CEY asked for a crossover. With a universe with which I'm not really very familiar. Although there is one character that I rather like. I just hope this works. Wolfpup is back from the con. (Lucky puppy) I had to stay home. So I did my best to spam up Wolfie's inbox with stories. :) I had one sort of finished before she left, but we agreed that it needed more at the end, so I fixed that. Then I wrote three more. Now she's back and I had this idea for yet another story, so I decided to try CEY's request as well. As usual, there's a lot of H/C, smarm, pure and simple. I guess it's what I do best. Writing wise, that is. :) The usual disclaimers apply. I don't own them, I make no money from this. I need to get a life. I hope the weather stays clear this weekend so I can go riding. Please don't sue. I didn't win the big ten million dollar lottery last night. I'm rambling.
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They were laughing and joking as they found their seats. Six men off for some training. The kind that was supposed to make them a better team. They'd worked together long enough to make up their own hierarchy, the one in charge, the one who was best suited for a particular job, the leaders and the followers, and the odd man out, who put the heart and soul into the group.
He took the aisle seat, mainly because it gave him more leg room; his partner had the window seat. Fortunately, the plane only had seats two across. The 727 commuter jet was only about half full, which made a nice change from being stuck with a bunch of wailing kids. It would give him a chance to relax a little, gear his mind up for the coming ordeal. He was smiling. The last time they'd been sent on a supposedly team-building trip, it had turned into just that. Even though the entire thing had just been a plot to get them out of town while some bad guys tried to rob a federal dead-money shipment.
"Can you believe this, Jim?" Blair asked, bouncing a little in his seat. "After that last fiasco, they still want us to go on a team-building retreat?"
"Yeah, Chief. Pretty wild. Fasten your seatbelt, it's almost time to go."
Blair rolled his eyes. "Yes, mom" giggling at the scowl that particular response elicited.
"Don't forget, it's my job as your Blessed Protector to do just that, Chief. So why don't you just fasten your seatbelt and relax?"
Blair smiled and did (for once) what he was told. "OK. All fastened in...oof." As Jim reached over and tightened the seatbelt securely across his partner's hips. "C'mon, man. What was that for?"
"Safety, Chief. Take it easy." Fastening and tightening his own belt. Blair just rolled his eyes and grinned. Kicking his feet against the seat in front of him, with a mischievous grin.
"Sandburg? Don't make me come back there and hurt you." Their Captain growled.
"You wouldn't hurt me, Simon." Blair replied.
"You aren't too big that I can't turn you over my knee and paddle your behind, so don't push your luck." He snarled back. But the man sitting next to him could see the amused grin.
"Believe him, Blair. He's in a real bad mood." Joel Taggart called back, smothering his own grin. "He didn't want to do this."
"So, who did?" Blair responded. "I can't figure out why they're doing this, either."
With a martyred sigh, Simon explained, again. "Because the powers that be decided that last time was a fluke. As though we can't work well together. We're the guinea pigs for their stupid..."
"We know, Sir." Jim broke in. He was tired of hearing about all of this. He wanted to relax and mentally prepare for what was coming. At that moment, the plane's captain came on the PA system and started the usual announcements.
Takeoff was uneventful. They were still climbing, starting the turn to the east, when Jim tensed in his seat. "Something's wrong." Simon and Joel turned to look at him, concerned.
"What is it, Jim?" Joel asked.
With a look to his left out the window past Blair, he announced "We've lost an engine. We're going down. Get your seatbelts tightened and lean as far forward and down as you can. There isn't much time." He pushed Blair into the crash position and twisted his own body to cover his smaller friend, trying to protect him.
There was a strange, groaning noise, then all hell broke loose as the plane struck the first of the trees as it went down. They were shaken violently, the plane coming apart around them. The passengers screams an ear piercing counterpoint to the shrieks of tearing metal and the bass groans of self-destructing engines.
Finally. Silence. Punctuated with whimpers, moans and crying.
It had been a long time since the last time he died. At least physically. Emotionally, he was still in mourning for his lost love. Added to that ache, was the real, physical one that only happened when you died. And then came back to life. He could hear the moans and cries of the people around him. He had to rest, though. Regain his own strength before he would be able to help any of the other survivors. He closed his eyes, falling into an exhausted sleep.
Blair was surprised to find himself still squished beneath his partner's greater bulk. "Jim?" He pushed up, trying to free himself from the weight of the larger man, pressing him down. "Jim?" He was answered by a faint moan of pain. He immediately stopped struggling. Realizing that it could hurt his friend even more. "Jim? Please, man. Talk to me."
"Chief?" Came the pained response a few seconds (years?) later. "You OK?"
"I think so, man; but I can't really tell here, you're kind of heavy, you know?"
"S-sorry." He grunted as he straightened up, leaning back in his seat. "Uh-oh." He murmured, grunting in pain.
"What? What's...Oh. My. God." He stared at the white bone protruding from his friend's thigh. The compound fractured femur visible in the semidarkness of the cabin. Blood oozing dark and slow from the wound. Jim was gingerly fingering the injury.
"OK. No major blood vessels damaged. I'm gonna need your help, here, Chief. I want you to get over and pull my leg straight out, I'll reposition the bone, then when you find a first aid kit, we can take care of it better." He was struggling, trying to keep the pain dialed down.
"What about the bleeding, man? Shouldn't we try and stop that first?" The sight and smell of the blood overwhelming the younger man.
"Use your belt. Like a loose tourniquet, just keeping enough pressure to diminish the flow, but not stop it altogether."
"OK. I can do that." He unbuckled his seatbelt and gingerly climbed over his friend, then he removed his belt and as gently as possible, slipped it around Jim's thigh, just above the injury. Jim stopped him and slid the belt higher, well above the protruding bone, then nodded for Blair to tighten it.
"OK. Now, take my foot, and keeping everything lined up just like it is right now, pull straight out, until the bone goes back inside, then keep pulling until I tell you to stop. Got that?" Panting a little from the pain. Gritting his teeth in preparation for the coming agony.
"You sure?" Worried.
"Yeah. I'm sure. Do it. Now." Gritting his teeth, closing his eyes and grasping onto the arms of his seat until his knuckles turned white. Whimpering uncontrollably as the bone was drawn back into position. He could feel when the bone slipped back beneath the skin, feel the broken ends grind together as Blair continued the traction. Feel when the jagged edges aligned once more. "There. That's it." Gasping, drenched in sweat.
"Now what?" Trembling in relief.
"Now, go see about the others. Keep talking to me, Chief. I need to hear your voice." Careful not to move and jar his broken leg.
"OK." Blair kept up a running commentary as he ascertained the conditions of the rest of their party. "Simon? C'mon, Simon. Wake up. Please? Simon's unconscious, Jim. There's a knot on his head where he hit the side of the plane. I can't find any blood, and he's breathing just fine. Joel? Hey, man. How're you doin'?" He was answered with a groan.
"Blair? What? Oh, yeah. We crashed. You OK?"
"I'm fine, Joel. Simon's out, cold. How are you?"
"I feel OK. For now, at least. But I'm probably going to feel a whole lot worse when my brain finishes processing all the shaking and bouncing. How about everybody else?"
"Jim's got a broken leg. Femur. It's pretty bad, but it's not bleeding much any more."
"Ouch. Jim?" He called softly, gingerly releasing his seatbelt and turning to see his friend for himself. Jim was quite visible in the dim light, his face was white and gleaming with perspiration. "Anything I can do for you, Jim?"
"Help Blair check out the rest of the passengers. I'm fine for the moment. Just don't bump my leg, OK?" Jaws still clenching against the pain.
"You got it." He carefully stood, checked on Simon, then carefully repositioned him in his seat and reclined the seat back, providing better support for his back and neck. He then moved with Blair down the aisle to the other two members of their group. Both Rafe and Brown were a little groggy and shaken, but no obvious injuries to either man. They joined Joel and Blair in the reconnaissance of the rest of the passengers.
It was fortunate that the plane was not full. As it was, there were eighteen people dead. But thirty had survived, in addition to the six from Cascade PD. The flight crew had not survived, except for two flight attendants, who were in shock and unable to function very well, sitting and crying quietly, clinging to each other. Of the survivors, there were numerous injuries, broken bones, whiplash, bruises, contusions. Again, fortunately, there were very few injuries involving loss of blood. The men from Cascade strove to make people as comfortable as possible without anyone moving very much. Finding blankets to cover the dead and warm the living. Rafe took it upon himself to check out the surrounding area. The plane was settled securely on the ground amidst the trees. One of the things that had saved so many of them, was that they managed to land on fairly level ground, in spite of the forest. The wings had been lost and the fuselage had skimmed through the trees like a hatchet, staying pretty much intact. He returned and reported his findings to his colleagues. Of particular interest was the fact that there was no fire, much to everyone's relief. Joel made his way to what was left of the cockpit, checking out the radio, hoping that it might, by some miracle, still work. It didn't.
Blair found the first aid kit in the galley. He pulled it out and took the massive box to his partner, who gave the directions while he and Brown splinted Jim's broken leg.
"I need to get out of this chair, guys. The angle is killing me." There was no support for his injured leg, and he needed to elevate the broken limb.
"OK." Blair agreed. "Give us a few minutes to clear a space big enough for you. Maybe we can at least get you a little more comfortable." The only place suitable, was the boarding area. Blair gathered as many seat cushions as he could find and built a nest for his friend, covered with blankets. Jim watched in amusement.
"I'd rather just lie on the floor, with some cushions under my leg, elevating it and maybe something to use as a pillow, OK?"
Blair blushed. "Oh. Uh, sure thing, Jim. I can do that." He quickly tore apart his little nest and redesigned the space to Jim's specifications. "How's this?"
"Looks good, Chief. Now, if I can just get over there." Joel and Brown reached down and gently lifted him from his seat, while Rafe supported his splinted leg, they carried him to Blair's nest. "Thanks, guys." Jim murmured to his friends. "How's Simon doing? Any sign of regaining consciousness yet?"
"I'll check." Rafe replied, going over to their Captain and trying to rouse him. "Captain? Sir?" Gently patting the unconscious man's face, finally getting a groaning response.
"Stop that." Simon groaned. "What happened?" Blinking his eyes in the darkness of the fuselage of the downed plane.
"We crashed, Sir." Rafe informed him. "Eighteen dead. Thirty-six survived, including us. Jim's got a compound fracture, he had Blair set it. We've got it splinted, now and he's stretched out on the floor." He finished his verbal report.
"Thank you. How long have I been out?" Wincing at the tenderness of the lump on his temple.
"About half an hour, Sir." Rafe reached out to help as Simon staggered to his feet. Obviously suffering a bout of dizziness as he accepted the hands reaching out to support him. "Thanks." Slowly, the room came back into focus and he regained his equilibrium. He carefully made his way to Jim, kneeling down to check him out for himself.
Jim had had them slit his pants leg in order to apply the splint and clean the torn skin from where the bone had protruded. Simon winced at the obvious damage. "How are you doing, Jim?" He asked softly, remembering Jim's extreme sensitivity to stimuli when injured.
"I'm OK. Glad we all made it. Why don't you sit down the rest of the way, Simon, before you fall over?" Recognizing the signs of concussion. Wanting to keep an eye on his friend.
"I'm fine, Jim." Only he knew that he wasn't. The cabin started spinning again and he closed his eyes from the sudden vertigo.
"Uh huh. C'mon. Sit down, Sir. Make it easier for me to talk to you, so I don't have to strain my neck any more by looking up so far." Giving his superior an excuse to do what he should be doing. Sitting, staying calm, letting others take control and take care of him.
"Well, if you put it that way..." Accepting the offer, he sat heavily beside his detective. Blair provided a cushion for his back, easing him down to a semi-reclining position.
Jim turned his attention to the others. "What kinds of injuries to the rest of the passengers are we talking about?"
"The worst one is a guy with some broken ribs." Brown reported. "He's in real pain, but quiet about it. Just kinda stoic, you know?" Immediately wanting to snatch back the words, or laugh. Who would know more about stoicism than Jim Ellison, practitioner? "Is he conscious? Able to move at all?" Worried.
"Yeah. He was actually up trying to help some of the others when we got there. Want me to see if he can make it up here?"
"No. Just try to keep him as comfortable as possible. The less we move the injured, the less their injuries will be. What else?"
"Well, there are some who are still unconscious, they're all staying pretty quiet. In shock, I guess." Brown replied.
"We got out all the blankets we could find and covered the dead, as well as tucking them around everyone else, help them stay warm. It's going to get really cold tonight." Rafe added.
They looked up at the approach of another passenger. Blair looked up at him in surprised recognition.
"Mr. Pierson. Are you OK?" Looking the man over, concerned.
"Ah, Professor Sandburg. What a surprise. I'm feeling quite well, considering." Smiling; a soft, gentle expression on his face. Hiding very well his dismay over seeing someone he knew. "Shaken, not stirred." He added with an amused smirk.
Blair managed a chuckle. His colleagues looked on, curious. Jim watched this Pierson guy, knowing he was upset or worried about something, listening to the racing heartbeat, the slightly uneven breathing, sensing the tiny electrical pulses from his body.
"I'd forgotten what a crazy sense of humour you had." Then he realized the odd looks he was getting from his friends. "Oh, I'm sorry. This is Adam Pierson, he's a former student, although I seem to remember learning more from him in that year than teaching." He smiled. "These guys are Simon Banks, Jim Ellison, Joel Taggart, Henri Brown and Brian Rafe. Uh, friends of mine." He smiled, a little unnerved by the vibes he was picking up. Jim's jaw was twitching, and the others didn't look much more friendly. Adam looked positively green. "Uh, you OK, man?" Reaching out and gently touching the older man.
He looked at his former teacher. "Your friends are all policemen?" Surprised.
Blair glanced around at his friends. "Uh, well, yeah. I'm working on my doctorate, and..."
Suddenly, Adam's expression changed. "You found one? Really? Which one?" Looking eagerly at the five policemen.
Blair paled. He'd had Adam in the first class he ever taught. He suddenly remembered talking to the older man about his research. Adam had told him (It was a joke, though, right?) that the last Sentinel he'd known had been back in the middle ages, in China.
He couldn't tell. It had been centuries since he'd last come across one. Well, whichever one it was, he could dismiss Brown and Rafe. They looked too puzzled for it to be either of them. The other three, on the other hand...Hmmmm. Yes. It had to be one of them. All three demonstrated a bit of nervousness at his words. Of course they would have to keep such knowledge a secret. At least he had it narrowed down to the three. Hiding his excitement.
"Uh, no. I'm doing my thesis on closed societies. These guys are my subjects." His eyes locked with Jim's and pled for forgiveness.
"So, what do you do, Mr. Pierson?" Joel asked, smiling.
"Oh, research, mostly." His smile was almost secretive. "I'm tracking down odd bits of historical trivia. Mostly for my own satisfaction." He turned back to Blair. "I had always hoped that you would find one, you know. It's always so much more fulfilling to research a subject that you are passionate about." He watched closely. Yes. There it was. The large man on the floor. The injured one. He looked in concern at the slowly spreading pool of blood from the man's leg.
"That doesn't look good at all. Can I help?" Crouching beside them, gently reaching out to inspect the wound.
Jim stiffened, but the man's touch was as light and delicate as a butterfly's landing. "Not much we can do, at the moment. Sit tight, stay calm, try to stay warm. Hope it doesn't..."
"Oh, man. Just what we need. It's raining." Blair announced. Rafe and Brown stood and joined him in looking out the door at the soft downpour. Simon lay quietly, dozing perhaps, perhaps unconscious again.
Jim grimaced. "Well so much for that hope. At least it isn't snow, yet." He kept his eyes on Pierson as he gently examined his leg. When their eyes met, Blair's former student gave him a warm, understanding smile. Then the man spoke so softly that even Sentinel ears had to strain to understand.
"You are the one. He looked for you for so long. So very long. I have known your kind before, Sentinel. Please do not fear me. I mean you no harm. I am not what you think." Jim had stiffened at his words, but he read in the man's eyes and his heartbeat that he spoke the truth.
"Who are you?"
"I don't think you would believe me. I'm very tired, but I'm not through, yet. I can't explain, please don't ask."
"You want me to trust you, but you won't trust me? It doesn't work that way." Jim growled in reply, as Blair returned to them and knelt beside them.
"How's it look?" Blair asked, worried. "It won't stop bleeding, but it did finally slow down."
"Yes. We need to change the pressure, place it directly over the wound. I don't know if you can stand the pain, but if we don't, you might bleed to death." He looked into Blair's eyes, seeking permission to do what must be done to save this man. Blair paled.
"Do it." Jim grated. Turning the pain dial as close to off as he could.
"Very well. I'll need some clean gauze, or, preferably, sterile, to use as a pad. I'll reuse the belt to hold it tight." He looked hopefully at his former instructor.
"We've got that." Blair replied, opening the first aid box, pulling out several large sterile gauze sponges.
"Perfect." He looked again into Jim's calm, pain-filled blue eyes. "Are you ready for this?"
"Go on. Just do it." Barely a whisper.
He unbuckled the belt, as gently as possible, he placed several of the large gauze sponges over the wound and shifted the belt directly over the site. He looked into the injured Jim's eyes, reading the pain, the stoicism, the determination. He smiled in understanding and quickly tightened the belt, almost to tourniquet tightness. Watched as the ice-blue eyes melted and tears of agony trickled down the calm face.
He'd been holding his breath against the pain he knew was coming. Knowing that it wouldn't be enough. It was worse than he thought. Worse than Blair putting traction on it to reposition the bone. The agony was almost more than he could bear. When it was over, he gasped out the breath he had held for so long and started panting, nearly hyperventilating. Blair's arms came around his shoulders, holding him, comforting. He closed his eyes and turned his face into the chest of his guide. Seeking the warmth and security of the caring touch. Trembling in reaction.
Adam watched them. A faint, sad smile on his face. Understanding the bond the two shared. Closer than family; closer even, than lovers. Total dependence upon one another for their survival, their sanity. He gently reached over to check out the unconscious man beside them. His fingers gently probing the large bump on the man's temple. For a moment, he wished for the Sentinel's ability to touch and discover damage. The large man opened his eyes and looked at him in confusion.
"You have a concussion. I need you to stay awake, if you can. If you need help, ask for it. Someone will be with you. All right?"
He stared at this stranger, unsure, but remembering Blair's recognition of him. The man knew about Sentinels. Probably had figured out about Jim. His head hurt so much, he was having trouble even staying conscious. He understood this Adam Pierson's instructions, but wasn't sure he could comply with them.
"I...I'll try." He barely recognized his own voice.
"Good." He stood up. Seeing that the other policemen had gone to check on the rest of the passengers, he stayed and talked to ... Simon, Blair had called him. "So, Simon, if I may call you that?"
"Sure." Blinking to keep his attention focused on what was going on around him. Seeing Jim, trembling and being held in Blair's arms. "Is Jim OK?"
"I had to reposition the pressure to stop the bleeding. It's pretty bad. Most agonizing, I'm sure." He watched as Simon reached over and added his own touch to the hurting Jim.
"You're his superior?" Curious.
"Captain. Yes." He pulled his eyes from his friend to look at this stranger.
"Is he a full Sentinel?" He spoke softly, even so, he saw Simon stiffen in fear. "It's all right. I've met a few Sentinel's in my life."
With a suspicious glare, Simon said, "I understand that Blair's been looking for one since he was a kid and first read Burton's monograph."
"The last one was long before Blair was even born."
"You're not old enough, unless it was when you were a kid yourself."
He chuckled. "I'm really quite a bit older than I appear."
"Not nearly as old as dirt, but still quite old. And I really have met other Sentinels. When I took Blair's class several years ago, we got into a discussion about it. You can ask him, if you wish." He smiled.
For some reason he couldn't explain, he believed this man. "What were they like? These other Sentinels?"
"Well, the last one I met was Chinese. Very powerful. His guide was an enormous lump. They used their talents for...not very noble purposes. They were eventually killed by their own greed. The others I've known..."
"How many have you known? I thought they were supposed to be from pre-civilized cultures?" Unsure if he was confused, or hallucinating from his concussion.
"Five, well, six, I suppose, if you count this one." He smiled. "You might be surprised by how many, ah, pre-civilized groups there are. As I was saying, the others were the classic noble savages. When Blair and I first talked of Sentinels, he had no knowledge, really, of Guides and what part they play. I knew, however, that he was a Guide in search of his Sentinel. I'm glad they found each other."
"So am I. Jim's changed a lot, since they teamed up. For the better." He looked at his friends. Jim's shaking had nearly stopped. Blair's softly murmured reassurances soothing the injured man.
"They're two parts of a whole. Have they reached the point where one cannot survive without the other?"
Simon looked up in fear. "What?"
"When one is hurt, does the other become totally focused on the injured half? Worrying themselves into a frenzy?" He could see the answer on Simon's face. "Ah, I thought so. How close are you? To them, emotionally?"
"I don't understand." But afraid he did.
"If there is enough emotional support around them, friends, family, spouses, children, anyone to help, they deal better with the stress of one or the other being injured, or even separated for any length of time. Are you part of that support network? Do they trust you that much?"
Joel had returned in time to hear the last interchange, and answered, "I think so. Jim had some problems, recently. We ran the tests at my house. Just the four of us and my wife. Yeah. I'd say we're their emotional support. Why?"
He was surprised by the smile Adam bestowed on him. "Good. It's important that they feel safe when they have to be separated, or when one is injured. Have someone around to help take up the slack. Just like a family. Three of the Sentinel and Guide teams I've known did not have such a support system. When one was badly injured, the other, well, fell apart, is too weak a term. Self-destructed is a better one."
"Oh." Joel and Simon exchanged looks. "Yeah. We've come close a few times. I can see that." Simon replied. He smiled at Joel. "Joel, here is the most recent, uh, addition to the group. Well, he and his wife. I know that I'm grateful for the added support they provide me, so I can imagine how much it helps Jim and Blair."
Adam smiled. "You might want to consider adding your other men to the list. If you trust them to go into dangerous situations and watch your back, you should trust them with this. Providing, of course, they can keep a secret."
Simon and Joel looked at one another, considering, then turned to Jim and Blair to ask their opinion, only to see that they had fallen asleep.
Adam laughed. "Just think about it." He shook out a couple of blankets and gently covered the pair, tucking the covers around them for warmth.
Rafe and Brown had spent their time making the survivors as comfortable as they could. They had found the stores of bottled water, soft drinks and juices, and handed them out to those who wanted them. They did not offer any alcoholic beverages, deeming them too volatile for the aftermath of the crash. They brought several bottles with them for themselves and their friends. Simon gratefully accepted the bottle of water offered to him. Drinking half of it almost immediately.
"Thanks. Just what I needed." He smiled up at his men. "How's everybody doing?"
"As well as can be expected. We splinted a few broken bones and took the bodies outside, just because it's kind of unnerving to sit next to or across from a dead person. I hope that's all right?" Rafe asked.
"Good job." Simon praised them. "Sit down and relax for a while. They'll call if they need anything, won't they?"
"Yes, sir." Brown agreed, sitting down and casting a curious glance at Adam. "How are things here, Sir?"
Some time later, they scrounged some snacks, sharing with all the survivors. Adam sat beside Blair, while the others ranged themselves close by. As the night progressed, everyone eventually fell asleep. Joel made sure he woke up and made Simon wake up every hour or so, all night long.
The morning dawned grey and dismal, clouds still leaking rain. Everyone awoke in a great deal more pain than they had felt in the initial aftermath of the crash. A few hardy, less injured souls, braved the elements and took walks outside. Wondering where they were, and whether or not they would be rescued. And how long it would take them to be found. Jim and Simon were pretty much out of it, leaving Joel, Rafe and Brown in charge. They were, fortunately, large enough men to intimidate the angry people, and gentle enough to console the terrified people. Adam went outside and hunted up some pine nuts. Putting people to work extracting the food from the cones distracted them for several hours.
"There's a lot of digger pines out there. With lots of pine cones and no squirrels." Adam informed the policemen. "I can gather a big supply, it will keep everyone busy, as well as fed."
Joel smiled at him. He was beginning to like this strange man. "Good idea." He glanced at his injured colleagues and sighed. "We could really use Jim's hunting skills right about now. Although.... Hey, Blair, come over here a minute."
Blair carefully shifted out from his position as Jim's pillow, and came over. The young man was noticeably subdued. "Yeah?" The stress of caring for his partner was already wearing on him. There was no bounce in his steps at all.
"Rafe found a stream a little way from here. You think you might be able to finagle some fish out of it?" He lay one hand on the young man's shoulder, to comfort, to soothe.
"I.." He looked at Jim, sleeping (unconscious?) on the floor. "Sure. I can do that. Just let me get a spear." He shuffled outdoors. The first steps he had taken away from his partner.
Rafe went with him, to help (to make sure he didn't get lost, really. Plus, he would help Blair gather edible plants, as well).
Adam watched them. Seeing the signs of distress in the young man. Also noticing how the larger policeman took care of him. Smiling at the sight. He turned to look at Joel. "Do you think they'll find us today?" He asked.
"I hope so. We need to put out some kind of signal." He paused, then called out. "Hey, Brown. Come here, I've got a job for you." When Brown came over he filled him in on what he needed done. "I want you to take any of the still able bodied passengers out, try to get all the grumpy ones to go with you. It'll make them feel useful. Clear as much brush as you can from around the plane, and then I want you to build a bonfire. I want it kept burning day and night until they find us. Clear?"
"Sure, Joel. I'm on it." He quickly made his way through the passengers, picking on the ones who had been the most belligerent and enlisting their help.
It worked perfectly. With something worthwhile to do, they stopped causing problems. While the largest contingent of mobile survivors cleared brush and built the bonfire, Adam slipped away and snared some rabbits. He cleaned and skinned his kill. It wasn't enough to satisfy all of them, but supplemented with wild greens and the pine nuts, it should help to stave off the fear.
Upon his return, he discovered that Blair and Rafe had been quite successful, as well. Blair had caught a dozen good sized trout, and Rafe had brought an armload of edible plants.
"Well, it may not be haute cuisine, but it will be food. I was going to spit these and hang them near the fire." Adam told them.
"Well, there's foil in the galley, so I was going to wrap up the fish in the greens, stuff them with onions and pine nuts and put them in foil in the coals to bake. It'll only take about fifteen minutes to cook. How long for your rabbits?" Blair asked.
"Oh, say about half an hour, forty-five minutes. Depends on how hot the fire is." Adam replied.
"That'll work. It'll take me a few minutes to get these ready. Let me know when the rabbits are about half done and I'll put mine in the coals."
There wasn't any extra, but everyone was satisfied with the hot meal. It had given a semblance of normality to their situation. At midmorning, they had heard planes and helicopters flying overhead. There were no clearings nearby, so the helicopters couldn't land, but they had been spotted, cheering everyone up.
Blair had returned to his spot as Jim's pillow when he brought their food earlier, and hadn't left since. When awake, Jim was alert, but the pain was such that he submerged himself in sleep to escape it. Simon was coherent when conscious, more or less. His concussion was obvious to all and sundry. Joel remained tacitly in charge, guiding the survivors until help arrived.
When help finally arrived, late that afternoon, almost twenty-four hours after the crash, the rescue party was amazed to discover the number of survivors and the relatively good condition they were all in. Knowing that they wouldn't be able to get everyone out before dark, they had come prepared with tents, sleeping bags, portable stoves and MREs. They were a little put out when they received complaints from some of the survivors about the food, listening to the comparison with the meal they had had earlier, provided by the group by the door.
There was a doctor with the rescuers, who took over the care of the injured. Checking on Jim's and Simon's injuries, he pronounced them in excellent shape. He was amazed at the first aid job done on the rest of the injured, as well. Adam pointed out that all the care had been given by the two young detectives, under the direction of Joel. He down played his own assistance in the gathering of food, making it appear that Blair and Rafe had done it all. Blair was too taken up with his injured Sentinel to notice, and Rafe was too busy helping the doctor, telling him what they had done for the injured.
They all slept warm that night. In the morning, the rescue squad packed up and began the arduous task of leading them all to the nearest clearing where they could be air lifted to safety. It took them all day to hike and carry the most seriously injured to the closest place where the helicopters could come.
Blair watched as the helicopter carrying Jim and Simon lifted off. He wanted to be with them, but as one of the able bodied, he would have to wait. He was shivering, but not from cold. Joel came up beside the slight young man and wrapped an arm around the trembling shoulders, pulling the smaller man into a hug.
"It's OK, Blair. He's going to be fine."
Blair looked up at his friend. "What about Simon? Will he be OK, too?"
Joel smiled. Leave it to Sandburg to remember to worry about others as well as Jim. "Yeah. He's going to be just fine. You know how hard the heads of cops are. Or at least you should, by now." Squeezing tighter in emphasis. Eliciting a smile from the frazzled young man, who leaned his head against the bigger man's shoulder.
Adam watched. Pleased, especially when the other two officers joined the pair, extending their own hands in support of the young Guide. Wondering how long it would take for them to finally take the remaining members of their group into their confidence.
He thought he could just slip away, unnoticed. He should have known better. The big cop named Joel insisted on dragging him along with them when they finally got back to the city. He seemed to want to talk to him about the other Sentinels he had known. Oh, dear. How was he going to get out of this one?
They were all together in Jim's and Simon's hospital room. They were going to keep Simon at least over night for his concussion. Jim would be there for about a week, until he healed enough to put his leg in a cast without worrying about infection. His broken leg was suspended in traction. He was extremely uncomfortable, although they had found something that seemed to be working for the pain, at least for the moment.
"OK." Blair started. He was looking at his friends. Jim, Simon, Joel, and Mable, who had picked them up when the helecopter landed and taken them to the hospital. His eyes traveled to the slightly nervous Adam Pierson. Who knew that he had some explaining to do.
"Where does your knowledge of Sentinels come from, Mr. Pierson?" Blair asked.
Adam sighed. Well, it was only fair. He knew their secret. He felt that he could trust them with his. He just hoped that they didn't demand a demonstration.
"In your studies, have you ever come across stories of Immortals? Not the grandiose mythological gods and goddesses, the real ones?" He asked, his voice very soft, so they almost had to strain to hear.
"You mean the tales of people who have been killed and come back to life?" At Adam's nod, he continued, explaining to the others. "There are these stories of people who don't stay dead. Not like vampires or anything like that, but just relatively normal people. I've never gotten a satisfactory explanation of the so called phenomenon, but I have heard that they are involved in some crazy 'game', where only one can be left. Although, if they're immortal, how can you kill one?"
Adam nodded. "We can only be killed by decapitation." He smiled as they all flinched. "It's called 'The Game'. We all play. The only place we're safe is on Holy Ground, a church, or monestary, or the like. Most of us just try to stay alive. There are some who actively seek the heads of others. When one of us kills another, the survivor absorbs the power of the deceased. The older the loser, the more power for the winner. Until, one day, there will only be one left."
They were quiet, trying to accept his statement as reality, and having a hard time with it. Joel asked, "Did you 'die' in the crash? I mean, look at all the blood on your shirt. Is it yours?"
Adam looked down at himself. "Yes. I was impaled by a bit of flying debris. Luckily, it passed all the way through, slicing my heart. It's a bit more unpleasant when there is something left inside." He met each of their eyes, again, seeing acceptance, as well as doubt. "If you insist, I can demonstrate. It isn't very pleasant, but if you insist, I will."
"No!" Blair exclaimed. "That won't be necessary. I'm more interested in Sentinels, than Immortals. You said you've known five others, besides Jim. Tell us about them? Please?"
"I have. The first was in Mesopotamia................"
Even if it had been made up, it made a lot of sense. He had described many of the obstacles they had already been through, making the explanations which fit what they had found to work for them. The idea of the extended familial network made a lot of sense. They were all a lot better for the addition of Joel and Mable to the circle.
Mable asked, "How old are you, Mr. Pierson?" He smiled, weary.
"Far older than even other Immortals know. I can't even use my own name, as it is used as a myth among us. It's been very hard for me of late, for I only recently lost someone for whom I cared very deeply. I was on my way to visit some friends when we had our little encounter."
"You were in love." Mable conjectured.
"Do you find that odd? Immortals are sterile. We cannot father nor bear children. Yet, we love, just like mortals. Only we then have to watch them grow old and die, or as in my instance, watch them waste away and die far too young. I was always so careful. To avoid involvement. To stay apart." He looked up at them through tear filled eyes. "It hurts just as much, if not more. Knowing that everyone you ever love will die before you." He couldn't stop the tears. He didn't even try. Mable, being Mable, reached out to take him in her arms and hold him as she would any of her children or friends. Offering the unconditional acceptance of his grief, without reproach. Joel and Blair added their hands, Joel rubbing Adam's shoulders, while Blair rubbed circles on his back.
He was amazed at these mortals. He had known other Sentinels and Guides, even some with support networks, but nothing like this. They so easily opened their circle and accepted him in. He basked in their warmth and caring for a while, then pulled away.
He grinned, ruefully. "Sorry. It is, of course, up to you; but I seriously think you should consider taking in the other members of your squad into your confidence. Providing they can keep the secret."
They all turned to look at Jim, who was watching pensively. "Maybe. Not just yet, though. I'm not quite ready. OK?" He looked at the other members of his 'family', seeking acceptance.
"It's always been your call, Jim. Your decision. Whatever you decide, we'll back you up on it. You know that." Simon answered for them all.
"Thank you, Simon." Jim smiled at his friends. "The medication is making me feel like this is all some sort of warped dream. Besides, I can hear the nurse coming to chase you all out of here so we can rest."
"That's easy for you to say." Simon groused. "You aren't the one they're going to be waking up every twenty minutes to see if you can remember your name." Causing the others to laugh, just as the door opened and the nurse entered to shoo them all away.
Jim fell asleep minutes after they left. Simon watched a little TV and soon dozed off as well. Mable dropped Blair off at the loft.
"Will you be around for a while, Mr. Pierson?" Blair asked as he wearily climbed from the van.
"No. I'm still heading north to a friend's. However, I promise to contact you the next time I'm in the area. I know you have a lot more questions."
"Oh, yeah. You got that right. Well, have a good trip. Try not to lose your head, OK?"
"Thank you. I will do my best." Smiling at the oh, so young guide.
Blair closed the door and waved goodbye as they pulled away.
Mable dropped him at the train station, as requested. He smiled at his new friends. "Thank you. For everything."
"You're sure you won't come and stay the night? We have plenty of room." Joel offered, yet again.
"Thank you. No. I need to be on my way. My friends are waiting for me. Mustn't disappoint them."
"Are they like you?" Mable asked.
"Yes. They are. One of them has a house. A good place to heal." He smiled.
Mable smiled back. "I understand. You know that you're welcome here?"
"Yes. I'm not sure why; but, yes. Thank you."
"You know about Sentinels and Guides, of course. You knew Blair. You helped at the crash. You had information that is useful. You aren't going to tell our secret, and we won't tell yours." Mable explained.
"Just remember. Any time you need anything, unless it's illegal, of course, let us know. You just remember that. You're part of us, now." Joel added, extending his right hand.
Adam took the offered hand. "I'll remember. Thank you." He smiled and turned, walking into the train station.
Finally. Back to work. His leg, healed at last. They were sitting at Jim's desk, having arrived early, they were the only ones there, except for Simon. They were waiting for Simon to invite them in for coffee.
"I don't know if I can buy the idea of Immortals, but I think he may have been right about Brown and Rafe." Jim admitted to his Guide. "But I don't just want to spring it on them. I'd rather they maybe notice on their own and ask. Like Joel did."
"I hear you, Jim. It's your call, man." Blair answered.
"Hey! Look who decided to make another appearance. How you doin', man?" Brown asked as he came in, Rafe and Joel right behind him.
"Welcome back, guys." Rafe added.
"Yeah. Now we might actually be able to get some work done around here." Joel teased.
They all jumped and turned to the opening door of the Captain's office.
"You're not going to believe this." He was nearly bellowing in his agitation.
"What's wrong, Captain?" Blair asked. Exchanging worried looks with the others.
"Since we didn't get to that last 'team-building' session, they want us to do a makeup on it. We're expected to leave tomorrow."
His announcement was met with a chorus of groans.
"Look, men. I'm sorry. I wish we could get out of it. But we can't."
"Maybe, the third time will be the charm?" Blair asked softly. He was met with the glares of the others.
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