- Discussion - Other Trigger Topics
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- First Time
Author’s Note: Additional warning: John is subjected to an empathic assault by a guide.
Harold raked his hands through his hair in frustration. Nothing. How could there be nothing? Not even the slightest trace for him to follow. He glared at the screen. His computers were his babies and he treated them accordingly, but right now he’d be happy to throw the useless hunks of metal and wires across the room. John had been missing for over twelve hours and no matter how hard he tried, Harold could not find any sign of him. No one could. Fusco and Carter had come up empty, as had Elias.
Elias was even now scouring the city. He had not been able to find a trace of John’s scent after it disappeared a few blocks from where he’d been taken. If John wasn’t found soon, Harold knew the city’s underworld would feel the brunt of Elias’ anger and grief. He might be a criminal, but he was also a Sentinel, and John was his alpha. Unofficial though it may be, it was also undeniable, and being John’s beta was something Elias took seriously. An honor he held dear.
Even now, one of Elias’ men was standing outside the library keeping guard. Harold did his best to ignore the man’s empathic signature. He knew better than to try to get him to leave; Elias had been determined. John’s orders regarding Harold’s protection had been very clear, apparently.
Harold snorted. Sentinels. Orders John and I will be talking about in great detail when he returns, Harold thought. In Harold’s opinion Bear was protection enough, surely.
Not even the Machine could find a trace of John. In his desperation, Harold had broken his own rules, risked them all, by using an emergency back door to search for him. The Machine had seemed to understand the urgency of the situation and had done all it could, but to no avail.
Whoever had John had known to keep him away from any cameras, and knew how to cover their tracks. Despite this very troubling, yet telling development, Harold had distressingly few suspects, and still fewer clues.
“If you’d bonded with him as you are meant to, you would have found him hours ago,” a gently chiding voice reminded him from above.
Harold ignored the flash of guilt and pain at the reminder of his unbonded status. He ignored the reminder his sentinel’s lack of desire for him. The dark, empty place inside his mind seemed to throb, the pain grew in intensity. Harold absently rubbed his temples. It was probably just his imagination. He looked up at Diana. The red tailed hawk perched haughtily on one of the library shelves and glared.
“Stop trying to make me feel guilty. John doesn’t want us and you know it. We are colleagues and friends that’s all. I don’t see you doing anything to help find him.”
“I know no such thing,” Diana snapped, glaring. Her talons dug into the wood and Harold winced. She was going to leave marks again.
He sighed heavily. This was an old argument. “Please, I don’t have the energy to get into this right now. You can remind me how selfish and idiotic I am later.” He gave her a pleading look.
Diana flapped her wings, uncharacteristically showing her agitation. She turned her back to him, without another word.
Harold felt another stab of guilt; none of this was Diana’s fault. Harold knew that her inability to find Fidelis, John’s spirt guide, was deeply painful for her. The two spirit animals hated to be apart, much to Harold’s embarrassment and John’s amusement.
The fact that Fidelis had not appeared to either of them was a very bad sign indeed. It most likely meant that John was severely incapacitated, perhaps even dead. No Harold told himself. I refuse to believe that. John is alive; he has to be. The alternative was unthinkable
Harold slumped back in his chair, ignoring the pain that flared in his neck and hip. Clearly he had been sitting for too long, and his muscles were stiff. If John were here, he would chide Harold for pushing himself too hard, and remind him to rest. I’m sorry, John, he thought, I can’t stop. His sentinel was missing, and Harold had to find him — or die trying. As a guide, he could do no less.
Sensing his rising distress, Diana flew over, and began grooming his hair in comfort.
Harold knew he was forgiven. “I know you miss them both too,” Harold told her. “We’ll get them back.”
Diana didn’t look as certain but she didn’t voice her doubts. “What are we going to do?” she asked.
Harold sighed. “I think you can guess what I have in mind.”
Diana looked at him worriedly. “I don’t think we have any other choice. We have to find him, but it could be very dangerous.”
She was right. There was only one course of action left open to them. A course Harold was loath to take, but for his sentinel he wouldn’t hesitate. He’d been running for too long, it was time to face who and what he really was. He could only hope it wouldn’t bring the government-run Sentinel and Guide center right to their door, which was something he’d been avoiding his entire life. However, he was willing to accept the necessary consequences, no matter how unpleasant, as long as John was safe.
With a shaking hand, he reached out and petted Diana, stroking her soft feathers and taking comfort from her nearness. There was one last thing he had to do. He walked back over to the desk and called Detective Fusco.
“Glasses, any news?” Fusco greeted him, the concern evident in his voice. Harold frowned at the nickname and huffed in annoyance. Diana pecked him in amusement. She knew he really didn’t mind the other guide’s nickname for him. They both valued Fusco’s friendship.
Harold did his best to affect his normal brisk and efficient tone. “I’m afraid not, detective, all my usual methods have proven ineffective. I do, however, expect to have some news and hopefully a location very soon. I called to make sure you’d be prepared to provide back up. I don’t dare try to find him on my own. We don’t know what shape he’ll be in.”
Fusco was far more perceptive than most people gave him credit for. He was a high level guide. However, he preferred not to use his gifts. As a result, most people dismissed him out of hand. No one knew better than Harold that underestimating a guide was extremely ill considered.
“What are you going to do? How will you find him?”
“That is none of your concern, just be ready, please, when I call,” Harold said firmly.
“Wait, what are you going to do?” Fusco sounded very worried now. “What aren’t you telling me? Someone has contacted you haven’t they. Wait for me! Don’t do something stupid, if anything happens to you John is going to have my head.”
“Don’t be dramatic detective. I appreciate the concern, but I guarantee you that I am in no danger whatsoever,” Harold assured him
“Liar,” Diana whispered, right in his ear, so softly that he knew Fusco hadn’t heard. She was scared, understandably so. He petted her gently offering what comfort he could. She would aid him in this despite the danger. She needed Fidelis just as much as he needed John.
It was clear from his tone that Fusco didn’t believe him “Harold, please–” he started, but Harold cut him off.
“Just be ready, please,” he said and he ended the call.
He regretted his treatment of his fellow guide but he couldn’t tell anyone what he was about to attempt. Fusco would only try to stop him, or worse, try to help. If this failed, Harold would be the only one who suffered the consequences. And John, he reminded himself, but he pushed the thought aside. John would be fine without him if it came down to it. He has already proven that, Harold thought bitterly. Now, is not the time for this, he chastised himself. Regret was useless. They’d both made their choices. All that mattered was that his sentinel lived.
He made sure Bear had food and water, and took a few minutes to pet the distraught dog. “I know, boy, I miss him, too. I’m going to do my best to bring him home,” he told Bear firmly.
Bear whined and licked his hand, making Harold smile.
He was far too frazzled. If this had a chance of working, he needed to be calm. He needed to eat, but he couldn’t imagine keeping anything down. His stomach turned at the mere thought of food. Harold went to make a cup of green tea instead. It would help him relax, and the sugar would give him the energy he needed. He’d meditate, find his center, and then begin his search. Hang on, John, I’m coming, he thought. Don’t you dare leave me.
Harold opened his eyes with a sigh. His attempt to calm himself hadn’t been totally successful but he was as centered a he was likely to get under the circumstances. At least the meditation had left him feeling somewhat refreshed. He felt apprehension crawling over his skin; he feared that John was running out of time. He looked over at Diana. The hawk was watching him anxiously. They would share in this task.
“Are you ready?” she asked.
He nodded, but before he could speak, Lionel Fusco came charging into the room. His spirit animal Sasha, a Siberian husky, bounding in after him. Diana flew over and landed on Sasha’s back pecking him in greeting, the two spirit animals began taking quietly.
Harold ignored then and turned his attention to the other man. “Detective, what on Earth are you doing here? We agreed you’d wait for my call,” Harold snapped annoyed. He needed Lionel ready to find John not here babysitting him.
Lionel seemed unperturbed by his anger. “No, you agreed. I know you’re up to something and whatever it is, it’s dangerous. I may not be able to scan you, but I know when I’m being lied to. Whatever it is, you’re going to need my help. I can sense it.”
Harold was surprised at the conviction in his voice. Lionel didn’t much believe in what he called the voodoo part of being a guide. Lionel preferred to focus on the tangible rather than the spiritual. It was a preference he and Harold shared.
“I’m sorry, Lionel. What I’m going to attempt is dangerous at best, and very… unconventional. If I thought I had a chance of finding him any other way I wouldn’t do this.”
“I’m not sure what that means, but I would bet that whatever it is, you shouldn’t be doing it on your own. Let me help or I will call Elias. I can drag him away from the search for John to come down here, and try to talk some sense into you, if that’s what you want,” Fusco said stubbornly.
Harold gritted his teeth, his annoyance increasing. “Lionel, I’m trying to protect you. I have to do this, but you don’t. Just leave me be, please.”
“Stop trying to send me away. I am not leaving. Got it?” Lionel said forcefully. “I don’t need your protection. I want to find John just as much as you do. He’s my alpha and my friend. What will happen to the city if he isn’t around to protect it? I know John trusts Elias, but I don’t want him in charge. Do you?”
Harold decided it was best not to answer. He understood John’s reasons for choosing Elias to be his second. Although he hadn’t agreed at first, he couldn’t deny that overall the arrangement worked well, and crime was down to a historic low all over New York City. Even Fusco couldn’t argue with the results. He suspected his reasons for professing to distrust Elias were more personal, but it was none of his business.
When Harold didn’t answer, Lionel rubbed his hand over his face. Harold didn’t need his empathy to know he was frustrated, and exhausted. “Harold, please, you have to trust me.”
Harold felt a tab of sympathy and remorse, his anger draining away. He knew Lionel cared about both him and John. He’d been awake almost as long as Harold had.
Still he couldn’t take the chance of his friend getting hurt; he was going to have to insist, and it would take time for Elias to arrive. Once his task was underway, it would be unlikely anyone would be able to interfere. He just needed to get Lionel out of the way.
Diana’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Let him help us, Harold.”
Startled, Harold looked over at her. She met his gaze. “Deep down, you know I’m right. We need someone to keep an eye on us at the very least.”
Harold closed his eyes. Diana had a point, but the truth was, he was scared. It had been many years since he’d shared this part of himself with anyone. John would have to know, and Harold trusted him implicitly, but he had been hoping to keep this between the two them. If the center ever found out, his life would never be his own again. The old fear of discovery made his stomach twist, but Harold didn’t allow it to engulf him. He didn’t have the time to fall apart, not now.
Diana flew over to his side, landing on his shoulders. Her claws should have hurt him, but they didn’t. Spirit animals could never hurt their human, no one really understood why. He petted her, glad for the comfort she offered. “We can trust them. I promise. Sasha told me that they felt a need to come here, almost like they were being led to us.”
Harold gave her a small smile when Lionel groaned and glared at the husky. Sasha had no problem sharing information when she decided it was necessary, much to Lionel’s perpetual exasperation.
“All right,” he agreed, “but this stays between us. Understood?”
Lionel nodded. “Understood. What exactly are you going to do?”
Harold took a deep breath to steady himself. After this, there was no going back. “I’m going to scan for John until I find him.”
Lionel looked puzzled. “That’s it? I don’t understand. There are guides out there looking for him right now. They haven’t been able to find a trace of him. If you have a search area why didn’t you let anyone else know?” he demanded. Harold was grateful not to be able to feel his anger.
Harold shook his head. “I have no idea where John is, I promise you.”
“Then what are you…” Fusco began.
Harold cut him off. “Let me finish, please. I’m going to lower my shields and scan for him.”
“How is that going to help? He’s nowhere nearby. If he were, we would have found him by now,” Fusco said obviously losing patience. In agitation, he ran his hand through his hair.
Harold met Lionel’s eyes. Please. Don’t be afraid of me, he thought. He took a steadying breath. “I believe they might be moving him to avoid the search teams. I have a way to work around that. I’m going to scan the entire city, all at once.”
As he spoke, he began lowering his shields carefully one by one. It had been so long that they fought him constantly. His mind no longer wished to be unprotected, but Harold was determined, and within minutes only his primary shield was left. He knew his empathic power leaked out even though his shield.
Rather than lower it completely, he opened a door and allowed Lionel to feel his full power for the first time. Harold shuddered as Lionel automatically reached out and gently touched his mind to Harold’s. It had been a very long time since he’d felt the touch of another guide. It was surprisingly pleasant. Like most guides, Lionel had a soothing presence.
Lionel was gaping in shock.
“Holy shit, you’re an alpha,” he breathed in wonder. “One of the strongest I’ve ever felt.” He sounded almost reverent and it made Harold extremely uncomfortable. Alpha guides were rare. Alpha guides as powerful as Harold rarer still.
“You feel amazing,” Lionel said almost dreamily. Sasha made her way over to her guide, butting his hand with her head. Lionel absently petted her in return.
Harold could feel their contentment at being in his presence and he stifled a groan. This reaction was why he’d learned to lock his empathy down in the first place. His potential power over other guides and mundanes alike was difficult for him to accept. Harold hastily closed the door in his shield.
“Please get yourself under control, Detective,” Harold said sharply.
Lionel jumped as if startled. “I’m sorry. This is going to take some getting used to.” Lionel seemed to be gathering his wits. “I had no idea. I always assumed you were a level one. You should be the pride alpha, my alpha. Why are you hiding from us? Does John know?” His voice rose a bit hysterically at the end.
Even with his primary shield in place, Harold could feel Lionel’s pain. He inwardly flinched. He didn’t deserve to be anyone’s alpha. Instinctively Harold sent out waves of calm and reassurance. He could feel Lionel relax almost instantly. Sasha lay down, and yawned sleepily.
At the reminder of John, the dark place inside him seemed to throb. “That’s really none of your business, and I won’t discuss it with you.”
Lionel looked like he wanted to argue, but seemed as if he recognized a losing battle when he saw one. He nodded reluctantly, and let the matter drop. “How do we do this?” he asked.
Harold sensed his determination to succeed, and his desire to help as much as possible. It was a relief to have Lionel’s support. It was surprisingly comforting. Harold was grateful that Lionel didn’t ask what they would do if John had been moved beyond their reach.
The simple truth was Harold had no idea.
However, with his empathy in full force, Harold was certain John was in the city. He was also certain this wouldn’t be true for much longer, and if the kidnappers got John out of the city, he’d most likely be lost forever. Normally he didn’t put much stock in these types of feelings, but this one was too strong to ignore.
Harold sat down and searched deep inside his mind until he found the place where he and his spirit guide were connected. He opened his shield completely, and was overwhelmed by the love and affection pouring of Diana. He had been alone for so long. Tears ran down his cheeks as he reveled in the feeling of renewed closeness between them.
It had been so long since he’d touched her with his mind. He’d missed her so much. The loss of their connection was like a wound that had never fully healed. Through their connection, he was able to understand how much she had suffered, during their time apart. He was ashamed that he’d never given it much thought until now. His self-imposed isolation had carried a hefty price for both of them.
“I’ve missed you, too. There’s no time for remorse,” Diana whispered in his mind. “We both made this choice, and it’s kept us safe. Sometimes sacrifices are necessary.”
“Thank you,” he sent back with all the gratitude and love he possessed.
He felt their connection intensify. Diana added her strength to his own, and he tentatively reached out with his mind, scanning the people nearby. Despite the long years of inactivity, he knew he could scan everyone for several blocks in any direction without trouble. The whole city, however, would strain even his considerable power
The feeling of so many minds pressing down on him was excruciatingly painful; they were so loud, and a cacophony of emotions filled his mind. There was so much input, he wasn’t sure how to begin sorting it out, but he knew he had to, for John’s sake.
The temptation to retreat was strong, but he forced himself to continue. Working together, he and Diana found a way to bring order to the chaos. He’d been worried that after so long he would become lost in the minds he touched, overrun by the sheer volume of emotion, but he managed to stay focused. Using the lightest mental touch he could, he stretched his senses further and further out, looking for the beloved mental presence that was uniquely John’s.
Lionel watched in amazement as Harold proceeded to scan the city of New York. He could hardly believe it was happening. Harold gasped in pain, and instinctively Lionel reached out to soothe his alpha, because no matter what Harold claimed, Lionel had recognized his alpha instantly.
Sasha nipped his hand gently. “No don’t break his concentration. He doesn’t need us yet.”
Lionel now understood why he’d needed to be here today. Time seemed to slow to a crawl. Suddenly, Diana began to fade away, becoming almost transparent. A shocked gasp escaped him. Lionel had never seen a spirit guide lose their corporeal form. In fact, hadn’t even known such a thing was possible. It was an incredible sight.
He looked down at Sasha in question, but she looked as bewildered as he felt. “I can’t be sure but I think they are sharing energy,” she said. “It takes energy for us to hold this form and I think she’s funneling as much as she can into Harold.”
Sweat began to run down Harold’s face, and he grimaced with pain but he didn’t open his eyes. More time passed, and he grew pale and swayed. He was weakening. Acting on an instinct Lionel didn’t understand, he closed his eyes and pushed his empathic power toward Harold, offering it. At first, nothing happened, but then Lionel began to feel Harold siphoning off his power in short bursts. He had never felt anything like it in all his years of training. He’d known Harold for years, trusted him, but this level of power was terrifying. He lost all sense of time.
Then he heard Harold’s voice. The sound knocked him out of his meditative state. Harold’s voice was filled with triumph, relief and a great deal of anger. “I found him ”
Lionel felt incredibly drained, exhaustion clawed at him. I could sleep for a month, he thought. How was Harold even conscious? Harold was pale and shaking, but when Lionel looked into Harold’s eyes, they were alert. He shivered at what he saw there. He almost pitied John’s kidnappers when Harold was done with them. Almost.
Harold stood up from the floor and swayed in exhaustion. Lionel reached out and caught him, with the detective’s help, he managed to remain upright. Sweat soaked his skin; he felt as if he’d run a marathon. Unfortunately, there was no time to rest. The need to rescue John was so intense that he didn’t even try to fight it.
“He’s on Staten Island. The kidnappers are holding him in an abandoned house.” Harold rattled off the address he’d found in the kidnapper’s mind. “He’s been taken by a woman named Kara Stanton, an old partner of his. She a corrupt guide and therefore she’s extremely dangerous. Tell all the search teams to be exceedingly cautious.”
He heard Lionel gasp. Corrupt was the worst thing anyone could say about a guide. Kara Stanton was a threat to everyone around her. A corrupt guide had the power to twist a person’s mind and use their emotions against them. Under the influence of corrupt guides, people had been known to commit acts of violence, or even in rare cases, go completely insane.
“I could barely feel John’s mind against my own. He was unconscious. He’s probably going to need medical assistance. Call Will and have him meet us there.”
Harold tried not to think about how John had felt. The vibrant mind Harold had only allowed himself to touch once before had been subdued, as if John hadn’t been entirely present. It had been terrifying. He feared John was already slipping away from him. He needed to get to John as soon as possible.
Lionel led him over to his computer chair, and then made the call to Elias. “Everyone’s on their way. The closest team is 15 minutes out,” he reported briskly. “We’re going to get John back,” he said, and there was a surprising amount of real conviction in his voice.
Harold could feel Lionel’s satisfaction that they had a location and his desire for vengeance, but Harold felt only relief at finally having found his sentinel. He’d been somewhat shocked to learn Kara Stanton was now an online guide. It was unfortunate she’d come online at all.
Lionel’s voice broke into his thoughts. “Listen, Harold, I think you should stay here,” he said carefully.
Harold was shocked. “There is no way I’m not going with you. John needs me; I have to be with him,” he said. He locked gazes with Lionel. He wanted no misunderstandings. He would not be swayed.
Lionel looked at him pleadingly. “Be reasonable. I understand you want to hurt the people who took John, I feel the same, but it’s not worth it if it kills you. You can hardly stand, and Diana is fast asleep. You’re not in any condition to go up against a corrupt guide, alpha or not.”
Harold sighed. Lionel didn’t understand. He didn’t care about vengeance; all he really cared about was John.
How much had he suffered alone with Kara for so many hours? Harold shivered as he remembered the feel of her rotting, damaged mind against his. A guide as sick as Kara would never be able to bond, but that didn’t mean she didn’t have the same need that all guides did for a bond with a sentinel. As angry as he was, the thought of killing her made his stomach turn. If she hadn’t taken John, Harold would have pitted the poor woman.
Still, she would need to be stopped. The sad truth was that Kara was like a rabid animal. Her disease wasn’t really her fault, but she had to be put down before she did irreparable damage to those around her. She’d clearly hurt John in some way.
For that she would pay, and Harold couldn’t bring himself to regret her probable death. He had no wish to kill anyone, but he would do what was necessary. Still, it was a relief to know that if she survived their encounter, her ultimate fate wouldn’t be his to decide. The final decision would fall to John.
“Lionel, that’s enough,” he said calmly, and he put just a little of his guide power into his voice to bring the point home.
Lionel’s shoulders slumped and he nodded in defeat.
“As for Ms. Stanton, I’m not really concerned about her power or her ultimate fate,” Harold admitted somewhat reluctantly. “She is no match for me; it’s a simple fact. Once we get John back, she’ll be taken care of, but her fate won’t be my concern.”
Lionel look surprised. “Actually, Harold, as the alpha guide of the territory, it will ultimately be your decision. Whether she lives or not. Unless you want to go back to pretending you’re a low level guide. Back to hiding, in which you can raise your shield, and you have my word this will stay between us. No one ever needs to know.”
Harold froze. Good God, Lionel was right. This was the moment he had always dreaded, but deep down he’d known the day would come. He remembered what it had been like to feel her once again. He remembered how incredible John’s mind had felt against his own. Could he live his whole life without ever feeling that again? Could he live with the loneliness? Harold found he didn’t even have to think about his decision. He was so incredibly tired of being afraid. So tired of being alone.
I want John, if he’ll have me, he thought longingly. Decision finally made, Harold felt relief and acceptance sweep over him. He knew this was right. Only John’s absence kept him from really feeling the wonder and joy of the moment. Beside him, Diana let out a joyous and triumphant screech. She had been right all along, he acknowledged.
His attention turned back to Lionel, and he favored the man with a small smile. “You’re correct, of course. Let’s go. I’ll rest in the car on the way.” He knew he wouldn’t sleep, but Lionel didn’t need to know that.
Lionel couldn’t hide his grin. He clearly didn’t believe Harold. “Yes, Alpha, whatever you say.” Lionel radiated joy; there was no other word for it.
Harold merely glared at him and called for Bear. However, he did graciously allow Lionel to help him down to the car.
The ride out to Staten Island seemed interminable. Harold surprised himself by drifting in an out of a doze, but it didn’t help. He needed several hours of real rest to regain his strength. By the time they arrived, there were already several sentinel and guide pairs on the scene, as well as Elias and a few of his goons.
What were they doing out here? He quickly made his way toward the beta. “Mr. Elias, Why haven’t you gone in yet?” Harold demanded furiously.
He saw the moment the other Sentinel realized he was an Alpha; he stopped short for a moment, obviously shocked, but to his credit he didn’t allow himself to become distracted. Elias quickly refocused on the matter at hand. Harold knew there would be many questions. If he were lucky, John would be the one who had to answer them.
Elias completely ignored Fusco and addressed Harold. “The first team on the scene tried to go in and get him, despite not being a rescue team. When they got close, Stanton attacked them and empathically took out two of the guides instantly. They dropped to the floor, out cold as soon as they came into contact with her. As a result, she also incapacitated their sentinels. They almost went feral when their guides went down.”
Elias looked as angry as Harold felt. It radiated off him in waves. “Despite the urgency of the situation, I was reluctant to send anyone else in,” he admitted.
Harold nodded in acceptance. “I’m sorry, Elias. You did the right thing.”
This situation was getting worse. He had to put a stop to it. Harold was furious his people had been attacked.
“They’ll be fine. They’ve already regained consciousness. She’s not strong enough to do permanent damage, apparently. Elizabeth Burke reported Stanton is probably a level 4. Staton wants to talk to you. She promises she won’t hurt John or anyone else, if you’ll surrender to her.”
Beside him Lionel shouted, “When pigs fly!” Sasha growled menacingly.
Harold put a calming hand on his arm. “Don’t worry, Lionel. I’m not going to give her a chance to take another hostage.”
Elias looked relieved. “I’m surprised but very pleased, to hear you say that. I thought I was going to have to knock you out to keep you from going in there.”
Harold snorted in disbelief. As if he would have allowed anyone to keep him from rescuing John. Elias clearly still underestimated him, as did Ms. Stanton. She clearly had no idea of his true power. He did not have the time or patience for this. If he’d been at full strength, he’d have been able to take her down without a problem, however, in his current state, he would need help. He wasn’t going to allow this woman to spend one more moment with John than necessary, and he’d be damned if he’d negotiate with her.
“Elias, I need all available guides here now. I have an idea how we can take her down.”
Elias looked like he wanted to question the order, but there was no doubt who was in charge. One look at Harold’s face and he went to gather the other guides without a word.
“What are you planning, Alpha?” Lionel asked. There was not a hint of irony in his voice.
Harold stifled a groan. He’d never have thought he’d miss hearing the detective call him Glasses, but suddenly those seemed like the good old days.
“I could normally take her on easily, but I’m empathically exhausted right now. However, I think if I channel the power of all the guides present, I can direct it and shut her down. Hopefully without any more injuries or loss of life.”
“You’re going to channel their power, the way you did mine,” Lionel said. It wasn’t a question.
Harold nodded. “I’ve only done it with one other person, the shaman who trained me, but in theory, a group shouldn’t be much more difficult. How did you know to let me use your power by the way? It might help me show the others how to do it.”
Lionel shrugged. “It was pure instinct; my alpha was suffering and needed my help. I opened my mind to you and sort of pushed my empathic power toward you. You did the rest.”
That answer brought up some interesting possibilities. “You did it because I was your alpha, and I had need of it? Are you sure?” Harold asked seeking clarification. Could it really be that simple?
“Like I said, it was instinct but I think so.”
Harold saw the guides working their way towards him, their sentinels following protectively at their sides. It was time to shut Kara down; it was time to bring John home. She would never have the chance to hurt anyone again.
Harold woke up with a pounding headache and his mouth felt dry. What had happened? Where was he? He was so groggy. He tried to focus his eyes but everything was blurry. He closed his eyes again and groaned. Diana was lying next to him asleep. He reached out and petted her but she didn’t stir. That was strange.
“Easy there,” a voice said softly, the tone gentle. “You’ve been out for more than a day. Take it slow.”
He recognized that voice. “Will?” he croaked and tried to clear his throat. “Will,” he managed to speak more loudly.
“Yeah, Uncle Harold, it’s me. I’m so happy to see you’re finally awake. We’ve all been so worried.”
“What happened?” Harold demanded. What was going on? He was forgetting something important? What was it? His head was so fuzzy. He couldn’t make his brain work. It was terrifying. He focused on Will’s voice, it was familiar and soothing. It calmed him somewhat.
“You’ve been unconscious. You’re going to be fine. Do you know where you are?” Will asked quietly.
What? Unconscious? What had happened? Why couldn’t he remember? Will isn’t making any sense, Harold thought confused. Abruptly, his eyes felt heavy, like they were lined with lead, and he couldn’t keep them open. They slid closed against his will, and he drifted back to sleep.
When he woke again, Harold’s head was much clearer and he remembered everything that happened. Diana was nowhere to be found. Where was she?
He sat up, looked around, and realized he was in one of the unused rooms in the library; it had been cleaned out and a mini hospital set up. He was in a hospital bed, and he had all the standard equipment attached to him, including an IV. But where was John? He was absolutely certain John had been alive when Harold had rescued him on Staten Island. Why wasn’t he here with Harold? He had to be all right. It was the only thing that mattered.
The memory of what he’d done rose up even though he tried to push it away. He remembered what it had felt like to shut Kara Stanton’s mind down — to feel her emotions and thoughts abruptly stop — and shuddered. He silently prayed to a God he wasn’t even sure he believed in that he’d never have to do anything like that ever again.
Afterwards, he’d blacked out, his body finally giving in to the utter exhaustion. He’d definitely pushed too hard. His primary shield had been in shreds. It must have mended while he was unconscious, because he wasn’t getting any input at the moment.
Will entered the room. He looked relieved to see Harold awake and sitting up. “Hey, you’re awake again? Do you know where you are?”
“The Library,” Harold answered. “Where’s Diana?” he asked worried for his spirit animal.
Will smiled. “That’s good. You were pretty out of it the last couple of times you’ve been awake. Don’t worry, she’s with some of the other spirit guides. She suffered no ill effects from your little stunt. Prepare yourself for a stern lecture though.” Will sounded amused. “She’s been by your side constantly, and I thought she could use a break. Do you remember what happened to you?”
“Yes, I remember everything. I took down Kara Stanton and saved John. Where is John?”
Will ignored the question, much to Harold’s frustration. He was so tired of waiting to find out where John was. “Let me check you over, and then we’ll talk,” he said, radiating authority.
It made Harold smile. He had always been so proud of Will. Only because it was Will did Harold agree. He impatiently waited through the entire exam.
“Well, I’m glad to see you’re doing reasonably well. That was quite a stunt you pulled. You had us all worried, Uncle Harold.”
Will hesitated little too long. There was more, Harold realized. Something was very wrong. What was it Will was hiding? A horrible thought occurred to him. Surely, John couldn’t be dead. He tried not to panic. If no one would tell him, perhaps he could find out for himself. Harold tried to discretely scan Will, and found a black hole where Will’s mind should be.
His head throbbed. He ignored the pain, and anxiously reached out and tried to search for John with his mind, but all he felt was intense pain. Then he realized that beyond the pain there was nothing. The world around him seemed empty and devoid of life. He tried to read Will again, and he struggled to catch his breath, as the pain spiked. He couldn’t feel anyone. He gasped and fell back against the pillows. What the hell? Harold valiantly tried not to panic, but he felt himself beginning to lose control.
“What is going on? I can’t feel you. I can’t feel John.” He felt the panic he’d been fighting off take hold. Cutting himself off deliberately was one thing, but this was something else. His empathic abilities had disappeared. He felt empty, like a vital part of had been ripped away.
“What’s wrong with me?” he demanded, His voice sounded harsh in his own ears. He could hear his desperation leaking out.
Will sighed. “Your empathic pathways are damaged. Don’t worry, you’ll recover. You’ve already healed some, believe it or not,” he said in his most reassuring tone. The one every doctor perfected.
Harold took several deep breaths. He was hanging by a thread but he knew he had to stay calm. “How did this happen?” he asked impatiently. He needed answers now.
Will scoffed. “How? Let me explain it to you. Despite the fact that you were already exhausted, you decided to take on a corrupted, unstable guide. You channeled massive amounts of power through your already taxed empathic pathways. You are stupidly lucky you didn’t fry your brain permanently!” he barked, voice echoing unpleasantly in his head.
“Ow, please don’t yell.” Harold rubbed his temples. He stifled the urge to roll his eyes, surely that was overstating the case a bit. He’d known what he was doing. He dismissed that for now. Will said he was recovering, and that was good enough for the moment. He wanted to know where his sentinel was.
Then he remembered. “Are the other guides all right?” he asked concerned. Had he hurt them? His stomach twisted.
Will nodded. “They’re fine. They were tired but suffered no other ill effects.” He spoke more gently.
Harold really looked at Will for the first time. He looked tired and there were bags under his eyes. His nephew was exhausted. It had clearly been a stressful time for him.
“I’m sorry, kid. I didn’t know this would happen. Please, I need to know where John is.”
Will hesitated again, clearly reluctant to speak. He looked at Harold measuring. Harold felt fear and adrenaline rush through his body. What was going on?
“Why won’t you tell me where John is?” he demanded sharply. He knew something was horribly wrong. His heart began to beat frantically, and he felt light headed. The machine next to him began to beep urgently.
Will looked at the machine in alarm. “Your heart is racing. Try to calm down. Take some slow deep breaths.”
Diana came flying into the room, calling Harold’s name. She landed on the bed rail, and Harold immediately reached out for her. He lamented that he could not feel her emotions. It had only been a short time since he’d regained their connection, but he already missed it.
“Just tell me,” Harold demanded. “Or I swear I’ll get out of this bed and find him myself,” he threatened. Nothing would stop him
Will took a deep breath. Harold could hear the worry in his tone when he spoke. “Okay. I want you to prepare yourself it isn’t good news.” He met Harold’s gaze unflinchingly. Yet he said nothing else.
Harold glared and pulled back the sheet. He began an attempt to get out of bed. Will reached out and put a hand on his arm firmly, stopping Harold’s admittedly feeble attempt at escape.
“John’s in a coma,” Will finally admitted gently. “I had one of my assistants scan him. Although, the EEG shows brain activity, Guide Watson reports receiving no input from him. Watson should have picked up some emotions at the very least. He’s shut himself down completely and no one has been able to reach him. ”
It took a moment for the words to sink in, and then Harold’s whole world came crashing down around his ears.
Harold rubbed his hands over his face in frustration. He was at his wits end. He was sitting by John’s bedside, as he done every day since they’d brought John home. They’d moved him to one of the safe houses and set up a temporary hospital. Elias had insisted on the increased security, and Harold hadn’t disagreed. John’s safety was his top priority.
Harold was finally healed. His empathic power was pretty much back to normal, which meant that even with his primary shield up, and he could still feel the emotions of everyone around him pressing down on him. He had a nearly constant headache.
Members of the pride constantly surrounded him, and he felt as if he never had a moment’s peace. He knew they hovered out of concern for both their alphas, but it was becoming more than Harold could bear. The solution was obvious, but he didn’t even consider raising even one of his secondary shields, he didn’t want to take the chance he’s miss even a flicker of emotion from John.
The only thing keeping him from going completely insane was that he had been able spend almost all his time with John. Being close to his sentinel, touching him, seeing he was still alive, gave him a lifeline, and helped keep him calm.
Harold ran his hand over John’s hair. It felt soft against his fingers. “You have to wake up, John. I need you. I was an idiot, I know. I should have told you how I felt, taken a chance, but I thought I was protecting you. I did some really idiotic and dangerous things to save you. I’ve been told repeatedly I could have died. You’d be furious. Wake up and yell at me, please.”
There was no response from John, of course. He could admit he was disappointed. Waiting was getting increasingly difficult. Oh John, Harold thought, please help me be strong. His eyes watered and he felt tears running done his cheeks.
Diana rubbed her head against his. Hers were the only emotions Harold could stand; feeling her inside his mind, was a constant source of security.
“He’ll be okay, you’ll see. You just have to have faith,” Diana whispered to him confidently.
“How can you still have so much hope, there’s been no sign of Fidelis,” Harold pointed out a bit harshly.
Diana pecked him gently in reproof. “I know he’s out there somewhere. I don’t have to see him to know it’s true. Both he and John will come back to us, I can feel it. We have to be patient, and in the meantime, we’ll take good care of him.” Harold and Diana had taken care of all of John’s needs themselves. He had turned down the offer of a nurse. It was the least he could do for their sentinel.
Harold shrugged helplessly. “I’m sorry. I know you miss them as well. I’m going to do my best to believe. I just can’t help but think I don’t deserve someone as wonderful as John. What if I’m being punished for my selfishness?”
Diana waved her wings in agitation. “Don’t you say that, ever! You are an amazing man. You’ve done so much for people. We’ve made mistakes, that’s true, but don’t we deserve to be punished. Tell me, is John being punished, too?’
“Of course not,” Harold said shocked.
Diana didn’t bother to respond she had made her point. Then she made the sound Harold recognized as a laugh.
“What?” Harold asked curiously.
“I was just thinking, if he saw us, he’d say we were using him as an excuse to hide.”
Harold laughed in surprise. ”He’d be right, of course.” He petted Diana to comfort them both.
Harold felt Lionel enter the room, and quickly wiped the tears from his eyes.
Lionel placed his hand on Harold’s shoulder, and Harold got a blast of his emotions, even through the fabric of his suit. He managed not to flinch.
“Still nothing?” Lionel asked. It wasn’t really a question
“I’m afraid not. Every time I touch his mind, I hit a brick wall. He isn’t giving off any emotions and he’s not having dreams. There’s just nothing there. The EEG continues to indicate brain activity. I can’t explain it.” Harold ran his hand over his face wearily before returning his gaze to Lionel. He knew Lionel wouldn’t disturb him if it wasn’t important.
Lionel nodded sadly. “I’m sorry to bother you, but it can’t be helped. Two things. One, the latest number came in. Carter is working it. I thought you’d want to know.”
Harold nodded, and felt a pang of guilt that he hadn’t given the Machine or the irrelevant list any thought.
“Second, Peter Burke is here and he’s requesting permission to speak with you. I tried to put him off, but he’s insisting.”
Harold didn’t really want to talk to anyone, but he’d decided to take on the role of Alpha, and he’d do his duty. It’s what John would want. “All right, let me get cleaned up. Ask him to wait.” He got up slowly ignoring the pain and stiffness in his body. He had never felt so old.
Peter Burke was waiting for him in the living room. The handsome FBI agent was a strong sentinel and a good man. Harold had always liked him. His thoughts tended to be quiet he didn’t broadcast very much; Harold had discovered that he really appreciated that about him. His barn owl, Socrates, was sitting on one of the perches Harold had installed for Diana.
“Agent Burke, what can I do for you?” He gestured for the other man to sit on the sofa, and Harold took the chair opposite, wearily sinking into it.
“I’m sorry to bother you, sir. How is Alpha Reese doing?” Burke asked with concern once they were both comfortable. Burke didn’t try to shake his hand and he got right down to business, two other very good traits as far as Harold was concerned.
“He is still the same, unfortunately. There’s been no improvement since he started breathing on his own. I really have no explanation, no one does, but I suspect you already knew that, Agent Burke.”
Burke smiled. “Yes, sir. I’m sorry to hear there’s been no improvement. I know you must be tired, Guide Finch, so I’ll get right to the point,” Burke said, forthright as always. The man was nothing if not efficient.
“I’m here to talk to you about Alpha Reese. I can’t continue to hide his condition from the S and G center for much longer. Given Reese’s already long absence, the head of the New York Center is starting to get suspicious. It won’t be long before we have the government crawling all over us.”
Harold heaved a sigh. He knew Burke was right. An alpha almost never left his territory for more than a week; John’s absence was going to draw attention very soon. Sentinels and guides weren’t slaves, but their movements were watched closely by the government.
“If the center finds out his condition, they’ll take him into protective custody. I won’t allow it,” Harold said firmly. He ignored the fear that roiled in his gut at the thought. “We both know they’ll never accept Carl Elias as the city’s alpha. They’ll try to install someone loyal to them. That would be bad for everyone.”
The government had already taken too much from John. Harold would not allow them the chance to ever do it again. He’d take John out of the country if it came down to it. He began making plans.
Burke nodded, seemingly oblivious to the direction of Harold’s thoughts, but Harold wasn’t fooled. Burke had caught the spike in his heartbeat, he was sure.
“That’s true. But with all due respect, sir, you may not have a choice. There’s no denying the government likes to keep us on as short a leash as possible. If they’ve discovered we’ve been lying to them, there will be consequences. My first loyalty is to my alphas, and the pride. But I have to work within the system or I’ll be no good to any of us. I have to do what’s right for the entire pride.”
Harold understood that the politics of this situation had to be handled carefully. “I don’t doubt your loyalty, Peter. What would you suggest as the best course of action?”
“Beta Elias and I have talked, and I think we’ve come up with a cover story the center will buy. I can give you 24 maybe 48 hours more, but that’s stretching it. If he wakes up by then, problem solved, if not I’ll have to take him in.”
“I appreciate you letting me know, Peter, and giving me a couple more days. I know you have to walk a very fine line. I promise to remand John into your custody in two days if necessary,” Harold lied easily.
Peter raised his eyebrow and it was the only indication he’d caught the lie but he didn’t comment on it. “I appreciate that, sir,” he said blandly.
Once Peter had left, Harold allowed Lionel to force him to eat something. He knew he had to keep up his strength. He suspected he’d have to get used to the other guide mothering him. Fusco seemed to think of himself as Harold’s protector, and he didn’t have the heart to put a stop to it. Then he took up his vigil by John’s bedside once again.
“I won’t let them take you from me,” he promised. “John,” he whispered, “please come back to me soon. I can’t do this alone. I’m so afraid.” One way or another, they were running out of time. When the tears came, he allowed them to fall.
Time ticked away in the back of Harold’s mind as he waited for their lives to implode. He hadn’t wasted any times making plans for his and John’s departure. He felt terrible for abandoning the pride, but John was his first priority. He couldn’t allow John to spend the rest of whatever time he had left in the government’s clutches. What’s worse, as they weren’t officially bonded yet, they wouldn’t even allow Harold to go with him. John would disappear down a dark hole, and while Harold had no doubt he could find him again, it was best to avoid the situation altogether.
“What do you think, John?” he murmured to his sentinel as he finished shaving him. “I’ve always loved Italy, and I have an alias that has Italian citizenship.”
“You’re leaving aren’t you?” said a voice evenly from behind him, and Harold jumped startled. He belatedly realized that Will had entered the room; he’d been so preoccupied that he’d pushed the emotional feedback from Will into the background. He set the razor on the nightstand by the bed.
Will had noticed. “You didn’t realize I was here,” he said surprised. “Did you raise another shield?”
Harold shook his head. “No, I sensed you, but I must have subconsciously recognized you, and ignored your emotions. I’ve never been able to do that before.”
“That’s fascinating. You might be growing accustomed to the constant emotional feedback. Similar to when people stop hearing familiar noises or go nose blind to constant smells. Or it might be some sort of defense mechanism. Human beings are remarkably adaptable.” He sounded intrigued and excited.
Harold did not like the look in Will’s eyes. He saw where this was going. “Stop looking at me like I’m some sort of shiny new toy, kid. Whatever you have brewing in that mind of yours, the answer is no,” Harold said decisively.
“Oh come on, Uncle Harold. We’ll have plenty of time to kill when we get wherever we’re going. Just a few tests couldn’t hurt,” Will said in a teasing tone.
Harold felt a pang of alarm. “What are you talking about? You have a life here, you aren’t going anywhere. I won’t let you ruin your life for us.”
“There’s no way you’re turning John over to the center, and there’s no way I’m abandoning my patient. So I am going with you, end of story, old man. Besides you’re the only family I have left. ” Harold could feel the strength of Will’s resolve. He would not be turned from this path easily.
Harold’s heart swelled with affection. Will had grown into such a good man. He wanted to decline, but he knew he shouldn’t dismiss the offer out of hand. It would be helpful to have someone he trusted along. With the help, they might be able to make this work.
“Thank you, Will. I’ll agree, but with a couple of conditions. First off, it isn’t forever. You’ll take a leave of absence. We can make it look like you’ve gone back to work for Doctors Without Borders in some remote area, preferably one without reliable cell or Internet service. You need to stay safe.” He let Will feel his own determination to keep him out of danger.
Will looked startled, but he quickly regained his equilibrium and began to speak, but Harold held up his hand.
“One last thing, I pay you a very good salary for your services.”
Will shook his head. “I can’t let you do that,” he protested.
“It’s non-negotiable. If you’re going to be taking are of John, I’ll pay you what you deserve. I don’t want you to suffer in any way for my mistakes. Take it or leave it.”
Will looked disgruntled but nodded. “I’m not happy about it, but I guess I don’t have much choice. I’ll get ready to go into hiding,” Will said lightly.
“Good. We leave in about 36 hours. Will? I’m so proud of you, and your father would be, too.” Harold felt tears burning in his eyes. He squeezed them shut for a moment. When he had himself under control, he looked at Will.
Will was the first to reach out, and Harold accepted the hug. He was pleased when the rush of Will’s emotions was easier to tolerate. Perhaps he was adapting? If so, it would be a huge relief. It was an unexpected but welcome surprise to realize his body was adjusting to his abilities.
Will turned to go but his words were echoing in Harold’s mind. “Going into hiding” he’d said. Diana had mentioned them hiding too. Harold felt a twinge of guide intuition, and his gut twitched. It let him know he was on the right track. There was something there if only he could grasp it. His usually lighting quick mind was slow from exhaustion and stress.
Finally it clicked. What if John was hiding?
Harold had been such an idiot, how could he not have seen?
“Will!” he shouted. “Come here!”
Will came back and stood in the doorway, eyebrow raised in inquiry.
“He’s hiding,” Harold said urgently.
“What?” Will asked, clearly confused and somewhat alarmed. “Do you feel sick? Are you in pain?” he demanded hurriedly.
Harold shook his head forcefully. He could feel himself almost vibrating with impatience and excitement. He was going to get his Sentinel back!
“Think about it… he was alone and vulnerable. He had a corrupt guide tried to force a bond on him. That bitch tried to rape his mind, so John did the only thing he could, he shut himself down and protected his mind. He erected a wall around it, and he’s hiding.”
That might explain why Fidelis had disappeared as well. Neither of them could spare the energy for Fidelis to manifest himself. It was a good a theory as any. I’m so sorry, John, he thought. I should have seen.
Will seemed amused. “I’ve never heard you swear before, Uncle Harold. I think I like it.”
Harold glared at him. It was not the time for jests. John was still waiting for him, and Harold was unforgivably late.
“Ok, sorry.” Will looked suitably contrite. “I’ve never heard of a sentinel doing that, but let’s say for the moment that you’re right. He’s safe now, so why hasn’t he woken up,” Will asked in a more serious tone.
The answer was obvious to Harold. “He doesn’t know he’s safe. He doesn’t realize it’s time to come home.” Harold’s voice broke and the guilt he felt threatened to overwhelm him. He had let his sentinel down, again.
Diana came flying in from the living room where Harold had sent her to spend some time with Sasha and a few of the other animals.
“Harold, what’s wrong? I can feel it’s something about John and Fidelis.” she asked urgently. The downside of their resurgent connection, Harold reflected, was that absolutely nothing ever got past her.
Harold filled her in, and she flapped her wings in excitement.
“We have to go get him. Let them know it’s safe right now. He must be so scared.” Even if he couldn’t show himself, Fidelis would never abandon John. He would be watching him form the spirit plane, no doubt.
“Wait a minute, go in to get them? How are you going to do that? You just almost died!” Will sounded frantic.
Harold sent out calming waves. “I know you’re worried and that you want to protect me, but you’re a mundane. You can’t really understand what this means to me. I have to try, I don’t have a choice. Asking me not to do this is like asking me to stop breathing or to cut off my arm.”
Will visibly flinched. Not being a sentinel or guide had always bothered him. He’d wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I’m sorry,” Harold said. He hadn’t meant to hurt Will’s feelings. “I was just making a point.”
“Do you even know what you have to do?” Will asked quietly.
“I’m not technically a shaman, but given my raw power, I’ve received a lot of the same training. I witnessed my teacher enter a traumatized man’s mind. He was in a catatonic state, and my teacher was able to bring him back. He explained the process to me. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It also scared me to death.”
He felt Will’s rising sympathy and awe. “Uncle Harold. I’ve never heard of a guide doing something like that. I don’t really know what to say.”
Harold sighed. “I’ve never wanted this kind of power, and I’ve been running from it for a long time. This is only the second time it has ever seemed like a blessing, and I’m going to use it. End of discussion,” he said with absolute certainty. He would let no one stop him.
Unfortunately it wasn’t the end. Will, never one to give in, called in backup. As a result, Harold spent a precious hour arguing with Lionel and Elias. It was surreal to see the two men fighting on the same side for once. I’m so glad I could bring them together, Harold thought sarcastically. They understood his need to save his sentinel, but they were determined to keep Harold safe. It was incredibly annoying.
Harold remained implacable in his resolve. When the argument began to dissolve into a shouting match, he finally lost his patience. “I let you have your say out of respect, but enough is enough. This is happening. Do what you need to do to satisfy yourselves I’ll be safe, but I am doing this, nothing any of you say will stop me.”
No one looked happy, but they agreed, and Harold left to prepare. He went to sleep for six precious hours because he needed to be well rested and have his mind clear. Then he ate a light meal, and meditated. He’d forgotten how much easier it was with his connection to Diana open and healthy. She helped him find his center far more quickly than he’d been able to in the past.
He consented to allowing Fusco and Elizabeth Burke to monitor him, and finally he was ready. This time he was bringing John home for good, or he’d die trying.
“We can do this,” Diana whispered for his ears alone. “Remember to have faith.”
Harold nodded. He would try. They’d decided Diana would be staying behind if possible. He wasn’t sure if he’d drag her in with him. “If you aren’t there with me, I promise I’ll bring John back to us.”
He lay down next to John on the bed, and placed his hand against the side of his head. He felt out with is empathy and reached for John’s mind. He hit the wall as he’d done so many times before, but this time he didn’t turn away. He focused on projecting himself into John’s mind, just as he would when he was entering the spirit plane. He pushed his astral self along the bridge his empathy had created between them. He slid into John’s mind with surprising ease, almost as if John sensed Harold meant him no harm. The thought eased a bit of Harold’s guilt and renewed his hope this would work. He had to trust John.
He opened his eyes and found himself face to face with a brick wall. It represented the barrier John had erected around his mind. Harold new a lot of what he’d see and hear on the other side would be symbolic; there might be obstacles he’d have to overcome, but he was determined. He hoped that John would ease his way through once he realized it was Harold trying to find him and not Kara Stanton.
He looked at the wall; it appeared solid. It also seemed to go on for miles in both directions. Acting on instinct, he touched the wall and projected feelings of safety. He let John feel all his love, and how much Harold missed him, needed him. After several moments, he felt something give way in John’s mind. He pushed harder, and in response, the wall in front of him seemed to shimmer, and then the part of disappeared completely.
Harold wasn’t really all that surprised. He moved through the wall and found himself standing on a city street. Harold recognized the location immediately and smiled. Of course, John would hide in New York. It was his territory, his city to protect, and no one loved New York City more than John.
Harold realized he was only a few blocks from the library; could it really be that simple? He tried not to think about what it meant that John’s safe place was the library. He couldn’t become distracted. There was always the danger of losing his way. Harold took a deep breath. He had to focus on the task at hand. He turned down the street, walking toward the library.
Suddenly, there was a large White Siberian tiger standing in his path. The animal was majestic in its beauty but it was currently growling and showing off its big teeth. Fidelis! Despite his less than warm welcome, Harold was overjoyed to see John’s spirit animal.
“Fidelis,” he said softly, “it’s Harold. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m here to find John.”
Fidelis didn’t answer, and instead he growled like his true animal counterpart might. Ah just a representation of John then. A protector of sorts, Harold thought, more than a little disappointed. Would they ever see Fidelis again? Had he been damaged somehow? Harold forced himself not to think the worst. There was no time to become distracted, he needed to focus.
He needed to find a way to make it past; he reached out and slowly held out his hands projecting as much positive emotion as he could. As he did so, the animal stopped growling and stared at him curiously. Then he sniffed him, and abruptly relaxed. The tiger reached out with his big tongue and licked Harold’s face. Harold grimaced — and he’d swear the animal was laughing at him — then in a flash of light, he disappeared leaving Harold free to continue on.
He wondered if there would be any more obstacles. He didn’t meet any as he came to the library exactly where he’d expected it to be. He entered cautiously, and as he turned to head toward where his computer and library should be, he heard the sound of a gun clicking and came face to face with John, who was pointing a gun straight at Harold’s heart.
John was wearing one of his suits, and he looked pale and tired. His face was bruised. A person’s mental projection was usually the best version of themselves; that John appeared like this said a lot about how he’d been feeling while he was being held captive.
“John, stop, please it’s me Harold.” He stayed perfectly still, and tried to will John to see the truth.
John growled, and Harold got a blast of anger. “I don’t know how you finally got in here, but I’ll kill you for daring to use his face. I won’t let you trick me.” He smiled menacingly.
“John, it’s me. I’m real. Please, love, you don’t want to hurt me. Kara is gone. I put her down myself; she’ll never hurt you again,” Harold begged, all the while, cursing his little slip. John wasn’t ready to hear terms of endearment from him. He didn’t try to force John to calm down; he didn’t want to use his gifts without permission.
John frowned and gazed at him intently. “You do smell like him, old books and ridiculously expensive aftershave. His scent is right. How are you doing that?” he asked curiously.
Before Harold could decide on an answer, John’s eyes turned cold. “But you made a mistake,” he said triumphantly. “Harold would never call me love. I know you aren’t real.”
Harold made a pained sound. How would John ever forgive him? “John, I swear to you, I speak the truth. I promised I’d always tell you the truth remember?” Harold pleaded. He willed John to see his sincerity.
“I’m not sure I believe you. Prove to me it’s really you. If you can’t, I’ll shoot you. I told Kara I’d rather be dead than bond with her, and I meant it.”
“All right,” Harold agreed easily. “Ask me something only the real me would know the answer to. Something Kara couldn’t possibly know,” he said eager to prove he spoke the truth. He longed to get closer to John.
Harold could see John beginning to waver, he wanted to believe. Still his aim was steady. The mix of disbelief and hope he felt form John was intense. He hated that John was so conflicted.
“When we were sitting on the bench, shortly after we met, you remember?” John asked in a measured tone. He was carefully not to let any of his emotions color his voice. Always so cautious and careful, his John. Harold’s heart felt like it would burst with the swell of love the thought provoked.
Harold nodded. Everything about that day was engraved into his mind.
“I asked you, ‘What would happen if I stayed?’ What did you say?” John asked. The gun in his hand never wavered.
“I told you we’d both probably wind up dead. For real this time. I promised you the truth, although I haven’t always kept that promise. For that I am so so sorry, John. I’m asking you to trust me again now.” Harold met John’s gaze unafraid.
John looked shocked, and then his face crumpled. Harold was shocked to see tears in his eyes. John never cried. “Harold–” his voice broke. “It’s really you.
“It’s really you,” he repeated.
Harold felt relief and wonder exploding from John Harold’s heart broke in response. They had both suffered so much because of Harold’s cowardice.
John put down the gun and pulled Harold into a rib-crushing hug. It should have hurt but it didn’t. Harold joyfully hugged him back.
He pulled back and stroked Harold’s cheek. Then John seemed to come back to himself, and abruptly pulled back. “I’m sorry, Harold; I know you aren’t interested in bonding with me.”
He tried to pull away completely, but Harold did not let go.
“No, I’m sorry, John. I’ve made so many mistakes when it comes to us. I’ve deprived us both of something so important and fundamental to us. When I thought I’d lost you, I realized I’d had a thousand regrets, and I promised myself if you returned to me I’d try to make it right.” He tried to let his sincerity show.
John smiled indulgently, and laid a finger on Harold’s lips. “It has to be you. No one else can talk so much. What are you saying, Harold?” he asked teasingly. “In plain English this time.”
He could feel John’s amusement. Harold snorted mildly offended. It wasn’t his fault John was terse at the best of times. The man could be entirely impossible.
“You are impossible. You know exactly what I’m talking about,” Harold huffed. “However, just so there aren’t any misunderstandings, I have something important to tell you.” Harold took a deep breath. “John Reese, I’d be honored if you’d consent to bond with me. I understand you might need some time to accept me, after everything you’ve been through, but I’m willing to wait until you feel comfortable,” Harold said earnestly. He would wait forever if necessary.
John laughed big and open. Harold could feel any lingering doubt John possessed melt away into joy. “You’ll give me time, will you? What she did was horrible, but it’s because of you that I was able to fight her off. My mind recoiled from her touch because it wasn’t yours.”
Harold was startled to realize the emotion he was now feeling from John was love. Love so strong it humbled him and rocked him to his very core. He opened his shield and let John feel the strength of his love in return.
John gasped and rocked backward as if surprised, and then tightened his hold on Harold. He buried his face in Harold’s shoulder, clearly trying to get ahold of his feelings. “I never thought anyone would feel this way about me,” he murmured. Harold could feel his awe. “You are amazing, Harold. I don’t deserve you.”
“Really?” he asked incredulously. “That’s utter bullshit and you know it,” he said as anger flashed through his heart. It was all he could think to say to John’s ridiculous statement. His voice trembled slightly. “Don’t be an idiot, John Reese. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we absolutely deserve each other.”
John laughed. “I’m a bad influence on you, Harold. I think I like it,” John said and he cupped Harold’s cheek with is palm. “Each other huh?” he whispered tenderly. “I like the sound of that.”
Their gazes locked. “Harold, you had me from the moment you told me I needed a purpose. Well actually, from the moment your bodyguards kidnapped me. You don’t think I could have gotten away? They were mundane and no match for me, even in my weakened state. The truth is I smelled you on them and I was intrigued by your scent, and I knew I had to meet you. The moment I saw you I knew you were my guide.”
Harold sighed. “Of course you did. Why didn’t you say anything? I always assumed you didn’t want me.”
John smiled sadly. “Oh I wanted you, Harold, so much, but I didn’t think I was worthy of you. I have done so many terrible things, and when I realized you never used your guide gifts, I knew you wouldn’t want to run the city with me. I didn’t want to force you. I never dared to hope that you’d want me back.”
Harold laughed softly. “Oh god, John, we are both such idiots. I want to have everything with you. Please.”
John smiled brightly, and he radiated happiness and love. It was almost a living thing. Harold was sure it matched his own. “I’m going to hold you to that, Harold. And to answer your question, I want nothing more than to bond with you and spend every day by your side.”
Harold nodded, too overcome to speak. After all, it wasn’t every day a man got everything he wanted. He took John’s had in his. He wanted to touch John forever; he could feel the impulse was mutual.
Once he trusted his voice, he said, “Let’s go home. Everyone’s waiting for us. We have time to figure everything out.”
John nodded, but he looked uncertain. “I’m not sure what to do,” he admitted.
Harold lifted their joined hands and kissed John’s knuckles. “Just let go, imagine all this fading away. Don’t be afraid. I’ll guide us out.”
John closed his eyes and everything around them began to fade away.
Harold slowly opened his eyes. He looked up, and met John’s blue eyed gaze.
“Guide,” John said quietly. His voice was hoarse from disuse, but it was the most beautiful sound Harold had ever heard.
“Sentinel,” he responded, as their emotions surrounded them. He thought his heart would burst from their combined happiness and love. Harold had never felt so content. John’s warmth seeped into Harold’s body and he finally relaxed. He reached out and touched John’s face tenderly. John pulled him closer, and Harold felt him take several deep breaths. Harold recognized that John was grounding himself with Harold’s scent.
He leaned over and their lips met. It was a gentle kiss but full of promise, the promise of much more to come. It was just what they both needed. There would be time later for passion, once John was healed. There were a lot of things they needed to figure out, but lying in his sentinel’s arms, everything was finally right in Harold’s world. Whatever came next they would face it together.
The moment was broken when a large white tiger pounced onto the bed with a joyous roar, followed closely by a red-tailed hawk. Harold found he didn’t mind. The truth was, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
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