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Pain was the first thing that registered in Blair's mind as he woke up. That, and the weird lighting in the room. He heard some sort of dripping water, and used that to help focus his mind enough to rouse himself to consciousness. Only one eye opened fully, the other swollen from what apparently was a black eye that covered a good portion of his face. He looked around and saw that he was in some sort of underground cavern that was lit only by candles. Then he remembered: vampires. High School. The Assistant Principal and two big ugly guys with fangs. He wondered if they had made him into a vampire, and he tried to feel his neck to see if there were three holes in it.
 
It was at that point that a second realization hit him: he was tied to the wall, bound at the hands and feet with some kind of rope. He pulled at it, but it wouldn't budge. [Like that's a surprise,] he thought. Leaning his head back against the cold, damp wall, he sighed. If Jim got him out of this one alive, he would _never_ question the big man's instincts ever again.
 
He then stiffened nervously as he heard footsteps coming down the hall. The nerves did reassure him, though, that he probably hadn't been made into a vampire. Yet. In his mind, Blair screamed, [Jim, man, where are you? It's time to come and do the Blessed Protector to the rescue thing again!]
 
Judas appeared at the entrance to the cavern, smiling broadly and making no moves to try and hide his vampire appearance. Red eyes glowed as he looked over the man who would become their new brother soon. "Well, well, well," Judas declared to the vampires who were coming in behind him, "our new friend is awake! Good afternoon, Professor. How are you feeling?"
 
"Alive," Blair spat out in response, hoping it would come out as an insult. He regretted wishing he could get a chance to study vampire culture when he first realized it existed. Now that he was up close and personal with it, his only desire was to get as far away from vampires, and Sunnydale, as he possibly could.
 
He just hoped that, once he escaped, he would be able to see the sunlight again.
 
Judas clucked his disapproval at the comment. "Well, don't worry, my young friend. You won't have to deal with _that_ for much longer." The Son of Ra tilted his head in a gesture, that was, to Blair, uncannily familiar. A shiver ran down the anthropologist's spine as Judas declared, "your friend seems to be doing quite well. From what I can hear, he and his little 'companion' have disposed of quite a few of my men. I had thought they wouldn't make it here for our little ceremony, but perhaps I was mistaken. Maybe, if they do get here, you can bring your friend across, hmmm?"
 
"Never," declared Blair, "the Slayer will destroy you first!"
 
Judas replied in mock horror, "The Slayer?!? You mean that tiny little girl with your friend _is_the_Slayer?!?" He sucked in an exaggerated gasp as he told the small group of vampires now making their way into the chamber, "the Slayer's with his friend, everyone! The Slayer's with him! Oh no, we're all going to die!" As the other vampires' sinister laughter echoed through the cavern, Judas hissed, "of course we know she's the Slayer, you impudent little fool! Do you think that makes any difference to me? No! The blessing of Ra has protected us from a hundred Slayers, what makes you think this one's any different?"
 
A familiar female voice replied, "because I've got something those other girls didn't have."
 
Blair and Judas turned to see Buffy standing in the entrance to the cave, her clothes splattered in blood and her face projecting the most confidence of anyone Blair had ever seen. He had a feeling his chances for survival just improved considerably.
 
Insulted at the arrogance of the girl in front of him, Judas replied, "oh really? And what's that? Your keen fashion sense?"
 
Buffy glanced behind her, and confidently pointed out, "no--him," as Jim walked up behind her. The Sentinel seemed an almost mythically large figure next to the diminutive Slayer: strong, brave, and carrying a _really_ big crossbow. His clothes, too, were liberally splattered in blood, and Blair wondered how many vampires had had to get past in order to get to him.
 
Those thoughts ceased, however, as Judas stepped back toward him and reached for his neck. At that exact moment, Blair realized that he didn't care how many vampires Jim had killed he only wanted to make sure that Jim killed this one before he took too much blood---"Jim!!!!" he screamed, "help!!!"
 
The Sentinel was by his Guide's side in a heartbeat, ripping Judas away from Blair's neck like the ancient vampire was a deer tick about to give the young anthropologist Lyme disease. Before Jim even thought about it, he fired the crossbow in his hand, hitting the vampire and sending him staggering back into the reflecting pool.
 
Unfortunately, Jim had missed Judas' heart, and the vampire slowly rose up from the pool, pulling the arrow out of his stomach. He hissed at Jim, "you missed, Protector," and lunged for him.
 
Buffy wasn't about to give the Son of Ra another chance at getting the Sentinel or his weakened Guide, now passed out on the floor after Jim had loosened the ropes around his wrists and ankles. Seeing the other vampires moving forward to protect their Master, Buffy cried out to Jim, "I'll take care of this creep--you get the rest of them for me, okay?"
 
Jim yelled out in response, "got it," as his Sentinel instincts kicked in full force. Isolating the soft heartbeats of each individual vampire, he picked them off one by one, the half-dozen or so vampires in the cave each turning into piles of dust as they hit the ground. As the last one disappeared, Jim resisted the urge to blow at the tip of his crossbow as he commented, "…like ducks in a shooting gallery."
 
Seeing Blair was safe, he looked over to Buffy, who seemed to be getting herself backed into the corner by the Son of Ra. She was fighting well, throwing a barrage of kicks and punches at him, but the ancient vampire seemed to be able to be able to anticipate each move and dodge it quickly.
 
Now backed into a corner, Buffy whispered, a bit nervously, "what are you going to do with me?"
 
Hearing the defeat and fear in the Slayer's voice, Jim leaped over the reflecting pool and sprinted silently over to the corner where the Master was about to take Buffy. Before the Son of Ra even had the chance to react, Jim took a wooden stake from the back of this pants and staked Judas soundly in the back, piercing the heart with little trouble.
 
Feeling the life draining out of him, Judas turned around to face his killer, who smirked, "who knows? She's turning sixteen soon. Maybe you can fill the ashtray in her first car."
 
The Son of Ra, one of the oldest vampires in recorded lore, then fell at their feet, turning instantly into a pile of dust.
 
Buffy let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding and fell into Jim's arms, sobbing and exhausted. Jim stroked her hair as he held her, instinctively soothing, "shhhh, shhhh, Buffy, it's okay. It's over. They're gone now."
 
Now quickly regaining her composure, Buffy stepped back from the Sentinel's embrace. As he loosened his grip on her, he immediately remembered Blair, and ran over to the form of his unconscious Guide. He listened for Blair's heartbeat; it was erratic, but strong and getting stronger. Since he couldn't sort through the smells of the dead vampires, he checked for the only other thing he could think of --
 
--and instantly relaxed as he heard and felt his partner's shallow breathing. Whatever that vampire had done to him, he hadn't brought him across. Blair definitely needed a doctor, soon, but Jim was confident that his friend was going to make it.
 
Picking up the younger man's unconscious form, he carried Blair out of the caverns to the grounds of the cemetery, where he knew Giles was waiting with his car. He had heard the Watcher almost as soon as he and Buffy had left the school, but he decided that, as long as Giles stayed out of the way, it wasn't worth trying to drive him off or telling Buffy about him.
 
After all, someone was going to have to help Buffy come up with a story to explain this to her mother.
 
*****
 
It was a quiet Saturday morning in Sunnydale.
And Buffy knew that, for a little while, she had nothing to worry about.
 
Jim and Blair were leaving that morning, since Blair had finally been released from the hospital the night before. They had kept the anthropologist a couple of days, treating him for the symptoms of mild anemia. Jim had started to worry that Blair might have been permanently injured until Buffy had explained that an unfinished vampire attack often presented himself in that way, and that the symptoms wore off with a couple of days of bed rest. Nevertheless, Jim kept an almost constant watch by the younger man's bedside, stubbornly wanting to make sure for himself that Blair would be all right.
 
Buffy had not spoken to Giles or Jim in those two days since the attack, preferring instead to try to relax and live the life of a normal teenager for a couple of days. After the Master had died, she had had a full week of peace and quiet, a week that she had cherished greatly. She had hoped for, and ended up getting, a quiet, uneventful evening for the past two nights. She knew that there were some things about that night that needed to be explained, and she was sure they would go over them in great detail. They had agreed to give everyone a breather, and that they would _all_ get together once Blair was released from the hospital. "After all," Giles had stated, "considering the man's boundless curiosity, I know that if I don't wait until he's around to try and puzzle things out, I'm simply going to have to explain it to him again anyway. And you know how I hate repeating myself…"
 
She enjoyed the warm morning air as she turned the corner, heading for Giles' house. The group had agreed that, once Blair was released from the hospital, they would meet there one last time before the two men went home to Cascade. Recognizing the truck, Buffy called out, "Jim!" and ran to greet him.
 
Jim smiled as he saw the young Slayer sprint to the truck with blazing fast speed and throw her arms around his neck. Laughing, he greeted her, "hi yourself, Tiger! Want to let go of me while I still have an airway?"
 
Buffy stepped back, apologetic. "Sorry, sometimes I…"
 
"…don't know your own strength? I can relate." He went around to the other side of the truck and let out his partner, who had been patiently waiting for him to open the door. The younger man had almost recovered from the vampire attack, but he was still a bit weak, and he knew that if he didn't put up with Jim's mothering now, he was going to have to do it in Cascade, and he wanted to get back to a normal life the minute he got off the plane. Well at least, as normal as it got for them.
 
Giles had heard the commotion outside, and stood at the doorway, waiting for his wayward warriors to come inside. He had had some idea of what went on in the caverns that night, but he wanted to hear it from them for himself, in order to get an accurate picture of this extraordinary experience for his journals. And judging from the fact that Jim had insisted on having this meeting before the pair went back to Cascade, he had a feeling the Sentinel had some questions he wanted answers to, as well.
 
Buffy and Jim walked slowly up the path to Giles' door, keeping up with the slow pace that Blair had set. As the librarian greeted the trio, he ushered them inside to the couch, offering them each a cup of coffee or tea and one of several pastries, which each person generously enjoyed.
 
Having gotten a cup of tea for himself, he sat down and began, "so, let's start at the beginning. Buffy, what exactly convinced you so quickly that Jim needed to go with you that night?"
 
Buffy immediately replied, "he twisted my arm."
 
Knowing the now familiar expression, Giles exclaimed confused, "how? He barely said anything that night."
 
Realizing that Giles was, for once, not thinking literally, Buffy clarified, "no, Giles, you don't understand. He really did twist my arm. Nearly tore it clean off."
 
Wide eyed, Giles exclaimed, "really?!?!?" Buffy nodded.
 
Giles sat back in his chair, amazed. Sure, the man looked strong, but he had no idea that the Sentinel, or any Sentinel, for that matter, had that kind of strength. He thought for sure that Buffy was the only one in the world who had.
 
Picking up on the idea that what he had experienced was unusual to them, Jim commented, "I don't know what happened. Once we figured out where Blair was, it was almost like I was zoned out or something. That nothing, and no one, was going to stop me from protecting Blair."
 
Blair sat up as he heard that comment from Jim, his curiosity piqued. "You were that focused, Jim?"
 
Jim nodded. "Yeah chief, I was. Everything was on overdrive, but I was in control of it, you know? Almost like if you were there with me."
 
Giles started to think out loud, "I had heard of the power of the Sentinel-Guide bond, but this is incredible…" Realizing that he had voice the comment out loud and now had the full attention of the room, Giles asked Blair, surprised, "you haven't read much about the Sentinel-Guide relationship, have you?"
 
Blair shook his head. "Most of Burton's research that I've found had focused primarily on Sentinels."
 
Giles went to his shelves and pulled out a book. Handing it to Blair, he declared, "I think you might find this book useful in your work."
 
The book had no title, but as Blair flipped through the pages, he recognized that this was an old handwritten journal. Giles explained, "apparently, about two hundred years ago, a Slayer was born that has been unique even to her kind. While she possessed all the qualities of a Slayer, she was also born with another gift, one that was not passed on to other Slayers. She was born with Sentinel abilities. Now, the Watcher council did not know anything about Sentinels as you know them, Blair, but her watcher did make do with what he had available to him. Realizing that these abilities were not part of the Slayer's normal gift, he kept a separate journal."
 
As Blair read one of the entries in greater detail, he thought out loud, "a Guide's journal."
 
Giles nodded, and continued, "yes. Andrew, her Watcher, realized that he and his Slayer possessed a unique relationship, one unlike any that had been recorded before. He helped her develop all her abilities, including her Sentinel abilities, until, together, they were a force unlike any the demon world had ever seen. Seeing Andrew as the weaker of the pair, vampires constantly tried to attack him. However, whenever Christiana knew that Andrew was in danger, her focus and control magnified a thousand fold. Andrew theorized that that focus was part of the bond they shared in what you now know as the Sentinel-Guide relationship."
 
Amazed, Jim asked, "but I've had to rescue Blair from dozens of situations before this one. Why did I develop such super strength now?"
 
Buffy almost laughed as she realized, "it's because of the Hellmouth."
 
Giles nodded in agreement. "Jim, since, from what little I've read in addition to what Blair has told me, Sentinel abilities are genetic, you are probably, in some way, a descendent of Christiana's. That protective instinct toward your Guide has been there from the beginning, and it was most likely magnified by the mystical energy generated by the Hellmouth."
 
Speechless, Blair sat back in amazement. He had always known that his role as a Guide was more than just a purely academic advisor, but this whole week had changed that opinion drastically. Could it be that he was somehow genetically programmed to be Jim's Guide? That it was part of Jim's genetic makeup to be there for him, no matter what? He was going to have a lot of thinking to do on the trip home.
 
As his watch beeped, he realized that the trip home had come upon them sooner than he thought. He nudged Jim, "oh man, come on -- we've got to go if we're going to make our plane."
 
As the two men stood up, Blair tried to hand the book back to Giles, but he refused it. "Blair, please keep that. I have Andrew's Watcher journals, and they provide me with all the information I need to help Buffy. I have a feeling that you will require this far more than I."
 
Gratefully, Blair replied, "thank you."
 
Buffy walked the two men to the door. As he was about to leave, Jim looked down at the stubborn young blond and requested, "you take care of yourself, okay? This town needs you, and I'd hate to hear about the end of the world starting without me."
 
Buffy laughed and assured, "I'll be fine." She nodded her head toward Giles and added, "I've got him to watch over me." She then put in her own request, "and if you start to get any vampires attacking the citizens of Cascade--?"
 
Jim laughed as he embraced the teenager, replying, "I'll know who to call."
 
Buffy then said a quick goodbye to Blair, and the two men headed for their truck. As Giles came over to the door to be with Buffy as the two men left, he commented, "I'm not sure what to say at this point. Part of me hopes we won't see those two again, yet part of me has the strangest feeling we just might."
 
Buffy looked up at her mentor. This was too good an opportunity to pass up. "You? Getting feelings Giles? I thought I was supposed to be the one with the 'spider-sense'?" Laughing, she started toward the backyard and declared, "now, come on. Since we have the time, maybe I should get a little more training in? I had some trouble getting off some effective kicks against Judas."
 
Groaning at the chest pains he was sure were coming, Giles grabbed every bit of protective gear he owned and followed Buffy out to the backyard. [Ah, the joy and the pain of being a Watcher. In this case, the pain seems more likely…]
 
*****
 
Well, that's all folks! And yes, as always, I left the door open for a sequel. Since someone's already used the title "Things to do in Cascade When You're Dead", I'm still going to have to think about it before I put a summary up on the site. And even when I have that up, folks, be warned that it's going to be a while before I start on the story. So much to write, so little time…

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