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Sentinel Evolutions

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Sentinel Evolutions

by Royslady51, Scribe, Tequila Sarcasm and Kata

This started out as the round robin version of a food fight and just sorta.grew.
This is where things turn crazy. We put several ladies, including the Famous Scribe) together to keep us all from falling into the pitfalls of MarySuedom.and marysued the hell out of a LOT of fandoms. Basically, if we needed a set of skills, we dragooned the character into the fic. These are archived in the WWOMB, btw, but I wanted them here, too.
This story is a sequel to: Squealers

Titles: Raspberries, Blastberries, Squealers, and Sentinel Evolutions Authors: By Roy's Lady 51, Scribe, Tequila Sarcasm and Kata (so far). Series/Sequels: OHHHHHHHH YEAH, how'd you guess? Archive: Yes
Warning 1: Some: Bathroom Humor/Slash/Threesomes/AU/OX/MarySue WARNING 2: Note that ALL posts in the series should be considered to be potentially hazardous to your health. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK! If you choose to read anyway, please remove all choking hazards, liquids, and small furry pets from your area, and put the sort of padded mats that gymnasts use around your seat. If you ignore these safety warnings and choke, or spew on your monitor, or fall out of your chair and hurt yourself, that's your fault. Warning 3: This title page will be periodically updated and will serve for all posts in the series. Trios: Jim/Blair/Scribe, John/Roy/Jane, Megan/Marco/Mike, Steph/ Peja/Rafe/Chet, Simon/H./Kata, Benton/Stanley/Dennis. Fandom: The Sentinel/Emergency!/Due South/Just Shoot Me/Harry Potter/Star Trek: TNG/Star Wars: TPM Crossover Summary: WE don't think so! *We dumped THAT job on PEJA! Disclaimer: WE ain't made no dough on it, nor any money, either. However, if you think you want to stand up in court, in PUBLIC, and be told THERE that S.S.I., Food stamps, AND Medicaid are all federal programs of which the benefits are Non-Transferable, and thereby make a total ass out of not only yourself but your legal department, AND the board of directors... be my guest. This is something I'd LOVE to get to watch! (I'm equally certain that any cops in or near the courtroom would be equally entertained!)

Sentinel Evolutions
By Roy's Lady 51, Scribe, Tequila Sarcasm and Kata (so far) "Are you all right, lady?" H. asked an older woman, who had a distinctly greenish cast to her face and throat. She was gray-haired, and looked very queasy. "I think I hit my head," she answered, swaying dizzily. "I'm not supposed to be in here, I'm supposed to be out there--writing. You're H, aren't you? Moreover, there's Simon Banks. Oh SHIT! I am in SO much trouble! She's GOT me! She sucked me up, chewed me up, and spat me out in the Sandburg Zone while he's in the middle of a Fart War with Ellison! OH CRAP!" "What's your name, ma'am?"
"Uh, yeah. Right. I think you'd better come with me." H. stared at her, knowing the truth when he heard it. "I think I'll just drop you off at the loft, and let Blair handle this."

H. had left the loft with its shell-shocked new female while she was still being eyed eagerly by Blair. Jim had his nose dialed down since his Guide was still spitting out the occasional squealer. Unfortunately, this woman, this Scribe, didn't have that luxury. She spotted a bag of charcoal and before Jim could react, had shoved one of the larger broken bits into Blair's mouth. The surprised young man swallowed without thinking about it, and stopped Jim before the Sentinel could tie the woman into a human pretzel.
Thoughtfully, Jim looked at her. "Well, maybe you're right. Charcoal IS a known cure for gas... but don't EVER do that again--at least not when I'm within arm's reach of you."
"It wasn't MY fault. SHE made me do it--I KNOW what you are, and I know all about the Blessed Protectoring thing. I know better than to piss you off over Blair. Anything else, I don't really care, though. After all, I'm one of the writers who GAVE him to you. The thing is, I can't get out of here until SHE allows it, not even if I write myself out of it, since she'll just put me right back in here. I guess I sorta accidentally volunteered."
"First rule in the Army: Never, ever, volunteer, for anything, lady," Jim chided. "I think you're about to find out why, too--since it's MY turn to nail Blair... although I think I'll wait until he isn't quite as alert for it."
She stared at him in amusement for a moment, then turned her eyes to the watchful ones belonging to Blair Sandburg. He tried to hide behind an innocent smile, but she snorted. "Don't even try. I know both of you far too well for that to work. Does he actually think you going to miss anything important?" she asked in disbelief.
"I've been known to."
"You are a bright, caring, lovable young man. There are an awful lot of us writers out there who know both of you better than you know each other. Every time you two screw up, we correct the matter." Scribe wasn't entirely stupid so she didn't tell mention that she and her fellow writers also 'caused' the 'screw-ups', and hoped like hell that Jim, at least, never found that out.

Blair (temporarily on hold in his methane production, which proves that prayers ARE answered, and a natural disaster CAN bring about a religious revival) was sitting on the couch with Jim. Jim was watching a Jags game--Blair was watching the door to his room.
Jim didn't turn away from the television set, but said, "All right, Darwin, what's the matter? Why are you staring at that door like you expect David Lash to come busting out, with Garrett Kincaid hot on his heels?"
Blair gave him a disbelieving look. "Jim, I thought I explained to you just who that is."
"You said a fanfiction writer."
"So what? She writes articles about conventions, speculates on how the hell they managed to do up those Star Trek uniforms without zippers, tries to get phone interviews with supporting cast members..."
Blair was shaking his head. "You weren't LISTENING! I said 'fanFICTION' writer, not 'FAN' ! writer. There's a big difference."
Jim cursed when someone missed a three pointer. "Yeah? How so?"
Blair rolled his eyes. "A Fan writer does the stuff you listed. A fanFICTION writer writes..." He took a deep breath. "Jim, you know the Greek myths about the Fates? The three women who spun the thread of each human life, wove the pattern of it's existence, and cut it off at the appointed time?"
"Multiply them by several hundred thousand, give them access to alcohol, drive them insane, wait till they're horny, then turn them loose on keyboards to create The Universe As We Know It."
Jim stared. "You're kidding."
"Fanfiction is NOT a joke..." Blair paused, smiling. "Well, except some scattered cases. I still love the MarySue where we lure Scribe in with a Pop Tart, then jump her." He sighed. "Whipped cream."
Jim was looking interested now. "Tell me more about this."

Giggling could be heard coming from Sandburg's bedroom. A little later Scribe emerged. She was looking smug, and was wearing a set of Jim's sweats. "Hi. Hope you don't mind my borrowing the duds, and if you do--tough. Mine now qualify as a biohazard, and I bagged them. You now need another box of trash bags."
Jim looked confused. "I just bought a fifty count box yesterday." She looked at him. "Right--layers." Pause. "How much did you have to roll those cuffs up, anyway?"
She looked down. "About a half foot, I think. If I let my arms dangle, it looks like I'm wearing an unbuckled straight jacket. It played hell with my typing, let me tell you."
Blair looked apprehensive. "You didn't, like, curse my laptop, did you?"
"Perish the thought. It would go against my code of honor to sabotage anyone else's lifeline. Well, except maybe Bill Gates, but my mother would disapprove. Speaking of which, I TRIED to reconcile myself to this hair color. I DID have a dye job in the late eighties that was, um, ALMOST sparkly. At least that's what my Mom said. Actually, there was some mention of Bozo the Clown, but I forgave her for that. When am I going to get back to my normal color? I only have a couple of strands of gray right now, but if things keep going like this, they'll multiply like plot bunnies."
"I called the chem lab. They're working on it."
"How do you get them to do all this stuff for you, anyway? You're too perpetually broke to bribe them." Her eyes narrowed. "With money, anyway." Jim looked at Blair. Blair whistled. "I checked your bookmarks." She grinned and shook her finger. "Naughty, naughty."
Jim looked even more interested. "What are they?"
"Don't you know? You use the laptop occasionally."
"I just play fantasy sports."
snort "Figures."
Jim shrugged. "Anyway, Blair has been explaining fanfiction to me."
"And do you understand it?"
"I'm getting a grasp. He said that you aren't entirely unfamiliar with what's happening to you."
She sighed. "Not entirely. However, in the Proverb Series I was trapped in my own MarySue Universe. Here, I'm trapped in SOMEONE ELSE'S fanfiction universe--someone I seriously suspect of being deranged." She winced. "And I'm probably going to catch it for that."
"But what's the difference?" Jim asked.
She thought. "Sort of the difference between lucid dreaming and having night terrors."
"Sad." Jim and Blair exchanged looks, then got up and sidled toward her. "So, all that nice personalized porn Blair has been giving me has been downloaded off the net?" She smirked. "And you wrote a good bit of it?"
She noticed that they had split up, and now one was approaching from each side. "Kind-a."
"Come, come," Blair purred. "Don't be so indecisive. Three series and at least two dozen stand alones or sequels, ninety percent of which are graphic..." he was leaning toward her, his voice dropping. Her eyes got wider, "hard core..." She stared backing away, "N--C--17."
She was so busy worrying about the Guide that she made a very basic mistake--she forgot about the Sentinel... and backed right into him. It felt like hitting a slightly padded, heated brick wall. She turned with an 'Eep!'"
Jim smiled down at her. "Hi."
She thought of jaguars.
She gulped. "Are you two sure you want to do this? I'd HATE to have to sort out unanticipated angst later. Not that I'd really have a choice, since she used the opportunity to slide in another damned rabbit," she muttered.
"We're sure. You're one of the few people on Earth who really, REALLY understand us--ME," Jim told her softly. "And who won't freak out."
"Especially since you just may be in here with us for a while." Blair commented as he gently moved the neon hair away from the left side of the stranded writer's neck. "Times like this, it's nice to be bi," he stated as his full lips nibbled a trail along the woman's jaw.
"You got that right. Besides, as much as she's tortured US, it's time for a little payback." He was rapidly stripping the dazed woman right down to her birthday suit. "We'll let you get a nut, eventually, but first you're gonna sweat some," Jim told her as he sank to his knees to put his mouth at pussy level. "Amazing. The hair here is a bright, neon BLUE."
Jim licked her then, and deliberately allowed himself to Zone on her flavor. He knew damned well he'd fight his Guide on this issue. He wanted to drive her insane... why not? THEY were, thanks in part, to Scribe herself....
Scribe looked down at Jim, who was quite still. "Um... Okay, granted I'm still a physical virgin, but I'm not ignorant (rah, rah Internet!), and I believe there's supposed to be more activity than this."
Blair, who had his face buried against her throat, attempting to give her a whisker burn, looked up, then sighed. "Damn it--he zoned! I TOLD him not to concentrate too hard."
"This is either a huge compliment, or a great insult. I don't know which."
"Compliment--trust me. Crap. Now I have to bring him out of it. That puts a kink in things."
"Well, if you'll help me pry his hands off my ass, I'll get out of the way."
After a bit of straining and grunting, Scribe managed to step away from Jim, rubbing at a couple of faint bruises on her hips. "Damn, the man must be great for opening pickle jars. What a grip! And I think it's sweet of you to want to wait till he's back in action."
"What sweet? Do you have any idea what he'll do to me if I proceed without him?"
Scribe, very familiar with 'Blair's Been Naughty' fiction, winced. "Um, yeah." She glanced down. Jim's head had been blocking her view, and she'd been... distracted before. Now she gave a banshee shriek. "~BLUE?!~"
Blair looked again. "Wow! Cooool. Nevertheless, the rug doesn't match the drapes now. I wonder how...? I don't think that the soap's chemical make-up would have been different enough from the shampoo to cause THAT drastic a difference. Did you use any other product?" She stared at him. "Oh, c'mon! This is no time to be shy, unless you want to go through the rest of your life with short-and-curlies that glow under black light."
"Oddly enough, I don't anticipate encountering that situation much in my life. But if you must know..." She cleared her throat, then whispered.
"What?" She whispered again. "HE'S the Sentinel, sweetheart. Speak up, 'cause my hearing could be better. Just remember how loud I was playing my music in Switchman."
She rubbed a toe on the floor. "Deodorant."
Blair's grin widened. "What?"
"Honest, I figured it would be safe for him, if you had it in there. I had no idea it would kick him over the edge."
Blair shook his head, kneeling beside Jim to start talking him out of the zone. "That deodorant generally IS safe. Nope, it was you."
Her forehead puckered. "Are you SURE that's a compliment."
"Shut up and let me concentrate, or I'll risk his wrath by tackling you myself. You really don't want to see me get screwed into oblivion because I couldn't wait, do you?" Silence. "Don't answer that question."
Scribe's nature surfaced at Sandburg's nervousness. He shivered at the unholy grin on her face. "You know good and damned well that there is NO way he'd ever harm you, so don't try THAT as an excuse. Tell you what--I'll use my mouth on him, while you show me what the 'fuss' is all about. Just don't do anything that'll make me swear off men, okay?"
"Um...." He hesitated. "No, I can't leave him in there. But as soon as he surfaces..."
"Deal." She smirked at him. "And remember, you just gave your word."
He winced; she would have to put it that way. "Okay," he sighed, then turned his attention to his Sentinel. Finally Jim's eyes focused, and he realized the wet suction around his cock was the woman's, not Blair's. Blair was face first between her thighs, his tongue lapping her wildly. The woman's churning hips left NO doubt of her enjoyment, while the uncontrolled sucking she was giving him left him no choice at all.
"Christ, she's eating me alive!" he gasped as he thrust into the welcoming wetness of her passion-opened throat. "This is what happens when a woman waits until she's MY age to get her cherry popped, and then gets Sandburged. Ohhhh Godddd, Blair DO something else, ANYthing else! I can't last like this!"
Blair was about to when both men heard a smothered scream of outraged denial and she swallowed Jim to the root, and even managed to wrap some of her tongue around his left nut. He howled as he past the point of no return, spewing salty semen right down her throat.
A moment later Scribe let him go, smacked her lips in lusty delight, looked up at him and said. "Delicious. Now, what ELSE do you have for me?"
Blair answered by spreading her legs, and getting into position. "This," he said softly as he gave one, fast, deep thrust. He wanted her hymen pierced with a minimum of pain for her, and that meant abrupt penetration, then holding on with iron control until Jim had a chance to bring her past the pain. He did just that, waiting with the patience and restraint that ONLY a Guide can muster.
Fifteen minutes later, when her body was responding to the light caresses and firmer touches of Jim's hands and lips, Blair began to move at last, grinning at the astounded and pleased expression on her face.
"Dear Sweet God In Heaven..." She cried out and shouted, "...if my mother ever finds out about this she's gonna lock me in my room till it's time for me to collect Social Security, but I DON'T CARE!"
Blair yelped as she grabbed and pulled. "Wow!"
"Save your breath--you need it!"
Things got very active.
"Ow!" Jim sat back, rubbing his forehead.
"Sorry, man," Blair panted, "But things are getting a little hectic here." He looked down at the now very active fanfiction author. "Crap! I KNOW you were a virgin a second ago. Where the heck are you are you getting this from?"
"Jane," she said shortly. "No, wait... it's my turn."
"You damn betcha it is!"
There was a duet of howls. "Damn," Jim said admiringly. "Simultaneous orgasms on the first try!"
Blair pillowed his head on a heaving bosom. "Why so pensive, oh recent lover?"
"You tickle, do you know that?"
He wiggled his eyebrows at Jim. "So I've been told."
"Well," she said thoughtfully, "a couple of things. First off, THANK YOU!"
"You're welcome."
"Second," she looked up at the ceiling (not too hard, considering the position she was already in). "Jane, my first time and I don't get a BED? Sure, it's Ellison and Sandburg, and I suppose the rug is nice..." She looked at Jim. "I think you're gonna have to shampoo, though." He shrugged, "But I could have at least had the freakin' futon." She sighed. "Then we have the fact that I waited this long, and the first time definitely DOES live up to and beyond my expectations." She grinned. "WAY beyond. However, this is a pretty damn high standard to start out with. Well, if I'm lucky, I can tell subsequent lovers, and they'll hurt themselves trying to clear the bar, so to speak."
Jim pushed Blair's shoulder so that he vacated his place, then hauled Scribe up to sit in his lap. "You two are a good match. You talk nearly as much as he does, and make almost as much
She raised an eyebrow. "When the heck did you get totally naked?"
"When you weren't reading. You're the one who insisted on taking a long nap before you continued this shindig. Is that all you have to snark about?" His hands stared to wander. "I have an agenda to attend to."
"One last thing." She looked up again. "Jane? There damn sure better be no unplanned pregnancies in this universe, cause I'll have you know, hon, that even while being jumped by Jim and Blair, I'D HAVE REMEMBERED THE DAMN PROTECTION." She looked at Sandburg. "I know what causes babies. I read books."
Blair, on his tummy, propped his chin in his hands and prepared to watch what a lust crazed Sentinel, overdosing on pheromones, would do with a recently de-virginized author. "Hurrah for education," he murmured.

<<Jane stares at print with arched left eyebrow, types furiously, and then she hits "Enter". HARD!>>
^ZAAAAAPPP!!!!^ Kata materializes right from thin air not three feet in front of Simon and H., right in the middle of the Bullpen, startling a yell of astonishment from both.
"God-damn it! Here's another one!" H. bellowed.
>From the speakers on Sandburg's computer, came an unknown voice. "Not making any sense, are we? Visualize an evil grin, Kata. Scribe's at the loft where she's trying to recover from...well, no doubt you read that part. Visualize an Un-Holy Grin. Wait until she sees 'you'. Visualize grin consistent with a mean little kid."

Oooh, damn, do I ache. What the HELL did I do yesterday? Scribe shifted uncomfortably, eyes still closed. Lessee... Hm, it was a typical day. Got up late, turned on the 'puter, fed the cat and dog, brought my toast and diet Coke to the computer, started checking email... Blah, blah, blah. snicker Jane's really been going great guns with that Sentinel gas passing story. Whoo, that last one was a rip. Melting artificial plants. snickertitter
"Wha's so funny?"
The voice was sleep blurred, but definitely masculine, and since she figured that the tom cat wouldn't have a voice that deep after 'the operation' (even should he learn to speak)... Eyes still closed, she reached out carefully and encountered what felt like a broad, rather hairy chest. At about that moment someone on her other side grunted and shifted, and she found herself pinned down by an arm and a leg thrown over her. Her still questing fingers encountered something cool, hard, and circular. She gave a gentle, experimental tug.
"Mmm, you can do that again, if you want to."
Her eyes snapped open. She had her fingers carded into Blair Sandburg's chest hair. That meant that the limbs currently draped over her (she now realized) naked body had to belong to Ellison. "Eep."
There was another grunt and a snort, and Jim spooned up behind her. Blair observed, "You might not guess it to look at him, but Jim is a hell of a snuggler in bed. If you'd been on your back instead of your side, you'd have probably had him as a blanket."
"Oh, geez, it wasn't a dream."
Blair smiled roguishly. "Do you often have dreams about having multiple orgasmic sex with two guys?"
"I refuse to answer on the grounds that you probably already think I'm a slut."
"I had physical proof that you aren't, if you recall."
"What now?"
"He's, um..."
"Ah, the traditional morning Ellison boner."
"It's just because he needs to pee, right?" The hand dangling before her drifted up and squeezed her breast. Jim humped. "Or maybe not."
The duet was because Jim was grumpy about suddenly losing his nice cushion, and Scribe managed to narrowly miss important bits of Blair with her knees when she scrambled over him. As she scampered downstairs she heard Blair saying, "I don't think she's a morning person, Big Guy."
"C'mere, you."
"Oof. Well, helloooo, Jim Junior..."
She slammed the bathroom door. "Why do men feel the need to NAME their private parts? I've never done that," she looked down at her breasts, "have I, girls?"
She used the facilities and brushed her teeth, making note of which toothbrush she used, because she had a sneaking suspicion that Jim would be squicky about someone else using his toothbrush, Though how he'd have the nerve after some of the places I KNOW his tongue has been... she thought, getting a robe off the back of the door and donning it. This one actually fit, so it was probably Sandburg's.
When she left the bathroom, she didn't need Sentinel hearing to catch the sounds of the headboard thumping against the wall, much less the groans and muttered words. She grinned. Would that be called vulgar endearments, or endearingly vulgar? She stepped out into the middle of the apartment, stood on tiptoe, and squinted up at the upper level. She could barely make out something rising and falling, but at that angle, there was no way of telling who or what it was. My guess would be Jim on top, but I think that if I want a chance to walk straight today, I'd better stay down here.
Her eyes widened, and she started looking around for a spirit Guide.
She looked down. "Oo, right. Last meal was a bit ago, and we HAVE had more exercise than usual, haven't we? I'd say this calls for breakfast." She turned toward the kitchen, rubbing her hands together. "And I'm feeling ambitious."

"She's raiding the refrigerator."
"Jim, she's entitled to a good meal, dontcha think?"
"You're right."
"Get back to what you were doing, man."
sniff "I just hope she leaves some orange juice."
"Jim, we have almost a half-gallon. I think it will be safe. Now, do you mind?"
"The room temperature went up. What can she be cooking? We have plenty of cold cereal, why should she cook?"
"Christ, don't get into that 'my kitchen' bullshit NOW!"
"Okay, okay."
sniiiiiiiiff "Cinnamon?"
yelp! purrrrrrr
"Hand over the Wet Naps, Darwin."
tug tug wipewipeclean
"God, I LOVE these things," Blair sighed.
"Yeah, except that you'll smell like a lemon half the day," Jim commented.
"Only to you or anyone else who will put their nose less than a foot from my crotch." Blair peered down into the apartment. "She's in the kitchen, all right." sniff "And even I can smell something interesting. Do you think...? Hey!" Jim was almost dressed already, pulling a turtleneck down over his head.
"I love you, but if you think I'm hanging around for you to dress while there's cinnamon in use in the kitchen, you're crazy." Jim hustled down the stairs and across the floor to the sounds of Guide cursing.
He stepped into the kitchen area just as a wave of heat and sweet scent rolled over him. It wasn't quite strong enough to be unpleasant. Scribe was pulling a pan of puffy roles, each with a golden-brown swirl, out of the oven, and she said, "If you goose me and make me drop these, I'm making you WEAR them."
"You're supposed to know me pretty well. Would I endanger pastry?"
She shook her head. "What was I thinking of?" She put a plate over the pan, glanced at him and said, "Pray."
She reversed the positions of plate and pan, then shook both a little, then s-l-o-w-l-y lifted the man. There was a neat circle of perfect cinnamon rolls resting on the center of the plate. "It worked! Go, me!"
"Those look..." Jim reached toward the plate.
Scribe hugged it back toward her chest. "Don't MAKE me slap you! Those look UNFINISHED, over-eager." She pointed at a small bowl containing what looked like paste.
Jim picked up the empty cardboard box sitting nest to it. "Scribe, I have no idea HOW old this powdered sugar is."
"I didn't find any expiration date, hon, and I seriously doubt it'll cause anything even approaching what you've lived through the last couple of days. Anyway, it tasted fine to me." She started slathering the icing on the rolls, and it began to melt, turning translucent. "Digger needs to get down here, pronto. They're best with a little butter melted on them, and microwave warm-ups are SO chancy."
Blair came trotting in. "I'm here! Is there any of whatever it was left?"
He leaned over Scribe's shoulder.
"Watch the hair!" she ordered. "Powdered sugar icing is NOT good for styling--though come to think of it, it might be the secret of some of those big ass hair-dos they wear in my neck of the woods."
Jim was rummaging in the cabinets. "I'll get the plates and forks. Blair, you pour the milk."
Scribe was running water in the icing bowl. "Do y'all have any Diet Coke?" They both stopped what they were doing and looked at her. "What?"
"A Coke at..." Jim started to consult his watch.
"I'm from the South, hon. There IS no such thing as too early for a Coke, but milk will do, if that's all you have."
"I think there's a pack of Kool-Aid in here left over from the last time we helped out with that kindergarten tour through the station," Blair volunteered.
Scribe made a face. "Kool-Aid in the morning? That's just weird." She deliberately ignored the looks they exchanged.
They all sat at the dining room table, munching and sipping. Jim finished a third cinnamon roll, sat back, and sighed. "You now, I hate to admit it, but this is kind of cozy."
Blair nodded. "She's funny, she knows about the Sentinel thing, she humps like a mink, and she COOKS. Can we keep her?"
Scribe sprayed milk. "DON'T SAY THAT!" She looked around furtively, giving the ceiling particular scrutiny. She hissed, "You never know WHEN she's listening. You two are liable to be stuck with me indefinitely." Jim looked thoughtful. "And get that speculative look off your face, Ellison. I have sixteen fictions in the works right now. Fan readers would hunt me down. Granted, you'd be safe from the Sentinelbabes, but the X Files and Dracula ones could be dangerous."
"We can discuss this later." Blair brushed crumbs off his hands as he stood up. "We're about the same height, and I wear some of my shirts baggy, so some of my stuff should fit you. C'mon."
She followed him up into the loft. He heard Scribe saying, "Look, much as I hate to admit it, my butt is bigger than yours, so..."
"But I bought these baggy. They should just fit you nice and tight."
grunt "Fuck. I'm telling you they won't..." zip silence "So help me, Sandburg, if you ever do that again and pinch skin I'm going to write you into a fiction with Jabba, the Hut." A little later they trooped back downstairs. Jim stared. Scribe held up her hand. "Don't say it."
Jim looked between them. "Oh, man. If it wasn't for the hair color..."
"Jim? Don't go there, okay? She's a little on edge right now."
"It's the jockey shorts," said Scribe. "I can deal with all the masculine attire cause, shoot, let's face it--women wear most of men's clothes already," she sighed. "But I don't care for the jockeys." She plucked at the seat of her pants. "They migrate."
"You could have dispensed with those--it's not like anyone would notice," said Blair.
"It's like they better damn well NOT notice," growled Jim.
Blair's eyebrows went up. "Wow, territoriality." He looked at Scribe. "I had to be with him a full month before he started growling and muttering about people leering at my ass."
"Do I HAVE to go out? Can't I just stay here and get on the net? Maybe I can get hold of Jane and talk her into getting me out of here. I can try to bribe her with ficlets."
"You're new to this world," Jim said firmly, taking hold of her arm and leading her out of the loft. "We can't leave you alone too long. Someone might grab you."
"That's so totally ridiculous," Scribe protested as she was hustled out to the truck. "I mean, what are the odds on any particular person getting kidnapped? They have to be..." She looked at Blair and trailed off. "Never mind."
Right about then the phone rang. Blair answered it. "Ellison, residence, you got Sandburg here." He listened. His eyes got big. He looked over at Scribe and Jim. "Um, Scribe? Do you know someone named Kata?"
"Only by reputation, and maybe a couple of emails. She's been involved in an online dialogue with the same maniac who popped me into this situation."
"Well... We'd better get to the bullpen, ASAP. That was H. (and why he was calling from the coffee bar, I don't know), and it seems that he and Simon got another visitor."
Jim groaned, covering his face, and Scribe patted his shoulder. "This just isn't your millennium, is it?"
Meantime at the BULLPEN--
The woman walked into the Bullpen alone, looked around, then grinned. "Ah, there you are, Kata. Scribe's on her way. I'll give you three guess as to who I am, and the first two don't count." She smiled evilly at the other woman's consternation. "Yep, that's right. With me in here, too, NONE of us can get out." Jane smiled at the horrified gasps from the men.
"You're supposed to be in the other story," Kata pointed out suspiciously. "Then again this is your fic line, so you could be..." She thought for a while. "But then Blairette would be here too, and the other Jim and Blair."
Jane smiled evilly.
"Great, two Jims arguing and two Blairs talking about alternate realities and layers of possibilities." Kata issued a quiet prayer to the patron saint of writers. "Throw in the usual CPD insanity and I'm definitely going to sit this one out." Kata buried herself in her book. Ignoring the suddenly ringing cell phones and the shouts from the hallway.
"Nope, I wouldn't do that to myself. It would be way too much of a headache. But this way, you're gonna be too distracted to try to kick me out of the other one, which, by the way, didn't work," Jane stated. "You can still tamper with it, though." She smiled evilly. "I brought some of my favorite pets along. Here's one with her babies, how do you like her? I'm going to give the Blue Merle to Blair..." She stepped back to allow Kata to see a full-grown, purebred female wolf with a litter of five cubs following their dam. The largest male had a bluish tinge to his fur, and there was no doubt as to the identity of that animal."
She looked at Jane. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"Yup, I have four wolves, and they are excellent guardians when needed. God knows Blair needs a babysitter half the time. That's the only odd cub, though. His siblings are normal wolves, and I think that little silver-tipped one likes you." Jane smiled indulgently at her friend. "He's called Surefoot, and he's yours. A gift, free and clear." Then she handed the furball to the other woman, and watched the baby wolf cuddle close to her.
"I'll give Scribe this little female," She said as she picked up a reddish one, "I think little Heart will like her. Oh, and the name is "Heart, as in Captain Planet."
"Great," Kata said less than enthusiastically. She was eyeing the cub that was wriggling in her arms. "Just put them there. And what the fuck is everyone fussing about?"
"So what? You're going and that's it!" Simon's bellow could be heard from the hallway.
"Did you- Figures." Jane was nowhere to be seen. H was trying to calm someone on the phone, on the few occasions that someone actually shut up, which was not that often. Simon burst through the double doors to the Bullpen, followed by still arguing Jim and Blair wearing his 'patient Guide' face. The odd colored female trailing behind them was actually giggling. Simon froze when he saw wolves gathered at Kata's feet.
"What. Is. That?"
"Wolves, you know, wild canines. The dam and a few of the cubs are Blair's."
Everyone turned to stare at Blair.
"I have no idea. I'm totally innocent. Blameless, pure as the driven snow," Blair said with his most innocent face.
The heads turned to look at Kata.
"And the red one currently inspecting Rafe's coat is Scribe's. She's called Heart."
"My new leather coat!" Rafe screamed. Yes, he screamed. Scribe hastened to rescue the poor cub.
"And that one?" Simon asked pointing at the cub that was snoring in Kata's lap.
"Mine. He's called Surefoot."
Simon sighed. The cubs were getting curious with their new home, and had started to inspect all the neat places.
"Great, just great," Simon sighed and flopped into a chair. "First Jim collides with a bakery truck and scratches the mayor's new sports car, then there are two wacky ladies in our midst, my detectives are chasing cubs when they should be chasing criminals. And to top it all, the new DA is coming today to inspect the CPD."
"Well, at least you don't have any lunatics running around here," Kata comforted him.
"Er, actually..." H started, but halted at the panicked look Simon threw at him.
"Uh, there are three ladies..."
"Jane will snap your head off if you call her a lady," Scribe offered loudly, kissing the puppy on the nose. Jane nodded emphatically.
"Okay--two ladies and a woman. And the desk sarge says he saw the third one appear the same way the other two did," H. stuttered. "He also says he's taking a two-week vacation since Ellison Weirdness usually is over by that time." H. shook his head. "Jim, this is strange even for you two."
Streeter leaned against the wall listening and watching until she felt a large presence behind her; she turned her head and sighed.
"Hi, Jim." She greeted the big cop. All heads turned to watch the two. "There IS a reason we have to be here, and since I didn't tell these two what it was, don't get too pissed at them. The fact is, you and Blair are NOT a complete 'set'. Sentinel Cores are groups, not pairs." She smiled gently at the stunned group, and indulgently at the nervous writers. "A complete Core includes one Alpha Male Sentinel, Two Shaman who may or may not be Guides as well, and several Solid Guides, meaning that they are anchors and nothing else, and a Sentinel Mage, who is beta." She watched dawning comprehension spread over Blair's face. "And at least two Mentors. Scribe and Kata will serve in that capacity. I'm the Mage--the other Shaman, and the Anchor are in route from Los Angles, so, you get your Core Group. The two men who are on their way are fire-paramedics, primarily search and rescue personnel." She shrugged, looked at the other two writers and smiled. "This AU just went XO as well... have fun ladies, since this time you get to direct from the inside."
She smirked at them all. "The firemen are my lovers, but I'm willing to share."
Scribe scooped the chubby reddish-brown wolf pup up into her arms. "Stop it, Rafe!" she scolded. "She's a wolf, you can't blame her for being interested in dead cow. Besides, what have you got to complain about? YOU ended up with a relatively normal looking hair color." He unconsciously smoothed back his now shining strawberry blond hair. She sighed. "I end up looking like a Times Square hooker, and the supporting cast gets good hair color."
Scribe winced. "Oo, that would be the Thunder from Downunder. I'd duck if I were you, Blair."
Blair slipped behind Jim, managing to hide completely behind the larger man. "Oh, great," muttered Ellison. "Make me a target."
Megan stomped into the Bullpen, eyes flashing with righteous rage. "You little git! My hair is fucking GREEN!"
Scribe peered at her. "Actually, it's sort of browny-green. You know, that's the exact shade I picked for baby Impetua's hair in my Love and Mischief series." When Megan gave her a blank look, she explained, "Infant Goddess of Jealousy and Envy."
Blair peeked from behind Jim and nodded. "Child of Strife and Cupid. Basically a comedy, but with some nice smutty bits."
Megan scowled. "Strife and Cupid's baby? How the hell do two blokes have a baby together?"
"Looooong story," said Scribe.
When she squinted at her, Megan growled, "What?"
"I'm just trying to picture you topless, with silvery-gray wings."
All the men in the room looked thoughtful. "Now, there's a mental image," Simon muttered.
Megan tossed him a glance, then did a double take. "Shite, Simon. Are you going for the Dennis Rodman look?" Simon's hair was a bright marigold color.
"I don't want to discuss this. If any national or natural disasters happen, I'll be in my office." He went into the office and slammed the door.
"Coward," said Scribe cheerfully. The wolf cub wiggled. "Jane, what are you doing saddling me with a wolf? You know darn good and well that I have a cat, a weenie dog, and a mother--none of which would be happy with this. She might eat Snicklefritz when she gets big, Inga will love to play with her, but die of jealousy, and if wolf pee gets on the carpet... Well, I love my mother, and don't really WANT her to have a stroke." Jane just grinned. Scribe sighed "You're going to stick me here for an extended period of time, aren't you?"
She was half listening to Simon grouse about the upcoming inspection, and H's revelation about the desk sergeant jumping ship. Then Jane went into her explanation about what was going on, and who was coming.
Scribe's eyes got wide, and she squeaked, "Johnny and Roy are coming? Oo, tell me they're not bringing Chet with them! Jim would kill him, you know that, don't you?" Jane smirked. "I'm hoping that's a no, but I have absolutely no confidence in that possibility. Sooo, I'm a Mentor now? I don't suppose that means I'm going to just be allowed to sit back and herd plot bunnies toward other people, offering constructive criticism, and the benefit of my wisdom in all things fanfictionish?" Jane shook her head slowly, her grin becoming, if possible, even more evil. "I think I'll just avoid finding that out for the time being and ask one question: Can you do the whole 'time compression' thing, so that when I eventually get home, my Mother won't know I've been gone? She knows my transportation troubles, and if I have an unexplained absence of more than an hour or so, she'll have the National Guard called out."
"I might be able to arrange something," Jane conceded.
"Fine. Then I'll try to just relax and enjoy the madness." She set the pup gently on the floor.
"So you're not going to attempt to give the wolf back--and notice that I said 'attempt'."
She glanced down at the pup. It regarded her with golden eyes, and said, urf? "Not likely. You know how I feel about all fuzzy baby animals." She looked down just in time to see the pup starting to squat, with an intent look on her furry face. "HEART! NO!" The pup froze, giving her a hurt look. She picked it up and cuddled it. "No, baby, I'm not mad at you. You can't help it when nature calls, but I DO have an idea." She looked at Jim. "Carolyn works here, right?"
"Yes, in Forensics."
"Could you direct me to her private office?"
"You go down to the basement. It's down the right hand corridor, third door on the right. But I think she's out."
Scribe started toward the door, and she was smiling. "That's okay." She snuggled her nose into the wolf's fur, and received a canine kiss. "You just hold on for a short elevator ride, sweet Heart. We're gonna go see if you can see your reflection in Carolyn's desktop. Then we'll see how closely her chair resembles a training potty..."

End Part Two

Simon stared at the group of humans and wolves that had clustered next to Jim's desk. A motion caught the Captain's eye, and he saw the one solid white wolfling in the litter crawling toward him. It sat at his feet and looked up at him wistfully, making him sigh and pick the pup up. "Okay. Fine. WHY NOT?" He idly scratched it behind its ears, took a quick look to sex it, and smiled at the little bitch. "Guess I'll call you "Star".
Two days later MC learned the true meaning of the word "Stink". The new water caused a normal and temporary change to the puppies' stools. The Squirts. And every canine as well as every other animal there had them. The squirts and gas. OH GOD, they had gas. It loomed, it billowed, it HUNG there like a cloud of toxic fumes. It peeled paint right off the new drywall, it melted the grout under the floor tiles and loosened them so that they broke free underfoot. The foam removable tiles of the ceiling dumped dust on all heads and in the jail, new steel bars were rusting.
"Nothing, and I do mean NOTHING smells quite like dog shit!" H. howled when he sat in the stuff for the fourth time in one day. By day's end, every soul in the CPD was weeping in desperation to get out of there. Outdoors the new bricks were crumbling into sand. The tough plants that Blair had spared were withered and blackened. And Jim and Blair had BOTH long since fled to the Cascadian National Forest, taking the women writers with them.
The final insult took place when the Commissioner surprised, and scared, a large skunk in the garage. The result cleared the area for five miles in all directions. Everything alive that could move did, in about, oh---ten minutes.
The True Stink King had reclaimed his crown!

Scribe, perched between Jim and Blair in the truck cab, peered back over her shoulder, peeking through the glass into the enclosed bed. She looked at Blair, on her right. He cocked an eyebrow silently. She looked at Jim.
He didn't take his eyes off the road. "Don't start."
"But she's scared. Why can't she ride up here with me?" Scribe asked, trying for plaintive, but coming off as whiny, instead.
"Why?" Jim glanced at her briefly. He couldn't take his eyes off the road long. He was following the bright red Range Rover driven by Jane, and it took all his concentration. The woman drove like a lunatic, even on this narrow, twisting road. "I can tell you why in two words--wolf piss."
"But it was just a few drops, and she was scared when you came to that abrupt stop."
"It was either that or go up Jane's tailpipe."
"Well, ~I~ was the one she peed on. If I can wear it, I'd think you could..."
Jim was gritting his teeth. Blair patted her leg. "Scribe? Sentinel sense of smell, okay?"
She wilted a little. "But this is so unfair!"
Jim sighed. "We've been over this. Yes, it's unfair. I'm not particularly enamoured of the idea, either, but you don't hear me bitching about it."
"No, but you can do 'pissed off silence' louder than ANYONE I've ever known, man," Blair said. "Scribe, we're all stuck in this situation--we just have to make the best of it."
"Have you got any idea how SICK I am of being told that?" she snapped. "It's all I've ever heard, my entire life. The kids in your class torture you? Make the best of it. Have to quit college for a year because you don't qualify for a grant and they won't give you a loan? Make the best of it." Her voice was rising. "Minor problem with your car that you can't afford to fix now, but it's going to get worse if you don't? Make the best of it. Dropped into an alternate universe and told that you're about to completely change your life, probably for one that will be a lot less comfortable? Well, I don't WANT to be brave and stoic about it, damn it! I'm pissed, and I feel like whining!"
There was silence for a moment. Finally Blair said, "Got that off your chest?"
She glared at him. "Don't think it's going to be that easy. If you don't want to listen to it, turn me loose."
"Okay, Scribe. Let's say we turn you loose." She looked at him suspiciously. "We pull over to the side of the road and put you out--WITH wolf. Do you have any idea how far we are from civilization? We left the main highway almost an hour ago. That last town was about thirty miles back, and it was a feedstore, a gas station, and a Quik-Stop. We haven't been on paved road for the last fifteen minutes, the woods keep creeping in closer and closer, and I have a feeling that the road is going to peter out pretty soon. Now, where, exactly, do you think you'll go?"
Her voice was smaller when she spoke. "You could let me take the truck back."
The look he gave her was incredulous, and Blair put his hand over his face. "Let's put aside for a moment the fact that I don't like ANYONE else driving my truck. You don't have a license. We can't even be sure that there are the same traffic laws here that there are in your home world. Where would you go?"
"I... Well, I guess I couldn't realistically make it back to Texas." She winced. "And I'm not sure I'd want to find out if there was another version of me sitting there, typing away. I could go back to Cascade."
"And I suppose I'd let you have use of the loft. But how would you live there? There are bills to pay. You'd have to eat. And how would you support yourself? You can't very well get a job with absoulutely no proof of identity or paperwork." She sat back, __expression blank. "You didn't think of that, did you?"
"Jim," Blair said quietly. "Ease up."
"She has to deal with this, Blair." His voice softened. "Scribe, I'm not unsympathetic. I know a little about being suddenly thrown into a strange environment, completely cut off from your former life, remember? But honestly, can you think of an alternative?"
She drooped even farther. Her voice was desolate. "No, I can't. And if ~I~ can't, there probably isn't one."
Blair slid an arm around her shoulders, shaking her lightly. "It'll be okay. I'm glad you're with us." He leaned close to her ear and whispered, "Frankly, I think we're going to need all the back up we can to deal with that lunatic up ahead."
She gave him a faint smile and a doubtful look. "And you think I'm going to be much help in that area? Optimistic little thing, aren't you?"
"You have no idea." He nipped her earlobe.
She giggled, hunching one shoulder to push Blair back, and Jim felt relieved. She was an odd woman, but then, Blair was an odd man. He'd also been a little befuddled and annoyed by his neo-hippie witchdoctor punk when he'd first met him, but now he couldn't imagine life without him. Well, he could, but he didn't WANT to.
She was giggling again, and Jim risked another glance. Blair was licking her ear now. Her __expression was caught somewhere between pleased and flabbergasted. Jim knew how she felt. Being the focus of Sandburg's undivided attention was exhilerating, and perhaps a little daunting if you hadn't been actively pursued before. He figured that, for a middle-aged virgin, it had to be mind boggling.
She pushed Blair away. "Stop it--that tickles."
"Put you in a better mood, didn't it?" He was just the tiniest bit smug.
"Yeah, well, that was an easy one. Wait till we run out of toilet paper--THAT will be a challenge."
Blair laughed, and Jim couldn't resist a chuckle. Even Scribe smiled again, but it faded. "Um, I think we're here."
They had just turned a sharp corner. A few yards ahead the road ended in a roughly cleared area no bigger than half a tennis court. It was going to be crowded, because Jane's Ranger was already parked there, next to another large truck. The woman was currently in a three way hug with two men--one with reddish, sandy hair, and the other one with Indian dark hair. As they slowed to a stop, the trio looked up. Jane started pointing and speaking rapidly.
The three in the truck examined the three standing under the trees, and were examined in turn. Scribe said softly, "Son of a bitch."
Blair said, "What's up? They look perfectly normal to me."
She was shaking her head. "She told me, but I didn't really think about it. It's really them. I had SUCH a crush on Johnny when I was in junior high."
Jim looked at her in disbelief. "You went to school with them?"
She took a deep breath, but Blair cut her off. "I think it's that alternate universe, fanfiction thing again." She nodded.
Jim's eyes narrowed. "Exactly how deep WAS this crush?"
"My hormones had just made themselves known, and I didn't know what to do with them." She sat back a little, giving him an arch look. "And what's it to ya?"
She and the Sentinel exchanged a long look. Neither one seemed to be willing to break it. Blair sighed. "I can see that there's a LOT of talking to be done. First things first, though. Let's go introduce ourselves."
Jim grunted, and they piled out of the truck and began walking to the waiting trio.
Roy sighed. He knew there wasn't any other way for the approaching Pairing to develop and thrive correctly, but sometimes he hated this other job. Being a paramedic firefighter was a rewarding career in it's way, but it was a cover. A way to blend in. Their real job was to identify and bring together Sentinel Core groups, train them, make sure the Alpha was properly supported, and then place them somewhere other than the training ground where that Alpha had developed initial skills.
"Brace yourself. Ellison is a strong one. AND Scribe reads as a newly emerged Anchor. He and his Guide have already bonded to her. She's still fighting it, though. Kata's another one, and a little wiser. She 'knows' better than to argue with fate. She's also to busy laughing up her sleeve at Scribe to realize she's already bonded to Simon and H.." John cautioned his partner. "Those two will follow without even caring why. And Simon's another Sen. Offline until now, until Kata. Which should prove interesting."
"Yeah" Jane noted. "Especially since this isn't Jim's tribal ground, it's Bank's territory. We'll have to re-locate those three."
John nodded, but did not reply. He was still too upset with her for driving up here. She not only didn't have a license, she had never had one in her life. She'd been guessing, mostly. She'd also been too scared to take her eyes off the road, even when turning or changing lanes. Her hands had never once strayed from the steering wheel, either. Not even to use turn signals. The list of things that could have gone wrong reeled through the paramedic's mind, and he shuddered.
"Ellison, why did you shove Jane into a car and just say, "Drive?"
"It seemed like the thing to do at the time. I won't do it again," He winced. "I don't think I've ever tried to pace someone who drives like that before."
John cursed, then told him why that was. Ellison turned dead white. "Christ..."
"Everything that is going on here, now, is part of a much greater whole. You and Blair, and the rest of your core are but one unit of such cores amid hundreds of thousands. Most of the time, a core group will find it's members without proding, but those with a really Stubborn alpha..." He sighed. "Then we have to step in and make sure the support people are there, bonded, linked and learn to work together right."
"This time, the space/time continum had to be used and altered because several of the people who were genetically designed for you, weren't born in the right place or time, so they couldn't get to where you were." Jane told the three gently. "And Scribe is your Anchor. Just as Roy is mine." She shrugged. "You are part of a whole, disconnected until properly trained, so you couldn't inadvertantly give any other cores away, thru ignorance. Johnny will finish Blair's Shaman training, and Roy will school Scribe. I'm stuck with you."
Jane finished speaking, and the two little groups stared at each other. Finally Blair said, "Well, this is strange, even compared to our usual weirdness, but there's no reason why we can't be cordial." He held out a hand to Johnny, smiling brightly. "Hi. Blair Sandburg." They shook hands, then he shook hands with Roy. "This is my Sentinel, Jim Ellison..." Jim followed suit. "And this is..." He paused and looked at Scribe. "You know, I was just thinking. What's your real name? I mean, it isn't just 'Scribe', like just Cher, is it?"
"It's close enough," she said shortly. "I don't know you people--I don't give out my proper name. And what's the point, anyway?" She glared at Jim and raised her voice pointedly, "As it has been explained to me, I don't officially EXIST in this world, anyway."
There was a moment of silence, then Blair continued, "And this is our Scribe." She crossed her arms, scowling.
Roy studied her, seeing the fear and hurt behind the irritation. He smiled warmly and offered his hand. "I'm Roy DeSoto."
"I know. I used to watch you regularly, right along with Adam-12." His smile didn't waver, and his hand didn't drop.
She finally sighed and shook hands. "Hi. I'm Scribe, and I DON'T want to be here."
"Scribe..." Jim started.
"No, Jim, it's all right. This is going to be a gradual process for all of you, and she's got a lot more to overcome than either you or Blair. Frankly, I think she's doing remarkably well."
"Could have fooled me," Jim murmurred. "She did nothing but bitch the entire way up here."
Scribe's __expression was hurt, and she said frostily, "I'm going to go get Heart out of the truck." She turned and walked stiffly back to the truck.
Jane started toward Jim, hissing, "Jerk!" but Johnny caught her arm. He was one of the two people in the world who could get away with that, Roy being the other.
"Save it for later, Jane. He honestly doesn't seem to realize when he's being an ass. Before he can be trained to act right, he has realize that something is wrong with how he acts now."
"This could take a LONG time."
While they were talking, Roy followed Scribe to the back of the truck. She'd opened the back and lifted out a shivering, whining wolf pup. Now she was snuggling the little animal while it industriously washed her face. When she saw him coming, she quickly wiped her cheeks, but not before Roy noticed that not all the moisture was due to puppy kisses.
Roy rubbed the puppy behind the ears. "Heart just took to you right off, didn't she?"
"It's funny. I'm a cat person, you know? I mean, I don't have anything AGAINST dogs." A cold nose prodded her chin, and she looked down into yellow eyes, "uh, doggy type beasties. But something about her just clicked with me."
"You bonded. It happens, sometimes."
"Mm." She glanced at him. "From what I gathered from listening to Jane, I'm supposed to be... a sort of Guide?"
He nodded. "A non-Shamen Guide."
"A stablizer?" Another nod. She barked with laughter, but her eyes weren't amused. "If you just knew how funny that is. Me--a stabilizing influence on ANYBODY." She bit her lip, then spoke in a lower tone. "Look, I've always thought you were a really sensible, practicle sort of person. Can't you convince the rest of them that this is a mistake?"
He's started to shake his head. "No, not all of it. I mean--Jim and Blair, pretty darn obvious. Jane's scary, so I can believe just about anything for her. I don't believe either you or Johnny would lie about something important, and I don't know enough about Kata to make a call on her, but me? ME?! Come on, now. I'll lay claim to being able to write some really good stuff, and I can be funny when I try, but other than that..."
He shook his head again.
"Roy! Unless I'm misinterpretting this, these Sentinel Cores are supposed to be pretty much permanent, and as close as any marriage you're likely to find. They..."
She sighed, then stepped to the side of the truck. She nodded toward where Blair was talking with Johnny, while Jim stood by alertly. "Look at those two." He did, then looked back at her, eyebrow lifted. She rolled her eyes. "I'm realistic about myself. I'm fat, fair, and over forty. Sure, I had one REAL intense encounter with them..." her eyes unfocused for a moment in memory, then she straightened. "But they're LOVERS, for heaven's sake. As in soulmates? I've learned to be fairly content alone. But if I had to live around the edges of something that intimate..." She heaved a sigh. "I'm happy for 'em, and they deserve something a little more on their own level, don't you think?"

She felt John's touch on her arm and stopped obediantly. She never disobeyed Johnny. Jane looked up at him, listened to him, and accepted it. Like she always did. She had thought she'd lost them once. For ten years she had existed without anyone or anything in her life to love or be loved by. She'd kill anyone who hurt them, and she'd literally take her own life before she hurt one of her men. John knew that, Roy knew that. The pair tended to be rather careful of what they said, sometimes since she was very bad about taking it the wrong way. John sighed, if his reading of Blair was right, he was the same way where Jim was concerned.
"Look, Roy's dealing with The Scribe, and I need to get started with Blair. Just take it easy with Jim. Granted, that sharp tongue of your's will be both needed and warrented with the man, but why don't you explain why he was out of line. Okay."
She sighed, nodded. "It's just that...he reminds me of Chet. Additude, behavior...I wanna do him like I would Kelly."
Gage stared at her for a moment. "Just be gentle. They're family now."
"KEWL! That's what ya'll said about CHET, and HE'S fair game..."
Johnny chuckled. She could be so juvenile at times He thought. But she has such a love of least, now she does He winced away from the memory of the kind of shape she'd been in when he'd found her again. It had taken all of his and Roy's skill as paramedics just to stablize her. That, and two days. It had been deemed unwise to move her, and she had fought off three other teams of paramedics already. Losing blood each time until they'd tried. She had went utterly still under Roy's first touch, whimpered out "Roy?" and quieted at once. Like she had for years before their seperation.
That was all it had taken for an immediate I.D.. She had never been able to tolerate the touch of any hands but their's without panicking. He froze.
"Wait here." John told her, then called Blair to quickly and quietly explain about that, and the reasons for it. Blair's face went ashen as he listened to the account of a five-year-old child rescued by them from a baby-raping father. Jim came up behind his Guide to place both hands firmly on Blair's shoulders as he, too, finished listening to the recounting. "Just don't touch her, whatever else you do. You can spout off all you want, but if anyone but me or Roy, or one of her pets touches her, she flashbacks and well....I don't care how good of a fighter you are, Sentinel." John used the formal address for a reason. "She will hurt you. She'll think you're her father and if that happens, all the rules are off. That won't be good. If you'll remember, she is a mage." John sighed. "Scribe's your's. She's Blair's backup for you, Jim. You're gonna get to keep her, but that means that explaining all this to her, is your responsiblity."
Jim had paled during as John had spoken. "Dear God, that poor..." He bit off a curse and cuddled Blair's shaking form. "FIVE?"
"Yeah, five." John bit out. "Now go take Scribe from Roy for a little while so he and I can explain that I had to tell you. She's not gonna like knowing you know about that. She still has a guilt issue with it."
"Why?" Blair asked, horrified.
"I'm not sure, but it will take a lot of reassurance from DeSoto and me to deal with the fact I had to tell you. Preferably before one of you touched her." Gage shrugged and went to retrieve the mage, while the other two snatched Scribe up, talking fast.
"She isn't nearly as hardassed as she'd like us to think, then." Jim noted.
"Just don't touch her." Blair added. He thought a moment. "However, I need some reassurances myself, so why don't we go find somewhere private for the rest of the night?"
Jim grinned eagerly, picking their woman up and dashing for the cover of the trees....
How the hell did I get into this situation? Scribe thought, a little dazed. She was currently pitched head down over Jim Ellison's shoulder as the big Sentinel trotted after his giggling Guide, deeper into the forest.
Not that something like this hadn't featured in occasional fantasies. Heck, she'd DONE being snatched away to a mountain hideaway by a big, handsome, sexy man before in her fictions--but that was a fantasy. She'd known damn good and well while she was writing it that there was no chance of it actually happening. And once again Fate delights in kicking me in the ass.
This isn't going to work. Yeah, they seem interested now, but just wait till the novelty wears off. I don't want to have to deal with the awkward silences and furtive 'geez, she's STILL here' looks. I know they wouldn't MEAN it--they're both nice guys. But heck, they're a COUPLE. I feel like a major third wheel, and I need to do something about it before they start to resent me. Anyway, I'll have the memory of one FANTASTIC whoopie session to warm my golden years.
She patted Jim on the back--actually, on the butt, because that was where her hands were dangling. "Jim? Put me down." She was a little breathless from the jouncing.
"In a minute. I think Blair has spotted a nice open space up ahead," he replied.
"I've been walking since I was less than a year old, Ellison."
"You clever thing, you. Just consider this delivery service." There was a leer in his voice. "Your own personal Sentinel and Guide will provide all KINDS of services."
"I've never seen such a pair of horndogs in my entire life!"
"Why, thank you!" Blair said cheerfully. "Here's a nice spot." He was clearing away twigs and small stones. "Just give me a sec and we'll have a nice, sweet bed of grass."
"What? Grass?" Scribe started squirming. "Down NOW, Ellison!"
"Whatever you say." He let her down by letting her slowly slide the length of his body till her feet were once again on the ground. Her eyes widened as she felt compelling evidence that proved her assertion that he had an active sex drive. He hadn't turned loose--his grip had just shifted from her waist to her ass, pulling her up tight.
"Jim?" She put her hands against his chest and pushed. She only gained a couple of inches between their torsos--his crotch stayed pressed firmly against her lower tummy. "Slow down, Big Fella. Look, you need to remember that up until yesterday I hadn't even played kissy-face with anyone. I'm not ready to go from Vestel Virgin to Whore of Babylon in one jump."
She was a little surprised when Jim took hold of her hair (the orange tint seemed to be fading out on its own) in back, forcing her to look him in the face. His voice was firm. "I don't want to hear ANYONE talking about you like that--not even YOU." He shook her head gently. "Understand?"
"No, not really, but I'm not going to argue about it right now."
Blair tossed aside a small armful of twigs and dead leaves, dusting his hands. He came over to Jim and Scribe, slipping his arms around her, managing to slide his hands between the two. "There. A sweet smelling, verdant bed awaits you, fair maiden."
"Not a maiden anymore, as you very well know," she responded. He chuckled, taking advantage of the expanse of neck Jim had just bared by beginning to nibble. Scribe made a small sound, then cleared her throat. "Thanks, but no thanks. On the ground? In the woods? No, thank you. At this rate I'll die without ever having done it in a real bed."
Jim bent down, chose a spot on her throat, and licked. "That's all right. I don't mind being on bottom this time."
"Hello? BUGS, okay? I need to go back to the truck and check on Heart, anyway."
"Heart is fine," Blair assured her. He'd slid his hands up to her breasts now, beginning a slow, sensual massage. "But it's sweet that you're worried about her." He squeezed gently. "Don't you think she'd make a terrific mother, Jim?"
"Hey! What...?" She squirmed violently and managed to slip from between the two men.
Jim shoved Blair's shoulder. "Great way to spoil the mood, Darwin."
"It was meant as a COMPLIMENT."
Jim held out his hand toward Scribe. "It's okay, sweetheart. Rangers are prepared, remember? I brought a large supply of protection, and I always keep a couple in my wallet."
"That isn't exactly what..." She took a deep breath. "This is like that time I let the church youth group talk me into going on the Batman Escapes rollercoaster at Astroworled."
Blair looked interested. "Yeah? How was it?"
"Scary. I did the whole thing with my eyes closed." She started to back away. "You boys just have fun--I'm really not interested." Jim narrowed his eyes shrewdly. His nostrils flared. Oh, crap. He's in Sentinel mode. I can guess what's coming.
She wasn't wrong. Jim said calmly, "Yes, you are. You've got very distinctive pheromones."
"That's neither polite, nor fair," she said accusingly. Jim shrugged. She started backing away again. "I'm serious here, guys. I need a few minutes to myself. Go for it, be nature boys. Make hundreds of thousands of fans in another universe ecstatic. I'll be back at the truck." She turned and hurried back the direction they'd come.
Jim started after her, but before he'd gone two steps, Blair caught his arm. "Let her go, Jim."
"But Blair, she didn't really mean that," Jim protested. "She WANTED to be with us again. I could TELL."
"I know you could. Damn, Jim, I don't have Sentinel senses and ~I~ could tell, but she said no. No is no, Jim. Right?" Jim was silent, staring after the departing woman. Blair shook his arm. "I said RIGHT?"
Ellison sighed. "Right. But I don't understand her."
Blair laughed slowly. "You don't understand repression and denial?" Jim smiled reluctantly. "I thawed you out, man, and I don't think her wslls are as tough as yours were. Together I believe we can convince her to let that spark flare." He stroked Jim's arm. "Because that's what we want, isn't it?"
Jim looked down at him for a moment, then said slowly, "We haven't talked about this. It's come on so suddenly that everyone's just been kind of rolling along with it. After we got together, I thought I'd never want to be with anyone but you, but now..." he turned his eyes back toward where the writer had disappeared. "I don't want to hurt you."
"You're not. I feel the same way." He smiled, looking a little puzzled. "All I can figure is that
it's like Streeter and the paramedics say--It's genetic--fated, you know?"
"I feel it. You feel it. What about her?"
"She feels it. It just scares her. We'll get her over it. Now," he reached out and laid a firm, warm hand against the firm, warm bulge in Jim's jeans. "She said we should enjoy ourselves. Sounds like a good idea to me. You mentioned something about being on the bottom?"

Jane and the paramedics were talking as they unloaded the paramedics' truck when she arrived. They stopped, arms loaded with supplies, when she reappeared. "We weren't expecting you back for awhile," Johnny said, an unspoken question in his tone.
Jane had no patience with subtlety. "Why aren't you screwing their brains out? You three need to have sex, lots of sex, to cement the bond."
"I don't go to the beach because I don't want to get sand in intimate places," Scribe said tartly. "The same thing goes for leaf bits and insects. Where's...?"
whuff! Heart came bouncing to her. Her puppy awkwardness got the better of her, and she did a nose dive at Scribe's feet.
"Aw, poor baby!" She picked up the little canine, and received a prompt face washing. "Oof. It's a good thing I'm not alergic to animal spit, I guess." She put the pup back on the ground, soothing its grumble with a pet. "I'll start unloading our truck. They'll be along in a while." Without waiting for a response, she went and opened the back of the truck, Heart trailing her closely.
She crawled into the truck bed, wiggling in amongst the tightly stored supplies, muttering to herself, "I know it's here SOMEWHERE. I KNOW Sandburg wouldn't have been able to leave it behind, even if Jane told him it would be a distraction, and Jim said it would be useless out here."
She dug. It was hidden in a pile of blankets. "Aha! Bingo." Blair's laptop.
She peeked throught the glass, through the truck cab and made sure that the other three were occupied. Johnny was looking back toward her truck with a hint of suspicion in his __expression, but Roy handed him a couple of sleeping bags, and he started back through the trees with them.
She quickly opened the laptop and hit the power button. It booted up quickly and easily. Good, he charged the batteries up before we left. Now, let's see if that wireless internet connection thing actually works.
It did. She rapidly went to Yahoo and got into her mail program. Lord, I hope this works. I'm desperate, and there's only one person I can think of who might have enough net experience, and STREETER experience, to help me figure a way out of this. Lessee... She set up an email form for the makebelieve lists (squidge AND yahoo, just in case). This is going to be fast, dirty, and unbeta-ed. I just hope it works. She started typing. Sentinel Evolutions: I Have Absolutely No Idea... Headers and disclaimers in previous parts.
Scribe fled from the horny Sentinel and Guide, rushing straight back to the truck. She did her best to disarm Streeter, DeSoto and Gage, offering to begin unloading her groups supplies, and made her way to the back of the truck.
*Once there she located Blair's smuggled laptop, and got on the Internet, thanking heaven for the new technology. Then she made her desperate move, praying like mad that the lovely, brilliant, talented, efficient, FORGIVING listmum/archive goddess would be understanding about being dragged into this insanity.* *She quickly wrote a section getting her into the
truck and on the laptop, then wrote, 'then she wrote 'there was an electric buzz, a flash of light, a pop, and the startled webmistress appeared before her,' and pressed SEND.*
Scribe wrote 'there was an electric buzz, a flash of light, a pop, and the startled webmistress appeared before her,' and pressed SEND.
There was an electric buzz, a flash of light, a pop, and the startled webmistress appeared before her--on top of a sack of groceries.
Peja blinked around at her new environment. "I was just reading a new segment of that crazy mish-mosh Jane, Scribe, and Kata had gotten into, and..." She trailed off, spotting the woman with the orange hair fading back into red-brown. She had a laptop on her knees, and her blue eyes were wide. "Scribe?" The woman nodded. "Oh, dear." Peja shifted. "There's a rather uncomfortable can right..." She shifted again, then reached under her and came up with a flattened white plastic bag. Her voice almost eerily calm, she said, "I think I squashed Blair's marshmallows."
Roy looked around the cavern and spotted the bedding. It was in a wide but hay-filled trough that had a well-cured bearskin robe over it, making it soft and warm. He and John took their time undressing Jane. They hadn't loved her in more than a month, and already her breathing was getting ragged.
"Jesus, it's been too long." She murmurred. "God, I love these four hands." She rubbed her face against one set of knuckles from each man. They waited for a her, she always did this. If the others hadn't been there earlier she would have taken on both of them where they stood. John's arms came up to encircle her waist just as Roy buried his face in her neck. He kissed her lightly, heard her moan, felt her arch, and they carefully laid her down. This was a reconnection, a re-affirmation. She waited for them to assume control, as they always did. While waiting, she heard a muffled 'pop' and a sizzle of electricity. Then conversation. She grinned.
"Scribe tried for re-inforcements and didn't check my security settings first. I've got your laptop, but she thought it was Blair's. That thing has full Core Locator Security on it. You can bring them in, but it takes a 2/3s vote by the full Intergalatic Council to reverse it."
"We know that, what did she do?"
"Pulled Peja herself into this pow-wow. I know I didn't tell either of them about the real spirit animal who wanted to attach himself to Peja, so that means....HEY! JIMBO!" She yelled.
Ellison went stiff as a board, shot off, and suddenly collasped to one side of Blair. "Holy Shit, Streeter! Christ! TURN DOWN THE VOLUME!" He said as he held his aching skull.
She told him what Scribe had done, and then told him to inform Blair what the new writer's name was. He did, watching Blair's face.
"Oh. My. God....PEJA? I wonder what animal..."
"Tell him, Coon. Also tell him that the rest of the male population of the bullpen is in route, along with Chet Kelly, which is something Scribe needs to be warned about. Oh, yeah. Peja said she sat on and squashed Blair's marshmallows. I think I'm going to let Blair handle it. I'm busy."
"She said a Racoon." Jim told him.
Blair thought a moment, then grinned. "Fits"
"Then Jim told him what else she'd said. Including the bit about the Intergalatic Council. And that she was going to let Blair handle it."
"Oh man..." He huffed. "Shit, well, let's get to it. I don't think we should allow Scribe time to think anymore. Just rev her up and get her going before her brain can override her body. That way she'll be too tired to get into mischief." He told his sentinel, who got a devious, and determined look on his face.
"She's your back-up, right?"
"Yeah, so...?"
"Doesn't that mean I get to protect her too?"
Blair started grinning...he just knew where this was going. "Yup."
"Even against herself?"
"Oh yeah. In fact, we both do."
"That's what I hoped you'd say. Didn't you get a chance to stew that natural stuff yet?. The um, special tea?" Yeah, and she had some of it at the last rest stop. It should kick-in in about another 30 minutes. Make her hornier than hell, too."
"Then I guess we better go protect her from herself and get the other one settled. Jane says Peja will have her hands full for the night since she didn't get just ONE coon, she got a litter of about fourteen of the little busy-bodies."
Blair laughed at the poor woman's predicament. "Let's go get our woman. I want to have her naked and in our arms by the time that aphrodisiac we gave her kicks in."
"Strong?" Jim's voice was hopeful as they went back to the truck, stark naked.
The pair walked up to the truck, grinned at Peja who was staring at their crotches. The naked men's phalluses rose high and proud as they snared their woman. "Excuse us." Jim quipped as he pulled Scribe out of his truck.
"Nooo, that's okay...go right ahead." Peja said vaguely, staring at the pair of pale white asses as they trotted off into the forest with their very horny prize...
For the second time in less than an hour Scribe found herself dangling over a broad male shoulder, with a bird's eye view of a beautiful male ass flexing efficiently as she was bounced along. This time said ass was gloriously naked, and therefor even more distracting than it had been. Besides that, Blair was right behind them, equally naked, and emphatically aroused. The visual feast was beginning to have an effect. Determined to stick to her plan of abstinence on the theory of 'you can't miss it if you haven't had it' (and completely ignoring the fact that this tact would be useless, since she HAD had it), she closed her eyes.
It didn't help. She was beginning to get unfamiliar, but pleasant tingles racing to interesting parts of her body. For one thing, the way her chest was rubbing against Jim's shoulder blades seemed to be stimulating her nipples. She squirmed, trying to relieve the pressure. Very ineffective if she was trying to relieve the sensation, SPECTACULARLY effective if she was trying to enhance it. She squirmed again. "Let me go, Ellison! I suppose I'm lucky you're not dragging me along by my hair, but this is STILL too damn cave man for me!"
She squealed when he smacked her butt (and was a bit alarmed to find that the tiny sting sent a little electric jolt through her crotch). "Me Sentinel, him Guide, you sandwich filling. Hush, woman," Jim grunted, in a very creditable Johnny Wiesmuller impersonation.
"Actually, that WAS pretty funny," said Blair. "Loosen up, Scribe."
"You're about to get your spring snapped." This time Jim rubbed her ass with one hand, keeping the other firmly around her thighs, holding her in place.
"Stop that. It's not working," she scolded.
"Yes it is," he countered.
"Quit using that darn musk sniffing thing."
"Babe, you're right up here by my face--I can't help it. Besides, evein if I turned my smell OFF, there's still the heat." His hand slid down the curve of her ass, probing at where her legs were pressed together. She immediately squeezed her thighs together as tightly as possible in an attempt to keep him from groping, then moan. The action had an unlooked for effect. She was suddenly aware of a warm, slippery sensation between her legs. Jim chuckled, pushing and managing to wiggle his fingers between her thighs, then started to nudge upward.
"Uh... you BASTARD! Um... Dewey decimel system! Triple zero, Computers, information, & general reference. One hundreds, philosophy & psychology. Two hundreds, religion..."
"702, erotica in the arts. 802, erotica in literature," chanted Blair.
"You're making that up!" Scribe accused. "Those have nothing to do with sex."
"The 02s of those are listed as Miscellanious." He grinned at her, wiggling his eyebrows. "I've READ what you've written on Miscellany. Let's see, human sexuality would be in the psychology section. Non-traditional life groupings are covered under social sciences. There are histories of sex in the movies and television in the media sections." He reached up to run his hand through her hair. "Where would you classify those stories you wrote about that bi-sexual Dom hairdresser?" He tugged gently. "I can sympathize with him in some things. I bet this would feel lovely drifting across my belly and thighs."
Jim's hand had crept higher, and was rubbing firmly. "Keep it up, Darwin. I'm feeling definite dampness here."
"Scribe, have you considered making love to either one of us while the other fucks whoever is having you?"
Scribe made an odd sound, somewhere between a mewl and a whine. Her eyes flew wide open, and she gasped. "Oh my god! I sound just like my Siamese cat used to! I'm in HEAT!" She Jim chuckled, and she could FEEL the vibrations luring another trickle of moisture from her body. She pounded on her back. "DON'T YOU ~DARE~ LAUGH AT ME, ELLISON!"
"I'm NOT," he protested. "Not really, but you're so damn CUTE."
"Can't prove it by me," Blair asserted.
"This is too fast. This is too strong. I haven't even had direct skin contact with naughty bits, and I feel like I'm melting. This is..." She was quiet for a second.
"Nice?" Blair supplied hopefully. "Sexy? Thrilling?"
She lifted her head. Her eyes were starting to unfocus with lust, but they were still very lucid.
"Suspicious, and unnatural."
"Blair assured me that it was purely organic and natural, and... Oops."
"Spanish fly," Jim corrected. "Get your slang right."
"You're both wrong. It's a perfectly natural, very potent aphrodisiac," Blair informed them.
They'd reached the cave. "I'm going to kill both of you," she snarled as Jim ducked and carried her in.
The motion under the bearskin to one side paused (well, some of the motion), and Roy and Johnny popped their heads out. Jane's voice, muffled, said, "The only way you're going to do that, kid, is if you fuck them to death. Go ahead and try. It'll do you a world of good. Now you two get back in here--she'll be fine."
As they disappeared back under their fur spread, one of the men murmurred, "Not bad." The other chuckled affectionately.
When they reached the place where all their bedding had been made into a comfortable nest, Jim once again placed Scribe on her feet. This time, just to be on the safe side, he quickly stepped back out of knee reach. "Okay, Scribe, first of all, this was done with the best of intentions."
"Save 'em for the road to hell," she snapped. She was standing very still, except for a very fine full body tremor that almost made her seem to vibrate. Finally she growled, "Fine. You asked for it," and started ripping off her clothes. "Jim, get over here on the bed."
"Okay." He stepped over to stand beside her. "Look, if you want to..."
"Shut up." She pounced on him. She wasn't a small woman, and he wasn't expecting it. In a split second she had him on his back. In another split second she'd impaled herself on his rigid sex.
She yelped as he speared into her, and Blair said anxiously, "Scribe! Slow down or you'll hurt
"You be quiet, too!" she ordered, holding very still.
Jim was frozen also, staring up blankly. "Oh, geez," said Blair. "He zoned. The sudden sensation was too much."
"Oh, no you don't! I'm not having sex with you like this, even if you ARE still hard, Ellison," she said. "It would be too much like rape. Jim!" She shook his shoulder.
"Scribe, let me..." Blair started.
"Jim," her voice was suddenly gentle. "Listen, Jim. I'm sorry. I'm pissed with you, but I didn't mean to do this to you." She stroked his cheek. "Come back, come back, wherever you are." Blair watched, surprised and interested. She'd had no training, but she was instinctively doing exactly what was needed.
Jim blinked slowly, his dilated pupils contracting to normal size. In a few seconds Blair could tell that he was back, that he was really SEEING the woman above him. "Hi," Jim whispered.
"Hi, yourself," she whispered back. "Sorry, but don't think this lets you off the hook." Her hips started to move slowly. "After I'm through with you, it's Blair's turn. And you'd better recharge your cells while I'm with him, because I have a feeling I'm going to tackle you AGAIN." Blair settled next to them, stroking himself as he watched the two join, occasionally reaching out to squeeze a nipple or stroke a sweaty flank.
On the other side of the cave, a sated Jane was cuddled down between her two lovers, giggling smugly to herself. "You can't run, you can't hide," she crooned. "And you damn sure can't keep stalling for long." She settled down for a nap, feeling comfortable and safe for the first time in weeks.
"Mmmm, that...God yes!" Jane's cry of encouragement echoed through the pre-dawn air of the cavern, waking Jim at once. He listened to the three, and she winked at him before yanking Roy's hips toward her mouth. She swallowed him whole, knowing damned well Jim was watching. She didn't really give a shit. She wanted something more, this time, and had her body primed to get it.
She wanted a baby.
One of the oddest effects of accepting your role in the universe, was the effect it had on subjective age. She felt the changes, muttered a warning to Ellison that he and Scribe were about to undergo the same thing, just as her men were, and let it happen. She knew that Cores were one of the many kinds of Immortals in the universe, and now that she had her's complete, every member would match the youngest one's age by morning. She grinned, hearing the 'other' orgy going on down by Jim's truck. There was a chittering that let her know that ALL of Peja's coons were in attendence, as well as Rafe's otter and Chet's elk. She had her legs wide open by this time, and was drawing her Johnny inside her tight heat eagerly. She squeezed her vaginal muscles to make a six-sided wall, and then made those walls ripple around his turgid flesh.
"Chrissst! How the HELL do you do that?" He hissed as he grit his teeth.
"Want me to stop?"
"HELL NO!" He gasped...frozen for an instant, then began to thrust as he pulled her over on top of him. Roy positioned himself behind her, greasing her well before he slid into her ass. She moaned again, struggling to find a rythum, then shrieked as she did so.
"OH GOD! YES! Deeper! R0Y, God, yeah...punch it!"
"That's my girl," DeSoto crooned. "Take it, love. Oh you love it, huh, girl?"
"Anything, anywhere, and anytime, long's it's you two."
"Shhh. Don't think of it...stay with us." It wasn't the first time Roy had needed to reassure her mid-stroke. He did it automatically, Jim noted, and felt sorrow fill his heart. Scribe and Blair were awake now, and as engrossed in the openly wanton display of love, passion and old pain as he was. The three exchanged glances that became stares as Scribe and Jim realized that during the night they'd lost years in physical age. They matched Blair...
"She warned us, but I didn't believe..." Scribe stuttered. Then she stopped and stared harder. "Um, Jim? Your hair's back!"
He started, looked at Blair who only nodded.
"Oh crap. Don't know if it's the damned tea, that display over there, or nature but..." She looked at Jim, the way all guides look to the sentinel involved. "DO something!"
He smiled down at her, feeling her finally accept him and Blair, and simply took them both into his arms.

It was a sunny afternoon in an unusually crowded part of the Cascade National Forest. A bluehaired young woman was sitting by a tall tree, reading a pocket book and trying not to listen in on any of the action going on, but the sounds were kind of hard to ignore.
Geez, there they go again. She sipped from her water bottle and tried to bury herself in battles and plots. A racoon watched her.
"Get back to your mistress," Kata told the furry critter. It stared at her for awhile longer before going off to join the others.
It's getting to be a zoo in here. All that's missing is my lynx.
A growl sounded from behind her.
"Think of the devil, come here."
A purring lynx flopped beside her.
"You being here means that something pretty serious is going to happen. Considering the recent activities, I'll probably end up with a sentinel-guide pair too." She thought about it for awhile. "Jim and Blair are taken, so's Rafe. Goddess, I hope it's not Megan. I'm so not into women." A pause. "I was dropped here right in front of H and Simon. Mmmm... Could be worse." She petted the lynx. "As I'm a firm believer in energy conservation and fate, how about we just wait here?" The large feline purred its approval of the plan. "Thought you'd agree."

A car was driving along a seldom used road in the Cascade National Forest.
"Tell me again, why're we going toward those lunatics instead of staying in Cascade?" Simon asked drily.
"No idea really, boss. It's just that, well, don't you feel we ought to?" H asked desperately. He was way out of his depth with the mystical and unexplained.
Simon sighed. "Yes, but is it wise or even sane? I mean, we just took off. The police chief's convinced I've taken off after a cheating lover or something."
"At least I don't have any such problems. Seeing as I'm here just to look after you," H grinned. At least, that was the official version they had cooked up.
"By the way, how do you know which way to drive? Cascade National is kind of a large place," Simon asked casually.
H thought about it for a second. Opened his mouth, closed it. Simon watched him as a panicked __expression creeped up in H's face.
"Great. Wave farewell to the rational world."
Simon could feel something coming closer, it was as if he could just catch a glimpse of something glorious. They were approaching something important, important to them personally. And his senses were going crazy. Light hurt his eyes, smells burned his nose, clothes itched. This can't be.. It's impossible. But it was happening, to him.
H looked at his friend, worried about the nervous wriggling. Simon was never nervous, pissed or grumpy, yes, but not nervous. To be honest, he was not exactly calm and collected about this either. He could feel his feelings for Simon deepening and warming the closer they came to wherever they were going. He had never felt anything like this. Have to admit, it feels... right. But it was unfamiliar and out of this world, or maybe from beneath or beyond this world.
They rounded a corner and the camp came into view. As they had somehow known it would.

Kata saw the car drive towards them from his seat just off the camp itself. It's show time.
The car was parked by Rafe's jeep and Simon and H stepped out.
"Rafe?! What are you doing here?" Simon shouted.
"The same thing you guys are, I bet," Rafe said grinning. "Call of destiny and all that."
"Quite a concentration of animal life," H said, staring at a particularly friendly racoon who was trying to climb up his leg. The attempt was unsuccessful mainly because H kept moving away.
"What is this place?" Simon asked, looking around him. There were a lot more people here than just Jim, Blair and the ladies. A lot more animals too. The wolves seemed to be a minority.
"You could call it a sentinel-guide-mentor training camp," an unfamiliar woman told him cheerfully.
"And you are?"
"I'm Peja. You must be Simon."
"Er, yes, but how - Never mind."

Kata put away the pocket book and headed off to her pair. Her lynx followed her a few steps behind.
"Hi, guys!" she called cheerfully. "And hands off, Peja. These are mine."
"Wouldn't dream of it," Peja assured her. "I have my own."
"Good. Now why don't you two come along and I'll explain it all to you. Or as much as is prudent at the moment," she told the two men.
"But where are -" Simon started.
"Busy. As we'll be." Kata grabbed her pair and steered them towards the forest. "The best places are kind of taken at the moment, but I don't mind. Unlike Scribe, I'm a nature lover at heart."
Peja watched amused as Kata hauled off her sentinel and guide. "Now, where were we?" she asked her sentinel.

Jane looked up and saw Kata dragging Simon and H. in her wake. "HEY! KATA! THERE ARE ENOUGH HEARTHS IN THE CAVERN FOR EVERYONE!" She shouted across the clearing. She knew these folks had had a lot of shocks, but by the time they had to appear before the Intergalatic High Council as the legal representives for Earth, they HAD to be ready. The major government of the world were very close to being space travel capable, but they had proven to be too unstable in their personalities to actually be in charge out their. Politians and space just didn't mix.
Sentinels, whether Natural or Mystical, and Guides whether Shaman or Anchor, and those who lead both in their lives were vital to the Transition. This little group had been chose for a huge responsibility. She sighed, and whispered the information to those who she knew damned well would Hear her.
Jim, Peja and Simon were going to have a hard row to hoe, as the saying goes. She was counting on Peja to handle it best. Scribe had not brought the woman she knew she had gotten the one programmed into the Office laptop. The single thing that made her work the most complicated was manipulating the thousands of paraell planes of existance.
She had deliberately 'loaded' people who had 'no' responsibilities, no family, no friends outside 'storyland'. Otherwise, however, these ladies were identical to the writers she knew. She smiled. The versions here had had no one. Now they had their Cores. She explained this gently to the women at dawn, and watched their eyes widen.
"This is a tricky business, and it is one that does not allow for mistakes. Mistakes fuck up lives, people. You are the Cores that will explore Space, you are the recognized Earthian Representives, and the particular incarnations you are, are not the ones you thought. In other words, you are all being written in by yourselves.
Peja had the strangest look on her face. "Christ, I knew it felt right, I mean, this didn't bother me at all...and now I know why.
Scribe stared, processed, accepted, and finally relaxed between her men. "What you're saying is, I don't have to go back, since I'm already there?"
"And that means I don't have to give them back, right?" Rising hope was in her voice. "Or the sudden youth thing?"
"That's it. Feel better? Out of all you got these two, and you can keep them. You are home. The same goes for Kata, and Peja with their Cores." She cocked her head at the three women. "Feel better?"
They smiled slowly, until finally realization filled Scribe's face and eyes. "They're going to let US run things. I mean, us? We do this, how?"
"By living it the way you would have written it...."
She let her head fall straight back and looked up at Ellison. "You do realize this is where we start to get frisky, right?" She felt him hug her in response, and heard Sandburg's chuckle. "We, why not? There's no reason to hold back on my, um, creativity...." She thought for a moment. "I guess this means me and Blair have to get trained, and you have to get housebroken." Then she heard Kata bust out laughing.
"You know Jane's gonna do that, right?"
"They're turning her loose on him?" Peja giggled, "Man, oh man are you in trouble. She'll get the job done, but boy are you in for a few shocks! Oh man, that's rich!"
Jim stared at the other two, then looked at Scribe. "Is there something I need to know about this woman?" He asked uncomfortably. She smiled proudly at him. "Good lad. But then you have better grasp on manners than he does. I'm going to have to 'mother' him. He has to learn how to behave, more than anything." She paused, thoughtfully for a moment. "Jim, you hurt have got to learn when to keep your tongue behind your teeth, and your mouth shut. I have already decided how I'm going to teach you how to do that. I've got a baby-guide here that needs an adult sentinel to watch over her until she's old enough to find and bond with her own Core. She's thirteen and her mother's Core died a year ago." Jim's nervous __expression softened. "I'm making YOU responsible for her wellbeing until she's 21. Blair and John will train her, since she's Shaman Gifted, and Scribe will explain things when her period starts, unless you piss her off, that is. But the constant 'little girl' questions of why, why, why and why are YOUR problem. She gets attached easily, and she gets her feelings hurt just as easily."
"Uh..." Jim stuttered.
Jane cut him off. "There's nothing quite like having to listen to a child sob her heart out because of something YOU said or did to teach you not to do that." Jane pointed out without mercy. "Then your Core Group get to point out, in detail exactly 'why' whatever you did to make her cry hurt her. BEFORE you do whatever is needed to make it right." She told him.
"Umm. Yeah, that would probably work." Jim shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.
"Probables don't figure into this. Probables tend to leave loopholes open for mistakes, and I don't do mistakes. As I said, mistakes fuck up lives." She snapped. She looked at Sandburg then.
Uh oh. He thought, paying attention to the information he somehow just knew was about to be landed on him. He was right.
"Instinct, O Guide. Let's talk about your alpha's instincts. A thirteen-year-old child, one who is a genetic Guide and a shaman, and his responsibility. You know Sentinels: How hard would his guilt kick in? How much would hurting that orphan break his heart?" She stared at Jim. "Or haven't you yet learned that pain tends to teach lessons that just won't sink into that thick skull of your's any other way. When I think of what he went through...I could just spit."
"Jane..." Roy's voice was soft, but there was warning in it. She obeyed at once causing Jim to stare.
There was a question in Blair's eyes as well. John caught it. He also smiled a little. Her obedience was how she proved she loved and trusted them, he knew. And she gave it to no one else. Oh, she liked other people, loved a quite a few, but she obeyed no one else. He explained it quietly while she listened and all she did was cuddle between her men, accepting the caress of their hands and bodies openly, publickly and proudly. Then she called Mitri to meet her Foster Core.
Sentinel Evolutions: Chapter 3: Segment 2: Scribe #5
Scribe was silent, biting the inside of her cheek. Jim didn't like that. "I'll repeat myself. Is there
something I need to know about this woman?"
"Well..." it was drawn out. "You've already heard the barebones straight history from John and Roy." Jim nodded agreement at this, his __expression tightening. He loved children. Anyone fucking around with them was on his short list to have their ass thoroughly kicked.
"Aside from that," her tone became wavery and ethereal, "She's one of the great mysteries of the universes." Blair poked her, and she said in her normal voice, "Honestly, I just know her from connecting on the net. Um, connecting with her other self on the net?" She shook her head. "One reality at a time. What do you need to know about her? What do you need to know about her?" she said slowly and thoughtfully.
She cleared her throat. "She is one of the most persistant people on the face of this, or any other, earth. Don't think you'll be able to outlast her on anything she wants you do, just DO--she'll wear you down. Makes her VERY efficient at getting things done, though it isn't always comfy-cozy for those working with her." She looked at a smirking Jane, "Damn, woman, the PACE you set when this thing got started! ~I'm~ a prolific writer, and I still felt like one of those guys who turns out a book once every decade or so."
Kata, who was watching this little instruction session with interest, commented, "Steven King says that anyone who can only turn out one book every four years is basically a lazy bastard."
Jim was looking apprehensive. "Why do I have the feeling that the mention of Steven King's name is not entirely inappropriate?"
Scribe ignored his comment. "She has massive numbers of spirit animals at her beck and call, so it behooves you to be nice to her unless you want mouse droppings in your cornflakes and moose slobber in your hair. She thinks more moves ahead than a Russian Grandmaster of Chess. Nice sabotage on the laptop."
Jane bowed and saluted.
"She goads you if she thinks you aren't living up to your potential, and is absolutely
shameless about hectoring you into participating to the fullest."
Kata was rolling her eyes. "Testify, my sister."
"But," Scribe held up a finger. "She isn't ACTUALLY malevolent. Um, I kind of liken her to a softer, not quite so psychotic version of Strife, but then I'm also deep into the Xena fandom. Oh, and it's a MAJORLY stupid move to mess with anyone she cares about, has taken under her wing, or views as vulnerable."
"Protective?" Blair asked.
"Like a mama grizzly bear/tiger hybrid in full 'get the HELL away from my cubs!' mode. Oh, and one of her favorite passtimes is deflating full of themselves macho men." She looked pointedly at Ellison.
Blair cleared his throat. "You can't help it, Jim. It's part of the Alpha thing, but it has to be honed so that it doesn't interfer with the harmony of the Core." He looked to Jane for either confirmation, or a smack on the nose.

The trio came to a warm and sunny clearing nearby the sentinel-guide camp in the Cascade National Park. Kata's lynx stayed on guard at the edge of the clearing. Simon and Henry had taken one look at it and decided it was just part of the general madness.
"Okay, now park yourselves here and we'll see if I can explain some of this to you," Kata announced, nudging the two men forward.
"Good. First, what's going on?!?" Simon bellowed. He flopped down on the ground, looking relieved now that he had gotten the shout out of his system. Henry looked at him amused and sat down more graciously.
"You already know some of it, that is, you'd know if you bothered to analyse what's been happening," Kata said as she seated herself, after checking the ground for any larger stones or sticks.
"We do?" H asked perplexed.
"Yes. Just think of how you've been acting, or wanting to act, and compare it to how you've seen others in the bullpen act."
H started to think about it. After a minute, his eyes seemed to bulge out of his face. "Blair?!?"
"What?!? You mean. ?" Simon asked Kata, or tried to ask. He still could not say it out loud.
"Yep. Now, why don't you tell him what this means," Kata suggested to Simon.
Simon buried his face in his hands. The mutters sounded suspiciously like curses and complaints, with a few prayers thrown in.
"Simon?" Henry asked softly after it became evident the other one was not going to come out of it without some coaxing.
Simon straightened himself, with obvious effort.
"Okay, now Blair's Jim's guide. Jim's a sentinel, meaning his senses are more acute and under his conscious control than other people's. Blair helps him control those senses and keeps him from zoning. Zone's a state when a sentinel concentrates on one sense so much he blocks out everything else." Simon sighed. "Far as I know the two are normally lovers."
Henry thought about it. "Doesn't sound that bad. Besides, I already knew some of that. But what about the mentors or something that woman told us about in the bullpen?"
"That's me," Kata said. "A mentor, well, as the title says she teaches the Core group, and an anchor is the touchstone for both the sentinel and guide. I suppose I'm to be both to you two."
"And all this means. what?" H asked, still wary.
Kata grinned. "That your lives have changed quite a lot and the three of us are going to become very close."
"But how?!? We're detectives, I'm a police captain for heaven's sake. We can't suddenly just." Simon signed furiously with his arms, at loss for words.
"Why not?" Kata inquired. "Even if you don't believe in destiny, can you honestly say that you could just walk out on us? On this?"
Simon opened his mouth to say yes, but closed it. He could not honestly say yes, not anymore. He might have been able to say yes before this whole thing started, but after meeting Kata, it had been a done deal.
"I can't." H looked at Simon. "The two of you are already a part of me, specially Simon."
The two looked at each other in amazement and affection. It was so cute.
"But how could this happen now? After all this time?"
"The three of us have come together at last and it's time," Kata answered. Her patience was growing thin with the two pigheaded men. Why the heck did they insist on talking this to death?
"But what about when we get back to Cascade?" H asked. "How could we. I mean the three of us are supposed to stay together, right?"
"Yes, and what's the problem?" Kata was beginning to fume.
"Er, well, two men and a woman, I mean." Poor Henry wilted before the glare from Kata.
"Okay, you two are thinking too much," Kata announced. She decided it was time to move on to the fun part and pounced on Simon.
Simon suddenly found himself on his back with Kata kissing the life out of him. He was most eager to participate in this sort of activities, too eager to think rationally. Kata sat up on Simon and grabbed Henry by his shirt. He pulled the flabbergasted detective one to within kissing distance. Simon was stroking her jeans clad thighs, and the hands were slowly moving upwards.
"Thinking is overrated," she whispered before kissing H. roughly.

Johnny explained, "Some friends brought her in while you three were," he smiled, "um, finding yourselves. Since she's reaching the stage where privacy is very important, She has her own little niche a little farther back in the cavern. She'll spend most of her time out here with us, but there's going to be times she needs to retreat, and that room is to be viewed as her sanctuary," he gave the three new Core members hard looks, "by EVERYONE." They all nodded. All, for various personal reasons, knew about needing a space that was yours alone.
Roy had left the groups, walking back into the caverns. Now he returned, with a short, slight figure shuffling behind him. For a moment, in the less than glaring light that filtered in from the cave mouth, Scribe (with her less than Sentinel vision) was confused, because this looked more like a pre-adolescent BOY. But as she came closer, Scribe noted the delicate bone structure, the piquant, impish features, and the barely-there bumps under the loose sweatshirt that heralded a budding bosom. But the little girl's dark hair was chopped almost as short as Jim's. In fact, now that the rejuvination had lowered his hairline a bit, it looked like he had more than she.
Johnny noted her puzzlement and drew the three close for a quick bit of last minute instruction. "Listen, this is important. Nothing about the hair, okay? She had it almost down to her waist when her family was killed. But during the first stage of grief, she got hold of a pair of scissors and did a real job on herself. We had to treat scalp wounds."
Blair bit his lip in sympathy. "Classic mourning ritual, and classic self-destructive behavior, too."
Johnny nodded. "We're just grateful that she didn't use the scissors on the rest of her body." When Jim winced, he said, "Like Jane told you, she's been actively suicidal. Her whole world was torn apart by that avalanche. She was BORN into a loving, fully formed Core, and it was smashed in an instant." He sighed. "We've had to pump her stomach twice--once for aspirin, and once for a heart stimulant. Thank God we walked in just as she swallowed that, or we would have lost her for sure."
"But in that case, wouldn't the room being off limits be sort of dangerous?" asked Scribe. Johnny silently pointed at Jim. "Oh. Right."
"We'll all help on that score, Jim," he told the Sentinel. "It's too important to leave to one person. But for the rest of it?" He slapped him on the shoulder. "On your own, buddy."
Roy and Mitri came to stand in front of the group. Roy said gently, "Mitri, these nice folks are going to be your foster Core till you're old enough to find and bond with your destined group. Jim, Blair, and Scribe." He didn't explain who was what to her--as a born Guide/Shamen, she could tell.
The girl studied them silently, arms crossed tightly across her thin chest. Even with the butchered hair, she was a remarkably pretty child, and was probably going to be a stunning young woman. Scribe tossed Jim a quick glance. I can picture him beginning to lay in a supply of baseball bats for persistant suitors right now. She glanced over at Blair, and saw total enchantment in his face. And Blair has just found an elf princess. Oh, geez, looks like I'm middle ground. She looked at the girl again, who was regarding them with wide, hazel eyes, and felt something inside soften and warm. The maternal instinct she'd always known she had, but had despaired of ever finding use for, was stirring.
The silence was stringing out way too long. As usual, it was Blair who couldn't keep his mouth shut. He gave Mitri a patented Sandburg smile. "Hi, Mitri. Guess we're going to be family."
She was not charmed. "H'lo." She pointed at him. "You're not my uncle." She pointed at Scribe. "You're not my mother." Finally she pointed at Jim. "And YOU'RE not my father. THEY all knew what they were doing."
Jim sighed. "Blended families--the joy of the modern age." He was alarmed when tears suddenly welled up in the girl's clear hazel eyes, and she turned and ran back into the cavern, her sobs trailing behind her. He found himself the focus of near murderous stares from everyone--including Blair. He threw up his hands. "What did I DO?"
Jane shot Blair a warning glance, and 'Listened'. "Oh shit, Blair, you and Scribe stay here: Jim follow her. You dealt the damage, now you deal with the results. Or aren't you Listening?" She bit out in disgust. "I can see that turning you into an openly compassionate human being, and teaching you not to devastate little girls is going to take a long-damned-time!"
Jim's face paled, and he sprinted after the fleeing child. She had the gun that he had (again) misplaced and was trying to figure out how to unlock the safety...
He caught up just as she managed it, knocked her hand away from her head as she pulled the trigger and caused her to fire a wild shot into the ground. Two minutes later the Bullpen, minus Megan converged on the pair who by then were on the ground. Jim had tears streaming down his face as instinct hit him hard at the realization of what his callousness had almost caused. He also had the girl on his lap, was cuddling and rocking her back and forth, murmurring to her. Blair knelt on Jim's right side, Scribe on his left as soon as John nodded at them to join Ellison, saying, Scribe, you handle Jim: Blair, finish bringing Mitri's conscienousness back. Get your chopec friend to push from the other side of Death. And listen when I explain what should
have been obvious!" Streeter ranted.
"Jim, you are an idiot. Most children bond to their parents, and in this case, a child Guide was partially bonded to her Sentinel father. What the hell do you think happens when that par-tic-u-lar Bond is abruptly severed? *That is why she's prone to suicide: and she will remain so until she forms a partial bond to YOU, you ass?" His breath caught in horror.
"I see your higher functions are beginning to come online." She sneered coldly, but at a sub-sonic level. "Now, on top of that trauma, you just handed her what her instincts told her was a rejection by the sentinel assigned to raise her. We've had a hard enough time convincing her that she was NOT responsible for things that happen in Nature without you reinforcing her belief that her Core, and most especially her sentinel father's death was her fault. If you think your Bonded Guide and Anchor have low self-esteem, she's now convinced at thirteen-god-damned-years-fucking-old, that she killed her Birth-Core." She listened as Roy and John explained this to the group at large. Mitri was sobbing "It's my fault" in a mantra too loudly to hear John's soft voice. The last few walls around Jim Ellison's emotions came crashing down as he realized that his defenses had nearly killed a defenseless soul-lost young girl. He had no idea where the gentle warmth he let himself feel came from since he'd never allowed himself to develop a father-child bond with a kid before. He sobbed harshly into Mitri's neck.
"Never again, don't ever scare me like that again, damn it!" He told Mitri as he tuned Streeter out to concentrate on the teenager who did recognize the feeling, and was too emotionally out-of-control to stop the rapidly connecting Bond. By the time she had stopped crying, she was linked to the new Core. When Jim finally got her to her feet she leaned solidly against his
side, shivering from exhaustion.
But she was stable, and able to think clearly again. She wasn't suicidal now, and somehow, everyone was aware of that. Jane nodded slightly, knowing that once the girl's natural curiosity about the unfamiliar forest woke, Jim would be run ragged trying to get and keep her out of trouble. And a normal Mitri was both accident prone and a trouble magnet about three times as bad a Jim's Blair. She told Ellison that just before she gave him directions to the Personal Cave assigned to them for the duration.
//It wasn't really a cave// Jim mused. It is an underground home with more nifty little built-in niceties than a rich man's house// It certainly looked like a real house from the inside, if you forgot the lack of windows in the place....
Scribe looked around the main cavern of their new home, and sighed. Mitri, standing beside her, looked around as well, then looked up at the older woman. "What's wrong? I think it's neat."
She gave the girl a wry smile. "That it is, Mitri. And I'm sure that when I was about ten or twelve I would have been wet-my-pants happy over the chance to live somewhere like this. I always wanted to live in Tarzan's tree house." She chuckled, leaning conspiritorially toward the girl. Jim and Blair were setting up the main sleeping area over to the side. She nodded at Jim, "Well, it looks like I got Tarzan, and this Cheetah is a lot cuter than the ones in the movies." Mitri gave a small giggle, and Scribe felt her heart warm. It was so good to see the little thing showing signs of normally goofy pre-adolescent behavior, no matter how small.
Mitri was rubbing her foot along the floor, poking at a pebble. Scribe made a mental note--the floor looked like solid rock, smoother than she had any right to expect. If she could sweep it off really good, going barefoot would not be unreasonable. "Miss Scribe?"
"Just Scribe, hon. 'Miss' makes me feel too Southern to live."
"Okay. I'm... um, I'm sorry about what I said earlier."
Well, I'll be damned--an unprompted apology. Jim should take lessons from her as well as Jane. "Nothing to apologize about, hon. All you did was state a fact." She shrugged, saying gently, "You might've phrased it a little more kindly, but it's the truth. I'm NOT your mama, and I'm not going to try to take her place. No one can ever do that." She put a hand on the girl's thin shoulder. "But I'm here to take care of you, to teach you what I can, and to be your friend, if you'll let me. I don't see any reason to hurry to put a label on that."
Mitri slid a sideways glance at her. "I'm pretty messed up, huh?"
Scribe sighed. She sat down, crossing her legs, winced, moved a rock, and sighed again. "Sweety, I'm a forty-four year old woman occupying a body that's suddenly about a dozen or more years younger, and it is surprising me at every turn. I never had a boyfriend until I got sucked into an alternate universe, then I acquired two that had been nothing more than fictional fantasies. I lost MY daddy when I was about your age, but to a disease that just ate him alive while I watched. I had a sister murdered by a seriel killer, and a niece who was on nodding
acquaintance with the EMTs from HER suicide attempts. I hate the woods, am totally freaked by not having indoor plumbing, and bitch WAY more than is comfortable for those around me." She smiled. "You don't have the market cornered on messed up."
Heart, sensing a lap being formed, came pattering over from where she had been supervising the bed making (an important activity, since she fully intended to share the space.) The little wolf leaned briefly against Mitri's leg, then clambered into Scribe's lap and settled comfortably. Scribe scritched her behind the ears. "Oh, and I'm normally a cat person, but I ended up with this furball..." UFF! "whom I love madly." grrrumble "Who I will feed snacks to, thus earning a scolding from my Shamen and Sentinel, but braving it in her favor." A forgiving kiss was placed on Scribe's nose.
Mitri settled beside Scribe, and glanced over at the two who were now arguing about who got which side. It hadn't occured to them that, since they weren't really against a wall, 'side' was basically a moot point. "Do they always argue this much?"
Scribe looked at her, cocking her head. "How much do you know about the dreaded 'facts of life'?"
The look Mitri gave her was a little pitying. "I know that people have sex."
"I know that Cores are different than the rest of the worlds 'cause they lots of times have more than two people having sex, and it isn't always boy-girl-boy-girl."
Scribe blew out a breath. "That's going to make my life a heck of a lot easier. Anyway..." Jim and Blair were now almost chest to chest, both talking rapidly. It wasn't easy for Blair to use his hands this close, but he managed. "I don't know about other Sentinels and Shamen/Guides, but those two? It's more or less a mating ritual."
Mitri was round-eyed. "Really? Sounds kind of stupid to me."
Scribe shrugged. "Comes from the years they spent repressing their feelings for each other. Every now and then they have to have a snarkfest, but it's usually followed by..." The voices had lowered. Jim was playing with one of Sandburg's curls. "Any minute now." Blair reached around Jim, his hand resting lightly at the small of the bigger man's back. "Three, two, one..."
"Scribe?" Jim called. "I'm going to go out and, uh, scout the area."
"Thought you'd already done that pretty well, Jim," she answered blandly.
"Yeah, well, situations change."
"I'd better go along," Blair said brightly. "You know--new environment, unexpected sensory bursts. Never can tell when he might zone."
Mitri and Scribe exchanged looks as the two men started out of the cavern. Just before they exitted, Mitri called, "Take a blanket! That way you don't have to worry about thistles on your bare butt!" The two men froze, then Blair quickly scooped up a folded blanket before they left. Mitri and Scribe dissolved into giggles. Mitri said, "Juh-Jim... I swear, the BACK OF HIS NECK was blushing!"
Scribe clapped her on the back. "You have great power, young one. Use it for the good, do not give in to the Dark Side."
They spent some time discussing how to decorate the cavern. Mitri fetched some sketches from her belongings to give Scribe examples of what she was thinking about. Scribe was duely impressed. The girl had a lot of talent, and her simple style would translate well into cave drawings. While she was studying the pictures, Heart wiggled off her lap. Scribe absently hauled the little wolf back, cuddling her. She endured it for a moment, then got down again. Scribe pulled her back. The pup gave an exasperated sigh and crawled down quickly, trying to escape before Scribe could catch her.
The pup whirled, sharp baby teeth snapping an inch from Scribe's hand. The writer jerked back in shock, and was on the receiving end of a volley of high pitched yaps and growls. Understanding seeped into her expression, and she said apologetically, "Well, excuse me! Next time SAY something!" Heart snorted and trotted out of the cave.
"What was that?" Mitri asked, curious.
"You didn't understand."
Mitri gave her a pitying look. "She's YOUR spirit animal."
"Oh. Right. I'll get the hang of this eventually. She reminded me that if I wanted her to be house... uh, cavern trained, then I had to let her go outside occasionally."
"Oh. She needed to water the daisies."
Scribe couldn't fight down a smile. "I think that it's more that she had to fertilize them. Where'd you come up with that phrase for it?"
"My grandma. She didn't get the whole Sentinel thing, either. You remind me a lot of her."
Scribe winced. "You know, kid, Jim isn't the only one who needs a little training in the loose tongue department."
Mitri just grinned cheekily at the older woman before getting up to go follow the two men. She wanted to know if her foster father was as good as her father had been at making sure she was not around before doing anything with her mother's brother or her mother. She sneaked quickly through the woods, and her sneaking was very quiet. The children of a sentinel quickly
learn to be silent when up to no good, and she figured Jim would not be expecting to have her stalk them to watch. //Like, how else am supposed to figure sex out?// She reasoned as she slowed to minimal movement and began a 'creeping' stalk. She wasn't a sentinel herself, but she was forest-born and forest-bred. The local animal population knew her, and did not give an alarm as they would have if say, Scribe, had tried this. She had a poleriod camera with her, and she knew how to make a sound that would call a local bull moose to her to 'play'. As she got close enought to use the instant camera, she moaned the special call that would bring the moose (he was 'never' far from camp)in every time. He trotted to her from the other side of where Jim and Blair were (as Mitri called it) "going at it" hot and heavy, and stepped right over Jim's naked ass to get to the youngster who wanted to play.
Jim blinked, and yelled in alarm just as an absolutely huge moose stepped over him and trotted on past. Blair's eyes went wide as he suddenly spotted Mitri and saw the poleroid. Too late he realized that he and Jim were on their feet, naked and yelling in startled fright as she clicked off several shots, got on the moose, and rode him back in the general direction of camp....
"Oh no...." He moaned staring after her. "Jim. She had a camera."
"Yeah, I noticed that."
"She used it, too." Blair was a little pale. "We were had, Jim."
"Yeah, I notced that too." Jim was already following the pair back to the cave. "I wonder how she got past my monitoring almost as much as I wonder why she did that..."
By the time they got back to camp everyone there had a photo each, and she was reclining on the big deer's withers. Giggling. "Uncla John, you oughta've seen 'em jumpin' up and down an' hollerin' and they was buck naked and..." She paused. "Uh oh. Come'on Major T, Pop 'n Blair's comin'."
Roy pulled her off the moose as it moved away, told her: "If you're gonna hide, you gotta do it on foot."
" lemmie loose!" And she sprinted off before Jim and Blair got even with a giggling Scribe, and the rest of the highly amused group.
Scribe wiped her streaming eyes on her sleeve, finally leaning weakly against Roy and giving vent to full formed howls. The paramedic, fighting with his own laughter, handed her a handkerchief, which she honked into lustily. Finally Scribe managed, "If you two are so worried about in-the-buff pictures of you making the rounds, don't you think it might've been a good idea to throw on a couple of rags before you came streaking after her?"
Both men immediately clapped hands in front of their crotches. Peja choked out, "Man, it's a good thing that old wive's tale about a man's hands indicating the size of his equipment being true, cause you two have a lot to conceal, so it's good that the hand sizes coincide."
Rafe (who had only just stopped laughing himself) poked her. "You're not supposed to be noticing other guys' equipment."
"I'm bonded, not dead," she informed him. "If it's on display, I'm DAMN sure going to look. Like YOU wouldn't look if Kata or Jane or Scribe came bouncing past starkers."
"WHICH ISN'T LIKELY TO HAPPEN, as long as my horndog husbands don't make with
the aphrodisiac tea again."
Chet looked interested. "Tell me more about this tea."
"No!" chorussed Johnny and Roy. "Seriously, Blair," Johnny continued. "Willingly giving Chet access to ANYTHING that will alter body chemistry in any way, shape, or form, will be grounds for group discipline."
"Trust us on this," Roy added.
Chet pouted. "Great. I've landed in with a bunch of wet blankets."
"That's a no-go, too, Chet," Johnny warned. "Don't think I'm forgetting that leaking water-bottle incident. We're out in the wilderness here, and we can't just waltz to the linen closet for fresh bedding, so that sort of things are off limits."
"Well, why don't you just TIE ME UP!" Chet griped.
The short firefighter was surprised when Peja grabbed his collar, pulled him close, and purred, "That IS an option."
"Anyway, Jim, just be grateful that Major T is straight," Jane said, grinning. "Imagine the possibilities of a full grown gay bull moose after your ass."
Jim paled. "Oh, that isn't FUNNY, Streeter."
She grinned evilly. "-I- think it is."
There was a sudden howling and squawlling from the other side of the vehicles. "What the HELL is that?" Blair yelped. "It sounds like a riot!"
"Close," said Kata. "I think my lynx and Peja's coons are having a dispute."
"Shit!" Blair looked around, alarmed. "Where's a bucket of water? Where's a fire extinguisher?"
"Well," Jane drawled, "I'm glad to see that you have enough sense to not want to just wade into a situation like that."
There was a wild crashing sound as a multitude of small animals went pounding into the brush and up trees, chattering and scolding. Then the lynx came trotting around the back of Jim's truck. She had a long, limp, furry brown body dangling from her jaws.
Rafe yelled. "CHIP! Kata, your damn cat is eating my otter!" The lynx sat near them, ears perked proudly. He shook his head, and the otther flopped. "Where the hell is my guy?!"
"Oh, chill!" Jane snapped. "Enough, guys." The lynx opened his mouth, and dropped the otter. It landed on it's feet. Suddenly animated, it sat up on its hind legs, chittering merrily.
"Chip!" Rafe wilted in relief. The sinuous animal scurried over to him, winding himself around his human's leg, almost twice. "Don't DO that to me." He reached down and picked up the little animal, draping the long body over his shoulder like a baby that needed to be burped. "You have cat spit in your fur," he scolded.
"Um, Rafe?" said Simon. "You're getting mud and possibly coon and otter shit on your shirt."
"Yeah?" Chip was nuzzling Rafe's ear, and Rafe was grinning as the bristly whiskers tickled him.
"Isn't that the Tommy Hilfiger one that you were so proud of last week?"
"So? It's just a shirt."
Everyone from the Bullpen gaped. Rafe--unconcerned about damage to his clothes. Things really were changing.
There was a hooting cry a little ways in the distance, and everyone's head jerked up. "What was that?" H. asked.
"Sounded like Twinky," Roy said consideringly. "Oh, that's right--we haven't explained about the troop of snow monkeys. Well, that will wait for later. Right now, I think that means that someone is coming. Who's still missing?"
They all thought. Blair groaned. "Oh, MAN." Jim rolled his eyes, and Simon put his head in his hands.
Chet was watching everyone's reaction. "What?"
"I think," said Scribe, "That we are about to be visited by the Aussie with Attitude."
A SUV came roaring into sight, taking the rutted road like an Indie 500 racer on the track. It ignored the last bit of cleared parking space in favor of bouncing to a stop on the grass, causing Chip to take refuge on TOP of Rafe's head, and two baby coons to climb Peja's legs and crawl under her shirt.
"WHAT THE BLOODY FUCKING HELL IS GOING ON HERE, AND WHY THE SHIT AM I IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WOODS?!" Megan stalked toward the group, and pointed an accusatory finger at Blair, who immediately shook his head, hands spread over his chest in a gesture of innocence. "Don't try to deny it, Sandburg! This SMELLS like one of yours!"
Blair smiled weakly, then looked over. "Jane? Help?"
Streeter looked at him, motioned him to step behind Jim, and squared off against Megan. Mentally, she broadcast a message to the Animals that every single Shaman in the bunch heard, the sound echoed in their heads.
//Who claims this Human?//
At that point a haunting call rang out, as a full grown mountain lion that dwarfed Jim's jag materialized next to Megan, and another SUV sprayed gravel with it's abrupt arrival: Two more members of A shift got out. From across the meadow there was a whoop and a thunder of hooves as Mitri rode Major T at a gallop towards the rest of them.
Time seemed to slow as Jim launched himself up to grab the girl as she lost her hold on the moose's antlers and slid helplessly toward the ground some 12 feet below at a forward motion of about 30 mph! He knocked the Aussie flat in the process of getting to Mitri. Roy was closest so he steadied both of them and John cushioned all three. Lopez, Stoker, and Kelly's well trained reaction brought them into the peril without hesitation. All three were well long-used to backing John and Roy in rescue situations.
Mitri still broke her arm, though. And she was so shaken that everyone was so focused on her that not one person noticed that Major T was sloppily licking a groggily dizzy, protesting Megan and a disgusted Claw by terms.
This time it was Blair that was rocking the girl, while Scribe was fully occupied in calming Jim down. It took her a while, but eventually he noticed that he was sitting bare-assed on a small cactus.
Jim was laying on his stomach on their pad, while Scribe carefully picked cactus spines out of his butt. "It's okay to yell and swear," she told him. "-I- sure as shit would."
"I'm just grateful," he gritted, "That they missed my balls."
Scribe winced. "Oh, PLEASE don't say that! I don't even have any, and it makes my skin crawl."
"Are you done yet?"
"Be patient. Remember, I don't have Sentinel vision to find every one of the little boogers, and if we leave any in by accident, you risk an infection."
Jim concentrated. "There's one JUST to the right of where you have your finger."
Scribe clicked on a flashlight and peered closely. "So there is." She got the tweezers. pluck "I think that's it. Now, hold still. I have some aloe vera gel that should help a lot, though I expect
you'll still be sleeping on your belly for a day or two." She carefully slathered the cooling gel on
Jim's abused buttocks, and sighed. "You have to be more careful, Jim. It should be a criminal offence to mar something this beautiful."
Jim growled. "Don't you DARE start something I'm not in any shape to finish right now."
She bent over and kissed the back of his neck. "Sweety, learn this fact--it is possible to admire
someone else physically without automatically having it move on to sex."
"Yeah, but in the best of all possible worlds, it does."
Roy came into the cavern, leading a pale and quiet Mitri. Jim rolled on his back quickly, snatching up a sheet to cover himself, and immediately yelped as his pincushioned backside came in contact with the floor. Mitri gave him a wan smile. "You don't have anything I ain't already seen, remember?"
"That doesn't mean it's going on display on a daily basis!" Jim scolded. He held out his hand, and Mitri came over to stand beside the bed. His voice soft, he said, "Are you okay?" She nodded. He made a face at her. "Blair's always after me to 'can the stoic shit'. If you're in pain, it isn't whining to admit it--you have to let people know, so they can help you."
"It hurts some," she admitted. He patted the bed, and she dropped down beside him, sitting cross-legged. She didn't try to pull away or protest when Jim put an arm around her waist and pulled her back to lean against him. Mitri sighed and relaxed against him, letting herself feel comforted by his strength, and the promise of security that he offered.
There was a mournful honking sound outside, and a huge, antlered head poked into the mouth of the cavern. "Oh, LORD!" moaned Jim. "Somebody get that wooly Mammoth wannabe away from here!"
"He's just worried about me," said Mitri. She lifted her voice. "Hey, Major T! I'm all right." The moose made a crooning noise. "No, it ain't your fault. I just didn't hang on tight enough. You go on, now. Even if you DID manage to get in here, we'd half kill ourselves getting you back out, and besides..." she reached up behind her, one soft hand patting at Jim's cheek. "Oh, Prissybritches has had enough hissy fits for one day, I reckon."
The moose withdrew its head, and Jim said dryly, "Thank you."
"Welcome." She yawned drowsily.
Roy said, "We gave her a little something for the pain. Mitri, why don't you go ahead and have a nap?"
"Babies nap in the daytime." Her voice was blurred.
Jim laid back down, coaxing her to stretch out on top of the sheet beside him. "So do sensible adults, when they can. Scribe?" She tossed a comforter over the pair. Mitri was snoring softly even before it settled.
Scribe smiled. "Lord, the whole family snores--except me."
Blair had come in, accompanied by Megan. "Uh, Scribe? Hate to tell you, babe, but..."
"I do NOT snore," she said firmly. "Neither do I belch, nor poot. Any evidence you have to the
contrary is an auditory hallucination."
"You really believe that?" His voice was amused.
"You will, too," she said sweetly, "IF you don't want to sleep on the other side of the cave."
"Woman breathes rose petals all night long," Blair told Megan.
Megan came closer, looking down at Mitri. "Little Bit okay, Ellison?" He nodded. "I feel a bit guilty about this." She hunkered down, gently pushing a wisp of dark hair up off Mitri's forehead. "I guess if I hadn't been acting like such a looney, things might've been a bit calmer."
"Yeah." Jim frowned. "Frankly, I'm surprised that you're still not raving."
"Well, what happend to her took a lot of the starch out of my knickers," she grinned. "And witnessing your close encounter with that spiny succulent did the rest." She chuckled. "Oh, where is a camcorder when you need one?"
"I won't need one," Jim assured her. "I fully expect to be reliving that on a regular basis--in my
Megan sat down. "So... Sentinel, huh?" Jim nodded. She looked at Blair. "Guide?" He nodded, too. She snorted. "Explains a bloody lot. I'm kicking Simon's arse for not letting me in on it." She smiled wickedly, "You're only escaping 'cause I figure your ass has had enough abuse for now. Plus," she cocked her head at Scribe, "your woman might object if I put you out of commission entirely." Scribe bowed. "I..." she cleared her throat. "I... have been informed that I'm a Sentinel, too." She shrugged. "Couldn't prove it by me. I mean, I know that we Aussies are naturally superior, but..."
Johnny and Jane came in. The cave was starting to get crowded. "That's because you haven't bonded with the other members of your Core yet. You're still latent. But now that you're here, your senses should come online quickly. Brace yourself--it's not going to be pleasant till you get a little control over them."
As he was speaking, Scribe had gone to the storage niche in the back part of the cave. It was actually around a short bend from the main section. She figured that Jim could use some vitamin C, and she remembered seeing a few oranges. She chose a plump one, examined it for flaws, then dug her thumbnail in at the stem to begin peeling it.
The second her thumb punctured the rough peel there was a faint, burst of citrusy smell as the oils were released, and she smiled, digging her nail in a bit more and ripping up the first bit of peel.
Out in the main section of the cavern she heard Megan's voice raised. "What the...?!" cough
"Ellison! How did you get your bleedin' gas to smell of tangerines?!"
Scribe took a breath. "And so it begins."
Jim grinned at Megan as she snorted and sneezed and coughed. "Maybe now she'll cut the damned jokes." He commented to Jane.
"I have a better one, Stoker and Lopez are obviously her's, but I have a pair of latent infants, twin boys, that those three will make excellent adoptives for. Their identical, too. Have a pair of Great Horned Owls for spiri....MAJOR! WHAT THE HELL?!"
The big moose had wiggled and squeezed his bulk into the cave, and was now easing himself into a half curl around Mitri. He immediately resumed grooming Megan. He seemed to like how she tasted.
"OH NO! Crap! This sucks! I just got the slimey shit OFF!" Megan bitched as the bull nursed on her hair. She tried to push the big head out of her way, and found that he liked sucking fingers just as much. A drowsey Mitri looked up and grinned groggily at the Aussie.
"Are you a lezzie like me?" She asked the spit covered and suddenly stunned woman bluntly. Megan just gaped at her.
"Uh, no...." She stuttered.
"Jim?" She asked plaintively. "Am I too bad for a pairing to want me?" The seditive was making her voice things she worried about. It was enough to make him blink back tears.
"No, of course you aren't. Your's just aren't here yet. Maybe not even born or something, Sweetie." Came John's soft voice. "Don't think like that."
She shivered and looked sadly at Blair. Without a word, Sandburg heard her in his mind wondering what the other Shaman-Gifted man would have done if he'd never found Jim and Scribe he nudged closer. "But I did. I did, and he's right here, and she's right next to him. I did find them, or they found me. And you and your's will find each other."
"Roy." Was all Jane said, but it was enough. The redhead took the child from Jim, and sat down in a rocker with her. He had soothed Jane herself this way, and if she thought the teen needed it, then the girl needed it. It was that simple. To Jim and Blair she said; "Watch Roy, listen to him soothe her, and learn." She said softly. "She needs 'that' kind of caring. I know how good those arms feel." She shook herself a bit, looked at the two, and said to Jim, "Why do you think your two love it so when you hold them?"
Simon and H. entered the cave. "So THIS is where the convention is being held," Simon commented, looking around. Roy felt Mitri stir slightly in his arms, but she didn't awaken. He decided that, as long as the adults didn't get too noisy, it would be better to just let them congregate. This was beginning to feel like a real community--the members with a history
adjusting to each other in their new roles, the new members exploring and getting to know their new Core Mates. The bonding was palpable, and it a sensitive like Mitri could feel it. It could only do her good.
Kata came in after them, casually looping an arm around each man's waist. The lynx trotted in, went directly to Major T, and climbed up on him. Once atop the moose's broad back, he kneaded the thick hide till it suited him, then curled up in a ball and began to purr roughly. Major T paused in grooming Claw and Megan to give Growler a welcoming lick, which was
greeted with a half hearted, muted yowl.
Jim looked at Blair. "I've gone from the Sandburg Zone into Noah's Ark."
Blair poked him. "C'mon, Jim, you know you love animals. It's just that your dad never would let you have a pet, so you told yourself that you didn't care. You don't have to pretend now. And there's no drapes to worry about getting shredded." Heart trotted over, sat down near Scribe's feet, and began to vigorously scratch behind her ear, dead leaves flying. "And no carpet to get shampooed. If someone has an accident..." YAP! "Not necessarily you, Hairball. All we have to do is sweep out the flooring."
It was a tribute to how much everyone was becoming aclaimated to the situation that the arrival of a large black jaguar did not cause a panic. Of course it had flowed past under the sight line of H. and Simon, and was busily giving Jim a sniffing inspection before they noticed it. Both of the men froze. Finally Simon said, "Jim?"
"Yeah, Simon?" Tigre had his snout buried in Jim's armpit. Jim had his arm raised to allow the big cat access, a long suffering look on his face.
"That would be the spirit guide you've talked about?"
"It would."
"So we don't have to worry about it eating you?" The cat suddenly took Jim's arm in its jaws, with absolutely no straining at all. It shot a pale blue gaze at the hyperventilating men, and Simon suddenly said, "Son of a BITCH! He's TEASING us."
"Yes. Please don't encourage him. I already have enough animal saliva on me." As if in answer, Major T bestowed a sloppy kiss on Jim's cheek. "FUCK! Look, I thnk I can learn to live with the animals pretty easily, but do I HAVE to have moose spit facials?" He looked at Major T. "You need a TicTac." smooch "Crap."
Scribe was holding her sides. "Wh-what can I say, Ellison? You're obviously irresistable."
"What I want to know," said Simon, "Is if ANYONE left a semi-coherant explanation back at HQ? Are we going to have the National Guard come racing up here when we don't check back in in a day or two? Has the crazier crooked element of Cascade found out that Major Crimes
is basically down to Joel and a couple of secretaries and run rampant?"
"They'll make do," said Jane. "They have other personelle to fall back on. All of you are in the
middle of something a hell of a lot more important than those jobs you left. Those were just your jobs, people." Before someone could say anything she ammended, "Okay, a career for some of you. But this..." She sighed. "Well, you feel it." There were slow, and often reluctant, nods. Her voice was soft. "Yeah. It goes beyond a vocation, or a 'calling'." She shrugged. "It's Destiny,
capitalized. It's who and what you are."
Tigre had given Growler a sniff, receiving a bristly nose bump in greeting. Now he had noticed Claw. The interest was immediate and evident. The two cat--one big and sleekly ebony, the other even bigger and sleekly golder, began circling each other slowly. Both tails lashed back and forth rapidly, rounded ears were laid back flat to skulls, low rumbles started in deep chests.
H. said, "Jim, Blair, Scribe! Get away from there! That's one cat fight you don't want to get in the middle of."
But Jim, Megan, and Simon were all three sniffing. Jim smiled, but Megan and Simon looked perplexed. Megan said, "Musk?"
Blair looked at Jim, who nodded. Blair said, "Sort of. Pheromones."
Simon said slowly, "No--fucking--way."
Jane rolled her eyes. "Shit. Natural Education Time: Gay relationships between the males of most predators which are also mammals, are well known and documented in Nature. Only HUMANS will fight instinct, ergo, only humankind has bigots..."
Blair was nodding. "It's all about social order, man."
They'd stopped circling. Claw was gently biting Tigre on the back of the neck. The black cat's eyes were half closed, and he was making little stepping in place motions with his hind legs, his tail twitching to the side. Jim groaned and flopped back, covering his face with the sheet.
"What's the matter with him?" asked Megan, puzzled.
"He just realized that his cat is looking to bottom for your cat," said Blair.
"Oh, hell, -I'M- not quite ready for this!" Scribe snapped a towel at the two cats. "Get a room! Or rather get a clearing... or something! G'wan! Romp, have fun, make mad, passionate whoopie, with my blessings, but do it ELSEWHERE." They silently bounded into the night. She looked at Jane. "Don't look at me like that--I had a good reason. I've heard two Siamese cats making love before, and I ended up wanting to scream. Can you imagine what having two full grown, top-of-the-line, bad-ass feline predators going at it would sound like? Especially to a couple of new Sentinels, who haven't learned how to dial things down yet?"
There were murmurs of agreement, and even thanks, from everyone but Megan, who was too busy laughing her ass off again at Ellison. Scribe said, "Well, my tummy tells me that mealtime is approaching. It isn't that I'm anti-social, folks, but the supplies are not unlimited, and I've never even cooked a family Thanksgiving meal. Add to that the fact that I don't have a nice, regulated gas stove or microwave, and I think that we all had better start shifting."
Megan stood up. "Right, mate. I could use some tucker in a bit, but first didya say that two of those likely looking lads outside were mine?" Jane grinned, nodding. "And did I hear mention of a hot springs?" Another nod. "I think I'll just wander on over and have them show it to me." She left the cave.
Johnny looked at Jane. "Do you think we should tell her about the troop of snow monkeys, and their tendency to steal whatever clothes are left around the spring?" There was a pause, then they chorused, "Nah."
Marco Lopez and Mike Stoker had one advantage over MC, and it was a biggie. They, like Chet, had watched John and Roy raise Jane. They were long accustomed to having very strange things happen to them, near them, for them, and when she had told them that they HAD to be here at this place and at this time, they hadn't asked any questions. They had simply shown up. Magic and Jane went hand in hand, and this was a lot less weird than the uncanny protection she had had while very young. A mage child by nature experiments with some very dangerous forces, therefore there is a failsafe hardwired into them and it was a weird one indeed.
Provided that there was an adult in the child's life that the kid trusted enough to 'hold on for', there was nothing that the child she had been couldn't just 'take', knowing that they, meaning Roy and John would get there. It might take a long time especially if they were off-duty, but she
would hang on. Both men knew of several instances where the girl had had several broken bones and had also lost 70% of her total blood volume and had survived it. Because of her faith in her Guide and Anchor. She had little patience with stupidity, and none at all for judgmental assholes, which is why the Indian-shy Chet had so often fell victim to her practical jokes. He wouldn't let John alone, and she had reserved 'payback' as her right.
Marco smiled at Megan who was asking a lot of questions about the girl, and was frankly stunned by what she learned. Mike seldom spoke, letting Marc do most of the talking. He had been raised to believe that it was impolite to talk with his mouth full, and with her left tit fill it, found something better to do with his tongue. His other head was much too busy to yap,
either, buried as it was between the Aussie's thighs, and Marc's ability to speak was rapidly becoming slurred since his own tongue felt like it was half-way between Mike's anal opening and his teeth.
Mike lay on his back, knees pinned under his elbows with Megan riding him hard and Lopez's hot, wet, thick tongue licking the inside of his asshole and her's by turns. This wasn't the first time Marc had rimmed him, or the first time they had shared a woman. She was the last, though. Somehow both men knew that.
Eventually, Marc backed off to watch Mike's cock slide in and out of Conner rapidly, licking it from time to time. When she began to scream in orgasm, he ate the froth the mingled cum created. When she collasped, he took her place.
"Eat my ass, Stoker, then fuck me. Hard!: I'll tear something if I top, and I need dirty sex talk, right now, anyway!"
Stoker moved to obey: Marco never issued warnings he didn't mean. He wanted a dick in his ass bad, though. Any dick, he didn't really care whose as he lapped Marco's twitching hole. Marc howled when he felt Mike's tongue enter his ass, spreading his legs wide. when Megan pushed her cum filled gash under his lips he immediately started licking it. He sucked her hole dry, then used the tip of his tongue on her clit. "Oh, yeah, lick it!" Megan urged as she mashed her sex against his mouth, humping his face. "Eat it, boy! Lick it real good, Marc! Suck that clit!" He moaned as she rode his mouth roughly, pushing his ass at Mike's face as he begged for more. Mike's long tongue invaded his anal orifice, fucking him, the smaller man's face buried in his big lover's ass.
"Now, Mike! Use me!" Marco pleaded as he lapped Megan's pussy frantically. " He felt his lover enter, shoving inside him without stretching him, and enjoyed the pain it caused. abruptly he yanked Megan under himself and entered her, making her scream her lust. The heated coupling didn't last long, and the tangle of limbs and bodies seemed to surge with power as a thundering final orgasm shook the trio, and tossed them aside to recover in a heap.
The trio had been having their first-ever-as-a-trio romp on the edge of the natural hotspring. It was easy to just roll off into the steaming water for a wash and a soak. It was just deep enough near the end for them to sit with the water lapping up around their shoulders, their backs against a natural rock shelf, and so they did. It wasn't long before the trio fell into a light doze, cuddled together.
Once the soft snores started floating up into the evening air, there was a rustling in the branches
overhead. An ape, with silvery-white hair and a baby pink face, scampered lightly to the ground and approached the edge of the spring cautiously. He examined the three humans sleeping in the water. He didn't recognize any of them, but they'd come from the camp where his foster troop of humans lived, so they were probably all right. Anyway, they SMELLED all right. And they'd just mated. He knew that HE was always in a good mood after a rousing round of sex. Satified, he turned, lifted his face to the trees, and hooted softly.
There was immediate activity in the trees. More than two dozen snow monkeys of all sizes and ages came swinging down to the ground. Their normally boistrous chatter was muted to a mutter as they nervously eyed the unfamiliar human. But, Twinky had said it was all right, so it was all right. They went straight to the heap of clothing to investigate, and look for possible snacks.
One of them got lucky--Megan had been carrying a roll of Fruit Mentos in her skirt pocket. The ape quickly sniffed out the sugary-citrusy smelling candy and slipped it out, then tucked it under his arm and snuck to the edge of the group to see about opening it. He was all for sharing with the family, but there wasn't much here, was there?
Meanwhile the others were examining the various articles of clothing. This was something that they just couldn't fathom about their human neighbors--this need to wear coverings. But they WERE interesting. You could tell a lot about the human who had worn one of those things by smelling and tasting it.
The whole troop managed to get one or two articles to investigate. A mother monkey had deposited her tiny, days old baby in one of the men's rather large boots for safe keeping. The bright white head just peeked out of the top. Many of the troop were trying to figure out how to wear these things. One of the females managed to get Mike's jockeys over her head. She just sat there, occasionally peeking through the comfort slit, enjoying the musky male smell. A male
remembered having seen various humans wearing caps, and was trying to recreate the look with Megan's bra. Twinky himself had found the pantyhose. After a good sniff and nibble at the crotch, he'd managed to pull it down over his head, giving him the look of a particularly demented burgler. He'd just managed this when Megan woke up and took a look.
Back in the camp, Scribe was working over the camp stove Blair had toted in from the truck when the scream came. "BLOODY FUCKING DAMNED SHIT EATING MOTHERFUCKING SONS OF BITCHES!" The fact that the yell was accompanied by shrieks that sounded like they came from the pits of hell contributed to her startlement, and she dropped what she was holding, barely jumping back in time to avoid a splash of hot liquid.
"Somebody had better be fucking DYING!" she gasped.
"What happened?" said Jim, groggily. Roy had but the finally soothed Mitri back down with her Sentinel, and they'd been sharing a nap before dinner. Mitri was like most children, awakened by kitten footfalls, but able to sleep through a brass band--she slept on.
Scribe was using a spoon to fish a white sphere out of the pot. "We almost had soup and boiled egg instead of egg drop soup. I was just ready to crack this baby when someone started the human sacrifice."
Jim was reaching for his pants when Roy poked his head in, grinning. "Don't bother. Megan, Marc, and Mike just met Twinky and his troop. Megan is even now buck naked in front of a highly amused Jane, ranting at a speed that a veteran auctioneer would envy. I think the thing that's pissing her off most is the loss of a pair of pure silk pantyhose that cost her over twenty
bucks. Blair tried to explain that there probably wouldn't be too much use for pantyhose around here and caught a blast. I think Jane is now thinking up something special for her."
"God help her," said Jim fervently.
Scribe shook her head as she stirred the raw egg into the bubbling broth. "I think I saw a cake mix and a dutch oven back there. I believe we could all do with a sugar rush."
Megan was finally calmed down. She eventually came to the conclusion that not having to wear pantyhose every day was a distinct plus. When she made mention of not having to shave any more, Marc and Mike got distinctly uncomfortable looks on their faces. Scribe had no problem with it. She didn't relish the idea of stubble in the spring, even if the water DID circulate and filter naturally.
It turned out that Megan was NOT a cook. Luckily Marco and Mike had both taken their turns at the station, so none of them would starve. Then entire camp finally settled down for the night after the monkey troop surrenedered all the purloined clothing (except the pantyhose and the jockey shorts--they couldn't persuade the female to give those up).
Mitri had eaten sitting in the comfortable nest of the main bed, but after it was done, she got up and started dragging her bedding back to her own tiny room. Scribe said, "Sweety, you don't have to go if you don't want to, tonight."
"I don't mind," Mitri said. "'sides," she drawled. "I seen the way Blair's been runnin' his hand up your leg. He's gonna want some tonight, and you grown ups are awful shy about doin' that with a kid around." She waited till she was sure that the adults were going to turn the right shade of pink before she left the main area.
Scribe stared after her. Then she looked at Blair and Jim. "I never talked to adults like that when I was her age. I KNOW I didn't. I have proof--my mother let me live to reach adulthood."
Blair was shaking his head. "You know how free and easy Naomi was, and I didn't, either. Man, the kid really has the 'mental censor' WIDE open." He was chuckling. "Keeps things interesting, though. Now," Scribe had been sitting beside him, and he pushed her back and crawled over her, "About that wanting some."
"Maybe I didn't get any for the first forty years of my life, but you and Ellison seem bent on making up for that deficit."
He cocked his head. "Was that a complaint I heard?"
Her arms went around his neck. "Nope." Blair's hands were planted on either side of her shoulders, and ANOTHER hand was making it's way up under her shirt. "Put it away, Ellison."
"Aw, come on, Scribe. I know I pissed everyone off today, but are you going to cut me off for that?"
"No. If every man was cut off every time he pissed off a woman we'd have zero population growth in no time at all. But you're on the wounded list, remember?"
"Just my butt. I don't have to lay on my back, you know."
"But when you're on top, I have a tendency to grab your ass, in case you haven't noticed. If I slip and have you howl like a scalded cat, it might spoil the mood, don't you think?"
Blair leaned over and kissed Jim. "Relax and enjoy the show, Big Guy. I'm sure we'll be able to work something out in a little bit."
Jim grumbled, but settled back and watched as his two lovers stripped each other and began a slow exploration with hands and mouths. The initial fiery urgency of the bonding had passed, which was a good thing. Too much of that pace would have worn out an Olympic athlete.
Soon he was slowly stroking himself as he watched Scribe arching slowly, hands tangled in Blair's hair where it spread across her belly as he did his best to, as he put it, 'lick her bellybutton from the inside'.
After a moment Blair crawled back up her, lying down so that his erection was pressed tight against her hip, and he began whispering in her ear. Her eyes flicked toward Jim, and Jim resisted the urge to use his hearing to pick up on what they were saying.
Finally Scribe said, "Got enough padding to be comfortable there on your back for a little while,
Jim?" Jim nodded. "Think you can stay pretty still, under duress?"
Blair was chuckling. "It all depends on what sort of duress you had in mind," Jim responded.
"Get too smart and you can just finish off as a lookiloo. I'm comfortable where I am."
"Scribe," Blair chided, licking her ear.
"Oh, all right. How can I say no to those big, hurt eyes, anyway?" She gave Blair a firm look. "Are you a boy scout tonight?"
He climbed off her and saluted, then produced a condom and donned it. "Yes ma'am. Prepared."
"All right, then." She rolled over onto her hands and knees and crawled over between Jim's quickly spread legs. As she kneaded his thighs, she looked up at him, expression wryly amused. "And I used to think the idea of people putting their tongues in each other's mouths was kind of gross."
"Let me get set, first, babe," Blair cautioned. "Don't want to risk any slips at a delicate juncture,
do we?"
"Well, as long as you aren't planning on just SLAMMING one out of the stadium on your first time at bat... ooo..." Scribe's words fell away in a sigh as Blair slid into her in one slow, smooth stroke. "That'll work."
Jim ran his hand into her curly hair, tugging gently, "Now YOU get to work."
She gave him A Look. "Son, if this ever becomes WORK..."
"Scribe?" Blair pumped gently, and she made a crooning noise. "He's horny. His brain can't function well with the blood drain. You know he's teasing. C'mon, be nice to him."
"Do that again." Blair did. "Okay." She glanced up at Jim. "You're lucky we love you." She bent her head.
Jim hissed in appreciation as he was enveloped in moist heat as Scribe began to give him slow, almost thoughtful, head. It was just as well that she set a slow pace, because as much as he didn't want to admit it, the pain from the cactus spines WAS hindering him a little. Blair managed to bring Scribe to orgasm before he found his own release. Then he pulled out and dropped down beside the other two and watched as Scribe licked and sucked Jim to a silent, trembling orgasm.
They all cuddled up together, and Blair whispered, "That was one of the QUIETEST fucks I've had in a long time."
A clear, childish voice floated through the darkness. "Don't know why you guys bother trying. You don't have to be a Sentinel to hear things in this place." There was a giggle as they groaned. "Accoustics are REAL good."
Jim let out an undignified squawk, Blair yelped, and Scribe muttered something about smart-assed kids, which just made Mitri giggle louder.
"Hey, Jim? Where's that coming from?" Blair asked as he suspiciously pointed his chin at a narrow beam of light. Jim traced it to a crack in the wall shared by both the main cave and Mitri's little one. The three adults stared at each other in dismay.
"You were watching?!" Scribe roared out in embarrassment. Her only response from the teen was a flurry of rapid movement as Mitri made herself scarce in a hurry while the men were still reeling.
"THAT'S IT!" Blair ground out, "She's grounded! She doesn't use that cavelet again until Jim finds the peepholes and we get them all blocked!" His face was so red that to Jim it seemed to be glowing. Scribe's face was as pale as Blair's was red, and Jim couldn't stand it. He started laughing uncontrollably at the expressions on their faces. Scribe stopped cussing to
level a lethal look at him and Blair wasn't any happier. The two Guides looked at each other and smirked evilly.
"You thinking what I'm thinking?" He asked her.
"Yeah, but worse, probably. Now?"
"Now!" And they both left, and dressed quickly before marching angrily through the camp. The sight of two angry Guides made all of the other Sentinels clear a path and let their Guides take the front row. They made no bones about wanting to hide, since Sandburg and Scribe were glaring fit to kill. The mood might have gotten out of hand had a shrill, frightened scream not ripped through the air from the direction of the southern edge of the forest. It was a scream
that utterly stilled the hilarity from the cave and put a primal scream of defense and anger in it's
place. Then Jim burst out of the cave, following the near hysterical sobbing of the girl. The entire camp followed, with John and Roy right on Jim's heels hauling the drug, splint and bandage boxes along like the heavy supply boxes were loaded with down. They were used to this, after all.
She had blood covering both legs, pooling under her where she had stopped to nap, and filling the small spring with it's taint. Johnny shoved Jim out of his way and into the arms of his Guides. A brief examination had both paramedics smiling, and it didn't take them long to clean her up.
"Lord, you scared the hell out us, girl!" Roy soothed her, "You're fine though, it's perfectly normal."
//Normal?// Scribe thought in alarm, then calmed and grinned. //Poor kid, no one warned her about periods, I bet.// She quickly explained her suspicions to Blair, who grinned evilly as he listened to the child as she kept calling out for Jim to come hold her.
The paramedics let the big Sentinel in, and watched as he cuddled the frightened girl. Sub-vocally, Roy explained what had happened and that no one had explained or warned her. That it was JIM'S responsibility now simply because Mitri refused to listen to anyone else.
Jim soothed Mitri, holding her on his lap and rocking her gently. "It's okay, sweety. I know it's scary, but trust me--you're not in any danger. Women have been dealing with this since time immemorial." He looked over at Scribe, "And it's past time for the traditional mother-type-person-to-daughter-type-person talk."
Scribe shook her head. "No way, Ellison. Now, if we ever end up in possession of a pre-adolescent boy," she shot a look at Jane, "and don't think I know that isn't an impossibility, I'll help out with the birds and bees lecture, but you're the one she wants, and you're the one she should hear it from."
Blair grinned. "Now Jim, you're not going to get all sexual-stereotypical, are you? There's no reason why the father-type-person can't have this conversation." The smile widened, "You DO know about it, don't you?"
"Or are you like most of the male population, who seem to believe that women spend most of their lives being demon possessed three to five days of the month?" said Kata dryly.
Jim looked at her hopefully. "Kata, you seem really in touch with your physical side. Maybe you
Megan just laughed, turned, and walked off, saying, "Someone HAS to have brought a tape recorder, right?"
Jim turned his eyes to Peja. "Peja?" She shrugged. Jim looked at Jane. Jane folded her arms. Jim looked at Peja, "Peja?"
Mitri buried her face against Jim's neck, wailing softly. "I'm gonna die before I even have a
boyfriend, never mind gettin' to have fun like you, an' Scribe, an' Blair!"
Jim flushed, patting her back as several more adults suddenly had to leave, covering their mouths to stifle laughter at his distress. Jim shook her gently. "Mitri, you're not going to die."
"But I feel AWFUL!" she protested. "I mean, never mind that I'm bleeding from my woman place, and that CAN'T be good. But I been feeling pains in my belly since yesterday, and I... I just FEEL FUNNY!" She started crying again. "What's wrong with me?"
"There's nothing wrong with you, hon." Jim petted her back soothingly. "It happens to all women. It's called menstruation."
She lifted a tear stained face. "Minstral-tation?"
"You can call it having your period. It's part of being a woman." He cleared his throat. "You see, men and women's bodies are different." She sat up a little straighter, giving him a 'duh?' look. "I know, I know--stating the obvious here. But they're different on the inside, too. Okay, now, in nature most things are male and female, too." Blair started to speak, and Jim gave him a stern look. "We can go into asexual reproduction at a later date, Darwin. Anyway, the females produce the seed, and the males fertilize it, and that's how babies are made. You have to have both, except in very rare cases we won't go into now. The important thing is that this is how
it is with men and women."
Scribe looked at Kata. "Personally, I think he's doing pretty good so far."
Kata shrugged. "He hasn't reached the actual sex yet."
"Women are born with all the seeds that they'll ever have tucked up tight in a part of their body down in the pelvis area called the ovaries. But seeds can't grow until they're ripe, and until they have a place to grow ready. Well, a girl's body isn't ready to grow babies for a long, long time. WAY up into their teens and probably not till their twenties, when they're happily settled with some man who loves them and will take care of them, and..."
Jane poked his shoulder. "Enough propaganda. Stick to the facts."
He gave her a dirty look. "Anyway, when a girl's somewhere around, oh, twelve or so, some younger and some older, because everyone is different, her body decides that it's time to start getting itself ready. It has, uh, test runs."
"TEST runs?" Mitri sounded doubtful.
Jim nodded. "See, even though the rest of her body may not be ready to have a baby," he gave Jane a defiant look, "and her LIFE damn sure isn't ready for one, the body starts practising what it has to do for when she IS ready. There's a special place up inside your body called the womb, that's exactly right for a baby to grow. The body fixes it all up, nice and cozy just for that. See, it builds a thick, soft, wet bed of blood and other stuff that is just what a baby
needs to grow. Then it waits for a seed to come down from the ovary and get fertilized. If it gets
ferilized, it will sink into the coating, and start to grow into a baby. If it doesn't..." Jim shrugged.
"Well, that stuff isn't needed anymore, so the body just pushes it right out. That's what causes the bleeding. You're not cut or torn inside, Mitri. It's just that your body decided it was time to start practising, since you're growing up. It sent out a seed, but it didn't get fertilized, so now your body is getting rid of the stuff it doesn't need."
Mitri sniffled. "Is that all?" Jim nodded. "It's gonna stop?"
"In a couple of days."
"And that's it, right?" Jim shifted uncomfortably. "Isn't it?"
Her voice was ominous. "You don't mean to tell me this could happen AGAIN?"
Scribe took pity on Jim. "Hon, I'm afraid you're going to be stuck with that every month for the next thirty or more years, except when you're pregnant."
"And it only happens to girls? Not to MEN? That's UNFAIR!"
"You're telling me?" said Peja. "If I had any money, believe me, I'd fund research so that men could share the joy."
Chet looked at her in horror. "What have we done to make you hate us so much?" She pinched his cheek.
Mitri looked thoughtful, then her expression cleared, becoming a bit wonering. "You mean I've got the curse?"
"Is that what your mom called it?" asked Scribe.
"No, that's what Daddy and my uncle called it." She giggled faintly. "They were either real quiet or REAL nice to her during those times."
"Sound like sensible men."
Mitri shifted, grimacing. "Well, this ain't gonna be fun. What am I s'posed to do?"
Scribe offered her hand, and Mitri allowed herself to be pulled up. "I have some supplies you can use for the time being. Luckily it's a lot less complicated now than it was when I was a girl."
"Scribe?" Jane said.
"Uh oh. I don't like that tone of voice."
Jane shrugged. "We have to be careful of the environment out here, and used pads would attract a lot more animal attention than we want. For health reasons, I'm afraid we're all going to have to go back to what our grandmas did before they had new fangled items like sanitary pads."
Scribe's jaw dropped, and Kata and Peja didn't look much less stunned. "CRIPES! I've heard about that. You mean we're going to have to go the folded cloths, pinned to the undies, washed and boiled route?"
Jane nodded. "Luckily we have an unlimited water supply, and plenty of fuel to heat it."
"And we'll have to wash by hand. No laundromattes." Scribe groaned. "My PMS just got remarkably worse, and it hasn't even started yet." Most of the men in the group paled noticibly. Scribe heaved a sigh and put her arm around Mitri. "C'mon back to the cave, sweety, and I'll break into the chocolate bar stash. You're gonna need it. Then I'll explain the things Jim left out--like cramps, bloating, mood swings, chocolate, caffiene, and a woman's unalienable right
to be an absolute bitch one week a month."
//That must have been some conversation.// Jim thought, nervously watching the girl who emerged from the cave in a pensive silence. He hadn't had the nerve to listen to it. She was by herself, and paused to look around. When she saw Jim she headed in his direction. Hands in her pockets, Mitri wandered up to him and stood there to stand looking down at her feet. She sighed and moved closer to him, sighed again and simply leaned into his strength. He put his arms around her and felt her relax.
"Is she serious?" The girl was flushed but didn't move away.
"I didn't listen. Ask Blair about any really weird stuff. *He gets off on it."
"Okay, Pop." Was all she said.
//Pop?// Jim was a little startled, but he accepted it. It made him feel sort of...funny. But it was a good sort of funny: A real good sort of funny.
"Sure thing, sweetheart."
"Scribe says we still gotta help housebreak ya, Pop, 'cause you ain't got no kinda company manners. Says you ain't fit for decent folk. She said that was okay, likes ya the way ya are, mostly. She did say you gotta learn to THINK before ya open your mouth. She said I got a big mouth, too, sometimes." She looked up at his face, propping her chin on his solar plexus. She seemed to be waiting for an answer.
He smiled warmly at the fine dark head, and rosy cheeks of the youngster. //Her eyes would drive some poor man insane someday.// He said nothing, just hugged her. She seemed satisfied with that and laid her cheek against his bare belly.
They stood like that for a long time, and he noted the warm look of approval in Streeter's hazel eyes as she watched. He saw John's broad smile, but somehow it was Roy's clear blue-eyed gaze that seemed most important. He wasn't sure why: And that gaze was satisfied.
As the first snowfall sifted through the trees and covered the ground two months later, lessons were well underway. Jim'd had a hard time getting used to the way these people first demonstrated a technique for a skill, then made him mimic them until he got it right. Once he had, though, the lessons phased into a way of teaching that used the forest itself. He had to learn to be as ONE with everything that he was, and that often led to child caused trouble. Sometimes, especially in the beginning, Mitri had cause and plenty of it, to pick on Jim.

Half a year passed in what seemed a seamless flow of time, and when it flowed into spring, Mitri really began to raze him.
"Come on, Pops! I can do better than that. You've lost my trail four times this morning. I bet JOHNNY could trail me!"
Gage's head shot up, "Hey, don't bring me into this! Jane learned the forest skills like she was born to them. He's not my responsibility to train. He's her trainee!"
Jane grinned at him, and said, "Okay, Jim. Go get your Core ready for a camping trip. Your assignment is to convince a herd of no more than thirty cow elk, with calves at heel, that you and your Core BELONG in that herd. After you do that, your second assignment is to figure out what, in regard to using your senses, that the calves are learning, and learn it yourself." She
caressed each and every Spirit Animal. "The real animals of their kinds, will teach you now."
He just sat there and stared at her.
"Jim, pride before a fall goeth. For all your vaunted skill and range amid human kind, by the beasts you are made deaf, blind, and numb! Their senses are trained to be many hundreds of times greater than yours, but most do not have more than two or three. Their sensitivity is no greater, but there is never a time, not even when they sleep, that they do not use them.
Constantly and continually do they use them. And they do not zone because of the way they use them. Blair will always be your Shaman, just as Scribe will always be your Anchor. Fear to lose either, not. But you must bring your level at least to the minimum survivable skill level the weakest of these have." Jane squatted down in front of him. "There is no tribe here, Jim.
Now the fate of your entire PLANET is riding on how much we can teach you, how well you learn it, and how well you apply it when the time for learning is done. And these are just baby steps." Her voice was soft and earnest.
He was not the kind to shrug off responsibility, and he nodded soberly.

They were gone a month: The main camp knew of their return because of a loudly bitching female voice...Scribe had accidently put her bedroll in a patch of thickly growing poison ivy the night before and was covered in a rash from her scalp to the soles of her feet.....
At first some of the camp had found the Scribe-rash situation rather funny, but the hilarity faded
quickly. The normally good-natured woman was morose and snappish. She had to spend most of her time in the cave wearing as little as possible, slathered in any kind of sterile, non-itch lotion they could find, trying not to scratch. After finding bloody welts on her arms and legs one more time, Jim threatened to tie her when they couldn't be with her.
There was no touching between her and her two men. As she'd pointed out to them, they still had each other. As they pointed out to HER, they were no longer just a couple, but a trio. They were three very, very miserable people. Jane took the oportunity to point out to the other new members just how important an Anchor was to the balance of the Core. Scribe thanked her for the verbal support, but voiced suspicions that Jane had somehow had something to do with the placement of the poison ivy, and the fact that Jim had missed it with his Sentinel senses, and Blair had missed it with his increasing forest savvy. Jane's only response was an evil chuckle.
"I swear, I wanted to tear my skin right off when this stuff was fresh." The rash had finally faded to a faint pinkness in some extreme areas, with no itching. Johnny and Roy had pronounced her non-contagious that morning. "And now... Well, it's a lot better, but I still don't want to wear anything heavier or coarser than gauze."
Jim nodded sympathetically. "I can't tell you how many times I spent most of my time at home nude because I couldn't bear having anything against my skin. I'd have had to be a nudist, if Blair hadn't come along and figured out about the laundry soaps."
"Oh, geez, Jim!" Understanding dawned in her eyes. "You had to go through this on a regular basis!" Her eyes narrowed. "I think this was one of Jane's 'object lessons'. To show me what a Sentinel goes through. Damn, couldn't she have just shined a kliege light in my eyes and tied headphones on with heavy metal blasting at 10 on the dial for a couple of hours?"
"Since this was the one most likely to bring it home to all three of you, this was the one that was used," she drawled.
"Damn it!" muttered Scribe. "I want a Mage in our group, darn it! And I don't want a nice little Harry Potter or Hermoinie Granger, I want a damn Severus Snape!"
"Scribe," said Chet, "This is REAL LIFE."
Scribe, Peja, and Kata stared at Chet. Finally Peja said, "Chet, this was explained to you, wasn't it."
Scribe wiggled her fingers in front of her rapidly, making clicking motions, then stabbed with one finger. "Zap! Poof! Ring any bells? Don't GIVE me real life!"
"Well, this is YOUR real life now, Missy," said Jane. "And this has brought us to the next stage of the training. We've all been concentrating mainly on the Sentinels, since it's an actual physical problem with them. But now they all have a pretty good handle on how to control themselves. It's been weeks since any of you zoned, hasn't it?" She looked around and was met by agreeing nods, and relieved looks. "Yes, well, don't go getting smug, people. You never can tell when it's going to come on, or what's going to set it off. It's a problem that will be with you always, but
it's a controlable problem. Anyway," she smiled. "Now it's the Guide's and Anchor's turns."
Kata frowned. "I thought we were doing pretty good."
"And you're willing to settle for that?" Jane said bluntly. "I want you all to look at your Sentinels. Women, look at your men." Scribe stared at Jim and Blair. When she'd arrived, they'd been a sex fantasy come true. They'd become something much dearer, more precious by now. She found that she no longer had any desire to return to her 'home' dimension--the thought of being without her Sentinel and Guide made her feel hollow inside. She heard Jane say, "Now, do you want them to have anything less than the best?"
Scribe sighed. "Ah, well. Welcome to Boot Camp, and I think it's Hell Week." Jane cocked an eyebrow. "Hell Month?" Jane smirked. "Oh, crap."
"Now then, are you sure you really want a Mage in your Core?" Jane asked her friend intently.
"Yes, damn it!"
"Good. Now, pay attention: Sentinel, Shaman, Mage. Jim is your Sentinel, Blair is your Shaman, and YOU are the one who was born with Mage-Gift."
Scribe's eyes were huge, taking up most of her face as she stared in shock. "Blair's back up to the letter...?"
"Got it in one. Both your gift and your methods will be quite different, but as they balance THEM, they will balance YOU. You're going to be getting a lot of very odd lessons from several different people, and your first teacher will be BLAIR."
"ME?" He yelped. "Why?"
"She has to learn to meditate, to trance down, and you have to be in there with her so I can teach you both to find your centers, how to ground, and how to shield. With the right training you will be able to literally defeat demons. Blair, you are as much a warrior as Jim. What differs is the actual battlefield. His is Mortal, your's is Spiritual, and Scribe's is Magical. And you must learn to work as a single, seamless whole. Mitri may not know who she's going to get as a Core group for years, but she's been training her Shaman Gift since she was old enough to talk. She will assist John in teaching Marc, Chet, and H., while Blair gets his from ME. Your's is Jim's Core, that translates to being the Alpha Core, and that means WE, John and Roy, and I, do YOUR training. And it is NOT going to be fun. Dangerous, yes. But not fun.
Scribe folded her arms and sank her chin on her chest."Fan-fucking-tastic."
"I know you never wrote in the Harry Potter fandom," said Peja, "But I had the impression that you liked it."
"I DO. I listened to all the books on audio, unabridged. I saw the movie. I have the hots for
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape." Jim growled. "Down, possessive. But that's a nice little fantasy about being able to wave a wand and, say, suddenly transport myself wherever I need to go, without having to worry about hiking or recalcitrant vehicles. I have a feeling that what Jane's talking about is fucking SERIOUS."
"Oh, it is, it is. Don't worry too much," Jane slapped her on the back. "Tell me, haven't there been a few incidents in your life where you were pretty sure you were going to die, but you didn't?"
"Aren't there for everyone?"
"Don't answer a question with a question--that's a dodge."
"Well..." she thought. "There was the time I stepped off the deep end of a pool when I was about nine, and couldn't swim. The damn life guard just sat and looked at me. I thought I was going to drown. I managed to grab the side of the pool and pull myself back out, though."
"But that could happen to anybody," Blair protested.
Jane pinched his butt, but otherwise ignored him. "What else?"
"Well, there was that car accident right before I turned eighteen." She grimaced. I got hit dead on the driver's side while I was at the wheel. I ended up in the floor on the back passenger side. If I'd have worn a seat belt, and it had held, I'd have been smeared over the inside of the car, or cut in half. As it was, all I got was a broken ankle." She looked surprised, looking down at her right foot, and flexing it. "Which I can now move freely. Son of a bitch! When did THAT happen?!"
"Yeah," said Jim, straightening up, surprise on his face. "You had a limp when you first arrived. I
remember it."
"That booger was frozen. I had, like, three percent mobility in the joint," Scribe said, watching her foot make slow, almost graceful cirles, the ankle working smoothly and efficiently.
"It's been improving gradually during your time here," Jane told her. That's why you haven't noticed it. Your body is gearing itself up, getting in peak condition. Don't think you can let it slide," she said severely. "You still eat too damn much junk food. Now, about that accident?"
Scribe nodded, her eyes going distant as she recalled. "They told me my Mom almost fainted when she saw the accident. They had to take her to the hospital and show me to her before she'd believe I wasn't dead. I got a look at the car later." She grimaced. "The driver's side from the grill to the back door was smached into the MIDDLE of the car."
"Anything else?"
She blushed. "Would... uh, would sticking a bobby pin in an electric outlet when I was five qualify?"
Jim and Blair howled. Finally Blair managed, "Suh-so tha-THAT'S where the curly hair comes from!" Scribe swatted him. He looked completely unrepentant.
Jane was fighting down a smile, but her voice was solemn. "Yes, that qualifies."
"But I had three fingers blistered. I think I might have had a little third degree burn, too."
Jane sighed. "Scribe, the genetic magical protection can't keep you from getting HURT--nothing can do that. It just give you a damn sight better than average chance of surviving anything the world can through at you."
"Huh. I don't know if that's a comfort or not. I mean, one of the great comforts of mortality is the thought that if something horrible happens to you, you can die and get beyond it."
Jim took her in his arms, and kissed her forehead gently. "It's a comfort to ME. It won't keep me from worrying about you, but maybe I'll be a bit less frantic sometimes."
Scribe sighed and thumped her head down on his chest--twice, then kissed his chin and pulled back. She looked at Jane and made a face. "I have to MEDITATE?!"
"You do."
Blair looped an arm around her shoulder, shaking her. "Oh, come on, it'll be fun! It gives me a chance for some quality time alone with you. Ya know I love ol' Prissybritches, but he DOES just tag along sometimes, doesn't he?"
"You'll pay for that later, Sandburg," Jim assured him.
Blair just wiggled his tongue at him. He started leading Scribe back toward their cave. "We'll need some time alone," he said loftily. "This is going to be so much fun!" He hugged Scribe as they walked. "I'll teach you all about trance states and controling your biorhythms, and proper breathing, and eventually out of body experiences..."
As they entered the cave Scribe was saying, "Maybe I should warn you that one of my favorite songs is Weird Al Yankovic's 'I'll Be Mellow When I'm Dead'."
//Things were getting really odd.// Scribe thought as she finally centered herself after weeks of attempts.
She was exhausted from the mental exercises, and bruised from the results of the mental shoves that Jane used to prove each time, that no, she had not Centered that time, either. Now she felt the shoves as pressure instead of the things slamming her sideways against the ground. Since Blair was just as bruised, Jane had put Jim in Mage Bonds until the current lesson was over. They didn't hurt him, but Ellison literally could not move. She'd put an exterior sheild on the man, too. The kind she used insured that his senses were protected while his Guides were getting pounded on.
She sighed in relief when she finally Centered, and heard Blair's joyous cry when he managed the feat. Utter, total balance: Internal, mental, emotional balance. She knew she would never lose her Center again.
"Okay, now do the exercise in Grounding, and follow it with Shielding." Jane instructed. "It'll work this time, I promise."
It did, and when she grounded she forged a deep connection with the Earth. She raised her sheilds and stared at Jane in stunned amazement as they did indeed work.
"No is when some of the difference between Shaman and Mage begin to show. Blair has grounded, too. And he will never have to do so again. Once is enough for a permanent link to the planet for a shaman. Mitri forged her's by the time she was four. She'll join Blair in some of his lessons, but not until he catches up with her. And now that he's connected properly, I'm going to let her teach him. There's nothing quite like being shown up by a child that age to make an adult learn FAST!"
"You wouldn't...oh hell, you would." Blair said in disgust.
"Two choices. Learn in comfort, or learn well, Mr. TA." Jane rapped out, "I must admit I'm disappointed in you, Blair. I know you know better. *Scribe is the one who has to turn this into a reflex!"
His head shot up. "Learn well. You're right, I do know better than to take that additude. Okay, I learn from Mitri, but there's another reason here, right?"
"Yeah, there is. She's bonded to Scribe, here, and Jim: but not you. She thinks you hate her. It's time for a little TLC, Fluffy!"
"Fluffy?" He gasped.
"You're all rookies in this camp, and a Fluffy is a newbie. It just so happens to fit you in particular, so well, though...." She teased him as she released Jim from his mage-bonds. This always signaled the end of the lesson and both students slumped. It was up to Jim to stay with them until their energies returned and then take them to the hot springs for a soak.
He slipped that herb into the tea he made for both of them, and it was way too late by the time Scribe recognized the taste....
End Part Four
taptaptap "Scribe?"
"Go AWAY, Ellison!"
taptaptap "C'mon, babe. You're suffering in there. Unlock the door and let me help you."
"That's sort of the idea, Scribe!" Blair said. He was on the opposite side of the truck from Jim, forehead pressed to the window, hands cupped by his eyes to cut down on glare, trying to figure out how to unlock the door.
"YOU SHUT UP, TOO, SANDBURG! If you're both so desperate, take that big lug somewhere and shag his ass. Leave me to suffer in peace."
taptaptap "Sweetheart..."
Jim sighed, taking a half step back from the truck. "Oh, man."
Blair came around the truck and glanced up at him. "Yeah, you pretty well fucked up this time, man."
Jim gave him an irritated look. "Why are you so calm? You should be climbing the walls right about now."
Blair shrugged. "While you've been pleading with her to come out of the truck, I've been wanking off. Twice cleared my head a little, but this is SO not over. I believe that one of the properties of that herb is that solo doesn't do it. If you don't have sex WITH someone, you just have to ride it out." Blair shuddered, looking mournfully at the woman who had drawn herself up into a ball on the seat of the truck. "I don't think it's possible to actually DIE from sexual frustration, but I think you can damn sure WISH you were dead."
Jim was shifting from one foot to the other. "I don't get it. She should be all over us. The tea is
WORKING." He closed his eyes and took a deep, luxurious sniff, and actually twitched. His pupils were dilated when he opened his eyes again. "Damn, the MUSK! The pheremones! It's taking everything I have not to come in my jeans right now." There was a low moan from the cab, and Jim's face twisted. "She's SUFFERING! I know people make jokes about being
painfully sexually frustrated, but DAMN, Blair!"
"Blair?" Scribe's voice was shaky.
He immediately moved up to the truck, hands flat on the window, as if trying to touch her through it. "Right here, babe."
"I need you to do something for me."
"Go get one of the female Sentinels. Peja, Jane, Megan... I don't know, maybe not Jane. I'm not sure how she's going to react to this. But I need one of them."
Blair nodded and started off briskly. Jim moved toward the truck again. "Look, Scribe, I'M your Sentinel. Whatever is wrong, whatever the problem is, you can tell me."
She lifted her head just enough to glare at him. Jim flinched from the heat in her eyes. It was sexual, but it was also rage, and (what really tore at him) hurt. Her voice was so low that it was a good thing that he had his enhanced hearing. "You ARE the problem, Jim."
Blair came back, leading Peja. Scribe looked marginally relieved, but groaned when she saw Jane following right in their wake. As they arrived, Scribe pointed a trembling finger and said, "Jim, get away from here, and don't you DARE use your hearing to eavesdrop, understand?"
He nodded reluctantly, and went to stand by Jane. He didn't really want to, senseing that he was going to catch it again, but he figured it would be useless to try to avoid her. Blair hadn't been sent away, but he came to hover by the two Sentinels anyway, while Peja moved close to the truck. Scribe started whispering to her.
"What have you done now, Bonehead?" Jane asked, almost casually.
Jim shrugged. "Uh... a little herbal marrital aid, is all. She was a little pissed the other time we used it, but nothing like this. And she was in such a good mood."
Peja looked over at Jim, her glare matching Scribe's. She nodded to the other woman, then headed back toward camp. She paused at the group long enough to kick Jim in the shins before continuing on at a trot. Jim hopped for a second, then nursed his new bruise. "What the hell did I DO? She LIKED it that other time! We all had fun."
Jane was watching the truck, eyes narrowed. Her nostrils flared briefly, and her eyebrows rose, then her expression went into lock-down. Blair muttered, "Uh oh."
Jane gave him a look. "You're out of the line of fire, Little Bit. You weren't involved in this
nonsense." Jane looked at Jim coldly. "Why did you do it?"
He gestured helplessly. "Well, things have been, um, kinda, you know, SLOW lately, with both Blair and Scribe so exhausted and banged up. And they've been spending so much time together alone, I guess I got a little lonely." Blair gave him an incredulous look, and he explained, "Lonely, not jealous, Chief. So today you two made your big breakthroughs, and you were so happy. I just thought, maybe a little celebration..." his voice trailed off.
Blair groaned. "Damn it, Jim. I would've thought that the freaking month getting the herd to accept us would have taught you a little more patience by now. We were heading for the spring. We were feeling happy and playful. What did you THINK was going to happen
when we got there? How many times have either of us turned you down? Well, except Scribe when..." His eyes went round, and he put a hand over his mouth.
"Except when what?" Jim asked, almost plaintively.
"Ellison, how long have you been living with this woman," asked Streeter.
Jim thought. "Almost a year."
Peja stalked past, glaring at him again. At the truck, Scribe cracked one of the windows, and Peja began poking in a pile of clean cloths. Jim had dialed down his hearing, but not his smell. Now the familiar scent of his woman washed over him--thick and rich, musk and... BLOOD?!"
"Living with the woman day to day in the most intimate circumstanced for a year, and you don't remember her cycle. And you were so concentrated on getting some, you didn't scent the blood issue starting. Sloppy, sloppy, SLOPPY!" Jane seethed.
"Oh, damn!" Jim groaned. "She's so finicky about this time of the month, still gets embarrassed by it, and her hormones are ALREADY doing nip-ups, and I gave her THAT! But she's suffering from the hormone charge. She has to be so horny that it's close to real pain for her. Why is she doing this?"
"I'd think it would be obvious," said Jane. "She's punishing you, in the most effective way she
knows--not only is she depriving you of sex, when she knows that her pheremones are driving your crazy, she's making you watch her suffer." Jane nodded as she turned back toward the camp. "The kid can be creatively tortuous when the situation calls for it."
Jim had seldom felt as guilty as he did right now. He cringed every time he heard Scribe moan or watched her writhe in discomfort. Blair's reaction confined itself to disappointed glances at Jim, and sad ones at Scribe. He sunk so low emotionally that it sent 'vibs' to a species that was an expert at discerning injured 'prey'. Fortunately for Jim, Whitey was a very friendly bear.
He woke to an absolutely horrible odor. It took a moment for his eyes to recognize what was curled up around him, and despite knowing better than to alert a bear to the fact he was alive, Jim screamed in terror. The big shaggy animal turned it's head, licked Jim's face, and then curled up around him. The massive arms pulled him tightly against it's side, and began to groom him.
Jim shivered. He thought the big griz was tenderizing him. The sound of distant humans converging on his location pinged on Ellison's awareness, as did the panic of BOTH Guides when they got a good look at his situation. The huge animal vocalized to the group that ground to a sudden stop several feet away.
"Whitey!" Mitri called. "Whitey, you let Pops up right now! You're scarin' the liver outta my Pop!" She scolded, feeling Scribe's eyes on the back of her neck and hearing Peja's "Whaaa?" behind her.
"Is that" Peja asked Jane in a quiet aside.
"Nope, he's a half-tame wild." She shrugged. "He's just out of hibernation, and Whitey is 'user-frienly', but if Jim's so out of it that 'any' bear, friendly or not, can sneak up on him, it's time to fix it. Before he gets killed." Jane grinned at her, "Traditionally that bear summers with whoever
he manages to do that to first, each spring."
"He's living with us?" Scribe squeaked.
"Nah, he nailed Peja this morning at the spring. He's gonna live with Them. Jim just has to give the big bastard a bath."
"Yep, this is twice today that Mitri has had to call that bear off."
Peja was staring at the damned bear, "Who has to feed the damned thing?"
"The whole group. That is a BIG bear, and anyone or thing that attacks one of us has to take him on, too. He'll be going to space with us."
"Oh, HELL!"
Scribe decided that if she could deal with cougars, jaguars, and wolves, a bear wasn't all THAT much of a stretch. Her step a little hesitant, she walked up to Whitey. The bear paused in plastering Jim's hair to his head and greeted his new friend's mate with a kiss. The toungue lapped under her chin, slapping softly against her face all the way up to her hairline. Scribe just wiped her face with one hand and used the other to scratch between the bear's piggy little eyes. Whitey crooned happily. "So, you're not going to eat him?" The bear snorted. "Damn."
"SCRIBE!" Jim sounded horrified.
"Get a sense of humor, Jim--they're great at parties." She turned around and walked out of the cave.
"Where are you going?" Jim called plaintively.
Her reply floated back. "Back to the truck."
Jim moaned, earning another comforting lick. "I thought she'd be through by now. It's been almost four days."
"Oh, she's finished with the period," said Kata. "She hasn't needed any more cloths since last night. She's just not ready to come home yet."
Mitri grabbed double-handfulls of Whitey's rough fur and tugged determinedly. "Let 'im go, Whitey! He wantsta go after Scribe and apologize." When Jim peeked over the bear's shoulder at her she huffed, "Dontcha?" Jim nodded. She hauled again, and Whitey reluctantly let go of his snugglebunny, shifting to his feet.
Whitey liked Jim--he was great for cuddles, even if he WAS a little noisy. He remembered a very nice scent that had been liberally spread over the big human, and he started sniffing. The scent belonged to a shorter, hairier male human--obviously another mate of his bed partner. He looked good for cuddles, too. With a happy chuffing sound, Whitey started toward Blair. Blair boogied, with the bear in hot pursuit, happy that he'd found someone willing to play with him and work the winter kinks out of his muscles.
Jim got up and got dressed, hardly noticing that there were still others in the cave, since he was so preoccupied with his present misery and, more importantly, his Anchor's misery. He ran his hands through his now slightly more abundant hair. (Blair had talked him out of a military cut, but he still wouldn't be mistaken for a member of ZZ Top, and sighed. "I just don't know what to do. She won't TALK to me. I apologized to her, a lot of times."
Mitri regarded him, hands on her hips. Now that she was officially a woman, she counted herself an expert on how to deal with a woman in the throes of PMS, or the actual courses. "Well, Pops, sorry is nice. You gotta have sorry, but sometimes it just ain't enough. Why don'tcha DO something for her, huh?"
"Like what?"
She rolled her eyes. "Dang! I know you been sorta socially backwards, Pop, but aintcha ever courted a woman?"
Blair came back in, winded, with half of his hair plastered to his head. "The wolves decided to allow him to groom them. We should have a couple of hours of peace. She's got a good idea, Jim. You just have to remember WHO you're sucking up to. No wine, cause it was trying to alter her mood that got you into the shit. No slinky lingerie. She'd laugh her ass off at Victoria's Secret in the deep woods."
"Chocolate might help," said Mitri helpfully. "And I'm not just sayin' that 'cause she'd probably share."
Jim grunted. He located his wallet and pulled a slip out, studying it. "Glad I had them cash that CD last month and pop it in the account. I have plenty to work with. Okay, MY truck is unavailable, so I'll have to take the spare."
He stopped by Jane, Johnny, and Roy's cave on his way to the vehicles. "I'm going into town."
Chet, Megan, and Peja were visiting, and Chet frowned. "You went in last month. It's my turn."
"Shut up, Chet," said Peja. "I think I know why he wants to go."
Megan nodded. "Good onya, Ellison. Nice to see you finally using your big head instead of your little one."
Jim went out to the parking area, casting a longing look at the spring, their destination days ago when the shit hit the fan, as he passed. The snow monkeys were congregated, socializing, soaking, and washing food. Twinky gave him a friendly hoot as he passed, and Jim automatically waved at him.
Scribe wasn't in the cab of the truck when he arrived, but Jim could hear her back in the shell. He leaned close to the side, listening, and heard the soft, gulping inhalations that signalled tears. Closing his eyes in dismay, he thumped his head against the side.
He hadn't thought about startleing her, but he heard the sharp intake of breath, and the scrabbling. "Sorry!" He said.
"Go away."
He sighed. "Okay. But I'll be back in awhile, and we need to talk then, Scribe. Really we do." No answer. He got in the other truck and drove out.

Scribe curled up on the rather uncomfortable bedroll she'd fixed for herself in the covered truck bed. She put her head down on her folded arms and started crying again. Damn it, my period is over. I ought to have gotten back to what passes for normal by now. Why can't I stop crying? There was a tap. "Ellison..."
"Nope--Sandburg. Can I come in? I'm suffering from a severe lack of Scribe-cuddles."
"Jim didn't park somewhere and come sneaking back, did he?"
"Not that I can tell, and I'm getting a lot better at that."
"All right, but I'm locking the tailgate and shell door after you," she warned.
"No prob."
She let him in, shutting and locking everything after him. As she sat back down she was enveloped in a hug. "Oof! Hello, Blair."
"I missed you."
She patted his back. "I've been right here, doll. You could have come to visit. I'd have let you in."
"I thought you might, but I couldn't do that to Jim. It would have been kicking him while he was down, rubbing salt in the wound, laughing in his face, nasty stuff like that. I love both of you, and I couldn't hurt him like that."
"Oh, come on, Blair. He isn't really suffering all that much." She hesitated, stroking his back. "Is
Blair pulled back, looking her directly in the eye. "Are YOU?" Scribe bit her lip, then finally nodded, eyes moist. "Well, he's as miserable as you are, probably moreso, because he knows this mess is his fault."
She sighed. "I've come close to just going back to camp so many times, but..." She shrugged. "I don't know. This is the first and only love relationship I've ever had, Blair. And it was the first time I ever felt betrayed by someone I loved. It hurt pretty bad."
Blair hugged her again, offering silent support. They sat there for awhile. When she dozed off, Blair gently eased her back down onto the bed and stretched out beside her, letting her curl against him, revelling in the closeness.
They were both startled awake by a rap later. Before they could say anything, Mitri called, "Me 'n Roy brought you two some supper."
Blair got a nod from Scribe, and opened the shell door. Mitri started handing in covered plates and bowls while Roy said, "You two all right in there?"
"Mm, yeah. Just sort of reconnecting," said Blair.
"Is Jim back?" Scribe's voice was small.
Roy's eyes were sympathetic. "Not yet, but I wouldn't worry about him yet, Scribe. He's a big boy, used to taking care of himself."
"I might have run him off." She sounded lost.
Blair immediately set aside the food to embrace her, and Roy said firmly, "That isn't going to happen, Scribe. You two are having a rough time right now, but he loves you, and he knows you love him. He won't leave you."
"Didn't he tell you he'd come back?," Blair whispered. Scribe nodded. "That's the sort of promise Jim Ellison will keep, come hell or high water."
"If he isn't back by tomorrow," Roy assured her, "The other Sentinels will go looking for him. It's not likely they wouldn't be able to find him. Just try to relax." She nodded.
When Mitri peered over the tailgate at her, expression concerned, she tried to smile. Mitri said, "This is just my opinion, mind, but I reckon he's sorry enough now." She was quiet. "And them two aren't the only ones who miss you, okay?"
Scribe leaned out of the window and gave Mitri a kiss on the forehead. The child had opted to keep her hair cut short, in a pixie style, and Scribe laid her cheek against the soft hair for a moment. "Thank you, darlin'."
Mitri gave her a brief, fierce hug, and trotted back into camp, following Roy as Scribe locked the door again.
Blair stayed with her, aside from a quick trip to bring the empty dishes back to camp, and report to the others of the group. It was agreed that if Ellison hadn't returned by breakfast, a searching party would be sent out. Blair returned and they slept, wound tightly in each other's arms, both missing the big, warm body and the strong arms that had been there for so long, making them feel safe, and were now gone.
The sun was just peeking over the horizon when the other truck came back, pulling up grill-to-end with their truck. Scribe was sleeping deeply (Blair had a feeling she hadn't been sleeping well the last couple of days--lord knew that he and Jim hadn't). He listened to the sound of the door shutting, and footsteps. There was a silent pause, then Jim said softly, "She's sleeping, right?"
"Yeah," Blair answered just as quietly. "Damn, Jim, I hope you're ready to give a championship ass kissing, because we're all going to get sick if we can't get her back soon."
"I'm gonna try, Darwin." He lifted his voice. "Scribe? Wake up, pretty lady. It's time we talked."
Scribe sat up, rubbing her eyes. Her expression was hopeful, but she kept her voice flat. "So talk."
"I was wrong. I was a jerk who thought with his dick instead of his brain. I forgot everything that you and Blair and Streeter have been trying to teach me about dealing with the people who depend on you, and I'm sorry. God, babe, I'm SO sorry. I just want a chance to make it up to you."
"Do you really know why I was so mad, Jim? What you did wasn't just sneaky, it was UNECESSARY. I had every intention of making both of you scream when we got down to the spring and got relaxed a little. I was looking forward to it. Then when I realized you'd slipped me that stuff--not OFFERED it, but slipped it to me... I felt like... like you weren't sure of me,
of how I felt about you. Like I was some sort of brood mare that had to be given a chemical stimulant so the stallion could mount up without any trouble. Like what I wanted was pretty much beside the point, and you were just going to make damn sure I went with the program."
Jim's voice was anguished. "I swear to God, that's not how I meant it."
"I know that now," she said quietly. "But I didn't then. That shit has a way of overwhelming your higher brain functions, you know. I burned up for about twelve hours, then I was pretty much unconscious for another ten. Then I was too tired and sore to really be mad any more. I was just..."
"Oh, lord, don't say it."
"I have to. I know how much it hurts, but that's how it is--I was disappointed in you."
Jim groaned. "I'd have rather you kicked me in the nuts a few dozen times."
"I know."
"Are you ever going to forgive me?"
She smiled faintly. "You're a Sentinel--you'll know."
There was silence as Jim used his senses to scan the interior of the shell, picking up the nuances of his two lover's breathing, scent, heart rate. Finally, relief clear in his voice, he said, "Will you open the door? I have kiss-up presents."
"Oh, this should be interesting. I don't think I've ever had apology presents before."
"Open the door," Blair urged. "When Jim actually thinks, he can be good."
Scribe crawled over and unlatched the shell door, pushing it up. Her heart squeezed when she saw Jim. He was usually meticulous about his appearance, but he hadn't shaved, and it was obvious that he hadn't slept. The smile he gave her was weary, but so full of love that it made her want to cry. He rubbed his eyes. "Darwin, I'm glad you're here. You can help out, because I'm so tired I can hardly see straight right now. My navigation on that last couple of miles of road was more guess work and navigation than actual sight."
"Anything to help, man."
"Okay, in a minute. First off," Jim reached into one of several large sacks sitting on the hood of the other truck, and placed a large gold box in front of Scribe.
She gaped. "Oh---my---God." She looked at Blair. "That--is at least a pound and a half of Godiva chocolates."
"Two pounds," said Jim. "No truffles, because you said once you don't like them as much as the others."
She felt stunned. "You remembered that? And where did you GET it? They damn sure didn't carry this at that little MinitMart in the next town. Hell, they barely carry Hershey's Special Dark Bar--think it's too exotic."
"I drove back to Turnerville." Jim mentioned a city they'd passed through on the way, a little smaller than Cascade.
"But that's..."
"Hundred and twelve miles. They didn't have what I needed around here. Ready for the second part?" She nodded numbly, then started laughing weakly when she saw the what Jim pulled out of the REALLY big bag.
The stuffed bear wasn't as big as Whitey, but it was still pretty damn impressive. "I think I could
mistake that for you in the dark, Blair," she said, awed.
"I have longer hair on my head," Blair insisted. "And my heart is not a foot across, sewn on my chest, broken, with the words 'I'm sorry' embroidered on it."
Scribe reached out and took the bear, snuggling it down in her lap. "I have to say you're doing a great job so far, Jim. I've just about forgiven you entirely."
"Hopefully this will do it." Jim set a big, white cardboard florists box on the open tailgate, then
rummaged in his pocket. "Here's where you come in, Chief." He handed Blair a much creased sheet of paper. "I'll need you to read these off, exactly as I have them written, in the exact order."
Blair was reading the list, nodding. He smiled. "I think I see where you're going with this, but I
wouldn't expect you to find half of these in your usual flower shop."
"I didn't. I also visited a couple of nurseries, and spent a couple of hours tramping through the woods with a nature guide. Now..." he cleared his throat. "The first thing I thought of was roses. Then I thought, 'every jerk who makes a mistake buys roses and expects to be let off the hook.' And what's so impressive about roses these days? They sell them everywhere, even on street corners or in all night supermarkets. Well, I remembered a box I'd run into once when researching a case. It was about the language of flowers. There'd been a couple of murders
where we were finding weird flowers and plants, stuff that was out of season, or not native to the area--oleander, aloe, nettles, monk's hood... At first we were going at it from the botanical angle, then I remembered Ophelia's mad speech from Hamlet, and how our teacher told us that each flower used to have a meaning. I found out that..." He stopped, then shrugged. "I'll tell you about that sometime, if you want to hear. But I found a book about it at the local library. Y'see, back in Victorian times, people who knew about that stuff could send almost whole letters in bouqets." Jim opened the box, revealing a confusing looking jumble of plants. "Ready when you are, BS."
Blair started to read from the paper. "Iris." Jim plucked a beautiful purple and white flower from the box and offered it to Scribe. "I have a message for you." She accepted it, starting to smile. "Wild sorrel." A bit of greenery. "Wit ill-timed. Oh, you are SO right about that."
"No comments from the peanut gallery. Go on."
"Check. Purple verbina, regret. Betcha had to scratch for that one." Jim frowned. "Right, right."
His eyebrows rose. "Dead leaves?"
Jim dropped a few on the truck bed. "For sorrow."
"Zinnia, I mourn your abscence. Purple pansy, you occupy my thoughts. Currants?" Jim scattered a few bright berries over the leaves, giving Blair a pointed look. "Thy frown will kill me. Damn, I had no idea you could be so poetic. Forget me not. Duh. Jonquil, I desire a return of affection."
As Blair read down the list, and Jim laid the various plants, woods, and flowers before her, Scribe could feel the cold, lonely place that had grown inside her the last few days disolving in warmth.
Blair and Jim continued. Jim laid a slender branch on the pile as Blair said, "Hazel, reconciliation. Carnation, deep and pure love. Bay leaf, I change but in death." His eyes were skipping down the list, and his voice was beginning to choke a little. "Linden sprig, conjugal love." Jim laid a trio of roses on top of the pile, two red and a white, thier stems braided together. Blair whispered, "Red and white roses together--unity."
Scribe stared at the three final flowers, bound together, their petals mingling. When she looked up at Jim, he was holding a small satin box. "I asked Blair, Scribe. He wears my ring, and I wear his. I never asked you." He cleared his throat. "I only got the one ring, but if you agree, I think it would be... right, if we all wore two rings, to symbolize our committment to each of the others. We can get the other rings later, if you approve. Right now I just have this one."
Jim snapped the box open and showed her a thin gold band. "There's engraving on the inside--just our initials, all three sets, interlocked. So, Scribe? Will you marry me?" He looked at Blair, who was watching him with a gentle smile. Blair nodded, and Jim said, "Will you marry US?"
Scribe was silent for a long moment. Finally she said, "You're going to have to get up in the truck if you're going to put that thing on my hand, Jim."
A smile like sunshine breaking over his face, Jim climbed up into the truck to join his two lovers.
She couldn't fucking believe it. This was the third month in a row that she hadn't had her period! She smiled, and headed for the woods, snagging Blair on her way by. "Tell Jim to follow: If I'm right, this is something I want him to imprint."
"What is?" He wanted to know.
"Pregnant women smell different than women who aren't, and I want to see if the baby's heartbeat's okay."
"P,p,pregnant?" He stuttered. "Do they know?"
"Not yet. I want to have Jim listen, first." She paused. "Well? I'll be at the hot springs."
Ten minutes later, Ellison confirmed it, and a couple of minutes after that, he turned to stare at Scribe. She caught the look and started backing up in alarm...."Jim....!"
"We ran out of rubbers weeks ago." He said and cocked his head to listen, a slight smile on his face. When of bemused enchantment replaced it, she groaned. "You have three heartbeats, and so does Jane. Two sets of twins!" He was so happy she didn't have to heart to bitch and moan. At least, not yet.
Jane was grinning at her: "I remembered what you said about not having any unplanned pregnancies, so I planned this every step of the way since you gave me the idea to begin with. I was very careful to time it just right." She patted Scribe on the head and went looking for Roy and John.
One month later
Jim and Blair returned from getting supplies, with an unusually quiet Mitri sitting between them. Both Jim and Blair were quiet, too, but Jim was the grimmer of the two. Finally Mitri said, "Pops? What did you say to them boys? I'm pretty sure one of 'em peed their pants."
He glanced down at her. "Never you mind. I didn't embarrass you, did I?"
She shook her head. "Nope. You never raised your voice."
"That's when Jim is at his scariest," Blair assured her. "And I have an idea of what he said. I've heard him talk to punks he'd found messing with girls."
Mitri twisted a little. "But they weren't messin' with me."
"They were talking about your..." his eyes flickered. "Your bosoms."
Mitre frowned. "You went after 'em cause they were talkin' about my tits?"
"I have nothing against a bit of healthy admiration. It was the WAY they were talking about them."
Blair shook his head, smiling. "The looks on their faces."
"Yeah, well, I guess they thought I wasn't going to hear them from the other end of the aisle, especially with that damn muzak. Who the hell told them to do an elevator version of Black Magic Woman?"
Blair leaned over, whispering, "There ya go. I figured there had to be SOMETHING else crawling up his butt."
She giggled. "Is that why you bought me that stupid slingshot?"
"It's a bra, and I'd like a little appreciation, here," Jim said almost primly. "I'll have you know I
darn near had a thrombosis having to consult with that smirking lingerie saleswoman about the proper fit. And you'll wear that when we go into town from now on."
Mitri shrugged. "Okay, as long as I don't have to LIVE in the damn thing, like Scribe does. And why couldn't SHE have come in with us? Then she could have done the booby holder shopping."
Blair and Jim both grimaced. "You know how she's been lately," Blair said.
"Yep. Worse than Whitey that time he got the thorn in his paw." She nodded sagely. "Hormones."
Jim sighed. "And we have another five months to go."
Peja says that things will probably even out soon," Blair offered. "Her body's just getting adjusted to the new situation. Of course soon we'll have to deal with her being pissed over the physical discomforts."
Jim smiled. "Guess it's a good thing she's so cute when she pouts." They piled out and began to unload supplies. As they hefted boxes and bags back to the camp, Mitri said, "Where's Megan and her two?"
"I dunno," Blair checked to make sure that the clerk hadn't left the chocolate bars out of their order. They'd blinked a little when he asked for a whole box, then, 'Better make it two. We need an emergency stash, just in case.' "I saw her and her two coming out of the hardware store down the block, but she just took off, with them hot on her heels."
They entered the main area to find most of the group gathered around as Roy bandaged Chet's head. Johnny was peering into Chet's eyes carefully. "No, you just have a lump and a cut, Chet. I don't think we have to worry about concussion. You're just lucky that she threw a tin cup instead of one of those heavy pottery mugs. You might be dealing with a cracked skull in that case."
Jim put down his sacks. "What happened? You said 'she', didn't you?" He looked around quickly--Kata, Peja, and Jane were standing around, watching the activities. He sighed, looking at Blair. "He said 'she'."
Blair was round eyed. "Man, what did you DO? She's never thrown anything dangerous before."
"Nothing! I did nothing!" Chet protested. Everyone looked at him. "Why does everyone just assume that I did something stupid or insensitive?" They looked. "It was a completely harmless comment!"
Peja said, "He told a four months pregnant, hormonally charged woman that she had 'wide, child-bearing hips'."
Jim winced. "And she left you with the ability to father children?"
"Yeah, you got off easy," drawled Jane. "If it had been me, I would've let you have the full coffee pot."
Kata looked at Jim. "There's one advantage to using a tin pot instead of one of those glass carafes."
Jim heaved a sigh, looking at Blair. "You DO know that WE'RE going to have to go in there and calm her down?"
Blair squared his shoulders. "I knew the job was dangerous when I took it." THUD "What was THAT?"
"I think that was her copy of Needful Things. Damn, I'm glad I wasn't in front of that. Come on--I'm on point." As they started toward the cave, he called to Johnny, "Be ready to drag out bodies out of the line of fire."
Jim peeked into the cave. ZING! He ducked back. SPANG! "Damn, I thought that little baking rack was too light for her to get that kind of distance and force. NOW!"
They rushed into the cavern. Scribe was in the middle of the cave, hair and eyes wild as she turned to them. Before she could move she was enveloped in a double bear hug. "You two lemme go! I've got a good mad on, and I don't intend to waste it!"
Blair crooned, "Babe, babe, you have to calm down."
Jim tightened his arms when she squirmed. "The agitation isn't good for you OR the baby, Scribe. Please don't be so upset."
"Upset? Who's upset? I'm HAPPY!" She turned her face toward the entrance, raising her voice in sarcasm, "Don't you know that all FAT people are jolly?"
"You're not fat," Blair said firmly. "You're not even showing yet."
"Ye-et!" The word was a snarl. "Let me go. There's a nice chunk of kindling I want to go show Chet."
They didn't let her go. They held, and rocked, and stroked, and soothed, and eventually she calmed down enough for them to feel safe in releasing her. "You won't go after Chet again?" Blair asked.
"Not physically, no," she grumbled.
"I have candy," Blair said persuasively.
She perked up a bit. "Okay."
They went out to the main area. When he saw them coming, Chet jumped up and hid behind Peja. She gave him a cynical look. "Don't count on that. I'll hand you over to her."
Scribe scowled at him. "You're safe enough."
Jane shook her head. "I don't know about that. It's going to be some time before you get your power under control."
"Well, isn't there some herbal thing I can take to help regulate the hormones."
"The hormones are going to make things worse, of course. I think it's the pregnancy that triggered the telekinesis."
"I was there, hon. Your hands weren't anywhere near that cup when it picked itself up and flung itself at Chet."
"Oh, now look! I know damn good and well that I threw that coffee pot!"
Blair looked interested. "How about your Needful Things?"
She looked horrified. "I'd never throw my Steven King!"
"Well, it's there on the ground."
"Eep!" She hurriedly picked it up and inspected it for damage. "Thank goodness. Jane, what the hell did you mean by telekinesis?"
"Well, by now you know that being a Mage is sort of tied in with the Sentinel thing, right? Sentinels have the heightened senses, and lots of regular people have one or two heightened senses. Well, sometimes a Mage will have a heightened power. I could tell you were gonna be one of 'em. I think that whole interdimensional thing kinda insured it. I've just been waiting to see what it would be." She grinned at Jim. "Be happy she didn't get telepathy. Then she could've read your mind."
There was a sudden yell from Chet. He was shaking his pants legs, both of which were soaked. Three blurs--bluish, reddish, and coal black, were pelting away. Je glared at Jim, Scribe, and Blair. "All three of your animals PEED on me!" he said indignanty. As the others started laughing he continued, "What I want to know is how the hell Heart managed that? She's a bitch, don't they SQUAT?"
Jane gave him a hard look. "You'd be surprised what a bitch can accomplish when she's motivated." Chet wisely shut up. Jane addressed Scribe. "You WILL need to try to keep calm while you're learning to control this." She cocked her head. "Megan is back, aaaand..." she smiled. "I think she has something that'll help you."
Megan, Marco, and Mike came up the path. Both of the men looked amused as they hefted their purchases along. Megan was carrying only what looked like a small, bundled towel.
"Where did you three go?" Jim asked. "You took off like a scalded cat."
"Appropriate," said Mike. "We were just loading the jeep when Megan took off. We followed, of course."
Marco volunteered. "We found her kicking the ass of some punk while a couple of his buddies took off."
"What set you off, Aussie?" asked Blair.
The noise was tiny, plaintive, and unmistakable. Mitri was suddenly almost vibrating with excitement, and Scribe had lost all interest in the chocolate (which struck her two men as a minor miracle). Megan unwrapped the towel to show a tiny morsel of black fur, sitting shakily in the palm of her hand. "A kitty!" squealed Mitri. "A BABY kitty!"
Scribe came over and gently touched the top of the apple shaped head. The kitten immediately opened toothless jaws and hissed at her. She laughed. "Oo, ferocious. But it's so TINY! Oh, and it's all wet."
Megan nodded, expression hard. "The shite was drowning it in a bucket of water. I didn't get there in time to save two of its siblings." She bared her teeth. "He may have a couple of cracked ribs for that."
"Is it old enough to be away from its mother?"
Megan shrugged. "Doesn't have much choice, I suppose. We bought some kitten formula and a doll's bottle, and a big bag of Kitten Chow for later." She smiled at Mitri. "I thought maybe Little Bit might like to see if she can raise it." She looked at Mitri's trio of foster parents. "If the 'rents don't mind?"
"Oh, like I'm passing up a chance to have a cat around!" Scribe paused and looked to Jim and Blair. "Um, as long as..."
Blair grinned. "Oh, like we're going to pass up a chance for you to have a cat around."
Jim was peering at the kitten. "Hey, it has blue eyes! And it kind of looks like a long haired version of Tigre--freeze dried."
Mitri had taken the kitten and was cuddling it. "Don't talk about him like that! He's BEAUTIFUL!"
"You know, that looks like a pure bred Persian," remarked Scribe. "I knew someone once who raised them. And how do you know it's a he?"
"I don't," said Mitri, unconcerned. "It's kinda hard to tell when they're this little." She handed the
kitten to Jim. "You're a Sentinel--you tell me."
Jim held the kitten awkwardly. It looked minute in his big hands. "Um, well..." He sighed, turned the kitten around, lifted its tail, and peered closely.
Mitri giggled. "That's RUDE."
"Well, it's the only way I know shy of DNA mapping, and we don't have the equipment." He peered. "And it appears that this one doesn't have the equipment either."
"A girl," said Mitri.
"Or else his danglies haven't descended," commented Kata. "We probalby won't be able to tell for a few months."
"How will we be sure?" asked Mitri.
Scribe, a veteran cat owner, "Said if it starts howling and going nuts once a month, it's a she--in
Mitri frowned. "But what would she do for a boyfriend? There ain't any boy cats this far out in
the woods?"
Rafe smirked. "Well, I guess it's good that Tigre and Claw are 'involvled'. Otherwise the logistics could be scarey." Peja elbowed him.
Scribe patted Mitri's shoulder as they took the kitten into the cave to fix it a nest and give it a bottle. "Don't worry, kiddo. It's been my experience that if a female cat goes into heat, tomcats WILL find her, if they have to charter a plane and fly in themselves."
Jane had gotten a thoughtful look on her face, and went outside. She grinned as she went over to both of the big cats, and hunkered down in front of them.
"I'm giving you two jobs. The first one is to make sure that no male housecat of breeding age is allowed near that lil kitty until she's 18 months old, and the second is to insure that only the best male between two and four years is allowed in to breed. Don't kill any of course, just transport them elsewhere: No real need to stay carnate for the trip either." She chuckled. "One more thing, your three have progressed enough that you are now allowed human speech projection. Any time you like. Major T can, he just hates to be the only spirit allowed to so he doesn't bother." She paused, "Oh, yeah. One more thing, keep him and Whitey out of trouble."
Tigre://You want us to contain a moose?//
Claw:// *And a bear?//
"Sure do. Don't worry, you'll do fine. We all trust you." She patted each big cat on his head and walked off.
Tigre://If she weren't the World Colonization Leader for this planet...// He grunted grumpily.
Claw: //But she is. So we obey.//
Tigre://First of our kind, will we be. To establish Cores for the benefit of all Humankind, our Humans will be. First is also most difficult. It is ever so.//
Claw://But to babysit a housecat is still humiliating.//
Tigre:// And to assess and approve or deny prospective mates for a suckling is more so. Perhaps we should take a more active role in training our Humans.//
Claw:// She wants them to use their abilities as well as we do ours. She is right. This is a truth.//
Jim and his Core stared at Claw and Tigre, listening as avidly as the rest of the camp. "You TALK!?" Jim bellowed. This caused the pair of huge felines to squall and jump straight up into the air about twelve feet, spin in mid air and land with every hair on both bodies standing straight out. They looked like they'd been licking a live wire.
Mitri said so, too and embarrassment gave them an excuse to ignore the humans in favor of grooming themselves. It also allowed them to try to ignore the all of the laughter.
Jim went to his jaguar and sat down next to him, wrapped both arms around the beast and yanked him off balance so that he tumbled sideways into Jim's lap. He gave the Cat a hug, then started petting and soothing the Cat's irritation. He grinned at Scribe when she began to 'baby talk' her's. It came to a head when Major T showed up and since the Cats were still agitated,
began grooming them, moose-style, with what he figured were soothing licks.
By the time he was done they looked like they'd both been dipped in liquid petroleum jelly. By the time it dried it looked like they'd been in the jelly vat for a long time. Neither Jim nor Scribe were any better off, either. Bits of moose-spit froth clung to them, they were soaked with moose-drool, and Jim was totally grossed out.
"Eeeeeew!" Jim hissed as he saw spit dribbling from his fingertips. He looked at Scribe, who had an indescribeable look on her features. Both heads shot up as a flash went off. "Oh no. No, please no." Jim wailed as he saw both Blair and Mitri take off running, laughter trailing behind them. "I forgot the damned poleroid. Wanna bet she called Major on purpose?" He asked Scribe in dismay.
"No bet. We'll even things up with her later though. We'll even it up with Blair now, though. Let him play his games. Let's go to the hotsprings, clean up and have some fun. You can tell him what he missed later."
The two big cats followed, shaking paws and rapidly drying selves in that classic behavior of wet felines all the world over. They were not happy!
Rather than risk dodging swimming predators (plus the fact that Jim was still a little squeamish about sharing bathing facilities with furred people), Jim and Scribe sat on the bank of the hot springs while Tigre and Claw swam a bit, ducking and spluttering, muttering disgustedly to themselves.
Scribe said, "Did you get a chance to check into that last church?"
Jim put his arm around her ('What the hell, we're BOTH be-slobbered') and said gently, "Yeah. Sorry, babe, but they won't let us have the wedding there, either."
Scribe sighed and put her head down on her knees for a minute. "Well, it's not like it was a surprisee. I don't know of any modern Judeo-Christian denominations that sanction polygamy. And I was -raised- Southern Baptist, so that's why I had you check them last--I know the attitudes."
"Actually, the pastor was pretty nice about it. He wished us luck, but said that he just couldn't do it. He hadn't seen a riot in a church, and he wasn't prepared to start one, plus being excommunicated."
She smiled faintly. "I don't think we -do- excommunications."
"Disbarrment, defrocking, take back the charter--whatever it is they do."
"I get it, Jim. The question is, what do we do now? We were lucky to get the licenses for me and you, and me and Blair. I guess it's kind of convenient to not have ANY records. Makes it easier to create fake ones." The Major Crimes contingency had really come through on that level. Several of them had worked fraud before. In no time at all Scribe had been provided with two different sets of papers. They'd gotten licenses under the names--one with Jim and one with Blair. Then she had petitioned, under each name, to have her name legally changed to her own. As far as the government was concerned she was two different women with the same name, married to two different men.
But she wanted something besides a civil ceremony. ('I think I've been pretty good about accepting the whole 'alternate lifestyle' thing, including finding out that I'm genetically linked to not one, but TWO men, and have magic, of a sort, that I don't know how to use to any practical purpose. I know I'll never get the four bridesmaids, flower girl, three tier cake, reception with no dancing or champagne 'cause we're Baptist wedding I planned when I was little, but I want a WEDDING, damn it!')
"There IS one other possibility," Jim started.
"Not some Church of the Divine Intervention and Holy Everlasting Sweet Sanctimony, Jim."
He smiled. "Nope. But we have a perfectly good Shaman living with us. Why not get Blair to perform the ceremony?"
Scribe frowned, "COULD he?"
"I don't see why not. It isn't as if we have a lot of rules and regulations and preconceived notions out here."
Scribe smiled. "I think that would be kind of sweet. Anyway, in Texas, all you have to do to be common law is live together for six months, and pur yourself before the world as man and wife. We've done that."
The two cats scrambled out of the spring, fur steaming and streaming, and settled themselves on the grass to lick themselves dry. Several of Twinky's troop descended and casually began to groom the big cats. They never found anything, since these were Spirit animals, and were pretty well varmint proof, but they did it anyway, for recreation and socializing.
Jim said, "I think the water should be circulated enough by now." He stood up and started stripping. He got down to his jeans and noticed that Scribe was still sitting, staring up at him. "What? Aren't you coming in, too? I need you in there with me. Just me having sex solo won't do much to torture Blair."
"Juuust admiring the view." He grinneda and flexed, posing for her. She clasped her hands and fluttered her eyelashes in a parody of a silent movie heroine. When Jim reached for his snap, though, she got up on her knees and pushed his hands away. "Allow me."
She made a production out of it, loverint the zipper a notch at a time, massaging Jim's thighs as she did so. It was sexy, even if there WERE a few flecks of foam. Jim was almost fully hard by the time she had the jeans down around his knees. "Huh. You lecturing to Mitri about wearing a bra into town, and YOU go in commando."
"Well, I didn't want the locals drooling over her."
"And you think the local matrons and maidens don't ogle you when you go into town? There was one little hussy I'd have bitch slapped for staring at your butt if she hadn't been only about half my size and twice my age."
"As if I'd ever... Ooo, that's nice," he sighed as he felt the first warm, soft swipe of her tongue. He looked around, opening his senses to be sure that they were unobserved. The two he was most worried about (Blair and Mitri) were back in their home cavern, giggling together. Figuring they'd be busy at leat until they got into the water, Jim relaxed to enjoy his woman's attention.
Scribe had started out with nothing but theory and enthusiasm that first time with Jim and Blair. Since then the three of them had learned each other, learned the tiny details of bodies, the nuances that signaled excitement and pleasure, and the best way to achieve these. She used all her acquired skills, and love, on Jim, bringing him to the shuddering edge of orgasm before pulling off him, circling the base of his rigid, moistly shining cock with her thumb and fingers, squeezing just enough to keep him from coming till he'd backed off from the edge. THEN she stood up and let him strip her before they both got into the water.
They dunked and washed away the moose spit, then moved together and began a slow, sensual exploration. Using the bouyancy of the water, Scribe put her arms around Jim's neck, gave a little hop, and wrapped her legs around his waist, trapping his erection between their bodies and squirming. Jim groaned, cupping her ass and squeezing, raising and lowering her to increase the friction. But when she tried to lift up a little more so that he could penetrate, he held her. "Let's try something."
She raised an eyebrow at him. "Gah, Ellison, what HAVEN'T we tried yet?"
"Well, you and I haven't done it from behind--not ALONE, anyway." He reached between them, affectionately rubbing the shallow swell of her belly, where the twins were growning. "Pretty soon these two are really going to be bulking up. We need to consider the best way for us to keep having fun without it being too uncomfortable for you or them. I think from behind, standing or on the side, is going to be our best bet."
"Mm, okay." Jim set her down, and she turned to the rock side of the spring, bracing herself against it as Jim moved up behind her. "I guess the benefit of being married to two men is that when I'm being screwed like this, I can still get kissed." She sighed as Jim moved into her, plastering himself against her back. "But we're torturing Blair here."
"One advantage to being taller than you," Jim tipped her head back and stretched, leaning over. Their lips just met. They made love, slowly and sweetly, with many small murmurings of affection and desire. As they were nearing orgasm, Jim cocked his head and said, "Okay, Blair's coming."
"Is he alone?"
"Show time." Scribe had watched her fair share of porno tapes once upon a time. She began giving a performance that would have put the most enthusiastic starlets to shame. Jim, who wasn't always that vocal a lover joined her in the symphony of moaning and crying out. Blair came to the springs, and stopped abruptly, "Oh, MAN! You guys started without me."
Scribe bucked, groaning as if she were in pain, and Jim gave his best Alpha Sentiel growl as they both reached orgasm. The he looked back at his crestfallen Guide and said, "Actually, we FINISHED without you."
Blair pouted. Scribe said, "Well, we figured you'd be busy hunting up a scanner so you could put the pictures on the internet."
"But it was Mitri's idea!" Blair protested. Scribe wagged a finger at him. "Okay, the moose was her idea. I'll cop to the camera." He flopped back on the grass, staring up at the sky, and mock wailed, "I'm sooooo deprived!"
"Do that again and I'll show you deprived," warned Scribe as she climbed out of the spring. "You ought to stay on my good side, Sandburg," she warned. "This 'hormonal horny' phase is probably going to give way to an 'ew! I'm fat, don't touch me!' phase."
He sat up quickly. Since she was within reach he wrapped his arms around her quickly, pulling her close. "In that case, I shall love you right out of that mood." He rose quickly on his knees and buried his face in her crotch. She thought about pushing him away, but Blair was pretty damn talented in this area, and that was a very persuasive argument for forgiveness. He pulled back, lips shiny, and smiled at her. "Jim flavored Scribe. Yum."
She giggled, stroking his hair fondly as Jim began to undo his Guide's pants, reaching inside to pet him. "We're a very odd group, you know?"
"Yeah," Jim agreed. "But we're a lot of fun," Just before he bent down to engulf Blair's prick he said, "And isn't making up a lot more fun than holding a grudge?"
They were so engrossed in what they were doing, that no one, not even Jim noticed the distant whir of a 35mm camera, one with a telescopic lens. Mitri wasn't getting many details, she was really only after the really odd still shots. Anyone's ass in air, various limbs at odd angles, and any really strange facial expressions with enough of the rest of that individual to be able to tell exactly what was being done to put it on that person's face.
Johnny caught her just as she put away the camera, but before she had a chance to try to sneak in for a closer look.
"I don't think so, young lady!" He said firmly, as he caught her arm. He shook his head at her. Leave the adults of your Core alone!" He hunkered down to put his long, lanky frame at eye level with her and gazed at Mitri for a few minutes. "Go tell Peja the truth about whatever you got done up here, and ask her you could borrow Chet for a while. He's made a pretty good target for Jane for years, and you aren't as mean as she is." John grinned at her. "Just
make sure it's hilarious, okay?"
She looked at him for a moment before a slow smile spread across her face. "Chet, huh?"
"Yep." He cocked his head at the youngster for a moment, seeing Jim's big frame cresting the hill behind her. "Got one question, though."
"What's that?"
"Why is it you do everything possible to interuppt them whenever they're..."
She looked down at her feet at first, then looked back up into her teacher's brown eyes. "I'm scared. Maybe they'll get to liking each other so much they'll forget me, ya know?"
Jim was close enough that even John could see him flinch. "You sound like Jane used to. That kind of thinking is part of what this," He gestured around at the camp, "Is meant to deal with, before it gets out of control like it did with us." He hugged the girl. "We confront fear here, and deal with it until it isn't there anymore. That won't happen, Mitri. I swear, they are not going to forget you."
Jim was coming down at a fast trot, now, concern on his face. Neither Scribe nor Blair was very far behind him. Blair called Roy to Scribe to help her down the steep slope, then was on his feet and was coming very fast. This time, experience was what drove him. Jim 'never' acted like that unless is was important.
"Hey, Johnny?"
"Yeah, hon?" He brushed her hair out of her eyes. His own smarted with unshed tears as she looked up at him sadly. "Do ya think..."
"I do I think what, Sweetie?" He asked softly.
"You think Pops'll ever love me?" He gave her a hard hug, picked her up and handed her over to Jim. "I mean I think Scribe does, and I know Blair does...but Pops..." She shivered. "Love him as much as I did daddy, but I don't think he likes me all that much. So I took the pictures for, for."
"Blackmail." John sighed. "I think he's going to have to answer that one. I think he already does, though." Gage told the girl. "How the hell he let a child your age go this long still wondering about something that important, is beyond my powers of comprehension." He glared at the cop, and headed for Jane. Sometimes that damned cop made Johnny so tired!
He clapped a hand to Blair's shoulder on the way past him, "HOW the hell you put up with that dude, I will never understand!"
Blair winked at Johnny. "Guess it's one of those 'love 'im in spite of himslf' things." He knew his
pregnant lover would be in safe hands with the paramedic, so he hurried over to where Jim had come to stand before Mitri.
Jim mimiced Johnny, squatting to bring his face level with Mitri's, giving up the intimidation factor of his greater size. Blair approved. Jim loved kids, but he'd never been around them for extended periods of time. He knew how to discipline, or how to have fun with them, but day-to-day intimacy wasn't that easy. But he was making progress. The question was, would
the progress be fast enough to keep this girl, whom they had all come to love as a daughter, from suffering any more emotional trauma.
Jim was saying, "What's wrong, Mitri? You're upset about something. I mean, I know you've been upset for some time, but it's bad right now. Tell me. We want to help you, if I can."
Blair came and squatted beside him, a little behind. He was going to be a part of this, but he was letting Jim take the lead, since Blair had already established a firm and easy relationship with the girl. Blair nodded. "Jim trips over his own words sometimes, but he's pretty good at problem solving. And, while he will never be marshmallow fluff when it comes to sensitivity, he isn't a brick wall anymore, either."
Scribe was fussing quietly at Johnny as he helped her down the slope, his arm firmly around her waist. "For heaven's sake, I'm not crippled!"
"I thought we went over this," Johnny said patiently. "You're pregnant. We're in the middle of the woods. Now, Roy and I can take care of a lot of emergencies, but we aren't going to risk having anything serious happen to you out here. That means being MORE careful than you think you need to--A LOT more careful. You're on official notice now not to lift anything heavier than twenty pounds. No more toting Heart around. She's too big to be a lap-wolf now, anyway."
"Oh, all right, but I'm sending her to you if she gives me puppy-dog eyes. She's been taking lessons from Blair."
Mitri studied Jim for a long moment, then said quietly. "Okay. First..." She uncovered the camera and handed it over to Jim without further comment.
Jim turned it over in his hands, and Blair said, "Uh oh. Telephoto lense." He glanced back to where Scribe was approaching, then looked at Jim and winced.
But Jim just gave Mitri a long look, then handed it to Blair. "Okay, Mitri. We won't discuss that." He gave Blair a glance, then smiled. "I'm s ure Darwin can find a discreet developer. We'll have some memories for when Scribe gets to that 'delicte' stage." He turned his attention back to Mitri. "But this is part of a pattern, and frankly, I don't think you're a junior perv, Mitri--just curious. But the curiosity ought to be satisfied by now. What gives?"
Scribe arrived. Just as Mitri started to explain. She leaned on Blair's shoulder to settle safely, and she was glad she was so close to him, because what Mitri was telling them made her need a hug very badly.
When she was done, she fell silent, waiting for his reaction, biting her lip. Jim sat down heavily, his expression slack. Finally he said, "Shit, Mitri..." He swallowed. "Babe, of COURSE I love you. You drive me nuts some times, but that's always how it is with parents and kids. I'm sorry if I didn't make it clear to you. Y'see..." he looked down at his hands. Big, capable hands--for anything physical. He felt incompetent, though, in matters like this. "Mitri, my Mom left when I was little, lots younger than you..."
Mitri gaped. "She just LEFT?! Why would she do that?"
"I think it was mostly my father. He... uh... he wasn't an easy man to live with."
Blair rubbed his back. "Understatement of the century, Jim." He looked at Mitri solemnly. "You
think Jim is hard-headed? He makes Jim look wishy-washy. And cobras come to him for lessons in being cold blooded. He never liked my influence on Jim, and was trying to have him get rid of me all the time. Even when he learned about Jim's senses--he'd rather risk Jim going crazy or even dying than have the social scandal of his son being emotionally dependent on anyone, and especially someone like me."
"When I told him that Blair and I were in love, and committed to each other," Jim said softly, "first he threatend to disown me. I told him he didn't have to--just have a lawyer draw up the papers and I'd sign away any interest in his estate. Then he threatened to never speak to me again." He grinned. "I beat him to it. I just got up without another word and left. Haven't spoke to him since." He shrugged. "It hasn't made that much of a difference in my life, except to lower my stress level. What I'm trying to say, honey, is that I don't have a whole lot of experience with expressing how I feel about someone. Blair and Scribe are working on me, and I'm a lot better, but I can see I'm still not where I need to be."
"One other thing." He cleared his throat. "God, this is embarrassing." Mitri smiled faintly. "Yeah, you WOULD like that. The thing is, Mitri, you're getting to be a young lady now..."
"Who you calling a lady?" she said belligerantly.
Blair whispered to Scribe, "Can you tell she's been hanging with Streeter?"
"And we heard what Jane had to go through. I just didn't want you to think that..." He was beginning to blush. "I mean, I love you like a DAUGHTER, but I was worried that you might missinterpret..."
"Pops, are you worried that I'll think you're trying to put the make on me if you give me a hug or a kiss every now and then?"
"Uh, kinda."
Mitri smiled. "Oh, that's so cute!" She looked at Blair and Scribe. "Isn't he CUTE?" Blair and Scribe tried to keep the smiles from being too wide. Jim--supercop, ex-Ranger, Sentinel, supreme Alpha male--cute. Yep.
Mitri threw herself against Jim, hugging him fiercely, and he responded. "Don't worry, Pops. I know that you know the difference. Besides," she stepped back, eyes twinkling. "You're cute, like I said, but you're AWFUL old!" With a quick peck on his cheek, she skipped off. In her wake was several snow monkeys, a nursery of raccoon cubs, Chip the otter, and Major T, the last stepping carefully to avoid squashing the smaller animals. She tossed back over her shoulder, "I gotta go talk to Peja about Chet!" She grinned.
"I think some interesting things could be arranged for that moustache."
Chet kept wrinkling his nose, and Peja was upset since she couldn't bear to be near him for very long. She couldn't identify the stink, though. She knew it was 'human' and that it 'wasn't' Chet himself.
He bathed several times a day, washing his hair, carefully grooming his mustache and waxing it in full view of most of the camp. It held well, and was shining. He seemed well-groomed, he didn't have bad-breath or gas. And it was driving him totally bonkers!
Perhaps it was only that having raised Jane, they were particularly aware of her smugness, her small Mona Lisa smile whenever she heard Chet bemoan his new and very much un-wanted personal stink-machine. Roy noticed the dipped head and half hidden smile, John saw the tremors of suppressed laughter, and BOTH men finally followed Mitri until they found out what she was doing to Chet.
She was tampering with his mustache wax, adding something from a little tin to it, and stirring it in good. She sneaked off without being seen. They waited until they could get a good look at the contents of that tin or catch her filling it.
//Eeeew!// Gage thought as she picked her ears and added the earwax to the re-fill tin for Kelly's mustasche. He locked eyes with Roy, caught the grimace of distaste and whispered to the waiting Ellison.
Jim was clearly stunned, and Peja stared at him. "What did she do? Come on, Ellison, spill it!"
He fought down laughter until he was able to answer him. "She's adding her very own, home-made earwax to the stuff for his mustache, about once a week. John says she's 'harvesting' it now..." He choked out, then howled with mirth."He said he thinks the earwax keeps rotting on poor Chet's upper lip...."
"Oh GAWD!" She gasped. "OH DAMN, why that sneaky little...." She ripped out a big belly laugh. "Oh, damn, she got him pretty good, didn't she?"
"Whoa Nelly! I think so, yes. THAT'S my girl!" Blair snickered. He had their cat, which Mitri had called Blairette, much to the amusement of everyone but Blair. The fact that the kitten seemed to want to live up to the name didn't help at all. It bounced into and out of trouble 24/7 and kept the feline members of the camp busy keeping it safe."
"Guess I better go make him throw away that damned shit. I can't handle not being able to throw him down and fuck the hell out him much longer. And neither can Rafe."
"Damned right, he's so damned tight...."
Peja boinked him upside the head. "Keep your head behind your teeth or you're gonna regret it. You don't discuss our Omega with anyone but me, got it?"
"Yes ma'am, Alpha." He grinned at her, and saw the promise in her eyes.
"Then when you've gotten him clean, get him hot." She grinned at Jim. "Chet's submissive as hell, and demands it rough. Rafe just doesn't know when to shut up. Although," She looked at Rafe, "Repeat the conversation. He is lovely when he's embarrassed. We will use him well, tonight."
Jim looked up. "No."
"Don't take that tone with me, young lady! No chocolate. It's bad for you. Have some beef jerkey, you LIKE that."
"That's it!" Jim snatched up a towel and snapped it at a rapidly disappearing rear-end.
"Uh, yeah?"
Scribe put her hands on her hips. "What are you doing to Heart?"
"She waas pestering me for chocolate. You know she can't have it, because it's dangerous for canines."
Scribe sighed. "Poor thing. Pregnant, and not allowed to have chocolate." Jim took a look at her doleful face and handed her a Snickers. She kissed his cheek. "I'm sorry she snarled at you. She must be at about the same stage of her pregnancy that I was a little while back."
"Mm." Jim hugged her. "I'm so glad things have smoothed out for you. You were sort of Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde there for awhile."
"Don't get too comfortable. It probably isn't over yet. Who do you suppose the daddy is?"
"Well, I don't know if they're identicle. If they're fraternal, maybe one is mine and one is Blair's."
"I meant Heart's babies."
"Oh. Um, offhand, I'd say Sandburg's Shadow. I think that when he's around her he manages to grin and stick his chest out."
"Yeah, you're right about that. I didn't even know that Spirit animals COULD get each other pregnant."
"Where did you think little Spirit animals came from?"
"You know Jim, oddly enough, it never occurred to me to ponder it." Jim suddenly winced, then squinted. She was experienced enough now to have an idea of what was going on. "What are you trying to tune out?"
"Peja and Rafe are after Chet again. Damn that poor bastard should be about ready to drop by now. One or the other of them has been after him for the past two days."
"Yeah, but I haven't seen a grin that big outside of a Halloween jack-o-lantern. It's funny that he's such a brash jerk in public, but turns into a slavish submissive when his Core gets him alone."
"Public personas can sometimes be deceiving." Jim nipped her neck, making her giggle. "You were acting sort of old-maidish when you arrived."
"I WAS an old maid, Big Guy." She patted his cheek, then settled back down on the sleeping nest. She powered up Blair's computer. "I'm going to need to plug this back into one of the jacks so it can recharge."
Jim nodded. "What are you doing? I thought Blair let the internet connection account lapse."
"He did, cuss him. This dimension had huge vistas of fanfiction smut that I haven't had time to explore."
"Then what are you doing?"
"Ooh, yeah, that's right! There's a television show about us in your former dimension."
"Yes." She sat up, eyes widening. "Crap, I just thought. You don't suppose that there's a dimension out there where there's a Sentinel television series that has a character like ME in it?"
Blair had come in, catching the end of the conversation. "There IS no one like you, sweetie."
He kissed her on the top of the head. "What are you doing?"
"Like I told Jim--writing. I figured I'd better use the laptop while I still had a lap I could put it on
top of."
"Great! Let's see." Blair started to lean over for a look. Scribe quickly tilted the screen down almost flat to the keyboard. "Hey!"
"You can't read it."
"Why not?"
"Because... Jim, don't you DARE try to use your Sentinel vision to peek under there!" Jim held up his hands. "Don't try to look innocent--you can't do it NEARLY as well as Blair. If you must know, I'm writing smut."
"Gimme!" Blair grabbed at the laptop. She squealed and hugged it back, turning her side to him. "No fair! You know we have to be careful wrestling now so we won't hurt you!"
"I'm glad that you didn't say you had to be careful in case we broke the laptop."
Jim looped his arms around her neck, hugging her. "We can always get another laptop."
"Sweet talker, and get your fingers away from that screen. Look there will probably come a time when due to excess baggage," she stroked the slight bulge of her belly, "I may not be entirely enthused about sex, both before and after the birth. I don't want to stop contributing to the love life around here, so I'm stockpiling rauncy stories for you two. We can read them to each other."
Blair grinned. "Cool! Aural sex."
"That's great. I'd be a little embarrassed to buy porno," Jim stated.
"And well you should be!" Scribe scolded. I've seen what they have to offer at the newstand in town. Trash--simple and not so pure." She gave him an arch look. "MY smut is erotica. It has PLOTS. It has characterization." She gave them a sly look. "It has you two in it."
Jim plopped down, looking fascinated. "Personalized porn?"
"You betcha."
He gave her an admiring look. "I love you."
She kissed him. "I know. I love you both, too, and nothin' says lovin' like smut fics by the dozens. Now," she grinned and tilted her head toward Blair. "If you want to insure quality, you and Blair might do something... um, inspiring."
"Like wha...?" Jim was cut off as he was pounced by a hugely grinning Blair.
Scribe giggled, tapping keys. "Notepad..."
Jane stood alone at the north end of the the meadow. The woman had a hand-woven basket at her feet with the twin of the infant who suckled at her breast in it. It was time, she knew. They were ready for the next stage of training, and that could not be done here. Not on this planet. Scribe's sons and her son had been born within hours of each other, and had bonded not with each other, but each with a twin from the other set. The boy having his lunch was Scribe's while Scribe had one of her babys. Heart and Star had each had a litter of four cubs and Major T had brought two cows home with him to Mitri the night before. And now, orders had come to move the Clan. They'd progressed enough to be a cohessive whole. And Simon's Core was going too. Another Core, a mature and experienced Core had already moved into MC. There was no place on this world for her clan now. They had a job to do, to train for.
She sighed as troopers from the Federated Planets Special Fleet loaded the sleeping people and animals, right down to the snow monkeys and a pet rat into staterooms aboard the Univeral Classic Interstellar Cruiser FPSF: Freedom Seeker. She followed John when he stopped to pick up the baby, and felt Roy's presence as the other man took the drag position. They entered the Cruiser and headed for the Shielded area where Sentinels always resided to rejoin her Clan. An hour later the others were awake and staring at the rapidly passing starfield as the ship carried them away from their homeworld, into deep space and toward and unknown future.
The next few weeks were spent learning how to use things aboard ship, studying the planet where they would spend the next several years, and learning to rule over the Un-Gifted masses on the world they would be assigned to after that. Earth observers calculated that at that point Human Kind would be able to build a full-fledged space port, and would have the installations on Mars, the Moon, and three other planets in their system colonized. That's when Man would try to reach beyond his own system to claim others, and that's when the Cores would take over the Transistion.
She watched the lessons in mute passivity, thinking about the next five years or so, and considering how much they had to learn to be ready to meet the needs of their world when the time came. A hand gripped her shoulder and she looked up into John's eyes, leaning against his thigh in a silent bid for comfort. She got it.
"Worrying again, huh? I really wish you wouldn't. This is the best Clan Core you've ever put together. They'll be fine." He hugged her. "Come on, let's join the others, we're decending now. We'll disembark from this barge in about ten minutes."
She sighed again, nodded. "Get the others strapped in. This place hasn't got a port, and it's pre-civilization. Human seeded, though. Let's get going, John."
Several months earlier
Scribe was propped up as comfortably as possible, all the pillows her men could find or finagle tucked between her back and the cave wall. Mitri was curled up beside her, her ear pressed to the uncovered mound of the woman's belly. Scribe was wearily stroking the girl's hair. She hadn't done much except, rest, eat, and walk a little for exercise for the last month, but hauling around what she was sure were two infant giants was tiring. "How they doing, kiddo?"
"Sound just fine," Mitri said, not raising her head. "Boy, howdy, those are some strong heartbeats. OW!"
"What is it?"
Mitri lifted her head, grinning at her. "One of the boogers just kicked me!"
"Well, that's what little brothers are for, sweetie."
Jim and Blair were sitting nearby, heads bent over a large book. Their hair mingled in a tumble of black and red-brown strands. Blair and Scribe had pursuaded Jim to let his hair keep growing. Now it was as long as Blair's had once been. Blair's hair reached to the middle of his back. Scribe sometimes said that it was great--it gave her plenty to steer with. Scribe raised her voice. "Haven't you two come up with something you can agree on yet?"
When Jane had informed them that Scribe was going to have two boys ("It's a Mage thing, Jim--you wouldn't understand.") Scribe had informed them that one of the boys would be named Royal, after her grandfather. "But you two can name the second one, as long as it
isn't anything TOO weird."
"Not very likely with Jim putting in his two cents," Blair had assured her.
They had been wrangling over the possibilities for over a month now.
Jim looked up, smiling at his wife and their adopted daughter. He could see the two plain gold bands glinting on Scribe's left hand--the match of the rings Jim and Blair wore. The ceremony had been when Scribe was about six months along. They had spoken vows that they had written themselves, with Blair officially declaring them wed in the eyes of their Clan, who were
all that mattered. Chet had asked Megan about that moisture on her cheeks, and had quickly agreed with her gritted assurance that the fucking ragweed had screwed with her sinuses.
"Well, we've finally agreed that we'll chose a name that translates into an animal. There are a lot of really good possibilities. For instance, Namar means leopard."
"I don't know," said Scribe. "It sounds a little Tarzan of the Apes to me."
"Well, there's also Lionel, for lion."
Blair made a face. "The other kids will call him Choo-choo, after the trains."
Jim gave him an arch look. "We're going to be in space. I doubt if many people out there will get the pop culture reference. But if you don't like that, there's Leo."
"Can't name him Leo, Jim," Blair protested. "I'm pretty sure there won't be any bowling alley's in space for him to hang around."
"So says the man who nominated Adolpho."
"It means noble wolf," Blair protested.
"Oh, THERE'S a surprise."
"If you don't like that, there's plain Dolph."
"That's better," Jim said grudgingly.
"Or..." Blair grinned slyly. "Rafe means wolf, too."
Jim and Mitri burst out laughing, and even Scribe chuckled faintly. Rafe was anything but noble and lupine when he was playing in the spring with Chip, his otter Guide.
"But we have to consider a lot of possibilities," Jim went on. "Adare for eagle, Gavan for falcon..."
"We don't have to be all macho here. How about Callum or Calvert for dove?"
"Oh, I LIKE Callum," sighed Scribe. She grinned at Mitri. "Callum Keith Renny as Stanley on Due South. VERY cute."
"Please!" said Jim. "This is your son we're talking about. Let's see... Colt--a young horse. Bix--a bull. Buck--a male deer. Those are all nice, guy names."
"It sounds like the cast list for a porno movie," retorted Blair. "Jai, for jaybird?"
"Get real. I just wish we had some idea of what to expect."
"Yeah," Blair piped up. "It'd be kinda embarrassing for the kid if we gave him a name meaning lion and his animal turned out to be a fieldmouse."
"DON'T SAY THAT!" Jim insisted. "No kid of mine is going to have a rodent for a Spirit guide.
"You don't really have any choice about it, Ellison."
Jim sighed. "Why did I know you were going to say that, Jane."
"Oh, well now, if you aren't glad to see me, I could always tell the spirit guides to come back some other time," she said innocently.
"And you would, too."
"J-i-m-m-m," Scribe's voice was plaintive. "You two are driving me nuts here."
He gave her a contrite look. "Sorry, babe." He bowed to Jane. "Jane, how lovely to see you. Always happy to benifit from your sage advise. Now, will you PLEASE tell us who our sons have for guides."
Jane smirked, then turned back to the cave entrance and gave a piercing whistle. A fat brown bearcub bumbled through the entrance. It sat down and bawled, looking at Jane. She shook her head at him. "You can find him yourself--you know that."
The little ursine lifted his head and sniffed, looking around the room. He got up and waddled toward Scribe and Mitri. Jim and Blair tensed. The little animal was no bigger than a medium sized dog, but it still had claws and teeth. Jane said quietly, "Rest easy, papas. He isn't gonna hurt the mama of his bond."
The little bear sniffed Mitri a few times. She giggled, perfectly at ease with bears. The cub gave
her a dismissive lick, then turned to Scribe. Scribe allowed herself to be sniffed thoroughly. She did giggle when the cub's wet nose prodded the mound of her belly.
The little bear sat down, laid his paws gently on Scribe, threw back his head, and gave a pleased bawl. Then he curled up beside Scribe, looking content to remain there."
Jane pointed. "That's Rufus, and he's a Kodiak. He's gonna be bigger than Whitey, eventually."
Jim rubbed his eyes. "Damn, I'm glad that Spirits feed themselves. Okay--bear. Um, we can do Barret, that's pretty good."
"Or Orsen, Osbourn, or Ozzie," said Blair.
"A heavy metal rocker or Mork's contact? Don't THINK so. Wait a minute, this is just ONE Spirit. Do the boys have to share?"
Jane shook her head. "Other one should be here any minute. He's just not real good yet at..." A dark blob, about the size of a baseball, flew into the cave, narrowly missing Jane's head. It fluttered madly around the space, making Jim and Blair duck, and it squaked and screeched raucously. Finally it just sort of dropped, landing awkwardly on top of the little bear, who grunted, but did not look up.
The adults all gathered around Scribe, staring down at the little bird, which regarded them with jet bead eyes. It flapped ebony wings, and began to preen itself. "As I was saying," Jane continued, "Edgar hasn't quite gotten the hang of flight yet, but he's learning."
"Wow," Blair said, "A crow."
Jim slapped him lightly on the back of the head. "A RAVEN, Darwin. Hello, Edgar? Once upon a midnight dreary?"
"Oh, check." He brightened. "There are a lot of names for raven." He reached for the book.
Scribe made a surprised sound, grabbing at her belly. "Well, you better narrow your choices down real fast, guys, cause hopefully you only have a few more hours!"
Jim and Blair, both saucer-eyed, both jumped up. "But... but..." Jim stuttered, "you should have almost three more weeks."
Jane was heading for the door. "In case you hadn't noticed, Jim, Mother Nature don't pay much attention to the schedules of man. JOHNNY! ROY! It's time!"

"Owowowowowowowowo. OW!"
"Shut up, Ellison! You don't GET an ow. YOU'RE the reason I'm hurting like this!"
"Scribe," Blair's voice was gentle and patient. "We all know he isn't suffering like you, but you DID sqeeze his hand almost hard enough to pop a bone just now, and he has nail marks in his palm now."
"Shut up! It's just as much YOUR fault as it is his, and when I manage to have THIS one, you're taking his place and I'm going to see if I can't rearrange a few of YOUR phalanges too!"
"Yeah," Jim muttered, "but by then you'll probably be too exauhsted to make him hurt."
"Believe me, I'll FIND a way."
This Johnny and Roy didn't pay too much attention to this conversation. They were too busy taking Scribe's blood pressure, using a stethoscope to listen to the infants' heartbeats, and checking to be sure a baby hadn't crowned yet. They were the only ones present in the cave besides the about-to-be parents. Jane had taken Mitri back to her cave to await the births,
because the girl had become distressed at Scribe's pain. Scribe, much to her very vocal displeasure, was going natural. She'd grudgingly agreed that they had to forego any sort of anesthesia or heavy pain medication, since there was no way of telling how she'd react, and they were too far from a hospital if she had a bad reaction.
When she'd progressed to the last stage of labor, she'd been carefully positioned. A sheet that had been boiled and wrapped in plastic days before had been spread. Jim sat, propping his back against the wall as she had earlier, and he spread his legs. She was settled in the V, leaning back against him. The full body contact comforted the nervous woman, letting her feel the physical presence of the man she loved and trusted to keep her safe, but it also put Jim's hands within easy squeezing range.
Blair knelt beside them, taking every opportunity to offer a soft word of comfort or encouragement. Now he gently wiped her flushed face with a cool cloth. "Better now?"
"Yes." Her voice was once again rational. The contraction was over. She glanced up and back at Jim. "Sorry."
He kissed her. "Do and say whatever helps, babe. That's why I'm here."
She looked over at Roy, who was peering up between her legs. "How much longer?" she asked plaintively. "This has been going on for days."
"It's been right about six hours, Scribe," he smiled at her sympathetically. "But I know--time is
relative. Very, very soon now."
"Thank God." She let her head fall back on Jim's shoulder. "Guys? I hope you're satisfied with two. If not, figure out some way for one of you to carry the next one."
"Don't say that--Streeter can probably figure something out." Jim's voice was only half joking."
"Hang in there, Scribe!" said Johnny. "I can see the head!"
Blair leaped to his feet and raced around the room several times in a burst of ecstatic nerves.
Elsewhere in the camp, grinning Sentinels informed the rest of the Clan of the impending arrival of their newest members.
"Sandburg," said Johnny. "If you want to deliver this baby, you'd better get over here, now!"
Blair hurried back over, taking Roy's place between Scribe's legs while Roy went to assume face bathing duty. "Oh, my God! Scribe, I can see the head! It's BEAUTIFUL!"
She peered down, panting. "It looks like a wet coconut, you ditz."
"It's ours, and it's beautiful. I love you!" Jim echooed his declaration, hugging her tight.
"I love you guys, too. Now PLEASE get this child out of me!"
Blair looked at Johnny. "Push?" HE nodded. Blair looked at Scribe. "Push!"
She grunted as she bore down. "Like you fucking have to tell me!"
"Kid's gonna have an education right from the start," murmurred Jim, but his tone was affectionate.
"Actually," said Roy, "She's taking this very well. She hasn't really screamed the entire time."
Scribe's teeth were gritted. "Don't want to scare Mitri."
"Here it come!" said Blair excitedly. He reached down, just as the paramedics had instructed him. As the baby's hear eased out, he cupped it gently, but firmly.
The contraction stopped. "Oh, CHRIST!" Scribe wept. "Baby, PLEASE come out of Mama!"
"The next one, Scribe," Roy assured her as Johnny used a blunt syringe to clear the baby's mouth and nose of mucus.
"He's beautiful! He's gorgeous!" Blair babbled. His eye got wide. "HE'S COMING!" Scribe pushed one more time, and the baby slid smoothly the rest of the way out of her body into his father's waiting hands.
At Johnny's instruction, Blair gently turned the baby over on it's tunny on his forarm, and rubbed it's back. There was an indignant squawl, and the infant waved his arms and legs in protest.
Scribe went limp against her senior husband while the cord was clamped, then cut, Blair's movements firm and assured. Then the brand new person was passed to Roy, who took him aside to finish cleaning and checking him over, but, "...he looks fine, Mama and Daddies."
There were a few minutes respite as Scribe's tired body prepared to expell the second child. Jim and Blair switched places, hugging and caressing the near exhausted woman as they did. She accepted it with near serenity, now that the ordeal was so close to ending. She warned Blair that she felt obligated to mark his hand up, just so he'd have the full birth experience.
A half hour later (and several nail gouges in Blair's hand) the second little boy arrived. Jim went with Roy and held his first son, now clean, swaddled, and fairly quiet, while Johnny worked on the second, and Roy and Blair finished delivering the afterbirth and making Scribe clean and comfortable.
"How you doing, pretty lady?" Roy asked quietly as he settled the last pillow and eased her back against it.
"Happy. So tired I could cry." She winced. "Sore."
"I know. Look, I can't..."
"I know. I have to breast feed, so no painkillers. I'm just commenting." She touched his face. "Thank you." She looked up at Johnny. "You, too."
Johnny had come up behind Roy. As Roy kissed Scribe's hand, Johnny put a hand on his lover's shoulder. "It's what we do."
"Where are my babies?"
"Right here, darlin'." Jim came over, a baby held securely in the crook of each arm.
As Blair went to take one of the children, Scribe smiled. "Yep, my babies--all four of 'em."
Jim and Blair sat on either side of her and took turns handing over the babies so she could examine them. The blankets were opened for the traditional inventory of body parts--everything was present and accounted for, and quite perfect (this was agreed upon by all
three parents).
Both of the boys had blue eyes. Of course all babies had blue eyes, but the general consensus was that there was a good chance they'd STAY blue, since all three parents had blue eyes. Other than that...
They were both close in size. The one with dark hair was, perhaps, a little heavier, a little longer. The other's hair was drying to a sandy fluff, almost blond.
Roy had gone to spread the news. Johnny squatted down with the new family. "Well, it looks like you have fraternals. Judging from the looks, I'd say you boys got one each. Congratulations."
The two men beamed, but Jim shrugged and said, "Doesn't matter. They both belong to both of us." Blair nodded agreement, carefully stroking the sole of one delicate foot, grinning madly when the minute toes flexed.
"What names did you decide on?" Johnny asked.
"One of them is Royal Mayne," Scribe said, looking between the two, "but I'm not sure which one yet."
"We haven't settled on the other," Jim told the paramedic. "We'd like to wait and see which Spirit chooses which. How soon will it be safe for them to come in?"
Johnny shrugged. "I don't see why they can't come now. Even though they're little, they'll be careful, and Spirit animals are very clean."
Jim made a face. "I remember a few presents Tigre left me when he was mad at me for something."
"I'll amend that--they're very clean unless they don't WANT to be." Johnny went to the cave entrance and called, "Rufus! Edgar! They're here!"
He was answered by bawling and cawing, and the bear and bird came into the cave and made their way over to Scribe. As they neared, they slowed. Rufus lay down on his belly and crept up to them awkwardly, then stretched his neck and timidly licked the foot of the baby Scribe held--the blond.
Jim said, "Scribe? Please don't make us give one of our sons the name Orson."
Scribe laughed, then lifted the baby and rubbed her nose lightly in his hair. "Then I guess you're Royal, sweetie."
The fledgeling raven, his steps jerky, walked over to Jim and hopped up on his thigh, then settled into a squat, examining the baby. Finally it gave a pleased croak. Blair stroked the glossy feathers with the tip of one finger. "Okay, ravens. Lots of those to choose from." He pulled a list out of his pocket. "Let's see... We have raven or smart as a raven. Bert, Bramm, Bran, Brant, Burt, Corbet, Corbin, Corwin, Ramsly, Remy, Remo, Trand. Those are the ones that are the most mainstream, unless you want to get into the Oriental ones."
"There are some good ones," Jim said, ruffling his son's dark hair. The baby yawned, and Jim smiled. "Dark hair, raven Spirit--pretty appropriate." They were quiet for a moment. Finally Jim said, "Darwin?"
"I kind of like Brant or Remy."
"Remy." Jim said the name as if tasting it. "Royal and Remy." He nodded. "Sounds good."
Scribe smiled. "At least you didn't make them rhyme. I think I need to sleep now." Her eyes were closing even as they eased her down. The two new fathers took their sons to the most sheltered section of the cave and waited for the rest of the Clan to come in, by ones and twos, and greet and admire t he babies.

The cry wasn't very urgent, but Scribe responded immediately, sticking an experimental finger into the baby's diaper. "Again, Royal? Oh, well. Roy says it's normal, and you aren't dehydrated. Jim, you have the diapers?"
He handed her one. "We're going to land in about five minutes. You don't want to wait."
"No." She looked at the viewscreen, which showed them approaching the strange, green world. She started changing the baby's diaper. "I want my kids to be at their best when we set foot on our new home."
The group stood staring a the piles of primitive supplies, the equally primitive-looking earth lodge, the bales of furs and hides sorted by the type of pelt, and stacked beside the singe entrance to the lodge, and a wide variety of flint tools and tools for making more. There were spears and fishing javelins, nets, and a huge supply of local vegetation, all of which they had spent months learning to use on a holodeck. They started at the sound of a low hum that was rapidly building to a whistle, and turned just in time to see a multicolored streak of light lift from the valley behind them and disappear into the black of space.
Jane smiled a little grimly at the forlorn looks on the faces of her Clan Core: They had still had a little voice in each of their minds that said that they'd wake up and it would have all been a dream. She figured from the sheer shock on their faces, that reality had just set in for real. She pushed through the midst of the group on her way into the earth lodge. It made them shake off the stunned effects of the newest reality check, and the others followed her inside. Using large flat stones, Jane laid out three large hearths, one for the Shaman's official purposes, one for Scribe's family, and the other for her's. She and Scribe were the only ones who had kids, after
all. Jim started to lay out a hearth and she stopped him.
"Why not?"
"Jim, we have five firemen here, let them set out the hearths. You're a cop, what the hell do you know about fire?"
He glared at her, "Covert ops, maybe?"
"No, 'cause if you got your training where I think you did, that won't mean anything but that you're a total idiot."
He was clearly startled, "Where would that be?"
"The U.S.M.C. bases in Onslow County, N.C." She bit out in an insulting tone. Behind him, he heard Simon laughing at him. "And the only other six bases for a five hour drive in any direction you care to name, are either Cherry Point which is a Marine air station, Wilimington which has a Naval Yard, and that little Navy refueling station in Morehead, City." She snapped. H. and Blair were both chuckling, and the only thing that saved Chet when he heard his snickering was the fact the man was an Anchor.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Doing what?" She asked innocently. She moved away to retrieve a child, and put him to her breast, ignoring the man.
//Doing what, my ass.// He didn't buy it; that woman didn't do anything without a damned good reason. //What the hell is Jane up to?//
Jim looked down when he felt a tug at his pants cuff and saw that one of his twins had gotten out of the baby-basket and was patting his foot. It had a familiar feel, and Ellison grinned as he picked the little boy up.
"So, you're the Guide half, are you?" He asked as he nuzzled the baby's sweet smelling neck. He took Royal to Roy and told him about the incident, and handed his son over to his namesake. "Think John can tell which kind, yet?"
"Probably. Need me to babysit?"
"Yeah, I need to put some of that training and the sublims to use. And mark out territory."
"You, Simon, and Peja go with Blair and the other two's support. Scribe and Jane still aren't quite up to par, Megan and her two are needed here, and so are John and I." Roy told Ellison. They had a common bond of an entirely different sort now: Fatherhood. "She's still sore from that damned field C-Section, Jim." Roy remarked. Roy shivered at the memory of having to open Jane's belly to retrieve his and John's sons. As it turned out, she hadn't had one set, she'd had two sets: Four kids. Two each from each mate. Two of her kids had taken to Ellison's Sentinel infant, her sentinel infant had taken a fancy to both Mitri and the other of Scribe's twins, and the last child was another Anchor. Now that Jim's second twin had reacted to his father's distress the last one only needed to be I.D.ed as either Shaman or not Shaman.
John could do that easily.
"Snapping just because, huh?" Ellison grinned.
"Something like that: She needs to vent but she won't vent on me or John, so..." He sighed. "You are still one of her favorite targets. She told me once that the reason that she doesn't pick on Blair is that he's too damned sweet to want to make unhappy." DeSoto shrugged. "I think she thinks of him as some sort of a pet."
"PET?!" Jim spluttered, then laughed. He could just imagine the look on Blair's face when he told him what Roy had said. He walked away still laughing to gather his scout group.
They were gone for three days, returning on the morning of the fourth. All of them headed for the stream and took cold baths before returning to the lodge. They barely noticed the improvements in the common area of the Lodge since they were intent on getting cold bodies inside of warm furs.
Two minutes later a female shriek rang out in the lodge as Jim and Blair joined Scribe in bed. The babies were in a seperate Baby-Basket of their own, near the heads of Jane's Core. Scribe had stayed up late trying to figure out how to dye leather, so Jane had taken her two for the night.
Scribe's form had gone absolutely stiff because of the two icy forms that were suddenly mashed against her (formerly) nice warm body. She yowled somewhere in the upper ranges of the soprano range as the shock tore through her. Then she wanted to kill something.
Jim and Blair got dirty looks from most of the rest of the Clan the next morning. Scribe hadn't been shy about expressing her displeasure with the two cold bodies she found herself trapped between, then expressing her pleasure when the two bodies warmed up, and helped HER warm up.
The group got over it quickly, though. When you lived in close quarters you simply got used to certain things. It wasn't as if the others hadn't been guilty of similar indescretions before. They had forgotten by the time everyone had gathered around the central hearth for breakfast and a debriefing on the first foray into their new world. The good thing about having so many adults was that there was a lap for every baby. John, Roy, and Jane were holding their sons Marshal, Nicholas, and Alan respectively, while Peja bounced Andrew. Blair and Jim held Royal and
Remy, giving Scribe a rest, and reconnecting with their children after having been away. The two elder babies were chewing happily on the hard, flat bread that the Clan had learned to bake on the rocks. Jane's four younger were still strictly on the breast, and were watching the other boys with envy. Blair kept assuring Scribe that Royal and Remy were too young to be deliberately teasing the others. Scribe wasn't too sure.
The group took it in turns to tell what they had found out, with the stay-at-homes listening intently.
"Well," Jim started. "As long as we aren't lazy, we don't have to worry about starving here. Besides the stream there are numorous springs and ponds in the area, most stocked with a variety of fish and freshwater shellfish." He grinned. "There's even another hot spring about a half-mile away. Twinky and his group have already found it and staked a claim. And there's plenty of game, large and small. It looks kinda weird, sort of like slightly skewed Earth creatures, but they all seem wholesome. Oh, and if anyone here is fanatic about getting the drumstick, I have good news. I've seen at least two varieties of birds that have four legs."
Peja spoke up. "That's the game situation, but I think we're going to be able to make good use of those stores of seeds and plants we brought with us. There's land close-by that should be easy to clear and till, and it sure does smell and feel fertile. If we get after it, we should have corn and vegetables before our stores run out," she poked Rafe, "As long as CERTAIN PEOPLE don't get greedy."
He wiggled his eyebrows at her. "You know you want me to keep my strength up." He cracked his knuckles. "There are some predators, but most of them are small enough so that we won't have to worry about them till we start keeping domestic animals." His expression tightened. "I DID scent something--rank, but I don't know what it was. It smelled like a combination of Whitey and Tigre when he's really pissed. We're going to have to be REAL careful till we find out what it is. I don't think ANYONE should go out alone, and both should be armed." He gave Scribe an apologetic look. "You all need to start weapons training."
Scribe looked down at both her sons. "That's it--you two are now officially joined to my hips. Now," she looked up. "This has been very informative and interesting, and... vital. I'd say vital, wouldn't you?" She looked at Megan and her men. They all nodded. "And it's not what we WANT to hear! QUIT TEASING US!"
The exploring party laughed. Blair said, "Yes, we contacted the sentient natives."
"Sentient natives," Megan snorted. "Tell us about our neighbors. I take it we don't have to worry about ending up in the stew pot?"
Jane frowned at her. "You were assured that they aren't overtly hostile to outsiders."
"Yeah, well, sue me--I'm cautious."
"There's a clan living less than two miles away, on the banks of a larger river," Blair started. "It
isn't very big, but at this stage of developement, anything bigger than an extended family is considered fairly extensive. This one is quite large by this planet's standards. We counted thirty-seven individuals, including six infants." He gently stroked Royal's hair, receiveing a still mostly
toothless smile. "The birth rate is low, so children are treasured."
Jane broke in. "It's because of the longevity." Everyone looked at her, and she shrugged. "We told you about the immortality--they're a related species. We don't have an average range on lifespans. Part of it's because they don't keep records yet, but the periodic survey parties have noted that there seem to have been some individuals that have survived for over four hundred years." She seemed amused by their stunned looks. "When are you all going to start BELIEVING me when I tell you these things? Anyways, they're susceptible to very few sicknesses, and don't seem to contract anything major. Accidents have to be pretty damn catastrophic to kill them off. Since they're top of the food chain, their birth rate stays low so they don't end up overpopulating."
Blair resumed. He got up and paced, hands moving animatedly. Jim and Scribe exchanged fond looks. No matter how far he was from a lecture hall, Blair's 'teacher' persona was never far away. "We aren't sure of the name they use for the people as a whole," he paused and looked at Jane.
She shook her head. "We've had very little contact--just mostly long range observation. We
didn't want to influence them before they were ready for the Cores to arrive. They have legends of Sentinels and Guides, but none have been born for generations. I think once they get to know us, there won't be any trouble in getting accepted. They were a little shy when we came to their encampment, but they were friendly enough."
"They live in caves, like we did back on Earth," Jim offered. He sighed. "Not as big or as nice as ours. We may eventually be able to talk them into building shelters, but not for the present. After they see how we live, it may be possible to get them to try it, but don't be in any hurry on that. I get the feeling that it wasn't that long ago that they got fire. They forage, fish, and hunt--they don't cultivate anything."
"That's considered essential to have a 'civilization'," said Blair. "They also have no system of written communication. But they DO have art! Man, the paintings on the cave walls are POWERFUL! Crude and strong and beautiful! They haven't learned how to write yet, but they can mix pigments, so it'll come."
"They have a system of beliefs," said Simon. "Blair met with their Shaman. You know, most of the ones we saw looked young, no older than any of us, but this guy looked old, maybe seventies." He shook his head. "Given what we've been told about their lifespans, I don't want to think about how old he was." Simon smiled. "Man, you should have heard him go on to Sandburg. HE was having a conversation--Hairboy was just nodding and looking interested, I think."
"I believe I caught a few basic terms," Blair protested. "It's going to take a long time to be able
to actually TALK to them, though. A lot of the language seems to be dependant on tonality, like Chinese or Vietnamese."
Scribe groaned. "Oh, man. There were a lot of Vietnamese in my area. Have you ever heard a couple of the little old ladies when they get after it? They sound like angry cats having a hissy." The reconnaisance group burst out laughing. "What?"
"Fuh-funny you should say that," said Jim.
"All right," said Kata. "All of you have been pussyfooting around this for..." Another burst of
laughter. "Like Scribe said, 'WHAT'?"
Blair wiped his eyes. "Well, you know the accepted theory of evolution on Earth? That present day man evolved from the apes?"
"I'll give my theology a rest for awhile and just say that yes, I'm aware of that," said Scribe.
"Well, things worked out a bit differently here. The dominant species evolved from felines."
Scribe blinked. "You mean this is a world of Catwomen?"
"And Catmen," Jim agreed. "But otherwise their evolution seems to have parallelled ours to an amazing degree. They're bipedal, opposable thumbs, the same visible sense organs, just a little different."
"They're really very handsome people," said Blair, "Once you get past the slight muzzle effect, the whiskers, and the tails."
"I think the skin pigmentation patterns are very attractive," said Peja. "And the pointed ears are
cute." She motioned toward her head. Set higher up than ours, and they can prick."
"Tails?" said Chet.
"I wouldn't advise pulling any," said Blair firmly. "I think they have very elaborate protocols about who touches the tails and how. But they're great for indicating moods. They all had them held high, with that button hook deal at the end when we came in, which seems to indicate friendly curiosity."
"Tails," said Scribe.
"And the hair extends down the back of the neck from anywhere from a couple of inches in the kits to the middle of the back on some of the mature males, thinning down to fur," Jim offered.
"They have classic feline pigmentation patterns," H. said. He smiled. "I saw a few pure black ones--made me feel positively Caucasian. But this group are tabby's. Different color combinations, but striped, most of 'em with clear patches on the bellies and up the throats."
A silence fell. Finally Jim said, "Well, any questions?"
"I wonder if there are Siamese points around," said Scribe thoughtfully.

  1. Taui-Kreei = Fruit of the Tau Tree, causes radical biological/genetic changes to pure human DNA causing the ingester to grow cat-like fur and a tail. No antedote.
  2. Taui-kei = Inner bark of Tau Tree, dried, powdered and mixed with the native equivilent of soaproot it makes a very good shampoo.
  3. Taui-yae = Leaves of Tau Tree, makes spearmint scented muscle rub when cooked in rendered fat. Two parts fat to one part leaves. Do NOT ingest. Poisonous if swallowed.
  4. Taui-nai = Seeds of Tau Tree, dried, leeched, and powdered, in doses of approx. 1 teaspoon, is potent fertility enhancer. Taken daily for one month, by female kits prior to first adult heat. Produces 99.99999999999% chance of not only pregancy, but a minimum litter of five or six infants. Tasteless, odorless. A doubled dose, given to a male, for 1 week produces a high sperm count, and very potent semen. Restricted to males with a minimum of 2 mates. Was introduced to Clan as a breakfast beverage simular to coffee (These are cops, for the most part, after all. Like, what, are they going to turn down coffee? NOT!) from the first week, and Clan is STILL unaware of what it is/does. Members due to discover secret soon. Does not increase male sex drive. (Sneaky, aren't I?)
  5. Haui-ai = Solar Mud: A native silt found in riverbeds. Good for pottery. Also good for a hard setting golden/orange dye when liquid is strained out of it and filtered. Keep in dark, opaque tightly lidded containers out of reach of children. (Unless celebrating Halloween)
  6. Grai = A variated grass that shows every possible shade of color in the green, blue, yellow and red spectrum. Dries easily, is strong, and perfect for weaving baskets and mats.
  7. Kre'chi = newborn male kitten (Male kitten - 'Chi)
  8. Kre'cha = newborn female kitten (Female kitten - 'Cha)
  9. Kre'chai = newborn litter (Litter - 'Chai)
  10. Fraiou = Elephant Cat
  11. Yai = Big grazers that fill the same niche as Bison. Looks a cross between a wildebeast (face and head) a horse (body/mane/tail) a rat (fur) and a deer(legs and feet). Lion colored, with zebra stripes. Main meat supply for hunters.
  12. Uri = pig-like prey animal (35 -40 lbs mature)
  13. Kreisia = High Priestess (Healer) Always a female
  14. Ikis 'A 'CHI = Official offering of a weanling cub to it's male parent when the male is NOT the mate of the mother. The Kreisia brings the child to the sire, and leaves without a word. Child must be returned to the village within one hour if the sire chooses refuse he sired it. (Refusals are highly insulting to the mother; Can/does/will/has resulted in WAR. Blair/Scribe/Jim/Jane/Roy/John know this.) Only the first born male cub of the First Litter or the first born female cub of the Second Litter are offered. Jane snuck off to one side while the others were talking. John had entered an intense discussion with Blair and the others were watching and listening in fascination. Everyone except Roy, that is. He saw her leave and followed her, noting that she had left the children with the group. Unknown to either of them, Jim saw them leave. Something, he wasn't sure what, made him track them with his hearing. Blair caught the 'look' and interuppted himself to ground Jim. "What is it?" He asked sharply. Ellison watched Johnny's face as he repeated every word that passed between Roy and Jane. "I'm past the five month period, right Roy?" She asked a little desperately. "Yes, you are: Jane, what's upsetting you so much?" "You two haven't touched me since the C-section. Not sexually. Not much at all, really. Bond aside, I'm starting to wonder if it were just the kids you two wanted, and not me at all." Tears were thick in her voice. At that point Gage went dead-white and jumped up to go join his mates. She was crying hurt tears when he got to where they were. Roy was holding her tightly against his solid, muscular frame and was already angling her toward one of several rocking chairs that she had arranged to be set down with them. He settled her on his lap just as if she were a small, scared girl. Holding her close to him he began to rock slowly. "Ssshh, hush love. God we're sorry. Jesus!" He met John's eyes and saw the sorrow in them. "Which...?" "Ellison saw you leave. I don't know why he tracked you though." John answered the unspoken question. "I'm damned glad he did, though." He stroked her hair with a gentle hand as she sobbed into Roy's neck. "We fucked up, didn't we?" "Yeah, Johnny, we sure did." He sighed. "How is she?" "Well, she isn't good. I'd say the rest of the cave better stay out of her way for a while. In fact...go tell Ellison that as Senior Sentinal, he's in charge until we fix this. She's in 'no' shape for it. Damn it, I hate it when we do something that hurts her!" He mourned. "Why the hell didn't we think this out?" Johnny paused at the entrance to the side cave. "You mean, why didn't we just think period, don't you?" He left then to return to the discussion. One look at the faces of the others told him that Jim had continued to report the conversation. Megan, Peja and Scribe were glaring at him. He ignored them, looked at Jim and cocked his head. "Yeah, I'll take Point." He said softly. "It's not that she doesn't like me at all, is it?" He said with wonder in his tone. "She just expects more from me and my Core than she does the others, doesn't she?" "Yeah, that's about it." John said huskily. He left then without another word. Jim bowed his head for a moment, then looked at Blair."The Sentinel Mage is firmly convinced that her Guide and Anchor don't want her anymore." He said, saw the horror in Blair's eyes, in Scribe's and in everyone elses. "Me and Blair've been through shit like that a few times, haven't we Chief? They have to work it out themselves, but I...we, know how much that hurts." Ellison swallowed hard, hurting for the other Core. Scribe scooted herself flush against Jim's left side while Blair mashed himself against Jim from the right, his arms shot around each offered waist, as did the arms of each of the other sentinels around their Core members, and all seemed to sway a little in response to the emotions of the others. At last the rest of the cave calmed themselves, and started the evening chores. The Sentinels forced thier hearing down, to give the other three privacy. Although, Peja and Scribe did seem inclined to check on them now and then. It was late the next morning when they re-appeared, the men a little wobble-legged, and her walking a bit oddly, but there was peace in her eyes and satisfaction in both of their's. And the constant caressed that were normal between Core members were back. Jim stopped her, checked her over himself and used a single finger to raise her chin so she'd look at him. "Are you okay?" She gave a little smile, full of all sorts of memories. "You mean except for having been fucked raw? Oh yeah. Christ, Ellison, I didn't know someone could blush in purple!" She laughed as she turned back to her men. "Wait'll I tell Blair!" Scribe held up the little garment. "What do you think?" Jim and Blair examined the tiny pair of pants. They were the softest suede they had--and they looked... odd. "Um," Jim ventured. "Pants, right?" Scribe scowled. "I suppose you could do better?" "It's just that one leg is at least an inch longer than the other." Scribe looked hurt, and Blair said quickly, "But it's not like they're WALKING yet, Jim. They don't have to worry about stepping on them." Scribe sighed, examining the pants sadly. "I've never been a seamstress, not even when there were sewing machines available. I made one dress in home ec class, and I left out a shoulder dart in back. And hell, I'm working with a bone needle and that yarn stuff." They'd discovered a fibrous plant that could be processed to provide crude thread. Some of the Clan members were working on making a loom, and they intended to try weaving soon. Till then, though, it was still skins. "But the boys are getting too restless to stay penned up, and I can't let them crawl around on the ground bare legged." Jim hugged her. "I'm sorry, babe. Really, it's a remarkable first effort. Considering that you didn't have a pattern or anything. I mean, they're even recognizable." "Jim Ellison--master of the backhanded compliment," she muttered, but she accepted the caress. "Let's try these out on Remy--he's the one who's been antsiest lately." Blair went to the communal baby pen, a large contraption that probably would have sold well in speciality catalogues back on earth. The men of the Clan had spent long hours cutting planks, then planing and sanding them smooth, putting them together to form a base, and covering them with smooth, tough leather. While they did this, the women had peeled and sanded sturdy branches. They had been lashed together, then spiked to the base, and voila--a baby pen big enough to hold all six of the Clan's infants, with plenty of room for them to play or nap. Blair leaned over the rail, "Hey, kids!" He was greeted by a babble of pre-speech from all the babies who weren't sleeping--they were a sociable lot. The birth parents were the major caregivers for their children, but the entire Clan cared for them. Whoever was closest when a need arose, met it. And all the children received more than enough adult attention and caresses to keep them happy and emotionally healthy. There would be no neglected children in this Clan. Blair told Remy, "I'm here to spring you, Rem." The little boy lifted his arms expectantly, and Blair swung him up high in the air, elicitting an excited giggle. He settled the baby on his hip and carried him back to their hearth. "Mama has something for ya, kid." Blair held the baby while Scribe slid the pants on him. Remy wasn't entirely happy with this. His chubby legs kicked strongly, but Scribe was determined, and she managed to get them on, then cinched the waist shut, being careful not to tie them too tightly. Remy fussed. He hadn't worn anything but a diaper since they'd landed, since it was summer on this planet, and it stayed fairly comfortable in the cave. Scribe kissed the baby's head. "You gotta, Rem. It won't stay warm forever around here. I think they have some pretty boogery winters, snow and everything, and you're going to have to get used to wearing clothes, you little savage. Put him down." Blair set Remy on the floor. The baby was surprised enough to stop fussing. He genterally was set down except in the pen, or in his sleeping furs. This was a novelty. The floor of the lodge was pounded earth--they still hadn't cut enough wood to think about putting in planks. The baby patted the floor thoughtfully, then looked up at his parents, a fringe of black hair falling in front of his bright blue eyes. Jim nodded. "That's right, son. You have run of the floor, as long as you stay away from the hearths." "Ah!" Remy rolled onto his hands and knees and was off like a shot. He headed straight for the playpen. Scribe blinked. "Don't tell me he wants back in? I mean, I know he probalby associates it with security, but..." Remy had sat down very close to the pen. The other babies had noticed him, and they crawled over to sit in front of him, staring out at their sibling and Clanmate. Jim rubbed his mouth, trying to hide his smile. "I don't think he wants to get back in." "Then what is it?" Remy grinned at the other infants. He bounced on his well padded bottom, waved his arms at them, and said, "HA!" The other babies either burst into tears or started fussing, shaking the bars or reaching through them toward Remy. Scribe gasped. "You little snot!" Jim and Blair dissolved into laughter. "Oh, don't encourage him! You two aren't the ones who'll have to make the pants." Jane came over and assessed the situation. "He's your kid, all right, Ellison." She picked Remy up and snuggled him. "But you'll learn better, won't you, baby? Scribe, that's not a bad first effort. You and me will do most of the clothes making. I think that between us we can get pretty good at it." Scribe sighed. "I'm glad to hear that." She ruefully examined raw fingertips. "Any idea about where I could get a thimble?" Suddenly all the Sentinels in the group looked up. "Company's coming," said Simon. Jim nodded. "Three of them, from the sound of it. Looks like we're about to have our first visitors. Everyone--not much noise, no sudden movements, and don't go touching unless they touch you first." "That's not going to be a problem," muttered Chet. "Just keep in mind," Johnny cautioned as Jane put Remy back with the other infants, "These people have had practically no contact with outsiders. We're even more strange to them than they are to us." There was a scratching sound near the cave entrance. Roy was the nearest to the entrance. He stepped out. In a moment he stepped back in, bowing slightly and making motions to whoever was outside. He was followed by three people. This was the first time that the Clan members who hadn't gone on reconnaisance had seen any of the planet's native inhabitants. Scribe was instantly enchanted. "They look like something out of one of my fantasy books," she murmured to Megan. They were, on a whole, smaller than the earthlings, none of them much larger than an average child in their early teens. There were two men and a woman--it was easy to tell, because all any of them wore was a loincloth. The male Clan members who hadn't seen them before stared. The woman had three pairs of breast, decreaseing in size, ranging down her torso--the last set little more than nipples. The two men had dusky grey skin, with swirling charcoal stripes on their arms, legs, backs, and tails--yes, tails. The larger male's head hair was ebony, while the shorter one's was iron gray. The female was a pale orange, rather like a Creamsicle, and her stripes and head hair were cream. They all regarded the strangers with solemn green-gold eyes. Their tails were low, and the tips were twitching fretfully. Roy bowed to them again and said, "Welcome to our home." Most of the Clan echoed the sentiment. The guests exchanged looks, then they mimicked the bow, and the larger catman said, "Hrau." Scribe smiled in delight. "He sounds just like my old Snicklefritz used to!" She came closer, and the tail twitches increased. Roy said, "Scribe..." "It's okay. I've lived with cats all my life. I know a little of their psychology." She placed both hands on her chest and said, "Scribe." Again looks were exchanged. This time the female said, "Rrrii?" "I don't think they can articulate the 'b' sound," Jim whispered. Scribe nodded. "Scribe." The female looked pleased. She curled her hands up against her own chest and said, "Hrroah." The two males introduced themselves as 'Prrmm' and 'Aowr'. Prrmm was the tallest one, and he wore a necklace that sported a large, shiny crystal. "He's the headman," Blair explained, as the rest of the Clan introduced themselves. It was amusing hearing the visitors trying to pronounce some of the names. Rafe's came out like a prolonged hiss, and Chet's was a tutting sound. "The other one is their Shaman, and I believe that Mrroah is the headwoman. We're being honored here, people. The cream of their society came to greet us." "Well, then we'd better act like it," said Peja. She graciously gestured to the visitors, inviting them deeper into the cave. They came slowly, staring about, fascinated. Now the tails weren't twitching--they were waving slowly. By gestures she got them to sit down on the small piles of fur before the main hearth. The visitors were obviously pleased. Hrroah kneaded at the furs, making a pleased noise in the back of her throat. By mutual accord the groups all gathered bits from their respective suppers, piled thme into shallow bowls, and presented them to their visitors. They instinctively chose the choicest bits, knowing that it was only proper etiquette. The visitors ate with relish, nodding thanks. Marco offered them cups of water, and the visitors accepted them, then peered at them curiously, sniffing the water. They didn't drink, though, till SCribe got more bowls and poured the water into them. Then they lapped thirstily. When they finished the visitors spent a few moments... Well, the only term for it was grooming. They carefully licked their fingers clean (they'd given the carved spoons and forks curious looks), going as far up as the wrists. Hrroah finished first. Jane saw her looking toward the play pen, golden eyes wide. She pointed. "Prris?" "Babies," said Jane. Hrroah hummed, and Jane said, "Sure, you can see them." She gestured, and the three guests got up and followed her to the pen. They stood, gazing down at the infants, who looked back up at them, wide eyed. They were all familiar with Blairette (who had decided that she was going to hide in the back of the cave till it was less populated up front), and the visitors were a combination of familiarity and strangeness to them. Blair commented, "Like I said, they dote on children, but they're scarce here. The sight of so many little ones at the same age must be kinda staggering to them." Little Marshal, who was the baby most fascinated by Blairette, Tigre, Claw, and Growler, pointed at the visitors and said, "Roaw!" He couldn't make the 'k' sound yet, and that was his word for cat. The three visitors were delighted, speaking among themselves with a variety of mews. Hrraoh motioned at Marshal, looking at Jane. "Uh?" Jim saw the emotions flickering in Jane's eyes. She was protective of her children, but knew that this first meeting was important--TRUST was important. If they showed trust in their visitors, they would receive trust in return. Finally she reached in and picked up Marshal, then offered him to the catwoman. HE held out his chubby arms eagerly. Hrroah took the baby, holding him securely. Marshal hugged the visitor's neck and patted her cheek. There wasn't a flicker of fear in his eyes. Hrroah examined him closely, murmurring to herself when she noticed his ears, obviously finding them odd. Marshal giggled, then nuzzled against her fall of cream colored hair. Hrroah's eyes squeezed half shut, and there was a low rumbling sound. H., sitll a little nervous, said, "Shouldn't we get him? She's growling." Scribe poked him, grinning. "Things are going to be great, H." She shook her head. "That isn't growling--she's PURRING." As the visitors cuddled the infants, Claw, Tigre, and Growler waltzed into view trailed by Blairette who figured that it was safe enough to come out into the open with the large cats there. Since she'd been preggers when they'd left, she was trailed in turn by a litter of ten kittens. Every other spirit animal...and most of the pets converged on the group in the main cave. Tigre hopped into the baby pen and flopped onto his side to allow the children to climb all over him. Claw began grooming the female holding Marshall. He liked her. She shivered, and the two males just stared. One uttered a low moan and responded with clearly submissive gestures to the presence of the big cats. They stared in wonder at all of the other animals who were obviously living together in harmony, even though some were prey species to others. Several of the coons went over to rub on them, chittering. Growler and Claw started batting a wooden ball all over the cavern, and Tigre gently shook loose of the babies to join them. The cats were showing off their incredible speed and agility. It was a display that said "We guard these folk, and guard them well." Finally all the spirit guides grouped themselves together and deliberately faded into translucence just long enought to prove that they were in fact Spirits that choice to live carnate amongst the Cores. The natives stared in stunned shock, and shivered with their fur standing on end. All three tails tucked under, covering their bellies, and the male's gave a low fearful growl. Claw swiped his jowl glands on first one and then the other, calming them even as he marked both with his scent. Growler marked the female: Tigre would mark the Shaman. He nudged the two males toward the Lodge at the entrance. Weeks of excavation had drilled a long man-made cave into the hill behind the lodge. The back of the lodge had been opened and extended until it reached the hill, and the cave opening was merged with the structure by sentinel hands working inside and out to eliminate all drafts. Most pelts and other things that couldn't be harmed by freezing were stored in the original lodge. However, the cave was used for living in. After they had left, Jane sighed in relief. "Well, that certainly went well. Blair, you take some time to consider the implications and probably results, Scribe, you can translate "catese" to the others, later. But meantime...this is why I came over to the fire before our visitors arrived." She held up baby-sized sleeping sacks. They were hooded, fur-lined, fur-covered, and made in one piece. There were six of them. "My four have three each, so I made three each for your's. In case they wet in them. The inside fur is Earth rabbit, and the outside fur is Earth wolverine. They'll sleep warm this winter. Uh, yeah. Winter. Sandburg...I forgot to tell you..." "What?" He sounded nervous. "Well...this planet is about halfway through an ice age...." "Oh no." He groaned. "Cold and wet is still my world, isn't it?" "Not really, artic cold is a lot dryer. The glaciers leach out most of the moisture from the surrounding air, you see. That's why. It'll still get about minus 60F and that's not including the wind chill. Needless to say, we stay indoors in the winter. Which is why I've been such a hard ass where stockpiling firewood is concerned. You really don't want to be reduced to burning bone, do you?" Jim looked sickened..."No, he doesn't. He doesn't because I don't. I know what burning bone smells like! Ugh!" "Good, since I really didn't wanna have to smell it myself just to prove a point." She said, then shuddered. "Marc, you and Mike figure out how much fuel we'll need, Jim, see if you and Peja can locate a seam of accessable coal." Jane told the others. She looked over at Ellison a little wanly, "I wish you hadn't handed the Alpha back to me. You're better at it, actually, now that you know what you're doing. I stay so damned tired all the time." He stared at her. "You want me to take it?" He asked softly. "Yeah, I told you at the beginning that I'm a natural beta. Not an alpha like you. It's time you three begin to function in that position. I get tired of leading. It's hard for me. And I want more 'cuddle time'." He looked at her thoughtfully for a long moment, then said, "Yeah, I'll take it. You go lie down or something. You don't look so good." "Don't feel too hot, either." She looked at John who nodded, checked her out, and frowned. He picked her up and put her to bed. She was asleep before he put her down in their bed. "I'm WHAT?!" Jim stared at her calmly. "You can't get away with that 'I don't hear you' shit, Jane. You're anemic." "I fucking well am NOT!" Jane scowled. "You fucking well ARE, and STOP this childish shit! This is your health we're talking about, and you know damn good and well that each of us has a duty to the Clan to stay healthy. You more than any of us. Are you going to make me point out the four reasons?" Johnny and Roy were sitting on either side of their mate, and Roy took her hand. "Six reasons, Jane, and Jim's right. We don't have the facilities to do a blood iron richness test, but Jim's been working on scenting blood--you know that. Well, you just got off your period and, not to be too crude, but your discharge did not smell NEARLY metalic enough. When you add up the other symptoms, that's what it has to be." Johnny nodded. "I love your naturally pale complexion, babe, but you've been positively wan lately. And," He reached toward her face. Jane had an idea of what he was going to do and jerked her head back. "Jane!" His voice was sharp, and she stilled instantly. He held the back of her head and gently lifted her upper lip with his thumb. "Your gums and palatte are pale. You're listless, lethargic..." He kissed her softly. "You haven't jumped our bones for close to a week." He shook her head slightly. "Now, you KNOW that isn't normal for you." "It isn't unexpected," said Roy. "The births took a lot out of you, and then we settled here so soon after. It's been rough on oall of us, but damn, for the mother of quadruplets? Plus it's been draining for you nursing the boys, even with Scribe helping." He shook his head. "If Peja, Kata, or Megan had been able to produce and help wet nurse it would have made things easier, but I think we'd have to give them a hormone boost if they weren't actually pregnant, and we just didn't bring any with us." He hesitated, knowing that his mate wasn't going to like what he had to say next. "Jane, the boys are going to have to go over to the bottle." "We can't," she said stubbornly. "No bottles, no cows." "Major T's harem is producing milk like nobody's business," said Jim firmly, "And we've already managed to make leak-proof drinking skins. It won't take much to adapt them. In any case, it will be time to start weening them in a few months. My two have been eating mushed food and bread for a couple of weeks now." Jane wrinkled her nose. "Moose milk?" "Won't work, Jane," Jim said implacably. "I learned to drink it, Darwin learned... Wait, that isn't really a fair example. Blair has ALWAYS had a high tolerence for weird food. But SCRIBE managed to keep it down so that Remy and Royal would try it. And besides," he cocked his head, smiling at her. "I've smelled it on your breath. Let's make this simple, shall we? This is for the good of the clan, as well as your own good. Both your mates agree, and they KNOW about this stuff. And I'm Alpha around here. You'll do it." She scowled at him, then smiled slowly. "You have learned well, Grasshopper." Jim smiled back. "I knew you'd see reason. Now, about that liver you'll be eating..." "NO FUCKING WAY!" Jim sighed. "Here we go again.


ARCHIVIST NOTE: The original story was truncated due to length. As of June 2022, the rest of the story has been added as an additional chapter.