Disclaimer: The Sentinel and all of its characters belong to PetFly Productions not me. I'm just doing this to relieve some stress. Thanks to Wolfie for beta reading this for me (after her not so gentle prodding for me to finish this smile) and everyone for their compliments about my first fanfic. As always, feedback is welcome (make that 'craved') :)


DISCOVERY



#2 Return



Storm






"Damn it!" she muttered under her breath, when she saw Jim had lost consciousness. Glancing back, she saw the remains of Victor's compound now only a burnt out husk. Shakari turned back towards the two unconscious forms on the ground.

I don't understand. How could this be happening without my knowledge? I'm supposed to be taking over soon and this is what happens. Okay, girl. One thing at a time. Get the two of them back to the campsite. Fortunately, Victor and his associates hadn't destroyed anything back there, hoping to lure her back by making it look as though everything had been normal. With her enhanced senses, she could tell that something was seriously wrong with Jim. His heart-rate had slowed down to an alarming rate and his breathing was barely detectable. Blair's condition was improving however and she thought that he would wake up soon. Her eyes began to fill with tears as she remembered what had happened to her friend. She quickly brushed them away. No time for that now. I have to treat them and get help. I can't do this alone. She gently picked up her friends, one in each arm and started to run back to their camp.

She covered the ground quickly and in ten minutes, she was laying them on the ground. She quickly went into Jim's tent, her jaw clenching as she saw the blood on his sleeping bag and found the first-aid kit. Then she went through Blair's belongings to find some extra clothes. After pulling out a T-shirt and some jeans, she made a quick trip to the stream, filling two canteens with water.

Her heart ached as she sat down beside Jim, resuming her human form in the meantime. She gently used a wet cloth to wipe away the dried blood from his left temple and then checked his pupils. Shakari frowned when she saw that they were almost fully dilated and she could barely see the blue color of his irises. She only knew scant details about the legend of the Sentinels whose existence were known to her own people. Many thought that they didn't exist anymore but one was laying next to her. She had known from the day that she had met Jim at the airport that there was something unusual about him. However, she hadn't gotten any indication that he was a werewolf when she had used her senses on him. Shakari had racked her brain, trying to figure out what abilities Jim had possessed to make her...recognize him, or at least what he was in the core of her being. Then when Blair had had the nightmare and she saw Jim navigate his apartment in almost complete darkness, she knew that he was a Sentinel, living proof of the legends that she had heard from her teacher.

Checking the cut on the side of his head, she bandaged it but she was still worried. The cut was not deep enough to have sent Jim into this state. It was almost as though he was catatonic. She closed her eyes and tried to remember the tales. Okay, he was a Sentinel, so that meant that Blair was his Guide but why wouldn't he wake up? She could remember a vague reference to a state that Sentinels went into sometimes. Could this be it? I need Blair.

She got up and knelt beside Blair. He was a full werewolf now. How she didn't know but when she probed him with her mind again she had no doubt of his altered state. As she started to dress him she decided that she had to try to contact Lawrence. Jim's cell phone wouldn't work in the mountains so she had to try other methods. I don't know if I'm ready but I'm going to try. I can't do this alone and the others must find out what's been going on out here. When she had finished dressing Blair, Shakari gently laid him back on the ground. She put her hand on his forehead and closed her eyes, using her other abilities to examine him. He was definitely going to wake up soon. I have to be here to calm him down.

Walking a few meters away, Shakari sat down cross-legged on the ground. Her back was totally straight and she rested her hands on her thighs, her fingers loosely curled. She began to morph, her hair growing until she was covered in black fur. Shakari began to block out her surroundings, slowly withdrawing into the center of her being, her breathing barely detectable. Then she pictured her old friend, Lawrence and with all of her might she called to him in her mind. If anyone had been awake to see her, they would have noticed the white claw marks on her right thigh becoming so white that they almost seemed to glow.


Washington DC

Lawrence Franklin walked out of his bedroom, stretching his arms behind his back, trying to get his body to come to full awareness. He entered his small kitchen and opened the fridge, staring blearily at the almost bare shelves. Sighing, he picked up the carton of orange juice and walked towards a cupboard to retrieve some cereal.

"I really, really need to go shopping," he muttered to himself.

He was reaching for the cereal box when he heard the voice clearly in his mind, "Lawrence?"

He dropped the carton of juice that he had been holding and spun around, swearing that he had heard Shakari's voice. Then he heard her speak again, this time the voice a bit fainter. His eyes widened as he realized that she was communicating with him telepathically. But how? She wasn't supposed to be able to accomplish that yet.

He closed his eyes and asked, "Shakari? Is that you? But how...?"

She cut him off abruptly. "Lawrence, I don't have much time. Talking to you is using up a lot of my energy and I need to be in perfect condition right now. Just listen. Something's happened. Something that affects the entire clan. Can you make it to this address as soon as possible?"

Images of a forest and a house flashed through his head. "Yeah, I can be there in about five hours but what's going on?"

"Can't tell you now. Have to go. I'll see you." Then Lawrence heard nothing.

"Shit!" he slammed his fist on the counter, breaking the tiles. He rushed into his room and grabbed some clothes, throwing them into an overnight bag. What the hell is going on?


The forest

Shakari shuddered as she came back to full awareness, breathing hard. She kept her eyes closed for a few minutes, trying to bring her breathing back under control but she couldn't help but smile a little. She had done it! She was one of the few members of her kind that had managed to communicate telepathically at her young age and she had done it without the aid of an elder. Shakari opened her eyes and allowed herself to resume her human form. She got up gracefully and was about to start packing the camping equipment when she heard a low moan from Blair.

She rushed over and knelt beside her friend. "Blair?" she asked softly. "Come on, Blair. Time to wake up." She touched his brow gently.

Blair could hear a voice speaking to him through the blackness. He wanted to sleep and tried to roll over on his side to get more comfortable. But the voice was now accompanied by something shaking his shoulder.

"Blair!" The voice said more sharply. Blair decided to open his eyes and maybe whoever it was would stop shaking him.

"Thank God!" exclaimed Shakari when she saw Blair's incredibly blue eyes looking up at her. "You were beginning to scare me, Blair," she said smiling.

"Shakari?" he asked with a raspy voice. "What happened? Why am I lying out here? I feel...strange." Blair's heart rate began to get faster as he realized he could almost feel an aura coming from Shakari.

"Blair, it's going to be alright, just calm down."

"What's wrong with me?" he asked, almost shouting. "Oh, god," Blair whispered, his eyes widening in horror. Blair began to breathe hard as he remembered being pinned to the table, then feeling as though his blood was on fire. The details became blurry but he could almost still feel the incredible pain that had run through his body, making him scream. He had begged for Jim to help him but his Sentinel had been helpless. Then...all he could remember after that was incredible rage when he saw them hurting his Sentinel, his friend. The memories that were agitating Blair were also making him change, his nails turning into claws.

Blair's eyes widened even more as he could feel his body changing. He looked down at his hand and saw the changes taking place. No, no, no.

Shakari watched in sympathy as Blair looked back and forth from his clawed hand to her face.

"Shakari?" He looked at her and was shocked when he saw that she wasn't in the least afraid, only sad. "How? I don't...why?" he stammered and his eyes began to fill with tears. His expressive face a perfect image of the shock, confusion and fear that were battling to be released.

She grasped the sides of his head and looked directly into his eyes. "Blair, listen to me. I can explain some of what has happened to you but not now. We have to get out of here. I know you're upset but you have to help me with Jim."

At the mention of his friend's name, Blair snapped out of the despair and he wrenched his face out of her grasp, searching for his friend. When he saw him lying a few feet away, Blair got up and ran over to Jim's side, falling on his knees.

"Jim?" Blair asked touching his shoulder. He didn't consciously register the fact that he could now hear Jim's heartbeat and respiration but as soon as he realized how slow they were he knew what was wrong. "A zone-out. Jim listen to my voice. I know you can hear me, man."

The Sentinel had shut down his brain when he realized that he had failed to protect his Guide. Blair was now changed forever and he couldn't accept the transformation that Blair had undergone. Jim Ellison's world was darkness and he wanted it that way. Outside he would have to face his failure. Here, he was safe and guiltless. Then he heard a voice, a voice that he had heard hundreds of times when he was in this place, trying to lead him back into the real world. But he wouldn't listen this time. He would stay here forever.

Blair realized that his instructions weren't working. "Damn it, Jim! Snap out of it!" he shouted, gripping Jim's hand. Jim couldn't leave him like this. He needed him. He needed Jim to tell him it was all a bad dream, that they were still in the loft. Jim would come and wake him from the nightmare. He needed him. The tears that had been threatening, began to spill over as he gripped Jim's hand more tightly. "Jim, please man. I need you." The last words dropped so that they were almost inaudible by a normal human's standards but not for a Sentinel.

Jim remained in the comfort of the darkness, a place where he could feel nothing, until he heard the distress in the speaker's voice. Suddenly, he realized that it was his Guide speaking, that he was in trouble and without a second thought, Jim abandoned the comforting emptiness and followed the sound of his friend's voice. He opened his eyes and became aware of a hand that was gripping his own almost painfully. The blurred image beside him cleared into the form of his Guide, who had Jim's hand held to his bent head.

Blair gasped as he felt a hand wiping away his tears and looked down to Jim's smiling face.

"Hey," Jim said weakly, his voice barely above a whisper.

"Jim? Man, don't do that to me ever again. You wouldn't snap out of it. And then I didn't know what to do cause you wouldn't listen to me and everything's just all wrong and..." Blair babbled.

"Chief? Shut up. It's alright. It was my fault, ok." Jim wanted to say more, to find out from Blair how much he remembered but he could feel himself losing consciousness again.

"Jim?" Blair looked at Shakari as she came and knelt down beside him, lifting up one of Jim's eyelids.

"It's alright, Blair. He's just sleeping. I suspect that he's got a mild concussion. He should be okay in a few hours but we need to be somewhere else right now. I don't know how long we'll be safe out here."

"Shakari, I need to know what's happened to me," Blair said, looking into her eyes with a determined look that was tinged by a healthy dose of fear.

She put a brown hand on his shoulder. "I know you're scared, with good reason to be but you have to trust me when I tell you that I'll find a way to help you."

Blair could only nod. He knew that something was wrong with him and he could tell that there was something not quite human about Shakari either but he trusted her. He watched as she quickly packed up the gear and stowed it in the Expedition. Blair turned back to his injured friend and prayed for someone to help them get through this new twist in their life.

When she had finished packing the Expedition, Shakari said, "Blair, I need to go back to Victor's complex, okay? I'll be gone for fifteen minutes tops."

"Alright, Shakari," he replied, running a slightly shaking hand through his tangled brown curls, "we're safe now, I hope."

"Yes, there's no one else around now. I'll be back." She turned around and in a instant she seemed to disappear, running through the trees.

"Safe," whispered Blair to himself. Somehow he didn't quite believe it. Trying to banish the negative thoughts from his mind, he turned his attention to Jim. The Guide watching over the Sentinel, the way it had always been.


True to her words, fifteen minutes later, Shakari emerged from the forest carrying some burnt electrical circuit boards.

"Whoa, why did you need to get those? Aren't they useless?" asked Blair when he saw her packing the circuit boards into the Expedition.

"Most of the computer was destroyed in the explosion but these boards were relatively intact. I need to find out what's going on here. There is no way that I shouldn't have known that something like this was happening. While you were out, I contacted a friend who can help us with this stuff. He'll meet us at an old hideout off mine. That's where we're going." As she was talking, Shakari walked over and bent down next to Jim. Blair jumped up and threw one of Jim's arms over his shoulder, ready to help Shakari drag him to the truck but she put a hand on his chest and stopped him.

"You don't remember what happened after the transformation, do you?" she asked with a wry smile.

"No, the last thing I remember is Jim being strangled and then nothing. What does that have to do with carrying Jim?"

"It's alright, Blair. I can carry him." To his shock, Shakari picked up Jim as easily as one would carry a child and walked towards the Expedition. "Come on, Blair," she said not turning her head, "we don't have much time."


Four hours later

The Expedition pulled up in front of the log cabin and Shakari was relieved that they had finally reached the hideout. Her kind had established the area years ago but only a select few of them knew about it. Lawrence didn't but he would get there with little trouble thanks to an unerring sense of direction her people possessed. She turned off the engine and looked at her passengers. They were both asleep. Blair was sitting up with Jim's head in his lap.

"Blair, wake up," she said, reaching back and touching his knee.

Blair's eyes snapped open and he blinked a couple of times. "We're there?" was all he asked.

"Yeah."

She got out of the front and opened the back door. Shakari gently eased Jim out of the back seat, easily lifting him into her arms. Blair shook his head ruefully as he watched her carrying Jim's massive form as though she were holding a baby. He hopped out of the Expedition and retrieved their backpacks, amazed that he could carry all three of them in one hand with little effort. The scientific part of his mind began to wonder at the way that the transformation had altered his body and the precise effects.

He followed her into the house and shut the door. Shakari set Jim's unconscious form on the couch and checked him over again. Satisfied that he was merely sleeping now, she looked up at the ceiling which was at least fifteen feet over their heads.

"This is a nice place, Shakari. I'm just sorry we're not here on vacation."

She glanced at him. "I know," she replied. "But you haven't seen anything yet."

"What do you mean?" he asked, his eyebrows raised.

"You'll see," she said with a knowing grin. She looked up at one of the wooden beams high above their heads and easily leapt up onto one of them, her bare feet making a slight noise as she landed.

She looked down at Blair and smiled as she saw his mouth hanging open. Shakari then walked casually along the beam towards the nearest wall. She opened a hidden panel there and punched a fifteen digit number into an exposed keypad.

Blair spun around as he saw one of the walls slowly spin around to reveal a staircase. He heard the light impact of Shakari landing on the floor but he was having trouble processing what he had seen. She walked past him with Jim in her arms once again and stopped at the head of the staircase.

"Come on, Blair."

Sighing, he followed her.

When Jim opened his eyes, he realized that the searing pain next to his left temple had been replaced by a dull ache. Where...?

"Jim. Hey, man, welcome back to the land of the living." Jim turned his head towards the sound of Blair's voice and was greeted by a wide grin. Blair was sitting next to the Sentinel, who was lying on a cot, clutching his hand.

"Hey, there yourself," he replied, his voice much stronger than before. He sat up slowly, noting that he wasn't dizzy. He reached up to feel his bandaged temple.

"It isn't serious, man," said Blair. "You just needed to sleep awhile." Blair paused, his eyes lowering to the floor. "You scared me, Jim."

"Blair, I'm fine. Really." Jim reached up and lifted Blair's face to look at his own. He turned up his senses, scanning his Guide. As his body registered the changes in his Guide, he began to clench his jaw.

Blair knew that Jim was using his senses to check him out and he closed his eyes. "You can tell, can't you? Of course you can, you're the human crime lab." Blair rose from the seat and walked towards the center of the room. "Let's see where to start, the fact that my heart rate is way slower than a normal human's, my senses are sharper than ever, my scent has changed." With the last sentence, he turned around and faced a shocked Jim, "Did I get everything?"

"You can sense those things?" asked Jim quietly.

"Sort of. Shakari said that the amount of sensory input depends on what form I assume. Right now, I can't detect your heartbeat but I can sense the change in my body. Jim, man, this is amazing! I mean, one part of me is scared to death and freaking out. I mean, werewolves? Come on, I believe in some pretty strange stuff but I always thought they were legends but now I'm one of them." Blair's eyes then lit up. "Jim, I can sense my own body, man. I can hear my heart beating. I can feel the air going into my bloodstream." His hands were waving in the air as he talked excitedly. "Is this what it's like for you?"

Jim got up from the cot and walked towards his partner, resting his hands on Blair's shoulders. "Blair, I know that you're overwhelmed here, Chief, but we've got to be careful. We know nothing about Shakari. She's one of them. She was lying to us from the start and now you've changed."

"Jim, she saved our lives, man! What are you saying?"

"Chief, you didn't know this but she left the camp sometime during the night. She wasn't there when we were taken and look what's happened to you."

Blair's eyes hardened. "Jim. Just because she's a werewolf doesn't make her a bad guy, man. If it wasn't for her we wouldn't be standing here right now. Do you think she's some sort of freak now, huh? Is that was you think about me?" With every sentence his voice got louder and louder and Jim could see his body beginning to slowly morph.

"Chief, calm down. Of course I don't think that about you. I'm just saying that we have to be careful here. You may think that this is part of that roller coaster ride that you think you're on but do you understand what's happened? You can't go back to life as normal!" Jim's voice became hard, his eyes flashing.

"Jim, you are so way off base here it isn't even funny, man." Blair took a deep breath and, with effort, he calmed down. The hair on his arms receded to normal length and Jim was awed as he saw the claws morph into fingernails. "Look, I can't explain how I know but she's special Jim. There's another werewolf with her, now, a friend of her's called Lawrence. I can feel their presence but it's like some sort of aura is coming from her. I know that he's there with her but it's not the same thing. She is hiding something but nothing to hurt us! I've known her a lot longer than you have and you've got to get over your hangups about her race! You don't exactly fit into the rest of humanity's definition of normal, do you?"

Jim flinched as he remembered the advice that his Spirit Guide had given to him in the dream before this nightmare had started. Your preconceptions and fears could put you and your Guide in jeopardy. Only through her can the two of you succeed. "Alright, Chief, I'm sorry, I was out of line there. It's just that..."

Blair put a hand on Jim's shoulder and said, "It's just that Blessed Protector part of you speaking. I've been changed in such a way that now you're helpless."

Jim smiled slightly and said, "You always know what's going on with me don't you?"

"Naw, man. Most of the time you have that stoic expression on your face and I have to pry information out of you," said Blair with a wide grin on his face. "Come on. Shakari said to meet her when you woke up."

They walked through the massive underground complex until Blair led the pair into a room with a huge computer screen at the far end. Jim could see Shakari leaning over a blond-haired man who was typing something. As they entered, Shakari straightened up and turned towards them.

"Jim, how's the head?" she asked, touching the bandage that she had placed there.

"I'll live," he said. Shakari was in that strange half human form that she had assumed earlier and Jim couldn't help but admire her beauty. She looked nothing like the images in B-quality horror flicks. She was covered in a fine black fur but her features were still human. Her hair, much longer in her present form, was pulled into a ponytail. Shakari had an air of dignity about her that he hadn't noticed before and she moved with unbelievable grace.

"That's good to hear. Jim, this is Lawrence, an old dear friend of him."

Lawrence rose from the chair and stretched his hand out, "It's nice to meet you, Jim."

"Likewise," replied Jim, taking the offered hand.

Lawrence stepped back and looked at Jim, "A Sentinel. I never thought I would meet another one in my lifetime."

Blair and Jim exchanged shocked glances with each other. Blair was the first one to speak, "You.. you know that he's a Sentinel?"

"Yes, the same way that I know you're his Guide," answered Shakari. "Sentinels have been known among our kind for generations but recently there haven't been many." Shakari looked at Jim and said, "Actually, I thought that no more existed until I met you at the airport. When we first touched, I felt a connection with you but my suspicions weren't confirmed until I saw you navigating the loft in almost complete darkness. But we can't talk about that now, we have to figure out who is backing Victor's little experiments."

Lawrence turned back to the keyboard and typed a few commands. "From what Shakari told me earlier, most of the computer equipment was destroyed in the explosion. Obviously, Victor wanted to make sure all of his research was destroyed but," he glanced back at them with a small smile on his face, "I'm a computer expert, among other things and our technology is superior to his, so we've managed to recover some stuff."

Everyone looked at the enormous screen as a chemical formula was displayed. Lawrence said, "Now, this is the serum that was used on Blair and this is where things get interesting."

"Interesting? How?" asked Jim.

Shakari sighed and looked towards Blair and Jim. She continued, "Werewolves are not that much different from the rest of humanity genetically speaking. Our people figured out years ago that it was only a series of chemicals that our bodies produced which gave us our abilities. The serum that Victor produced contains some of those chemicals but not all. That's why his earlier creations could only partially transform."

"So are you saying that I can only partially transform, then?" asked Blair, his eyebrows raised.

"No, Blair. You're a full werewolf."

"But how?" asked Jim frowning.

Lawrence turned around in the chair and said, "Before you woke up Jim, we took a sample of Blair's blood and did a genetic test. I don't know how much you guys know about genetics but to put it in layman's terms Blair has the genes to make him a werewolf."

"Hold on a minute," said Jim. He started to pace and continued, "I've never detected anything different about Blair. I would've sensed something about his physiology to make me suspect something."

"We believe that Blair is from a family where the werewolf blood has been diminished. You see, werewolves and humans can mate freely and have offspring. It's been happening for generations now and some of the descendants are almost fully human now. Their werewolf aspect is almost never fully manifested," replied Shakari.

Lawrence continued, "But Blair is special." He typed something on the keyboard and DNA came up on the screen. "Here is Blair's DNA and here is Shakari's. We've color-coded the individual genes and you can see for yourself the similarities."

Everyone watched the screen. Jim looked carefully and saw only one difference between Shakari's and Blair's DNA. "That one gene, right there," said Jim, pointing it out with his finger. "That's the only one different, so why did Blair never manifest himself as a werewolf, before?"

"That, my friend, is the sole reason," said Shakari. "That is the gene which makes us what we are. If that gene isn't active in the individual's body, the other genes which make us different can't be expressed. You see, somehow all of the genes to make a werewolf are in his DNA. Both his maternal and parental lines had werewolf blood somewhere along the line for this to happen. Even so, it's still amazing, a one in a million chance to produce this sort of combination."

"So you mean that mine was inactive?" asked Blair. "Did Victor's serum somehow activate it?"

"That's what we figure. In humans, the serum just gives the individual the ability to manifest some of our traits temporarily," said Lawrence. From the little data that we have collected, we think that Victor had to give his little experiments doses of the serum regularly to keep them as they were. But, one of the chemicals in the serum activated the gene in your body, Blair and now you're one of us."

"I don't understand how he got the serum in the first place," said Jim. "Victor talked about some mysterious employer or something."

Shakari's eyes hardened as she listened to Jim and she glanced briefly at Lawrence. "We don't know. The circuit boards that I recovered were badly damaged. We were lucky to get enough information about Victor's experiments to figure out what he was doing." She began to pace, "I won't lie to you guys. I'm worried. Everything points to another werewolf being involved in this scheme. The only way that Victor could've developed the serum is with werewolf DNA to work with."

"Well, he could've gotten a DNA sample without the werewolf's knowledge, couldn't he?" asked Blair.

"Yes, it's possible, especially if he got hold of one of the weaker ones but instincts are telling me that he hasn't done that. Someone in the clan is working with this psycho. What they're trying to achieve I don't know but we have to find out."

"So, what about me? Can you guys change me back to normal?" asked Blair quietly.

Shakari sighed and Lawrence rose from the chair. He said, "We don't know, Blair."

"What do you mean, you don't know?" he asked, his voice rising. Jim could hear a slight tremor in his Guide's voice. "I can't live like this!"

Shakari put her hands on one of his shoulders and started to say, "Blair, you can live a perfectly normal live as a werewolf but it'll take..."

"Time! How am I going to go to school, huh?" Blair wrenched his shoulder from Shakari's grasp and showed them his now clawed hand. "Every time I get upset, this is what happens! I'm going to get some air." Without another word, Blair spun around and stormed out of the room.

Jim started to follow but Shakari stopped him, "Jim, bring him back please. They're things he has to know that only I can teach him. He can lead a normal life but there are dangers," she paused and sighed. "God only knows what he's going through right now but he can't do this alone."

The Sentinel looked at Shakari and thought about what he had seen in the past two days. He didn't want to trust her but as he looked at her face, her eyes showing the concern that they felt for their mutual friend, the last vestiges of mistrust melted away. He clasped her hand briefly and said, "I will." Then he walked after his Guide.

Lawrence said quietly behind her, "Will they be alright?"

"Yes," Shakari replied. "The bond between the two of them is strong. They would do anything for each other and that's the only thing that will get them through this."


Jim walked through the underground complex, only dimly aware of it's enormity. His thoughts were in turmoil. How could this be happening? He felt bitter towards his Spirit Guide. It had said that they would go through a trial but he had expected nothing like this. He flashed back to the times that Blair had been in danger, the time that David Lash had almost taken his partner away from him. Blair, lying on the hospital bed, only alive because of the respirator that was breathing for him. Being shot by Quinn. At the mercy of the psychotic Galileo. Jim sighed as he thought about the dangers that Blair had faced since meeting him.

Jim followed Blair's scent out of the cabin and through the forest. "Blair?" he called. "Buddy, answer me." But only silence greeted his request. Jim clenched his jaw and walked further, opening his hearing for any sign of his Guide.

After a half-hour had passed, Jim began to get worried. He was still tracking Blair by his scent but all of his calls had gone unanswered. He had begun to wonder how safe this place was when he picked up Blair's heartbeat. Relieved, Jim picked up his pace in the direction of the welcoming sound. He was led to a clearing and he paused. Blair was sitting with his back to Jim, just staring over a nearby cliff.

"Hey, Jim," he said, not turning around.

Jim moved forward and sat down beside his friend, "I was getting worried there, Sandburg."

"Sorry, man. I just..." Blair paused, taking a deep breath. "I just needed some time alone, you know, to try and work things through in my head." He ran a shaky hand through his long curly hair, brushing away a few stray strands that had fallen into his face. "I can't believe this is happening to me. Now I know how you felt when you first realized about your senses, Jim. I mean, I knew that you were upset and why wouldn't you be but I understand now."

Jim said nothing. He knew that right now, Blair just wanted to talk for awhile. He just nodded his head, wanting Blair to continue.

"I mean, it's like, I'm superhuman now, or something, Jim! I can...feel the difference. I hear things that I couldn't hear before, man. I can see..." Blair paused and looked over the cliff. He smiled suddenly and pointed his finger, "There. Right there."

Jim followed Blair's direction and gasped as he looked down into the creek in the bottom of the ravine and saw a group of tadpoles near some rocks. He turned back to see Blair grinning from ear to ear. "You can see that far?" Jim asked.

"Well, Jim, I did point it out, you know. Of course, I can see it! It was amazing. I mean, when I got here I didn't even notice that I was doing it at first. But now, man, this is unbelievable. I can even see the different shades of green in that moss bundle if I concentrate." Blair looked into Jim's eyes and asked, "Is this what it's like for you?"

Jim smiled and said, "Yeah, buddy." Many times he had tried to explain to Blair what it was like to have his senses but words couldn't express what he wanted to say.

"I'm your equal now, Jim," Blair said quietly.

Jim put his hand on Blair's shoulder and said, "You were always my equal, Sandburg. Never forget that."

"Maybe but..." Blair stopped and looked around suddenly, his eyes losing focus.

"Blair? Buddy, what is it?" Jim was wondering if this was some werewolf thing and if it was, he didn't know what to do.

"I don't know," Blair whispered. "Someone's out there. It's like when I'm near Shakari and Lawrence. When I can sense their presence."

"Is it either of them?" Jim asked, rising from his position on the earth. He opened his senses and began to scan the area.

Blair rose also and stood beside the Sentinel. "No, I don't think so. It's more than one person that's for sure."

Jim opened up his hearing and clenched his jaw as he detected four heartbeats near them. "Four of them. Did Shakari mention anyone else coming here to help us."

"No. She said that hardly anyone knows about this place anyway. I don't think they're friendly, Jim."

"Me neither. I don't have my gun and they're blocking our only way back to the cabin. Shit."

Suddenly, Blair's eyes narrowed and he growled low in his throat. Jim glanced at his partner and saw him in a crouched position, hands open with his fingernails extending into claws. Blair snarled and Jim could see the transformation making Blair taller and more muscular, his hair growing. His blue eyes were cold as ice. He said in a low voice, "Jim, I think we have trouble."

Both of them stood and watched as four shapes approached the clearing. Jim swallowed as he saw three wolves stalk towards them and stop a few meters away. Jim knew that the last figure wasn't human, even though one couldn't tell that from just looking at him. Jim could detect an unusual scent coming from him and his heart-beat was far slower than a normal human's. The man stopped behind the line of wolves. He was six feet tall and had long black hair. His eyes were dark brown and he smiled at the Sentinel and the Guide, his lips parting slightly to reveal the pointed teeth.

"Well, well, well. I thought that Victor was exaggerating when he told us about his latest creation but I see he was telling the truth. You'll make a fine addition, young one," he said.

"I don't know who you are but obviously you're in league with that creep that did this to me," Blair snarled. "Wake up call, man. I'm not going anywhere with you."

"Really?" he smiled, "I beg to differ."

Without warning the three wolves sprang at Jim and Blair, fur bristling and jaws opened wide. Blair snarled and jumped in front of Jim, shedding not only his clothes but any vestiges of humanity, as he knocked the three wolves out of mid-air with one swing of his arm. They howled as they fell back, landing on their sides. All this happened in two seconds as Jim could barely follow the speed of the action with his Sentinel abilities. Blair was now in the same form that Jim had seen when Blair was first transformed. His friend was crouched on the ground and Jim could see the fur on his back bristling with rage.

One of the wolves, a gray one, got on its feet and leaped through the air again. This time, Jim gasped as it assumed a snarling humanoid form, similar to the one that Blair had assumed. The creature crashed into Blair and they went down on the ground, clawing viciously at each other.

Jim scanned the area desperately for any things that could be used as a weapon but inwardly, he knew that it would be hopeless for him in a fight with one of the wolves.

The gray werewolf had gotten the upper hand in the meantime and the Sentinel saw that it was choking Blair. He ran towards the struggling pair and aimed a vicious kick at the gray wolf's head. The wolf's head snapped around with the force of the impact and for a moment his attention was on the Sentinel. It was all Blair needed. He backhanded his opponent, sending the wolf sprawling into the dirt, then he pounced on the dazed wolf and lifted him from the ground. With a savage roar, he threw the gray wolf through the air at a nearby tree. To Jim's shock, the wolf did not hit the tree but went through it, the trunk disintegrating with the force.

Blair moved in front of Jim again, panting hard and teeth bared. However, the man looked entirely nonplused. He looked towards the crumpled form some distance away and raised an eyebrow. He turned back to Blair and Jim and said, "You impress me, young one. I seem to have underestimated your abilities. Truly, you are a worthy addition to our cause."

The two remaining wolves had morphed into their humanoid forms and they both attacked Blair, trying to restrain him. One of them, its fur light brown, had managed to pin Blair's arms behind his back and the other one, black as midnight, was snarling, looking at Blair with hatred in its eyes. It punched Blair in the face and then continued to hit his torso.

"No!" Jim screamed and leaped on the back of the light brown werewolf, trying to pull it away from Blair. The werewolf released Blair and with a growl grabbed Jim by the jacket, ripping the Sentinel from its back and slammed him to the ground.

The impact on the dirt knocked the breath from the Sentinel's lungs. Dark spots began to dance before his eyes as he tried to take some breaths. He looked up to see the light brown wolf standing over him. Dimly, he could hear the savage fight that was going on nearby between his friend and the other wolf. The light brown wolf looked down at Jim with a contemptuous expression and said in a very low voice, "Foolish human." Unable to move, Jim's eyes tracked the extended claws, poised to rip out his beating heart.

Blair was breathing hard and bleeding from a number of scratches all over his body. His opponent wasn't entirely unscathed either. Even though Blair hadn't known how to fight before the transformation, he was acting on pure instinct and had managed to inflict some damage. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jim lying dazed on the ground and he heard the other wolf's statement. Blair's eyes widened as he saw the extended claws at the end of the raised hand ready to rip into his friend. He bared his teeth, growling from deep in his throat and leapt at the one who was threatening Jim.

A scream ran through the forest as Blair leapt at the werewolf and slashed it deeply in the face. It staggered away, its right hand covering the mutilated right side of its face, blood streaming through its fingers. Jim got to his knees and stared at the blood dripping from Blair's fingers, the droplets making tiny sounds as they hit the dirt. Then, Jim detected an elevated heartbeat behind them but before he was able to shout a warning to Blair, a blur passed over his head and slammed into Blair.

Jim heard an agonizing scream and he saw Blair on his knees, his hand pressed to his side in a vain attempt to stem the blood that was flowing from a horrific wound. The black wolf that had attacked Blair from behind was at the light brown werewolf's side, gently trying to get it to remove its hand so that the injury to its face could be looked at. Blood was dripping from the black wolf's hand, Blair's blood. Jim dashed over and barely managed to hold him as Blair fell over on his side. Tears were at the corner of Blair's eyes and Jim could only hold his partner and say, "It's alright, Blair, just lie still."

Blair's mouth worked as he tried to say something but all that escaped was a moan of pain.

"No, buddy, don't try to talk, just keep breathing, ok?"

"You fool!" screamed the leader of the pack. The man stalked towards the black werewolf that had wounded Blair and seized him by the throat, lifting him off the ground.

"Master, please," the wolf gasped, pulling at the man's fingers, "he hurt my brother."

"Well, you won't have to be concerned with that anymore." The man's face hardened and with ease he snapped the wolf's neck. He dropped the limp body to the ground, which had morphed back into a human form and turned towards the wounded light brown one. "Do you have anything to say, Zachary?"

Zachary looked from the form of his dead brother to that of his master. Jim could see the hatred in his eyes but then Zachary closed his eyes and kneeled on the ground, his face marked with four parallel scratches that Blair had inflicted. His eyes were downcast and he said, "No, master."

"I didn't think so," he replied. He turned towards Blair and Jim and walked over to the pair. Barely conscious, Blair tried to wave a clawed hand at his enemy but the movement only made the pain worse and he screamed.

Jim clutched Blair tighter. "Easy, Blair, easy."

Blair looked up at Jim's face and whispered, "Leave...me"

"Never, Chief. Besides where can I get another Guide on short notice, huh?"

Blair smiled slightly at Jim's attempts to comfort him but his blue eyes hardened as the man knelt beside the two of them.

"You are indeed strong, young one. Weaker ones would have died from such a wound but you're starting to heal already."

"Back away from them, Xavier," a low voice came from across the clearing.

"Shakari?" Xavier spun on his heels, his brown eyes widening in shock.

"You remember. I hope you also remember what happened the last time that you crossed me." Shakari, emerged from the shadows, walking slowly towards the group.

Seizing Jim by the throat, Xavier rose and walked backwards towards the cliff edge.

Blair struggled to his knees and stretched out his hand but Xavier was out of his reach. Shakari froze.

"Well, it looks like we have a stand-off my dear." Xavier had stopped at the cliff edge and held Jim suspended over the side. The Sentinel had been trying to pry Xavier's fingers from his throat but stopped when he saw the rocks that were a hundred feet below. "You come after me and I drop him. He dies. Let me leave, Shakari, I won't hurt him, really."

Shakari clenched her fists and her jaw. Her eyes locked with Jim's and she could see that he was losing consciousness. She backed off a couple of steps. "Alright, Xavier. You win this time." She grinned, exposing her teeth, "But make no mistake. This isn't over."

Xavier smiled and said, "It's not over alright but," he paused and looked at Jim, "it is for this one." Xavier released Jim's throat.

Shakari leapt forward but the light brown wolf slammed into her from the side and knocked her to the ground.

With no one to stop him, Xavier turned and walked casually into the dense forest almost melting into the shadows.

Blair screamed as he saw Jim falling and threw himself over the side of the cliff. He instinctively streamlined his form, so that there was minimal resistance, increasing his chances of catching up with Jim before it was too late.

Jim looked up as he fell and saw Blair coming towards him. He didn't believe that Blair could save them both and even though they were going to die, at least they would die together. He stretched up one of his hands, to get one last touch of his friend before they hit the rocks.

Blair grabbed Jim's hand and extended the claws on his left hand, reaching for the cliff face that was streaming past his eyes. His claws hit the stone, making tracks as they continued to fall. Blair adjusted his position in mid-air so that his clawed feet found purchase on the wall too. He screamed as they came to a halt with a fierce jerk. The sudden stop had aggravated his wound even more and the blood began to flow again. He was gasping for air and barely held on to consciousness.

"Blair?" asked Jim. He had heard Blair scream when they stopped and saw the blood flowing freely from the gashes in his sides. He knew that Blair couldn't haul himself and Jim back to the top in his weakened condition. Far above, he could hear the sounds of battle between Shakari and the other wolf. "Blair. Let me go, Chief."

Blair made a sound that was supposed to be a laugh and said, "Jim..now is not...the time for the..save yourself bit...man." He strained and lifted Jim with his right hand. "Put..your..arms..around my neck, big guy."

Jim did as he was instructed but said, "Blair, you can't do this. You're hurt too badly."

Blair looked over his shoulder into those ice blue eyes that were filled with concern and said, "I never listen to you anyway." He started to climb.

As they went up the cliff, Jim could feel the tremors going through Blair's body as he strained to lift the two of them. "Come on, Blair." He looked up and saw the cliff edge a few feet away. "Just a few more feet, buddy."

Blair was moving on sheer will power now. He could feel the blood running from the wound and he could barely catch a breath. His pace had slowed considerably and he reached a trembling hand to the edge of the cliff. He tried to lift himself over but he didn't have the strength. "Jim," he gasped. "You...have... to climb...up. Can't.."

"Alright, Chief, just hang on." Jim inspected the cliff and saw a hand hold nearby. He reached for it and managed to haul himself over, relieving Blair of the strain. Jim grasped one of Blair's hands and tried to pull him up but he was too heavy.

"Blair," Jim gasped, pulling with all of his might, his muscles bulging. "You have to help me out here, Chief."

But Blair was too weak. The blood loss had been too much. Jim looked over the cliff face and saw Blair looking up at him. Blair mouthed, "I'm sorry." Then, his eyes rolled back into his head and he went limp.

Jim grunted and felt his muscles being overstretched. He was being dragged forward by Blair's weight when he saw a black furred hand grasp Blair's. Shakari easily pulled Blair over the side and Jim cradled Blair's head in his lap, his senses detecting Blair's shallow breathing and slow heart-beat.

Shakari had a hand on Blair's forehead and seemed to be scanning him. "Sorry, I took so long," she said. She examined the wound, wincing as she saw the damage. "That light brown creep gave me more trouble than I thought and then his buddy woke up."

"Is he going to be alright?" Jim asked quietly, stroking Blair's temples.

Shakari closed her eyes and said nothing for a minute and then smiled broadly. "Yes!" she said loudly. She looked at Jim and said, "He's going to be just fine."

Jim sighed with relief and closed his eyes. Shakari put a comforting hand on his shoulder and the two of them just sat there, basking in the knowledge that their friend would not die.


Two days later

Blair Sandburg opened his eyes. He was trying to remember where he was when he heard Jim snoring close by. He turned his head and smiled as he saw the Sentinel lying in a cot beside his bed, sleeping quietly and clutching Blair's hand. Blair really didn't want to wake his friend but he needed to find out why he was still alive. The last thing he remembered was passing out on the cliff face, regretting that he couldn't continue to be with his friend. "Jim," he croaked.

Instantly the Sentinel woke. He saw Blair looking at him and smiled. Still clutching Blair's hand, Jim swung his feet over the side of the bed and touched Blair's forehead, pushing away some of the unruly strands of hair. "Hey, Chief," he said quietly. "How're you feeling?"

"Thirsty," Blair replied.

"Hold on a sec." Jim released Blair's hand and moved out of his field of vision. Blair could hear water running and sat up as Jim returned with a glass of water.

After draining the glass, Blair said, "Thanks, man." Then he realized that he was in no pain whatsoever. He looked down at his bare side and saw that there was no wound. When he touched the area, all he felt was a slight tenderness. Blair looked at Jim, his blue eyes wide with shock.

Jim smiled and said, "It's one of those new abilities that you've got now, Chief. You went into a sort of coma-like state to heal. I was getting worried when you didn't wake up after the first day but Shakari assured me it was normal. You've been out for two days straight, pal."

"Really?"

"Yeah, really." Jim sighed and said, "There's something else, Chief. I just want to say thanks for saving my life back there. I thought I was a goner when Xavier dropped me off that cliff. I mean, all I could think about when I was falling was how I had let you down."

"Let me down? Jim, man, you amaze me sometimes, you know that?" Blair faced Jim and continued. "Jim, you've pulled my ass out of the fire more times than I can count. You've been the best friend that I've ever had in my life. You couldn't protect me that time but I don't blame you, big guy. Believe it or not Jim, there are just some things that you can't control."

"Do you mean that?" Jim asked quietly, not looking at Blair's face.

Blair reached out and lifted Jim's head so that their eyes could meet. "Of course, I do, with all my heart."

The Sentinel and the Guide clasped each other's hands, feeling the bond that tied them forever, no matter what fate threw their way. Brothers, friends forever. It was the way things had been and the way that they would always be.


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