Protecting The Light
Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.
Author's Notes: This is the first in my crossover stories, this one dealing with our boys and a character from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Blair is an Official part of the Unit but not as a detective, instead as cadet in training who, I choose to believe, would soon become a profiler. A story for another time.
For BTVS fans, this takes place after the big body-swapping episode where Faith's essence was in Buffy's body and vice versa. She ended up running away from those she knew, regretting the harm she cause and by the end of that episode I felt sorry for the young woman and wondered where she would end up. Cascade seemed plausible.
For TS Fans, hey that's me too! This takes place after the show came to an end. God I miss those guys and use my sick days to watch them on the Sci-Fi channel. Let's see that's three down and four to go.
Though I have written a few stories where Blair became a detective, my muse balked at the idea and has forced me to search for a way for the peace loving manchild to co-exist in the world of his Sentinel. This is just such an attempt. Enjoy!!!
For every generation there is a slayer. She - who is selected to combat evil forces that attack the natural order of mankind. She - whose destiny is to fight so that others could live freely.
Buffy Summers was the original vampire slayer but through some twist of fate she was left without a heartbeat for two minutes. In that time fate selected her predecessor. Her name was Faith.
Faith was a slayer without a Watcher. A watcher provided a slayer with lessons on self-defense, knowledge on the various evil in folklore, magic, religious as well as mythology. The teachings prepared a slayer for any situation in hopes that mankind would be protected from terrible forces. Terrors that threatened to destroy mankind if left unchecked. A watcher also provided a slayer with a sounding board for those times when doubt filled their mind and the need for personal advice was required. Mentors, teachers - Guides.
Unfortunately, Faith was without a Watcher. Her Watcher had been brutally murdered while she was forced to watch and unable to protect the only person she came to value.
Time passed leaving the young women with dark eyes and an even darker outlook on the world without much hope. Given the strength, agility and reflexes of a superhero was something she loved and cursed whenever the situation called for it. She pushed situations past an acceptable point never considering the consequences of her actions. Actions, she would discover that tainted the soul and mind and would never fully allow her peace of mind.
Faith had become a slayer who had callously taken a mortal man's life and had in turn become an outcast to those who would look up to her.
Buffy was the idealistic vampire slayer, she wore the title with caution and had the guidance and acceptance of her mentor and Watcher Giles and her friends, Willow and Xander. Faith had tried to live in Buffy's skin, literally, and came away from the experience ashamed of who she really was and forced to answer the question, 'Can a person change? Can the good a person does in the future entitle he or she forgiveness for the life taken in one stupid moment of ignorance?' Faith decided to try; she had left nothing to lose and hoped to gain light in the darkness she was currently doomed to exist in.
She decided to stop off, on her way to Canada, in a place called Cascade. She had heard through the vine that it was an okay spot. Not too much happening there and she wouldn't stand out too much. This time she hoped to just be a part of the scenery, not center stage.
The weather mirrored her physical appearance, dark, gloomy and the promise of badness to come. She had decided to hang at Joh's 24-Hour Bakery for a month. Strapped for cash and having seen a 'Help Wanted' sign for a delivery person in the window, she took the job. Now she had a job and, thanks to a co-worker, a place in the seedier part of town for the next few days.
Hey, she had the strength, no one would mess with her and she was hardly afraid of the dark. Things were turning out all right.
It was exactly two days into the job when she first noticed the guy. He was cute in a Gummi Bear sort of way and friendly. She heard one of the other delivery guys say that Gummi was a roommate to a cop. Well she decided to stay clear of him. Cops were nothing but trouble and she had had her fill. Still, there was something about Gummi dude that made her stare. He was cute, true but really not her type, too kind and soft. Faith preferred a guy with a bit more edge. He was young looking and had terrific blue eyes and a great laugh. The guy carried a kind of sunshine when he was around. He unknowingly made people smile just by entering a room.
Faith decided to envy the guy. He was too good to be true.
Still, it is often said that there can be no darkness without light.
Six days later Faith noticed a strange man watching Gummi dude. He seemed to look at him in a way that made Faith snicker. It was like the guy wanted to own Gummi. Of course the object of the strange man's stare didn't even notice he was being watched. Instead, he was busy sharing recipes or stories or something with the owner and head baker. Talking and laughing, like he didn't have a care in the world.
The strange man started coming by for one cup of coffee and to watch Gummi whenever he stopped in. Faith wondered how the guy knew Gummi's schedule and began to wonder where Gummi's sense of preservation was. The stranger was blatant about his interest and Gummi seemed oblivious of the man.
"God to be that unaware."
Det. James Ellison was having a terrible week and his roommate was suffering for it. Every night for the past two weeks he was plagued by a nightmare. Someone would come into the loft and kill his roommate in a very brutal way. Then one night, the nightmare changed and began in the forest. It began as Ellison was walking through the foliage with his panther guiding the way. There was a strange sound from above and as he looked up towards the sky, arrows fell to the ground ahead of him and he heard a wolf howl. He and the panther ran as fast as they could but were unable to prevent the wolf's death. Then the wolf changed form and it was his roommate Sandburg.
Ellison had woken up covered in sweat and immediately ran down to check on his friend only to find that the bed had not been slept in and it was 2:30 a.m. Sandburg hadn't arrived from his date, leaving Ellison frustrated, worried and, because Blair's cell phone had been turned off, the detective was slowly becoming angry. So when he finally did arrive the unaware twenty-nine year old was given the third degree on the importance of keeping ones cellphone operating and so on.
Each night since the dreams changed location or time but the end result was always the same. Even his Guide and Shaman could do nothing to calm the Sentinel. All the talks and all the cautionary tactics suggested didn't prevent the fact that Sandburg was murdered in every single dream and Ellison could do nothing to prevent it. Each night he woke from the dreams in a cold sweat and eventually ended up sleeping in the guide's doorway, quickly moving from the spot before the kid woke.
This morning Sandburg caught him and knew immediately what he had been doing. "Geez, Jim this has got to stop. I'm fine. Nothing is wrong."
Ellison looked away, "Chief the last time I had a dream this vivid and with you . . . "
Sandburg placed his hand on his friend's shoulder, "Jim, I can't figure out why you're having these nightmares. I wish you didn't but I am all right. I am watching out for myself. You can't keep worrying like this - it's not healthy man."
The older man tried to belief the other as he closed his eyes in a vain effort to squelch the feeling of fear that threatened to overwhelm him, "Sandburg as hokey as it sounds, I can't live without you in my life and I will not watch you die again." Ellison opened his eyes, "I won't."
Sandburg smiled shyly, "Jim, I am okay. You can't watch me every second of every day. You need your rest. Besides, I don't need you stealing my moves."
Ellison smiled at the shared joke and went to dress. Four years ago he was inundated with heightened senses. He could hear, see, taste and smell better than any average person. He thought he had been going crazy when he could hear sounds coming from miles away. He sought help and fate sent him Blair Sandburg. Hyper-kid genius with a vagabond lifestyle and a heart big enough to look past the cold front tossed in his way by Detective James Ellison.
The two were as different as steel is from wood. Yet in time both learned that they were equally loyal to those they cared for, they both would never harm a soul and both were stubborn. A friendship formed from adversity and eventually strengthened because of it. Challenges were met together. Both men learning that their friendship would always be questioned or looked at in a strange way but neither giving a damn what the world around them thought. They shared a bond that transcended ordinary rules and regulations regarding relationships. Ellison was the Blair's older brother, father, friend, protector, and student. Sandburg had become the older man's son, brother, friend, teacher, his light and Guide/Shaman. Though Ellison considered his death something the kid would be able to accept in time without the need to take his life, Ellison believed, no, he knew in his heart that he would die shortly after his guide. It was as though Sandburg carried Ellison's reason to live. He was the caretaker to Ellison's soul and if he died so would Ellison's soul and in a short amount of time, the body would soon follow.
As the youngest member of the Major Crimes Unit waited for his friend to prepare to go into the station, Sandburg found his mind reviewing the past few days. The detective had been attending a seminar on special weapons and regulations that had been recently passed by the Senate, while Sandburg, as a Cascade P.D. cadet and Ellison's partner, had been regulated to deskwork since he was still in training and expected to attend class later that month. It wasn't the career he thought he'd be in but he realized he wouldn't exchange his life for all the tea in China. Things would be all right once Jim was back at the station. He just needed to be close by and Blair was sure everything would get better. These dreams had to stop.
Deskwork didn't prove to be much of a challenge for the young cadet and he found himself looking for a distraction. Being resourceful he soon found one.
During the past few days, at noon he made a special trip to Joh's 24-Hour Bakery to visit his friend Josef and swap cooking secrets while buying some sweet rolls for the guys left behind to do paperwork and for those on their way back from outside investigations. Scientific results indicated that a sugar rush just after noon enables the mind to function better towards the end of a work day. So, ever the scientist, the young profiler wanted to see the effects first hand. Anyway, he had an escape from the station and paperwork and Josef was helpful in his suggestions when preparing healthy meals. The man was a wonder with pasta recipes and in exchange, Sandburg helped the guy with his citizenship applications for he and his wife. It was then, that he noticed the new delivery girl in the back. She always seemed to be peering at him from the kitchen area. Watching him with dark curious eyes. He figured she was shy and let it be. After all he did promise Jim he'd stay out of trouble and those dark eyes, the full lips and the way she seemed to gaze at him could only lead to some sort of trouble. Maybe I'll test the waters after Jim's seminar is over.
He exited the bakery that afternoon and headed back to the station. It was raining and the sky was darkened with heavy storm clouds. Carefully tucking the rolls close to him, he quickened his pace, looking North and South before crossing the street between he and his destination. It wasn't until he reached the middle of the intersection that he found his path blocked by a black sedan.
Stepping back from the vehicle proved useless as he was forcibly grabbed by two men who then tried to pull him into the car. He fought to escape, to reach for the Tazer he was required to carry, but they were built like the Terminator on steroids. He was forcefully slammed against the hood of the car. Unconsciousness quickly followed.
Faith had been exiting the bakery in the delivery van when she saw what was happening. She wondered if Buffy would intervene in a situation like this and then she shrugged, she needed a little excitement. She drove the vehicle until it blocked the sedan's escape by smashing the front end. Jumping out of the van, she swiftly delivered several well-placed punches and quickly grabbed 'Gummi' away from the two men and left him on the ground as she turned to strike one of the assailants who tried to attack her from behind. Gummi lay on the cold pavement, oblivious to the struggle, his jacket and backpack removed and discarded.
Faith heard another car coming and quickly hoisted Gummi into her now smashed up van and drove away.
The warehouse district was all right if you didn't mind dark and dangerous. Faith didn't mind either. After all she was dark and dangerous and it made sense that she would crash here while she stayed in Cascade. She looked at her guest and began to check his body out for injuries. She noticed blood on the side of his neck from some kind of puncture wound. She searched his pockets and found change, a fifty, keys, ginseng gum, and an Official Consultant's Badge which also listed him as a Cadet for the Cascade Police Department, Gummi had a name. Blair Sandburg.
She reached out and turned his head so she could see his face. He seemed younger in his unconscious state and had a look of vulnerability about him. He really didn't look like a copy. She brushed his long curly hair out of the way and sighed, "Yep you are definitely not my type but God you are handsome." Faith had found a First Aid Kit in the van and brought it inside, quickly cleaning the cuts and bruises along the side of the guy's head and cleaned off the puncture wound on the side of the neck.
"Well Blair, I guess I can just wait until you wake up, then we'll see." Faith went to take a shower and left the man sleeping on the bed/couch.
Ellison was on his way to lunch when Det. Rafe came to get him to come into the station. Rafe didn't know what was going on and was just as curious as his silent passenger.
Capt. Banks was waiting for the detective, noticed that he glanced at his partner's desk and sighed in relief when he saw that the computer was keyed up.
"Yes? You needed to see me Sir?"
"Have a seat Jim."
Ellison looked at Sandburg's desk once again and saw a coffee cup, half full and Sandburg's sweater slung on the chair. Ellison sighed again, the kid is all right, probably out getting some files.
"Jim, did you hear me?"
Ellison looked at his Captain and quickly had a seat, "I'm sorry sir, you were saying?"
Banks sighed and hoped the man would remain calm, "About two hours ago several officers have been called to 'Joh's 24-Hour Bakery' and spoke with several witnesses who saw a man attacked and forced into a van. Jim, according to their description it, well it was Sandburg. Seems a car and van surrounded him, there was some sort of struggle and he was taken in a van. According to the owner at Joh's, the van was his delivery vehicle and he reports that one of his delivery people is also missing." He paused, "A syringe was found on the site and so were his backpack and jacket with wallet inside. His badge was probably clipped to his jacket, it wasn't found. We've put out an APB and are looking for a witness who could describe the driver."
The detective stood up and began pacing, feeling that if he didn't move, he'd explode. "I knew it. Did anyone even try to help him?"
"No, witnesses said it all happened too fast." Capt. Banks knew the next question and answered it as well, "No one has called about a ransom either."
Ellison looked out the window, "Damn it, I told him to be careful. I warned him about. . . ." Ellison turned and exited the office hoping the movement would ease the feeling of helplessness that crowded him.
"What?" Banks followed him and they both entered the empty Men's Room. "Ellison."
Ellison stopped in front of a mirror. The dream came true before. What if it happens again? Blair is going to die. "Damn it Chief what should I do?"
"Mind telling me what's going on?"
"It's a Sentinel thing. Nothing concrete. He knew I was concerned. I told him to be careful." He smacked the counter out of helplessness.
Capt. Banks stepped closer to the detective and his friend, "Jim, we'll find him."
Ellison sighed, "You don't understand and you don't want to know but he is in some serious trouble sir."
Faith watched as the man on her bed struggled to regain consciousness. She wondered if she should have taken him to the hospital but she didn't know who those guys were. The way they acted reminded her of government types and these were everywhere. Always appearing to want to help and then hurting you instead. This was safer.
Slowly the eyelids opened, "Oh man what happened?"
Faith smirked, "I helped you get away from some nasty government types."
The man squinted, "Wh-who are you?"
"Okay, who am I?"
Faith opened her mouth and stopped, "You don't remember?"
"No. Man my head hurts. Everything seems dull and muffled."
Faith reached up and pulled the kid's hand away from the bandage. "They knocked you around quite a bit."
"Are you my... do you and I ...?"
Just then the door to her room crashed open and three men, two from before and the other possibly the driver, entered Faith's place.
The young woman smiled smugly at the confused man beside her, "You stay here, I'll take care of them."
Within five minutes Faith did just that. She turned to say something to Gummi when a shot was fired from somewhere behind her.
Faith later woke up on a soft fuzzy bed. She turned and found Gummi beside her, a gun held tightly in his hand, his other around her waist. He seemed relaxed and made her feel content with his presence but she quickly ditched the momentary lapse in her guarded demeanor and decided it was a good time to figure out what to do next. She reached for the gun and he woke with a start.
"Whoa easy there tough guy, we're alone."
He sighed and looked at her through shy blue eyes, "He shot you, so I-I shot him with a gun I took from one of the other guys out on the floor. I only got him in the shoulder and figured we had to get out fast so I carried you as far as I could." He paused and looked around at the building they hid in. "This looks like some sort of cotton clothing factory and it's been a while. I'm hoping they'd think we were long gone."
Faith was too stunned to focus on anything but what had just happened, "You saved me?"
He nodded, "I had to, you needed help." He shrugged, "Faith? Do you know my name?"
Faith nodded, "It's Blair Sandburg, you work with the police. An observer/cop in training or something."
"I'm having trouble with my memories. I-I don't remember anything. I feel detached from everything. Like all of this and where I am isn't real."
Faith looked at her shoulder and noted a cleaned and bandaged area, seemed Gummi knew enough to grab the First Aid Kit and how to use it, "Look, ah Blair, this is getting to be too much for me to handle. How about we call some of your cop friends and see if they can help?"
Blair nodded, feeling somehow that the idea sounded right, "Okay. Will you stay with me until they come?"
Faith reached out and kissed him on his sexy lips. "Sure handsome, I owe you now." She looked deeply into the confused and captivating eyes. She couldn't resist. A feeling of contentment washed over her as she kissed him again and she decided to change her list on 'her kind of man'.
"Faith?" She again kissed him. She loved to lead.
After all they were safe and he was so damn handsome. Slowly, she allowed herself to get lost in the moment safe in very gentle arms. Gentle and passionate.
Ellison got a call twelve hours later. Someone, a female, said he would find Sandburg in the parking lot at a local grocery store. It was a popular shopping spot and at midnight it would be crowded with local teens.
Several unmarked cars quickly surrounded the Lot and the Sentinel was soon on foot worriedly searching for his friend. Ignoring the sounds of the teens in the vicinity, the car engine and focusing on seeking the sound of the familiar voice its owner. His head tilted slightly, he slowly located up the voice.
"But Faith I don't want you to go. I . . ."
"Look Blair these bad boys will take care of you. You had this guy's card behind your pass, he'll help you." She smiled at the frowning face and quickly forced away the caring feeling she felt for the man. This couldn't be, he wasn't for her. Not now anyway. "Look, just tell them about those suits and make sure you stay close to your friend - when you find the dude."
"Faith - I can't."
The female voice sighed at the scared tone and forced herself not to weaken under the power of those pleading eyes. "Blair I'm not a good person, you shouldn't trust me, hell, you shouldn't trust anyone, they'll only let you down." She sighed as she reached out to brush her thumb against those damn sexy lips. "You're the type who'll listen? You can't be. Just try to be safe." She moved back and away from those wonderful arms hoping to clear her mind, "Take care - Gummi. Try not to get squished."
Blair tried to go after her but she was fast and soon disappeared past the parking lot. He was about to continue searching for her when he was suddenly pulled back, his wrist held tightly. He up and came face to face with the men from the warehouse, "No, let me go."
A cloth was placed over his face. Blair held his breath, turned and kneed the guy who held his wrists as hard as he could in the groin area, just as another man tried to reach for him. He shoved away from both men, spun and ran into a third person. The new guy was just as tall but Blair didn't remember him from the earlier attack. What was even stranger was that this man seemed happy to see Blair and that scared the hell out of the confused man.
The newcomer quickly pulled Blair aside and shielded him with his body as he aimed his gun at the two guys that had Blair earlier, "I don't know who you two are but this place is surrounded and you are both under arrest for attempted kidnapping and assault. Now lay down your weapons." The two men smirked. "Warrior, he is ours, your dreams have foretold this. His destiny is with Lazo." The two turned toward each other, nodded and simply faded.
Ellison lowered his weapon in shock. "What the hell?" He turned around when he heard someone gasp and saw Blair staring in disbelief. "Hey Chief you alright?"
Blair looked at man in front of him and stepped back, "I-I, my head hurts." Hands reached towards him and he backed further away, "Please I don't feel good." Slowly his body slid into unconsciousness.
The Sentinel eased his Guide to the ground and was quickly surrounded by Capt. Banks and some paramedics.
Ellison sighed in relief. At least his friend was alive and safe. Still what the hell were those two anyway? Then the sound of the same female voice he had heard in the phone call earlier that evening.
"You take care of him cop or I will see you in hell."
Faith turned and walked away, wondering why she became so attached to Blair but reveling in the fact that she still could feel good things towards another. She had had several romantic playmates but this one seemed different. Innocent in a very unique way. Blair was special. She left to continue on her way. No job and in trouble with the law for the damage to the bakery delivery truck meant it was time to find a new place. She smiled 'same old - same old'. A cold wind blew across her face. "Nothing new here."
Ellison paced the hospital waiting room. He had told his captain about the female voice but when the officers got to the area where she was supposed to have been, they found no one. Even the teens that hung out in the area stated that they saw nothing out of the ordinary. Which brought the detective back to those men. Who the hell were those guys? How did they know about his dreams? What do they want with Sandburg? Did they really simply disappear? Who was this Faith?
Capt. Banks was on the pay phone contacting the station. From the looks of it, things weren't getting any better.
"I'm Dr. Rosinski, please let's sit." She waited until they were seated and continued, "Your friend was given some sort of mind altering drug. He was having difficulty with his memory. I was concerned that it had to do with the concussion he received but it wasn't that severe, at least not to cause such problems. The tests we did on his blood samples indicate some sort of designer drug. It will take some time to figure out its components but in the interim, your friend is coming around slowly, he was calling for Faith but he's also calling for Jim."
Ellison smiled, "May see him?"
The doctor motioned for a nurse to step in, "Nurse Carr will show you to his room."
The doctor watched the man hurry down the hall and smiled. As he turned around, he paused for the tall man who had stepped up beside him, "Dr. Rosinski, my name is Capt. Banks. If you don't mind me asking, what about this drug bothers you?"
Dr. Rosinski smiled at the man's perceptiveness, "You men in charge never cease to amaze me with your ability to read between the lines."
Capt. Banks laughed.
Dr. Rosinski lead the captain to a private room, "Sir, it's going to sound crazy but the drug a, well for lack of a better description, it's carbon-organic based."
Capt. Banks frowned, "A drug with blood characteristics?"
Dr. Rosinski shook his head, "Actually blood with some sort of organic contaminants in it. It appears to thrive on the blood of its victim. A sort of living drug."
"But you said Sandburg was alright."
Dr. Rosinski placed a calming hand on the captain, "Oh, he is. The amount he received is low but had he been given a larger dose, he wouldn't be able to remember what planet this is and who knows what else. I thought it better not to tell his friend about this until I had all the facts. The man seems to need to know everything and I like to provide the next of kin with all the information we can."
Capt. Banks closed his eyes and sighed, "Only Sandburg can attract such strangeness."
Ellison entered the room and found his friend easing out of the bed. "And just where do you think you are going?"
Sandburg yelped in surprise and slid back on the bed, "I just wanted to go someplace where there were people. Jim?"
Ellison walked up and placed a hand on the kid's shoulder. He felt minute trembling beneath his fingers, "Easy kid you're alright. How's your memory?"
Sandburg closed his eyes and shrugged, "Jim, I couldn't remember anything. It was like drowning in emptiness, if Faith hadn't stepped in, I would have given up."
Ellison had moved his hand to place it on that of his friend's, "Chief, I never gave up."
The younger man looked at his friend with unshed tears forming in his eyes, "I thought I was alone. I couldn't remember you, Jim. I. . ."
Ellison moved in close and hugged his friend, "You're alright now. I won't let them take you again. I promise."
He closed his eyes and soaked in the energy and strength coming from his friend. "I trust you Jim."
The detective smiled at the complete honesty behind those words. Sandburg made life worth participating in simply because he trusted the older man. It was strange to want, even need this person to believe in him but it was also the best thing in the world. "Chief, I trust you too. So who is this Faith?"
"She rescued me from those guys on the street. Oh God, Jim, they, one of those men, she got hurt, they shot her."
Ellison winced at the sudden agitation that came off of the other, "Just settle down. If she needs help, I promise you she'll get it." He pushed his friend back onto the bed, "Just relax."
Blair nodded, "She's a good person Jim."
Ellison smiled, "I believe you but just relax for now."
Capt. Banks entered the room and smiled at the now drowsy looking man in the bed and at the one standing protectively nearby. The two looked content. "Jim?"
Ellison looked at his captain and whispered something to the other, who nodded. Ellison stepped outside the room, "Yes sir."
Capt. Banks told the detective about the drug and its strange construction. Ellison looked away, "Why is it that this strange crap has to happen to him?" He sighed, "Simon, the men that tried to take Sandburg in the parking lot, they just sort of disappeared."
Capt. Banks frowned, "You mean you lost them."
Ellison sighed at the others disbelief, "No Simon, I mean they literally faded away."
The phone in Sandburg's room rang, "Hello?"
"The time of joining is near. Everything you will lose all to fear."
"Leave me alone you headcase. Just . . ."
The phone was suddenly snatched away, "You won't get near him."
"Look at his right arm detective, I was just there."
Ellison looked at Sandburg's right arm and noticed it was bleeding. It had been cut by a very sharp knife. "Why?"
"He is ours to take and we shall have him. You and your gifts will fail." The conversation was abruptly ended.
Capt. Banks was startled, "According to the phone operator, no call was received."
Sandburg closed his eyes and whispered, "I-I'm scared."
Ellison hung the phone and took a tissue to wipe off the blood from the cut on his friends arm. "Together we'll face this."
Sandburg opened his eyes and met his friend's stern gaze. "Together."
Faith broke into an apartment to get some sleep. She had spotted the SUV that was being loaded up with suitcases and outdoor gear. The occupants had just left with camping gear for some time out.
Feeling lucky, the young slayer decided to catch a few 'Z's' before she left Cascade. She thought about Blair and smiled, the way the big cop acted, she knew he'd be kept safe. She drifted off to sleep and found herself in a forest. Lush, green, cool. Ahead of her was a wolf sitting waiting. She got closer to it and it stood. She wondered if it was a werewolf but the creature spun around, like it was chasing it tail and stopped. "You want me to follow you?"
The wolf spun around again and Faith smiled, "Great, I got stuck in an episode of Lassie." She smirked, "Well at least it's not Cujo." She followed the wolf through the forest with the skilled ease of a huntress. It seemed that the two traveled through time and space and Faith felt completely at ease here. Suddenly the two came to a clearing of sorts and the wolf shifted shape to that of an Indian man. "Welcome warrior."
Faith accepted the apparition in stride, after all, demons and vampires were common visitors to the young slayer, "Where am I?"
The man gestured for her to sit on a rock near where he stood and she did, "Your way has never been an easy one. Yet fate has decided to be kind to you. You have been given a chance to alter your path."
Faith snorted, "Big whoop, I'm a screw up even here in the dream world."
The Indian man stepped closer, "You joke at things that are not funny, especially to you. You do things that are disturbing, especially to you and to your soul. You hate yourself."
She looked away hating to hear the truth, "I know this already, you're boring me."
The man stepped closer to the young slayer and smiled, "You are not a failure. For you the future still has a chance to be altered. Without a Watcher you are lost, time will assign you assistance but until then you must prove yourself."
Faith met his gaze, "How?"
"You have met one who protects the light. He is in danger. There is another who wishes to possess the light. He is the Shadow Demon. He rules the dark side of the conscience mind. If he were to possess the light, he would be able to rid mankind of guilt and regret."
Faith frowned, "A life guilt free doesn't sound like a bad gig."
"A life free of guilt and regret rids man of the invisible barriers that enable mankind to know when he is doing harm to others. It prevents remorse from sin, murder, and destruction. Imagine a man who decides to drop a bomb on a nursery school and does so. The feeling would be empty, the act repeated simply because you can."
"I gotcha, evil would be able to work without anyone caring."
The native nodded, "Humanity would become extinct. You must help. The young one is wise beyond his years but also vulnerable in his love of life. He has been assigned to lead another. His protector will be distrustful of you but he will welcome your help. See past your own emotions, the task is far more important. In the end redemption will be granted."
Faith was about to ask the man another question but he was no longer a man, instead a wolf stood before her. The eyes familiar and warm. "I trust you to do the best you can. I trust you Faith." The wolf turned and disappeared.
The voice also seemed familiar and Faith closed her eyes as she whispered, "You trust me when no one else will."
She woke with a start and wiped the sleep from her eyes, "Blair!?!"
Ellison stayed in the loft with his partner. Feeling agitated by recent events, Sandburg was quiet and tense. The watchful Sentinel coaxed him into sleeping on the couch, staying close. Protecting the Guide. Slowly he also fell asleep confident in the fact that his nearness to his charge and his abilities would safeguard the two.
The doors to the balcony slowly opened and a wind blew across Sandburg's face. He opened his eyes and saw a skeletal shadow walking towards him. He tried to call to his friend but Jim was asleep on the other couch and Blair couldn't make his vocal cords work. He tried to reach for his friend but the figure quickly moved to block him. Blair moved away and off of the couch. He backed up onto the balcony as the figure followed him smiling, reaching. Sandburg forgot his fear of heights. He had a new fear. The figure stepped closer and Sandburg scooted on top of the ledge. "Where are you Jim? Why don't you hear me?"
Just then something landed behind the skeletal figure and flung it off of the balcony. It crashed to the ground and disintegrated like a statute of chalk crumbling into a million pieces. Sandburg scooted even further and Faith tried to reach for him. Ellison was suddenly there. He shoved the girl out of the way and lunged after his friend who was slowly slipping from his precarious perch. Ellison held on tightly to the kid and aimed his gun at Faith, "I don't know who you are or how you got in but. . . "
"No Jim, she saved me."
Ellison pulled the gun closer and looked at his friend with uncertain eyes, "Jim, she saved me. Something was here and it almost had me. Again."
The young woman smirked at the older man as she spoke, "That's right soldier boy, I saved him and you failed."
Ellison flinched inwardly at the harsh words but maintained a stoic image outwardly.
Sandburg instinctively knew what the words did to his friend and spoke to assure him that it was not his fault, as the detective tucked the gun away, "Jim whatever that thing was, it was so not normal."
Faith sighed, "It never is in my line of work."
Sandburg face her and smiled shyly, "Mine either. Faith? This is my best friend James Ellison. I trust him with my life." Sandburg turned to step around his friend and smiled, "Jim, this is Faith, she's saved me twice now and, I trust her."
"Hey, don't forget you saved my butt too."
"Yeah well I don't have many friends who'll go after mystical evil types without question. I figure I have to do my part to protect the few I do have."
Ellison remained silent; the conversation was just too strange to continue. Instead he choose to watch the girl closely, something felt wrong about her. He followed Sandburg into the loft knowing the kid wanted him to trust the girl and tried to appear non-judgmental. Trust wasn't something the man gave easily and Faith was no exception to the rule.
Sandburg pulled the young woman close and hugged her unexpectedly as he whispered his thanks.
Faith smiled uncomfortably, sharing emotions openly was foreign to her. She was always guarding herself against hurt but knew here; with him there could be no hurt. She returned the hug and kissed him on the cheek causing him to blush. Ellison noticed this and filed it away for future reference.
Sandburg sat on the couch and waited for the two to sit. Instead they both seemed ready to go at it. Each one standing on opposite sides, facing off. "Alright guys, it's simple. I trust the both of you. I need help and from what I saw tonight, I need both of you so please just sit down."
Faith shrugged and hopped on the couch beside Blair, her right arm slipping around him and her body pressing closely, "I'm here for you handsome."
Ellison sat on the couch across from the two and carefully monitored the girl. Her heartbeat pounded fiercely, as though she were running a marathon, yet she was calm and didn't seem bothered by this. Her body reactions seemed off the chart and puzzled the Sentinel, which forced his protective hackles to rise. The fact that Sandburg seemed a bit too familiar with her was also worrisome. "Just where do you come from Miss.. ?"
"Just call me Faith and I just travel, not from anywhere in particular. I've been all over and back. Nothing bad dude, so just chill."
Ellison ignored the 'chill' request. The Sentinel protected the Guide and that included protection from the goth nightmare that seemed content to wrap herself in Sandburg's arms. "How did you know Sandburg was in trouble?"
Faith rolled her eyes skyward, "Look I was told that you would never trust me but I swear I am here to help. No strings."
Sandburg looked at Jim and then at Faith, "I trust you."
Faith ignored the stony glare tossed at her from across the room and smiled knowing he'd understand her, "Blair, I was getting ready to leave. I saw you with tough guy over there and I just knew you'd be alright with him. Then I saw those guys come out of no where, saw your bud handle the situation and how the creepy types just faded when you two were together. I thought it was over, should've known better - it never ends." She shrugged, "Anyway, I went back to my latest place and, uh, I was just catching up with my sleep when I had this strange dream. I don't usually dream you know?"
Sandburg smiled knowingly, "What? Did you see a panther?"
Ellison tossed a glare towards his friend but said nothing.
Faith shook her head, "It was a wolf and I was in the forest. The wolf became some Indian guy and he told me that tough guy over there won't ever trust me; he didn't have to waist his breath types like him never trust. Anyway that was when he said that you needed my help. So I came."
Ellison looked at her with complete insincerity, "Just like that. You had a dream and put your life on the line for a complete stranger."
Faith giggled and leaned against Blair, her head on his shoulder, "Gummi Blair and I are hardly complete strangers."
Sandburg blushed as she again kissed him on his cheek. He looked across the room and saw the remark preparing to come from his taciturn friend, "Before you say it Jim - don't."
Ellison ignored him and mumbled the comment anyway, "Table legger."
Faith smirked, "Hey Jim lighten up. I was gentle." She ignored the other as she stood and walked around the loft and sighed, "Nice place man, fairly break-in proof."
Ellison didn't like the word 'fairly'. He stood and went to the balcony to close and lock the doors. Admitting to himself that this strange woman knew more than he about the situation. He decided to ask the one question that came to mind. "When will they try this again?"
Faith looked at the man and was stunned to see that not only had he come to realize that she understood what they were up against but also to see a great amount of concern written on the guys face, "Hey they'll try until they eventually succeed in getting what they want." She looked back at the other, "Blair do you remember anything about this attack? I mean do you have any idea why you?"
Blair looked away and closed his eyes, "I felt closed off. I couldn't get Jim to hear me and it felt as though I were fading away. Cold and lonely. Then you showed up and things were safe again."
Faith paused as she took in the compliment and smiled as she looked past Blair towards something in the corner of the room, "Maybe we should ask the Indian guy."
All three turned and saw an Indian standing by the front door, "Warriors protect the Shaman. Sentinel, do not ignore your instincts, trust your Guide. Slayer the choice is yours to make, choose incorrectly and be condemned to darkness in life and in spirit. Here lies the beginning for you." The Indian walked up to Sandburg who unconsciously moved to stand beside his Sentinel who in turn stood protectively nearby, "Many decades have passed since we have seen the likes such as yourself on this plain of existence young Shaman, you have been missed and are now welcomed."
Sandburg moved closer to his friend feeling uncharacteristically nervous and hesitantly smiled.
The Indian returned the smile, "Your innocence is what this creature seeks and your love of humanity is what he wants to destroy. The Slayer has seen your innocence and will know what to do, and the Sentinel will protect you with his life. You must be strong, remain true."
Sandburg whispered, "No one should die because of me."
The Indian smiled, "It is your faith in humanity that must not die, it is your belief in your two protectors that will protect them in return." The Indian stepped closer, "We will serve you as best we can here and on the next plain young one." The Indian changed into a wolf and turned, behind it was a sleek black panther who growled menacingly at Faith before leading the wolf away. The two disappeared through the door.
Ellison placed a hand on his friend and whispered, "Next time you tell me I'm the important one, think again."
Blair blushed, "Jim, you are the one who is special, without you around, who would this Shaman have to guide."
Faith walked to the door and opened it, both animals had simply disappeared, "What was up with that panther? You'd think I was wearing a panther skinned jacket or something."
Ellison pinned the girl with an icy glare, "Maybe it doesn't trust you either."
Faith snickered, "Never did like cats, too high maintenance. Prefer canines, they're closer to the male animal and easier to love."
Sandburg walked to the window ignoring his friend's smirking expression, "You guys, I think we have more visitors."
Suddenly the room darkened and Sandburg was surrounded by dark cloud-like mist. Ellison smelled something foul and lowered his level of sensitivity as he quickly jumped to the spot where his friend had been. Faith followed his actions and whispered, "In for a penny, in for a pound."
Sandburg woke and found himself in a room devoid of warmth and windows. It reminded the young man of a larger version of the elevator at the Wilkerson Tower. "Oh God, what happens now?" He found himself wishing for some way to contact his friends. He was alone.
Ellison woke next to Faith and quickly moved away. He couldn't explain it but being near her or having her near his Guide just seemed wrong, dangerous. Tabling his reactions, he took in their surroundings and noted that the place they were in seemed to have no walls, the light ended just beyond his sharp eyesight and then seemed to disappear into nothingness.
Faith woke and walked to the edge of the area, "Well, welcome to Hell. Not quite how I pictured it but close."
Ellison looked at the girl with an angry glare and then looked away, "Maybe that's what you do with your free time but I prefer to spend my life staying on the good side of things."
Faith laughed, "You know, you must think I am blind or maybe it's because you and I are more alike than you know." She noticed the other was ignoring her but continued, "I was taught about men and women like you. I thought people with heightened senses were myths told to keep someone like myself on my toes but you are real aren't you?"
Ellison turned to stare at the girl. Still distrustful of her, still on his guard.
Faith walked to the edge again, "Slayers are born with kick ass strength. We are here to protect the world from the evil that exists in what most think are only nightmares. Vampires, Demons, Mystics - whatever. We were born to protect the innocents."
Ellison sighed, "Assuming I even believe you, I don't see how that even relates to me."
Faith turned and stepped closer to the man, "Don't you? I also was assigned a Watcher like Blair. Someone to teach me how to better defend myself, someone who has wisdom and knowledge of all the unbelievable evils out there and someone who doesn't consider our types - freaks. Links to the regular world."
Ellison pushed aside the feeling of anger at the mention of the word 'freak' and pinned the young woman with a cool gaze, "So what happened to this Watcher? Got sick of your cockiness and ran off?"
She met the man's hardened stare with one of her own, "No. After I was beaten senseless, I was forced to watch her get raped and then passed around while four bloodsuckers drank her body dry. Afterwards, they threw her body at me." She closed her eyes trying to force the memory to hurt less, "I was new to all of this but she had taught me my duties. I fought them and escaped and when the time came I-I had to make sure she wouldn't come back as a vampire. I had to destroy what was left of her myself. I was fifteen at the time."
Ellison looked at her for the first time with detachment; she seemed so very young and yet so very old. It was strange to discover that she was the complete opposite of his Guide. Sandburg was in his early thirties but somehow his exuberance and acceptance of everyone around him made him seem younger. The young woman before him seemed to be in her very early twenties yet she seemed so very mature and hardened. Blair had the innocence of never harming a soul in malice; somehow Ellison knew that Faith was familiar with harming another and quite possibly had enjoyed it.
He recognized the pain behind her eyes and for the moment ignored his distrust. "I'm sorry."
Faith flinched and moved away, "Hey it was a growth experience. I operate a solo career now. I don't need anyone or anything."
Ellison stepped near her, "But you do, don't you? People like Sandburg naturally attract the likes of you - and me. His goodness, his ability to see past the crap you've placed on yourself showed you that you actually need someone to care."
Faith looked away, "People like him are weak. They need others to give them purpose. I operate alone. Do what I want when I want."
"That is why you will be offered a choice."
Ellison and Faith paused; neither had spoken the last sentence. The voice seemed to come from all around them, the space they were in shifted to that of a large cave, cold and damp. Sandburg stood behind a tall skeletal figure, his eyes dazed and unfocused, his face filled with confusion and fear.
Ellison stepped closer to the figure, it was hardly a man and there was such a strong smell of decay surrounding it that he felt his control slipping. Still his concern for his shaman overrode his unease. "What have you done to him?"
The figure laughed a deep guttural sound that reverberated in the cave, "He is no longer." The figure opened its long talon-like fingers and gestured to the still man behind him and then placed its hand on own its chest, "His soul, his essence is here in my possession."
Ellison shook his head, "That isn't possible."
"Oh but it is Sentinel. Even now you feel the change don't you? You know that what once was your Shaman is no longer."
Ellison immediately searched for the something that meant his Guide was near and felt empty inside, like before, before Sandburg came to see him in the hospital. Even then, something about the other prompted Ellison to seek him out and to trust him like no other. He moved past the skeletal figure and walked up to the man he called brother and placed a hand on his shoulder. The skin beneath his fingers cold, the heartbeat sounding slow, the eyes filled with a sorrow that Ellison had never seen housed in the face of his Guide. "Chief it will be alright."
Sandburg shed a tear and spoke softly, "He did something to me. Touched me. He- it stole something from me Jim. I-I'm not alright." He looked up at his Blessed Protector, "Please Jim, if he wins don't allow me to live, don't let me live like this."
Ellison pulled him close, "Don't give up."
Sandburg pushed away, "I have no hope, he's stolen that too. I have nothing."
Ellison smiled, "I have enough hope for both of us. Trust me."
The figure had moved to stand beside Faith, choosing to ignore the two for the moment. "You see my dear, it is as you said - weak."
Faith looked away in shame for the words used against her. "What is this choice you want to offer me?"
The figure opened his hand and showed her a small circular light, he placed his other hand on her shoulder, "You have embraced my side before and your work was without disappointment. Come taste the power of the spirit stolen from this one."
Suddenly a strong steady flow of energy surrounded Faith as she felt warmth and happiness surge through her. Nothing could destroy her, hope and trust no longer foreign and unattainable. The Slayer felt as though she could fly simply by imagining it. She felt strong and ready. No longer in the dark and no longer alone. Life surged around her and light chased away uncertainties.
As the young woman smiled, Sandburg slumped forward into Ellison's arm. He fought to speak, "Jim, in this place, the spirit is in control." Sandburg looked at Faith and then back at his friend, "I-I believe in you. I still trust you. Don't let it win and never give up." Sandburg took a deep breath, "I'm sorry, I'm just so tired." His heart stopped, time stilled.
Ellison laid his friend on the cavern floor, moving to wrap his arms around his friend's cold body, holding the only person that was his true family. His eyes filled with tears, his soul turning to ice. He looked at Faith as she reveled in the essence that was Blair's. He was right not to trust her. Now he hated her and the figure responsible for this horror. He lowered his friend to the ground and closed his eyes and heard his friend's voice in his mind, "Here the spirit is in control." Ellison tilted his head, noting that here, in this place, nothing made sense. A soul should never be taken so easily, or passed around like a favorite dish at a buffet table. He decided since nothing here made sense it was time to try the unbelievable. It had to work.
Faith stopped smiling and noticed a black panther staring at her from beside Blair's body. She looked at the ground and gasped, Blair had died. She was suddenly hit with sorrow. "No I couldn't have done that. NO!"
The figure laughed at her revulsion, "You have killed before. This is no different. He is nothing to you. He is a weakling."
Faith closed her eyes and fought against the temptation to keep the precious gift that moved within her soul, "You're wrong. This is different. Remove it now."
The figure touched her and then opened its hand. The circular ball of light was there. Faith moved quickly as she grabbed the orb and turned to run towards Blair. The black panther made its move landing in front of her and the dark figure. Faith pleaded with the ferocious animal, "Please let me try to make this right."
The panther growled and then leapt into the air. Faith closed her eyes and then heard a loud cry from the figure that stood behind her. It was being mauled and was begging Faith to return the sphere. It begged for the power.
Faith ignored the cries for help and quickly knelt beside the lifeless body of her - friend. She closed her eyes, "I am so sorry. I don't want this, I don't want more death. Life is too precious. You trusted me Blair. Believed in me. Please forgive my moment of weakness. Please . . . "
The panther turned and swiftly moved to face the Slayer.
The Indian appeared behind the two warriors and it was Faith to whom he spoke, "You have made your choice. You will be given another chance Slayer. Remember the light you felt moments ago. The light will be yours again in time."
The panther stepped closer to Faith and its image changed into that of James Ellison. His face cold and angered. He took the sphere from the stunned woman's hand and placed the object over his Shaman's heart, "Come on kid, I need you."
Suddenly the distant sound of a panther's cry was joined by that of a wolf's howl. A light as bright as though it shone from the heavens surrounded the three. Then there was silence and calm.
Ellison woke in the loft and looked around. A dream? He went to look for his friend and was stopped by a sound coming from the balcony.
Faith woke to the soft breeze of a cool night and found herself outside on Blair's balcony. "Man, I hate demonic surrealistic moments."
Ellison opened the balcony doors and lifted the girl to her feet. She smirked unfazed by the action. "How's Gummi - ah Blair?"
Ellison closed his eyes and searched for the familiar heartbeat. He then looked back at the other and released his hold, "He is just fine. No thanks to you."
Faith stepped around him and entered the loft. She followed Ellison's gaze walking towards the room off in the corner and looked in on the man sleeping soundly on the bed, curls spread out on his pillow. His face filled with light and contentment. She was about to wake him, to tell him she loved him and that she wanted to stay here and protect him when she felt a hand on her shoulder and she was ushered out of the room.
Ellison placed himself between her and the now sealed bedroom door. "Let him sleep." It was a command.
Faith closed her eyes and fought against the anger at this man and his damn possessive behavior, "You still don't trust me do you? He trusts me why can't you?"
The Sentinel gazed past her refusing to be swayed, "Not with him. His life is too important to risk being near you. You're too unpredictable and dangerous."
Faith turned away from the growled response, "If I asked, he'd join me. If I told him how I felt, he'd be happy to know."
Ellison sighed, knowing that the younger man would accept her into his life easily. Still the Sentinel had his duty and that was to protect the Shaman, "Maybe, I wouldn't stand in his way but how long before you turn your back on him and he dies because of it? How long before you realize he restricts your freedom and you come to hate him because of his distaste for evil?"
Faith stepped directly in front of the judgmental man and forced him to look at her. "And, what, you've never turned your back on him?"
"I did and more than once, I never said I was perfect but I have changed." His eyes showing anger and his distrust for the young woman, "He was placed into my care by fate and I will never disappoint him again. He is my Shaman."
"He has been exposed to evil you know. They will be back in one form or another. They always return. You two might need help."
"I don't know what those things were and I can't say we will always win but when and if the time comes we have people we can go to. We will be alright."
Faith stepped closer to the man guarding the doorway like it held priceless riches beyond. She wanted to pull him away from the door and knew she had the strength to do so. She wanted to hold Blair in her arms again, to feel the trust and love only he had been able to give her. Only he had trusted her, cared for her. She knew now how it could be. Still she also knew that her destiny didn't lie with his. Not now. Faith closed her eyes and whispered, "Promise me you will protect him soldier boy."
Ellison nodded, "I give you my word." He meant it.
She looked up at the man, jealousy and anger shining in her eyes, "If I ever hear that you let him down, that you allowed him to die when you could have helped him . . . " She stepped closer to the man. Her shorter height in no way hindering the strength and emotions behind her words. "I will come back and kill you and believe me I can and will do just that."
"I will remember that."
Faith closed her eyes and fought to control the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. "Tell him I had to go, that I will call. Tell him to stay the same."
Ellison nodded, "Faith?" His body never shifted from the doorway but his eyes softened slightly. "Thank you for helping him in the end. I know it was hard for you and appreciate the sacrifice you made."
She looked into his eyes and saw sincerity, "All in the job description soldier boy besides he kind is needed."
She turned and left.
Ellison closed his eyes. He knew he was being unreasonably cruel to a person that was so very young but his instincts told him to guard his friend against the girl. He trusted his instincts.
He moved to lock the front door before returning to open the bedroom door and stepped beside his friend's bed. Slowly he lifted the smaller man's body and slid into the bed behind him. He placed Sandburg's upper body against his chest and stroked the curls from the others face. His friend slept too soundly and like a concerned parent, Ellison decided it was time to wake his Guide. "Chief? You alright?"
Sandburg snuggled closer and sighed. Content to sleep longer. Smiling the older man closed his eyes deciding it would be best to allow his friend to continue sleeping. In the distance, somewhere outside Ellison heard a voice call to him. It was Faith.
Across the street from the loft stood the lonely figure of a young woman. For the first time since leaving Sunnydale she allowed tears to fall along with the rain that fell from the sky. "Ellison? I hope you can hear this. I love Blair. He made me feel so special and safe. Take care of him. Some day I might return and gain your trust and his love."
In his mind, he pictured the girl standing alone in the rain and hoped she would find the answers she searched for and someone like Sandburg to watch over her. In his heart he truly wished her well. Warrior to warrior.
Suddenly Sandburg began to stir within his arms. "Jim?"
Ellison pulled his friend in close and laid his chin on top of the curl cover head, enjoying the feel of his living and breathing Guide, "Yeah kid."
Sandburg tried to move away and was met with resistance, "Jim what are you doing here on my bed w-with me?"
Ellison chuckled at the note of hesitancy in the voice, "Just had a bad dream, thought I'd make sure you were alright."
Sandburg relaxed, "You okay now?"
Sandburg looked around his room slowly becoming more aware, "Jim? Where's Faith?"
"She left Chief. She said to take care and that she'd write."
Sandburg closed his eyes, "I'll miss her. She's special you know."
Ellison held on tightly to his friend, hoping his treatment of Faith wouldn't harm his friend emotionally. Sandburg tended to form relationships on a very deep level and was never was prepared for the pain they could cause him. As for the young woman, Faith was someone that every instinct, every protective fiber in his body forced him to protect his guide against. The Sentinel didn't know why and he didn't question it. This was what had to be. He whispered, "She'll be alright."
The weakened man nodded and fell asleep again. Ellison sighed, content to breath in the scent of life that existed in his world, "We'll all be alright." Later, he'd call Simon and inform him that Sandburg had been located and was safe. He just needed a moment to fully realize that fact.
Closing his eyes he smiled softly, knowing that on this plain and on the mystical one he had been able to protect this life. The dreams were only a warning; the end result could be altered in reality. Slowly he fell asleep holding on to his Shaman protectively. It was how it was meant to be. The Sentinel protecting the Guide.
Faith jumped into a box car of a train headed South, maybe this time she'd be able to stick around for a bit. She found a corner where she could get comfortable and closed her eyes as sleep pulled at her body. A wolf appeared in her dream and together the two played in a field of light and warmth while a panther watched from the foliage nearby. A promise of a time to come.