Well, they went and canceled my wagon train. Sigh. What a pain. :( Now what am I going to do? You got it, I'm going to write. I was watching Crossroads several days ago. When Jim referred to himself as Simon's pet pit bull, I nearly died laughing. There's a good reason for that. A number of years ago, when my cousin and I first shared an apartment, her boyfriend at the time said that he was glad I was there. She asked why? He told her that he no longer had to worry about her in the not-so-nice neighbourhood we lived in. Not with her pet pit bull to protect her. I guess I resemble that remark. :) Well, thinking about that has given me the title for this one. Now to follow the muse where she (He? It?) goes.

The usual disclaimers still apply. I don't own them. I won't make any money. No infringement of anyone's rights is intended.

Protective Instincts


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"Stay behind me." Pulling his gun with his right hand while using his left to push his partner behind him.

"No problem, man." The smaller man replied, shifting behind his much larger friend and peering carefully around him, one hand on his partner's back, to centre, focus, and reassure him.

The warehouse was dark, with the noise of disturbed rodents skittering and squeaking to punctuate the stillness. Blair couldn't make out much of anything in the gloomy warehouse. The windows were all boarded over so that the only light came from the open loading dock door...behind them. Silhouetting them to anyone hiding inside. Moving in unison, the detective and his civilian partner moved cautiously to one side, to get out of the light.

They came to a halt, Jim's head tilted to one side, listening. Blair's hand gently rubbing his friend's back, preventing him from over-focusing on his hearing. They'd been doing this long enough that they didn't usually need to speak. Such was the case, now.

Suddenly, Jim's head swiveled, piggy-backing his sight to his hearing. Reaching in his pocket he pulled out his cell phone and handed it to his partner. No words needed. Blair shifted back into the corner to call for backup. Not needing to see to be able to find the speed dial. As soon as Jim heard Blair talking to someone back at the station, he moved away, stalking the other person in the warehouse. Zeroing in on the alien heartbeat, slipping silently through the trash on the floor.

Whoever it was, was scared. He could hear it in the rapid tattoo of the heartbeat, the soft, gasping pants for breath. Cautiously, quietly, he crept closer. He had circled the building to come up behind the frightened person. Gun drawn, ready, he stepped from behind the support pillar, pointing his gun, prepared for....

Anything but this. He threw his hands up, pointing his gun at the ceiling; his own breath catching in his throat. He slipped his gun back into its holster and crouched. Bringing himself down to the level of the thief he'd chased into the old, abandoned, warehouse.

Holding his hands out to let the perp know he wasn't going to hurt her, he spoke. "Easy. Nobody's going to hurt you." His voice soft and low. The girl jumped with a gasp, spinning to see the huge man who had her trapped. With a whimper of terror, she scooted further into her corner, she had no place to go to escape. He was blocking her only route.

"Shhh. It's OK. I'm not going to hurt you." He pulled out his badge to show her. "See? I'm a cop. Let me help you, OK?" The girl's only response was another whimper and to cringe from him. Realizing that he was only frightening her, he backed up a bit, although not far enough away to allow her to escape.

"Sandburg!" He shouted, "It's OK. Come on over here." Looking back at the terrified girl. Wondering what was going on, and why. They had responded to a robbery call, gotten to the convenience store and been able to track the robber here. Only, the clerk at the store had said that it was a big man, who had robbed him. The perp had taken some bags of chips and almost three hundred dollars, or so the clerk had claimed. He'd been able to follow this kid by smell. She was dirty, and was bleeding from a bullet wound the clerk had claimed to have made in trying to protect himself. This, however, was no big, male robber. This was a teen-aged girl, terrified out of her mind, with blood dripping down her arm from the bullet wound. That clerk was going to have a lot of explaining to do. This poor little girl certainly hadn't been robbing the store, stealing food, maybe. But not armed robbery.

"It's going to be OK. My name's Jim. This is Blair." He introduced his partner as he came up beside him. "We're not going to hurt you. Can you tell us what happened? Who shot you?"

"I had money. I bought some milk. I didn't steal anything. Honest." Her voice barely above a whisper. She'd been cornered by men before. She knew she had no hope of escape. They weren't grabbing her, so she answered their questions.

"What's your name?" Blair asked, softly.

"Darcy." Was the whispered reply.

"How old are you, Darcy?" Jim asked.

"I'm eighteen." She lied.

Jim and Blair exchanged worriedly amused looks. Turning back to her, Jim guessed, "Twelve, maybe?"

She shivered. Looking into their faces, she saw only concern. "I'm fourteen." She replied.

Jim nodded. "Look, will you come with us, please? We'll have someone take a look at your arm, get you patched up." Reaching out a hand, palm up, offering assistance.

She shrank away from them. Afraid, again. "N-no. That's OK. I'm fine."

"Darcy, honey, I followed the trail of blood here. You need a doctor. I promise, no one wants to hurt you." Jim could see the blood pooling under the girl.

"They'll lock me up. I don't want them to lock me up."

"No one will lock you up, Darcy. I promise." Blair added.

Jim shifted uneasily. "Why are you all alone, Darcy?"

"My step-dad threatened to put me away if I didn't let him...I couldn't do that any more. Not that it hasn't happened out here, too. But at least out here I can run, hide."

"How long have you been on your own, Darcy?" Blair asked.

"Since just before...C-C-Christmas." She stammered her reply.

The two men exchanged angry glances. This kid had been out here all alone for almost six months, through the entire winter. She was lucky to be alive. "Darcy, you're losing blood. Please, let us help you. I promise that no one is going to lock you up. If anything, it's your step-father who's going to get locked up. Please, honey. Let us help you?" Jim pleaded with her.

She stared at them. All she could see was the concern in their eyes. Slowly, cautiously, carefully, she stood; watching them every second. Jim stayed in his crouch, looking up at her, his hand still extended toward her. Hesitantly, she reached out her good arm and took the offered hand. She was feeling light-headed, all of a sudden. She couldn't react when Jim suddenly stood up and reached out for her as she started to fall, scooping her up into his arms.

Using his enhanced hearing to ascertain her condition, he turned to Blair. "See if you can find something to wrap up her arm, try to stop the bleeding, Chief." Blair pulled a handkerchief from his backpack and then pulled Darcy's sleeve up and tied it around the bullet holes in her biceps. The bullet had gone straight through. It was leaking blood, but the bullet had managed to miss the artery. She had already lost a great deal of blood.

"Back-up's coming, Chief. Why don't you go on out ahead and let them know what's going on. I want that clerk stopped ASAP. He's got a lot of explaining to do."

"Got it. I'll make sure that there's an ambulance, too." Blair replied, heading for the door.

"Good." Jim cradled the much-too-light body against his chest, moving carefully, so as not to jar the injured child, even though she was unconscious and unaware.

Simon was waiting for them when he finally got across the warehouse and back to the opening. One look, and the enormous Captain was snapping out orders to his subordinates and the uniformed men as well. Jim held the girl, nearly zoning on her heartbeat as they waited for the ambulance to arrive. Anyone coming too close received a sapphire glare, which they were wise enough to back off from.

"Jim, Come on, man. Let her go. They can't help her if you don't let her go. Jim?" Blair pleaded with his partner. "Come on, man. Come on. Jim?" Grasping one of Jim's arms where he held the girl against him.

"Huh?" Jim suddenly blinked, coming back to full awareness. "Oh, sorry." Blushing a bit as he gave up his burden to the paramedics and ambulance personnel. Watching closely as they cared for the girl. Hovering until they actually transported her to the hospital. Watching until they were out of sight.

Blair and Simon exchanged concerned expressions. "Jim?" Simon asked, placing a hand on his subordinate's shoulder. "She's going to be fine, Jim. She's going to get the best of care. Then we'll find her family and..."

"Her step-father was molesting her. She ran away from them last Christmas, unable to take any more." He turned his pain-filled eyes to his friends. "How can anybody do things like that? She's been out on the street for nearly six months and...and." He shook his head in anguish. "It's not right." He whispered, finally.

"No. It isn't. The clerk at the store broke down and confessed when he heard you found her. Seems he was ... using the kid. She came in to buy some milk, he set her up. He didn't think anyone would find her and that she'd be hidden and dead before anyone knew any different. Embezzlement, attempted murder, for starters. I know that doesn't help how you feel about the kid..."

"No. It doesn't." He continued to stare down the street the ambulance had taken. "I'll fill out the reports, later, Sir. I'm going to the hospital. I promised her she wouldn't be locked up." He finally turned his gaze to his superior. "I'll find out all I can, so we can get her step-father, and maybe her mother, as well." The determination on his face eliciting a simple nod of acquiescence from his boss.

"Keep me informed, Jim." Turning his gaze to the other half of his best team, he added, "Take care of him. If it gets to be too much, take him home. Do not allow him to do anything on his own. Call it in. I'll have someone else take care of it. Understand?"

"Yes, Sir." Blair reached up and patted his partner on the shoulder, "C'mon, Jim. Let's go. We have a little girl to help.

It was nearly an hour before they were allowed to see Darcy. Jim had zoned out listening for information on her several times, only to be brought back by his partner's voice, pleading with him to come back. He was just, so...angry. No matter what, the kid was going to be the loser in this. At best, she'd find a good foster home. At worst...the worst didn't bear thinking about.

Finally, they were allowed in. She looked so tiny, lying there in the hospital bed. So pale, so thin. They moved quietly, pulling up chairs beside the bed, sitting and waiting for the girl to wake up. They spoke softly, when they spoke at all. Mostly, they just sat, watching and waiting.

"What's going to happen to her, Jim?" Blair asked at one point.

"I don't know. I don't think anyone's even filed a missing person's report on her. Which means that they don't want her. How can someone not want their own child? I mean, she's not into drugs, or anything, what could have possessed them to...I just don't understand."

"I can't either. I know, when I was growing up, that there were some of my mom's boyfriends who wanted me, well, you know. But Mom always seemed to know, and we'd be gone so fast... She always did her best to protect me, at least. I have no idea what goes through people's minds to throw away a child. It's not right."

"No. It isn't." They sat quietly after that, each lost in their own dark thoughts. Jim's jaw spasming with his agitation.

The first thing she became aware of was the warmth. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been truly warm. Her lips twitched up in an uncontrollable smile. The next thing she became aware of was the fact that she was in a bed; it felt so good. She sighed. She started to snuggle a bit more beneath the covers, when the third thing made her aware of it and caused her eyes to open. Pain. Her arm hurt...a lot. Her eyes snapped open; with a whimper, she struggled to sit up. Only to have a large, warm hand press her back into the pillow. She stared....and remembered.

"Shh. It's OK. You're safe. You're in the hospital, Darcy. No one's going to hurt you." He kept his voice low and non-threatening.

"I remember." She spoke softly, looking around. "I...I don't have enough money for this."

"Don't worry about it. Darcy, I need to know about your mother and step-father. Where you're from." Seeing the incipient panic in her eyes, he hurried on, "We're not going to send you back to them. We'll find a safe place for you, I promise. I just want to talk to them, find out why they didn't look for you, why things were allowed to hurt you. You won't even have to see them. Please?"

She looked down to where his hands held one of hers. The cute one stayed in the background. She looked up into the large man's eyes and nodded. "Thompson. His name is Russ Thompson. Him and Mom live at 1437 Washington. Near Prospect."

Blair flinched. That was only a few blocks from the loft. He cast an anxious glance at his partner, recognizing the signs of his fury over them being so close to home. Blair realized just how lucky he was to not be in the path of Jim's ire. He placed a soothing hand on Jim's shoulder, standing behind him.

"OK. I know that this is going to be hard for you, but I need to know what kinds of things he did to you, and whether or not your mom knew about them."

"He... When Mom would work late? He'd come to my room and ..." She blushed, "He'd make me touch him. And he'd touch me..." She went on, in graphic detail of the crimes her step-father had committed against her.

"Did you tell your mom?" Jim's soft voice belying his anger, as demonstrated by his spasming jaw muscles.

"I tried. She slapped me and called me a liar. Then, when I told her about his birth mark, she called me a...a s-s-slut and t-t-t-t-told me t-to g-g-g-get out." Sobbing, tears flowing down her cheeks.

Jim shifted onto the edge of the bed and pulled her into his arms, holding her, patting her back and rubbing her shoulders. When he first reached for her, she had recoiled in fear, but at the look on his face, found herself burying her face against him, sobbing out all her hurt and fear. Finding comfort in this stranger's embrace.

"Shh. It's OK. I won't let anyone hurt you. Go ahead, It's OK. Shhh." Rocking unconsciously, cradling the child against him. His own anguished gaze met and matched by his partner. His eyes flickered as the door opened to admit Simon and Joel, who waited in concerned patience, until Darcy had cried herself out and fallen back to sleep.

"She going to be OK?" Simon asked in a whisper.

"She was just telling us about her step-father. Her mom was the one who threw her out. He'd been molesting her. When her mother didn't believe her, she described his birthmark and she threw her out. She's old enough to testify, Simon. I want them both. Molestation. Child endangerment, neglect, whatever we can get together against them. I'm sure they never even filed a missing person's on her." He was still rocking the sleeping child, his rage only visible in his eyes and tense jaw.

"You got a name?" Simon asked, pulling out a notepad.

"Yeah." And Jim proceeded to fill in the particulars for them.

When Jim finished filling them in, Joel volunteered. "I'll go. I'll grab a couple of uniforms and..."

"Take Brown and Rafe with you." Simon interrupted. "Make sure you do this by the book. Call up the DA's office and get their input. How old did you say she is, Jim?"

"She's fourteen."

"That's old enough to testify. Go to the DA first. Get a warrant. For both of them. Let the DA decide on the charges."

"Got it. I'll let you know how it goes. It's going to take a few hours to get this through the DA, but we'll get it done." Joel promised as he headed out.

Joel was steaming. He'd been unlucky enough to draw that jerk, Lawrence, who was being most unhelpful. Finally, glaring at the man, he offered, "Why don't you go and talk to the girl, yourself? I'm sure Detective Ellison and his partner would be more than happy to fill you in on the particulars." Well, so much for his reputation for tact and diplomacy. The lawyer refused to do anything. Joel left his office, steaming. He wasn't paying attention as he stormed out, so he nearly trampled the young woman he ran into, to death. He was immediately contrite and apologetic.

"That's OK. This seems to happen a lot where Mr. Lawrence is concerned. And I've only been here since Monday." She smiled at him. "Maybe I can help? I haven't actually been assigned any cases yet, but I'd be more than happy to listen?"

After nearly trampling her, it was the least he could do. He found himself with a concerned, caring young lawyer. Fresh past the BAR Exam. She listened closely, taking copious notes, then she excused herself for a few minutes while she checked with the DA. Upon her return, she held out a piece of paper. "Judge Travers will sign this for you. He's in his chambers right now. I'm sorry you had so much trouble."

He stared at the warrant in his hand. The judge was waiting to sign it. He looked at the young lady in awe. "What's your name?"

"Beth D'Artan. Yes, I've heard all the D'Artangan jokes, but I don't mind." She smiled. "I'm probably not going to get this one, but I'd really appreciate it if you could keep me informed. I take this kind of thing rather seriously."

"I noticed. I appreciate it. Of course I'll keep you informed. Thank you, very much."

The judge frowned over the warrant. He glared at the detective. "Make sure you do this by the book. I want them both brought in. Don't make any mistakes, understand?"

"Yes, Sir. We're being extra careful with this one, Sir. The poor kid's been on the streets for nearly six months. She isn't a druggie, she's just a nice kid."

"I'm familiar with you in Major Crimes. I know how personally you all take things like this. Just be careful." This was his favourite squad. They made few mistakes, and always came to court prepared, making his job easier.

She had never even been reported missing. The school had been told that she had been sent to stay with relatives, as she was causing problems at home. She had been a quiet girl, by all reports. Going pretty much unnoticed by her peers, but well liked by all her teachers. She studied hard, kept up good grades, caused no problems. No one ever suspected what had gone on at home. They were shocked to learn the truth.

Her mother and step-father were shocked when the police arrived on their doorstep. It was after ten p.m. They were rousted out, cuffed, Mirandized, and had the charges explained to them. The woman broke down and started sobbing and blaming her husband for everything. She got no sympathy.

In the interrogation room, Rafe was having trouble, listening to the woman bemoan her fate. He glanced at his partner, then turned and faced the woman. "You can turn off the act. She told us everything. How you blamed her for his molesting her. How you threw her out. There is nothing you can say that will get you any sympathy from us." The tears stopped, her mouth snapped shut; an angry, bitter expression came into her eyes and she demanded a lawyer. The camera in interrogation, right out in plain sight, recorded it all. She hadn't paid any attention to the information that everything would be video recorded, as a matter of policy.

Joel waited until Rafe and Brown were finished with Mrs. Thompson, before tackling Mr. Thompson. Rafe was assigned to observe from the other side of the two-way glass, due to his reaction to the first suspect.

"Mr. Thompson, Darcy can give an explicit description of portions of your anatomy to which she should have no knowledge."

"I want a lawyer."

They booked both suspects. Handling them with kid gloves. Everything on film, which neither suspect remembered being told about. Fortunately, it was all on the tape.

There was a tap at the door. Darcy looked up as the nice looking woman in the suit walked in. "Hi, Darcy?" The lady asked.

"Um, yeah?" Curious, no longer afraid whenever the door opened to admit another stranger. Jim had kept his word that no one would hurt her. She had gotten to the point that she didn't cringe every time someone approached her.

"Hi, I'm Beth D'Artan. I've been assigned to prosecute your parents. Are you up to making a statement? I have someone with me, if you're up to it." Her warm smile reassuring the girl

"Sure." Liking the look of this lady.

"I just wish there were something we could do for Darcy. She deserves better than being bounced around between foster homes." Blair muttered to his partner, as they sat in court.

"Yeah. But there isn't anything we can do about it. I just wish I knew of someone who would like to have her, but she's too old, Chief. Damn it."

Joel leaned over, "I heard a rumor." Joel whispered.

"Oh? What rumor would that be?" Simon asked.

"Oh, a little bird told me that Darcy may have someone to take care of her, after all."

"Who?" Blair whispered back.


"D'Artan?" Jim asked in surprise.

"Uh huh. Seems she has some younger siblings that she's guardian for. She offered to take her in, help her catch up in school, go on to college, in exchange for help around the house. Seems her kid brothers and sisters are all pretty young, still. Their parents were killed a few months back, right after she passed the BAR. She wouldn't let the kids be split up. I think it could work out well for all of them."

They smiled hopefully at one another.

They didn't really need to attend the trial. But Jim had promised Darcy that she wouldn't have to see her mother and step-father again, and felt he needed to be there to support her. When she was called to the stand and Beth asked her to tell the court in her own words, the incidents leading up to her living on the street, she did. Clearly and concisely. The kicker came when she described her step-father's birth mark. When she finished her testimony, the defense lawyer, with a dispairing glance at his clients, did his best to try and confuse the girl. He failed, miserably. When the prosecution then called on a doctor to confirm Darcy's description of her step-father's birth mark, the case was as good as done. It took less than an hour for the jury to come up with a guilty verdict for both of the Thompsons.

When the verdict was read, the judge had some comments to make before sentencing. Judge Andrews had a reputation for no nonsense; demanding near perfection from anyone appearing before him. Glaring at the pair awaiting his sentencing, he considered his words very carefully before speaking.

"Our children are our immortality. The idea that anyone would deliberately harm a child is repugnant. That anyone responsible for a child would misuse and abuse that child, or perform heinous acts against that child is reprehensible. Personally, I feel that our laws are far too lenient in these cases. Personally, I would like to impose a life sentence for all convicted child molesters and abusers. That is not, however unfortunately, how the laws are written. I must adhere to the statutes as set forth in the legal codes for this state. Therefore, I hereby sentence you to the full, maximum penalty available by statute. With no possibility of parole. I wish I could sentence you to more. But I can't. Remove this scum from my courtroom, Bailiff. Court is adjourned." The judge tapped his gavel once, stood and left the room, as the bailiffs collected their prisoners and escorted them away to await transport to their respective places of sentence.

Darcy watched. Her mother glared at her and Darcy flinched. But then, her mother's eyes grew wide in fear. She moved closer to her guards, turning away and anxiously trying to hurry out. Her step-father never even looked at her. She felt a presence behind her. Turning, she looked up into the faces of the men she had come to know as friends.

"What did you do, Jim?" She asked, curious about her mother's change in demeanor.

"Nothing." Jim replied, mildly. Blair snickered. They turned their gaze on the younger man.

"What did he do, Blair?" Darcy asked. Knowing he would tell her.

Instead of answering, he pulled her up and away from the others. Turning her back, he pointed. Jim's gaze had gone back to the removal of the two convicts. She saw what her mother had seen. If looks could kill, her mother and step-father would have been puddles of grease. His jaws clenched, blue eyes glaring holes through them, Simon, bigger yet, standing behind Jim, with a matching glare. Darcy smiled.

"Oh. I guess if they were looking at me that way, I'd be a little scared, too." She smiled at Blair. He was awful cute. Too bad he was too old for her. She sighed, then smiled at the prosecutor.

"Well, Darcy. Were you satisfied with the outcome?" Beth asked softly.

"Yes, thank you." She moved back to the table and gave the attorney a hug. "For everything." She said.

Jim cleared his throat. "So, are the rumors true, then?" He asked, curious.

"That depends on which rumor you're talking about." Beth replied with a smirk. "If you're asking about Darcy coming to live with me and my younger brothers and sisters, well, it's already happened. I got the go ahead from Judge Travers last week. I am officially Darcy's legal guardian." She smiled broadly, giving the teenaged girl another hug. "So far, it's working out for all of us. Thanks for pushing on this one, guys."

"You're welcome." Simon replied for all of them. He looked thoughtfully at the pair. "Uh, how old did you say your sibs are?"

"I didn't, but they range in age between eight and twelve. I'm ten years older than my next closest brother, that's Tom, then there's Michelle, and finally, Eric. They're good kids, but sometimes, I need a little more help. It's been pretty hard for all of us to adapt, but Darcy's been a big help." She smiled and gave the girl another hug, receiving one in return. "It's working quite well, actually."

"I'm glad." Blair interjected. With a glance at his friends and colleagues, he added, "Look, if you ever need anything, give us a call, OK?" Knowing that he had included the others in his offer, but not minding in the least.

"Jim?" He was standing in the doorway to the balcony, watching his Blessed Protector gazing out across the city. Seeing the tense jaw, the stiff pose. "What is it, Jim? What's wrong?" Dropping his voice automatically into guide mode.

"Nothing you can do anything about, Chief. Sorry."

"That isn't what I asked. I asked what's wrong?"

"What's wrong, is that here I am, 'Sentinel of the Great City', and this happens a half mile from my home. Some detective I am." Bitterness and self loathing in his tone and body language.

"That isn't your fault, man. You are not God. You are not omniscient; you are not omnipresent. You are a man. Just a man. Far from ordinary, but still, just a single human being. I know you take things personally. It's in your nature. I wouldn't have you any other way. But. You. Are. Not. Responsible. For. Other. People's. Actions. You did not turn your back on what happened. You doggedly followed it to the bitter end. You did your best to help, to fix things. You can't change the past. You can only correct what you can. Help to ensure that there won't be a next time. You can only do your best," His voice dropping to a barely audible whisper. "Darcy's going to be OK, man. She's a pretty together kid, in spite of what happened. She's settled in just fine with Beth and her family. She's OK. You did good, man."

Jim sighed, slumping, just a little. Relaxing his tense jaw. Almost smiling. "Thanks. You're right." Turning his gaze from the city to his Guide. "I guess..." He looked back out over the city. "I guess it's because it was so close. So near to here. Just a few blocks away, and I didn't know. I know I can't do it all. But I want to. I need to try."

"But not to the extent of invading people's privacy. You can't do that, man. That is just as wrong as the things people are doing to each other. You have to let it come to light in its own time. You aren't Big Brother. You aren't God. Just a very good man, doing his very best. A hundred and fifty percent, all day, every day. You try to take responsibility for the things people do, you're going to burn out like a meteor, man. You need to burn like smoldering embers, not burn out in a flash. We need you too much. And, it's my job to protect you from yourself. Come on in, man. I'll give you a back rub and you can channel surf to you're heart's content. Maybe we can go camping over Memorial Day, or something. OK?"

Jim turned back toward his Guide. Smiling, relaxing, "Back rub, huh? I can handle that." Making his way back inside. "Thanks, Chief. For reminding me."

"You're welcome. All a part of the job." Smiling as his Sentinel stretched out face down on the couch and relaxed beneath his warm hands soothing away the stress of the day; the gentle rubbing allowing his friend and Blessed Protector to relax and fall asleep. Blair pulled the afghan from the back of the couch and draped it over his sleeping partner. Turning off all the lights and securing the windows and doors, going to bed, himself, secure in the comforting presence of the man who by dint of choice, even more than genetic programming, stood as guardian of the city, his own personal Blessed Protector, and most of all, friend.

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