Master Post on my LJ
Master Post at sentinelbigbang
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Commerce City, Colorado
Sunday, early evening, July 29th, 2001
“Blair, I want to have a little palaver with you. Privately.” Buck indicated JD who was sitting under a tree, some distance from them. JD was meditating, trying to regain some of the control that had slipped earlier today when they’d been in the thick of things at the Pearl Street Mall. Well, Blair had wanted some place that would be unpredictable for them to use for sensory testing and between the mimes, street musicians, stoned or drunk college kids, stand up comedians, and the carnival atmosphere – hell, usually there was even a fire-eater there – JD and Buck figured that going over to Boulder would fit the bill.
Blair wanted chaos; Blair got chaos.
But it had been hard on his teammate, although he’d done pretty well, considering all the distractions around him. However, as the afternoon had gone by, his ability to keep from zoning had diminished and Buck had resorted to keeping an arm around him to keep him grounded. Even so, JD had zoned big time when, blindfolded, he'd tried to track a child’s voice as the child flitted from area to area. The companionable arm Buck had slung around JD’s back and shoulders hadn’t kept JD from falling into that blank state and talking to him hadn't brought him back to full awareness, either.
Blair didn’t help Buck. Blair couldn’t help him anymore. Buck had to prove he could pull JD out of a zone by himself for the Army doctors. Finally, he did the thing he’d done in the hospital, the first time he’d seen JD in a zone. He kissed him. He kissed him till he felt JD kissing him back.
Blair had decided they deserved a break after that, and Buck had suggested that they come to the Arsenal. Blair expressed a lot of fascination about the history of the place: how it’d been a weapons manufacturing area that had become an environmental hazard but also had functioned as a wildlife refuge. Fish and Wildlife converted it to a wild life center. It was a good place to go to unwind, and just eleven miles from downtown Denver. Jim was going to meet them there later, when he finished for the afternoon. He currently was hanging out at one of his friendly-to-gunrunners bars, trolling for straw buyers.
Blair didn’t answer his request for a private chat, just held up his hand, and then rummaged in his backpack. He pulled out three small contraptions that Buck recognized from watching JD set up stuff as white noise generators and turned them on, placing them in a triangle pattern.
Blair gestured to Buck to sit down with him inside the triangle. When they were facing each other, cross-legged, he asked, “What’s on your mind?”
“We’ve got to see the Army doctors this Thursday. That only gives us four more days to get this right. Blair… If JD and I were to, you know…”
Blair said nothing, just looked encouragingly at Buck.
“Tarnation. If we were to have sex, would it improve our chances of passing the Army tests?”
There. He’d said it.
Blair bit his lower lip and said, “Man… I would think that would depend on you, Buck. If you become his bonded lover, and you don't really want the sexual aspect, then he's going to know it. And… I feel that would make things worse. So be really clear about what you’re offering, and why. But if you want to love him as a lover – I know you already love him as a friend – then it would strengthen the bond, according to what I’ve read. There’s a promising line of research into the beneficial effects of orgasm upon bonding.”
Buck sighed and rubbed his palms on his jeans. “We were forced to be together, before. This would be different. JD’s willing, but he’s told me he’s always been open to the notion of sleeping with men, although he was just a kid the last time he fooled around with guys, and he’d never done most of the things those sons-of-bitches filmed us doing. We tried, you know, to ignore what they would yell to us, or their ugly, grinning faces. We tried to have our own little world – a Buck and JD world – where they didn’t matter.”
Blair nodded. “You guys did great. You’re both very resilient people and you didn’t turn against one another but supported each other. I admire both of you.”
Buck gave him a half-smile.
“Buck… are you sexually attracted to JD? Does he turn you on?”
“I didn’t want to stop kissing him earlier today. Hell, up at that old cabin, with them watching, I had to convince myself I wanted him, because the price of me not being able to get it up woulda been JD being shocked with that tazer again. I let all my feelings about him kinda snowball together and just appreciated him for the smart, tender-hearted, sweet guy that he is, and I’ve always thought he was cuter than a spotted pup. The way his hair is always trying to fall in his eyes, and how he can look at you with those big brown peepers, and how he’s such a shrimp – no offense, Blair – compared to the rest of our team, and damn it, now I know what his skin tastes like and I’ve kissed him and I liked it. I liked it. I love him and I like touching him; I like him touching me.”
Buck rolled his eyes. “Reckon I’ve just figured out what I’m gonna do. I’d be a fool to pass up a package deal like this – love and sex together for a change. The other guys have always said I’m a ladies’ man, an', yeah, I purely did enjoy the times I’ve spent with the fairer sex. But here I am, at my age, and I’ve realized that I’ve never really loved a women like I love JD.”
He bit his lip. “That ain't exactly right. I've been in lust, and in like with my ladies, I just never wanted to take things deeper. I was never serious about anybody I went out with, and I surely didn't want to get married or even live together. I’ve never felt towards anybody the care I feel towards JD. I worry about him. I worry he’s going to kill himself on that fool motorcycle of his. I want him to be happy. I wanted him to have somebody to love. I encouraged him to date Casey, tried to open his eyes to see how that little girl was interested in him. I’ve… I’ve cried when he’s been hurt. I’ve sat at his hospital bed and begged God to keep his eye on this little sparrow and don’t let him die.”
Buck sighed in relief and smiled at Blair. He was sure glad Blair had come along. He was easy to talk to, and he knew so much more about this sentinel shit. But he and Ellison weren’t totally bonded and Buck didn’t know why. There wasn’t any doubt in his mind that Blair and Jim Ellison would suit each other in the sack. What did JD call the other sentinel's and guide’s bantering and kidding around? UST, that was it. Buck had asked him what in the hell that was, and JD had told him it meant unresolved sexual tension. So what the hell, tit for tat. He’d talked about embarrassing personal stuff with Blair; maybe Blair needed somebody to talk to about Ellison.
JD kept his eyes closed and concentrated on breathing the way Blair had shown him. He could feel himself slowing down and it was a good feeling. A concept came to him that he wanted to explore – his feelings about Buck – and he felt himself drifting but at the same time he felt anchored. He pondered – as Buck called it – upon the closeness and love he felt for his partner…
He was feeling like he was hovering a little above his body. White and yellow balls of light floated in his vision, despite the fact that he'd closed his eyes.
A warm, fresh, tingly feeling – like chewing mint gum – was growing in his chest as he contemplated Buck and how he’d taken JD under his wing from that first day he’d met his team.
Buck was so kind to everybody and had the knack of making a person feel comfortable with him right away. But he and Buck had felt a special connection, even before they’d become bonded. The rest of the team had known it – where one was, you’d be sure to find the other.
That tingly, sparkly feeling grew and grew until JD felt his whole being glow with it. The lights grew brighter and he opened his eyes, sure it was what he was supposed to do.
He could see a strange sight across the way, a wolf and a lion lounging together on the grass companionably. There was a bubble surrounding them, a milky colored bubble, and if JD pushed against it by using his hearing, it would sink inwards, but he couldn’t get through it.
He wished he could see them clearer through the bubble, listen to them. He heard a whooshing sound and looked up at the sky over his head. A bird was plummeting down to him, dropping down to circle him before it sat on his shoulder and tugged on his ear with its beak. Then the hawk flew off towards the lion and wolf.
He followed the hawk’s flight with his vision and listened to the sound of its wings strongly flapping as it came up to the opaque bubble that surrounded the two animals. The hawk took its sharp beak and tore at the bubble, and tore at it again and again on different sides of it. When the hawk finished, the bubble was rent and gaping, but the animals didn’t notice the change in their surroundings.
The hawk flew straight back at JD. He didn’t flinch or turn away as the hawk’s outstretched beak came close. Instead, he felt a jolt as the bird first reached him, then an uplifting sensation, as if he could fly, too, as the hawk melted into him. He felt himself come back to full awareness of the world and felt like his soul had realigned with his body. He no longer felt like he was outside of his own self.
He looked over again at the wolf and the lion and saw them shifting into Blair and Buck, and he could hear them talking.
“So, this Alex, this female sentinel, she put some kind of a whammy on Ellison? Made him want to fuck her? Blair, do you think that was a woman thing or a sentinel thing?”
He heard Blair sigh, saw him worry his lower lip with his teeth.
“I think it was both. Jim, he, uh… Until he really got a good grasp on what effects pheromones have on people -- and especially on him, as a sentinel -- he could be led around by the nose. There was this other chick named Laura, and you know what, she was a criminal, too; she might as well have led him around by his dick physically, because that’s what he was letting her do, practically. He did get his head straight about her, though. Finally.
Blair picked a long blade of grass and started shredding it as he talked.
“I worry sometimes that my pheromones influenced his feelings about me. I was no doubt sending them out like an advancing army, because I took one look at him and started lusting. But Jim didn’t act on them as much, I guess because I was a guy, and the more rational part of his brain put the kibosh on him getting too physical with me. And maybe because I didn’t make a real pass at him. If I had, maybe we’d have rolled around together in the sack. I didn’t know he was a sentinel when I first met him at the Cascade PD. I observed some of the sensory problems he was having and told him I could pass along what I’d learned that guides do to help sentinels.”
Blair rolled his eyes and threw the shredded grass away.
“It took me a while to figure out that I was a guide and what we were doing was playing with fire. But… I had quickly come to care a lot about Jim, and I couldn’t keep from helping him. He was trying to keep it quiet about his sentinel abilities emerging, but after a court case where he claimed to see a perp shooting from a distance no ordinary guy could see from, the Army had him tested. The doctors classified him as an emerging sentinel, but not bonded, so he didn’t meet the rules for drafting him into the service.
“And that’s another problem. Jim had a really rough time, at the end of his term of previous service in the Army – he was a Ranger, you know. He spent eighteen months in the jungles of Peru, after a covet operation went bad. He lost his entire team – had to bury them himself. He completed his mission, amazingly enough, because a local tribe took him in and they became allies. They held the Chopec pass and Jim functioned as their sentinel. He kind of repressed all that when he was finally found again. I don’t want Jim to do another ten years of service. And the law is kind of gray in that area, since he wasn’t a bonded sentinel at the time of his earlier hitch. I’ve been looking into it, through Citizens Against Sentinel Draft, and it’s one reason I haven’t allowed myself to bond physically with Jim.”
JD followed the conversation, watching Buck lay a gentle hand on Blair’s knee and gave him a pat before moving his hand back to his own lap.
“If you don’t mind my asking… ? How did you two end up with a spiritual bond first, without going through physical bonding? From what you told JD and me, that’s kind of ass-backwards, ain’t it?”
Blair gave a quick grin. “We don’t do things the normal way, me and Jim. It goes back to Alex. I was trying to help her with her sensory control, but Jim kept cutting me off whenever I started to tell him about her and … I got a little pissed off and stopped trying to let him know I was helping another sentinel. Big mistake on my part. Jim was having all these visions of her spirit animal – it was a jaguar – and of me as a wolf; he was feeling edgy and out of sorts and when in his vision he shot me with an arrow, he decided I wasn’t safe around him and told me to leave. In fact, he packed up all my shit and practically shoved me out the door.”
Blair closed his eyes and gave a small shudder.
“I was feeling hurt and humiliated, but I tried to talk to him. He wouldn’t listen. We’d been living together for years by then, and since he hadn’t told me about his dreams, I didn’t really know why he was acting so strangely. He made our loft into a very sterile, very pared down place. And not just because he’d gotten rid of all my, shall we say, more interesting possessions. He’d gotten rid of his own stuff, too.
“Anyway, Alex – beautiful, tall, blonde Alex -- was found out as a criminal: she stole nerve gas from Rainier University, and then she came for me. She held a gun on me. Apparently I was a loose end that she needed to deal with because I knew about her weaknesses. From some earlier conversations we’d had, she knew I wouldn’t become her bonded guide, so she’d decided to kill me.”
Blair swallowed and was silent for a few moments, and JD could scent fear rising from Blair’s skin.
“She made me leave my office – I’d stayed for a night at a motel room but I couldn’t afford to keep doing that, so I was hiding out in my office – anyway, she made me walk over to this fountain on campus, and it was really early in the morning and nobody was around and she had her henchman there, too, and she hit me in the head with the gun when I tried to run for it, and I was mostly unconscious when they dumped me into the fountain. But not quite. I remember drowning. I…”
Buck got to his knees and reached over to Blair, and gave him a tight hug before turning him loose and sitting back down.
“Um… Sorry. It still kind of gets to me. I was in this jungle, and everything looked blue. I was a wolf and I was walking slowly down this pathway. I knew I had died, but I felt removed from really thinking about it. Then I felt this tugging at me, but there wasn’t anybody touching me. The tugging kept getting stronger and I turned around to see what was pulling at me. And then I saw the black panther and I knew it was Jim. He started towards me and I had a choice. I could ignore him and keep walking down that path or I could go to him.”
Blair shrugged and then grinned. “What can I say? It was Jim. I chose Jim. We started running towards each other and then we crashed together and we… we… exchanged parts of our souls. We became spiritually bonded. I don’t remember this part, but I started breathing and coughing. Jim and some of the rest of Major Crime had found me; Jim had realized I was in danger, and – this is kind of cool, I think – and even though he couldn’t see me in the fountain, when he got to the building my office is in… he turned around and went straight to where I was floating in the water.”
Blair shrugged again. “That’s how we were spiritually bonded. While I was recovering at Cascade General, I asked Jim to fully bond with me and he turned me down. He went chasing after Alex, and I went chasing after him. When I saw them kissing on the beach, I was glad we hadn’t fully bonded. Now I think maybe... if we had been fully bonded, Alex wouldn’t have had such a hold on him. Still, he was able to keep her from influencing him later, even after she had drugged him. She’s in a hospital now, she fried her brain on the drugs she found in the Temple of the Sentinels.”
Buck nodded his head, and JD remembered Blair explaining about the temple when they were camping.
“So Ellison fucked up and you got cold feet. And because you’re a guide you still want to protect him so you won’t bond until you know if bonding means he has to re-up in the service. But he’s already served, so wouldn’t that make him exempt?”
Blair made his hand flip back and forth. “That’s being looked into. And because he was in the service, I’m not sure that the loophole you and Buck could use would apply to him. They might recall him back to active duty. It’s being worked out in mediation even as we speak. And Jim doesn’t know I started the ball rolling about it. He’s told me that if we bond and he has to go back to the service, that we can go to Canada instead. But I know he’d make that decision for my benefit and not his, and I want him to have more options than that. Jim really loves being a detective in Cascade. So, I wait. And it’s been hard. I think I’ve forgiven him for what I saw him and Alex doing on that Mexican beach. And…”
Blair looked away and then looked into Buck’s eyes. And JD knew how looking into Buck’s eyes could encourage you to spill your guts.
“If I’m being really honest here, I have to say maybe I’ve used Jim’s behavior as a smoke screen so I wouldn’t have to really commit myself to him. The only time I didn’t have reservations about bonding with him was right after I died.”
Buck was silent and Blair bit on his lower lip, till JD was sure he could see the tooth marks if he tried. Finally Blair resumed his story.
“When I was in the hospital, after I drowned, I was almost giddy from feeling the spiritual bond, and I invited him to join me – be my lover and do the total bond thing. Man, I sure wasn’t thinking about the Army and how a full bond would limit our choices. But I’ve never really committed myself to anybody in my life before, and it’s not like I learned how to do it from my parents. I don’t know who my father is, and mom’s had a lot of short-term relationships. Anytime somebody started to get serious with her, we’d hit the road. So maybe that’s why I’m being chicken-shit about becoming lovers with Jim. He certainly turns me on and it’s gotten harder and harder not to ask him to make love. He would in a heart beat.”
Blair ran his fingers through his hair, and sighed. Then he smiled at Buck and arched his back.
”JD’s been meditating for long enough now. I wonder how he did?”
He looked over at JD, and JD waved at him.
“JD, are you able to hear us talking?”
JD waved again.
“C’mon over here, Skippy. Didn’t your mama ever teach you not to eavesdrop on people?” Buck sounded a little peeved. JD felt somewhat abashed, but then he didn’t exactly mean to horn in a private conversation. He watched as Blair switched off the white noise generators.
He got up and stretched and extended his hearing and sight around him in an automatic gesture. He became aware of another sentinel coming close and realized that Jim was near. He spoke in an ordinary voice to tell Jim they were on the Woodland Trail. Jim estimated he’d catch up with them in about ten minutes. Then he walked down the path to where Buck and Blair were sitting under a tree. He sat down across from them, picked up one of the generators, and turned it over and over in his hand.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have listened. I didn’t really stop and –“
“It’s okay. Tell me how you got through the white noise? That’s difficult to do.” Blair had on his teaching face and JD responded.
“After I had meditated for a while, and I felt this amazing tingly feeling in my chest, I resurfaced. I tried to listen but it was like there was this big bubble around you guys. Then my hawk came out of the sky and tore up the bubble. The hawk dove into me – didn’t hurt or anything -- and then I could hear you talking just fine.”
Blair beamed at him. “JD, that was great, that was a real accomplishment, man. You used the power of your spirit guide, how cool is that? And that tingly feeling --that was probably your heart chakra in action. What were you meditating about?”
JD felt himself start to blush and looked covertly over at Buck. Blair noticed and chuckled a little, and said, “Never mind, JD. I think I can figure it out, but what a cool buzz you must have had, with your heart chakra allowing you to feel the way you described.”
JD thought he’d try to shift the subject away from what his heart wanted.
“I saw your spirit animals, too. Blair, you’re a wolf; and Buck, I think you’re going to like who your spirit guide is.” He whispered sotto voce to Blair, “He’s been fretting that his animal guide's a butterfly or a kitten.”
Buck reached out and grabbed JD’s second best ball cap off his head. He held it out of JD’s reach and waved it.
JD laughed and said, “Okay, Buck, okay. It's a lion, a really big African lion, with this huge mane. He’s really beautiful and I hope someday you’ll be able to see him. Can I have my hat back, purty-please? Since my favorite one is still in the evidence locker.”
Buck tossed it to him with a pleased expression on his face. “A lion. Blair, you told us that spirit animals are partly reflections of our personality traits. JD’s hawk shows his um… courage, wise use of opportunities, clear sightedness, truth and uh –“
Blair added, “Also creativity and overcoming problems. That works well for a tech wizard, don’t you think? And Buck, a lion’s traits also include courage. And brotherhood and strong family ties. Self fulfillment. Strength and letting go of stress. I see all of those things in you, my brother.”
Blair turned to JD. “Maybe, since the topic of privacy was brought up, we should discuss it a little more. JD, you'll be aware of so many things about people and what they’ve been up to. You’ll know when a woman is menstruating or ovulating. When people have slept together. When they want to sleep with someone. Some kinds of illness are detectable also. You’re going to overhear lots of secrets. You're going to have to really practice being discreet and tactful. Sometimes, you’re going to realize things about other people before they have figured it out for themselves.”
JD nodded. He felt a little embarrassed that he hadn’t put it together what the bubble had really meant.
Blair reached over and popped him one on the upper arm. “Hey, I’m not jumping on your shit, man. So don’t worry about bustin’ our bubble, just file it under things a sentinel has to be concerned with. And if you heard me talking about Jim and me, well, I don’t mind. Just don’t pass it along to Jim, okay?”
JD opened his mouth to warn Blair that Jim was very close by, when he heard Jim’s voice softly say, “What?” Too late.
“Blair, Jim’s here. He, uh, heard you say that.”
Blair got a guilty look on his face and Buck eyed him thoughtfully.
“JD, it’s time we finished our hike and headed home, and I believe Jim has just scheduled a little chat with our teacher.” He stood up and pulled JD to stand beside him, then reached his hand down and helped Blair up.
“Blair, we’ll see you tomorrow. Uh, call before you come over, all right. And I’m thinking we won’t be getting up real early, so don’t call before…” He looked at JD and grinned a wicked grin. “Say before ten o’clock. And good luck with --” He gave a nod towards the path where Jim was loping along in an easy run.
Blair smiled at them, and JD and Buck turned and started to walk towards Jim. As they passed him Buck said, “That kid loves you, Ellison. Don’t be a jerk, okay.”
Jim gave them a wave and continued moving towards Blair.
“C’mon partner. They’ve got to work out their problems and I’ve got something very important to talk to you about. Let’s walk down to the wetlands and sit a spell.”
Jim had slowed down to a walk when Blair, with a resigned look on his face, met up with him.
“Look, Chief. Don’t you think it’s time you were open with me about what’s going on in that head of yours? I mean, you can talk to Wilmington and Dunne about us, but you can’t, well, talk to me about us?”
Blair didn’t say anything, and alarm bells started ringing in Jim’s head. The day Blair Sandburg didn’t offer an opinion on any subject was the day Jim would become seriously worried for his normally motor-mouthed friend.
Crap, Blair was looking at him, and there was no trace of his normally cheerful and slightly mischievous expression. Shit, maybe he’d better backpedal before he lost ground instead of gaining it by pressing Blair to talk to him about becoming his guide. At least, he guessed it was about becoming his guide.
“This is about us becoming bonded, right? It’s not about, uh, us joining the ATF, is it?” Larabee had done some low pressure recruiting, not for his team, per se, but perhaps to join the Washington branch of the ATF.
That ended Blair's silence.
“What? Do you want to give up Major Crime and switch to the ATF?”
“I told him I wasn’t particularly interested in doing that, but that I would have to talk to my partner before any decision would be made. You see how that works, Chief? The ‘talk to my partner’ part? Could we give it a try?” Jim slung his arm around Blair’s shoulder and turned him to go back on the Woodland Trail, but in the opposite direction from where Wilmington and Dunne had headed.
Blair slid his arm around Jim’s waist. They walked along in silence for a half a mile, Jim shortening his stride a bit so Blair didn’t have to jog to keep up with him.
Jim tried again to get Blair to explain himself. If his partner didn’t talk about his concerns after that, then Jim would let it go. Again. This wasn’t his first time at this dance.
“After Carolyn married me we didn't talk about things we should have. Set us right up for that divorce. A sentinel and guide bonding, it’s like a marriage. No difference, really. Well, the mystical stuff adds a certain quality that my marriage never had. Anyway, Blair, I’ve had one failed marriage. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I hope to God I’ve learned from them. Why the hell won’t you talk about bonding with me? I’m asking. Please.”
Jim could feel Blair’s anxiety in the tightening of his neck and shoulder muscles and in the changes in his scent. He’d made his pitch. The next move was up to Blair.
They continued to walk along the path, but Jim hardly paid any attention to the birds and other wildlife he sensed.
Finally, Blair said, “Okay. I will, Jim. I promise I will. But not here and not in Denver. But I promise that when we return to Cascade, and we're home, then I won’t put it off any longer.”
“I’m going to hold you to that, Blair. So, just to make sure we’re on the same page, you’re telling me that when we go home, and we’re in the loft, with privacy, you're going to tell me why you haven’t bonded with me and what needs to change so that we can bond. But you do want to bond? Please tell me at least that much. I tell myself that you do want me, both as a sentinel and a man, but if I’m wrong…”
Blair stopped Jim from walking by tightening his hold on Jim’s waist. He stepped in front of Jim, lifted up and bent Jim’s head down before kissing him till they were both breathless.
“I want you, Ellison. You’re not wrong about that.” Blair gave Jim another kiss, before reaching for his hand.
“C’mon. I’m tired and ready to go back to the ranch. And let me tell you what JD learned how to do today…”
Dunne and Wilmington apartment, Denver, Colorado
Monday, early morning, July 30, 2001
JD woke up before Buck started stirring. That was normal. Since they’d started sleeping in the same bed, JD usually woke up before Buck. When JD would attempt to disentangle himself from his sleeping guide, Buck would try to hold tight to him. JD would wriggle around, trying to slide out of bed quietly, but he’d always wake Buck up. Hair sticking out wildly in every direction, Buck would look at him blearily, and then the alarm clock, before rolling over to go back to sleep, calling him a danged rooster.
But today was not a normal day.
Today was… an in-between day. Yesterday morning, he’d woken up in his friend’s bed. Tomorrow morning, he’d wake up in his lover’s bed. But this morning was the start of all the rest of his mornings for the rest of his life and it was… strange. And wonderful. And comfortable. And puzzling. And just a bit nerve-wracking.
He pushed himself a little closer to Buck, feeling Buck’s chest against his back, Buck’s groin against his butt. He could feel Buck’s morning wood pushing against him. He rocked his ass slightly against Buck’s dick, enjoying the feel of it swelling against him.
Buck had made his choice last night. He’d shown JD in words and actions that he loved JD -- that he could show that caring in a physical, sexual way.
The sensuality he had shown made JD realize how well Buck had earned his reputation as a lover.
He was JD’s lover now.
Buck had given his word that he wasn’t feeling pushed into making love with JD; he’d promised that he’d be faithful and JD had repeated the words back to his bonded lover.
He couldn’t imagine making love with anybody else, ever again. He felt a warm glow remembering how Buck had told him, in between exploring his body with those deft hands and his warm mouth, that he loved JD.
They were more than teammates, now. They were more than a sentinel and guide pair. They were beyond the closeness of bonding. They were family now to each other.
After losing his mother, he’d found a brotherhood in his team. And now he had a mate, a life partner. A spouse.
A spouse who was awakening from a sleep state. His senses were feeling sharp and steady this morning, and he could keep track of the minute changes in Buck without even trying.
He pushed back against Buck a little harder, a little more insistently. Buck was starting to respond to his invitation – even in his half conscious state – by beginning a slow thrusting against his ass.
Yesterday at the Arsenal, Buck had sat down under a tree, down by the wetlands, and pulled JD to sit down in front of him, between his knees, and buried his face in the back of JD’s neck and hair. He wrapped his arms around JD and held him snugly, while he mumbled awkward words with small kisses for punctuation. JD had asked him a few pointed questions regarding the difference between feeling obliged to do something you didn’t really want to do, and wanting to do it for its own sake.
Buck had sworn to him that he wasn’t offering out of duty, but out of love. He’d allowed that he was getting the better part of the deal, since he was sticking JD with an old reprobate. A reformed one, he’d hastened to add, and he gained a lover who was smart, and loyal and funny – despite the fact said partner couldn’t tell a joke to save his life -- and who was cute and had hair that begged for fingers to run through it and whose skin was so soft that he, Buck Wilmington, wanted to run his hands over every part of JD Dunne’s body, and that included the male parts.
JD had brought up women then, and Buck had told him that he’d probably always look at a beautiful woman with an appreciative eye, but that he wasn’t going to mess up his home life by cheating – not in his mind and not with his body. He’d said it firmly, and JD believed him.
JD hadn’t used his sentinel senses to see if Buck was lying. Buck couldn’t do the same to him, and being one-sided like that seemed unfair. Buck was going to have to trust him; he was going to have to trust Buck. That was how it worked.
Buck had asked him about Casey, and JD said it was over between them. He was sorry she’d been an innocent victim in all of this, but dating her or marrying her seemed as far removed now as the peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
They’d fallen silent then, JD relaxed against Buck, and he didn’t bring up the Army. They’d know soon enough if they would serve their mandatory ten years in the service or right here in Denver, with their team.
It was only when JD heard other hikers approaching that their interlude ended. They’d had one drugging kiss, deep and hot and breath-taking, before they’d pulled apart and started walking back to the Visitor Center, where Buck had parked Lady. JD had slid his arm around Buck’s waist and Buck had slung his arm around JD’s shoulders in response. They’d stayed that way, even when they’d passed the other hikers. Buck’s breathing had remained even, and JD felt his concern that Buck would feel anxious about being seen as gay ease a little. Buck usually didn’t care what other people thought of him and went his way in his own style, but JD worried about Buck feeling uncomfortable that observers would realize he enjoyed JD’s touch. Other people… but not Team Seven. He had no fears that anyone on his team would look at him and Buck in distaste.
Buck had insisted that they go out to dinner, and had picked Steakhouse 10 over on Elati St, reasoning that this was going to be their anniversary date and they deserved to celebrate at Denver’s best restaurant. The steaks had lived up to their reputation and the rest of the evening out had passed in stolen touches, laughs, and comfortable conversation until they’d walked into their condo.
JD and Buck had started kissing each other, in between struggling to remove each other’s clothes. Doors were hurriedly locked, and windows checked, both working together to secure their territory. Then a quick shower, together, and they walked up the stairs naked to resume kissing, standing beside the bed, before JD announced that he was tired of getting a crick in his neck and pulled Buck into bed with him.
Remembering their evening together re-exploring the intimacy that their captors had forced on them previously, the overwhelming feeling JD had felt had been a sense of safety. He was safe with Buck, and Buck was safe with him. He had banished thoughts of the last time he and Buck had made love together and the whispered words from his partner had re-assured him Buck wasn’t going to fall into flashbacks to the old cabin.
Sliding into sleep, sated and satisfied, spooned up against Buck, JD pulled Buck’s hand to his heart and understood that he’d never be alone again.
And now daylight was starting to filter through the skylight and windows, and before they began their workday, JD wanted Buck to watch him fly apart, since he’d been able to see so very clearly Buck’s every expression last night in the darkened room. Fair was fair, after all.
He moved away from Buck, who grumbled sleepily and mostly incoherently, so that he could roll over and face his lover.
Afraid that gentle touches would soothe Buck back down into sleep, he used his nails and teeth to tease Buck fully awake.
Buck retaliated by grabbing JD’s hands and levering himself over JD, holding JD’s hands down over his head with both of his. JD grinned at him, to let him know feeling restrained wasn’t going to trigger unpleasant memories, and then proceeded to yelp and moan and laugh as Buck used his mustache and tongue to tantalize and tease JD’s skin.
“You’re a randy little rooster, and I’m gonna make you crow, JD.”
Buck slid his body back and forth on top of JD, the friction between their bodies building and building till JD felt his feet start to arch involuntarily and he stammered out Buck’s name, looking into Buck’s eyes as he orgasmed, feeling like time had stopped while his body pulsed and pleasure flooded through him.
Buck didn’t stop his own movements and soon closed his eyes and grimaced and groaned as he came.
Buck collapsed on top of him fully and JD enjoyed the weight of his partner till his bladder staged a protest.
“Buck, lemme up. Gotta pee.”
With a sigh, Buck rolled off him and JD slowly pushed himself off the mattress. Buck followed him, and picked up a pair of boxers from the pile of old laundry on the floor and swiped it over his belly, then handed it to JD, who shrugged – it was his boxers – and used it the same way.
JD turned to go down the stairs and gave a yelp when Buck gave him a smart slap on his ass.
“Blair won’t be here for hours. I vote that after we hit the john we come right back up here and take a nap, and then fool around some more.” Buck was yawning and JD decided a nap sounded pretty darn good.
And so did fooling around.
Central Street, Denver, Colorado
Tuesday, early morning, July 31, 2001
“You know, Buck, someday you’re going to have join the twenty-first century and learn a whole new way of doing business.” JD watched the other vehicles on the road as he teased Buck about not using direct deposit for his paycheck.
“Dang it, JD, I just know those incompetent – what’s that Boston word for idiots again?” Buck’s heart wasn’t really into this argument; he was just passing the time with JD. He eased Lady over to pass a Ford Ranger truck, and then glanced at his watch. They’d get to the Federal Building in plenty of time for the weekly staff meeting.
“Anyway, those chowderheads would lose my paycheck if I let them get their mitts on it. I’d rather pick up my paycheck the old-fashioned way and know for sure that I’ve got it.”
JD shook his head. “Direct deposit is safer than physically carrying around your check. You might lose it or somebody take it. But if that’s what you want to do, I won’t argue with you. Dear.” He grinned as he said it and Buck had to laugh.
“JD, that was actually funny. This is a historic day.”
“Should we make it a historic day in another sense, too, Buck? How would you feel about telling the rest of the guys that we’re really together now?” JD was looking curiously at him, and Buck shrugged.
“I’ve got no notion of trying to hide us being lovers. That’s just not the way I am. Besides, none of them will mind. We might get an old-fashioned shivaree, though. Well, actually that would be more my style than the rest of our team’s way of welcoming us as a couple. So we’re probably safe from them standing in the hallway of our building and banging pots together and making a hullabaloo. How about you, though? Do you want to share the good news or keep it private?”
JD turned towards him and reached out his hand. Buck squeezed it as JD said simply,“They’re the closest thing we have to family and I want them to know. I want to celebrate. I don’t want anybody thinking that what we have is like a… a shot-gun wedding or something. We made the choice to be together. Those assholes who forced us to have sex have nothing to do with our decision. Let’s invite everybody over to the Saloon after work, and blow off some steam. Okay with you?”
Buck raised JD’s hand to his lips and kissed it. “Sounds like a plan to me.”
Federal Building, ATF Headquarters, Denver, Colorado
Tuesday, mid morning, July 31, 2001
Chris peered through the blinds of his office and counted heads. As expected, there was still one missing. He walked back to his desk and added another date to the tally sheet he was using to keep track of Ezra’s misdemeanors. Two more times of being later than a half hour to work and Mr. Standish would be helping him wade through a pile of statistics for a report he needed to finish by the end of August.
Actually, he probably would have asked for Ezra’s help anyway, since his business degree came in handy when it came to dealing with numbers, but he wasn’t about to tell his tardy team member the truth. Ezra seemed to do better knowing Chris was watching over him, seemed like having a bit more structure kept him settled down. Chris grinned to himself. Ezra kept him on his toes, that was for sure. Chris had never regretted taking a chance on bringing Ezra on board his team; the boy liked fancy clothes and fancy talk, but he was a good man and he did a great job for the ATF. Or perhaps it was fairer to say that he did a great job for Chris and his other teammates. Ezra’s loyalties were more tied to the people he personally had connections with, rather than the bureaucracy of the ATF or FBI.
He walked out of his office and pulled up an extra chair. Ellison and Blair were here, too.
He looked at Buck and nodded. Buck opened his bottom desk drawer and pulled out the rubber chicken he kept there. It was a silly way to start their weekly meeting, but by now it was a time-honored ritual. Or a well-beloved bit of bullshit.
Buck tossed the chicken to him and he held it up and said, “Meeting’s started. I want to hear where everybody’s at on their cases, and then it’ll be open season. I’ll go first.”
He glanced over at Ellison, who was grinning, and then at Blair, who was also smiling and looking like he was bursting to say something. He knew Blair well enough by now to know that it would be a psychological, sociological, or anthropological comment. Well, it could wait for a bit.
He sat the chicken down on the floor by his feet and then looked over at Buck and JD. “Those two assholes who were in on your kidnapping have decided to continue pleading innocent to all charges, the kidnapping, grievous bodily harm, and sexual assault ones included, but the judge denied bail. It’s going to come up before the federal grand jury. That’s the bad news, since it means you two will be on center stage. They are going down for what they did, though, between your testimony and that homemade porno flick they shot. Hopefully, the DA can get them to plea bargain so it won’t go to trial.”
JD and Buck looked at each other and Chris saw the resignation in their faces and eyes. They had known it might play out this way, but they all hoped that a trial could be avoided. The media on the case had died down some over the last couple of weeks, but a trial would stir it all back up. He made a note to discuss what Buck and JD could expect from the press with Mary. She was fair-minded as a reporter and had proved herself a good friend; he knew he could trust her. He wouldn’t mind seeing Billy, either, although he wasn’t going to get attached to the little guy.
He spoke back up. “The end of the month reminders: don’t forget to fill out your time sheets, sign them, and turn them in for July. Human Resources wants you all to know that if you're gonna change anything on your forms – insurance, life insurance beneficiaries, address, phone numbers – any of that kind of stuff – to do it today if you want it to go into effect for August.”
He passed the chicken over to Vin, who held it up briefly also, then sat it on his desk next to a mug of coffee that was so black that it looked oily. He summed up his progress on his current cases and passed the chicken over to Nathan, who also updated Chris and the rest of the team on what was happening with the cases he was working. He also told Chris he was going to take off a week at the end of August, tie it into Labor Day weekend. He and Rain were going to take a vacation.
“Girl’s been working too hard; the only way for her to get away from the Women in Crisis Center is to go out-of-state and make her leave her cell phone at home.” Nathan reached out and touched her picture on his desk.
The door opened then and all eyes turned to watch Ezra walk in the door. When he was close enough, Nathan hurled the chicken at him and he caught it before it hit him in the face. The boy did have good reflexes and quick hands.
“All right, Mr. Standish. Glad you could join us. Care to share what kept you from getting here on time today?” Ezra glanced so briefly at JD and Buck that Chris almost missed it. He shook his head and walked over to his desk and dropped the chicken with the air of a butler disposing of a dead mouse.
Chris had expected another one of Ezra’s tall tales, which were entertaining as all get out. Something was wrong.
“Ezra? What happened? Trouble?” Ezra started to speak and Chris interrupted him. “Remember we’ve got two sentinels here that can read you like a book.”
Ezra gave a sigh and then looked apologetically at JD and Buck. “I’m afraid I was detained by the need to educate some of our fellow agents on how to not behave like cretins. They had seen you in the building earlier and were speculating on sentinel and guide bonding practices. In strident and attention-getting tones. They appear to have acquired their information from pornographic comic books, the loud-mouthed ignoramuses.”
Chris said, with heat in his voice, “Anybody else runs into that kind of attitude I want to know about it. JD, Buck, Jim, Blair – if anybody gives you shit, we want to know about it. Ezra – you get a free pass for being late. You’ve got the chicken, catch us up on your cigarette warehouse case.”
After Ezra, and then Josiah had spoken, the chicken passed to Blair, who beamed when he became the recipient.
“Wow, this is so cool, a modern-day council of war and your own version of the Indian Talking Stick. And developing your own rituals! Man, this is culture evolving right before us.”
He opened the notebook Chris had noticed that he carried with him everywhere he went.
“Okay, whose idea was it to use the chicken as the substitute for the talking stick, and where did you get the idea from?” He looked expectantly around the room and Buck sheepishly answered him.
“JD here was a Boy Scout and he gave me the idea, said they used to do it in his scout meetings. I got my chicken out when it was my turn to talk one day, and it just kind of snowballed from there. Lord, I sure wasn’t thinking about culture – I just thought it was funny.”
Blair opened his mouth – probably to ask more questions – but a soft, “Chief” from Jim made him shut it again.
“Okay, you’re right, Jim. Another time. All right. JD and Buck are doing really well, and I feel they are a lot more prepared for the tests the Army is going to inflict on them. They'll report to a recruiting station initially and then be taken to a base; here’s what they can expect: blood tests, pheromone testing, EEGs, a general checkup to pinpoint any areas where problems are developing. These tests are going to confirm what the hospital’s earlier blood test had shown – physically, they're bonded. The spiritual part is harder to confirm, Amy doctors will question them about dreams, visions, hallucinations, and also give them some simple psi tests. There will be a sentinel there to read their truthfulness. If it's still unclear, then a shaman will induce a trance state and check their auras. The shaman can see a manifestation of the bond on the spirit plane, for example, the golden cord that JD and Buck shared that allowed Buck to find JD.”
He grinned mischievously.
“The Army so does not like to admit that they have to rely on a shaman.”
Blair got up from his chair, walked around behind it, and placed his hands on the back of it, rocking a little on the balls of his feet.
“First they’re going to ask if JD and Buck want to sign up. If a sentinel and guide do that, then -- wham, bam, thank you, mam, they’re inducted right away and the testing takes place on an Army base. They will play on patriotic feelings.”
He rubbed the side of his temple with one finger for a moment, as if a headache was starting to develop.
“If the pair doesn’t sign up right off the bat, then the docs do the physical tests. Results are back to the recruiting station within a couple of hours. If those results show that they are bonded but that there are imbalances, then they are officially drafted at that point. The Army takes them to a base that has a sentinel and guide program, and teaches them what to do, which is pretty much the same stuff I’ve been showing JD and Buck this past month. The spiritual part is also confirmed, since a guide and sentinel have to have both sides, physical and spiritual, for the army to draft them.”
He resumed gripping the back of the chair. Chris noticed he was holding it tight enough for his knuckles to turn white. Jim looked like he wanted to go over to his partner, but he kept to his seat.
“If the physical tests show that they have no problems, the Army still takes them to a base for up to two weeks. They will use this time to test the bond's stability and confirm the spiritual end of it. They will give recruitment their best shot. In other words, they’ll try to show that JD and Buck do not have a stable bond under stress to justify drafting them and will be throwing propaganda--”
“Chief,” Jim said again and Blair glanced at Vin and then Josiah and Nathan before looking apologetically at Chris.
“Sorry. I guess it’s no secret where I stand on the draft issue, but I do respect our veterans and if I offended anybody here, I apologize.”
Vin said quietly,“I’m not offended. I don’t hold with the draft laws neither.”
“Blair… what’s to keep the Army testers from flunking them on purpose?” Nathan had asked the question but Josiah and Ezra were nodding their heads also.
“There will be observers monitoring, and they'll testify if need be during a dispute. Congress approved Citizens Against Sentinel Draft and Amnesty International to oversee the process after a lot of protest work and grass-roots initiatives.”
JD spoke up. “So, on Thursday we should bring a packed bag with us and not leave any milk in the fridge.” Blair nodded and passed the chicken to Jim, who gave Blair a pat on his back and a concerned look as he took it from him. Obviously, even talking about the testing procedure bothered Blair.
Chris listened thoughtfully as Jim reported on his undercover efforts as a shady legitimate gun dealer with access to illegal guns. Having a sentinel work the gun show had proved beneficial in other ways, as Jim had observed other illegal transactions and had started several more promising investigations.
But so far he’d only had minnows falling into the net, not the larger predator their informants had said was swimming around, circling, waiting for the right moment to strike. They needed to do something to make that shark smell blood in the water and attack. Right now he was too far out of their grasp.
Jim got ready to toss the chicken to Buck, but changed his aim when Chris held out his hand.
Once Chris had re-positioned the chicken on the floor, he said, “We’ve got to give whoever is behind Greer – and possibly other major players -- a reason to quit stalling. Let’s hear some ideas.”
Nathan answered him first. “Ellison could put the word out that he’ll be leaving town – with his bag of goodies if he can’t sell them here.”
Chris nodded his agreement. “What else?”
Ezra spoke up. “Perhaps if the concept of serious competition for the stock were advertised, our buyer would decide it’s time to make that sale before another consumer gets the bargain.” He looked thoughtful. “Informants being who they are, however, we can’t exactly divulge the plan to plant false information. I propose that we question our informants for rumors that a new player with serious intentions is in town and looking to buy an arsenal of weapons.”
“Maybe a Mexican drug lord looking for AK-47’s and such to take back home,” Vin added, with a solemn nod to Ezra.
Buck blew out his breath slowly, obviously thinking while he did it. “Lots of times those Mexican drug gangs pick up their guns in the border states, so we should throw in that they think buying in Colorado would be less noticeable, less likely for them to be under surveillance. Hot diggity damn. I wish JD and I could be in on the fun, but it looks like we’ll be busy for the next ten days. Or the next ten years.”
Buck’s attempt at humor fell totally flat for nobody in the group smiled or laughed.
Blair spoke up firmly. “You both are going to totally ace those tests. And we have today and tomorrow to do more field tests. You two could go along with Ezra or Josiah when they meet with informants, practice the techniques we’ve been working on in a real investigation. You’re ready to move up from Sentinel and Guide 101 to the advanced levels, anyway.” Blair looked eager to get started.
“All right then, we’ve got a plan. Get with each other after the meeting and coordinate your schedules and stories.”
Chris noticed JD giving him a small wave. He and Buck didn’t have any current cases to report on but obviously he had something to say. He tossed the chicken to JD.
JD leaned over and placed the chicken on Buck’s desk, then got up with a nervous look on his face. Buck pushed out of his own chair to meet him. Suddenly everybody’s attention was on the two of them; Blair closed his notebook, and Ezra and Vin stopped talking softly to each other.
JD cleared his throat. “We’ve got something to say.”
Buck added, “Tell, actually. We wanted our team to be the first to know.”
“Because like I was telling Buck this morning, you guys have been like family to both of us.”
“Chris and I – we go back to high school.”
“When I left Boston, I sure didn’t know I’d become such wicked good friends with everybody.”
“JD and I talked things over.”
“Things are going to be different now.”
“And dang it, it’s not because we felt we had to do this.”
“Nope, we wanted to do it. It’s the right thing to do.”
Chris interrupted them before they confused the team any more than they’d already done.
“Buck, JD, would you just spit out whatever the hell you’re talking about?”
JD looked up at Buck, who was of all things starting to blush.
Buck Wilmington. Blushing.
All of a sudden Chris figured he knew what they were yapping about and JD confirmed it when he reached up on his toes and kissed Buck square on the lips.
Buck finished off that kiss in a way that made JD kind of stumble a little and then he said, affection and pride in his voice, “JD and I are together. Hell, Chris, we’re lovers now and we intend to stay that way. Is that clear enough for everybody?”
Nobody was in their chairs now. There was handshakes and hugs and questions and best of all – acceptance. Finally the racket started to die down a little and Buck announced that they were all invited to the Saloon to celebrate with them tonight. Seven o’clock sharp.
Chris let them mill around a while longer, then asked JD and Buck to come with him. The rest of his team went back to work and the lovebirds followed him into his office and sat down, waiting for him to say his piece.
“You going to have a ceremony or anything? And remember that you’ll need to re-do some paperwork for the ATF.”
JD spoke up. “Okay. We’ll go down to Human Resources before we leave here this morning. We thought we’d sign the forms for the state this afternoon. It’s considered a civil union and we’ll have the same protections under the law as a married couple.”
“Means you can’t marry other people, am I right?” Chris wanted to make sure they knew what they were doing.
“We know, Chris. Blair went over all this stuff with us when we were camping. And…” JD suddenly found the floor fascinating. “We didn’t talk about a ceremony, but I’d kind of like to exchange vows with our team as witnesses. Buck?” Now he looked up and Chris found himself grinning when he saw the indulgent look on Buck’s face.
“Sure, partner. We’ll get the city hall stuff done this afternoon and we can say our pledge to each other at the Saloon. I’ll call Inez and see if we can have the back room.” Buck looked at Chris and asked, “Anything else you wanted to say, Chris?”
“Congratulations. And what are you going to tell the Army when they ask you both to join?
JD took Buck’s hand. “That I respect the work the Army sentinels and guides do, but we’ve got our own kind of work waiting for us back home. If we pass all their tests, that is.”
“Glad to hear it. Now go see who Blair’s got you working with today, and I’ll see you both tonight.”
Continued in In Our Time of Need Part Seven