.
“Just a few nasty thoughts, Boss. Nothing as hot as this.” He drew in a sharp breath, raising his knees. Gibbs knew just how to touch him and where to find every hot spot he had. He arched his head back, trembled, his thighs falling open as wide as they could.
Gibbs nuzzled Tony’s neck and began suckling at his guide’s throat, finding the vulnerable guide gland with gentle teeth and preparing Tony for claiming.
When Tony was ready Gibbs entered him with one long, slow, thrust that hit him beyond perfectly. One thrust and he was melted butter. Hot and ready to be used, on his back, wanton, waiting. Making hungry little noises, desperate for Gibbs to do something more. Anything. Just more. His legs quivered.
Gibbs closed his eyes and reached for the bond, the bond that went beyond the physical, the bond that was a dance of their souls. And Tony was there, as he always was. There for the dance, the dance of life. It was the dance that made it possible for Gibbs to be the sentinel that he was. It was the dance that made it possible for him to exist and function. It was the dance that made him burst filling his guide with his essence and call out, “Tony, my love, my own.”
It was six PM on the dot when Jethro Gibbs rang the doorbell to the nest house. He had learned punctuality while serving at the behest of Uncle Sam; it was one of his calling cards. General Gibbs was never late and anyone meeting him, hoping to leave a favorable impression would be on time too. Jim Ellison answered the door instantly; Gibbs looked him over, liking what he saw.
Ellison was a military man. The kind of man Gibbs had spent most of his life working with. A man of honor, one who could be relied on in any situation you found yourself in, no matter how dire. In fact Gibbs’ educated eye told him that Ellison hadn’t been a run of the mill grunt, or officer. He had that edge that only came in the men who went above and beyond, men who found themselves in Special Operations or Black Ops groups. Dangerous men, men who got the job done no matter what the job was.
Gibbs admitted to himself, not for the first time, that if the question had been one of Ellison bonding with Tony, the decision would have been a lot easier to make. This was a time of war; he needed his sentinel brothers. He glanced away, over the taller man’s shoulder, his eyes lighting on the slim, blond haired detective who could just be seen doing something helpful in the kitchen. But it wasn’t Ellison who Tony was going to bond to; it was Spikeman and Spikeman was weird. He definitely was not military. He was a mystery to Gibbs, an ex-school teacher who moved like a predator and looked like a guide; and the pull he felt toward him, that damnable pull. Gibbs took a deep breath steeling his resolve. He did not like to leave mysteries unsolved where his guide was concerned.
“Come in, General,” Ellison said with his usual serious look as he stood back to let the couple in. “Have a seat in the living room. Dinner will be ready in about half an hour. Can I get you a beer?” He seemed to be waiting for Gibbs to be the one to change the topic of the conversation if he wanted to talk about less impersonal things.
“Yeah, sounds good,” Gibbs said as he scanned the living room before walking in and sitting in one of the loveseats with Tony.
Tony went with a tug of his arm, unhesitating, following Gibbs’ lead. He wanted to be close to Jethro as much as his sentinel seemed determined to keep him within arm’s reach.
Jim came back into the room carrying the promised beverages followed by Spike and Xander. “I hope you like roast,” he said, as he handed two cold ones to Gibbs, not even making eye contact with Tony. “Blair’s a great cook and he’s made his famous pineapple upside down cake for desert.”
Gibbs opened one of the beers sniffed it and handed it to Tony, who promptly took a large swallow. Ellison was nothing if not traditional, he’d behaved perfectly if the goal was to keep Gibbs comfortable and to reduce the edge of anxiety any sentinel would feel under these circumstances. Jim would gradually increase the obvious awareness he had of Tony, but slowly and only as long as Gibbs appeared at ease. If Gibbs showed signs of stress, Tony would go unnoticed again.
“I’m not the type to ignore the elephant in the room,” Tony said after Ellison took a seat. There was a gleam of a little boy’s amusement at shattering the formal, polite interaction that was getting underway, far too slowly, in the guides opinion. He knew that if Ellison and Gibbs had their way, they would be sitting here for a week before any meaningful conversation took place. But Spike was an entirely different animal, so, instead Tony took the bull by the horns, and fixed his gaze on Spike who was now sitting on the sofa giving calming strokes to Xander, very much like a guide calming his sentinel.
Gibbs almost laughed at Tony’s sudden statement, that kind of behavior was typical of his guide. He was no great respecter of tradition in any sense. Not after the way he’d grown up, in a cold, far too regimented household where he’d been the only child guide in a family full of sentinels, terribly embarrassed that the DiNozzo bloodline could have produced a guide of all things. Tony enjoyed acting out, upsetting the apple cart and putting people on the spot. Gibbs snorted at him delicately, but made no effort to intervene.
Tony, for his part, ignored Gibbs, not acknowledging the snort, which he’d heard quite clearly. He asked his question. “I want to know exactly what is going to happen tonight, a blow by blow description. I don’t like surprises.” Gibbs snorted once again and Tony gave him a sideways look before looking back at Spike. “Well, Okay, I do like surprises, but not in this situation. I want to know everything, all of it, nothing left out. I want to know the process. No offense Spike, but you’re not a normal sentinel. ”
Xander gave a low growl. “Bet your ass he’s not a normal sentinel; he’s a champion. Jim wouldn’t take just anyone for his second.”
“It’s okay, Pet,” Spike said, with a smile and a kiss. He met Gibbs eyes and let his gaze slip past to light on Tony. “No offence meant, none taken.” Gibbs stiffened fractionally. For all he was expecting Spikeman to act less formally then Ellison, his subconscious didn’t like it, and wasn’t ready, it put him on alert.
Spike turned his attention back to Gibbs, “Xander’s as nervous about this as you and your guide are. We spent a good part of the day scent marking each other, as I’m sure you can tell. Xan has a hard time-sharing me. He’s not a guide like other guides. Don’t make the mistake of thinking he is. He’s afraid of what you might do if he can’t behave in the way you think he should.”
Spike was right, Gibbs could tell. Spike and Xander were wearing each other’s scent and Xander was also wearing Ellison’s scent. “Okay, I can see we need to work this out before we get down to business. First, I take it Tony wearing my scent won’t be a problem, because he’s not washing it off.” Not really a question there, just a bald statement of fact.
“The scent’s not a problem, Xan and I aren’t going to shower either, but you’ll still need to hold Tony while I bond with him.” Spike said coming right to the point. Confusion would be bad here. It all had to be laid out. Because General Gibbs was a strong sentinel and he could cause some major damage if he thought any agreements were not being honored.
“Tony is willing to do this,” Gibbs said with a growl. “There’s no need to hold him down. What kind of a sentinel do you think I am? I don’t force my guide to do anything he is opposed to.” But that wasn’t entirely true. Gibbs could no longer count on one hand the number of times he’d had to insist Tony go to the ER when he wouldn’t admit to being hurt or injured. But those incidents weren’t comparable to the idea of holding an unwilling Tony down so another sentinel could bond to him. Gibbs growled again, the sound rising up from deep in his chest.
Tony patted his sentinel’s thigh and moved closer. “Shhhh. I’m fine,” he murmured.
“I’m not asking you to hold him down,” Spike said, patiently. “A forced bond would not work and I’m no rapist. But it’s obvious that Tony’s your soul mate. You love each other. If you’re not with him to open the door for this bond then it’s going to fail and none of us want that. He has to go to you first, open himself to you, or he’ll never be open to bonding with me.”
Gibbs had to admit the skinny guy had a point. He nodded.
“How did you know?” Tony asked, more surprised than his sentinel over the observation skills Spike was displaying. “How did you know that I was afraid I couldn’t meet you half way and bond with you?”
“I know soul mates when I see them,” Spike said. “I can feel you all over my skin. There's something really right about the bond you have. No point in me trying to break in, it’s rock solid. The only chance we have of making this work is if you both want it to work and you do this together. I won’t be bonding to one of you; it’s both of you or nothing. I don’t know what will happen when we bond. Gibbs may feel the need to claim me as a guide.”
Xan made an unhappy noise, in fact he growled. Tony and Gibbs both looked at him. It hadn’t sounded at all like a noise a guide would make. It sounded like a sentinel’s warning growl. They knew, intellectually that Harris had triggered as a sentinel, but they had expected it to be diluted somehow, either by being a bonded guide or by the brain damage he had received while in the kidnappers custody. But there was no sign of a handicapped sentinel in the growl he heard, or in any of his actions for that matter. Gibbs moved subtly so Tony was more hidden behind him.
“Shhh, Pet,” Spike said, burrowing his nose in his mate’s hair. He ignored the others in the room, talking into Xander’s ear. He licked it. “I’m yours, your mate. No one’s going to take me away from you. They’re going to be family is all. This is just what we have to do to make them family.”
Gibbs fought the blush. He wasn’t used to seeing other sentinels and guides do this. Touching each other in public was one thing, sometimes necessary, but tonguing each other was another thing entirely. He averted his eyes, finding himself looking at Ellison and Blair.
“I doubt I’ll need to claim Spike as a guide.” Gibbs said, a little stiffly, hoping it was true, and making himself believe it. “I plan on taking the three of you for sentinel brothers before you bond with Tony. I don’t think I’ll need anything more. I can control myself.” No one in the room doubted him.
“Xander is out of bounds,” Jim said. “He’s been wounded. I’m not willing to let him bond with a third sentinel, at least not yet; we have no way of knowing how it will affect him. His control improves everyday but a new bond means new pathways. We can’t risk a mental cascade.”
Gibbs was surprised that it was Ellison making the statement about Xander. It seemed more like Spike’s responsibility. He decided to test the waters. “Is Spike okay with that?”
The response came from an unexpected source.
“Hey!” Xander said pushing Spike aside and trying to get to his feet, but Spike’s arms encircled his waste and wouldn’t let go. “He’s my sentinel, I’m his guide; we’re not playing house here. This is real; you have no right to challenge his authority as my sentinel.”
Gibbs sat quietly watching and analyzing everything that was taking place. Spike held the larger man with little effort, a fact to be stored away. Spike was far stronger then he looked. He turned his attention to Xander; he had switched instantly from a possessive sentinel to a guide defending his sentinel, and a sentinel that wasn’t his first bond. That meant the bond he had with Ellison was strong. His reaction was similar to what Tony had done when they were first bonded. It took him years to train that aggressive stance out of Tony and he had been only partially successful. Now, on the rare occasions they ran across someone who didn’t know better, Tony only laughed and informed the offending person that he or she ‘soooo said the wrong thing’.
“Xan,” Jim said, his voice firm and commanding. “It was just a test. He needs to know there’s no disagreement in the ranks, he needs to know we’re together on this.”
Xander relaxed at the big man’s words, settling more easily back into Spikeman’s arms. Spike licked him again.
Jim turned to Gibbs. “Xander is right about one thing, if you think this is just a polite contract between strangers then it’s not going to be what you expect. If it’s anything like what happened when I held Blair, you have to know and believe you’re not betraying each other when you do react to us. There is no way you’re going to get through this without being moved. There’s no way to prepare you for it.”
“Try me,” Gibbs said, his jaw rigid as a slab of granite.
Jim shrugged. “I don’t know how to put it into words,” he said. “The best I can do is say Spike focuses and intensifies my bond with Blair. He doesn’t interfere with our bond but he is a part of it, a part of us. But you have to bond with Spike first for that to happen and it can’t be a surface bond, it has to go deeper.”
“I don’t see how my bond with Tony could get any deeper,” Gibbs said with a shake of his head. “As for claiming Spike for my guide, yeah, I feel a pull to him. But the sentinel-to-sentinel bond should take care of that. I don’t want or need another guide.”
“We’re not saying that you’ll want to claim Spike as a guide, only that it is a possibility you need to be prepared for. You’re like me, a strong sentinel with an exceptionally strong bond with your guide. It’s not going to be easy for either of you to open to a bond with Spike. You’ll have to help each other. I’ve done both and it hasn’t taken away from my bond with Blair.”
“Both?” Gibbs asked, with the rare sound of confusion in his voice. “How? He doesn’t have a guide gland.”
“You’re right, he doesn’t,” Jim said. “But we bonded anyway. As for the other, I didn’t see how my bond with Blair could deepen either. All I can tell you is that it has, I didn’t expect it. I held Blair because I wanted him to know that even while Spike was claiming him I was still there, still his sentinel, and he could depend on me to be there for him no matter what. Then this…thing…happened and I was transported. To say it was earth shattering is an understatement.”
Blair, who had gotten up and gone into the kitchen to check on dinner, came out again, delicious smells coming with him. “Gentlemen, dinner is on the table, we should eat before it gets cold.”
“So Xander?” Tony asked as he pushed his empty desert plate away from him. “The AP Harris is your uncle? Cause you sure look a lot alike.”
Gibbs nudged Tony with his knee under the table. It had been a peaceful quite meal, with Gibbs and Ellison comparing solder’s stories. Now Tony was bringing up things best left alone.
“That’s what I’m told,” Xander said. “I don’t remember him from growing up. I don’t think he and my dad got along.”
Gibbs relaxed when there was no accompanying protest from any of the sentinels at the table.
“I heard you and your family were estranged,” Tony said, he could truly understand Xander feeling alone and lost in the world. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to be,” Xander said, giving a loving look and pat to Spike, who had a mouthful of Blair’s pineapple upside down cake and the look of a man in heaven as he chewed and swallowed. “I have a new family and this one is better then I could have dreamed of. What about you?” he asked, looking back at Tony, “How did your family take it when they found out you were a guide?”
“It was a shock,” Tony said. “But mostly I think they were embarrassed. Until I was eleven and tested for the guide gene, I was brought up to be a sentinel, despite my obvious lack of talent in that area. Then all of that suddenly stopped. It seemed like everyone started ignoring me.” Tony smiled and looked at Gibbs and wiggled his eyebrows like Grocho Marx. “I learned other ways to get attention.”
“I know what you mean. My grandfather used to take me to his house every weekend. I can still remember him telling me how important it was for me to carry on the Harris name. My father never triggered and I was the only male grandchild. I never saw him again after my father told him I was a guide.”
“Your father never triggered?” Tony asked. “But your mother must have been a guide.”
“She was,” Xander said. “They married young. She came from a poor family and thought it was a good match. She expected him to trigger and then she would get all the prestige of being married to a Harris sentinel. But I think my father was afraid to become a sentinel. He was told often enough that alcohol could keep him from triggering; it just made him drink all the more. I became her hope, a sentinel son, and then even that was destroyed.”
“Not your fault, Pet,” Spike said, stroking Xander’s leg. “It’s their loss that they couldn’t see your worth.”
Gibbs' felt it was time to change the subject. “A toast,” he said raising his wine glass. “To Guides, who allow us to be all that we can be. May every sentinel acknowledge your worth.”
“To Guides,” Jim and Spike said together.
Spike lifted his water glass into the air. He and Xander were still not drinking any alcohol. “May we never have to live without the annoying little buggers,” he added
“I’ll drink to that,” Tony said with a flourish.
“Here, here,” Blair and Xander added with a laugh.
Gibbs waited for the sound of the laughter to fade before he spoke. “I am curious, Spike.” he said, not willing to pass up the opportunity to find out more about the mysterious sentinel. “According to your records you’re a first generation sentinel. You triggered while in a coma. Not unheard of but rare. I read the reports about how you saved that kids life during a bank robbery. That was very brave of you; but still, it had to be quite a surprise going from a school teacher to a sentinel.”
“Not as much of an adjustment as you might think.” Spike said, holding Gibbs gaze without a flinch. He didn’t feel the need to explain that the schoolteacher history was just a cover; and that he was placed in this reality by a cosmic intervention caseworker, that was a can of worms best left closed for now.
“You move like a predator,” Gibbs continued, watching Spike for any sign of weakness. “According to records, since bonding with Xander, you’ve killed a hit man, and three highly trained black ops solders. I’d like to know where you acquired your skills?”
“Kidnappers not solders,” Spike said leaning forward, his eyes turned yellow and his voice took on and English accent. “For the record I also killed Ethan Rayne, cut off his dick and one of his balls and crushed it underfoot.”
“Only one?” Gibbs asked, his voice was quiet, strong, and showed no surprise at Spike’s sudden transformation. Tony watched with a growing interest, what the heck was this Spikeman? It was clear he wasn’t a normal sentinel; Tony knew that from the first contact they’d had. Some kind of mutation was his best guess. Interesting.
“Jim claimed his right to the other,” Spike said.
“Which brings us back to the question, how did you require your skills?”
Spike pushed back his chair and took of his shoes and socks, flexing his feet and toes. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, Luv.”
“I’m not your love,” Gibbs said, uncomfortable with the inappropriate endearment, but still showing no emotion and wondering where that English accent came from.
Spike ignored the protest, stood up and started to move toward Gibbs. Barefoot, and graceful, each step like a tiger stalking its prey, eerily silent, yet weighty and powerful.
Gibbs swallowed hard. The man had turned into danger incarnate. The hair stood up along his spine. Not someone Gibbs would want for an enemy, no way. When Spike circled outward Gibbs moved, shifting to keep him in direct sight. It wouldn’t do to let a man like that get behind him; he stood up and faced Spike. His sentinel senses were screaming at him and he extended them. Tony was the only one at the table whose heart rate had increased, when his guide turned in his seat and tried to stand Gibbs put out a hand to stop him. “It’s okay,” Gibbs said, taking his lead from the others at the table. “He’s just making a point.”
Spike came forward, slowly stopping a moment before invading Gibbs’ personal space and then leaning in, head tilted he kept eye contact until the last possible moment and then he closed his eyes as his head bent closer and he ran a warm wet tongue over Gibbs’ pulse point.
“What the hell are you trying to do, Spike?” Gibbs asked, keeping his feet planted and forcing his hands to remain hanging at his sides. His skin contracted rather too pleasantly. Only Tony had the right to make him respond like that.
“Don’t bond with anyone I can’t love,” Spike said as he suddenly pulled the generals shirttail out of his pants.
Gibbs still didn’t move. “I don’t need or want you to love me,” he said. “You have your mate, I have mine. We’re just going to bond, sentinel-to-sentinel, brothers in arms.”
“Wrong.” Spike said, as he moved his hands under Gibbs shirt and ran them over the generals hard abs. “I know you want to dance, General. I can feel it.” One of Spike’s hands rested over Gibbs heart. “But you’ve put a wall up. You have to take it down, let me in. Dance with me.”
Gibbs swallowed again, he could feel Spike’s energy filling him, and it felt good, too good. Okay, this was not going as planned. He had seriously underestimated Spikeman. The man had read him like a book and manipulated him into this position.
Tony moved up behind his sentinel, his own shirt already discarded he slid his hands up Jetro’s sides, anchoring him. Very public, too public, Gibbs upbringing screamed. But Spikeman moved against him, Tony echoing him, achingly perfect. Gibbs didn’t care anymore; he let himself slip into a bonding thrall. Tony helped Spike tug off Gibbs’ shirt and threw it aside as they moved toward the nesting room.
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