Author: Dreaming K
Category: Slash eventually (Jim/Blair)
Disclaimer: I don't own The Sentinel or any of the characters of the show. Just dreaming :)
Written for the challenge #193 'monster' at sentinel_thurs . Just a bit late for the challenge, but who cares. Not betaed. Is anybody out there interested in beta-reading this story? I can pay with virtual cookies....
I hope you enjoy.
His chambers were dark when James finally entered them. Only a soft glow came from the study.
Grinning mischievously, the prince silently closed the door behind him and approached the doorway to the study on soft feet. Carefully he tested the air by poking his head around the frame, only to deftly yank it back when a heavy sword whistled through the space his head had occupied only moments before. James leapt back, but didn’t draw his own weapon.
A tall man stepped forward, silhouetted by the soft light from the fire.
“One day you are going to be too slow to dodge my sword, then what are you going to do, James?” Simon chided him gently, making James laugh softly.
“As if you didn’t know it was me. How is Chief?”
Simon stepped back into the adjourning room and motioned for James to join him. The fire, while still burning, had tempered a bit. James’ wolf lay in front of the fireplace, head on his paws and his nose resting on an open book. Chief was sleeping deeply and hadn’t moved at all during their little game.
James could only smile affectionately at the adorable picture.
“He’s been asleep for a while, he must have been exhausted.” James barely even listened to his friend, completely focused on the sleeping creature. It took Simon’s touch on his arm to tear his attention away.
“You should get some sleep as well.” Simon advised his prince, who nodded.
“Thank you for watching over him, Simon.”
“Don’t mention it, James. We had fun. Never thought I’d ever be manipulated into reading stories to a wolf, though.” Simon scowled at James’ grin. “You just wait until he turns his puppy eyes onto you and then we’ll see how you fare.”
“Goodnight, Simon. I’ll see you in the morning.” James clapped his friend on the shoulder in thanks and then went to retrieve a blanket from his wardrobe. Simon nodded and left the prince’s chambers to get some sleep as well.
With Aquino situated by the sea and the castle made of stone, nights could be very cold. James draped the blanket over Chief’s sleeping body, careful as not to wake him, to keep him from being cold during the night. He put another log into the fire, made sure nothing could fall out of the fireplace and left for his chambers after kissing chief’s furry head and whispering “Goodnight”.
James shimmied out of his heavy clothes to put on his nightdress before folding them neatly onto a chair.
Relieved he slipped under the blankets on his bed. His hearing went out on its own to search for the steady heartbeat in the next room. The prince didn’t think about the row with his father or the quest they would start in the morning, but only about Chief in the next room. James soon fell asleep.
He only woke once during the night when a cold nose touched his cheek. Still half-way in the land of dreams James rolled over and lifted the cover so Chief could crawl under the blankets. One contented, soft yip from the wolf and an incoherent mumble from the prince later and both had drifted off again.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
James woke early the next morning only to find Chief gone and the space in bed next to him empty and cold. Worried he opened his senses to the stimuli around them. A relieved sigh escaped him when he found his friend’s heartbeat, which he now knew like no other, on the balcony.
After quickly splashing his face and torso with water from the bathing chamber, he threw on his princely garb and joined Chief. It wouldn’t do for a prince to be seen by his subjects in only his nightdress after all.
Chief was sitting on his hindquarters, staring out at the sea glistening in the light of the sunrise. He didn’t react to James’ presence so the prince just squatted down and sat next to him with his legs crossed.
They sat like that for a while, comfortable in their silence, and watched the sunrise.
As a prince James didn’t often get the chance to enjoy the beautiful spectacle, he took this opportunity to savour the amazing play of colors and light. The sun was burning in a fierce orange color, while tendrils of yellow, red, white and even purple and pink crept over the sky to be reflected in the water beneath.
James could see it all in such clarity that it seemed as if he only needed to reach out to touch the fiery orb and experience its incredible heat. He briefly wondered if Chief could sense the same things, before everything turned grey and still.
The next thing he became aware of was of something warm and wet touching his cheek and neck repeatedly. A soft keening sound accompanied the tickling sensation.
“Chief?” He rasped and received a short bark in return. Grateful for the gentle, painless emerge from one of his fugues, James pressed his face into Chief’s furry, soft neck.
“Thank you, my friend, for waking me.” He could tell that he hadn’t lost that much time. The sunrise was over, but the golden orb had only risen a few inches above the horizon.
Chief looked at him with glad, but still concerned eyes and somehow James knew what Chief, ‘the man’, would want to ask if he could.
“I’m alright now. Don’t worry. I just sometimes fall into these fugue states where I don’t feel or see anything. It sometimes takes me hours to wake up. It’s disconcerting and frightening.” His voice was no more than a whisper. “Even more so as none of Aquino’s healers can find anything wrong with me, save for my heightened senses. So they can’t explain the symptoms any better than I can.”
Chief watched him intensely during his speech and then gave a fierce bark as if to say “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you!”. It made James smile. People in the castle gave him a wide berth when they found him staring sightlessly into space. They were scared of what he’d do while in this condition. He could never express his gratefulness for the wolf’s simple acceptance of his affliction.
James remembered that he hadn’t told Chief about their ‘quest’ yet and did so in a soft voice. Emotions flittered through the blue eyes – surprise, wonder, gratefulness, hope and excitement. The cursed wolf barked and bounced around James in circles, urging him up.
“Now, now Chief, hold your horses.” The prince laughed and got up. He followed his friend into his rooms and proceeded to pack a few things he’d need on a prolonged journey, all the while dodging and sidestepping the furry bundle of excitement that dashed around him.
Just as he closed his bag somebody knocked at the door.
“Enter,” he called. It was Stephen whose head poked in.
“The horses are ready,” he informed his brother while staring at the wolf, who now retreated behind James’ legs.
“Stephen, may I introduce you to my friend Chief, Chief this is my brother Stephen.” Both brothers had to smile when Chief peeked at the door and the slowly left his hiding place to nod a happy greeting at Stephen.
“Alright, let’s go.”
“Do you have everything?”
“Yes. I trust that provisions have been stored in Kolai’s saddle bags?”
Wherever they came in the castle people would flinch back and scuttle away. There were whispers everywhere about how their prince had brought the stray wolf into their castle.
“Haven’t you heard yet?”
“…lives in Prince James’ chamber…”
“To bring such a beast among his people…”
“Lizzy, I don’t want you to look at it. Stay away from the monster.”
Both, James and Chief, heard the whispers flying around them and James had to witness how the wolf’s head hung lower and lower in shame and sadness. Silently fuming the prince proceeded to glare at everybody who even looked like they had anything to say.
As soon as they reached the court yard he dropped to his knees in front of Chief, who cowered and didn’t look up.
“Chief,” James prodded gently, but Chief only shook his head.
“Please look at me, my friend.” When the wolf still wouldn’t comply, James tenderly clasped his face between two hands and made him look into his eyes. “Oh Chief.” James’ heart constricted at the sight of those miserable blue eyes.
“Listen. You are no more a monster than my brother or I are. Do you hear me, Chief?” The blues eyes didn’t really believe him. So he locked their eyes and repeated in a soft, fierce voice, “You are no monster! You look like a wolf, yes. But that’s not your fault. You don’t hurt anybody being what you are now and even though I haven’t known you long, I know you wouldn’t hurt anybody in your human form either. You are my friend, Chief, and I love you very much already.”
Chief’s eyes had grown bigger and bigger at James’ passionate speech, but at the last words he whined desperately and pushed into James’ embrace, pressing his face against his friend’s neck.
James repeated, “You. Are. No. Monster. Believe me.” Chief nodded.
“James, are you ready?” A voice called from the stables and the prince looked up to see four saddled horses. One of them was Kolai. Next to them were Simon, the Captain of the Royal Guard, and Rafe and Henri, both royal guards. All of them wore travel gear, not their guard armors. A quick assessing glance to Stephen made the latter raise his hands.
“You didn’t actually believe I would let you two traipse off on your own, did you?” The chagrined expression on his brother’s face indicated that that was exactly what he’d thought.
“An Aquinonian Prince should never travel without an extended escort. Be grateful that there are only three guards, brother.” With as much dignity as he could muster James stuck his tongue out at Stephen, only to hear a snort from Chief. Chief saw the same childish gesture directed at him, which he reciprocated wholeheartedly. Even Simon, Henri and Rafe had to laugh at their display.
James walked over and clapped each of them on the shoulder. If he indeed had to take an escort with him, he was glad it were these three; Simon was his friend and Rafe and Henri were on their best way of becoming his friends, which was probably why Stephen had chosen them. James was once again reminded why he loved his younger brother deeply and he turned to hug him goodbye.
“-careful, I know.” The brothers smiled again. Stephen then sent a glare at Chief and the guards, making them straighten up.
“Gentlemen, bring him back in one piece.” His gaze turned to James. “The same goes for them.” With one last smile at the small party he turned around and walked back into the castle. It came as no surprised to James that the king didn’t appear to say goodbye to his son.
The prince briefly introduced Chief to the guards, who were only slightly leery of the wolf; it was likely that they’d heard all about Chief from Simon beforehand.
After a quick discussion it was decided that Chief would lead them to the place of his turning and then they’d see if they could find any clues about the person who’d done this to the man, how and why.
As they rode through the streets of Aquino, Chief never strayed from Kolai’s side. Only once the party left the city gates behind them and pushed their horses into gallop did he begin to roam and take the lead.
Neither James nor the guards looked back at their city as they rode away.