Steve McGarrett gritted his teeth and waited, reining in his impatience. He loathed mainland cities—they meant continuous loud noise and malicious odors that assaulted his senses and aggravated his constant low-grade headache. Still, he had to make nice with the Newark PD if he wanted information on the Hess brothers, so he would endure, as always.
Steve came online as a Sentinel late in life, during a mission with his SEAL team. The Navy had been delighted and quickly seen to his comfort and training, but had also been quickly frustrated because their powerful new Sentinel simply could not bond with any of the registered elite military Guides presented to him. Some of them in fact had aggravated him so much that he had lashed out physically to force them away.
Steve was one of the most powerful Sentinels the Guild had ever seen— like the legendary Ellison, he had the Big Five-- enhanced sight, scent, hearing, taste and touch, but his control was erratic and grew worse the longer he remained unbonded without a Guide to ground him. He persevered and always finished his missions, but he remained an unbonded Sentinel after almost twelve years. That length of time was a tribute to his sheer stubbornness, but his tenuous control was finally fraying. It was only a matter of time before his own powerful senses drove him insane and he went rogue or committed suicide to escape the constant pain.
He huffed out a frustrated breath and rubbed a hand over his tired face. All he wanted to do was finish his mission, then retreat to his quiet Hawaiian home for a much needed liberty. He had been pursuing the terroristic Hesse brothers for almost two years now, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate on the chase. He spent too much time in zones and suffered from debilitating headaches. It wouldn’t be long now before he couldn’t function at all.
A light touch oh his elbow jolted him out of his gloomy thoughts and he gave his temporary Guide, Catherine Rollins what he hoped passed for a reassuring smile. He liked Catherine, he really did, they got along well as friends and occasional lovers, but he hadn’t bonded with her, much to her disappointment. Soon she would have to be assigned elsewhere, and another Guide candidate would take her place, because she was finding it increasingly difficult to bring him out of his zones and Steve tolerated her presence less and less.
“Chief Franklin will see us now Commander.”
He nodded at her, gently brushed her hand off his arm, dialed his senses down and stepped past her into the office and pretended not to see the hurt in her eyes. Soon he wouldn’t be able to tolerate her touch at all and there was nothing either of them could do about it.
Detective Danny Williams shoved the struggling, cursing handcuffed perp twice his size into the arms of two grinning uniforms, grabbed a neatly printed report off the corner of his desk and headed for the elevator, straightening his tie and smoothing back his ruffled hair as he did so. If Captain Devlen wanted the damned report on his desk now, then Danny would hand deliver it himself to his secretary. He stepped inside and two geared up members of SWAT good naturedly made room for him. The tallest, a lean black man, grinned down at the diminutive detective.
Tonio Jackson liked Danny Williams; he was tough pure Jersey attitude and a damned good cop and father. It was a pity Danny’s bitch of an ex-wife had remarried to a wealthy real estate contractor and moved to Hawaii, taking Danny’s little daughter with her. The detective had been devastated. Everyone knew Danny had been taken to the cleaners during the divorce and couldn’t afford to follow them yet.
“Looks like you finally nabbed the Branch Brook Park rapist, Danny.”
“Yeah, yeah, he wasn’t too bright. All it took was Sonja in a mini skirt strolling through after dark and he made the mistake of jumping her.”
Jackson chuckled. Sonja Bronson, Danny’s partner, was five feet of pure Bronx fury with the face of an innocent Botticelli angel and a roundhouse kick that could take a man down in seconds. The diminutive duo had the best arrest and conviction record in Homicide.
“He still got his balls?”
“Yeah, but they’re semi-detached these days.”
“Ouch. I almost feel for the man. How is Sonja?”
“As beautiful and vicious as ever. She thinks her new boy toy has a piece on the side and she’s about to stomp his ass.”
Jackson winced in sympathy this time. Tiny Sonja’s use of her stiletto heels as deadly weapons was legendary in the precinct.
They continued to chat as the elevator made its slow way up the precinct tower to the admin levels. After the Urban Wars police stations had become more fortress like, similar to medieval tower counterparts, offering shelter to refugees during the civil unrest and even housing its officers and their families when necessary. Newark P.D. tower was a micro city in itself. It had a helo-pad on the roof, armored vehicles in the garage levels in the basement, its own med center and several restaurants and cafeterias as well as holding cells on the lower levels.
The one thing that Newark tower did not have was its own Sentinel, and for that, Danny was heartily grateful. As a highly empathic unregistered Guide, it was hard enough to stay on the down low and avoid the few Sentinels he might come in contact with on the job. Fortunately, he had a network of friends in the precinct that helped keep an eye out for any unbonded Sentinels who might come sniffing around. They were all united in the belief that Guides should be allowed to live as they chose, not as the chattel of a Sentinel and the property of the government with no choices of their own. So Danny kept canisters of odor neutralizer in his desk and locker and vehicle and stayed alert so he could drop below their radar.
The government propaganda offered a smooth line of patter about how well Guides were treated, but Danny had seen for himself the reality of the life—his favorite cousin Jenny was forced to bond with a military Army Sentinel twice her age and his casual contempt and rough treatment towards her made a lasting impression on Danny. Daniel Williams was no one’s slave. He successfully channeled his empathy into his law enforcement career and had 89 successful homicide convictions under his belt and a string of commendations to mark his success. If he had to occasionally dodge an encounter with a prowling Sentinel, it was worth it. Fortunately New Jersey had few active Sentinels. Sentinels were territorial creatures and liked their space. This worked to Danny’s advantage.
He stepped off the lift onto the 27th floor and headed over to Devlen’s secretary, Marcy, to drop the report off. After chatting with her for a few minutes he headed back to the bank of elevators determined to knock off early and head home and kick back with some beers and the game he had recorded for a change. He was exhausted after wrapping up the Branch Brook Park case and felt like he could sleep for about a week. As he stepped into the empty car, the door of Chief Franklin’s office opened and two people stepped out, the Chief with them, shaking their hands in farewell.
Danny’s sleepy brain suddenly shifted into high alert at the sight of them—they wore crisp blue Navy BDUs and the tall man had the unmistakable sunburst sigils of a active Sentinel on his collar points and the back of his TAC vest with a black zigzag of a lightning bolt across it indicating he was unbonded. Danny froze for a moment, heart pounding, and it cost him. The tall, lean, dark haired man turned his head, nostrils flaring and the most intense gaze Danny had ever encountered met his. Hazel eyes locked with blue and for a few long moments they simply stared at each other. Swearing, Danny slapped wildly at the close button on the doors, even as the guy blinked and started in a beeline across the room straight towards him, a happy smile splitting his face. He had to get the hell out of there.
The moment the doors slid closed, Danny moved, slamming his ID card into a slot and punching in a series of emergency codes into the control panel of the elevator to the tower AI. There was an immediate response—an alarm began to blare throughout the precinct and the 27th floor was quickly locked down—all doors locking automatically in response to Danny’s coded emergency terrorist alert. His elevator was now the only moving one in the building and he hit the button for the garage level at emergency override speed. He had to get the hell out of Newark now because he had an active unbonded Sentinel locked onto his scent.
On his exit from the lift, he met a SWAT team headed up in response and casually bumped into the last man in the pack, and palmed the small package of flash-bangs clipped on the back of his utility belt. They might serve to disorientate the Sentinel if worse came to worst. Danny’s mind raced furiously as he commandeered a squad car and headed out of the garage, ignoring the ensuing chaos caused by his triggering of the alarm. He wouldn’t be coming back here anyway.
He was a fugitive now.
Steve shook the Chief’s hand quickly and stepped back, reining in his gag reflex and struggling to dial his sense of smell down. The man had had a meatball sub with extra garlic and cheese for lunch and the peppermint afterwards did nothing to cut the rancid stench of his breath to sensitive Sentinel nostrils. Catherine expertly cut in and thanked the man warmly, distracting him, and for the thousandth time Steve despaired because they could not bond.
A natural bond with a willing Guide was the only kind Steve would accept and he had made it quite clear to his superiors that any attempt to force a Guide to bond with him would be unacceptable. McGarrett was well aware of the miserable existence that many Guides led---forced away from their families and chosen careers to serve a military Sentinel in what amounted to glorified serfdom.
It was possible to force a bond using drugs and Catherine had even tentatively volunteered for the procedure but he had adamantly refused. The very idea revolted him. She had argued that it wasn’t forced if she was willing and he had quietly but firmly stated that he did not want to bond that way-- even with her. That honest reply only served to increase the tension between them.
He stepped farther back and drew in a cautious gulp of air. Instantly, his headache vanished as a fresh citrus scent with warm, salty undertones of clean male musk hit his nose. It was like a hit of pure oxygen and Steve breathed it in greedily, head turning instinctively to locate the source of this sensory nirvana. Across the busy room a short, attractive blond man froze in the elevator and his eyes met Steve’s. Blue. Blue as a Hawaiian sky, clear and honest as a perfect crystal wave.
Guide! Mine. My Guide!
A surge of joy hit Steve so hard he was dizzy for a moment. He strode across the room, his only need to reach his Guide, to hold and scent and taste him. To his surprised dismay, his Guide shot him a terrified look and stabbed at the elevator panel and closed the door—shutting Steve out. Steve was across the room in seconds and hit the lift doors hard with a growl and tried to pry them apart.
The next moment he was reeling back, hands covering his ears as an alarm blared across the floor, and under its obnoxious shrill his Sentinel ears caught the unmistakable sound of the bolts on the stairwell doors slamming into place and locking. He felt a surge of admiration through the pain. His Guide was a smart little bastard. He had locked the entire floor down, effectively trapping Steve here for the duration.
No matter, Steve had his scent now, that glorious clean scent—and he had seen the badge and holstered sidearm on the belt around the trim waist. His Guide was a cop.
Steve tilted his head back focused, and breathed in his Guide’s lingering, rich scent, memorizing it, imprinting on it, his primitive instincts rising. He was on the Hunt now and he would not—could not-- be thwarted. He closed his eyes in bliss at the clean fragrance, constant headache gone, and he was pain free for the first time in years. It would be so good when he finally held his Guide in his arms… a small, unwanted hand on his arm intruded on his happy thoughts and he shoved it off with a snarl, and opened his eyes to meet Catherine’s shocked gaze.
“My Guide. Mine.” He choked out, fighting the urge to flash teeth and snarl at her and unable to verbalize more, slapped a palm hard on the closed doors and watched her face fall.
After a moment, she blinked hard and shook her head, then gave him a tremulous smile.
“Well, Commander, we had better find out who he is, hadn’t we?”
Briskly, she turned to face the busy room and clapped her hands sharply and spoke loudly as the alarm finally died down and quit, leaving Steve’s ears ringing.
“Okay, people! The blond guy who just stepped into the elevator! Who is he? I want a name!” She flipped open a wallet revealing her Naval Guide badge. “This is Sentinel business. Someone give me his name.”
Steve’s sharp hearing caught the accelerated pounding of several heartbeats—two from men wearing SWAT gear and one from a mousy secretary seated nearby. He homed in on her as the easier target and loomed over her desk, eyes locked with hers.
“I know you know him. Who is he? I swear, I won’t hurt him, he’s my Guide.” Steve looked earnestly into her pale, frightened face.
“D...Detective Danny Williams. He works in Homicide and Violent Crimes on the 7th floor.”
“Thank you.” Steve said sincerely. He had his Guide’s name now. Danny. His name was Danny. Steve savored the sound of it. His Guide was a detective, a smart detective. As he stepped away from her desk, he caught the tail end of a muttered conversation between the two SWAT members.
“Poor bastard… married with a little kid.”
Steve closed his eyes and his heart sank. Why could nothing in his life ever be simple?
The only easy day was yesterday.
Danny slammed the car into gear, stepped on the gas and slapped the blue lights and siren on and drove furiously towards Matt’s apartment. He thanked whatever God in charge that he had forgotten to update N.P.D. with his new address since the divorce. That would give him a few minutes to catch his breath and decide exactly where the hell he was running to next. He had no doubt that he would have the Sentinel after him, complete with full Naval communication resources to back him. Running was futile, but Danny was nothing if not stubborn.
He ditched the car six blocks from Matty’s place and hoofed it through every alley shortcut he knew. By the time he raced up the stairs to Matt’s apartment, he was limping and out of breath, but had the beginnings of a plan. He just had to avoid the Sentinel long enough for the fragile threads of the infant Bond to fade…the man had caught a whiff of his scent and seen him briefly, but more importantly, he had not had the chance to touch Danny or initiate formal Scenting and Marking. If Danny could avoid him long enough to prevent that, the Bond would fade to nothing. It would devastate the Sentinel, he knew, and Danny felt for the man, he really did, but he had Grace to think of. He was a father first, not a damned Guild owned Guide.
He keyed open the apartment door and hurried to his room. He yanked open his closet door and shoved boxes out of the way searching for the small duffle bag he had stashed there. In his heart Danny had always known that one day he would have to run, and he had prepared for that eventuality as best he could. The main problem was that he had no clue how to contact the underground network of unregistered Guides. It was only a matter of time before the vast resources of the Sentinel Guild caught up with him.
He pulled the duffle out and checked the contents—a false ID and passport, a couple of throwaway phones, a small amount of carefully hoarded cash (he would have to hit an ATM and withdraw his pitiful funds from his account before it was locked down), cans of odor neutralizer, an unregistered stun gun. He quickly added a few casual clothes and a hoodie, then changed into jeans and a tee shirt and sneakers and pulled a baseball cap over his bright hair. The Guild would be searching for a professionally dressed man; a different style might buy him needed seconds in a visual search. The last thing he added was a small digital pad holding his collection of photos of Grace. He paused briefly at his small desk to type in the command to wipe the drive on his laptop.
He left a coded note for Matt on the kitchen table. Matty knew his brother was an unregistered guide and would act accordingly. He would cooperate fully with the authorities and be able to honestly claim he had no idea where his older brother was. Danny headed out the door. In all likelihood, he would never see his family again. The authorities were not forgiving of runaway guides.
Steve paced restlessly beside Williams desk in the bullpen on the 7th floor as Catherine ruthlessly coerced Williams unwilling lieutenant into releasing the rest of his personal information, ignoring the hostile stares and mutters from the cops in the room. He ran a hand lightly along the back of William’s desk chair, breathing in the man’s faint lingering scent, eyes hungrily taking in the personal objects on the desk. A photo of a smiling Danny holding a tiny scowling baby, a framed crayon drawing of what looked like a mermaid and a blue wave autographed with a scrawled I love you Danno, a childishly made brightly painted clay police car, another more recent photo of Danny grinning happily and holding a smiling little girl close. He touched the last frame wistfully. Maybe one day Danny would smile like that for him.
“Why the hell can’t you fuckers leave him alone? He’s one of the best homicide detectives I have ever had the privilege to work with and a loving father. How can you justify just sweeping in and taking all that away from him? What gives you the right? He didn’t ask to be born a Guide.”
Steve blinked and turned to face a tiny spitfire of a woman who stood hands on hips glaring up at him, pale blue eyes flashing with anger. She was beautiful, freckled with bright copper ringlets caught back in a practical ponytail, dressed in jeans, Henley and biker boots. She had a detective’s badge clipped next to the sidearm on her belt. This, he realized, from the brief personnel sheet he had greedily scanned on the computer upstairs, was Danny’s partner of two years.
“I didn’t ask to be a Sentinel, either,” Steve replied simply. “And I won’t take anything from him that he doesn’t want to give.”
That was true. He had fought and ignored the symptoms of his enhanced sensory manifestation for months before he’d finally zoned into full manifestation on a stressful mission in South Korea. Afterwards it took him months to accept and start to use his senses as they were meant to be used. He had hoped desperately for a Guide who he could partner with in every way—a true partnership like the legendary Ellison back in the day when Sentinels and Guides were rare and almost unknown. That hadn’t happened and he had been forced to make do with a series of short-term temporary guides.
She glared at him and snorted in disbelief.
“Yeah, right. Danny is an open-minded guy, but he’s not into men. Are you claiming you’re not going to jump his bones the first chance you get?”
She indicated the photo that Steve was now clutching in one hand. Danny smiled out at him, handsome and irresistible, blue eyes bright with happiness. Steve wanted to taste that smile.
He dropped his own eyes at her ugly sneer and made no reply. The truth was, he didn’t know if he could control himself, the urge to mark and mate with his Guide was rising with every passing moment. It was something primal coming from deep within. He didn’t know if he could control or resist it, if he even wanted to.
“I didn’t think so.”
She snarled, spat at his feet, and strode away. Behind her, Steve slipped the small photo, frame and all, into his vest pocket.
Danny pocketed the cash from the ATM and grabbed a cab and headed for the airport. He was careful to secretly tuck his department issued cell phone under the cab’s seat before he left it. He had no doubt that he would eventually be traced and apprehended, but he was determined to see one particular person before he was taken, and nothing on earth, not even a Sentinel in bonding heat would stop him, so he used every trick he knew to stay free as long as he could.
On the way to the airport he found himself brooding over the Sentinel. He remembered the look of sheer joy on the man’s handsome face when he caught sight of Danny, the intensity of the gaze they had shared. The man had looked familiar. Danny wished he had the time to find out more about him, because he did not look like the type who gave up easily. Maybe he would call his friend Toast before he boarded his flight and see if he could find out anything about him.
Matthew Williams stood, arms crossed defensively over his chest and glared at the Sentinel and Guide who had flashed a badge and invaded his home. He had returned from work earlier that evening and found Danny’s note and quickly dropped it down the garbage disposal. He was worried and scared for his big brother and dreaded having to explain Danny’s disappearance to their parents and sisters. He hoped whoever had ratted on Danny at the precinct and provided his new address fried in hell.
Still he was curious. Like most people, the concept of Sentinels and Guides fascinated him. As he watched, the woman briskly booted up Danny’s laptop at his desk and searched for information while the Sentinel appeared to be standing in the middle of Danny’s room, eyes closed, just breathing deeply. Matt bit his lip to keep from asking questions. He had no idea what they might learn from him if he opened his mouth, so he kept it firmly closed, although as a motor-mouthed Williams, it just about killed him to do so.
Fascinated despite himself, he watched as the tall Sentinel with the sad eyes picked up Danny’s discarded cotton shirt, held it to his face and inhaled deeply, a look of pure bliss momentarily crossing his unguarded face. After a few minutes, the Sentinel folded the white cotton carefully and placed it gently back on the bed and picked up Danny’s blue silk tie to run it through his fingers before folding it and tucking it into a pocket. As Matt watched, the Sentinel wandered around Danny’s bedroom carefully examining everything he found, from clothes to photos. He handled every item with a respect that bordered on reverence. It was almost too intimate to watch.
Finally, the woman huffed out an exasperated breath, lifted her head and spoke to her silent companion.
“There’s nothing here. He wiped the hard drive before he left. We can take it back to the labs…”
“There’s no need. I know where he went.”
The man’s voice was soft. He was holding a small, stuffed rabbit, handling it as gently as though it was alive, turning it carefully in his big hands, seemingly absorbed in the feel of its feathery soft fake fur. Matt recognized it as one of Gracie’s favorite stuffed animals that she had left to keep her Danno from being all alone. Danny kept it on his nightstand beside her photograph.
The woman looked surprised.
The Sentinel raised his eyes and met hers. A thin smile and something like pride flickered across his face.
“Danny is a smart guy. He knows he can’t run forever, that he will eventually be found. The cell left in the cab was just to buy him time. He’s got nothing to lose now but Grace. He’s gone to her.”
Matt’s jaw dropped. What the fuck? The Sentinel had deduced his brother’s actions just from sniffing and handling his belongings?
“How did you know that?” he blurted out, then clamped a horrified hand over his big mouth. Danny would never forgive him.
The woman arched a brow and regarded him with satisfaction. “Well, we know for sure now.”
As they left, the tall Sentinel stopped at the door and spoke to him earnestly.
“Danny won’t be hurt on my watch. I promise.”
Matt said nothing, just watched numbly as they left before reluctantly picking up his cell phone to call his parents and sisters.
They closed in on him from all sides as he walked down the concourse from the plane in Honolulu. A discreet squad of four dressed in Navy BDUs. He hurled his duffle bag in the closest guy’s face, rammed an elbow hard in the second one’s gut and sprinted for the exit, heart pounding. No, no, no, not now when he was so close to her. This was what he got for having his thoughts distracted by a tall, dark Sentinel. He couldn’t seem to stop thinking about the man.
His bad knee, stiff from the long, overnight plane ride, betrayed him, slowing him down long enough for the fastest one to take him down in a flying tackle. The man reeled back, body jerking violently when Danny rammed the stun gun into his side, but before Danny could regain his feet, two others appeared out of nowhere and dog piled him and held him down long enough for a slender Asian woman in a white coat to crouch and expertly slide a needle in his arm.
“Relax, Guide. Everything is going to be fine.” She spoke in a patently false soothing tone. “Your Sentinel will be here soon.”
That was supposed to reassure him?
“Fuck you lady, and the dick you rode in on!” he snarled, and managed to yank one arm free long enough to punch her in her serene, perfect face before the sedative dragged him down in a tide of darkness.
A fresh-faced lieutenant met Steve and Catherine at the air base. They got younger every year, he thought. He absently returned the man’s sharp salute.
“We have your Guide, sir! He’s safe and secure at the Bonding Center on Kauai.”
There was an undertone of excitement in the young man’s voice and Steve sharpened his gaze, taking in the slight bruise on the man’s jaw. He sniffed and frowned as he caught the faintest hint of Danny’s scent tinged with sweat and fear, off the man’s BDUs.
“Were there any problems, Lieutenant?” he asked, cool gaze suddenly sharp on the younger man’s face. The man flushed in response and his eyes flicked away over Steve’s left shoulder.
“Um, he fought us, sir. Took down Taylor and Johnson…and he punched out Dr. Wong before she sedated him.”
Steve bit back a pleased smirk. His Jersey boy had taken down two combat trained professionals and punched an arrogant doctor that every Sentinel and Guide at Pearl loathed. It made him proud. He nodded at the young man.
“Carry on, Lieutenant. I assume you’re my escort.”
“Yes, sir! This way sir!”
Steve and Catherine followed him to the discreet sedan marked with the Naval Sentinel insignia and slid in the back. They would be driven to a secure helicopter pad and flown over to the isolated center on Kauai. Steve sat back and closed his eyes and folded his trembling hands. Soon. He would be with his Guide soon. He would be able to touch and taste all he wished. He could mark his Guide and mate with him and cherish him and keep him close by his side and never be alone and in pain again.
“I suppose we should just say our goodbyes now.”
Catherine’s soft voice startled him out of his reverie. He had almost forgotten she was there. He looked over at her, startled at the bitterness he saw in her eyes. He realized then, that she had optimistically invested much more in their fledgling relationship than he had and he cursed himself for his cluelessness.
“You knew when we didn’t bond that it would come to this.” He spoke gently as he could, awkwardly trying to comfort her.
Her pretty face twisted and she looked blindly out the window, blinking back tears. Her voice was shaking with anger when she answered.
“I’ve been your Guide and your lover for almost eight months, Steve. We’ve made a good team. You got one whiff of a guy that took one look at you and ran, and suddenly what we have means less than nothing. Excuse me if I’m having problems with being discarded like a used tissue! How can you do that so damned easily?” She swiped angrily at her eyes and turned back around to glare at him.
Steve stared at her, bewildered at her anger. She was trained for this, she should know.
“He’s my Guide, Catherine,” he answered simply.
And really, that was all there was to it.
She stared at him for a long moment, beautiful eyes searching his face for something he simply could not give her, then resigned, bit her lip and turned away.
The rest of the trip to Kauai passed in silence as well. There was nothing left to say.
Danny yawned himself awake in the quiet of a luxurious, unfamiliar, comfortably padded room. He blinked, bewildered for a moment and stared around, tried to roll over and then found he was restrained. Soft, padded straps held his wrists and ankles tethered to the bedrails. Instinctively he fought them, writhing and panting as he struggled to be free. They held snugly and he finally stopped, breathing hard with fear, and peered around trying to figure out how to escape.
The bed he was on was huge and more comfortable than anything he had ever slept in. The room itself was painted a soft relaxing blue, the carpet looked thick enough to sink into. None of the elegant pieces of plush furniture had sharp edges. One of the walls was crystal clear plasteel, with a beautiful view of the lush rainforest in the valley below, a rainbow arching over it like in a touristy postcard.
Danny realized he was dressed only in an expensive pair of sleep pants of the sheerest, softest cotton. He was sprawled out like a bondage centerfold and displayed like the main course at a Sentinel feast. Indignant and angry as well as frightened now, he opened his mouth and yelled.
“Let me go you cowardly sons of bitches! I’m not some piece of beef you can feed to your damned Sentinel! Open the goddamned door and let me go! You have no right to keep me here! I am not a fucking criminal or slave!”
He kept yelling long and loudly, determined to be as obnoxious as he could, he hoped he was offending as many sensitive Sentinel ears as possible. He yelled because he was afraid and to vent his anger at a situation that he had no control over, and because he was a Williams and being loud and vocal was second nature to him.
Finally, there was a sharp click and an irritated, familiar female voice spoke from what Danny saw was a small intercom set beside the doorframe. He had no doubt that he was under camera surveillance as well.
“Calm yourself Detective. You will not be harmed. Your Sentinel will arrive shortly and your Bonding will commence. You should be honored to bond with the Commander, he heads Sentinel SEAL Team Seven. They do a great deal of good in the world.”
Danny snarled at the ceiling and grinned, showing his teeth, hoping she could see him.
“How’s the nose, doc?”
The intercom was clicked off with a distinct huff.
Steve left Catherine at the entrance of the staff guest quarters knowing he probably wouldn’t see her again. She was a damned good Guide and would be reassigned immediately. She walked away, head held high without looking back. He watched her go wistfully, wishing they could have at least remained friends.
Dr. Wong met him in the foyer of the center, and he bit back a grin at the sight of her bandaged nose and blackened eyes. Danny had clocked her good. Normally, Steve would never condone striking a woman, but if anyone deserved it, Wong did. She treated her patients with a barely veiled indifference and contempt that grated. The Sentinels and Guides under her care were considered nothing more than test subjects for long term study.
She walked him into the observation room and flicked on a monitor. Steve flinched at the sight of Danny tied down on a wide bed in one of the bonding suites, even as he hungrily focused on the beautiful body on display. His Guide had broad, strong shoulders, a beautifully cut torso deliciously furred with golden hair that tapered down to a trim waist with cut, sharply defined hipbones and well muscled thighs and limbs. Steve licked suddenly dry lips and closed his eyes to keep from focusing in on the generous bulge between Danny’s legs. He ached to touch, to taste.
Wong touched a button and Steve flinched at the hoarse invective that poured out of the speakers. If he’d had any doubt that Daniel Williams did not want to be here, it was quickly extinguished as the blond detective cursed them and told the world exactly what he thought of the Sentinels and their Guild and what he would do to them if he wasn’t tied down and helpless.
It got worse when Danny stopped cursing and started begging, pleading to be released and allowed to see his little girl. Steve’s eyes burned with unshed tears. What the hell did he think he was doing? He had always sworn that he would never force a bond on an unwilling Guide. Was he so out of control that he lost all equanimity and became a rapist? What kind of partnership could he hope to forge if he forced his Guide into bonding?
“As you can see, Commander, your Guide is uninjured and in fine voice. You may commence bonding at any time.” Wong’s voice was crisp and dry as dust as she contemptuously muted the monitor. “Your bond is the only one in process at this facility now and most of the staff are gone for the weekend. I will see that the entire wing is left undisturbed. If you have need of anything, please let the evening assistant know. I will be leaving for the remainder of the week.”
“Thank you, doctor,” Steve said politely.
He ignored her as she exited, eyes still locked on the struggling blond man on the monitor. He knew now what he had to do, even if it meant his own death. It was convenient, he thought, absently, that Wong would be gone. With no other bondings in process, that left only the night assistant and security to deal with. A piece of cake for a SEAL trained Sentinel.
Still, he had certain preparations to make and that done right, would take several hours. He closed his burning eyes, clasped his badly shaking hands together and took a deep calming breath, then reached over and turned the monitor on Danny’s room off. He took another deep, shaky breath, reached within himself for the remnants of his famous his iron control and left the room. His senses were beginning to spike wildly, and he could easily pick up Danny’s musky male scent from here. It tormented him. He paused and deliberately rapped his head hard against edge of the doorjamb. The pain served as a distraction and he continued on his way, ignoring the trickle of blood down his temple.
The Center’s pharmacy should be just down the hall on this floor.
Danny stopped fighting the restraints and rested, dully eyeing the view outside as the sun sank behind the lush green mountains in one of those glorious sunsets the islands were famous for. He figured he might as well conserve his strength. Danny had no intention of giving up his ass without a fight.
His mind ran in circles as he tried to figure a way out of his predicament, but try as he might he couldn’t.
Even if he managed to overpower the Sentinel and escape, the Guild would hunt him down. Maybe, maybe if he yielded…the Sentinel would allow him to visit Grace periodically. He winced at the thought of surrendering his body to another man. He wasn’t homophobic by a long shot, but the thought of having sex with a man wasn’t really something he actually ever dwelled on, and the idea of getting fucked up the ass didn’t exactly appeal. Danny wasn’t into pain in any shape or form. He had always been content with and enjoyed women, at least until Rachel had put him through the emotional wringer and then taken him to the cleaners financially.
His musing was interrupted when the door slid silently open and a tall, familiar form loomed in the doorway. Danny tensed and swallowed hard and clamped his mouth shut firmly, determined not to plead or give the Sentinel the courtesy of speech, or show how frightened he was. To his surprise, the man was carrying Danny’s clothes and duffle bag, which he set down on the end of the bed as he briskly began to unfasten the restraints holding Danny captive. He didn’t look good at all, Danny noticed; the big hands were shaking and his eyes looked bruised.
The Sentinel began to speak quietly, keeping his eyes averted and Danny caught a whiff of menthol when the man leaned over to unfasten his wrists. Danny saw he had a dab of Vicks salve under each nostril in an attempt to block Danny’s scent and that he was very careful not to touch Danny’s skin.
“Get dressed. There’s a blue sedan in the parking lot with the keys inside. Turn right out of the lot and take the highway to the Princeville airport. There’s a Guild helicopter waiting to ferry you to Oahu. Just flash the Guide badge in your wallet as ID. Call the number under Kelly in your cell phone and he’ll meet you and take you to a safe house. You’ll be home free after a few days. I’ve registered you with the Guild as my bonded Guide. They won’t bother you again once you’ve been registered as bonded to an active combat Sentinel. If you’re interested in staying on Oahu to be close to your daughter, have Kelly introduce you to Detective Jack McGarrett and he’ll get you hired on at HPD. Just tell him that Steve sent you.”
Danny sat up and rubbed his sore wrists, narrowed, suspicious eyes on the man he had been sure ten minutes ago, was his worst enemy.
“Why are you doing this? Why help me?”
He rolled off the bed and grabbed his boxers and jeans, noticing that the Sentinel quickly closed his eyes and turned away to avoid watching Danny dress. He caught a glimpse of a wry grimace twisting the mobile face as the man turned away.
“I didn’t ask to be a Sentinel any more than you asked to be a Guide," he replied shortly, his back to Danny, broad shoulders slumping. He ran a trembling hand through his hair, dark head drooping in something like defeat.
Danny frowned; the poor guy was really looking ill. He was swaying on his feet and Danny could feel the fever heat rolling off his body from here. He fought the urge to reach out and help the man sit down. Was the bond fever that overpowering and debilitating? Surely he would recover quickly once Danny was out of sensory range and easily rebond with someone else. It wasn’t like the guy was hard on the eyes or anything. Danny was the first to admit he didn’t know a lot about bonding other than what he had read in the tabloids. The Guild kept the details pretty hushed up and Danny had never been particularly keen to research the particulars. Out of sight, out of mind, so to speak.
“Who’s Steve?” Danny asked instead, yanking his tee shirt over his head and reaching for his sneakers.
“Me. I’m Steve. Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett. Jack McGarrett is my father. He doesn’t care much for the Guild. He’ll be glad to help you.”
Steve rubbed his aching eyes and wished desperately that Danny would just shut up and hurry up and go, so Steve could just be finished and finally have some peace. He stumbled over to the clear wall and leaned his aching, burning forehead against the cool plasteel forcing himself to breath deeply and calmly. He slid a hand in his pocket, reassuring himself that the ampule of chemical oblivion he had stolen from the pharmacy was still there. Soon he would finally be free of every earthly pain. He was kind of looking forward to that actually.
Instead of leaving like he was supposed to, Williams lingered, and Steve could feel his body heat, warm like sunlight seeping into Steve’s back as he hovered nervously. Steve bit his lip hard enough to draw blood.
“Are you okay, man? You don’t look too good…”
The Guide’s voice was hoarse and uncertain but still a sweet siren song to Steve’s ears. Okay, time to pull out the big guns and get Danny the hell away from him before Steve lost all control. The sedatives Steve had taken earlier to dampen the bond were fading fast. With a low bass growl, he slammed his fist against the plasteel with a loud crack of sound and whirled to snarl down into the shorter man’s startled face.
“Get the fuck out now, before I lose all control and fuck you blind!”
William’s froze, blue eyes wide and they stared at each other for a long moment, before he grabbed his duffle and obeyed, running out the door.
Steve leaned back against the wall with a strangled sob, slumped slowly to the floor, drew his knees up and let the tears flow as he listened to the fading sound of his Guide’s footsteps. Shakily, Steve pulled the glass ampule of sedative out of his pocket and began to push his sleeve up so he could get to a good vein. There was enough of the drug in the fat lozenge to euthanize a herd of elephants, much less one weary Sentinel.
Danny ran down the stairs to the first level, fully prepared to get the hell out of there, but the glimpse of the devastated look on Steve’s face as he ran haunted him and he found his steps slowing. Confused, he kept looking over his shoulder and his reluctance to leave the other man grew with each step he took. A footfall down the hall alerted him to security and he quickly ducked into a darkened office. He glanced around the door and saw two men approaching, probably heading for the vending machines in the alcove in the stairwell at the far end of the hall.
One wore a blue night watchman’s uniform, and the other scrubs and a white orderly’s jacket and they were talking and laughing together.
“Man, did that little blond Guide really clock Wong? I’d give good money to have seen that!”
“Yeah, he’s a fighter. He’ll make a damned good Guide for Commander McGarrett. It’s too bad he was so reluctant. It goes smoother if they’re willing.”
“Man, can you blame him? Who wants to be bonded for life with another guy? I wouldn’t want to even with a hot chick.”
“It’s not as though a Sentinel has a choice. They’re hardwired to bond or go insane, and McGarrett's been without a bonded Guide to ground him for years. It’s a pity, because he’s a damned good Commander. It’s a fucking miracle he’s still sane and functioning. If he doesn’t complete the bond he’ll die, he’s got the fever now and it’ll fry his brain. There’s no way to turn it off once it starts.”
“Yeah. Hey, did you catch the last half of the game last night…”
They continued on and Danny heard the door at the end of the hall slam.
Danny stood for a moment, stunned, then swore and sprinted back the way he had come. Stupid fucking SEAL Sentinel. Danny was going to so kick his ass…after they bonded. He grimaced and continued on, determined not to think about it now.
He ran back up the stairs, huffing and swearing under his breath at the twinge in his bad knee. He slapped a palm to the doorplate outside the suite and it slid open obediently and Danny slipped back inside and dropped his duffle. He froze for a moment, heart in his throat, before he realized what he was seeing. McGarrett was sitting slumped against the transparent wall, clumsily trying to inject himself with some sort of syringe, but his hand was shaking too badly and he kept fumbling and dropping it on the carpet.
Thinking it was some kind of Sentinel medicine, Danny hurried over and scooped it up, intending to help. He glanced down at the label and swore again, loudly and at length. His stupid lunkhead of a Sentinel was trying to off himself. Growling under his breath, Danny hurled the ampule hard against the far wall and watched with satisfaction as it smashed and left a wet smear across the expensive paint. He dropped to his knees in front of McGarrett, who was staring at him, mouth agape. It was not an attractive look.
They spoke simultaneously.
“Are you fucking nuts?”
“What the hell is wrong with you?”
Steve stared at the idiot Guide in front of him. What the fuck was up with Williams? Was he trying to get himself raped? With an angry snarl, Steve reached out and grabbed the man by the wrist, twisting it hard, intending to get the point across with violence if necessary. Before he could say anything, a swift right hook to the jaw had him reeling back against the wall, literally seeing stars.
“Ow! Son of a bitch!”
He clutched his jaw, his head suddenly crystal clear despite that fact he had just been punched in the face and glared at his idiot Guide, who got up in his face and glared right back. Apparently Daniel Williams did not subscribe to the calm, meditative approach to Guiding Sentinels.
“Oh no, you don’t buddy! Not on my watch.”
Danny spoke determinedly and reached out and gave McGarrett a hard shake for good measure. Damn, the guy was burning up in his skin. No wonder he looked like shit. He found himself holding on to the broad shoulders and he flinched when he finally got a good look at the man’s pale strained face and wet eyes. Danny’s kind heart melted at the sight of the tears still caught in dark lashes. Steve was a good man trying hard to give his Guide his freedom, even at the expense of himself.
Danny swallowed and manned up. He began speaking rapidly, hands flying, before he chickened out.
“You don’t have to do that…I changed my mind. I’m…willing to Guide you if you still want me.”
He glared belligerently at the dazed Sentinel.
“But only on the condition that I get regular visitation with Grace.” He blustered the last bit out hastily.
Steve stared at him, blinking in confusion. Okay, he must finally be in the last stages of bond delirium now, because he thought Danny was here and touching him and talking to him and offering to guide him. He reached out a tentative finger and poked the amazingly loud hallucination-- hard.
“Ow! Okay, okay, you’re so out of it big guy, its not even funny. Come on, let’s get up off the floor and do this in a more comfortable place, like the bed. Shit, I never thought I would ever say that to a guy, you know? I sure as hell hope you know what to do because I am so clueless here. Its always been the ladies for me, not that you’re not a good looking guy, you are, you’ve got the tall, dark and handsome thing down pat with a spiffy uniform to top it off. My sisters would jump you in a heartbeat and leave nothing but gnawed bones behind and my mom would totally sit you down and feed you her homemade lasagna and tiramisu until you gained at least twenty pounds, because babe, I can feel your ribs. You haven’t eaten until you’ve had a mom who’s half Italian and half Jewish cook for you…what? What? What’s that look? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Do you always talk so much?”
Steve croaked, peering down in wonder at his motor-mouth Guide as the smaller man wrestled him to his feet, wrapped one of Steve’s arms around his shoulders, slid a strong arm around his waist and hauled him dizzily over towards the big bed.
“Yeah. Yeah, I do. It’s a Williams family trait to talk our asses off. Legend has it that Great Aunt Ida actually talked three husbands to death. You should visit during the family reunion, the noise puts a flock of seagulls to shame. The neighbors call the cops to shut us down just for yakking. You, my friend would need ear protectors. I also snore like a buzz saw, steal the covers and fart in bed, by the way, just so you know what you’re getting into.”
“Doesn’t everyone?” Steve asked, blinking in confusion as he was gently lowered to sit with his back against the cushioned headboard and Danny lifted his long legs up and began to briskly unlace his boots. Steve had been a Navy man since he was nineteen, and even as a SEAL he always bunked down with his team. To his knowledge, snoring and farting was normal nighttime routine. He blinked wearily, basking in the sound of Danny’s voice, savoring his scent and touch, and sighed softly as he felt the pain of the thwarted bond slowly begin to recede like the outgoing tide.
“You don’t have to do this, I’ll be okay.”
He desperately lied, as he tried one last time to give the other man an out, even as he curled his hands into fists with the effort not to touch.
He got a derisive snort in reply as Danny yanked off Steve’s last boot and tossed it over his shoulder.
“Riiight. And the reason the Guild would leave me alone would be because they have some kind of rule about leaving a combat Sentinel’s ‘widow’ in peace, am I right Mr. Army Guy?”
“Navy, it’s the Navy,” Steve corrected absently, distracted by the delicious scent of his guide, the sight of flashing blue eyes and the feel of his strong hands tugging at Steve’s clothing. He felt a surge of hope and reached out a hesitant hand, wanted badly to touch, thought better of it and withdrew it before Danny could take offense and stop touching him.
Danny caught the aborted movement, hesitated, then reached out and took Steve’s hand in his. It was a nice hand, well shaped and gun calloused with long fingers. He found himself absently twining their fingers together. Steve took a shaky breath and held tight and closed his eyes in something like relief at the willing touch. Again, Danny’s tender heart twisted. How long had it been since this poor guy had been able to touch someone without hurting? The orderly downstairs had said Steve had been without a real Guide for years.
Impulsively, he stepped closer to the bed and slid his other hand gently around to cup the hot, damp nape of Steve’s neck. The Sentinel’s long lashes fluttered with pleasure and he leaned into the touch. Slowly, shyly, he reached out and circled his arms around Danny’s waist and curled close enough to bury his face against Danny’s broad chest. Once there, he heaved a soft sigh, shuddered once and clung, safe and surrounded by his Guide’s warmth and scent, lulled by the steady thud of his heartbeat. Danny hesitated only a moment before hugging him close and gently stroking his sweat damp hair back.
He was a bit alarmed when Steve went limp and slumped bonelessly against him, but relaxed when he realized the Sentinel was only releasing some of the muscular tension he had held onto for so long. He frowned at the heat of the lean body under his hands. The guy really needed to get hydrated before he burned out. Glancing around the room, he saw a door that presumably led to the living and kitchen area of the suite. There should be some kind of fancy vitamin water in the fridge there. Danny patted Steve’s shoulder and started to step back to go in search of it. Steve made an anguished noise and tightened his grip on the back of Danny’s shirt.
“Hey, hey, hey, I am not leaving you. I just want to snag some water from the fridge okay? “
The Sentinel made a small garbled noise of protest.
“You can watch me from here, I’ll leave the door open,” Danny added hastily, realizing that the bonding fever was probably affecting Steve pretty heavily by now and he wasn’t quite in his right mind. He gently pried McGarrett’s hands off him, gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder and headed out of the bedroom. The Sentinel watched his every move, hands clenching and unclenching anxiously, dark eyes riveted on his Guide.
Danny found not only a good-sized fridge, but also a full wet bar as well in the small kitchenette. Just as he’d suspected, the suite was well stocked with various top of the line foodstuffs and beverages. The Navy apparently took excellent care of its Sentinels. He discovered a plate of thick roast beef sandwiches in the fridge and grabbed it as well as a couple of bottles of water and a handful of napkins and carried his haul back to his Sentinel.
Steve was waiting restlessly, a fretful look on his mobile face, probably afraid Danny would vanish into thin air at any moment. Danny was kind of wondering himself why he now found the thought of abandoning McGarrett appalling, when just a couple of hours ago he had seriously been contemplating knocking him unconscious, or worse. He set the plate on the bedside table and handed Steve a bottle of water.
“Okay, time to fuel up and rehydrate. Like I said, I don’t know a damned thing about the fine details of bonding but I bet its better on a full stomach. The last time I ate was lunch in Newark yesterday and not a very substantial or nutritious lunch at that—unless I was unconscious longer than I think I was—and these sandwiches are looking pretty good.”
He waved one around to emphasize his point, and his stomach put in its two cents worth with an approving gurgle. He glanced down at McGarrett and flushed pink when he saw the man’s eyes were dilated and locked on Danny’s mouth, like it was the most fascinating thing he had ever seen, water clutched forgotten in his hand. Danny sighed, much put upon.
“Okay, I see what you did there. Babe, you can’t zone every time I open my mouth because if you do, you’ll be spending the rest of your life unconscious. Here, let me give you a hand.”
He took the bottle from Steve’s unresisting hand, opened it and held it to Steve’s lips, coaxing his Sentinel to sip. Steve obeyed, eyes still locked mutely on Danny’s face. He kind of reminded Danny of Grace when she was tired or sick-- docile and depending on Danny to take care of her. After the first swallow, the man drank thirstily and Danny wondered how long it had been since McGarrett had had a decent meal.
Bite by bite he coaxed Steve into eating two of the sandwiches by sharing them and trading bites with him, keeping up an encouraging monologue as he did. By the time they finished eating, Steve’s eyelids were drooping with exhaustion and Danny wasn’t far behind him. Evidently this Guide gig was exhausting. Danny chewed his lip for a moment, shrugged and made an executive decision. It wasn’t as though he could wimp out now. He had an ill, semi-zoned Sentinel to take care of.
He pushed Steve over on the big bed, kicked off his sneakers and climbed in and lay down beside him, not surprised when the taller man immediately curled up against him, dark head heavy on Danny’s shoulder, nose buried in Danny’s neck, one long leg thrown over Danny’s and one hand firmly clamped on his hip, presumably to prevent his escape. Danny rubbed the long, lean back soothingly, pleased because McGarrett’s temperature felt much lower now.
It surprised him that he, himself, wasn’t having a major heterosexual freak out here because after all, here he was, cuddling in bed with a man whom he barely knew anything about and eventually they would be having sex. Instead, he felt amazingly calm and in control despite the awkward situation. Apparently this bonding thing was sneaky and worked both ways.
McGarrett was asleep immediately, breath warm and steady against Danny’s throat. Danny frowned up at the ceiling and scratched his stubbled cheek, idly thought that there really should be a Handbook for Dummies for this sort of thing, cracked a jaw-breaking yawn and was asleep himself before he realized it. They both slept deeply, curled together like children through the peaceful Hawaiian night.
Danny woke from dreams of gentle kisses to find them a reality. He blinked sleepily down at the dark head nosing across his chest McGarrett was apparently unaware that he was awake and appeared to be indulging in a very private pleasure.
First, he would uncover and nuzzle a section of Danny’s bare skin—Danny’s tee shirt was rucked up under his armpits now—kiss it tenderly, then delicately taste it with the tip of his tongue. It reminded Danny of a cat daintily lapping cream. The Sentinel’s eyes were closed and the look on his face was one of a man who had found his Zen. Danny studied the handsome, rapt face for a moment. He probably should be disturbed that he had awoken in the midst of his Sentinel in the process of marking him, but he wasn’t. Apparently he now trusted the man on a level he himself wasn’t even fully cognizant of yet.
He thought of how Steve had reined himself in, the pain he had endured as he fought the bond and freed Danny. The man had been prepared to sacrifice himself so Danny could have his life back. The least Danny could do, was return the favor by ensuring that from now on Steve had a life worth living.
He found himself absorbed in studying his Sentinel’s features. McGarrett was not a classically handsome man. His nose was too long and his brows and eyelids drooped a bit, lending a perpetually sleepy cast to his face. His dark hair was silvering at the temples and he was probably about Danny’s age. Danny found himself remembering the joyous smile Steve had given him when the Sentinel first caught sight of him. It had totally transformed that long, sad face into something irresistible. He found he wanted to see the man smile again soon, to see how he looked content and happy.
As he watched Steve opened his eyes and blinked up at him, pupils so dilated that his eyes looked black. He gave Danny a fantastically goofy grin and Danny found himself grinning helplessly back. He reached up impulsively and ran a fond hand over the sleek, dark head and Steve leaned into the touch, wide smile still firmly in place. The Sentinel was touch drunk, he realized, and he was the cause of it.
“Oh, babe, you are so stoned.”
McGarrett responded with an even broader megawatt grin and Danny chuckled softly in response. The Sentinel dropped his head down and happily nuzzled Danny’s left nipple, his morning stubble scratching it gently. Danny hissed in a startled breath at the prickly, surprisingly erotic sensation and his nipple hardened.
Steve caught his response instantly. He kept his heavy lidded eyes locked on Danny’s and bent his head and deliberately suckled the tiny pink nub. It was apparently hot wired directly to Danny’s dick, because he was instantly hard, cock straining against his clothing. Eyes still locked with Danny’s, the Steve inhaled deeply and reached down and gently cupped Danny’s crotch. He raised his head from the tingling nipple.
It was more than a simple request. It was a plea for understanding. The amount of control the man still maintained amazed Danny. He could feel the heat and Steve trembling against him as the fever rose again. As a young beat cop he had once witnessed the brutal aftermath of a forced bonding—the ravished Guide bruised, hollow-eyed and in shock, hauled away with her snarling Sentinel by a briskly efficient Guild clean up team. He couldn’t help but wonder now, how they were even able to function afterwards as an effective team. How could that Guide ever trust her Sentinel?
This was different. This thing between them was theirs. They were in this together and what they did now would determine how things turned out in their future as partners. Danny realized that maybe they could rise above the brutal couplings he was familiar with. Maybe there was a lot more to bonding than he was familiar with. He took a shaky breath of his own, cupped the nape of his Sentinel’s neck and squeezed, watching the long lashes droop in response to his touch.
Steve was touch starved, he realized. The man had been isolated for years in ways that Danny was only beginning to understand. He must have been horribly lonely. As a city-bred, social creature, Danny found that thought unbearable. He himself had grown up in a large chaotic, noisy family. Touching was second nature for Danny. He couldn’t imagine not being able to touch his loved ones. Acting on instinct, he sat up and pulled the other man into a hug, holding him close. McGarrett froze for a second, then clumsily wrapped his long arms around Danny and clung hard, shyly burying his face in the curve of Danny’s broad shoulder.
Danny just held him, giving him all the contact he needed, rocking him gently, much the same way he comforted Grace when she was upset. He could do this, he thought. It wasn’t as though McGarrett was unattractive, and sex was sex. They could probably muddle through with enough practice. Feeling bold, he turned his head and kissed the dark head. Steve shuddered in his arms and raised his head to stare blindly at his Guide. He was beginning to pant softly, lips parted. Danny soothed him with a touch, carefully cupped the lean jaw with one hand and leaned over and gently kissed his mouth.
“Shush. It’s okay, we’re going to be okay. We can do this. Right, partner?”
Steve blinked, then gave him another one of those megawatt smiles that totally transformed his face.
“Right. Right, Danny, whatever you want, ” he stammered, heart in his eyes and flushed, ashamed of his need.
Danny took it all in stride, leaned over and pressed his forehead against his Sentinel’s so that they were breathing in the same air.
“No, babe. It’s whatever we want.”
They took it as slow as they could, undressing each other carefully and tentatively exploring the unfamiliar male territory of each other’s bodies with hands and mouths. It was awkward making out with a guy, but intriguing as well and the more they explored, the more aroused they became. Both men were used to the soft, smooth curves of the female body, so the switch to hard muscle and unexpected body hair took some getting used to. Danny had never been with a man, and Steve, while used to the company of other men had seldom been able to have sex with anyone—even a Guide—without becoming totally repulsed and zoning out.
Danny was intrigued by the battle scars and various tattoos on the Sentinel’s lean body and made a mental note to ask about each one later. What did the designs mean? Had it hurt? He kept Steve from zoning several times with a touch, a distracting kiss or a word. He found that kissing and being held by someone larger than he was something of a turn on in itself, although he could’ve done without the beard burn. Handling a dick other than his was odd at first, and McGarrett certainly had nothing to be ashamed of in that department. Making love to Steve turned out to be easier than he’d thought, the man had a beautiful, tanned, lean body, probably from all the swimming and running that the SEAL did to maintain military fitness and he smelled good and tasted even better.
Steve was apparently just as fascinated with the blond’s body hair, as Danny was with Steve’s ink. He spent a lot of time happily nosing deep in the golden fuzz and stroking it and examining the silky texture. He also seemed fond of Danny’s sturdy hands and feet, taking long minutes to kiss and explore their compact structure. He loved to scent and taste Danny’s body, nosing happily into Danny’s armpits and crotch. It tickled and Danny was startled into laugher, which Steve shared. In fact, they spent a lot of time laughing in bed as they got to know each other, both clueless but increasingly enthusiastic and enthralled. Danny finally had to firmly remove Steve’s warm, wet mouth from his crotch before he lost his load right there.
They didn’t need the slick they found in the well-stocked night table the first time. It was awkward, and urgent, with bumping elbows and clashing teeth, but all it took to bring them both off was skin-to-skin contact, deep, hungry kisses and taking each other in hand. Danny came seconds after Steve cried out and spurted hot and wet over Danny’s fist. It had been a long time since Rachel after all and the strong arms holding him and the warm, muscular body against his felt wonderful. Also, it was a heady sensation to be the sole focus of an amorous Sentinel.
The second time was much the same, except that a more confident and experienced Steve joyfully took control. He sat with his back against the mound of pillows against the headboard, Danny astride his lap, their slick erections pressed deliciously together, exchanging deep, slow kisses, pausing now and then to grin like idiots at each other. Danny’s arms were wrapped around Steve’s neck and he seemed determined to slowly kiss his Sentinel senseless. Steve happily let him, returning each wet kiss hungrily—he couldn’t get enough of Danny’s taste—his big hands slid lazily up and down his Guide’s broad back, stroking gently before easing down to grope and squeeze the smaller man’s beautifully shaped, peach fuzzed behind.
Danny shot off first this time with a surprised yelp when Steve abruptly sank sharp teeth in the side of his neck up close to the hairline, and sucked hard, finally marking his Guide. He growled softly in warning when the blond tried to jerk away, one big hand cupping the back of Danny’s head, keeping him still as he worried the tender, bruised skin just enough to delicately scar and leave behind the permanent mark of Steve’s claim, while his other hand ruthlessly worked Danny’s erection. Danny could only cling to his Sentinel’s broad shoulders and shudder through an amazing orgasm. The sight and scent of his Guide’s pleasure had Steve spurting within seconds and they made quite a sticky mess of themselves again.
Afterwards, Steve licked the mark gently, and held his Guide close while the smaller man complained sleepily and at length about cannibalistic Sentinels with sharp teeth who really should snack on something other than their Guides. They snuggled together, recouping their strength. Danny dozed off against his Sentinel’s shoulder, held close in Steve’s protective arms. Steve stayed awake, eyes on his sleeping face, hungrily memorizing each rugged feature.
He could feel himself imprinting on Danny and it was heady, he was fascinated by his Guide—the blond hair, the beautifully compact body, the bright blue eyes with their laugh lines, his golden furred torso, the stubborn chin and acerbic mouth that never, ever shut up. Danny was a damned fine looking man-- all gold, cream and rosy pink and the contrast to his own darker, leaner body delighted Steve.
The third time, Danny awoke blanketed in warm Sentinel as Steve took his time kissing and tasting and memorizing every inch of his Guide’s compact body, from the top of his disheveled blond head to the soles of his small feet. This time when Steve raised his head to meet his Guide’s eyes, Danny found pure primal Sentinel looking back at him, so he didn’t resist when McGarrett rolled him over on his belly and nipped and kissed his way down his back to open him up with a warm, wet tongue and insistent, well lubed fingers. Danny grabbed the headboard and held on, gritting his teeth to keep from shouting out loud as the sensations shifted from odd to wow.
It felt so damned good that he wasn’t afraid when McGarrett finally lifted his hips and moved to mount him—it hurt at first, Danny was a virgin after all and Steve was well endowed—but once Steve’s smooth, steady thrusts found that hidden place inside him the pleasure built and quickly overcame the pain. For long minutes there was only heat between them, the creak of the bed frame, the wet slap of slick skin against skin, hoarse moans and strong hands holding narrow hips hard enough to bruise, followed by Danny’s throaty cry of completion and Steve’s bass growl of triumph as he released deep inside the tight heat of his Guide as the fever inside him finally peaked.
It was like an explosion of light inside the Sentinel’s head and he came back to himself, slumped over his Guide’s back, blindly mouthing the nape of his neck, nuzzling the claim bite, body still joined with him--fully online now with his head clear and completely pain free except for the rasp of beard burn on his skin, the tingle of love bites on his throat and shoulders and the welts down his back where Danny had energetically raked his blunt nails. Danny was already nearly asleep beneath him, exhausted from their vigorous lovemaking. Steve inhaled the heady aroma of sex and their combined musk, grounding himself. He wanted to wallow in that pungent scent—them-- and wear it forever.
Steve kissed his cheek and withdrew gently, then tenderly examined his lover to make sure there was no tearing of tissue. Relieved when he found only a few drops of blood on the edge of the small opening, where the delicate skin had been too hastily stretched, he padded into the bath and returned with a warm, wet cloth and a cooling medicinal salve and carefully tended to the small swollen opening. He couldn’t resist taking a moment to nuzzle and gently nip his Guide’s delectable ass cheeks before finally giving into temptation and suckling a large hickey on the left one. Danny had an ass like a ripe peach and his Sentinel was determined to give it his seal of approval despite his Guide’s sleepy protests.
Finishing, he tossed the wet cloth onto the floor and curled himself around his lover, greedily pulling the sturdy, warm body close, tangling their limbs together and enjoying his Guide’s weight and warmth. He grinned at Danny’s sleepy, incoherent grumbles when he was disturbed and allowed his grumpy lover to shove him over and use him as a human body pillow and Steve just squeezed him harder and held on, stroking a hand through the wildly tangled blond hair. He felt like he might explode inside from sheer happiness.
In all his wildest dreams he had never ever thought he would be lucky enough to have this. This loud, volatile golden man who filled up all of Steve’s shadowed, empty spaces with noise and light, who took him on toe to toe, stood beside him against an unknown future and somehow seemed determined to keep him.
A movement against the clear wall caught his eye and a soft coughing growl caught the Sentinel’s attention and he turned his head to see his spirit animal—a black jaguar—determinedly grooming a grumpily chattering badger who seemed equally determined to curl up in a tight ball and nap with his bushy tail covering his nose. Steve fell asleep, arms full of his Guide, with a smile on his face to the sounds of a hoarse rumbling purr and a snoring badger.
Eighteen months later
Catherine and her Sentinel reached the dockside scene after SWAT had cleared the area and the Guild had radioed in for a back-up Sentinel and Guide team. They were met at the scene by a flustered Guild Operations Chief who hastily saluted Jude and nodded politely at Catherine.
“What’s the situation?” Jude asked, already peering over the shorter man, trying to extend his sight into the warehouse behind the yellow crime scene tape.
Judson Jubal Scott had only two enhanced senses, sight and hearing, but his imposing linebacker height and bulk was more than enough to back them up in his chosen career as a Sentinel NCIS Officer. He had had the great fortune to meet Catherine as she was passing through the Guide Center in San Diego for retraining for her next assignment after she left Kauai. They had bonded almost instantly.
“We have a wounded Guide and an out of control Sentinel. He went ballistic after his Guide went down and took out the gunrunners in the warehouse. We’ve removed the ones still alive and his team is trying to talk him down so we can get the EMTs in to examine the Guide. So far, we haven’t had much luck.”
“Who is it?” Catherine asked briskly, already mentally running through the list of known Sentinels stationed in the Hawaiian Islands.
“He’s the head of the Governor’s new task force, a Navy Sentinel. His name is Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett, his Guide is Detective Sergeant Daniel Williams.”
Catherine’s hiss of shock had Jude whipping his head around, instantly focusing on her. “Cat?” he rumbled in question. She patted his brawny arm absently, soothing his protective instincts.
“I know him, Jude. He’s the guy I was assigned to before we met.”
Jude nodded, taking that in stride. She had never told him much about the failed bonding, but he knew it had saddened her and that she had cared very much for the Sentinel. He smiled gently down at her, teeth very white in his dark face.
“Baby, if anyone can reach this guy, it’ll be you.”
His faith in her was absolute. She had certainly saved him from going insane, because he had had no control of his senses at all when they met. Now he seldom ever had a headache. She gave him a tremulous smile in return and took his hand.
“Let’s do this!”
They ducked under the caution tape and entered the dim warehouse, following the sound of a man’s calm voice through a maze of shipping crates towards the office area in the back. Reaching the end of the gloomy aisle, they were met by a petite Asian woman in a TAC vest, carrying a rifle almost as tall as she was. She looked too young to be a member of the Governor’s elite squad. She extended a hand and shook theirs quickly.
“Kono Kalakaua, 5-0. He’s calmed down some, but I don’t think he recognizes us yet. He is listening to Chin though.”
“Excellent. That shows he is starting to rein himself in.” Catherine nodded approvingly.
They continued and stepped into a clear area at the back of the warehouse. Both Catherine and Jude blinked, appalled at the sight of the broken bodies strewn over the blood smeared concrete floor. There had to be at least a half dozen dead gunrunners sprawled there. A calm, handsome Asian man holding a shotgun knelt nearby, speaking soothingly to McGarrett, who was crouched protectively over his fallen Guide in the corner. Catherine’s eyes widened at the sight of her former lover.
Steve was splashed in gore. There was blood smeared across his snarling face, his pale blue tee shirt and TAC vest and staining both hands and forearms. He held an unconscious Danny close, the blond head lolling against his chest. There was blood on the still face and in the bright hair, and the front of the smaller man’s white button down shirt was blood soaked, so they couldn’t see how badly he was wounded. The feral Sentinel noticed the newcomers and hissed angrily and growled a low bass warning, even as he shifted to put more of his own body between them and his Guide.
“Steve, its Catherine. We’re here to help you.”
She spoke as soothingly as she could, projecting calmness, although she was badly shaken. She had never seen a Sentinel gone primal in combat before. The situation had been covered in her training classes, of course, but only in theory. The majority of Sentinels who lost their Guides never recovered themselves and either died, committed suicide or went rogue and had to be institutionalized for the rest of their lives.
Those wild hazel eyes narrowed and locked on her and Steve sniffed the air, scenting her, but he gave no indication that he recognized her at all. Instead he snarled another warning, and carefully pulled his Guide closer, one hand cupping the blond head gently to his chest, head turned vigilantly to keep a watchful eye on Jude, whom he had identified as the greater threat. Catherine continued to speak to him, trying to calm him enough so she could make a connection, but it wasn’t working. Those blank, feral eyes looked right through her and he continued to focus most of his attention on Jude, who stood quietly behind her.
Almost an hour later, Catherine’s throat was dry and she was at her wit’s end.
Steve growled if one of them ventured too close to the invisible NO TRESPASSING line the Sentinel guarded, and there was no sign he understood or even recognized her. She was reluctantly considering calling in for a tranq gun as a last resort—dangerous for an out of control Sentinel-- and trying to convince Jude to wait outside so as to possibly reduce Steve’s level of agitation at the presence of a second Sentinel, when there was a soft groan from the corner Steve guarded so diligently, followed by slow movement in Steve’s arms.
Danny was regaining consciousness.
“Ow, ow, ow, fuck, my head…what the…?” The blond groggily lifted his head and peered blearily around him, then focused on Steve, who was nuzzling him anxiously, still trying to keep an eye on the people he perceived as intruders. Danny groaned again, then reached up and cupped his Sentinel’s lean jaw in one hand and shook him gently, chidingly.
“Oh, babe, what have you done this time? Gone medieval on greater Oahu?”
The hoarse voice was fond as the diminutive detective struggled to a sitting position, ignoring everyone except Steve. Chin and Kono grinned in relief. As long as Danny could talk, he would be fine. Now he just had to reassure a very anxious Sentinel of that fact.
“Look, look here, super SEAL, it’s just a graze on my arm. I tripped jumping out of the way of that AK and cracked my head on the corner of a crate. You know head wounds always bleed a lot. Come back to me babe.”
He coaxed gently, as he cupped his Sentinel’s head in both hands and pressed their foreheads together, murmuring something softly, too low for Catherine to hear, but Jude did, and a slow smile spread over his face.
After a moment the sleek, dark head drooped and a full body shudder ran over the Sentinel’s lean body, then he raised his head and blinked owlishly around and then stared down into his Guide’s patiently waiting face. He gaped for a second then a look of alarm spread across his features and he cradled his wounded Guide close again.
“Danno?” His voice was reed thin and shaky with fear.
“It’s okay now babe, you got the bad guys. From what I can see here you really got the bad guys. What do you say we get the hell out of here and go home?”
The blond brought his hands up to grab his partner’s shoulders and allowed the confused, chagrined man to carefully hoist him to his feet, but his determined don’t even think about carrying me, McGarrett, was thwarted when he swayed dizzily and his Sentinel ignored him and stooped, scooped him up with a grunt and carried him outside, ignoring his hissed indignant protests, to the waiting EMTs and ambulance.
Steve nodded at Catherine as they passed, surprised to see her, but his focus was on his injured partner. He hovered near the ambulance, wiping his face and hands clean, an eagle eye on the EMTs as his Guide was carefully examined, but he was obviously back to full cognitive function because he briskly questioned Kalakaua and Kelly on the details of the op, and left them to supervise the coroner and his team before leaving with his Guide, when despite his vigorous complaints, the detective was loaded onto a gurney and hauled off to Queen’s Medical.
Kelly and Kalakaua paused to politely thank Catherine for her efforts, relief that their teammates were going to be okay evident on their faces, before they went on about their jobs.
Catherine leaned against Jude’s side, snug under a powerful arm. She had mixed feelings about this meeting with Steve-- disappointment that she still barely registered on his radar, relief that he and his Guide were okay, and distress that she hadn’t been able to pull him out of the zone herself. Jude picked up on her dissatisfaction instantly and hugged her close.
“You can’t help everybody, baby.”
“I know, I know. “ She tried to shake off her frustration. Part of her dissatisfaction, she realized, stemmed from the fact that she hated failure.
As they walked to the car, her phone buzzed in her pocket with a text. She pulled it out, recognizing the familiar number instantly. She read the brief message with a smile and showed it to her Sentinel.
“We’ve been invited to dinner at McGarrett’s house tomorrow.”
Jude raised a brow in inquiry.
Catherine grinned. “Yeah, I think we are. I’d really like to meet Danny.”
Jude nodded placidly. “Good. Because I’d really like to meet Steve when he isn’t wild-eyed and ready to rip my head off.”
They arrived at the address provided a few minutes early, Jude easily carrying a case of Longboards under one arm and Catherine holding a bottle of good red wine. She noted that the address differed from Steve’s tiny, isolated bungalow. This was an older house, set in a quietly upscale neighborhood and she was impressed to see that it fronted the ocean. Steve answered the door, casually dressed in khaki shorts and a worn tank top. he greeted them with a wide smile and hugged her briefly and shook Jude’s hand. He seemed genuinely pleased to see them, his face more open and relaxed then she had ever seen.
“Come on out back, I’ve got surf and turf on the grill, if that’s okay?”
“Man, steak is always okay!” Jude spoke fervently.
Catherine smiled and shook her head fondly at him, her former linebacker always had an appetite. Steve grinned and agreed and ushered them inside, through cool, quiet rooms and a lovely old-fashioned kitchen out to the lanai.
Jude sniffed the mouth-watering aroma of the cooking steaks appreciatively and set the beer on the side table, and McGarrett immediately placed most of the bottles on ice to chill and opened the wine so it could breathe.
The sound of a child’s laughter caught Catherine’s attention and she saw Danny down on the beach, apparently building an elaborate sand castle with a little girl. Steve caught her look and smiled proudly.
“That’s Gracie, Danny’s daughter. We have her on weekends and most of the holidays. Her sixth birthday is next week.” Steve beamed proudly at his small family. He turned to grin at them.
“Danny and I are having a hard time explaining exactly why she can’t have a pony for her birthday.”
Jude chuckled good-naturedly. His sister had six kids, he could relate to the maddening illogic of a small child’s logic. Catherine smiled too, happy to see Steve’s open happiness. He looked so different from the silent, morose man she had known.
“Maybe you can give her riding lessons as a gift instead?” she suggested.
Steve blinked thoughtfully and shot her a grin that made her blink.
“That is a great idea, Cat. Danno will be relieved that we won’t be building a stall in the garage and a paddock in the back yard.”
He stood to poke at the grill and Danny saw them and wandered up from the beach, leaving Gracie hard at work with her pink plastic shovel and pail.
He too, was casually dressed, barefoot in a white tee shirt and cut off jeans. He had a small white butterfly bandage on his forehead and Catherine caught a glimpse of a sliver of a larger one on his bicep, not quite covered by the sleeve of his shirt. She looked him over critically, curious about Steve’s runaway Guide. He had been so determined to escape them in Newark, she couldn’t help but be skeptical and wonder how hard he fought the bonding with Steve and if he was as happy and content as Steve. Her own bond with Jude had been unexpected, but joyful and much welcomed.
He tilted his head and stared right back, before thrusting out a hand and shaking hers. His pale blue eyes were sharp on her face—a cop’s eyes—and she flushed, embarrassed to be caught staring at the man. He gave her a small smile and nodded, then turned to Jude.
“Judson Jubal Scott, former linebacker for the Cowboys, if I am not mistaken. It’s a pleasure man.” He shook Jude’s hand. Jude’s huge paw engulfed his.
“Likewise, my friend,” Jude rumbled, pleased as always, when his brief career in professional football was mentioned, delighted to be recognized and acknowledged.
He and Danny immediately got caught up in talking football stats for a while and Catherine grinned when Steve caught her eye at the grill and rolled his own. She knew that Steve had been a quarterback in High School, but he wasn’t an avid sports fan. He had always been focused on his career. She left them to their chat and walked over to the grill to give Steve a hand. He smiled and thanked her when she passed him a plate for the finished shrimp kebabs.
“They seem to be getting along.” she ventured and Steve smiled fondly over at the blond who was gesturing widely with both hands, pantomiming throwing a ball, no doubt making a point about some obscure score.
“Danny will talk his ear off about sports. He loves football and baseball.”
“Steve! Steve, look what I found!” Grace ran up, stopped short when she saw they had visitors and hid behind Steve, peering around his hip with shy brown eyes at Catherine.
Steve immediately knelt and examined her treasure---a tiny desiccated starfish-- and admired it. Beaming at him, the little girl ducked her head at Catherine and ran over to the lanai to show the sea star to her father, who also paused in mid-conversation to peer at and admire her find. He lifted his head and those intense blue eyes met Steve’s over the child’s head and they exchanged a fond look before Grace ran back to finish her castle.
Catherine cleared her throat softly. “You look happy, Steve. I’m glad for you.”
He tilted his head and gave her an endearing, almost shy smile, his eyes returning almost involuntarily to the blond, who was now sharing a hearty laugh with Jude, head thrown back, hands still in full flight inscribing epic arcs in the air.
“I never thought I’d find him, you know? I was sure I was going to die alone…” His eyes were suddenly far away in a very cold, empty place.
Catherine winced at the pain visible in them. He suddenly looked so very vulnerable.
“What happened?” she asked softly, her empathy rising. “Did he fight the bond?”
Steve’s eyes flicked to hers, then returned to his Guide. He smiled wryly at the memory.
“I let him go. I had it all planned. I stole a full vial of sedative from the pharmacy. I was going to commit suicide.” He gave Catherine another of those gentle smiles when he saw her shock. “He came back, smashed the ampule and clocked me one.”
The look he gave his Guide now was unabashedly admiring and full of pride.
“He’d decided to bond with me and told me I was nuts.”
There was a note of wonder in his voice, as if he still found it hard to believe that Danny chose to stay with him. Steve turned back to the grill and turned the steaks, a tiny private smile lingering on his lips.
Catherine leaned against the lanai post, feeling more than a bit shaken at Steve’s revelation. Guiltily she remembered walking away from him that night, more concerned with her own jealousy and hurt feelings than the man who was incapable of bonding with her through no fault of his own. What if Danny had run? Steve would have quietly died alone while she was indulging in a pity party in the guesthouse.
No wonder he couldn’t bond with her, despite her empathy, she had had no clue that he was that desperate. That made her a pitiful candidate for becoming his Guide. She brooded quietly, mentally castigated herself and responded automatically to Steve’s inquires about when and how she had met Jude.
Steve announced the food was ready, and Danny rose from the table to help, vanishing inside the kitchen to fetch the huge bowl of salad that was chilling in the fridge. The rest of the evening passed uneventfully, the meal was delicious and Jude waxed eloquent on Steve’s mastery of the grill, which led to a round of toasts. Before Catherine realized it, it was time to take their leave and Steve, ever the gracious host, showed them out after extracting promises that they would visit again, while Danny had said his goodbyes earlier and gone upstairs to put Grace to bed.
They were already in the car, when Catherine realized she had left her clutch purse on the lanai and left Jude fiddling with the settings on the radio while she ran back to get it. She slipped silently around the side of the house, still brooding a bit about Steve and Danny. She wished she knew for certain if the acerbic blond cared as much for his Sentinel as Steve obviously did for him. Steve wore his heart in his eyes when he looked at his Guide. It was none of her business, she knew, but she still felt she had abandoned Steve when he had badly needed her friendship and confidence the most and she worried.
She found the purse where she left it and turned to go, when soft laughter and the low murmur of male voices down on the beach caught her attention. She stepped off the lanai and peered down the yard, through the evening shadows. The moon was full and cast bright light over the yard and Steve’s tiny beach illuminating Grace’s castle and the two deck chairs placed side by side. Steve was seated in one, a beer in hand, with Danny standing between his legs, smiling down at him.
As she watched, Danny tenderly cupped Steve’s face in his hands and bent to take his mouth in a searing kiss. Steve made a soft happy sound and slid big hands around the smaller man’s trim waist and pulled him down in his lap, dropping his beer bottle in the process. It rolled unnoticed down into the surf. Catherine flushed at the erotic sight. It looked like she had her answer. Smiling to herself she walked back to the car where her own Sentinel waited.
She never saw the look of smug satisfaction Danny shot her back, pleased to have openly staked his claim in front of Steve’s former Guide. Steve gave a small, unhappy growl at his Guide’s momentary distraction and his sudden lack of kisses and Danny dutifully set about remedying the situation. It wouldn’t be the first time they fucked on the beach and woke up the next morning with sand in unmentionable places.
July 5, 2011