NOTE: This story was previously hosted at another website and was moved to blackraptor in May 2014
New Mexico Territory
J D Dunne had left Boston upon the death of his mother; the money she had saved was not enough to play for a college education. So, he had sold what he could of their possessions and bought a one-way ticket west. Finally finding himself at Four Corners, he had taken up the offer of being a Deputy for Sheriff Carr - hell he had been the only candidate - but it got him what he wanted. He was finally living the life he had only read about in the dime novels.
JD roughly brushed away the tears of frustration; Sheriff Carr had hightailed it out of town when he had heard the trail crew of the dead Ben Fallon getting drunk in the saloon. As Deputy, JD knew he had done his best, but it was pitiful; he had been knocked out, dragged and dumped in his own jail, as the cowboys had gone after Nathan Jackson, the black healer they blamed for the death of their boss. JD had been yelling for help, beating on the bars, but no one would come to help him. Suddenly, the door to the jail opened and the blonde, petite figure of Mary Travis rushed in, her dark red dress covered with dirt.
I am alright, Mr Dunne, but they're at the cemetery, they're going to hang Nathan and you have to stop them.
Once the lock on the door was sprung, JD rushed out, grabbing his guns and began to run down the road towards the cemetery. As he got close he heard a flurry of gunshots, and then silence. Slowly walking towards him was Nathan Jackson, flanked by two men; one was dressed all in black, the other wore a battered hide jacket, a Winchester rifle resting against his shoulder. They looked at him, seeing the badge and dismissed him, they didn't even breaking stride as they walked past.
Looking beyond them he saw the bodies laying stretched on the ground.
The black healer was rubbing his throat, JD. He stopped, seeing the dried blood on the younger man's collar, You'd best let me check you, head wounds can be nasty.
JD brushed the healer's hand away, his face showing the grief he felt at letting a man he thought of as a friend down. I should have-
You did your best JD, and I thank you for standing up for me, many men wouldn't have. Then he added, Come on, as he gently took the younger man's arm and led him down to the saloon.
Who are they? JD asked of the two men walking ahead of them.
Don't know, but I aim to buy them a drink or three.
But before he could enter the Saloon, Tom Miller rushed up to him, grabbing at his arm and trying to pull the healer with him towards his wagon in a panic, It's my son, he's cut his hand open, you have to help.
Nathan tried to calm the man, JD, go and get my bag from the clinic. Now how did it happen, Mr Miller?
On the rise over looking the town, Jim Ellison gave a sigh of relief. He had watched Nathan being rescued, and looked over at his guide as Blair lowered the binoculars. Blair asked, That was close, Jim, but how did you know that Larabee and the others would help Nathan?
You have to trust the time-line sometimes; that told us that basically they were decent men, as they had saved him once before, and given that Vin could be hung, then he's more likely to try and stop a lynching. Jim grinned at his guide as he got up and offered his hand to pull the smaller man to his feet, as he added, A Soul Mate will follow were his Soul Mater leads, as if that was all he needed to say to explain why Chris Larabee would follow Vin's lead.
So, the moment Vin was committed to helping Nathan, Larabee had to follow. Blair paused, It's been interesting watching them interact, they certainly don't act like any pairing I have ever seen.
That's because they're not a pairing, Jim clipped Blair's hair lightly, remember Darwin. Two sentinels and one guide, somehow that Southerner balances the two of them, but how the hell he does it, I don't have a clue.
Blair just shrugged, Normally I can get a feel of another guide, but Ezra, he's blocking me. We need to know his history. Blair bit his lip, I think I am going to have to try Buck, if anyone will talk it will be him.
Jim nodded his agreement; the jovial gunman was the most approachable of the men, if they could get him talking it might answer a lot of questions.
Entering Four Corners, it was easy to see the problem that was eating the heart out of the town. Nearly half of the stores had wood boarding up the windows, and the people left were obviously scared.
The livery was one of the few businesses that was booming. Tiny Howard took care of horses and for an extra dollar allowed them to leave the wagon parked by the side of his barn.
Any ideas were they are, Jim?
The Sentinel tilted his head slightly, and a smile touched his lips as he heard the booming voice of Buck Wilmington coming from the saloon. Jim jerked a thumb in the direction of the voice, You go and keep an eye on them, and I'll find JD. Jim didn't like having to lower the boom on the kid, but he was going to have to understand that whilst he might have the badge, that it was Chris Larabee who was going to be the leading the Regulators.
Pushing open the bat wing doors of the saloon, Blair entered and looked round; he saw that Larabee was sat at a corner table where he could see the front and back doors, and seated next to him was Vin Tanner. The tracker was slouched low in his chair, his hat brim pulled down, shielding his eyes. Nearby, within easy reach of their table was Ezra; it was no surprise to see the gambler had already managed to get a poker game going. His heart hammering in his chest, as green, then blue eyes drilled into him, he was just thinking that this was not a good idea when Buck came up, slinging an arm around the younger man's shoulder and smiled. Hell Blair, you know they don't bite, then added with a squeeze of his arm, Not much that is. He then propelled Blair towards the table, at the same time as he snagged a beer from the counter.
During their journey to Four Corners, the men had put up with the constant questioning of the young academic; the fact that Larabee only threatened to shoot him twice showed that even the notoriously foul-tempered gunman was, on a subconscious level, reacting to the fact that he was a guide. Guides had to be tolerated and protected; Blair hoped that would continue because Larabee scared the hell out of him.
More questions, Sandburg? The voice was cold.
No, Mr Larabee, just wondering how you were going to handle holding down the law here, it's not going to be easy.
Tanner's lips twitched into a smile, Chris is the meanest son of a bitch in town, hell, he is the bad element Travis was talking about.
Tanner, Larabee warned.
Just telling him how it is, Cowboy.
Did he just call me a Cowboy, Buck? His voice taking on a deadly tone.
Sure did, Chris, Junior here is feeling his oats, the big man put in, enjoying himself as he watched his Alpha and the Feral pup sparring. Chris's tone would have had any normal person heading for the hills, but Tanner just ignored it, favouring the older man with a grin of pure devilment, letting it roll over him, knowing damn well that Chris wasn't going to do anything to him.
Scraggy assed tracker, Chris grumbled and poured another shot out of his whiskey bottle, only to have the glass snagged and downed by Vin.
You can be replaced, Tanner.
The knowing grin went straight to the part of Chris that was the Predator Apex Sentinel, and he had to fight to keep it under control. But the glare in Chris's eyes promised that he relishing the idea of getting even with the younger man later.
You cheated. An angry voice accused, accompanied by the crash of a chair being thrown backward.
I can reassure you, Sir, that I only played the cards I have been given. I have no need to cheat. The southern accent cut across he accuser as smoothly as a good whiskey.
Chris got to his feet, looming up behind the still seated Ezra. Now, Ezra was a fast gun in his own right and had been looking after himself longer than he cared to remember. But the moment that he sensed his Alpha Sentinel, he knew that it was going to be taken out of his hands. Threaten the Guide and the Predator Alpha came out; it was a second later that he registered, without having to turn around, that the Feral was standing off to one side, covering the Alpha's back. The Gamma was still seated but was moved so that he had the others covered, at the same time protecting Blair from harm.
Blair watched it all in amazement; he knew that this confirmed what he had already thought, that this was a pack working together, ready to take down the person that was threatening one of their own.
The man's hand hovered over the butt of his gun, Keep out of this mister.
Mr Larabee, I am quite capable of handling- That was as far as the gambler got.
Lar . . . Larabee? the man stuttered, his face going pale.
Yeah, you got a problem with Ezra?
He . He -
Ezra is that good he don't need to cheat, the soft raspy Texan voice of Vin Tanner cut in.
The man was now sweating hard. His friends at the other tables were backing away; they were all too happy to yell their support of him when it was just them against a lone gambler, but now, against Chris Larabee, they were suddenly silent.
Take your money and get out.
Quickly, the man scooped up his money and then backed away from the table, half way across the saloon floor, he saw the look on his so- called friends'faces. He held his position on Colonel Marcus Reed's ranch because he was a hard man, ready to back his word up with his gun or fists.
He spun round fast, his hand dipping towards his gun. His fingers only grazed it when he was thrown backwards by a bullet that ploughed through his head. The gun pin-wheeled on Chris Larabee's finger and was slipped back into his holster, then the gunman's hand patted Ezra's shoulder and he went back to the table, taking his seat and reaching for the shot glass of whiskey that Vin pushed towards him.
Blair's mouth had dropped open; the speed was inhuman, he had seen Jim practicing and he had thought that he was fast, but Chris Larabee was something else, hell, he would love to get the man into the testing labs back home.
The saloon bat wings came flying open as JD ran into the Saloon. Buck rolled his eyes to the heavens. The kid would get his head blown off, rushing into the saloon like that just after a gun fight.
JD knew he had failed the town because he hadn't been able to protect Nathan and this time he wasn't going to fail. He recognised the dead man as a local and took a step forward, his hand dropping down to rest on his gun.
I am Sheriff Dunne, and you're under arrest for the shooting of Mitch... He trailed off, not knowing the dead man's last name. You're going to have to hand over your gun, Mister.
Vin Tanner leaned back in his chair, his hand resting on the mare's leg. The kid had guts, but was as dumb as a mule if he thought he was going to take Chris in. This was going to be fun. He flashed at look of amusement at Buck, and saw the big man getting ready to get in between them. Buck was a born mother hen, and he was going to have his hands full. Larabee was already pissed off; it had been a bad couple of days and Vin acknowledged to himself that it had been his fault to start with, first he had done his disappearing act and ended up shot and on the verge of being hung, then they had had to travel to Four Corners in the company of another Sentinel, and finally some one had threatened Ezra, not good. Vin reached out with his left hand, hidden under the table, his long tapered fingers settling on Chris's thigh, using touch to help balance his friend and keep his volatile temper in check. A reminder to the gunman that he was not alone, that he had his pack around him.
Give up your gun mister, and we'll go to my office and talk this through. Don't make me have to make you.
Chris got slowly to his feet, facing off against the young Sheriff; the kid was so far out of his league it was to be pitiable. The colour drained from JD's face, and he felt a cold presence sweep over him. He swallowed hard.
Jim Ellison came into the Saloon slowly, keeping his hands clear of his gun.
Name's Marshal Ellison, he moved up to flank JD. That your work Larabee? He nodded towards the dead man even as he met the ice-green eyes that glared at him from under the black brim of Larabee's hat.
He drew first. Chris sounded almost bored.
And you finished it, Jim put in, and suppressed a shudder at the smile that graced the gunman's handsome face.
The kid sheriff now looked almost physically ill. Larabee as in Chris Larabee? JD looked at the man in front of him, taking in the all-black clothes. Shit, it was Larabee. JD took a deep breath, You still have to come with us, JD said. It was then that he heard the click of a gun being cocked behind him; Jim turned and saw that Ezra had moved from his seat and was leaning against a post, his Remington in his hand.
Blair interrupted. Look, Sheriff, he the young academic pointed at the body, said that Mr Standish was cheating, it was getting ugly when Mr Larabee stepped in. He, Blair pointed at the dead man again, started to walk out of the Saloon and then turned really fast, drawing his gun, and Mr Larabee out drew him. It was self-defence.
Looking around JD could see that the other people in the saloon were nodding in agreement.
I'll still need to take a statement.
But later, Jim put in firmly. Sheriff, we need to talk now, he paused and Larabee, try to keep the body count down, at least until I get back. The Sentinel all but manhandled JD out of the Saloon, but once outside, the young man pulled away and headed down the alleyway to the outhouse. A few seconds later Jim could hear him throwing up. Finally, JD emerged looking shaky. I just tried to outdraw Chris Larabee.
Yeah, Jim agreed.
Oh, god, JD took some hurried breaths.
Easy, Sheriff, just a misunderstanding, but we do need to talk.
Nathan came through the door with his bag; he had been told there had been a shooting, and had come to help, but he slowed when he saw the corpse. He turned as he heard the Undertaker arrive with the Bartender. It seemed his skills would not be needed, and instead headed over to the man in black's table to thank him again properly. Buck went to the bar. He leaned over and snagged another bottle of whiskey from the stash under the counter and then grabbed a few more glasses as he grinned broadly. Then he headed back to the table, deftly stepping over the dead body as he said, Fancy a drink, boys? It's on the house. You joining us, Ezra?
Nathan started to thank them for earlier, but was waved to a seat, and Buck pushed a shot glass in his direction. Thanks where not needed, hanging was an ugly way to die and he hated ugly.
Ezra hesitated at the table, his eyes fixed on Nathan. I'll join you later, Mr Wilmington, I have some things I have to do first. Gentlemen. He touched the brim of his hat and left.
Buck shook his head. Never known Ez to turn down a free drink, you don't think he's sickening for something? The big Gamma Sentinel said.
Chris Larabee's glass came down with a thud on the table, as he heard the muttered words that Nathan said under his breath. That man, Jackson, saved your life. He was watching our backs at the cemetery, so keep your mouth shut when it comes to him.
Then I owe him. Nathan answered, but the unease was still there for Nathan; the southerner's accent brought back the nightmare of the slavery he had suffered before the Civil War and if the man was going to stay in Town he somehow had to find a way of controlling his feelings around him or, failing that - keeping away from him.
Half way down the street, Jim swore under his breath as he saw Mary Travis heading towards him and Sheriff Dunne.
Marshal Ellison, she smiled at him, patting her hair to make sure it was in place.
I would like an interview with you, Marshal Ellison. As the new lawman of Four Corners, I would like your views on how you're going to combat the bad element.
I am sorry, Mrs Travis, you appear to be under the illusion that I am taking over the law here. I am just passing through, stopping a few days whilst the new law takes over, Jim said smoothly.
My father in law, Judge Orin Travis, Mary made sure that Marshal Ellison was aware of her connection with the Judge, he wrote to me, telling me that he was sending law to Four Corners, and-
Jim shook his head, The Judge has employed a number of regulators to keep the peace here.
Regulators? Mary all but spat the word out, Common gunman, my father in law would never stoop so low as to send them here.
Mrs Travis, the Judge has employed them, and as soon as they're settled in, I will be leaving. They will be able to give Sheriff Dunne all the support he will need.
That boy was willing to stand up to a lynch mob, Jim put in.
But Mary just dismissed that with a wave of her hand. Marshal Ellison, I will have you know that I am going to contact the Judge. The Council of Four Corners will not stand for these so called regulators'. This town needs a proper lawman, and that, Sir, is you. Good day. Gathering her skirts, she stepped down onto the street and headed to the telegraph office.
That went well, a voice drawled behind them, there was no mistaking the southern accent of Ezra Standish.
Turning, Jim and Blair saw the gambler standing against the side of the bathhouse.
You following us, Standish? Jim asked.
Don't flatter yourself Marshal. Gentlemen. Standish turned on his heel and headed back to the Saloon.
Joe Murphy, bounty hunter, might have ridden out of Blue Creek, but it was Joseph Bedford, former Union Army officer and businessman that stepped off the stagecoach and headed into the best and only hotel in Four Corners.
Shaved, bathed, and wearing the best store made suit he could find, the bounty hunter looked the part of a wealthy, respectable businessman. Flashing his money discreetly to the owner, he got the best room in the hotel, one that overlooked the whole of the main street. A cockroach couldn't go down that street without him seeing it. Going back to his bags he lifted one up onto the bed. From it he took a black Kevlar vest; Worth had shown him how to put the vest on, and he had seen first hand the remarkable powers of it in stopping a bullet. Next, he slid a box out of the bag and flipping the catches up, looked down at the Remington Rifle, a real beauty. He didn't know where Worth got this rifle from, he hadn't seen anything like it in his life. But the thing was accurate, and the scope that went with it, hell, he couldn't miss with it. The sniper rifle was the last resort. He wanted to take Larabee down face to face. A nasty smile touched his lips; he was going to see that Tanner suffer, before his kicked his heels doing the gallows jig.
Putting the vest and the rifle back, he stored them at the bottom of the wardrobe and moved back to the window in time to see Marshal Ellison and the kid Sheriff come out of the saloon together, only to be stopped by a blond haired woman with a black apron and sleeve protectors. Mary Travis.
Ellison and Dunne tipped their hats to her and would have kept walking, but Murphy saw that she had stopped them. Whatever Ellison said was short and sharp, and then he was heading for the jail with the younger man in tow as Mary Travis coloured. Murphy guessed that if she didn't have such good control on her temper, she would have been stamping her foot. The newspaper woman wasn't use to being ignored, and people didn't say no to her very often; her position as editor, owner of the only newspaper and her close family connection with Judge Travis meant she had standing, and was no stranger to using her father in law's name as a way of getting what she wanted. Now all he had to do was make sure she heard a few stories that would get that prissy nature of hers all fired up.
Standing carefully at the window so as not to show himself, Murphy scratched his jaw thoughtfully. Tanner, he could wait for the moment. He had something special planned for the good-looking, scruffy tracker. No, Ezra Standish would be his target. Worth had told him all about the connection between Tanner, Standish and Larabee. Who would have guessed it, Sentinels and Guide; he had come across their kind during the war, and it made his work easier. Destroy Standish and Tanner, and Larabee would be walking dead, needing only a bullet to finish him off. Hell, the man would even welcome it. Now, all he had to do was get the ball rolling with Mary Travis.
Chris Larabee is taking over as Sheriff? JD's face showed his shock as he blurted the words out.
Jim shook his head, You will still hold the badge, but Mr Larabee will lead the Regulators and that will include you as one of his men. I am sorry JD, he might not have the badge but he will have the power. That comes straight from Judge Travis. The Sentinel paused, he could smell the distress coming off the younger man. JD, you have done nothing wrong, if there is anyone at fault it was Sheriff Carr. You can still make a difference.
I tried to arrest Chris Larabee, JD's hand went through his unruly dark hair, what the hell was I thinking?
Larabee will respect the fact that you where trying to do your job. Jim smiled. Look, kid, Chris has the temperament of a pissed off rattler at the best of times, you just got on the wrong side of him for all the right reasons. I can't see that he will hold it against you. The important thing is that you have a town to protect.
Aren't you staying, Marshal?
Wish I could JD, but I am expected in Eagle Bend with Dr Sandburg very soon. You'll be alright, we've been travelling with Chris from Blue Creek and he's only threatened to shoot Dr Sandburg twice. Hell, the man is mellowing.
But JD's face showed he didn't believe that for a moment.
Blair sipped his beer and watched as the Saloon returned to normal; the voices were lower and more subdued because of the killing and the locals kept a safe distance of the table his was sat at.
What are you doing with your wagon?
The question came out of the blue and Blair found himself off balance. Sorry, Mr Larabee, I didn't catch that.
Your wagon, are you going to be sleeping in it?
Blair found himself pinned by the icy green eyes of the gunfighter.
Err, no, Jim has booked us a couple of rooms at the hotel and I'll pay for it to be taken care of at the livery stable.
No need for that Sandburg; Vin don't take to hotels and I sure as hell am not going to let him camp out of town. Not taking his eyes off Blair, Chris snarled, Don't even think of it Tanner, you're using the Doctor's wagon until you're healed up; it's that or I am hog tying you to my bed.
Hell, been there done that Larabee, and got the bite marks to prove it. Vin said, taking a pull at his glass of whiskey.
Glancing at Buck he saw the bigger, older man shake his head and look up for guidance; he had obviously seen and heard it all before, as he said, Don't frighten the Doctor boys, don't want him to get the wrong idea. You might not, but I have my reputation with the ladies to protect. And Lord, I do love those ladies. Drink up Doc, and let old Buck tell you about Sally the Snake from Birch City.
Chris ignored Buck. So, Vin has the wagon until you leave?
I, err, of course, I'll have to get a few things out of it. Blair was wondering how the hell he was going to tell Jim; the wagon had been artificially aged and distressed and would stand up to inspection, but he still didn't like the idea of Vin staying in it. For now, however, he could do nothing about that.
Blair let his boot drop onto the floor and massaged his toes. There was nothing I could do, I was eye to eye with Larabee and that man should get that glare of his registered as a lethal weapon. So, I said that Vin could use the wagon. He waved a hand as if to stop his Sentinel from protesting. It's okay, I got all of our things out.
All of them?
Blair looked up at the looming Sentinel. Okay, I left the vests and the rifle because they were well hidden. Hell, Jim, all he's going to do is sleep in there, it's not as if he's got any reason to search it, Blair grinned. Trust me, big guy.
The look in his Sentinel's eyes made the exhaustion he was feeling melt away.
What people didn't understand was the need for the connection between Sentinel and Guide, Blair mused. Even in the 21st Century some people saw any physical contact between a male Sentinel and Guide as sexual, when truly the need went much deeper than that. A Sentinel used his Guide as his touchstone - he would centre his senses on him, his heart beat and scent was a soothing balm to a stressed Sentinel -helping him maintain his contact with the real world and stopping him tumbling into a black void of overloaded senses that would lead, ultimately, to death.
Blair reached out a hand and pressed his palm over the Sentinel's heart. With his other he took Jim's hand and pressed it to his own, knowing that the Sentinel would feel and hear the heart beat. Already Jim's face had taken on a look of supreme contentment.
Two heart, two bodies, one soul, Sentinel. He met the blue eyes that seemed to reach down into his very being, and then leaned in, allowing the strong arm to circle his waist and pull him closer. Yours for eternity, the last words were said sentinel-soft, and then there was no reason for words, as Blair was claimed by his Sentinel.
Later, as Blair lay wrapped in the arms of his Sentinel, he thought back to the first time they had bonded, only a short time ago, and how it had changed his life.Dr Blair Sandburg was stood talking to Dr Betty Parker, one of a small band of anthropologists that worked for the Time Agency. Suddenly, he felt something run through him like a fire in his blood. Betty saw him shiver. You okay, Blair?Fine, but as he shuddered again, Betty Parker smiled, It's the static electric discharged from the Wave, they use suppressors, but, she shrugged, you'll get use to it.Blair nodded his agreement, but knew that there was something more going on. It was then that the door came off its hinges, and a man stalked into the room, his eyes sliding over Betty, dismissing her as nothing, then focused on him, and with a snarl, headed straight for him.The young anthropologist reacted by instinct; he threw the file he was holding at the man, and made a run for the fire escape, at the same time yelling for Betty to run. The file was batted away and in one quick stride the man had caught the back of his jacket and he was hauled backward, only to be thrown against the nearest wall. Blair's feet beat against the wall as he struggled for breath, lifted off the floor in an example of pure, elemental strength.The voice was barely human as it growled at him; Oppppen yourrrrr eyesssss.Blair found himself looking into cold blue eyes, and it was as if every piece of air had been forced from his lungs. For the first time, he was looking into the face of his attacker, seeing him clearly. The strong, handsome features, the pure elemental strength of the man holding him effortlessly; not just a man, but a Sentinel, and he was unbonded.Myyyyyyy Guidddddddddde.No, Blair managed to swing a hand across the out-of- control Sentinel's face with a loud crack. The Sentinel just shook his head to clear it and showed his teeth in a snarl, sliding the younger man up higher, a powerful thigh pushed up between Blair's legs pinning him in place, the hard body trapping one of Blair's arms against him. Now, with his prize trapped, the Sentinel reached up and ripped Blair's shirt open from throat to waist, then leaned in, scenting at his throat. Blair managed to swing again, harder, adrenaline fuelling his blow. With a snarl of pure rage, the grip on his throat increased; Blair fought, as darkness started to close in on him. Then, suddenly, the grip was released and he could pull in a deep lung full of air. His attacker stepped back and Blair flinched as he saw a gun appear in the man's hand. But then he saw the look of total disgust and despair on the handsome face, as he took in Blair's torn clothes.Oh my god, what have I done? I am so sorry, this has to end now. I am... The man broke off as the gun came up, towards the Sentinel's head.Please, no, Blair reached out for him, we can sort this out, please don't, you didn't hurt me, I want to help, please-The Sentinel just shook his head, and the gun brushed his forehead.NO! Blair screamed the word.I have to, I can't- The man's voice was filled with such sadness.You don't have to, I will help you. Blair closed the distance between them, he reached out for the gun. I know what you need, what you want, Sentinel. Blair could feel a tingling sensation running across his skin; it was as if static electric was arching between them. As a child, Blair had been tested to see if he was a guide. He had barely registered a score. Pain was exploding through his head as he closed his eyes, flinching as the Sentinel's arm closed round his waist and he was pulled against a strong, muscular body. The gun slipped from the Sentinel's hand onto the floor, as the now empty gun hand came up and cupped the back of Blair's head, guiding it to rest under the Sentinel's chin. The Sentinel was making a deep-throated rumbling noise and on a level that Blair didn't understand, it felt reassuring.No, this can't happen, The Sentinel pushed Blair away, the younger man catching at his arm, only to have it pulled free with enough force to send him staggering back. Don't touch me. Then with a look of disgust that made the younger man cringe, I don't want your kind, I don't need your kind, the Sentinel's voice got louder, confusion and uncertainty giving way to anger. No guide will be my master.The Sentinel pushed through the fire exit, and they were both gone by the time security had arrived, the alarms only just starting to sound through the building.A hell of a way for a Guide and a Sentinel to meet for the first time.But the connection had been made, and Jim had returned to him, first at a distance, then gradually getting closer, frightening away any other Sentinels that the Guide Union decided the newly on-line Guide Blair Sandburg should bond with. Like a looming, stifling storm, Jim Ellison had stalked him, eyes burning into the young guide.Coming out of the shower after a workout, Blair had found his shirt shredded, and a much larger one in its place. Blair has been puzzled until he remembered earlier a young Sentinel, catching hold of his arm. This rival's scent was not to be tolerated. Blair had looked up to see Jim Ellison reflected in the mirror; turning, he had thrown the shirt to the floor and pulled his own sweat soaked T-shirt back on in a clear act of defiance. The eyes of the Sentinel had met his, and Blair had felt a shiver going through his body, pooling in a red-hot heat at the pit of his stomach as the older man openly scented him. Angrily, Blair closed the distance between them until Sentinel faced Guide. I would go naked before I wear anything of yours, Sentinel. I don't belong to you.It can be arranged, Jim drawled, his gaze flicking up and down the younger man, then, with a predatory smile that made Blair stumble back a few steps, Jim Ellison turned on his heel and left.A young Sentinel came hurrying in, hearing the panicked heartbeat of the Guide. Jim's arm had shot out, blocking his way, and one word was snarled in his face, as the eyes flashed with cobalt fire. Mine.After that, the Guide Union had declared that James Joseph Ellison, - now his lethal shadow had a name - was an Apex Sentinel, one of the most dangerous of their kind, a throwback to an older time. Until he was caught they had had wanted to put him in protective custody, but Blair had refused to live like that. He no longer saw the older man, but he had heard that he was AWOL from the Agency. But Blair could feel him, like an itch he couldn't scratch. Then suddenly, that feeling had vanished and Blair had mourned it, he lost weight, and became ill, it was as if something inside of him was dying. That was until the night he had arrived home and found Jim Ellison stood there, man enough at last to acknowledge what he needed and the Apex male in him pushing through to make him claim Blair as his own. In two strides, Blair had been caught up in a hug that had crushed him to the larger, more powerful body, strong hands moving over his own as the Sentinel had opened his senses and started to map him. Impatient, the Sentinel had torn his clothes from him violently, yet the touch of those same hands had been gentle and respectful, calming and gentling him, words no longer needed as the bond had taken them both in its hold. In that moment he knew that for all of his fury, all of his strength, the Apex would never harm him. For a Sentinel, the Guide was the centre of his own being, the Guide was to be protected, nurtured. It humbled Blair that he knew without a doubt that his Sentinel would die for him. Jim Ellison slowly replaced the Apex, and his voice was soft and reassuring, which would have been alien for anyone who had met the hard-assed Time Agent. It was strange to think him capable of such feelings. His hand had brushed across Blair's chest, his fingertips brushing the prominent ribs, caused by the loss of weight Blair couldn't afford. A silent promise made to get Blair fit and well, in order to take his place at his Sentinel's side. In that moment, as he was taken to the bond by his Alpha, Blair had found his home, his salvation. Two bodies, two hearts, one Soul.
Blair brought his mind back to the present; he was going to have to find out how Vin, Chris and Ezra had come together to the bond, because he was sure that that was a story worth telling.
Vin rolled his sleeping blanket out onto the floor of the wagon. It might look old but it was well constructed and as he eased himself down, fully clothed, he pulled the blanket up around him, his mare's leg near his hand. Tilting his hat over his eyes, he settled down, identifying the sounds around him. Satisfied, he yawned and allowed himself to drift towards sleep. It was then that he sat up; there was something wrong with the wagon. On the trip from Blue Creek to Four Corners, he had spent most of the time sparring with his friend and alpha so that he hadn't paid a lot of attention to the wagon, but now he allowed his senses to roll over it. What he was getting wasn't making sense. The canvas looked old but serviceable, but there was a sharp smell that was harsh, not natural. Pushing out his senses, Vin could smell gun oil, nothing new there, but again there was a scent to it that wasn't right. The scent was heavier to the front of the wagon; kneeling, he pulled his blankets to one side and running his hands over the boards, he halted reaching for his bowie knife he used it to prise up the boards. He should have been looking at the packed earth of the street, but instead, found himself looking at a hidden compartment. Reaching into it he pulled out two black vests, the black material stiff to his fingers. Putting them to one side, he pulled out a rifle, the source of the gun oil. Tugging off the cover, he allowed a whistle of admiration; it was a rifle like nothing he had ever seen before. Reluctantly, he put it down and reached back inside the compartment, this time pulling out a black case. It refused to open, and for a moment, he debated whether to force it. But he simply replaced it, wrapping the rifle and one of the vests in his blanket, then he slipped out of the wagon and into the back of the hotel.
Chris knew that Vin was coming before he heard the soft knock on the door.
But whatever he was going to say was forgotten as he saw the rifle that Vin was holding.
Later, mellowed from the bond, Blair sat nursing a glass of whiskey. He knew his sentinel, and there was no way he was going to let him sleep away from his territory, which in this case was his bedroom, so although there was a nice room down the hallway, it would be fated to remain empty. As I was saying Jim, Chris is putting together a pack, not a clan.
And the difference is?
Oh, a big difference. If Larabee's family had survived he would have created a clan around them; Buck would have take the Gamma role of helping to care for Adam Larabee, it would have been a loving and nurturing environment. Slowly it could have drawn in others. But with their deaths and the emergence of the Predator Apex, the need to create a clan is still there, it just turned into something more lethal. A pack is a hunting unit; they would actively go out to destroy a threat to the tribe. Now, there wouldn't be any women in the group, or young children, perhaps a few juveniles. Now, did you notice how Buck kept trying to mother hen Vin on the trip?
Yeah, and nearly got his head handed to him.
That was pure Gamma behaviour in a pack, he looks after the young ones, teaches and protects them. Remember, you told me he called Vin a pup, well, that would fit in. Only problem is that Vin is not a typical young Sentinel. First off, he's a Feral Apex and second, he's been brought up by himself, and-
And is quite capable of taking care of himself, Jim answered.
Exactly, and a pack would have only one guide, a senior guide, one that would be able to look after himself in a fight.
Yeah, the Larabee gang, for want of a better word, is a fully functioning Sentinel pack.
And Larabee, Blair?
The Alpha, the meanest son of a bitch of the lot; judge, jury and executioner. Sort of fits Chris Larabee? Blair grinned. A pack, who would have believed it.
Well, keep your enthusiasm in check, all I am hearing is that we have a very dangerous group of men.
Jim, you haven't heard all of it. Now this makes sense, the pack would also include a holy man, a shaman.
Josiah. Blair nodded. Who else? Jim asked.
A medicine man, of course the two would usually, in days gone by, go hand in hand, but here it could mean Nathan Jackson.
Jim scratched his jaw thoughtfully. So where would that place JD in this pack?
Another pup, one that needs the Gamma to teach it how to stay alive. Buck will, I am sure, still look after Vin, Blair shrugged, but, to be honest, he's looking at an equal with him. Hell, from what you said about those men he killed? Blair shuddered. Vin could give Buck pointers, but in JD, he'll get someone that he can mother hen to his heart's content.
Well, that's six of the seven, we only have Josiah to recruit and then we have them all together. So why do I get a bad feeling about this, Blair?
The next morning, Joseph Murphy was in the Clarion Newspaper office. He smiled warmly as he shook hands with Mary Travis. Mrs Travis, my name is Joseph Bedford. I am thinking of investing in Four Corners, perhaps you can answer some questions for me about the town. I was told you were the person to see.
Mary preened under the complement, as she waved him to take a seat.
He was just about to take a seat when he paused, My god, you actually allow him in town? Joe allowed his fake disgust to show.
Who, Mr Bedford? Mary said, as she joined him at the window.
Joe pointed to the man coming out of the saloon, the red coat making him stand out among the townspeople. Ezra Standish, a conman and gambler, oh, the things I could tell you about that man. But I haven't come here to talk about Mr Standish.
Mary's shocked face was all that he could have wanted. Please, Mr Bedford, tell me what you know. That man is now a Regulator, the townspeople need to know what type of man he is.
Joe settled into his seat. Well, Mrs Travis, I am not a man to gossip about others. He saw her nod her head in agreement, I am sure you're not, Mr Bedford, but this is for the town's good.
Well, the people in Clear Ridge had the right idea, they ran Standish out of town. Unfortunately not before he'd made a pauper of Mr Evans; he bankrupted the man, and if that was not enough, Evans killed himself because of it. And you tell me he's a Regulator?
By the time he left an hour later, he had dug a grave for Standish's reputation.
At the door, Joe Murphy paused, tugging his hat down and turning away as he caught a glimpse of the unmistakeable hide coat and slouched cavalry hat of Vin Tanner heading in his direction.
Vin came out of Potter's store with JD and headed for Virgil Watson's store. Chris had been adamant that they patrolled the town and surrounding countryside. JD's job was to introduce them to the local traders and this morning it was Vin's turn.
You okay, Mr Tanner?
Told you the name's Vin, kid, the ex bounty hunter drawled. But he was looking down the street. Vin frowned, his hand brushing the butt of the mare's leg he carried. Something had raked across his senses, but he couldn't see anything that set it off, just people going about their business. Vin forced himself to relax and nodded for JD to lead on.
It was gone noon, and Ezra, after checking in with their illustrious leader, was soaking at his leisure in a tub in the Bath House. Tom Cutler had watched the Southerner enter the building, and with a grin, headed towards it. He had spoken to Joe that morning after arriving in town with a few of the boys. Tom would be the first to admit that he wasn't any grand thinker, so if Joe wanted to play it his way, he was more than happy to do it. Just as long as he got a chance to do a little one-on-one with Tanner later on. Without thinking, he touched his broken nose; he owed Tanner for that, and he and the boys would be up to showing the young renegade how they treated his kind.
Ezra was enjoying a long soak in the bathhouse, the dust and the dirt of their journey finally being washed off. He closed his eyes, and savoured the warm water, a click of a heel and his hand came out of the water and grabbed for his gun. Only to have his head pushed under the soapy water. His hands clawed up to break the hold, and then, through the distorted water he saw a grinning face. His feet kicked out, and then the pressure was gone, and Ezra surfaced. Mr Wilmington. He yelled the name.
Sorry Ez, couldn't resist it.
No more than I can. Ezra scooped up the small derringer and he fired. The bullet went through the sagging crutch of Buck's Union suit; making the ladies man howl with rage as he clutched himself.
You got a mean streak there, Ez, Buck snarled as he checked himself. You could have hit Little Buck.
Only you, Mr Wilmington. Remember, I only hit what I aim at, no matter how small Little Buck, the gambler smirked, is. Then, he closed his eyes again and sank down into the warm soapy water, to enjoy the rest of his soak.
Even as in the background he could hear the disgruntled ladies man muttering on about all the ladies admiration for the not so little, Little Buck.
Tom backed out of the bathhouse; that particular idea would have to wait until later. But hearing the Southern voice, he got another idea. As he left he started to sing softly to himself.Old John Brown's body lies moldering in the grave,
While weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save;
But tho he lost his life while struggling for the slave,
His soul is marching on. 
End of Part 2
Tide and Times part 3
 Words for John Browns Body by William Weston Patton
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