Master Post on my LJ
Master Post at sentinelbigbang
St. Anthony Hospital, Denver, Colorado
Monday, early afternoon, July 2, 2001
Chris Larabee reached over and grabbed Buck’s arm to keep him from walking out of JD’s hospital room. “You’ve got to stop sneaking out as soon as he starts to stir. He asks for you, he worries over you, and then the doctors have to inject stuff in his IV to calm him down. Nathan says that he’s showing too much sensitivity to those drugs – they’re putting him out like a light.”
Buck swallowed hard and made himself look his team leader and old friend in the eye. “I know, Chris. I know. But it’s my fault he’s in that bed and… I can tell him I’m sorry till the cows come home, and he’s just gonna tell me I’ve got nothing to be sorry about, but it was my fault, Chris. I don’t know how he can stand to hold my hand like he does when he’s asleep. I try and slide my hand out and he hangs on even tighter.”
There was a cough behind him and a heartfelt sigh. Buck felt pinned; JD had finished waking up before Buck could get out of his sight. Damn Chris anyway, for keeping him here. Then JD was hesitantly speaking in a quiet voice.
“I need to... touch you because it helps, Buck. You keep the world from become crazy again; I don’t know why.” Buck turned to see JD struggling to sit up in his bed. He wanted to rush over and help him but felt paralyzed with dread. JD managed on his own, and Buck felt like crying because he hated feeling so reluctant to touch his partner, but more than that he dreaded seeing fear of him in JD's eyes.
JD pitched his voice a little louder and looked directly at him. “And I’ve told you before and I’ll just keep saying it till it makes sense in that stubborn head of yours. It wasn’t your fault we were grabbed. It wasn’t your fault what … what happened. I’m glad it was you, Buck, and not one of them. I’m okay. I’m sorry that you had to do what you didn’t want to do. If I could change that you know I would. But don’t avoid me now; I want to go home with you. Please?”
Chris gave Buck a narrowed-eyed glare that translated to, “Don't be a horse's behind,” before giving him a shove towards JD’s bed.
“Kid, this is the first time you’ve sounded like your old self. Buck's gonna fill you in on a few things. I’m gonna see when your doctor wants to kick your scrawny ass out of here.” He gave a sketchy wave goodbye and headed out, carefully closing the door.
Buck closed his eyes for a second to screw up his nerve. JD was coherent now, not mumbling about angels and his lost hat. Or warning Buck to look out for the tazer. Damn, this kid had been through so much – and he still worried more about Buck than he did himself.
He owed it to his friend – his unwilling lover – to explain how his life had just changed 180 degrees. He shook his head – both of their lives had been flipped around as if they’d been in a blanket toss.
“Buck?” Shit, JD sounded like somebody had stomped on his puppy. Hell, he’d tried to comfort the kid during their kidnapping; he couldn’t be a chicken–shit now and let him think Buck didn’t want anything to do with him. That was just plain wrong.
“Buck?” And finally, he was able to move next to his friend and pat JD’s arm.
“JD, you want some water? You hungry? You’ve been on IV’s for the last couple of days, but I could run to the cafeteria and get you anything you want. How’s your throat? Still sore?”
“Water sounds good. But what happened, Buck? How did you find me? I think… um… I thought you were an angel. And I can hear stuff, Buck. I can hear Chris talking to a nurse. I …” JD cocked his head and listened for a moment. “I can hear your heartbeat. That’s wild. How can I do that stuff?” He looked worried. “I’m not hallucinating, am I?”
“No, you’re not. Don’t you fret about that. Your other senses are stronger too, aren’t they?” JD nodded, looking confused. Buck filled the Styrofoam cup sitting on the hospital table and handed it to his friend. JD drank some, made a face – treated city water -- and handed the cup back. Buck twisted it in his hand while he prepared to drop a bomb on the kid.
“JD, Nathan figured it out. You being kept in the dark alone, the sex we’d had. He says we must have both been latent, but that the gene hadn’t been turned on until all that sex and stress happened. Hell, even all the tazering we had might have helped switch us on. And we’re locked into each other now. Bonded, he called it. The bond helped me find you, buddy, but we’re at the early stages and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. We’re keeping this to ourselves for now. Only our team knows, and you can’t let on to the doctors. They’re bound to report it and we don’t need the Army breathing down our necks.”
JD listened without interrupting, but he had a perplexed look on his face. Maybe his electrolytes were still out of whack.
“Buck, I ain’t followin’ you. Just spit it out. What’s wrong with me? And you, too, I guess.”
Buck took a deep breath and let it out slowly; JD picked up Buck’s hand and held it tightly. JD -- roommate, friend, teammate, bonded partner… He loved JD. He’d been comfortable with him. But they’d been forced to have sex together, and now everything was changed.
“We’re bound to each other.” Buck studied JD’s hand gripping his own and covered it with his other hand. “You’re a sentinel, JD, and I’m a guide. I’m your guide. God help us both.”
Federal Building, Denver, Colorado
Monday, afternoon, July 2, 2001
Josiah motioned Ezra and Vin over to his desk when they returned from a very late lunch. “Chris called. He wants us all to meet at Buck's and JD’s place tonight around six. JD’s being released this afternoon but he’s not going to be up to coming into the office, and we need a strategy session right away.”
Vin asked, “What’s this powwow supposed to accomplish?” Josiah looked thoughtful, while Ezra walked over to his desk and returned with a small address book.
“I think we should bring information, as much as we can gather, on how new sentinels and guides function. And what legal options JD and Buck have. Also,” Josiah said ominously, “How we should handle the rumors that are making the rounds, thanks to the Parks cousins.”
“Mr. Larabee is most certainly wanting to show JD and Buck that they have our full support. And acceptance,” Ezra said quietly.
Vin nodded, before he slowly spoke, “They’re not alone. But Buck's feeling pretty low. Thinks JD almost died because of him.”
Ezra opened the address book and started running his finger down the page. “I may be able to provide some assistance from an experienced guide. I’ll contact him and see if I can call in a favor. The boy does owe me.”
“We’re supposed to keep news of JD’s and Buck’s – uh, change – to ourselves, Ezra.” Vin helped emphasize his point with a not so subtle push at Ezra’s shoulder. Ezra looked pained.
“Mr. Tanner. Have you forgotten to whom you are speaking? I assure you that my inquiries will be subtle. I’m just going to touch base with my friend and ask a few friendly questions.”
“I’ll bring the research, Ezra has his own task,” Josiah said. “Vin? We're going to have to do damage control regarding the porn movie story. Do you care to track down which agents have spread gossip, maliciously or just out of curiosity?” Vin gave a small nod and after a quick touch to Ezra’s arm, he left the room.
Ezra added, “I think I’ll leave now and call my friend from my cell phone. If Mr. Larabee inquires as to my whereabouts, I’ll be at home after meeting with an informant.”
Ezra left, and Josiah busied himself with his own appointed task. He’d met a sentinel and guide pair in Vietnam, and had been awed at what the two had been able to carry out -- but was being drafted by the army what JD and Buck wanted? Josiah doubted it. They both could have joined the service and had found other ways to serve their communities. However, now that their status had changed, being drafted was a real possibility, and he researched what he could of the laws, looking for loopholes that would keep his two friends members of Team Seven.
Ellison and Sandburg apartment. Cascade, Washington
Monday, late afternoon, July 2, 2001
Blair hung up the phone and flung himself down on the love seat, chewing his lip.
Jim wondered if he should do the obvious thing and ask what the phone call was about, or ignore his partner’s body language and put the movie back on play.
Blair looked at him and Jim placed the remote on the coffee table.
“Okay. I’ll bite. Who called and what did they want?”
“Ezra. Ezra Standish. And he didn’t say what he wanted, which makes me wonder what he did want. Because that was not a social call. Ezra had his 'smooth as silk' tone of voice going, and, historically, that usually preceded me getting talked into mischief, or handing over my last dollar – for an entirely worthy cause, of course.”
“I haven’t met him, have I? He’s not somebody from Rainier, is he?”
Blair shook his head. “Ezra and I go way, way back. We met when we were kids, off and on, till we were old enough to be on our own. I ran into him again in Atlanta, before I met you. He, uh, did me a favor. Really big favor, and I always knew he’d call that marker in some day.”
Jim settled himself for another Sandburg tale. Only this time, instead of talking about the ancient history of sentinels and guides, Jim was actually going to learn something about Blair’s own past. For a talkative guy, he really didn’t say much about himself. So why was he telling Jim about this now?
“Chief, what’s up?”
“I’m not sure anything is really up. It’s just, well, he was asking a lot of questions about what I was doing now -- I explained about not teaching this summer and next semester so I could finish the dratted diss. He wanted to know if my guide status had changed, how I liked working for the police, if I was still protesting against the sentinel draft, if my sentinel had bonded with me? Oh, and if my research was keeping me out of whorehouses these days.”
“Whorehouses?” Jim fought a grin that was trying to break through. Oh, yeah. He relished listening to another epic Sandburg adventure.
“See, Jim, if Ezra was bringing that up, he’s reminding me about the trouble he got me out of back in Atlanta. So I’m probably right in thinking he may need a favor. But he didn’t say what he wanted.”
“And you’re telling me because…?” Jim just knew there was a “because” in all of this.
Sandburg bit his lip again. Jim waited. “Um, because he asked if I would be free to come visit him for a week or a couple of weeks, if he could swing it with the P.D. He’s an ATF agent and they can borrow law enforcement guys from other agencies and departments, if they need them. But he didn’t say he absolutely was going to request me. He said there was a possibility he could use me.”
Blair turned troubled eyes towards him. “Anyway, Jim, you’re my partner and if I have to leave for a while, I wanted you to know why.”
Jim felt his almost-grin morph into a frown. “I need you with me, Sandburg.”
Blair shrugged. “I’m not wild about going, if he does ask me to come. But I owe him, man.”
Jim sighed and got up. He walked to the kitchen and returned carrying two extra-large opened bottles of Green Lakes Pale Ale. Organic beer. He blamed Sandburg, of course. He sat back down on the love seat, flat-out crowding his guide. Too bad. Blair hadn’t agreed to the physical stage of bonding, but Jim needed him close enough to at least touch. He handed Blair his beer and took a large gulp of his own.
Blair tsked. “Jim, you’re not supposed to guzzle it. You’re supposed to enjoy it, roll it around your mouth, and tell me what you think of the ingredients.”
“I’m a cop, not a beer connoisseur. It tastes good. Now, quit stalling and tell me what you were doing in a whorehouse and how your pal finagled you out of trouble. I can’t see you paying for it, Chief.”
Blair looked offended, which made Jim want to poke him in the side. “Well, of course not. I had stopped in Atlanta for a couple of days to see my friend John, after I came back from an expedition. He asked me if I wanted to go with him when he interviewed some of the working girls and boys, to help him with his questionnaires – he was a sociology grad student doing research on prostitution. It was our bad luck that Atlanta Vice busted the place that night.”
“And your buddy Ezra…?”
“Was one of the Vice cops. He recognized me, even though we hadn’t seen each other since we were kids, and he kept John and me from being arrested. Probably I could have made a case in court that I was there doing research, but I didn’t need the hassle, or to have to come back to Atlanta for the court case. So yeah, I owe him a favor. We’ve kept in touch; he’s a good guy.”
“You were kids together? Where, Chief? I thought you didn’t stick around much in one spot growing up.” Actually, Jim's impression was that Blair and his mother had hop, skipped, and jumped from place to place, his mother always looking for her heart’s desire. Jim liked Naomi, she was an interesting woman, but she never seemed to have figured out that whatever she was looking for was probably under her nose. She needed her own pair of ruby-red slippers to click together. At least Blair had a home now. Jim wasn’t positive what they would end up being to each other, but he loved his guide and enjoyed their life together.
“It’s kind of complicated… Maybe I should draw a kinship diagram?”
“Okay, here goes. Ezra’s mother and my mother both had a relationship with the same man. Not at the same time; Ezra’s mom was with him first. And the guy wasn’t Ezra’s father and he sure as hell wasn’t mine.”
Blair made a face at the memory. Not one of Blair’s happier moments, apparently. “In fact, he didn’t pay either one of us much attention. He schlepped Ezra, and later, me, when mom was with him, over to his sister as much as possible. We called her Aunt Molly, and she was as great as her brother was a total loser. And when our respective mothers dumped the guy, they kept on good terms with Aunt Molly, and she ended up keeping us with her from time to time when it wasn’t convenient or possible to stay with our mothers. That’s how I met Ezra. He was staying with Aunt Molly when Naomi dropped me off for two months while she traveled in Africa.”
Blair smiled. “Ezra is older than me, and he wasn’t thrilled about having a little kid tagging after him, but we learned to get along and actually had some pretty good times together. Over the next few years, we stayed together at Aunt Molly’s place a couple of times. In a weird way, he’s kind of like a cousin to me.”
“So your kissing cousin wants you to come visit him.”
Blair gave Jim a sideways look. “Strictly platonic, man, but I did spy on him kissing Janie Hancock once.”
Jim extended his arm in the old stretching-his-arm-out maneuver, until he was in place to tug Sandburg tight against him. Blair cocked his eyebrow when Jim pulled him into a hug.
“Sandburg, if you end up going, then I’m coming with you.” Jim had made up his mind as soon as Blair had mentioned the possibility of leaving. Maybe he was feeling a little insecure, a little territorial – that’s what his guide would say, anyway – but with only a partial bond in place Jim didn’t want to take any chances on his guide losing interest in him and meeting a more compatible sentinel.
Blair sighed and snuggled against him. “Jim… You’re a doofus; you know that, right? You should know by now that I’m not interested in forming a bond with anybody else.”
’So why won’t you complete the bond with me, Chief?’ Jim thought, but Blair was a pleasant, heavy, weight against him, and if he brought up the old argument then the mood would be spoiled. Jim transferred his beer to the hand on Blair’s upper arm, leaned out with his free hand, and plucked the remote off the coffee table. He pushed “play,” and, for the moment content with holding his guide, settled into drinking some fine organic beer, and watching “Shane,” his favorite cowboy movie.
Dunne and Wilmington apartment, Denver, Colorado
Monday, early evening, July 2, 2001
Buck opened the door quietly and let Nathan and Chris into his home. Vin and Josiah had arrived a few minutes ago and were sitting at the table, drinking coffee. JD was in the bathroom taking a shower; he’d told Buck it still felt like the stink from that hell-hole was clinging to him, with the hospital smells layered on top of that. The kid had been too wiped out when they got home from St. Anthony Hospital around four to do anything except take a nap. Some nap. He’d woken himself up with a nightmare, he’d told Buck. Not that he’d gone into details about it, and Buck had the feeling JD held back because he didn’t want to get Buck all worried about him. Hell, if JD hadn’t woken up yelling his fool head off, he probably wouldn’t have told Buck that much.
Nathan sat down at the table and Chris went into the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee. He gave Buck a slight tilt of his head, indicating that Buck should join him.
“How is he?” Chris spoke softly. Buck shrugged.
“And how’re you doing?” Buck shrugged again.
Chris gave him one of those glares, and Buck found himself spilling the beans.
“He’s having a lot of trouble adjusting to his senses being so different. And once, back at the hospital, he just went straight off into the ozone. Purely checked right out of his head. It, ah, happened when I was in the bathroom in his room this afternoon. After I’d told him what he was, well, what we are. When I came out he was sitting up in bed, eyes closed, and I couldn’t rouse him. Shit, he scared me good. I tried talking to him and he was just a JD sized lump. I was fixin’ to holler for a nurse, but first I touched him and I felt he was a bit more back with me, so I, uh… Damn, Chris. I kissed him. Like he was Sleeping Beauty and I was Prince Charming. And it woke him back up.
He grabbed Chris by the arm, almost causing Chris to spill his coffee.
“I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, Chris. I’ve got no notion of how this sentinel-guide thing works. You know why he was out of it? He was listening to me washing my hands and he said he got lost in the sound of the water. And he probably ain’t thought much on it yet, but I have. We’re going to get drafted, aren’t we? What is it? Five or ten years mandatory service? JD and me are screwed.”
“Ten. Look, you and JD aren’t in this leaky boat by yourselves. We’re gonna figure this out.” Chris nudged him. “We take care of our own.”
Chris glanced at his watch and said with deceptive mildness, “Ezra’s late. I say we call him and make him pick us all up some pizzas.”
It made Buck grin a little, Chris using behavior modification on Ezra, but even so he doubted Ezra would stop being late to meetings.
Chris pulled out his phone and was punching numbers, when Buck startled and turned towards the bathroom.
He was feeling that golden rope sensation again, which meant… JD was thinking about him, or needed him, or something was wrong…? Hellfire. He knocked on the bathroom door.
“JD, you okay in there?”
When he heard the groan from inside the bathroom, he tossed out the niggling-in-the-back-of-his-head worry about what the other guys would think of him barging in on JD buck-naked in the shower and opened the door, appreciating that they'd never gotten around to fixing the lock.
He stepped into the bathroom and softly called, “Hey, partner,” and then pulled back the shower curtain. JD looked like he was frozen in place, eyes screwed shut, shampoo in his shaggy, dark, hair, -- and he was making soft pained sounds.
Buck reached over and shut off the shower. JD started shaking and Buck didn’t have a clue what he should do. The kid really needed to rinse off but apparently the shower had messed up his senses, and he seemed lost. Jesus Christ, what were they going to do if even a basic routine like this could throw JD?
“Can you tell me what’s wrong?” Buck tried to make his voice low and soft; somewhere he’d gotten the notion that guides talked like half their vocal cords were gone.
“C-cold now, and it- it started hurting, like needles hitting m’-m’ skin.” JD tried to open his eyes and cried out, “Owww” before shutting his eyes tightly again.
Buck took a few steps backwards and shut off the overhead light, then went to the sink and flipped on a night-light. Its soft blue light dimly illuminated JD’s wet, naked body. Buck wanted to touch him, but he didn’t feel aroused by looking at him. He just felt like he needed to smooth those goose bumps away.
“I’m going to touch you now, partner. Try and warm you up a bit. I think a towel would be too rough for you.”
“Y-you getting fresh with me, Buck?” It about broke and warmed Buck’s heart to hear JD trying to tease him. He was a great kid, and Buck felt a wave of protectiveness towards him that just kept building in intensity. He’d do his God-damndest to help JD figure out this sentinel stuff, and he wouldn’t let the sex they’d had mess up their friendship.
He laughed, and the sound of it seemed to relax the muscles on JD’s face and body. He reached out tentatively and stroked a finger down JD’s arm and when JD didn’t tense back up, he tried smoothing JD’s arms and his back with his hand, hoping the calluses wouldn’t make things worse.
JD sighed and said, “That’s helping, but the soap on my skin feels itchy and I’m wanting really bad to scratch and I know I shouldn’t. Let’s try the shower and see if it feels like just water this time.”
Buck turned on the shower but quickly turned it off when JD immediately started hissing in pain again.
“We could try slowly dribbling water from a cup over you,” Buck said doubtfully. JD nodded, gritting his teeth, but when Buck tried, the slow flow of water barely rinsed JD’s forearm before JD cried out again in pain.
“Well, damn, Skippy. You feel better when I touch you, though, right?” JD nodded and Buck again ran his hands down JD’s arms and chest, back and legs. Buck could feel the tension again leaving JD’s body.
“Hmm. Got an idea, but I’m going to have to get real close and personal with you. You okay with that?” JD nodded, and Buck stopped stroking him and quickly stripped off his own clothes; he stepped in the tub behind JD and wrapped his arms around him and plastered himself to JD’s wet body.
JD had watched him get undressed without saying anything, but now he softly asked, “Buck? Are you okay with this?” The boy sounded dead serious; there was no teasing quality to his voice now.
Buck swallowed. “I think so, partner. Hell, it’s just skin, and you know I love you, right? I’d do anything for you, JD, so holding you is no hardship. What about you? Does me cuddling you so close bring back bad memories?”
JD relaxed against him even more and gave a comfortable sigh. “I’m warming up good. Thanks, Buck. I have bad memories about us being tazered, and those assholes watching us, and of that root cellar you found me in, and being scared they'd injured you when they grabbed us. But you making love to me ain’t a bad memory. They saw it as fucking, but I made love to you, Buck, and you made love to me. I know you’re straight, but me, I’m a little more flexible. Do you remember me whispering before our first time that I’d fooled around with boys when I was a kid? I’d be okay with us making love again, but I know you’d hate it. I want us to stay friends.”
Buck kissed the top of JD’s head. “That’s a sweet offer, and honestly, I don’t know what will happen now between us. If you’re remembering right, then you know you made me feel good. In a way, ignoring that lovemaking would kind of be like shuttin’ up the barn after the cows got out. Let’s just take things one step at a time, and the first one is holding you when I turn the water back on. You can’t go around with shampoo in your hair. Take a couple of slow deep breaths and tell me if the water hurts you.”
JD followed the suggestions, and Buck brought the shower back up to its normal pressure. He moved JD and himself slowly into the spray and kept his friend tucked up close to him. JD sighed blissfully as his skin and hair accepted the feel of the water.
“That was a good idea, Buck. Thanks.” Buck finished rinsing JD off and reached for the faucets.
“Maybe I won’t be a total failure as a guide after all.” Buck did feel a little less panicky about letting JD down.
The towels didn’t pose a problem – as long as Buck kept contact with JD, and they quickly got dressed, his senses having stopped their painful surges.
They’d walked out of the bathroom and Buck felt four pairs of eyes on the two of them. Well, begin as you mean to go on. He didn’t know much about what a bond was, but he’d heard enough to know it was a permanent kind of thing. He wasn’t going to skulk around corners acting ashamed of JD and himself.
“Gents, thanks for coming over. Let me be blunt for a moment. JD and I didn’t ask for this bond to happen to us, but it did and we’re going to live with it. Now I’m the first to say I don’t rightly know exactly how we’re going to manage, but touching JD is a big part of it. It seems to keep him from being in pain. If that makes you feel uncomfortable then – hellfire. Get over it. And just to keep the speculation down you all know those sorry sons-of-bitches forced JD and me to have sex, but we’re still friends and maybe we’ll be lovers, or maybe we won’t. Before we found JD, it felt very wrong to consider sex with him -- like incest, kind of. I might be changing my notions on that, just to let you know.”
JD just smiled at his teammates and turned his thumb towards Buck. “What he said.” Then he added, earnestly, “Chris and Buck have told me how hard everybody worked to try to find me. I’m real grateful and I want you to know I thought a lot about you guys, especially when I was in Hell-- that root cellar.”
Vin stood up and walked around the table and shook hands with JD, who then yanked Vin into a hard hug. Nathan was next, then Josiah, who laid his hands on JD’s shoulders after his turn at hugging, and said, “One may experience sorrow during the night, but joy arrives in the morning."
“Amen, brother,” Nathan agreed.
Vin didn’t say anything, but he, too, nodded his head.
JD cocked his head to one side and grinned. Buck watched, fascinated, as JD started sniffing the air before he walked over to the door and yanked it open. Chris got up, too, and stood behind JD, peering down the hall.
“What is it?” Buck said, a puzzled look on his face.
“Well, I don’t see anything. JD? What’s going on?” Chris asked.
In a few minutes, Chris called back to the others, “Ezra’s here.”
JD laughed. “Oh, those pizzas smell wicked good, and Ezra’s muttering about how he’d better not get stuck with the bill.”
Willing hands divested Ezra of the pizza boxes and then JD gave him a bear hug, evidently surprising the man into hugging JD back. Buck was glad that JD’s senses had decided to settle down for a while, and his partner’s lighthearted mood was good to see. Guess coming back from almost dying could cheer a fellow up; make him take notice of the positive things in his life. He was glad they'd been able to talk JD's doctor into releasing him today so he could come home and be more comfortable.
After the pizzas were gone, the group moved to the living room, JD and Buck sitting side by side on the love seat, and Vin and Josiah carrying in table chairs, while Nathan, Ezra, and Chris sat on the couch.
Chris started the ball rolling.
“Buck, JD – you’re not alone with this sentinel and guide stuff. We’ve got your back. I know you haven’t had time to figure out what happens next, so we’ve done some checking for you.”
Chris held his hand palm up and tapped his little finger. “First though, I want to update everybody on where the cases stand that your kidnapping affected.
“The cigarette warehouse case – and that was great thinking, Buck, to take those assholes where you knew there was surveillance – is on the back burner until the owners get cocky enough to try their swindle again. We’ve spun it as a straight robbery attempt and our inside man is still on the job. The cover story is that he was able to call the cops before they knocked him out.”
Chris ticked off the next case, touching another finger. “Buck, you blew your cover as “Buck Wilson, shady gun dealer.” Buck nodded. He’d figured as much.
“Since there wasn't a chance for Greer to take the bait before James Carson – Jimmy C – hijacked you two, we still don’t know who he’s fronting for. We’ll have to put in somebody else as bait, and I know that nobody on our team will be able to do it, since Greer and the Parks cousins have seen us all as ATF agents. I’ll be working with headquarters to see who we can pull in.
“The D.A. is looking at kidnapping and assault charges, plus attempted murder for the Parks.” Buck put his arm around JD and watched Chris ball his hand into a fist. “We did make the Parks cousins a deal that if they provided information that led to JD being found the attempted murder charges would be dropped. They told us Morgan had mentioned Jimmy C used to worked as a ranch hand, but the DA is telling their lawyer that weren't enough to find JD, so no deal.”
Buck tightened his arm around JD. The kid was bound to have nightmares for years about that dank, dark, abandoned place of misery. Chris continued, “Turns out that root cellar was on a ranch that Jimmy C had worked at years ago. We contacted the owners who told us they sold the place In April, and the new owners weren’t coming out till September. Jimmy C apparently knew that the place was empty and figured it was a safe place to stash JD.”
Nathan sounded angry as he added, “We might not have found that root cellar without Buck’s bond with JD. Buck kept saying that a hawk – I’m sure it’s JD’s spirit animal guide since only Buck could see it – kept crying out and circling and then diving down to where Jimmy C had abandoned JD. The place was well hidden with its sod roof and tucked into the hill. It had a ton of straw bales stacked in front of the door, so if you didn’t know it was there, you’d miss it. And the bastard had locked it from the outside. Even if JD had gotten free from his chains, he couldn’t have gotten out.”
JD mumbled something to himself and then flushed when he realized everybody was looking at him. “Uh… the lock. I didn’t know that. But it explains why I thought I heard a gunshot.” He grinned suddenly. “My angels shot the lock off, didn’t they?”
Buck softly bopped JD on the back of his head. “God’s gonna be choking up in Heaven if you keep calling me an angel. I don’t exactly qualify.”
JD shook his head. “Sorry. To me, you and Nathan were angels that day.” Then he started to laugh. “Course, I expect your halo is pretty tarnished.”
This set the rest of them to chuckling. Stress relief. They’d all been under such worry and concern, and it was good to laugh. When the sounds of mirth died down, Buck asked cautiously, “What about the camera, Chris? Is that footage evidence?”
Chris rubbed his head. “There’s was nothing on there that I could hear specifically, but… there was voices in the background that I couldn’t make out. I had to turn it over to the techs, in case the kidnappers said where they were planned to take JD. It’s on record now that they did order you to have sex or be tazered again.”
JD groaned. Buck had been given time to consider the consequences of turning the camera over for evidence, but JD hadn’t. Shit, he sure hoped those Parks idiots would take a plea bargain so they wouldn’t have to go to court.
“I’m sorry, partner,” Buck told JD. “I wanted to smash that camera so bad, but if there was a chance…”
JD scrubbed his hands over his face. “By now it's common knowledge about us – between the porno stuff and the way Shorty and Blondie probably babbled. I don’t want to have to testify, but more than that – I don’t want to let those walking bags of shit get away with – well, raping us. Guess we’ll just have to deal with the fall-out.”
Vin said, “There’s been talk going around already. I had a few words with some folks who ought to know better than to run their mouths, and they agreed to shut the hell up.”
“I’ll be speaking to other department heads about their people’s behavior,” Chris added. “Still, you boys should expect some agents, ours, the FBI, Denver PD, to act like horses' hind ends about this. Might help, for a while, if you aren’t by yourselves when you come to headquarters.”
JD sighed. “Babysitters, Chris?”
“Backup,” Chris told him gently.
Chris waved his arm towards Nathan. “Nathan, you figured out what was happening to JD and Buck. Have you had training about sentinels and guides and if so then what can JD and Buck expect, being newly bonded an’ all?”
Nathan gave a this-and-that movement with his hand before answering. “My Tactical Medic training covered some basics, since sentinels and guides often work in law enforcement. Had some experience during my army medic days, too.”
He continued, “Apparently, they both have the right DNA and they bonded due to several factors – the sex, JD’s senses emerging from being isolated, the stress – and I wonder about the electrical shocks, also. A fully bonded pair has both a physical connection and a spiritual connection such as the golden rope Buck described. Breaking the bond at this point would cause a serious rebound effect on them. They could die. I don’t advise it.”
Nathan shook his head a little, looking straight at Buck and JD. “You both had a slew of medical tests so the bond’s going to show up in your blood work and in your EEGs. I’m sorry. In these days of advanced medical techniques, it’s harder to stay undetected.”
“Chris,” Nathan turned to look at their team leader. “I don’t know anything about how sentinels and guides fine tune the bond. But they need to learn and learn quickly. JD is going to be very vulnerable to sensory spikes and zones until he and Buck become stabilized.”
Chris frowned. “What about Buck? Any negative effects for him?”
“Yes. Regular bonding sessions keep the guide's endocrine system from malfunctioning. Otherwise a toxic effect starts to build that can make a guide very sick and will eventually cause death. The sentinel gets a backlash effect from the guide’s withdrawal from the bond and has serious spikes, and the zones can slip into comas. That’s about the extent of what I know.” Nathan looked at the oldest and tallest member of their team. “Josiah, you want to take over now?” and Buck hoped he had found something helpful in the research he’d done.
Josiah coughed, then said, “Congress pushed through the draft laws based on bonding medical problems. Scientists had finally realized what they were dealing with, that those non-typical seizure states, episodes labeled as psychosis, the coma effects, and the strange readings in the blood work were actually symptoms of dysfunctional bonding.” Josiah continued in his lecture-hall style, “After identifying sentinel and guide pairs, by law they were sent to the Army for education and training. Saving bonded pairs who otherwise were going to die justified the draft, according to those in favor of such actions. The ACLU protested, and other groups joined them, but they haven't been able to make much of a dent in changing the law.”
Josiah got up then and went to his briefcase. He returned and passed out a packet of information to each of them. “This is what I found out about sentinel and guide laws. JD and Buck have thirty days to report to an Army recruiting station from the time medical tests name them a bonded pair, and the Army notifies them by registered mail. Anyone withholding knowledge that a bonded pair has not reported within the thirty-day grace period is liable for prosecution.”
“Ah, shit,” Buck whispered. JD was silent.
“There is a loophole but I don’t know if it’s usable in their case. If a bonded pair report in, and they can show proof that the sentinel or guide is a police officer, a rescue worker, a firefighter, etc, and…” Josiah looked thoughtfully at JD and Buck, “And they can also be shown medically to have a stable bond, then they can serve their ten-year commitment as civilians, as long as they remain employed in one of the protective community services.”
JD choked. “Ten years!”
Chris looked regretful. “Don't get ahead of yourselves; you’ve got thirty days to decide about the Army, but for now, you work on getting your bond stabilized.”
“What if the Army didn’t find out? I sure as blazes wouldn’t turn them in.” Vin made eye contact with the others, but nobody ducked their heads to avoid his gaze.
“They’ll know. Didn’t you understand what I said earlier? JD and Buck both had blood work done and it’s a standard test, as common as checking the red blood cell count. The Army's notified within seventy-two hours of the lab tests coming back.” Nathan looked at Vin as he spoke. “I’m sorry. For what it’s worth,” he shifted to lock eyes with first Buck and then JD, “I wouldn’t have turned you in. There were no sentinels in my family, but there were slaves – and I don’t hold with the sentinel draft laws at all.”
Josiah spoke up. “At least with the sentinel draft there is a time limit -- unlike slavery. I’m the only one of us who was ever drafted into the service, since they dropped it after Vietnam, but even the regular old draft wasn’t fair. College deferments kept some from being considered and many a local draft board favored the poor kids over the rich ones.”
JD spoke hesitantly. “Maybe it’s my duty to go, but I hate for Buck to have to join, too. I want to think about what’s right, and Buck and I need time to decide what to do.”
Chris looked at Buck, who’d been silent so far. “Buck?”
“I passed up the services in favor of police work – I couldn’t see me saluting and yes-sirring officers all the live long day – but if JD thinks he should go, then I’m going with him. But I’ll probably end up a private for the whole dang ten years.” Buck felt numb. Leave Colorado? But JD needed him, and aside from the guys on his team – and he felt grateful for their loyalty and understanding – there wasn’t anybody who would miss him. Maybe Inez would down a whiskey once in a while, remembering him.
Ezra cleared his throat and waited to speak until he had everyone's attention. “Mr. Larabee is correct. The highest priority is educating our new sentinel and guide on how to maintain a stable bond. And I have just the person who can teach them. He’s a guide himself, and a doctoral candidate in sentinel studies. He works for the Cascade police department in Washington State as a consultant and is available to be borrowed. He has rather fiery views on the sentinel draft, and is no doubt in touch with the sentinel underground, should JD and Buck decide not to enter the Army or not achieve a level of stabilization that would allow them to remain with us. His name is Blair Sandburg, and he can be here tomorrow, if I call him and our Mr. Larabee fills out the paperwork to borrow him.” Ezra looked smug to have pulled this rabbit out of a hat.
“He can show me what to do?” Buck asked, with relief in his voice.
“He’s a gifted teacher. Not that there’s any call to tell him I said that. But Blair will know what to do, and he’ll be discreet.” Ezra suddenly frowned. “Well, he’ll be discreet about why he was summoned here. However, he’s certainly a very noticeable individual, since he’s a second-generation hippie and dresses out of a ragbag most of the time. He’s an anthropologist and tells the most outlandish stories. He’s quite entertaining. I’ve found him to be a good friend and -- despite a deplorable tendency to land himself in sticky situations – he’s very level-headed.”
“Make the call, Ezra, and set up the travel arrangements. I’ll fax over the paperwork first thing in the morning. Anything else for tonight?”
Nobody answered and Chris rose and nodded his head to JD and Buck. “Then we’ll leave you to get some rest. Stay home tomorrow and work on this bond. Call us if you need anything at all.”
Buck let loose a long sigh after the herd had stampeded out the door, after assorted handshakes and hugs had been exchanged. JD had stumbled over to the couch and was lying down. Buck was tired, bone tired, and he was looking forward to getting horizontal on his mattress. He locked the doors and windows, while JD watched him from the couch.
“I should be doing that.”
“What for, partner? I can tell that your get up and go has got up and left.” Buck thought JD had pushed it all evening; it wasn’t a surprise that he had run out of steam.
“Sentinels are supposed to secure their territory. Everybody knows that.”
“Maybe, maybe not. There’s got to be a lot of pure bullshit in with the accurate stuff about this whole sentinel and guide deal. Anyway, you’re exhausted and I’m capable and willing. When this Sandburg guy gets here, we can find out what’s real and what’s just a load of crap.” Buck walked slowly over to the couch and reached his hand down to JD, who grabbed it and let himself be pulled to his feet.
“Now here’s what I think. I don’t want a repeat of what happened in the shower, so why don’t you come upstairs and sleep with me. Maybe bodily contact will keep your skin from feeling like a prickly pear. Sleepin' tucked up together might help this bonding shit we’ve got to get under control. We’re both too tired to talk about what to do about the draft till tomorrow anyway.”
JD looked uncertain. “You sure you want to sleep with me?”
Buck snorted. “Old son, that horse ain’t only out of the barn, it’s three fields over into the next county. No sense in locking the stalls now. I might be bothered if it was somebody other than you, but touching you doesn’t seem wrong. And tonight, we’re just sleeping. So come on, let’s go to bed.” He slung an arm around his sentinel, his tired, beat-up friend, and steered him towards the bathroom.
A short while later, holding JD in his arms as they made themselves comfortable on the bed, he fought against remembering their time in that awful little cabin. They were safe now. JD was safe. And they were together and would be together. No matter what. They would be together.
Dunne and Wilmington apartment, Denver, Colorado
Tuesday, early morning, July 3, 2001
Buck was on his second cup of coffee when there was an insistent knock on the door. He wondered who was stopping by this early and hoped they wouldn’t wake up JD. His partner was still deeply asleep, the weakness from days of starvation still affecting him.
He checked the eye-hole and groaned to himself. Casey. She was holding a grocery bag in one arm and raised her other hand, preparing to knock again. He quickly unlocked the door and held his finger to his lips to caution her to be quiet as he ushered her in. He was uncomfortably aware that JD was asleep in his bed, and he really didn’t want to explain why to the girl JD had started to date. Hopefully, he could get her to return when JD was awake.
“Casey, darlin’, JD’s asleep. Why don’t you come by later or how about JD gives you a call when he wakes up.”
Casey placed the bag on the counter and started unpacking Tupperware dishes. “I’ve been worried sick about JD, and he was asleep every time I stopped by the hospital. Look, I’ve brought a turkey noodle casserole and Grandma sent cookies and banana bread. I’ve got to get to the clinic, the vets have a full day scheduled, but I just can’t wait anymore to see him.” She thrust a large clear container filled with cookies at Buck, and as he tried to not drop it on the floor, she made a beeline for JD’s room.
“Casey, please? Don’t open that door.” Buck knew it was a futile hope. Casey was stubborn and headstrong besides being sweet as cotton candy.
She opened the door, and Buck prayed that if JD had woken up, he had the sense to stay put.
His prayers went unheeded because Casey walked out of JD’s room, questions in her eyes, just as the upstairs bedroom door opened and JD stumbled down the circular stairs. He’d grabbed Buck’s robe, which was way too big on him, and his hair was still sleep mussed. He obviously had just climbed out of bed.
“Now, Casey. If you’d asked I’d a told you we swapped beds last night. JD had a notion to sleep upstairs and …” He faltered, knowing how dumb that had sounded.
“No. Oh, no. JD? You and Buck? I should have known; I should have known. Best friends? Bullshit! Why did you lie to me? Buck’s not your friend, he’s your boyfriend and how could you lie about that and go out with me? I never want to see you again!” Casey had tears leaking from her eyes as she stepped backwards toward the hall door.
“I never lied to you! Casey, we have to talk. Things are different now, but I never lied to you! Buck, tell her. Tell her what happened.” JD was coming down the stairs but he wasn’t going to reach Casey before she was out the door.
Buck thought Casey wouldn’t stay, but he tried. He intercepted her as she was flinging the door open and asked her if she wouldn’t stay and listen to them. She flung his hand off her arm and ran out the door.
JD brushed past Buck and started to go after her, but Buck caught him around the shoulders and stopped him.
“Let her go. She’s too upset to listen to you at the moment. If there’s one thing I’ve got a lot of experience with it’s pissing off women, and she’s too mad and hurt at the moment to understand what you want to tell her.”
He turned JD around made eye contact. “What do you want to say to her? Do you even know?”
JD looked troubled and shook his head.
“Well, it’d be better if you figure out what to tell her before you see her again.” Buck snapped his fingers. “We got an ace in the hole. Vin can talk to her granny and smooth the way for you. Casey doesn’t know what happened to us when we were kidnapped.” Buck gave JD a soft thump on the side of his head. “Why in tarnation didn’t you stay up there, quiet-like, and let me tell her you’d gone to the doctor or were with Chris. I’d have come up with something to explain why you weren’t in your bedroom.”
JD rolled his eyes. “You’d already told her I was asleep. It would have been worse if she’d come up the stairs and found me in your bed. And Buck? I don’t want to lie to people, especially people I care about.”
Buck walked over to the counter and filled another mug with coffee, and handed it to JD. “I’d have told her I forgot you had an early morning meeting or something.”
JD sighed. “Casey’s not stupid; she’d have figured out something was off. Shit, Buck. Casey and I weren’t lovers -- yet. We’d gone out on a fair amount of dates, did some things together that we both enjoyed – like fishing. And kissing. I like her, but now I’m thinking maybe it would be better if we didn’t see each other. If I have to join the Army for ten years, I couldn’t ask her to go with me. Or wait for me.”
“If we have to go into the Army. This bonding thing. I don’t know much about it, but I’ve figured out this much – it’s like that bible story about Ruth and Naomi. We’re sticking together, JD.”
JD looked solemn. “’Where you go, I will go; where you stay, I will stay.’ Is that what you mean, Buck?”
Buck reached out and cuffed JD very gently on the back of his head. “Yeah, partner. That’s exactly what I mean.”
Denver International Airport
Tuesday, late afternoon, July 3, 2001
The steady stream of travelers debarking from the gate had slowed considerably before Ezra had spotted Blair. If anything, the boy’s hair was longer than the last time he had seen him, the curls dancing around his face as he walked alongside a tall, well-built man with short hair whose alert eyes were scanning the airport waiting area.
Ezra raised a finger and touched his brow, catching Blair’s companion’s eye. He watched as Detective Ellison deftly maneuvered Blair towards Ezra. Watching Blair alternate between gawking up at the white mountain-like ceiling of the airport and punctuating the air with his hands while he conversed with Detective Ellison brought a smile to Ezra’s face. Blair hadn’t appeared to change much since coming out as a guide.
Blair finally caught sight of Ezra and moved quickly to reach his side. Ezra braced himself and smiled again as Blair caught him up in a hug.
“Mr. Sandburg, it’s a delight to experience your company again.”
Blair snorted and shrugged his backpack off his shoulder, dropping it to the ground. “Mr. Sandburg prefers to be called Blair, as you well know, and he’s got about a ton of blackmail material from your nefarious teen years to share with your team if he needs to.”
Ezra laughed. “Blair, it’s good to see you again.” Detective Ellison joined them and they shared introductions and handshakes. Ezra had waited impatiently for the United Airlines flight to deliver his childhood friend – not that either of them had experienced much of a childhood, not with the mothers they’d been blessed with – and the sentinel. The man had insisted to Chris that he had to accompany Blair – or Blair’s captain wouldn’t agree to this temporary transfer of his consultant. And they needed Blair. JD and Buck didn’t have much time to prove they had a stable bond before the Army would take them. It embarrassed Ezra to let the other members of his team know how much he had come to reluctantly care about them -- but he did, and he wanted his team to stay intact. Blair could help. Perhaps this sentinel could be of assistance, also.
Ezra picked up the beat up, sturdy backpack and shook his head when he handed it to Blair. “I despair of you ever owning decent luggage.” Blair made an exaggerated expression of shock and proceeded to expound on the virtues of his backpack as they left the gate area.
They walked along Concourse A and Ellison had to single-handedly propel Blair along, since Ezra's childhood friend kept stopping to gaze at the Rocky Mountains.
“Jim, Jim!” Blair was now walking backwards in front of Ellison with a look on his face Ezra remembered from times Blair had talked him into doing something he had sworn he would avoid.
“What, Sandburg?” Ellison sounded gruff, but Ezra caught the undertone of amusement.
“Camping! We can take our brand new guide and sentinel camping. It will be so cool! JD learning how to control his senses surrounded by the wildness of the Rockies, Buck learning how to guide as we sit around a campfire -- they could bond under the stars!”
“And the fact that we’ve wanted to go camping all summer has nothing to do with this grand plan of yours, does it? But it’s a good idea – if they feel up to it.” Ellison turned to Ezra. “Do you think they’d want to give it a shot? They were camping when those men kidnapped them.”
Ezra nodded. “I believe it would appeal to both of them. Buck grew up in Colorado and enjoys showing JD the natural beauty of this state.” Ezra gave a small shudder. Playing Daniel Boone in the woods had never appealed to him.
“Want to go too, Ez?” The words sounded innocent, but Ezra could hear the mischief behind the question.
“Thank you, kindly. I’ll pass.” The DIA was a large and busy place, but there wasn’t anybody walking near them as they headed towards the vehicle he had borrowed from Chris. There simply wasn’t room in his Black Jaguar for three people. Ezra judged their surroundings private enough to dispense with the polite small talk.
“My team leader, Mr. Larabee, Chris, asked me to brief you both on our current situation…”
Continued in In Our Time of Need Part Four