Work Header

Sentinel Evolutions

Chapter Text




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.

Chapter Text

"Actually," Jane took a very cautious second nibble. "Christ, I hate to say it, but this isn't too bad." "Thank you. You have another slice to go, so I'm glad you like it," Scribe handed her a plate of stewed vegetables and roots. It had been agreed that the other Cores would share cooking duties for Jane's Core for the next month or so, to allow her as much rest as the mother of four active infants could get. "I'm getting pretty good at this cooking over an open fire gig if I do say so myself. I'm waiting on that oven the guys are supposed to be rigging up in the back wall, though. I can't wait to try baking. Simon sniffed out some soft mineral deposits that we think will act as a levening agent." She rolled her eyes heavenward. "Thank God we found that salt lick early on. And Blair located something very like sugar cane. I think if we boil it down, then strain it, we'll get a natural sweetener. After that," she rubbed her hands together. "We need only find a pseudo coaco tree, and we're a step or two away from chocolate!" Jane chuckled, gingerly eating another slice of roast liver. It really wasn't too bad, prepared like this. Scribe was a great believer in seasoning, and this world had a very vigorous species of plants that resembled onions and garlic. Jane cut a glance at where Jim and Blair were practicing the ancient art of preparing babyfood. Remy and Royal sat on their fathers' laps, watching as the two men chewed pieces of meat till they softened. The they took them out of their mouths and the babies eagerly opened their mouths, like little birds. Scribe noticed where she was looking, and made a face. "I still can't do that." "I'm surprised Ellison will. How long did it take you to persuade him?" "Just till Roy started crying and holding his tummy--in other words, about five minutes past his usual dinner time." "Scribe? Did you speak to Blairette, like I asked you to?" It had been discovered that Scribe had TWO gifts. Besides her fair telekinetic power (she really couldn't do too much unless she was emotionally charged), she had an uncanny knack for communicating with felines. ("Oh, hell, no, I'm not surprised," she'd told Blair. "As much of my life as I've spent with cats? I'm surprised I don't mew on a regular basis anyway.") This was working out splendidly with their new neighbors, and she had been appointed official interpreter, or 'Speaker With Two Tongues' as the Rwaar put it. (Rwaar was the Clan name--they had no name for their species. The were just 'we people'.) Scribe nodded. "And after the jokes I took off those two when they learned what my title of office was, I'm happy to help you." She put on a snotty tone of voice, "I know what you can do with BOTH those tongues, baby!" Jane laughed. "I swear, I'm trying to think up something REALLY embarrassing for them to name Jim and Blair. But Blairette will be happy to have her brood help out. She still hasn't forgiven Jim for that time he tried to bathe her after she found that interstellar pole cat." Jane nodded. "But I think the scars on his arms are kind of distinguished." "She's just waiting for the first night I manage to sleep on the outside. I'm shooting for it tonight. Remy is teething, and he might be a little fussy, so I'll tell them I need to sleep on the outside, in case I have to get up. Since they're both getting up early for that berrying expidition, it shouldn't be a problem."
It wasn't. After the sweetly familiar round of loving, Jim and Blair had made sure she was amply supplied with covers, then had snuggled down together and drifted off. Jim came awake just before dawn, as had become his habit. He yawned, then spit out hair. //Used to be if I woke up with hair in my mouth it was because I was spooned up behind Blair. Since I let my hair grow, it's just as likely to be mine, though.// He sniffed. //Phew. Well, SOMEONE farted last night. Hard to tell who, though. That's one scent I'm not going to concentrate on hard enough to be able to tell subtle nuances.// sniff //Though on an off guess I'd say a lot of fish was involved. Double phew. Eh, I love them anyway.// Blair ahd awakened, too. His thoughts ran along the line of, //Damn, I have to tell Scribe to ease up on the garlic if it's going to do THAT to Jim's breath. Ew. I love him, but I'm not kissing him till he has a go with the salt and soda. Maybe we can find some sort of mint plant and cultivate it for chewing. Sure don't have any TicTacs available, and SOMEBODY needs one.// Jim started to lift his head, eyes still closed, and felt a tug at his hair. He relaxed back, smiling. If you slept with two other people, sometimes someone's hair got caught. There was movement, kneading motions in his hair, and his smile broadened. Now Blair liked to play with his hair just as much as HE used to like to play with Blair's. But... But why did there seem to be THREE hands? Blair felt warm breath on his ear and giggled. Scribe must be feeling playful this morning, but boy, that tickled. It REALLY tickled. He didn't REMEMBER her having that sort of a mustache problem. Blair yawned. When the tiny, furry foot stepped into his mouth as its owner scamptered across his face, he woke up pretty fast. Jim had noticed the extra weight on his chest, and wondered if Blair or Scribe had decided to rest their head there. He opened his eyes, expecting to see a well loved face. Not exactly. Though he DID think someone was winking at him, till he realized that a black, plumy tail was waving right over the single pink eye. Jim and Blair both sat bolt upright, yelling. Hissing, squawlling kittens and an indignant Blairette went flying in every direction. That was, all except the two who remained tangled in Jim's hair, where they had been peacefully nesting. Before they managed to free themselves, they had made their displeasure known in the most basic way possible, and they had a chance to try out the new organic shampoo that Rafe had been working on with Megan. Scribe ended up with a lapful of distressed, fussing kittens, assuring her men that they should have realized that cats instinctively seek warmth, and since she was the one who was communicating with them the most, it was only natural that they would come to HER sleep area. They weren't greatly convince. On the other side of the cave, Jane chuckled, then burrowed back between a sleepy and bewildered Roy and Johnny. She sat quietly, listening to herself and shaking her head ruefully. "Jim." She said softly, "What would you say if I said I think I'm pregnant again?" She looked across the cavern at him, saw the expression of startled alarm, and shrugged. "I couldn't Hear myself when I carried the boys, and I can't now. My Sense are normal to the point of the dials having no value whatsoever. And I thinkI'm going to saddle you with the job of confirming, and telling Roy. Cause I think this batch is his. John's been too busy working with Blair, fine-tuning his skills...and I've missed three periods, including the first post- partem one. I really think my problem is more than just low iron. And besides, we have a new Cat here, an african lion. A big black maned male, right over there. He said he hadn't chosen a name, so I named him Mufasa, after the one in Lion King." She looked up at the touch of his shadow and shrugged when he frowned at her. Hands on hips, he sighed in resigned acceptance. "You're right, you are. Only one this time though." "Is that supposed to disappoint me in any way?" She grinned, then sighed, Roy isn't going to be happy. Two years between kids is better, not four months. I didn't even get my period back." She sighed again. "It's a good thing I made sure the rest of you got fine-tuned proerly, because I won't be up for much until I have this one." "Damn." "Tell me about it. Do you realize this is the first time in my life, since I was around six anyway, that I've gone and done something I know Roy and John aren't gonna like? It's hard to face them." She saw the raised eyebrow, and snapped. "Yeah, well it's different for you. You had to get the assholehood knocked out of you first. When I first got you up to that meadow on Earth, and saw how uncertain Blair still was, I wanted to kick your ass so much..." "Yeah, I noticed. I noticed John brought you up real fast, too." "Ellison, I'm red-dan. Master class. I can reach into your chest, grab your heart, and take it out, still beating." She said softly. John knows that. He saved your life, by reminding me of Blair and Scribe's presence. If you die, they will suicide. And I wouldn't, no sentinel would, risk harm to any Guide of any kind. The first few days, that knowledge was all that stayed my hand." He had gone dead white, he knew what a red dan master was. Someone who had mastered all known forms of the martial arts. He would be as defenseless as a babe, from such as she. "Oh cool it, you haven't been under threat for a long time, not since I figured out your behavior was simple stupidity, and not malice." He had regained his normal complexion, "Oh gee, thanks." He replied drily. "You think I'd trust to my Core to you, my Guides? Never mind the whole Clan if I didn't consider you housebroken now? If I didn't trust you?" She snorted rudely. "Get real." He laughed at her, earning a smile. "Get some rest, I'll talk to Roy." He turned to go, and then paused. "It's a girl, Jane. Your child is female." She looked at him, grinned. "Anna Marie. And as the youngest female, every adult male in the cave will spoil her rotten." Jim only chuckled since he knew that was quite likely. "He caressed the big lion on his way past, and saw three lionesses lying behind the large male. He warned her. "So? He's a LION, Jim! They 'never' get assigned by themselves. The males are always sent with a few females. And Anna gets them all. Four big Cats." She shrugged, "The same goes for juvenile cheetahs, you'll get three or four in a bunch. The only singles you get, are critters that aren't social in the wild, like your's or Scribe's: That's why Peja got a mama coon, a papa coon and their litter of twelve. Kata got a male Lynx, but if he'd been a female, or if claw or your's had been you might have gotten their litters too. Blair got a male wolf, and some wolves are loners. If he'd gotten a pack wolf like I did, he'd have gotten the whole pack, just like I did. If you think that's complicated, just imagine what would happen if "Shamu" was given to someone as a Spirit Guide? If we ever end up living on an island, someone may yet." She grinned at the look on his face. "Christ...." Soberly, she said in a quiet tone, "I may be weakened, but...." She shrugged. "John doesn't know everything. A lot of this is stuff I need to teach Blair. He has that professor stuff that will allow him to understand what John doesn't. And he will be the one to teach our children. "Teaching" is so much a part of who he is in his soul, that he isn't complete without it. A big part of what we're going to be doing, is literally building a new human society, from scratch." He stomped back over to her and stared at her in shock. "Wha...?" "And the largest portion of that task, is already in Blair's hands. I just haven't told him. I've decided that I'm going to let you drop that particular bombshell on him. After all, you are the alpha. It's your problem, now." She grinned at the stunned sentinel, lay down, and was asleep in under two minutes. Jim looked down at where Jane's former breakfast was decorating his left leg. His eyes narrowed. "Jane, care to comment on why you suddenly, for the first time since I've known you, felt the need for MY physical support right before THAT," he pointed at the odiferous mess, "happened." Jane was wiping her mouth with the back of her hand as Roy and Johnny hurried over. She looked at Jim, wide eyed. "You are SO suspicious. Sometimes things just HAPPEN, Jim." She smiled at him weakly. "SOMETIMES." She allowed her men to bundle her back to their sleeping area and check her over. When they were sure that her vitals were stable, they relaxed a little and started the fussing. Roy wrung out the cloth, then smoothed it over Jane's forehead again. She sighed, eyes closed. "Thanks, hon. That helps a lot." She felt the brush of his lips on her cheek, and smiled faintly. "Greater love hath no man tha to kiss his woman after she's thrown up." She felt Johnny stroking her hand. "If that tea that Blair is brewing doesn't work, I'm giving you a dose of bismol. Are you SURE that you haven't been eating anything unusual lately?" She cracked an eye at him. "You mean ASIDE from the rare liver?" "It's not rare, it's half raw," said Johnny. "Maybe that's part of it. Well done is always safer, and we have no way of knowing what sort of organisms we have here. And you can ease up on it now--your color is good again." "Don't wanna." "I don't get it," said Roy. "You used to HATE liver." "People can change." Blair bustled over with a steaming wooden mug. "Here ya go, Jane. I put a good lacing of that wild honey we found. Rufus was persuaded to kindly part with some of it." He laughed, handing her the cup. "Man, you should have heard Royal lacing into him in baby-talk. I think that bear managed to blush. Sip that--it's hot." Jane sipped gingerly. "Thanks, Curly. It's helping already." "And it's herbal, so you don't have to worry about the caffiene affecting..." Jane's gaze jerked up to him, warning, and he hesitated, "your... uh... nap time. You've been napping in the afternoon lately, and... it really seems to help, so... I think Scribe wants me." He scurried away. Johnny looked at Jane. "Jane?" "When is that boy going to learn that Scribe wants him ALL the time? I think next time I'll get him to put a little ginger in this." Roy said, "Jane, do you have something to tell us?" She lowered the mug, sighing, "Um, well... Look, I know that we hadn't planned on this. I mean, we hadn't planned on my having four instead of one, either, but..." They were just watching her. She said, "You two know already, don't you?" Johnny shrugged. "As well as we know you, you don't think we'd notice that big a difference? We've known for a couple of days now. The morning sickness clenched it." Roy said, "We've just been waiting for you to decide to tell us. I'm glad you didn't wait till you started showing. That would have been a little insulting." Jane could already sense the answer she'd get, but she needed assurance, she always needed assurance, so she asked anyway. "You aren't mad?" Johnny rolled his eyes before he joined Roy in hugging her. "For such a smart woman, you can have flashes of idiocy. Of course we aren't mad at you." Roy, his face in her hair, murmured, "I can't say that I'm happy about the strain it's going to put on your body, but another life, made with you? How can I not love that." "I'm glad to hear you say that," she caressed his cheek. "Because she's yours." Roy sat back quickly, looking stunned. Then his face slowly lit up. "Her?" Jane nodded. "Mine?" She nodded again. Roy took John's hand, and Jane, and pressed his with theirs to Jane's still flat belly. "Ours." Blair had been whispering to Jim, and now the Alpha Sentinel approached the little family. "Uh, Roy, we need to have a talk." "Cool it, Jim," said Jane serenely. "You're off the hook for this one. Blair spilled the beans, so I went ahead and turned over the pot, and it turned out I was just feeding them old news." "Ah." He paused. "Congratulations?" Johnny laughed, stood, and hugged Jim, thumping him on the back. "Of COURSE congratulations, you nit!" He shook the bigger man. "A GIRL, Jim! We get a little girl!" Jim sighed. "I'm glad we've produced at least one female. But if Scribe, Megan, Peja, and Kata don't get after it and have a few more," his eyes drifted over to the pen that held six very active little boys, "Things could get kinda tense in about fifteen years." Roy gave him a sharp look. "SEVENTEEN or EIGHTEEN years, Jim." Jim rubbed his face. "I'm delegating the 'talks of life' to Scribe and Blair, and they're gonna start WAY before the kid's voices get ready to drop." "Scribe? Come over here--we need to have a talk." "Just a sec, Jane." She quickly counted baby heads. Four--just as it should be. Jim and Simon had taken Royal and Alan fishing. Those two had been the only one's awake when they left. There had been talk of waking the others, but Scribe had quashed that firmly. She figured that the two of them just might be able to keep up with two of the boys, but SIX active toddlers around running water? Don't THINK so. The little ones were currently settled on a thick padding of furs, playing with a variety of toys. The Kreel turned out to be very talented at carving. They'd been doing wonderfully with their stone and bone tools, but when the Clan had presented them with a number of metal edged implements, they'd really taken off. Blair was gratified to see that the new technological advances were being used artistically. The Kreel were doing just fine with such things as hunting and food preparation with their old tools, and saw no need to change. Scribe had distributed a good number of carved wooden figures (all too large to be stuffed into a baby mouth), which were recognizable representations of some of the Clan's spirit animals. Scribe particularly liked the coon and otter figures. The coon was so roly-poly that it was almost round, and the otter figure almost seemed to FLOW. Satisfied that the little brood was pleasantly occupied, Scribe went over to sit beside Jane. "What's up? I noticed that you said we NEED to talk, rather than you WANT to talk." "I want to know when you're gonna grow a backbone." Scribe winced. "Gee, Jane, blunt much?" "Subtle might have been all right back on Earth, but this is pioneer land, Scribe, and you know it. We don't have time to mince words. I saw how Megan blew you off when you told her to wear her boots instead of her moccasins when she went hunting. What happened? She came back with a thorn in her foot, which took John ten minutes to work loose. He used one of the may I say LIMITED shots to prevent tetanus. She got herself hurt, and wasted Clan resources simply because she was being hard headed, and she was being hard headed simply because YOU were the one who was instructing her." Scribe sighed. "I know. She's got some sort of chip on her shoulder. She doesn't butt heads with Kata or Peja, just me and some of the men. She's even getting along with you these days." "That's because she doesn't see me as competition any more. I stepped down." "Competition?" Scribe's voice was dubious. "Oh, fuck, Scribe! You're gonna make me just come right out and say it, aren't you? All right, then. Jim is Alpha male--you're his mate. That makes you the natural Alpha female." "Ooooh, please." "Dammit, get over the fucking low self-esteem! It's just a habit with you now, and you know it! You've proved yourself. You've mated with two of the finest male specimens around, you've bourn two strapping children, and you're likely to have more. You've adapted to a totally unfamiliar environment, and you do your share and more in the work. You've showed time and again that you put Clan and family firmly before yourself. You're an Alpha, Scribe, and you need to act like one, and that means putting upstarts in their place, ESPECIALLY when their actions endanger the good of the Clan. Do I have to bring out the big guns? Fine." She pointed to where Remy was teething on a model of Tigre (the Kreel had even carved it from naturally dark wood). "Suppose there was something nasty creeping toward Remy, and Megan was the only one around, and she was moving slow because she had a limp from going out in inadiquate footwear AFTER she'd been warned." Scribe's expression hardened, and Jane nodded. "Exactly. Alpha's don't have the luxury of always being nice and easy going. If you have to be a hard ass, then you out-hardass anyone around." Scribe thought about this. She had a good idea of why Megan was being difficult. The Aussie had made her way in a profession that had only just accepted women. She'd probably spent her career, and possibly her LIFE, being patted on the head and told to stay out of the way. In reaction she had become just as agressive as any of the men she dealt with, and was prepared to 'out guy' the guys. She had a hard time yeilding authority to a woman who hadn't gone through the same sort of ordeal as she had. It had been different when Jane was leading--there was no doubt that the little woman was the only one qualified to direct things. But now Jane had stepped down, and Megan was testing limits. If Scribe didn't put her foot down--fast--there might be open rebellion. That would bring Jim into this, and Scribe didn't want that. She was his support, and she needed to let him know that he could count on her to help guide the dynamics of the clan, so that he would be free to concentrate on guarding them. Megan entered the cave, went to her group's area, and picked up her spear. She examined the head critically, then sat down and began sharpening it. Scribe looked at Jane, then called, "Megan, it's your turn to weed the garden patch." Megan didn't look up. "Uh? Okay, soon." "You need to do it before the sun gets too high. You know we have to be careful about overheating." "Right." She carefully planed an edge on her weapon. "I'll get Mike to do it. I found a hopper run nearby, and I think I can get us a few fat ones." Hoppers were native animals that looked something like a cross between a rabbit and a squirrel (rabbit ears, but squirrel's bushy tail). Scribe exchanged a look with Jane, then stood up and went to stand by Megan. "Megan, it's YOUR turn to do the weeding, not Mike. Mike has his own chores." "Nothing important." She tested the edge with her thumb, deciding that it was suitable, and put away the whetstone. Scribe's expression stiffened, and she said softly, "I didn't hear you just say that." The cool tone surprised Megan, and she looked up at the woman standing over her. "What?" "Since when is what any of us do less important than the others? A lot of thought has been put into the distribution of chores and division of labor, Megan. If something unforseen happens, then changes can be made, of course. There can even be a little trading done with no harm. But you do NOT just decide that you don't want to do what was assigned to you and push it off on someone else while you do something you like better." Megan stood up, glaring at Scribe. "Who the fuck are you--my bleedin' mother?" Scribe didn't back down. Instead she showed the type of grit Megan had only ever seen her direct at her mates. She shorter woman stepped in, went on tip-toe, and got right in Megan's face. "I'm the fucking Alpha female, that's who I am! That means that after Jim, -I- have the say, and I'm not going to sit back and let you swan around doing as you damn well please just because you think that you're too good to take orders from another woman!" Megan stared at her. Scribe stared back. She didn't flinch. Megan said grudgingly. "Okay, I'll pull the weeds after I get a couple of hoppers." "We have a good supply of dried hopper meat, and a nice pile of skins. There's time for those later, but the weeds will strangle the roots of the plants if they're left alone. We've already seen that the weeds thrive a hell of a lot more than the food plants, so we have to be vigilent. You'll weed the garden NOW. If you get it done quickly, there should be time for you to hunt before afternoon chores." Megan was quiet for a moment, studying Scribe. Scribe folded her arms, arching an eyebrow and tapping a toe. Finally Megan nodded. "I ought to put some of that mulch on the berries, too, shouldn't I?" Scribe smiled, nodding. "Very good idea." She gave Megan's arm a pat. Megan gave her a small smile, put her spear away, got a shovel, and left. They noticed that she turned toward the garden. Scribe went back to Jane. "Well?" Jane shrugged. "You did your job. What do you want--applause?" Then she smiled, and winked. Two days later, Jane caught Megan muttering rebellion under her breath, and knocked her feet right out from under her with her walking stick, without warning. Conner hit the ground, hard. She was back on her a moment later, snarling. Jane knocked her upside her head. "Best you get one thing straight, girlfriend." Streeter spoke with soft-toned menace. "You ain't no cop no more, you are just one member of a community, and a mid-level member at that. I may not be in-charge, but that was my decision. That damned temper of your's is exactly and precisely why I didn't pick your Core to succeed me. Jim's Core includes Scribe as the Alpha Female, and Blair as the Prime Beta Male. I am still the Prime Beta Female, and my men are Ranked Betas. Peja is the Ranked Beta Female. And as of right now, you my fine friend are the Omega Female. The lowest ranked Core Leader in the Clan. You managed that all by yourself, with that uncontrolable temper of your's that insures that you can't be depended on to stay calm and keep your cool. That makes you unreliable. If you also become dangerous to the well being of the Clan as a whole, I will deal with you. Permanently, in my official position of Mage! Do you understand me?" Megan had gone ashen, and there was a look in Streeter's eyes that terrified her. The mage's hands and eyes had glowed with sheer power as she backed Scribe's bid for dominance. She nodded frantically. "I have other work to do, I don't have the time, or the health to hold both positions, and Jim is my Choice, and that means Blair and Scribe speak for me as well as themselves. If I ever catch you spouting such drivel again, I will personally give you to Jim to do with as he chooses, and I'll keep both Guides busy somewhere else so he can follow his natural inclinations in peace!" Now Conner turned dead-white: Scribe was as closely bonded to Jim as Blair was, and he would literally tear her, Megan, end from end if he even suspected she might behave like Alex! Jane stared at the frightened woman for a long moment before turning on her heel and striding angrily back into the cave. She glanced toward the river just as she was about to go inside, stopped, and turned to get a better look. She stared, then began to laugh at the sight before her eyes. Megan turned to look, and she also began to snort her amusement. "Mud Monsters! Two big mud monsters and two little bitty mud monsters!" Jane crowed, watching the slime covered men wince. "Oh my God! Hey, Scribe, Peja, Kata! Get out here! Get a load of THAT!" She pointed downslope at the approaching men whose weariness showed plainly in every step. They were covered in slimey, orange river mud. The kind that would stain Jim's skin and hair yellow, and they're nails the same shade of orange for days. Simon would have yellow hair with orange nails and lips. They knew it, too. Both men were cringing, especially when H., Kata, Blair, and Scribe took several steps back to avoid getting the stuff on their own skin or clothes. The orangey-yellow toddlers were grinning happily at the commotion, and one took the opportunity to climb over the one way baby-gate into the big play pen. Royale then proceeded to share his glowing self with the other four kids. Scribe shreiked in outrage when she realized what he was doing. She shook a trembling finger in Jim's face, and told him to 'Clean up those kids, then clean himself up, and do it FAST.' Then, Scribe looked over at Blair and said in sober tones, "Don't you dare let him take the children out to the river again unless you go with them to supervise Jim!" To make things a little simpler for new readers, I'm including a brief cast list of the Kreel, and a vocabulary of Kreelo. Kreel villagers-- Prrmm--headman Hrroah--headwoman Aowr--shaman Nrow--young female, brought to the Clan for her first mating. Kreelo vocabulary-- Kreel--the feline/humanoids of this planet Kreelo--of the Kreel hrau--form of greeting prris--babies, infants, kits roaw--friend (Marshal says this the first time he meets the Kreel, it's his word for cat, and he thoroughly charms them) mlar--honored, respected, important k'han--person arr--state of being, roughly equivalent to is or are mrrlean--heat, 'in season', sexually aroused fsst--first, new nur--mate, mating K'lann--the Clan ahm--man, male, tom prap--good, nice, wonderful, fantastic! The more rs added, the better it is
Sentinel Evolution, Chapter Six, Scribe #2 The recent tension melted away as Scribe stared at her dispirited husband and grinning baby boy, both head-to-foot yellow mud. Shecovered her eyes. Jim started, "Look, I can explain... Remy and Alan found this mud patch away from the edge of the river, and they were having such a good time, and I figured they'd be safe there while Simon and I fished... Oh, and we had a good run, too!" Simon silently held up a fat string of fish, as if to prove Jim's statement. "And they had a blast! I mean, I never heard such chuckling and crowing. Then we got ready to come back, and oh, man!" Blair was giggling, and Jim glared at him. The Guide tried to stop, but when he started choking, he gave up, sat down, and let the mirth flow. "So we were going to rinse them off before we came back, and we took them down to the water. Well, you know how Remy gets in the bath. I was trying to hang on, and I slipped. My feet knocked Simon's legs out from under, and he couldn't catch himself, since he was holding Alan, so he hit the mud, too, and then Remy was putting mud in my hair, so I HAD to fight back, and Alan was drawing patterns in the mud on Simon's head, so HE had to go and put mud down Alan's diaper, and..." He trailed off. Scribe was still covering her face, and her shoulders were shaking. "Aw, hon, don't be upset. It'll wash off." When she dropped her hands, her cheeks were streaked with tears, but she was grinning. "Oooh, God! I want a camera SO bad! I want a CAMCORDER! I want SLIDES! I want a scanner and the Internet so I can put that image ALL over the world!" Jim relaxed enough to smile in return. "Sandburg, I think it's a good thing that we're married to this woman in a primative environment." "What makes you think I wouldn't do the same thing?" Blair countered. He got up, pointing. "I'll go get changes of clothing. I'm glad we came up with that natural soap, 'cause it would take till the end of the Ice Age to get all that crap off you guys with plain water." Kata, holding her sides, said, "Well, since one of the mud monsters is mine, I'll help. I'll bring something to dry with. You slime beasts head toward the bathing spring, and we'll meet you there." As the two men took the babies toward the spring (Alan and Remy still happily drawing patterns in the tacky mud on their bare bellies and whatever skin they could reach on the adults), Blair said, "We gotta start working on getting some sort of scent into the soap." He patted Scribe on the arm. "Mama, it's a good thing you 'n me don't have Sentinel senses, 'cause otherwise we'd be smelling wet earth for a week." Jim complained that Blair was trying to remove his hair again during the cleansing. Blair informed him that if he was going to get it to scalp level he had to expect it. The mud stains stayed on their skin for about three days. It was a lot more noticable with Simon's coloring. He kept muttering something about 'being able to pass the damned paper bag test'*. Alan and Remy were a source of fascination to the other babies, who kept trying to rub the color off their skin.

The mud streaks had finally faded, and Blair and Scribe could make love to Jim without tracing patterns and giggling. It was just after the evening meal, and everyone was feeling pretty lazy and contented. Scribe and Blair were sprawled on the floor, each with a baby crawling on them. Jane's four were playing with any adult whose attention could be snagged, while taking turns cuddling with their mother and fathers. The non-parental Clan members were either playing with whatever toddler came by, or talking and cuddling quietly. Jim reflected that his friends had been dumped into a strange environment, but were now more peaceful and contented than they'd ever been. He heard the Kreel coming before they were half-way there from their village. The other Sentinels saw him going alert, and they picked it up quickly. Megan wrinkled her forehead. "Damn, it sounds like ALL of them." She looked to Jim. "I know they've been peaceful so far, but you don't suppose they're going to raid?" Her hand started to creep toward her spear. Jim shook his head quickly. "No. No, there's a good bit of adrenaline present, but it's not fighting level. They're just excited about something. And..." His eyebrows lifted. "Whoa!" Simon sniffed, then echoed Jim's sentiments, "Day-um!" When Kata poked him, he explained. "I'm getting a BLAST of pheromones, but it pretty much seems to be from one sorce." Blair stood up. "I THINK I know what this is about. Let's put the kids in the pen and step out to greet our visitors." The children were quickly corralled. Peja was poking Blair. "What? Huh? Huh? What?" "You'll find out. I don't want to spoil the surprise. And I just want everyone to keep in mind that the Kreelo social customs are different from ours, and anything that happens is an honor, and not an insult." They were waiting outside when the Kreel approached, and it did indeed seem to be the whole village, all the way down to the newest kit, a pale cream male with the faintest of lavender points, nursing at his mother's third breast. The group slowed slightly, murmuring to each other. It never ceased to impress them that the Clan always knew when they were coming. Blair drew Scribe and Jim forward as the headman and headwoman of the Kreel advanced. They exchanged bows. The headman started talking. "Hrau mlar k'han." Scribe smiled at him. "Greetings to you, too, honored one." He smiled, showing pointed teeth, eyes squeezing half shut in delight that he had understood her words. He gestured back at the group, and a little female Kreel slunk up to rub against his side. "Nrow." Nrow flicked green eyes over the three humans before her. She was an exceptionally pretty Kreel, with buff skin and chocolate hair and tail. She was slender, her breasts no more than half-handfuls, but very firm, with larger nipples than most of her sister Kreel. She was the equivalent of a late teenager in human age. She dipped her head. "Hrau." The Kreel were not yet comfortable enough with the Clan to be really placid around them, but Nrow was acting particularly agitated. Her tail was twitching quickly, and her toes were flexing, showing the points of her retractable claws. The headman, Err, patted Nrow. "Nrow arr mrrlean. Fsst mrrlean." Scribe's eyes widened. "Oh, my. Folks, Nrow is in heat for the very first time!" Jim nodded, nostrils flaring. "That explains it." Err said, "Kreelo Nrow lur K'lann ahm." He pushed Nrow toward the Clan group. Scribe gaped. "He just said that Nrow should mate with one of our men." Blair spread his hands and said quickly, "Don't anybody laugh or look upset in any way. This is a very great honor that's being offered to us--they want to join our two groups together in the most basic way--joining the bloods." "But..." H. said hesitantly, "They're... they're..." "They're not animals, H." said Blair firmly. "I know that, man," said H. "But they're not human, either." "They're pretty damn close, though," said Roy, quietly. "I don't think there's more than a few genes difference between us." "This is a very recognizable culteral event, guys," Blair said quietly. "It's traditional for tribes that want to have closer ties to have their members intermingle. We really, really need to do this. And it wouldn't be a hardship. She's awful pretty." Scribe poked him. "I say that in a strictly observational way. Let's see, how do I say okay in Kreelo? Um... Prrrap!" The Kreel immediately began to chuckle and elbow each other. "What? What did I say?" Scribe rolled her eyes. "You just said the Kreelo equivalent of 'goody-goody gumdrops'!" Nrow sidled forward, slinking. She went straight to Jim and began to rub up against him. The big Sentinel stood stock still, his gaze switching wildly between his two mates. Blair was grinning, but Scribe's eyes narrowed, and it wasn't in the happy-feline manner. Scribe said softly, "Blair, cultural significance if I kick her ass?" Blair cleared his throat. Nrow had her narrow backside against Jim's crotch, tail switched to the side, and was grinding. "Uh, in this case, the first offer would be to the Clan's headman, but that's just a formality. Jim isn't obligated to agree, just decline politely and send her to pick someone else, though THEY'D better be congenial. And Scribe? As his mate, you'd be perfectly within your rights to..." Jim was trying to gently push the little female away. Scribe didn't feel obliged to be so subtle. She grabbed Nrow by the scruff of the neck, dragging her away from Jim and lifting her up on the tips of her paws. Scribe made a loud, emphatic hiss, glaring at the younger female. Nrow, proving that she wasn't the village genius, flattened her ears and her whiskers and gave a water droplet-on-hot-griddle hiss in return. Scribe put her nose against the catwoman's pink nose and gave a long, low, threatening growl, then gave her a medium strength cuff on the side of the head. Most of the Clan watched the Kreel anxiously, but their neighbors expressed no anger. They simply watched the exchange with every evidence of interest. Nrow mewed, and turned her head to show Scribe her throat. Scribe accepted the submissive gesture by gripping the girl's throat for a moment, then releasing her. She gave her a little push toward the other men of the Clan. "Ladies, I really hope y'all aren't the jealous type." Peja, Kata, and Megan all exchanged grins, and Peja spoke up for them. "Hell, no. This should be interesting." Jane had taken a stance in front of Johnny and Roy, walking stick held casually, but ready, and the two men exchanged fond looks. Luckily Nrow went right past them with scarcely a glance. They had 'taken' imprinted all over them, too, and she wasn't ABOUT to deal with a higher ranking female with attitude when there seemed to be others who were just as interesting, and much more available. The amused Clan women poked their men out into a line so that the Kreelo girl could have a good look. Nrow prowled up and down the line, studying each man. The men reacted with emotions ranging from apprehension to amusement, but no disgust, Blair was happy to note. As the humans and Kreelo grew closer, the Clan members were learning to see the similarities instead of the differences. Nrow paused at Simon, giving his crotch a thorough sniff, making the big man shift nervously. He muttered, "Oh, man. It isn't that I wouldn't be complimented, but she's so damn TINY." He didn't have to worry. After rubbing her face against his stomach admiringly, Nrow moved on. She finally made her choice. Chet froze, swallowing hard as the Kreelo girl began to wind herself sensuously around him, purring roughly, making humming, chirping noises. He looked at Scribe desperately. She had to bite her lip hard before she could speak. "She... she admires your whiskers, Chet. She'd like her toms to have such distinguished whiskers." "I don't believe this!" Chet groaned.
Nrow was rubbing her rump against Chet's fly. The material was starting to get damp. Peja slapped him on the shoulder. "I'd say it's pretty hard to deny it's reality, Chet, honey. Congratulations," she grinned, "And anyone who can't take a really raunchy, bad pun--cover your ears." None of the Clan moved to censor what they were about to hear. Peja snickered. "Looks like you're about to get some pussy in every sense of the word." "But Peja," Chet whined. "You KNOW I'm not into being the agressor in sex." Nrow had gotten tired of waiting for the strange looking tom to get down to business. She had turned around and was trying to figure out how to get into the pants, tugging and growling impatiently. Peja smirked. "What makes you think YOU'LL be the aggressor?" "But I can't just do it out here in front of everybody!" Rafe elbowed him. "Oh, come on! Like we've had a cloak of invisibility and a cone of silence every time we get it on in the cave." "Yeah, but I KNOW them."
"Details, details," said Blair. "You can go in the cavern if you want, but I think the Kreel will want to witness this. It's pretty much a rite of passage. Scribe?" Scribe spoke to the Kreelo girl, indicating the cave. Nrow immediately began butting and shoving Chet toward the cave, muttering and hissing when he lagged. Simon said, "Excuse me. I have to go somewhere for a minute and laugh my ass off. I don't feel so bad about the green goo in my pants now." Mike observed, "Chet looks like he's about to shit a brick." "Well," Rafe observed, "He really IS a submissive. The only time he sticks it in something is when Peja pushes him down and jumps on him." The Kreelo had gathered around the cave entrance, jostling one another for a view. Since the humans were taller than they, on an average, they could see over their heads fairly easily. "I don't think that's going to be a problem," said Kata. "Scribe, you or Jane are going to have to stitch Chet's pants back up. Nrow just ripped them off him. Those retractable claws are pretty damn handy." "My little guy is interested," Peja informed them. "That's as nice a boner as I've ever seen." Jim shook his head. "With pheromones that strong, you don't have to be a Sentinel to react." Megan laughed. "Oh, that's so cute! She's crouched in front of him, tail up over her back, doing that little step dance with her back feet, kind of like Tigre does with Claw." Jim rolled his eyes. He was still a little embarrassed that his Spirit Guide joyfully bottomed for another male cat. Scribe had pointed out that he occasionally did it for Blair, but it hadn't helped much. Rafe called, "Go on, Chet, buddy! Make us proud." Chet's voice floated out. "She won't hold still, and I don't want to hurt her... YOW! OH MY GOD!" The sound that followed was made by Nrow, and could only be called a caterwaul. Rafe looked back at Jim, Blair, and Scribe, who were at the back of the group. "Chet is being raped. Nrow got tired of waiting and just shoved back on him. She has him pinned against a wall and is going after it." The mating sounds increased in volume and intensity. Scribe said, "Rafe, has Chet ever seen cats or the Kreel mating?" Rafe shrugged. "I have no idea. Why?"
"Well, I was just remembering how these sessions usually ended with my female cats, and I was wondering if I needed to warn Chet." Jane shook her head, grinning. "He'll know soon enough." There was a rising chant of, "Ohgodohgodohgod!" then a moment of silence. They a yowl, a hiss, and a surprised yell. Nrow came streaking out of the cavern, tail lashing. She danced around in a cirle on tip-paw, flirting her tail at every male she passed, then dashed off into the bushes. A half-dozen of the Kreel males followed her. The Kreel females, far from being upset, where giggling, and Scribe finally understood the expression 'it was enough to make a cat laugh'. Chet, clutching his ripped pants with one hand and rubbing his cheek with the other, came out of the cave, looking stunned. "I thought it was going good, but when I finished, she turned around and smacked me one. Had her claws part way out, too." He showed Peja the three puffed welts on his cheek. She cooed at him, kissed him, and led him off to get Roy to doctor the scratches, explaining that Nrow hadn't really meant anything by it--it was just a feline thing. Females usually rounded on their partners and cuffed them a little after sex. She thought it had something to do with the males having some sort of spiny protrusions on their members. Kata and Megan had turned pale at that, but Blair said, "Not to worry. I think that reaction is a genetic throwback. The Kreelo males DO have some protrusions, but they aren't spiny or stickery. It's more along the lines of bumps, like on a French tickler. That put thoughtful looks on the other women's faces. "Peja?" Jane called the other Sentinel over. "You need to have a talk with Chet. You remember how I said that the Kreel were only a few genes off us? Well, we're anatomically compatible, and there's a good chance that we're genetically compatable, too. There's no guaranty, but there's a good chance that if Nrow catches pregnant, at least one of the kits will be Chet's." "ONE of them?"
Jane shrugged. "Sure. As you just saw, the females take multiple partners when they're in heat, and like earth cats, they're capable of carrying babies by different sires simultaneously. The Kreel don't have as big of litters as earth cats, since they're moving more toward being human, but it's relaly rare for one to have less than two kits at once. The average is three or four. So," she smiled at Peja. "How would you like to be a stepmom?" *
John was worried, very worried. This gradual resurgance of Jane's younger style 'self' was not normal for her 'now'. She was staying within arm's reach of either him or Roy, or both, constantly. And not in a normal, Sentinel-Mage behavior pattern, either. She was...insecure as hell, frankly. Ever since that girl from the Kreelo village had claimed breeding rights with the males of the Clan, she'd stuck to them like glue. At the moment, she was curled up beside him with her head in his lap, both hands gripping his lower thigh, upper and under. He couldn't move without waking her. He couldn't wake her without seeing a scant instant of panic that he was trying to leave her. He stroked her hair thoughtfully, until he realized that this wasn't something 'her' Core could handle alone. This was something he suspected would require the Alpha Core. There was something else going on here, and something in Blair's eyes and tone this afternoon made him suspect that the young man might know what. Despite his years of experience as both a paramedic and a Shaman, Gage didn't have all answers and he knew it. He made a decision and the next time he got his apprentice's attention, waved him over. After listening to John's concerns, Blair took a deep breath and told him what he suspected: That Jane had stepped down so that a 'natural' alpha could take the role most natural to him, namely Jim. He also mentioned that since the alpha role was NOT natural to a Mage, so many months of having to maintain it was exhausting to her. She wanted her proper place back. She wanted to be pampered and taken care of for a few weeks, and her advancing pregnancy gave her a legitimate excuse. As Blair got up to leave, he paused and added. "Look, I'll tell Jim. As the rightful Clan-Leader, he needs to know anyway, and this is something that needs acknowledgement by my entire Core. And our support, as well. She's depressed, she's exhausted, she needs bedrest, and as much as I hate to say it, she'd getting a little out of control. She's been pushing herself too damned hard. You'll need me and Jim to enforce it and help control her. Scribe might not be effective: Jane knows too many ways of getting arround her or just plain, out-right ambushing her. And our wife knows that." He grinned a bit, looked around and added: "Oh boy, does she KNOW that!" Jim and Scribe listened attentatively as their mate filled them in on the situation. Finally Scribe nodded. "Makes sense. I mean, they've had studies out the wazoo about the hazards of stress. But there may be one or two of the Clan who are going to have a hard time seeing how important this is." She sighed, her eyes flicking toward where Megan was snuggling with Mike and Marco. "One in particular." Jim agreed. "Megan is just spoiling to get into a pissing contest with SOMEONE, and she's always chaffed at having to answer to someone she didn't think had 'earned' it. She knows what Jane went through as a child, and she sympathizes with that, but I don't think she fully comprehends what Jane has done as an adult--all that she's gone through setting up the Clan Cores and training them, culminating in this one." Blair sighed. "That's the gist of it. She's taken so many people, molded them into communities... HELL, families... and then she had to leave them. It had to be like losing your loved ones over and over and over... Is it any wonder that she's clinging to Johnny and Roy now?" Jim said, "But she has us now, she's with US. She isn't going to lose us, or leave us." "She knows that logically," Blair said, "But emotionally, it's another thing. She needs to be reassured in every way we can, and she needs to be MADE to take it easy. Sure, she's been doing that for the last couple of days, but indolence isn't in her nature. Pretty soon she's going to want to start doing again, even if she really doesn't feel up to it." He smiled faintly. "In other words, she'll be doing exactly what would get her to kick our asses if WE did it. Scribe," he smiled at her. "Babe, I have nothing but respect for you. You're doing a kick ass job as Alpha female, but when it comes to Jane..." "Say no more. I know when I'm outclassed. I'm just lucky that Jane is supportive of me, but if I tried to dictate to her specifically rather than on general Clan business... Well, her nature would over ride her sense of propriaty, and she'd feel like she had to buck me on general principles. So it's going to have to be you and Blair who lay down the law." She smiled. "But you have to make it clear that I'm the deputy, 'cause you two won't be around ALL the time." Jim and Blair wandered between the other Cores and, by ones and twos, they casually made their way outside. Jane slept on, this telling of her exhaustion more than anything else. Roy kissed her hair, kissed Johnny, then went out, too. Jim gathered the Clan a short distance from the cavern, and laid out the situation in the most basic manner possible, then Blair piped up. "You can all see the physical toll this has taken on Jane--the major stress of taking a leadership role she wasn't psychically suited for, and didn't really want, then the difficult pregnancy, and the strain of settling us all in, worrying that we wouldn't hit our stride before the winter put us in lock down. Well, we've shown that we can make it, and now the past year has caught up with her. She's fucking well near collapse--emotional AND physical. You all know how dangerous that is to her physically, but I want you to consider what it means that this is happening to a MAGE." Simon frowned. "Of course we want to do everything we can to help, Blair, and we don't want anything to happen to Jane, but as to her being a Mage, well... We're doing pretty good without the magic, aren't we?" Roy gave him a level look. "What makes you think you've been doing without the magic?" Simon looked a little taken aback. "Banks, do you think that there has to be a full moon, chicken blood, and chanting for magic to be worked? Jane uses her gifts all the time. How do you think we've been able to find so many safe plants, and sources of clean water? Why has the melding with the Kreel been so smooth? Yes, Scribe and Blair are the main reasons, but Jane's been projecting soothing auras that have kept the Kreel from being as nervous of strangers as they usually are. And here's an important point--we all need to be VERY careful of our relations with the Kreel during Jane's 'down time'. We don't want to do anything that would be offensive when that soothing aura might be a little thin." Megan had been looking speculative. Blair had heard a little about the confrontation between Megan and Scribe, and he didn't have to be a Sentinel to smell trouble brewing. He said loudly, "And another reason Jane needs to recuperatee--she's riding the ragged edge of control. No Mage EVER has one hundred per cent control of their power--that's the nature of it: it's a wild thing. I want you all to think for a moment of what could happen if Jane ever REALLY lost control, and struck out without thinking." Megan drew her breath in sharply, and some of the other Clan members looked worried. "Right. Jane is emotionally fragile right now. That and magic is NOT a good combination, so let's all do our best to keep Jane calm and peaceful. That means NO DISSENTION."
Three days later, Jane was feeling much better. At first she had tried to protest that she was all right, and could pull her own weight. A stern lecture from Johnny and Roy, with Jim standing behind them, scowling, had convinced her that she should do as they said. Her chores had been divided up among the rest of the Clan. Most of Johnny and Roy's had been redistributed, too, so that one of them could be with her at all times. It wasn't a hardship--as Scribe had told Megan, allowances could be made in special circumstances. Jane did little except sit or lie in bed, observe Clan activities, and reread a stash of zines that Kata, Peja, and Scribe had collected before leaving Earth. She got a kick out of how puzzled some of the men were by the women's fascination with what to them was gay porn. In the afternoons, Johnny or Roy would take her for short, easy walks, perhaps spending a little time sitting by the river or among some pretty wildflowers, enjoying the mild weather while it lasted. The babies were brought to her one at a time when they were clean and contented. Jane loved it, but after about three days she decided that it was time for her to get back into the swing of things. She thought that she'd start slow, by cleaning out her Core's hearth and laying a fresh fire. The only reason she got as far on it as she had was that Johnny had gone to empty one of the cavern's chamber pots. Scribe came in to find Jane shovelling ashes and bits of char into a bucket. "FREEZE!" Jane, much to her own surprise, froze. That voice hadn't been much like the Scribe she was used to. It had been very no-nonsense. Scribe marched over and snatched the shovel out of her hands before she thought to react. Jane started to bristle. "Now, listen here, Scribe..." "No, YOU listen, Jane! John and Roy said bed rest and NO WORK till THEY gave the all clear! I don't remember hearing them say anything about you resuming your chores." "Oh, for heaven... I'm just clearing up a little ash, is all." "And after you'd shoveled it all up, were you just going to leave it sit there, or were you going to try to haul it out to the compost heap?" Jane twitched, actually avoiding her eyes for a split second. "Uh huh. Get back to bed." Jane folded her arms, scowling. "Okay, Jane, let me remind you of something. Did you, or did you NOT, tell Megan that -I- was Alpha female, and as such, I spoke for you?" Jane nodded grudgingly. "Jim has ordered you to rest. Blair backs him up. I back him up. Your own MATES have told you that this is not just desirable, but NECESSARY." Her tone softened. "And you told Megan how irresponsible it was for her to disobey when it concerned the well being of the Clan. Do you think we'd be better off if anything happened to you because you were too stubborn to take the time that you need?" Jane was silent for a moment, then said, "Jim's orders, huh?" Scribe thought, I guess Megan isn't the only one who has trouble taking orders from a woman--but with Jane it isn't beligerence. "Yes, Jim's orders." "All right, then." Jane lay back down.
Johnny came back in, wiping out the clean pot with a rag. He stopped, surveying the scene. His voice not quite accusing he said, "Jane?" Scribe picked up the shovel and began filling the bucket again. "Have a talk with your mate, Gage. She can be SUCH a nudge. Imagine--giving me instructions on the best way to haul ash." He didn't have to say a word; the disappointment on his lean face was enough. She bowed her head avoiding his gaze and curled in on herself. Watching from a few feet away, Blair frowned at the response. He saw John's expression change to something he couldn't quite name. Johnny sighed and knelt down next to her. "I'm not mad." He told her quietly. "Do me and Roy have to make these orders?" She shrugged, but wiggled closer. He took the hint and pulled her onto his lap and into his arms for a cuddle. She was warm. Too warm. He hissed in surprise and began to go over her in detail. He cursed low at the 102f fever he found, Roy was harvesting grai, and wouldn't be back until late that afternoon. "Ellison!" He roared, "Get your ass over here!" He lay her back into her furs, and scrambled for his supplies. "Shit, should've known! She 'never' goes against our wishes! God damn it, where is your brain, Gage?" The Alpha Core skidded to a stop next to the Beta Core's hearth. "What?" Ellison rapped out. "Take and maintain her vitals, Jim. Roy's out on grai detail...and I need more hands than I have. DAMN IT! I should have KNOWN something was wrong! She 'never' disobeys us! Not in three decades has she 'ever' disobeyed us!" He ranted. "She read a 102F fever. THAT'S why she was working! Delirium! It's the 'only' thing that could have gotten her out of bed after Roy and I told her to stay in it!" Jim listened and looked at John a bit upset. "She's congested as hell and her heart rate is spiking like hell." "Fuck!" He got a couple of I.V.'s going, then yelled for Marco who took one look at the shift's former mascot and paled. He didn't have to be told what was needed, and grabbed Mike to go help locate DeSoto, fast. Chet, Rafe, H. and Simon were sent to the lower caverns where ice clung to the walls to chip a large amount into watertight baskets to bring to John. Gage, Ellison, and Sandburg manuvered the by flushed and groggy Jane into a long, narrow waterproof basket and began to pack her in ice to get that fever down. Ten minutes later the solid ice was ice water, melted by the girl's fever. By the time Roy got back she was on her third ice pack. That night, when the last Clan Member entered the Cave, a silver Mage-shield sealed the entrance. She collasped altogether with that energy thrust. Her Clan would remain indoors and safe while she was 'down'." "We've got to get this fever down," Johnny said, worried. "She can't take much more of this." "We've tried everything we have." Roy wss kneeling across from him, on Janey's other side. "And I'm afraid to give her much more, for fear of affecting the baby." He stroked Jane's brow, wincing at the heat. "God, I've never felt so helpless in my life." Blair had been watching and listening from nearby. Now he approached. "You know, I was thinking..." He hesitated. "Go on, Blair," said Johnny. "You're a part of this Clan, an important part. Healing is a natural part of being a Shaman." "It's just that what Jane has now, it has to be something native to this world, I think. We pretty much had the Earth viruses flushed out of us on the way here. If it's native to this world, then it might respond better to native treatments." Roy sighed, "I'm ready to try just about anything." "But the thing is, we haven't had a chance to learn many of the native cures yet. If I could just consult with the Kreel." He glanced toward the cave entrance. It was as if a sheet of frosted glass had dropped in place. "But that thing isn't budging. God forbid that anything should happen to Jane, but are you sure that thing will disappate if she isn't here to remove it?" "I can't be sure," Johnny admitted. "Jane threw everything she had into setting that up. It was an instictive, protective gesture. It's going to be strong." "I need to talk to the village healer," Blair said. "And since I can't go to them..." He stood up, went back to the center of the room and said quietly, "Shadow?" The big blue wolf appeared at his feet, tongue lolling. He butted his bonded with his big, rough head and received an affectionate scratch behind the ears. The blue merle looked over at where Jane's core was huddled, and whined. "Yeah, guy, it isn't good. I need you or some of the other Spirit Guides to get the Kreelo Kreisia, understand? Maybe Aowr, too. This is important." Shadow bit his flank for a moment, a nervous habit. //Mine, I think I will have Tigre come with me.// It wasn't easy for a wolf to shrug, but Shadow managed it. //These are felines, after all. They are still a little nervous about me and my kind. Tigre the respect, and trust.// Blair fondled his ears. "Whatever works best, buddy, but hurry. Tell them that Jane is sick, and we need help." Shadow winked out of sight. Almost immediately Blair heard a howl outside, and it was answered by a low, coughing cry. Blair went back to their hearth where Jim and Scribe were each holding a baby. Jane's quartet were being cared for by the other Cores. That was what a Clan did--they cared for their own. Blair hunkered down. "I'm going to need you to come to the front of the cave with me in a minute, babe. I'm still not sure that I can communicate well enough to let the Kreel know what we need." She nodded, handing Remy off to sit on Jim's other thigh, beside his brother. When the child fussed, she gave him a bit of the dried fruit paste they'd made from a local fruit that tasted like a cross between peaches and bananas. That meant that Roy began to fuss for a share, and that meant that Jim had something to keep him occupied. They walked to the entrance. Scribe reached out and laid her palm against the barrier. She shivered. "It's cold. Maybe it's drawn all the coolness out of Jane." "Entirely possible," said Blair. "You know, when this is over, I think we need to see if we can't set up some kind of emergency exit, just in case. Something well hidden from the outside, you know? Maybe with a pretty sturdy barrier that can only be removed from the inside. We connected to that other caver at the back, so there's no telling where this ends. We should be able to set up an exit far enough away from the main cave so that if we were ever besieged, we'd be able to sneak out if necessary." Scribe nodded. "Sounds logical. I mean, eventhough we haven't seen any hostiles so far, we'd be stupid to think that there weren't any. It's always better to be prepared." She straightened. "Here they come." There were three figures comeing--Prrmm--headman, Hrroah the headwoman and Kreisia, and Aowr, the Shaman. The black jaguar paced along before them, with Shadow bringing up the rear. All the Kreel looked solemn, and worried. The stopped abruptly a dozen yards from the cave, speaking together in sibilant hisses. Tigre growled at them softly, butting them with his head, and they resumed their approach, but slowly. The stopped again a few feet from the cavern entrance, their gazes darting around the edges of the entrance, obviously tracing the barrier. Aowr took another step closer, and inclined his head toward Blair. ""There is trouble with your tribe?** Blair nodded. They had no possition similar to Hrroah in the Clan, but she was recognized by the Kreel as the strongest magick user, so they had given her the equivalent Kreelo title. *Our Kreisia.* Hrroah's ears pricked, hearing that one of her own station was in danger, and she moved forward, ears and whiskers swept back in concern. *How so? How ails your Kreisia?* Blair looked to Scribe. She said, *Her body is weak. Her blood is thin, her body burns, her mind wanders the Spirit plane. We fear the fever will burn away her earthly body, and her soul will depart, never to return.* The tails of all three of the Kreel lashed, but Hrroah's was like an angry snake. *Must not, must not.* *But our medicines are the medicines of the place we came from. They cannot fight this. We need your medicines, my friends.* Hrroah nodded rapidly, and started forward. *No, wait!* She jumped back with a snarling yelp when she touched the shield, her fur fuzzing out. She trembled, but she did not run. *How? We cannot come in, you cannot go out.* Scribe translated. Blair said, "We've gathered substantial samples of all the vegitation in the area. If any of that will help..." Scribe quickly translated to the Kreel, and Hrroah pranced excitedly, nodding. They exchanged a few words, and she trotted off toward the village. Prrm and Aowr squatted before the entrance. Prrm started to draw patterns in the dust, chanting in a whining singsong, and Prrm echoed him. Blair recognized a call for protection by the Spirits, and a plea for energy to be directed toward healing. "Oh, man," he whispered. "Look at that." The area before the cave was slowly and silently filling with creatures of every description, both familiar and alien. Domestic housecats wove their way between the feet of a huge draft horse (either a Percheron or a Clydsdale, Blair couldn't tell), an Indian elephant swayed in the background, a small flock of mixed birds (Blair was sure he saw at least one parakeet) hopping on it's back. There were even a handful of tiny, bright orange and green frogs hopping near the barrier. "Whoa," said Scribe mildly. She turned around to see that all the Clan's personal Spirit animales were gathered quietly around the cavern's perimiters. Usually such a congregation would have been deafening, with the chittering of coons and the otter, Major T.'s rumblings, and the constant grumbling of the big cats. Now the silence was almost eerie. All the animals were staring toward where Jane lay in her restless semi-comatose state. Soon Hrroah came loping back up the slope to the cavern. She was carrying a small basket made of the brightly colored grai. Blair noted that small shells and bones had been woven into the basket--this was obviously an important vessel. Hrroah spoke to Scribe, lifting the basket. Scribe said, "She's brought samples of healing plants. We'll have to look at them and see if we have any of them in our stores." Hrroah took the lid off the basket and held up a thick sprig of green plant. "We have that!" Blair said excitedly. "I recognize the four lobe configuration on the leaves." "Good, that's the main one we need. It will lower temperature when it's brewed. And that silvery gray one prevents fluid loss. We'll have to make a weak solution of that, because once she stops losing fluids, we don't want her to retain too much, then need a diuretic--no yo-yo effect." "And how about those?"
"That berry is... um, it's kind of a 'fell good energizer', sort of like a big burst of caffiene and sugar, to give her when the fever has broken, and she's had a few hours rest. You know how frisky Rafe's otter got after he ate those." "Hell, I hardly notices. That beast is permanently hyper, anyway. Makes Peja's coons look mellow. I'll go get the supplies and we'll compair, just to be sure." Blair returned with a tray of likely ingredients and showed them to Hrroah, who studied them critically. She indicated the correct choices, making pleased sounds that Blair had found all of them at one try. Scribe called Johnny over, and he listened intently while she translated Hrroah's instructions on their use. Then he got busy. In a few minutes he was dribbling spoonfuls of the brewed fever tea into his mate's mouth, while Roy held her on his lap. The woman was wrapped in the thickest fur they had, but was still shivering, even though her skin was hot and dry to the touch. Once Johnny got a dose of fever tea down her, he managed to get her to swallow just a few drops of the fluid retention brew. Then they waited.
About an hour later Roy murmured, "She's stopped trembling." "Time for another dose."
Johnny held the spoon to Jane's lips, and she opened her eyes to look at him blearily. "Can't I get that in cherry flavored? And why is it so damned hot in here? Why am I wearing a damn fur robe?" Johnny smiled at her. "In order--no, you can't. It's not hot, it's just comfortable. And you're sick--you've been having chills and fever." Roy ran a hand gently over her forehead, and she leaned into his touch, eyes closing. He rubbed his fingers together, then showed them to Johnny. They were moist with Jane's sweat. "But I think the fever broke." "We'll see--AFTER this dose." Jane grumbled a little, but managed to take the cup and sip the brew instead of being spoon fed, though her hand did tremble a little. Afterward they took her temperature. "It's under 101. I think this may have done it. We'll check again in a half hour. If it's still going down, we'll do one more dose to be sure. One more dose of the fluid retainer, since you're going to be sweating like a piglet, but that should do it, little girl." Jane hummed, then said, "Oh, I sealed the cavern, didn't I? How long ago was that?" "Two days," said Roy. "But don't worry about that. We can manage comfortably for another few days. You're not going to try to take down that shield till you've regained a little of your strength." They took the temperature again, and it was down to 99 degrees. The tension in the cave went down appreciably. That was until the coons found the supply of energy berries... Recoperation was taking a while, she not only didn't have energy, but her motivation was lacking, as well. Aside from having Blair get Scribe into a trance so deep only he could call her out of it, and then implanting what Jane chose to call Shields 101, 202, and the whole 300 series in HIS mind as well as that of the Mage Apprentice, she couldn't seem to find energy to do anything but grow her baby. And Anna was getting huge. At 7 months, Streeter looked like she was full term; cumbersome and slow, moving was a chore. Megan, Peja, and Kata were all gestating nicely, too. Megan being the furthest along at five months. Apparently the change in leadership had come just in time, since Scribe was now the only female not currently with child. That three of the mothers-to-be were playing catch up didn't matter. The fact that all of them were carrying from two to five infants did. It was the fault of the coffee substitute, Blair had learned. The stuff made anyone who drank it fertile as hell! Jane was the only one not carrying multiples, and she never drank the stuff. As with Earth coffee, she had avoided it. But cops and firefighters had to have some form of caffeine, so.... Blair thought as he and the other males struggled to take the women's chores. He was a little better at it than most of the other men. His childhood wanderings had been filled with the learning of many crafts, and he used those skills with precision. John had been taught by his mother's people, and had in turn taught Roy, so that they had little trouble with the primitive skills needed for daily survival. The Cores were beginning to form that seamlessness they needed to function effectively. The Kreelo aided them greatly, for no one was so revered as a highly prolific village, and the Cave Dwellers were nothing if not baby makers. Chet's firstborn son was received in joy, for the little one was as black as Tigre, who doted on the little fellow. The big jag was less enthusiastic when the little boy tried to nurse him, though. The boy had inheirited the Guide Gene from Chet, and soon another wolf showed up. The new one was a silver-tip, with an underlying coat of ruddy hue. She seemed nearly pink because of the white guard hairs that over lay the red-ish fur. He tried to nurse her, as well. He was a hungry little mite, and it was Scribe to whom the duty of feeding him fell. She did so willingly until Peja's own milk came in early and she took over the task of feeding her new son. The short summer was drawing rapidly to a close, and the men went out daily on group hunts to store the maximum meat to last the frigid months of an ice age winter. Blair and the villagers went out daily as well, on gathering forays. For vegetable foods and medicines had to be stockpiled as well, so Scribe went with them, and left Gage and DeSoto to watch the children and the gestating women. They were the logical choice, after all. One afternoon Chet twisted his ankle on an afternoon hunt, and was therefore unable to join the hunters for several days. Instead, he limped along behind the women, and helped pick whatever they were picking at the time. It was on the last day of his enforced exclusion from the men's hunting that Chester B. chanced upon a sweet fruit hanging on a low growing tree. He tested it as John had taught him to test for toxins, and when that test came out negative he tasted it, liked it, and ate half a dozen. A shout of dismay from behind him made the short firefighter turn to see what was the matter, and saw the group staring at him. "Oh no, Chet! That's a TAU tree!" Blair shouted. Chet froze and stared at the sweetly fleshed, innocent looking fruit in his hands, and groaned. Then he stripped as he felt an uncomfortable protrusion behind him, and felt the newly grown tail slide free. As he watched, fur grew from his hands and arms, and he felt the other changes as he slid into the likeness of a born Kreelo. His wail was that of a sorrowing tomcat, and he took off running toward his Core. He wanted Peja and Rafe and he wanted them NOW. Back in the Cave he was met by his Spirit Guide who took one look and sighed in resignation, then alerted the other spirits to Chet's new 'look'. He looked like Sylvester. Black back and sides, tail, head, cheeks, and ears, and most of his legs. The rest was white, even his whiskers. Chet's tail lashed in fear and upset as he scrambled to his Sentinel, and hid his face in her armpit, still hissing. Tigre://This is what comes of not paying attention to natives when they warn you about the areas they live in. You were told that they were once pure human stock. Now you see that it wasn't genetics that caused the alteration, it was the damned Tau fruit. You were warned, human. You were told not to eat the fruit of the Tau. So, now you are Kreelo. If your Core chose to eat of it also, then your Core will be assigned here permanently. Joining your genes to the gene pool of the Kreelo.// The jag sighed as he rubbed against Claw in a bid for comfort. //Neither the Rat, nor the Otter, nor the Coons will mind. They have plenty in common with the Kreelo, and Earth born mates for them will arrive soon enough, if Peja should decide to make the Kreelo Village her home territory.// Claw added. //If she eats tau fruit now, her offspring will be Kreelo.// Peja smacked Chet rather hard, then pulled herself to her feet and looked at Rafe. "He's ours, let's go get some Kibble." Rafe muttered something, smacked Chet himself, harder, and followed his Sentinel. Two hours later they returned. Peja was now a lovely yellow marmalade, while rafe was a blue tortiseshell. Both of them were still occaisionally smacking Kelly. Jane slept through it. As she neared her time, she slept more than anything else. And that's what she was doing when the first contraction hit. She had several hours of it before they were strong enough to wake her to pain, and make her yell. It froze the Clan for a moment, then John was there, and Mike had gone to get Roy. Before long, Blair was called to assist, and Jim followed, leaving Scribe to maintain order and calm in the cave. By dawn, Anna was asleep against her mother, and her mother was wide awake for the first time in weeks. She was enjoying being pampered too.
Sentinel Evolution, Chapter Six, Scribe #5 Blair came back and dropped down beside Scribe. "Roy had to give Jane a mild sedative after she found out about Chet and got her first look at him. She couldn't stop laughing." "Why am I not surprised? I'm glad that the other girls are well along in their pregnancies," remarked Scribe as she watched Anna being handed off from one Clanmember to another. "If there are more girl babies soon, Anna may actually get a chance to learn how to walk, rather than being toted till she's four or five." "Do you realize," said Blair, "That in about four years, I'm going to have a full sized class. I'm going to have to start thinking about a more formalized method. With that many, the 'follow me and learn' method will only be effective in small doses." "You're gonna be the sexiest damn pre-school teacher -I- ever saw." Scribe snagged the back of Remy's diaper as he toddled past toward the cave entrance. "We're going to have to set up some sort of a baby gate across the front, too. It's hard enough to keep track with these six getting so mobile. We're gonna have at least nine more soon, and frankly, I only have one pair of eyes, and none of these little boogers seem to be very well acquainted with the concept of fear." Jim came back from changing Royal, and sat with them. "You're telling me? I almost peed my pants when I caught this one trying to teeth on that snake." Scribe gave a full body shudder. "I'm so glad that was you and not me. I don't want any white hair yet." Blair hugged her. "Just remember, babe, there are no poisonous snakes native to this planet." "My daddy was a country boy, doll, and he taught me one thing--you don't EVER pick up a snake. Maybe there aren't supposed to be any poisonous snakes around here, but there's such a thing as genetic mutations. I ain't risking it. Generally speaking, I don't like corporal punishment, but I think those spats on the leg you gave him was perfectly justified, Jim." "Well, I DID feel a little silly when it poofed out of sight, and it turned out it was a Spirit come to check out the impending babies. I guess he won't be claiming one of ours after I slung him up into the tree, and I can't say I'm too sorry," said Jim. "I have a feeling that the reptiles are going avoid our group. Well, except maybe a Komodo dragon..." Jim clapped a hand over Blair's mouth, hissing, "Don't even SAY that!" Scribe shuddered. "Yeah, if we HAVE to have something big and scaly with pointy teeth, let's shoot for an ACTUAL dragon. They'll come in handy for keeping the fires lit." Blair moved Jim's hand down. "C'mon, Scribe, dragons are mythical creatures. You might as well ask for a centaur or a unicorn, or..." Scribe held her hands in front of her and made typing motions. "Um..." "And need I remind you that I'm learning magic, and we're surrounded on all sides by animals who can talk and transport at will? Don't worry about the unicorn, anyway." She leered at her mates. "Y'all ruined my unicorn catcher status a long time ago." Megan came over to the trio, carrying a bowl of creamy white fluid. "Okay, Jim, Blair. I need you to check this latest concoction and see if we're getting close to a good formula." Jim handed Royal to his mother and took the bowl, beginning a detailed scrutinization of the contents. They were trying to come up with the optimum baby formula. It was going to be needed. Only Peja was going to be physically capable of easily nursing her entire litter herself--the other's were going to have to suppliment the babies' diets after the first month or so. Scribe had, with only a little griping, agreed to try to keep her milk flowing so she could help wet nurse the babies, at least at first, but they were still going to need help. "What's in this one?" Jim asked.
"Goat milk, from that nanny that showed up two days ago. Beautiful, patient animal, that, but her billy has already lofted Chet twice. I told him to try to keep from lashing his tail when he was around it--it provokes him, like waving a cape at a bull. Anyway, goat's milk, Sugar from the cane we found at the pond, and oil from that nut that looks like a peanut. I tell ya, mate, we're going to all develope nice bicepts from crushing those." Jim tasted and smelled, cataloging everything. He finally nodded. "I think this is a good bet. We've found that the goat milk is a little easier to digest than the moose, just a little of the sugar is good for energy, and the fat gives it needed calories. I think we might try addings some of the strained water from when we boil our greens, for nutrients." Scribe made a face. "Green baby formula?" Blair shrugged. "The kids won't know colors. If we don't act like it's weird, they won't think it's weird."
"Oh, for the days when you could stroll an aisle and choose between Infamil and Isomil, and laugh at the concept of Junior Foods, for parents who were too lazy to cut their toddler's food into little bits." Jim grunted. "I, personally, would rather have the Pampers." He went to change Royal again. Dawn gave way to chaos, the next morning. The adults were wakened by childish laughter, and ear-splitting shrieks of glee from every child in the cave. They 'loved' the Snake's replacement. And they were all taking turns riding it, too. When Jim's stunned eyes clapped onto the sight in front of him he caught his breath in wonder. The beast wasn't white, it was silvered white. It's long single spiraled horn wasn't gold, it was irridescent opal, it's hooves were dainty cloves, it's beard long and silky, it's mane and tail light and soft as air itself. And it had wings. Wide, long ones that spread over thirty feet, tip to tip. It pranced lightly on it's hooves, singing. No words did it utter, just simple bell-like tones. And it nuzzled Megan's protruding belly just as three more, smaller, copies of itself flew into the cave. The new ones were mares, the big one obviously male. Chimes sounded every time the wings of each alicorn spread, and with them all fluttering excitedly there were a lot of chimes going off. Nearby, several ill-made looking but still flighted reptiles lay curled up next to Kata, who was feeding them fresh meat. Even as Jim and the others watched, the little things were visibly growing. In a year, they would be mature. They wore all sorts of color combinations and patterns. No two were alike in that regard. Peja had five young foals nearby, and apparently their owners as well. Or so Ellison thought until the foals got up and he realized that centaurs were indeed real. he jumped when Tigre rubbed his big head against his hip. //Your Clan has matured enough to increase your Ranking. The Alpha and Beta Cores are about to get an additional extra Spirit Animal. The Species is up to you, so choose well, Jimbo.// He told the dazed Sentinel before strolling off. The eyes of every member of every Core stared in enchanted wonder the sight before the eyes of all. Jim had risen to his feet without even knowing it. Blair's eyes were huge in his face and a smile threatened to split his face to his ears. Scribe let out a long, low whistle and Rafe's Core were purring louder than anyone had ever heard from a feline; partial or otherwise. Ellison looked from the Alicorns, to the infant dragons, to the young Centaurs, and then to Tigre. "Centaur" He whispered, thinking of how long it'd been since Sandburg had found himself in trouble and needing rescue. He figured it couldn't last much longer, Blair being Blair. A Centaur would be damned handy. Tigre chuckled in fond agreement, being as he had pulled Blair's fat from the fire several times himself, wishing each time that he had hands! A centaur would indeed be a good partner at such times! He spoke to the Other Side in the secret language and in moments the sound of heavy hoofbeats rang on the paving stones they had laid down to prevent the children from getting muddy when it rained. A moment later a fully adult female Centaur trotted in and came to 'parade rest' at Jim's shoulder. "Ellison, I am Shadra. I am part Spirit, part mortal. And I will be an additional teacher." She cocked her head at him, "I was a mortal Sentinel in my last lifetime, you see. And I know all about the tendency all Guides have to get into mischief. My Guide is the stallion, yonder. And he got himself, and me, into all sorts of shit!" Across the cavern, the Alicorn stallion blew a raspberry at her, and she just grinned at him. "However, neither the dragons nor the mares are even part Spirit. That is not needed here. In fact, not one of the children born here, received actual spirits. Their's are all Guardians. There is a rather large difference. The Guardians will age at the same rate the children do. They will be with them throughout their lives, and when those lives end, then the Guardians will become Spirit Guides for about four hundred generations. After that, they will become Cores." Shadra grinned at the stunned expressions on the faces of humans. "So, now you know how you got all those instincts, and why they're all hardwired into you. Four hundred generations of Guide guiding and Sentinel control will do that to people." Blair stared at her. "I think I want a dragonette. New hatched." He said softly. "I'd really love to have one." Then he aimed his best Basset-eyes at her. She sighed, muttering: "Old as I am, and still suseptible to his blandishments." She sighed, giving in. "A trouble prone, accident prone Guide, a Guide Soul-Bonded with a Dragon. A mortal dragon, a fire-breather....truly, you will need someone with hands, Jim!" She warned him with a tight little smile, then turned to watch another infant dragon flap clumsily into the cave and into the Alpha Guide's arms. Jim's mind recoiled from the implications and he turned a long suffering look in Scribe's direction, then winced. She had another one on her lap. He moaned a little when he saw what Mitri had. Her's was a lot bigger. She had a half grown Wooley Mammoth. "What is it with you? First Major T and now a mammoth?" He groaned as he stared at his Core. Mitri laughed in his face and climbed onto Roger T's massive back. Another Alicorn stallion half-trotted and half-flew into the cave and landed lightly next to Jane's pallet, folded himself up to lay down next to her, and curled himself carefully around her. That choice had been made for her. She needed the healing power he possessed, badly. Two more, both mares, trotted up to Roy and John, for a simular reason, Alicorns made sense for the pair of paramedics as well. The Spirit Guides of the Alpha and Beta Cores now had their back-up. Back-up that they were soon going to need. Like in spring. When the KRach migration rolled over the area and brought trouble with it: Lots and lots of trouble. In a couple of months, the Clan would find themselves faced with a hostile force of warrior natives, for the first time. Their Kreelo neighbors were scared shitless of the KRach.... While the Clan was getting acquainted with the new members of the animal population, three people were fighting their way through unfamiliar vegetation. "Remind me again why we're doing this?" asked the female, following behind a taller male, careful to step where he had. "Because this is the way that it's supposed to be, TW. We are a Core, we were chosen to do this, this is what we do," The male behind the woman replied, shifting the pack he had on his back. The female grumbled. "I don't know why they chose me, a college student, to come here. You two? OK, I can see it. A doctor and a paramedic-cum-doctor can come in handy. But honestly, a COLLEGE student?!" The man leading the way stopped, causing the woman to crash into his back. He turned as their mate steadied her, fixing a stern glare on her. "TW, stop doing shit like that. Just because you're young doesn't mean you're worthless. You're my Guide, my Shaman. You're bonded to me and to Carter. Deal with what is thrown your way, ok?" TW nodded mutely, staring at Dave as he berated her quietly, pressing back against Carter. Dave sighed and reached out to pull her into his embrace. "I still love you, little girl. I just wish you'd stop being so down on yourself. You're brilliant, and you're needed, and you don't see it." TW snorted and pulled away, but before she could say a word, her tiger bounded up to her, tail twitching rapidly. She stood up on her hind legs, placing huge paws on TW's shoulders and licked the human's nose with her large rough tongue. TW laughed and pushed her tiger away. "Plette, what is it?" The tiger's tail swished as she stared up at her human. TW's gaze was caught, and held, by the golden eyes staring into hers. Carter and Dave watched, bemused, waiting for their mate to snap out of her rapport with her spirit guide. It didn't take long, and when she surfaced from her trance, TW looked slightly afraid. "Boys, we've got to get to the Clan. By the sounds of it, they're going to need our help even more now" Without waiting to see if her mates were following, TW dashed off into the foliage, following the orange and black blur that was Plette. Both doctors, one Sentinel, one Anchor, shook their heads and followed.

In the cave, which seemed to be getting smaller as more and more animals gathered to their Cores, Scribe was snuggling her newest friend, a tiny dragon baby. "Blair, watch out! Your hair!" Scribe said, without even looking up. Blair looked down, startled, just in time to pull a chunk of his hair out of harm's way. A tiny gout of flame splashed against the wall, leaving behind a scorch mark. Jim looked on in bemused wonderment. He had no idea what he was supposed to do with all these new animals running around, creatures that he would have thought never existed. Now, he was cuddling a sleeping dragon, holding a conversation with a centaur, and ducking the occasional alicorn wing that flipped overhead. Jane and her two men were also cuddling their animals, creating bonds that would never be broken. The rest looked on in amusement, corralling stray children and animals, talking with the other centaurs and just generally having a good time. Until the tiger came bounding into the cave. In an instant, Jim was in front of the children, followed in an instant by half of the other adults, while the other half backed away from the animal slowly. Tigre padded forward, sniffing cautiously at the female feline. //She's fine. She's a spirit guide as well. Her Guide is on her way, with her Core. Something is wrong// the jaguar reported to Jim. The Sentinel visibly relaxed. "Tigre says she's fine. We're going to have visitors." he turned towards the entrance, hearing dialed up just enough to hear the approaching footsteps, "right" The word now was spoken in time with the appearance of two men and a woman in the entrance of the cave. The female stepped forward and bowed low. "I'm TW, Guide Shaman for Dave Malucci, Sentinel. John Carter is our Guide Anchor, and we've been sent to help you. Plette, the tiger, is my spirit guide. She's told us about a little problem that should be brought to your attention." Before she could say anymore, though, she was interrupted by an indignant squawk from the general vicinity of one of the men's feet. Everyone looked down to see two creatures that no one had ever expected to see as spirit guides. A duck and a platypus.
There was a moment of silence (which was DAMN unusual for a space as crammed with creatures and people as the cavern was), then a lone female voice said tentatively, "Steph?" TW looked around, surprised. She hadn't told anyone here her 'other' name. What was this? "Yes?" A plump young woman somewhere in her mid-to-late twenties, with a huge mass of curly brown hair, stepped forward. "That's right, you never saw a picture of me." She looked down at herself. "Um, and considering the changes I've gone through, you still might not have recognized me." She smiled, a little hopefully, Blair thought. "I'm Scribe." TW blinked rapidly several times, then squealed and leaped at the other woman. Blair grabbed Jim's arm when he tensed, whispering quickly, "No, Jim! Don't go protectorish on us now! This is just the female version of 'slap your back, grab your ass, damn, I haven't seen you for AGES!'." And it was. Scribe had been (Jim would later learn the term) glomphed by the younger girl, and was being thoroughly snuggled. Jim felt himself getting a little miffed, and noticed that the expressions on the faces of the two new men were both surprised and a tad greenish around the edges, too. Apparently all of them except Blair had a problem with their Core bondsmate being glomphed by someone outside the mated trio. The two women were jabbering to each other. TW: "What are you DOING here? There was a post from you on MakeBelieve just the day before I got grabbed out of our universe! Wait, you ARE from my universe, right?" Scribe: "How should I know? According to Jane I have an alterego who's continuing right along where I left off, so Mom and the weenie dog don't get traumatized by missing me. I'm assuming that's what happened to you, too?" TW: "I THINK so. At least that's what the guy who was in charge of trining me said. She's doing you proud, if it was her. She did a Looney Toons meets The Sentinel that made me spew on the monitor." Scribe: "Cool! Weirdness abounding. That's how I've managed to stay out of a straightjacket since this whole thing started. So, you're a Guide Shaman, huh? I'm an Anchor Mage." TW: "No! Really?"
Scribe: "Yep! Watch this!" Remy lifted off the floor where he'd been sitting by Blair's feet and floated into his mother's arms. "This is my kid, Remy. And the blonde sweety over there is my other one, Royal." TW: Scream "Omigawd! You had BABIES! I thought you were moving over into change of life range." Scribe: "I was. Then we had that whole 'age change to match the youngest member bit' and boom. There I was. I'm still trying to decide how much of a benefit it is." TW: "Soooo... Who's the daddy, if it won't get me slapped?" Scribe: Scribe nodded at Jim and Blair. "I'm not sure you'll recognize the big one with all the new hair, so TW, this is Jim Youknowwho and Blair Youknowwho." She grinned. "My hubbies." She twiddled her hand, making the two rings she wore flash. "Oh-ficial." TW: "Omigod! Will you get mad if I glomph them?" Blair looked at Jim. "Enthusiastic little thing, isn't she?" The taller of the new arrivals put a hand on TW's shoulder. "I think that's enough glomphing for one day." TW poked Scribe. "He's jealous. Isn't it cute?" Scribe wiggled her eyebrows at her friend. "Soo, it's pretty apparant that I'VE lost my membership to the club. Is it safe to assume that you are no longer a DMV?" TW whooped and turned bright red, hiding her face against Carter's chest. He hugged her, giving the other woman a confused look. "She's mentioned that before. I thought it meant that she used to work at the Department of Motor Vehicles, but that wasn't it. Every time I ask her, she just has a giggle fit. What does it mean?" Scribe grinned. "If she won't tell you, I sure won't. Besides, it's better if your significant other tells you things like that. TW, let's leave the men to grunt and scratch. Come on and I'll introduce you to the kids and the other girls." She bent and lifted the little dragon, which was about the size of a Chihuahua. "I wonder how big this one is going to get?" "Check the feet," suggested TW.
Scribe groaned. "Oh, NO! Clodhoppers. We're going to need to get a barn cavern or something nearby. Okay, see the orange cat lady? Guess who that is?" The women wandered off. Jim said, "Well, I think this calls for a little welcome celebration. We're caught up on our work, so that won't be a problem. The women are preoccupied, so what say we set the shindig up, guys?" There were assenting murmurs from Rafe, H., Simon and the others. Everyone but Jim, Blair, Roy, and Johnny scattered to begin the preparations. Simon and Rafe were discussing whether or not that first batch of berrywine would be ready, or if they should go with the fermented honey mead. There were more introductions, then a short silence. honk Quack!
"Chill, kids," said Malucci. "But they're right--we should introduce them. The platypus is mine. His name is Ned Kelly--Ned for short." Blair raised an eyebrow. "Ned Kelly?"
"It was the only Australian name I could think of right off the top of my head. I wasn't going to name him after the croc guys--Dundee OR Corwin." "Thank you for that," Jim said sincerely. As a Sentinel, it used to set his teeth on edge to see the way the Croc Hunter put himself in danger for what he thought could be nothing other than rating shares. "And this fella," Carter pointed at the duck, who was rubbing her bill on his calf affectionately, "Is Bugs." Blair raised both eyebrows. "A duck called Bugs?" Carter shrugged. "She watched the Warner cartoons, and she has a funny sense of humor. Luckily she doesn't have a personality like either of the characters. Um, TW gets a little... excited." Malucci nodded. "She bounces."
Blair was watching TW react to the alicorns. "She certainly does--all over." Jim poked him. "It was just an observation." Carter said, "TW seemed to... well, I got the impression that she sort of KNEW you guys." Blair nodded. "Apparently in the universe she and Scribe come from there's a television show that sort of parallels our lives, called The Sentinel, staring people who look EXACTLY like us." Malucci didn't quite gape. "No shit? TW told us the same thing, except supposedly we're from something called ER." Johnny was shaking his head. "Mysteries of the universe. We and some of the others are supposed to be from one called Emergency!" Jim grunted. "Look, are we entirely sure that the girls aren't just a little bit crazy?" Blair shrugged. "Sure they are, but why would we want them any different?" Jane watched the excitment with a small evil little grin that made Vanyel stir until he could crane his head around to look at her. She patted his nose and called Mitri over. After ten minutes of shielded conversation, the girl trotted away trying to stifle wicked laughter. There was so much bouncing going on, and so much conversation that not even the former cops realized they had a teenager up to no good in their midst. Not until Major T's heavy hoofbeats sounded right behind the newcomers and a big, sloppy, mucus covered tongue began slapping rythumically against Dave's face, and big mooselips started sucking at his scalp in lieu of hair. The moose slathered the duck and the duckbill with his affection, then plastered every inch of the new tiger's fur flat to her skin. Ignoring the exclaimations of digusted dismay, he then proceeded to pin Stef to the cave wall, and give her his version of a bath. Great slimey ropes of moose-drool dripped from her hair when he was done, and as he turned, his hip shoved Carter into another portion of wall to give him an extensive once over. Six revolted new-comers stared at themselves and each other in premature relief when he was done; only to have a big, hairy elephant take his turn at 'greeting' them. Both animals got carried away with the excitment, and just had to groom half the cave, each, before satisfied. Everyone except Blair and Jane's Core dripped spit when they were done. John and Roy had not wasted time in laughter as the others had, instead beating a fast retreat to their hearth, dragging Sandburg with them, and let her put up a weak shield. It had just enough strength to keep the huge beasts out of their living area. From safety, they watched the show, giggling and laughing at the rest of the Clan as Major and Roger literally plastered everyone else. Scribe wailed in revulsion as the moose spit trickled down her back inside her clothes, spitting out elephant wool as she did so. Jim was used a semi-sharp piece of flat wood to scrape the matted stuff off himself, and tried to shove the loving idiotic moose away only to find his arm, elbow deep inside the big deer's mouth, who then began to nurse it. Mitri watched from the cavemouth where she was perched on a wide ledge just high enough to mount the mammoth. She was laughing so hard she could barely breathe. Jim finally noticed that, and grimaced. She'd set them up, he realized. She saw him staring at her, choked off the laughter, and assumed an innocent expression. He didn't buy it, and shook his head at her, motioning for her to come to him. "Not now, later maybe. You think I wanna look like you do right now? Are you nuts, Pop?" She asked him, saw him shake his finger at her, and turn to help Scribe get the nasty scut off. Megan was cussing fit to bust, and even through the light shield Jane had erected over her hearth, Jim could hear Sandburgs laughter. Little shit sure knows when to scram He thought, looking affectionately in the direction of his Shaman. But I'm still gonna get him for those giggles!
Chapter #7: Jane #2
Jane looked the three over, grimacing when she saw Finch. She chuckled when she saw Jim's grin and heard him repeat the house breaking remarks to Johnny and it wasn't a nice one. "Ah, Jim. When you were house broken, I was so harsh with because you had a long-standing habit of badly hurting someone who loved you more than anything or anyone one earth, and the fact that the person was your Guide made that obscene. I've got the same set of instinct YOU have, boyo. It absolutely infuriated me to see a Sentinel treat his own Guide the way you used to treat Blair. I figured that if I didn't break you of it quick, you might get it into your head that I'd allow you to treat mine the way you were treating your's. At that point, Scribe and Blair would have been badly damaged because I would have literally killed you for the protection of the tribe, and I would have been justified in doing so. You were beginning to behave like Alex!" Jim went dead white at the accusation, went absolutely still, shame filling his expression. He reached blindly for Blair and Scribe, trembling and moaning a little. Both Guides worked together to calm and soothe the big alpha. But Scribe did not contradict Jane...what was more damning, was that neither did Blair. "However, you did learn better, and know everyone knows the warning signs. If I hadn't known you were past the dangerous point, I'd have allowed my own collapse before giving you the Leadership of the Clan. You must never forget the danger, but you are no longer a threat. Examine it, learn from it, and go on with life. Which is really what Blair means when he says he's 'Processing'." She paused to let that sink in, then said, "As for Finch, there: When I was in charge, housebreaking you was my responsibility. However, I'm no longer in charge. Ergo....Mr. Covert Ops, he's so he's your problem." She grinned at his groan. "As for information extraction, I've taken it as far as I can without killing this thing. I'm a Mage, not a Sentinel. Trying to do both jobs has got me in enough trouble and none of the other's have your background Mr. Ranger, so you're gonna have to apply your talents to finding out numbers, locations, strengths and all that other army-type stuff from this slimey git." Benton and Stanley were discussing something with Peja that had the older woman laughing her ass off. Jane started to listen in, trying desperately not to laugh her ass off, too. A moment later she came over and pulled Jim to one side, who laughed in a sneaky, mean-little-kid sort of way, turned to a giggling Blair and a red-faced, head shaking Scribe who shrugged while Blair scrambled over to get something from their hearth. He came back just as Fraiser came up, instructed the Mountie on how to prepare the tea he'd fetched, and how much to give Finch. "Oh Ben, let Finch think it's something new in the air for a few days while you and Stan teach him to enjoy himself. Tell him it ought to level out in his system after a week or so. That will give the Bond a chance to "set" properly." Jane told the big Canadian. "Oh, yes. And make a point of teaching the little fella manners, for me, will you?" "It will be my pleasure, Ma'am."
"Ben, my name is Jane. I suggest you use it. Ma'am makes me feel about twenty years older. Now, let me explain the other things that happen when a Bond has set properly. Like the age thing...." She paused, "Uh, looks like that'll have to wait. Um, I think I'm going to go put a sheild up and, um, sew. Yeah, sewing is something I need to catch up on." She scrambled for the hearth, snagging the Alpha Core and her men and all their kids on the way, shielding as soon as everyone was inside. Just in time.
Benton heard, recognizing the sound of the bellow at once, to see a huge bull moose trot up to Finch and start "Grooming" the little guy. He alternated between Finch and Stanley, since the two were small and it was a simple matter to pin both against the wall. He recalled Jane's haste to get under her 'shield' whatever that was, and made a point of immediately climbing up to a ledge that was well out of Moose reach. Then he watched as the bull spit-shined his friends from that safe-locale. Stanley and Finch were bellowing in disgusted outrage, while the rest of the clan members stood around and laughed at what was now accepted as a traditional welcome. You weren't official until you'd swum in the Moose Drool Pool, unless of course, Roger got you first. Benton felt something wrap itself around his waist, gently lifting him down to the floor, and stared in stunned disbelieve at a half-grown wooly mammoth for an instant. He saw a massive, slime covered tongue emerge and head right for his face. He yelled in revolted horror, but that was all the time he had before the wooly proceeded to lick him half to death. Dief was well out of the line of fire, standing in amid a small pack of other wolves, including an un-mated white bitch who was trying to entice him. The big wolf knew the wooly meant no harm to his overly tidy friend, and turned his attention to the lovely Star, instead. He did stop to stare at a slime covered Leopard and an equally slimey wolverine as they headed into the cave. He knew the wolverine was Stanley's. A ferret rode the Leopard's back, nearly invisible under the coat of mucusy spit covering him. The big 250 pound female black African Leopard was in a very bad mood, the wolf noted in amusement. The Wolverine didn't seem to mind, but then, as the wolf well knew, wolverines were carrion eaters and often smelled far worse than this one did at the moment. *
Scribe said quietly, "I know you're not ashamed to show your emotions, Blair, but I think this would be better somewhere private. Agreed?" He nodded numbly. "Jim, why don't you go grab our furs, while I take Blair a couple more turns back into the cave?" Jim nodded, gave Blair another squeeze, nuzzling his hair reassuringly, then headed toward the main cave. Scribe didn't give him more detailed instructions, because she knew damn good and well that a Sentinel would have no problem tracking his Guide and Anchor in an enclosed environment. "C'mon, sweetheart." Her arm around Blair's shoulders, she led him away. The other clan members parted to let them pass. The protective Sentinels were aching to reach out and comfort the distressed Guide, but they could tell that Blair was in the grip of some very unpleasant memories, and physical contact by all but his most intimate loved ones might do more harm than good. Mitri didn't have that concern, though. She caught her foster parents before they left the hall and gave Blair a fierce, silent hug. Blair stroked her shaggy, dark hair, accepting the comfort, then gently set her back. "I love you, Mitri, but..." "But this ain't anythin' I need to be in the middle of. Don't worry, Blairbear. You just go an' let Pops an' Scribe help you through this. You be sure to take all the time you need." She smiled up at him, her serious eyes in contrast to her sunny expression. "I reckon there'll be plenty to keep me busy out here." Jim had hauled ass. They had just arrived at the cavelet she'd chosen when he showed up, arms loaded down with furs. He went in first and built a nest on the floor, then he and Scribe drew Blair down, pulled a warm fur almost over their heads, and held him. He'd never stopped trembling, and now it graduated to shaking. The silent tears gave way to sobs that quickly graduated to violent, heatbreaking weeping. Any other time Scribe and Jim would have been frantic to get Blair to stop, but they knew better now. This was a purging--all the poisons that had built up inside their bubbly, gentle lover was were being expelled in a hot, painful gush. But he's been holding this down, and hurting, for a long time. This is going to be like lancing a boil. It went on a long time, and both Scribe and Jim ended up with large, salty damp patches on their chests and shoulders. When Blair had subsided into hiccups, Scribe said, "Blair, hon... We know the bare bones of what you went through, and I won't push you if you really aren't ready, but you're not going to feel better till YOU talk about it, not someone else." Blair wiped his nose on his sleeve. "I know." His voice was ragged. "I... It was a long time ago." Jim squeezed him. "It might as well have been yesterday, babe. Is this what gave you the nightmares--the ones you wouldn't discuss?" Blair nodded, and Jim sighed. "I should have known. No one is going to wake up sweating and shaking, or screaming, as often as you did unless there was something real nasty at the root." "Yeah, it was pretty nasty, all right." He took a deep breath. "I... I wasn't any older than Mitri is now when it happened." "Yes, well, Mitri is pretty mature for a kid her age. Living with a Core, she sort of had a crash course in sex, and..." Blair laughed harshly. "Christ, Jim, you don't think I was ignorant, do you? I was with Naomi-the original proponent of 'free love'. In Mom's case that meant pretty much screwing anything that was even marginally attractive. You don't think I always had a room to myself, do you? Most of the time I had a blanket on the floor of the bedroom she was sharing with whoever she was fucking at the moment. Most of the guys could have cared less if they had an audience, but I'M the one who decided to start leaving the room. I slept on a lot of sofas. I slept outside a lot, too, when the weather was good enough. Then Naomi took up with Clark." Blair's breathing speeded up again, and Jim and Scribe tightened their hold, stroking his back and face till he calmed a little. "Clark insisted that I not leave the room. He claimed it was because he didn't want me screwing around in his house unsupervised. I figured out that what he really wanted was for me to watch him having sex. I figured that out, but... But I swear, I had no idea he wanted... wanted to..." He swallowed. "He paid for Naomi to go to a women's seminar--an overnight one. I knew something was wrong. He just kept staring at me all night. He told me that since Naomi was gone, there was enough room for me to sleep in the bed. I told him I was cool with the floor. Then he told me to go in the bedroom, undress, and get in bed." Blair closed his eyes. "I tried to run, but he caught me. He dragged me into the bedroom, smacked me around--hard enough till I got dizzy, then tore my clothes off and raped me." He tucked his head against Scribe's shoulders, not able to stand looking at her pained expression. "He raped me again later, then he laid on top of me while he went to sleep, so I couldn't sneak out without waking him. Just before dawn he woke up and made me suck him off. He hadn't bothered to clean up, so I had the added thrill of blood and shit with my first load of come. Then he made me take a shower and get dressed. Before Naomi got home he sat me down and told me that it wouldn't do any good to tell Mom, because they'd discussed it before she left. She'd said that as long as he didn't 'damage' me, it was all right. She said it was about time I started to help pay the rent. I didn't believe him. When Naomi came back I waited till we were alone and told her what had happened. She asked if I was bleeding. Well, I wasn't--not by then. She said then what the hell was I complaining about?" Jim had started crying, but his tears were silent. Still, thought Scribe, That's good. It wasn't that long ago that he'd have shoved it down as hard as Blair did his own hurts. Blair had rolled on his back, and was staring blankly up at the ceiling. His voice was almost distant. "He left me alone for a week. Then Naomi told me that it was her time of the month, so I'd have to take care of Clark that night. We had a big fight, and she slapped me and called me an ungrateful brat. Then she sat on my arms while Clark raped me again. I had to do him at least three times a week till we left. I thought it would be over by then, but Naomi had found out that there were people who were willing to either give her things, or pay her, to be with me. After Clark, when she got low on cash and hadn't found a job she enjoyed, she'd go to a bar and bring someone home for me to take care of. I even asked her once why SHE didn't do it instead. She told me that a teenage boy could command more money than a grown woman, so it was only logical that I be the whore in the family." "You weren't the whore," said Jim angrily. "You were the victim. She may never have taken money for sex, but she's the biggest fucking whore I've ever heard of, and I just WISH I could get back to Earth and spend ten minutes with her." "You could have her after me," said Scribe coldly. "And I'd want a quiet room and a baseball bat." Blair gave a startled, watery chuckle. "What? You know I'm not as fit as Jim--I'd need a tool." "I got the scholarship to Rainier. She didn't want to let me go, even though it wasn't going to cost her a dime. She said that since my father hadn't offered to foot my bills, and she'd had to support me, it was time that I took care of her. You know how I got to Rainier? I told her that I wanted to work the streets by myself--that I could make more money that way than I could waiting for her to bring johns home. She bought it. I went to the university and talked to the counselor, told him I'd had a family emergency and needed to enter right away if I could. He pulled a few strings, and... and I took the physical. I'd had a really rough customer the night before, and the doctor knew. Bless him, he didn't just assume that I'd decided on an alternate lifestyle. He ASKED. I was so shocked to have someone sounding like they cared that I told him." "This detective from vice came down to the clinic and talked to me. He was so nice, so understanding. I told him everything." Blair smiled. "I don't think he was a Sentinel, but he kicked into Beloved Protector mode anyway. He had Naomi's ass in jail in less than an hour. Child Services wanted to put me in a group home, but Vickers fought them on that. With the doctor, my councelor, and Vickers pulling for me, they cut through some red tape, and I got to stay at the university. You know, Vickers told me I could talk to him any time I needed to. The first couple of years I'd call him several times a month, sometimes in the middle of the night, when I had bad dreams. He never complained, never sounded less than happy to hear from me. I got better, more confident, and it tapered off gradually, but I was still sending him cards on his birthday, and the holidays. He's one of the few things I really miss about Earth." Blair fell silent, exhausted physically, and emotionally. In a few moments he was asleep, breathing deeply and regularly. Jim looked over his sleeping lover at Scribe. "I WILL kill her, if I ever get the chance?" "Do you hear me protesting? I'll hold your coat while you beat her to death, then spit on the corpse, but that's enough of that for now. Let's go to sleep and get some rest." She caressed Blair's flushed cheek. "We're going to need our energy to love him long and hard when he wakes up." "Speaking of which," Jim said, just before he settled back down. "I wonder how things are going with Ben, Stanley, and Dennis?" *
Mitri stared, openly gaping at the sight before her as yet three more figures walked purposefully up the slope to the cave. She didn't have to ask who they were. She had seen both movies before they had gone to the training camp. Her Core was tied up, another new Core was 'adjusting', and she wasn't sure where Jane was. "What in the hell are you three doing here?" She asked with customary bluntness. "Christ-in-a-Miniskirt! Hell, at least you've got good timing!" Snape stared down his nose at the girl, feeling the unfamiliar power signature of the Shaman Gifted child and wondering at it. Potter sighed, and took it upon himself to explain that they'd been assigned to the Clan as combat veterans. "Hmmm...well, actually, the Clan needs you," She looked at Severus, "to experiment with local plants for right now. Our knowledge of available medicinals and foods is scanty. This place is mostly unexplored. BUT," She walked over to a Tau tree. "Don't eat the fruit of this tree. It's a Tau tree and has the nasty effect of turning humans into Creelo. We haven't found anything to reverse the effect, either. We have a Core who's Guide is a proven idiot who ate some, after being warned.." She recounted the incident. Snape sighed, agreeing with the scorn in the girl's voice at such stupidity. She looked them over, "Look, this ain't Earth, never mind England. Voldemort ain't here and never has been, and continuous rivalry and fights, and emotional upheavals aren't of any benefit to anyone." Her tone was odd, old for her age, low, soothing, leading. It hit Snape hard, like a blow to the gut. He'd never felt anything like it. "What are you doing to me?" He snapped suspicously. "I'm a Journeyman Shaman, Wizard. I'm Projecting, what did you think I was doing?" She snapped back, impatiently. "Her tone dripped with scorn on a level that Severus had never been able to match. Potter stared at her. "Shaman? I wondered about the power signature. I knew I'd never felt anything like it." The boy said quietly. "Hagrid?" "Oh, aye. Be shaman gifted on some o the isle I gets me pets from. She be young for journyman status, but then tis a small Clan. I can sense many shamans in the Cave, several witches, and something else I don't recognize. Plus lots of strange feeling spirits and a great many magickal creatures." He looked over at Snape. "There's a greater concentration of unicorns, alicorns, dragons, fire drakes, and other creatures in a ten mile area around this cave than in all of the Dark Forest combined. I can smell centaurs, as well." "I see. Well, are you going to introduce us?" "Not until Jane or Peja get here and approve you. Our alpha male is occupied as is our alpha female and the Head Shaman on Core business." She shrugged. "I'm Hearth Daughter to the Alpha Core, but as I said, it is Core business and of more importance than a couple of newbies. You'll have to wait here until one of the Spirit Animals alerts the Prime Beta Female or the High Magess." "Magess? Not witch?"
"Of course not! This project requires a wider range of skills than are taught to a low ranked hedge witch or wizard! Also, far more power." A new voice answered. "Mitri, escort young Harry to my hearth and introduce him to John and Roy. He'll link to me until he's an adult. Like me, he has mage-gift. He will one day be part of your Core. Can't you feel it girl?" Jane told her. The girl gasped, probed, gasped again, and giggled. Then she grabbed Harry's hand and dragged him toward the Cave, yelling for John. "I am High Mage of the Ellison Cave Clan. I am also the Interplanetary Magic User's Leader of Spacial Exploration and Colonization. Mr. Snape, did you bring a familiar with you? If not, it is within our ability to supply you with a newly hatched and as yet unbonded fire-drake." "I did not, and such a creature would be fitting. I am of the House of Slytherin, of Hogwart's School in England. The London Snapes, you know. Not the Yorkshire branch." He flickered his fingers in a dismissive gesture of contempt." "Mr. Snape, your lineage is of little matter on a planet over fifty billion lightyears, and four universes removed from Earth!" He gasped in shock. Hagrid stared at her. "Our Council promised you safe haven from Voldemort, did we not? A home, family, and all the things you thought you would never have? Do you really think a low grade warlock like that fool can locate you with the FULL council of Mages hiding you?" She smiled at him in benign pity. "You don't understand your worth in the least, do you? Well, you'll learn. While the Sentinels and their Cores fine-tune their skills, a subtle increase in the flow of the fabric of time is in play. At the end of the second summer (it is nearly the end of the first one now) we will all be removed from this planet by the Federation of Sentinent Planets, aboard the USS Enterprise, which will be under the command of a Captain of French Witchblood decent. One Jean-Luc Picard, to be precise. We, including your little trio, will remain on his ship for several years while the Clan gains the skill and knowledge they will need to establish Humans on a very special planet. The first true Seeded colony. All of the settlers will be genetically advantaged people. Witch, wizard, Shaman, Mage or Sentinel. From that planet and by those who live on it, Humans will be lead, Guided, taught, and ruled. THIS is the project for which you have been hand picked to serve. There is no one county involved, and the evil scuts like Riddle are being eliminated. Earth is due to experince a Transitional Shift within twenty years...we have to be ready!" "You mean, when the Physical Laws change and resettle into new patterns so that muggle sciences no longer function on the planet surface?" Hagrid hissed. "That would be the event we are preparing for, yes." She nodded, "and the sheer amount of work to be done is exhaustive!" Behind her an awed and distraught voice spoke. "Wonderful. Just great, fanfuckingtastic!" Peja moaned. "No wonder you waited for more Cores to show up before telling people that! SHIT!" "Well, it's either get ready for it, and be prepared to calm, counter and lead our species into a new era or stand by and watch while an estimeated 87.3488555348495734% of the human population dies...." Jane told her soberly. "You might better wait until Blair's settled and over his...hmmm, before you spring that one on Jim, though. I freely admit to cowardice when it comes to dumping this particular load on his innocent head!" A week later, Peja judged the time was right, took Jim's and Benny's Cores to one side, and quietly handed them a short, precise version of the schedule for the next several years. Then she told them what Jane had said, watched the two groups pale, shiver, and finally get over it. Then Jim went looking for Jane.... *
Sentinel Evolution (Jane-type Prod)
Tap, tap, tappetty, tap, CUSS, tapppp
"Just what do you think you're doing?"
"Oh, hi Simon. Fannie's happy other-self's just admitted to deliberately putting us off. I had suspected this, but never prodded her." She grinned up at the nervous former MC Captain. "Chill, there won't be all that much overlap. And it will only last six months." "Then how did you find out?"
"She made the critical error of saying so, onlist where I could see it. I did warn her that she was, and I quote, "Trouble" and I did shout the word. So she knows that something nefarious is headed in her direction. "Oh shit...' Came Jim's voice behind Jane, "OH FUCK, gotta get to my Core, fast...damn, damn, damn" Damn it, Fannie! Did you have to give her an excuse?" Jim's yell echoed off the cave walls. Simon stared at a purplish-red glow in the direction of Jim's Hearth. "What is that?" It's her hair. All of it!" Jane smirked as she signed out of the Council's link to the Earthian internet and shut down the laptop. "And she can't use my link since she doesn't have the rank to get into this computer. As she discovered the hard way, a long time ago. It was written in, rather than using a spell, so she's stuck with it. It won't be that bad for her Core, since I know that both Jim and Blair love the taste of blueberries." "It's flavored?"
"Oh yes. It should make Jim impossible to live with for a while." And Jane grinned evilly at the outraged shriek from Scribe as Jim shoved a hand mirror into her face and she got a good look at herself.

Sentinel Evolution, Chapter Seven, Scribe #5 Preface Paragraph
Somewhere, somewhen, Scribe groaned to herself. "Blueberry. She couldn't have gone for chocolate? Then I'd have had dark brown hair instead of deep purple. On second thought, maybe it's best she didn't. I know how I am about chocolate, and when PMS struck, I might've..." Scribe's eyes widened in horror, and she cut off that line of thought before the squick could slip in. "We now return you to our regularly scheduled insanity, though we take up the narritive right where Scribe section #4 left off." *
Benton stood outside the cavelet that housed the near hysterical Dennis Finch, eyeing the entrance critically. "Oh, dear. He HAS chosen a small one, has he not?" "Yeah, makes him feel more secure," said Simon. "Has he not? Don't you use contractions?" "He does," drawled Stanley, "but he has to be MOTIVATED." He pinched Benton's butt, and the big Mountie, even through his concern about Dennis, paused to give him an affectionate, amused glance. "I ya know what I mean. Are we all three going to be able to fit in there without grease and a shoehorn?" "It widens out a little once you're past the entrance," Simon assured him. "It's about the size of a small bedroom. H.? How about running to the store room and bringing back some furs for our new friends?" H. nodded and trotted off. Simon said, "We haven't been formally introduced." He offered his hand. "Simon Banks, formerly captain of the Cascade, Washington PD's Major Crimes Unit. You two should fit right in around here. Most of us are either cops, or have DEALT with cops extensively." "What about the others?" asked Stanley. "Fanfiction authors. They can handle just about anything you throw at them, even if they do bitch occasionally." H. returned, loaded down with soft furs and hides. He handed them over to Ben and Stanley, saying, "Good luck with your Guide, guys. Don't worry too much. Nature usually wins out, once the Bond kicks in." "Thank you kindly. Would one of you kind people please brew some of that tea that Miss Streeter mentioned and leave it outside the door?" Rafe snickered. "I almost hope Jane hears that. 'Miss Streeter'. Ow! Jane, watch it with that cane, willya? I was just repeating." "The boy can't help it if he was raised right," snapped Jane. "Ben, Stanley--you two don't worry about anything. We're gonna leave everything you need right outside here for the next few days. No need for any of you to come out till you feel you're ready." "What about nature breaks?" asked Stanley. "Ever heard of chamber pots?" He made a face. "Get used to the idea. One will be provided. Just leave it outside to be emptied. You'll find a niche in the front wall, and there'll be a bowl lamp there, along with a flint and steel. Can either of you make fire that way?" Benton beamed, and Stanley rolled his eyes. "Can he? I think he likes that naturalist survivalist stuff almost as much as foreplay." "Not nearly as much, Ray," protested Fraiser. "Now," Jane poked him and Stanley with the tip of her cane. "Go on! There's a hurting Guide in there, and it's making my whole clan anxious." "I do not believe we should simply stroll in," Benton ventured. "That would most likely have the effect of raising his anxiety. If you good folk would go on about your business?" "Your business IS our business," Peja warned him. "From now on. But yeah, we can give you some privacy." The rest of the clan headed back to the front of the cave. "Jane, what did you say about ANOTHER trio? Who's what in this one? They certainly had us fooled with these three..." Benton tried to figure out how to best go about communicating with Finch. He finally decided that, since the entrance was just a little shorter than he was, it would be better to squat, so he'd have a good view without killing his neck. He did so. "Dennis?" There was silence from the room. He sighed. "Dennis, you need not be afraid. Neither Stanley nor I have the slightest inclination to force our attentions on any uninterested party." "Translation: we won't jump your bones unless invited," Stanley supplied. Dennis's voice, still shaky, floated out. "I KNOW that, Mister Obvious. I worked on a MAGAZINE, okay? You know--reading material? Oh, wait, did you ever get past the centerfolds in Drummer?" Stanley rubbed his face. "He isn't going to make it easy, Benny." "Perhaps not, Ray, but one makes a special effort for one's mate." "WILL YOU STOP SAYING THINGS LIKE THAT?!" yelled Dennis. "Finch," said Stanley, "Calm down, huh?" Stanley had never acted as an Anchor before, but now his Guide was in deep distress, and his Sentinel was moving in that direction. He reacted to help balance them both emotionally. "Look, you have a cave full of cops out there. You've already seen that their first instinct is to run and help. I know you don't trust Benny and me yet, but you NEED to let us come in and talk to you. There's no other way that you're going to feel even REMOTELY right." Silence. Fraiser said quietly, "Dennis, you must be terribly uncomfortable. I noticed that you did not stop to retrieve your clothing, and, though this cave is an admirable example of its kind, it is still a CAVE. Let us bring in some furs, so that you can be more comfortable." "Well..."
He was wavering. "Let us in and talk with us," Stanley said slyly, "and I'll tell you about the time I went undercover as a bouncer in a biker tittie bar in Beaumont, Texas." There was a pause. "Does it involve tattoos?" "Tattoos AND rings in parts of the anatomy other than the earlobes." "All right, you can come in, but throw me one of those hides first. I'm not having you two in here while I'm starkers." Stanley chose the softest doeskin he could find and tossed it in. There was a rustle, and Dennis called. "Okay." "Stanley, allow me to enter first and ignite the lamp." Ben squeezed through the narrow opening. In a moment there was the click of flint-on-steel, and sparks. "I am afraid that if I gain any weight, I will not be able to exit this place without losing skin." "Yeah, well, don't worry, Big Red," said Dennis. "You won't be in here long enough for that to happen. Fraiser got the lamp burning steadily, and stepped aside to allow Stanley to enter, then they both looked at Dennis. The young man had managed to wrap the deerskin around his hips, and was now standing in a corner, back to the wall, arms crossed in a posture that was meant to be defiant, but screamed of insecurity. Instead of replying, Ben and Stanley quickly arranged the other furs into a comfortable nest. Stanley had seen the bruising on Finch's arms, legs, and chest, and was resolutely looking away, _expression grim. The dark marks stood out starkly on Dennis Finch's pale skin--stripes on his legs marking belt strikes, and bracelets on his upper arms showing where he was violently held. The son of a bitch wasn't so far gone that he didn't remember not to mark his face. He had enough presence of mind to try to hide evidence. Stanley noticed that Ben had gone very still. He looked up and saw that his friend was staring at Dennis with a mixture of horror and dawning rage. It was really being brought home to him, for the first time, that someone had violently abused his intended mate. Stanley heard a very faint rumble, and realized that Ben had started to growl. He whispered, "Stop it, Benny. -I- know what you're feeling, but you'll just scare him." Ben shot him a look of understanding.
"So," said Dennis. "Sorry I can't offer you hor-d'ovres and cocktails and I really shouldn't have said cocktails, should I?" Stanley shrugged. "I'll let you slide this time, but I'd watch my mouth around those women. From what little I've seen, they give new meaning to the term 'bawdy broads'. Ben, take off those boots before you sit down in our bedding, okay?" "Certainly, Stanley."
"Hey!" protested Finch. "Don't go getting all comfy-cozy, here. I haven't slept in the same room with other guys since my three day stay at Boy Scout camp--and they didn't want to get jiggy with me--just stuff me headfirst down the outhouse." Benton frowned. "I thought that the camps lasted at least a week." "Sunburn, poison ivy, outdoor plumbing, bugs--basically all the reasons that make me want to hop a shuttle away from here made me call my Dad and loosen one of his eardrums to get home. Now, I want my tittie bar story, and I want it NOW!" Ben and Stanley had sat down, and Ben patted the furs between them. "Me? Sit there? Let me think--NO!" "No sit, no tit," said Stanley.
"What I won't do for a sleazy story," muttered Dennis, moving to sit gingerly between the other two men. There was a shuffling outside the entrance, and Ben said, "One moment." He went out, and found a steaming cup of tea, and a note. It read, Guys, I made this one sort of weak to more ease him into your arms, rather than shoving him. He struck me as a little fragile. Peja Ben nodded his approval, took the tea, and left the note. He sat beside Dennis again, and offered the cup. "Here. We thought that your throat might be dry from all that, er, vocalizing." Dennis took the tea. Stanley gave Fraiser a questioning look, and recieved a minute nod. Dennis noticed the look and said, "You'll have to get your own--I'm not into sharing." "That could change," smirked Stanley.
"Ray," admonished Benton. "We are fine, Dennis. Ray, I believe you had promissed to relate your experiences in the gentlemen's club?" Stanley laughed. "No one there could be called a gentleman, and they'd have gone off on you if you tried. Where to start? Okay, the one who was my inside contact was a stripper called Six Ring Sally. She got that nickname for all the hoops she wore." Fraiser frowned. "I have never been able to understand the female desire to have multiple ear rings." "Ben, only TWO of the rings were in her ears, and she showed the other four every performance." Dennis grinned as he sipped the tea. "I wish I had a tape recorder."

" she said, okay for the Chihuahua, bet get that damn Great Dane away from me! That's when the fight broke out, and SWAT busted in five minutes later," Stanley finished. "What happened next?" Dennis asked.
"I don't know. It was all over by the time I woke up, sitting in the bar sink with a lapful of maraschino cherries, and smelling of peanut butter." Dennis cackled. Ben said, "Ray, you never told me about this." Stanley grinned at him. Ben shook his head. "Dennis, I am afraid that Ray may not have been strictly truthful." "Okay, I lied. But only about the cherries--it was actually pickled olives and lime twists." Finch was still giggling. There was none of the smug meanness that had marred his previous laughter, and the other two men knew that they were catching a brief glimpse of what Dennis Finch COULD be like. Dennis was squirming a little, rubbing his thighs together. "You okay, Finch? Looking a little antsy, there." "It's a little warm in here, but I'm okay. So, Captain Canuck, got any dirty stories?" "Well, I..."
Stanley snorted. "Tell about the time the Nature Study Group accidentally got a National Geographics tape that showed wildebeast mating." "Actually, I DO have a rather risque story. You see, when I was eighteen, my grandfather Fraiser decided that it was time that I lost my virginity--without my grandmother knowing, of course." Ray's jaw had dropped. "We were taking the bookmobile through some of the more deserted parts of Ontario then, so there was not an abundance of women. However, there WAS one professional lady who made her living visiting isolated trappers and rangers, travelling in a very nice motor home. My grandmother was helping a trapper's wife deliver a baby, and the husband offered to 'treat' Grandfather and myself..." Stanley's jaw was on his chest.
" I said, 'Thank you kindly', and stepped outside to allow Grandfather to come in," Ben concluded. A delighted Finch glanced at a staring Stanley. "I would say 'earth to Stanley', but that's hardly appropriate here, is it?" Stanley swallowed. "I---do---not---believe it." Ben smiled angelically. "Oh. Right." He looked at Finch. "With that face, you'd never believe he was such an accomplished fibber, would you?" Dennis noticed that, during the storytelling, Ben and Stanley had moved even closer, till they were flush against him on either side. For some reason, this didn't bother him. "So you both had those intense experiences, but you're GAY?" "Once again, I'm gay--he's bi," corrected Stanley. "But at the bar..."
"I was undercover. I'm a helluvan actor. Besides, remember the statistics--almost all men have at least one homosexual encounter in their lives." Dennis's _expression started to close up. He mumbled, "For some of us, one is enough." Stanley thought fast. "Ben, you're being inconsiderate." Ben blinked. "I am?"
"You are. That red serge can't be comfortable against' Dennis's bare skin. Take it off." Ben was no dummy. "Certainly, Ray." He began to undo brass buttons. "My apologies, Dennis. This is a good idea, in any case. It IS quite warm, and I have no desire to have the tunic sweat soaked. There are no dry cleaners available, and the mammoth saliva will be hard enough to get out." Stanley noticed that Dennis didn't turn his head, but he did cut his eyes sideways, and watch with evident interest as Fraiser peeled off first the tunic, then his ever present undershirt. "You're right, Ben. Dennis has the right idea about costuming." Stanley peeled his own T-shirt over his head, and was gratified when Dennis's gaze slid toward him, and lingered. "Ben, the damn fastenings on my jeans seem to have been welded shut by moose spit. Can you help me?" "Certainly, Ray." Ben reached across Finch, arms brushing firmly against the smaller man's body, and began to twiddle with the button and fly of Stanley's jeans. "My, they ARE stubborn." Fraiser's arm rubbed against Dennis's nipples, which quickly rose to stiff, pink points. "I am having a hard time, Ray. Could you possibly kneel up?" "I might fall over on Dennis if I do that. Dennis, any suggestion on how I could balance while Fraiser tries to help me out of my jeans?" Dennis's voice was a little breathless. "You could sorta brace against me." "You sure about that, buddy? I might knock you over, or something." "I'll risk it."
Benton's pupils were dilating as, for the first time, he recognized the rich, distinctive smell of his new mate's pheromones, mingling with his own, and those of his established mate. Stanley knelt, putting his hands on Dennis's shoulder, and spreading his knees slightly. "C'mon, Ben. These jeans must've shrunk, because I'm feeling strangled." "I do not believe it is a case of shrinkage, Ray. I believe it is a case of growth. What do you think, Dennis?" Dennis glanced down at Stanley's fly, which wasn't too far from his chin. There was a distinct bulge. The the damp patch was NOT animal spit. "I'd say that was possible." Fraiser finally, after much rubbing against Finch and Stanley, managed to get the pants open. Finch and Stanley both were beginning to pant, and Dennis had a palm pressed down into his lap--hard. His face was flushed, and the pink was gradually creeping down his neck toward his chest. Ben shoved Stanley's pants down his thighs, and the blond's hard cock leapt out to quiver before Dennis's face. Dennis swallowed. "Dennis," said Ben, "I am afraid that these bawdy tales have affected Stanley. It would be cruel to leave him unsatisfied, and I confess that I am in the same state myself. Please excuse our brazeness, but this should be taken care of immediately--for health reasons, to be sure." "Yeah, yeah," agreed Dennis. "At least that's what men have been saying since the beginning of recorded history. Go ahead, far be it from me to endanger your blood pressure." Ben put one hand on Dennis's other shoulder. "You are a considerate and compassionate man, Dennis. Excuse me." Ben leaned forward and lapped hungrily at Stanley's flushed cockhead. "Cripes," said Finch.
"Yes, I know. Usually we engage in more foreplay, but I'm afraid it is progressing very quickly. Apparently having a third party present is what Stanley would refere to as 'a turn on'?" "And what would you call it, Frase?" asked Stanley, amused and aroused, all at once. "Highly erotic."
"Jump me, you big, beautiful maple leaf lover!" Benton obliged. Dennis, caught between the two, found himself at the bottom of a pile of firm, male flesh--and liking it. Out of a sense of obligation, though, he sqirmed. The other two men seemed to like that, judging by the erections that pressed against him here and there as they rolled about on the furs. "Stanley," said Fraiser. "Stop that. We really MUST allow Dennis to get up." Benton resumed sucking a patch of skin on Finch's shoulder, while the smaller man lay giggling, face down on top of his partner. Somehow in the fray, all clothes had ended up in the corner, and everyone was naked. "Don't tell ME. I'm on the bottom right now. Not that I'm COMPLAINING, mind you. It's a lot easier to breath with Dennis on top of me than it is with you. Wanna ride, Dennis?" Before Dennis could reply, Stanley said, "Buckin' bronco!" and began to bounce the little man. Dennis's laughter increased, till Stanley spread his legs, letting him drop between his thighs, and their hard pricks met. Finch gave a surprised gasp. He'd certainly never expected to feel this good unless someone with XX chromosomes were involved. But it DID feel good, and he found that he had no desire for it to stop. He felt Fraiser's big, warm hand moving over his back. The Mountie said quietly, "Dennis, I'd like to ask your permission to move against you. No penetration, but you have a perfectly lovely ass, and I'd like to engage in a little frottage, if that would be acceptable. I'll try to make it pleasurable for you." Dennis had tensed just a little. Stanley gave him a reassuing squeeze. "It's all right, Dennis. The first time we did it, he got half-way in and I asked him to stop. He not only stopped, he wouldn't shut up till I told him that I didn't need a doctor, a drink, or an asperin." He grinned. "And he can make good on the pleasure part. Notice that he's been using contractions?" "Yeah," Dennis's surprise and horniness overcame his apprehension. "Why is that?" "It only happens when he's really horny." "Well... Okay. But just humping, okay?" "Yes," agreed Ben, moving up behind and over him. Dennis shuddered slightly as Ben caressed his buttocks. "Relax. No one here will hurt you," he soothed. "Nothing you don't want, Dennis. Never again." "I... um... I kinda had a bad experience..." Stanley took hold of Dennis's chin, making him meet his eyes. "Not now, Sugar, okay? You can tell us later, if you want to, but right now let's just make each other feel good." "I can do that." Dennis moved his hips. When Stanley groaned, arching up to him, he smirked, some of his normal cockiness coming back. But Dennis himself groaned as he felt Benton spread his buttocks. It was a good thing that he couldn't see the big man's _expression as he saw the redness and torn skin that indicated Finch's previous abuse. He never knew, because the gentleness of Fraiser's touch never wavered. He pressed against Finch, aligning his cock so that it was cradled lengthwise in the little man's ass crack. Then he began to move, sliding against the sensitive skin slowly and sensually. The pace increased, graduating to muttered endearments and obscenities. Hearing the ever-so-calm Fraiser whisper such graphic expressions made Finch even hotter. When he felt someone (he was never sure who, and he didn't CARE) reach down and tug gently at his balls, he came for the first time with another man... Men, other men, and why don't I want to scream and run? Why do I just want to cuddle down between them and sleep? Stanley and Ben were still moving. *AFTER I make them come." Finch was an expert at masturbation. He grabbed a prick in each hand and brough his two new lover's to grunting, moaning orgasm in a few strokes. When it was done they lay together, and Dennis said, "I'm still not gay." "Not gay," said Stanley sleepily. "Bi--like Ben." Fraiser got up and blew out the lamp, then returned to the two limp and sated men, petting each in turn and receiving pleased murmurs. Dennis said sleepily. "Something warm and fuzzy just curled up on my belly, and I know for a fact that neither one of you needs electrolysis on his dick." "That would be your ferret," said Benton. "Do you know his name now?" Finch thoughtfully stroked the little creature. There was a quiet chitter, and a gentle nibble at this fingers. "For some reason I'm thinking of the word 'Tiriaq'." Benton laughed. "Oh, dear. I am afraid that your Spirit Animal is a little vain, Dennis. Tiriaq is the Inuit name for an ermine." "Yeah?" Dennis sounded defensive. "And who says he isn't one?" He lay still for a moment, then said, "Did I hear right? The curly headed one with the big one and the short, furry one is named Fannie?" "That is correct," answered Benton.
"Hm. Fannypack, Fannie Flagg, Fannie Farmer, Fanny Hill..." He giggled wickedly. "Christ," sighed Stanley. "Just remember, Ben, when she goes to whack him on the head, he DESERVES it, and she's not really gonna be trying to hurt him..." NOTE From Scribe: Please be aware, people. I KNOW I'm setting myself up with Jane when I mail out some wide-open statement. It's just that I can't help myself. By the time I realize what I've said, it's already in the document, and I've fallen so in love with the phrasing that I can't bring myself to delete it. A very tired looking Scribe came staggering into the main cave, hitching her fur tunic up. "I would KILL for a good, cold Diet Pepsi right about now." "Really? Who?"
She froze. "Okay, I'm a sane woman..." This was greeted by howls of laughter. "Shut up! Compaired to certain lunatics around here (shall we all witness my new hair color?) I am! Anyway, I'm only marginally nuts, so I KNOW that voice couldn't belong to who I think it does. That is NOT Alan Rickman!" "No, madam, it is not." Severus, lounging in a chair that he had conjured up, disdaining the pile of furs that Harry and Hagrid were sitting in, regarded her with guarded interest. "I haven't seen anything like that since Neville Longbottom substituted toad for frog in a potion. Of course, HIS was a rather poncy lavender, while yours is a rather dignified royal purple." Mitri, who hadn't seen any of her core for several days (having been forbidden to peek), trotted over excitedly and hugged Scribe. "Scribe! I finally got someone my own age to mess with, 'stead of babies or you old farts." "I'm so happy for you." Scribe's voice was dry. "He's..."
Scribe rubbed Mitri's head. "You don't have to tell me, Mitri." She pointed. "Hagrid, Harry, and the ever supercilious Severus Snape." Harry poked his glasses back up on his nose. "She knows who we are, too." "Well, 'arry," said Hagrid reasonably, "There's always the chance that one of this lot could have told 'er." "You don't believe that."
"No, but I figgered one of us ought to play Devil's Advocate." Hagrid stood up, his head nearly brushing the cave's ceiling, and came over, hand outstretched. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, ma'am. Miss Jane 'as been telling us a lot about you." "Oh, I BET she has!"
"'arry! Stir your lazy bum and stand up to greet a lady." There were more howls. Scribe waved at her clanmates. "You know, and I know that calling me a lady is closer to an insult than a compliment, but he means well." Harry came over and shook hands. "Jane tells me that you've actually written something about me?" Scribe shot a horrified glance over at a smirking Jane, who had gotten word to Scribe (via notes) of some of what was happening with her 'other self'. "HE'S UNDERAGE, JANE! This version of him, anyway." "I didn't tell him what," Jane assured her. Scribe bent down toward the boy. "Listen to me very carefully. That woman is... um..." Jane was tapping her cane, waiting to see what Scribe said. "Crap. I can't say anything unless I want a moose bath or a coon infestation in my bed. Just be careful what you say around her. If you left an incarnation behind at home, be careful what HE says." Jim and Blair came wandering out of the back of the cave, looking smug and contented. They made a beeline for Scribe, who dragged Harry in front of her. "Stay away from me, you horndogs." Jim grinned. For good measure, Scribe slipped behind Hagrid. Hagrid sniffed, twisting his head around curiously. "Is that blueberries I be smelling? Now, I have no fault with the hospitality we've been shown so far, but I don't recall being offered any blueberries, and I'm that fond of them." Scribe scrambled behind Jim and Blair. "I think Ben, Stanley, and Dennis may be coming out soon. There were talking, nice and quiet, when I went past their place." "And if the sounds I heard were any indication," said Jim, "They'll be wanting to clean up pretty soon. There's only so much spunk you can clean off with a spit bath." Jane grinned, and Jim's eyes widened in horror at what he'd said. There was the eager bellow of a bull moose, and Major T started to wiggle his way into the cave. Jim headed for the back, hoping that he'd either be able to find a space too small for the moose to fit through, or that T would be distracted by another victim. As he ran, he yelled. "SPONGE bath! I meant SPONGE bath, goddamn it, Streeter, and you KNOW it!" Her cackles followed him as closely as the rapidly gaining moose. Snape's hair was in a slime-ridden point. With a curl on top from Major's tongue. Hagrid was in no better shape, having used his great strength to gently catch and hold the mammoth, he had no hands available to counter the moose now contentedly sucking on his head. Harry was smarter. Harry was on his broom several hundred feet above their heads, laughing helplessly, untouched. Blairhair was also matted, caked, and thick with moose drool. And from one side, Mitri commented, "Well, Mr. Snape, at least you know Major likes you." He didn't take his eyes off his soaked, dripping robes, spit-covered wand, and he shuddered at the feel of in running down the back of his neck. A moment later he was clean and dry, though. He looked up at the hovering youth.
"Thank you, Mr. Potter." He said with feeling. "That was most unpleasant. However, the beasts do appear friendly. Well, there is no point in cleaning up Hagrid until the beasts are done, is there?" "Actually, they have to do it to each core member, at least once in a while. Both creatures are Spirit Animals, and the saliva leaves a signature that identifies you as adult members of the Clan. Harry, they don't do it to the children, there is no need. Once you turn eighteen, however....." Jane shrugged. "ONE or more of the Spirit Guides would have to anyway. It's faster with these two though, and the Moose in particular enjoys it. He thinks licking you feels good. To you. I've never managed to successfully convince him otherwise." She shrugged, then yelled at the two animals. Both paused, looking disappointed, stopped what they were doing, and moved off downslope. Snape noticed that the moose kept looking back over his huge shoulder, rather hopefully. "Is he actually pouting?" "Who, Major? Oh yes. He enjoys it, as I said." "Is it safe?" Jim poked his head out. "Ah, yes, I see that they're gone. I thought so, but...." He grinned at Hagrid, watching Severus clean him up. Then looked up and saw Harry. He frowned. "Kid, get your ass down here! You don't go up without proper supervision, got me? I don't want you to get hurt and you haven't seen some of the hungrier samples of what passes for birds here. Four drumsticks, four WINGS and a beakful of teeth. If Snape or Hargid aren't with you, you don't go." "But...."
"But nothing! I mean it boy, you are a member of this Cave, of MY Clan, and you aren't going to be doing things that are dangerous or potentially so until and unless I am satisfied you know what you're doing!" Jim gripped Potter's shoulders gently, but firmly. "You are the Son of the Mage's Hearth and will eventually bond with my daughter and whoever your third is. I know your childhood has SUCKED up until now, but you will have one. All I want from you, is for you to be a boy. Let the adults deal with problems." And the big man hugged the suddenly trembling boy. "Don't worry about it kid, we know how to love children!" "Doesn't mean you won't have chores, though, son." Jane told him. "Everyone has to do their part. It does mean that there is NO darkling evil prince-wanna-be warlock * here *! And I am a mage, after all. Ask Severus how much of a chance a mere wizard has against one." "None, Mr. Potter. None at all."
"Severus, his name is Harry. Use it. This isn't Hogwarts, and though you are welcome to be a mentor you are not the primary teacher here. That's Blair's job and he's both good at it and likes it. This is NOT a school and we're not that formal here. I suggest you learn to relax." Scribe chided. "We're going to have to housebreak you, too, I think." "You will." Streeter snickered.
"Yeah, you. The lady with the purple hair." Jane paused. "Oh shit. Damn it. Snape, you have a problem. Approaching at 3 O'clock." "Damn!" He exploded. "I don't mind the Weasley boy, Miss Granger, or even Draco , but did NEVILLE have to tag along?" "The walking disaster area?" Jim inquired. "Precisely!" Snape groaned.
"Hmmm, this is going to seem a tad mean, but..." Jane said. "We'll let Peja handle him. "She needs something to keep her busy, anyway." As a result, as soon as the four kids landed, Streeter lead Neville to Peja's Hearth and handed him a half-dozen Tau fruits. Peja stared at her. "THAT'S NOT WHO I MEANT!"
Jane patted her on the shoulder as the witchblooded boy changed into a Siamese Seal Point Kreelo. Her hand-prints left green spots on Peja's fur of the same hue as the toy slime-in-a-trash-can kids on Earth play with. The spreading spots glowed. "But it is who you asked for."
Snape listened to Hermione's explaination for the children's presence, sighing in resignation. "At risk students are being routed to this location. By portkey!" Jim raised a brow. "And this is a bad thing? Let's get these other's placed at a hearth, and fed. We can work out details later. MEGAN!" He bellowed, bringing the Aussie outside with a startled look. He explained the situation. "This young lady is assigned to your hearth, I'll take the red-head, and Simon will deal with the blonde." The girl hesitated. He looked down at her, then squatted. "What's wrong, dear?" "Um, you're Jim Ellison, right?"
Startled, Jim looked at her again, "How did you know?" "Um, I used to watch The Sentinel on the telly, and this is weirder than finding out I was a witch...." She wavered. "Uh oh." Came another voice. "Let me handle this, Jim." Blair said softly. "She's scared." And Blair Sandburg put his arm around Hermione's shoulders and led her off for a little chat." Scribe watched and grinned at the dazed look on Jim's face. "Hey, we warned you." "Uh, yeah, you did." He stood, shaking his head. "It just startled me." "I can see that it did. Oh shit. You're not gonna... damn it!" She found herself pinned against the wall of the cave, with Jim sucking on her new hair. He was so intent on it, she couldn't get him Unzoned by herself. "BLAIR!" She wailed.
Simon watched as Ben stalked nude into the main chamber with a Tau fruit in his hand, said something to Gage who took it from him with a frown and explained rapidly. Benton returned to his mates and Johnny frowned angrily as he turned his attention toward the boys known as Ron and Draco. Gage gestured for Severus to join him, speaking quietly, but now Simon had his hearing turned up and was listening. He called for H. and joined the two men. At that point, Simon was reacting as pure parent-cop. "Now, I ain't saying they did anything, Severus. I'm just saying we need to know if they might have, or if it was just carelessness. This is not a fruit to have accidents with." John was finishing. "I noticed. It's amazing that such a clumsy boy would turn out to be such a graceful creature as Neville is now." Snape shook his head. "I had thought that Streeter was being somewhat cruel, when she fed him that stuff, but as it turns out, it seems to have been the best thing she could do for him. He's calm, steady, and quite content." He sounded bemused for a moment, then returned his attention to the matter at hand. He looked over at Potter and called the boy to him to explain. "Uh oh. It could go either way...Ron I know wouldn't do anything on purpose, and I don't think Draco would...." Harry paused, cocked his head, "Why is Fannie screaming at the top of her lungs, John?" John turned, hollered to Simon, who did an about face and went to find out. //And I thought I obeyed Sandburg fast, shit that man is powerful!// Banks snarked to himself as he rounded the corner of the entrance to the lodge and saw Ellison pinning Fannie to the outside wall of the cave. Jim was apparently eating her hair.... "Oh SHIT! Ellison! Damn it!" He muttered. "SANDBURG!" He bellowed, wincing when he hurt his own ears. But he heard Blair returning, so he folded his arms and waited. "Simon what...oh. Damn. Easy there, girl, I'll have him off in just a sec..." He crooned to Jim, patting his arm as he had done so many times, his voice low and soothing but insistent as he separated Ellison from his 'snack'. A moment later, Jim's eyes focused and he began to cough and spit out bits of glowing purple hair. "Jesus, oh man. Fannie....." Blair said in sympathy, looking at the spot where Jim had chew a good-sized chunk of hair off her head. "Look, I'll trim it tonight, okay?" "Trim it? Trim it? How much did he eat?" She moaned. "Uh, you don't really want to know that, okay, you don't, really, trust me." He bit his lip as Jim cleared the rest of the hair out of his mouth. Jim's teeth were purple, his lips nearly black, and somehow Blair just knew his sentinel's mouth was going to be glowing in the dark, inside and out. Fannie stared at him, groaned, and slithered down the wall. "Six months of this?" "Well, Jane said something to me on the side about multiple flavors. Something about a new one every week...." Blair wheedled. "Great, just great. I hope it gets to "Pineapple" fast." "Um, Jim hates pineapples."
"I know. That's the point." She complained. "When it does, I'm going to see if Snape can get it to stay there for the duration. Either that or treat him for hairballs." "Hey!" Jim barked. "I didn't do it on purpose!" "I know." She relented at the hurt on his face. "But I gotta do something." She patted his leg, which was still near where she sat on the ground at the base of he wall. " Now help me up and keep your lips out of my hair."

Snape glared at Draco who had just admitted to his face that he had slipped the Tau fruit into the Mounty's pack. "Shit, Snape, what does it matter? Their just muggles!" "Actually, they are NOT muggles, you stupid boy. They are magic users, not witches, no, but they aren't squibs nor are they muggles." "They're not?" He sounded stunned. Then why aren't they using any power?" "Who said we aren't, boy?" Came a hard voice from behind the little blonde. "There are more forms of power use than there are grains of sand on any beach you care to think about. Witchery is only one, and a fairly low level one at that." He turned to look at the woman who had spoken and the tall, dark figure of his Hearth Father who had followed her back inside. Jane literally glowed with power. She let him see it, register the fact, and released it without using it. "I knew leaving the Jedi out of this too long was a mistake." She grit out, then looked at Snape. "Draco lives at Simon's hearth, Simon will deal with his punishment as Hearth Father. His real son vanished two years before we Called this group to service, but that is the fault of the Jedi Council. One of their masters took the boy as a padawan when his powers surfaced out-of-control. They age regressed him to age three and started over. It'll be a while before he is allowed to remember who he is. Right now, they have to get his link to the Force under his control. He was simply dangerous to be near, at the time, requiring the attentions of experts. Young Daryl is fine, though. I told Simon this during one of our lessons while still on Earth. The point is, here, that Simon Banks is an experienced parent. He'll handle Draco just fine." Simon took the boy by his arm, bent him over without a word, and used his large, calloused palm on the blonde's ass. He spanked Draco hard, until he howled. When it was over, he held the kid, cuddling him, soothing his tears. "You were never curbed, ere now, youngster. And you must be, if you are to be a productive member of the Clan." Simon told him. "Now come along, and be fed." He told the crying boy as he led him away. "Corporal punishment was not permitted at Hogwart School, and his parents didn't bother. But he's needed that for a long time." Was all Severus said. "Well, he'll get it. As often as needed, now if you'll excuse me, I need to send out a Force Call." She said, and departed. Jane sought a location that was isolated, shielded up to prevent another abduction, and prepared her supplies. Unknown to her mates, she had been fasting for three days to prepare for this. As she chewed a peyote button, she sent her mind in search of Sandburg's, made contact, and told him what she was about to do. She also informed him that she had already ingested the peyote. His mental grimace made her chuckle a little, since she knew Blair was well aware that she would be high as the proverbial kite in a few short minutes: Particularly after taking the peyote on an empty stomach; in the wake of a three-day fast. //It drops the barriers of your mind as little else will, Shaman.// She told him formally. //Were you aware that I set us down in the Old Republic?// //Old Republic...oh gods...Star Wars, JEDI? THAT Old Republic?// He stuttered in disbelief. //Oh yes. Tell Snape I've got three new-made House Elves to offer the Jedi Council for their Cre`ches, maybe they can teach grace to a house elf. Draco snuck them along, and while there are few beings in existence with as much sheer power as an elf, a house elf is the single most clumsy being I know of. You definitely do not one the young ones around. Innocents, they are, but cause disasters also. Usually while trying to "help". Best get them masters from within the Temple. Anyway, I'm sending a Force Call to summon at least one Jedi team to assist. You people need lessons that I am not qualified to teach, now. I am so proud to be able to say that. You've all done so well."// Sandburg could hear little sentimental sniffles in his mind. // Are we supposed to become Jedi?// //Don't know. You'll have to ask Yoda.// Blair choked. //YODA? Crap!//
//Blair dear, the Clan has nearly caught up with me and my Core in skill. Now we must learn together. Until the Jedi Council indicates otherwise, anyway, this will be my final act as the High Council's Representative. Once the Call is made, it's going to be in Qui-Gon's very capable hands. He has the task of making of us whatever we are too be to get this done.// //Holy Cow, Batman!// Blair quipped.
//Smart-ass!// She laughed at him. //Now, give me mental stillness for an hour or so. And tell Scribe to shield the area, I'll give a mental call when I have recovered. Oh, and don't warn anyone but Jim.// //Why just Jim and not Scribe?//
//Because I want to enjoy the look on her face when Qui Gon and Obi arrive, and because you'll be swimming in moose drool for a week if you spoil it?// //Oh. Oh no, not a word, I promise.// He reassured her hastily. //I swear!// //I sorta thought you'd see it my way...// She burbled at him. Then she calmed. //Maintain your mental presence, Blair-bear. I want you to see how this is done.// She felt his affirmative, and sent her mind spiraling outward seeking a particular presence. It took hours, but finally she located him and tapped politely at his mental shielding. The Master Jedi was understandably startled, but allowed her communication. He recognized a mind he knew. //I had no idea you were so strong in the Force.// Qui Gon said after she finished her report. //Who is that with you, watching?// //This is Blair Sandburg, a full Shaman and a Guide to the strongest Sentinel I've ever seen. You may wish to inform the Temple that we have two Force Strong infants for the crches, also. They are of a species known for a combination of power, a willingness to do anything they can to make others happy and to serve, and for an appalling clumsiness. I don't know if you'll ever be able to train them fully, but you are the only folks I know with a chance in hell of doing so. I really hate to have to ask you to give it a try, though.// //That bad?//
//That clumsy? Oh yes. Imagine an infant with Yoda's power at birth, running at full blast, with NO controls...// Across the mental link, Blair could feel the other man's cringe. //And there are three of them. Not siblings, no, but they are age mates. Think you can get someone to retrieve them? And we want you and Obi to handle the Clan's First Transition. That'll give you about a year and a half worth of breather, keep you busy, and you'll still have plenty of time to train your padawan.// //I'm opening a secondary link to Yoda now.// //Best you let him know I'm using a drug to boost my range, then. I don't need a Force induced headache, thanks muchly. I'm over twenty-five parsecs from you and close to a hundred parsecs from the Temple.// Qui Gon laughed. //Yes, that would overstrain you a good bit. Twenty-five parsecs? How far could you reach without the drug.?// //Depends on who's handy. If a Jedi were close enough to provide the boost, I could talk to Yoda on my own. Without any boost at all, though, I'm rather limited. Can't get much past ten parsecs.// She paused at his gasp. //Oh hush, Qui Gon! What's your range?// //Barely three. Jane, Yoda can't project his mind ten parsecs without a boost!// Qui Gon was stunned. //He can't? Well, why not? It's quite simple.// //Simple?//
//Oh aye. You just catch a ride on a Force thread in the general direction you're going, and let the Force figure out how to get you there. Do you feel any energy drain from me at all? Really, Qui Gon, I would have thought that a Jedi your age would have...are you blushing?// //You can detect that? Damn it, woman!// He grumbled. //We're enroute. And a cre`che team has been dispatched from the temple.// //Your ETA?//
//Ten hours//
//Cool, oh, yeah. Do you know what a moose is, old friend? We have one here that's rather friendly. He's going to want to say hello. By licking you.// //There are worse ways of saying hello, I suppose. I've probably endured most of them, so I think I'll manage.// //Qui Gon, he's a pet, not a sentient. I'm just letting you know so you can shield up. My peyote is running down, dear heart. I need to return to my body. See you and the little lad in a few hours then. Bye.// She withdrew to his outraged //You did an unpowered OBO!// Leaving her laughter trailing behind her as she sank back into her corporate form. She looked at Blair, //I love doing that to him, too serious, our Qui Gon, by far// She roused herself and took the shields down. She was a little weak, but thought she could make it home without mishap. //You are sooo bad.// She felt him examine her and shake his head. //Hold tight. I'm sending Roy to you.// //Yeah, that's probably a good idea. Better tell John to get some dinner on for me, too. So, how's Scribe taking her potential new hairdo?// //Better than Jim's taking the hairballs.// He studied her, //Tired?// //Very, if I'm still out of it when they get here, tell Qui Gon I said for him to use his own judgment as far as bringing me out of it is concerned.// The newly arrived teenagers were gathered in a circle around Scribe and Blair. Scribe was sitting on a stool that Peja's men had constructed. 'Furniture' was a novel concept to the Kreel, and there were also several of them gathered around, watching this strange ritual. The Prime Beta male of the clan was performing some weird sort of grooming rite with his Alpha female mate. It involved clipping away parts of her mane. They didn't understand this. The newcomers were so woefully lacking in fur to begin with, and with the winter coming on, they would have expected them to keep as much as possible. Blair had the sharpest knife in the camp, and was carefully trimming away wisps of bright purple, irridescent hair, trying to keep it even. Scribe was grumbling. "And I thought I'd outgrown razor cuts. I HATE them! I used to get them when I was a kid, because they were fashionable, and it's like having your hair pulled for about a half-hour. And THEN later in life a beautician tells me that's the exact WRONG kind of cut to get with my type of hair, because it makes it frizz more.* "I'm sorry, babe, but it's the knife, or look lopsided till it grows out." "Then quit being wussy and CUT, Blair! Chop that shit OFF! Don't leave any bald patches, but I don't want any more than Mia Farrow had in her heyday." "When who had what when?" said Ron.
"God, the different layers of cultural reality are about to KILL me." "I think that might be partly a generational thing," commented Blair. Scribe looked at Ron. "Ever see Rosemary's Baby?" Ron answered politely, "No, ma'am. Does she live in England?" Hermionie frowned. "I saw it. That's the most DREADFUL sort of propaganda." Scribe made a sympathetic face at her. "I know, kid, I know. Those weren't WITCHES, they were SATANISTS. I know the difference. I had some good friends on earth who were Wiccan. When I got sick I not only got put on the prayer chain, I had candles lit and spells said for me." Jim came over and observed. "You just stand back." "It was the stress, Scribe. I have it under control now. Of course, the glow from my own lips is keeping me awake at night." "I don't mind," said Blair smugly. "Makes certain things easier to do during the night." "EARS!" Jim snapped. "YOUNG ears."
"Like kissing."
Jim came around and whispered in his ear. "Just remember that this stuff seems to transfer. Do you REALLY want to field questions about a glowing purple crotch later?" "I have a feeling it would be FAR from the weirdest thing this bunch has ever seen." Blair took off a last wisp of hair, and rubbed his palm over Scribe's head. "There. How do you like it?" Jim looked disappointed. "She has about as much as I did before you convinced me to let it grow." "Yep," said Scribe, "But mine is NATURALLY curly, tra la!" Severus came over. "Are you done? I think I have something that will accomplish what we discussed, but the less there is to affect--the better." "Go for it."
"Wait a minute," Jim protested. "I'm not sure I want hocus-pocus going on with one of my mates." "Tough. I don't want to risk being grazed into a Sinead O'Connor lookalike if you zone again," said Scribe. Severus pulled out his wand. He noticed the Hogwarts group watching him closely, and said, "This is NOT to be used lightly. In fact, it is purely cosmetic, and I heartily oppose using magic for such frivolities when the power could be conserved in case of emergency. I'm only doing this at the request of our head girl, as it were. It can be considered a gift of gratitude for sanctuary for us all. Madam, do hold still." He made several arcane motions with his wand, and intoned, "Tropicus bromiliade oro cosmitus." There was a shimmer, and Scribe's hair faded from purple to shining blonde. Blair blinked. "I've heard of yellow haired people, but DAMN, Scribe." Jim sniffed, then wrinkled his nose. "Pineapple?" Scribe shot both fists up in the air. "SAFE!" She looked at Snape quickly. "Wait--is ALL my hair like this?" He waved the wand again. "Mons pubis exacto. That should make..." He looked at his expectant former students. "Um, the rug should match the drapes, as it were." Scribe peeked into her pants, then grinned. Jim sighed. "If you notice it beginning to turn purple again, just let me know, and I'll renew the spell. Now, if you will excuse me, I do believe that one of the plants looks promising for relieving sniffles." He examined a slick trail on his sleeve, then looked down at Royal, who had toddled over and grabbed the hem of his robe. Royal grinned, then sneezed and rubbed his face on Snape's robe. Snape sighed and began to walk back to his study area. Scribe noticed, though, that he took small enough steps so that Royal could keep up. The Kreel headman entered the cave, and went right to Jim, who took him aside. There was a low conversation of mews and hisses. Hagrid respected the privacy of the two leaders, but watched in fascination. He was irresistably drawn to magical creatures, and had classified the Kreel as magical, though he had been assured that they were perfectly normal for this world. The Kreel sensed his immediate affection, and greatly admired his resplendent hair and beard. They also discovered quickly how good he was with the very young. At the moment three Kreelo kits, each about the size of a small dog, were crawling all over him, tangling in his beard, chirping and hissing fiercely. He plucked a tortoishell female from under his beard, wincing a little as a tuft of hair came away. "'Ere, now, little missy! I may 'ave use for that sometime, so you just leave it attached to my skin." The kit purred roughly, then began working her tiny paws against his bare arm, claws pricking. Hagrid smiled fondly. "Well, that's all right, then." Scribe stood up, dusting off hair. "I'd better go interpret." Blair laid a hand on her arm, shaking his head. "Jim's doing all right. We can't rely on you and Jane forever." "But..." Scribe watched as Jim rubbed his chin on his shoulder, mimicing the gesture that the Kreel used when they were pleased about something. "You're right. Heck, I'm the woman who used to grouse because we had people who'd been living in America for over twenty years and still didn't know the language." Her eyes narrowed. "But does he realize that that little whisker stroking motion he just made is telling the head man that he finds him attractive?" Luckily the head man was happily married to as many wives as he could handle, and politely declined. Jim turned beet red when he realized what he'd done. "You taught him that one, didn't you?" Blair grinned. "Now I know what my Daddy meant when he told me that if you had someone teaching you a language, you'd better be damn sure you could trust them." //Jane?// Came the soft mental voice into her mind. //Wake for me, will you little sister?// //Qui?//
//Aye. Quite a little group you have here. This is the final selection, then?// //Aye. And I'll tell you one thing: I can just am not cut out for that alpha thing, Qui. Have a good long look.// Qui Gon Jinn examined her memories, particularly the ones she didn't know she had, having been too ill to consciencely remember them. He sighed and gently soothed her still rough edges with the Force. //Thanks. Dunno why I couldn't get those. Sith-damned things wouldn't hold still long enough to get hold of.// //The type and placement would have required outside adjustment in any case, little sister.// //Ah. Damn, I'm glad you're here. Bring me up and out, Qui, I went a little deeper than I intended.// //I noticed.// He answered dryly, if Obi had done that.... //Obi dies inside a little bit every time he disappoints you, I hope you're aware of that.// //Is it like you are with your Guide and Anchor?// //You know, for a smart man, you sure are dumb. Yes, it's just like that, only without the Triad to complicate it. You are a pairing, so I suggest you accept it before you tear that kid apart. Hurt him long enough, and he'll do something drastic meant to get your attention.// //He is a padawan.//
//He's also a teenager.// She sat up, then, and glared at him. //Hormonally imbalanced since he's literally cell-soup right now, emotionally chaotic, which is perfectly normal in a 16-year-old male human, and energetic to the point of impossible. He needs to be allowed to play, Qui. Jedi Master you may be, but there's still alot that seems to go right over your head.// He paused, then shook himself and sighed. //Don't even go there, Qui. What happened with Xan was a failing of HIS not your's. Put bluntly, you were used by a coniving little brat of a boy. He fed you what you needed so he could get his own way. That's all. That happens to a lot of people. Get over it and grow up, will you? Obi needs you, we need you, and there are several hundreds of millions of people who are going to die if you can't get over yourself. And I mean die slowly, over time, as the Sith kill off hope and leave emptiness in it's place. I don't mean a phyical death, I mean Soul-Death. Is that what you want?// //Hell no!//
//Well? You best to get past it, then. Because the way you are right now, you are STILL allowing Xan to use you. He will continue to be able to use you until you stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with the business of living.// He stared at her, //You don't miss a damned thing, do you?// //Not when it concerns someone I care about.// She heaved herself to her feet.//We need to get back to the cave. Oh, before I is the other team managing with those House Elves?" "They took them aboard ship last night." He asnwered aloud now. "And immediately were treated to a good example of the "Maybe" assessment." "And?"
"Yoda is shipping out in a fast scout to meet them on the way in. They actually pleaded for his assistance in the matter." She chuckled unkindly. "He needs a challenge, anyway. He's starting to get fat and lazy." Qui Gon laughed, hard and long and loud. Obi Wan was staring at his master in shock. Jane grinned and put one arm around the youngster's waist and the other one around Jinn's. //Relax, kid. He's gotta loosen up or he's gonna break instead of bend.// She told Obi on a tight line. //So I want you to get into mischief. We have several Force Sensitive children here, some your age and some not. You get to know them. None are under jedi disapline. They learned a different path, but it's Lightside. You can feel free to 'trade' styles with them, if you like. Just get rid of some of that energy thru play. You need to loosen up, too, baby-boy.// //But my Master expects...//
//I'll handle Qui, Obi. I have for years. Did you know he's my brother?// //Whaaa?//
//Oh yes. Same parents. He is my oldest sibling. Which pretty much means I can say and do things, get things done, that noone else can get away with.// She grinned. //I'll even teach you how to tease the devil out of him, and get away with it.// He gave her a blinding grin.
"What did you tell him?" Qui groaned.
"You'll find out. Eventually."
He groaned again. "You're gonna do what you did with Sarsia, aren't you?" "Oh yes. Most certainly. You are not God, Qui. It's time he understands that. You most certainly have feet of clay." Then she started tickling him, hard. Two seconds later, Obi had joined in and they both nailed the by then helplessly laughing Qui Gon. He had not one shred of dignity left by the time she stopped and motioned for Obi to step away. The boy was happy, laughing, and loving it. Qui was on his hands and knees in the dirt, gasping for breath, still giggling occaisionally, and twitching some five minutes later. "Jane, damn it sis...shit." He rolled to his side. "Damn it, it's been a long time. Too long." He panted. "Forgot how good it felt just to be loved." "Yeah, I noticed. Well, bro, I'm gonna remind you, and make sure Obi knows how to keep you reminded." "Uh oh. I know I'm in trouble." He cast mournful eyes at his smug sister and grinning padawan. "Gimmie a hand up." "Uh, Obi? Don't do that. It's a trick." "SIS!"
"Yes ma'am." He kept out of Qui's arm's length. "Did you just call me "Ma'am"? She glared at her brother. "Oh crap, now I'm in for it!" He lunged to his feet and pulled Obi behind him. "Come on, padawan. Hurry...she hates being called ma'am...oh HELL!" He stopped and looked over his shoulder at the wet blob in the middle of his back..."Padawan, what did she throw?" " don't want to know, master. Really. Trust me on this." Qui could smell it, though and groaned. "Pasture Pie? How very...mature..." "Exactly. Besides, you aren't a Jedi to me. To me, you're just my brother. That makes you fair game, Qui. Actually, is river clay,and that's just as bad." "Why?"
"Oh, you'll see..." She said as she rubbed more into his hair. He noticed she was using the Force to make sure none of it touched her. He suddenly had a bad feeling about that clay. "Sis....?"
"Oh hell!"
"Yup. Just in time to meet everybody, too. Oh and Qui? They're ALL your new IN-LAWS." He moaned in mock dismay, but his eyes were twinkling.

Qui Gon blinked at the large number of people and assorted strange animals that were approaching. For him to think they were strange, it had to go some. After all, he'd been in some of the seediest cantinas in space--he KNEW from strange. "Jane, ALL of them?" Jane nodded happily. "That, brother, is the largest contingency you're likely to see in one place of Guides, Sentinels, Anchors, and Mages--at least any time soon." "But ALL of them?"
"A couple of the kids--no. Or at least they haven't manifested yet. And the tall, lugubrious looking dude is a simple wizard." She elbowed him. "Who is a little full of himself and his 'magic'." Qui Gon cocked an eyebrow. "Doesn't know about The Force, eh?" Jane shook her head. "And having him learn about it in a short, sharp manner wouldn't hurt my feelings any." Introductions were made all around. The two Jedi were amused to find that at least one of the Clan members felt she knew them from movies and stories in her own universe. "I'm glad to see we got the young version of you, Obi Wan. I have nothing but respect for Sir Alec, but Ewan McGregor is a babe and a half." Obi Wan eyed the very tall, very POSSESSIVE looking man hovering behind her. "Is this a wise discussion to have with your husband right here?" She shrugged. "I talk--he knows that. He also knows that I don't touch." She cocked her head. "Well, except my OTHER husband." Obi Wan blinked. "And you can't tell me you haven't run into polygamous societies in other worlds." "Yes, but usually it's multiple wives, single husbands." "So we're progressive. Love the braid." He fingered it, thinking that this tribe must attach a great deal of significance to hair, judging from the amount of it on display. Though most of the men were clean shaven, the one who DID sport facial hair had a formidable crop, and a number of the Clan members actually had fur. "Thank you." "Tell me, are the fanfictions true? Is it really good for steering when you..." "SCRIBE!" Jim was beet red.
"Please excuse her," said Blair. "I think she's getting Jim back for eating her hair. She knows that he still gets embarrassed fairly easily around newcomers. Scribe, behave." She stuck her tongue out at him. "No need to spring to my defense," Obi Wan assured him good naturedly. "I can take care of myself." He looked at Scribe, and she suddenly shot about twenty feet up into the air. "HEY! Jane, are you sure THIS one isn't your brother? BLAIR, STOP LAUGHING! And go catch Mitri. She's running for the Polaroid, and she still has film left. I WOULD wear a damn tunic instead of pants today." "She's taking it remarkably well," commented Qui Gon. The glowing green cat woman shrugged. Her speech was a little sibilant, but Qui Gon made it out. "Thisss isssn't NEARRRLY the weirrrdesssst thing to everrr happen to herrrrr." Harry, who had followed Mitri, came panting back, waving his broomstick. "I got the camera away from her and gave it to Roy," he informed them. "Can I go up and get her, Jim? Please? Everyone is here to supervise." Jim looked at Obi Wan. He was obviously torn between laughing and yelling. It was a strange situation, but it was clear that the grinning young man meant his mate no harm. "You can try, Harry." As the boy eagerly threw a leg over his broomstick and started upward, Jim called, "Scribe, I've TOLD you that your mouth gets you into trouble." "Tell me something I'm interested in hearing, Ellison." Harry was hovering in mid-air beside her. "Nice ride, kid. Seems to me it could be kind of painful, considering where that broomstick lies. I never COULD figure out how boys rode those bicycles without the dip." "Just climb on board, and I'll have you down in a tick." She sighed. "God, you're so young and optimistic. I'll try." She swung a leg over the broomstick, mounting up behind him. "Now, hang on to me tightly."
"Sweetie, I'm not sure that's such a good idea." "Safety," he said firmly. "It's the first thing we learn in broomstick riding class. You really ought to have a safety belt, as new as you are." "Okay, I'll hang on to you, but you're going to regret it. Trust me." She took a firm hold around Harry's waist. He directed the broomstick down. It went. Harry and Scribe, however, remained up in the air. The broom had slithered from Harry's grasp before he realized what was going on, and now it thumped to the ground directly in front of Snape. He raised a sardonic look to where Potter was dangling in Scribe's arms. The woman had an amused, long-suffering look on her face. "I did try to warn him. I could feel that my weight hadn't settled on the broom." Jim was chuckling. "Okay, that's enough. Bring them down, Obi Wan." "No need." Snape tossed a superior glance at the two Jedi as he pulled his wand from his robes. "I'll retrieve the reluctant aviators." Obi Wan looked at Qui Gon, and silent communication passed between them. The younger Jedi's smile spread into a grin as he folded his arms, waiting. Snape waved the wand. "Descendus." Nothing happened. He frowned, and repeated the spell. An insect that resembled a hand sized dragonfly dropped like a stone to flutter around his feet in confusion. Qui Gon drawled, "I hope you don't intend to be that abrupt with them." Snape frowned, then tried something else. The wave was a little more elaborate this time. "Subtractus elevatia." Nothing. "I don't understand this." He shoved his robe's sleeves back up his forearms. "Right. No mucking about now." He spread his arms and intoned. "ACCIO!" "Whoa!" Scribe and Harry jerked in mid-air, but stayed up. "Damn it, Severus, do ya think you could be a little rougher if you TRIED? I almost dropped him." "That's enough," said Qui Gon.
He hadn't needed to tell Obi Wan. The moment someone was endangered, it ceased to be all right. He lowered the woman and boy, slowly and gently. He smiled at them. "No hard feelings?" Harry beamed. "Are you joking? That was BRILLIANT!" Scribe shrugged. "What's a little levitation between friends? Come on in. You haven't met everyone yet. Ben, Stan, and Dennis are still honeymooning, and most of the babies had to stay in the cave, because they have colds." As they started toward the cave, Jane was still chortling, eyeing a very miffed Snape with glee. Scribe said to Qui Gon, "So, you sent the house elf kits off with Yoda?" He nodded. "If I remember correctly, they're at t heir clumsiest and most disaster prone when they're trying to be helpful, and they're the most helpful creatures around." He nodded again, smiling. "I'd pay to see that."

"Master Yoda, you have to DO something! One of them was trying to make you tea, and he set fire to the galley. I don't know how the hell he managed it, because everything is supposed to be fire-proof, but he DID it." Yoda sighed, putting a hand over his eyes. "And then we lost a roomful of equipment when one of them opened an air lock. Said she wanted to 'put out the trash'. I'll never know HOW the hell she managed to hang on to that grid till we got it closed up again, but we can now safely say that complete lack of oxygen doesn't damage them." Yoda sat down wearily.
"Then the third one insisted on doing the laundry. Every single article of clothing the crew has is now PINK, and that color has DISTINCT significance on the planet we're scheduled to have shore leave on. The crew memebers who AREN'T bi are severely pissed off." Yoda shook his head slowly. "Going crazy I am. A lot to answer for, has Qui Gon." His eyes squeezed half-shut in suspicion. "Or have I just been Janed?" "Did you hear that inquiry?" Qui asked his sister quietly. "Yup. Gonna let him stew, though."
"I have no idea how you managed to graduate." "Told a lot of lies, brother mine. And I'm better at making event arrangements than you'll ever be. Yoda found that out the hard way, years ago. He's safer with me in the field and out of the Temple and he knows it." "You mean he was safer."
"Well, yeah. Now he's got elves."
"Best part is, it could well take every active master to contain the little shits, and since there's only one of me, it's actually logical to send them to HQ." Qui mused. "Holy YODA'S UNDERDRAWERS! YUCK!" Obi yelled, Force shoving two large herbivores away from him but not before one of them had liberally smeared slobber all over the side of his face. Qui intervened, "suggesting" to the over friendly creatures that they were hungry. They wandered off without a fuss. "Eeeeewww!!!" Obi said in disgust. "Hmmm, you must be over sixteen; they don't scent-mark a body younger than that." Jane grinned. "Makes you the oldest child here, Obi. She scooped something up from the floor. "I don't care if Qui likes it or not, here. You are padawan to my brother and that makes you my family too. Here's a birthing-day gift. The Council knows me, so once they know who you got him from they won't give you a problem." She handed him a wolf's cub from the newest litter. The little male was three months old, and a silver-gray that matched Qui's hair. Obi mentioned that and Qui shot him a sharp look. "Don't say it, and don't think it." She hissed. "He's of the age of concent, and if he wants you as much as I think he does, and needs assistance in getting you, I'll make sure he gets it, big brother. Leave the matchmaking to me. You're rotten at it." "But..."
"You gonna take what happened with Xan out on Obi? He doesn't know I can kick your ass, but I'm more than willing to show him. And I won't stop when you start to stumble." "JANE!"
"Hey, like I said earlier. To Me you are nothing more important than my brother and if I think you need your tight little tail stuffed between your shoulder blades, I will make sure I get the job done." She paused, hands on her hips, to stare up at her tall brother. "And you know it!" "Empty hands."
"Of course, don't wanna hurt ya."
He groaned when he saw Obi staring at him like he'd grown a second head. "Master?" "Yes, I'm afraid so, padawan. I'm afraid so. But she's my sister so what can I do?" "Um...take it?" Scribe sniped at him.
He groaned again.
"Hey, Qui. Chill. Just let it happen. What will be, will be. Ain't you figured that out yet? Come on." She yanked him along toward the hearth. "You got four nephew and a niece to meet." "Five kids? Damn it, girl!"
"Five kids in under three years. You remember my mates, right? Obi, Roy's the best daddy in the cave and will act in that capacity for you while you and Qui are here. John is an excellant playmate." "Hey!" John laughed. "Obi, I've made a sleeping place for you over here. Qui, here's your's." "Rather open, isn't it?"
"Yup, and you'll just have to get used to hearing us have fun at night. Be better for both of you if you let that bond take." Obi Wan gaped at her. "How'd you know?" "Please. Do you really think I could kick his ass without being quite capable in Force Manipulation?" She just looked at him. "What are the teachers these days coming to? Shit, you never used to be so damned anal!" "JANE!"
"Well, you are!"
"FORCE, you never did learn how to pull a punch, did you?" "Oh, I can. But why bother? I've really missed you, Qui. I can say anything to you and you said that's what big brothers are for..." She saw his face soften. "You're right. We are." He sighed. "You're going to drive Yoda batty, aren't you?" "Nope, gonna let those three baby elves do it for me." "You Janed him, didn't you?"
"Hmmm, could be." She grinned at Qui, I sure hope so. I'd hate to think that much planning fell flat." Obi burst out laughing, he laughed until he got a belly ache, couldn't see through the tears in his eyes, and couldn't breathe through his stopped up nose."You know he deserved it, what with his constant plotting." "What goes around, comes around?"
"So, this is payback for the Incident." "Ohhh yeah. Well, it's part of the payback." Qui stared at her in dread. "WHAT?"
Did you know that Yoda's race is genetically compatible with House Elves? Did you know I stuck an extra elf on that ship? Or that it's a female in heat?" "Oh Force...sweet, sweet FORCE!" Qui began to swear loudly and luridly. "Tiny, destructive hybrid yodas running all over the Temple? Oh no...." "Bet you're glad you're here instead, huh?" You better damned well believe it! Oh SHIT that's gonna be a mess!" "At least we don't have to either deal with it or clean up after it, Master." Qui Gon Jinn suddenly developed a most un-Jedi expression of glee on his face as he considered that, grinned at his giggling padawan, and sat down on his bedding to watch as his sister started supper. "Well, now. That is a good notion. We do, after all, have a job to do here. Can't just go haring off, can we, my Obi Wan?" "No master. I guess we'll just have to miss this one." "Undoubtedly."
Then they both busted out laughing as Yoda's thoughts were projected to them. Uncontrolled Chaos was the overall theme. Yoda Felt exhausted. He also informed them, with a mean snarl, that he had ordered the Council to assist him in the care of and control attempts of those lovable kids that had been wished on him." Qui cut the connection, shielding to hide his laughter. "Oh boy, Yoda won't forget reality again real soon. Damn!" In Space
"Master Yoda?"
Yoda groaned, turning over in his little sleep niche. "Sleep I must. Handle problems, YOU must." The Crewman Reynolds twitched. "Believe me, if it was just the usual crap, I wouldn't bother you. We're getting pretty good at handling the house elf situation, though it would be a lot easier if you'd just let us stuff them in a storage locker till we landed and could hand them off." "Cruel that would be."
"Look, when it comes down to survival, sometimes you can't be the perfect host. Anyway, it isn't the three little ones who are the problem right now--it's the female." Yoda frowned. The three house elf kits were named Bucket, Plimsole, and Modesse (he had a mental image of a woman with impossibly golden hair swatting a large, chuckling, green glowing cat for some reason, every time he heard that name. It was as if it held some significance)--two boys, and a girl. "But a tiny little girl she is, not even up to your knee." "Not that one--the OTHER one. We have a stowaway." This would have to be dealt with. While they were no longer at the stage in space flight where one unexpected passenger could change dangerously change the logistics of the flight, it still had to be dealt with. Yoda reluctantly got up. "Where is this one?" Reynolds led the shuffling Jedi master out into the hall. "Someone had put her into a personel locker, aparently after giving her some sort of sedative, or something. She's been sleeping peacefully, up until a few minutes ago. Then..." He rolled his eyes. "Hooo, boy." "Frightened, is she?"
"No, that's not the problem. I'd say she's angry." There was a clang from up ahead. "Make that pissed." They could hear a high pitched screeching, and the crewman winced. "Crap. I had a Siamese cat once who sounded like that a few days every month till we got her fixed." Crewman Toliver and Crewman Booj came flying out of the room up ahead, wide-eyed. "I wouldn't go in there," Booj advised. "Sure, she's short--but so is a wolverine." "Poor thing is frightened, yes," said Yoda sympathetically. The crewmen all exchanged looks. Finally Toliver said, "He's not going to believe us unless he sees it himself. Yoda, just LISTEN, will you? Let us lock the door and leave her in there till we land and get reinforcements. We can pipe soup under the door to feed her." The screeching voice had become a little easier to understand. "My time! My time, and here I am! Poor Teacup! No sweet house elf to cuddle. All alone, all alone. Except for GREAT HULKING HUMAN MUGGLES! What use? Tree trunk to keyhole that would be, and I'm desperate, but not stupid, I ain't. Poor Teacup. No kits for Teacup." The voice rose in a howl. "Muggle come back and maybe Teacup scratch you down to size!" Yoda handed his walking stick to one of the crewmen. "Think I am armed, she must not. Wait. I will calm her." He walked into the room. Again the men exchanged looks. "I REALLY don't think he knows what he's doing," said Toliver. "Hey," said Reynolds, "have you ever tried to second guess a senior Jedi master if you don't have The Force? It's easier to get a brick wall to notice you." A metal cup flew over Yoda's head, narrowly missing one large ear. "Miss, calm down you must." The little creature, not quite as tall as he was, had its back to him. He knew it was female from the assurances of the crewman, and the voice DID have a slightly feminine tremor, but otherwise the scrawny body clad in the shapeless rag looked fairly sexless. The hair WAS long, falling over narrow shoulders in lank brown locks to swirl around where the waist should have been. Yoda blinked a little, realizing that the creature's ears were as large and floppy as his own. He felt an odd stir that he hadn't felt for several centuries, but quickly ignored it, since he had a duty to fulfil. The elf was stamping and muttering in a language that Yoda didn't recognize, but he was fairly sure that it was swearing--very unladylike language. "Go away big hulking useless Muggle. Unless you are wizard boy and can make yourself my size, you no use to me!" "Not a Muggle I am, Teacup. Want to help, I do." Teacup whirled, and Yoda blinked. There HAD been a tiny jiggle of movement under the loose shift, so she WAS definitely female. She also had absolutely huge, moist, dark eyes. Yoda had a tiny nose and mouth himself, and he found the house elf's proud beak of a probiscus and wide, thin mouth oddly compelling. Teacup stopped in mid-swear and stared at the squat, handsome, MALE, and sexy creature before her. Her wide mouth stretched in a smile that seemed to go half-around her head, and she batted almost non-existant eyelashes. "Ooo," she crooned. "Green house elf." Yoda looked to either side, puzzled. When he looked back, Teacup was slinking toward him, licking her lips. "Um... Miss, elf I am not." "Caring I am not." She pounced. "Fit you will!" CLANG!
Booj winced as the howling and screeching, now in sopranno as well as falsetto, started up. "Reynolds, are you SURE we should be doing this?" "Trust me--I remember from my cat. Sex is the ONLY thing that's going to shut her up and make us even marginally safe. Besides," the sounds were more enthusiastic than upset now, "Maybe Master Yoda won't be such a tightass, once he's gotten laid."
Sentinel Evolutions, Chapter 8, Jane #6 Qui Gon had forgotten what a handful his sister could be, and was trying very hard not to laugh while she outlined Yoda's comeuppance. He felt a little guilty for telling her how much advantage the council had been taking of himself and Obi. He'd given her a brief history of the last several years, but she had then hauled his padawan off to some sort of game the other kids were playing. While his attention was on something else, she had grilled him in a way that he hadn't realized what she was doing. Now his little sister was bent on making her displeasure at the way he'd been treated known in an unmistakable and lasting fashion. "And you see," She continued to explain, "they will each be so "helpful" that each "infant" will cause as much mischief as all the other Padawans, combined. Yes, I said other Padawans. Can you see the Council allowing creatures with that much control over the Force to go untrained and unchecked? Considering how much sheer power House Elves have, the Darkside is in serious trouble." <>
"Well, considering how clumsy they are, so is the Temple, but at least the Jedi's will have a chance to learn how to see trouble coming and know when to duck, dodge, or just flat run to get out of the way...." He was appalled as he listened to her tell him just exactly what else she'd arranged for, as she put it, "Mr. Great Grand Master Jedi Yoda" and she said it in the most disrespectful tone of voice possible. "And it's a breeding heat. He's going to be a new daddy...and won't that set the Jedi Council on it's collective ear! The Gestation period of female elves is a scant two weeks, after all, they aren't just Force Sensitive, elves are Force BEINGS. There's big difference, ya know. They can have litters of up to 30 babies." She told her horrified brother. "Yoda's ship is still gonna be several weeks away from the relative safety of the Temple when she gives birth. And baby House Elves are capable of running and getting into trouble within days of birth...Yoda is going to find himself in all sorts of trouble via his offspring. He won't be so staid and stuff after this particular trip. Exhausted but not so anal." She finished with a great deal of personal satisfaction. "I'll teach that little green shit not to mess with my brother!" "Oh my. Gods of Our Childhood, this is just...." Qui finally desolved into laughter. There just wasn't anything else to do. It was done. "Little girl, mama would've whipped your ass so hard...." "No, she wouldn't. After you left father was so mad he...." She broke it off, paling a little and refused to look at him. Nor could he get to tell her what their father had done. She left the hearth leaving him to stare after her. A hand touched his shoulder and he looked into the dark-haired man's eyes, seeing the deep soul that lay there. "There's some things you need to know, Qui Gon." And John quietly told him what his father had done to his sister. "She finally got found in a search when she was twelve, and matters proceeded normally enough after that. She said you had your hands full with that Xan boy, and as far as she could tell, you didn't even know she was a padawan. I think you know how that made her feel." John paused, then said, "She wants her brother back." Qui had gone as still and as quiet as a stone, sitting without any motion at all until Obi, drawn by his master's distress ran into the Cave. The bond was wide open, and Obi got the details immediately. "Oh Force...oh my poor master...." Obi breathed in compassion as he pulled the older Jedi into his strong young arms and simply rocked his master gently for a long time. John watched for a while, monitoring them both until Jinn seemed to snap out of it, the Jedi seemed to have aged five years in thirty minutes. "She's fine, Qui. Now. Just...try not to hurt my wife again, will you. She always thinks it her own fault. And she takes it to heart." "I was pretty well ruled by my crotch, in those days." He said soberly, at last. "My judgement of Xanatos was not good, and everyone knew it except me. I like to think I've done a better job this time." "Oh master, I swear to you..." Obi started, then saw the sad, proud smile on his master's face as the Jedi shushed him. "I know, she's already chewed my ass on the subject. And she's right." He snorted, "She usually is." He looked up at Gage, "She never told me about our...sire." "No. She doesn't speak of it. Ever, not even to me and Roy." "Do you know why?"
"No, but she told us once that you would. Some reference to living and time." "Living in the Moment. Yes." He relaxed against Obi's chest. "Again, she is right." "Master?"
"It's time to start practicing what I teach, Obi. You are not Xan and I shouldn't act as though I think you're going to act like he did. And she did threaten to kick my ass if I didn't stop using the whole incident to feel sorry for myself. She's correct. Self-pity and the Jedi Way do not mix." "It's about time!" The boy exclaimed, hugging Qui hard. Then , just to change the mood, Obi himself applied recent lessons taught to him by his master's sister, and began to tickle the tar out of Qui Gon Jinn.

Sentinel Evolutions, Chapter 8, Jane #6b Qui let it go on for a while, but Obi didn't know all of his sister's tricks to keep him from accessing the Force, so he ended it himself when his ribs were sore from laughing. Obi wasn't too startled to find himself shoved gently to one side, but he grinned when he realized that his master had been unable to stop him without using the Force. He said so, too, laughing in delight. Qui Gon chuckled at his grinning padawan, admitting this. "Master, with a human there any remote possibility that tickling considered a weapon?" He trailed off at the started expression on his elder's face. "Let me consider that, padawan. It never occurred to me, frankly. But you could have something, there." He had a weird look on his face as he considered it. "Force could be used to do the tickling from a safe distance...particularly for an enemy who has done no wrong, is only afraid of you and fights only because of that fear. This could save someone from an avoidable and undeserved death or maiming at our hands " He smiled broadly at his padawan. "At times like this, you make me so proud that you are my padawan, Obi Wan." He said quietly. "Oh master," The boy breathed, his face lighting up at the rare praise. Qui was ashamed of himself, he seldom told Obi how he felt, and the startled happiness pained him because it was startled. "Come here, padawan." He told Obi and enfolded the lad in his arms for a hug when his apprentice obeyed. "My sister's going to have my hide when she figures out what I've done to you, padawan." "What do you mean, when?" Her voice sounded behind him. "I'll deal with that later, though. Qui, I hate to say this, but I'm about to put you to work. Officially."

He looked up at her sharply. "There aren't very damned many things that are bad enough to make you say that to me. What's wrong?" "There's a non-sentient lifeform here that finds the young of any species tasty, for one thing. Qui, have you noticed the ages of my children? The first four were by C-section and Annie is only a couple of months old. We don't have medi-droids, Qui, so the surgery method was more than a little barbaric. I'm not physically capable of dealing with it. I'm sorry but I'm not. I'm mostly healed, but I'm still a long way from having my endurance back. OBI would have a better chance of handling the current situation than I would, regardless of inexperience, simply because he's healthy. That's one thing, the other thing is, I got rather sick trying to handle all of the details by myself, and handle so many alphas at the same time, especially since I'm NOT an alpha, and my strength was predictably sapped from that, too. To be blunt, we may both be Jedi, but you're healthy, and I'm not. Plus, you're my brother. Bond of Blood or Bond of Calling, would you tell me no?" He blanched. "Of course not! Damn it, how could you think I..." He stared at her. "Got suckered into the position of Senior Master, didn't I?" She grinned at him. "Thanks, bro. Hope the senior shit includes hugs, this time. You forgot, before." He knew she was thinking of her years in the Temple and knew he'd hurt her. "Force, I am so sorry, little one." "Nah, he wouldn't have understood, hellfires, Qui, I knew that then. Why do you think I didn't just cave in your door once I knew how?" "Cave in the door?"
"Master or not, you're still just my brother. I tell Yoda that and you can bet your sweet ass I'd've got away with it." She grinned a good bit. "And he'd've reamed you a new ass for ignoring me like that. Good thing I read you that good, huh?" He sighed, she was right and he knew it. "Um...I sent a message to the Council requesting Masters for the other kids. Even Mitri since being Shaman trained, her Force Signature is rather distinctive. Neither she nor the children from the Wizard school are aware that it's the Force they've been using, and not Magick at all. I also asked for the Master's sent to be simple Jedis. Just knights, not like you or that hooligan you used to run with." "Hooligan? Oh! Mace!" He grinned at her. "Hooligan, indeed. And what of his opinion when I report that nickname to him?" "And what of his response to you when he says, "Oh Shit! Is your sister still calling me that?" "You didn't?"
"Wanna bet?"
"Oh damn. No wonder he kept referring to disrespectful names and frowning at me." "He's your year mate, by definition..." "Hey!"
"Wait til I tattle on you to Obi."
"Tattle?" Obi's head came up and he stared at the siblings one at a time. "Master doesn't do bad things." "Not anymore, but I can tell tales of his padawanship that will curl your hair, Obi. Or for that matter, stuff he got into before he got searched. Like that time with the hertisiwis eggs...." "Gods..."
"Or that time when you and Lin Cui Matthewson got into Mrs. Forester's...." "Enough!" Qui Gon yelped. "Enough!"
He heard "Obi Giggles" as he protested the tale-bearing and sighed. "Who has the information on the baby-eaters?" "That would be Ellison. I turned over Clan Leadership to him months ago, once he'd been properly housebroken." "I HEARD THAT, STREETER!" Jim hollered across the cave. "Was counting on it, Jim. Wanna join this pow-pow or are you gonna just sit there?" "I get no respect, none. She picks on me, constantly." Jim said by way of greeting to Qui. "You mean you didn't know?"
"Know what?"
"She only picks on people she really likes a lot." If she tends to give you your way all or most of the time, she not only likes you, she sees you as both vulnerable and precious." Jim froze and stared at Jane, who shrugged. "Fannie knows that, she could have informed you at any time." "She didn't." Jim thought for a moment. "She never contradicts Blair anymore. Ever." "Well, then. Picks on you and allows your husband free rein. She must love you both a great deal." Jim turned to look at her, but she had already slipped away to deal with issues that she had not handed over to the older Jedi. "Why'd she leave?" "She is not comfortable with what she terms "Mush". " Qui answered quietly. "Every time she picks on you, though, she's telling you she cares. Keep it in mind. It can take years to get her to let you in, but the wait is worth it." "She's just like you, isn't she, Master?" Qui looked down at Obi's wonder-filled face. "In a way, I suppose. I don't pick as much, though." "When I've been your padawan for enough years, will you let me in?" Obi Wan asked wistfully. Hot tears suddenly gathered behind Jinn's eyes as his apprentice revealed his lonely wait with that simple question. He hadn't meant to hurt the boy. "You're already in, Obi. You're already in." "I am?" Obi looked surprised.
//Shit, what the hell have I been doing to my padawan?// He wondered. //No wonder she was all over my case!// He put it aside for the moment, though and began to question Jim on the subject of the baby-eaters. "Ah, yes. The K`Rach is what the natives call the beasts," Jim began as he started to tell Qui what little they knew of the creatures. "The 'K' in the language means that something is alive, Rach apparently means wicked or evil. My wife and husband are better at the language than I am." "So, living wickedness or living evil." "They sound like Sith, master." Obi said with a shiver. Qui rubbed the teenager's back in silent comfort, but addressed Ellison. "Have you sent anyone to check them out yet." "No, not yet. The children have colds and there's nothing like sick toddlers to keep adults busy enough to require all available hands. He went pinch-faced at the thought of the extra smelly diapers he'd been changing lately. "I'm glad you're kin to her, though, Qui. It means she won't let you out of your turn on Baby Detail."

"This, believe, I do not." Yoda muttered as his ship docked at the Temple with twenty-two children bouncing off every structure of the ship. Twenty five, counting the slightly older three. He found himself remembering the night the House Elf had rocked his world. "Force-strong I am, but not so strong as she. "With very little sense, a being of Force, she is. And no more so, the younglings do have. Live this down, I shall not." The Grand Master sighed in resignation as his children bounced down the gangplank and into the waiting hands of an equal number of un-partnered Jedae. (Plural) Force put the youngsters in close to the new masters, many being Masters but not all. Several were merely powerful Knights. In the ten minutes it took to walk to the Temple itself, bonds had already formed due, Yoda suspected, to the fact that the Force was very much aware of the doings at the Temple where so many accessed it continually. It apparently did not wish so many younglings so able to manipulate it at so young an age to go unmonitored any longer than the minimum period of time possible. The fact that the Force had attached one of the little males of the original trio to Yoda himself made the little green master sigh. Shortly after entering the building, Mace found himself with the other male and a very surprised Bant got to watch as the little female darted into the Master's Mess hall to survey the "Pickings".
Before any of them had really registered her presence she had picked one out for herself and the training bond flared brightly between herself and the startled Master she had chosen. He was an experienced Master, though, and recognized it instantly. He smiled down at the little Elvess in reassurance. "Well, little one. This was unexpected, but a bond that attaches at that speed is Force Chosen. I will not contest it. I will be your Master." She cocked her head and looked up at him, sensing a difference in the way this man meant the term 'master' and the way those who had enslaved her ancestors had meant the word. She had no shields yet, and every knight in the mess hall heard her. Including her horrified new master. He lifted her to his lap immediately and reassured her. Then he got Elven history from her, and she got a solid wave of reassurances from every adult in the room. She knew what an apprentice was, and she liked the fact that the term Master was indeed different in this nice place. That was born in on her quickly, as he obtained clothes for her immediately. But no amount of warning could have helped the newest padawans' masters prepare for the Elven-Style Hell Week. The gardens had never felt Elf Touch, and the health and growth the touch of an Elf imparted. In minutes the unchecked Flow of Force created a jungle in each Meditation Garden, the Agro-Gardens tripled their production, and the two Pleasure Gardens had sprouted fragrant flowers on plants thought to be long dormant. The Kitchens produced masterworks for the Elven padawans' master's table, for the instinct to serve was strong in the House Elf blood, and they prepared out of love what had been demanded from them in contempt on Earth. Leaving the kitchens in shambles and the regular cooks nearly in tears, when they finally departed. They attempted to clothe their chosen Jedi richly, which their masters refused. So they made sure, instead that the dull-hued cloth was of the finest materials. On that issue they would not be budged, claiming that anything less would shame them. Every Jedi in the Temple found themselves possessed of a pet. A very special pet. One that would act as backup for those who had partners and solid defense to those who did not. Ridged-Backed Mini-Dragons were wise not to anger, and were quickly identified as developing sentiments. Close to real sentience in fact, that the Jedi were needed to oversee the process anyway. Particularly since, according to the pureblood trio, they had been hunted for their hides nearly to extinction. All that remained were those who had been paired with the Jedi. With some misgivings, the pairings were allowed.

Jim, Qui, Snape and Ben had gone out to have a good look at the K`Rach horde, each studying different details of the predators prey, weaknesses, strengths, habits and social order. They looked for sick or ill animals and Qui tested them for any trace of sentience. Finding none, he finally nodded. "Animals, all of them. Neither sentience nor developing sentience do I sense." "That makes planning and execution of those plans much easier on heart and soul." Jim commented. "True. At least there won't be a war over this." "Oh? That was said in the tone of a man who would know what it feels like to be the unwilling pawn or cause of more than one. Jane gets that way, sometimes." "I am a Jedi." Was all Qui said in response. "Yeah, well you're also a human being, so stop selling tickets on yourself, will ya?" "You don't waste words, do you?"
"Not often, no. I got screwed once and that was enough." "How so?"
"Ask Blair or Scribe. Like Jane, there are things I don't discuss. Actually, haven given my oath not to, I can't, now can I? I was a soldier, and like any mission gone bad, my superiors had it classified." Jim shrugged. "Ah." This time the tone was of complete understanding. Their eyes met and both men nodded. "Do we have what we need?" Fraiser asked, taking in nods all around. "Then shall we return?" He asked of the Jedi. "I wish to check on my Guide. He is not the most secure person, and tends to try to cover that with sarcasm. I hope Ray has been able to cope." "Indeed," Snape said with feeling. "He is more sarcastic and has a sharper tongue than myself at my worse." "It is fear of being hurt." And Benton explained, with Jim filling in details when the hurt closed Benny's throat. The other two men listened in compassion, and nodded when everything had been said. "I will be wary of what we say and do, and leave his recovery in the hands of his mate." Snape told him. "And I shall assist with the Force where I may." Qui Gon added in quiet reassurance. "We'll get him past it and into the happiness of a healthy soul."
Obi was trading training with Harry, Ron, Draco and Herminone. The Witchblooded children were stunned at not having to be dependent on wands to focus with and were excitedly experimenting when a transport landed to deliver several Jedae to the planet surface. When the Jedae approached, Obi bowed low in respect. "My master is with the men of the Cave, observing the predators called K`Rach. They are not yet returned. My master's sister is in the Cave, masters." "Sister? Qui Gon's sister is here? Oh crap!" Muttered one youngish knight. He sighed and turned his attention to the waiting children. One by one each Jedi Knight or Master Jedi offered his hand to one child, until only Harry and the knight who had spoken remained. They looked each other over for a moment, then the thirty-five-year-old Knight Haron-Ki held his hand out the distrustful Harry. "Come, padawan. I will not harm you. And there is a very great deal for you to learn." But it was Ron who told his master why Harry was so distrustful and therefore it was Master Lui-Bei who told Haron-Ki what the problem was. Haron-Ki knew that having already been betrayed several times, Harry would not be easily fooled by the Dark Side of the Force or by those who served it. But that would also make the training bond imperative. He, Heron-Ki, must be trusted, after all, or the boy would learn little.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the same planet, but not too far away?

TW crept out of the bushes, shaken and scared, her tiger pressed close to her side. Behind them, Carter and Malucci, with their animals, crept just as silently. They?d all witnessed the horrors of the K?Rach, though they hadn?t stayed around long enough to know that that?s what they were called, and were more than willing to go home. They?d only just now found their way to the place they?d been transported to when they had first arrived on the planet.

TW, being the boldest, was the one who yelled towards the sky. "Get us off this godforsaken planet!! We can?t stand it any more. I can?t stand it any more!!"

The response, however, didn?t come from a source that the distraught woman expected.

Plette was the one who spoke. Or thought, since tigers can?t speak.

TW sputtered. "How?wh-who?er?what?huh?" she finally finished intelligently.


Dave finally caught up with TW, carrying Ned, since the little platypus, though fast enough in water, couldn?t keep up on land. Carter followed seconds later, carrying Bugs for similar reasons. And were treated to the sight of their mate crumpling to the ground in tears.

"TW, honey, what is it?" asked Carter in alarm.

"We?I?that is?" her words were punctuated by sobs and gasps as she attempted to speak through her tears. Malucci figured it out before Carter. It didn?t take a whole lot of detective work, since Plette was Sitting in front of TW, tail twitching, a strange look of pity on her face, which was amusing on all on it?s own.

"We can?t go home, can we?" he whispered, settling on the ground next to his mate.

She shook her head, wiping tears away from her eyes. "No. And we have to go back. Plette's going to show us the easiest way in the morning. Apparently, we?ve been going pretty much in circles, and we aren?t all that far away. Half a day?s walk."

Both men marveled at TW?s lightning fast change of mood. Her ability in that had always astounded them.

The next morning, refreshed from a solid night's sleep, the three Core members gathered up their few possessions, decided who was going to carry which of the two spirit animals first, and set out for the cave, and their new permanent home. They just hoped it wouldn?t be too cold of a welcome.

Sentinel Evolution, Chapter 8 Scribe #6

"Jim, do you have any idea why my padawan is laughing like a lunatic?"

Jim looked up from the hopper he was skinning. "Who's he with?"

"Your wife."

"She's probably corrupting him."

Qui frowned. "I don't sense any of the Dark Side in her."

"Don't let HER hear you say that," warned Blair. He watched the couple, who were off to one, near the river. "Judging from the way she's shifting her shoulders, I'd say she's singing to him."

Qui's forehead wrinkled. "But could that be so funny?"

"You don't know the sort of songs she knows. Sometimes I really wish I could have a chance to visit her previous universe," said Jim, "If only to appreciate the relative sanity of my own."

Obi Wan was kicking weakly, tears rolling down his cheeks. He struggled to his feet and staggered over to the other men, chuckling weakly. When he plopped down beside them, Qui Gon said, "And what was so amusing?" That set him off again. Jim shook his head and carried the hopper back to their hearth to toss it into the pot for lunch. Blair sat patiently, sure that it would be worth waiting for.

Qui gave the younger man a concerned look. Blair shrugged. "The last time I had that reaction, she'd sung What Lies Beneath the Kilt to me."

Finally Obi Wan sat up, gasping, "I... I'm sorry, mah-master." giggle "She knows a song about Yoda."

Qui frowned. "Yoda is a well known and respected..." Obi Wan went into another giggle fit, and Qui Gon talked over him, "respected Jedi master, but I've never heard any ballads about him."

Blair was laughing, too. "I've heard this one! I didn't even get the cultural references to the movie characters, and Obi couldn't have gotten the musical reference to The Kinks, but it's still..." He started snickering. Finally he waved his wife over. "Do it for Qui. I can't--I'll laugh too hard."

She smiled and bowed, then started singing to a cheerful, bouncy melody. "I met him on a swamp down on Dagobah, where it bubbles all the time like a giant carbonated soda. S-O-D-A, soda. I saw the little runt sitting there on a log. I asked him his name and in a raspy voice, he said, "Yoda." Y-O-D-A, Yoda. Yo yo yo yo, Yoda..."

Qui Gon's mouth dropped open as she continued singing. Blair and Obi were rolling on the ground, helpless. Blair was right--he DIDN'T grasp a lot of the concepts, and he had no idea how Obi Wan had gotten into the song, but the total irreverence came through loud and clear. When she stopped singing, he just sat there, looking stunned. Obi was still chuckling, but he eyed Qui with disappointment. He'd hoped the song would help continue to loosen him up, be something they could share. He sighed. "You didn't like it at all?"

Scribe smiled at the young padawan. "Wait for it." Suddenly Qui Gon HOWLED, falling back on the ground. There was even a little fist pounding in there. Scribe smiled. "Never underestimate the power of Weird Al. It just takes a little longer to sink in for some people."

Qui Gon was red faced and gasping, holding his sides. "Oh... oh... oh, that is just AWFUL! Wonderful." sniff "But you know, it very neatly sums up one of our principles when it says 'stay away from the darker side, and if you start to go astray, let the Force be your giude'."

Scribe pointed at him. "If you DARE to find some deep, philosophical meaning in that, I will tell Heart that around your hearth is the new 'housebreaking' area for all the wolf pups." Jim came back out of the cave, moving rapidly, with a spear in his hands. "Uh oh. Everybody get ready to run for the cave. That's 'this could be business' if I ever saw it." Jim stopped near them, cocking his head as he listened intently. Then his expression smoothed out, and he looked at Scribe. She said, "Good news?"

"I guess it'll make you happy. I'm not sure how Jane will feel about it."

He started back toward the cave. "I hate it when you're mysterious!" she yelled.

A couple of minutes later a very sheepish looking TW, her two companions, and their spirit animals stumbled into the clearing. TW said, "Um, Scribe, look, I know I sort of flew off the handle, there, but you gotta understand that I was pretty stressed out. Anyway, I'm sorry, and I hope you won't be too mad, and we can..."

Scribe walked over and glomphed her. "Shut up, idiot. As if I settled into this thing without kicking and screaming a little." She stepped back and swatted her friend lightly. "I AM pissed with you for running off into unfamiliar territory like that. You only THINK getting stranded in a bad neighborhood at home was dangerous. You're lucky something didn't take you as a snack," she smiled at Carter and Maluci, "though I suppose those two and the tiger might have had something to say about it. C'mon back to the cave. You have people to meet."

They started back. "I thought we'd pretty much met everyone," she said.

"Oh, that was several plot twists ago. Are you familiar with Due South, Just Shoot Me, and the Harry Potter fandom?"

"Some more than others. We got some of them?"

"Among others, Benton, Stanley, and Snape." She wiggled her eyebrows.

TW squealed excitedly. Maluci and Carter exchanged looks, and sighed.yo yo yo Yoda Chapter 8 Jane #7 (NC-17 HET WARNING)

(Since this is a co-write, I see no reason not to post here, too.)

Jane looked up, sighed and nudged John. "I'm not going to say a word. Guess the planet must've introduced itself."

"That would be my bet, yeah. Come on, girl. Roy's about to be very busy...Obi can't stop laughing."

"Nuh, you're about to be very busy. Got something to show you. In the back of the second level cavern system." She hid her grin as she led John down the twisting narrow corridors. OH YEAH, she had something to show him all right. "In here."

He looked around a little cavelet that had all the appointments of a little lovenest. At a whisper of sound he turned his head in time to watch her cloak hit the floor. He smiled, "Naughty girl."

"Horny girl, big difference." She stepped toward him as he removed his shirt then his leggings. "It's been days, what with Qui and Ben's Core getting here," She sighed, "Feel how wet I am!"

He put gentle fingers into her shaved cleft, rubbing softly. "Yeah," He said hoarsely, "But why back here?"

"Qui's not quite up to having his sister have sex in what he'd view as public and Obi is really not ready for it. I don't think the Hogwart's kids are, either, for that matter." She said as he bore her to the waiting furs, covering her lithe form with his lean one. She sighed as he spread her legs to look at her dripping snatch, he made a small sound of longing, then lowered his mouth to her slot.

Johnny licked her slowly, lapping up her juices with increasing passion. His erection was full and thick as he savored his girl's flavor, but experience told him she'd been like this, ready, for too long for him to make her wait. Her undulating form called to him in a silent plea for relief. John moved over her, lined up and pushed. He heard her low moan more as a vibration than as sound and his hips began to move....

Qui Gon shuddered unexpectedly at a surge of pure joy in the Force, identified the signature as his sister's and turned bright red. //I am a Jedi! SHE is a Jedi! The fact that it's my sister who's having an orgasm has no bearing!// He scolded himself silently. It didn't help much, though. She was his baby sister!

{Shut up, QUI!} He heard in his mind and sighed.//Like she'd let me get away with that...//

{Shut UP! I bet Yoda is ready to explode and needs an ass to chew by now. Want I should ask him to discuss this with you?//

{I'm shutting, no Force NO, I'm quiet...see?}

Obi watched Qui in confusion for a moment, then comprehension lit the boy's face and he looked soberly at his master. "I guess you need that, I know I do...I don't suppose we could, um..."

Qui stared at his padawan.

Obi squirmed under the stunned gaze. "I want you, Master."

"Let me think about this, Padawan. You startled me."

"That's not what Jane said yesterday."

//Oh FORCE! SISTERS!// "Ummm..."

Yoda was ready to scream. The Temple Infirmery was in shambles all due to the efforts of his "Oh, Please, let me help, Master" offspring. The infirmery had never been so full of well dressed, well fed, cut up, bruised and concussed Jedi. The true elves were no problem now that they had masters. On the contrary, they were quite adept at all forms of Force Use they'd put their minds too, which didn't surprise the little Jedi Master. The purebloods were made from and of Force, children of the Force itself. It made sense that as their parent, it came much more easily to their hands than any other being, himself included. Yalrn, his Elven Apprentice, could do nearly anything with it. It was training clumsiness out of him that was going to take time. He was so attuned to the intangibility aspects of the Force that the physical ones were hard for Yalrn to grasp.

Yoda suspected that was the problem with his children, that, and being hybrids. New, never seen before hybrids, at that. No one knew what their strengths and weaknesses were, yet. But the Jedi were learning, ohhh yes, one injury at a time they were being educated rapidly.

It helped to know that the Senate was, if anything, in worse of the purebloods had accidently incinerated all of their records, burning the Senate Building to the Foundations in a split second while harming nothing else, and physically damaging the High Chancellor in the process to the extent of mindlessness. The man had gone mad, revealed himself to be a SITH LORD, and had been immediately attacked by several Jedi and slain finally by Mace.

Which meant that the Council couldn't even be angry about the several Centuries worth of destroyed archives. They just groaned and notified all Jedae in the field of the events and told them to start doing inventories of planetary records, to be forwarded to the Temple where Senior Padawans would organize it, then turn it over to Knights to be code-worded and re-archived.

Yoda sighed as he considered all the Sith-damned secrets such a venture was bound to uncover. "Loving, generous, Beings of Light, are they." He grumbled. "Clumsy, also, and mortal. Where but here for such? Innocents, also, are they." Yoda felt yet another pounding headache coming on.

"Master Yoda! Master YODA!" A panicky padawan squalled as he ran to the little green Grand Master, and dove behind him to hide. Yoda stared in consarnation at the horde of trueblooded House Elves running toward him. ADULTS About forty of them. No wonder the padawan wanted somewhere to hide! All knelt in submission before the dagoite. "Master." They intoned as one. "Thou hast freed our kind by they mating with one of us. Thou art the Master, how may we serve thee?"

Then they all started singing Weird Al like it was his family Anthem

//Qui Gon, GET you for this, I will.//
Sentinel Evolutions, Chapter 8, TW#2

TW allowed herself to be pulled towards a part of the cave that she hadn?t been in, eagerly anticipating a meeting with Snape, Benny, and lots of other nummy males. She waved at Carter and Malucci. "I?ll be back later. You stay here and be good. Perhaps you should explain what we saw in the woods?"

Both men paled at that, but couldn?t see a reason why they shouldn?t, especially when Jim all but stabbed them with his piercing stare. "What was it that you saw in the woods?"

"Disgusting evil beings devouring children," said Malucci bluntly. He?d never been one to mince words, and wasn?t about to start now. "I think they were of the same species as that thing that took over Jane?s form here just before we left, but I wouldn?t swear to it. We couldn?t watch for long."

Blair nodded in sympathy. "I?m certain I can understand. The Kreel call them ?Living Evil?, basically. And yes, they eat young."

Carter shuddered. He looked towards the part of the cave that served as the nursery, for both human and non-human young. And then he thought of TW. This was so not going to be fun.

TW was so relieved that Scribe wasn?t angry with her that she didn?t protest when Royal was handed to her for snugglage. It did take her a moment, though, to figure out why there seemed to be almost twice as many kids as there had been before.

"Harry?" she asked in astonishment, looking at a smallish black-haired boy.

Scribe laughed. "Well, I told you Snape was here, you didn?t figure that some of the kids were too?"

TW swallowed." Well, so far, I?ve been the youngest to come over here?" TW blinked as she trailed off. "Speaking of which?why are y?all still my young age of 20? Why haven?t you revered to 14 or 15?"

"I have a theory about that, actually. I believe that only the bonded Cores age, or effect aging. Since none of the young ones here have bonded into a core, none of the other cores are effected."

TW froze, recognizing that voice in an instant. She turned ever so slightly so she could see Scribe. The grin on her friend?s face answered everything, so TW finished turning and faced Professor Severus Snape for the first time.

Scribe watched as TW eyes widened and her jaw dropped. She thought it prudent to take her child before he was smushed, and did so-not a moment too soon.

With a squeal, TW leaped at the potions master and glomphed him, babbling at high speeds.

"OhmigawdIcan?tbelieveit?stheAlanRickmanversionheissogorgeousScribeyouaresolucky\ thatyouhavebeenabletohavehimherethisissoincrediblycoolSnapeyourockthisissocool."

Snape looked nonplussed as he carefully disengaged his body leech. "Nice to meet you too, Miss TW, but I do hope there won?t be a repeat of this kind of reaction?"

Scribe laughed and pulled TW back gently, depositing the baby back in her arms. "You?ll have to forgive her, Snape. She?s been out alone?well, almost alone?in the woods for weeks. I don?t think she?s quite realized what?s going on.

While TW had been attached to the potion?s master, all of the Hogwarts kids had been taken away to meet their Jedi masters, leaving the three adults with the rest of the babies.

Snape was watching TW play with the children, who had grown immensely while she was gone. There was something about her, but he just couldn?t put his finger on it?

TW, however, was oblivious to his scrutiny, and was finding out all the things that she?d missed.

"Turns out that Jane?s a Jedi, and her brother is Qui-Gon Jinn. She sent three house elves away with Yoda, and got a bunch of Jedi masters to be sent here, to train the kids and us. Oh, and I taught Obi yo yo yo yo Yoda."

TW started giggling. "You didn?t. Well, of course you did, that?s right up your alley. You didn?t happen to think of Livin? La Vida Yoda, did you?"

Scribe shook her head. "No, I never learned the words to that one, actually. Ricky Martin may have a cute bon bon, but?" she shrugged her shoulders. "He just wasn?t it."

TW laughed. "Yeah, I know what you mean, but that song was pernicious. If you got it in your head, you were just SOL, because it?d be there for days and days."

Scribe snickered. "Most songs are like that."

Just then, Obi-Wan came into the Alcove where they were sitting. From the look on his face, he wasn?t too happy, and had come for the anodyne of the babies. And it worked, too. The minute he sat down, he had a lapful of wriggling squirming, giggling babies, and the storminess had cleared from his face.

TW shared a look with Scribe, then moved over to sit next to the morose boy. "Hey, what?s wrong?"

Obi-wan shook his head. "Nothing that hasn?t been wrong before. I don?t know. I mean,..." his voice trailed off.

Scribe got a look of dawning comprehension in her eyes. "He turned you down again, didn?t he?"

Snape, TW, and Obi all looked at her in surprise. Obi stuttered, "H-h-how did you kn-n-now?"

Scribe smiled slightly, eyes flicking down to her children. "Because, sweetheart, I understand. And it?s rather obvious that you love him, and that he is too tied up to realize it."

TW?s confused look suddenly changed to one of comprehension. "It?ll be all right, honey. With you stuck here with us, now, y?all will work things out, and he?ll realize just how much he loves you."

Obi sniffled just a tiny bit before looking up at both women hopefully. "Really?"


Chapter 8, Scribe #7

"Okay, when you put aside the lack of indoor plumbing, central air and heat, and carbonated soda, and you dodge the fact that there are creatures that would like to devour you, this is pretty much our perfect world, TW," Scribe philosophized as they sat around the hearth that evening.

TW's trio were joining Scribe's group for the evening meal. What with the new influx of teenagers and adults, there was now a higher ration of babysitters to babies, and the parents of the clan were taking full advantage. The sight of Severus Snape trying to change a cranky, just walking infant (who had gotten into something that wasn't at all good for his potty habits) WITHOUT magic was priceless.

"How do you see that?" asked her friend. She was settling into the idea that her life had been forever changed, but damn sure wasn't ready to be happy about it.

"Think about it--what did we do with a major portion of our time back home? Wrote slash stories about gorgeous, fascinating men, and stories about US being with gorgeous, fascinating, sexually adventurous men, who wouldn't mind having us in a threesome." She waved a hand at Jim, Blair, Carter, and Malucci. "Well?"

TW nodded in agreement. She was watching as Harry bounced Royal on his knee, while Ron fed Remy. Both boys seemed contented, since family was very important to them--Ron's because he'd been so close with his own family, and Harry because he'd never really had one. TW whispered, "I'm glad the Hogwarts kids didn't have access to our world's Internet. Do you know what your other self was doing when we left?"

"God knows."

Tw's voice went even lower. "Harry Potter fic."

Scribe's eyes got round. "I thought I'd manage to avoid that. I aged them up, didn't I?"

"Oh, sure--seventeen. But," TW leaned forward, "You got Ron pregnant by Draco."

Scribe clapped a hand over her own mouth. "I DIDN'T! Tell me this isn't a comedy?"

"Well, it has some humorous moments, like most of your fic, but no. It hadn't progressed all that far by the time I left, but it seemed to be heading toward Angstcity."

"But isn't Ron in love with Harry, and vice-versa?"

TW snorted. "Of course."

"Oh, God, I'm a SUCH a snot! Don't let them know. Ron's a sweety, and I wouldn't want to upset him or Harry. I'm glad the hormones haven't really hit yet, though I'm not looking forward to it. Imagine all those rapid chemical and emotional changes in a group of force-magic weilding adolescents."

Jim winced. "Please, you're making my head hurt."

Ben, Stanley, and Dennis ventured out into the cave proper, gazing around at the crowd. Dennis arched an eyebrow. "I haven't seen a group like this since Blush sponsered a multi-media sci-fi fantasy fan convention." He blinked as a baby dragon waddled past, followed by Hagrid. "Of course there most of it was foam latex and artificial hair. When does the Wicked Witch of the West show up?"

Jane looked up from her spot at her own hearth, and cocked an eye at a suddenly quiet Scribe and TW. Scribe said, "If you think I'm touching that line with a ten foot pole and latex gloves, you have another think coming. TW, guys, scoot over. Fellas, join us."

The trio came over and sat, Benton saying, "Thank you kindly, but will will only join for companionship. Our nutritional needs have been met in a most gratifying manner since our arrival."

"Yes, well, one or more of you lot had better either know how to cook on an open fire, or learn REAL fast, because while we help each other out, everyone does a share around here," Scribe warned. Ben smiled charmingly, causing Scribe and TW to both shiver a little, and earning disgruntled looks from Carter, Malucci, and Jim, and amusement from Blair. "That will not be a problem. Camp cooking was drilled into me long before I joined the Mounties, and I will be able to instruct both Stanley and Dennis."

"Speak for yourself, John," drawled Dennis. "Do I LOOK like Emeril Legasse?"

Stanley poked him. "You don't have his cute accent, either, Princess, but you'll learn to do your turn, or you won't eat." Dennis smirked at him and batted his eyelashes. "Okay, you won't eat anything that has to be cooked, but you can't live on a liquid diet alone, Sport. And you've moved over into this guy-to-guy thing a lot easier than I expected, given how far you jumped at first."

Dennis shrugged. "What can I say? I'm one of Nature's wonders when it comes to sex." He leered at the two women. "Demonstrations provided upon appointment."

Jim gave a small growl, and Dennis climbed quickly into Ben's lap. Ben patted Dennis. "He did not really mean it, Jim."

"That's what I figured, Ben, otherwise he'd be sticking to the wall right now."

"Are you guys ready to give up your honeymoon suite?" asked Scribe. "The other men set up a hearth area for you. It's getting pretty crowded in here, but there was room for one more."

Ben gave his two mates a questioning look, and received nods in return. "That would be fine."

"Good. We need it." She grinned at Jane, who winked back.

Jane tapped Qui Gon on the knee with her stick. "When you're ready to go to bed, just let me know, and I'll see to it that you and your padawan are shown to your place."

"Oh. I thought that Obi and I would settle in with two of the groups out here," said the Jedi master.

"No," said Jane firmly. "While we aren't inhospitable to visitors, you're a PART of the Clan now, and the individual mating groups need what little privacy they have." She cocked her head. "You remember how you got just when Johnny and I had our fun in another part of the cave? Imagine laying within a foot of another couple, or trio, when they're getting passionate. No, you'll have your own little place." She noticed the hopeful look on Obi Wan's face, and tipped the boy a wink. She shielded her thoughts from anyone else but the boy, and sent, *And if you can't get him to come across when you're alone in the dark, with happy, humping people pouring sexual energy into the Force all around you, boy, then maybe you AREN'T ready for this yet.* Obi got a determined gleam in his eyes, studying Qui Gon. Jane chuckled, muttering under her breath, "Qui's gonna get some. Qui's gonna get some." Chapter 8, Jane #8

Right in front of his master, without Qui being aware of anything at all, Obi asked his master's sister for some tea. It was the way he stressed the word that got her attention.

"That sounds nice, padawan."

"You got a bellyache, too, Qui?"

"Bellyache? No?oh. A medicinal tea, then. Ah, too bad. I could use something to help me relax."

"Try meditating, Qui. I shouldn't have to tell you that!"

"Hmmm, well the last few days?"

"Yeah, I know! The last few days you've actually had the nerve to openly argue with the Force! It's got the Force Threads in the area all sorts of tangled. You've been screwing up MY attempts to meditate, and let me tell ya, Qui Gon Jinn, I do NOT appreciate coming out of trances in a nervous wreck because of it!" He stared at her. "Sweet Force, Jane?I'm sorry?shit!"

"Let the Lifebond take before the Force takes away any control you have. I'd really, really do not want to have to clean up after the results!"

Qui went dead white. "No," He answered shakily.

"Here, drink this, give Obi a cup, go to your own sleep-platform, get naked, and cuddle. This will take care of any inhibitions you think you have."

He drank it without asking what it was, he knew he could trust his sister. He took his startled padawan, made him drink it as he had, and obeyed the rest of her orders. In a few minutes, he had his very naked padawan held tightly in his arms as he apologized for trying to deny what he felt for the youth.

"Holy SHIT!" He knew the instant the tea took affect. "No, padawan?do not purge it. Oh hell, hold on Obi?just let me?oh yessss."

"Let me try some of that stuff." TW asked with a stubborn expression.

Jane rolled her eyes, then looked at Fannie with a raised eyebrow.

"She asked for it." Fannie chuckled wickedly.

"Better make her men drink a cup, each, first."

"Okay, whatever, just lemme have some, will ya?" Steph insisted after calling her Core to Jane's Hearth.

{Thirty-Minutes Later}

"HOLY SHIT! Why am I so damned horny?"

"Well, you did ask for it."

"Ask for it?I just wanted?the?tea? The TEA? That damned tea is an?" She stared toward Qui's hearth at the wildly humping pair, and squalled. Then she yanked her husbands urgently to their own bedding at their own hearth.

"Well, that'll keep her occupied for a while, anyway." Fannie murmured.

"Hmm, that's one way to describe what it'll keep her?" Jane replied. They looked at each other, Then they busted out laughing.

Sentinel Evolution, Chapter 8, TW#3

In their own private alcove-well, at least as private as they could get, within the confines of the cave-the trio who?d drank the aphrodisiac tea was snuggled together, TW in the middle, Carter and Malucci snuggled against either side of her.

"Well, I really should know better to demand something around here," the woman said with a sigh, tucking herself closer into Carter?s side. "Especially when Jane looks at Fannie like that. I really should know better."

Malucci snickered. "Yeah, but it was fun, wasn?t it?"

TW grinned. "Yeah, it was, but lemme tell ya, I hope she didn?t expect it to make me pregnant, or anything."

Carter smiled softly down at his mate. "Well, probably not, considering the fact that we have to worry about a species that eats the young of everything."

TW sighed at that. "Well, it?s just a little too late now. About 3 months late."

At the Jedi Temple, some sort of order was finally starting to prevail. The baby house elf-degobians had finally grown up enough that they knew not to bother their father while he was working in the library. After all the files had been compiled, the elves had tried to help their father by helping to organize them. All they?d managed to do was throw the files into complete disarray.

"Pay for this, Qui-gon will. And Jane. Pay they both will," muttered Yoda, as he ducked a flying tome.

And somewhere, deep within the force, there was a laugh, deeply disturbing, and yet, hardly malicious?just disturbing? Sentinel Evolution, Chapter 8, Scribe #8

"Well, TW," said Scribe, "The plus side is that there are plenty of people to help you out when you have the baby. It'll be like having a dozen or so fawning aunts, uncles, and in-laws arguing over who gets to help with the baby this time." She grinned. "At least for the first couple of weeks. Then you'll be back to changing the majority of diapers yourself. Downside is, of course, no Pampers."

"Is it just me," TW asked, "or is this group growing at an astronomical rate? I mean, multiple births all over the place."

"Can't blame it on the environment, since Jane and I dropped ourse before we arrived. I'd say it has something to do with manifest destiny. We're supposed to pretty much populate a planet, so I guess nature is giving us a jump. I just hope nature remembers to give us the strength for it. Human females weren't meant to reproduce all that often or prolifically. That's one reason why our ancestresses had such a low average life expectancy."

Hermione Granger came over to the hearth where the two women were talking, accompanied by Mitri. "Scribe, you're head woman. I need to get your advice on something."

"Tell him no till you're at least three years older," she said promptly.

Hermione blushed. "What? No, that's not it."

Mitri volunteered. "Looks like that there Ron is going to be stubborn. He's still tellin' himself that girls are sort of a nuisance. I told Hermione that he'd see the light onc't his hormones kicked in."

"Thank you, Dr. Ruth," said Scribe dryly. "I don't know why I'm surprised. The Kreelo mature much more quickly than humans, and the new kids are, of course, hanging out with them a lot."

"And that's where the advice somes in," said Hermione. "You know Palu?" Scribe nodded. Palu was a particularly pretty Kreelo girl, not far along in adolescence. While she was the same chronological age as the Hogwarts students, about thirteen, physiologically and emotionally, she was several years older. She was a smoky blue gray color, with eyes that were even greener than Harry's, set in a piquant, heart shaped face. While the Kreelo didn't make much out of a female's mammary endowments (as long as they could feed kits, that was all that mattered), Palu had more up top than most Kreelo females--Her top set of breasts was almost as big as a human B cup. Being Kreelo, she didn't bother with wearing anything above the waist, and the Clan men had been driven to have a talk with the newly arrived Hogwarts boys (and Dennis) about the proper attitude--namely to act as if there was absolutely nothing remarkable about a humanoid female baring three or four sets of teats. Some of them were having a harder time grasping this than others.

"Maybe you've noticed that Palu likes human boys. She's been spending a lot of time with us, and..." Hermione continued.

"She's got the hots for that there Malfoy, an' she wants Hermie to help her figure out how to catch him," said Mitri bluntly. "I don't know why. Mosta the Kreelo women are pretty direct about it when they want a man. They just back their rump right up, an'..."

"Yes, Mitri--I know. You say she has a crush on Malfoy? Well, he IS a strinking looking boy, even if he is a bit of a snot."

Hermione was glaring at Mitri. "She just asked me what I thought Draco might find attractive." Hermione made a face. "Knowing how he's acted in the past just because I'm not of pure wisard bloodstock, I'm hesitant to help her. I don't want to see her get her feelings hurt."

"How has Draco acted so far?"

"Well, he doesn't interact much with the Kreelo. When he does, he's sort of smirking and condescending, but he's like that with everyone."

"Give her whatever tips you think will help, Hermione. We all have to live together here, after all. Anything that would bring the two clans closer is a good thing." Hermione nodded, and the two girls left. Palu was at the cave entrance, rubbing nervously against the wall. Hermione spoke with her for a minute, then went to her hearth and dug in the back pack she'd brought along. Then the three adolescent girls, witch, human, and Kreelo, sat together. They giggled as Mitri and Hermione wove yellow satin ribbons through Palu's soft, long head and neck fur. Scribe shook her head. "I guess there are some things that are pretty much universal. Girls talking guys is one of them."

Later that evening, a number of the clan went to the Kreelo village to visit. There was usually an informal gathering in the main section of the village--people strolling from group to group, visiting. Things were going well till there was a sudden, shrill yowl, and then a rising babble of voices.

Jim's Alpha instincts led him right to the center of the hubbub. He wasn't all that surprised to find Draco Malfoy there, too. He was standing between Ron and Harry, who were scowling at him. He looked a little nervous, but unrepentant. Palu was clinging to her father's arm (he was a big, black fellow who looked a lot like Tigre might if he'd decided to go upright on two legs). She was bouncing up and down excitedly, making little hisses and chirps.

Jim asked the assemblage in general, "What happened?"

Ron snapped, "Malfoy pulled one of his stunts. I'm surprised Palu's Da didn't knock his block off."

"Hae is usually pretty even tempered, but not when it comes to his children," said Jim. "Luckily Palu doesn't seem upset. She actually seems HAPPY, so I suppose that's why he didn't deck Draco."

Hae was, however, watching the pale wizard VERY closely, with a measuring look. He looked down at his daughter and spoke to her, the Kreelo words rumbling in his deep chest. His tone was questioning. Palu answered quickly, nodding happily, and turned soft eyes on Draco. Jim was beginning to get a bad feeling about this. "Scribe, get over here."

Scribe came over. "What's up?"

"I'm not sure. I do pretty good with the Kreelo language, but Palu's talking fast, and Hae is talking low, and I can't figure it out. Draco did something."

She looked at Draco. "What did you do?"

He shrugged. "I just tugged her tail."


He blinked. "It wasn't very hard. She was hanging around me, waving it practically in my face. It was like she was DARING me to do it."

Scribe clapped a hand over her eyes. "Oh, man. Didn't you listen at all when Blair told you about the cultural significance of the tail, and the protocols?"

"I listened to some of it."

"Well you should have listened a lot close, sonny boy. Opposite sex tail tugging past the age of puberty is considered to be serious courtship."

"What? She thinks I was flirting with her?"

"You WERE, you nit," snarled Scribe. "Even if you don't realize that you were, believe me, your subconscious was involved. And it's WAY more serious than flirting."

Draco swallowed. "How serious?

Hae walked over to Draco and tapped him on the head. "Mua hunona kane."

"He just called you future son-in-law." Sentinel Evolutions: 8, Jane #8?

//Hold it, Qui. Let Jim handle this. Call the master who claimed Draco as his padawan, though.//

//Someone was dumb enough to master that kid?//

//Yep. Draco has it in him to be a damned fine Jedi. However, he's been spoiled rotten by his parents, so he thinks a lot like Xan did. He's young enough for us to fix that, though.// She put her hand on his shoulder. //Steady, brother. I have no intentions of allowing

Draco off this planet. He and his new master have been assigned here, under you, permanently. To both guard and guide these people. You did know about the new Temple being built about fifty klicks west of here, didn't you?//

//Not until I got my daily update this morning. There are about three hundred masters raising the walls at this time. None of them have padawans.//

"Hmmm, I can fix that in a few years, Qui.'" Jane said aloud, "Blair, Mitri and John

are going to have their hands full building a new society, we only have those three who are fully trained Shaman. When the youngest of the Guides and Anchors need certain kinds of training I'm going to send them over there to get it done. Some of them are likely to find the other members of their Cores from among the Jedi. Count on it."

She turned her attention to Master Heri who was just arriving, listened as Jim updated him on his new padawan's predicament.

"There's nothing to be done unless you want to be directly responsible for starting a war, though. He's betrothed, and that's all there is to it." Jane told his master.

Jedi Heri sighed, and accepted it. There wasn't

Anything else he could do. Except train the lad into an acceptable man, then Jedi.

"Heri, I suggest you teach him to automatically recall everything he hears, whether he's paying attention or not. That's a useful skill anyway, and nightly quizzes from you on the events of his day will, perhaps, lower the amounts of trouble he gets into."

"Or not." Blair murmured. She shot a look at him. He met her gaze calmly.


He sighed, smiling a little. //Blairbear. Damn, if Jim ever hears that nickname?// He sighed again. //I'll tell you later, okay?//

//Much later, because you need to tell Master Heri, first. He's taken responsibility or raising and training Draco. Tell him first, and yes, he does hear us// She met Heri's gaze over Draco's head and he nodded to her that, yes, he was following the conversation. //Later tonight I think it's a good idea if Qui, Snape, your Core, My Core and the other Jedi assigned to the Clan have a little meeting at your hearth. That means I'm going to have Obi and Harry take over babysitting this evening.//

//Speaking of Obi?what was in that damned tea last night, little girl?//

//Nothing that wasn't originally in the plant it came from. You were being a jackass and I got tired of having Obi hurt from an unfullfilled Lifebond.//

Heri's eyes went wide, then he glared at Qui for the same reason Jane was glaring at him. Qui sighed. //So?you arranged?//

//Arranged hell, I gave you both the same amount of a tea the whole Clan knows is a potent aphrodisiac.//

Qui Gon stared at his baby sister in shock.

//Hey, I want you settled down. The Lifebond just insures Obi is the right person, or at least one of them. You might get between one and three more, depending. A Core which contains an Active Jedi, never mind two, is often much larger than an non-Jedi or non-active Jedi Core.//

"Shit, Qui, you know all that!"

"Does the Council?"

"Hell no, why give another advantage to people who have enough of them already? I'm not going to do their jobs for them, I have enough to do!"

Both masters groaned.

"Besides, if Heri takes a decent look, he'll notice that what he has with Draco is no training bond, and he's already bonded the same way with Palu, as well. //Sorry, Heri, but that's a Core Bond you've got, and I suspect it's Draco who's about to come online. If I'm right, we'll all be fifteen by morning. You included.//

Blair's eyes went wide and he hustled over to Jim and Fannie, talking fast. Both of them stared at the top of Draco's head in helpless dismay. Jim turned an leveled a look at Jane who shrugged and said calmly, "Look at the bright side, Ellison, we'll all get to see what you look like with a FULL head of hair!"


"And a Cave full of raging hormones is going to be so much fun!"

Fannie sat down, hard, looking at Blair with a dazed expression. "CRAP!" Sentinel Evolutions, Chapter 8 TW#4

After Jane?s pronouncement from the previous evening, every one of the established cores in the clan woke up with a feeling of dread. After all, who really wanted to return to their 15 year old selves?

But they hadn?t. Not one of them was any younger then the 20 years old that they?d turned when TW and her core had shown up. Well, with the obvious exception of the kids.

Jane looked vaguely disappointed, and sat by her fire trying to puzzle it out. But it was Scribe, talking with Blair and TW, who finally did so.

"Do ya think that it could be because they haven?t been here long?" asked TW, carefully weaving a basket as she spoke.

"No, because we all changed over night the day that you got here," responded Blair.

"Oh yeah?well, do you have any ideas, Dr. Sandburg?" TW had taken to calling Blair Doctor because of his degree in anthropology. Since the girl had left Earth as an anthropology major, she tended to consider Blair as her professor and accorded him the courtesy that she?d accorded her Earth professors, title and all.

"Not really?" Blair trailed off as he looked at Scribe, who was thoughtfully watching the new Core try and adjust to each other. "Scribe, honey, do you have a theory?"

Scribe sighed. "A theory, yes. An explanation? Not hardly."

TW grinned. "Well, theories are what humanity thrives on. What?s your idea?"

Scribe glanced at the children in the nursery area and then at TW?s slightly rounded tummy before responding. "Well, first of all, if you were to regress to 15, what would happen to your baby?"

TW blanched at that, and placed a hand protectively over her abdomen. Scribe nodded and continued. "Exactly. And what would happen to all of our babies, with only teenagers to take care of them? Granted, we?d take all of our wisdom with us, but let?s face it, there are certain things that fully grown adults can do that teenagers can?t. And that?s the other thing. If we reverted to 15, how on earth would we have kids?"

Blair coughed. "You know, Scribe, that those stories of teenage mothers that are 14 and 15 aren?t exaggerated."

TW sighed. "Yeah, they may not be, but it?s dangerous. Girls aren?t fully grown, or changed, yet, when they?re 14, 15, or 16. Often, teenage mothers have problems with later pregnancies, if they can even GET pregnant."

Blair sighed. He was just full of all kinds of depressed sounds. "OK, so we?re all gonna be 20, and just age from their, obviously. What about them?"

He pointed at Draco, Heri, and Palu, who were seated in a tiny circle, staring at each other, as if they were utterly bewildered by each other. And he couldn?t blame them. Draco and Palu had seemed to grow up in the middle of the night, and Heri had dropped 20 years off his appearance. After all, every established core was 20, so they had had to adjust to match.

Scribe grinned. "They?re going to learn the same way that we all did. Through a lot of trial and error."

Elsewhere in the cave, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Won Kenobi were staring at the beautiful redheaded girl in front of them. She looked familiar to them, but they just couldn?t wrap their Jedi minds around what she was trying to tell them.

"I have no idea why, but I?m drawn to the pair of you. Can you please tell me why I?m suddenly 20 years old and have an increase in my magic? Please?" Ginny sounded weary, and well she should. She?d said the same thing 10 times now, trying to get the men in front of her to talk.

Qui-Gon, for his part, was more in shock because of his suddenly youthful appearance and energy than because of the Weasley before him. Obi-Wan on the other hand, was too busy staring at the pretty face before him to notice anything else. In fact?

"Obi? Obi-Wan? Hello?" Ginny waved her hand in front of his face. And nothing happened.

Qui-Gon blinked as instinct kicked in. He started to talk to Obi, drawing the newly awakened Sentinel back to reality, pulling him out of his senses.

Obi-Wan blinked. And grinned sheepishly. "Sorry about that. I guess I?m the Sentinel, huh?"

Ginny grinned. "Yeah, I guess so. Does that bother you? I mean, Qui-Gon seems to be the Guide, so that makes me the Anchor. Do you mind?"

Obi-Wan smiled back. "Not at all." He reached out and pulled her close, snuggling her slight frame against his body. "Means that you?re mine."

Qui-Gon rolled his eyes. This was going to be interesting.

Further away from the group, but close enough to see what was going on, Jane was rolling on her sleeping furs, laughing hysterically. Ahhh, it was perfect. Her brother with Obi and Ginny. Life?s revenge couldn?t be sweeter. Sentinel Evolution, Chapter 8, Scribe #9

Dennis was sitting with Neville and Ron. He was gingerly shuffling a deck of cards, which he'd fashioned from some native leaves (they were all squarish, uniform in size, and almost as stiff as cardboard). "All right, time to ante up." He tossed a quarter into the center of the circle.

Neville held up a silver coin. "All I have are sickles. Are they equal to that thing?"

"Let me see." Dennis took the coin and examined it. "Hm." He bounced it on a rock. It rang musically, and his eyes widened at the sound of pure silver, something that hadn't been in American Muggle circulation since the early sixties. And it was heavy, too. "Oh, uh... It's a LITTLE less valuable, but for the sake of sportsmanship, we'll just go ahead and call it even. You boys have any more of those?"

Ron and Neville dug in their pockets, pulling out handfuls of silver and gold coins, Neville a bit clumsily (not surprising, but this time it was because his more feline hands weren't designed to handle small, slippery objects). When Dennis saw the gold, his eyes nearly bugged out. They showed them to Dennis. "Our families raided the vacation accounts when word came that we were being shipped out," said Ron. "It was all they could manage on short notice. Of course Harry has lots more than we do."

"Harry--he's the one who was raised in the, uh, Muggle world, right?"

"Yesss," said Neville. "We ought to go get him to play. I bet he already knowsss how to play this pokie."

"Poker," said Finch, "And let's not bother him. If he knows it, he'd probably be bored." Dennis started to deal the 'cards' "Now, don't worry about knowing what beats what. You just show me your cards, and I'll tell you."


Dennis flinched, and swiveled his head. He was looking right at a pair of knees. He looked up, WAY up. Benton, arms folded over his chest, was frowning down at him. "Oh, hi, Benny. I was just going to have a nice, friendly game of Old Maid with the kids."

"But I thought you said it was called poker," protested Ron. "You said you'd teach us all about straights and full homes."

Neville piped, "And when a hand of nothing alike can beat one with four of the sssame kind."

Ben shook his head. "When Stanley told me that you were planning on fleecing these young ones, I didn't believe him."

"I was NOT going to fleece them--I was going to teach them a life lesson, and how the hell did Stanley know that?"

"He saw you marking the cards."

"Well," said Ron reasonably, "he HAD to mark them. If we didn't have the pips on the cards, how would we know what they were?"

"As much as I hate to shatter your youthful innocence," said Ben, "I was referring to those tiny nicks and bends in the corners that indicate what the cards are."

Neville gaped. "You mean he wasss going to CHEAT?" He gave Dennis a woeful look.

Dennis fidgeted. "Don't give me the puppy dog eyes, kid. There was nothing personal about it."

There was a low hiss, and Dennis flinched again. Peja was glaring at him, golden eyes slitted, and a human sized catwoman, green glow gently fading, was an impressive sight, especially since she was flexing her hands, making the needle sharp nails appear and disappear. "Finch, you ssssnot! He's jussst a kid! And what the hell do you think you'd do with MONEY around here, anyway? If the Kreel want shiny thingsss, they jussst pick shellsss out of the river."

"What--no monetary system?" Dennis seemed truly shocked. "They're not civilized."

"You'd better believe that," said Jim grimly, coming up behind the others. "And Neville's one of their own now. They take a VERY dim view of dishonest and cheating, and PARTICULARLY of an adult taking advantage in ANY way of a child. You're just lucky we found out about it before it went any farther than it did. Dennis, there are CONSEQUENCES for you actions around here, and you won't spend several months in litigation, then get off with community service."

"And besides," Scribe joined them. "Have you stopped to consider the fact that Ron is a magic user? Granted, he's not as up on transformations as Herionie is, but..." she bit back a smile as she noticed the narrow way Ron was watching Dennis. "Actually, Ron might not NEED the magic. I expect he's learned a lot from his two older brothers--Fred and George."

"Too bloody right," said Ron. He scrambled up. "Potions might not have ever been my best class, but I may just go watch Snape for a bit and see if I can figure out what sort of things there are around here that we can use to substitute for the ingredients we had at home." He stalked away.

Scribe smiled at Dennis, who'd gone a little pale. "If I were you, I'd be very careful what I eat or drink for awhile. It was more of a spell than a potion, but he DOES know something that causes people to upchuck slugs."

Dennis turned green and darted away. Neville said, "Missss Scribe, Ron made HIMSELF..."

"Yeah." She winked at Neville, who giggled. "But Dennis doesn't have to know that."

Later Blair looked over when he heard Hagrid saying, "Well, now, Mister Finch, it be right nice of you to offer me first bit o' that nice sweetcake your man Benton fixed up. I'm mortal fond of sweets."

Blair looked at Ron, who'd dropped by their hearth to visit. "How long are you going to let him stew?"

Ron shrugged. "I'm not really going to slip anything nasty in his tucker." He laughed. "I know myself too well to risk it--I might actually hurt him. But I see no reason why Mister Finch shouldn't spend a few days in suspence..." He watched as Hagrid's 'taste' consumed a good two-thirds of Dennis' dessert. "and Hagrid can always use more food."

Sentinel Evolutions #8: Jane #9

Qui stalked up the slope behind the cave toward a figure sitting quietly on the crest above. It had been a weird few days, ever since "The Night of the Tea" and the next morning when he and Obi had co-bonded with Virginia Weasley. He did not care for the shortened version of her name. He felt it undignified?although a shouting match with the girl had taught him to keep that opinion to himself. The girl was no padawan, nor did she intend to be. She had made that quite clear. She was a witch, was proud to be a witch, and he was just going to have to live with it.

"She's giving you fits, again, huh?"

"You could say so, yes." Qui Gon sighed as he settled down next to his sister. He stared at her profile. "You should read today's daily reports?one of those "children" incinerated the Senate Building, exposed a Sith Master, and then incinerated him also"

"Well, that's not really a bad thing, the fewer siths about the better. You and Obi nailed his apprentice, the elflets nailed the master."

"What I do not understand is why the elflet went undetected?"

"The elflet was probably trying to help?honestly. And that's all that there would have been to sense. Ergo?"

"So, he was allowed to?oh dear." Qui's odd sense of humor hit and he started to chuckle. "I bet that was rich."

She looked at him?"Not to mention finding secure new facilities for all of those little bloodless wars the Senate is so fond of. Which, you being here instead of there, don't have to deal with. And it should be fun to watch the High Council manage, impeded as the are by the oh, so-helpful young elves."

"They mature faster than most, don't they?"

"To a point. They'll be the equivilent of a ten-year-old human in about six months?after that they age at the same rate?but they stop aging altogether at around age 200. At that point?" She grinned at Qui.

"At that point what?"

"Well, that's the age-rate for the true elves?the hybrids will live to be a couple of thousand years old, each?"

"And? What aren't you telling me?"

"That they were picked."

Qui Gon paled. "All of them?"

"Oh yes. I told you the Council wouldn't let beings that Force Sensitive go untrained."

"Twenty-two of the clumiest padawans known to ever have existed?who will live at least twenty centuries if they aren't killed, plus the three Elves, who are known immortals? As Jedi?"

"Their kind are immune from the Dark Side, Qui?born and bred to the Light."

She shrugged. "And anyway, that's the least of the trouble in the Temple."

"What did you do?"


"Yes, you. Don't even try to go there?I know better."

"Yeah, I guess you do." She smiled up at him. "Every freed House Elf on Earth was sent to Yoda?under the belief that his mating with a female of their kind freed their race?and?"

"What?" Qui finally rapped out sharply.

"Someone taught them Fannie's Yoda Song before they left Earth?I understand that all of the padawans are singing it, every chance they get?and half the masters as well?"

He stared at her for a long moment?trying desperately not to laugh. "Yoda knows, of course?"

"Oh, hell yeah. There were about forty elves in that first transport, and the first thing they did when they cornered him was to kneel and sing it to him, in person, as though it were some sort of Official Anthem."

"Oh Force! And I had to miss that?" He grinned. "I am so glad you're light sided. I wouldn't want you for an enemy."

"Lemmie tell you something, bro. I'm light-sided because you are. Don't you ever drop that ball, though. Because I wouldn't be the only one to cross that line with you." He tone was utterly serious. Qui just looked at her, knowing that with the multiple bonds and the interactive ones in the Clan, that there'd be one hell of a mess if someone Turned. Too much power here.

"I see what you mean." He picked at some purple striped long-grass. "We're going to take several of the older Hogwart kids out to catch K`Rach in the morning. Harry and Draco?and Herminone. Obi's staying here. Jim said our bond isn't stable enough yet for Virginia to not have at least one of us close by, at all times."

Harry's master will be going, and so will Draco's. You stay here and work on taking over the Interclan politics. Jim's too blunt and Simon got rid of his authority on purpose?and you're senior. Let the other masters get some of the limelight, for once."

"That would work."

"And test Snape to find out just how good he is. It's Force he's using, but I don't think he knows that: And he has learned ways of manipulating it that, quite frankly, we don't."

"True." He nodded. "I'll go tell Jim and assign the masters?it's time Harry and Draco saw some mission time, anyway. And this won't be minor." He started to get to his feet.


Her tone stopped him. "Yes?"

"Without knowing what he faced, or how dangerous it was, and without losing himself, Harry faced and defeated TWICE, defeated the strongest Sith Adept I've ever encountered. Harry still has no idea just what he faced. He's sooo strong."

"Solidly in the Light, too."

"Yes. Tell his master, though. Since this something that poor guy really needs to know. Trust does not come easily to Harry Potter. And that is to be expected after the trials he faced."

"Yes. It is?poor lad."

Sentinel Evolutions, Chapter 8, TW#5
Note: //Words inside here are the thoughts of the characters// And I've decided to make the K'Rach language-less, since they aren't really sentient or sapient...

//What the hell is going on out there?// TW could hear a racket, but she wasn't quite awake yet. If she had been, she might have been just a little on the nervous side...

Outside the entrance to the cave, a guard of Kreelo stood watch, instinctively knowing that their enemy was near. And they didn't know how right they were.

Three miles away, a swarm of K'Rach was moving towards the cave where the Clan slept, unaware of the danger that was heading their way. The K'Rach were hungry...they needed fresh meat...the winter was coming soon, and they would hibernate, and so they needed meat...fresh, warm, tender, young meat...The many-mind of the swarm knew that there was young nearby. They could smell them. And, after all, hadn't they seen them? This was going to be a profitable hunt...that much the many-mind knew. Sentinel Evolution, Chapter 8 Scribe #10

The afternoon sunlight filtered through the leaves of the trees, but little reached the ground in the spot that the K`Rach had chosen for their daily rest. The K`Rach slept twined together in a mass. The pile was never completely still. It heaved gently with the massed breathing, and the occasional twitch of limbs. If Blair had seen this, it would have reminded him of a rattlesnake pit he'd run across while excavating an Anasazi dig. He wouldn't have been far off. The K`Rach were just as cold blooded, just as ruthless. They had no poison, but they were even more dangerous than the earth reptiles, because they shared a sort of low intelligence--and a common purpose. The K`Rach aimed not only to survive, but to survive WELL. That was why they had targetted the Kreel, and most particularly, The Clan.

They had sensed that the winter was coming, and were going to prepare for it as always--by glutting themselves before going to ground to hybernate through the long, cold months. They had no way of knowing that this winter would be different, that it would be the Great Winter, the one that would last for years. It was beyond their concept--they had no real knowledge of time, preparing for the seasonal sleeps solely through insinct.

Each year they gathered as much flesh as they could, storing it in their underground lairs where the constant cold would keep it for long periods. Before they went below ground they would go on a killing rampage that would decimate the animal population for miles around. The smaller ones would be seized and devoured immediately, the larger dragged back for storage. One the largest predators were safe, and they only if they were cautious. More than once the K`Rach, emboldened by need, had swarmed a creature many times their size. They always lost members, but the individuals mattered little. There were no parents, mates, siblings, or children to mourn the fallen. Indeed, their bodies were consumed as well, though they were never first choice--the K`Rach did not particularly enjoy the taste of their own kind.

No, they preferred their prey warm, young, and preferrably still alive. This year there was an unbelievable bounty waiting harvest. There was a new sort of animal in their territory. A search group had been scouting the way for their coming raids at the Kreelo village, and had discovered them. Only one of the group had returned, but that was of little import. K`Rach died--that was the way of things.

This new animal was warm blooded, and had very little fur, no scales. It's teeth were small and blunt, as were it's claws. The K`Rach didn't really think about it, but there was a vague feeling that this was another of the grass eaters, the easy prey. The fact that one of their kind had been taken, and did not return was forgotten in the news that the one who HAD returned had scented Young on the one they had captured for a time. Not just one Young, but MANY.

This had diverted them entirely from their plans to invade the Kreel village. Their collective memory, though dim, told them that there was scant chance of taking anything significant there. The Kreel usually fled, and at most they could hope for one or two adults who had somehow lagged behind. But this...

The captured K`Rach had sent back impressions of many, many Young, and many of the older things. The older ones would be piled in the depths of the Lair, to allow their flesh to rot deliciously before consumption. The Young, though, would be a feast--the final glut before the long sleep.

Now they slept the short sleep, twitching with formless not-quite-dreams of plenty. They had little competition on this planet, and it never occurred to them that they might be the hunted instead of the hunter.

Hermione said, "But you're talking about possibly wiping out an entire species."

The Clan was having a council. All but the babies were included. The tiniest Clan members were secreted in the deepest part of the cavern maze, in a section that could only be approached by one or two people at a time. Peja's core was watching them. It had been agreed that since they were all now Kreel, they could fight effectively with tooth and claw if their weapons were lost. Even Chet, the group's submissive, had learned to use his natural weapons effectively.

It hadn't been easy for him. Peja and Rafe had insisted that he learn to fight--it was vital that every Clan member be able to at least defend themselves. He had protested, hissing and howling as he was cuffed and wrestled, his mates trying to force him to act. Finally he'd laid his ears flat and struck back. Rafe had received a gash across his chest, and Peja had been knocked on her rump. Poor Chet had crouched, tail lashing, whining in distress, sure that he was about to have is ass kicked. Instead he had been tackled and promptly nuzzled and licked into purring ecstacy by his approving mates. He practiced after that. Any K`Rach who looked at his smaller statue and assumed he'd be the easiest to take in a group would get a nasty surprise.

"Hermie," said Blair gently, "I can understand that you're confused and conflicted about this. Believe me, it goes against my grain, too. Hey, I donated to Save the Whales ever since I could gather pennies. I made a trip to the Arctic and hugged a baby seal to keep it from getting its brain bashed out. But, little girl, these weren't creatures that systematically set out to eliminate others of my kind."

Jim nodded. "If these things go unchecked, have no doubt that they WILL come for us. Hermione--they'll be coming for the babies."

The fluffy haired girl turned pale. TW said, "We didn't go into details, because we didn't want to upset you and the others too much. I saw what they do." Her eyes teared up. "They'd caught a Kreel mother and child who'd gone too far gathering food. They broke the mother's back so she couldn't move, then took the little one, and..."

TW choked up. Carter and Malucci surrounded her, holding her. "Don't," whispered Carter. "We'll all have nightmares about that for a long, long time. Hermione, I'm a doctor. I've dedicated my life to healing people, keeping them safe from harm. Life is sacred to me. But those THINGS... That isn't life."

Snape spoke up. "That was one thing that worried me about the struggle with Voldemorte. The ones in charge of the Light side..." He took a deep breath. "I won't say they're cowards--they aren't. But they kept WAITING for attack. I can't help but think that there are times when the battle must be brought to the enemy."

Jim nodded at him, smiling grimly. "The best defense is a good offence. Ranger mentality, Snape."

"Knew there was something I liked about him," grinned Megan.

"Hermione," said Qui Gonn Jin, "this species is doomed, in any case. An Ice Age is approaching, and they are cold blooded. They would not survive. It's much like what happened in your home world. An Ice Age comes, and species become extinct. It's nature's way. If we strike at them, there will be no significant damage to the environment, and it will save many lives--lives that are strong in the Force. Lives that are destined to make a great difference in the universe."

Hermione lifted her chin. "All right, I can see that. Sorry."

Obi Wan patted her shoulder. "Don't apologize, Hermione. That's what a council is about--to allow all to express thoughts and opinions, to thrash things out."

Qui Gon agreed. "And your concern was valid. Have we assuaged them?" She nodded. "I'm glad." He looked at Jim. "Our Jedi have located where the K`Rach are resting. They settled to sleep only a couple of hours ago. It is to our advantage that they sleep during the day and hunt at night. They know enough about us to know that our habits are the opposite. Any attack now will have the element of surprise."

"How quickly can the Masters be ready?"

"Less than an hour. The padawans can come to help guard the cave, so that most of the Clan adults can join us."

"Let's do it, then. There are things out there who want to eat my children, and I'm not going to sleep well until I'm washing their blood off my hands."

It was decided that Jedi Masters and Sentinels would lead the attack, with Anchors, Guides, and Mages in the second rank. While no one doubted the bravery or skill of the second group, it was well known that it wasn't a good idea to get in the way of a Sentinel in Blessed Protector mode. They figured that the Jedi could hold their own, but that the Sentinels didn't need to be distracted by the urge they'd feel to protect any Guide or Anchor who was nearby. They needed to concentrate.

It was amazing how quiet such a large group could be, moving through the jungle. But the K`Rach did not stir in their sleep as the implacable hunters approached their sleeping mass.

They found the clutch of K`Rach, and hunkered down in the brush, just within sight. //So many of them.//

Qui Gon's voice echoed in Jim's mind. It was a little disconcerting to communicate without words, but Jim knew the value of silence. //There could be over a thousand of them. I had no idea there were no many of them. This is going to be rougher than I'd thought. If there were fewer, I'd have had everyone go in silently with knives and start killing from the outside in, but I don't see any way that would work now. There'd be some sort of outcry, the others would wake, and anyone that close would be a goner. I'm afraid this is going to have to be an out and out attack.// Jim was silent for a moment. //All those padawans--they have their lightsabers, and aren't afraid to use them, right? My kids are back there.//

Qui Gon put a hand on his shoulder. //They will die before they allow anything to happen to the little ones, Jim, and I will die to keep these things from getting that close. Remember, there are two that I love there also.//

Jim thought of Obi Wan, and Ginny Weasley, the grim love that had been on both young faces as they'd seen their mate go off to battle. //Yeah. Pass the word along--when I give the signal.// He waited as the Jedi sent the message to the mind of every Jedi and Clan member gathered around the K`Rach.

Jim took a deep breath. Even as he leaped from cover, his head went back, and he was raising a howl toward the moon--a howl of rage and vengeance that was as old and primitive as the moon itself.

Then the killing began.

It was a blood bath. The K`Rach had impressive teeth and talons, but they had no other weapons. The Clan attacked with knives and spears, the women just as ferocious as the men. The sight of Megan using a knife that would have made Crocodile Dundee weep with admiration, gutting a squalling, slashing K`Rach, would have made the men who used to drool over her legs or ass seriously rethink their attitudes about women.

The Jedi had spread themselves around the perimeter of the mass. They worked steadily, lightsabers flashing and buzzing. Heads and limbs flew, but there was little blood, because the lightsabers cauterized as they cut. This was the first time the Clan had seen Jedi fight, but they'd have to wait till later to be impressed--they were busy now.

Some of the K`Rach escapted the circle--it was inevitable. They did not pause to help the others of their kind who were battling, but just surged for the open. Having no emotioal ties to the ones dying around you made escape easier. The warriors didn't dare to turn and pursue them, as that would leave them vulnerable to attack from behind. They had to just pray as they killed that the defenders at the cave would manage until they could dispose of those in the forest, and go back to help.

The K`Rach who escaped the first wave of attackers ran into the second. They discovered that roused Guides and Anchors could be impressive fighters, too. Snape, Harry, and Ron were in this group (Ginny and Hermione had protested vehemently at being told to remain behind, but had grudgingly accepted when it was pointed out that they needed to keep some magic users at the cave to protect the children.) Snape, who was a practical man, hadn't the least hesitation to use the Avada Kedavra curse. Ron and Harry had to overcome their reluctance to use the forbidden killing curse, but they saw the necessity, and accounted for over a dozen K`Rach each.

But still some got through. Any sentient being would have fled and hid, but the K`Rach mind was fixed stubbornly on the delectable feast waiting in the cave, and the few who got through kept heading for the cave.

They were met at the edge of the clearing by the padawans, who fought in a manner made their Master's proud. One or two recieved minor wounds, but the other's quickly dispatched any K`Rach who managed to draw blood.

The council's defense plan was proved to be well thought out, the many layers of defense necessary--because several K`Rach managed to reach the cave. They never made it any closer to the babies, because Scribe, Ginny, Hermione, Neville, and Dennis were stationed inside as the last defense before the section guarded by Peja's Core.

One of the K`Rach grabbed at Ginny, and Hermione, furious, raised her wand. But she hesitated. They were too close. She couldn't risk hitting her friend instead. She didn't have to worry. Neville Longbottom, new fur bristling madly, leaped on the creature, biting and clawing. It released Ginny to deal with the furry creature attacking it. But Ginny didn't run, as it had expected. She snatched a small knife. It wasn't much of a knife, short bladed, and used only for idle carving, but it sank smoothly into the beast's back. Hermione finally used the curse on the other K`Rach who was coming up behind Ginny.

Scribe had lost a spear when it stuck in the body of another K`Rach. She was trying to jerk it free when the remaining K`Rach tackled her. Her breath was knocked out as she landed with the thing on top of her. She scrabbled for her knife, wheezing, but the thing had her throat in its hands, and was leaning down for the first bite, fangs glistening. She had a brief thought thst she was going to die without being able to see her loved ones again, but that they were safe--HAD to be safe, because this was the last, and the others would get it while it finished her.

There was a sickening, crunching thud. The creature on top of her jerked, then collapsed, the hands on her throat flexing, then going limp. It was jerked off of her. Dennis Finch, wide-eyed, was bending over her, clutching a blood and brains spattered rock. "You okay?" Scribe nodded. "Good. I wouldn't mind having Jim after my ass, but not like THAT." She started to struggle up, but he pushed her back down. "Rest a minute. I think that's the last of them."

Obi Wan, disheveled, came in, lightsaber burning. He looked around quickly, then relaxed slightly, letting the saber go dark again. "The others are on their way back. The Masters are searching the Force as they go. None will escape." He sighed, suddenly looking very young.

Scribe, rubbing her throat, said, "Just imagine Yoda's expression when he hears about this."

The young Jedi laughed. "From what Jane has said, he may very well wish he had been here--for the relative peace and quiet."

Sentinel Evolutions: #8: Jane #10

The Clan was subdued for the next few days following the Battle. It was seldom that so many Jedi had been needed to deal with such a threat, and all of the masters realized once they reviewed the event, that without the rest of the Clan members, that they would have been too few. Low level flights over the continent had shown that just as there were other Kreelo Clans, so there were other Hives?and more than once they found a decimated village. Others they moved to locations outside the home territory of the local Village, but within the area cleared of K`Rach. The local Village immediately sent some of its young adults to the new Villages and received an exchange of members from their's to mate with still theiryoung Kreelo. This established ties of blood and family and interlocked the new Villages with the long established one, and raised the Clan's neighbor's status within the area Villages to alpha. This was a welcome change.

Qui was also studying the terrain for another purpose?to locate a spot for a new branch Temple. He mentioned this to Jim who smiled and gestured toward one of the speeders that the masters had brought along in the Temple Vessel's cargo hold.

"I know just the place." He was about to show Jane's brother when they were interrupted.


He turned to look behind them, at said sister who was trotting up.

"There's no polite way to put this, so I'll just go ahead and say it." She took a deep breath, and both men stepped back nervously. A nervous Jane was one that was sort of scary.

Qui centered himself and stepped forward again, to lay his hand on his nervous sibling's shoulder.

"Tell me." He ignored the look from Jim that clearly indicated he thought the Jedi was nuts.

"Ginny's pregnant."

Qui paled, shivered and then sat down abruptly with Jane and Jim grabbing him to steady the poor man so he didn't fall wrong on his way to the floor. He didn't even register Jane's bellow of "OBI-WAN!"

Obi raced into the area that had been used as a parking place for the speeders. "Master!" He cried out as he slid to his knees, reaching out to cradle Jinn. He looked up in alarm at his master's sister, "What happened?"

Ginny's pregnant?and I told him so. He was apparently a bit under-educated as to just what sort of regular activity does that to women." She answered him dryly. "Don't worry, just do what he's done for you so many times over the years. Use your training bond with him to center him, once he realized what you're doing, he'll be fine."

Obi looked a little embarrassed, but he did as he'd been told, and a moment later his master shuddered once, then steadied a bit. Qui's eyes closed as Obi backed off a bit and let him finish centering.

"Thank you, padawan."

"Sure, felt a little weird, though."

Qui looked at his apprentice and smiled a little. "Of a surety. The last person who had to help me find my center was Yoda?over 25 years ago." He sighed. "She told you?"

"Uh, yeah." He shivered?I'm a bottom?most of the time," He said deliberately looking at Jim instead of Jane. "And when I do top it's with my master, sooo."

"So, the children are likely to be Qui's." Jim shrugged.

"Children? Plural?"

"Uh oh?no one told you about the, um, effects, of the coffee substitute, huh?"

"Effects?" Qui glared at his sister while listening to Ellison explain.

"So?how many?"

"Peja said three?"

"Triplets?" Qui moaned a bit in dismay.


He looked up at his sister. "Three little girls?" He asked softly.

"Uh huh, looks like you're hooked. Ginny said you're each of you going to name one?."

"My master is to have three baby girls?" Obi grinned, "Three to be born to the Core and who should be very strong in the Light?"

"And yet another reason why he's not going to be leaving anytime soon. When they're old enough their masters can come here. I've already alerted the entire Jedi personnel body as to the due date. That way, in a few years, when the time is right, masters will know to be extra sensitive to the Force. They'll be waiting for a Call. Unless we get really lucky and they're sent even earlier."

"Now, come on and learn how to handle and care for small infants before you need the information, Obi. Qui has something he was about to go do with Jim, I think. Oh, yes, Bro?Yoda was laughing his ass off at the idea of you being a daddy?so I told him at least your girls aren't hybrids and there is NO elf in any of them?for some reason he shut up at that point. I think I heard some crashing or something in the background. Oh, and the whole planet is singing what's now called Yoda's Song?" She paused as he started to laugh, and winked at Obi. She knew Qui was back to normal, now. He'd meditate later, and find a workable balance with the idea of being a blood parent to three tiny lives, she knew.

~~~~~~~~TWO HOURS and 50 KLICKS LATER~~~~~~~~~

"This is a lovely spot for a Temple, Jim!" Qui Gon smiled. "Thank you!"

"I'm glad you're pleased. The other masters, those that do not have padawans who are members of the Clan should have pleasing surroundings. I thought this would do."

Qui looked at him, brow raised. "Yes, I see the truth of this. Did you think I would take my mates and bail? I am a JEDI, sir. I never bail." He said mildly.

Jim watched and listened to the other man, then nodded. After a moment, he started to move rocks by brute strength to outline a foundation. Then, in a quiet voice he began to talk as he labored, telling Jane's brother all of the things she had revealed to himself over the last eighteen months. When he had finished, he paused to look at the other man's strong profile.

Qui Gon Jinn absorbed the information, then knelt to meditate on what he had just been told. After several hours, he came out of it and confirmed the information. "She is being Force Guided." He sighed then, and nodded his head. "My sister is an odd woman, her skill at Foretelling is formidable. She has never failed to Foresee True. Yoda knows this. The whole Jedi population does, and she hasn't been active in many decades. For her to push like this?" He sighed. "And she asked me to take over for her on all matters Jedi. This will keep me bound to this world, for a very long time. It is an important mission, a vital one, now that I have all the information. But it is also a lifetime commitment, this is my home, now. Not Coruscant. And I think it will remain so."

"I know. She made that fact fairly clear to me, a long time ago. I am a Sentinel, Jinn. I am the Alpha Sentinel of this world, just as you are now the Alpha Jedi, here. Would it be possible to make this world the hub of such a haven? Do we have to move the Clan?"

Qui Gon concentrated on the Force for several moments, then released its flow and looked at Ellison. "No, we do not have to move the Clan. The Force insists that this is the Place and this is the Time to begin building. That may be why she handed the position of Senior Master to me. Her skill is to Foresee, but her skills at living in the moment are not so well developed." He smiled a little, "That is my best skill. The Place is here, and the Time to Act is now."

"Then let us begin by building you your new Temple." The Sentinel said, giving Qui Gon Jinn a clear view of the ancient Spirit within the modern man. That was enough to tell the master Jedi many things, and he nodded to acknowledge them. He would forward his new insight to Yoda as soon as they got back to the Cave.

This development was definitely something the Jedi High Council needed to know about. And Jinn suddenly realized that for all the fun they were having at Yoda's expense over the Elf situation, the Elves would likely play a vital role in the next few years. Memory sounded in his mind, his sister's Voice telling him, "Born and Bred of the Light", "Immune to the Dark Side" and he understood. They had to be trained, yes, and rid of the tendencies toward accidents, but once they had been?. Once presented with the information, Yoda was more than strong enough in the Force to confirm it?.

"Oh My Sweet Force!" He breathed in awe. "I never realized just how Strong my sister is?to Foresee such as this!"

"There's something else you may have overlooked."

"Which is?"

"To be well-loved by such a woman is no bad thing?no matter how much she picks on you. That's why I've never fought her on any of it." Jim was back in the man's eyes, as he looked at the Jedi. "It was worth it to gain her regard. She was a tad put out with me when we met."

"Oh was she? And you survived her sharp tongue with your wits? Congratulations!" END:


Sentinel Evolutions by Royslady51, Scribe, Tequila Sarcasm and Kata
Author and story notes above.

Disclaimer: The Sentinel is owned etc. by Pet Fly, Inc. These pages and the stories on them are not meant to infringe on, nor are they endorsed by, Pet Fly, Inc. and Paramount