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Runaway Guide 3 - The Resistance

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NCSIA office

***

“Gibbs! Welcome back,” Abby yelled, black ponytails bouncing, as she ran to the General and threw her arms around him in a crushing hug. Gibbs grunted at the exuberance of the greeting, but couldn’t hold back a smile. Then Abby froze for a moment. Gibbs could feel every muscle in her body tense under his hands. “Oh my God! What happened to you?” she asked, leaning back and squinting into Gibbs’ eyes.

“I’m fine, Abby,” Gibbs said, putting his hands on her shoulders and pushing himself away from the guide’s enthusiastic greeting. He didn’t want to answer questions right now, and especially not here.

“But your energy is all different. What happened to you?” She asked in her worried little girl’s voice, not turning him loose even as he tried to extricate himself.

“Ab…bee” Sentinel Major McGee said, “we talked about this. One hug each and then back to the lab. You have work to do. It’s probably just jet lag you’re sensing.”

Gibbs waited to see if Tim’s admonition would have the desired effect, and was gratified when Abby reluctantly let him go. Her large dark eyes were uncertain. There was no way that Abby believed McGee’s explanation, Gibbs could tell.

“Yeah, Abs, why am I getting a cold shoulder?” Tony asked letting his face and voice show a little boy pout and opening his arms. “Where’s my hug?”

“Oh, Tony,” she moaned. “I’m sorry,” and she threw herself into the guide’s arms only to stiffen in much the same way she had when she hugged Gibbs. She pulled back and stared at him. He tried to distract her sharp gaze with a huge grin and waggling eyebrows.

“Tony,” Gibbs said, before Abby could say anything else. “Take Abby to the lab and get an update from her and Ducky on what they’re working on.”

“Sure thing, Boss,” Tony answered, looping an arm over Abby’s shoulders. She snuggled close to him, looking as if her world had just been tilted on its ear, her pale hand clutched at his belt, holding on. Everyone pretended not to notice that part. The Goth Lab-tech was the emotional heart of their team and as such she was entitled to a freak out every now and then. And if, or when, it happened the others stepped out of their traditional roles to comfort her… that was just how it was.

Gibbs and McGee watched their guides walk to the elevator, brown haired head bent close to the pigtailed one that nodded regularly. Gibbs hoped that Tony’s golden tongue could work its magic this time too.

McGee waited until they got into the elevator and the doors closed before turning to his boss. “Abby’s been stressed lately. You were gone longer than expected.” There was a definite question buried in the statement, Gibbs knew.

“She’s your guide McGee,” Gibbs said as he turned and walked away. “You need to keep her focused on you.” Gibbs knew keeping Abby, with her lightning quick mind focused on any one person… was not possible. But saying it like it was sure stopped the conversation in its tracks. A conversation Gibbs was not ready to have. He was just grateful Abby seemed happy with Tim most of the time. Tim was not a typical Sentinel, he was, as far as Gibbs could tell, the only kind of Sentinel Abby had any hope of staying bonded to. Tim was no slouch in the I.Q. department and when they got together to solve a problem with a case they were unstoppable.

“Keeping Abby focused on me is easier said than done when someone on our team is injured,” McGee said, watching Gibbs, trying to see if he could pick up any difference in his boss. Abby had never been wrong about these kinds of things, so that meant Gibbs was hiding something, which wasn’t all that unusual, but this time McGee had a gut feeling it was something important. Something he should know.

“Tony’s fine,” Gibbs said, as if that was what they were talking about; he walked up the stairs to his glass enclosed office. “Just a superficial stab wound and a mild concussion. Do you have those reports I asked you for?” Another diversion tactic, this time Tim gave in a bit, interrogating Gibbs was not easy.

“There on your desk,” McGee said, pointing to a small stack of folders as they entered the room. “Sentinel Harris has been stripped of his rank as Alpha Prime and is being charged with two counts of guide abuse. He has been found competent to stand trial.”

“Two counts?” Gibbs asked, hiding the fierce joy he felt at hearing the son of a bitch was going to publicly pay for his crimes, too little too late as far as Gibbs was concerned but he wasn’t untouchable anymore.

“Yes,” McGee continued. “When you had him arrested agents were sent to notify and secure the safety of his guide. They found her malnourished with whip marks, muscular atrophy, osteoporosis, and severe depression. She was hardly reactive, even to the Sentinel handler that was with the team. It seams the bastard kept her confined to a tent with no exercise. We’ve tracked down the sentinels that signed him off as fit for duty and they’ve been charged with conspiracy to commit abuse.”

“Anyone trying to make the charges go away?” Gibbs asked. He almost hoped someone would be stupid enough to try. He’d enjoy teaching them different.

“No one so far,” McGee said with a smirk. “I think that Harris has lost all of his supporters, they are scattering like flies, no one wants to be associated with him if they can help it. I guess the Harris name isn’t what it once was.”

“I’d say he’s burned his bridges,” Gibbs said as he sat down behind his desk, feeling the way the chair fit him so well. He’d hated using other people’s chairs while he’d been in Cascade. “Anything else?”

“We caught the guide traffickers,” McGee said. “Two of them are still alive. They're mundanes, not sentinels. The Agency wants us off the case.” He waited to hear what his boss would say.

“I bet they do,” Gibbs said as he sorted through the mail piled high on his desk and then leafed through the absurd little pink phone notes he hated so much. There was nothing that would end the world if he didn’t get back to them now. He tossed the dozens of notes into a drawer and shut it with more satisfaction than he should have felt.

“We don’t have any proof that sentinels were involved with the kidnappings.” McGee pointed out.

“Please tell me you didn’t sign-off on this case, McGee?” Gibbs said sitting forward, suddenly not so comfortable in his familiar chair. He showed a flash of temper and a faint growl in his tone. Tim, to his credit didn’t flinch.

“No, we’re still on it,” McGee said. “But this is one hell of a tangled can of worms. We have a couple of mind walkers interrogating the traffickers. I tried to get Red assigned but I was told she’s no longer available, so I tried to pull some strings but she’s been transferred to ‘The Department of Guide Proliferation’. When I tried to get her sprung I was stonewalled at every turn. Getting her out is going to take someone way above my pay grade. So I tried for another mind walker. They’ve all been transferred to Guide Proliferation. I don’t like it boss, why do they need all of them? My gut feeling tells me that the DGP is up to no good. I had to bring a mind walker out of retirement. She’s 68 years old, in good shape for her age but still… Any chance you can get Red sent here, temporally even? That would help.”

Gibbs looked up. “No,” he said, simply, and then opened a file and started to thumb through it.

McGee was confused. Gibbs didn’t give up. He always wanted the best on the job and Red was the best, Gibbs ‘go to girl’. Add to that, that they had a chance of breaking a trafficking ring and routing out some crooked sentinels, if they could get reliable intel fast enough… “What’s going on?” McGee asked. “This isn’t like you…the energy Abby felt, must be one hell of a jet lag.”

Gibbs looked up with an unhappy expression. “If the interrogation is going too slowly then bring another double X out of retirement,” Gibbs said, avoiding the Major’s questions. “Double team the bastards. Get the job done McGee.”

McGee stood his ground; there was a time when he would have scurried away but that time was gone. He was second in command to Gibbs now, and he was nobody’s fool, he learned the lessons his boss had taught him well. Gibbs was hiding something; something that, if he didn’t ferret it out, was going to come back to slap him in the face, he was sure of it.

Gibbs looked up, clearly annoyed. “Now, McGee!”

“Already done,” McGee said meeting Gibbs eyes. “I talked to Elliott in Canada and called in the favor he owes us. He’s escorted a mind walker here himself, a half hour before you got in. They should have started the interrogation by now.”

“Then I suggest you get over there,” Gibbs said with a scowl.

“Anderson is overseeing this case, he’ll let us know as soon as they have anything. I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on. Red’s the best there is, it’s not like you to settle.” McGee fixed Gibbs with a steady, stubborn gaze. Special Agent Major Tim McGee could be difficult too, when he needed to be.

Gibbs made a point of glancing up at the security camera and then he looked at McGee. “I suggest you leave my office now!” he snapped.

The small shift of the General’s eyes was not lost on McGee. Gibbs thought that his office might be bugged. He wouldn’t talk here. “I apologize, boss, you’re right I’ve let Abby become too preoccupied with Tony’s injury. I think I’ll go down to the lab and spend a little quality time with my guide.”

“Good idea, Sentinel,” Gibbs said, barely glancing up at Tim as he headed towards the elevators and glad that his diversion tactic worked this time, then went back to reading the reports on his desk. It was going to be a damn long day.

 

***

“Okay, out with it,” Abby said as soon as the elevator doors closed. She was gripping Tony’s waist even more firmly, as if she feared he would try to wriggle away. “That’s not jet lag I’m sensing. I know jet lag; it’s… sluggish and tired. You’re energized,” she continued, analyzing her perceptions. “Tell me!”

“Abby, stop it,” Tony said, utterly serious. “You know that what happens between Gibbs and me stays between us. I can’t talk about this with you.”

“But it’s not between you and Gibbs,” Abby said, shaking her hands. “This is totally different, something or someone you’ve both been exposed too.”

Abby was worried, Tony didn’t have to be a guide to feel it, he could hear it in her voice. He took hold of both of Abby’s hands and looked into her eyes, trying to convey comfort to her, to let her know there was nothing to worry about. “I’m asking you, Guide to Guide, Abby; let it drop. When I can tell you, you know I will, but right now …I can’t. Gibbs and I are fine! You need to let this go.”

Abby became still and returned his gaze through heavily mascaraed eyelashes. “You're not a healer, Tony,” she said quietly. She freed one hand and touched his cheek.

Tony dropped her other hand and stared at her, dismayed she could sense so much. “No I’m not,” he said as the elevator doors slid open and Tony stepped out with Abby on his heels. She quickly caught up to him and started walking backward so she could look into his eyes as she talked.

“That was healing energy that you were transferring to me,” Abby said, carefully analyzing Tony for any reaction. She saw his pupils dilate and a worried look crossed his face. It was only there for a split second but it was long enough to give the precocious guide the information she needed to come to a conclusion. She turned and pushed through the morgue doors. “Ducky,” she yelled, “Gibbs and Tony have bonded with a healer.”

Dr. Mallard looked over his shoulder at the guide as he closed a refrigerated drawer. “I doubt that very much,” he said; he had known Gibbs for years, the sentinel and guide loved each other deeply and worked together in perfect harmony. He couldn’t imagine Gibbs wanting or needing any Guide but Anthony DiNozzo.

“But it’s true,” Abby said, letting a plaintive note creep into her voice. “At first it felt like sentinel energy. You know how I’m able to pick up on that stuff. But then Tony held my hands and I felt a healer so it has to be another guide.” Abby turned to Tony. “You didn’t bring him with you, where is he? I want to meet him. He feels really yummy.”

Tony glanced away, uncharacteristically stiff and not making any attempt to charm Abby. Ducky felt a spike of alarm.

“My dear,” Ducky said as he removed his gloves and began scrubbing his hands. “Are you feeling okay? You haven’t gone and eaten any shitake mushrooms have you. You know you’re allergic and the last time you ate them they scrambled your empathic abilities.” He kept his voice low and concerned, filled with a level of command that demonstrated his years of experience. It wasn’t overt, it just was.

“I haven’t eaten any mushrooms,” Abby said with a whine to her voice. “Why won’t you believe me? I can feel him and Gibbs, their energy! Just ask Tony, he won’t lie to a sentinel.” She stuck out her chin.

“I’ll do no such thing,” Ducky said. “I don’t go prying into another sentinel’s private affairs, but I will tell you this, Abigail; if Gibbs did bond with a healer it would be that little red head he and Tony are both so fond of, and it would be for the purpose of having a family. It certainly wouldn’t be another male.”

Abby suddenly turned and pulled Tony into a hug and closed her eyes as she analyzed what her empathic abilities were telling her. “No,” she said as she laid her head on Tony’s shoulder, “Not female, definitely male sentinel energy.” She pushed back looking at him with a frown. “Why does he feel like a Sentinel one minute and a Guide the next?” she asked.

“Well,” Ducky said. “There you have it. Sentinels are not healers. There is a remote possibility that Gibbs took a Sentinel Brother while in Cascade. That combined with the healing that Tony underwent… You must be picking up some sort of energy osmosis.”

“Yes,” Tony said, relieved that Ducky came up with an out and pulling Abby off of him. He didn’t know why he was against her suspecting he’d actually bonded and had sex with someone besides Gibbs, but it was important to him she didn’t know, not yet. “That must be it, an energy osmosis.”

Ducky looked into Tony’s eyes. Guides made terrible liars where sentinels were concerned and Tony had just told a lie, even an old sentinel like himself with his abilities slowly winding down, and in grieving for his lost guide, could pick up on it. Still it was Gibbs' business not his and he best stay out of it. Unless it was something he should know, but he’d ask Jethro face to face in private, not go through young Abigail to find out.

“Energy osmosis,” Abby said with a huff. “How lame is that?”

Tony took the opening to change the subject. Noting the flare of speculation that had lightened the blue eyes of the old Sentinel, Tony knew that Ducky was on the scent. Luckily he’d go to Gibbs with his question. He was old school; he would never grill a guide about sentinel business. “Gibbs sent me,” he said to the doctor. “He wants to know what you and Abbs have been working on while we were gone?”

“I just finished up the autopsies on the guide traffickers,” Ducky said. “I am 90% sure they are not sentinels. There were no clues of value as to their identity. Abby has the trace evidence. I just have to finish typing up the reports and then I’ll bring them up to Gibbs.”

“I’m running their DNA through CODUS now,” Abby said as she left the morgue and headed for the lab. “Ducky’s right, they are not sentinels. But don’t think this lets you off the hook, Tony, I’ll get to the bottom of this energy change in you and Gibbs, I know what I feel.”

Tony sighed; Gibbs was not going to be happy.

@@@@@@

“Abby knows, Boss,” Tony said as soon as he returned to Gibbs’ office, he kept his head lowered and his voice a sentinel level whisper.

“You told her?” Gibbs asked, just loud enough for Tony to hear.

“No, she figured it out for herself,” Tony said as he slumped into his favorite comfort chair in the corner of Gibbs’ office. He wished he had a blanket to pull up over his head.

“Exactly how much did she figure out?” Gibbs queried, pinning Tony with his sharp eyes.

“That we both came back bonded to the same man,” Tony said. “She just can’t figure out whether it’s a sentinel or a guide.” He shrugged, itching to have something to hold onto and to squeeze. He picked at the material of the seat cushion.

“Did you tell her she’s not to mention it to anyone?” Gibbs asked.

“I tried too, but it just made it worse. She said I was giving off healing energy. Ducky came up with the theory that it was an ‘energy osmosis’ she was picking up on but she didn’t go for it, not even a little bit. She’s too smart, Boss, Abby knows when she’s being played.”

“Ducky… came up with the theory.” Gibbs said with a moan. “Oh crap.” He was hoping to keep their cross-bonding under wraps, but he hadn’t counted on the Goth pit bull in the lab or the equally tenacious and charming older sentinel. “We’ll have to tell them, the sooner the better. I don’t want this going any further than the five of us.” He didn’t want speculation and rumors overheard by the wrong ears and rumors had a tendency to leak. He probably caught enough attention with putting the Alpha Prime Harris out of business. But he wasn’t so naive as to think that someone hadn’t already taken his place.

@@@@@

Gibbs’ Home after dinner.

***

“So, Tony and I are cross-bonded to Spike,” Gibbs said. “That’s the energy that Abby’s been picking up on.”

“I’m still not clear as to why you found it necessary to bond with this Sentinel Spikeman?” Ducky asked, his tone almost disapproving. He was a strict traditionalist, he didn’t believe in any amount of straying from the chosen guide, for any reason short of the risk of death; political reasons most definitely didn’t make the list. “ I can understand you being part of the resistance against these ridiculous new laws, but it seems as if it would have been enough to take Sentinel Ellison as your brother. He’s the head of his pack.” He sipped his drink, sensitive fingers playing over the cut crystal of the glass. Unspoken was the assertion that to share Tony was an unforgivable sin. Normally Gibbs would agree.

“We needed a reliable form of communication that couldn’t be bugged,” Gibbs explained. “Bonding with Spike gets us into their hive and that makes us part of their telepathic link. These new laws are only the surface of what’s going on. Washington Genetics needs to be closely watched and I need up to date intel.”

“The link is with you?” McGee asked, he was feeling off balance and under that he was feeling… jealous, and a tiny bit resentful. He was part of Gibbs’ team, why wasn’t he included?

“Yes,” Gibbs said, “with me.”

“This whole thing seems out of character to me,” McGee said. “Why would you need Spikeman linked to Tony?" The only reason a sentinel would let his guide cross-bond is to keep him or her safe. “I don’t see how a sentinel three thousand miles away can keep Tony any safer then he would be without the cross-bond,” he said keeping his voice neutral, not letting the question he truly wanted to know the answer to creep in, why was some far away and weird Sentinel/Guide hybrid better then he was?

“I have reason to believe that soon, guides like Tony, who carry both the sentinel and guide gene will be targeted for kidnapping,” Gibbs said.

Tim was jolted out of feeling sorry for himself. Shit. That wasn’t good…not at all. Abby had sentinel genes herself. She had been born a hermaphrodite, she carried male genes and those genes came from a sentinel. She couldn’t help but run her own DNA to satisfy her own curiosity. Now her unique genetic profile was a matter of record. Tim felt his stomach turn over.

Ducky asked the question that was currently burning a hole in McGee’s gut. “First of all, what possible reason could you have that a guide like Tony would be singled out and secondly it still doesn’t answer why a sentinel on the other side of the continent can keep Tony any safer then Timothy or I can, any one of us would die for him or Abby?”

Gibbs sighed; he had hoped to avoid telling the group this particular secret. It really wasn’t his secret to tell. But, no time like the present to try out the telepathic link. He closed his eyes and asked Spike for permission.

***

Three thousand miles away Spike’s head popped up and he listened to what sounded like nothing to Xander.

“What is it,” Xander asked. “I don’t hear anything.”

“It’s Gibbs,” Spike said, “He’s asking permission to tell his people about you.”

“I thought we agreed to keep this quiet.” Xander said with a growl. “Just how many people does he want to tell?”

“Three,” Spike said. “Two sentinels and a guide.”

***

“What’s going on?” Abby asked, “Tony and Gibbs’ auras are vibrating?”

“It’s okay Abbs,” Tony said, “Gibbs is talking to Spike. Asking for permission to tell you the rest of what we know.”

“Permission?” Ducky asked, surprised. Gibbs rarely bowed to another sentinel’s superior rank. He didn’t have too. Few out ranked him and from what they had been told Spikeman wasn’t one of them.

And the answer came loud and clear across the link. “You trust me with the life of your guide,” Spike said. “I trust you with the life of mine. Tell them whatever they need to know.

Gibbs opened his eyes and took a deep breath. “Spike’s guide, Spike’s choice, Ducky, it’s only sentinel etiquette to ask his permission. Guide Alexander Harris’ sentinel abilities have triggered. They are trying to keep it quiet, but it’s only a matter of time before something like this will reach the wrong people and every guide with the sentinel gene will be in danger.”

Ducky scowled, this whole think was surreal it had to be some kind of practical joke. “You expect us to believe that you were in telepathic contact with this Spikeman sentinel. You’re just trying to get back at me for that April fools joke I played on you last year. Give it up Jethro; you went too far; I’m not falling for it. It’s impossible. Guides DO NOT trigger as sentinels; the sentinel gene is recessive.”

“You think that this is some kind of a joke?” Gibbs said, glaring at his long time friend. “It’s not, this is life and death, Ducky. I don’t joke when it comes to my guide.”

Ducky raised a hand in surrender, it wasn’t often he was faced with Gibbs’ ire. “I won’t apologize, I know you hate that. But to be honest, a joke, or an out right lie, makes more sense then what you’re telling me.” Ducky had made a thorough search of studies on the subject. He’d wondered, even as a small boy if it were possible, he’d wanted to bond with a guide who would be different, special, and more like himself. He’d learned better of course, a guide was not a sentinel. But he’d kept up his reading over the intervening fifty years. Guides did not become sentinels. “If Ellison and Spikeman told you that a guide has become a sentinel they are lying to you.”

“They’re not lying,” Tony said. “Gibbs and I both saw it for ourselves. Xander’s abilities have triggered.”

“I don’t suppose they told you how it happened?” Ducky asked, still skeptical, if it was true he wanted to know how.

“When Xander was kidnapped,” Gibbs began, “he was given an overdose of a sedative; the kind that keeps the brain from laying down long-term memories and as a side effect shuts down a guides’ empathic abilities. The overdose destroyed some of his guide pathways and put him into a coma. They think the brain healed the best it could by triggering his sentinel abilities and laying down new sentinel pathways.” He shrugged. “No one is certain and the data’s not available for public consumption.”

“My God,” Ducky said. “I know the drug you’re talking about. Overdose causes an irrevocable coma in a guide; from what I’ve read on the subject, any attempt by a healer to lay down new pathways causes a synaptic cascade and brain death. You say he not only came out of the coma, he came out a sentinel?”

“No,” Gibbs said. “He triggered a few months afterward. While still healing.”

“They must have used a very talented healer,” McGee said.

“I’d have to agree,” Ducky said. “According to the AMA an overdose of that drug is non-reversible in guides. They spend the rest of their life in a coma and any attempt to bring them out is fatal.”

“Spike healed his guide,” Tony said, “and he’s still doing it.”

“That is one very talented sentinel,” McGee said.

Tony looked at him. If he didn’t know the McGeek better, he’d say the sentinel sounded jealous. Tim studiously ignored him. Okay, that was a definite ‘yes’ on the jealousy meter. Tony thought about it, cross-bonding with McGee? Hmmm. Now Abby…that was cool, he liked the idea just fine, but McGee? He grimaced. Freaky thought.

“You don’t know the half of it,” Gibbs said. “Spike has one other talent, he can track telepathically anyone he is bonded to.” He let that information sink in.

“What do you mean by that?” Ducky asked. “Track them how?”

“Just what I said,” Gibbs replied. “Spike tracked Xander when he was taken, even though they used anti-sentinel methodology. He was able to track his guide from miles away, not a scent trail, not hearing, just feeling the bond, ancient sentinel, mythic-type abilities. If Tony is taken, Spike will find him.”

“Well,” Ducky said. “It occurs to me that our Sentinel Spikeman may be in as much danger as his guide. That kind of talent couldn’t go un-coveted. The military implications are too desirable. A tracking sentinel without limits…but in order to do it there would have to be indiscriminate bonding, perhaps forced, not chosen.” He could imagine how an entire brigade of soldiers forced to cross-bond to their handlers could use that talent. He shuddered, feeling nausea fizz in his belly. He downed the remainder of his scotch and held the glass out towards Gibbs. “I need a drink,” he said and meant it.

Tony laughed. “I pity anyone that goes after him, Doc. He’s already killed one hit man bare handed and six highly trained black ops sentinels with nothing but a knife. All I can say is thank God that we’re on the same side.”

Ducky looked at him sharply, he didn’t want to voice his fears, not until he knew more. “I once heard it said,” the doctor began, “that the different between truth and fiction is that fiction has to be believable. I think our Sentinel Spikeman fits rather nicely into the stranger than fiction category.” As far as he was concerned all of this was just speculation until he saw it for himself and it was proved to him beyond doubt.

“When can I do it?” Abby asked, her excitement contrasting sharply with Ducky’s reticence.

“Do what?” McGee wanted to know; pretty sure he wasn’t going to like it when he did know. Her mind didn’t follow the usual path most of the time. She was brilliant and unpredictable. This was one of those times he was going to regret her tendencies.

“Cross-bond with Spike, of course,” Abby said, making McGee sure he was having a nightmare.

“He’s three thousand miles away, Abbs,” McGee growled, “and you’re mine.”

The growl was uncharacteristic of the easy going sentinel and everyone looked at him, Abby with her mouth open, her eyes huge. He never growled at her. Never.

“You growled at me!” Abby said, surprise mixed with anger. She couldn’t have sounded more offended if she had tried.

Tim flushed but stood his ground. “What do you expect, Abby?” McGee said. “You asked to bond with another sentinel. Which is the same as telling me you want to dump me.”

Abby got up and walked forward, glaring, until she was leaning over McGee, who sat in his seat looking up at her. “You promised me, when we bonded, that you would give me my freedom.”

Tony sat, fascinated as the vignette played out. Despite the anger zigzagging between the sentinel and his guide the connection between them was strong. Breaking the bond…not in the cards for them. He could open his mouth and tell them what he knew to be true…or he could sit back and watch them figure it out. He sat back.

Tim’s normally rounded chin jutted out stubbornly and he met her angry glare returning it with his own. “Freedom for tattoos, rock concerts and occasional retreats with the nuns. Not indiscriminate bonding with other sentinels.”

“Indiscriminate?” both Gibbs and Abby shouted at once, glaring at McGee.

“I don’t think you should have used that word, Timmy-boy,” Tony said under his breath. The bond with Spike was anything but indiscriminate, not with what they had to go through to complete it. As for Abby, she liked to flirt and she’d talk your ear off, but she didn’t sleep around and since she bonded with ‘McGeek’, she hadn’t so much as groped another sentinel with intent.

All three turned on him. “Shut up Tony,” they said in unison. Tony’s brows lifted, eyes widening, but he kept his mouth shut under the combined glares.

“I think this is a topic best discussed in private,” Ducky said smoothly. He meant privately between one sentinel and one guide. Not a group. In his day things like this would never have happen. The younger generation would do well to learn the lessons their elders had to teach them. Ducky pressed his lips together frowning. Gibbs in particular should have known better, and now, Abby, the poor girl was caught up in it.

Abby turned her gaze to the doctor. If he had been standing he would have taken a step backward. He had seldom seen that look from a guide but he had enough experience in his life to know that when it did appear a sentinel had best take notice or there’d be hell to pay.

“No it’s not,” Abby said, “I want to talk about it now!” She gave a credible growl herself, sounding pure sentinel if Ducky didn’t know any better. He blinked. “I have the sentinel gene, just like Tony.” She pursed her generous lips and waited for their response to her statement.

“Abigail,” Ducky said using his most soothing voice, “that’s not possible, you’re a woman, the sentinel gene is carried on the Y chromosome only. Women have no Y chromosome. Even with a sentinel father you cannot carry the sentinel gene. I can understand wishful thinking my dear, but guides are every bit as valuable to society as sentinels. You are already a special lady. There is no need to wish…”

“I’m not a woman,” Abby said, firmly.

“You sure fooled me,” Tony muttered, allowing his gaze to rake dangerously over her tall, sleek form.

“Stop treating me like I’m an idiot, I know what a Y chromosome is. Look at me,” Abby said, stepping into the center of the room and turning, “I’m 6’1” and my shoulders are a bit too broad and don’t tell me you haven’t sniffed out I don’t have a menstrual cycle.” She dared them to blush as she stared into each face pugnaciously. They all knew better than to even twitch.

“That’s not something a sentinel goes out of his way to scent in his female co-workers,” Gibbs said, looking at her with an analyzing tilt of his head… or talk about if he did notice and wonder. Not unless the said guide was his guide.

“There is nothing that you can tell us that will convince us you are a man, Abigail,” Ducky said, letting his annoyance at her continued persistence creep into his voice; he couldn’t understand it. Did she really want to bond with this Spikeman sentinel so much? “There are many women over six feet tall, you have a classic hour glass figure and I’ve seen your medical records; your uterus was removed when you were thirteen, due to abnormalities. That is why you don’t menstruate. Not because you are male.”

“I’m not a man, Ducky,” Abby said, with exaggerated patience. “I’m an hermaphrodite. I have an extra pair of chromosomes, both the XX pair and the XY pair. It scrambled my reproductive system something fierce. I’ve got some secondary sexual characteristics of both genders.”

Tony almost broke his own jaw clamping down on the question he so wanted to ask…was Timmy getting any at all? And if he was… what was he getting? His curiosity was nearly burning his tongue off. But no matter what Gibbs, and for that matter Spike, had said about him not knowing when to keep his mouth shut, this he knew better than to ask here and now.

“How could that be possible, my dear?” Ducky said, recovering after a moment of gaping at the tall slender woman, he kept his voice calm, “nature simply doesn’t permit such a tangle. An egg fertilized with an extra pair of chromosomes simply wouldn’t grow. The addition of an entire new pair would result in absolute cellular havoc.”

“It’s true,” McGee said, standing up and going to put his arms around his guide. “Abby ran her DNA, I’ve seen it.”

“And what did you see, Timothy?” Ducky asked as if were a benevolent teacher, secure in the facts. “How familiar are you with genetics? Abigail can be quite convincing, but…”

“I don’t need to be a genetics expert to count 24 pairs of chromosomes,” McGee said, angry that Ducky seemed to be calling Abby a liar. “She’s my guide…Do you think I don’t know what a woman looks like. Abby’s…her body’s…”

Tony leaned forward in his chair, he didn’t want to miss a moment. McGee was actually going to spill the beans and tell every one exactly what his guide’s physical characteristics were.

McGee turned bright red.

“We get the picture, McGee,” Gibbs said. “It can’t happen in nature…but there she is, our Abby. Genetic manipulation of guides and sentinels has been going on since DNA was discovered, we just never talk about it. Jim said it was more wide spread then we could imagine. The only difference is now they have the confidence to hide it in plain sight. Can’t say that I expected to find it in our own back yard though.”

‘Damn it,’ Tony thought, ‘why did Gibbs have to interrupt, just when McGee was about to say something interesting for a change.’

“You think Abby was genetically engineered?” McGee asked still comforting his guide with a hug. He sounded like he was teetering on the edge of outrage while battling with interest. Tim liked mysteries; he liked them a lot. Gibbs could almost see him bent over his computer, hacking into one of the big genetics firms in search of answers…and blowing their covers as he searched.

“As much as I hate to say this it’s the only rational explanation, Timothy, if the manipulation was done while the zygote was in the later stages of division…but even then I find this unbelievable.” Ducky said, in an apologetic voice. “God, what is this world coming to? I’d like to take a look at your test results, Abby, see if I can figure out exactly what was done.”

“Sure,” Abby said, hugging her sentinel and looking over his shoulder at Ducky. She was wrapped around Tim like a vine, like one body with two very different heads. “I’ll give them to you in the morning.” Then she let go and looked around at the group. “So, when can I bond with Spike?”

“I’m not sure you can Abbs,” Tony said quietly, watching the disentangling with fascination. He remembered Spike saying he only bonded with people he could love. “He can only bond with… compatible energy.” Tony finished lamely. No way was he insensitive enough to say Spike maybe couldn’t love Abby, everyone loved Abby. There was just no guarantee that Spike would.

“There is nothing wrong with Abby’s energy,” McGee said, sure he didn’t want to think of her with another sentinel but he wasn’t going to let Tony insult her either.

“Not Abby,” Tony said, suddenly seeing a better way out of his conundrum. “You, Tim, I’m not sure you’d be compatible with Spike.”

“Why not?” Tim said, taking immediate insult and glaring suspiciously at Tony.

“Spike and Xander are…different.” Tony finished lamely, shooting a pleading glance over at Gibbs who was watching him dig the hole that much deeper. His expression was fond, but he wasn’t helping. Tony was going to be shoveling his own way out.

“So you and Gibbs are good enough but I’m not,” McGee said glaring at Tony. “I’m not the right kind of sentinel.”

“It’s not that, McGee,” Tony said. “Gibbs and I almost couldn’t…”

“We have to have Abby meet Xander,” Gibbs said, interrupting the path the conversation was about to go down, and rescuing his guide after all. “He can tell if she’s in any danger. We can decide what to do from there.”

“Why Xander?” Abby asked.

“Xander is Spikeman’s Guide, and I mean that in the most possessive, protective, and unique way you can imagine. He’ll only allow Spike to cross bond with you if you’re in danger.”

“He has reliable Hazard Detection, ESP,” Tony said. “He figured out I carried the sentinel gene with it.”

“Wow,” Abby exclaimed, “I’d love to learn that. I wonder if he could teach me?”

“No he can’t!” Gibbs said, pushing away from the wall where he’d been leaning and advancing on Abby. “It isn’t something you’d want to learn.”

“Why not, it’s just a matter of doing the proper exercises. I can set something up in the lab…”

Abby was intrigued again. Gibbs was going to do his best to extinguish every drop of curiosity that pulled her in that direction. It was far too dangerous. “Stop it, Abby,” Gibbs growled, “This isn’t a game. You want to know how the bastard taught Xander hazard detection? Electric shock. And if he refused to do the exercise, or if he wasn’t good enough, he got locked in a sensory deprivation tank. Does that sound like fun, Abby? This isn’t playtime, this is real.”

Tears filling her eyes, Abby mumbled, “I just… If I play with it, I don’t get so scared. They really tortured him?”

Gibbs turned and stalked toward the door, "yes they did," he said with a growl and then he left the room. He walked over to the window and stood looking out at the Georgetown streets.

Tony spared a single glance at Abby’s stricken face and then followed his sentinel. He came up behind Gibbs in the privacy of the next room and hugged him carefully. Gibbs didn’t like public displays of affection, but Tony felt this was a special case. He waited for the stiff man in his arms to decide. He bent his head and laid it on his sentinel’s shoulder.

“She’s just trying to cope with all of this as best way she can.” Tony whispered into Gibbs’ ear.

“Abby’s parents must have been in on this, there’s no other way it could have been done, and Xander's parents too,” Gibbs whispered, staring out at the streetlights. “Using their own children that way, he said shaking his head. We’re at war, Tony, we can’t let them do this to our children.”

Tony felt the tiny, infinitesimal relaxation in the body he held. Gibbs was letting himself be held. Tony melted into the too rare opportunity. If he could have he would have purred. “I know, Boss, I know,” he whispered against the strong throat. He pressed a simple kiss into the skin. “I know.”

@@@@@@

Ducky stood in the doorway watching Tim and Abby walk to their car before turning to Tony. “I’d like a few moments alone with your sentinel, if you don’t mind.”

“Or even if I do, I bet,” Tony said, more than passingly familiar with Ducky’s old world chauvinism. Guides, even those who were big and strong like DiNozzo, should be protected and sheltered by Sentinels. Tony understood that was just how Ducky was; he didn’t mean any insult, and the older man knew Gibbs would tell Tony whatever Ducky shared with him. Still, Dr. Donald Mallard insisted on keeping up the gentle charade except in the most urgent of emergencies. Tony bestowed an honestly affectionate smile on the forensic medical man and then he turned to Gibbs, “I’ll be in the bedroom,” he said.

The pair of sentinels, one in his prime and one with wisdom that only comes with years of experience stepped back inside the house and closed the front door.

They walked to the kitchen and Ducky set about making tea. The ritual soothed the old sentinel and Jethro kept a polished copper kettle expressly for his friend’s visits. Gibbs reached up and pulled down the flat wooden tea chest that held the small tins of English and Scottish teas, placing it on the counter, for himself he brewed a small pot of hot black coffee.

When the tea was finally steeping on the tray next to a few lightly sweetened tea biscuits, Jethro followed the elder sentinel over to the kitchen table and sat.

Ducky waited for the tea leaves to settle before he took a cautious sip. The scent was pleasant enough, Gibbs supposed, but certainly nothing he’d want to drink himself, yet he could appreciate how Ducky’s lids lowered in frank pleasure as he took his tea and nibbled on the cookies.

“What is it, Ducky?” Gibbs asked, once he sensed his old friend was ready to talk.

“I was going to stay out of this mess with the new laws, ” Ducky began. “ I thought it was a young man’s concern, but now I find it is threatening the people I love. I’m ashamed to say I’ve kept my head stuck in the sand, as far as these matters are concerned. I thought the things I heard were fanciful rumors; I believed genetic manipulation of sentinels and guides was no more than a nightmare scenario, stories used for the hazing of young sentinels. But no more, Jethro; I want in on the resistance.”

“I never though you were truly out, Ducky,” Gibbs said in his usual smooth and calm voice. “I was just waiting until you decided you were ready to jump in with both feet, as usual.” He couldn’t help but reach out and pat the old man’s hand. Ducky had become the longest living fixture in his life. The man’s patterns of behavior were no mystery to him. Anymore than his own habits were to Ducky.

“Thank you, Jethro, be that as it may, I may not be able to do much but I have contacts within the medical community; I should be able to learn things that other sentinels aren’t privy to,” Ducky narrowed his eyes against the fragrant rising steam from his cup and sipped with such blatant enjoyment that Gibbs wondered for a moment if drinking tea had anything in common with having sex. “They may be less cautious around a doddering old fool like me.”

Jethro hid his smirk at the foolishness of the unbidden thought. Nothing…nothing…could be as good as sex with DiNozzo. He got back to the subject at hand. “Anyone who categorizes you as a doddering old fool deserves to be taken down hard. Just don’t take any chances; I don’t want any heroics tipping our hand.” Gibbs said, after they had enjoyed the company and their beverages in silence for a little longer.

“Thank you, Jethro, for not telling me I’m still young,” Ducky said with a smile. “At my age two out of three ain’t bad.”

“I’d never lie to you, Duck,” Gibbs said, his face serious, “but, you have a lot of fight left in you and this is a war we can’t afford to lose. These people were willing to kidnap and enslave a guide to get what they wanted and when that failed they tried to railroad and kill a guide just to make a point.”

“I know what I’m doing, Jethro,” Ducky said, with a shake of his head. “It’s not as if I’ve never worked undercover before. I have an opportunity that may give us some insight. There’s a medical convention in Boston next month. I thought it would be good for me to get away for a few days, it seems like a reasonable transition time after the loss of my guide. There’s no telling what I may be able to learn.”

“Just be careful, Ducky.”

“I promise,” the doctor said, “I’ll keep my ears open and my head down.”

@@@@@

Abby waited, she thought very patiently, for McGee to finish hanging up their coats and to close the closet door before shoving him against the wall. Her hands gripped the shoulder of his shirt and tugged on it, almost tearing it free of his pants.

“How dare you accuse me of wanting to dump you?” she growled, glaring into her sentinel’s eyes even as she systematically and aggressively stripped him.

McGee put his hands up in surrender. He tried to think through the rising hormones that Abby’s touch always stirred in him, but it was always harder to think when she was like this. A dominant Abby was…Tim almost groaned out loud, he fought to keep his voice even. “What was I supposed to think, Abby? Everyone was crying the virtues of Spikeman and you ask to bond with him.”

“Everyone?” Abby asked. “Just Gibbs. Gibbs was the only one talking about Spike.”

“See, you just called him Spike,” McGee rationalized, “like you know the guy, and wasn’t it you that said his energy was yummy ?”

“Yeah? Well, you’re my sentinel, McGee.” She started in on his clothes again. “And I’m going to show you that in ways you can’t possibly misunderstand. Got it?” she growled into the shell of his ear.

He nodded frantically as her black nailed fingers closed on his straining cock through his boxers and squeezed. “Yes!” he yelped, not caring if it came out as a squeak.

Abby kissed his cheek. “You’re all mine, Sentinel,” she whispered, finding her way to his skin. Her thumb circled the head of his cock. “My yummy Tim. Mine.” She bit him and he squealed.

Abby grabbed McGee and pulled him off the wall and then still holding on to her sentinel she pivoted and gave him a sharp shove toward the bedroom.

McGee staggered backward, nearly falling but able to catch his balance only to have his Goth guide advance on him, her eyes glaring, she shoved him backward again with a low growl. McGee knew that look and that sound. Abby was a tigress on the hunt for her mate. She continued down the hall forcing McGee’s ‘retreat’ into the bedroom until the back of his knees were tight against the mattress and then Abby pounced knocking him backward onto the bed.

McGee looked up at his guide and let his eyes slide over her slim muscular body, past her pierced bellybutton…and there he saw it. Abby’s large clit swollen and hardened into a small cock, the purple tip peaking out from her labia lips. His tongue flicked out of his mouth, his sentinel taste buds searching the air for any taste of his guide.

She lifted her weight up. “You deserve a spanking, McGee, roll over.”

Tim moaned but didn’t fight; he rolled onto his stomach and Abby began her assault of his back, raking her fingernails over his muscles just short of enough pressure to draw blood.

Finally she came to his ass. She sat on the calves of his legs and bending down she kissed the tattoo of a bat with her face, a copy of the caricature Caitlyn, an agent killed in the line of duty, had drawn of her. Seeing that tattoo never failed to fill her heart to overflowing with love. How could he think she would leave him? He was the only sentinel that had ever wanted her as a guide, the only one that could keep up with her runaway freight train of a mind. A tear dropped from her eye and plopped onto McGee’s ass.

“Abbs?” McGee asked, lifting his head to look back at her when he felt the drop hit.

Her hand came down hard, with a resounding smack. “That’s for thinking I would ever leave you,” Abby said, her voice dominant and fierce.

McGee turned his head back and buried it in the pillow, satisfied that she was okay.

Smack! “And that’s for growling at me.” Smack! “And that’s for not knowing I could never love anyone else as much as I love you.” Abby lifted her weight off of McGee. “Now, roll over Sentinel, I’m not finished with you yet.”

McGee rolled over and waited for Abby to straddle him again.

Abby picked up his hard cock in one hand and cupped his balls in the other hand. “What’s this McGee?” she asked, as if he were trying to hide something from her.

“Your toy,” he answered, quite familiar with this game.

“Mmmm, mine,” she said looking at him with her wickedly playful smile.

Tim moaned; Abby was about to turn him into a quivering mass of jell-o. She bent down, exhaling warm breath over the length of his cock and then blowing cool air. She continued alternating warm and cool air, with an occasional thumb over the tip of his cock, and rolling his balls in her hand, until McGee began to leak pre-cum.

Abby took the tip of his cock into her mouth and licked at the delicious droplet, and then she forced her tongue into the tender slit before nursing his cock for more.

Tim felt like his eyes were about to roll back into his head and he lifted his hips.

Abby let McGee’s cock slide deeper into her mouth, circling it and teasing it with her tongue, before pulling back. “I’m going to ride you now, McGee,” she said, holding his cock so it pointed at the ceiling. “Don’t move until I tell you.”

She positioned herself and ran the moist tip of his erection over the two and a half inches of her own small dick.

McGee fisted the sheets on either side of him and forced himself not to stab upward. Then he felt her settle down over him, taking his thick length into her hot, moist tunnel.

Abby wiggled trying to find just the right angle, the angle that would rub her cock against her sentinel’s as she rode him. When she found it she took her time savoring the slow build to orgasm.

McGee reached for her but she grabbed his wrists and held him firm as her ride quickened and became faster and faster and then she called out. “Now, McGee.”

Tim thrust upward as Abby slammed down onto him. He felt himself explode into his guide, Abby’s energy enveloped his mind, warm and nurturing, even as a gush of her vaginal fluids pooled on his belly, he was not alone, they were one.

Abby rolled off of McGee and cuddled in beside him. “Now are you convinced?” she asked in her sleepy little girl voice.

“I love you more than life, Abigail Scuito,” McGee said, stroking her hair and giving her nose a kiss.

“I know that, you silly sentinel,” she muttered and then she was asleep.

 

@@@@@

Tony looked up from his book. He was curled into the reading chair next to his side of their king sized bed. He closed the book when his Sentinel appeared in the doorway and set it aside, his full attention on the general. Gibbs' face was serious. A peek into the kitchen an hour ago had shown Tony the two Sentinels sitting together companionably. Ducky talking and Gibbs listening.

"How is he?" Tony asked, openly concerned. "Is he...?"

"He's Ducky." Gibbs said, simply. "He's fine, DiNozzo. He wants to get involved in the resistance. He's already figured out his action plan."

Tony wasn't sure what to say. He was afraid for the older man, but he was well aware Ducky's life had not been a sheltered one. Donald Mallard was a man full of surprises only revealed when the situation was desperate. Tony suspected this would not be the first active resistance Ducky had been a part of. And yet, he was afraid for him, for his safety.

"It's dangerous." Tony said, knowing Gibbs would understand from that one short statement what was on his mind.

"It is." Gibbs responded. "Ducky can handle himself. He wasn't always just a doctor." The worried look remained on his Guide's face. But that was Tony. He worried. Gibbs looked at him affectionately, then began to get ready for bed.

Gibbs moved over to his closet and started to undress. He did so with a quick efficiency that had at some point during their relationship started to make Tony hot. It was the beginning of their foreplay. He could tell just by how Gibbs undressed if it was a night they were going to sleep, or one they would be up all night in more intense pursuits. Tonight they'd make love.

@@@@@@

Washington D.C., Gibbs/DiNozzo townhouse, Saturday Morning

***

"I wish you'd stop looking at me like that," Tony complained.

"Like what?" Gibbs asked, eyeing Tony from head to toe with delicious intensity.

"Like the cat that swallowed a canary," Tony said, with an annoyed tone of voice. "And wouldn't mind doing it again."

"Can't help it," Gibbs said taking another sip of his coffee. "You're still glowing. It's hot."

"You're insufferable when you're this proud of yourself," Tony pointed out primly. "It's just guide glow, the natural state of a guide after bonding with his or her sentinel."

Gibbs sipped his coffee and continued watching Tony glow. He liked it on him; DiNozzo with a glow was beautiful.

Tony waited a few minutes before asking the question that kept swirling in his head. "Boss, how are you going to handle this thing with Abby? I doubt if McGee is going to take her to Cascade. He'd rather shoot Spikeman than voluntarily let him near Abby."

"You're right, he won't," Gibbs said, agreeing at once, "Tim wouldn't dream of taking Abby all the way across the country in search of another Sentinel, that's why I'm going to have them come here."

"Easier said than done," Tony said thoughtfully. "There's Xander's health to think about and they're a nesting pack; you can't get just two of them to separate and come out here. You'll end up with more than Spikeman and Harris. You'll get Ellison and Sandburg and maybe Miller and Finn." He shrugged. "Hell maybe they'll bring a few others for us to induct into the resistance." His tone was very dry.

Gibbs looked at him indulgently. "Jealous much, DiNozzo?"

"Me?" Tony blurted indignantly. "You...." He sputtered to a halt, seeing the glint in his Sentinel's eye. Gibbs was baiting him. Gibbs in a playful mood was just scary.

"Ellison is the Sentinel Liaison officer for the Cascade area," Gibbs said getting back on track. "I'm going to call him to Washington to give his input on setting up a task force to deal with the recent outbreak of guide kidnappings. You're right he will come with Spikeman and Harris, and that's who we really need to see, but they don't nest with Miller and Finn, so I doubt if Ellison will bring them. Miller's promotion to Alpha Prime will be coming through soon and someone needs to be in Cascade to keep an eye on the genetics lab."

"So, are you going to call them via ESP?" Tony asked.

"No, I want this to go through regular channels," Gibbs said. "I really will be setting up a task force. Ellison and Spikeman both have experience dealing with a guide kidnapping, it's only natural that I would want their input. All of this needs to be above suspicion, so it is all going to be done out in the open."

"Hide in plain sight," Tony said with a nod of understanding. "We'll have to reserve a nesting room for them at one of the sentinel friendly hotels."

"They'll be staying with us," Gibbs said in his no negotiation tone of voice.

Tony's mouth dropped open and it was a moment before he could speak. "Do you think that's wise, Boss?" he asked. "Having them in the house? We don't have a nesting room and we'd have virtually no privacy, not with two more Sentinels and two more Guides in the house." Maybe the guides weren't bonded to Gibbs but they were certainly tuned in to him, and Gibbs was Tony's personal property, if Spike had other ideas, it was just too damn bad. He almost growled his displeasure.

"They're our bond-brothers, I'm not insulting them by sending them to a hotel," Gibbs pointed out. "We can turn the guest bedroom into a nest easily enough."

"That wasn't what I was thinking, and you know it," Tony said annoyed at Gibbs for avoiding the obvious. "What if Spike wants to re-new our bond?" There it was out in the open, well, mostly. He wasn't saying he was jealous. Not out loud. He was just...concerned.

"Then we'll deal with it," Gibbs said, with a scowl. There was no point in talking about what might or might not happen. Right now, the priority was to make sure Abby was safe. Maybe she wasn't officially bonded to the other sentinels that worked in the building but every one of them felt her presence. If they lost Abby, it would be like having their heart torn out. "Ducky's going into the lab this morning to take a look at Abby's DNA. We should swing in around eleven hundred hours and see what he's found out, then I'll give Cascade a call."

***

Abby's Lab

***

"What did you find out Ducky?" Gibbs asked as he, McGee and Abby walked up behind the sentinel and Gibbs placed a hand on his oldest friend's shoulder.

"You see this, here," Ducky said using his pen to point at the computer screen. "That is the extra pair of chromosomes. The interesting thing is that whoever did this tried to balance out the extra pair by turning off portions of the x chromosomes and all of the Y chromosome except for the part that holds the sentinel genetic information. When this was done, gene splicing was not within our abilities. It is rather a ham handed attempt, if you ask me, at least compared to what we can accomplish today. Now we have a machine that can cut DNA..."

"Ducky," Gibbs said giving his friend's shoulder a squeeze, "can you make an educated guess as to why they did this? Layman's terms please."

"Oh, yes, quite, Jethro," Ducky said getting back on track. "It would seem they were trying to create a female sentinel." Gibbs felt the hair on the back of his neck rise in a wave. Female Sentinels were a bad idea. Male Guides might prefer them over male sentinels. Gibbs only just kept his teeth covered, resisting the instinctive snarl.

"Then why would they use a guide for the mother?" McGee asked, oblivious to the undercurrents. "If they wanted a female sentinel why chance getting a guide?" He was of course a male sentinel with a female-ish guide; Gibbs knew he couldn't understand, not entirely.

"Well, it looks as if they tried to turn off the Guide area on the X chromosome," Ducky said, pointing at the computer screen, "perhaps hoping that nature would fill in the missing bit with the sentinel information, but, being a dominant gene it turned itself partially back on."

"Partially, what do you mean partially?" McGee asked ready to defend his guide. "Abby has an 8.5 empathic rating, she is not a partial guide." He sounded hostile.

"McGee," Abby said stroking his arm. "It's okay, it wasn't an insult. Ducky's just reading the DNA."

"You're quite right, Abby, there was no insult intended," Ducky said. "But you must agree, Timothy, Abby is not your run of the mill guide. She is very sensitive to life energy and although she is rated an 8.5 she is not a healer."

"That would make her more, from my point of view, not less," McGee said, he was happy she wasn't a healer. If she was then she'd have to go heal other sentinels. "I don't see how you can say she is a partial guide, Tony's not a healer, would you call him a partial guide?"

"That's not what he said, Tim," Abby said as she snuggled up against McGee, hugging him tightly, taking the precaution of making sure his arms were trapped under her own. "Even though we have mapped the human genome, we still don't understand how everything works. Proteins do more than one thing. It could be that the reason I see emotions as vibrations is some kind of weird protein/enzyme connection or reaction that doesn't usually happen."

"That's enough arguing," Gibbs said. "Abby is our Abby and I wouldn't change her, none of us would, I just want to make sure she is safe. We have to understand what was done in order to do that McGee. You said that the technology has improved, Ducky. Any chance some hotshot would kidnap Abby and try to finish what they started?"

"I can't speak for what is in another man's mind, most especially a criminal's," Ducky said. "But, considering what they did to that poor Harris guide, anything is possible." He looked like he was imagining a very dark future indeed.

@@@@@@

Saturday Morning, The Nesting House… Cascade, Washington

***

“Oz, what are you doing here?” Jim asked when he answered the unexpected doorbell and saw the small red-haired man standing on the stoop.

“Can I come in?” Oz asked. He wasn’t much for small talk, in fact he wasn’t much for talking at all. Jim nodded, holding the door wide, taking a step outside. He looked up and down the hall to be sure no one had followed the young man.

“Sure, Buddy. Is anything wrong?” Jim asked as he moved aside to let the smaller man in. He was a bit surprised at the computer genius’s appearance; Oz had never visited his home before. Jim hadn’t thought he knew where it was. “Let me take your coat.” He hung up the over-sized jacket in the hall closet, hearing Blair headed their way as he did.

“Oz, this is a surprise,” Blair said as he entered the living room, he was smiling his welcome. Jim knew he liked the quirky young man. “Have a seat, can I get you a cup of coffee? I just made a new pot.”

“Coffee sounds good,” Oz said, sounding a little nervous. Now that he was here, he wondered about the wisdom of his action. This was the home of two sentinel detectives. If he was wrong about his assumptions, he could find himself in jail before the day was over.

Spike came into the living room, all pale sensuous grace, followed by Xander, who greeted their visitor with an enthusiastic, though startling, hug. “Hey, man, how are you? Sit down. Gee, it’s good to see you.”

The greeting confused Oz. He hardly knew the guide. He had only met him once at the police station before the kidnapping but Xander was acting like they were old friends. “Ahh, thanks,” the redhead said as he took a seat in one of the big overstuffed chairs.

“Are you in trouble?” Jim asked, as Blair offered a tray full of hot coffee along with chocolate chip cookies. “Do you need help?”

Oz shook his head. “I’m not in trouble,” he said as he added cream and sugar to one of the mugs and lifted it off the tray along with a couple of cookies; they smelled good, they were warm, and he guessed, homemade. Very Blair.

Jim lifted his eyebrow as he took his own cup of black coffee from the offered tray. “What is it then?” He probed gently, observing the young man with all his focused senses, something was making the other man nervous.

Daniel Osborne took a sip of his coffee and then began his rehearsed speech. “I think what the government is doing is wrong, they have no right to take away a man or woman’s reproductive freedom. I just want to offer my support and help if you need it.” There he said it, the ball was in their court. He waited, forcing himself to take a bite of cookie. It was fantastic. He wished he wasn’t too nervous to really enjoy it.

“That’s very kind of you, Oz,” Jim said, wanting to progress slowly. “No one is happy with this enforced reproduction, but I’m not sure I know what you mean by help.” He felt Blair go tense at his side, and Spike had stopped his languid stroking of Xander’s hair. The bright blue eyes were fixed with laser like intensity on Oz now. Xander had stopped the low purr and was equally still and attentive.

“The same kind of stuff ‘Sentinel Redwolf’ has always done,” Oz said. “Look, I’ll be frank. I’ve known you and Blair a long time and I can’t imagine you’ll just give into this crap without a fight. Not after what happened to Xander. Anyway if you need me for anything ‘unofficial’, just let me know.” Oz put his coffee down on the end table and got up to leave. This hadn’t gone as well as he’d hoped but at least they were going to let him walk out in one piece. He hoped the friendship wasn’t destroyed.

“Oz,” Jim said as he walked to the closet to retrieve the man’s coat. “Your friendship means a lot to us. Thanks for coming. It’s good to know you’re in our corner.” He let his hand rest for a moment on the younger man’s sleeve. Oz almost dropped the cookie he was clutching in his hand. Jim Ellison was not a toucher.

The smaller man looked up into the sentinel’s eyes. “I know you can’t say anything, I didn’t come here for specifics. I just wanted you to know I’m here if you need me... for anything.” He slipped into his coat and waited to hear what else would be said.

“Like old times, Oz,” Xander said. He didn’t sound unhappy, more gleeful and Jim stared at him. He was acting oddly again.

Oz looked over at Xander cuddled up on a love seat next to Spike. He had heard that Xander was brain damaged during the kidnapping, that could account for his odd friendliness, although it didn’t account for Spike’s tolerance of an overly outgoing guide. He wasn’t sure what the guide meant by ‘old times’, but he decided it was best to go with the flow so he smiled and nodded his agreement.

“There is something you may be able to help us with,” Jim said, “but it could be dangerous if it is traced back to you.” He spoke slowly as if just making up his mind.

“I didn’t think this would be a walk in the park,” the computer tech said. “I’m willing to take a risk, besides I know how to cover my ass when it comes to computers.”

“We need you to hack into Washington Genetics,” Jim said. “It would be helpful if we could monitor what they’re up to, but only if you can do it without being caught. These guys play for keeps, Oz. They would kill you if they track it back to you. There would be no public arrest, no trial, just a bullet. I want you to know what you are offering to get involved with.”

Oz slipped out of his coat and handed it back to Jim. “Like I said, I know how to cover my tracks, big guy,” He sat back down and picked up his coffee cup. “What specifically do you need to know?”

“Any information you can get for us,” Jim said.

“Okay," Oz said, “I can hack in without them knowing. I get bills of lading and 'follow the money' info, maybe get a key-logger app onto a few key computers…”

“Key-logger?” Jim asked.

“It logs everything typed on a particular keyboard and sends it to the hacker.”

“Passwords?” Jim asked.

“Everything.” Oz replied. "Companies they do business with, people they send emails to.

“Sounds like something that would be very useful,” Blair said. He grinned, a huge, not so nice grin, and Jim knew he was imagining sticking it to the people who wanted to take advantage of the special connection between Guides and Sentinels.

"Follow the money," Jim said thoughtfully, as a detective, he knew that following the money led to solving a big case 99% of the time. "I never thought we could get that kind of information so easily."

"It's not going to be easy, Big Guy," Oz said, "but it is doable." He stood up. “I’ll get busy and see what I can find out,” he said putting down his empty coffee mug. “Oh, I almost forgot.” He reached into his pocket and tossed Jim a cell phone. “Burner phone, untraceable, I’ll call you at that number when I have anything.”

“Thanks for doing this,” Jim said and he meant it. It could get him killed.

“No,” Oz said. “Thank you, I can’t remember the last time I felt so ‘energized’ this is going to be fun.”

Jim handed Oz his coat for the second time and walked with him to the door. He stopped and put a hand on the smaller man’s shoulder once again, waiting until the surprised blue eyes met his. He wanted to make certain Oz knew how serious the situation was. “Safety first, fun second, or I don’t want your help. Understood?”

“Understood,” Oz said, his expression told Jim that he knew it wasn’t a game as he slipped on his coat. "You've always treated me with respect," he said looking up into the sentinel's blue eyes. "That's not the norm for a computer geek, mostly I got laughed at until I got the job with the police and met the sentinels and their guides. I'm not going to stand by and do nothing while someone hurts the best friends I've ever had," and then he turned and walked out the door.

@@@@@@

Gibbs Office, Washington D.C.

***

Gibbs sat behind his desk and looked at his watch, it would be just after eleven o'clock in Cascade. Time to make the call. It wasn't a call he particularly wanted to make, but it was a call he was glad he could make. It gave him a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach when he thought of Abby or Tony suffering the same fate as Xander.

The phone rang seconds after Jim closed the door behind Oz. He walked over and read the caller ID before picking it up. "Sentinel Ellison," he answered, formally, but Gibbs heard the underlying tone that acknowledged they had a bond greater than two sentinels calling about simple business.

"General Gibbs here, Sentinel Ellison," he said keeping the conversation formal, though his own tone was also more, he knew that all calls were logged and recorded for security purposes. "I hope I'm not catching you at an inconvenient time."

"Not at all General. What can I do for you?"

"I'll come right to the point, Sentinel Ellison. There has been a recent increase in guide abductions. Our intel shows that the perpetrators are attempting to use our ports to smuggle the guides out of the country and we have evidence that sentinels are involved. I want to set up a task force and I would like you to come to Washington, I believe your input will be very valuable."

"You know I would like to help anyway I can," Jim said going along with the formal conversation. "My only concern is that our police department is short staffed right now. I'm not sure my Captain can afford to give me the time off."

"That's not a problem," Gibbs said, thinking Jim was good, he was giving just the right amount of resistance to belay any suspicion. "I can have the Sentinel Agency loan him a few sentinels until you get back."

"There is one other consideration," Jim said. "I'm a pack leader and I nest with my second, Sentinel William Spikeman and his guide. I would have to bring them along."

"By all means, Sentinel," Gibbs replied. "I'll put you up at my place, we have a spare bedroom, I can turn it into a temporary nesting room."

"That sounds good," Jim said, approvingly. Miles and miles away Gibbs hid his smile. Ellison continued as if unaware of the subliminal communication that was taking place. "When do you need us?"

"I can have tickets waiting for you at the Seattle Airport on Monday, and I'll have a car waiting for you when you arrive in D.C., if that's okay with you?"

"That sounds doable, General, I'll see you Monday." Jim hung up the phone.

It took only a few seconds for Spike's voice to come into Gibbs' head. 'Is this about our bond?' he asked.

'No, not directly,' Gibbs answered. 'I think one of my people may be at risk. I'll fill you in when you get here.'

Spike could sense that Gibbs was forcing himself to remain calm. Whatever it was it had alarmed the General sufficiently to prompt him marshaling the troops to protect the person in danger, and he knew Gibbs was not one given to over reaction. 'Do you need us to come now?' Spike asked.

'We'll be okay until Monday.' Gibbs answered. 'I don't want to raise any eyebrows with you showing up for no apparent reason."

'We'll be there Monday,' Spike said, before shutting down his mind connection to Gibbs and turning to the group, "He thinks one of his people is in danger, and it's got him on edge."

"Shit," Blair said. "Gibbs on edge, that's not a good thing."

Jim just grunted, looking forbidding. The line separating him from being Gibbs' pack leader was a fine one. He was almost taking that position, but not quite. It was, however, a near enough thing that he felt the threat personally to anyone close to the General. He had to speak to Miller before they left. The sooner the better. They were hive and Graham would be sworn in Monday as the new Alpha Prime of the agency. He needed to know about Oz and Gibbs before they left for D.C..

Chapter Text

The Department of Guide Proliferation … Washington Genetics ... Monday Morning

***

Guide 915 paused with her spoon half way to her mouth and looked at the door to the cafeteria. There was a sentinel on the hunt and he was coming this way. One by one the other guides in the room picked up on the energy. The room was hushed as a woman came to the door and looked around. She was slim and muscular, with an intimidating stance that made her seem taller than she was and a look that said she would brook no nonsense. 915 heard a soft gasp from three of the guides as the woman's gaze swept over them. This was the hunting sentinel. A woman. Now that ~was~ interesting.

Every guide in the room dropped their heads in submission, every guide that is, except 915. She was a double X, a guide that carried the guide gene on both X chromosomes, that made her a mind walker and few were willing to meet her gaze. Only the strongest Alphas and a few self confident guides dared to make eye contact for long. She opened her mind to the energy the woman was telegraphing, not pushing to get in, but reading whatever the woman had to offer. The sentinel didn't miss that trick.

The glaring eyes met 915's and the sentinel strode toward the table. "You are not afraid of me," the woman said, as she stood bending slightly over the table, invading the guide's space. Her voice was firm, with a pleasant accent, and while it held no question, her searching gaze did. She wanted to know why.

"Since when should a guide fear a sentinel?" the redheaded guide asked reasonably, without breaking eye contact.

The female sentinel threw her head back and laughed with contempt. "They do," she said. "They have already scampered away like frightened mice." She was right, the mind walker and the female sentinel were the only ones left in the cafeteria.

The guide waited in silence while the strange sentinel pulled out a chair and straddled it, leaning her forearms on the back.

"What is your name," the sentinel asked still searching for some weakness, some chink in the guide's metaphorical armor.

"915," the guide answered, simply.

"That is not a name, a number is not a name." The sentinel said, watching the guide carefully and searching for any discomfort, but there was none. She had never met anyone who felt like her. The redhead was strong and confident. This was a guide she could call friend, or even bond with.

"There is a sentinel that calls me Red," the guide said matter-of-factly, leaving it to the sentinel to figure out why. "And a guide that calls me Willow, but mostly I'm called 915. What's your name?"

"My designation is 4, I will choose my own name when I gain my freedom. As for you, I will call you Willow, it fits you. Willow trees are strong and resilient; they bend in the storm but do not break. Yes, Willow fits you well, Guide." The sentinel turned to look toward the door. "They are coming for me. They wish to force me into a permanent bond with a male guide, but none of them can stand the sight of me and I will not bond with a weakling, not even for an hour. I knocked out the guard and came to seek out a guide for myself, there are many in this place to choose from."

"Well, you are a bit intimidating," Willow said, letting the faintest of conspiratorial smiles show. "And most men aren't much good if they are intimidated."

"Only a bit intimidating?" 4 asked, tilting her head when she noticed the smile. Not many people smiled around her, and none as easily as Guide 915. "I was hoping that I was a great deal more than a bit. Why would a guide wish to bond with a weak sentinel?" She squinted her eyes, "You are making a joke about sex." Willow smiled at her. Oh yes, this was interesting.

Just then Willow heard a rifle shot and a tranquilizer dart hit the female sentinel in the back. Willow went back to eating her cereal as she watched the entertainment unfold around her. The female sentinel turned and charged the door and then another shot rang out. The second dart hit the sentinel in the chest and she hit the floor, she was mad about it, but a double dose of sedative was more even than she could fight off.

A very large guard, mundane not sentinel, walked over to the table. Willow ignored him and continued to eat her breakfast, while others busied themselves with picking up the sentinel and taking her out of the room. "What did she say to you," the guard demanded.

Willow chewed her mouthful of cereal and then she looked up into the man's eyes. The guard gasped and stepped back and Willow went back to eating.

"What's the matter Harry," another guard asked in a falsetto voice, "Did the wittle gwirll scare you?" He mocked with a laughed.

"I ain't scared of no little brat," Harry answered, he charged forward grabbing Willow's table and turned it over; spilling what was left of her breakfast across the floor. "I said, what did she say to you?" he demanded again as he grabbed Willow by the front of her blouse and pulled her out of her chair.

Willow had had enough; she put her hand up to the guard's cheek and turned his anger back on him. He screamed in pain as he let go of her and fell to the floor clutching his head. She smoothed the wrinkles from her shirt and watched him writhe.

"What the hell is going on in here?" a nurse asked as she came rushing into the room.

"That witch did something to Harry," the second guard said as he bent down to help his friend to his feet, he sure as shit wasn't laughing now. Willow avoided looking at him; if she did she would laugh at the idiot. As it was she could see from the faint gleam that the sentinel female was down, but not completely out. Unless Willow was mistaken the guard wasn't going to live all that much longer. Willow had been chosen by a sentinel who had no sense of humor about things like abusing a guide. Once Sentinel 4 was on her feet again, Harry and maybe his friend were in for a rough time.

The nurse glanced over at Willow and then looked back at the pair of men. "She's a mind walker, you ass, she can't do any harm to you unless you intend to harm her. Get out of here and consider yourself lucky there wasn't a sentinel around, he'd have killed you for going after a guide." Willow stood calmly, surprised that the nurse had no idea that the woman had been a sentinel. So she was a secret project, too. Another thing the two of them had in common, for Willow had become sure, in the days since her arrival at the facility, that the doctors plans for her went beyond mere "Guide Proliferation".

The nurse turned to Willow. "Are you all right?" she asked.

"I just want to go back to my room," Willow said. That was true enough, she wanted to see if she could meditate and contact Incacha in hopes the spirit guide could get a message to Gibbs. She was sure the General would want to know about the existence of a female sentinel being held prisoner at the facility.

***

Gibbs' Office

***

"Ellison's nesting pack will be here in a few minutes," Gibbs said to his group of people after hanging up his phone. "There's..."

"You invited them here," McGee interrupted, his voice tight. "Without telling us? Come on Abby, we're leaving now." McGee grabbed Abby's arm and started pulling her toward the door. She dug in her impressive heels and made it hard going. Gibbs' voice stopped them in their tracks.

"Stand down, Major McGee!" Gibbs ordered, stepping out from behind his desk. Tony sat up straight behind his own desk, swiveling his chair towards them.

McGee turned, glaring at Gibbs, "You can't order me to turn my guide over to another sentinel," he growled, still holding Abby's arm, facing down Gibbs.

This was a side of her sentinel that Abby rarely saw, standing up to Gibbs was hot and she felt her clit harden and her body moisten.

Ducky was surprised at the scent of Abby's arousal, every other guide he had known would want to soothe their sentinel in this kind of situation, not jump his bones.

"No one is going to force you to give up Abby," Gibbs said, with strained patience. "I'm not sure whether Ellison or Spikeman would be the first one to cut my throat if I tried to force a guide against his or her will. Now come back here, sit down and listen. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you decide against joining the bond, no one is going to force you." Gibbs shot Abby a stern look, her curiosity about the other sentinel was at the root of McGee's problem. She had the grace to blush, understanding immediately what Gibbs was implying. It wasn't the first time her fascination with something, or someone had gotten her or her teammates at agency in hot water. This time it was just of a more personal variety.

"Remember, Timmy," Abby whispered into McGee's ear as she rubbed herself against him. "You're mine and I'm yours, body, heart, and soul."

McGee's eyes were dilated and his nostrils flaring and his tongue flicked out tasting the air around his guide. The combination of a strange sentinel coming for Abby and her arousal was sending McGee into the beginning of a bonding thrall. Tony gaped, as Tim tilted Abby's neck back showing off her long throat and licking her guide gland. No one in the room had ever seen McGee act like that, hell Tony'd never seen any sentinel but his own act like that, it was damn private, he felt like he was watching porn. Starring McGeek. Christ. He felt an odd tingle start in his own groin despite his horror at the thought, and he casually clasped his hands in front of himself, crossed his legs and pretended nothing was amiss as he pictured Gibbs doing the exact same thing to him.

"Major!" Ducky snapped sternly, stopping the bonding thrall before it advanced beyond the point of no return. The older sentinel's cheeks were pink, his blue eyes crackling behind the lenses of his glasses. Abby was like a daughter to him and he felt a bit uncomfortable with the affectionate, bordering on outright lusty, public display. "Perhaps we should listen to what the General has to say and then you can take your guide to a more private locale."

McGee blinked, but his breathing remained heavy as he gave himself a mental shake and turned to Gibbs, "I'll ~listen~," he said and then stood quietly glaring at Gibbs with his arm firmly around Abby's waist, holding her so she was partially shielded by his larger body. Abby cooed gently to him, still snuggled up to his side, chin resting on his shoulder where she could just reach the small, sexy spot behind his ear.

"You need to know about Ellison's pack, before they get here," Gibbs said as he returned to his seat and ignored Abby's toying with McGee's ear. "Be prepared for the unexpected. They are truly cross-bonded. Blair and Xander will act like a guide to either sentinel, they move from one to the other without a hitch. Xander is guide defensive of Ellison, but he is extremely possessive of Spike and he reacts like a sentinel would if someone tries to 'steal' his guide. He is a guide, but he is dangerous, Sentinel dangerous. That is the most important thing to realize. Xander's not completely healed from the kidnapping and he has trouble controlling his anger when it comes to his sentinels. Get on his bad side, and it could take hours to calm him down." Gibbs was not smiling. He wanted the major to know he was not joking.

McGee gave a soft grunt at the irony of the statement, from his point of view they were coming to take his guide, he had no intention of trying to take one of their sentinels; his displeasure at hearing anything on the subject of the coming pack of sentinels and guides was very plain.

Gibbs ignored McGee's expression and continued. "It's very important, Ducky, McGee, that you not touch Spike, beyond an initial hand shake, no matter how great the pull to him is." He looked at both his men.

"Jethro," Ducky said, somewhat primly, his mouth pursed. "I doubt that we need that warning. Timothy already feels a certain antipathy towards the man in question, and I've never felt a pull of any kind whatsoever toward a sentinel. In fact in my youth..."

"I said the same thing, Ducky," Gibbs interrupted, taking a moment to lay a comforting hand on Ducky's shoulder. "So did Miller. Well guess what? We were both wrong. I can't stress it strongly enough, if Xander warns you away from Spike, move away. Immediately. Remember I'm part of their hive, and by association, so are you, or they wouldn't have traveled across the country to help us. I need your word that you'll treat them with the respect they deserve."

"You have my word, Jethro," Ducky said, lifting his chin with his usual, impeccable dignity. "Frankly, I'm surprised you felt the need to ask for it. We are united in a common cause." He seemed to think for a moment then, "Miller? You mean Sentinel Prime Graham Miller? That overly stiff fellow I met with you in DC a few years ago?"

"Yes, that Miller, he's just been promoted to Alpha Prime," Gibbs said. "Xander tried to attack him when Graham ignored his warnings and touched Spike. As far as asking for your word, no offense, Ducky, but you're a very traditional sentinel, and they're not traditional in any way, and I know you don't approve of cross-bonding."

Ducky seemed to be digesting the new information about Graham Miller, a man he'd found to be too formal and controlled for his taste, promoted to Alpha Prime, that was no surprise, but to think that Miller could not control himself to the point a guide would attack him...it just seemed too out of character. "We are living in extraordinary times, Jethro," Ducky said with a sigh of resignation. "Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, I accept and respect that you did what was needed, but I find I am having trouble seeing Sentinel Miller as not able to control his response to anyone. Especially an attraction to another sentinel." Only good manners kept the older man from shuddering visibly.

"You'll understand once you meet them, Ducky." Gibbs turned his attention to the Major, "McGee?" he asked.

"Respect is a two way street, Boss," McGee said. "As long as they respect me and mine, I'll respect them." The expression on his baby face was fierce.

***

"Enter," Gibbs said, when he heard a knock on the office door a second later.

Aaron, the limo driver, opened the door. "General," he announced, stepping inside the team's office. "Sentinel detectives Ellison and Spikeman from Cascade are here with their guides."

"Send them in and then take their luggage to my home. After that you're dismissed," Gibbs said, as he got up from his chair and walked out from behind his desk to greet them. He was looking forward to seeing them, he realized, though he knew they were going to cause trouble in his own squad simply by being here and being what they were. Ultimately, they were what was needed to win this war, sentinels not afraid to bond to protect that which was most vital and precious to them, the relationship of guide and sentinel.

Aaron opened the door wide and gestured for the group to enter as he slipped past them back onto the landing. He was just as glad to be going. He had met a lot of sentinels in his job but this group made him uneasy. The blond made his hair stand on end every time he got a little too close. As a group they acted like they were in a war zone, not the nation's capital, and he could swear that the blonde's eyes glinted yellow while they were claiming their luggage at the airport.

Jim was the first one to enter the office. He quickly scanned the room, nostrils flaring to pick up the scent of the others in attendance. He shook his shoulders, as if casting off a layer of dust and suddenly relaxed, almost smiling when he met Gibbs' gaze.

"Jim," Gibbs said, as he strode forward, offering his hand. "Come in. My word that it is safe."

Ducky watched as the group entered, he could tell a lot about a sentinel and his people by the demeanor and the order that they entered a strange room. He had Jim pegged right away; by his stance, the intent look on his face, and the way he quickly evaluated the room, he had a military background and was the pack's undisputed leader. This was a 'Gibbs caliber sentinel'; his smile was almost feline in character. Like a cat got into cream, Ducky thought. If he were a younger man he would offer to claim him as a brother as well, though he'd never felt the urge to do so before. Interesting in the extreme.

The young man with curly hair who stopped in the doorway waiting for permission from his sentinel to enter, was beautiful, his deep blue eyes bright with interest as he also looked around. His smile was sunny when he spotted Gibbs, and he waggled his fingers in greeting. Definitely a guide, no sentinel would wear hair that long, far too easy for an enemy to grab and use against you in a fight. No, the young bouncy man was definitely a guide. The shaggy haired guide's face suddenly lit up with a smile that was several lumens more brilliant than the one he'd shared with Gibbs. "Tony," he exclaimed as he rushed forward, past his exasperated sentinel to embrace DiNozzo in an enthusiastic hug. He leaped up and Tony caught him in midair. They laughed together, and then Tony put on his serious face and set the other guide back on the floor.

"Hey, Blair," Tony said as he hugged him more sedately, he was genuinely happy to see the other man, and even more pleased that Blair was pleased to see him. "Good to see you again." His eyes twinkled green.

"Oh, man," Blair answered, the smile now replaced by a serious look. "I wish it could have been under better circumstances." He glanced around the office again seeing that there were a number of people he didn't know. He disentangled himself and stepped gracefully back to his sentinel's side.

Ducky watched as the last two men entered. The first a beautiful dark haired guide with broad shoulders and nostrils flaring like a sentinel, his eyes so dark as to be nearly black in this light, his signature guide aura eclipsed by the distinctly sentinel actions. And bringing up the rear, trusted to protect everyone's back was a smaller blond sentinel who moved like a stalking cat, catching his guide's arm he stepped sideways out of the danger spot of the open door, he slid his guide behind him, putting himself between the strangers and his guide. It was a move executed with such grace and beauty that Ducky could not pull his gaze away, nor could he be insulted that the sentinel didn't take Gibbs word on the safety of the room.

Gibbs closed the door to his office and began introductions. "Sentinel Detective Jim Ellison, and Sentinel Detective William Spikeman, I'd like you to meet my second in command, Sentinel Major Timothy McGee and his guide Abby."

"Sentinels," McGee said with a nod of his head to each, still holding his guide tightly around the waist.

"Hi, nice to meet you," Abby said with a grin and a wave, pivoting her face on her chin resting on McGee's shoulder, letting her exhaled breath tickle his ear, pigtails bobbing on either side of her head.

"Major," Jim and Spike answered together, ignoring the playful guide, as was proper sentinel etiquette. It was clear to both that McGee was not happy about their arrival.

"And this is our M.E., Sentinel Dr. Donald Mallard."

"You can call me Ducky, everyone does," the doctor said as he managed to pull his gaze away from the blond sentinel and walk over to shake Jim's hand. A strong hand, moderately calloused, with long, powerful fingers, and sensitive fingertips. Ducky felt the thickened skin on the forefinger that meant the man had more than a passing familiarity with firing a gun.

"Ducky," Jim said with a nod of respect for the older man.

The doctor then offered his hand to Spike. "Sentinel Spikeman," he said with a welcoming smile.

"Please call me Spike," he said as he took the doctor's hand.

A pleasant warm energy climbed Ducky's arm as he shook Spike's hand. Spike tried to pull away, but without thinking Ducky clasped the blond sentinel's hand with both of his as he locked eyes with Spike's. He felt the rush of energy fill his body as, for the first time in his life, he was drawn to another sentinel.

Xander gave a low, warning growl. Reflexively, Ducky's grip tightened further at the challenge, he didn't want to let go, this energy felt good and he wanted to keep it for himself. He turned his head to look at the guide who was definitely displaying non-guide behavior.

Gibbs came across the room in a flash, forcing his body between the two sentinels and grabbed his friend's wrist. "Ducky!" Gibbs ordered. "You have to let go of Spike's hand now."

Ducky dropped Spike's hand. "Oh, dear, I... I don't know what came over me," he stammered, taking a hasty step backwards, truly flustered. "Gibbs warned us...about... but I didn't believe it was possible." Tony moved then, coming up to stand at Ducky's elbow and let Gibbs' best friend take what support he would. Ducky gratefully stood within the soothing area and let Tony's calm flow over him. Gradually he felt less and less like sinking through the floor.

Spike's arm pulled Xander in next to him and he nuzzled his guide's neck before turning to back to Ducky. "No harm done, Doctor."

McGee watched as the vignette played out, he tried to sort through the jumble of illogical scent markings and what they had to mean. It was obvious now why a sentinel like Ellison or Gibbs would bond with Spike. Hell, he'd bond with him himself, even though a few minutes ago all he wanted was for Spike to be as far away from Abby as possible. His nostrils flared once again as he took in the groups' scent marking. Ellison, as pack leader had the skin scent of all three of his pack mates on him. Blair and Xander wore the claiming scent of both sentinels. But it was Spike that had the most interesting mix, the guy had been scent marked by both his pack leader and his guide. The mark from his pack leader was on Spike's skin, no intercourse required, but the other mark, the one from his guide...Spike had bottomed for his guide, McGee was sure of it. And it hadn't been very long ago, either. He was surprised, Spike was an Alpha, yet he took the role of second to Ellison and he bottomed for his guide. "He's like me," McGee said softly to Abby, but not softly enough for a sentinel's ears to miss. The whole room turned toward him.

"Umm...Compatible energy," McGee said, frantic for an explanation. "Tony told us you could only bond with compatible energy."

Spike eyes turned yellow as he moved toward McGee, his progress, sensual, seemed deceptively slow, but it was rapid and he was very quickly only inches away. Tim McGee felt himself begin to harden, his eyes drawn to the promising sway of the other male's, hips. He licked his lips nervously.

"Is that what you told him, luv?" Spike asked in a perfect English accent, addressing himself to Tony but keeping his eyes locked on McGee.

"It seemed... prudent at the time," Tony answered in an unhappy mumble. "I didn't want to...get into too many details." He reddened. Spike chuckled.

Another time and Tim might have laughed at Tony's embarrassment. But he didn't feel like it now. "Did he lie?" McGee asked, switching his attention to Tony, grasping at anything that could to take his mind away from the growing arousal tenting his pants and ~Spike~.

Spike stopped inches from McGee. He sniffed at him openly, clearly enjoying being provocative. "What I said was I can only bond with someone I can love." The honesty was shocking. Men as a rule didn't openly talk about love in the company of virtual strangers. "You are right; we are alike, you and I, we walk in worlds others can't imagine. I could take you for my own. Do you want me?"

Abby watched as Spike's energy stroked and danced with McGee's. Then she heard Spike's question and she suddenly understood what it meant. She was around McGee in a flash, towering over the blond man. "No! He's mine!" she said, trying to shove Spike back "you can't have him!"

Spike's gaze shifted to the tall dark-haired guide, as if seeing her clearly for the first time, "Druuuu cill aaaa." He drawled, his face taking on an odd look.

Xander had had enough; he stomped forward and turned Spike forcing the sentinel to face him. "That's ~not~ Drucilla," he said, his anger like daggers. "You are not going to get involved with her. You're bonded to me, I'm your soul mate."

Spike's gentle hand firmly muffled his guide's outraged speech. "Hush, Luv," he said stroking Xander's face and meeting his anger with love. "That's not the Drucilla we knew. She is his," Spike said, indicating McGee, "a different name...different soul, but she is what Drucilla was meant to be before Angelus drove her insane. They need each other; I won't take that away from either of them. Promise, luv."

"What's going on?" Ducky asked, breaking the spell that had held the room immobile. His gaze was fixed on the blond sentinel and the dark haired guide, who were all but wrapped up in themselves, the larger guide bending the smaller sentinel back over his arm and biting his throat in the most blatant display of possession Ducky had ever seen, and the sentinel was not only allowing it he was co-operating, offering his neck to his guide. Ducky's eyes clearly asked the question if they were entirely sane.

"Blair took a nap on the plane," Jim said, ignoring his pack mate's behavior as if it were perfectly usual.

Ducky looked at him, his expression now including Jim in his question. Gibbs had told them to expect the unexpected but surely he couldn't have meant anything like this.

Gibbs looked at Jim with one of his 'is there a point', looks, both brows raised, but his stance was relaxed, whatever else was happening in the room held no concern for him.

"He got a message from Incacha," Jim continued in the way of offering an explanation. "That's what this is about. We need to talk."

"Who's Incacha?" Ducky, McGee and Abby asked at the same time.

Thankfully diverted, Tony had his hands folded in front of himself again, this time holding a file as a secondary shield.

Gibbs sighed. He wouldn't get any rest tonight, between Incacha's message and seeing that Tony's need are met; it was going to be a long night indeed.

@@@@@@

Gibbs looked around his office, "I want all of you to report to my home today at 1400 hundred hours. No exceptions."

The protest came from an unexpected source. The speaker stood with hands on slim hips, her lower lip jutting out rebelliously.

"No," Abby said. "I'm not letting my sentinel anywhere near them." Her expression was uncharacteristically mulish.

"That wasn't a suggestion, Abby. It was an order." Gibbs said, letting his anger at her defiance show. "You and your sentinel will be there."

"We'll be there, Boss," McGee said, recognizing a potential disaster in the making. He took Abby's arm and tried to send her what support and understanding he could. She was stiff, angry still, and the look in her eyes didn't bode well. He knew he had to get her alone as soon as possible and reassure her in the only way that always worked.

Dr. Mallard's brilliant mind churned with an analysis of the events since being introduced to the Cascade pack. He was worried, very worried. He had no problem with Sentinel Ellison or his guide; both fell into normal modern sentinel/guide parameters, Blair might seem a little more assertive than most and Ellison more liberal, but all in all, Ducky saw them as a normal Sentinel/Guide pair. He understood the difficulties the young guide Xander was going through and his behavior, while odd, was understandable under the circumstances. It was Spike he had the problem with. He appeared to be an Alpha and yet he had let his guide scent mark him, what was more, he was actually openly wearing the scent into a group of mixed sentinels and guides knowing that the sentinels would know exactly how he'd come to be marked as he was. It was unheard of. And then the thing with McGee, offering to make the Major his own, whatever that meant; followed by allowing his guide to perform a claiming bite in front of everyone. None of it made sense... unless..."Jethro," Ducky inquired quietly, "may I speak with you alone for a moment?"

"Anything you have to say to me, Duck," Gibbs answered, "you can say in front of my pack mates and their guides."

"Jethro, please," Ducky said. "I promise it will only take a moment."

"He wants to tell you that Spike is a multiple personality," Blair said, looking quite a bit calmer about it than Ducky, who considered himself rather unflappable, felt. "That's it isn't it Doctor?"

Ducky glanced at Jim, he wasn't accustomed to addressing a guide directly about important matters, not even guides he had known for years, and he had met this one less then half an hour ago. So, it was a natural thing for him to look to the guide's sentinel for permission to talk to any guide, except of course Abby and Tony. They were colleagues and it was necessary to talk with them about work related topics, small talk, and at times when they drove him mad with their un-guidelike behavior, but even then he would never discuss sentinel matters with them.

Jim understood what that look meant. "You have my permission to speak directly to Blair, Doctor," Jim said with an amused smile. "Blair holds a Doctorate in Sentinel and Guide Studies from Rainier University. He's lectured upwards of a thousand Sentinels at one time in seminars. He is also a graduate from the Cascade Police Academy and he's a highly intelligent and intuitive Alpha Guide and a healer. If it's all the same to you, I prefer not to deal with his rage if I were to try to...disallow... conversations with other sentinels." His smile showed he really wasn't afraid of his guide, but also that he was completely serious about Blair speaking for himself.

Ducky turned to Gibbs, "I have no desire to break my promise, Jethro, but I cannot stand by silently and let vital information..."

"Vital information," Ducky," Gibbs interrupted, "or simply your opinion?"

"It is my medical opinion, based on years of medical experience, that Sentinel Spikeman's behavior does not fit entirely within the range of normal."

"Define normal, Doctor?" Blair asked. "Normal is too often a nonspecific term open to cultural and societal interpretation, rather than a solid medical diagnosis."

Ducky stared at him, considering what he said. It was a mouthful. And, unfortunately for Ducky's pride, it made some degree of sense. Damn. Was he being rigid? Prejudiced? He hated to think of himself that way. He thought of himself as old fashioned perhaps, certainly gallant. Was he really more intolerant than enlightened?

"If we told you what Spike truly is you wouldn't believe us," Blair continued. "I didn't believe it. Spike can call on a ~past life personality~ for lack of a better explanation, that personality gives him abilities that traditional Sentinels do not have. I assure you doctor that Spike is entirely reliable and sane. He won't put any of us at risk."

"So you're admitting that Spike is a multiple personality?" Ducky asked pouncing on the admission, but not able to completely dismiss the other train of thought.

"I'm admitting no such thing," Blair insisted. "Spike just has a dial other sentinels don't have, a past life dial, he is able to access abilities from that past life. It's no different than a traditional sentinel turning up his scent dial."

Ducky took a deep breath. "Your explanation doesn't take into account the possibility..."

"Stop it, all of you, right now!" Xander interrupted. "We're not here for this. I'm tired of going through all this crap every time we meet new Sentinels. Spike is a different kind of Sentinel. He saved my life, no one else could have done it." Xander turned to look pointedly at McGee. "All of you should be damn glad that we came to pull your asses out of whatever fire you've found them in. As for you, Doctor," he continued, as the Cascade group closed ranks around him, "if labeling Spike a multiple personality helps you keep your hands off my Sentinel, then fine, just keep your damn label to yourself along with your hands. Spike gets the job done. That's all any of us needs to know."

Gibbs and Tony moved to align themselves with Jim's pack. "Is there anything else, Ducky?" Gibbs asked. "I trust them, and they are what we need to win this war."

"No," Ducky answered, with a sigh of resignation and a nod of respect toward the group. "I stand corrected."

***

Gibbs car on the way to his home

***

"Blair," Gibbs said, "I need to know what Incacha told you, I have to be prepared for when you tell my people. Is Red alright?"

"She's in no immediate danger," Blair said. "But she had quite a bit of information to pass on."

Gibbs breathed a sigh of relief. He loved Red, not the same way he loved Tony, but he did love her, he hoped that someday she would consent to being a surrogate mother for him and Tony, or that a sentinel would claim her and she'd have a better life then being owned by the state. Mindwalkers were almost never claimed by sentinels; nearly all Sentinels were afraid of the depth a bond would go to with a double X. Everyone had parts of themselves they wanted to keep secret. And then there was the fear no one talked of, that somehow a Mindwalker would gain control over her sentinel and the sentinel would become her thrall, trapped for a lifetime of servitude to a guide. That scenario never took into account that Guides were empathetic and it was extremely difficult for an empathetic personality to be cruel, they feel the impact and the consequences of what they do to others. "I'm glad she's okay for the time being, but you said no immediate danger; does that mean she senses something is coming?"

"She is sure that Washington Genetics has a Eugenics program and she is a part of it," Blair continued. "They've put her on fertility drugs and will harvest her eggs as soon as she ovulates, then they plan to do in vitro fertilization on her. She has no idea at this point who will be providing the sperm for fertilization."

Gibbs whistled with a sharp intake of breath through clenched teeth. "I should have guessed when McGee told me all the Mindwalkers were ordered to report to Guide Proliferation. We had to bring a Mindwalker out of retirement and another down from Canada to interrogate the Guide traffickers we caught."

"They're not going to hurt her," Blair said, knowing it was small consolation, but he still felt he had to say it out loud anyway. "They need her to be in good health to have a healthy pregnancy."

Tony stroked Gibbs' thigh, making no production of it, keeping it discreet, "None of this is your fault, Boss," he said trying to give comfort. "We didn't know what they were capable of. You can claim her, under the new laws, we can say we want her for our surrogate and form a family group. We can get her out of there." He had battled the idea of sharing Gibbs for a long time. A lot longer than Gibbs knew. He was aware of Gibbs' desire for children, of the child he had lost. How could he not be? Every time they encountered a child in trouble he saw the kind of father his sentinel would be. Gibbs deserved a family, and Tony would sacrifice his own jealousy to give him one.

"They won't give her to us before they take her eggs, Tony," Gibbs said, "and maybe not even then." Tony nodded, he knew that was true. But one harvesting wouldn't take all of Red's eggs. There would be the possibility of children in her future. But it was the fate of the children that came from those eggs that Tony knew Gibbs was worried about. What would the bastards do to them once they were born, or even before?

"There's more," Blair said, "The lab is holding a female sentinel, designation number 4, they are keeping her secret but she escaped and came looking for a guide to bond with. Willow said her energy is like a tigress, constantly on the hunt and ready to kill, and she has a mildly noticeable foreign accent, though she is very fluent in English. She escaped to try to find a guide but her energy is incompatible with most of them. Her guards are mundanes, not sentinels, and they took her down with two shots of a dart gun, but she still wasn't completely out. The nurse who came into the room didn't know that #4 was a sentinel. The sentinel told Willow that "they" are trying to force her into a permanent bond with a male guide, but none of the guides can stand the sight of her and she had refused to bond with them, even temporarily, because she considers them to be weak."

"I need a drink," Gibbs said as he pulled into his driveway. He rubbed his forehead. A female sentinel. He felt a spurt of intense foreboding. He almost turned towards Tony. Almost reached out. A female sentinel. Why wouldn't a female sentinel be more desirable to a male guide than a male sentinel? Gibbs hated the thought of Tony with a woman. He'd endured it from time to time, usually when Tony was undercover during the early years of their partnership. He remembered and was not fond of those days. He didn't want his guide anywhere near a female sentinel. His jaw spasumed, and he was sure everyone in the car could hear his teeth grinding.

***

Gibbs' Home - Monday Evening

***

"Well all of that is very interesting," Ducky said while contemplating the warm glow of the inch of amber liquid in his glass. "A female sentinel that is feral and has an energy that Guides find repulsive, she won't be very useful to WG if it is true." Ducky continued as he looked around at the group. "It is just the opposite of what we thought was instinctual behavior in a guide, to calm a sentinel, to comfort and bond with an unbonded one. We can infer that she has difficulty bonding, since she mentioned both a temporary bond and the attempt to force her into a permanent bond with a male Guide who was not remotely interested, in fact was repelled. But the fact that she was surprised to find Red was not afraid of her tells us that the fear guides have of her is not a gender issue. We can assume that it is Red's Mindwalker abilities that allow her to remain at ease in 4's company. Perhaps their strength compliments each others?"

"Willow said that #4 relaxed a bit while talking with her," Blair told the group, "and Willow got the impression that the sentinel was analyzing the consequences of a bond with her. She said she could feel the sentinel probing her, looking for weaknesses, perhaps looking for the expected revulsion she'd encountered with all the other Guides she mentioned. The mind probe was light, compared to what a Mindwalker can do but it could account for, at least in part, the reaction others have toward her."

"Do you realize what you are saying?" McGee asked. "This sentinel is wild, she has at least mild Mindwalker abilities and she intends to escape. I know Red; she's not given to exaggerations. If she says that #4 is a tigress ready to kill, then everyone in the facility is at risk. Including Red. Shouldn't we be thinking of a way to get her out?"

"If the female Sentinel escapes she'll take her guide with her," Jim said. "Willow will keep her stable." His tone said it was a done deal, that in his mind Red was already as good as bonded with the female.

"Oh, really," McGee asked." Do you have any evidence to base that opinion on, or is it just wishful thinking?

"Hey!" Xander said trying to stand up and defend his sentinel, but Spike was too fast for him, catching his arm and pulling him back down into the space in the overstuffed chair they were sharing, Xander never made it to his feet.

"She may kill Willow if she doesn't acquiesce to her demands to bond," McGee continued, ignoring Xander's growl and noting just how deceptively strong the slender blond sentinel was. "Providing that is what is going to happen. I haven't been totally convinced. She sounds...unstable."

"It's okay, Xanman," Jim said, holding up his hand to quiet his aggressive, and growling, guide. Then he turned back to McGee. "Whatever else she is, she is a sentinel in need of a guide and she knows it. She will not risk harming the only Guide who has seemed remotely possible to fill that role. She stopped running, risking recapture, to talk with Willow. The only ones in danger are the ones that come between a sentinel and his...uh her... intended guide." The expression on Jim's face made it pretty clear he was also having reservations on welcoming the advent of female sentinels into the world. Gibbs understood his view completely.

"What about Willow?" Tony asked, using the name the Cascade group had given her. "What if she doesn't want to bond with this number four?"

"She won't refuse the bond," Gibbs said. He felt a twinge of regret. There went all possibility of a family. He put it roughly out of his mind. This was not about him.

"How can you know that?" Tony asked, "She refused you when you offered, and you're a hell of a lot more desirable then that #4 chick." Gibbs felt a wave of grateful warmth flow over him.

"That '#4 chick' needs her," Gibbs said, smiling inwardly at Tony's constant assumption that everyone found him irresistible. His tone was firm. "I don't need her, I have you, and besides, Red won't be able to resist the adventure of being bound to her. We need to get word to her that if they escape we'll supply a safe house for them."

"I can do that," Blair said. "She'll have the message by tomorrow morning."

"So, where does that leave me?" Abby asked, anxious to get an answer to the question that had her on edge. "Since the powers that be have already created a female sentinel does that mean I'm off the hot seat?"

"Not from my point of view," Xander said, and the whole group turned to look at him.

"Why would Abby still be in danger?" McGee asked. "They have a female sentinel so there's no point in trying again with Abby and she's infertile, they can't breed more like her. What could they possibly want with her?"

"I don't know," Xander said. "But with me it wasn't just triggering me as a sentinel. They wanted to know if there was a genetic component to my hazard detection. Does Abby have any unusual abilities, anything that you find valuable?"

"None," McGee said, "Abby is just Abby, unique and highly intelligent. But there are a lot of intelligent guides in the world."

"That's not true," Tony said with a look of fear on his face. "She can see emotions and energy auras. She knew something had changed with Gibbs and me when we got back from Cascade, the moment she touched us she knew."

"So?" McGee asked, defiantly, gripping his Guide tightly as if shielding her. "She has some quirky ability. I don't see how it could be valuable to anybody?"

Xander looked at Abby, "How accurate are you?" he asked.

Abby could see the worry mixed with fear that was pouring off of the Cascade group. "I've never been wrong," Abby said quietly. "Some people... I can't see anything. I call them blanks, they are always bad people and I've learned to stay far away from them."

"So," Xander pointed out, "We have a guide that is 100% accurate with an ability to tell if a person is dangerous or not and you don't think that's valuable? I'm 85% accurate with hazard detection and they want me."

"But your fertile," McGee said, "Abby's not"

"I still have ovaries," Abby said, "they could give me fertility drugs and harvest eggs."

"They wouldn't have to," Ducky said, "We have gene splicing now, all they would need is DNA."

"Who knows about Abby's abilities?" Jim asked.

"Everyone at NCSIA," Gibbs said with an annoyed sigh. "That explains the rest of Incacha's message."

"There's more?" Ducky asked.

"There is," Gibbs said, "But I don't think you're going to like it. Incacha said it is McGee's destiny as a sentinel to be one with Yellow Eyes."

"I think we need to take a closer look at this, let's not rush things." Ducky said, shifting in his seat. "I'm a firm believer of look before you leap, we need to take a good hard look at all the facts. Our enemies are even more formidable than usual, and it would take careful planning indeed if we're not to be defeated, or worse, killed. I'd like to know who exactly is this Incacha chap and why should we trust him enough to take his advice?"

"Incacha is a sentinel Spirit guide," Gibbs said, holding back his wince. He remembered his own skepticism, when he first heard of spirit guides; it was only his absolute trust in Red that let him except that the spirit guide not only existed but was in the hospital nesting room with them when Tony was injured. He was more than expecting Ducky's incredulous stare as the older man's eyebrows shot up towards his hairline. "Both Red and Blair trust him." Gibbs offered further.

Ducky's expression didn't alter by much; Guides were often involved in such hocus-pocus, touchy-feely, mumbo-jumbo. He was a scientist and believed in cold hard facts, but before Ducky could voice his ~considerable~ reservations, there was an interruption.

"My sentinel is not going to bond with Spike!" Abby shouted, gripping her Sentinel's arm, this time tugging him and shifting on the couch so he was partly behind her, she squared off against the others in the room. "He's mine, and he's going to stay mine, just mine." She all but climbed into McGee's lap. "Spike promised his guide he wouldn't take us away from each other." She narrowed her eyes at the group watching her antics. She heard Tim sigh, but he knew better than to try and pull away, or shift her off of his legs. That would just start a real brouhaha. He knew better, yes, he did, he stayed right where he was.

"I want to ask Tim to become my Childe," Spike said, evenly, watching Abby with more interest than he'd previously showed. Possessive and aggressive guides were..hot, and he had a definite weakness for them, and so apparently did McGee, just one more way they were alike. He reminded himself that this was business, and that no matter how hot the girl was, his Xander was hotter. "It is different than a traditional bond. I will be able to transfer my tracking and healing abilities to McGee; if he accepts he'll be able to do what I do. You'll still be Sentinel and Guide, there won't be any interference with your bond." He held up three fingers, "Scout's honor."

Abby growled a warning, showing teeth, she was clearly not convinced.

"Is that what you meant when you said you could make me your own?" McGee asked, perhaps unwisely considering how unhappy his Guide was at the moment. But he was curious. The blond opened his mouth to reply and once again Abby interrupted the answer.

"You're not doing it," Abby said, through clenched teeth, winding her arms around her sentinel's neck and holding tight. He coughed and shifted just enough to breathe again. Abby growled, "Spike's not going to lay ~My Sentinel~ on his back."

Tim flushed; he could do without that visual. He glanced around the room, seeing the look on Tony's face in particular, and it seemed DiNozzo could also do without it, too. Gibbs of course looked unaffected, Ducky was purple with embarrassment, but the Cascade contingent looked...determined to wait it out. Interesting. Again. Tim turned back to Spike.

"It isn't the traditional bond between sentinels," Xander explained, answering instead of the Sentinel at his side. McGee could ~see~ Ducky flinch. "It's intimate but not sexual in the realest sense, not the way you mean it."

Tim looked confused, but worse, Tony, the unflappable, was turning as red as the far more prim Ducky. Gibbs at least was still in control of his features. Tony blushing though, that was bad. Especially since Tony had 'been there, done that'. Not true sex?.

Tony couldn't keep quiet any longer. "I can't believe you're actually thinking of making McGeek your childe! So maybe Gibbs beating you wasn't sex but as for the rest of it, if you think that wasn't sex..." Gibbs stepped up and put a firm hand over his spluttering Guide's mouth.

"It's what I did with Peter Wall," Spike said, ignoring the little gem of information about the beating he took when he and Gibbs bonded. "It's a different bond than I have with you and Gibbs."

Tim didn't believe that it was possible, but now...Gibbs was red. Tim stared, his mouth falling open and his mind racing, trying to sort out exactly what happened in Cascade. There had been sex involved when Spike bonded with Gibbs and Tony. Had there been a fight to decide who put who on who's back? If Gibbs won why was he so embarrassed? If Spike won then why did Tony say Gibbs beat him? Unless...Spike let Gibbs win and Gibbs knew it, his eyes shifted back to Spike. Could the smaller sentinel really take Gibbs in a full out fight? Things just kept getting curious-er and curious-er.

"And that is enough detail." Gibbs barked, stopping the line of conversation in its tracks. Tony sat statue still, Gibbs hand not moving an inch from his mouth. Everyone stared at everyone else. Not even the voluble Abby dared to open her mouth.

Spike waited a few moments, giving the room a chance to quiet down, before continuing as if there wasn't any uncomfortably large purple elephant in the room, which everyone was ignoring, but certainly thinking about. "Tim has to ~want~ to become my childe, he has to want to take on the new energy along with the abilities and responsibilities that come with it. Just accepting it isn't enough. If he doesn't truly want it, it won't work."

"But why McGee," Ducky asked the question Tony's eyes had been shooting at Spike. "It seems that it would have been more efficient if you had done this with Gibbs in Cascade. It certainly would have saved you this trip, and with your tracking abilities Gibbs and Tony would have had no need to cross bond. Why didn't you share your abilities with the General then and why not now?"

"It's not just tracking and healing ability," Spike said. "Gibbs is happy with who and what he is. He strives to be the best he can be and to even better his best, but he doesn't want to be like me. McGee is a good man and he is happy about that, but he wants more, he wants to grow, he has room to change and is open to this. That's what makes him and I alike; if he wants to he can absorb my energy. Gibbs isn't compatible in that way, McGee is. I don't know how to say it any plainer. I needed to bind with Gibbs in one way...and with McGee in another."

"I find it difficult to imagine exactly what you mean," Ducky said. "But I will take it on faith that you are speaking the truth. Gibbs certainly trusts you. That carries significant weight in my book. However, I hope sincerely you are not preparing to suggest that I join with you in any way, because, while flattering, I'd absolutely have to decline." The ME finished firmly, his chin raised in emphasis.

Spike gave a chuckle. "I was a mama's boy who wrote bad poetry." He said. "I understand the Major. You and I, we can work together, but...I am afraid a bond between us would fail. I can sense you are a stubborn man when you make up your mind, and steady in your conviction."

McGee had had enough of avoiding the important issue. He interrupted what was obviously going to be a long dance of give and take between the two other sentinels. "So how do I go about absorbing your energy?" McGee asked Spike pointedly, "I'd like to know what I'm being asked to get into." Not that he'd think of saying no.

"No," Abby said, pulling on her sentinel's arm. "I can see your energy, you are not like him, Timmy. I don't want him, I want you. I love you just the way you are. I thought we settled this last night. You don't have to change for me. I'm sorry I said his energy is yummy. Please, I don't want to lose you." She snuggled closer, her super mini skirt riding up her long, pale thighs.

"You're not going to lose him, Abby," Xander said. "Look at us. Do you see any weakness in my bond with Spike?" Pointing out the obvious. If any bonding outside of the main could weaken the primary bond...then they should have been ripped asunder. Abby narrowed her eyes and watched the energy dancing and swirling around Spike and his guide, Xander was right there was no weakness in their bond. Even the lines that traveled to the other sentinels and guides in the room did not deplete the bond the Sentinel and Guide shared. Then she looked at Gibbs and Tony, she had seen their bond many times over the years since she'd known them, there was no hint of a crack in their bond either, in fact it looked deeper somehow. She bit her bottom lip, analyzing what she was seeing.

"I understand your fears," Xander said. "I had a difficult time the first time Spike made a childe. I was afraid that Peter would be more important to Spike then I am."

"That will never happen, Love," Spike whispered nuzzling Xander's neck.

'Look, all of you," Xander said as he cuddled in even closer against Spike. "In an ideal world we wouldn't have to do any of this. But we don't live in an ideal world. There are people that have taken our reproductive rights away from us, and they will try to take more if we let that stand. They want to mutilate and enslave our children. I know first hand what they are capable of and if I'm not mistaken you know too, Abby. Did they try to make you a sentinel?"

"You told him?" Abby said, glaring at Gibbs, indignant.

"No one told me anything about you," Xander said. "Guides don't growl, but you can. Can you purr too? What else did they do to you that you have to live with? We have to use whatever means are at our disposal to win this war, Abby, for ourselves and for our children. If that means sharing Spike I'll share him. He gives me a lot more than I give him."

"Not true, Love," Spike said. "Without you I'd be nothing. You're my everything."

"And Abby is my everything," McGee said. "I know on the surface Spike and I appear to be very different, but I think on a deeper level, a more personal level, we are alike." McGee turned to Abby. "I want this Abby, not because you said Spike's energy was yummy but for all the reasons that Xander just mentioned and because I feel it's the right thing. I feel a pull toward Spike, this is right for me. I know it sounds corny but I think this is my destiny. We can't afford to be selfish, not with what we are facing."

Abby threw her arms around her sentinel and held on tight burrowing her face into the juncture of his shoulder and neck before lifting her head to look at Spike with a semi-glare of warning. "Okay, Mister, you can make him your Childe, but you better not be lying to me, because if you are you'll have me to answer to and I'm no pushover."

McGee held Abby's face in his hands and leaned in until they were touching foreheads. "More than life, Abigail Scuito," he whispered.

"More than life, Timothy McGee," she whispered back.

McGee turned to look at Spike. "That brings us back to the question, how do I absorb your energy and become your Childe?"

"We exchange blood," Spike said.

"That's it?" McGee asked. "Blood exchange? Why didn't you just say so?" he sounded incredulous. "We didn't have to go through all that when all we have to do is donate a little blood; and what if we're not the same blood type, can we still do it?"

"It's not a transfusion," Spike said. "Blood type doesn't matter. I drink your blood and you drink mine."

"Drink?" McGee asked. "As in fine crystal and a toast...here's to childhood?" That didn't appeal too much.

"No crystal involved," Spike said, knowing that this would be the most difficult part to accept. "We drink directly from each other."

"From each other?" McGee asked. "Exactly where... from each other?"

"You'll drink from my wrists and I'll drink from your neck," Spike answered.

"And you're sure this is safe?" McGee asked. He was starting to get some doubts, not about becoming Spike's Childe, but the process sounded...a bit on the disgusting side. And it was pretty damn intimate, drinking someone else's blood.

"It's certainly not healthy," Ducky said. "Isn't there another way, besides blood?" he asked, taking the words out of McGee's mouth.

"Blood is life, Doctor," Spike said. "It's the only way I know."

"I can't allow it," Ducky said. "Not without a complete blood panel to make sure neither of you are passing on any blood borne diseases.

"You do the blood work yourself, Ducky," Gibbs said, giving his blessing to the decision that McGee made. "Keep it on the QT. I don't want anyone outside of our little circle knowing about this. No one else talks about it, is that clear? Not unless you are in an absolutely secure location. We aren't the only sentinels in town, don't forget that."

"I'll draw blood in the morning." Ducky said.

"Fine, then it's all settled," Gibbs said, standing up. "I don't know about anyone else, but I've had a long day and I need to get some rest."

McGee and Abby stood up. "Don't worry boss, we're doing the right thing." McGee said. He could feel it in his bones and even more so now that Gibbs had given his approval. They walked silently to the door with Gibbs following.

Abby turned and gave Gibbs a quick kiss on the cheek before going out the door walking arm and arm with her sentinel to their car. She was clinging more than usual, and Tim knew that he'd spend most of the evening and night reassuring her of her position in his heart and in his life. Which wouldn't be a hardship at all. Or...well, it would be...hard...but only in the nicest of ways.

Ducky drained the last of his brandy from his glass and then stood and walked to the door. "Desperate times," he whispered, putting his hand on Gibbs' shoulder and giving it a pat. "I understand."

"Desperate measures," Gibbs whispered back and then he watched as Ducky walked to his car.

@@@@@@

Ducky's Lab

***

"What is it Ducky?" Gibbs asked as he walked into the lab followed by McGee and the group from Cascade.

Ducky sat at the microscope scowling. He didn't want to do this in front of everyone, but was resigned to Gibbs' sudden and unwelcome, in Ducky's view, openness when it came to Ellison and his pack. "McGee's blood is normal, but I need to show you what I found in Sentinel Spikeman's blood." He met Gibbs' eyes with a hard, direct look of his own. Gibbs would know what he wanted, and the other Sentinel would choose whether they would talk in public, or in private. Gibbs didn't hesitate. So, public was what it was going to be. Ducky accepted it.

"Is he sick, Duck?" Gibbs asked with more concern in his voice than the M.E. expected. Abby moved over to hug her friend and rest her head on his shoulder. Gibbs let her, he wouldn't have tolerated it from almost anyone else, but Abby was...Abby.

"He has a couple of odd components to his blood," Ducky said. "His serum is chock full of stem cells, and there is an even stranger component...I think it's caused by a virus, but it is behaving more symbiotic than infectious."

"Would you care to run that by me again?" Gibbs asked, "without all the medical jargon."

Ducky sighed, "You call that medical jargon?" he asked, with a shake of his head. The doctor thought for a moment before reducing his findings to its simplest form. "Sentinel Spikeman has an enhanced immune system. He has stem cells in his blood. He also has...what appears to be a viral infection, a chronic one that is interdependent with his system rather than predatory as a disease entity might be. Much the same way we have beneficial bacteria in our digestive systems. The stem cells in his blood are something an adult shouldn't have. Stem cells are capable of becoming anything the body orders them to become. That means he doesn't heal, he regenerates any damage done to his body, the way a chameleon can grow a new tail. There would be no scar tissue. I assume that injury would activate the dormant cells, but I can't be sure of it. This condition is unknown to the medical community and, I dare say, it more than verges on being alien. It's certainly never been documented in mammals, and it isn't human."

"Spike has already told us he's not entirely human," Jim said. His deep voice was completely calm and unsurprised. As if he knew. Ducky narrowed his eyes. The man was a cop. Not a scientist. So...Ducky glanced at the rest of the party from Cascade. His eyes came to rest on the next speaker and stayed. This one had more of an academic air.

"Can I see?" Blair asked, he was practically bouncing out of his shoes. Involuntarily, Ducky found himself smiling. The Guide from Cascade sounded excited as he walked over to the microscope. "I didn't believe him when he told us. Does it really show up in his blood?"

Ducky looked the Guide over closely as he stood up to let him have a look. He felt his senses begin to open up in a way they hadn't since loosing his guide. Blair seemed to be vibrating with excitement as he sat down and looked into the microscope. Ducky was puzzled by his own reaction to the Guide as Blair neared. Really, it was quite inappropriate. The Guide was claimed and marked. He felt his lungs expand, drawing in the scent, his eyesight sharpen, his skin tingle, he wanted to lean in and.... Hastily Ducky took a step back. He should be able to control his reactions better than this. He wasn't a barbarian; he was a civilized man and an Alpha Sentinel, if an old one. Gibbs saved Ducky from further consternation, shooting the M.E. a sharp look. "You knew?" Ducky asked Gibbs, giving himself a mental shake.

"I didn't know about his blood, but the group told us about Spike before we decided to bond with them." Gibbs said, giving Ducky something to focus on. "They've never lied to us, or tried to gloss over anything. It just wasn't all that easy to understand what they meant."

"Didn't know it would show up in my blood," Spike said, his eyes glowing yellow, cocking his head to the side as he considered the new information. "Thought it was all meta-physical, but it makes sense now that you've told us. It's always been about blood." It was true; blood was always the key to everything.

"Boss," Tony asked, "Maybe you should have Ducky run a blood test on you, see if you've been infected?" He didn't sound happy, and looking at him, Gibbs was struck by the realization Tony might be right, they all might be infected with...whatever it was. If Ducky didn't have the words then he certainly didn't. And while it hadn't bothered him, personally, the idea of his Guide carrying something alien in his blood gave Gibbs the chills. He felt the hairs on his neck rise. He had to fight the urge to go to Tony immediately and strip him down to examine him, sniff him, lick him and bite him, assuring himself his Guide was safe and healthy. Tony probably wouldn't mind so much if it was done here and now, but Gibbs was a little more private in his preferences. He clenched his jaw.

"That is improbable, Tony," Ducky said, to their relief, then he dashed hopes by continuing, thinking aloud. "Gibbs would need to have ingested...."

"That's enough," Gibbs interrupted with a warning look at Tony, and an even more pointed one at Ducky. "I'm fine." He said with emphasis. But he ~was~ going to examine every inch of his Guide at the soonest opportunity. Ducky looked momentarily surprised, then his analytical brain caught up with his mouth and he pressed his lips shut.

McGee looked at Spike with growing interest. Gibbs and Spike had shared blood, body fluid, something... he wondered what else there was between them and how many more little secrets Tony was going to spill. "The Cascade team seems pretty healthy to me," McGee said, shaking himself out of his thoughts, "and if Sentinel Wall and Gibbs haven't had any bad side effects then we should go ahead with the bond."

Ducky looked at his long time friend, who had all but admitted to ingesting Spike's blood. Not for the first time he wondered if their minds were being manipulated by the bizarre pack. "Perhaps I should run blood tests on everyone. Just because one person has no ill effects doesn't mean that this virus will react the same way in every one's system. Viruses are always open to mutation. I'd also like C.A.T. scans to make sure there's no tissue or organ involvement." Or mutation, he didn't say it out loud, but it was a concern. "And it will certainly add to a body of knowledge that I've never seen documented or discussed before." His mouth was still disapproving but it was warring with his desire to research anything and everything that he didn't understand.

"No," Spike said. "I've gone as far as I am willing with you, Doctor. No blood, no biopsies, no tests, no write-up in a medical journal. We're all healthy and ~I will not~ submit my guide or myself to become anyone's lab rat. Or worse a bigger target then we all ready are. Gibbs can do what he wants, but I assure you he is healthy. The only side effect he has is increased strength and faster healing. I wouldn't risk hurting my family." Spike's declaration was absolute, without the slightest give.

Ducky wasn't going to be able to budge the determined sentinel, but what surprised him the most was that Spike felt he needed to give Gibbs permission to make his own decisions about the tests, he wondered if Gibbs noticed. Gibbs was family, Spike had made that reference more then once, but did Spike consider himself the ruling patriarch, subtly pulling everyone's strings? Ducky decided to see what would happen if Spike's manipulative nature saw the light of day. "I doubt that Gibbs needs your permission to make up his own mind," the doctor said. "He is quite capable of seeing for himself that I have every ones best interest at heart. I've certainly never given him cause to doubt my loyalty."

"He wasn't giving me permission, Ducky," Gibbs said with a scowl. "He was just letting me know there would be no hard feeling from him no matter what I decide to do. Can I say the same for you? You wouldn't be trying to make up my mind for me, would you?"

"I assure you I am not. But I do need to voice my concern here. We've been friends for a long time, Jethro," Ducky said quietly. "Is it such a bad thing to look after my friend's medical health?"

Gibbs put his hand on Ducky's shoulder. "Okay, Duck, for your peace of mind and Tony's I'll let you do a blood test and a C.A.T. scan. On me, no one else. Spike is right; if we all go marching in for a C.A.T. scan it will raise too many suspicions. But I want your word, Duck, if you find I'm healthy, with no ill effects from the bond with Spike, its over. End of testing. Are we agreed?"

"Agreed," Ducky answered. "I'll draw your blood now and make a call to the hospital to schedule the C.A.T. scan." He had no intention of wasting one instant of time, or of allowing the Cascadians time alone with Gibbs to talk him out of it. Jim's next statement caught the Medical Examiner by surprise.

"We'll wait for the results," Jim said, speaking up. "I know you need to think, and this will provide you with more information to help you decide. But as soon as the results are in and you know it's safe, that we're safe, let us help you solve the problem we came all this way to address. If not we'll return to Cascade. No point in staying around when there is nothing to do here. We have things to do at home; Washington Genetics needs to be monitored. We can't afford delay. Every minute counts."

"I'm still willing to go through with the bond to Spike." McGee said. "I don't see a down side to a better immune system." Abby's mouth opened and he clapped a careful but firm hand over it stifling her protest. Gibbs met his eyes, evaluating the statement. He nodded briefly.

"Then it's settled," Gibbs said, ignoring the fuming Guide struggling with her Sentinel. "I'll have the tests, for every ones peace of mind, and then Tim will bond with Spikeman."

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Ducky's Home

***

Ducky sat in his over stuffed leather chair sipping tea. Gibbs' blood did have stem cells in it but they were not hurting him. He'd rushed the tests, but not to the point of missing anything crucial. The full body C.A.T. scan had shown his friend to be in perfect health; and tonight was the night Spike would 'make McGee his own'. He didn't like it, not one little bit. Evidence was mounting that the Cascade group had some kind of mental hold on Gibbs and now it was going to spread to McGee, his second in command at NCSIA. Gibbs refused to speak to Ducky alone, and that, by itself was enough to make Ducky's alarm bells ring loud and clear.

Adding to the elderly sentinel's concern was the undisputed fact that Spike already had his ~fangs~ into the Agency via the newly promoted Alpha Prime Graham Miller and Sentinel Prime Peter Wall. Now Ellisons' group had the head of Sentinel Internal Affairs, the title Gibbs held, in their pocket and by morning, would have the second in command, McGee, as well. Ducky couldn't imagine how anyone could sway Miller from his path, there was a stubborn man if ever Ducky had met one, but if Gibbs and Ellison were to be believed, and Ducky did believe, Miller was Spike's. Though they hadn't put it in quite those terms, Ducky did. Somehow Spike was in control, Ducky was sure of it. Gibbs didn't submit anything to anyone, and yet...there was his half-admission about Spike and the bond they shared, a bond that was deeper than Gibbs wanted to let on. Ducky had never expected to hear the like. But Gibbs had indicated it was true, if only by his avoidance of discussing the subject further. The M.E. shook his head, feeling more than a little out of his depth.

Ducky didn't understand why Gibbs couldn't see that these men might be the very ones they got into the resistance to fight. What better cover for spies to use than a rebellious, nonconformist pack? One birthed on the back of a respected, normally conservative man like Ellison's reputation deemed him. Ellison, this was very much out of character for that man, sharing two guides and nesting with another sentinel. As for Spike, he certainly could be an engineered sentinel, yellow eyes and blood full of stem cells, it just wasn't normal, no matter how the Guide Blair defined normal, Ducky wasn't about to be so generous.

The high-bred, high-strung Harris Sentinel/Guide... Someone, or several someones had been dabbling in that boy's brain. Did they really expect him, as a physician, to believe that Xander's sentinel skills triggered due to an accidental overdose of a drug? It was far more likely that the kidnapping was a cover or even a covert operation to get a toe in the door with Miller, Wall and Gibbs. Well Ducky wasn't going to succumb to Spike's ~yummy~ energy, no matter how seductive it was. He'd declined the invitation to the ceremony tonight, thank you very much. From now on he would stay clear of Spike, he certainly wouldn't make the mistake of ever touching him again. He needed a clear head to watch out for those less suspicious and cautious.

Touch could be the key to Spike's mental control over the group or maybe it had something to do with the stem cells. The virus might be transmissible via touch, and not only ingestion. Ducky flushed again, the unwilling picture flashing in his brain quickly shut down. The medical convention in Boston would begin soon and Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard would look into this stem cell stuff. If Ellison's pack was on the wrong side of this battle, then he would find out, and if so, there would be hell to pay. One didn't hurt or attempt to manipulate Donald Mallard's friends without suffering very severe consequences.

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Gibb's Home

***

"This feels kind of awkward," McGee said as he looked around the newly furnished nesting room in Gibbs' townhouse. It was well appointed, looked far more comfortable and cushion-y than anything McGee had previously associated with his boss. This was more like Tony's taste, simple, rich, and so decadent all at the same time, maintaining an understated elegance. It wasn't the least bit feminine, but McGee felt a conviction that he was giving his permission to being seduced.

"We'll take it slow," The barefoot Spike answered as he took off his shirt and sat down on the muted burgundy covers of the nest, watching McGee.

McGee's eyes widened, skittering along the hard muscular chest of the shorter, smaller blond man. This was not a woman's body. This was not an androgynous, slender man with sweet curves here and there to distract him with the fantasy that it might be an athletic woman. This was a man, hard muscled and strong. No doubt about it, and he hadn't even started to take off his pants yet. McGee knew that would happen at some point, and when it did he wasn't going to protest, though he'd bite his tongue off before he'd admit it out loud.

McGee averted his eyes, but kept sneaking quick darting looks back at Spike. The glances lasted longer and longer, as he removed his shirt and sat down across from Spike, where he took a deep breath and looked down into the other sentinel's eyes. He ignored the men sitting around them. Jim, Gibbs and Tony were there for support only. Abby, Xander and Blair waited in the living room. The group stayed quiet, for which McGee was very grateful. One patented DiNozzo joke and he wasn't sure he wouldn't take to his heels. He was on the edge as it was, his breath coming short.

Spike's face was sympathetic. He put out a milk-pale hand, letting it rest on McGee's forearm. McGee was more than a little shocked when he didn't feel like jumping out of his skin at the touch. The feel of Spike, the warm, comforting essence of the odd sentinel washed through his limbs. He felt his body sigh and begin to relax.

"Abby's pissed she couldn't be in here," McGee said, letting the discomfort he felt creep into his voice.

"She would have distracted us," Spike said, his voice low, soothing. "I'll call her in as soon as the ceremony's over, she'll be here when you wake up, we both will." Spike's dark blue eyes wavered, the irises flooding with golden yellow like honey poured into a jar. One moment blue...the next clear, buttery yellow. He leaned forward about half an inch.

McGee smelled him, his skin, his sweat, his musk. He felt his heart pound more forcefully, as if it beat a little stronger, and little more energetically, yet a sense of peace, rather than agitation seemed to grow, washing through him in ever stronger waves. McGee kept his gaze fixed on Spike and nodded in agreement, swallowing hard. His body was singing. He thought for a long moment, letting the feelings sink into his bones, the deep places, and Spike could see that he was wrestling with himself. Wrestling with wants, needs and fears. With saying yes, like he wanted to, or no, like he felt he should out of loyalty. Fighting with the idea of saying yes..to another sentinel, to a man.

Spike didn't push; he let the other man think. When he wasn't rushed, McGee relaxed a bit more. Spike tilted his head, just enough so that he became the one who submitted, not the aggressor. He softened his mouth, letting his lips part the tiniest bit. He saw the larger Sentinel's pupils dilate instantly. He scented the rush of aroused hormones, of flooding testosterone. He heard the blood rushing through McGee's veins and arteries. A sentinel would always respond to submission of another, and always fight his own. Well, Spike could give him that. Submission. He had no problem with it, never had. He didn't need to be top dog.

McGee growled, a low, possessive sound, and this time it was he who leaned forward, his larger body towering over the blond man's. Now it was McGee who wanted to instinctively do the taking. Spike nearly smiled, feeling a rush of affection and caring as McGee brushed against him. Yes, this one was a good choice, a good man despite being so damn young. He'd be an asset to the pack, a true protector for the guides. Now it only remained to bind him to them. Spike licked his pale pink mouth, letting McGee see it; he smiled inwardly when the growl was repeated.

Spike's hands went to his belt, unbuckling it and sliding out of his pants, leaving himself naked, offering himself gently, if he was wanted, he was careful to keep his offer from any hint of aggression. He could feel the heavy heat of McGee's want pressing into his hip. He guided McGee's hands to him, letting the sentinel pattern him as he gently removed the remainder of McGee's clothing, his own hands moving light and soft over the larger body, careful not to do any mapping. McGee was emphatically hard as he ran his tongue over Spike's nipple. His teeth closed in an erotic bite, not hurting, but thrilling Spike into letting out a quiet moan.

At the sound, Tony shot a side ways glance at Gibbs, who sat watching with a classic unreadable ~Gibbs expression~ on his face. The guide slid his hand into his sentinel's and their fingers intertwined. Then Tony felt the almost hidden tremble. The rise of Gibbs desire, banked, controlled, but definitely there.

Gibbs waited and watched. The atmosphere in the room was intense. As far as he knew McGee had never been with a man. Yet Spike was giving him what he needed. A chance to dominate, although McGee's domination of Spike was far gentler than the beating Gibbs had given Spike when they bonded, he wondered why Spike did it, why he submitted to Jim, Xander, him, and now McGee when he could easily have been a pack leader with other sentinels submitting to him.

Did Spike like submitting? Gibbs knew it was possible, though his mind had a hard time wrapping around the concept. He didn't understand it, but he could accept it philosophically, as long as no one asked it of him. He wouldn't submit. He couldn't imagine wanting to, not really. It was an alien idea. Was it really just penance for the sins of a past life for Spike? Could that drive a Sentinel to submit? He didn't think so. All the Alpha sentinels he had met, until Spike, held to the Western philosophy...'be an oak, stand strong and don't bend'. But Spike was different, he seemed to embody the Eastern philosophy...'be bamboo, bend when the storm comes, but don't break, do not be destroyed, survive...'. Now he wondered, had he misjudged McGee? He had always thought of Tim as intelligent and capable but more a follower able to lead in a pinch, but not born to lead, not like Ellison and he were. He had always known McGee was different somehow; he didn't easily fit into the definition of Alpha or Beta sentinel. When he claimed Abby for his guide and they both flourished, the scales tipped, in Gibbs' mind, toward McGee being the Alpha he claimed to be, that his medical records showed him to be. But still he had expected Spike to take, and McGee to grudgingly submit. It wasn't turning out that way at all. Now he sat watching two sentinels he respected and it all became clear to him. McGee was like Spike, they were bamboo, able to bend and do whatever was required without breaking. And in this instance, Spike had chosen to lure McGee, who was not attracted to his maleness at all, with the 'femininity' of pure, undiluted submission.

Gibbs squeezed Tony's hand. "We're going to win this war," he whispered, sure that their enemies had no idea of what they were up against.

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Abby sat on the sofa sandwiched between Xander and Blair. She sat upright, her lips pressed thin, her back stiff, her knees pressed primly together. She really wanted to bite one of them and dash to the door where her sentinel was being violated this very minute, but the two guides were holding her hands and stroking her arms in an attempt to keep her calm. The soothing touch was working, but just barely. Her eyes kept glancing toward the nesting room, she wanted to be in there and be with her sentinel. She didn't understand why they kept her out. Tony was there in case a guide was needed, she should be there, McGee was her responsibility, not Tony's. "How long is this going to take?" she asked to no one in particular.

"The ceremony itself doesn't take too long," Xander said, his big hand on her shoulder cupping it, squeezing comfortingly. He was huge for a guide, and he looked like a sentinel, even more than Abby thought she did. A genetic freak, just like she was. She leaned fractionally into his touch, he was interesting, and he felt good. Sentinel-ish. Xander accepted her move his grip supporting her, and continued speaking. "But McGee will sleep afterward. He won't wake up until morning."

"It's just that Tim has never been with a man before," Abby said, looking directly into Xander's eyes and nervously licking her lips. "I don't want him hurt." Her eyes held too many fears to list but one was clear as day. She feared that her Sentinel would be penetrated against his will, emasculated, humiliated.

"Spike won't hurt him; not physically nor emotionally, he can't force this, it simply wouldn't work," Blair said, soothingly, leaning into her side. He didn't feel like a sentinel, not even a little, she leaned away from him, and closer to Xander. Blair wasn't stupid, he let her move away. He kept hold of her hand, but didn't try to touch any other part of her. "He cares for Tim. What he is doing will make Tim stronger."

"Can I pace?" Abby asked, with her eyes focused on the nesting room door. "I think I'll do better if I pace." If they let her up, she thought, she could make a break for it and get to that door.

"No," Xander said. "The temptation to go to your sentinel will be too much if you are on your feet," he said, putting an end to Abby's not so secret plan. Abby remained silent, fuming.

"It shouldn't be much longer," Blair said. "Spike will call you in as soon as it's done."

@@@@@

McGee's back arched as he ran his hard cock back and forth along side Spike's equally hard appendage. He nuzzled into the bend of Spike's neck, nipping the skin over the pounding pulse. Spike ran his hand through McGee's short hair, ruffling it, and turning his face so they looked into each other's eyes. Spike looked deep, waiting for the connection to hit, then he coaxed him on to his side. He put his hand on McGee's cheek rubbing small circles with his thumb. He leaned forward, licking over the man's mouth before leaning back, and locking gazes. "When this is done we will be linked together," Spike began, his voice was soft and seductive. "We'll be closer than you can imagine. There will be love between us, the love of Sire and Childe runs deep and, once forged, it is unbreakable. Are you certain you want it?"

McGee could hear his blood pounding in his ears like a drumbeat. Spike's presence filled all his senses, the sight of his yellow eyes, the feel of his body, his scent, his taste, but mostly the sound of his voice, hypnotic in its call to him, weaving like a spell binding Tim to him even before the final act, before the last consent. Tim's answer was instant, emphatic. "Yes, I want it. Yes," he breathed. His hand rose and his fingers threaded through Spike's short blond hair. He gripped the locks, forearms tensing. He wanted to put Spike onto his back; he wanted to spread him wide and..... Spike let his body relax, let McGee work a knee between his legs, another sign of submission. McGee rumbled happily against Spike's throat.

Spike rolled McGee onto his back in gradual turns, mapping him gently, never forcefully, when McGee was at last spread-eagled and panting, Spike let his fangs drop. He tilted McGee's head and licked at his neck finding the pulse point, judging the bite exactly, he sank his fangs into McGee and drank three mouthfuls of the life giving fluid. Each swallow was accompanied by a shuddering from the larger man. Spike's fingers curled, caressed, held. Then he disengaged his teeth, and kissed the sluggishly bleeding wound.

McGee let out a murmur, and then a sigh, as he felt the warm soft tongue slide over his throat and then the fangs entered him. He gripped the round, lush buttocks that filled his hands, pulling Spike in hard against him, arching his own body upwards. He had expected pain, but there was none, only a rush of erotically charged warmth that filled his body. He rose up, his cock like steel along Spike's belly, moaning with each pull Spike made on his neck. He gave a soft whimper when the fangs were removed. He didn't want it to end. He continued to moan softly as Spike licked the wound closed.

Then Spike lifted his wrist to his mouth and bit into it, letting the blood flow. He let his thighs open, until he was kneeling astride the larger, younger sentinel, McGee positioned intimately. Tim surged up once then relaxed panting, but his eyes were wild. "Blood to Blood, drink and become my own," Spike said as he held his wrist to the sentinel's mouth.

McGee grabbed the offering and held it to his lips, drawing deep of the coppery fluid, he let his mouth fill before swallowing. He wasn't expecting his body's reaction, the hunger, he'd thought he'd have to fight to get it down, not that he'd want it at all, or want it so badly. Heat spread through him and every nerve in his body pulled tight before exploding into orgasm. He drank two more mouthfuls, his teeth scraping Spike's soft inner wrist, as his back arched up and his seed was released all across their bellies, McGee jerking, one hand digging into Spike's hip, the other holding his wrist in a bruising, aggressive grip, and then he let go and blinked once before letting out a huge, faintly surprised sigh, his head sagging to one side as he fell into an instant, heavy sleep.

"It's done," Spike said, disengaging from his worn out partner, handling him with great gentleness. Spike was going to have bruises, but they wouldn't last long. They never did. Bruises meant McGee had wanted him, that his feeling, their connection had been strong, possessive, the kind of bond that would last. Spike stood up, twitched a cover over the naked man now slumbering in the nest. "Tell Abby she can come in now, but let her know that it's normal for Tim to be asleep, he won't wake until morning no matter what she does."

"I'll do it, I'll tell her." Tony said, and then left the room. Spike would have had to be blind to miss the condition going on in the Guide's pants. He grinned even as Jim came towards him. The wave of fatigue hit him suddenly, he'd been waiting for it, and he sank back to sit on the edge of the nest, as far from McGee as he could. No need to aggravate Abby. Spike liked her. She was quirky and she had balls.

Jim kneeled down by Spike's side. Slipping a supporting arm around him and pulling him close, protectively. "Are you all right?" he asked.

"Need Xan," Spike said, exhausted, leaning into Jim's strong embrace. "Felt good." He blinked, his eyelids drooping.

"I'm here," Xan said, as he entered the room and stripped off his clothes before laying down next to his sentinel, making sure he was between Spike and McGee. Abby was no more than a flash of black sailing by Spike's peripheral vision as Jim, sure that Xander would take care of Spike left the room to retrieve Blair.

Abby sprang onto the padded nest and cuddled in next to Tim. It was over and Tim was sleeping peacefully. She relaxed but wasn't about to take off her clothes. The men in the nest could do what they wanted, she was no prude, eye candy was eye candy and this group was as sweet as they come. But not one of them was going to ogle her Timmy for one second longer. She pulled up the blankets to his chin and tucked them tightly around him. She let anyone who dared to look see her bared teeth. They all wisely kept their distance and she turned away from them and back to McGee, sleeping the sleep of the innocent.

Timmy. Her lovely boy, her sweet, soft, pudgy but oh so lovely sentinel. She nuzzled his neck, smelling the tang of blood. She snarled soundlessly, plucking up the edge of covers and licked at the area, cleaning away the scent. She glanced back over her shoulder, her expression ferocious. Spike was cuddled up with Xander, the guide checking his sentinel's body in a curious turn about of the usual sentinel-guide behavior. Abby glanced over at the others remaining in the room.

Gibbs and Tony were already moving towards the door, and her expression softened seeing Tony's little shiver when Gibbs' hand brushed along his back and she sighed with both disappointment and thanks. She loved them, and they were yummy, but... Then she turned her attention to the two men coming back into the room, watching Ellison and his guide, Blair, undress. There was little light in the room but she could see a glint off of Ellison's muscles. She sighed again, as the sentinel and guide lay down together, the sentinel moving over the top of the guide and hiding him from view, all but the welcoming arms that circled around his sentinel's back.

Abby was wishing she had a little more of a sentinel's ability to see in the dark. But if she had to choose between having a vagina and being a real sentinel, she'd take a vagina any day. She didn't think of herself as being a hermaphrodite, she was a girl and she loved it, and all the parts that came with it. No, she wouldn't change a thing, except maybe be able to have children, but mostly she loved being herself. Being Abby was...cool. She grinned and snuggled up to her exhausted Sentinel. Timmy was the one she wanted most, the one she'd choose. Even so, there was no harm listening to other Sentinel's and Guide's having sex, was there? Her ears pricked up at Blair's first drawn out moan.

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Chapter Text

Gibbs and Jim sat at the kitchen table sipping their coffee and quietly talking as Tony and Blair cooked breakfast. They had all slept well through the night. McGee was still asleep in the nesting room.

Still inside the nesting room, Spike had assured an anxious Abby that it was normal for Tim to sleep and that he would awake naturally, without prompting from anyone. She had bitten her lip and looked uncertain, her eyes measuring him, weighing the truth in his statement, before she had nodded and accepted what he said. In an effort to distract and occupy her, Spike sat up and, leaning against a wall, began to talk. Xander, naturally snuggled into Spike's arms. Spike explained that he had promised Tim he would be there when he woke up.

Abby being Abby had no difficulty dredging up a few questions she wanted answered as long as she could stay next to Tim she was calm enough to ask them all. She took the opportunity to question Xander about what had been done to him to turn him into a Guide/Sentinel hybrid. She felt a kinship to Xander; he was, after all, a victim of the same mentality that had tried to make her into a female sentinel. She talked about how she had never expected to be claimed by a sentinel, but when her Tim first saw her he decided that she was the guide for him. They worked together on a Cyber crime case but it was six months before she trusted him and her guide abilities enough to agree to bond with him. She smiled remembering. Tim had been ecstatic, unable to credit his luck. After they'd bonded, it was Abby who had to take the time to reassure him that she was as committed to him as he was to her.

Xander told Abby about how he had run from Spike thinking that if he could hold out for three days Spike would give up. He'd counted on only having to stay out of the Sentinel's clutches for that long. Needless to say the notion made Abby laugh.

"No sentinel worth his salt would give up in three days," Abby scoffed, grinning at Xander's naivete. "What made you think Spike would give up?" She tilted her head inquiringly. Xander obviously didn't know much about Sentinels. Or at least he hadn't then.

"I never thought of myself as desirable," Xander said with a laugh. "I figured that my scent would fade and he'd find someone better. But when he found me he was carrying my bed pillow to keep my scent fresh. My heart melted when I saw him standing there, so vulnerable. I had expected a wild gorilla. Instead I got the most beautiful sentinel I've ever seen, holding my pillow like it was the most valuable talisman in the world. But I didn't let him know that was what I was thinking."

Spike pulled Xander down onto the floor of the nest, rolling on top of him and nuzzled his neck. "And you're the most beautiful Guide I've ever seen, I never would have stopped looking for you, not in three days, three decades, or three centuries. The way you smell," Spike shivered, his eyes taking on a heavy lidded look. Xander felt his breath catch. He wet his lips with the tip of his tongue. Spike nuzzled his neck again, and Xander involuntarily lifted his chin so Spike could get at him better. Spike nipped and the teeth grazing him made Xander sigh. "I would have followed you until I found you. Believe it."

Abby smiled, she liked the way the energy flowed back and forth and around the couple, but mostly she liked Xander. He was the only one she had ever met that could truly understand what it was like to find out you had been nothing but a science experiment to the people who were supposed to love you and care for you. She and Xander were lucky, they found someone who truly loved them, she wondered how many more guides there were in the world, in circumstances like hers and Xander's, unloved and still alone, being used. She sighed and snuggled in closer to the drowsing McGee.

McGee moaned and pulled Abby to him, more asleep than awake; it was a moment before he realized something wasn't quite right. His hand caressed her hip, seeking skin and not finding it. He plucked at the cloth, frowning.

"Abby, why are you dressed?" He moaned, fumbling at her clothes, working a hand in next to bare skin. Abby squeaked and slapped at his wayward hand. Xander chuckled from his position under his sentinel, before surrendering another moan. Abby didn't find it quite so amusing.

"Wake up McGee." She said sternly.

McGee frowned, his eyes struggling to open. Abby never talked like that to him when they were in bed. And then it hit him. He sat bolt upright, pushing Abby away. He glanced wildly around. "Spike?" His skin pinked up when he saw Spike wriggling atop a more than willing Xander. He averted his gaze quickly, hoping Abby wouldn't notice how much he wanted to keep watching. He was curious, that was all, not at all horny. He lifted his leg, concealing the tented sheet. Abby though was nothing if not observant. And this time she was not in a generous frame of mind.

"I'm here, as promised," Spike answered, wise enough not to move one inch closer to the aroused sentinel, his childe or not. Abby was growling under her breath and not in the mood to share, and she had first dibs. "How are you feeling?" Spike asked neutrally rolling to put Xander nearer the door.

"Umm, Good," McGee said. He blinked at his crouched, growling Guide and reached for her. Yes, he was definitely feeling real good if the wood pressed intimately against Abby's thigh was any indication. She growled at him this time, and he withdrew his hands quickly, watching while she scowled. "Is that coffee, I smell?" He asked, trying to change the subject hoping against hope no one would notice just how embarrassed he was.

"Gibbs and Jim have been up for awhile making breakfast," Spike told him. "There's coffee. I need to know something first, Tim. Do you have a craving for blood?"

"What? Blood...no," Tim said, wrinkling his nose at the thought. "Why would you ask? Am I going to crave blood now?"

"Craving blood shouldn't happen, but if it does, come to me," Spike said. "Your guide needs some attention; I just want to make sure you don't bite her. Take your time; Xan and I are going to grab some breakfast."

McGee watched as Spike and Xander left the room and closed the door behind them and then he turned to Abby. There was no way he was going to bite his Abby. Not that she would let him anyway. If there was biting to be done, she was always the one to do it. He moved closer to her, letting her feel how much he wanted her. "Do you know how hot it makes me when you growl?"

"No," Abby lied, giving a full body writhe. She smiled up at him through her lashes. "Why don't you show me." It was a gentle, loving order. One her sentinel didn't want to ignore.

McGee proceeded to do just that.

***

"How is he?" Gibbs asked when Spike walked into the kitchen. More curious than concerned.

"He's fine," Spike told him as he sat at the table and Xander sat in his lap. "Abby needed to re-connect so it will be a while before they're ready to come out."

"I don't think it will take that long." Xander said. "Tim's smelled the coffee." Spike gave a chuckle as he sniffed at the aroma. It was damn good coffee.

Gibbs didn't think he would ever get used to seeing the couple sit that way. The first morning they were in the house Tony had brought in extra chairs so everyone would have a seat around the breakfast table, but Xander sat in Spike’s lap anyway. Jim and Blair didn't react to it at all. Gibbs wondered what Ducky would think if he saw it and then he gave himself a mental shake. Xander was bigger, and dominant in the same way Abby was. Spike, though he was pure Sentinel, let Xander take over, maybe a little too often. It worked for them, but Gibbs didn't want Tony to get any ideas.

"Chamomile tea?" Blair asked, already knowing the answer would be yes. They still weren't sure if caffeine or alcohol were safe for Xander and Spike wouldn't touch them either until Xander could have them too.

"Make it two," Xander said. "So what's on our agenda today?" he asked.

"We have meetings this afternoon to set up the task force about the rash of guide kidnappings," Gibbs told the group as Tony sat a plate of eggs, sausage and toast in front of him and Ellison.

"Where the mind walkers able to get any information from the two perps?" Jim asked, slipping into detective mode.

"No," Gibbs answered with a scowl. "They both believe the guys were hired blind. There was nothing either of them can tell us that we don't already know."

"What about the guides that were taken?" Jim asked. "Were there any common denominators that would indicate why they were targeted?"

"None that jump out," Gibbs said after swallowing a mouthful of eggs. "We're still working on it."

"So, you think that the new laws and the kidnappings are connected somehow?" Blair asked as he set two steaming cups of tea on the table.

"I don't believe in coincidences," Gibbs said. "I've had indications for awhile that there's a black opps group working in D.C. Now I believe that it's not local. After what happened with Sentinel Wall and his guide and Washington Genetics up and running again so soon... It’s connected somehow, I'm sure of it. I wish I could find a money trail to follow."

"We might be able to do that soon," Jim said. "Oz is hacking into Washington Genetics and he had the idea of hacking into the trucking companies that make deliveries. Some one's got to be paying the bills."

"Oz, who's Oz?" Gibbs asked. He was concerned. The kind of information Ellison was talking about could get someone killed if they traced the hack.

"Daniel Osborn, he's a computer genius that works for the Cascade P.D.," Jim said. "He understands the risk."

"Getting the police involved is too big of a risk," Gibbs pointed out. "It's only a matter of time before he'll be compromised."

Spike cocked his head and looked at Gibbs. "I'm not sure whether we should be majorly pissed off or laugh in your face," Spike said before a quietly seething Jim had a chance to answer. "None of us are that naive, Jethro. Oz is doing this on his own time; he even gave us a burner phone to keep in touch."

"You're right," Gibbs said. "I was out of line to make that assumption. I didn't mean to offend you," he said looking at Jim.

"No offense taken," Jim said, glad that Spike defused the comment before it blew up in their faces.

"I'd like McGee to go back to Cascade with you and set Oz up in a safe house," Gibbs said. "We should be able to supply him with better equipment then he has on his own."

"That's really not necessary," Xander said. "Oz knows what he's doing."

"May not be necessary," Tony said, contemplating his toast. "But McGeek is the best cyber cop I've ever met. So what's the harm? Maybe he and Oz can learn something from each other."

"It would be better for Oz to work out of a safe house than his home," Blair said. "I think it's a good idea."

"So do I," Jim said. "It never hurts to have someone double check security."

***

Gibbs walked into the morgue by himself to find Ducky at his desk, catching up on paperwork.

“Hello, Jethro,” Ducky said, putting down his pen and looking up at the General. “Has a new case come in?”

“No new case,” Jethro said. “I just want to keep you up to date on our current affairs.”

“Nice of you to keep me in the loop,” Ducky said letting a bit of sarcasm color his voice.

“You were never out of the loop, Duck.” Jethro said, in his calm Gibbs voice. “No more than you wanted to be anyway.”

“Yes, well, if you are referring to the goings on last night… I made my feelings clear about that. How is McGee?”

“He’s fine,” Jethro said. “I want to let you know, before you hear it from someone else, I am sending McGee and Abby back to Cascade with the Ellison Pack.”

“Why on earth would you do that?” Ducky asked.

“Cascade and Seattle are both big sea ports. McGee will be coordinating the creation of the guide abductions task force.”

“Why send McGee,” Ducky interrupted. “You must have a hundred senior agents that can do that?”

“You’re right, I do,” Gibbs said. “I'll be sending them to other ports around the country. There is another reason to send McGee to Cascade. Jim has a man hacking into Washington Genetics. I want McGee and Abby to make sure that he is untraceable.”

Ducky paused a moment before speaking looking closely at his friend. When he spoke his words were soft with a tone calculated not to offend. “I appreciate you trusting me with this information, Jethro.”

“You’re still a trusted member of my pack, Ducky, nothing’s changed.”

“Nothing and everything,” Ducky sighed.

“Do you want out of your commitment to help us fight this war?”

Ducky startled at the question. “No, Jethro, I don’t, and frankly I’m surprised you would even ask me that. People I love are in danger, I’m still a sentinel, an old one, true, but I won’t stand by and let a bunch of power hungry sociopaths hurt guides. I may not be up to working in the field, but I can and will do everything I can.”

Gibbs put a hand on his friend’s shoulder and gave it a comforting squeeze as he spoke. “I’m glad you’ve come to terms with the Cascade group.”

Ducky took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He choose his words carefully. “I haven’t reconciled my doubts about Spikeman, Jethro. I do respect your decision, but I can’t help wondering… Spikeman has two highly ranked Sentinels on the West coast and now you and
MacGee on the East coast. If I were the enemy I’d want to launch a coup, and the 4 of you are the perfect way to do it.”

Gibbs removed his hand from his friends shoulder. “Spike’s not our enemy, he doesn’t want to take over the sentinels. He’s not even the head of his own pack. Your scenario would be funny if all of this weren’t so damn serious.”

“You’ve always said that you don’t believe in coincidence. Neither do I. I’m not asking you to kick them out of your life, I’m just asking that you keep your mind open to the possibility that they may be lying to us.”

“If Spike were lying to us I’d know it.” Jethro said with a hint of anger in his voice.

“Would you Jethro?” Ducky asked. “Would you really know? You forget, I felt the pull to him, I didn’t know what I was doing.”

“I ~know~ what I’m doing Ducky,” Jethro said firmly, “If Spike were lying ~I would know~, I’d feel it in our bond, it’s deep, deeper than I can put into words. I beat him bloody, Ducky, and he let me do it because Xander was torched and he will do whatever he has to to keep that from happening to another guide. You haven’t read the report. I’ll send it to you. Read it. Ask Abby how deep Spike and Xander’s bond is. No Sentinel would work with those bastards after doing that to a guide.”

Ducky decided not to pursue the subject any further. He’d read the report and look into any possible falsifications. Falsifying a medical report is just the thing that could hoodwink a sentinel into believing the group was pro resistance.

He would be leaving for the medical conference in Boston soon . That’s where he could do the most good and he intended to get as much information as he could gather.

Chapter Text

The plane trip home had been uneventful, Gibbs had arranged for a private flight arriving in Cascade at 1500 hours. The guides chatted softly punctuated with an occasional laugh out loud as they told each other stories of their adjustments to being a claimed guide. The loudest laugh was when Xander told them the first time he found out about guide glow was when he saw himself in the mirror.

“How could you not know about guide glow?” Abby asked through her giggles.

Xander shrugged, I kind of blanked everything out in classes about bonding.

***
“He hasn’t needed to touch you for over an hour,” Jim whispered to Spike when they heard the laughter, “It’s the longest he’s gone without needing a healing touch.”

Spike nodded, “It’s good to see him happy again.”

“Did he really not know what guide glow was?” Tim asked in a sentinel-to-sentinel voice. “I should think that would be basic training for all guides.”

“Xander’s basic training was a bit different,” Spike said to his Childe with a low growl.

Tim had known Xander’s experience at guide school was abusive, but this was the first time Spike had expressed it to him since their bond. The depth of Spike’s anger made him take in a sharp breath.

“We’ll make them pay,” he growled back.

@@@@@@

Dr. Mallard's office

***
Ducky finished reading Xander's medical records, Electric shock, sensory deprivation, how could that go unnoticed by other teachers at the school. He didn’t question that there was some abuse, enough to force Ethan Rayne to resign, but the kind of severe abuse the report talked about was simply unbelievable, and he was going to prove it to Gibbs. Ducky put down the report and picked up the phone.

“This is Dr. Donald Mallard,” he said when a corpsman answered the phone, “to speak with Dr. Rupert Giles.”

“May I tell him what this is about?” the corpsman asked.

“I’m with Sentinel Internal Affairs,” Ducky said, “I can’t say more than that.”

Ducky was on hold for about 2 minutes when Dr. Giles picked up the phone.

“Dr. Giles here, How may I help you, Dr. Mallard?”

“I’m calling about a guide named Xander Harris,” Ducky said. “I understand he was a patient of yours and you were instrumental in getting him returned to his Sentinel.”

“I did what any reputable doctor would have done,” Dr. Giles said, “I reported it to The Agency of Sentinel Affairs. Why am I being questioned about this now?”

“I’m simply following up on some discrepancies in guide Harris’s medical report.”

“What discrepancies?” Dr. Giles asked making no attempt to hide his annoyance at being accused of sloppy record keeping.

“An earlier medical report states that Guide Harris was a victim of electrical torture, yet I have no photos of electrical burns or scars on his body.”

“I treated Guide Harris for an overdose of a psychotropic sedative, not for torture.” Dr. Giles said. “I never saw his medical records; he was brought here covertly. I assure you I was quite thorough with my report.”

“So there were no scars consistent with electrical torture?” Ducky asked.

“I didn’t say that,” Dr. Giles said, “there were scars, a lot of them, but they had healed, so I never treated him for them. That’s why they’re not in my medical report. Still, it was damned upsetting to see a guide scared that way.”

“I’m curious," Ducky asked, "the drug Guide Harris overdosed on is usually fatal, how did you come up with a successful treatment?”

“First of all,” Dr. Giles said, ”The guide did not do this to himself, It was done to him for the purpose of abduction. The General that brought the guide here ordered me to wake him so he could force a bond with him. When I refused he threatened me with a court martial for disobeying an order. As for the treatment, I told his Sentinels that the only chance the guide had of coming out of the coma was if they could get a healer that had previously healed the guide. It would have to be a healer that could lay down new pathways without causing a synaptic cascade. I told the sentinels ~IF~ a healer could do that the guide ~MAY~ have a 50/50 chance of recovery, I didn’t expect the guide to recover. According to everything I’ve read, he shouldn’t have.”

“Do you have a theory as to why he did?” Ducky waited for an answer, “Dr.?” he asked when one didn’t come.

“I’m here,” Dr. Giles finally answered. “I’m sure you’ve read my report, Sentinel Spikeman and Guide Sandburg were somehow able to lay down new synaptic pathways needed to bring the guide out of his coma,” the doctor sighed. “It was the sentinel bond that somehow kept the guide from having a synaptic cascade.” Dr. Giles said, “ I don’t know how he did it, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I would not have believed it. However, I do have a statement for your report. From the things the General said to me, It was clear the abduction was, what I can only characterize as, dishonorable to every sentinel and medical value I hold. As for the scars on the guide, they are not something I’ll soon forget.”

Ducky was barely able to say, “Thank you, Dr. Giles,” before hanging up the phone. He sat at the table for a moment letting all his thoughts coalesce in his head. He had been sure Spike had been lying to them, sure there were no scars on Xander, and sure that Spike was not, could not be a healer. He was sure he would be able to prove to Gibbs that the Cascade pack were feeding him a false story, but the Cascade pack was telling the truth. It wasn’t some elaborate contrivance to get Gibbs and McGee under their thumb. It was real, all of it. The timber of Dr. Giles voice when he spoke those simple words ”The scars on the guide are not something I’ll soon forget,” drove it all home and made it real in a way it hadn’t been before. If he had a guide, he would take him to the bedroom and spend time suckling, but he had no guide, so he went to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a drink.

@@@@@@

Cascade, Washington

***

The burst of salt air as the three Sentinels and three Guides disembarked from their private flight came as a surprise to McGee. He hadn’t realized that Cascade was literally a port city. He sniffed the air searching for any scent that may signify a danger, and he kept Abby half a step behind him, trusting Spike to have their backs as they walked to the small private terminal.

Sentinel Wall stood inside waiting for the group to come in. “Sentinel Ellison,” he said addressing the Alpha head as was Jim’s due, “I have a limo parked right outside. I’ll see to your luggage.” Before going for the luggage he turned to Spike and spoke in a voice only the Sentinels could hear, “Sire, it’s good to have you back.” Wesley, wordless, went to help with the luggage.

McGee looked at his... “brother?” He wasn’t at all sure what their relationship should be, but he knew he felt a definite ripple in his bond with Spike when he heard “Sire.” He didn’t have much time to think about it before Abby was pulling on his sleeve and whispering in his ear.

“Who is that?” She asked. “He has a strong link to Spike, and whatever he said...I felt it.”

“That’s Sentinel Peter Wall, Spike's first Childe.” he told her as they exited the building.

“But why would I feel it?” she asked, “I’m not Spike’s Childe, and we’re not cross bonded.”

“We’re a hive, and you’re sensitive to energy, ” McGee said as he scanned the area for any danger. “I think you’ll be feeling a lot of new energies while we’re here.”

***

Spike could feel the iron control of his Childe when he spoke to Jim and then a wave of blessed protector energy as Peter called him Sire, only to have the emotion quickly shut down again.

“Did you feel that?” Spike asked Jim as they walked toward the exit.

“He’s very tense,” Jim answered, “it felt like he almost lost control for a second.”

Peter and Wesley finished putting the luggage in the trunk and slipped into the front seat of the Limo. Peter sat behind the wheel and turned on the engine before turning to his passengers, “Will we be going directly to the nesting house or would you like to stop at a hotel first?”

“Nesting house,” was Jim’s clipped reply.

“What’s wrong,” Spike asked before Peter could turn back.

“I’ll tell you everything once I get you home,” safe... was the unspoken word but everyone in the car heard its inference in the Sentinel’s voice.

@@@@@@

Ellison Nesting House

***

The entire group sat in the living room of the nesting house waiting anxiously for what Peter had to say. Wesley stroked his Sentinel’s arm drawing away as much negative emotion as he could.

“Rainier University was raided approximately 4 hours ago.” Peter began, “An entire classroom of Guides, 23 is the exact count, have been abducted. Graham has called in every available Sentinel, and a search is underway at the docks. Sentinels have been sniffing out every container to try and find the guides before they’re shipped out of the country, but the kidnappers used anti-Sentinel technology, just like they did with Xander. So we’re not holding out much hope.”

Xander moaned and slumped against Spike.

“Have the sentinels check the airports too,” Jim said, “It would be just as easy to put them onto a container plane as it would be to put them on a ship. Do you know if it’s the same group that took Xander?

“Graham has asked the police to check the airports; Captain Banks called in some police Sentinels from Seattle to help” Peter added. “We don’t have any leads yet on who’s responsible, but there was one witness that didn’t get shot with memory erase. It’s a janitor that hid behind a hedge while they herded the guides into the back of a truck. His description was of a container truck used for ships, so that is our major concentration.”

“You need to have the witness interviewed by a mind walker,” Tim said.

“All mind walkers have been transferred to Guide Proliferation” Peter answered. “Graham is trying to get one temporarily reassigned, but he getting stonewalled at every turn, We’re trying to get a court order to force W.G. to release one as well as looking for a claimed mind walker.”

“I couldn’t get one either,” McGee said, “I tried on a case we were working on in D.C. I finally had to pull one out of retirement and bring a second down from Canada. If a double X guide were to be claimed, and that’s a big if, it would most likely be to form a family unit. A sentinel won’t disrupt his family or let her come by herself, so pulling one out of retirement may be your best bet. We are hamstrung without a mind walker. My gut tells me this ~witness~ may be a plant. I’ve dealt with a few of these mass kidnappings, and they don’t leave witnesses.”

“I’ll do it,” Abby said.

Peter looked at McGee; it was his place to tell his guide no. There was a reason why it was illegal for any guide except mind walkers to take part in interrogations; it could leave a guide with a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder. P.T.S.D. could, and often did, trigger blessed protector syndrome in the bonded Sentinel, valuable prisoners had been killed as a result. It was a very bad idea, very bad, but it wasn’t McGee that spoke up.

“No,” Xander said, “You can’t risk it, Abbs. You need to keep a very low profile while you’re in Cascade. A Guide sitting in on an interrogation… it would just turn too many heads. Also, the thought of it makes me sick to my stomach; it’s just too dangerous.”

Abby scowled for about a second then her face brighten. “Please tell me you recorded the interview?” she asked.

“It’s standard procedure,” Peter said with a quizzical look on his face, the guide should know that.

“I can read him from the recording,” Abby said with a broad smile.

“You can read energies from a recording?” Blair asked, surprised.

“It’s more of a perception in my mind’s eye,” Abby said, “but it’s just as reliable. ”

“Abby,” Xander said with a moan, ‘’that’s a whole different level of your little talent. You have to be careful of who you let know about it.”

“What is said in this room stays in this room,” Peter snapped letting an edge of anger color his voice, he and Wesley were, after all, the only strangers. “I’d give my life for any guide here.”

“That wasn’t aimed at you,” Spike said as he rubbed Xander’s arm, “Xander’s danger warning has been going off for Abby. He’s worried about her.”

“Don’t worry Xan,” Abby said, “I can see who’s safe and who isn’t”

“There’s no need for her to go to the office,” Peter said feeling both better and a little embarrassed that he snapped at Xander. “If I can borrow your computer, Blair, I can pull up the recording.”

“No problem,” Blair said and went to get his laptop. A few minutes later Abby was viewing the recording.

“He’s definitely lying,” Abby said with a shiver. “His aura stream gets narrow and cold, real cold. I can’t tell anything more.”

Peter already had his phone out. “That’s all we need to know to pick him up,” he said as he dialed his phone and gave the order.

@@@@@@

Morning - Nesting House Cascade

***

A glowing Blair stood at the stove making scrambled eggs and vegetables for breakfast while Jim made toast. The smell of freshly made coffee also wafted through the house.

“Breakfast smells great,” Tim said as he walked out of the guest bedroom.

“Coffee?” Jim asked.

"Sure thing," Tim said, “And an extra large mug for Abby if possible.”

Abby smiled and moved her chair close to Tim. She was also glowing and began to purr softly as she snuggled in close to her Sentinel.

“Was there any overnight news about the kidnapped guides?” McGee asked, keeping his voice low. His arm tightened around Abby. Since arriving in Cascade, he had learned how tense things were here. No wonder the Ellison pack had come off as being strange, and now he was a part of them, Spike’s childe. It was true that he would always be a member of Gibbs pack but now he was also the member of something different, he was a member of the resistance.

“Nothing yet, we’ll check in with Wall first to see how the hunt for the kidnapped guides is going,” Jim said. “Then we’ll meet up with Oz. I have to give Captain Banks a call this morning to make sure my transfer to the task force has gone through ”

“Is there any way we can search Washington Genetics for the missing guides?” Xander asked. “Since we know the janitor was lying, that’s the most logical place to take them. Does anyone have an inside contact we can use to confirm that they are or aren’t there? We don’t have the resources to waste looking in the wrong place.”

“We don’t have any resources,” Spike said “we desperately need a mind walker. We can’t go to a judge for a search warrant with Abby’s testimony.

“Not unless we want to tip our hand that we are on to them,” Jim said. “But I think it is very likely at least some of them were taken there. The best labs are there since W.G. reopened. The scientists most familiar and active in guide research have slowly and quietly been moving their offices to the Washington campus. The guides with the right genetic profiles will go there. As for the rest, they may be destined to be sold on the black market or sent to another genetics facility somewhere else in the world.”

“Money needs to be generated somehow. Black market guides have literally no protections under the law. No one knows where they are; no one calls the authorities when they are abused. These are twisted people, twisted sentinels even, who will pay for the privilege of having a secret guide.” Jim reminded them all of the grim reality they were fighting against.

Spike frowned. He stirred the eggs that were left on his plate. Blair had dished him up a generous amount, and when he’d tried to protest that he didn’t have an appetite, the guide had turned those big blue eyes on him. Spike wisely dug in. He’d made good headway, but now, nearly done, his stomach was rebelling. He wanted Xander. He needed him. And even eating seemed like an unnecessary waste of time.

@@@@@@

Alpha Prime Graham Miller’s office

***

“I found a claimed mind walker,” Peter said. “A straight up claim not a family unit guide.”

“Claimed by who?” Graham asked thinking it had to be a beta. Alphas … he couldn’t imagine one claiming a mind walker.

“Sentinel Marshal Clint Barton,” Peter said as he handed Graham a tablet with Barton’s record called up.

“The guy’s an Alpha,” Graham said sounding a bit confused. “I’ve never heard of an alpha claiming a mind walker.”

“Neither have I,” Peter said. “It’s rare for a beta unheard of for an alpha. Before he claimed her he was a Ranger then he transferred to the Marshals Service.”

“Ranger to Marshal, that’s odd too. Ordinarily, I’d vet him before trying to get him transferred here, but I know the Marshal’s Alpha Prime Samuel Gerard. He wouldn't have accepted a transfer without checking him out, and we need a mind walker.”

“Do you think you can get Gerard to let us have them?” Peter asked.

“He’ll have a Marshal on our task force,” Graham said, ”and with twenty-three Guides missing he’ll want to help, but he’ll probably say I owe him.”

“I’ve got to get over to the nesting house and fill them in,” Peter said as he headed for the office door, “then we’re going to get this Oz guy a computer set up in a safe house. I’ll see you for supper.”

@@@@@@

Phone call to Marshal Alpha Prime Samuel Gerard

***

“Graham, good buddy,” Sentinel A.P. Gerard seemed to yell into the phone, “It’s good to hear from you. Congratulations on your promotion. You deserve it.”

Graham grimaced and turned down his hearing dial. “Thanks, Sam, I appreciate it. I wish I were calling under better circumstances. I had 23 guides abducted from Renier Guide School yesterday.”

“Yeah, buddy,” the Marshal said with a more serious tone to his voice “I saw it on the wire. What can I do to help? You need Sentinel’s you got em. All I can spare.”

“Thanks, Sam,” Graham said knowing that the easy part of the call was over, Sentinels close ranks when Guides are in danger, He expected no less than an offer of manpower. “But what I really need is a mind walker. All unclaimed mind walkers have been reassigned to Guide Proliferation; they won’t let me have one, not even temporarily.”

“So this call is really about Marshall Barton,” Sam said, It wasn’t a question, it was a statement of fact.

“His guide is the only active mind walker in the country,” Graham said. “I have a witness to the abduction, Sam; I need a mind walker to give me probable cause for search warrants.

Washington Genetics is stonewalling me with their refusal to reassign one. I’ve tried to go through the courts; I can’t even get a court date.”

“Sounds like Washington Genetics is deliberately interfering with your investigation,” Sam said with a thoughtful tone to his voice. “Are you on a secure line good buddy?”

“Yes of course,” Graham answered.

“The Agency’s been compromised,” Sam said as if he were giving the Marshals a rundown of their mission. “You have moles, Don’t ask me how I know, I trust my source. Sweep your office for bugs, Graham, This shit is bad and it’s going to get worse. I don’t believe these guides are being sold on the black marked. I think there’s a covert eugenics program and I think Sentinels are next. It’s damn suspicious that you can’t get a mind walker sprung to help in an abduction case.”

“I have my office swept for bugs every morning,” Graham said, “Don’t ask me my source, but your right, Sentinels are next.” Graham heard a soft affirmative grunt from the Marshal. “I’d like to continue this conversation, but I’m pressed for time. I need to know, Sam, Can you loan me Barton and the mind walker for the duration of the task force?”

“I can send him to you, Sam said, “but whether he stays or not depends on you making him and his guide comfortable. He transferred out of the Rangers because they couldn’t accept his bond to an unsuitable mind walker.”

“Unsuitable?” Graham asked.

“You don’t know, well I better tell you, Good Buddy,” Sam said, “She was abducted, the bastards had her for six months. They used a psychotropic drug on her."

“I know that drug,” Graham said, “an overdose causes coma and synaptic cascade in guides.”

“They never gave her an overdose,” Sam continued, “it was sequential daily doses. The bastard that did it was a doctor, he knew what he was doing. It left her with brain damage, mostly memory loss, and PTSD.”

“Why the fuck would they do that to a mind walker?” Graham asked, “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“They destroyed their records before the Rangers could secure them,” Sam said. “Her memories are fragmented, so we just don’t know why.”

“Can she still function as a mind walker?” Graham asked.

“In some ways, she’s the best I've ever worked with,” Sam said, “If you can get over her being so damn spooky.”

”Very few people can tolerate eye contact with a mind walker,” Graham said, assuming that’s what he meant by saying she was spooky. “Do you know why Barton bonded with a brain damaged guide?”

“It was accidental,” Sam said. “Clint had lost his guide in the line of duty about a month before the raid. When he got to her, she had been shot. She sensed she was dying and what it would do to him to have a guide die on his watch, so she sent healing energy. According to the EMT’s, report her heart did stop and they brought her back.”

“That doesn’t explain why he claimed her,” Graham said, “Healing bonds fade quickly.”

“I asked him that myself,” Sam said. “Clint told me the healing bond didn’t fade. It got to the point he knew he’d go rogue if he didn’t claim her. According to records 36 days after the raid Sentinel Ranger Clint Barton claimed Mindwalker #923.”

“No one in my hive will have a problem with either of them,” Graham said. “I’ll ask Ellison’s pack to put them up.”

“You...in a hive with Ellison...23 guides missing… and I saw a report that you claimed a second and are cross bonded to his guide...It seems the shit has truly hit the fan in Cascade,” Sam said.

“That it has my friend,” Graham told him. “That it has.”

“I’ll get Barton and his guide on a Marshal’s plane A.S.A.P.,” Sam said, “ They’ll be in Cascade by this evening.”

“Thanks, Sam,”

“You're more than welcome, Good Buddy. You need anything else you let me know,” Sam said before hanging up the phone.

@@@@@@

Computer Safe House

***

“Woe,” Oz said, “This is a sweet setup.”

“State of the art,” McGee said, “You have your own servers with a triple firewall, and everything is military grade encrypted.”

“I’m going to be spoiled rotten,” Oz said. He sat down at one of the terminals and started typing, several pictures popped up.

“That was fast,” McGee said, “This is just a guess, but it looks like it could be the Washington Genetics security feed.”

“It is,” Oz said, “Whatever else these ass holes are they are a bit naive about computer security. They bought a state of the art, but standard security system for large companies. The idiots didn’t change the installation passwords. I think they’re counting on their encryption.” Oz’s fingers flew over the keyboard, and a page of non-words filled the screen. “That’s military grade encryption,” Oz sighed. “I guess it was too much to ask for it to be the same program we’re using.”

McGee looked closely at the computer screen. “What I want to know is how a private company got their hands on military grade encryption software.”

“My guess,” Abby said, “it wasn’t at the local Navy surplus store.”

“Is there a chance you can figure out whose software this is?” Oz asked. “Maybe we can figure out who’s running the black ops.”

“Yes, there is!” Abby said as she walked over to another terminal, sat down and started typing. In a few minutes, a blur of letters flew across the screen. “I call it my enigma program; we should have something by tomorrow.”

“Gibbs has been trying to find a link to a black ops military group we think may be responsible for the rash of guide abductions,” McGee said. “This is the first time we’ve got a trail to follow.”

Oz smiled, “One more thing,” he said, he took a thumb drive out of his pocket and handed it to McGee. “These are bills of laden from trucking companies that have made deliveries to Washington Genetics.”

McGee and Abby looked at each other, and a diabolical smile crossed their faces. Oz shivered as he heard them say in unison. “Money trail.”

@@@@@@

Chapter Text

Alpha Prime Graham Miller’s office

***

“Thanks for coming in Jim,” Graham said as he came around his desk and offered his hand to his hive brother, “I have a bit of a problem, and I hope you can solve it for me.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Jim said, “What’s the problem?”

“We found a Mind Walker,” Graham told him, “but her Sentinel will only stay in Cascade if we can make his Guide comfortable. I was wondering if you could put them up at the nesting house?”

“I have a pretty full house right now,” Jim said, “Major McGee and his Guide are bunking with us for a few days, but I think we can deal with a beta. Getting a Mind Walker is worth a little inconvenience.”

“The Sentinel’s not a beta,” Graham said, knowing it was a possible deal breaker. “He’s an alpha, used to be a Ranger, maybe you know him, Clint Barton.” Graham hoped the Ranger link would tip the scales in favor of Jim saying yes.

“Barton,” Jim said, surprised mixed with curiosity. “I know the family by reputation. They’re a long line of military Sentinels. Why would a Barton choose a Mind Walker for a Guide?”

“It was an accidental bond,” Miller said. “Long story short: Barton lost his Guide in the line of duty. He volunteered for a Guide rescue mission. The Mind Walker was badly wounded in the raid. Barton was distraught about losing another Guide on his watch, even though she was dying she somehow picked up on his distress and sent him healing energy. She didn’t die; the healing bond didn’t fade. About six weeks later he claimed her. He told his Alpha Prime he would have gone rogue if he hadn’t.”

Jim thought of Xander the first day they met and how he had comforted Blair in spite of the fear he was feeling about being claimed by a strange Sentinel. “Xander would have done the same thing,” Jim said. “So would Blair, I’ve had to pull him off a healing more than once when he was exhausted. He always argues. Nothing is more important to a healer then taking away another’s pain.”

“Can you put them up, Jim?” Miller asked. “I’d do it myself, but she was held for six months by the bastards and given the same mindwipe drugs they gave Xander. She has brain damage and PTSD. Riley has needs; I can’t deny my Guide.” Miller sighed and then look into Jim’s eyes, “If her PTSD is triggered by my relationship with Riley we’d lose our Mind Walker.”

Jim knew Riley was a submissive Guide and needed his Sentinel to be his master. He understood Graham’s concerns, but he had concerns of his own. “There’s Spike to be considered too.” Jim said, “If Barton feels a strong pull to him...You know what the consequences of that can be.”

“McGee is staying with you, can he channel it off?”

“Abby is as possessive of McGee as Xander is of Spike,” Jim said. “I’ll talk to them, and we’ll give it a try. Abby’s got a big heart; she’ll understand what the Mind Walker is going through. But you do know this thing can go sour pretty damn fast?”

“I know,” Graham said, “But we need a Mind Walker, we’re not going to find the missing Guides or find the bastards that took them without one. I’ll talk to Peter, If there is a problem and Peter is willing to do Sentinel-to-Sentinel bond with Barton, I won’t stand in the way, but I’m not going to order it either.”

“Understood,” Jim said.

@@@@@@

Later that day at the Ellison Nesting house

***

“I told Graham I’d talk to you about letting Sentinel Barton and his Guide stay with us,” Jim said. “ I believe if we want to make this work we’ll have to invoke the ritual and welcome him into the pack. It will make all of us feel more at ease, and there'll be less chance of us losing our Mind Walker. We can’t do it unless everyone agrees. If not I’ll ask Graham to put them up in a safe house.”

“What about Willow?” Xander asked. “I don’t want to give up on her.”

“We’re not,” Spike said as he gave comforting strokes to Xander’s arm, “But we don’t know if or when she’ll escape, and even if she does get out we can’t openly use her.”

“Spike’s right,” McGee said. “The first time we try to use Willow’s testimony to get a warrant, she’ll be arrested and taken back to W.G. But I do have a question. Can I even be part of the pack ceremony? Technically I’m a member of Gib’s pack. ”

“You’re a hive member, and that makes you a member of our pack and Graham’s pack,” Jim said. “Are you in?”

“I’m in,” McGee said.

“What about you Abby?” Blair asked, “Can you let Tim help if Sentinel Barton feels a pull to Spike?”

“I don’t want a Sentinel thinking he can claim my Tim,” Abby said.

“I promise,” Jim said, “If we have a claiming problem either Peter will step in, or we’ll move them to a safe house.”

“Okay then,” Abby said and cuddled up even tighter to her Sentinel.

“More than life, Abby Sciuto ” Tim said as he nuzzled Abby’s neck,

“More than life, Timothy McGee,” Abby answered as she stroked his hair.

“Xanman?” Jim asked.

“I’ll do my best to keep it together,” Xander said, “I think with all of you here I won’t end up trying to kill him if he feels a pull to Spike. But you shouldn’t just assume I won’t let Spike have a Sentinel-to-Sentinel bond to him if it comes to that. Claiming him for his own... That’s a deal breaker.”

“It’s a deal breaker for me too,” Jim said.

“I’m proud of you Love,” Spike told Xander. “No one’s going to take me away from you. We’ll find a way to make it work. We always do.”

“Blair?” Jim asked.

“You know I'm in,” Blair said. “No one knows better than our pack what this Sentinel and his Guide have been through. I think we can make them feel at home.”

“Peter’s going to pick them up at the airport,” Jim said. “I’ll give him a call.”

“After you call we need to go get a nest-in-a-bag, they sell them at Sleep-Ease,” Blair said. “We can’t expect them to sleep on the floor.”

@@@@@@

Marshal’s Plane on the way to Cascade

***

Sentinel Marshal Clint Barton looked at his Guide sleeping peacefully in a reclined airplane seat. White noise always made her very sleepy, and the roar of jet engines was no exception.

He sighed as he watched her. Ever since his first Guide, Ray, died in the line of duty, he felt as if his life had become a leaf tossed in the wind. He had a strong feeling that this trip to Cascade was destined to become a hurricane. The West Coast Headquarters for the Agency of Sentinel Affairs was in Cascade as well as the largest Guide school in the country. That meant the office building they would be working in would have lots of Sentinels. He had had to transfer out of the Ranger Corps because they couldn’t accept him claiming an unsuitable Mind Walker as a Guide. He understood their concern. Every Ranger and Guide had everyone’s back when working in the field. They depended on each other for their lives. They couldn’t trust her which meant they no longer trusted him. No Alpha in his right mind would claim a Mind Walker as his Guide, much less one that had been declared unsuitable. Whether it was true or not that his Guide was unsuitable, that was the perception, so he did what he had to do. He did his duty to his Guide. He resigned from the Rangers and transferred into the Marshal’s Service.

In many ways, the Marshal’s service was the best move possible. Clint worked with Sweet as his partner. He decided to call his Guide Sweet because of the taste and scent of her Guide pheromones, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to call her 923. Their assignment was to monitor and manage the witnesses in the witness protection program. He wasn’t partnered with any other Sentinels, so that whole can of worms was avoided. It was an easy job, too easy for a Sentinel of his caliber, but it was his duty to take care of his Guide, and it was a way for him to serve.

Occasionally they would be assigned to a team to track down a fugitive. That’s the work he found most rewarding. At first, the other Sentinels did not like having a Mind Walker on the recovery team, but Alpha Prime Gerard did not tolerate any lack of focus in the field, and a Mind Walker came in handy when there were persons of interest to be questioned. So the Sentinels quietly, but grudgingly, accepted Sweet’s assignment...until the incident.

@@@@@@@

Fugitive Recovery Assignment

***

The fugitive, Robert Dunn, had been holed up in a girlfriend's apartment when the Marshals closed in. Dunn escaped through a window and ran into the woods behind the apartment complex. The Marshals followed, but Sweet was ordered to stay behind and guard the cars. It was a common assignment for her, and if Dunn did circle back, she would let them know by radio and stay out of danger.

Sweet opened her empathic perception and scanned for any emotions that Dunn was broadcasting. It was easy for her to find his ‘station.' The Rangers emotions were controlled and focused on tracking Dunn. Dunn’s emotions were churning and chaotic. She knew he was doubling back when she felt a touch of smug amusement enter his emotions. She got out of sight and radioed the Marshals. Dunn tried to hot wire one of the Marshal’s cars so Sweet came out to stop him. She was a double X empath, and as such, she was not only a healer but also a breaker. She was very good at breaking anything electrical, or metal and cars were both so she walked over to the Marshal’s SUV and put her hand on the hood just as the engine turned over. The engine stopped.

Dunn tried again to get the car to start, but now he couldn’t even get a spark from the wires. He popped his head up to look for another vehicle to hot wire and saw Sweet standing with her hand on the hood.

“I suggest you give up,” Sweet told Dunn looking him in the eyes. “You’re not going to get away.”

At the moment their eyes met Dunn had a choice, fight or flight. He would have run if he could, but he was trapped in the car, and then he heard the Marshal’s running toward him. His flight was cut off, so he jumped out of the car and charged Sweet. He pulled her to him and held his gun to her head.

The Marshals stopped. Sweet lifted her hand and touched the gun. “This gun will do you no good,” she said calmly, in a voice she knew all the Sentinels could hear. “It’s jammed, if you try to shoot it, it will explode, and you’ll lose half your hand.”

“Nice try, bitch,” Dunn said and then yelled to the marshals, “Get back or I’ll kill the bitch.”

“No you won't,” Sweet said, “there is nothing more useless than a dead hostage.” Sweet looked up and made eye contact with Clint. “I’m telling the truth, the gun is jammed.”

At that moment Clint knew Sweet was telling the truth and he charged Dunn. The other marshals followed. Dunn pointed the gun at Clint and pulled the trigger, then he screamed as the gun exploded and two fingers were ripped away.

Sweet was covered with blood spray. Clint grabbed her leaving the other marshals to take care of Dunn. He could smell Dunn’s blood, but mixed in with it was the scent of Guide blood. “She’s wounded” he screamed as blessed protector syndrome hit, “call an ambulance.”

Sweet had never before been the trigger of BPS, but she had learned how to handle it in Guide school. She centered herself and sent calming energy to Clint; it had little effect. He was frantic to find the source of the scent of Guide blood.

When the ambulance got there, Gerard rode with them to the hospital. “How did you know the gun would explode?” He asked; he needed to know.

Sweet knew there was no use lying to a Sentinel, so she told him the truth. “I asked it not to shoot,” She said. “It told me it would explode.”
Every Sentinel sense Gerard had told him the Guide was telling the truth, but it still seemed unbelievable. “You talked to the gun?” he asked trying to make sense out of what had just happened.

“I communicated with it,” she corrected him.

“And it volunteered to explode?” Gerard asked.

“It didn’t like Dunn,” Sweet said in a matter of fact way.

“Gun’s have feelings?”

Sweet shrugged.

“That’s pretty damn spooky Sweet,” Gerard told her, “I don’t know if I can wrap my mind around that.”

“Everythings sentient in it’s own way,” Sweet told him. “Once you understand that everything else just falls into place.”

The hospital found a deep cut from shrapnel along Sweet’s left jaw line. They cleaned her up and glued the cut closed. Clint questioned them about using glue instead of stitches, but the doctors said glue would leave a less noticeable scar.

After that the attitude of the Sentinel Marshal’s toward Sweet changed, they no longer doubted her abilities or commitment to her responsibilities as a Guide and a member of the Marshal’s Service. The Marshals began calling her Spooky Sweet behind her back, but there was a degree of respect in the nickname so she pretended she didn’t notice. In spite of their change of attitude they still didn’t invoke the ritual and grant Clint formal membership into their pack. Spooky Sweet was after all still a Mind Walker and they were still Alphas.

@@@@@@@

Marshal’s Plane

***

“Sweet, wake up,” Clint said, “we’ll be landing in Cascade in less than an hour.”

Sweet opened her eyes and stretched. “Okay,” she said as she brought the seat up to a sitting position.

“I have to scent mark you,” Clint told her, “We’re going to be staying with an Alpha and his Guide, He won’t let us in unless you’re scent marked, It’s a Sentinel thing.”

“Where?” she asked.

“You’re fine where you are,” Clint said.

Sweet reclined her seat as far as it would go and lifted her hips as the Sentinel knelt down and pulled off her shoes and pants and then he grabbed a pillow and slid it under Sweet's hips. She closed her eyes and centered herself for the pleasure she knew was to come, cunnilingus followed by intercourse. Renewing their bond or scent marking was always the same unless you counted the times when the Sentinel needed to repattern her body. But that wasn’t done for pleasure. It was done to satisfy the Sentinel’s need. Their bond was based on need, duty, and respect, not love. Sweet would not let herself wallow in self-pity over the lack of love, she was treated with respect and considered it a blessing to be claimed at all.

@@@@@@

On the Ground in Cascade

***

Peter smiled and walked forward offering his hand when the Sentinel and his Guide entered the small private airport terminal. “Welcome to Cascade Sentinel Barton,” Peter said. “I’m Sentinel Prime Peter Wall; this is my Guide, Wesley. I’ll be driving you to Sentinel Jim Ellison’s home. Do you have any more luggage?”

“No, this is it,” Clint said as he shook Peter’s hand. A warm, pleasant feeling entered Clint’s hand and climbed his arm as they greeted each other. Clint was surprised by the sensation; it felt similar to the energy he felt when touching Sweet, but also different. It was certainly like nothing he had ever before felt from a Sentinel.

Wesley walked over to Sweet and smiled. “I’ll take your luggage,” he said looking her in the eyes.

Sweet opened her awareness and let the energy Wesley was giving off wash over her. She found that he was a strong Guide and a rock for his Sentinel. He genuinely wanted her to feel welcomed. Sweet smiled back and said “Thank you,” as she handed him her suitcase.

@@@@@@

In the car on the way to the Ellison House

***

“Jim asked me to fill you in about his pack,” Peter said as he started to pull out of the parking space. “Jim is the Sentinel Liaison Officer for the Cascade area. He is a police detective currently assigned to the Guide Abductions Task Force. His Guide is Blair Sandburg. Jim has a second, Sentinel Detective William Spikeman; he goes by Spike. His Guide is Xander Harris. They are currently on medical leave. Xander is still recovering from an abduction. Blair and Xander are cross bonded with both Ellison and Spikeman. It is a true bond, and both the Sentinels and the Guides will act that way, they are a nesting pack. The thing you most need to be aware of is Xander. He was given an overdose of a sedative, and it’s left him with brain damage. He has trouble controlling his emotions. He is Guide protective of Jim and possessive of Spike. If Xander warns you away from Spike move away. If he challenges you ignore it, Spike will take care of Xander.”

“Guides don’t challenge Sentinels,” Clint said.

“Xander challenged Alpha Prime Graham Miller,” Peter told him, “even though he is a member of the hive. Before Graham became a hive member, Xander tried to attack him.”

Clint took in a deep breath and blew it out. “Are you sure I should be staying with Ellison’s Pack?”

“It’s the safest house in Cascade for you and your Guide.” Peter Said.

“Don’t forget about the Major,” Wesley reminded him.

“Major Timothy McGee from NCSIA is staying with Jim temporarily,” Peter said. “He’s setting up the task force. His Guide is Abby Scuito. She is very intelligent and Guide possessive of McGee they are also members of the hive.”

“So Jim, as head of the household and Liaison Officer is the highest-ranking Sentinel followed by Major McGee, I’d be third in rank, and Spikeman is the lowest rank?” Clint asked knowing that getting the hierarchy straight is important when an Alpha Sentinel goes into another Alpha’s territory.

“Not quite,” Peter answered. “Jim is the head of the household, followed in rank by Spike, then comes Major McGree, you’d be the lowest rank in the house. In the field, of course, you’d be right about rank unless it directly involved one of the Guides in the hive being abducted. In that case hive Sentinels would defer to Spike.”

“You’d defer your rank to a police detective if your Guide were abducted,” Clint said in disbelief. “That doesn't sound like any Sentinel I know.”

“It’s hive business,” Pete told him. “The point is, don’t underestimate Spike. He has the respect and trust of every Sentinel in the hive. You may feel a strong pull to him, If you do, call me. I’ll take it away.”

Wesley handed Peter’s business card to Clint as Peter pulled up in front of Ellison’s house.

“There’s one more thing,” Peter said, turning in his seat and looking at Clint “Jim is going to invoke the ritual and bring you into the pack.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Clint scoffed. “I’m a strange Alpha bonded to a double X Guide that’s been declared unsuitable. He’s not going to offer me his Guides neck.

“He will,” Peter said, “If you’re not going to accept, tell me now, and I’ll take you to a safe house.”

“You said this is the safest house in Cascade for my Guide,” Clint said

“It is,” Peter answered.

“If he offers I’ll accept,” Clint said, “but I don’t think it’s going to happen, Alphas don’t bring Mind Walkers into their pack.”

“I’ll bet you a beer he does,” Peter said offering his hand.

“It’s a bet,” Clint said shaking on it.

@@@@@@

Ellison House

***

“Come in,” Jim said when he opened the door. “My word it’s safe.” Jim backed up to give the Sentinel space.

Clint walked in, his nostrils flared, taking in the scent of the three Sentinels and their marked Guides. Peter had prepared him for the mix of scent markings he would encounter. Knowing why the mix was there kept him from turning around and getting his Guide away from the strange house. He didn’t bother to sort out who had marked who. He sensed no danger so he turned to Sweet nodded permission for her to enter. She was followed by Wesley and Peter who closed the door behind them.

The Sentinels and their Guides stood in a semi-circle around the living room. Jim looked at Peter who nodded to let Jim know his plan was a go. Jim didn’t see any point in making small talk, so he stepped up and started the ceremony. “I’m Sentinel Detective James Ellison;” he began, “this is my Guide, Blair.” Blair stepped forward, and Jim brushed back his long hair to bear his neck and offer Blair’s Guide gland to Clint.

Clint was truly surprised. He was sure the Alpha would not bring a double X Guide into his pack, but Clint was a Sentinel true to his word, so he stepped forward and licked Blair’s neck. “I’m Sentinel Marshal Clint Barton,” He said continuing the ceremony, “This is my Guide Sweet.”
Clint held Sweet’s hair off her neck and tilted her head offering his Guide’s neck to Jim.

Sweet had never before participated in a pack ceremony. She centered herself for the influx of information that she knew she would receive with the Sentinel’s touch. Jim bent down to the shorter Guide, he put his hand gently on her shoulder and ran his tongue firmly across her Guide gland. Sweet felt Jim’s essence flow through her. He wanted her to feel welcomed and protected. He offered her the knowledge of himself without reservation and without the fear of her that she usually felt from Sentinels she met. Sweet lifted her head and looked into Jim’s eyes.

Jim held eye contact with Sweet for a moment and then turned to Clint for the traditional Sentinel-to-Sentinel kiss. He placed his hands on Clint’s cheeks and waited for Clint to do the same before leaning in for the kiss.

Clint accepted the kiss parting his lips and letting the taste of the two Guides and the Sentinel mingle in his mouth. He was ready to pull away, but Jim deepened the kiss. It was then that Clint realized he was not being invited into the pack as a colleague, a trusted Sentinel to work beside, he was being brought into a family pack. The difference was subtle but deeply significant, and Clint responded with passion. Clint’s eyes turned dark blue/black, and he slipped into a ritual thrall.

Jim ended the kiss and whispered “true brother” to his new pack brother before stepping back.

McGee and Abby stepped up, and McGee said the words. “I am Sentinel Major Timothy McGee, and this is my Guide, Abby. He moved Abby’s pigtail out of the way and offered her neck to Clint. Clint continued the ceremony and offered Sweet’s neck to McGee, and then he and McGee kissed. Clint felt the same warm feeling fill him that he had felt when he shook Peter’s hand.

Spike stepped forward with Xander by his side. “I am Sentinel Detective William Spikeman,” he said, “and this is my Guide, Xander.” Spike combed his fingers through Xander’s hair, tilted his head and offered Xander’s Guide gland to Clint.

Clint licked Xander’s neck and tasted both Guide and Sentinel. The Sentinel taste was not diluted like the Guides who carried the Sentinel gene he had tasted while in the Ranger Corps. In his thrall state, Clint registered Xander as two separate entities, one Sentinel, and one Guide.

Clint recited the words of the ritual for the second time and then offered Sweets Guide gland to Xander. Xander froze in place, uncertain of what to do.

Spike took Xander by the hand. “You’re a Sentinel now Xan; it’s okay.”

Xander leaned in and licked Sweet’s Guide gland. She did taste sweeter than Blair, the only other Guide he had ever tasted.

Sweet felt Xander’s fear wash over her. Not fear of her but fear for his pack and for other Guides. She concentrated on sending him calming energy and was not centered when Spike stepped forward and licked her neck. The reaction to Spike’s touch was immediate and slammed into her consciousness hard, catapulting her out of her body and into a past life.

***

Her name was Cassie, and she was a seer. She sat tied up in the middle of a circle of burning candles and a scatter of gold coins. A coven of witches held hands and chanted a summons to a hell demon. Cassie knew that today was the day she was going to die, she was the sacrifice the coven was offering to the demon they worshiped in exchange for magic power. A large green demon rose up through the floor and roared his dominance as he reached for his offering. Spike seemed to appear out of nowhere and with a roar of his own he attacked the demon. The fight didn’t last long; Spike killed it quickly. The witches ran. Their power came from the demon they worshiped. Without the demon they were powerless. Spike bent down to cut Cassie free. She looked up into his eyes; she could see and feel his pain, not physical but deeply emotional pain. Spike froze for a moment then he tilted his head a questioning look filled his eyes. She gave him the message that he needed to hear. “You’ll bond with your soul mate,” Cassie said, “I’ve seen it.”

***

Spike’s tongue left Sweet’s neck, and she was back in her present life. A different circle surrounded her. A circle of warmth and caring, a circle of Sentinels and Guides willing to sacrifice their own lives for nameless others and for a better future.

For a moment Clint was confused and began to slip out of his thrall. There were two Sentinels before him, two Sentinels to kiss. Xander understood the confusion and took Clint’s face into his hands. Clint responded and placed his hands on Xander’s face. They kissed. The kiss was deep and meaningful for both Sentinels. Xander slowly pulled back and held Clint’s head until Spike stepped in for the kiss. Spike put his hands gently over Xander’s, and Xander slipped his hands off of Clint’s face. Clint turned his head to look at Spike and then let go of Xander and took Spike’s face into his hands. The kiss they shared was warm and deeply spiritual, it filled an empty spot in his sole. When it finished Clint, still holding Spike’s face, leaned his forehead against Spike’s. “I’ve been so lonely,” he whispered.

 

“Not anymore,” Spike answered, “Not anymore.”

A single tear rolled down Clint’s face, and Spike kissed it away before stepping back and letting his hands slowly slip from Clint’s face with each step.

Peter Wall stepped forward. Jim hadn’t asked him to be part of the ceremony, but he felt what could only be described as a kinship with Clint. He knew Clint had been through the fire and had the emotional scars to prove it. “I am Sentinel Prime Peter Wall,” he said, “and this is my Guide, Wesley.”

Clint licked Wesley’s neck and then said the appropriate ceremonial words before offering Peter Sweet’s neck.

Sweet was prepared when Peter licked her Guide gland. She felt the Sentinel strength emanating from him and his desire to protect and care for Guides. She was sure these Sentinels would never accept the new laws, they were part of the resistance.

Peter and Clint took each other’s face into their hands, and they kissed. It was a kiss of unconditional acceptance and brotherhood. When they parted, they looked into each other’s eyes. Peter smiled at his brother Sentinel. “You owe me a beer,” he said.

The thrall cleared from Clint’s mind. The ritual was over, and he smiled back. “It’s the best bet I’ve ever lost.”

Blair walked over to Sweet, “Welcome to the family,” he said.

Before Sweet could answer Abby ran over and wrapped her arms around Sweet in a welcoming hug. “Are you okay?” she asked, “I thought I saw you slip away for a moment.”

“Abby!” McGee called. “Let go of Sweet.”

“It’s okay,” Sweet said as she returned Abby’s hug. “You see auras.”

Abby nodded her head, “What happened?”

“Sweet?” Clint asked, concern filling his voice.

At the sound of Clint’s voice, every Sentinel in the room came to attention ready to assist a Guide in distress. The feel of the Sentinel's attention was overwhelming. She raised her arms in surrender and took a deep breath. “I’m okay,” Sweet said, “The ceremony was very intense, and I lost my center for a moment. That must have been what Abby saw.”

“Do you need a healing?” Blair asked. “Xander and I are both healers?”

Suddenly, Sweet’s stomach gave a loud rumble that even the Guides could hear. Sweet turned red with embarrassment. “Thank you for the offer, Blair,” Sweet said. “I really am okay.”

“No you’re not,” Clint said, sounding concerned, but not giving his Guide a comforting stroke of her arm. “You need to eat.

“We all do,” Jim said noticing the dichotomy of the Sentinel’s reaction. He put the observation behind him knowing that a Sentinel gives his Guide what he or she needs and he knew Double X Guides were touch sensitive.

“So let’s eat,” Xander said. He also noticed Clint’s lack of a comforting touch to Sweet and considered giving her arm a pat.

It was Abby that hooked her arm onto Sweet’s and started walking toward the kitchen. “Blair and Spike cooked supper,” she said as she gave sweet’s arm the comforting pats she assumed the Guide needed, “and they are ~great ~ cooks.”

Chapter Text

Clint woke up at first light. The evening had gone very well. Abby was right, Blair and Spike were great cooks. The Pack engaged in comfortable conversations around the dinner table. Jim talked about his time in the Rangers, his helicopter accident in the jungle of Peru and having his Sentinel abilities trigger. Clint told them about how his upbringing had been centered around becoming a Sentinel, what is was like working with Sentinel Marshal Sam Gerard, the fugitive retrieval of Dunn, and how Sweet had been instrumental in his recapture by making his gun explode.

Sweet objected, “I didn’t ~make~ the gun explode,” she said. “I only ~asked~ it to jam. It decided it would exploded on it’s own. I warned Dunn” she emphasized to everyone, “but he didn’t believe me.”

Abby gave McGee an elbow in the ribs when she saw the shocked look on his face. “I talk to my Mass Spectrometer,” Abby said, “and I play music for it. It likes hard rock. I know it helps, because before I started playing the music it broke down a couple of times a week, now maybe once a month. If it get’s really cantankerous I unplug it for awhile. It get’s the message.”

“Have you tried playing Bach?” Sweet asked, “I think a Mass Spectrometer might like Bach, especially the fugues.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Abby said tilting her head in thought, “thanks for the tip, I’ll give it a try.”

***

Clint dialed up his hearing enough to listen to the other Sentinels and Guides steady breathing. Sweet was also asleep, they weren’t bio-synced so she didn’t automatically wake up when he did. He dialed back his hearing so he could hear only Sweet’s breathing. He found it comforting. He had never had the opportunity to listen to Ray’s breathing while he slept. They had been bio-synced, as was required by all the military Alpha Sentinels and their Guides. Their resting heart beat had been the same, they slept and woke at the same time, they even had the urge to relieve themselves at the same time.

One of the reasons Sweet had been declared unsuitable to bond was that the drugs that she had been given during the abduction had caused damage to her autonomic nervous system. She had an abnormal heart beat so she could never pass the physical the Rangers demanded. Clint was told that bio-syncing with Sweet was ‘highly unadvised’, a term they did not use lightly, and counseled him to sunder the bond. He was assured the request would be approved by the tribunal, “After all,” he was told, “she is already brain damaged and you had no knowledge that she had been designated unsuitable before you claimed her.”

Clint couldn't believe what he was being told. Sundering from a Double X Guide would cause her death or worse she could become a vegetable, it was nothing short of murder. “You are Sentinels,” Clint growled. “You’re asking me to murder my Guide.”

“You should know that our doctors have determined that should you bio-sync with this Guide there is a likely possibility that your Sentinel abilities will shut down due to the Guides damaged autonomic nervous system. There is also a possibility that you will keep your sentinel abilities but acquire your guides abnormal heartbeat which will make you unfit for Sentinel duty. She forced this bond on you; you are under no legal or moral obligation to accept it. You do, of course, have the right to choose not to sunder and to resign from the Rangers, in that case you will receive an honorable discharge, Should you refuse to sunder and refuse to resign you will be discharged under less than honorable conditions.”

Clint resigned from the Rangers with an honorable discharge and joined the Marshalls. He never tried to bio-sync with Sweet. When he first claimed her he felt it would be a betrayal to Ray, his deceased Guide. Now he had two reasons not to deepen their bond.

***

Two hours later the hive and Sweet woke up. They waited for McGee and Abby to finish in the guest bathroom and then they showered. After the shower Clint sent marked Sweet and they went out to the kitchen for breakfast.

All the Guides in the kitchen were glowing. Blair was busy at the stove making scrambled eggs. Jim was bringing a plate of toast to the table. Abby was playfully feeding McGee. Xander looked up with a smile when he heard Clint and Sweet come out of the bedroom. The smile changed to a loud growl as soon as they reached the kitchen doorway.

Clint stopped and, as instinct demanded, blocked Sweet’s way into the kitchen, his expression changed into one of pure confusion at the sound of Xander’s growl. “What’s wrong?” he asked. He couldn’t understand what he had done wrong. He was barefoot as was Sentinel edicate and he hadn’t gotten anywhere near Spike as Peter had warned, but everyone in the kitchen was staring at him so he knew something was definitely wrong.

“Sweet’s not glowing,” Xander growled as he continued to glare at Clint.

Clint was completely confused, he tried to understand why Xander would react that way, Sentinels and Guides alike would put it into the ‘your guide your business,’ category and then ignore it. “Why would you care?” He asked.

Xander’s growl changed to a roar and he tried to propel himself at Clint. Spike grabbed Xander and put him over his shoulder. Clint put his arm across Sweet’s body and backed up pressing themselves against the wall.

Xander growled and clawed at Clint as Spike carried him down the hall. “You didn’t make it beautiful for her,” he screamed as Spike kicked the nesting door closed behind them.

Jim walked down the hall and took up a guard position outside the door.

@@@@@@

Sentinel Graham Miller’s home

***

Graham nearly dropped his coffee when he felt the wave of emotion come through his hive link. He looked at Peter who was already heading for the door with Wesley close behind.

“What happened?” Riley asked.

“Xander just tried to attack Sentinel Barton.” Graham told him. Graham was trying to send a telepathic message to Spike that Peter was on the way when Gibbs broke in.

“Who’s this,” Gibbs demanded, “I need to talk to Spike.”

“This is Sentinel Alpha Prime Miller. I think we got our psychic lines crossed I was trying to talk to Spike too.”

“Report Miller. What the hell is going on in Cascade?” General Gibbs demanded of his hive brother, “I just got a ‘red alert’, it feels like the nesting house is under attack.”

“Sir!” Miller began, putting his mind in official military report mode, “Sentinel Marshal Clint Barton and his Mind Walker Guide number 923 have been reassigned to the Guide Abduction Task Force. They are currently staying at the nesting house. I believe Xander may have attempted to attack Sentinel Barton. Sentinel Wall has gone to the nesting house to offer assistance, Sir!”

“Tell Jim I’m on my way.” Gibbs said, “I’ll need an office in Cascade. I’ll be staying awhile.”

“Sir! I’ll arrange a safe house for you, Sir!” Miller told him.

“No safe house, Alpha Prime,” Gibbs said, “I’ll nest with Ellison’s pack.”

***
Gibbs shut down the psychic link and turned to Tony, “Get packed, we’re going to Cascade.”

“Do we really have to go there, Boss?” Tony asked. “McGee can give us a report.”

“I need to be there,” Gibbs said “They found a Mind Walker, my gut tells me this case is going to break wide open. I want to be there when they bring in the Sentinel bastards that did this.”

“Never question the gut,” Tony said as he walked to the bedroom to pack.

Gibbs admired Tony’s tight ass as he walked away. He’d have to scent mark him on the way to Cascade. There was a strange sentinel at the nesting house and he needed to make sure the Sentinel knew Tony was his. He didn’t mention his need to renew his bond with Spike, that conversation could wait. It was a six hour flight to Cascade there would be plenty of time. Rank has it’s privileges he told himself as he picked up the phone to order a private plane for their trip to Cascade.

@@@@@@

Nesting House

***

Sweet tried to push Clint’s arm away so she could go to Xander.

Clint turned and faced his Guide. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Xander’s hurting, I’m going to help him,” She told Clint.

“You can’t,” Clint told her. “That was a challenge, Xander wants to claim you for his own. Peter told us that if Xander challenged me to ignore it and let Spike handle it and that is what we’re going to do.”

“Xander thinks you’re abusing me,” Sweet said “I’m the only one that can convince him he’s mistaken.”

“Sweet, I know what I saw,” Clint said. “I don’t want to fight Xander, but I won’t let him claim you. The safest thing to do is to let Spike handle it.”

“Xander is a guide, he just has his wires crossed, Xander the Guide doesn’t want to claim me. He’s hurting. You’re not the kind of Sentinel to turn your back on a guide in pain.”

“Sweet,” Clint pleaded, “he’s…”

Sweet lifted her right hand and put her fingers on Clint’s lips. “He’s family,” she whispered.

Clint looked at his Guide. Of course she had felt it too, how could she not? This pack bond was a family bond. Ordinarily in this circumstance a Sentinel would have the overwhelming need to choose fight or bond. Instead he was quietly analyzing what was best for the pack. He stepped aside.

@@@@@@

Nesting Room

***

The nesting room walls were painted a soothing green. The sunken nest, larger than a California king size bed, was dressed in golden brown sheets and pillows, lots of pillows. Sweet could tell immediately that is was a very relaxing place for a Sentinel to be, as well as aesthetically pleasing for a Guide.

Spike was trying to distract Xander by getting him to bond, but Xander just kept growling and trying to push Spike away. “The bastard wanted to know why I cared,” Xander said as Sweet walked into the room. “He doesn’t make it beautiful for her and he wants to know why I care.”

Sweet walked to the side of the nest about three feet from Spike and Xander and sat down. “It’s not his fault.” she whispered.

Xander looked at her. “It’s a Sentinel’s responsibility to make it beautiful for his Guide, he doesn't do that for you. How can you say it’s not his fault?”

Sweet picked up a pillow and hugged it to her, tucking it under her chin. “When I was taken,” she began, “I was a virgin, when I was rescued I wasn’t. I don’t have many memories, just a few spoken words and snapshots in my mind of the kidnappers faces… to call the way they looked at me ugly is like saying a glass of salt water is the ocean. It was ugly and filthy, but those words are too small to be accurate. The true words don’t exist.” Tears began to roll down Sweets face and Xander tried to go to her. “No!” Sweet said with vehemence in her voice. “I can’t have anyone touch me when I have their faces in my mind!”

“You don’t have to tell us this,” Xander said. He could see a small tremble in her arms.

“Yes I do,” she said with a soft voice. “You asked why it’s not his fault, I have to tell you. Just give me a few moments to clear my mind.”

***

Clint sat with his back against the wall next to the nesting room door listening to his Guide defend him. Blair sat beside him, offering the distraught Sentinel what comfort he could. Clint wasn’t interested in suckeling Blair’s guide gland so Blair sent calming energy through his touch. McGee and Abby had returned to their room to remove the stress McGee felt, the remainder of breakfast sat on the kitchen table.

Jim still stood guard at the door also listing to Sweets story, This was very tricky business. A sentinel bonded to a healer had to have absolute trust in his Guide and be able to let go. It was obvious Clint could let go. The question was did he do it out of absolute trust or was there something else going on? It could be he felt it was his duty to let a healer heal. That was by far a more logical explanation than their bond being shallow. Shallow was simply ~not possible~.
As any Sentinel would do when participating in a pack bond the taste of the guide is patterned and locked into long term memory. Sweet was different. Jim was somehow more aware of her than other pack guides. She was… Jim tried to think of an analogy. She was there but completely not obtrusive. She was ...like...fingernails. Not the most flattering analogy, but it was the closest he could come. Yes, he was sure, Sweet didn’t do shallow. Yet here Clint sat under obvious emotional stress, not taking Blair’s offer of his guide gland, although as a pack member in distress it was allowed. Jim thought of the first time he has seen Spike. Xander had run and Spike was holding off a bonding thrall by sheer will power. Clint was doing something like that right now, holding off a fight or bond decision, he was definitely not a weak Sentinel. But then you didn’t get to be a Ranger by being weak. Jim’s focus changed to the front door. He heard footsteps approaching.

Peter and Wesley walked up to the front door of the nesting house, Peter called out softly. “Jim, it’s Peter, let me in.”

Jim did not want to leave his post. It would to big of a temptation to Clint to go to his Guide. That would cause an escalation of feelings that needed to be avoided so he sent Blair to the door.

“I felt Xander lose control through the link.” Peter said, “I thought I could help.” He looked down the hall and saw Clint sitting against the wall. Peter didn’t hesitate, he went to his hive brother, sat down beside him and took his hand.

Clint felt the now familia warm energy climb up his arm. He looked at his new pack brother and friend and smiled a melancholy smile. “Thanks for the offer,” Clint told him knowing that Peter was offering him a Sentinel-to-Sentinel bond. “I can’t, not right now.”

Peter and Clint continued to hold hands as Blair and Wesley busied themselves cleaning up the kitchen, and Jim continued to stand guard at the nesting room door.

***

Sweet took a deep cleansing breath and continued her story. “When the Sentinels attacked the hideout the kidnappers tried to kill all the Guides. I was shot and badly wounded. It took some time to clear the area and find the keys to the cells they kept us in so I had already lost a lot of blood by the time Clint got to me. He was frantic. He put pressure on the wound and kept yelling, ‘Don’t you leave me, Guide. Stay with me.’ over and over again. Oftentimes when I perceive something about a person I see metaphorical pictures in my mind. What I saw with Clint was an Oak Tree that had been hit by lightning and lost a major limb. I knew what it meant, he had lost his guide. With that picture came the knowledge that it would destroy him if he failed to save me, I also knew I was dying. He was talking to me so his mind was open to me. I sent him as much positive energy as I could as deep into his mind as I could send it. I never wanted him to think he failed me. I never wanted him to think of that day with grief or regret. I wanted him to feel the gratitude I felt that he had come. Then I woke up in the hospital. They told me I was clinically dead for a few minutes, but they managed to get me back and I was going to be fine. I was on painkillers for a few days so I was pretty much out of it. I didn’t realize I was still linked to Clint. I have no idea why the link to him survived. When they discharged me from the hospital I was sent to a Guide convalescent home. It’s where they told me the drugs had affected my autonomic nervous system. My heart skips every fourth beat. I was diagnosed with depression complicated by PTSD and declared ‘Unsuitable To Bond’. They said it was too big of a risk to a Sentinel to bio-sync with me. I don’t know how long I was there before Clint came, but when he came he was hurting. I had no choice really but to agree to the bond, he would have gone rough if I resisted. When he claimed me I didn’t reach for him to deepen our link. I never reach for him.”

“And he doesn’t reach for you either, does he?” Xander asked.

“No,” she answered, “he’s still grieving for the loss of his guide.” Sweet took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “Xander?” she asked. “Have you ever noticed how Spike looks at you when you’re glowing, or how Jim looks at Blair?”

“Of course I have,” Xander said.

“The glow is for the Sentinel,” Sweet told him. “It tells the Sentinel that his guide is content, happy and centered in the bond. I can never give that to Clint and it’s ~not... his… fault~.”

“It’s not your fault either,” Xander said.

“Did they tell you why it was too dangerous to bio-sync?” Spike asked.

“Yes,” she said, ”There is a high risk that his sentinel abilities will shut down. The Rangers said he could sunder, he refused. He gave up everything for me, his friends, his family, and the Rangers. We were with the Marshals for ten months and they never asked him to join their working pack. I know it was because of his bond with me. Yet, he has never complained, never been anything but respectful. He has never failed to fulfill his Sentinel duty to me. When the ugly faces invade my mind it’s Clint’s face that chases them away. So please Xander, let this go. He’s a superior Sentinel, with a strong moral compass, and he’s good to me.”

“Does he make you happy?” Xander asked

“I don’t believe a person can ~make~ another person happy” Sweet said. “What I am is comfortable, content, and I have a purpose. I would have none of that without our bond. So I’ll ask again; can you let this go Xander? We can’t stay in this house unless you do.”

“Sweet’s right,” Spike said, “You need to let this go. Clint isn’t abusing her and they need to stay here. I don’t need hazard detection to know who ever is abducting Guides wants to deny us Mind Walkers. If they get a chance they’ll take Sweet.

“I tried to kill Clint. Can he let that go?” Xander asked.

Clint stood up. “There’s nothing to let go of,” Clint said in a voice loud enough to hear through the nesting room door. “We’re pack, You’re my brother and you’ve been wounded. I don’t hold that against you. You were protecting my guide. Yeah, it was from me, but I know you won’t hesitate to protect her from a strange Sentinel either. Come out, Xander, please. We’ll have breakfast together.”

“Let’s get out of here,” Xander said.

***
The nesting room door opened. Spike stood in the doorway, he needed to evaluate, face to face, Clint’s emotional state. “If you have a problem,” Spike said, “It’s with me not the Guides.”

The fact that Spike was talking about both Xander and Sweet was not lost on Clint. He chose to give a formal answer. He dropped to one knee and lowered his head in submission. “The Guides are pack. I pledge never to disrespect or betray my pack. I will fight by your side or, if need be, stand alone, I will give my life in protection of our Guides.”

Spike pulled Clint to his feet and kissed him in acceptance of his pledge. Jim also accepted the pledge with a kiss.

Xander came out of the nesting room and walked up to Clint. “I apologize for my behavior,” he said and offered Clint his neck.

Clint put his hands on Xander’s shoulder and licked his guide gland and then he looked into Xander’s eyes and smiled. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Sweet came out of the nesting room and offered her neck first to Jim and then to Spike. Clint lifted his hand and held it out to Sweet. She understood its meaning, her Sentinel needed to bond. She took his hand and they walked to their bedroom.

***

Clint closed the door to their bedroom and led Sweet to their nest. He layed down on his side and pulled his Guide to him. “Sweet,” he asked, “do you get pleasure from renewing our bond?”

“You know I do,” she answered.

“You’re always so quiet when we bond, just little sounds of pleasure, but this time I need you to be loud, loud enough for the Sentinels in the kitchen to hear your pleasure.”

“Why?” she asked. “I just told them… they believe me.”

“I need this, Sweet. I ~need~ them to hear. Can you do that for me?”

“I d..don’t know,” she stuttered. “I’ll t..t..tr..try.”

Clint knew an attack of PTSD when he saw one. They always came without warning. Her heart was pounding and she had broken out in a cold sweat. This time it seemed more severe. “It’s okay,” he told her as he stroked her hair. “You don't have to be loud. I’ll invite them in to witness. It’s normal Sentinel behavior.”

Sweet’s eyes lost focus and her breathing suddenly became shallow.

“SWEET!” Clint screamed, “GUIDE!...

Every Sentinel and Guide in the house recognized the distress in Clint’s voice.

Sweet didn’t respond and she began to shake.

“BLAIR! SWEET NEEDS YOU! Clint yelled.

Chapter Text

Blair knelt down beside Sweet and his heart sunk. Her breathing was so shallow as to be nearly nonexistent. She was covered in cold sweat, her eyes were unfocused and her whole body was trembling. Blair knew exactly what was happening. He had learned the symptoms incase it happened to Xander. When he looked up at Clint his face was full of pain. “I’m sorry,” Blair said, “It’s a synaptic cascade, there’s nothing I can do.”

For a moment everything was quiet. Clint stood frozen, his mind refusing to process what Blair had said. Abby dropped to her knees and started to cry. Tim dropped down beside her and pulled her to him. He began to purr to comfort his Guide. At the sound of Tim’s purring Clint slowly turned his head to look at them then he turned back to look at Blair, his eyes pleading to understand what was happening.

“How long does she have?” Jim whispered.

“five, maybe ten minutes,” Blair whispered back.

Understanding finally came to Clint and a primal scream of “NOOOOOOOOO,” pierced the sole of every Sentinel and Guide in the Hive.

“Spike, you have to help her.” Xander pleaded.

“Xan,” Spike’s voice was full of pain. “There’s nothing I can do.”

“It’s my fault, if I hadn’t lost it this morning she’d be okay.”

‘’It’s not your fault, Xanman” Jim said. “Don’t blame yourself for this. It’s the bastards that abducted her who did this, not you.”

“Please Spike?” Xander cried, “You healed me,”

Spike could feel the pain his guide felt, it broke his heart. “Xander, I’m bonded to you, I’m not bonded to her.”

“You’re linked, we all are, I can feel it.”

@@@@@@

Miller’s Car

***
Alpha Prime Graham Miller was driving to work when the primal scream hit him. He slammed on his breaks and was nearly rear ended.

“What the hell?” Riley asked. He wasn’t a member of the hive but he was the Sentinel’s bond mate and any feeling that intense he felt too.

“Guide’s dying,” Graham told him. He was holding the steering wheel so tight his knuckles were white.

Riley tried to loosen his Sentinels grip from the wheel. “Which one?” he asked. He couldn’t imagine any of the hive Sentinels without their Guide.

“The Mindwalker.”

“But you’re not bonded to her or her Sentinel. You’ve never even met”

“They’re hive.” he said as if it explained everything.

There was a knock on the car window. A Beta Sentinel Police Officer stood outside the car ready to rip the driver a new one for blocking traffic.

Graham turned toward the window and rolled it down.

‘Holy shit,’ the beta thought when he saw the drivers rank, ‘an Alpha Prime.’ He decided on a change of plan. “Do you need assistance sir?”

“No,” was the curt reply.

“Sir you can’t stay here, you’re obstructing traffic.”

Sentinel Miller didn’t answer. He rolled up the window, put the car in gear and headed for the nesting house.

@@@@@@

Gibbs’ Limo

***
General Gibbs and his Guide Tony were in the back of a limo on the way to the airport when they were hit with the telepathic blast. Tony turned white and started to gag on his own saliva. Every muscle in Gibbs body tensed until he heard his guide’s gaging. Gibbs grabbed Tony and patted him on the back until he caught his breath.

“What the hell was that?” Tony asked.

“Primal scream,” Gibbs said.

“But that would mean a guide is dying.” Tony said.

“I don’t recognize which one, I’m trying to get in touch,” Gibbs said, concentrating hard on the hive telepathic link, “but there’s no answer.”

“Why don’t you try just listening?” Tony asked.

Gibbs sat quiet for a moment and then cringed. “All I get is traffic noise”

“Your turning up the wrong dial,” Tony told him.

“I only have one dial for hearing,”

Tony held out his hand, “Here, let me help, Boss.”

“I know how to use my dials, Guide”

Tony knew it was time to put his foot down. “Let me help, or deal with a really pissed off Guide.”

If circumstances were different Gibbs would have smiled. It was rare that Tony pushed an issue and Gibbs had learned when Tony pushed he’d better acquiesce. Twice since they bonded he had ignored Tony’s ‘Guide Sense’ and paid the consequences, very painful consequences. So now it was a rule. Rule number fifty two: Don’t ignore ‘Guide Sense’. Gibbs sighed and took Tony’s hand.

“We’ll try for Abby, she’s the one most sensitive to energy.” Tony said. “I want you to go to the place we go to when we dance.”

“I have to bond to go there.” Gibbs interrupted.

“No you don’t” Tony told him. “Close your eyes and breath.” Tony modulated his voice, deep and low. “Listen to my voice only my voice. Breath with me. In 2..3..4.. Out 2..3..4..5..6.. In 2.. 3.. 4..
Out 2..3..4..5..6.. In……… Out…….. Picture the room we dance in. Breath in…. Out…… Squeeze my hand when you see the room. Dance with me, Boss.”

Gibbs squeezed Tony’s hand.

“Look around the room. There’s a table by the wall, with a short wave radio on it. Walk over to it. These dials are different. Find the one for your inner ear. Squeeze my hand when you see it.”

Tony felt the squeeze “Turn the dial up slowly, Call to Abby as you turn up the dial. Listen for Abby.”

Gibbs heard soft crying, “Abby,” he called.

“Gibbs?” Abby asked when she heard Gibbs voice through the Hive link.

“Yes, it’s Gibbs. We heard a Primal Scream.”

“Sweet is dying,” Abby told him. “She’s my friend, Gibbs.”

“Who’s Sweet?... Abby focus, a hive guide is dead or dying, who is it?” Gibbs asked.

“Sweet’s the Mind Walker,” Abby told him. “We brought her and Clint into the hive last night.”

“Where’s McGee?”

“Tim can’t talk right now. He and Peter are trying to save Clint, but he’s refusing to bond.” Abby sounded worried. “Can a Sentinel bond really save him?”

It was Tony that answered Abby. “It’s his only chance Abb’s”

***
Gibbs switched his awareness to Peter.

“CLINT, BOND WITH ME,” Peter yelled. NOW CLINT!

Clint wasn’t responding, he was in a deep zone. McGee had torn off the Sentinel’s shirt along with his own and pressed against the Sentinel’s back with as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. Peter slapped Clint in the face in a futile attempt to break the zone.

“CLINT!” Peter yelled again.

General Gibbs decided to take charge. “SENTINEL BARTON, THIS IS GENERAL GIBBS. YOU WILL BOND WITH SENTINEL WALL NOW! THAT’S AN ORDER.”

Clint blinked out of his zone and his eyes focused on Peter, but made no move to bond.

“SENTINEL BARTON,” Gibbs tried again, “SENTINEL WALL NEEDS YOU. WE LEAVE NO MAN BEHIND, BOND NOW!”

Peter heard the General’s order too, He pulled Clint into a deep kiss and the two Sentinels fell to the floor. Peter was determined not to let his new friend die. If he could get him into a bond thrall there was a chance he would survive the death of his guide.

“McGee, can you hear me?” Gibbs asked.

“Loud and clear, Boss,” McGee answered. “I heard all of that.”

“McGee you have to get into the bond with Barton and sever the bio-sync with his Guide.” Gibbs said. “Take Abby in with you, she can identify the energy.”

“Boss,” McGee said, “They’re not bio-synced.” He was very glad they weren’t. He was no Mind Walker and had no idea of how to sever a bio-sync.

“Are you sure, McGee?”

“Sweet told us this morning.”

“Than he has a chance.” Gibbs said and turned his attention to Spike and Xander.

***
“You can save her,” Xander said to Spike.

“Xan,” Blair interrupted, “It’s a synaptic cascade. If he goes into her mind he may not be able to find his way out.”

“Yes he can,” Gibbs said, “He can track his Guide telepathically. All he has to do is come back to his Guide. We need a Mind Walker. If there is any chance at all you have to try.”

Spike made his decision. “Jim, don’t let Xan or Blair touch me,” he said. “Blair you’re my anchor for this. I don’t want to chance this triggering a cascade in Xander. If her breathing doesn’t get better in fifteen seconds call to me, I’ll find you.”

“What if it does get better? Blair asked as Spike layed down beside Sweet, “How long should I wait?”

“Don’t know, If I get lost I’ll call you through the hive link.” Spike licked Sweet’s guide gland and centered himself on her. He wasn’t sure it would work, but suddenly his consciousness was somewhere else.

@@@@@@

Inside Sweets Mind

***

Spike was floating in a dark patch. He could see glowing balls of light connected by glowing threads. The distant threads seemed to be growing dimmer. The link he had with Sweet was through the ritual so he called out to her with his mind. “Sweet. It’s Spike, we linked last night in the ritual. Try to remember.”

A memory began to glow and Spike dove into it. He found himself standing in a circle of burning candles in the Sunnydale High School gym. There was a dead demon at his feet. He could hear a pounding heartbeat and turned toward it to find Sweet tied up and gagged on the floor. This was not the link he was looking for but, he thought, beggars can’t be choosers. He went to her and tore off her gag. “Sweet, I need you to breath for me,” Spike was frantic. She wasn’t taking deep breaths. She only stared at him. He took her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Deep breath, Sweet, I need you to take a deep breath, can you do that for me?”

Sweet took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You’ll bond with your soul mate. I’ve seen it.”

Spike’s eyes turned yellow as he accessed his Sunnydale memories. “I remember now. I saved you from that demon.” Spike looked around the gym. The back wall was fading to black. He needed to get out of there now. “Sweet, I need you to take me to Xander, take me there now.”

“My name’s Cassie. Who’s Xander?”

“My soul mate, You said you saw me with him. We need to go there now.”

“I don’t know where he is and even if I did know I don’t have time to take you there, I’m going to die today.”

“Not if I can help it,” Spike said. He pulled Cassie to her feet and they ran from the building. They were three steps into the parking lot when Cassie dropped, she was dead before she hit the ground. Spike’s energy self was left holding hands with Cassie’s soul. The parking lot faded away and the pair were standing in front of a glowing being.

@@@@@@@

Soul Retrieval

***

“Who are you?” Spike asked.

“Cosmic Intervention Caseworker Glimmer,” she said with more than a bit of annoyance in her voice. “You’re not supposed to be here.” She reached out to take Cassie from Spike but Spike pulled her out of reach. “You can’t have her,” Spike said. “I need you to heal her and put her back.”

“NOT possible.” Gimmer said. Her annoyance had turned to anger and her glow had a definite red tinge to it. “The seer has finished her training on the hellmouth and she is scheduled to be reborn. There is no reason for her to go back.”

“Not to the hellmouth,” Spike said. “We need her healed and returned to her life in Cascade.”

“You have the ~ WRONG~ soul aspect.” Glimmer said with more than a bit of smugness in her voice. “This aspect is Cassie a seer in training from Sunnydale, not the Guide from Cascade.” Glimmer lunged for Cassie but Spike was faster and blocked her reach. Glimmer’s hand disappeared into Spike’s energy body. “Hay, You’re not burning.” She removed her hand and squinted at Spike.

“Are you new at this?” Spike asked. “I’m not a demon.”

Glimmer turned bright red with anger, “I am perfectly capable of doing my job. ~ YOU ARE A DEMON. ~ You could have claimed this soul aspect when you killed the demon to save her, but you ~ DIDN’T.~ Soooo... she belongs to me.”

Glimmer dove toward Cassie, Spike spun out of the way, his fangs dropped and he bit into Cassie taking three swallows of her energy.

Glimmer turned a muddy brown color. “What did you do that for?”

“Now I have a claim on her,” Spike said. “I want Sweet healed and alive in Cascade.”

“Supervisor Beacon,” Glimmer called, “We have a problem”

A ball of golden light appeared and spoke. “Glimmer, this was supposed to be a simple soul retrieval. What have you done?”

“The demon was with her and would not give me her soul. When I tried to get her he claimed her.”

“That’s not entirely true,” Cassie said. “You told him he had a right to claim me.”

“Glimmer!,” Supervisor Beacon said. “First of all he is not a demon. He is a Champion and a Sentinel. See that orange thread interwoven through him? That is tenacity. ~ He ~ does not ~ give up!~ Do you even remember your classes on aura color?” Supervisor Beacon sighed. “What is rule number one, Glimmer?”

“Interact only with the souls charged to you.”

“You’ve broken that rule, Caseworker Glimmer, now there are consequences.” Supervisor Beacon turned her attention to Spike, “Champion William/Spike why did you refuse to let Caseworker Glimmer retrieve the Cassie/Sweet soul aspect?”

“Sweet is dying.” Spike said, “I came to heal her but she is too far gone. I know you can heal her.”

“Under some limited circumstances a caseworker can heal an aspect’s body and return the aspect to it’s life. This is not one of those circumstances. There is an imbalance in your reality.
The Seer Cassie/Sweet has been claimed as a soul mate by both you and the Champion Clint/Hawkeye. The Seer is dying to restore balance.”

“She was dying before I claimed her.” Spike said

“We are outside of your reality, linear time does not exist here,” Supervisor Beacon explained. “This reality abides by the rules of quantum mechanics. Effect can happen before cause. Your claim on her was made in this reality.”

“I don’t want another soul mate.” Spike said. “Xander is my soul mate. I relinquish my claim on Sweet.”

“The claim has been made,” Supervisor Beacon said. “The Seer’s energy is a part of you, words won’t change that.”

“There has to be another way,” Spike said.

“It is a law of your reality and this one, energy cannot be destroyed.”

“I know that law,” Cassie said. “Energy can not be created or destroyed it can only be changed in form.”

Spike thought for a moment and found another way. “Then I’ll change the energy. Instead of claiming Sweet as a soul mate I’ll claim her as a childe.”

“The Seer must agree to become your Childe,” Supervisor Beacon said, “and you must petition a Tribunal as to whether it will be allowed. You were put into your reality to help Sentinels to evolve by claiming Childer. Claiming a Seer may serve only to create a different imbalance.”

“Sweet is unconscious, Spike said. “Put me back in her mind so I can ask her.”

“The Cascade/Sunnydale nexus that you came through is no longer open.”

“I agree to become Spike’s childe.” Cassie said.

“That will be sufficient.” Supervisor Beacon agreed.

“Okay,” Spike said to Supervisor Beacon, “call a Tribunal.”

“I do not have the authority to call a Tribunal,” the supervisor told Spike. “It must be called by the petitioner,”

“How do I do that?” Spike asked.

“Just repeat after me.” Cassie told him. “I, Champion William/Spike, invoke my right to call forth a Tribunal to rule on a petition to restore balance to my reality.”

Spike repeated the call. There was a low rumble, a cloud appeared and solidified into 3 desks.

“That was fast.” Spike whispered to Cassie.

“Fast?” the Judge sitting in the middle asked.

The Judge on the right leaned over and whispered. “It’ a reference to time.”

The middle Judge slammed down her gavel. “Over ruled! “ she yelled. “You will make no further references to time.”

The Judge on the left cleared his throat. “If I may speak?”

“Granted,” The middle Judge said.

“These soul aspects come from a reality with the fourth dimension of time. As such time is integrated into there being. I propose an amendment to your ruling that there will be no further references to the existence of time in this reality.”

“I will second that amendment,” the Judge on the right said.

“It is so amended,” the center Judge said with a bang of her gavel. “Champion William/Spike, why have you convened this Tribunal?”

“Your Honor…”

The Gavel came down hard. “Objection! Champion are you calling this Tribunal's honor into question?”

If I may” The judge on the right said. “The term ‘Your Honor’ is a term of respect in the Champion’s reality.”

The center Judge gave a questioning looked to the judge on her left.

“Highest respect,” he answered. “I would like to add that I think this unfortunate misunderstanding came about because we neglected to introduce ourselves to the Champion.”

“I quite agree,” the judge on the right said. “I propose the we amend our...lapse in protocol.”

“I second that amendment.”

“It is so amended,” the center judge said with yet another bang of her gavel.

The Judge on the right spoke first. “I am justice of language and mathematics. You may address me as Justice.

The judge on the left spoke next. “I am justice of culture and the arts. You may address me as Justice.

“I am Chief Justice,” the center Judge said. “Ordinarily I am addressed as Chief Justice, but in your case Champion, I will overrule my objection and you may refer to me as Your Honor.“ the gavel sounded. “You may state your case, Champion.”

Spike reached deep inside himself and channeled his Victorian gentleman persona, the gentleman who had attended Cambridge University in his past life, it wasn’t him anymore, but if ever there was a time to call on that part of him, now was that time. “Thank you Chief Justice, Justices.” Spike said, giving a gentlemanly bow to each in turn. He turned back to the Chief Justice and bowed again. ”Your Honor, the Mind Walker, Sweet, is dying in my reality. She is dying because two Champions have claimed her as a Soulmate. She is dying to restore balance. I petition the Tribunal to allow me to change my claim to that of Childe so that Sweet may live, So that balance can be restored, and so that she can continue to be a warrior in your army to fight the rising evil in the reality in which we live.”

“Mind Walker?” The middle Judge asked.

The Justice of Language cleared his throat. “Seers are reincarnated as Mind Walkers in the reality the Champion is speaking of.”

“You wish to claim a Seer as a Childe?” The Chief Justice asked.

“Yes,” Spike said, “to restore balance and to prevent the reality from falling into evil.”

“Tome,” the Chief Justice called. An ancient, huge, gleaming, black leather bound book appeared on the desk in front of the Chief Justice. It was intricately carved and gold letters spelled out: Sentinel Histories. The Chief Justice caressed the book with her fingers, tracing each letter in turn before gently lifting the cover and opening the book.
“Champion William/Spike,” she inquired of it.

The pages fluttered and turned before settling on an open page. The three Justices leaned in to read.

The Chief Justice looked at Spike. “You were turned by the insane seer vampire Drusilla.”

“I was.” Spike answered, wondering what it had to do with saving Sweet.

“You stayed with her, cared for her, and protected her for one hundred years.” The Chief Justice said. “Did you love her?”

Spike knew that he had to answer truthfully even if it was painful. He had done terrible things with Drusilla. Things he was now trying to make amends for, and he had done many of them because he loved his sire. “I loved her.” he answered in a whisper.

“Buffy Summers, the Slayer... you say she used you, but you still fought by her side, wore the amulet and gave up your unlife for her. Did you love her?”

“I did.”

“The key, made human as Dawn Summers, you allowed Glorificus, the hell god, to torture you nearly to death rather than give Dawn’s name to her. Why?”

“It would have killed Buffy to lose Dawn, and Dawn always treated me like I was a person not a Vampire. I loved her for that, not a romantic love, but it was love. I couldn’t turn her over to a hell god to be killed.”

“I don’t have to ask you about your other 2 soul mates Xander Harris and Winifred Burkle. It is safe to assume you love them.”

Spike thought the Justices may be trying to entrap him. “I don’t know a Winifred Burkle,” he told them.

“Oh?...” the Chief Justice said and squinted down at the Tome. “I see here that the Champion William/Spike fell in love with Winifred Burkle in Los Angeles while trying to stop an evil entity that fed souls to hell.”

“I believe that the incident in question happened to a different William/Spike soul aspect,” the Justice of Culture said.

“Yes,” The Chief Justice said, “I see it now. The amulet created a new Soul aspect. Odd that.”

“It was caused by a very powerful Dark Wizard, Lindsey McDonald,” The Justice of Mathematics said.”

“It Worked out in our favor,” The Chief Justice said. “That soul aspect is currently overseeing the hell god Ileria.”

Spike was getting anxious. The Justice’s didn’t seem to have the ability to concentrate on the issue of healing Sweet. Spike was still holding Cassie/Sweet’s hand. She was his only bargaining chip and he was not going to give her up until the Justices ruled on his petition.

Cassie/Sweet could feel Spike’s increasing anxiety. She began stroaking his arm with her free hand as if she was his Guide and leaned over to whisper into his ear. “It’s all right. Time doesn’t pass here. There is no need to hurry.” She gave his hand a squeeze.

Spike looked at Sweet and she smiled at him. A deeply beautiful smile. Spike remembered the Mind Walker comforting Xander that morning, her only concern to ease his and her Sentinel’s pain, unconcerned about the pain it caused her. Now, her willingness to comfort him, he understood her worth. Spike fell in love with Sweet.

“And there it is,” The Chief Justice said. “You’ve just fallen in love with the soul you’ve claimed as soul mate. Are you still willing to give her up?”

Spike held Sweets hand a little tighter as he spoke. He didn’t want her to think he was abandoning her. “It will restore our reality to Ballance. She will be my Childe and Soul Mate to Clint Barton. Yes I’m willing.”

“You don’t understand Champion,” The Chief Justice said. “You will not be giving her up for this one life. You will be giving her up in every lifetime across the multiverse. There will be pain.”

“I’ve suffered pain before to save a world.” Spike said.

“That was physical pain, Champion. This loss will be far worse. I have no way to prepare you.”

“This needs to be done,” Spike said. “As a vampire I caused thousands of people pain. I won’t turn my back on them now.”

“I believe your history shows you have the skills to oversee a Childe seer.” the Chief Justice said. “Do you agree Justices?”

“Agree,” they said in unison.

“Never let it be said that the William/Spike soul does not deserve the title of Champion.” The Chief Justice said with a bang of her gavel. “There are some requirements you need to agree to before we finalize your petition. Once claimed the seer will take on your mystical abilities. This could cause her to fall into darkness. As your Childe you must guide her to insure this does not happen. Do you promise to take on that responsibility?”

“She will be my child,” Spike said. “I won’t abandon her to the darkness.”

”You will need to be extra vigilant,” The Chief Justice said. “Her Sentinel must agree to fully claim her and to relocate to Cascade and change his permanent residence to the nesting house so that you can be near your Childe. The last requirement is that the Champion Clint/Hawkeye must take up archery. If her Sentinel does not agree to these stipulations your petition will be void and the seer will die.”

“Those are small requirements for the life of a Guide.” Spike said. “I can’t believe any Sentinel would refuse.”

“Caseworker Glimmer,” The Chief Justice called. Glimmer came forward and stood in front of the Justice’s desks “This situation came about because you failed to recognize the Champion was not a demon, you failed to read his aura, and you broke rule number one and interacted with a soul that was not your charge and, an offence I find most egregious, you deliberately mislead your Supervisor. As a result a reality was sent out of balance. Your charge is innocent in this. It is the finding of the Tribunal that you will take away her pain during the return to ballance. Your Charge must not suffer for your incompetence.” The gavel sounded.

Sweet raised her hand, “Chief Justice…”

“Seer,” the Chief Justice said. “I am aware of your desire not to cause pain to others. Caseworker Glimmer will not learn from her mistakes unless she pays the consequences for her actions. You are not the cause of this, seer.”

“But Spike will suffer,” Sweet said, “Please Chief Justice, let me take some of his pain away.”

“No,” Spike said. “I don’t want that. As a vampire I’ve caused far more pain then this will cause me. I’ll be okay Sweet.”

“We will allow you to give your Sire comfort,” The Chief Justice said, “But that is as far as we will go. Are you ready Champion?”

“I’m ready,” Spike said.

“You will remember only the parts of this Tribunal that you need to remember. When you let go of the seer’s hand you will be returned to your body in Cascaid. You must claim the seer as Childe immediately.“

Spike lifted Sweet’s hand to his mouth and kissed it. Than he let go.

@@@@@@

The Nesting House

***

Sweet took a deep breath. Spike’s fangs dropped and he bit into her neck. He took three swallows of Sweet’s blood and than tore open his wrist and held it to Sweets mouth. “Drink Sweet, become my own,” he told her and he stroked her throat with his free hand encouraging her to swallow.
She took three swallows of blood and then the terrible wrenching pain of loss hit Spike. He felt as if a part of himself had been ripped away. He gasped and then made a small gurgling sound. His eyes rolled up in his head. Spike went into a seizure.

Xander screamed and tried to go to Spike but Jim grabbed him. Spike had trusted Jim to keep their Guides safe and he would not let the man who had become his best friend down.

Xander continued to struggled in Jim’s arms as Spike’s seizure continued. And then the miracle happened, Sweet woke up.

Sweet pulled Spike into her arms. “It’s all right,” she said. “I’m here... I’m here... I’m here.”

The energy that was ripped from Spike returned changed. His seizure stopped. Sweet was no longer his soul mate she was his Childe. Spike lifted his hand and ran it through his Childe’s hair.

Sweet loosened her grip on Spike, leaned back and looked into his eyes. “Sire, I love you.” She told him.

“I love you too, Childe.” Spike told her. Sweet fell into a deep sleep. Spike looked at Jim, “Thanks Jim. You can let Xan go, I need him.”

Xander dropped down beside Spike and started to desperately examine him for wounds.

“What happened?” Blair asked. “You only just laid down.”

“I’ll tell you when I wake up. Don’t take me away from my Childe.” Spike said, and then he closed his eyes and let himself drift into sleep comforted by the touch of Xander’s hands.

Chapter Text

Blair walked into the kitchen with a renewed glow from a stabilizing bond with Jim. He scowled. It was the second time this morning a breakfast had gone cold. He had a houseful of people to feed and only 2 eggs left.

“It’s okay Chief,” Jim said, he knew it was a source of pride for Blair to keep his Sentinels well fed with nutritious and delicious food. “We’ll just reheat the eggs, the coffee is still good and I’ll make fresh toast.

“Reheated eggs?” Blair asked, “Besides you need to bond with Xander. This primal scream hit all of us hard. Spike’s asleep, so he can’t do it. Don’t argue about this...go.”

Jim looked into his guides beautiful eyes, “Okay Chief, I’ll go to Xanman and bond if I can get him to. He’s very focused on Spike right now. But you have to stop fretting over breakfast. Most of us Sentinels are soldiers, trust me we’ve eaten a whole lot worse than your reheated eggs and been glad to have it.”

There was a pounding on the front door. “Jim. It’s Miller, let me in.”

McGee, who had been listening to Jim and Blair’s exchange, looked at Abby, “Stay in the kitchen with Blair,” he told her. He knew there was a chance that Miller could be trouble. Clint hadn’t met Miller yet and if he barged into the bedroom...Well this kind of stress on a house full of Sentinels... they would be lucky to get through this without a fight breaking out. McGee took up guard outside the Guest Bedroom Sentinel Clint Barton and Sweet were using.

Jim opened the door and Miller came in his nostrils flared quickly scenting and judging the safety of the nesting house and pulling his Guide Riley after him. “Where’s Wesley and Peter?” he demanded looking desperately around the living room.

“They’re safe,” Jim said in as soothing a voice as he could muster and softly closed the door.

Miller was decidedly not calm. He saw McGee standing by the bedroom door and could smell the jumble of scents around it. He strode down the hall giving Riley a push into the kitchen.“Stay here,” he ordered as he passed by.

“Don’t stand between me and my Guide,” Miller told McGee, “Move or I’ll move you.”

The bedroom door opened and McGee stood aside to let Wesley out.

Wesley walked to his Sentinel. “I’m here,” he told him and offered Graham his neck.

Graham hugged Wesley to him and nuzzled his Guide. “Where’s Peter?” he whispered into Wesley’s ear.

Wesley’s breathing got heavy as his body responded to his Sentinel’s need. ‘’He’s okay...in a Sentinel-to-Sentinel bond with Clint.”

Graham looked around, he needed to bond with Wesley. His Second could wait; his Guide came first. He needed some place a little more private than the hallway.

McGee recognized Graham’s need. He walked to his bedroom and opened the door. “You can use my room.”

Graham pulled Wesley into the bedroom and kicked the door shut behind them. The pair staggered the few steps and fell to the soft floor of the nest, pulling each other’s cloths off. This was the first time they were renewing their bond since he had worn Graham’s scent to the Agency the day after they cross bonded.

Always before when they bonded it had been almost ceremonial. This time was different...primal. The primal scream had triggered the drive in the Sentinel. Get to the missing Guide. Secure the missing Guide. ~BOND!~

Wesley’s need, while different, was no less demanding. Once bonded the Guide has, not only the responsibility, but the need to keep his Sentinel stable. The bond is rooted in the Guides empathy, for a Guide to shirk his or her responsibility to their Sentinel is emotionally very painful. For Wesley his only reason for existence became: Tend to your Sentinel. Fill your Sentinel’s need.

A Sentinel in need of renewing his bond must satisfy all his senses. He has a permanent memory pattern of his Guide. A memory that is called on and renewed with each bond. Each bond answers questions. Is the Guide healthy? Is the Guide still mine? The questions become urgent if the Guide has been away from the Sentinel.

Graham ran his tongue over Wesley’s nipple. Wesley arched his back and pushed into the sensation. He moaned his pleasure. The Sentinel matched the taste and sound of Wesley to pattern in his memory.

Graham ran his hands over Wesley’s abs matching the curve of the Guide’s muscles to the pattern of the Guide in his memory. He moved to look into Wesley’s eyes. He stroked his Guide’s face. A match was made. This was the Guide in his memory.

He kissed Wesley running his tongue over Wesley’s lips. Wesley parted his lips letting his Sentinel enter him. Graham’s tongue swirled around Wesley’s mouth absorbing more taste. Wesley moaned. The first question was answered, the Guide is healthy.

Graham looked around and found lube lying on the edge of the nest. He grabbed it and kissed his way down to Wesley’s erect and weeping cock. The sentinel took his guide into his mouth, savoring the taste of his precome and pleasuring his guide as he prepared him with the lube.

Graham entered Wesley with one long slow thrust. Wesley held onto his Sentinel with both his arms and legs. Graham increased the rhythm of his thrusts being sure to hit his Guide’s sweet spot. Their pleasure built. The souls of the Sentinel and Guide reached for each other and they slipped into ‘The Dance’.

As Wesley’s pleasure increased he called out, “My Sentinel”.

Graham answered, “Mine.”

“Yes... My Sentinel,” Wesley called back.

Graham growled, something was wrong, The Guide was resisting him. “~MINE~”.

***

Clint slipped out of his bonding thrall with Peter. “My Guide,” he gasped in a panic.

Xander called to them, “Sweet is okay, Spike healed her.”

Clint hurried to Sweet and laid down beside her. “Her heart beat,” he said to Xander, “She’s not skipping a beat anymore. How?”

“Spike’s a healer,” Xander told him. “They’ll probably sleep until tomorrow morning maybe longer.”

“Is that a bite mark on her neck?” Clint asked.

“It’s part of the healing process,” Xander told him. “Spike will explain everything when he wakes up.”

Clint continued to examine Sweet for any other wounds.

***

Peter moved to sit with his back against the wall. He could feel Wesley was bonding with Graham. He didn’t want to interfere so he closed his eyes and centered himself in the feel of Wesley. Clint’s primal scream had affected everyone in the hive, Sentinel and Guide alike. He understood Graham’s need to bond with Wesley even though Wesley was not his primary guide; and he understood Wesley’s need to ground and stabilize Graham.

Peter heard a Growl and Graham’s demanding call of mine. He turned up his hearing and heard Wesley’s answer of Yes… My Sentinel. It was not the usual answer, An alpha Sentinel would expect an answer of ‘Yours’. Peter went to the nest where Wesley and Graham were bonding.

Graham was pounding hard into Wesley and growling. “MINE!”.

Wesley once again answered, “Yes. My Sentinel.”

Peter laid down beside Graham and put his hand on Graham’s back. “You are our Alpha, our center, our rock. We are yours.”

The question was answered. The Guide submitted, Graham reached his climax with a final roar of “MINE!”

***
Jim came into the bedroom and laid down beside Xander. He began stroking his guide, long slow strokes designed to calm and reassure a Guide. Xander leaned his head back and offered his neck to Jim.

Jim licked Xander’s bonding gland and whispered, “Xanman, do you need to bond? This hit all of us pretty hard.”

“I’m okay,” Xander said, “Spike said he needed me, I’m not leaving him.”

“Do you need Blair?”

“I just need Spike.”

“He’s going to be sleeping for awhile.” Jim said while giving Xander comforting strokes to his arm. You need to eat. I’ll have Blair make up a tray. Promise me you’ll eat.”

“Jim, do you think Spike is okay? He had a seizure.”’

“I know he’s okay.” Jim said. “I’ve had a link with him since I met him. It feels like it’s always been there. Meeting him just woke it up. The four of us are meant to be together. If there were something wrong I’d know it…and so would you. I need to hear the words Xan, promise me you’ll eat.”

“Okay, I promise.”

“We’re going to have to bond soon,” Jim said. “I need to know you're okay.”

“I don’t want to leave Spike.” Xander told him, “Can it wait until he wakes up?”

“You don’t have to leave him. We can bond here. Clint’s a soldier, he’s seen Sentinels bond before. This drive I have to bond with you, Xanman, is going to increase and your need is going to increase too. I know you feel it. I’ll come back after you eat.”

Xander groaned. He knew there was no use arguing with the head Alpha of his pack. He had learned his lesson on that particular aspect of living in a pack early in his bond with Spike.

Jim gave Xander a kiss on the forehead and left the bedroom.

“He loves you,” Clint said.

“He cares for me,” Xander said, “Blair’s his soul mate, it’s Blair he loves.”

“True, but that feeling of care is love too,” Clint said, “and it’s not a betrayal to Blair. Jim loves you. I suspect you love Blair and Jim too. You don’t feel like it’s a betrayal to Spike do you?”

“No,” Xander said “We’re family. It’s not betrayal to love family. My life has changed for the better since I bonded with Spike and we formed a pack. In spite of everything, they love me and you’re right, I love them.”

“After I lost my Guide, Ray, I felt so alone. Bonding with Sweet didn’t help. In a lot of ways it made it worse. My family… We’ve had an unbroken line of Sentinels for as far back as written records go. Sentinel sons would go into the military and trigger. We'd be assigned a male Military Guide. Then we were expected to marry a mundane in a contract marriage. She would gave the Sentinel children with no chance of having a Guide child. The family would gave her a better life and a prestigious name. The same thing was expected of me. That whole plan went out the window when I bonded with a double X female Guide. If we have children they will be Guides.”

“My family didn’t have any use for guides either. My father tried to disown me and was told he had to keep me until I went into Guide School. Ethan Rayne knew I didn’t have family to protect me, that’s why he got away with doing what he did.”

“We’re both in a better place now. When Jim kissed me during the ritual I felt like I belonged. He wasn’t only welcoming me as a trusted Sentinel, he was inviting me into the family. When he whispered true brothers I knew he meant it.”

@@@@@@

Nesting house kitchen.

***
Graham Miller ended his call to the Agency to let them know he was running late and looked at Jim. “I can’t stay, I’ve got to get to work. I need to tell you I was in touch with Gibbs this morning, through the hive link. He asked me to tell you he’s on the way. He told me he’d need office space, he’s going to be here awhile. I offered to arrange for a safe house for him to stay in but he said he was staying here.”

“Well,” Blair said with a shrug, “There goes our last bedroom.”

“I’m not surprised he’s coming,” Jim said, “You came.”

“All of this happened when Xander lost it. He said it felt like the nesting house was under attack.. I came because of the primal scream, one of my Guides and my Second were here. The cross bond is with his guide Tony, and Tony is with him. All his other bonds are Sentinel-to-Sentinel. He wouldn’t have the need to come because of a Sentinel-to-Sentinel bond. I told him we found a Mind Walker. I think that’s why he’s coming. He knows we can make real progress on the case now.”

“I’ll call NCSIA and arrange for office space.” McGee said. “He’ll probably want Abby and me to go back to D.C. to hold things down there.”

Jim went to the door with Graham, Riley, Peter, and Wesley. When he came back Abby noticed a change in his energy flow to Spike. She knew it was his connection to Spike because it was a different color than his connection to his two Guides. Jim had suddenly become worried. When Jim and Blair exchanged looks she knew something was up.

Abby squinted at Jim. “Your energy just changed,” she told him, “and I saw the way you looked at Blair. What’s going on? And don’t tell me nothing…”

“Abby!” McGee scolded, “That’s between Jim and Blair. I’ve told you before just because you can see energy doesn’t give you the right to intrude. Apologize now.”

“I will not.” Abby’s tone was defiant. “We’re part of this hive. We have a right to know why they’re worried about Spike.”

The color drained from McGee’s face. It only lasted for a second. When he looked at Jim there was no sign of the easy going McGee. Spike was his sire and if anything was wrong he needed to know. There was no way on God’s green Earth Jim was going to keep it from him.

Jim had seen that look before in Spike’s eyes. The difference was it had never before been directed at him. Spike said that Wall and McGee would be like him, but this was the first time Jim had seen, to any extent, just what that meant. He had never given any thought to how much Spike meant to Peter Wall or Tim McGee. Now he was faced with that, Mess with me, You’ll be sorry, look that made him glad McGee was a friend and hive brother and not an enemy.

“What about Spike?” McGee asked in a deceptively soft and calm voice.

It was Blair that answered the Question. “We think Gibbs is coming to bond with Spike.”

@@@@@@

NCSIA Plane

***

Yes, rank has it’s privileges. Gibbs thought as he held a glowing Tony. The bed in his private plane may be smaller than what they were used to but at least it was a bed. Gibbs ran his hand through Tony’s hair. He took a deep breath of contentment and let it out slowly and then he took another. Gibbs felt the tiny stiffening of Tony’s muscles.

“What is it?” Tony asked.”

“You always know.”

“I’ve told you before, Boss, you have a tell. Two deep breaths in a row.”

“Yeah, and I can’t seem to change it.”

“So stop deflecting,” Tony said getting up on one elbow and looking into Gibbs eyes. “Tell me what it is.”

Gibbs took another deep breath, Tony waited, he knew whatever it was was really bothering his Sentinel.

“This morning,” Gibbs began, “when I thought the nesting house was under attack, my first thought was to call Spike.”

“Of course it would be,” Tony reassured him. “You needed to know what was going on. McGee and Abby are there.”

“Yes, I wanted to know that they’re okay and they are. That was the end of that, but I couldn’t get in touch with Spike and I ~need~ to.”

“Did you lie to me, Boss? Is that why we’re going to Cascade, so you can renew your bond with Spike?”

“I didn’t exactly lie. I told you a half truth. Whoever is behind this is going to come after the Mind Walker. The more Sentinel’s in the nesting house the better. But it is true, one of the reason’s I’m going there is to renew my bond with Spike.”

“I don’t understand. Our bond has deepened since the cross bond. Why do you need him?”

“I don’t know why I feel this pull to him. I didn’t expect this. He’s not my second, our bond is Sentinel-to-Sentinel. I shouldn’t feel a need to renew it, but I do.”

“It’s not the normal Sentinel-to-Sentinel bond. You exchanged blood,” Tony said. “You said it felt like the nesting house was under attack and then the Primal Scream, maybe it’s just all of this put together that’s causing the pull to Spike. Besides it’s not just Spike and me to be considered in this. There’s Xander and who knows how Jim is going to feel about you wanting to bond with his second.”

“Believe me,” Gibbs said, “I know. That’s why as soon as we get into the nesting house we have to take off our shoes and socks. I need to let Jim know I recognize I’m on his turf and I have no intent to fight him.”

Chapter Text

@@@@@@

Gibbs took three steps into the nesting house and waited for Abby’s hug. He knew it would come fast and it did. She was in his arms in less than three seconds. Tony took that as his opportunity to remove his own shoes and socks. There had been a whole discussion about just how to manage immediate shoe removal along with, what they knew would be, Abby’s greeting. Gibbs felt strongly that a show of submission to Jim’s authority was mandatory. Jim, after all, was his Hive Brother, taken in a Sentinel-to-Sentinel bond. A sacrament they both took seriously and one that Gibbs had no intent to dishonor.

“Hay Abb’s where’s my hug?” Tony asked as soon as he was barefoot.

Abby let go of Gibbs and he quickly removed his own shoes and socks. Jim watched the whole vignette. The high ranking Alpha Sentinel removing his shoes upon entering the house spoke volumes to Jim. The message Gibbs was sending was crystal clear: This is your home, You’re head Alpha. I’m not here to challenge you. Gibbs didn’t want a fight, but the underlying message was there too. Jim knew Gibbs needed something from him and he was sure that something had to do with his bond to Spike.

Jim walked forward and held out his hand, Gibbs took it in a warm handshake. Jim took another step forward and putting his left arm around Gibbs shoulder he took Gibbs into a hug and whispered into his ear, “True brothers,”

Gibbs knew his message had been received and accepted. He put his left arm around Jim and answered, “True brothers.”

McGee picked up one of the suitcases. “I’ll show you your room.”

Tony picked up the two pairs of shoes and socks, Gibbs took the other suitcase and they walked down the hall to the bedroom.

“Jim got you a bed,” Abby chatted away as they walked down the hall. “It’s a queen size, the biggest they could fit comfortably into the room. I hope that’s okay, There’s a closet, of course and they got two military chests for you.”

“If you need anything else just let Blair know.” McGee added. “I assume you’ll be sending Abby and me back to D.C. now that you’re here.”

“We’re all staying,” Gibbs said. “I’m sending Operations Manager Sullivan to D.C. while we’re here. Where’s Spike and Xander?”

“Spike took Sweet as his Childe. We think that’s the only way he could heal her,” McGee told Gibbs, not letting the surprise about Sullivan show in his voice. Sullivan was a good man and an assignment in D.C. would put him on the fast track for a promotion, “Spike had a seizure,” McGee continued, “as soon as they finished the blood exchange. He’s still sleeping; Xander won’t leave his side.”

“I knew I felt something. Why wasn’t he moved to a healing room at the hospital?” Gibbs asked.

“Spike came out of the seizure and told Jim not to take him away from Sweet; he seemed to be okay. He asked for Xander and fell asleep.”

Gibbs nodded, “I need to see him.”

“I think you need to talk to Jim about that.”

Gibbs couldn’t see any reason for small talk and apparently neither could Jim. He sat at the kitchen table waiting for Gibbs to return while Blair busied himself making coffee.

When Gibbs returned he sat down and asked the question most burning in his mind. “Do you know why Spike had the seizure?”

“It happened after the blood exchange,” Jim told him. “Sweet woke up during the Seizure. She held Spike. It was obvious that something happened between them.”

“I think what ever happened was metaphysical,” Blair said as he gave a cup of coffee to Jim and Gibbs. “It felt like energy was leaving and then came back changed, kind of like a tide going out and coming back in. Spike said he’d explain when he woke up.”

Gibbs nodded. Blair called it the Sentinel nod. Sentinels used it mostly between themselves as a nonverbal conversation. Jim rarely used it with Blair but Blair had a feeling he was going to see more of it now that Gibbs was in the house.

Gibbs looked at Jim. “I need to see Spike.”

This time it was Jim that nodded. He stood up and walked to the bedroom and knocked at the door. “Xanman,” he called, “Gibbs is here. We’re coming in.” he waited three seconds and opened the door.

Clint let go of Sweet and was about to stand up as Jim and Gibbs entered. This was General Gibbs and he deserved to have his rank acknowledged.

“As you were,” Gibbs told him as he walked over to Xander and Spike. Gibbs bent down balancing on his toes, arms crossed over his knees.

“Are you okay, Xan?” Gibbs asked.

“I’m okay,” Xander said. “You felt it didn’t you? That’s why you came.”

“I did feel it,” Gibbs told him knowing exactly what Xander meant. “But it’s not the only reason I came. Xan, is it okay if I touch Spike?”

Xander nodded and Gibbs ran his hand down Spike’s arm and held his hand. The familiar warmth climbed up his arm. Gibbs let go and smiled at Xander. “Thank you, Xander. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Thanks, but I don’t need anything.”

Gibbs stood up and he and Jim walked silently out of the bedroom. When they got to the kitchen they found McGee waiting for them.

“Have you found anything on Washington Genetics?” Gibbs asked.

“Oz has gathered a lot of information.” McGee began. “The bills of lading from the trucking companies aren’t a problem. We have a money trail to follow but it’s going to take sometime.
W.G.’s files are encrypted. We figured out that it’s an outdated military encryption program. Abby’s decoding them, but again, it’s going to take time to analyze what we find.”

“Do we have a data analyst on the team?” Gibbs asked.

“Not yet. I’m going to ask Miller for one. It will have to be someone we can trust to bring into the resistance. I don’t know anyone in our Cascade office well enough. We do know, from the bills of lading, that W.G. is setting up a cryogenics lab, presumably to store sperm and ovum.”

“Do you know how close they are to getting it up and running?” Gibbs asked.

“I believe it’s at least partially running. The last time we heard from Red she said they were going to harvest her eggs.”

Gibbs frowned, “Do we know if they’re holding any male Guides? If they are holding males they wouldn’t need to freeze the eggs they could artificially inseminate immediately.”

“They’re not officially holding anyone but the Mind Walkers,” McGee said, “but the female Sentinel told Red there were many Guides to choose from. Plus the twenty three abducted Guides could be there and some of them were male.”

“So it’s possible they are starting their eugenics program.”

“Yes. It’s possible,” McGee said. If they're not freezing the ovum there's nothing we can do about it right now. Oz has a proposal of what to do about the cryogenics. Do you remember the worm the government infected the Iranian centrifuges with?”

“Worm?” Gibbs asked.

“A kind of computer virus.” McGee told him. “Oz has written a computer program that will affect the cryo tanks without changing the temperature readout. The contents will spoil. They won’t know until they try to use it.”

“How safe is it?” Gibbs asked. He didn’t understand all this computer stuff. It was best to refer to McGee on all things computer. Still he needed to make sure he had an accurate overview. “We can’t afford anything that is traceable?”

“It’s the delivery that’s vulnerable, I’ll oversee it myself,” McGee told him.

@@@@@@

Next Morning

***

“So the Tribunal healed Sweet, but we all have to agree to certain conditions.” Clint said. He didn’t like ultimatums and he particularly didn’t like ones that were predicated on his Guide’s life. Add to that that he was not the only one that had to agree to abide by the conditions...It made his skin crawl. He looked around the room. In the short time he had been at the nesting house these Sentinels and Guides had become family. Yet he knew in the center of his being that he would kill any of them if they said no to whatever they needed to do to save Sweet.

Spike understood exactly what Clint was thinking. “I agreed to what the Judges wanted because it seemed reasonable. It involves mostly Clint and myself but Jim and Blair have to agree too.”

“Enough of this beating around the bush,” Clint said. “If their conditions are so reasonable just tell us what they are.”

“The Tribunal is concerned about Sweet falling into darkness and turning evil. She is a Mind Walker that now has metaphysical abilities. I had to promise to be extra vigilant as her Sire. That part’s not a problem. I won’t abandon my Childe to the darkness. But to do what they want you have to move to the nesting house permanently.” Spike told him.

Blair laughed out loud. It was not a humorous laugh. It was a laugh filled with irony. They were already the oddest Sentinel pack in existence now they would have an Alpha that had claimed a Mind Walker as permanent living companions, not temporary visitors. There was no doubt in his mind they would do it. For Blair it was already done. “I used to worry about four of us getting along. It’s a good thing we’ll have three Healers in the house. We’re going to need them, along with some help from that Cosmic Intervention Caseworker you talked about.”

Jim gave Blair’s arm a comforting rub. “It’s okay Chief, we’ll make it work. We always do.” He would no more let a Guide die by inaction then a fish would suddenly start breathing air. They would comply. To Jim there wasn’t a choice. “What about the nest?” he asked. “Does he have to nest with us?” Living in the house wasn’t a huge problem, There would have to be adjustments of course, mostly made by Clint. He wouldn’t be top Alpha in his home. Another Alpha wasn’t a problem for Spike, but Spike was a different kind of Sentinel.

Nesting together was a whole other can of worms. Spike was Second Alpha in the house and in the nest. Jim knew that Spike was flexible and would adapt to a new Alpha as a permanent resident. But he was not willing to change sleeping positions. If Clint came into the nest he would be third Sentinel. Jim knew that would be a difficult adjustment for a Sentinel as strong as Clint.

“They didn’t say anything about the nest,” Spike said. “They are leaving that up to us.”

“Then I think Clint and Sweet should have their own room,” Jim said, “one that’s theirs alone and one that we can’t enter without permission, a place where he’s the Alpha.”

Gibbs grabbed Tony’s hand and gave it a squeeze. He knew precisely what Jim was doing. Giving up a piece of his turf to another Alpha without a fight, a place where Jim would have to go barefoot. This was a war that had to be fought on many fronts and Jim knew it. By giving up a bedroom he had acknowledged Clint’s right to be an Alpha with his own territory. It was a remarkable thing to do and it took a very strong Sentinel to do it. Gibbs was not an easy Sentinel to impress. Jim was already highly respected in Gibbs mind. That respect had just risen a notch. Gibbs was impressed.

Clint understood exactly what Jim was offering. It was far more than he expected, more than what it would have occurred to him to ask for, a space where he was Alpha. It also meant that outside of that bedroom Jim was Alpha of the house. But why was he offering it? An Alpha, especially one of Jim’s caliber, didn’t give up territory without a fight. Why? Yes they were pack members and he was sure Jim respected him. But still… Then it hit him, Jim’s war was not with him, it was with the bastards that wounded Xander and Sweet. By giving up the room he won a battle against them, against what Spike had called the “rising darkness”.

Jim watched the play of emotions across Clint’s face, surprise, confusion, caution. Jim knew his offer would be unexpected, but he felt it was necessary. The stress that an Alpha of Clint’s caliber would feel constantly having to defer to another Sentinel was not something a Guide could fully remove. It was a matter of self esteem. He needed to keep his pack and family strong, not to weaken them with petty selfishness. Giving up a bedroom was a small thing. Winning the war was far more important.

Clint nodded acknowledgement to Jim, “I can live with that,” he said.

“There are two more things,” Spike said to Clint. “You have to fully claim Sweet.”

“That’s not a problem, Sweet is healed and I realize… ”Clint stopped, there was no point of getting into deeply personal feelings. He gave Sweets arm a reassuring stroke. “I would have done it already but Sweet was dehydrated and needed to eat.”

“The last thing,” Spike said, “you have to take up archery. The Tribunal gave me the impression that they were serious about it.”

“Archery, really. Did they say why? It's not something a Sentinel usually does.”

“I got the impression it has something to do with you being a Champion,” Spike told him. “They always called you Clint/Hawkeye.”

“So I have to take up archery and become good enough to win a championship.”

“No,” Spike said, “You’re already a Champion. I’m pretty sure you used archery to help save the world in a past life. I think archery will become a metaphysical link for you the way my abilities are for me.”

“Okay,” Clint said with a shrug of his shoulders. “I’ll buy a bow and find a place to practice.”

“If that's everything,” Gibbs said, “we need to get to work. I called Miller this morning and had the witness moved to the NCSIA building. Is Sweet up to questioning him today?”

“I am,” Sweet answered.

“Two hours max,” Clint said, he doubted she would need that long, he’d seen her work. She would get what she needed from him quickly and efficiently. “Then we come back here. I need to make sure you get enough food and water today. You don't eat right when you work.”

@@@@@@

The Base, as it was called by the Sentinels, was an office park with several buildings. The hospital and its parking garage were the closest to the main street. To go further into the complex ID was required. The Agency of Sentinel Affairs where Miller and Wall worked was off to the right of the entrance. To the left was the National Coalition of Sentinel Internal Affairs building, Gibbs, his pack and the task force would be working out of that building. Behind the buildings was a parking lot and beyond that was The Agency of Guide Affairs, commonly called the Guide Guild, along with another parking garage with skywalks to each of the office buildings.

Gibbs had ordered a limo to take the group to NCSIA. McGee and Abby were agents so they needed to report to work. Jim, Blair, Clint and Sweet were on the task force. Spike didn’t want Sweet to be un-monitored on her first day working as his childe and he couldn’t leave Xander alone in the house so a limo was necessary.

Gibbs ordered the driver to take them in through the private entrance. He didn't want Sweet’s arrival in the public log. It would get out sooner or later that they had a Mind Walker, Gibbs wanted it to be later, as much later as possible.

It was decided that Gibbs, Tony, Spike, and Xander would watch the interview in the observation room. Clint and Sweet would be in the interview room. Gibbs offered Sweet a file to read. She declined saying that she already knew everything she needed to know and didn’t want previous interviews to effect her questioning, but she agreed to use it as a prop.

@@@@@@

Interview Room

***

Clint and Sweet walked into the gray walled interview room. She didn’t have the luxury of questioning persons of interest in an interview room when she worked with the Marshals. She had always worked in the field. She sat down at the table and dropped the file in front of her. Clint took up a guard stance at the door.

“Hello Mr. Petri,” Sweet began. “I'm guide number 923 with the Marshal’s Service currently assigned to the Guide Abduction Task Force. The big guy by the door is Sentinel Marshal Clint Barton, my bond Sentinel. I’m here to question you about the Guide abduction that occurred at Rainer University four days ago. Please tell me what you saw.”

“I’ve already told the Sentinel’s what I saw. I don’t understand why I’ve been detained. I did nothing wrong.”

“That’s not true Mr.Petri. You stated the Guides were put into a container truck, but the Sentinels found no traffic cameras with a truck answering the description you gave. You also lied to me just now when you told me you did nothing wrong.”

Jack Petri’s pupils dilated all the Sentinels saw it. Clint heard his heart rate increase. Sweet tilted her head and looked into his eyes. Jack Petri was scared.

“Please tell me what happened on the day the Guides were abducted.”

Jack Petri closed his eye’s and took a deep cleansing breath, he let it out slowly and then opened his eyes and focused on a spot high on the wall behind Sweet.

“You just put up mind shields,” a very surprised Sweet said. “You’re a low level Guide.”

Gibbs thought Sweet had a good chance of being wrong about that. No Sentinel had noticed Guide Scent coming from Petri. They'd need to do a blood test to see if he carried the Guide Gene, but if he did the case was firmly in NCSIA purview and could not be taken away.

Clint knew the mind shield would be a problem. Sweet would not push past them, she would consider it mind rape.

“According to the weather report on the day the Guides were abducted,” Sweet continued, “It was a partly cloudy day with wind gusts up to seven miles per hour. You were working outside. What specifically were you doing?”

“I was trimming the hedges.”

“Were you using manual or electric shears?”

Jack Petri was confused. He didn't understand what the Mind Walker was getting at.

Sweet felt his confusion and at that moment she felt the shields drop.

“The shears were rechargeable,” he said.

“How many vehicles came and went while you were trimming the hedges?” Sweet asked.

A picture of six black SUV's with smoke colored windows popped into Jack’s head. The picture was quickly changed to that of a container truck.

“The only vehicle I saw was the container truck.”

“You’ve just lied to me Mr. Petri,” Sweet said. “I am a federal Agent. It is illegal to lie to federal a agent. I will give you one more chance to tell me the truth. How many vehicles came and went while you were trimming the hedges?”

“I want a lawyer.”

“You will be given a blood test and when it comes back positive for the Guide Gene you will be charged under Sentinel law with conspiracy to commit Guide abduction. I suggest you contact the Agency of Guide Affairs, they will be glad to recommend a lawyer familiar with Sentinel Law.”

Sweet got up and left the room with Clint. They went to the observation room next door.

“You did good,” Gibbs said. “We’ll get him tested.”

“There’s more,” Sweet said. “There were six SUV’s, dark windows, used to take the Guides away and I think Mr. Petri has been claimed by a Sentinel. His guide level is too low to learn mind shielding by himself. You should test him for medication to disguise Guide scent. He must have been using it on the day of the abductions or a Sentinel would have picked it up. I don’t think he’ll ask the Guide Guild about a lawyer. If he doesn’t go to the Guild whoever shows up will be affiliated with the abductors. When they find out he’s been questioned by a Mind Walker and arrested under Sentinel law they’ll want to kill him.”

“You got all that from that interview?” Gibbs asked.

Sweet shrugged. “It’s what I was born to do.”

Clint put his arm around Sweet. “Gerard always said you were the best he ever worked with.”

@@@@@@

Twenty minutes later, Gibbs Office

***

Gibbs intercom rang causing Gibbs to be annoyed. He had told Mary Ann, his new secretary here in Cascade, that he did not want to be interrupted. He frowned. It would take a while to break her in. “What is it Mary Ann? I told you I didn’t want to be disturbed.”

“Henrietta Lang is here to see you General.”

Henrietta Lang was a four foot eleven female guide that could pass as a male with very little difficulty. Her career began when she was assigned as a military Guide to Colonel Robert Taban an intelligence officer in the Army. The Colonel, twelve years Henrietta’s senior, had lost his first Guide in the line of duty. It was the Colonel who gave her the nickname of Hetty. Now she was known throughout the Sentinel community by that one name. The pair distinguished themselves and Robert Taban retired from the Army with the Rank of Brigadier General. Hetty was not ready for retirement, so, with the Brigadier Generals support, she campaigned for and won the Directorship of The Agency of Guide Affairs. No Sentinel in their right mind ignored Hetty. As far as Gibbs was concerned anything Hetty had to say fell directly and fully under rule number fifty two: Don’t ignore Guide Sense. Over the years Hetty had kept in touch with her contacts in the intelligence community as well as developing new contacts. But it was more than that, Hetty was registered as a level five Guide. General Leroy Jethro Gibbs knew better. He didn’t know how Hetty had beat the tests, which were believed to be foolproof, but she had beat them. The General knew Hetty was a Mind Walker and carried the Guide Gene on both of her X chromosomes. Hetty knew the General would never turn her in so they practiced a kind of dance: Don’t ask don’t tell. To any observer the two had a professional relationship, but underneath the public show of professionalism was a deep, if un-professed, friendship. Henrietta Lang trusted Gibbs and she did not give her trust easily. As for Gibbs he held one truth to be self evident: You do not want to make an enemy of Henrietta Lang.

“Let her in, Mary Ann,” Gibbs told her, “Hetty is always welcome.”

Hetty come into the room wearing a man tailored shirt, collared blouse, and lovely heirloom quality brooch. She also wore tinted horn rimmed glasses with a non-reflective coating. Gibbs felt it was to offset the effect of looking into a Mind Walker’s eyes.

“Hello Hetty,” Gibbs greeted her, “To what do I owe this visit?”

“Hello Jethro...Tony,” Hetty answered. She always addressed the Sentinel’s Guides as equals. “You didn’t tell me you were moving your office to Cascade.” Hetty pulled on her earlobe, a sign that she wanted Gibb’s to turn on the white noise machine that would keep unwanted Sentinel ears from listening in. Gibbs did as requested.

“I came to tell you that The Agency of Sentinel Affairs has been compromised.” Hetty began. “There’s a deep government black ops organization that is behind these new laws. They call themselves The Initiative.” Hetty reached into her pocketbook. took out a thumb drive and slid it across the desk to Gibbs. My sources, don’t ask me who they are, tell me approximately one third of of the Sentinels in the Agency are Initiative soldiers.”

“I’ve been trying to find evidence of a black ops operation for months,” Gibbs told her. “Do you know where The Initiative is located?”

“There’s a secret military facility under Washington Genetics” Hetty told him. “I think there may be others around the country, if not functional yet they will be soon. Alpha Prime Harris was a member along with the two judges that tried to sunder Guide Wesley Price from Sentinel Prime Peter Wall. I’m aware that Sentinel Wall allowed his guide to cross bond with Alpha Prime Miller in an attempt to save his guide. If you hadn’t intervened it would not have worked. They would have taken Guide Wesley away from Sentinel Wall. I came because I want in.”

“Hetty,” Gibbs began, “I know you have abilities that Guides don’t usually have, but I can’t put you on the task force. At least not officially. I do appreciate the value of the information you’ve given me.”

“I’m not talking about the task force Jethro. I want in on the resistance. Please don’t insult me by telling me you’re not doing anything to resist these new laws. The people behind this want to go back to the days when guides were owned by their Sentinels. You know these new laws are based on lies.”

“What did you have in mind, Hetty?”

“I can be a distraction,” Hetty said. “There is very little public outcry about these laws. I can get the truth out and organize public protests. It will keep them looking at me and keep their eyes off of you.”

Gibbs knew that there was no way to keep Hetty safely out of this war. It was better to be with her then to let her go it alone. “Thank you Hetty, If there is anything I can do let me know. I want to have your back.”

“Let’s have each other’s back,” Hetty said, she got up to leave.

“There is something I need,” Gibbs said. “I was going to ask Miller but with the Agency so compromised I don’t think I can trust anyone. This is too important. I need a data analyst I can absolutely trust.

“I know someone Jethro,” Hetty said. “FBI Agent Sentinel Derek Morgan, his Guide Spencer Reid is an eidetic. He’s the best there is at data analysis. Although you’ll have to tell Miss Sciuto not to overwhelm him, he has Aspergers Syndrome. They work out of Cascade so there shouldn’t be a problem with getting them moved to the Task Force. Assuming you don’t mind working with an unorthodox Guide.”

Tony couldn’t help it he laughed out loud. If Gibbs could of reached him he would have given him a smack in the back of the head.

Hetty leveled her gaze at Tony. “Now you don’t expect me to leave until I find out what that was about.”

It was Gibbs that answered. “We’ve joined a hive.”

Hetty sat back down. “Well,” Hetty said, “It must be a very interesting Hive to make Tony laugh out loud like that. Care to tell me about them. I’m always looking to make new contacts.”

“You already know them”, Gibbs said. “Jim Ellison’s pack and Graham Miller’s pack, and we recently brought Clint Barton and his guide Sweet into the hive.”

“I’m familiar with them,” Hetty said, “ but a hive needs a telepath to make the psychic connection. Who’s the psychic?”

"We’re keeping this quiet, Hetty. I need your word it goes no further than this office."

"You’re acting like a Sentinel suddenly developed mystical abilities,” Hetty scoffed, then in a more serious tone of voice, “You have my word, Jethro, Guide to Sentinel.”

“His name is Sentinel William Spikeman.” Gibbs let the information sit there. He would give Hetty any information she asked for but he wasn’t going to volunteer.

“Just let me make sure I’m perfectly clear on this, you’re talking about a flesh and blood Sentinel not an ancient Spirit that Blair conjured up in his meditations?”

“Flesh and blood.”

Hetty knew all the prominent Sentinel bloodlines, but she couldn’t recall that name. “Spikeman isn’t a common Sentinel name. Where’s his line from?”

“He’s first generation.”

“Why should I know his name?” Hetty asked. The name seemed just out of reach in her memory. It was not a feeling she enjoyed.

“His Guide is Xander Harris,” Gibbs told her. “He was abducted a while back. Spike and Ellison got him back.”

“Using his mystical abilities?”

“He can track without scent.”

“Ahh,” Hetty said, “Why doesn’t he use his ability to track the twenty three recently abducted Guides?”

“He has to have a bond with a Guide to track him.” Gibbs told her.

“A very useful skill, if it is hereditary. A Sentinel could be forced into indiscriminate bonding, not a law I want to see come to fruition.”

“Spike can only bond with someone he can love,” Tony said, “and the Guide has to want it. A forced bond won’t take.”

Something was very familiar with the way Tony said that. Hetty was sure Tony knew that little bit of knowledge by experience. “Which was it with you Tony, he couldn’t love you or you didn’t want it?”

“Hetty!” Gibbs said with a growl.

“Hetty turned and looked at Gibbs. “You’re quite right Jethro, I went too far. I withdraw my question.”

Hetty stood up. She wasn’t going to get anything else out of Jethro right now, but there would be information available to her about Sentinel Spikeman. “Thank you Jethro,” Hetty said, “My word you can trust Sentinel Morgan he’ll want to join the task force and the resistance.”

Henrietta Lang left Gibbs office with a lot to think about.

@@@@@@

Chapter Text

The Ellison hive sat around the dining room table. Blair, Sweet, and Abby had cleared the dinner dishes from the table and were in the kitchen cleaning up. Both McGee and Gibbs Wanted to discuss the events of the day.

“Report McGee,” Gibbs said.

“The hacking of Washington Genetics is going well.” McGee began. “We’ve been getting a lot of information. Unfortunately it’s all encrypted. We have the encryption program they used, but decrypting and analyzing what we’re getting is slow going. We need a data analyst.”

“I have a name,” Gibbs said. “Is there anything else?”

“Yeah, Boss,” McGee handed a paper to Gibbs,” We decrypted that today. It appears to be a list of pairings W.G. wants to make.”

Gibbs read the paper, his jaw locked as he handed it to Jim. Jim looked at the paper and gave a low ‘warning...danger’ growl as he handed the paper to Spike. Xander was sitting on Spike’s lap and they read the paper together.

Xander schowled. “Oh gods Spike,” he said clearly upset, “you’re on their short list.”

Spike threw the paper across the table and hugged his Guide. “We knew this was going to happen, sooner or later. Peter told us that AP Harris got doctor reports about my healing abilities. It makes sense he passed the reports on to his superiors.”

Seeing the pairing in black and white somehow made a potential baby more real. “What about our baby, what are they going to do to her?” Xander asked. He considered any child that Spike had his child too. Whether he contributed to it genetically or not; Spike’s child was his child.

“We won’t let them hurt our child,” Spike said. “That’s why you have hazard detection, so we can stop bad things like that from happening. I give you my word love, we’ll find a way.” Spike continued stroking Xander and purring to him. Blair, finished in the kitchen. He had heard what was said so he walked over to Xander and offered him his neck. Xander suckled and calmed himself.

Clint discreetly ignored the goings on across the table. He picked up the paper and read it. “That’s a Mind Walker number.” He turned to Sweet, “915 do you know her?”

Sweet shook her head. ”No, from the number I’d say she is most likely two or maybe three years older than me.”

“It’s Red,” Gibbs said. “Red is 915”

Xander’s head popped up from Blair’s neck. “Willow? We have to warn her. ” He had been feeling almost calm now that the initial shock about Spike had passed. That was until he found it involved a woman he considered a friend.

“She already knows she’s there to have children. There’s nothing she can do to protect herself or her child.” Blair said, as he rubbed Xander’s back, “We’re out here, we’re going to have to deal with this ourselves.”

Sweet looked at Gibbs. “You know her, how good is she?”

Gibbs shrugged. “She’s the best I’ve ever worked with until today. Now I couldn’t pick which is better, you or her. She’s different than you, more intimidating . You’re more…Gibbs searched for the right word...tricky, but you both get the job done.”

Sweet narrowed her eyes and looked at Gibbs “Are you still in touch with her?” she asked.

“Not directly,” Gibbs said, surprised that Sweet could pick up on Red’s and his connection.

“We have a telepathic contact,” Blair said. “A Shaman Spirit Guide named Incacha.”

“Could you ask Incacha to tell Red Willow she can contact me directly if she ever needs to?” Sweet asked, using both Gibbs’ and Xander’s name for 915. “She wouldn’t force herself into another person’s mind without permission.”

“I can get the message to her,” Blair said, “but doesn’t she have to know you to contact you.”

“If she says yes Incacha will show her the link.”

“Do you know Incacha?” Blair asked Sweet.

“I don’t have clear memories of when I was abducted.” Sweet said. “But I have snapshot memories of a Temple and someone in a feathered headdress. It could have been a shaman.”

McGee wanted to get back on track. “There’s something else,” he said, “Oz is writing up a program that will increase the temperature in the cryo tanks. That will destroy all the sperm and ovum they have stored. They won't know anything is wrong until they try to use them. Oz knows how to do it so that the program will go unnoticed. He estimates W.G. could be online within a week. We’ll know more once we get a data analyst.”

“I got a visit today from Hetty Lange,” Gibbs said. “She gave me the name of a Data Analyst team we can trust. He’s an FBI Special Agent stationed here in Cascade, Sentinel Derek Morgan, his Guide Dr. Spencer Reid is an eidetic. Hetty claims he’s the best there is. Although she said to tell Abby not to overwhelm him, he has Asperger's Syndrome.”

“What does all of that mean?” Jim asked.

“An eidetic is a person with a vivid memory.” McGee said. “It used to be called a photographic memory. He’ll be able to remember everything he reads and make connections quickly. Asperger’s Syndrome is a Syndrome that makes it hard for a person to recognize social signals. Abby’s signature welcomes could be overwhelming to him or even seen as an attack. He may not like to be touched at all. Usually remaining calm and patient won’t cause any problems.”

“Calm and patient,” Xander said sarcastically, “Yeah, I can do that.”

“You don’t have to worry, Xander, He’ll be working out of the Computer center. I doubt if you’ll have much if any contact.”

Tony got up from the table and went to the living room.He was rubbing the back of his neck as he walked. Blair and Xander followed him. Gibbs glanced at his Guide, But there was no need for Tony, or any of the Guides, to stay for the briefing so he continued with with his report.

“There’s more,” Gibbs said. He dropped a thumb drive on the table. ”Henrietta Lange gave me that today. She has contacts that Sentinels don’t have. She’s managed to get some information on what we’re dealing with. It’s a deep government black ops group, they call themselves The Initiative.”

Spike’s blue eyes turned yellow, “They’re ‘ere.” He growled in an English accent.”

“You know them?” Gibbs asked, unconcerned with Spike’s change.

“They were in Sunnydale,” Spike said as he accessed his past life memories. “Caught me and put a behavioral chip in me ‘ead, put control chips in there soldiers too. Put drugs in their soldier’s food to make ‘em stronger. Seams like there up to the same old things ‘ere. They built a Frankenstein monster, called ‘im Adam, there super soldier. ‘E was the prototype for an army. Now there trying to build super Sentinels. Riley and Miller were soldiers in The Initiative. They deserted when they found out the Initiative turned them into drug addicts. They ‘elped us destroy em. Riley ‘ad to cut the chip out of ‘is own arm.” Spike said.

“What happened to your eyes?” Clint asked, he had never seen Spike’s transformation before. He remained calm because General Gibbs didn’t react, but still, it was damn weird. “And why are you talking in an English accent?”

“It’s okay,” Sweet told him. “That’s the Spike that saved me in a past life.

Clint gave a questioning look to his Guide. He usually didn't think of Sweet as Spooky Sweet, but having past life memories of a yellow eyed Spike who could suddenly appear in this life, well… it definitely fell into the Spooky Sweet category. He felt the best thing to do was just accept it and move on. These people were family now and if any of them were a bit weird, well so was his Guide and they accepted her unconditionally. He put the little gem of past life information into the Spooky Sweet closet in his mind and firmly closed the door.

Gibbs ignored Clint, he wanted to stay on subject. “Hetty said their base of operations is under Washington Genetics. She believes they took the abducted Guides there.

“Can we get a search warrant?” Abby asked.

“Not without telling a judge how and where we got the info,” Gibbs said. “Even if we get the search warrant we’ll be tipping our hand about being resistant to the new laws.”

All the Sentinels heard Tony’s voice from the living room.

“Excuse me,” Gibbs said, “I need to see to my Guide.”

****

Tony walked into the livingroom and sat down in one of the love seats. Blair and Xander followed him into the room.

“Tony are you okay?” Blair asked. “You seem to be in pain.”

“Just a little headache,” Tony whispered. “I don’t suppose you have asprin in the house?”

“No aspirin,” Blair said. “We have something better. Healers. Let us help.”

Tony didn’t want Blair or Xanter to touch him. There was a good chance they would be able to tell why he had a headache and that subject was something he really wanted to avoid. “Thanks guys, but I’ll just sit here with my eyes closed for a few minutes and it will go away by itself.”

“Tony, what’s going on?” Blair asked unwilling to see his friend in pain.

“I’m okay,” Tony whispered hoping he wouldn’t attract Gibbs’ attention.

“You’re not okay,” Xander said “you’re in pain. Headaches aren’t something a Guide gets without a reason.”

“I need to check and see if your sick,” Blair said reaching out his hand.

“Hey! I said no,” Tony said forgetting to keep his voice low.

All the Sentinels heard Tony’s voice. All became immediately concerned. It wasn’t like the easy going Tony to get testy. Gibbs excused himself and left the kitchen with Spike close behind. He was cross bonded to Tony so it was as big a concern to him as it was to Gibbs. Jim followed them, as the head of the household the emotional health of the pack was his business.

Gibbs walked over to Tony, his concern was showing in his eyes when he saw Tony sitting in the loveseat flanked on either side by Blair and Xander. Blair moved aside and Gibbs took his place bending down and balancing on his toes. Spike and Jim stood in front of the loveseat watching the,obviously in pain Guide.

“What’s wrong Tony?” Gibbs asked. “It’s not like you to snap at anyone,”

“I have a headache,” Tony said. “I just need a little time by myself.”

“A headache,” Gibbs said. “The only time you’ve had a headache, since you became my Guide, is when you’ve had a concussion. Why won’t you let Blair or Xander take away your pain? You’re not acting like yourself.”

“Do you need Spike to heal you?” Xander asked. Tony and Spike were Cross bonded with Gibbs and Xander had a strong feeling that Tony needed Spike.

“What?,” Tony asked. “No!”

Everyone startled at Tony’s denial. It sounded like he was trying to convince himself. “Tell me what’s going on right now Guide.” Gibbs demanded.

“You have to tell him,Tony,” Blair said, “He’s your Sentinel, He’ll understand.”

“Gibbs isn’t his only Sentinel,” Xander said.

“Gibbs is the only Sentinel I want,” Tony said, “he’s the only Sentinel I need.”

“But,” Xander said, “He’s not the only Sentinel you have.”

“Xan,” Spike said, “it’s okay, let’s go and let Gibbs and Tony work this out.”

“I don’t think so,” Xander said. “Remember when we were first cross bonded, we had to work it out together, Now the three of you have to work it out together.”

“It’s not just the three of us.” Tony said unable to stop himself.

“Is that it?” Gibbs asked. “You need to renew your bond with Spike and you’re afraid of how Xander and I will feel about it?”

“For the last time,” Tony said, “I don’t need to renew my bond with Spike. It’s Sentinels that need to renew a bond. Guides don’t need it until the Sentinel does. He has Xander and Blair, He doesn’t need me and I don’t need him!”

“Tony,” Blair said, “You have to tell your Sentinels, both of them. This pain you’re feeling is only going to get worse. You’re their Guide, tell them.”

“Tony,” Gibbs asked, “what is Blair talking about? Why are you having this headache Guide?”

Tony looked down at his shirt and started picking at his buttons. That was Tony’s tell. He played with his shirt buttons when he didn’t want to tell Gibbs something.

“Tony,” Gibbs said stroking his Guide’s arm. “I’m not going to be angry, I promise.”

“I did something really bad, Boss,” Tony whispered without raising his head. He couldn’t bare to look at Gibbs not after what he had done. “I turned my back on my sentinel.”

“Tony, you’ve never turned your back on me,” Gibbs said, “Not even for a second.”

“It’s not you,” Spike said, “It’s me. He turned his back on me.” Spike knelt at Tony’s feet. “I’m so sorry, Tony, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Gibbs looked at Spike, kneeling and subservient to his Guide, He knew that Spike let Xander top him, but this is the first time he witnessed Spike being subservient to Tony. Most Sentinels would comfort their Guide with strength, but Spike as a different kind of Sentinel.

“It’s not your fault, I turned my back on you,” Tony whispered, still not willing to look at his sentinels.

“No,” Spike said, “I didn’t make space for you in my life. You had no choice.”

“None of us made space for him,” Xander said. He sunk to his knees beside Spike. “I'm sorry Tony, we'll find a way to make this work.”

Blair dropped to his knees on the other side of Spike. “I'm sorry too, Tony, We should have known. Can you forgive us?”

“Can you forgive me?” Tony asked. “I should have said something. It wasn't just you. I didn't want to tell Gibbs, I didn't think he would understand.”

“Sentinels don't understand the sense of responsibility we feel when we bond with a Sentinel.” Blair said. “They think it's all about taking care of us. They never see the depth of our need to take care of them. But I've learned they dont have to understand, they accept what Guides tell them even when they don't understand.”

“I think we should all agree to forgive each other,” Xander said taking matters into his own hands. “Then find a way to help Tony.”

“I agree, ”Blair said. “There’s no point to finding blame. We need to figure out what we can do to help.”

“I don’t think you did anything that needs to be forgiven,” Tony said, “but if you feel you need forgiving, I forgive you.”

“You never hurt me Tony,” Spike said, “But I’ll forgive you. Please don’t hurt over this anymore.”

Spike, Xander, and Blair stood up.

“So what’s going on?” Gibbs asked. “What do you need Tony.”

“He needs to be a Guide to Spike,” Xander said. “Tony’s never had a chance to truly be Spike’s Guide. That's why he's hurting.”

“You need to give him permission,” Spike said to Gibbs.”

“Permission for what?” Gibbs asked. “Your a stable Sentinel. You already have two Guides. What do you need from Tony? Besides, most of the time we’ve been three thousands miles away. If you need to renew your bond to take away Tony’s pain than you have have my permission.”

“There’s more to being a Guide than renewing a bond, Boss. It’s not what he needs from me it’s what I need to give to him.” Tony tried to think of a way to explain. “Do you remember when they came to D.C. and you were telling everyone that Xander and Blair were truly bonded to both Jim and Spike. You talked about how they switched from one sentinel to the other without a hitch?”

“I remember,” Gibbs said. “But that's different. There's three of us and four of them. You’re the only one cross bonded. The four of them are cross bonded with each other.”

“You’re more than three,” Blair said. “We're all Hive. Maybe you haven't claimed Xander or me but Tony and I are related through Spike. I can only speak for myself here but I feel a bond to Tony.”

“I feel it too,” Xander said. “We're brothers.”

“How do we go about giving Tony what he needs?” Gibbs asked.

“I feel like I need to spend some time alone with Spike,” Tony said.

“I think that's a good idea,” Blair said. “That way Xander and I won't be able to get in your way.”

“To do what?” Gibbs asked. He didn't like turning his guide over to another Sentinel. This was not what he expected when he agreed to the cross bond. It was done to keep Tony safe. He trusted Spike, but still, turning Tony into Spike’s ‘Guide for A Day’ and he not being there, gave him a ball in the pit of his stomach.

Tony put his hand on Gibbs’ arm. “I need this, Boss. I don't need to renew our bond. That's a Sentinel need. I need this.”

“Tony...I…” Gibbs clenched his jaw.

“We'll go out for lunch,” Spike said. “Just the two of us. Will that be okay with both of you?”

“I could deal with that,” Gibbs said. “Is that okay with you Tony?”

Tony looked down at his shirt and started playing with his buttons again.

Gibbs sighed. “Guide, tell us what you need.”

“I don't exactly know,” Tony said, “but I know I need something more intimate than going out for lunch. I need to do something that makes me feel like I'm fulfilling my responsibility of being his Guide.”

“We’ll switch for the day,” Xander said. “Tony and I, we’ll switch.”

“Thanks for the offer Xander, but we’re not cross bonded,” Gibbs said. “I don’t think that will work.”

“Sure it will,” Xander said. “We’re Hive and I’m a healer, I think you may need a healer.”

“I know you want to help,” Gibbs said, “but it could turn into needing more than a healing touch and a lick of your neck. I can go to the Sentinel hospital and get a healer if I need one.”

“I don’t think so,” Jim said. “What happens in the Hive stays in the Hive. We can’t risk using a strange healer. Xander can handle it. If you need a healing bond Xander knows Spike and I will be proud of him for helping you.”

Gibbs looked at Spike, He didn’t think there would be disagreement but he had to be sure.

“Xander knows I’ll be proud of him,” Spike said. “I was proud of him for helping Jim. I know you won’t disrespect me or our Hive. If it comes to you needing a healing bond; you’ll make it beautiful for him.”

“Tony?” Gibbs asked.

“Yeah, Boss, it kind of feels right.”

“Good,” Xander said, “now all we have to deal with is your need to renew your bond with Spike.”

“You know,” Gibbs said.

“I knew when you asked to touch him while he was sleeping,” Xander said.

“It’s not a surprise to Jim or me either,” Blair Said.

“I came here to ask permission,” Gibbs said, “not make a demand. If you say no I won’t pursue it.”

“Is that realistic?” Blair asked. “When Jim needed to renew his bond he tried to ignore it. After awhile it began to take a toll on him. I don’t see that from you yet, but it will happen.”

“I just want Xander to know,” Tony said, “Gibbs isn’t asking this just because he happens to be here. This is not being asked as a whim. Blair’s right, It will eventually take it’s toll on him if you say no. I gave him my permission because I know it’s something he needs.”

“For me,” Blair said. “This is not just a renewal, it’s a preemptive healing bond. I think we need this for the health of the Hive, but it should be Spike’s final decision.”

“I agree with you Blair,” Xander said. “If this is done it will be to keep the Hive strong, but Spike has the final decision.”

Spike picked up Xander’s hand and kissed it. “I’m proud of you love, but there is something you can do for me. Will you hold me while we bond?” Spike didn’t know why he felt it was important but he had an overwhelming feeling that it was. “I also want all of you to witness.”

Gibbs was mildly surprised. It wasn’t unusual for Sentinels to witness some ceremonies but bond renewal was usually private unless you were nesting together. Spike was inviting them into the nest for the night. Somehow, under the circumstances it did seem the right thing to do. “If that’s what Spike needs I’ll do it.” Gibbs said.

Tony was surprised. Gibbs was usually a very private person. He has pictured Spike and Gibbs going into a private room while he waited in another room with Xander and the rest of the Hive.

“Then it’s settled,” Jim said. “We’ll all witness tonight and tomorrow Xander and Tony switch Sentinels for the day, for the health of the Hive.”

@@@@@@

Chapter Text

Not too distant past

******

Lindsey McDonald, Wizard extraordinaire, died in a back alley of Los Angeles, killed by the peace loving demon Lorne. In life Lindsey had been a lawyer for the evil law firm Wolfram and Hart. He had signed a contract, as all employees were required to do, that his soul belonged to the firm for eternity.

In another part of the city a portal from hell opened and a demon horde poured out. Angel went to fight a dragon and was killed by it’s fire. Angel’s human soul was retrieved by a caseworker and reborn on earth as human. The vampire soul had signed a contract with the Circle of the Black Thorn before its death. It was taken to hell and his service claimed by the demon Moloch, a partner in hell’s equivalent of Wolfram and Hart.

Shortly after Lindsey’s arrival in hell the demon Moloch had a proposition for him. If he agreed to return to the Sentinel reality as Angelus’ Guide, wizard powers intact, and claim the world for hell, he could live there as an immortal, or he could stay in hell and be tormented for eternity. Lindsey signed the contract.

Angelus was called to the meeting. Moloch told Angelus the contract was signed with the codicil he requested. Angelus laughed. “You should have read the fine print,” he told his new Guide. “In all things personal you’re my thrall, you can’t use your magic against me. You belong to me for all eternity, my sweet little bitch.”

@@@@@@

Late Afternoon
Guide Guild - Hetty’s office
******
Hetty frowned at the certified letter from Washington Genetics asking for a complete listing of all Guides. The female list was to be broken down into double X and single X Guides. The list of male Guides was to be broken down into those who carried the sentinel gene and those that did not. It bothered Hetty...a lot. She could feel the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Hetty knew W.G. was planned to use Guides for genetic experiments. She could understand the breakdown of the female Guides. It had always been that way, but male Guides? She couldn’t think of any reason for it...unless… She got a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. They were going to try to trigger the Sentinel gene in Guides. She knew it took physical and emotional stress to trigger a Sentinel. Now this. She doubted that they were willing to wait for the children, that they were forcing Guides to bear, to grow up or they would test the children themselves. She knew that The Initiative was behind the rash of abductions. The only reason she could think of for this request was to start targeting male Guides with the sentinel gene for abduction.

@@@@@@

Three Levels Below Washington Genics

The Initiative
******
Senator Neville Kade, Director of the Initiative, Adrian Donovan The director of The Agency of Sentinel Affairs, Dr. Jiang Tu, head of genetic operations, Dr. Mafalda Eden O.B G.Y.N., head of The department of Proliferation, Sentinel Liam Angelus, Head of Security, and Wizard and Guide Lindsey McDonald, sat around the conference table for their weekly board meeting.

“The letter has gone out to Henrietta Lange,” Dr, Tu said. “We’ve demanded she comply within 3 days. We should be able to start our Sentry Program by next week.”

Senator Kade and Director Donovan nodded their head in agreement.

“We have to do something about Miller.” Donovan Said. “I can’t assign Initiative soldiers to abduction detail until we get rid of him.”

“There is something we can do,” Angelus said, “take his guide.”

“He’s always with his Guide; he doesn’t even send him out to do errands.” Donovan said. “We were going to set an example for any Sentinels that didn’t fall in line with the new laws by stripping Sentinel Wall of his Guide, a level 7.2 I believe. Miller took Wall as his second and cross bonded with Wall’s guide. Wall and his Guide even went so far as to wear Miller’s scent to the Agency just to prove the bond. With a second Guide Miller won’t go into a coma at the loss of one Guide.”

“You’re worried about some beta cross bond?” Angelus asked with disgust in his voice. Cross bonding with a beta was common in the military. Betas needed a relationship with an alpha to anchor their abilities. A Beta/Alpha bond wasn’t permanent like a Guide bond.

“Wall’s not a Beta, He’s an Alpha, a Sentinel Prime.”

“You’re telling me that an Alpha, a Sentinel Prime, laid on his back and took it up the ass from Miller?” Angelus asked. Now he was intrigued. Alphas didn’t wear anyone’s scent. How had Miller pulled it off. An Alpha would fight to the death before allowing himself to be sodomized. Brother bonds were always mutual fellatio, performed as equals.

“I can’t be sure of the sex position, but yes, every Sentinel in the building picked up the scent.”

“Get a decent fighter to challenge Wall for his rank. That’s a fight to the death. That will send his Guide into a coma. He’ll need a Mind Walker to heal his Guide. We’ll tell him we’ll release one from Guide Proliferation if he resigns.”

“We’ve already tried that.” Donovan said. “Wall killed the Sentinel.”

Angelus was getting very annoyed with Donovan. “Then get a better fighter to challenge him.”

“The Sentinel that challenged him held the gold medal in hand to hand combat.” Donovan said. “There isn’t anyone better in the Agency. The whole thing was beyond weird. After Wall killed Rohgah he knelt in front of Ellison’s second.”

“He kneeled in front of a second, someone else's second and his Alpha did nothing. That means this so called second is nobody's second, he’s the true Alpha of the Pack.” Angelus growled. Did these men understand nothing of Alpha Sentinel behavior. This was turning into quite a tangled debacle. Something was going on. Alpha Sentinels did not behave that way.

“That’s what so weird about it. Ellison’s second is small for a sentinel. One of my Sentinels insulted him about it. He got a dislocated shoulder for it. Then he…”

Angelus growled. “What the hell is the Sentinel’s name!” he demanded. “He’s the one we should go after.”

Donovan looked into the suddenly yellow eyes of Angelus. He was visibly shaking when he answered. “William Spikeman.”

“Spike,” Angelus spit and looked at McDonald. “You were supposed to take care of that.”

“I did,” the wizard said. “I took him out of the amulet and sent him back to his reality in L.A.”

“HE’S HERE,” Angelus yelled. “HOW THE HELL DID HE GET ~HERE~!”

“I don’t know how,” McDonald said worried about his Sentinel’s anger. He knew he would be punished for this screw up unless he could find a way to make it right. “The Aspect from the amulet was supposed to come here but he is still in the original reality traveling with the hell god Elliria.”

“We can’t kill Spikeman,” Dr. Jiang Tu said. “He’s on my priority list. Apparently he has healing capabilities.”

“I’m not killing my Grand childer,” Angelus said glaring at Dr. Tu.

“Maybe we can turn his being here to our advantage,” McDonald said.

“How?” Angelus asked.

“Spike's here to bring Sentinels to the next stage of evolution by making Childer,” McDonald said. “You’re his grand sire, you have power over them. We can take them, make them our own.”

“I never had control over Spike.” Angelus said. “Not unless I beat him into obedience. Not even the Master had control over Spike and he’s tenacious. Beating him only ensured temporary obedience.”

“I’ll help with an empowerment spell.” the wizard McDonald said. “All you have to do is locate them.”

“The second I look he’ll feel it,” Angelus said. “He’ll know I’m here. You’ll have to use a locator spell. We can’t afford to lose the element of surprise.”

“We can do it after moon rise tonight,” McDonald said.

“Get out,” a yellow eyed Angelus growled to the Board. “I need my Guide.”

The members of the board hurried to leave, but didn’t make it to the door before Angelus had Lindsey bent over the table. “Beg for it, Guide,” he growled.

@@@@@@

Evening ~ Angelus’ Apartment

******
“There they are,” McDonald said, pointing at a map with three brightly shining red spots and one purple one. “One is located here. That’s Miller’s address. All the others are here at Ellison’s address.”

“Why is this one purple?” Angelus asked.

“It’s weaker,” McDonald said. “It’s not a childe but it carries his blood.”

“The idiot made a thrall,” Angelus said.

“Then that’s where we’ll get in,” McDonald said. “Once we get in we can take over the others.”
He started the incantation.

@@@@@@
Evening - The Nesting Room

******

Jim was the first to enter the nesting room. He took one step over the threshold and stopped. Blair nearly bumped into his back. Jim’s nostrils flared scenting for danger. He scanned the corners and saw nothing unusual, but he felt it. He searched his vast experience as a Sentinel trying to define what it was he felt. His first thought was that the room was heavier somehow, but that wasn’t quite right. It was more like there was a feeling of importance in the air along with a feeling of curiosity, but he felt no immediate danger. Satisfied he moved into the room to let the rest of the group enter.

Blair also felt the difference as soon as he stepped over the threshold. Unlike Jim he didn’t stop, he kept walking looking up at the ceiling, expecting to see something hanging there. It felt as if there was a presence, or more likely more than one presence. He reached out for Jim’s hand and their fingers intertwined.

Gibbs was next to step over the threshold. He had wondered why Jim had stopped to scan his own bedroom, but now he felt it himself. He was being watched, he felt no malice in the room, only a feeling that something important was about to happen. A decision had been made, or had it? He felt uneasy and more than a bit awkward now that it came to it. He wasn’t at all sure how to go about renewing the bond with Spike. He felt as if it were being forced and that’s not what he wanted for himself or for Spike. He wanted it to feel right and at this moment it didn’t.

Tony followed Gibbs into the room. He was a level 7 empath, but never considered himself particularly tuned in to ‘energies’. His strong point was the ability to sense his Sentinel’s need and be a true partner. He accepted it as truth when Abby talked about seeing or feeling a person’s energy vibrations. Now he felt it, one step into the room and he felt it. Not a person’s energy, but the room’s energy. He was tempted to step back out so that he could step in again, testing the difference, but Xander was in back of him so he walked forward to his Sentinel. “Boss?” he whispered. Gibbs gave Tony’s hand a comforting squeeze.

Xander followed Tony into the room and felt a thickening. He recognized it immediately. In a past life he had been possessed by a Hyena. The Hyena was now his animal spirit guide, but the possession had left him with a sensitivity to the animal spirits. He knew they were present; all of them were there to witness the renewal of Spike’s bond with Gibbs.

Spike was the last to enter the room. He stepped over the threshold and stopped. His eyes flashed yellow and his nostrils flared as he looked around. He wasn’t quite sure what the cause was, but whatever it was, it was heavy and important.

Xander took Spike’s hand. “It’s all right,” Xander told him, “it’s our animal spirit guides, they’ve come to witness.”

Spike nodded thinking if Xander’s hazard detection hadn’t kicked in it must be okay. Xander began to unbutton Spike’s shirt. Spike unbuckled his belt and unzipped his fly and let his pants fall to the floor. Xander walked behind Spike and slid his shirt off his shoulder as Spike stepped out of his pants. Gibbs and Spike walked silently to the center of the nest. Spike stood naked in front of the larger, older Sentinel, his head bowed. Subservient, he waited for Gibbs to take the lead.

The Hyena began to circle. Xander felt it and then he heard it speak to him.

“Watch closely my Little One,” It said in it’s not quite human voice. “The older one must make a decision. Will he walk in the light or fall into darkness? The darkness calls to him Little One.”

Gibbs reached out his right hand and stroked the solid muscle mass of Spike’s chest. He felt the the flow of Spike’s energy climb up his arm, felt his heartbeat steady and strong. He wanted him, wanted to lay this Sentinel on his back and claim him as his own. He opened his mouth breathing in and tasting the younger Sentinel’s scent. He lifted his left hand reaching out to pull Spike to him.

Xander tried to call out a warning but found he could not speak or move.

“No my Little One,” the Hyena told him, “He must make this decision himself. Do you trust him?”

Xander thought about the question. He remembered how Gibbs had beat Spike to be sure he was good enough to bond with Tony, how Gibbs had called them all to Washington because he feared Abby may be in danger, and how he stood up to his long time and closest friend Ducky when he questioned the wisdom of trusting Spike.

The tiger, Gibbs animal spirit guide snarled. Gibbs stopped, that damn persistent feeling that this was not right suddenly pulsed through him. He let his left hand drop and lifted his eyes from Spike’s chest to his face and saw Xander standing behind his Sentinel, quiet and still, waiting for Gibbs to lay Spike down where he would hold his Sentinel in his arms as Gibbs took him, which was what he wanted to do even if he had to kill Jim, his sentinel brother. He looked into Xander’s eye’s, a Guide’s eyes, filled with unconditional trust. Gibbs shifted his gaze and looked at Spike his hand still resting over Spike’s heart, the beat still steady, the Sentinel still naked and submissive to his whim. “This isn’t what I need,” Gibbs whispered as much to himself as to Spike.

“It’s all I have to give,” Spike whispered back.

“No, it’s not,” Gibbs said.

Spike’s eyes turned yellow. There was one thing of value a Sentinel would want. “My Guide is his own person,” he growled. “He’s not mine to give.”

“It’s not your Guide I want,” Gibbs said. “I want us to bond as equals. When we bonded I beat you, drew blood, tested you to be sure you were good enough. I didn’t see you as my equal. I only saw you as good enough.”

“I drank your blood,” The yellow eyed Spike said. “That made us equal.”

“I understand that’s your way,” Gibbs said, “but it’s not my way. I want...I need to bond with you Sentinel-to-Sentinel, like I did with Jim. True brothers.” Gibbs let his hand drop from Spike’s chest.

“The older one has chosen the light,” the hyena said. “Will the younger choose it too?”

Spike closed his eyes and when he opened them they were blue again. He nodded to Gibbs and turned to his Guide. “It’s okay Xander, you won’t need to hold me for this.”

Xander took two steps back before turning and going to stand beside Jim.

“Equals,” Spike said, “Sentinel-to-Sentinel.”

“True brothers,” Gibbs answered. He lifted his hand and placed it behind Spike’s head pulling him into a kiss. This felt right, the way is should be and the pair fell to the floor.

Gibbs never felt Tony help him remove his cloths. He was lost in the dance with Spike. Spike’s energy filled him and Gibbs opened to it and let it flow back circling and spiraling outward, ever outward, energy reaching out and calling, calling...to Jim.

The Hyena stopped circling. “The third one feels the call, Little One, Will he answer?”

Jim let go of Blair’s hand he took off his shirt and dropped his pants. He walked to the pair now locked, head to groin, in a Sentinel-to-Sentinel bond, He dropped to his knees and reached out laying a hand on each of his Sentinel brothers. The circle connected and the energy flowed through all three of the Sentinels. It filled them and Jim became lost in the dance. Their heartbeats became drum beats faster and faster until the Sentinels could hold back no longer. They climaxed and the energy burst into a chrysanthemum of light, each petal of energy rushing to a member of the hive and finding its rightful home. Two bullets of light broke away and speed across Cascade.

“It is done, Little one,” the Hyena said. “They have chosen the light.”

The Guides went to their exhausted Sentinels. They found their place in the nest and laid down, Guides protected between Sentinels. Sentinels suckling their Guides. The animal Spirits laid down with their charges. Tonight was a special night; the darkness had lost a battle. All was as it should be and they slept.

@@@@@@
Angelus’ and Lindsey’s Home

*****
The Wizard was lost in his incantation. This was supposed to be an easy spell for him, but there was resistance, a barrier of some kind. He tested it, it was animal energy and not one animal either, not even one kind of animal. He concentrated and focused on the one he needed. The thralls animal spirit guide, the tiger. He broke through, but then the tiger snarled and surged forward swatting the wizard's spell away. A weakness in the barrier appeared and the wizard tried again. He nearly got through but the energy pushed his spell away. Another crack opened and the wizard focused on it. The spell wasn’t getting through. The opposing energy was growing stronger. He kept pushing to get through and then he was hit. He screamed and fell to the floor knocked out of his spell. At the same time Angelus was hit in the chest, he gasped, his eyes turned yellow and for a moment he couldn’t breath.

“What the hell was that,” the Sentinel asked. “You said that the thralls energy was weak.”

“There was an energy barrier protecting him,” McDonald said, “protecting all of them. I almost got through but then it pushed the spell back and we got hit.”

Angelus gave an ironic laugh, ”Spike used to say magic always has consequences. We’ll go after Miller’s Guide. I’ll do it personally, No more screw ups. As for you, this is the second time you failed me today. Now you’re going to pay the consequences. Lindsey knew he was going to have a very pain filled night.

@@@@@@

Morning - The Nesting house

******
Blair suddenly woke up, blasted out of sleep by a wave of fear he sat up trying to scream. Jim grabbed his Guide pushing him down to safety before jumping up. Spike and Gibbs were already already on their feet. Spike stepped over Tony, Gibbs ordered him to move to Xander. All three Sentinels scanned for danger. Xander’s Sentinel sense screamed protect the Guides so he threw himself over Blair and Tony shielding them from danger with his body. In the hall McGee and Clint finished checking the house and called clear.

“Xan it’s okay you can get off of me now,” Blair said.

Xander looked at Jim. “Let them up Xander,” Jim told him. Xander rolled off the pair and Blair and Tony sat up. “What happened Blair, why were you afraid?”

“What time is it?” Blair asked.

“6:30,” Jim said.

“Good we have time.”

“Time for what, Guide. Tell me now,” Jim demanded.

“I talked to Incacha; we have to call Graham, they’re going to take Riley today.”

“Who is?” Gibbs asked.

“Someone he called the dark one. Incacha said hell sent him here to work with The Initiative.”

Spike called Graham through the Hive link.

“What's going on there?” Graham asked.

“Incacha just told Blair that the Initiative is coming after Riley today. Come to the nesting house for breakfast and We'll fill you in on everything.”

“We'll be there in twenty minutes.”

Spike grabbed Tony’s hand. “Shower.”

“Um… ah...don't you think maybe we should delay this, considering?” Tony asked.

“No Guide, you're hurting that ends today.”

Tony stopped when he realized Jim and Blair were showering too. “The four of us?” Tony asked.

“I'm Jim's second, we always shower together.”

“Yeah, but…”

Spike growled and picked up Tony, put him over his shoulder and walked into the shower.

“Stop fighting it Tony,” Blair said. “ you're about two seconds away from being reclaimed.”

Spike put Tony down and started soaping him up.

******
No one wanted to eat breakfast until they heard Incacha’s message.

“Okay,” Blair said. “I’ll start with the simple stuff. Clint, Incacha said you should buy your bow and arrows today. It’s important or he wouldn’t have mentioned it. He also went into Willows dream and she gave permission for Sweet to contact her directly and she understands she can contact you also. About what happened last night: Jim, Gibbs, and Spike formed a triad. It makes us stronger and from what Incacha told me we need to be stronger. The rest of it is what got me so scared. We all know that Spike was sent here from what we call the light. Well it seems that hell has sent two of its own to our reality, A Sentinel that Incacha calls the Dark One and his Guide, a user of black magic. Incacha calls them a perversion. The Animal Spirit Guides came to protect us from a magic attack and to help form the triad. The Initiative wants to get rid of Graham and put in an Initiative soldier as head of the Agency.” Blair looked at Graham. “They’re going after Riley to force you to resign. He said the Dark One himself is going to do it.”

“I never let Riley out of my sight,” Miller said. “He’d have to fight me to the death to get him.”

“Incacha said he’s as strong as Yellow Eyes and that Spike knows him.”

“I don’t know anyone called The Dark One,” Spike said.

“Well this part doesn’t make any sense to me,” Blair said. “But when Incacha told me you know him he showed me a bowl of peaches.”

“Angelus,” Spike and Xander both said at the same time.

“Can I kill him?” Miller asked.

“No,” Spike said. “He’s old and very strong. He won’t kill me or my Childer, He’d consider them family, but everyone else… He’ll want to get control over me. He’ll do that by killing everyone I care about. He must have gone after Gibbs because he thought he was a thrall. The tribunal must have known they were coming. That could be why they were so afraid of Sweet falling into darkness.”

The doorbell rang. Everyone stopped what they were doing and listened.

Jim went to the door with Gibbs by his side the remaining five sentinels formed a semicircle behind them and the Guides behind them.

Jim looked at Xander, “Xanman, are you picking up anything?”

Xander knew that Jim was asking about his hazard detection. “No,” he told him.

Jim opened the door. Hetty was surprised to see seven Alpha Sentinels ready to confront any danger that might be present. She was not often surprised. Sentinel Sam Hanna was also surprised and more than a bit leary of the situation.

“Take off your shoes and sock now,” he whispered to his Guide Callen.

“What? Out here, before we get in the house?” Callen asked

Sam already had one shoe off. “Just do it now!” he said through clenched teeth. Callen complied.

“May we come in?” Hetty asked.

“Come in, my word it’s safe,” Jim said and stepped aside.

As soon as Jim closed the door Abby made an end run around the Sentinels, “Hetty..” she yelled and grabbed her in an enthusiastic hug.

Hetty gave a little umph, “Miss Sciuto,” she said. “How good to see you again.”

McGee moved up and put his hand on Abby’s shoulder. “Abbs, that’s enough of a hug. You can let go now.”

Tony went to stand by Gibbs but Spike got to him and grabbed his hand holding on to it. Xander moved up to stand by Gibbs. The rest of the Guides moved to stand beside their Sentinels, drawing off any stress they felt from an unexpected visit of a strange Alpha.

“Have you had breakfast?” Blair asked. Now that they were inside they were guests as far as Blair was concerned and should be treated that way. They weren’t strangers to Jim, although all previous contact had been business related and they had never visited the house before. “We’re having pancakes, not a problem to make a few more.”

“We’ve eaten, thank you,” Hetty said.

“I have chamomile tea if you’d like, Hetty?” Blair asked.

“That would be lovely,” Hetty said.

“Sam, I have a fresh pot of coffee?”

“Callen and I will have a cup.”

Hetty looked around the room. “Good morning, Tony,” she said when she saw him standing beside Spike holding his hand. “It looks like I asked the wrong question the last time we met.”

Tony blushed. Spike picked up the sudden tang of embarrassment coming from Tony. He tilted his head to the side and focused on Hetty. She had never felt that kind of look coming from a Sentinel. It was intense but controlled more like what she would be expected to feel coming from a Mind Walker than a Sentinel.

“You must be Sentinel Spikeman,” Hetty said.

It was Blair that broke the tension. “Please come into the dining room, I think we’ll be more comfortable in there.”

*****

Gibbs handed Hetty’s letter to Jim. “We knew this was coming eventually.” Gibbs said.

Xander was standing behind Gibbs and read the letter over his shoulder. When he read it he looked at Spike. He wanted to go to him and feel his reassurance that everything was going to be all right.

“I wanted to make sure you knew,” Hetty said. “I know Tony carries the Sentinel Gene.”

“Xander also carries the Sentinel Gene,” Jim said.

“We have news of our own.” Gibbs said. “There was a metaphysical attacked on us last night by The Initiative. They failed so today they plan on abducting Riley and using him to extort Miller’s resignation.”

For the second time that morning Hetty was surprised. Gibbs was talking about the metaphysical and doing it in front of other Alpha Sentinels. Hetty looked around the room. No one seemed uncomfortable about the statement. She decided to pursue it. “Who was your contact for that intel?” she asked.

@@@@@@

Chapter Text

Nesting House
Morning
******
Sentinel Alpha Prime Graham Miller called the agency and told his secretary to clear his calendar for the day and that he and Sentinel Peter Wall would be working in the field. He wasn’t so naive as to believe ‘The Initiative’ would give up on abducting Riley after one day, but he needed time and a plan to keep him safe. He knew if he let Riley cross bond with Peter he could be tracked if he was abducted, but Riley was a submissive Guide and he had needs, needs that his Sentinel was obligated to meet without it falling into abuse. Miller wasn’t sure why he felt this reluctance. Peter was his second and he trusted him, unconditionally. Was it Riley he didn’t trust? Riley who had looked at Peter with such longing that he was punished for it? Riley who sulked about being left out of the hive? Maybe that was it. Could he trust his Guide not to turn to another Master? He called his pack into a private bedroom. He needed to talk to them alone.

******
Riley sank to the bedroom floor, he knelt silently looking down while Graham paced back and forth behind him. Ordinarily Peter would go to his Alpha when he was under this much stress, but now wasn't the time. Riley was his Alpha’s Guide and his Guide alone. Graham didn't need his second distracting him from coming to a decision about the best way to handle the situation they found themselves in. So Peter held Wesley’s hand and waited for Graham to speak.

“Riley’s in danger,” Graham said while he paced. “I didn’t see this coming. It never occurred to me that a Sentinel would use a Guide in this way.”

“Really Graham?” Peter said. “The only reason you’re cross bonded to Wesley is because they wanted to use him to punish me. I don’t see how this is much different.”

Wesley stroked Peter’s arm. “We’re all in danger. I don’t think there’s a safe place for anyone anymore. We’re lucky we got a warning.”

“I don’t know what to do,” Graham said. “Riley has needs.”

“You think I won’t be able to give Riley what he needs?” Peter asked.

Graham didn’t answer he just kept pacing. His mind was racing trying to find an acceptable answer to the situation they found themselves in.

“No,” Wesley said, “He’s afraid you’ll be better at it then he is.”

Graham stopped pacing and looked at Wesley, surprised that the Guide could divine so much. The look on Graham’s face was all that Peter needed to see. He knew that Wesley was right.

Peter’s annoyance evaporated and he walked over to his Alpha. “Graham,” he said quietly putting his hands on Graham’s face. “Riley is your Guide. I don’t want to take him from you. All I want to do is keep him safe.”

Graham groaned. Peter’s energy filled him. “It’s not you,” he whispered. “It’s Riley. Riley wants you.”

Wesley went to Riley. “Is that true Riley? Do you want Peter?”

Riley didn’t answer. Wesley put his hand under Riley’s chin and lifted his face. “It’s okay Riley. You can tell us the truth.

”Master forbade me to speak of it,” Riley whispered

“Give him permission,Graham,” Wesley said.

‘’You have my permission to answer,” Graham told him.

Tears fell from Riley’s eyes as he spoke. “Ever since Master took Peter for his second there’s been a wall between us. Peter’s in the way. I feel like I can’t reach my Master anymore.”

“It’s okay Riley,” Wesley said. “I think we can fix it.” Wesley looked at Graham. “That’s what happened to Blair after Jim bonded with Spike. Riley doesn’t want Peter. He wants a clear way to you.”

“When did I forbid you to tell me about that, Riley?” Graham asked.

“It was the morning that Xander zoned.”

Graham was quiet for a moment while all his thoughts fell into place. He would do everything he could to keep Riley from being abducted, but if it did happen and Riley was cross bonded, Peter could track him, fast. He thought about his bond with Peter and Wesley. It was strong and they had adjusted to it well. He wasn’t sure if happy was the right word for how he felt, but he didn’t know what other word to use. Peter had said cross bonding with Riley would make them a stronger pack. A soft knock at the door interrupted his thoughts.

Peter opened the door. “We need you in the living room,” Blair said.

Graham looked around the room at his pack and he was suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude. He had never thought about having a pack. Like many Alphas he had been a loner. These men were the best of the best. They were more than friends they were family. “Alright,” he said before they left the room, “Riley will cross bond with Peter.” The decision had been made.

******

Hetty listened without comment as Jim told her everything that had taken place since Spike had picked up Xander’s scent and taken out an Intent to Bond Certificate. He didn’t leave anything out. She had given her word as a Guide that it would go no further than the Nesting House and her personal bodyguard Sentinel Sam Hanna and his Guide Callen had also given their word. Jim had invoked the ritual and made Sam a Sentinel brother and brought the three of them into their resistance hive. When Jim finished speaking the room remained silent for a moment as the newcomers digested the information and the others waited to see if they would be believed or ridiculed. It was Hetty that broke the silence.

“So,” Hetty said looking at Spike, “You’re not entirely human and you have the ability to access past life memories.” It wasn’t a question it was a statement. Hetty believed them.

“Spike’s human soul has blended with a metaphysical being,” Blair said, avoiding the fact that the metaphysical being used to be a vampire. “It’s the metaphysical being that gives him his special abilities. I know you’re involved in the metaphysical, Hetty. We’ve talked about our exploration into it many times. That’s why Spike was sent to us.”

“Can you kill Angelus and send him back to hell where he belongs?” Hetty asked Spike.

“I haven’t fought Angelus since I won the demon trials,” Spike told her, “I think I could beat him, I doubt that he is stronger than any of them, but it wouldn’t be easy and it’s not a sure thing. He’s a very strong demon. The problem is hell would send him back. Killing him isn’t the answer.”

“Than how do we stop him?” Hetty asked.

“We give him back his human soul,” Xander said.

“I don’t know if we can do that,” Spike said. “We would need his human soul, the spell to restore it, a witch or a wizard to recite the spell and an Orb of Thesulah. The spell and the orb don’t exist in this reality. Not to mention that his human soul may not be in this reality. Even if it is, we would have to murder someone to get it.”

“I’m not willing to look the other way for murder of an innocent person,” Sweet said.“I doubt that anyone here is. The end doesn’t justify the means. There has to be another way.”

“Maybe we should ask Incacha what to do,” Hetty said. “He seems to be willing to give us information. Maybe we should start asking questions.”

“I’ll ask him tonight,” Blair said.

“We need the information now,” Hetty said. “We should form a meditation circle and call him.”

“Go to the place we dance,” Gibbs whispered.

“A bonding orgy isn’t quite what I had in mind,” Hetty said.

“Tony took me there after the primal scream, without bonding, just breathing, meditation, and the sound of his voice. It’s a sentinel temple. If we went there Incacha would come. I know he’d come.”

“A gut feeling?” Abby asked.

“That and rule number fifty one,” Gibbs said, looking over at Tony who still stood by Spike’s side. “Never question Guide Sense.” It was a message to Tony, you’re still valued and loved. No matter what Sentinel you stand beside. Tony got the message loud and clear, he smiled back at his Sentinel.

******

Hetty felt it was important that everyone in the house join in the circle. Blair went to get Graham’s pack from the bedroom. It was decided that Tony would lead them in the meditation. He protested, Blair and Sweet were higher level empaths.

Spike took his hand. “You can do this Guide.” he told him. “You did it for Jethro, you can do it for us.”

“It’s personal,” Tony said. “The place we go to dance is our place. You want me to take everyone there. It feels like I’m betraying my Sentinel and leading an invasion.”

“We all go there,” Jim said. “Yes, the bond with our Guide is intensely personal, but the place we go to belongs to all of us.”

“Jim’s right,” Clint said. “The temple belongs to all of us. It’s a sacred place. I also understand Tony’s feeling’s. All of us tell our Guides what happens between us stays between us, but this isn’t personal, this is war and we need intel. We are a band of brothers, Tony, you can guide us to where we need to go. It’s not a betrayal, It’s what you were born to do.”

Tony looked at Gibbs and Gibbs nodded his approval. Tony closed his eyes and took a deep cleansing breath and slowly let it out. He opened his eyes and looked around the room at the men and women he considered family, his band of brothers. Like it or not he was a warrior in this war and he was the leader of this battle. “I think we should form a circle. Guide, Sentinel, hold hands. Jim you should stand between Blair and Xander. Graham you should be between Riley and Wesley. Spike should be between Xander and me. Sorry Blair, but Spike only has two hands.”

“It’s okay,” Blair Said. “I’ll hold Hetty’s hand she doesn’t have a Sentinel here.”

“Boss you should be on the other side of me,” Tony continued. “Everyone else get in the circle and hold hands.” Tony looked around the circle. “How does everyone feel? If it doesn’t feel right change places now,” Everyone stayed put. “Okay we’re going to breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Count of 3 in, count of 6 out.” Tony modulated his voice low and soothing. Guide voice. Close your eyes and listen to my voice and your guides heartbeat. In..2...3... Out...2...3...4...5...6... In..2...3...Out...2...3...4...5...6...In...2...3...Out...2...3...4...5...6... In……..Out…….. Listen to your Guides heartbeat, feel your Guide’s hand in yours.” Suddenly Tony was transported to a jungle. He saw his animal spirit guide, a jackal walking beside Jethro’s animal spirit guide a tiger. “Follow your animal Spirit guides,” Tony told them, “They’ll lead you to the temple. You can hear the drums up ahead. Walk with your Guide. Walk to the Temple.”

The Sentinels walked under the dark green canopy on an ancient path worn deep and smooth. They walked in line, two-by-two, each holding their Guide’s hand and preceded by their animal spirit guides. They could hear the steady drumbeats ahead. The pace was slow and deliberate. This ground was sacred, a hallowed place as old as Sentinels themselves.

They came out of the jungle into a large clearing with a wide boulevard. The way was lined with ancient Sentinels, Guides, and animal spirit guides. They stood silent in support of the modern Sentinels who had not forgotten the faces of their ancestors. They were the ones who had been called on to fight the rising evil in their world. When they came to the temple they climbed the stone steps and entered a great hall. Braziers burned to give a dim light to the room. Incacha stood in the middle. The Sentinels and Guides circled around Incacha and the animal spirit guides formed a circle behind them.

Incacha began to speak. “A great evil is rising, my brothers. An evil that wishes to bring darkness, suffering, and pain to your world. This evil looks to enslave Sentinels and Guides and to bring war and death to the innocent. Some of you are Champions from another place. You have fought a rising darkness and won. Now you have agreed to come here to protect this world and give your life, if need be, to once again vanquish the darkness. Some of you are new to this war against evil. It is your first time fighting in such a war, but you are brave and have also pledged to sacrifice your life if it is what is needed. Each of you have remembered the faces of your ancestors and asked for their help. Your Sentinel and Guide ancestors and your animal spirit guides pledge to you that we will give what help we can, for this evil rises from the darkness and is empowered by a demon. A demon whose name must not be spoken is this sacred place. This demon was trapped for millennium in a sacred book.The Guide you call Red Willow accidentally set him free in a past life. He was vanquished from that world and sent back to the place of suffering and darkness. To stop him you must bring him forth into your world. He must be trapped in a consecrated box, blessed by light, and carved with sanctified words. Only when his power is taken from this world will the ones who worship him fall and the light you bring to your world will vanquish the darkness. Be strong my brothers, walk in the light for your ancestors walk with you.”

Without moving all the Sentinels and Guides returned to the nesting house living room and came out of their meditation.

“How do we call a demon?” Clint asked, “And how do we find a box to put it in?”

“I have a box,” Hetty said. “Three years ago I went on a spiritual pilgrimage to Tibet. A monk gave me the box. He told me he saw in a vision that I would need it one day.”

“That’s why I don’t believe in coincidences,” Gibbs said still holding Tony’s hand. “Nothing happens without a reason.”

“To call a demon we have to know it’s name,” a yellow eyed Spike said. “I don’t have any memories of Willow accidentally releasing a demon in Sunnydale.”

“I remember it,” Xander said, “it was before Spike came to Sunnydale, but I can’t remember the demon’s name.”

“Tell me what you remember,” Sweet said, “maybe I can locate its name.”

“No,” Jim said. “We can’t risk it triggering a synaptic cascade.”

“Anyone got another idea about how to find out this demon’s name?” McGee asked.

“I have to go talk to Angelus.” Spike said.

“I’ll go with you.” Peter said.

“No,” Spike said, “I have to go alone. If he sees me with you you’ll become a target.”

“You said he wouldn’t hurt family,” Peter protested.

“I said he wouldn’t kill family,” Spike said. “He wouldn’t have any problem hurting you or using you against us”.

“What's to keep him from using you against us?” McGee asked.

“I know Angelus; I spent a century with him. He won’t take me,” Spike said. “He’s more interested in emotionally torturing me right now. He’d use you to do that.”

“You’re not going without us,” Peter said.

“The Guides need protection,” Spike said. “You should Stay here, it’s too risky… If Angelus sees you…”

“Then it’s settled,” McGee said, “we’ll go and stay out of sight.”

Spike looked at them, he knew he didn’t have time to argue. “Okay, but you have to stay out of sight. Fighting him is a last resort. Don’t attack him unless I’m unconscious. You’re best chance will be to work together, bite him and drink his blood. He’s family, it will weaken him and strengthen you. When he’s weak get out of there. Don’t try to be heros.”

“We don’t have fangs,” Peter said.

“You will,” Spike said. “As soon as you realize there’s no chance of you beating him they’ll come.”

“Are you that sure we’d lose a fight?” McGee asked.

“You’re very young,” Spike said. “He’s very old. That means he’s a lot stronger. It’s dangerous to underestimate him.”

Spike kissed Tony, Blair, and Xander goodby, “I’ll be back, love,” he told Xander and then he looked at his two childer. “Let’s go,” he told them.

Xander walked over to Jim and wrapped his arm’s around him. Jim hugged him back and began to purr.

Blair went to Xander and began stroking his arm. “It’s okay, Xan, Spike knows what he’s doing.”

“I remember Angelus,” Xander said. “I saw him kill one of my highschool teachers. The watcher's council listed him as the worst vampire that ever existed. Spike’s right he likes psychological torture. We’re in a lot of danger from him.”

Suddenly Xander smiled and said “thank you.”

“What is it,” Blair asked.

“Their animal spirit guides are going with them,” Xander said. “My hyena told me they’ll keep Angelus from finding Peter and Tim, and tracking Spike back here.”

******
“I guess Incacha wasn’t kidding when he told me to get my bow and arrows today,” Clint said. “Sweet, let’s go. I want to be prepared incase they attack the house. ”

“Sam,” Hetty said. “You and Callen go with him in case he needs backup. I’ll stay here until you get back.”

Sam nodded to Hetty. He liked Clint and was interested as to why he had chosen to bond with a Mindwalker. It was very unusual, but the whole hive was unusual. Sam, of course knew Alpha Prime Miller’s reputation and you couldn’t be a Sentinel in Cascade without knowing the reputation of Jim Ellison. Clint was not from Cascade so it would give him a chance to get to know him. “We’ll take my car,” Sam said. “I’m driving.”

“It works for me,” Clint said, grateful for the backup.

******
Agency of Sentinel Affairs Office Building
******
Angelus was tired of waiting in the parking lot for Miller and his Guide to arrive. He’d been waiting an hour, demonstrating considerably more patients than he felt. Now he was mad, something had gone wrong, AGAIN. First it was that energy surge last night that had squelched their plan to seize Spike's resistance hive and now Miller doesn’t show up for work. Well there is more than one way to skin a cat. Angelus walked toward the building, he wasn’t about to let his time go for nothing.

******
Alpha Prime Graham Miller’s Office
******

“I’m Sentinel Liam Angelus, I’d like to speak with Alpha Prime Miller.”

“I’m sorry, Sentinel Angelus,” Graham’s secretary said with a smile. “The Alpha Prime is working in the field today. Would you like to leave a message?”

“I can wait, do you know when he’ll be back?”

“I’m not expecting him back today. I can make an appointment for you if you like.”

“I think I’ll leave a message.” Angelus said. He walked around the secretary's desk.

“I can write the message for you,” the secretary said, feeling a little nervous about a Sentinel invading her space.

“I think I need to write it myself,” Angelus said. He reached out and took her head in his hands and with one swift, hard, jerk, he broke her neck. He found the letter opener and carved the word RESIGN into her forehead. He didn’t rush to get out of the building. There was no need to, half the Sentinels that worked at the Agency were Initiative, as for those who weren’t...well they would be quickly taken care of. Angelus was almost to his car when he felt Spike searching for him. He stopped and scanned for the direction the feeling was coming from. All he felt was a general direction and the knowledge that Spike was on his way to him.

******
Fifteen Minutes Later
******

Angelus leaned against his car enjoying the sunshine. He remembered the days when that was not possible. Coming to this planet as a human certainly had it’s perks. He wondered if he could get a suntan. He turned when he felt Spike’s presence and watched him walk toward him. Somewhere neer by he felt two of Spike’s childer. He cast out his awareness but he couldn’t get a solid location. Spike had to have a very strong witch or wizard working with him to put a spell on family that kept him from locating them. Who ever it was would have to be eliminated. He’d have Lindsy do a locator spell. The stronger the magic used the easier it would be to locate the castor.

Angelus smiled a malevolent smile. Spike was a worthy opponent. “Hello, Spike.”

“Hello, Peaches,” A yellow eyed Spike said.

The nickname wiped the smile from Angelus face and he scowled. It meant that Spike had memories, memories that it would be better he not have. “You’re not supposed to be here.”

“I could say the same thing about you,” Spike said. “You attacked me last night.”

“You fucked up,” Angelus said, “You made a thrall. I’m going to take him from you.”

“I don’t think so,” Spike said. “That poltroon of a demon you work for is too weak.”

“Moloch will enjoy teaching you how wrong you are,” Angelus said. “Unless you give up this hopeless resistance and come work with me. We could rule this world, Spike.”

“Work for a demon that will kill me as soon as it gets what it wants?” Spike asked. “Demons don’t share power.”

“I have a contract,” Angelus said. “I can get one for you too. I don’t want to hurt you, Spike. I wasn’t lying when I said you’re not supposed to be here. You were supposed to be sent to L.A. You can’t win. You’re no more than an annoyance. Don’t make me swot you.”

“Oh, I’m touched Peaches,” Spike said in a mock voice. “I didn’t know you cared.” Spike’s voice changed to that of a strong master vampire. “I came here to warn you Angelus. Leave me and mine alone or I’ll do more than swot you.” Spike turned and walked away. He had what he needed. There was no point in staying any longer.

“You always did talk big,” Angelus called after him. “I think I’ll start with that witch of yours. I suggest you give her a kiss goodbye.”

Spike ignored him and kept walking.

******

Chapter Text

Nesting House
******
Spike walked into the nesting house and Xander rushed to kiss him. He’d been worried about his soul mate. He remembered Angelus from Sunnydale, remembered his casual cruelty. The others in the hive knew Spike as being preternaturally strong. They had never seen Angelus break a woman’s neck with no more trouble than it took to break a matchstick, seen the life leave her eyes, seen her dead body fall to the floor as Angelus laughed. Yes, he had good reason to be worried.

“How did it go?” Xander asked.

“I got the name, it’s Moloch.” Spike answered. “How much do you remember?

“He was a bit of a con man,” Xander said. “Willow met him online and thought that he was a human boyfriend. He conned a bunch of high school geeks into building him a robot body so he could get out of the internet and rule the earth.”

“Looks like we’ll have to con the con man to get him into the box,” Spike said as he looked around the living room. “Where’s Sweet?” he asked, concern colored his voice.

“She went with Clint to get his bow and arrows,” Xander told him.

“Clint took her out alone?” Spike asked, worry clearly sounding in his voice.

“Relax Sentinel,” Hetty said, “I sent Sam and Callen with them. They’ll be fine.”

“Not if Angelus runs a locator spell,” Spike said. “No offense Hetty, but Sam and Clint together are no match for Angelus. Do you know what store they went to?”

“It’s okay Spike,” Xander told him. “My hyena told me that the animal spirit guides will keep Angelus from locating us. They can scatter our energy signature so he can’t get a fix on us. They did it so he couldn’t locate Tim and Peter while you were talking to him.”

“He got a fix on us last night,” Spike said.

Xander rolled his eyes.

“Did you just roll your eyes at me, Guide?’

“Not at you,” Xander said, “at my hyena. He’s not going to leave my side until this is over. Anyway he says the triad that Jim, Gibbs, and you formed last night acts like an antenna to draw positive energy into this reality. They can do more to keep us safe now we have the triad. Everyone's animal spirit guide will stay with them until this is over. Your cougar is licking my hyena’s ear. My hyena is telling me that you wouldn’t have found me so fast if not for your cougar, so have a little faith. What is he talking about?”

“My cougar came to me in a vision when you ran.” Spike said, he had never told Xander exactly how he was able to find him so fast. “It showed me where you were. I told Jim it was an anonymous tip.”

“You lied to me!” Jim said with a false tone of anger in his voice.

Everyone in the living room laughed. It was a good sound and it broke all the tension they had been feeling since last night.

“Well you know what that means when an animal spirit guide gets involved with finding a Guide,” Hetty said. “You’ve found your One True guide.”

Spike pulled Xander to him and nuzzled his neck. “I didn’t need my cougar to tell me that,” Spike whispered into Xander’s ear. “I need to take care of Tony, love, I can’t abandon him again.”

“I know,” Xander whispered back. “You need to heal him, make me proud.”

Spike looked at his guide. He didn’t think that it would come to that, but Xander had given his permission for a healing bond, not just touch. There couldn’t be any other interpretation of his ‘make me proud’ statement. Xander, a strong healer in his own right thought Tony needed it, and needed it from him.

Hetty watched the interaction between Spike and Xander. When she arrived Spike and Tony were holding hands and Gibbs was allowing it. In her experience that was not normal Alpha Sentinel behavior. She watched as Spike let go of Xander and went into the kitchen where Jim and Blair were writing up a grocery list. He walked up behind Blair, wrapped his arms around him and nuzzled his neck. Jim didn’t react until he whispered into Blair’s ear. Jim nodded and he and Blair followed Spike part way into the living room. Something was going on. Hetty was sure of it.

Spike walked over to Tony who was sitting beside Gibbs on a love seat. Gibbs was busy on his laptop taking care of NCSIA business. Spike held out his hand, “Guide,” he said.

“Um, I thought…” Tony said.

“The deal was for the day, Guide,” Spike said.

Tony looked at Gibbs who was concentrating on a report. “Yeah, but…” Spike reached down and pulled Tony out of the chair and put him over his shoulder,

“Hay! Put me down.” Tony yelled.

The yell got Gibbs attention. “What’s going on?”

Spike ignored the question as he walked toward the nesting room. “That was the second time you’ve refused me, Guide.”

Gibbs stood up, his forgotten computer fell to the floor. He took one step and found his way blocked by Jim. Blair and Xander came to stand on either side of him rubbing his arm and sending him healing energy. “Get out of my way,” Gibbs said, his fist opened and closed as he glared at Jim.

Peter and Tim watched Spike carry Tony to the nesting room and then moved to take up a position behind Jim.

“Tony needs this,” Xander said.

“You don’t know that,” Gibbs said pushing Xander hand off of his arm.

“Yes I do,” Xander said, he looked at Jim. His brown eyes soft and full of warmth and emotion. “I know what it feels like when I need to bond with a Sentinel that’s not my soul mate.” Xander looked back at Gibbs. “We’re all linked, when one of the hive hurts I feel it. I’m pretty sure Blair does too.”

Gibbs looked at Blair and Blair nodded in agreement. “There’s only one reason a guide of Tony’s caliber would refuse his Sentinel twice, he wanted to trigger a bond.”

“I don’t believe that,” Gibbs said.

“I’m sure it was subconscious,” Blair said. “If he let himself feel it he’d see it as a betrayal to you, but that doesn’t negate the need. Tony is Spike’s Guide, What Xander said is true, a Sentinel doesn’t need to be a soul mate for a Guide to feel the need to care for his Sentinel. You know that, you’ve seen it with Xander and me often enough,”

“That isn’t Tony taking care of his Sentinel,” Gibbs said. “Spike’s going to renew his bond.”

“Tony needs a healing bond,” Xander said. “You know I don’t share Spike without a reason.Tony triggered this so he could be healed.”

“Okay,” Gibbs said, getting his emotions under control. “I’ll let it play out. But if he hurts Tony…”

“He won’t,” Xander said.

Gibbs sat down and looked at Xander. “You need to sit with me, Xander.”

Xander sat down and offered Gibbs his neck.

******
McGee breathed a sigh of relief. He knew he couldn’t let his boss attack his sire. That would have been bad in so many ways. He was glad Abby was not cross bonded with any other Sentinel. Being assistant director of NCSIA was tough enough. This cross bonding was no walk in the park. Not with being part of the resistance and now they were under metaphysical attack. He was glad they were lucky enough to be getting good, hard, intel on Washington Genetics.

“Oh shit,” McGee said as memory kicked in, “I completely forgot Sentinel Morgan and his Guide are starting at the computer house today. we’re late, Abby. We have to go now.”

McGee drove to the computer house as fast as he could and not get stopped by the police. His ID as a Major with NCSIA would get him out of any ticket but it would also get him noticed and that was decidedly not a good thing. He just hoped that they didn’t loose Morgan.

When he walked into the computer house Sentinel Morgan sat at his own computer and his Guide was standing at the electronic version of a whiteboard reading, sorting, and organizing hacked documents.

Oz looked up and smiled at McGee. “Hi Sentinel. I hope you don’t mind I got them started on finding a money trail.”

Morgan got up from his computer and walked over to McGee followed by his Guide. He held out his hand. “I’m Special Agent Sentinel Derek Morgan and this is my Guide Dr. Spencer Reid.”

McGee shook hands. “Sentinel Major Tim McGee and this is my Guide Abby. Sorry I’m late. My hive got an anonymous tip that there was going to be an abduction attempt on one of our Guides.”

“I hope everything is okay,” Sentinel Morgan said.

“We’re working on it, the guide is safe for now,” McGee said. “How are you doing here? Do you need anything?”

“This is a very sweet set up,” Morgan said. He looked at his Guide. “Is there anything you need Spence?”

“Nothing yet,” Spencer said. “What I’m seeing so far is a large part of their payments lead back to three shell companies. Shell companies are traditionally used for money laundering. What’s interesting is that Washington Genetics is under contract to The Agency of Sentinel Affairs. So why are they using shell companies to pay a large part of their bills?”

“That’s a good question,” McGee said, “and one I hope you can find an answer to.”

@@@@@@

Angelus' Home
******

Angelus stomped into his home and slammed the door. “Lindsey,” he screamed. “Do a locator spell and find the witch Spike is using.”

Lindsey hurried to get the spells ingredients together while Angelus paced and growled.

“Spike had Childer with him, MY GRAND CHILDER,” Angelus screamed, “and I couldn’t locate them. He’s got some bitch casting a protection spell. I want her. I’m going to take her and send her back to him one piece at a time.”

Lindsey started chanting the Spell. He knew the energy that had attacked them last night was animal energy, most likely animal spirit guides coming to the defense of the Sentinels and Guides. Someone had to call them and control them, he had to find out who it was. He was still hurting from last night’s punishment due to his failure. He needed to avoid another night like that.

The map began to glow, the whole map of Cascade. Lindsey knew the spell should show him a point of light where the witch, or whoever was casting the protection spell and controlling the animal spirit guide energy was located. He tightened his focus and continued chanting his spell.

Angelus came to look over Lindsey’s shoulder waiting for the light to narrow to a point.

Once again something was interfering with the spell. Lindsey increased his chant and slipped into a trance. He found himself in a large ball of light surrounded by wild animals. They circled around him closing in on him. He pushed back, he couldn’t fail again, couldn’t face what Angelus would do to him.

Angelus watched as the circle on the map got smaller. He didn’t notice Lindsey’s nose and ears begin to bleed.

The animals circled inward, ever inward. Each one snarling and growling. Now so close he could reach out and touch them. Lindsey gathered himself into a tight compressed ball and then he sprung with all the energy he had left.

Angelus watched as the light narrowed into a point and then burst into a flame. Lindsey fell over. Angelus grabbed him by his shirt, lifting him up. That’s when he saw the blood. His other Sentinel senses kicked in. The smell of blood, Guide blood, overwhelmed him. Angelus stared at the limp body and listened for a heartbeat. There was none. “You stupid ass hole,” he growled and threw the body onto the burning map to smother the flame.

@@@@@@

Nesting House
******
A yellow eyed Spike put Tony down in the nest and kneeled straddling the struggling Guide and pinning his hands over his head with one hand and unbuttoning his shirt with the other.

“Let me go Spike,” Tony said, struggling and trying to break Spike’s hold on his wrists. “I don’t want this.”

“That’s the third time you’ve denied me, Guide, I can’t let that pass,” Spike said with a growl.

Spike unbuckled Tony’s belt and unzipped his fly, he moved off of Tony and flipped him to his stomach. Spike pulled off Tony’s jeans as he tried to crawl away and then grabbed him and pulled him back. Spike kicked off his shoes and socks as Tony once again tried to get up. Spike pulled him down and laid on top of him. “You’re my Guide and you’re hurting.” he growled into Tony’s ear. “We need to dance.” Spike pushed down his jeans and kicked them off. Tony could feel Spike’s erection against his back as Spike reached for lube. Spike sat up and began preparing Tony. He slipped a slick finger into his Guide.

“Spike, I’m sorry,” Tony said, trying desperately to talk Spike out of renewing his bond. “I shouldn’t have refused you. Let’s go back to the living room, I’ll stay with you for the rest of the day. I promise.”

Spike slid two fingers into Tony. “You’re my Guide and you’re hurting. We NEED to dance,” he repeated with a growl. He slid a third slick finger into Tony, he scissored his fingers twice and then pulled out.

Something clicked in Tony’s head. He was Guide, his Sentinel was calling him and Spike was HIS Sentinel. What had he been doing? He had refused his Sentinel. All his Sentinel
wanted...no... NEEDED to do was ease his Guide’s pain. “We need to dance,” Tony whispered.

Spike pulled Tony onto all fours and spread lube over his erection.

Tony felt the tip of Spike’s cock press against him and he said the words...the words his Sentinel needed to hear. “Sentinel, claim your Guide.”

Spike stopped. The timber in Tony’s voice had changed. The words weren’t lip service; the Guide meant it. Spike flipped Tony onto his back and looked into his eyes. “Do you understand now?” he asked.

Tony lifted his arms and stroked Spike’s face. “Yes, I understand. You are MY Sentinel. Dance with me, Spike.

******

Gibbs sat in the living room on the love seat with Xander. His head popped up when he heard Tony call out “Yours,” to Spike.

Spike answered, “Yours.”

Gibbs looked at Xander. It was odd for a Sentinel not to claim the Guide as “mine” first. Odder still for a Sentinel answer with “yours.”

“Spike never wanted to claim Tony as his own,” Xander said. “They’re Sentinel and Guide, they have a bond, but Tony belongs to you.”

“You knew,” Gibbs said. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I thought it was obvious.” Xander said. “It’s what Tony needed to hear and feel. He needed to know having a Guide bond to Spike didn't deplete his bond to you.”

******
Clint slipped another arrow onto the string and drew it back. He was actually enjoying himself. The feel of the bow in his hand, the way the muscle in his arm felt with the pull of the bow string, all of it felt right, like he had come home. He held the string taut for a few seconds before letting the arrow fly. A split second later he heard a soft shh as the arrow entered the bulls eye. Clint was on the way back from retrieving his arrows from the target when he felt IT hit.

Sam and Callen looked at each other. “What the hell?” they said in unison.

Sweet stood up as Clint hurried back to the group. “We have to get back to the house,” Sweet said. “Something’s wrong.”

“Are you telling me that’s the hive calling?” Sam asked.

“I don’t know if calling is the right word,” Clint said, “but it is the hive telling us a members in distress.”

*****

A glowing Tony lay in Spike’s arms. He was resting comfortably when the wave of emotion hit him. He felt Spike’s body stiffen.

“We have to get out there,” Spike said. “Something is wrong.”

The two dressed in silence before returning to the living room.

******

Sentinel McGee suddenly stiffened and looked at Abby. “Somethings happened,” McGee said as he picked up the phone and dialed Gibbs cell.

******

Alpha Prime Sentinel Graham Miller went pale as he listened to his cell phone. Everyone in the house turned toward Miller as they felt a ripple of stress go through the hive. Riley and Wesley went to him. Graham reached out and took Riley’s hand. Sentinel Peter Wall also went to his second and turned up his hearing dial. Something was definitely wrong. Miller was a rock solid Sentinel. He didn’t go pale. Peter had been working with him for years, in all kinds of situations and he never saw Miller react so strongly.

It was Peter that answered the question that shown in the eyes of every hive member. “Graham’s secretary's been Murdered.”

“I want her taken to the NCSIA lab.” Miller said.

“Sir, she’s one of our own. Shouldn’t we take care of her?”

At the mention of NCSIA Gibbs was across the room in three giant strides. He held his hand out for Graham’s phone, “This is General Leroy Jethro Gibbs, I am accepting jurisdiction of this case.” He handed the phone back to Graham.

“General Gibbs will be sending his CSI team. Secure the area until they get there.” Graham ended the call.

Gibbs answered his phone, “hold on McGee. I’m putting you on speaker.” Gibbs turned to Miller, “Do you know what happened?” he asked.

“My secretary’s neck was broken and retire was carved into her forehead. I should have gotten her out of there.” Miller pulled Riley into a hug.

“Did you get that,McGee? Gibbs asked.

“Yeah boss I heard. Do you need me to come back to the house?” McGee asked.

“Stay where you are,” Gibbs said. “I don’t want anything slowing down our intel on Washington Genetics.”

Spike walked over and put his hand on Graham’s shoulder. “It’s not your fault, Graham,” Spike said. “You don’t know Angelus, I should have told you to…”

“That’s enough,” Jim said. “The guy’s a bastard and he went after a civilian, None of us saw that coming. We are Sentinels, we care about the innocent, Angelus doesn’t.”

“Jim’s right,” Gibbs said. “We don’t have the time or the luxury of playing the blame game. We need a plan on how to deal with this Angelus guy.”

“He’s not a guy,” Xander said. “He’s a demon in a Sentinel’s body. He’s an opportunist and a sociopath. There’s no way for us to keep everyone safe.”

 

******
Medical Convention Boston
******

Dr.Mallard walked into the happy hour meet and greet at the medical convention in Boston. Ducky was no stranger to covert ops. He was here to gather intel, As far as he was concerned this was a war, a war that could not be lost. He knew it was extremely unlikely for other Sentinels to be at the Convention. There just weren’t that many Sentinel doctors. He was looking for medical information. What were the bastards up to? He walked over to the table with the forum schedules and picked up a listing. He turned up his hearing as he pretended to read, listening for any interesting conversations. All he had to do is go over and introduce himself. He didn’t hear anything of interest so he dialed back his hearing and concentrated on reading the listing, There were two topics that caught his eye, ‘CRISPER: A View on DNA-snipping Enzyme’, and ‘RNA-guided Genome Editing’. Both were on day one. Day two had two talks he was going to sign up for, ‘Stem Cells; The Cutting Edge’, and ‘Using Viruses to Heal’. Ducky scanned the listing for day three and that’s where he saw it, ‘Increasing the fertility and birth rate of Guides’, the lecturer was listed as Dr. Aaron Shamus. Ducky remembered him as the doctor who gave testimony about the cause of the Guide shortage before the Senate. Ducky signed up for all five of them then he went to have a drink and listen to the conversations in the meet and greet.

@@@@@@

Nesting House
******

“What happened?” Clint asked as soon as he got in the door.

“Angelus killed Graham’s secretary,” Peter said. “We're trying to figure out how to stop him from killing anyone else.

“We need to reconsider giving Angelus back his soul,” Xander said. “Spike, there has to be a way.”

“We have three problems with that,” Spike said. “The spell, the Orb of Thessula, and his human soul.”

“I may be able to help with the spell,” Hetty said. “I know some powerful shaman. I’m sure they would help us if I explain the circumstances.”

“I can conjure an Orb of Thessula,” Sweet said. “It’s just a matter of calling one to this reality. It will take a lot of energy, but if Peter and Tim are willing to form a circle with me I should be able to get an orb to come.”

“Why Peter and Tim?” Graham asked.

They’re metaphysical healers” Sweet said. “The Orb will need a lot of metaphysical energy to manifest from another reality,”

“I’m in,” Peter said. “I doubt that Tim will refuse, but why not include Spike? He stronger than us.”

“Spike is the antenna for the triad energy,” Sweet said. “That’s the hives protective shield. We can’t afford to weaken it.”

“That leaves the human soul.” Clint said. “Anyone have any ideas on that front.”

Xander spoke up, “My hyena is insisting I say this to you, Spike, ‘You don’t have a lack of imagination, Poet, use it.’ He said I should say those exact words.”

“My caseworker said that to me before I was sent here,” a yellowed eyed Spike said. “He’s talking about Cosmic Intervention, they’ve done it before. I don’t have a detailed memory of it. I remember standing in my crypt and stabbing my wrist with an old fountain pen. I must have signed a contract in blood, I can’t think of any other reason I’d stab myself like that. I can try to contact my caseworker, Candle, and ask her to help.”
******

Chapter Text

Evening - The Nesting House
******
“I recorded the call,” Hetty said, “so we have the correct pronunciation of both spells.”

“Both Spells?” Blair asked

“One to give Angelus back his soul,” Hetty said, “and one to pull Moloch into the box.”

“Okay, it sounds like we’re on track.” Blair said. “So what’s next?”

“I think I’m up next,” Sweet said. “I need a box, with a pillow in it, big enough to hold the orb. Peter, Tim, and I will form a circle. I don’t have to say anything I can call the orb with my mind.”

Sam was sceptical “You can just call this Orb thing and it will show up?” he asked.

Sweet sighed, She didn’t want to deal with negative energy right now, but she would have to find a way to defuse it or they would not be successful. “Yes,” she said. “When you yearn for something that thing yearns for you. It wants to come. If you have any doubts that I can do this go to the nest and meditate on us being successful at giving Angelus back his soul. Negative energy will interfere with the call.” Sweet looked around at the group.

“You’re going to ASK it to come here?” Sam asked, “It’s a thing...it’s not a living entity.”

“Everything is alive and sentient in it’s own way,” Sweet told him. “If you can find the right frequency you can communicate with it. I just happen to be better at finding the right frequency than most.”

Clint walked over to Sweet and looked at her with love and devotion. He stroked her arm as he spoke. “I just want to say I’ve seen Sweet do some amazing things when we were in Texas. So if it will help I’ll give you my word, Sentinel-to-Sentinel, she can do this.”

“Thank you,” Sweet said mirroring the same love and devotion she saw in his eyes . “Now all I need is a box with a top and don’t show me the inside. This will take a lot of our energy. The three of us may fall asleep when this is over. It’s normal and we’ll wake up naturally. There’ll be no need for a healing, we’ll just need to rest.”

“I’ll leave the room,” Callen said, “but I’m not much on meditating. Isn’t leaving the room good enough?”

“I think we should all leave the room I’ll lead a meditation.” Hetty said, she looked Callen in the eyes. “It’s important we all do our part and keep a positive mind. I can keep Sentinels and Guides focused. We all need to do our job.”

Spike came back from the Garage with a cardboard box. “This looks like the right size,” he said and put it down in the middle of the living room floor.

Sweet took a deep cleansing breath and slowly let it out. “I’m ready,” she said and held her hands out to Tim and Peter.

“What do we need to do?” Tim asked as he took her hand and the others went to the nesting room.

Sweet smiled at the two Sentinels, her brothers through their sire Spike. She had a deep link with them. She knew they wouldn’t let her down. “Just be willing to give me healing energy, Picture me as being strong and healthy,”

“We can do that,” Peter said.

******

Sweet closed her eyes and began rhythmic breathing. She let her mind slip into a deep meditation. A light appeared in her mind’s eye and she let her consciousness spiral up into it. She pictured a large soap bubble floating in front of her and she called out to the Orb of Thesulah. The soap bubble slowly solidified into a hollow crystal ball.

“Who has called me?” the orb asked.

“My name is Sweet. We need your help. The darkness has sent an evil entity to our reality. We wish to give the entity back it’s human soul so that we can stop the growing darkness. Will you help us?”

“Why have you not called one of my kind from your own reality?”

“Until now we had no one who has had his human soul taken from him. Your kind had no reason to exist in our reality.”

“I will do as you ask and serve my purpose.” The orb answered in an emotionless voice.

Sweet knew that ‘things’ didn’t have human emotions. She expected the non emotional conversation, but that didn’t mean she had to answer in kind. “We thank you and honor your sacrifice,” Sweet said. “We have a place prepared for you.” With her mind’s eye she pictured the toss pillow she knew Spike had placed into the cardboard box sitting in the living room and watched as the Orb disappeared, molecule by molecule. When it was gone Sweet let her consciousness return to her body. She opened her eyes and let go of Peter and Tim’s hands, all three slowly sunk to the floor and fell into a re-energizing sleep.

******

“It’s done,” Abby said. “I just felt Sweets energy shift back here.”

Clint let go of the circle and rushed to the living room. He scooped up the sleeping Sweet and carried her to their room. He laid her down in the nest and then took of his cloths and knelt beside her and watched her sleep for a few moments and then he began to unbutton her blouse and slide off her slacks. When he finished undressing her he laid down beside her and pulled her into a hug. “I love you, Sweet,” he whispered into her ear.

Abby ran over to Tim and knelt down beside him. She looked up at Sam. “Help me get him into our nest.” Sam picked him up and took him into their nesting room. Abby followed close behind. As soon as Sam put Tim down Abby dropped down beside him and began pulling off his cloths. She only stopped for a moment to turn her head and give Sam a warning growl. Sam had never heard a Guide growl like a Sentinel. Plus Abby was a female, she shouldn’t be growling. Abby had slipped into blessed protector mode. She may not have triggered as a Sentinel, but she had Sentinel genes and they were on full display. Sam backed out of the room watching Abby pattern Tim’s naked body before he closed the door giving the bonded couple privacy.

Gibbs watched as Wesley and and Graham tended to Peter. Graham had a scowl on his face. He had a strong drive for skin-to-skin contact with his second, but he wasn’t about to strip the two of them naked in the living room, although it was a close thing. Gibbs recognized his need and told the Alpha Prime he could use his room. Graham called to Riley. “Help me get him to the bedroom.” Graham and Riley picked up Peter between them and took him down the hall. Wesley followed them into the bedroom.

Hetty watched from the living room as Spike stepped back and let the bond mates care for his childer. He turned and walked to the kitchen and then started to paced back and forth. Xander and Blair tried to calm him as Jim stood close by. The dynamic of four Alpha personalities, two Sentinels and two Guides, being cross bonded to each other was one that Hetty would have bet the farm could not exist. Yet here it was in front of her. She looked around the living room. An Alpha as stressed as Spike should trigger a fight or bond decision in all the Alphas in the house. Sam was dragging Callen into the bathroom for some privacy, no doubt. She shifted her gaze to Gibbs and Tony who were talking quietly. Suddenly Tony turned away and walked to the kitchen closely followed by Gibbs. Hetty watched, fascinated as Blair moved out of the way to give Tony access to the pacing Spike, but Blair didn’t go to Jim as she expected, he went to stand between Jim and Jethro. Hetty turned on her hive telepathy, she need to learn how this… (she looked for the right word, only one came to mind amalgamation)... How did this amalgamation work? It was clear it was more than a surface cross bond. These were Sentinels and Guides of the highest caliber, committed 100% to each other.

“She was gone,” Spike said. “They told me I had to be vigilant and not let her fall into darkness.”

“We had no choice,” Xander said. “She was the only one that could get the orb.”

“You’re not hearing me,” an anguished Spike answered. “Her soul was gone.”

“My hyena said that she had to leave her body to call the orb. That’s what you felt, but she’s back and she’s okay. She’s only sleeping.”

Spike continued pacing and Jim had had all he could take. He grabbed Spike’s arm and spun him around. “You need your Alpha.” Jim pulled Spike toward the nesting room and the rest of the group followed.

Hetty turned off the telepathy. She didn’t need to listen to Sentinels bonding. She went to the kitchen and made herself a cup of tea. It would be nice to sit and sip tea while she contemplated all that was happening. This was turning out to be a very interesting visit. Spike was a strong Alpha in his own right. One that was capable of winning leader of the pack status. But Spike had just let himself be pull to the nest by a Sentinel who had the intention of claiming him. It wasn’t as if Spike was always the one that gave way. Jim had let Spike put his arms around Blair and nuzzle his guide gland without so much as a startle or a look. Any other Sentinel would attack anyone who took that kind of liberty with his Guide. Then Jim followed him to the living room, Jim was backup for Spike. Hetty wondered if Jim even saw it that way. He didn’t seem to. There didn’t seem to be any negotiation, it just was. The group had told her that Spike was a different kind of Sentinel, but Jim was the same traditional Alpha. Except he wasn’t. Hetty sipped her tea. Yes, this hive was very interesting. She decided she very much liked being a member.

A half hour later Sweet, Tim, and Peter woke up fully refreshed.

@@@@@@

Angelus Home
******
Angelus was fuming. It had taken hours for Washington Genetics to send a team to deal with Linsey’s body and all they did was take the body away. The smell of guide blood still filled the air and spots of blood had soaked into the carpet. The stench wasn’t going away anytime soon and was making him hungry, damn hungry for Guide blood. His fangs had dropped which was unusual for a Sentinel. As a rule Sentinels didn’t have fangs in this reality. A vampire’s fangs dropped when called. These had dropped without bidding. The restlessness he felt was of the same intensity he felt as a young hungry vampire. Yes, he definitely needed to feed and Guides Riley Finn and Wesley Pryce were on the menu. He didn’t need a locator spell. He had their home address from the Sentinel directory. If they weren't home he'd stake the place out and wait until they got back. He could take his grand childe under his control, and order him to kill Miller. Spikes childer were young and subject to the orders of an older related vampire. He’d drain drain Wesley, while his Grand Childe watched helplessly. Spikes childer were young and subject to the orders of an older related vampire. As for Riley... He needed a new boy toy now that Lindsey was dead. He’d turn his new plaything into a Thrall. It was a good plan and his cock hardened as he thought of all the pain filled play he could enjoy with the Guide. The frosting on the cake...Spike would get the message loud and clear, there was nothing he could do to stop Moloch.

Angelus called The Initiative and ordered a team to come in and clean up the mess then he grabbed his leather coat and took off into the dark of night.

******

Angelus got to Miller’s house and found it dark. He crept around the back and pressed his ear against a window listening for heartbeats. There were none. His anger and frustration increased and he elbowed the window breaking it and setting off the burglar alarm.

Angelus grabbed his ears and roared in pain as the piercing sound hit him. He ran from the back yard before neighbors could see him and headed toward his car.
@@@@@@

Nesting Room
******

Xander suddenly sat up. “Graham can’t go home.”

“Why?” Jim asked as he let go of a glowing Spike.

“Angelus just tried to break into his house.”

“How do you know that?” Tony asked. “I thought your hazard detection didn’t give you details.”

“It’s my Hyena,” Xander said. “The animal spirit guides are keeping tabs on Angelus.”

“Did they tell you how many Sentinels he had with him?” Gibbs asked.

Xander seemed to listen. “He was alone.” he told the group.

“Interesting,” Gibbs said. “He was going to attack two trained Sentinels and two field trained Guides.”

“Angelus wouldn’t have any trouble killing all of them,” Spike said as he got dressed. “he’s not going to give up. We should all get dressed. We have to give him back his soul tonight.”
******

Graham ended his call. “Get dressed,” he told his pack. “We have to go home. Someone’s tried to break in.”

The group dressed quickly and quietly and left the bedroom only to be met by Jim’s pack.

“Angelus just tried to break into your house,” Jim told them. “It’s too dangerous for you to leave.”

”“Let me guess,” Graham said. “The animal spirit guides told you. He tried to invade my home,” Graham said. “I can’t let that go. There are four of us. We’ll be okay.”

Spike’s eyes turned yellow, “Peter, kneel,” he commanded.

Peter fell to the floor. “Sire?” Peter asked.

Spike walked up to Graham, “If you can get him on his feet and out the door I’ll let you go,” Spike said.

“What is this?” Graham asked. “Some kind of a joke. Get up Peter we’re getting out of here.”

Peter tried to move but felt like he was glued to the floor. “Sire?” he asked again. I…”

“Peter! I’m your Alpha. Get on your feet,” Graham ordered.”

“He can’t move until I release him.” Spike said. “Angelus won’t order him to kneel. He’ll order him to kill you and then he’ll torture, rape, and kill Riley and Wesley.”

Graham knew that Spike was telling him the truth. The hive bond was strong. “You never told us any of this,” Graham said. “You never said you could do this.”

“I never intended to use it,” Spike said. “But now Angelus is here. He’s their Grandsire and he will use it. The only way we can defend ourselves is to give him back his human soul. We need to do that tonight.” Spike looked at Peter, “I release you.” Peter got to his feet.

Graham looked at Peter, “You really couldn’t move?” He asked. “It wasn’t just…”

“I couldn’t move,” Peter told him. “I tried, It was like I was attached to the floor.”

“All right,” Graham said, “I’ll stay, but I don’t understand any of this.”

@@@@@@

Angelus waited on the next block over for the alarm company and the police to leave and then he waited some more for Graham and his pack to return. It was after 11:00 P.M. when it began to rain. Angelus swore. He couldn’t go back to his apartment, not until the stench of guide blood was gone. He was not happy about this odd mixture of Sentinel and vampire. The scent of Guide blood shouldn’t bother him the way it does. He decided to hole up in Graham’s house. The alarm company would have turned off the alarm so he would not have to worry about that and if they did show up tonight… By the morning The Initiative would have finished cleaning up his place. Angelus kept to the shadows and moved silently and vampire fast to the broken window in back of Graham’s home. He climbed through the window and decided to look for a bed. There was none, only the nest that smelled of all four pack members. He went into the living room and decided to sleep on one of the leather recliners. He knew he was a light sleeper and would wake up if the pack did show up.

Chapter Text

Hetty sent Sam and Callen to get the sanctified box. They would need it before the night was over. “It’s in my closet on the top shelf,” She told them.

“How big is it?” Sam asked.

“It’s about two feet wide by one and a half feet deep by a foot high, She said. “You can't miss it, it’s covered in intricate carvings.”

“We’ll be back A.S.A.P., “ Sam said as he and Callen left.

Hetty turned to the group in the living room. “Someone will have to learn the spells before we give Angelus back his soul,” she said. “I suggest Blair, Sweet, and I learn them. We’re the most familiar with the metaphysical.”

“Sweet, are you up for this?” Blair asked

“I’m fine,” Sweet said. “I’ve never done a Spell before. I suppose it’s really not that different from what I usually do.”

“I’ll come too,” Abby said.

“I know you’re capable, Abby,” Hetty told her, “But three is a mystical number. Four isn’t. I think we’ll be better off with a triad reciting the spell.”

“I think Abby should come with us,” Blair said. “She can see energies. She may be able to tell us when we have it right.”

“I agree,” Sweet said. “We can’t afford to be anything but letter perfect.”

“I stand corrected,” Hetty said with a sincere tone to her voice and turned to Abby, “You’re in.”

“Why don’t you use the nesting room,” Jim said. “It’s the most comfortable and quiet.”

“Sounds good,” Blair said.

******

Wesley went to Graham. “I think it’s time for Peter to claim Riley,” he whispered.

“Get Peter,” He told Wesley. Riley was sitting on the floor at Graham’s feet. Graham stroked his hair. “It’s time Love, you need to go with Peter.”

“You’ll need to come with me too,” Peter said to Graham as he approached his pack mates.

“Peter’s right,” Jim said. “You need to open the way or the cross bond won’t work.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Graham said, “and I don’t think I can just stand by while another Sentinel claims my Guide.”

“You have to hold Riley while Peter claims him,” Jim said. “You’ll feel the bond too. That’s what clears out the static between you and Riley.”

“Static?” Graham asked. “Riley said there’s a wall.”

“Static, wall, it doesn't matter what you call it. There is interference and the cross bond will clear it out for both of you, but you need to hold Riley.”

“I don’t feel any interference,” Graham said.

“I didn’t feel it either,” Jim said, “but there was something that was blocking us and I didn’t realize it until it was gone. When I bonded with Xander both Spike and I were in the dance with him. It was...overwhelming and beautiful. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible. It’s...I don’t know how to put it into words, but something was there and now it’s not.”

“Riley needs you there,” Spike said. “This is a healing for both of you.”

“How did you keep from killing Jim?” Graham asked.

“It was never an issue for me,” Spike said. “There was a moment at the police station just after we met. Jim had gone out to investigate Xander’s abuse. He came back too soon. We exchanged looks and it slammed into me, our bond, Sentinel - to - Sentinel. Just like that I knew we belonged together. When he took me as his second we made promises to each other that we wouldn’t interfere with the bond to our Guides.”

“But your Guide, your soul mate? How can your Guide be claimed by another Sentinel without it interfering? ” Graham asked.

“Both Guides told us it was what they needed. Jim is my Sentinel soul mate, my True Brother,” Spike Said. “He’d die for my Guide just as I’d die for his, even before we were cross bonded.”

It wasn’t an issue for me either,” Jim said. “I told Spike if it were anyone else I’d kill him. Spike told me if it were anyone else he’d help me.” Jim looked at Spike. “True Brothers.” He looked back at Graham, “You know in your soul that’s true for Peter and you too.”

“Plus,” Xander told him, “Blair and I are really against them killing each other.”

“He’s your Guide first and always, I only want to keep him safe.” Peter said.

Graham pulled Peter to him forehead to forehead. “True Brothers,” he said.

“True Brothers,” Peter answered.

Graham let go of Peter and held his hand out. “Come Guide,” he said. “You’re hurting and you’re in danger. I can’t completely stop the danger but the pain stops now.”

Riley took his Sentinel’s hand.

“You can use our nest,” Clint said. “If you prefer it to the bed.”

Graham nodded his head and walked to the nest.

******
Tony sat in the living room going over some hacked bills of lading from trucking companies that made deliveries to Washington Genetics while Jim, Spike, Xander, Gibbs, Clint and McGee, sat at the kitchen table having a cup of coffee and going over the plans for the night.

“How are we going to procure Angelus’ human soul?” Gibbs asked.

“Angelus is a vampire demon. Liam is the human soul.” Spike said. “I’m going to call my Crisis Intervention Case Worker, her name is Candel. She’s retrieves newly passed souls and sends them onto their next life. She sent me here.”

“If that’s who you called when Xander was sick, no one came,” Jim said.

“You wouldn’t know if she did. She would have wiped everyone’s memory.”

“Why doesn’t she wipe your memory?” Gibbs asked.

“I think she does,” Spike said, his eyes were unfocused as if he were looking far away. “I do remember her sending me here, but there are foggy feelings that she did something or … I know I signed a contract in blood at sometime in a past life. I feel like she had something to do with it, but I don’t have a memory of actually doing it.”

“So how do you make sure she comes?” Jim asked.

“I have to ask a question, she’s required to answer it, It’ a cosmic law.” Spike said. “I just have to think of a question that can’t be answer by saying no and disappearing.”

“I have a question,” Xander said. “What was in the contract you signed? It kind of scares me that there’s a contract out there and we don’t know what’s in it.”

“Seriously?” McGee asked. “It was in a past life. It’s over. I think we should ask a question that’s more timely. Like, would you be so kind as to deposit Liam’s soul into the Orb of Thesulah?”

“Spike wants a question she can’t just say no to,” Xander said. ”Plus, you never lived in Sunnydale. If you had you’d know that a contract signed in blood is forever.”

“I think you’re right, Pet. It would be a good thing to know exactly what was in that contract. We should do this now,” Spike said. “I’m ready. Tony and Xander should go into the bedroom while I do this. She’s the caseworker for Sentinels. Guides have a different caseworker.”

“Come on Tony,” Xander said. “Looks like we’re not allowed to play with the big boys.”

“I’ll go with them,” McGee said. “I don’t feel comfortable leaving Guides by themselves, we could be attacked any minute.”

Spike nodded and watched as the two Guides walked down the hall followed by McGee..

Jim and Gibbs got up and stood on either side of Spike. “We’re a triad,” Gibbs said.

“What we do we do together,” Jim added.

“Glad to have you,” Spike said. He got up and shook himself and then began to make the call. “Candle, I have a question. In a past life I signed a contract in blood. What exactly was in that contract?”

A light began to grow and shape into the form of a woman. “You call me here in front of others?”

“We’re all Sentinels, we’re all your charges. You are allowed to interact with us. Before you answer my question we need your help. Liam/Angelus is killing innocents in this world. Can you get a human soul for us so we can stop him?”

“We don’t keep human souls waiting around. Human souls have free will. I can’t give one to you. It would have to agree to come here. ” Candle said as a large ball of light appeared in the room.

“Caseworker Candle, This situation is complicated. The powers have asked me to handle it. You may go attend to your other duties.”

Gibbs got a bad feeling in his gut. Complicated was bad, very bad. Jim gave a sublimable growl. Spike’s eyes flashed yellow. He knew something was very wrong for Beacon to show up. Supervisor Beacon hovered quietly as Candle’s light faded away.

“Champion William/Spike, Beacon said when Candle was gone, “the contract you signed was to accept the return of your human soul.”

“But I fought the demon trials for the return of my soul,” Spike said. “The demon gave me back my soul.”

“The Spike that signed the contract was a different aspect of you. If he hadn’t signed the contract you would have lost the demon trials. It’s all connected.”

“Was there anything else in the contract?” Spike asked.

“Caseworker Candle was required to disabled the chip so you would no longer be helpless against humans.”

“That’s all?”

“We are beings of light,” Supervisor Beacon said in a quite annoyed tone of voice. “We do not trick our charges.”

“But you do wipe our memories.” Spike said.

“To keep from happening what is happening now,” Beacon said. “The darkness sent the demon Angelus here because you are here and have memories.”

“But you gave Xander memories too, Why?”

“It was necessary and it is why I am here now. You choose to come here as a Champion. In return we agreed to give you your soulmate. You choose Xander.”

“I don’t remember choosing Xander but I do remember you telling me I could have my soul mate as a Guide.”

“When Xander was wounded by the agent of the darkness the only way to answer your prayer was to allow him to become a Sentinel.”

“I don’t remember praying while Xander was abducted,” Spike said.

“From your time frame the prayer was said before he was abducted.”

“At the Guide hospital,” Jim whispered, “just before I took you as my second.”

“That is correct Champion Ellison.” Beacon told him. “It was also the first step of becoming a triad.”

“I don’t understand what any of this has to do with giving Angelus back his human soul,” Spike said.

“Both of your soul aspects came from the same Sunnydale reality. A human named Cordelia made a wish with a vengeance demon and that reality fell into darkness. The Xander of that reality is a vampire, turned by the vampire Darla. Xander has chosen to merge with that demon so that he could become a Sentinel and stay here as your soul mate.”

Spike’s eyes turned yellow. Caseworkers didn’t volunteer information. As a rule they were bloody stingy with it. “Why are you telling me this?”

“The dark Sunnydale will cease to exist. The Xander that is a vampire never will have been. The Xander vampire must be staked before the reality ceases or that demon will never have existed your soulmate will suffer a synaptic cascade and die.”

“You just said Xander has already bonded with the demon.” Jim said.

“The Department of Cosmic Intervention works in a reality of quantum mechanics, Time is nonlinear in our reality. Effect can happen before cause.”

“How do I get to the vampire?” Spike growled.

“I will answer your question Champion, but first I must tell you of Liam’s human soul. One aspect is currently living as an FBI agent another aspect has reincarnated as a Navy Seal. Neither of those souls can be taken from their life. I doubt that you could convince either to join with the demon Angelus. However there is one possibility, one aspect of the Liam soul you may be able to convince.”

Spike was losing his patience. He gave a loud growl. “Are you telling me I have to choose between saving Xander or convincing Liam’s soul to join with Angelus?”

“It won’t come to that,” Jim growled. “Xander is my Guide too. I’ll save Xander you get the Liam soul.”

Beacon held up her hand, at least she seemed to hold up her hand if a ball of light could be said to have a hand. “Patience, Champion Ellison. Neither you nor Champion Gibbs can leave this place, you are part of the triad. The umbrella that covers you would be weakened to the point of breaking. Please allow the answers to Champion William/Spike’s questions to come forth as they were meant to.”

“I’m not letting Xander die.” Jim growled. “Triad be damned, if it breaks it breaks.”

Spike pulled Jim to him, forehead to forehead. “True brothers, Jim. We’ll find a way, but right now we have to listen to what she has to say.”

“True brothers,” Jim whispered back

Spike straightened up and looked at the hovering ball. “What do I need to know to do both?”

“Angel is currently being held prisoner in a building called The Bronze. It is the vampire’s nest. He is tortured daily by the vampires Willow and Xander. It is that soul that you may be able to convince to join with the the demon Angelus in this reality. You must convince that human soul aspect to ask to become a Sentinel. If he agrees you must stake him we will deposit his soul into the orb. You may do the spell to blend him with the demon Angelus. To save this Xander you must stake the vampire Xander and return before the dark Sunnydale ceases to exist. The powers will allow you to take the Champion Clint/Hawkeye with you. His bow and wooden arrows will be helpful. There are many vampires in the nest and they will hear your heartbeat.”

“Is there anyway to block the sound?” Spike asked.

“None, but you can tell them you drank the blood of a Mohra demon and it gave you back your heartbeat and the ability to walk in the sun. Show them your yellow eyes and your fangs. You just have to survive long enough to convince them you’re still a vampire. Champion Clint/Hawkeye, do you agree to accompany Champion William/Spike on this quest?”

“Well I guess the mystery of why the tribunal wanted me to take up archery is solved,” Clint said “I’ll get my bow and arrows.”

“I will retrieve them for you,” Becon told him. Clint’s bow and a quiver of arrows appeared on the floor in front of him. A stake appeared in front of Spike.

“You have two hours to complete your quest Champions. You must return before the reality ceases to exist or you will also cease to exist.”

“Good to know,” Clint said as he strapped the quiver to him.

“We have to be back before midnight to do the spells,” Spike said.

“Time runs slower in this reality.” Beacon told them. “Succeed and you will be back quickly. Are you ready?”

Spike looked at Clint and he nodded. “We’re ready.”

A portal opened and Spike and Clint walked through.

Chapter Text

McGee watched as the portal closed behind Spike and Clint. Gibbs took a step toward Ellison and placed a hand at the back of his neck. The two Sentinels stepped closer bowing their heads and touching foreheads. McGee could feel their emotion pulsing through the hive bond. He hadn’t realized how deep their bond with Spike was. It had always been there but now there was an awareness of it that he hadn’t felt before.

McGee had a close relationship with Spike, he was Spike’s childe, but these two men had something different or at least he had thought that it was different. The trust they had for each other… and yes he had to acknowledge it… the worry they had for Spike was equally deep to his own. Like him these two men couldn't lose Spike, the only thing worse would be the loss of their Guide. Yet he could feel there was a difference. Gibbs and Ellison were experienced Sentinels. They had seen things in war that he would never see, or would never want to. Beacon had called Spike and Clint champions. Gibbs and Ellison had unconditional trust in both of them, and so they had watched wordless as the pair walked into, what McGee could only described as, a hell world. Now they stood forehead to forehead in a sentinel-to-sentinel embrace. Two thirds of a triad.

Their Guides felt their Sentinels unease and headed for the living room.

******

Spike and Clint stepped through the portal and came face to face with a vampire.

“Lunch delivery,” The vamp laughed and charged Spike.

With lightning speed Spike slipped his stake out of his belt and pierced the vamp’s heart. The vampire disappeared in a cloud of dust. “Young and stupid,” Spike muttered.

“What the hell happened to his body?” Clint asked, “and what’s that smell?”

“Vamps turn to dust when you kill them,” Spike said. “If they don’t dust they're not dead. You have to hit them in the heart with wood, take off their head, or burn them. A stake is the best hand weapon. A bow and arrow is the best long range weapon, but any pointed stick will do. Willow dusted one with a sharp pencil.”

“That’s why I had to bring wooden arrows instead of carbon or metal,” Clint said.

Spike let the statement lay. He cast his awareness outward trying to locate Xander and Angel.

“And the smell?” Clint asked. “Is that what vamps smell like when they turn to dust?”

“No, the smell is hopelessness, despair and death. It’s what a hell dimension smells like.” Spike told him. “Looks like no one else saw us arrive or they’d be here by now,”

“I think Beacon knew what she was doing. The portal opened up behind a billboard.” Clint paused for a moment in thought. Then the realization hit him. “You’ve been to a hell dimension before.”

“Died in one.” Spike said as if he were telling someone the time, and then changed the subject. “They’ll have lookouts on other roofs.”

“If you died in hell, how did you get out? I mean it’s a good thing to know. Just incase.”

“When I died Candle was there, She had to fight a demon for my soul. Then she sent me to Cascade. Your a Champion of the light, the Powers don’t abandon their Champions.” Spike knew that for sure, but there was more. The Powers may not abandon their Champions but they don’t coddle them either. He had certainly gone through enough painful crap in his Sunnydale unlife to be very sure of that.

Clint nodded and walked to the edge of the billboard and peeked around. He immediately pulled back and notched an arrow onto his bow. “There’s one on the roof across the street.” Clint drew the bow string, stepped out from behind the billboard, and quickly took the shot. He stepped back and looked at Spike. “Cloud of dust.” he walked to the other end of the billboard and peeked out and then turned to Spike. “That one is looking down the street. It has its back turned. Will it dust if I hit the heart through its back?”

“As long as wood gets into its heart it will dust,” Spike told him.

Once again Clint notched an arrow, drew the bow string, stepped out and took his shot. This time the vamp was further away and Spike could hear the soft whoosh as the arrow sped through the air. A second later Clint turned to Spike. “Got him,” he said as he walked back behind the billboard.

“You stay up here out of sight,” Spike said. “Keep an arrow notched. Shoot anything that comes up here. There aren’t any humans walking free so shoot to kill. If you need help call me through the hive link. Angel and Xander are in The Bronze, Xander felt it when I located him. He’s on his way. I’ll be back as soon as possible.”

Clint was willing to let Spike take command. He had been a soldier and fought in war. This place felt different than anyplace he had ever been. “Spike?” Clint had to ask. “Sweet said you saved her in a past life. Was it from a place like this?”

“It happened in this town,” Spike told him, “it’s on a hellmouth, but it wasn’t over run with vamps like it is now. A demon wanted to take her. It would have taken her to a place worse than this. I killed the demon.”

“I owe you.” He whispered hating to think of Sweet in danger. “Remember we only have two hours,” Clint said, changing the subject.

“I remember,” Spike walked to the edge of the roof and then turned to Clint. “Just take good care of her, that’s payment enough.”

When Xander came out Willow was with him. Spike turned his eyes yellow and dropped his fangs and then he jumped off the three story building. he walked forward with yellow eyes glowing in the dark street.

“What happened to you?” Xander asked. “You have a heartbeat.”

“Went to Africa and fought in the demon trials.” Spike said, thinking the best lies are half truths. “I won so I got my wish to be able to walk in the sunshine. The heartbeat came with it.”

“You’re too late for the Harvest,” Willow said as she reached out a finger and dragged it across Spike’s chest and around his shoulder. She sauntered seductively in back of him, leaned in, blew in his ear and whispered, “Didn't you hear the summoning”. Willow didn't wait for an answer. She turned into true face, let her fangs drop and moved in to bite.

Spike spun and grabbed Willow. When he turned back to face Xander he held Willow close with a stake at her heart. Spike let his fangs show. “You going to attack me?” he asked Xander.

“No,” Xander said analyzing Spike with his vampiric senses. He shouldn’t have been able to best Willow that easily.

“Try that again and I’ll drain you.” Spike told Willow as he shoved her away. “If you weren’t family you’d be dust already.”

Willow laughed. “Can’t blame a vamp for trying.”

“Speaking of family, where’s my grand sire?” Spike asked. “I can feel he’s here. I’m surprised he answered the summoning. Did he get rid of that pesky soul?”

“He still has the soul, we have him locked up in the Bronze,” Xander said. “He came to stop the Harvest and failed.”

“Now he’s my favorite toy,” Willow said with an evil smile as she played with a key hung around her neck.

Spike shrugged and changed the subject. “You hunting tonight?” he asked.

I thought we’d go for a run,” Xander said. “There aren’t many humans left in town. None of them go out at night anymore.”

“A run sounds good,” Spike said and the trio took off into the night. Fifteen minutes later they were running through a cemetery. When Spike was sure they were alone he dropped back behind Willow, reached out, and broke her neck. She fell to the ground unconscious.

Xander felt the loss of his link with Willow and turned around growling. “What did you do?” He asked as he approached Spike.

“She tried to bite me,” Spie said. “I can't let that go unpunished. She’ll heal soon enough.”

“She was just testing you. You have a heartbeat.”

Spike pulled Xander into a hug. “Sorry love, wish there was another way.” He pushed Xander back against a tree and for the second time that night he pulled his stake. Xander’s eyes were full of confusion for the split second it took him to turn to dust. Spike retrieved the key from around Willow’s neck and ran back to The Bronze. He was making good time; they had been in Sunnydale for less than an hour.

******

The Bronze hadn’t changed much. Vamps aren't into remodeling. Spike kept his eyes yellow and moved through the crowd of vampires quickly. A few turned to look at him when they heard his heartbeat, but he showed them his yellow eyes, growled, and let his fangs show. They were Aurelian and young, they could sense his power as a master vampire and quickly looked away. Spike climbed the back stairs and let his awareness spread out. He could feel Angel straight ahead. The hallway was dank and darker than he remembered, but he had no trouble seeing in the dim light. Spike opened a door, a smell of sulphur from burnt matches hung in the air. There was a line of iron barred cells, he found Angel in the third one, curled into a fetal position with his back to the door.

Spike took out the key and opened the cell door. Angle tried to press harder against the back wall when he heard the sound of the key in the lock. His shirt was in tatters and his back was covered in burns and unhealed cuts, an effect of being starved. Spike walked to him and crouched down. He rested his hand on Angel’s shoulder.

“Angel,” he said softly. “I came to get you out of here.”

Angel rolled to look at Spike. “You’re warm and you have a heartbeat.”

“And a soul,” Spike said. He opened his wrist and offered it to his grand sire.

Angel drank eagerly until Spike’s wound closed. “What are you?” Angel asked. “You’re not human, I can taste vamp blood too.”

“I’m a Sentinel,” Spike told him. “A human that’s merged with its demon. Angel I need your help.”

Angel laughed and raised his chained wrists. “They’re enchanted, they can’t be broken.”

“I came here through a portal from another reality,” Spike told him. “Angelus is a Sentinel there, he’s got a human body, but with a demon soul. If you agree to it I can ensoul you, You’ll be like me, a Sentinel. Angelus is killing innocents and you can stop him. He wants to turn my reality into a hell world. Will you help?”

“Even if you could break these chains,” Angel said, “you’d never get me out of this building, I’m in no condition to fight.”

“I know that Angel, I’ve got an Orb of Thesulah to hold your soul. The spell we’ll use to ensoul you is Buddhist, it’s a blessing not a curse.”

“You’re going to dust me?” Angel laughed.

“This reality was created by a Vengeance Demon,” Spike told him. “It’s going to cease to exist in less than an hour.”

“I almost believed you, Spike. If this reality was created by a Vengeance Demon how do you know about it? Go torcher somebody else, you’re not very good at it.” Angel rolled over and faced the wall.

Spike grabbed him and rolled him back. “I don’t have time for this Angel. When I dust you you’ll see a Cosmic Intervention Supervisor, her name is Beacon. She looks like a ball of light. Just tell her you agree to help me. Your human soul has to agree to become a sentinel or you can’t be sent to my reality.”

“You’re not going to dust me, Spike, I’m your grand sire.”

Spike raised his stake. “Remember Angel. Tell her you agree to help.” Spike plunged the stake into Angel’s heart and watched him turn to dust.

******

The cell walls melted away and the human soul known as Liam found himself floating in a vast gray area. A large black cloud gave a deafening angry roar and stormed at him. Liam stood frozen, and disoriented, unable to move or make any attempt to defend himself. A ball of golden light suddenly appeared and a thick bolt of lightning flashed out and hit the black cloud in it’s center. The angry roar changed to a scream of anguish and the dark cloud exploded and disappeared. The ball of light floated over and hovered in front of Liam.

“Are you Beacon,” Liam asked.

“I am,” she told him. “Do you agree to go to help the champion William/Spike and become a Sentinel?”

“What choice do I have?” Angel asked “It’s better than going to hell.”

Beacon was obligated to answer Liam’s question. “Your soul has choices, You could choose to be reborn as a human. You may also choose to be reborn as a Sentinel, or you may choose to do as Spike asked and be ensouled and help to save the reality Spike told you about from falling into darkness. What do you choose?”

“You mean I don’t have to go back to living with a demon inside me?” Liam asked.

“That’s correct,” Beacon told him. “If you choose to be reborn as human it can be in a reality where vampires do not exist.”

“What will it cost me to choose to be reborn as human?” Liam asked with a skeptical tone to his voice. As far as he was concerned it was too good to be true. There had to be a cost.

Beacon was annoyed, she knew exactly what Liam was asking, “I am NOT a demon. I am a supervisor for the Department of Cosmic Intervention. You do not have to pay to be reincarnated into the life path of you choice.”

“Than I can choose without consequences?” Liam asked.

“There are always consequences to every decision, but those consequences are paid by you to you for the betterment of detriment of your human soul.”

“And if I choose to be reborn as human, will that be a betterment or a detriment to my soul?”

“You will be choosing to knowingly turn your back on a reality that is in danger of falling into darkness, a reality you have the opportunity to help.” Beacon told him. “That would be a stain on your human soul. However the damage can be overcome... in time. Enough questions, you must choose now.”

****

Spike made his way down stairs and back through The Bronze. A few feet before the exit a rather large vampire in true face stepped in front of him.

“Spike, Childe of Drucilla, The Master commands you attend him.”

“Sorry, mate,” Spike said, “The Master knows I’m not much for kneeling and such. Now get out of my way. I’m going hunting.”

The vampire bellowed in anger and charged.

The fight came out of The Bronze and onto the street. Clint didn’t dare shoot. It would only call attention to himself and bring a horde of Vampires to the roof. Once Spike saw his chance he staked the big guy and took off into the night grateful that Clint had enough sense not to give away his location.

This Sunnydale was the same as the one he had spent years in. He knew every nook, street, and alley. He ducked into an old warehouse and hid waiting for the opportunity to take out the vamps that followed one at a time. He dusted several of them when he noticed that there was an entrance to the tunnels. He dropped down and doubled back.

Spike let Clint know through the hive link that he was on his way back to the roof. He didn’t want to get shot at.

“I was worried about you for a minute there,” Clint told him when he got back. “That vamp was huge.”

“I fought in the demon trials,” Spike said. “He was child’s play compared to that.”

Clint only nodded in reply.

“Any idea how much time we have left?” Spike asked.

“Not much. Did you get everything done?” Clint asked. “I saw you leave the street with Xander and he didn’t come back. So I guess you did what you had to do. What about Angel, did he agree to help us?”

“He seemed to be willing to help until he figured out I was going to dust him. I told him this reality was going to cease to exist and then he thought I was emotionally torturing him. There wasn’t anyway to convince him I was telling the truth. We were running out of time so I dusted him.”

“Do you trust him to tell Beacon he’ll help us?”

“He’s free of his demon… he was never a good man. I don’t know what he’ll do.”

“We’ll be up the River Styx without a paddle if he doesn’t help us,” Clint said.

“There’s always plan B,” Spike said, scoffing at the reference to hell’s river. “What bothers me right now is why hasn’t Beacon opened a portal for us?”

“Maybe you have to call her?” Clint suggested.

“Beacon,” Spike called, “We’re ready to leave.”

Nothing happened. Spike and Clint looked at each other. They knew the reality was running out of time.

“Maybe we should say please? Clint asked.

“Supervisor Beacon,” Spike called, “please open a portal for us.”

Still no portal.

“Didn’t she say we have to be back before this place goes by-by?” Clint asked.

“She did,” Spike growled.

Suddenly there was a breeze and the smell of ozone as a portal began to open. Spike and Clint stepped through into the nesting house living room.

******

Sam and Callen retrieved the sanctified box from Hetty’s closet and were headed for for the car when they felt a ripple go through the hive. Callen looked at his Sentinel. He hadn’t expected this when they joined the hive. Sam hadn’t taken any of the Sentinel’s in a Sentinel-to-Sentinel bond, but for some reason the hive bond was very strong. It seemed as if they were constantly getting vibrations and waves through the link. He was well aware of the metaphysical side of being a Sentinel/Guide pair. They would not be Hetty’s bodyguards otherwise, but this seemed to go a step...deeper, yes that was definitely the word, deeper.

‘We need to get back,” Sam said. “I just felt a bump in the hive energy.”

“Me too,” Callen said. “It didn’t feel like an emergency. Callen was quiet for a moment then he decided to have the conversation that he wanted to have. “Sam, have you noticed how some of the guides in the hive are...polygamous?”

“They’re cross bonded,” Sam said.

“Well, don’t get any ideas about that for us,” Callen said. “I have enough to take care of with one high maintenance Sentinel.”

“Good to hear, Guide.” Sam said with a smile.

******

Riley lay glowing in Graham’s arm. The crossbond was done and Graham reached out for Peter and Wesley.

“I didn’t expect this,” Graham said as he stretched to make physical contact with all his pack members.

“This?” Peter asked as he snuggled in tight against Wesley and also reached to touch Riley.

“Jim said it would be...intense,” Graham said, “but the dance, we were all there...and then there was a shift of some kind and my perception changed. At the climax you weren’t just bonding with Riley; we were all there. I understand now what Wesley was saying the day of the Primal Scream. The Sentinel belongs to the Guide as much as the Guide belongs to the Sentinel… how could I not of understood?

“Blair said that Spike, Peter and Tim were metaphysical Guides,” Wesley said. “He told us it would open a door to a closer bond.”

The group suddenly felt a ripple in the hive link.

“We need to get out there,” Graham said. “Somethings happening.”

The Sentinels and Guides got dressed and headed for the living room.

******

The portal hadn’t quite closed before Jim was on Spike striping off his shirt.

“I’m okay, Jim,” Spike told him.

Jim gave a warning growl as all the hive members in the house converged on the living room. Blair and Xander tried to soothe Jim, but he shook them off. Blair changed tactics. “Jim, let’s go to the the nest. You can check Spike over in private.

Hetty watched with surprise. She had never seen a Sentinel lost in Blessed Protector Syndrome over another Sentinel. She knew Spike was Jim’s second, but this behavior was out of the norm.

Sweet went to Clint and he took her into his arms. “What happened, everything was fine before we went to the nest?”

“We saved Xander,” Clint said. “We’re not sure if Liam agreed to help us.”

Xander’s head popped up when he heard his name. “What?” he asked. “Saved me from what?”

“Xan,” Spike called. “Come to the nest, I’ll explain everything.”

Clint nuzzled Sweets neck. “I need a shower and I need you,” Clint told her and took her to their room.

“What the hell happened?” Graham asked. Everything was quiet. It certainly didn’t feel like we were under attack. All we felt was some kind of stress.”

“Sit down, get comfortable,” Gibbs said. “I’ll fill you in. Tony will you make us some coffee.”

“Abby,” Gibbs called. “I need you to look at the orb. Is there a soul in it?”

Abby looked down at the orb and then back at Gibbs. She nodded her head making her dark pigtails bob. “Yes, she said. They did it. They got his soul.”

@@@@@@

Later that evening

*******

The Orb of Thesulah sat in the middle of a darkened living room floor a circle of candles burned with steady flames. Their light reflected outward from the orb. The Sentinels and Guides, held hands and stood in a larger circle around the orb, Hetty, Sweet, and Blair began to chant. The candle flames began to flicker and the orb began to glow. The glow grew brighter as the chant continued and then the orb burst and the glow was gone.

******

Angelus was asleep in the Miller pack’s living room when the human soul found its destination and entered the Sentinel’s body. At first he demon struggled for dominance then Beacon appeared.

“Demon, in this reality human soules are blended with their demon from a past life to become a Sentinel. You are required to obey the rules of existence for the reality you live in.” A beam of light hit the human body in the chest and Angel, a true Sentinel, was born.

******

“Come on,” Graham growled. “We’re going home and get that bastard out of my house.”

“You don’t even know that he’s there,” Abby said.

“Yes I do,” Graham told her. “It’s what I’d do, wait in my house to ambush me.”

“You can’t kill him,” Spike said. “He’s a true Sentinel now and he’s still as strong as I am.”

“I want him out of my house.” Graham said.

“I’ll send a team,” Gibbs said. “We’ll lock him up at NCSIA.”

“He may leave on his own, but if he is there tell them to use dart guns,” Spike said. “If he’s killed hell may be able to send him back as Angelus. We can’t take that chance.”

Gibbs made the call.

******

It was nearly midnight when the group had finished preparing to call Moloch. Spike remembered how to make a demon trap, but Jim didn’t want his living room carpet ruined so the group decided to move to the garage for the ceremony. The demon trap, a five pointed star was painted in red on the garage floor and surrounded with runes. Candles were lit and circled the pentagram. The sanctified box sat in the middle, it’s silver leaf lining glistened in the candlelight.
The demon trap and candles were encircled with salt. The Sentinels and Guides made up the outer circle. Blair, Sweet, and Hetty were equal distance from each other in the circle. They held hands and at midnight began their chant. Within moments the candles began to flicker and an opaque black cloud began to rise up through the floor.

The shapeless cloud grew to six feet tall and then it roared. “Who calls me forth?”

The Guides ignored the roar and kept chanting.

The demon cloud charged forward, but the trap held him. Moloch roared his frustration and charged each chanter in turn. Blair, Sweet, and Hetty continued chanting louder and faster they fell into a thrall and began to glow. Their energy spread throughout the circle until each Guide glowed. A vortex grew from the sanctified box and the demon’s roars of frustration changed to a roar of fear. The vortex began pulling at the black cloud. The demon tried to pull against it, but it was a losing battle. Suddenly the vortex swallowed the cloud. It collapsed into the box and the cover slammed shut.

Blair, Sweet, and Hetty collapsed and were caught by their Sentinel before they hit the floor. Sam, Hetty’s bodyguard, picked her up and took her to the living room. Clint took Sweet to their nest and Jim carried Blair to their nesting room.

The rest of the Sentinels and Guides stood staring at the box. It was Tony who decided to bring up the elephant in the room.

“I feel like a dog that was chasing a car and caught it. Has anyone thought about what we’re going to do with that thing now we have it?” he asked.

“We should lock it with silver chains,” Spike said.

“Good idea,” Xander said, “But we can’t put it back in Hetty’s closet.”

“No we can’t,” Gibbs said. “But the government has warehouses. The kind where things are put that you never want to be found. I can have it crated up and sent there.”

“We need to keep it secret,” Graham said. “and have it guarded during transport.”

“The demon trap should be painted on all six inner sides of the crate,” Spike said.

“Is there anything we can put on the outside of the box to make sure it’s never opened?” Peter asked.

“Top secrete, do not open, do not destroy,” Gibbs said. “Nothing is one hundred percent certain but I can put a notification alarm on the crate so NCSIA will get a notice if anyone enquires about it.”

“That sounds good,” McGee said, “But what do we do with it tonight?”

“Put a guard on it,” Gibbs said. “I’ll take first watch. Abby, Can you make some coffee?”

Chapter Text

No one slept well, not after seeing that thing rise up out of the garage floor. The Sentinels ended up taking three hour shifts in pairs on guard duty. McGee simply wouldn’t let Gibbs take watch by himself. The problem was that here were only five Sentinels, not counting Xander who everyone agreed was a Guide and not yet trained as a Sentinel, so Peter agreed to stay and take a watch with Spike. Jim teamed up with Clint. It was the first time he got to spend one-on-one time with the Marshal. From both Sentinel’s points of view it was time well spent.

Graham wanted to get back to his house and check it out but he was unhappy about not having his chosen second at his side, so Sam agreed to accompany him after taking Callen and Hetty to a safe house. Gibbs had gotten confirmation that Angel/Angelus was locked up at the NCSIA building, but there was always the small chance that the Initiative was laying in wait and Hetty felt it was not safe for her to return home due to her non-compliance with providing the Department of Guide Proliferation with the list of Guides that they demanded.

That left the problem of what to do with the Guides while his or her respective Sentinels were on guard duty. Jim solved the problem. Everyone would sleep in the nesting room for the night. That way no Guide would be left alone. Gibbs offered his unused guest bedroom for any sentinel that felt the need to re-bond in privacy. The plan worked...sort of...It was just that nobody slept well. Xander was stressed and needed to suckle Blair which put pheromones into the air. The Sentinels did indeed need to bond, but no one wanted to desert the pack to use the guest bedroom. They were, after all, Sentinel brothers, most had experience as soldiers in a war zone, and bonding with their Guides...that was simply who they were.

******

The armored car arrived right on time at zero six hundred hours. They brought the crate along with packing material. Spike painted the six red demon trap symbols on the inside of each of the crate sides. After the pain dried he deposited the packing material and the box into the crate. The group decided they would have to forgo the silver chains. Not only was the financial cost prohibitive, but they would have to be custom made and that would take time. The driver watched silently as he sat on a folding chair and sipped on a cup of coffee Blair brought to him. He knew instinctively not to ask questions or offer to do any work the Sentinels did not ask of him. He had never been around so many Alphas and, as far as he could tell, they were all high ranking. He would be glad to get this job over with and get home to his guide.

Gibbs fixed the armored car driver with his steely gaze. “Two guard cars will be here within five minutes, one will lead and one will follow. They have a second driver for the armored car and two driver each for their cars. You will drive through, rest stops only. Eat in your vehicles while traveling. At no time is the crate to be left without a guard. The crate is to be delivered to warehouse 9 section X,” Gibbs told the Sentinel driver, as he handed him an envelope containing the written order. “A level seven alarm is to be attached, no other markings are to be put on the crate. You are to see to it personally. Wait at the warehouse until the crate is shelved. You will never speak of this assignment and you will burn your orders after execution. Do I make myself clear, Sentinel?”

“Crystal, General Gibbs.”

”The Guide standing to your left is a Mindwalker.” Gibbs told the driver. “She will ask you some question and you will answer.”

“Yes, General.”

Gibbs nodded and Sweet and Clint stepped forward. “My name is Sweet the Sentinel standing beside me is my bond mate Sentinel Marshal Clint Barton. What is your name Sentinel?” she asked.

“Sentinel Staff Sergeant Trystin Ward, Mam.”

“May I touch your hand, Sentinel Ward?” Sweet asked.

The Staff Sergeant looked straight ahead at a spot on the wall behind Sweet. There was no way he was going to look into a Mindwalker's eyes. Now this... she wanted to touch him. “Not without your Sentinel’s approval, Mam,” he told her knowing that no Alpha Sentinel would let his guide touch a strange Sentinel, even if he was a beta.

“She has my permission, Sentinel,” Clint told him. “She only requires yours. The touch will be quick. It will last less than one second. Do you give your permission.”

Sentinel Ward shifted his gaze to General Gibbs. His eyes were full of questions, questions he did not get a chance to ask.

“He wants to say no,” Sweet said, “but he feels that the General wants him to co-operate. So he will say yes, but not of his own accord, he’ll give it because he feels it’s his duty. I can’t accept his yes unless it is given freely.”

“I do my duty freely,” Sentinel Ward said, annoyed that the Mind walker would infer otherwise.

Sweet could feel the change in the Sentinel and she reached out and quickly touched his hand. She was ready for the information that came through her touch. She looked at Gibbs. “He will do his duty, General. He will not betray his country or his commitment to service.”

Sweet looked at Sentinel Ward. “Do you give your word that you will never speak of this assignment, or of this house?” Sweet asked.

“I give my word,” Sentinel Ward said.

“He’s telling the truth,” Sweet told Gibbs.

“Xander,” Gibbs called.

Xander stepped out from the shadows and looked at the General. “I don’t sense any trouble. It should get there safely.”

“The escort is here. You can go now,” Gibbs said to the driver.

Sentinel Staff Sergeant Trystin Ward was only too happy to leave and forget he was ever at the house with all the odd behaving Sentinels and Guides. Whatever was in that weird looking box...he did NOT want to know. He had delivered many top secret crates, but this was the first time he had been questioned by a Mind walker, much less touched by one. He didn’t need a Guide to tell him that house was full of stress, it made his skin crawl. He was just happy to get out of the house before all the Alphs started to kill each other.

@@@@@@

The Hive’s relief was short lived. Moloch and Angelus were taken care of, but there was still the matter of abducted Guides, the new laws true intentions of genetic manipulation and enslavement of Guides and the genetic manipulation of Sentinels, along with The Initiative’s continuing efforts to take over the Agency of Sentinel Affairs. Gibbs was sure the NCSIA was next on The Initiative’s list of agencies to be taken down. Ducky had said as much before they left D.C. He thought the mole was Spike. Gibbs new better but still, taking over the NCSIA was the logical next step. The Initiative had tried to get rid of Miller by attempting to take his Guide. There was a good chance that that the deep government group would try the same tactic to remove him from his directorship.

It was after lunch when everyone was sitting at the table that the doorbell rang. Jim went to the door with Spike, Gibbs and Clint followed as back up. When Jim realized it was the mailman he opened the door. The Letter Carrier was a Beta Sentinel and froze for a moment when he saw a group of Alpha’s staring at him.

“It’s okay Harry,” Jim said. “They’re friends.” He didn’t feel the need to give any further explanation.

Harry swallowed hard and managed to get his voice back. “I have registered letters for you and Sentinel Spikeman. I require both signatures.” He handed Jim his letter. “Sign here.” Harry handed Spike’s letter to him. “Sign at the X, please,” he told him.

******

The Sentinels took their letters and returned to the kitchen table. Jim gave a subliminal growl when he read the return address.

“What is it,” Xander asked. As Spike tore open his envelope.

“It’s from The Department of Guide Proliferation,” Spike said as he read the letter. “This is a scheduled appointment for sperm and blood deposit.”

Gibbs brought up the inevitable. “We need to come up with a plan on how to deal with The Initiative and Washington Genetics. Now that we’ve gotten rid of Angelus and Moloch the new laws are not going to fall apart by themselves. Those letters prove it.”

“You’re the one with an agency at your disposal,” Jim said. “It just makes sense that you coordinate any actions we take.”

Gibbs looked around the table. Everyone nodded, Sentinels and Guides alike. Jim had deferred to rank in his own territory. Everyone at the table understood what that meant, this was no longer covert resistance, they were now engaged in open war.

“The first thing we need is more intel,” Gibbs continued. “Abby and McGee are at the computer safe house. Sentinel Morgan and his Guide Dr. Spencer are putting together a lot of information but we are limited on what we can get from computer hacking. Ducky will be back from the medical convention tomorrow. He may have some pertinent information for us about Washington Genetics plans. Hetty seems to have contacts, we’ll have to see if they can get more information for us. We need someone inside The Initiative.”

“We have someone on the inside,” Xander said, “Angel.”

“He murdered Graham’s secretary,” Tony said. “We can’t trust him.”

“That was Angelus,” Spike said. “Angel is a different person. I can talk to him, there is a good chance he would help us, or at least give us intel.”

“Do you really think he can be trusted?” Gibbs asked.

“He worked with Buffy in Sunnydale.” Spike said. “Angel never betrayed her, he was obsessed with working for redemption.”

“He wasn’t against doing some very bad things to very bad people,” Xander said. “He locked a bunch if Wolfram and Hart lawyers in a room with Darla and Drusilla. They left one Lawyer alive to tell the story."

“I didn’t know about that,” Spike said, “but it doesn’t surprise me. If they were evil he would have considered them fair game.”

“So where does that leave us?” Clint asked. “Can we trust him or not?”

“I’ll question him,” Sweet said. “I’ll be able to tell if he’s trustworthy.”

“NO!” Clint said. “You’re not getting anywhere near him. I don’t want him knowing who you are.”

“It’s okay,” Spike said. “Sweet doesn’t have to talk to him. I’ll be able to tell if he can be trusted. He’s my Grandsire, he can’t lie to me without me knowing it. It would be the same as a Guide trying to lie to his Sentinel.

“You’re not going alone Spike,” Gibbs said. “I’m going with you. I’ll get in touch with McGee and Hetty, through the hive link and let them know it’s official, We’re about to engage in open war with The Initiative.

End

Please look for Runaway Guide 4 - The War.