- Alternate Universe
Sam had loved his lessons with Dr. Blair Sandburg. Many of his ideas had been very different to what he had learnt before but he found that they worked far better for him. He had not zoned again during their stay in Dayton, though he had instead found himself constantly aware of where Dr Sandburg was. He had finally brought it up with them on their third day there, worried that Dr Sandburg would think it an invasion of his privacy or Mr. Ellison an attack on their bond. Instead they had simply nodded.
“We suspected that would happen,” Sandburg had said. He’d clasped his hands and had regarded Sam seriously. “We suspect that you did not come online at the airport or during the flight but at some point days, weeks or even months before that. You did not notice because you formed a bond with a guide shortly after, which stabilized your senses.”
“It would explain your disinterest in bonding and your frequent zones. You are unconsciously trying to find your guide and he or she is too far away, so instead of finding your instinctive focal point, you are zoning. Blair seems to be similar enough to your guide that he can help you out of zones and stop your senses from overreaching,” Ellison had added.
“Some of the exercises we’ve done have been exercises normally used for bonded pairs for when they are too far apart for the sentinel’s senses. In those situations, the sentinel typically has sometime of their guide’s that appeals to their senses, mostly a piece of clothing with their scent or a recording of their voice or heartbeat.”
“Like a security blanket?” Sam couldn’t help asking.
Dr Sandburg had grinned. “Most sentinels don’t like to call it that but yes, basically. Right now, I’m pretty much your security blanket, at least for the time being. We will have to figure out who your guide is and, until we’ve found them, what it is that reminds you of your guide about me so that we can give you a temporary inanimate security blanket.”
“We don’t want you to get your hopes up, it’s likely to be a lengthy process, with far too many tests.” At this, Ellison had smiled at his guide briefly. It seemed to be an in joke between the two. “If you have no particular attachment to this Center, it would be better if you came to Cascade with us. That way there would be less pressed for time.”
Well, Sam had been only too happy to agree. There was nothing holding him here and if they were right and he could learn to keep his senses from trying to find his guide, he could start working or getting the necessary training for work again. Not that he knew what kind of work he wanted to do but at least he’d be able to do some interim jobs to earn a little money until he made his decision.
“Damn, you’re lucky, to have the opportunity to go to Cascade and get training from Ellison and Sandburg themselves,” Alex had said when they’d said his goodbyes. “I expect you to write and tell how your training is going and if you’ve found your guide again.”
“And I expect to be kept up to date how things between you and Jennifer are going,” Sam had replied. “And tell Casey I expect an invitation to his first public performance with his glee club.”
Of course, when Sam had agreed to come to Cascade with them, he had not expected for them to arrange an apartment for him in the same building they were living in. He had tried to protest but Ellison wouldn’t hear it. “I’ve seen what living here on a small budget looks like, both on the job and by what Blair considered acceptable living space. That’s untenable for a sentinel, especially one without complete control over their senses. Staying here will also save time and money since you won’t have to commute here and you’ll have assistance if needed.” Seeing Sam’s stubborn expression, he’d finally added: “Consider it a loan, if you have to. You can also start contributing some to the rent when you have a job.”
Of course, Sam was not ready to look for a full time job nor had he come to a decision yet what he wanted to do. Some of the other neighbours had started offering to pay him for helping them out, for example walking their dogs or carrying their groceries. Sam suspected they were doing so as a favour to Ellison and Dr Sandburg but he was too grateful for the distraction and the opportunity to earn at least some money to protest.
It also served as a nice distraction from wondering who his guide was. He knew who he hoped was his guide but he was afraid to get his hopes up.
He’d been invited to have dinner with them. Jim opened the door before he had even reached it. “Come in. Blair’s still in his office. A young shaman he’s mentoring had a question.” He let the way over to the table that had already been set.
“A shaman?” Sam repeated.
Ellison nodded. “Blair is both a guide and a shaman. It’s not uncommon for a guide to be both. They are often already more in touch with the spiritual world, so under certain circumstances, they can also walk the path of a shaman.” A strange look Sam couldn’t quite place flashed over his face. But then he grinned at Sam’s sceptical look. “I know, I had a hard time believing it myself. Just wait until you run into your animal spirit.”
“So this… this shaman he’s mentoring, he’s a guide as well?” Sam asked.
“No, not every shaman is a guide, though they can often act as one temporarily. Before I met Blair, a shaman of the Chopec acted as my guide.” They both turned to the door to the office when they heard it open. “Well, Chief, how is your unspeakable student doing?”
Sandburg gave him reproachful look. “Jim, his name’s perfectly normal…”
“…in Poland. Yes, I know. But it’s still pretty hard to pronounce properly for people who don’t speak Polish. I can certainly understand why he usually goes by his nickname.”
Sandburg tried to look stern but finally laughed. “Granted.” He turned to Sam. “Hello Sam.”
“Good evening, Dr. Sandburg.”
He wrinkled his nose. “I told you, you can call me Blair.”
“Blair,” Sam repeated dutifully. He wasn’t sure he’d manage to remember.
They made some casual small talk as they ate. Then Dr. Sandburg, Blair, asked: “So have you decided what kind of job you are interested in? You might not be up to working full time yet but you could look for an internship or a training course.”
Sam looked down at his plate, avoiding their eyes. “Mr. Lloyd at the Dayton Center suggested the police academy or the military.”
“Is that something you are interested in? If yes, we can ask Simon if you can ride along or Jim can talk to some of his old army buddies,” Blair said.
“Is that something you’re interested in?” Jim repeated.
Sam shrugged. “Mr. Lloyd said that it’s a sentinel’s duty to protect the pride and that they can do it best in law enforcement or the military.” He hesitated. “And that my STAT scores won’t matter there.”
Jim frowned. “Sam, tell me truthfully: Do you want that or are you just doing it out of duty?” When he didn’t reply, he sighed and closed his eyes briefly, then turned to his guide who had followed the exchange with a frown. “He’s not the first sentinel who has been ‘encouraged’ to join and offered preferential treatment, is he?”
“No, probably not,” Blair agreed.
Jim sighed again. “Well, that certainly explains a lot about the attitude of some of our colleagues.” To Sam, he explained: “Some officers resent sentinels and guides. It makes sense, if they are aware or even suspect that sentinels unsuitable und uninterested in the profession are given spots at the academies over non-sentinels who are more interested and better suited.”
“What would you like to do? Regardless of duty or SAT scores, which profession would you choose?” Blair asked gently.
Sam hesitated, afraid to be mocked as he’d been so often about things he felt passionate about. But something about Blair, probably what reminded him of his guide, whoever that was, encouraged him to finally admit: “I’d like to become a teacher. Sports and arts. Or sports and music. Or both.” He looked up at Blair earnestly. “At school, everyone acts like you have to choose, sports or arts, and if you pick one you can’t show interest in the other. There was a guide at the Center in Dayton doubting whether he could join glee club. I want to show the students that you can do both, that you can like both.”
Blair smiled brightly. “That’s a wonderful plan. You see, serving and protecting the tribe can take many forms. By becoming a teacher, you would guide and protect the most valuable and most vulnerable part of the tribe, the children.”
Sam looked to Jim, to see whether he agreed.
“Blair’s right. And I’m hardly going to argue about how a teacher can also be a protector, considering Blair will always be a teacher at heart, no matter his current profession.”
God, Sam wanted that kind of bond, that kind of relationship. He ignored the twinge in his heart and instead turned his attention back to the matter of his potential profession. “But it’s just a dream. My SAT scores were the worst at my school and with my dyslexia, any other test I sit is hardly going to get a better result.”
“Let me talk to some people I know at Rainier, the university here in Cascade, see if there are any concessions for dyslexia or other learning disabilities,” Blair offered.
“If you want to. But I don’t want to be a bother.”
“You are not. Tomorrow I’ll visit some of my old colleagues, hear what they say.”
“They’re going to take my dyslexia into account and give me an adjusted test,” Sam explained in the video call with his parents. “Jim and Blair are helping me study for it. If I get in, I can start studying to become a teacher.”
“That sounds wonderful, Sam,” his mother said.
“And how are you doing?”
“Stacy and Stevie are doing well at school. They’re hoping you can visit or that we can visit you soon,” his father said.
“And your father has been offered a new spot,” his mother added.
“That’s great! But I didn’t know you were looking again.”
“I wasn’t, don’t worry. I could have stayed in my current job but the one I’ve been offered is better paid and has a better benefits,” his father said.
Sam sighed, relieved. He’d worried that his parents had been in financial difficulties again and had hidden it. “Which company has offered you the job? Do I know them?”
“I don’t know. It’s Ellison Industries.”
Sam started. “Ellison Industries?” Wasn’t that the company belonging to Jim’s family?
“Yes. Have you heard about them?” his father asked.
“I think I’ve seen the name around here in Cascade,” Sam replied. He’d have to ask Jim about it.
“Well, if they really have an office in Cascade, perhaps I can visit you some time,” his father said.
“That would be great, dad.” Sam glanced at the clock. “Oh, I have to go. They invited me up for dinner before my next study hour. Tell Stevie and Stacy that I said hi.”
“Will do, dear. You have a nice evening.”
“You’ll have to start with only Jim after dinner,” Blair told him. “The young shaman I’m mentoring has asked me and his other teachers to call to discuss a problem he’s encountered.” He shrugged. “It would probably be easier to deal with in person but the call is quicker.”
Jim snorted. “No way. The three of you get into enough trouble on your own. We agreed that having all of you in the same place at the same time is just asking for trouble. Dingle and Stilinski will just have to deal with whatever it is on their own.”
Blair stopped short and looked at Jim suspiciously. “Have you been talking to their partners?”
Jim grinned. “What can I say? I have a soft spot for wolves.”
Sam was pretty sure that had some hidden meaning he didn’t get, considering the amused smile Blair was now sporting.
“By the way, Jim, your father called. He’s dropping by for a moment this evening,” Blair said.
“Did he say what he wants?” Jim asked.
“No, not really. I think he wanted to drop something off. He has a key, so I told him not to worry about it.”
“I talked to my parents today,” Sam mentioned after a moment, trying to sound casual. “My dad said he’s been offered a new job.”
“Oh? Was he looking for a change?” Jim asked.
“No, but he likes the better conditions he’s been offered.” Sam considered them. “He’s been offered a job at Ellison Industries.” He tried to read their reaction. When there was nothing beyond some slight curiosity, he added: “Did you ask them to hire him?”
“No, Sam, I didn’t,” Jim promised him.
“I did.” They turned to the door where an older man was standing.
“Dad?” Jim asked.
The man offered Sam his hand. “I’m William Ellison, Jimmy’s father.”
“Um, nice to meet you?” Sam offered.
“Dad, what did you mean, you asked them to hire his father?”
“Well, family takes care of family.” William shook his head. “I’ve made my peace with the knowledge that you’ll never had biological children but I figured you’d adopt at some point. Well, I figured you’d adopt a child, not a young adult but I’ll take what I can get.”
Blaine Anderson (Guide)
Sam Evans (Sentinel)
Blair Sandburg (Guide)
Jim Ellison (Sentinel)