Title: Football, Birthdays and Holidays 3
Fandom: The Sentinel
Pairing: Jim/Blair, Steven/Michael (preslash)
Summary: Changes aren’t always bad.
Beta: By my sister Anna. All remaining errors are mine-with apologies.
Note: There’s been a slight change in one of the storylines-yet again. This time concerning Rafe. I bow to the wishes of the muses and when feedback makes the plot bunny’s dance. They look so cute doing the cha-cha. (o:
Football, Birthdays and Holidays 3.
“Blair, can I talk to you for a minute?” Steven asked the little Guide.
The curly-haired toddler put down his book. “Yup.”
“Will you come over to my bed for some privacy?”
Blair nodded again. “Yuppers.” Offering his arms to Steven.
Steven looked over at Jim who was watching quietly. “No listening. This is between Blair and me, Watchman.”
Jim frowned at him. “Sentinel here. How do you expect me to not listen? We’re stuck in an isolation room. It’s not like I can just get up and move to another room.
“Turn your ears off. Listen to some music or something. Focus on it.”
“Want me to zone? Besides what could you wanna talk to Blair about that could be that private?” Jim asked him, curiously.
Steven tilted his head to the side as he thought about it. “Hmm, you may be right about that. There really haven’t been any secrets between us. We shouldn’t start now. And maybe you can help.”
Jim gave Steven a shy smile, letting him know how pleased he was that Steven trusted him. “What’s up?” he asked, jumping onto the bed.
Steven turned a bright red. “It’s gotta do with my fiancé.”
“What other fiancé could I be talking about, dweeb?”
Jim rolled his eyes. “Whatever. What about him?”
Steven looked at the little Guide. “I need to ask you something very important to my future, Blair.”
“You remember when you turned Jim off so that he could wait for you?”
Blair nodded. “Yup.”
“Do you think you could do that with other people? Other people like Michael?” Steven chewed on his lip as he nervously waited for the little Guide’s answer.
“Yup. I can do. Piece of cake.”
Steven gave him a huge smile. “Cool. Will you do it when we get out of here? It’d mean a lot to Michael and me.”
Steven gave his little brother a hug. “Thank you, thank you. You’ll never know how much this mean to me.”
Blair returned the hug. “I knows.”
Steven looked at Jim. “Is that alright, Jim? Can Blair help us?”
Jim nodded. “Sure. I don’t see a problem with it. Besides, he says he can do it. His exact words were ‘piece of cake’. So go for it.”
“No problem. Hey, dinner’s here. Let’s eat. I’m starving,” Jim said as a nurse came in pushing a cart loaded with food trays. Couldn’t see her face, being she was covered from head to foot in the spaceman suit they made them wear before they came in. It kinda looked liked she was smiling though, when she dropped off the trays.
Steven chuckled. “I thought that was my line.”
Jim handed him his tray. “I’m borrowing it this once.”
Steven took it. “Okay, just don’t make a habit of it.”
“Okay. Hmm, fried chicken. This looks pretty good considering it’s hospital food. Here Blair take a taste, what do you think?”
Blair took a delicate nibble of chicken. “Good. I like.”
“Do you want milk or soda?” Blair just looked at him. “Milk it is.”
Steven chuckled. “You should know by now.”
Jim opened the tiny box of chocolate milk. “Yeah, I should. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking that Blair will become a junk food junkie like the rest of us.”
Steven opened his own milk. “Not in a million years.”
“Yup. How’s your chicken?”
“Good,” Steven replied, taking a long swallow of his chocolate milk. Chocolate milk always tasted so much better when it came in little boxes, for some odd reason.
“Okay.” Jim looked at Steven. “Do you think we’re getting bored stuck in here when we can’t even find something interesting to talk about?”
Steven sighed. “Yeah. How much longer do you think Simon’s gonna keep us in here?”
“He told Dad that they’ve isolated the cause of me getting sick.”
“Yeah.” Steven frowned. “Where was I when all this was happening?”
Jim took a bite of his roll. “Taking a nap with Blair.”
“Oh. What was it?”
“He thinks it was a severe food allergy,” Jim offered Blair a green bean. Blair took it, making the Sentinel chuckle when he began nibbling on it like it was corn on the cob. “Is that good, Baby?”
“You betcha,” Jim replied, giving him another bean. Watching in fascination as his little Guide did the same thing to it.
“Well?” Steven asked impatiently.
“What the fu…” Steven caught himself. “What the heck was it?”
“He thinks it was Urban Paprika,” Jim answered, absently. Getting the biggest kick out of the way Blair ate green beans. “Have you always eaten green beans like that, Baby?”
“Of course he has?” Steven told him, handing the little Guide his green beans since he’d already gone through his and Jim’s. Blair loved green beans.
“How come I never notice?”
“Cause you’re usually hanging out in the twilight zone.”
“Excuse me,” Jim said, offended.
“You are,” Steven told him, unrepentantly. “You spend too much time counting the fibers in socks and checking out the textures of flowers. And I must tell you, Watchman-it ain’t healthy or pretty, for that matter.”
“Oh, please. That was only a couple of times.” Steven raised an eyebrow. “Okay, it was twice. It was only two times.” The disbelieving eyebrow didn’t come down. “Okay, fine. It was three times,” Jim said in exasperation. “And what was so unhealthy about it?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it was the way you ZONED on a rose. Big sissy.”
“It wasn’t that bad a zone. And it was a beautiful color of burgundy.”
“That just proves my point. What guy in their right mind knows that a rose is the color of burgundy. Sissy.”
Jim glared at his brother. “Shut up. Besides Dad’s the one that told me the rose was burgundy. Are you gonna call Dad a sissy? Go on, I dare ya.”
“Oh, please. Dad is Dad. He is on a higher plane than the rest of us mere mortals.”
“Dad can never be a sissy. He can say a rose is burgundy all he wants.”
“But I can’t?”
“Because that would make you a sissy,” Steven told him, blue eyes twinkling. He loved the way his brother was such easy prey.
“Well, that’s just dumb.”
Steven smiled at him. “No, Watchman. That make’s you a sissy.”
“Oh, shut up,” Jim said, tossing his biscuit at Steven. Who caught it mid air and took a healthy bite out of it, before tossing it back.
Jim frowned as he looked at his biscuit, now half gone. Shrugging he bit into it. How many cooties could Steven have? And besides they were brothers. He thought to himself as he gave Steven the chicken leg on his plate he was eyeing hopefully. They shared everything else-might as well share a few cooties too.
HEALING A FRIENDSHIP
Later, much, much later Jim, Blair and Steven had found a way to occupy their time. Being bored, bored, bored. BORED.
Blair curls happily bouncing up and down on the bed dived trustingly right into Jim’s arms.
“Nice jump,” Jim told him, kissing his forehead.
“Again. Again,” Blair said, excitedly.
Jim placed Blair back on the bed carefully. “Okay. Hang on a second.” He turned toward Steven who was once again sketching in his pad. “Wanna join us?”
“Not right now. Let me finish this.”
“Okay,” Jim replied. That was when he noticed someone had entered the waiting room. Without having to look he knew who it was by the happy waves Blair was giving.
“Rafe’s here,” He said, unenthusiastically.
“So go say ‘Hi’, I’ll play with Blair,” Steven told him, laying the sketch pad down carefully. “Hey,” Jim turned back to look at him. “be nice.”
Jim scowled, but made no comment. He went to stand in front of the pane of glass separating them from the outside world. He looked at Rafe, but made no move to pick up the phone.
Rafe looked at him sadly. He really didn’t want to lose Jim as a friend. They’d been buddies since Pre-K. Jim had shown him how to tie his shoes. They’d shared comic books, lunches, secrets for as long as he could remember. And now for reasons he didn’t understand Jim hated him.
Rafe sighed unhappily, motioning for Jim to pick up the phone. The young Sentinel did it so reluctantly, Rafe felt his eyes fill with tears.
“H…Hi. How are you guys?” Rafe asked, blinking away the tears.
“Good. How’s school?” Jim asked, ignoring the fact that Rafe’s eyes were glittering with tears.
“I…it’s there. Why?” Rafe asked, trying to clear the lump in his throat.
“Why do hate me all of a sudden?”
“I don’t hate you.”
Rafe wiped at the tears impatiently. “You could have fooled me. Is it because of my friendship with Blair? I’ll stop being friends with him if it bothers you so much.”
Jim moved from one leg to the other nervously. “You can’t do that. Blair loves you.”
“And we’ve been friends since we were babies.”
“Yeah,” Jim replied, reluctantly.
“Tell me what it is,” Rafe urges. “Tell me what it is and I’ll stop doing it. So we can be friends again.”
“You can’t stop doing it,” Jim replied, turning to look at his little Guide and Steven playing on the bed. “What’s going to happen-is going to happen.”
Rafe frowned. “What are you talking about?” he asked, in confusion.
“You can’t change what’s about to happen any more than I can. And you are the only one on the planet who could take Blair away from me, if you wanted. Did you know that?”
“I’d never do that,” Rafe replied, stunned by what Jim had just told him. “Why the hell would I want to do that?”
“Blair loves you.”
“And I love him, but what has that got to do with anything?”
“You could take him from me.”
Rafe looked at him in confusion. “You already said that. How? How could I take Blair away from you? He’s your Guide.” Jim mumbled something unintelligible. “What? What did you say?”
“If you wanted to, you could make Blair your Guide,” Jim told him, reluctantly.
Rafe couldn’t have heard right. “What? What did you just say?”
“I’m estimating you’re four to five years from coming online.”
Rafe blinked. “Huh?”
“You are a Sentinel.”
Rafe’s brown eyes widened in disbelieve. “You’re fucking lying.”
Jim shook his head. “No.”
“Yes, you are. You got mad at me for something else and now you’re trying to punish me.”
Jim gave a small smile. “Is that what you think being a Sentinel is? Some sort of punishment?”
“Tell me you’re lying. Please, Jim, tell me you’re lying,” Rafe pleaded.
Jim shook his head. “I’m not lying.”
Rafe looked into the solemn blue eyes watching him. He sighed heavily. “How long did you say I have?”
Jim chuckled. “It’s not some sort of fatal disease. Four, five years. Blair could probably make it sooner, if you like.”
Rafe sighed again. “Yeah, then you’d kill me for sure. How are you so sure I’m going to be a Sentinel?”
“There’s something in you that’s starting to shift. Kinda like blocks that aren’t quite in place. I can see it. When it’s aligned, you’ll become a Sentinel.”
“I hate you,” Rafe hissed at him.
Jim gave him a tight smile. “Bearer of bad news?”
Rafe ran a trembling hand through his brown hair. “Not exactly the bearer of bad news. It’s just not that good a news.” He met Jim’s blue eyes. “I don’t want Blair that way. He’s my friend. And I want you to start being my friend again too. Please,” He pleaded, when Jim looked away. “Please, Jim.”
“I don’t know if that’s possible any more,” he was told quietly.
“But I don’t want Blair. I love him like one of my little brothers.”
“I don’t know.”
Suddenly something occurred to Rafe. “Jim, if you can see I’m going to be a Sentinel could you use your Spidey senses to figure out who my Guide will be?”
Jim frowned. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Will you try? I don’t know how else to show you I don’t want Blair that way. Will you try?” Rafe pleaded.
Jim went through all the smells, tastes, touches and sights he had stored. Like he’d been taught by Simon. Feeling Blair join him, holding onto his hand as a touchstone to keep him from zoning.
Steven had joined them as well. They’d been playing on the bed when little Guide had gone still. Watching Jim, big blue eyes solemn.
After a moment Blair had demanded “Down.” And now they watched as Jim did his Sentinel thing. Not really sure what it was and not wanting to interfere. Only knowing they wanted to show support.
After what felt like forever to Rafe, but couldn’t have been more than a couple of minutes Jim’s blue eyes cleared and focused. “I did it?” he said with a huge smile. “I know who it is.”
“Well, don’t keep me in suspense, tell me.”
“Are you sure you wanna know?”
“Well-YEAH,” Rafe told him in exasperation.
“I don’t think I need to tell you. As long as it’s not Blair, then I’m happy. I feel LOTS better now,” Jim replied, looking down at his little Guide who was looking up at him, a huge smile on his cute little face.
“Well, I’m glad you’re feeling better. You’ve already told me I’m a Sentinel. That’s bad enough. You might as well tell me the rest of it. It’s going to be Matilda Higgins from our class, I just know it. Just my luck I’m going to have to spend the rest of my life with someone who looks like something the monster from the Black Lagoon ate, but spit out cause he couldn’t stand the taste. And then he up and died because someone that ugly was inside his tummy and the shock of it gave him a heart attack.”
Jim chuckled. Rafe was off on a rant. He hadn’t seen one in so long-he kinda missed it. Missed his friend. He was happy now that he didn’t have to worry about Rafe taking his little Guide. Rafe was the only one on the planet that could, because Blair loved him.
“No it’s not Matilda.”
“Who is it then?” Rafe asked, impatiently.
“Hey, wait a minute. I thought you said you were just jealous,” Steven asked, frowning at his brother. Able to put together what was happening by the bits and pieces Jim was saying.
“I am or rather I was. But there was more to it than I thought. It didn’t hit me till just now, when I was looking at Rafe.”
“Like a two by four across the forehead.”
“Yeah. I can see it.” Jim frowned. “Rafe is standing there, but I can see something in him shifting. Like blocks starting to align. Moving around inside of him.”
“You sure it’s not going to be a critter like in Aliens?” Steven asked worriedly, moving away from the window slightly. “I gotta happy future to look forward to. Got me a job, a fiancé and everything is looking up, I don’t need to end up as snack food.”
“No. No, alien critters.”
Steven looked at Rafe then at Jim. “Maybe it’s the chicken you ate at lunch. Gave you food poisoning. Making you see things.”
“Nope, not the chicken,” Jim replied, reaching down to pick up Blair.
The little Guide gave Rafe a huge smile. Placing his hand on the pane of glass in greeting. “Hi, Rafe. How’s it shaking?” He said, into the phone Jim held for him.
Rafe’s face softened from impatience to something that almost made his face glow. Jim understood now what it was and wasn’t threatened by it. Rafe loved Blair, truly loved him, but not in a way that threatened Jim’s bond with the little Guide.
“It’s shaking fine, Blair. How are you?” Rafe asked, placing his hand against Blair’s wishing there wasn’t glass between them.
“I is cool. I miss you,” Blair said sorrowfully.
“I miss you too,” Rafe replied. Looking over at Jim to make sure the Sentinel wasn’t taking it wrong. He wasn’t, he was smiling. Rafe sighed in relief. “When do you get out of here?” he asked the young Sentinel.
“Tomorrow. Simon says we can probably go home tomorrow. He’ll tell us what happened to me and how we’re going to prevent it from happening again.”
Steven frowned. “Where was I when this happened?”
“Asleep with Blair. AGAIN. Which is about all you’ve been doing since we’ve been here. Well, that and sketching.”
“It’s not like there’s a whole lot to do in here,” Steven replied, unapologetically, “Nothing other than HOMEWORK.” He crinkled his nose distastefully.
“Yeah, that’s true.”
Jim watched Rafe and Blair play itsy bitsy spider up and down the pane of glass for a while.
“Blair?” His Guide looked at him. “Did you know that Rafe was a going to be a Sentinel?”
Blair nodded. “Yup.”
“And you didn’t say anything?”
Blair tiled his head as he contemplated his Sentinel. “No ask,” He said, simply.
Jim rolled his eyes. “Dang. That would have saved me months of worry.”
“That’ll teach you,” Steven told him.
“Teach me what?” Jim asked, knowing better, but deciding to bite the bullet and ask anyway.
“Little Guide is all knowing, all seeing. Kinda like Dad. They’re way above us mere mortals and especially way, way, way WAY above you, Watchman.”
“Shut up. I hate you. You know that, right?”
Steven smiled at him. “Oh, yeah.” Not in the least bit hurt by his brother’s comment.
“Okay, just so you know.” Saying that, Jim turned to his little Guide. “Blair, do you know who Rafe’s Guide is gonna be?”
Blair nodded. “Yup.”
“Then will you tell me?” Rafe pleaded, from the other side of the glass. Hearing everything from where Jim held the phone. “Jim won’t tell me.”
Blair looked at Jim who nodded. “Go ahead and tell him.”
The little Guide turned to the window. “Hang on.” Steven broke in. “This could be blackmail material for years to come. Don’t tell him.”
Rafe moaned, banging his head against the glass in frustration. After a few minutes he looked up and glared at Steven.
“I am going to kill you,” he threatened, menacingly. “slowly.”
Steven crossed his arms. “Ooh, I’m scared. I’m in here. You’re out there. How are you gonna get to me?”
“You’re not always gonna be in there. You’re coming out tomorrow.” Rafe smiled at Steven showing his very even, very, white teeth, in such a way that did not mean good health and a long life.
“Oops, I did forget about that,” Steven said, weakly. “Okay, go ahead and tell him, Blair.”
Everyone looked at Blair expectantly. “Da boy we meet at mall.”
Rafe frowned. “What boy?”
“Da boy at mall. Da one Michael buy clothes for.”
Steven rolled his eyes at the confusion on Rafe’s face. “Must be a genetic flaw in all Sentinels, making them dumb as doorknobs. The whole lot of them,” He mumbled, in disgust. “Lee Brackett, you twit,” He said louder, when Rafe continued to look confused.
Rafe looked at Jim for confirmation. The young Sentinel nodded. “Yup.”
“Okay, okay at least it’s not Matilda. I can live with Lee. Does he know?”
Jim shook his head. “He doesn’t even know he’s a Guide. He was tested like everyone else, but the test was negative when they took it. Just like your tests were negative. Didn’t mean anything, you’re still gonna be a Sentinel before to long. Just like he’ll be a Guide.”
Steven looked at Jim blue eyes dancing merrily. “Does that mean they’re freaks like the rest of you?”
Jim glared at him. “Shut up. And who’s the one that has a fiancé at eleven years old?”
Rafe looked at Steven curiously. “You got a fiancé?”
Steven nodded. “Yup.” He frowned. “Wanna make something of it?”
Rafe shook his head. “Heck no. I think it’s cool. Did you get a ring?”
“What is it with you guys and rings anyway?” Jim asked, curiously.
“Can’t get promised without a ring,” Rafe told him. “Read that somewhere.”
Steven slapped his arm with the back of his hand. “Yeah, where you been. Hiding under a rock?”
“Ow! I’m sorry I asked,” Jim replied, ruefully, rubbing his arm.
“You should be. So who’s gonna tell Lee that his life’s plans have now drastically altered for all times?”
“Isn’t that a bit melodramatic?” Jim replied, still rubbing his arm.
“Not really. Cause whatever he had planned for his future ain’t happening now. It veered hard left.”
“OH MY GOD!” Rafe exclaimed in horror.
“What? What is it?” Steven yelled, blue eyes wide in alarm. “You’re not turning Sentinelie now are you?” Jim held Blair close when the little Guide startled at Rafe’s yell.
The Sentinel-to-be ran a trembling hand through his hair nervously before looking up to meet Jim’s eyes. “What the hell am I gonna do?” he whimpered pitifully into the phone.
“About what?” Jim asked, curiously.
“About Lee,” Rafe replied as if that answered everything. “You at least got lots of money. I got nothing to offer a Guide. What if he doesn’t want me? Oh, man-he’s not gonna wanna be my Guide. I just know it. I’m going to die before my time. Zoning on a bread crumb. I am so dead.”
Steven bit his lip as he watched the extremely agitated Rafe work himself into a fit. He hadn’t seen anything so funny since H hid Rafe’s GQ magazine. Threatening them, their children, grandchildren, even future pets with dire consequences if his magazine wasn’t returned IMMEDIATELY. He turned to Jim and Blair, who were looking at Rafe in utter fascination.
“I…is that how I act?” Jim asked him, blue eyes widening in understanding and embarrassment.
“Oh, yeah. Only worse. Must be a Sentinelie type of thing. You guys are all bonkers.”
Rafe glared at him. “I heard that, asshole. Sorry, Blair. My life is over and you mock me. Some friend you are. Friends do NOT mock.”
“I’m not mocking you,” Steven replied, biting back a chuckle.
“Yeah? Laugh it up, furball. Let’s see who’s laughing when I’m twitching on the ground dying ‘cause I zoned on those floating things you see in sunlight.”
“Dust motes?” Steven asked, chuckling.
“Yeah, that’s it. Dust motes.”
“Sentinels don’t twitch on the ground,” Jim told him haughtily. “We are a dignified class of people.”
Steven broke out in laughter, unable to hold it back any more. “Oh, man, you guys are just too much. Dignified, my buns. Is the same person who’ll spend hours color coding Sally’s yarn box? Is this the same person who zones on the different colors of Blackie’s BLACK fur? Is the same person who…”
“SHUT UP,” Jim told him in annoyance with just a tad bit of embarrassment mixed in. “Can’t you see Rafe’s having a crisis?”
Steven wiped at his eyes, fighting to hold the laughter back. “Okay. Okay. I’ll stop. But, oh-God you guys are hysterical,” He replied, not in the least bothered by the glares one Sentinel and one Sentinel-to-be were giving him.
Jim decided to ignore his crazy brother and turned to look at Rafe. “He’ll accept you.”
“But what if he doesn’t. I got nothing to offer a Guide. Nothing, nada, zip, zero, not happening,” Rafe replied, shaking his head sadly. “I am so dead.”
“You could always offer him a ring.”
Both Rafe and Jim turned to look at Steven who had finally stopped laughing, sort of. Now he was just snickering. “What?” Rafe asked, into the phone.
“Yeah, offer him a ring. A promise to do right by him when you get older. You’ll probably have to get a three or four jobs, though. His Step-Dad’s really rich.”
Rafe whimpered. “I am so dead.”
“No, you’re not. It’ll be okay. We’ll help,” Steven promised.
“You promise?” Rafe asked, hopeful for the first time since Jim had told him he was going to be a Sentinel.
“You betcha,” Steven replied, smiling at him confidently.
“You and Michael will be our Protectors too?”
“You want Michael and me to be your Protectors?” Steven asked, in surprise.
That’s when Steven realized how overwhelmed Rafe was about everything he’d been told.
“I’d be honored. It’s going to be okay. You’ll see,” He promised him, again.
“Are you sure?”
“Yup.” Steven turned to Blair. “Right, Blair?”
Blair nodded. “Yups,” He replied, placing his hand on the glass offering Rafe all the comfort he could-considering there was a pane of glass between them.
Rafe placed his hand against Blair’s, taking a deep steadying breath. “Okay. I feel better now. Except for one thing?”
“What?” Jim asked softly.
“What am I going to do about Lee?”
Steven tsked at him. “I told you, get him a ring. Are you deaf, moron?”
Rafe ignored the insult. He needed help more than he needed to beat the snot out of Steven. “Are you sure that’ll work?” He asked, uncertainly.
Steven nodded. “Yeah. Pretty sure. Ask Michael to help you.”
Rafe took another steadying breath. “Yeah, I can do that. Where’s Michael now?”
Steven looked at Jim whose eyes became unfocused as he searched Cascade for the curly- haired body builder, using scent and sound. “He’s at the mall. Upper level. He’s just walking into Kay’s Jewelers.”
“That is just SO cool,” Steven said, proudly.
Jim gave his brother a smile, pleased by his brother’s praise. “He’s talking to the Jeweler right now.”
“Okay. The mall is only three blocks from here. If I hurry I can catch him.”
“Hey, Rafe?” Steven called out. Not surprised when Rafe turned, considering they weren’t using the phone to communicate any more. “It’s going to be okay. You’ll see.”
Rafe looked at him searchingly before giving them a short nod and walked out the door.
RINGS AND THINGS
“Did Rafe catch up to you?”
“Yeah, he did,” Michael replied into the phone. “He was kinda hysterical there for awhile, though. Had to buy him a banana split from Hagan Daz to make him feel better.”
“Being told you’re a Sentinel and who your Guide is all in one day can be a bit of a shock to the system.”
“I’d say. He was
“We’ll manage,” Steven told him confidently.
“Yeah, how?” Michael asked, not so confidently.
“We’re Protectors. It’s instinctual. It’ll come to us.”
“Are you sure?”
Steven smiled at him. “Positive. So did you find what you were looking for?” he asked hopefully.
“Oh, yeah. Even found something for Lee.”
“Was Rafe going to go talk to Lee today?”
Michael shook his head. “No, he wants you to break the news to Lee.”
Steven frowned. “Me? Why me?”
“You’re the Great Protector. He wants you to protect him from committing suicide if Lee says no.”
“I told him Lee wasn’t gonna say no,” Steven said, in exasperation.
Michael reached into the pocket of his jeans. “He’s still afraid. So he’s gonna wait for you to tell Lee.”
“Damn, what a chicken shit. Whatcha got there?”
“Your ring,” Michael told him shyly.
Jim and Blair just having woken from their nap came up to the window just as Michael opened the tiny box. They all oh’d and ah’d when the bodybuilder opened the box. Nestled inside was a gold band encircled with Celtic rings.
“That’s one nifty ring, Michael,” Jim told him, smiling.
Michael returned the smile. “Yeah, huh? The Jeweler promised me that I’d be able to get it resized as Steven’s finger grows. Jim?” Michael bit his lip nervously.
“Is it okay with you? You know, about Steven and me?”
“Sure is. I think it’s great.”
Michael looked at him hopefully. “Really?”
“Yup. Blair has even agreed to help. Huh, Baby?” Jim asked his little Guide.
“Yups. I ‘elp.” Blair replied, from the comfort of his Sentinel’s arms.
Michael smiled at them brilliantly. “Cool.”
Steven turned to look at his brothers never prouder of them than he was at this moment. “Yeah, I think it is too,” He told them both, softly.
All the Ellison’s including Sally and Michael were gathered around a conference room Simon had reserved once Jim, Blair and Steven had been released from isolation.
After a jubilant reunion between father and sons. Sally and Michael receiving their fair share of hugs and kisses as well. Even if things were a bit awkward between Michael and Steven.
“Okay. I confirmed what made you sick, Jim. Took a fair amount of research I must tell you,” Simon said, sighing heavily. And it had been to. He’d checked with everyone about everything the young Sentinel ate, drank, touched or even remotely came into close contact with for weeks before Jim got sick.
“What was it?” William asked, hugging his littlest son close.
“So it was that?” Jim said, thoughtfully.
“Yes. You remember when we all ate at the Indian place awhile back?” Simon asked, looking through his charts.
“Yeah,” Steven answered, “but that was at least a week before Jim started acting twitchy. And then he didn’t even wanna eat it-trading with Sally cause what he was gonna eat, burnt his nose. Oh…,” Steven said, blue eyes lit in understanding. “that’s how it got it.”
Simon nodded. “From the research I’ve done and talking to an allergist, an allergen can sometimes make it’s way in to the system and you may not get a reaction for weeks after. That’s what happened to Jim. Symptoms most times are mild, but due to Jim’s heightened sensitivity the reaction was far worse after having built up in his system. We’re really lucky that all the food served at the hospital is spiceless and sometimes quite tasteless. And we’re really lucky Jim didn’t eat any on the Indian food or we wouldn’t be here talking. ”
“Thank God for that,” William replied gratefully. Thankful someone somewhere was looking out for his son. “What go we do now?”
“I’ve scheduled Jim an appointment with an allergist. We will test him for any possible food allergies and a few other things that may cause problems.” Jim groaned softly. “I know, Jim. But it needs to be done. And we need to move slowly considering how sensitive you are. The test will be at a far lower dosage than those given to others. We don’t want what happened before to happen to you again.”
“And if he shows sensitivity?” Steven asked, playing with a pad of paper.
“Then he’ll start receiving shots to slowly build his immunity. It’s going to take some time, but it needs to be done.”
William nodded. “I agree. We’ll do whatever it takes. What do we do in the meantime?”
“Jim will have to follow a special diet.” Simon turned to the young Sentinel. “You’re going to be eating plain for awhile.” Smiling when Jim groaned again. “It won’t be too bad. It’s about the same stuff you got while you were here in the hospital. You’ll be able to eat Wonder Burger before you know it.”
“We’ll all eat the same things so you won’t be tempted to cheat,” Steven told his brother, offering support.
“You don’t have to do that,” Jim replied softly, touched by how thoughtful his brother could be. Rare as it was. “I’ll keep to the diet. I won’t cheat.”
“I know, we don’t have to. We want to. Right, guys?” Steven looked around the room at his family. Smiling when everyone nodded in agreement.
“Good,” Simon replied, “Sally, let’s go talk to the dietician. Come up with a plan that will meet Jim’s requirements. Okay, boys you’re finally free to go home,” Simon told the three Ellison boys. Chuckling when they let out whoops of joy at finally being released from the hospital.
Home. Finally home. Jim thought happily as he sat on the couch resting as close to his Father as he dared. He wasn’t a baby anymore, but he still needed his Dad. He wasn’t that grown up that he didn’t realize that.
Steven was along their Father’s other side, practically in his lap. Not caring that he was pretty close to sharing said lap with Blair. The little Guide in the meantime was giving William sloppy kiss after sloppy kiss.
The eldest Ellison chuckled happily as he returned Blair’s kisses. Hugging his youngest close. The house had been to quiet with his sons gone. He’d missed them with a depth that hurt to think about. He had Sally, Simon, Daryl and Michael. And they’d taken good care of him. Making sure he ate and rested. Doing the above and beyond in keeping him sane. Especially Michael.
The body builder had even taken to sleeping in a chair in William’s room to make sure he rested. Catching him one to many times roaming the hallways of the house that seemed so empty. And no matter what William tried, be it threats, promises of sleep nothing had worked to get Michael to sleep in his own room.
The bodybuilder had stuck to his guns telling him he was more afraid of Steven than him. Oddly enough it had worked. Just having Michael there in the room seemed to bring William’s sons closer. Even if it couldn’t have been that comfortable for Michael. Perhaps being with William had brought the boys closer to Michael as well.
Now his family was together once again and William couldn’t be happier, he thought to himself as he returned more of Blair’s kisses. And Michael, Michael had earned a special place in William’s heart with his deep sensitivity.
“So Simon-did Musclehead tell you about Rafe?” Steven asked, looking up from drawing Blackie as he played with Daryl.
Simon sitting on the loveseat, looked up from the medical magazine he was reading. “What about Rafe?”
Steven frowned at Michael. “You didn’t tell him?”
“I didn’t have time. He was busy letting you guys out of the hospital and talking with the dietician. And don’t call me musclehead.”
“What about Rafe?” Simon asked, impatiently.
“Rafe is a or rather will be a Sentinel,” Steven told him. “What did you say Jim. Four or five years?”
“And how do you know this?” Simon asked, curiously. No longer surprised by anything the Ellisons told him or did for that matter.
“The same way I know that Lee Brackett will be his Guide,” Jim answered, rubbing his face against his Dad’s arm.
“Oh. And do Rafe and Lee know this?”
“Rafe does. We haven’t told Lee yet,” Steven responded. “He’s coming over later with H.”
“Wasn’t Lee tested when he turned two?” William asked, kissing the top of Blair’s curly head as the toddler now rested against him, playing with his fingers.
“The tests were negative. If he’s tested again, the results will be different this time. They’d be positive,” Jim told him.
“And Rafe?” Simon questioned, digging out a pad and pencil to write down the new and startling information Jim and Steven were readily giving him. That it itself was extremely rare.
“The same. He’s starting the changes that will make him a full-fledged Sentinel. I can see it happening,” Jim answered.
“There’s something in him that’s shifting. Lining up, kinda like bricks that are out of place, but starting to straighten.”
“And you can see this?” Simon asked, writing as fast as he could.
“And how do you know that Lee will be his Guide?”
“There’s something drawing him toward Rafe and Rafe to him, connecting them. Right now it’s kinda hard to see cause its not that strong, but it’s there.”
“Do you have this same connection with Blair?”
“Yes. It’s a lot stronger than Lee and Rafe’s though.”
Before Simon could ask any more questions the doorbell rang. Michael answered it letting in a very nervous Rafe.
“Are they here yet?” he asked, moving into the living room. Waving a greeting to everyone.
Michael shook his head. “Nope. Any time now.”
Rafe ran a trembling hand through his hair. “Oh, God. Kill me now. Put me out of my misery.”
Steven went up to him. “It’s gonna be okay.” He told him. Placing his hands on Rafe’s shoulders feeling the fine tremors coursing through the Sentinel-to-be. “God, you really are afraid aren’t you?” he asked, in surprise.
“No shit, Sherlock. Sorry, Blair.”
“Do you need for Michael to give you a hug?” Steven asked, offering the watching body-builder.
Rafe shook his head. “Thanks. But that won’t help. I’m way too nervous.”
The doorbell rang again causing Rafe to startle and pale at the same time, making Steven think Rafe was about to pass out.
“Relax. It’s gonna be okay,” Steven told him as Michael went to answer the door again. Letting Lee and H in.
“I’…I’m going to be s…sick,” Rafe told him, swallowing heavily.
“No you’re not. Take a deep breath. Fight back the butterflies and let’s do this.” Rafe took a deep breath. “Good. Another.” When Rafe got back a little color, Steven turned to Lee and H. Still close enough to offer Rafe moral support or to catch him if he keeled over. “Hey, Guys.”
“Hey,” Lee answered first. “I’m glad you guys are out of the hospital.” He said, waving to Jim and Blair. Smiling shyly at William and Simon.
“So am I.” Steven frowned, moving closer to Rafe as the Sentinel-to-be started swaying unsteadily. “Rafe and I need to talk to you. Will you come upstairs with us for a while?”
Lee looked at Steven then at Rafe, dark blue eyes curious. “Sure,” he said readily enough.
“Rafe, do you want Jim and Blair to go with us?”
“Yes,” Rafe replied, paling even more.
“How about Michael?”
“Okay. Let’s go. H there’s some just-made cookies in the kitchen if you want. I think Daryl went in there for some a while ago. We’ll be back in a bit.”
H nodded heading to the kitchen. “Cool.” He said, heading to the kitchen. Already knowing about Rafe and frankly he didn’t want any part of it. Especially if Rafe threw up all over everything. His odd friend was not handling this well at all.
Steven looked over at his Dad and Simon. “We’ll be back. We need to take care of a few things.”
Both adults nodded. “Alright,” William said, answering for both of them.
Watching the youngsters heading up the stairs. “Steven sure is a take charge kind of guy, isn’t he?” he said, not really meaning it as a question.
“Yes. He is. And what I wouldn’t give to be a fly on their wall right now.”
Simon chuckled. “Me too. Life certainly isn’t dull around here. And I think I’ve added another chapter to my book.”
William smiled. “Maybe two. Let’s get some cookies while we wait, this could take awhile. Bring the crossword. It may be a LONG while.”
Steven led an almost comatose Rafe toward his bed. Carefully sitting him on it before turning to Lee-who’d been led by Jim and Blair to their bed. Michael sat next to Rafe.
“Lee, what do you know about Sentinel?” Steven asked, sitting on the other side of Rafe.
“Hmm, just what H and Carl have told me?”
Lee’s blue eyes became thoughtful. “Hmm, Sentinel’s have heightened senses and they need Guides to keep them from going completely bonkers.”
Rafe gave a tiny whimper. Which Steven ignored. “That’s true. But from what I’ve seen Sentinels are already bonkers. Take my brother Jim. Prime example there.”
“Oh, shut up. Don’t listen to him. I’m not that bad. I just have a few glitches to work out because of Sentinel sensitivities,” Jim told Lee, glaring at his brother as he raised Blair higher into his lap.
“Okay,” Steven snickered. “How do you feel about Sentinels and Guides?” he asked Lee.
Lee shrugged his slight shoulder. “Don’t care either way.”
“I am so dead,” Rafe murmured softly. “Kill me. Kill me now.”
“Shh! It’s going to be okay,” Steven reassured him, yet again.
“What’s the matter with Rafe? Is he getting sick or something?” Lee asked, eyeing the boy sitting next to Steven who was paling more by the minute.
Steven smiled. “Or something. He’s got a slight problem.”
“Yeah, it came to his attention yesterday that he was a Sentinel and he’s afraid that his Guide won’t accept him.”
“Why wouldn’t he?”
Rafe perked up a little.
“You don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a Guide or a Sentinel for that matter?” Steven asked, softly. Now they were getting somewhere.
“Heck, no. I’ve seen how Blair and Jim are together. I think it’s really cool,” Lee said, turning to smile at the Sentinel/Guide pair quietly watching.
Rafe perked up a little more.
“And what if you were a Guide?”
Lee shook his head. Making Rafe’s perkiness fade a little. “No go there, I was tested. I’m no Guide and no Sentinel.”
“But if it suddenly came to your attention that you could be a Guide? You know, hypothetically speaking”
Lee scratched the side of his face thoughtfully. “Well…” he seemed to be at such a loss for words. Michael had to pat Rafe’s thigh comfortingly to try and keep him steady. The Sentinel-to-be was two shades from passing out. “I guess it would be okay. I won’t mind it. Why all the Sentinel/Guide questions anyway?”
“You’re a Guide,” Steven told him, bluntly.
“No, I’m not. I told you I’ve already been tested.”
“The tests were wrong. Jim says you’re a Guide and he’s been classified as the best Watchman the world has ever known. So I’d trust his word.”
Lee turned to look at Jim who nodded. “Okay. And?” he asked, eyeing Steven and a very, very pale Rafe, suspiciously.
Lee gave him a rueful smile. “When’s the other shoe gonna drop?”
Steven frowned at him. “Huh?”
“Well, when are you going to tell me the rest of it?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m in a room with a Sentinel/Guide pair and their two protectors. And then there’s Rafe who looks like he’s about to pass out. I’d say there’s a story involving me in there somewhere.”
“You’re Rafe’s Guide.”
Lee suddenly went totally and completely still. No facial expression whatsoever. If it wasn’t for him blinking now and then, Steven would have thought he’d turned into a statue.
“I think he took that rather well, don’t you?” he told Rafe, who’d begun whimpering softly.
Michael put his arms around Rafe, rocking him softly. “Shh, it’s okay. He’s just in shock. He’ll come out of it in a second.” Looking over to where Jim and Blair were trying to reach Lee. The little Guide patting Lee’s face gently, while Jim talked to him softly.
“He hates me. He thinks I’m the ugliest Sentinel on the planet. I am so dead. And I went and got the coolest ring, too. But he doesn’t wanna be my Sentinel. What the heck am I going to do?” Rafe turned to glare at Steven. “This is all your fault.”
“Me? How is it my fault?”
Rafe punched him in the arm-hard. “You told me everything would be okay. Let my oh- so-painful death be on your conscience.”
“Ow! That hurt,” Steven said, rubbing his arm.
“It suppose to, Numbnuts,” Rafe replied, hitting him again.
“You got me a ring?” Lee asked, coming out of his coma.
Rafe looked over at him. “Yeah. As a promise to do right by you. But I guess you won’t want it now,” He said sadly.
“Cause you hate me and don’t wanna be my Guide.”
Lee got up from the bed and made his way over to where Rafe sat. “I don’t hate you.” He said, kneeling in front of the Sentinel-to-be. “Can I see the ring?”
Rafe reached into his jacket pocket pulling out the tiny box. Offering it to Lee silently. He watched as Lee carefully opened the box.
“Oh, it’s a nice ring.”
“Yeah, huh?” Rafe said, proudly. “It took Michael and me all afternoon to find it.”
Lee looked up, meeting Rafe’s eyes nervously. “I don’t hate you,” He repeated.
Lee shook his head. “No. I don’t think I’d mind being your Guide,” He said, shyly.
“Would you be willing to commit to me?”
“Hmm, I guess so.”
Rafe felt his heart sink all the way to his toes. “You don’t seem to sure.”
“It’s a big commitment,” Lee replied, moving the box back and forth in his hands. “I just turned twelve.”
“I know,” Rafe said sadly. “You probably wanna wait and chose a Sentinel when you’re older. I understand.” He felt his eyes fill with tears. He was turning into such a sissy.
“No, it’s not that,” Lee replied, reaching over to wiping away the tears with a hand that wasn’t quite steady.
Rafe moved his face into the touch with a soft moan. “T…then what is it? Am I too ugly? Or to dumb? What is it?”
Lee smiled at him. “You’re not ugly. I think you’re kinda cute actually.”
Rafe blinked at him. “Y…you think I’m cute?”
Lee nodded. “Yeah, I do.”
“A…are guys suppose to tell one another that they’re cute?”
Lee tilted his head to the side as he contemplated Rafe. “I think they can if it’s a Guide saying it to his Sentinel.”
Rafe suddenly felt as if someone had punched him in the stomach. “A…are you telling me you’ll be my Guide?”
Lee nodded. “Yeah, I think I am.” Gently caressing the side of Rafe’s face with his forefinger.
Rafe closed his eyes at the gentle touch. “Be sure. You’ve got to be sure. This is for all time. And I’m scared out of my wits as it is and if you take it back, I think I’ll die.” He whispered, unsteadily.
“I’m sure and I’m not taking it back. I will be your Guide for all time, if you’ll have me.”
Rafe reached out to Lee, suddenly stopping, unsure. “Is it okay to touch you? Jim is it okay to touch him? I don’t want to do anything wrong and scare my maybe Guide.”
Jim nodded, smiling brilliantly at his friend. “It’s okay to touch him. He’s not your maybe Guide, he IS your Guide. Besides you’re going to be doing a lot of touching so you might as well get use to it now.”
“Is it okay?” Rafe asked Lee softly as if afraid he’d still be rejected.
Lee nodded. “Yeah, touch me if you want it’s okay.”
Rafe went to his knees in front of Lee taking the ring from the tiny box he slide it onto the left ring finger of his Guide’s hand and then ever so carefully gathered him close. As if he were the most precious treasure he’d ever been entrusted with. After a moment Lee’s arms went around Rafe as well.
Steven turned to look at Michael. “Looks like we got us another Sentinel/Guide pairing to protect.”
Steven looked over to see Jim’s reaction. He found the young Sentinel staring at Lee and Rafe thoughtfully. “What is it Jim?”
“Something’s happening. The sorta blocks are aligning faster. It started the minute Lee said he would be Rafe’s Guide. Rafe’s going online.”
Steven looked at his friends cuddling close. Rafe’s nose was buried against Lee’s neck and he was sniffing happily. That looked way too familiar. “I thought you said it wasn’t gonna happen for four or five years.”
“It wasn’t suppose to. I think it had to do with Lee accepting Rafe as his Sentinel. That’s when the changes started happening a lot faster.” Suddenly the doorbell rang. Jim titled his head to the side.
“Who is it?” Steven asked curiously.
Jim smiled. “It’s Jacob.” Suddenly the smile vanished.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
“He’s not alone.”
Steven frowned. “Who’d he bring with him?”
“Damn. We need to get out of here. But we’ve been in the hospital so long I haven’t had the chance to talk to anyone.”
“No,” Jim told him firmly. “No more running.”
“No Stevie. I’m tired of running. This time I fight for what’s mine.”