Master Post on my LJ
Master Post at sentinelbigbang
Larabee Ranch, Denver County
Thursday, mid morning, July 26, 2001
Jim raised his razor to the top of his head, bypassing his beard. He watched his progress at shaving in the mirror, and mentally prepared himself for the gun show he would be setting up at this afternoon. Wilmington had drilled him on what he should know, and he felt ready to go undercover as a legitimate gun dealer who was a gunrunner on the side. He'd also been spending a fair amount of time letting his face be seen at bars where, according to Wilmington and Dunne, customers met with shady dealers.
He thought that the past three weeks had gone by smoothly. Mostly. Dunne and Wilmington had suffered a few bad days, times when something had triggered memories that had kept Wilmington moody and Dunne quiet. They’d apologized for the occasional nightmare they’d had during their week of camping, and he and Blair had tried to make them not feel embarrassed about it. Blair had talked about the nightmares he’d suffered after he’d been kidnapped by Lash, and Jim shared his childhood memories of sleepless nights after finding his coach’s body. He could have brought up Alex and the damage she’d wrought, but he found himself reluctant to bring her name and her actions up during campfire confession time.
He took a towel and wiped off the remaining foam from his chrome-dome – Blair’s new favorite word. The kid had stammered out the name between bouts of the giggles after his first look at Jim Anderson, gun runner. Still, Blair couldn’t keep his hands from smoothing Jim’s bald head and Jim made him pay a kiss as a forfeit every time he did it. He’d let his beard grow out while they were camping; the face he saw in the mirror looked older and rougher than the man who lived in Cascade.
Overall, the trip up into the Rockies had been good, and he’d demonstrated for Dunne what a sentinel was capable of achieving. He’d also talked to the kid about the pros and cons of being in the service. Dunne still hadn’t decided if he would voluntarily join up or not; he had a strong sense of duty and was painfully sincere about wanting to do the right thing.
Blair had included the current controversy over the draft with his lectures on the history of sentinels and guides. When Blair was in his college professor persona – well, he almost had a PhD, but his dissertation wasn’t completed – he left out his personal opinions. Blair was passionately against the draft, but he wouldn’t try to sway the rookies. This wouldn’t be an easy decision for Dunne to make, and Jim was glad the levelheaded kid was searching out his team's veterans' opinions about their time of service.
One of those veterans would be acting this afternoon in the little drama they’d put together to give Jim some street cred. Sanchez could rant like nobody’s business and the script called for him to name Jim as one of the gunrunners for the Sunshine Patriots.
Jim took his contacts out of their case and put them in his eyes. He didn’t look so Aryan with brown eyes, but he didn’t want to be recognized as one of the cops who’d taken down Kincaid and his bigoted men. Blair didn’t like the contacts -- Jim could tell from his body language – but he didn’t bitch about it. His partner was pretty good about accepting things that couldn’t be changed -- probably from all those years of meditating.
Blair had taught Dunne and Wilmington to meditate, and how to do visualization exercises that would help the young sentinel gain control of his senses. This was something that Jim still struggled with himself. A simple dial for each of his senses worked best for him. Dunne, with his technological bent, had clicked with the idea of a bar graph like the one displayed for volume control on his TV. He said he even mentally pushed the button on the remote for displaying which sense he was trying to balance out. Hey, whatever worked for the kid. Jim reached for his plain black t-shirt and pulled it on. It was a little tight on him, so that his muscles were more noticeable.
He sat down on the closed toilet seat and pulled on his socks, then pushed his feet into his boots. The ones with the lifts. Funny how two more inches of height made him feel twice his normal size.
He opened the bathroom door and stepped out into the hall. Blair, Dunne, and Wilmington were out doing field-testing today on Denver’s streets. Dunne was improving on his ability to stretch his senses and it pleased Jim to see how quickly the young man had caught on to the things Jim and Blair had taught him. Wilmington had a deft touch with the kid and was good at realizing when Dunne was in a pre-zone state; most of the time the rookie guide could avert his sentinel from falling into a full-blown zone.
He’d also had some private chats with his fellow sentinel about the care and feeding of guides. He could see the two-way protectiveness that went between the other two men. He’d shared how Blair had saved his life after Blair had figured out Jim was a sentinel, when he hadn’t accepted yet that Blair was right. He’d stormed off only to be zoned in the street by looking at a damn Frisbee; Blair had saved his ass. Dunne had examples to pull out, too, of how Wilmington had saved his life on some of their cases, and his stories sounded a damn sight better than one about being rescued by his guide from being run over by a garbage truck.
Jim wandered out to Larabee’s kitchen and made himself a ham and cheese sandwich. He poured himself a cup of coffee and turned off the coffee machine. He’d leave to pick up his stock and then head over to the Merchandise Mart, which was hosting this week's gun show. He was alone, and it was a welcome respite, despite the fact that he’d enjoyed their camping trip and time spent with the members of Team Seven. Jim smiled, remembering the long talks at the campfire, three of them drinking Irish Coffee and Dunne content with his mug of hot chocolate. They discussed politics, vehicles, how annoying working with the FBI could be, and groaned at Dunne’s attempts to tell jokes. Blair was good at tying in sentinel and guide education into the conversations.
Jim carried his coffee and sandwich out to the patio, and sat where he could look out over Larabee’s ranch. He took a bite of his sandwich and thought about how Blair was teaching the rookies what they needed to know to stay out of the draft. He was doing a great job and Dunne and Wilmington were becoming much more confident about using their gifts. He was very proud of his guide’s talents. Blair’s spirit animal was a wolf, a social animal that mated for life and stood for the ability to connect with others as a teacher. The wolf was perfect for Blair.
Around the campfire, there’d been some hilarious moments when Blair had de-bunked some of the commonly held ideas about sentinels and guides. His guide had been careful to include the kernel of truth within some of the outlandishly held beliefs. Sentinels could feel territorial, but they weren’t slaves to any compulsions to beat the shit out of other sentinels that had intruded on them. Jim had explained that it was more of a feeling of awareness – and a feeling of caution. Dunne had agreed that he’d felt that way, too, when meeting Jim.
Another moment of truth had been that the guide “voice” couldn’t hypnotize a sentinel into a trance state. It was useful for helping a sentinel focus and calm down, and provided grounding, and the familiar sound of his guide’s tones could help stop a sentinel’s zone. Wilmington had been amusing as he’d groused about the now lost chance to make Dunne cluck like a chicken or walk like a duck.
Jim finished his food and sipped at his coffee. He’d have to leave soon but he’d try to soak up as much peace and quiet as he could before he climbed into the beat up van that the ATF had provided for his use.
Blair had made sure to cover every perception the public had about sentinels and guides. He’d explained that there was no secret order of sentinels or guides, which was a popular myth that popped up in novels and movies. Also, a sentinel or guide couldn’t shape-shift into their animal spirit. Hearing that he wouldn't wake up some morning and find himself in an animal body had relieved Buck.
Blair had questioned them both about dreams or hallucinations they’d had about animals. It was clear that Dunne’s spirit animal was a red-tailed hawk. In the dream he’d had when JD was missing, Wilmington had followed the bird to find his missing teammate sitting on an abandoned bunker in the park Dunne had played in as a youngster. When Wilmington and Jackson had arrived at the deserted ranch, a hawk’s cry over and over had attracted Wilmington’s attention to the hidden root cellar the boy’d been buried alive in.
Wilmington’s spirit animal hadn’t made its appearance yet, in his dreams or in the physical world, as far as they could tell. Wilmington was getting impatient to find out what it would be.
Blair had been in his element, explaining what he knew about spirit guides. Jim had let him tell about the times Jim had seen his black panther – or melanstic jaguar, to be one hundred percent accurate, but even Blair would slip and call the big cat a black panther – during times of emergencies.
Blair had only seen his own wolf once – and that was when Jim had followed his drowned partner down the path of the dead – and the wolf and the panther had joined. That was when they had completed their spiritual bond, and it had brought Blair back to the living world. Even now, thinking about how he’d tried CPR on Blair with no success, and how even the medics had given up on him, made Jim feel almost dizzy with anxiety and fear.
And afterwards, regret and recrimination.
Jim no longer felt peaceful and stood up, restless with remembering how much he’d fucked up with his guide.
Blair, caught up in the wonder of the spiritual bond, had extended an invitation to Jim to join him fully. Jim had been stupid, stupid, stupid to put him off. And for what? He’d gone after Alex, murderous, sensual, criminal Alex with her stolen nerve gas. Blair, being Blair, had followed, against every doctor’s restriction, and had seen Jim and Alex kissing on the beach. The offer to fully bond with him had gone by the wayside then. And really, Jim couldn’t blame him. It was hard to explain the influence the female sentinel had exerted on Jim, even when he knew he didn’t really want her. Blair was his guide; the forced journey to the spirit world Alex had drugged him into had been all about Blair. Jim came out of that mess knowing he wanted the full bond with his guide. Blair came out of it determined not to let himself be hurt by betrayal again. So, he’d refused the physical bond but wouldn’t abandon Jim. It had taken a long time for Jim to get him to reconsider a total bond. And now the kid had let slip he had some other concern for Jim that were holding him back. Jim needed to get him to spill the beans about that. Jim wanted them to be together in every sense of the word. Domestic partners, work partners, and fully bonded to each other, physically and spiritually.
They’d been walking a very fine line, the two of them. It was possible to have a physical bond without having sex, but the physical intimacy – the skin to skin contact that would precede the bonding hormones production – very naturally usually led to having sex. They were only human.
Jim carried his coffee cup and plate back into the kitchen and washed them in the sink. He placed them on a towel and reached in his jeans pocket for the van keys. He locked doors and walked to the van. There were bumper stickers on it with slogans making it clear that he didn’t believe in government regulations. He climbed in and started the engine. As he drove back towards Denver, he focused on what was most important to him – Blair agreeing to be his guide in every way. Right now, there was wiggle room for Blair to change his mind.
Jim’s genes were almost fully turned on; Blair’s weren’t as much as Jim’s. Right now, Blair could leave him without physical repercussions, but it was only a matter of time -- if they had sex or more intense skin-to-skin contact -- before full bonding happened.
If Jim became fully engaged as a sentinel, he would have to have a guide’s touch. He would need the guide whose touch had initialized him. Impressed on him. If the guide withdrew from his sentinel, he was risking their health. Theirs would be a symbiotic relationship.
Up at the campsite, Jim had ducked out when Blair had begun explaining the birds and the bees of bonding to the rookies. He was uncomfortable talking about his needs, for crying out loud, with his own guide. He didn’t want to get into it with two other guys. When he was out of sight, Blair had cheerfully whispered to him that he was a dick for bailing, causing Dunne to choke on his drink and Wilmington to pound on the kid’s back. Jim had quietly -- and with, he hoped, dignity – asked Dunne to tell Blair he was going for a hike and he’d be back in an hour. Blair had stuck him with cooking and KP duty when he returned.
Jim made an exit from the Interstate that led to Denver and traveled some back county highways for while before turning onto the winding gravel road that led to a state of the art security fence beyond which a few isolated storage units could be seen. The gate was unlocked, and he pulled up next to the storage unit the guns had been transferred into so that there wouldn’t be a direct trail back to the Federal Building. Tanner and Larabee got out of Larabee’s black truck and met him at the door of the unit. Jim took a discreet sniff and yep, they were both floating in pheromones, but no actual arousal scent. He reminded himself again that this wasn’t his business, and concentrated on the job at hand.
Once they'd inventoried and loaded the guns, and Jim signed off on them, he drove to Merchandise Mart, registered, and set up his sales tables. He decorated his booth with some very attractive bait. A poster advocating that the government keep its nose out of private citizen's lives. NRA banners. Survivalist manifestos. And in a visible place, the symbol of the Sunrise Patriots. Then he waited for Sanchez to make his appearance.
Larabee Ranch, Denver County, Colorado
Thursday, early evening, July 26, 2001
JD slumped down in the big armchair in Chris’ living room. He felt tired and kind of down in the dumps, actually. He hadn’t done very well on their town field trip at all. He’d had three incidents of zoning, and come close to it a half-dozen other times. Buck was able to snap him out of it pretty quickly, but filtering through car traffic noise and the hum of machinery in buildings to identify scents and sounds had given him a headache. Blair had only let him take a baby aspirin, and he wasn’t looking forward to the teasing he figured the rest of the team would dish out once they heard about it.
Blair and Buck were listening appreciatively to Josiah relating how he and Jim Ellison had put on the best floor-show since Gypsy Rose Lee.
“Ellison kept denying that he’d ever sold guns to such a righteous group as the Sunrise Patriots. Said it would have been his honor to do so, but that he couldn’t allow me to leave under such a misapprehension. So while he was 'correcting my error', more and more people started to gather round, listening to me exult him for supplying weapons to the finest group of Americans of this century.”
Ellison walked out of the kitchen and said, “You really came across as a religious nut. You know your bible, that’s for sure. It’s a wonder the police weren’t called to cart you away for disturbing the peace.”
Josiah gave an acknowledging wave of his hand and continued. “It was the winking that was the finest touch.” He turned to JD and Buck and gave a toothy grin. “After he’d swear that he never had the pleasure of doing business with the Sunrise Patriots, he would wink. I’d say that everybody who saw him firmly believes he was the supplier of the Patriot’s weapons.”
“I heard a lot of buyers and sellers saying just that after you left, Sanchez.”
Buck rubbed his hands together greedily. “Now we wait and see who takes the bait. Greer, we know from informants, is a straw purchaser. It’s likely he’ll check you out. And maybe, if we’re lucky, a few others will, too.”
Blair raised his eyebrows. “Straw purchaser?”
Ellison answered him. “Somebody who legally buys guns to pass them to others who can’t buy them themselves. And I’m getting hungry. Did you pick up some steaks on your way here?”
“I did. Who’s staying for supper? I’ve got salad stuff, too, and I thought I’d make this rice dish…”
“Sounds good, Blair, but I think I’ll pass,” Josiah said, and stood up.
JD thought to himself that he might as well talk to Josiah now as later, so he got up, too, “Josiah, I’ll walk you out. Been meaning to talk to you.”
The two men walked outside together and JD thought about what a study in contrasts they were. Tallest to shortest. Oldest team member to youngest team member. Philosopher to tech geek. But none of that mattered because he and Josiah were both members of Team Seven, and Josiah had always made time for him, when he was troubled.
“What’s on your mind, John Dunne?”Josiah said encouragingly, which JD appreciated.
“A lot. Can I ask you some things that are kind of personal? I’d understand if you’d rather not let me pester you.”
“You’ve never been a bother, son. And this isn’t the first time we’ve talked together, is it? I’ve told you often enough to come see me if you need somebody to listen. I stand by what I said. So, what can I do for you?”
“During the Vietnam War, the army drafted you. How did you feel about it?” JD asked the question as respectfully as he could. Josiah didn’t often talk about that war.
“Been expecting you to bring that up. Well, John Dunne, my country said it needed me, and so I went. Lots of mistakes were made in that war, and I followed orders I sometimes didn’t agree with. That’s part of what it means to be in the service, you know. You follow orders and policies that you, personally, may not agree with. Now, with the volunteer army, when you sign up, you are choosing to put yourself in that position. A conscripted soldier, he doesn’t put himself in that place, he gets forced there. Of course, we always have choices, even if they are hard choices. A lot of good men chose to say ‘No’ to the draft and went to Canada or Mexico or Sweden. I can’t fault them. It’s not an easy thing to do to walk away from your home and family for your beliefs, thinking you could never come back again to the land of your birth.”
JD flashed on what it would mean to Buck to never be able to return to Colorado. Buck didn’t have any family here anymore since his mother had passed away, but just the same his roots were in Colorado.
“Law says that a soldier can’t be forced to follow an illegal order. But in circumstances where you’d question an order, it’s likely you’ll be in battle or under serious pressure to follow that order. It’s not easy in those circumstances to know what’s right. And, you’ll be hoping your superior officers will see it your way during the inquiry you’ll face for refusing an order.
“Some of the men in my unit considered the draft as being necessary, the price you pay for being a citizen. They were proud to serve their country. Hell, JD, I was proud to serve; I signed up for a second tour in ‘Nam. And I served with a sentinel and guide pair. They saved our lives many times. I know that the talents you would bring -- you and Buck – would be invaluable in the service of our country. But those same talents would also be invaluable right here in Colorado being utilized by the ATF. And speaking selfishly, I hope you and Buck can remain members of our team.”
Josiah looked over for a while at the sunset, evidently lost in his memories. Then he sighed. JD used his “gifts” as Blair called them; his teammate's scent made him think of sorrow and regret with a tinge of anger. Josiah stroked his chin, before he spoke again.
“Others felt like the Army owned them, that they were slaves until their time was up. They were bitter – especially because the draft was never fair, not even the lottery.
“When it comes right down to it, son, the fact is that when Congress relieved the rest of our citizens from their obligatory draft responsibilities – of course, it had always been stacked against the poor – sentinels and guides got left behind. They didn’t have enough political clout – just too few of them. But I don’t believe that made it right. “
Josiah reached out and squeezed JD’s shoulder. “Krishna once told a man who was in despair about what decisions in life he should make to, ‘Know what your duty is and do it without hesitation’. You’ll figure it out, John Dunne. And I’ll support you when you do.”
He gave one last squeeze and stepped backwards, turned and walked to where his ancient Suburban was parked, climbed in and drove away, waving to JD as he passed him on the driveway.
JD focused on the Suburban’s taillights till they were mere pinpricks of red, then extended his hearing to find out what his guide was up to. Buck was drinking a beer and joking about a girl who had flirted with Blair at the bar they’d had lunch in. Blair had said that having lunch there was a dry run for times when, as a sentinel, he’d have to meet with informants at places like that, but JD suspected that he’d just wanted a bowl of the chili that JD had described to him on the street outside of the bar and grill. Blair was always coming up with tests for his senses, and talking to Buck about how important testing was to keep up. He’d started Buck on filling out notebooks about the reactions JD had experienced and the things that tended to bother him. But, Blair said that he didn’t seem to have as much sensitivity as Jim did, and Jim managed to do his job as a detective. Blair said he’d be okay. So did Buck.
JD shook his head as Jim asked Blair about that girl.
Blair was denying that he’d been interested in her, and JD bet that Jim was on that like white on rice. Jim would be listening to Blair’s heartbeat and watching for all the other signs of not telling the truth. The man was crazy about his guide and since Blair and he hadn’t done the full bond, Jim tended to act a little possessive.
He could understand that.
He and Buck hadn’t decided how to handle the physical end of their bond, except they did a lot of cuddling – in bed and out of bed. So far, that level of intimacy was enough to keep them both healthy. But it was hard. He got hard, all the time, when he was close to Buck and touching his skin.
Blair hadn’t been interested in that girl; he was telling the truth. But it had been more fascinating to him that Buck hadn’t made any effort to flirt with her and there had been no signs of arousal from him. And that was good. He guessed. He wanted Buck to be happy, and if that meant that Buck cuddled him and had sex with women, then that would be what he would settle for. But it wasn’t what he wanted.
He wasn’t interested in getting tangled up with a woman, either. Not even Casey. She still hadn't returned any of his phone calls, so Vin had spoken to her granny; Nettie had told her about JD's and Buck's kidnapping and bonding.
He shook his head. Maybe he and Casey would have had something together, if the last month hadn’t happened, but it had and they didn’t anymore. He didn’t think they ever would. Not now.
Still, he’d hoped they could stay friends. Vin said she was real sorry to hear what had happened to him and Buck but that she was hurtin’ too bad to see him, that the wound was too fresh and lookin’ at him or talkin’ to him would just make it worse. He felt bad for Casey, but he just couldn’t start sleeping with her when the person he wanted for his lover had a mustache and a bent for practical jokes. And muscles. Real nice muscles and sexy skin.
He sniffed the air and smelled the steaks cooking, and decided to go back inside the ranch house. Thinking about Buck had made him want to sit next to him and drink in his scent. Later tonight, there would be at least some skin to skin touching, when they went back home and went to bed.
Continued in In Our Time of Need -- Part Six