Master Post on my LJ
Master Post at sentinelbigbang
Denver International Airport, Denver, Colorado
Monday, mid-morning, September 10h, 2001
Ezra stood by the exit for Flight 114, Cascade, Washington to Denver, Colorado and watched for his childhood friend, accompanied by his sentinel, to appear.
They had an appointment to meet with the DA’s office later this morning, to go over Ellison’s and Sandburg’s testimony for the preliminary hearing tomorrow afternoon. Greer, Furukawa, Masters, and the other men arrested last month would have their cases heard to determine if there was enough evidence to bring them to trial on charges related to selling and possessing illegal arms and drugs, plus attempted murder for the two who had fired on Chris.
Ezra glanced around the waiting area, a habit that had always stood him in good stead. It paid to stay alert, even on an innocuous errand such as this one. Satisfied that the people slouching in chairs or standing watching the airport television were at the moment harmless, he returned to thinking about the case.
Their evidence was meticulous and the law-breakers would be serving time in prison. There was a separate investigation, based on what Masters had told Blair, into Greer being responsible for some missing persons’ deaths, people who had “worked” for him and who he'd judged to be a liability. The Denver PD was handling that line of inquiry.
A stream of travelers flowed out the door, some swept into arms of loved ones and hugged and kissed, others making their solitary way down the corridor of the DIA. He saw his friends, and waved a hand. Blair was chatting with an older woman, extolling the virtues of various establishments in and around Denver. Jim walked behind Blair, a tolerant expression on his face.
Ezra raised his hand and caught their attention. Blair beamed at him and then said goodbye to his acquaintance. As he knew his old friend would, Blair barged into his personal space and hugged him – not that he minded -- and Jim extended a hand in a hearty grip. Ezra made the expected disparaging remarks about Blair’s well-used backpack as they made their way to Chris’ Dodge Ram truck.
They caught up on events as they drove to the DA’s office on Colfax. Buck and JD’s kidnappers had pled guilty at their arraignment and would be returning to court only for sentencing. The DA had dropped the attempted murder charge in the plea bargain arrangements, which suited JD and Buck, because they wouldn’t have to testify about the forced copulations their captors had made them perform. The ATF and FBI were still waiting on the owners of that wretched cigarette warehouse to engage in fraud, and the team was heartily sick of the operation.
Ezra didn’t ask if Blair had bonded physically with his sentinel, but then he didn’t have to ask. The two men seemed relaxed with each other, in-tune in a way that he could recognize after watching JD and Buck these last few weeks. His old friend was happy, a smile dancing in his eyes, and joy radiating from him. In which case, he decided it was time to remind Blair about something they had agreed upon a long time ago.
They pulled into a parking lot downtown and when they rode up in the elevator to the District Attorney’s office, Ezra casually remarked, “I’ll take that fifty dollars you owe me, Mr. Sandburg, anytime now.”
Blair looked puzzled. “What fifty bucks are you talking about?”
Ezra tried to keep a poker face but a grin wanted to break out instead. “Well, since I suspect you’ve been ‘busy’ with other things and it’s slipped your mind, allow me to refresh your memory. Aunt Molly’s back porch. A pitcher of lemonade. A discussion on the folly of marriage. A wager, that the first one of us to lose our minds and become sealed into nuptials would pay the other one the grand sum of fifty dollars. I believe the arrangement between yourself and Mr. Ellison qualifies you as married. I win the bet.”
Ellison chuckled at the look on his guide’s face. “Sounds like he’s got you there, Chief. But I like to think that I’m the real winner. Allow me.” As the elevator started slowing to a stop at the fourth floor, he pulled out his wallet and with a flourish handed over two twenties and a ten.
“Standish, I’m glad he lost that bet. And yes, we have a civil union, which to my way of thinking is just another way to say we’re married.”
“Well, I’m sure that the rest of the team will want to offer their congratulations tonight, at the cookout at our Mr. Larabee’s ranch.” Ezra shot Blair a smug grin and waved the money. “I’ll buy the beer. Organic, correct?”
Blair started to laugh, and right before the elevator dinged to disgorge the inhabitants, he reached up and kissed Ellison.
“Thanks, Jim. Say, would you also cover any bets I lose on the horses?”
“Not a chance, Chief. C’mon, let’s get this meeting over while Standish here goes shopping. See you in about two hours, Ezra.”
Ezra waited until they’d disappeared down the hall towards the office of the assistant DA before calling Chris on his cell phone to let him and the rest of the team know that the cookout tonight was going to double as a celebration for their Cascade friends.
Larabee Ranch, Denver County, Colorado
Monday, late evening, September 10th, 2001
Jim was feeling mellow. Good food, good beer, good company. He and Blair had even been the recipients of some gifts from the others, to celebrate their bonding and marriage. They’d had a private ceremony during their camping trip where they had exchanged vows, and a hell of a party when they had returned to Cascade afterwards with the bunch from Major Crime.
He looked around Larabee’s back patio at the sprawled out members of Team Seven. Most had beers in hand, but Vin was drinking coffee, and JD was sipping at a hot chocolate. Those two were the designated drivers for the rest of them. Buck was laughing so hard tears were springing up in his eyes. Blair had been entertaining them all, spinning the yarn about his stealing the airplane under the noses of Greer and Furukawa the Younger.
“So, I did an Internet search in the airstrip’s office for how to fly a plane, while I was supposed to be relieving myself in the bathroom… ”
Jim tuned him out for a few minutes and drank more of his beer. He’d already heard Blair recount this latest adventure to the guys at Major Crime a few times. Instead, he reflected on how well his life was going now.
Blair had finished his research and was scheduled to defend his dissertation in a week. His partner had worked on it pretty much nonstop since they had come back from their week-long camping trip up in the Cascade Mountains. He grinned at the memory of Blair making good on all of his promises for a week of primal experiences, and yeah, there’d been a few bug bites in tender places, but it was a small price to pay to be naked with his guide. They’d bonded and had enjoyed various forms of sex, and it had been as sensuous and fulfilling as he had hoped it would be.
Of course, before there was the camping trip, which solidified their bond, there had been their homecoming to the loft. He licked his lips as he spun out the sweet remembrance, a dreamy and languorous feeling infusing his mind and muscles.
They’d begun as soon as Jim had locked their front door and secured the brass chain door lock. While they’d been gone to Colorado, Simon had been given a key, to check on things and water Blair’s plants on the balcony, but Jim would not have been pleased to see his boss and friend walk in on them tonight.
Jim had fantasized about pushing Blair up against a wall and holding him as a willing captive – not even in his daydreams could he do anything against Blair’s wishes – and seducing him with demanding kisses until his eyes looked drugged from arousal, then laying him out on a table or lowering him down to the floor and fucking him.
But that wasn’t how their first time happened.
Instead, after they'd locked the door, Blair had taken his hand and brought it to his lips. He’d kissed Jim’s palm, and Jim had taken his free hand touched Blair’s face and stroked his hair. Blair had stepped closer to him and lifted his face and Jim had accepted the invitation. Their kisses expressed affection, love, and acceptance, but before they had segued to passion Blair had deftly moved away from him.
And then Blair asked him to dance.
While he watched, his guide turned the lights down low, and lit candles around the room. Sensuous music filled the air and he and Blair held each other, swaying and feeling their bodies mold to each other. Blair, never one to be silent for long, began murmuring loving words to him. “Sweet nothings,” an older generation might have called the words he whispered to Jim, but they weren’t “nothings.” They were little gems of love Blair was showering him with, and he wanted to give the words back to Blair. He did, and although they weren’t shot through with poetry like Blair’s offerings, they were heartfelt and Blair soaked them up like a desert after a rainfall.
Later, when they were naked and hard and touching each other in Jim’s big bed, Jim made each touch of his lips, his tongue, his hands and his dick express the love and tenderness he felt for Blair, and Blair’s caresses branded him as Blair’s. He’d wanted this for such a long time and he was grateful and ecstatic and awed that Blair had chosen him. Loved him. Accepted him. Would stay with him till the end of their time.
The exquisite pleasure of their orgasms that night was magnified by the tenderness and love they showed to each other.
He came back to the present very much aware that he’d become hard while thinking about his lover. His mate. Domestic partner. His consultant at the PD. His guide. He knew that JD would have noticed the changes in his body that made it clear to a sentinel that he was aroused, but JD would keep the knowledge secret, like a priest in a confessional. He casually shifted his jacket to lie over his lap and paid attention to Blair. He was gesturing with his hands, reenacting how he had taxied the plane down the runway.
“And I’m putting more pressure on the throttle and the plane’s going to the right too much, and then I’m trying to straighten it out and then it’s going too much to the left.”
He had his arms extended now, imitating the zigzagging plane. “And the guys on the ground realize I’m running off with the plane, and hell, for all they know I’m going to really fly it away. Anyway, I’m telling them to get out of the way, cause I don’t really know what I’m doing. Of course, they can’t hear me, and it’s all a little surreal, you know? Then when they shot the tire things got really wobbly. It felt like I was sliding sideways. And those bozos follow me, right past the trees where Jim and the rest of our guys are waiting and while the rest of the team is taking them down, I’m trying to figure out how to stop the plane. Man, for a minute or two, I thought I might end up driving the damn thing all the way to Kansas.”
There was laughter and smiles as Blair wrapped up his tale, then Nathan cocked his head. “Blair, did you know we were hiding under those trees?”
“Yeah, I sure did. And I don’t know if that was just because it was logical for you guys to be there since it was the best cover around, or if the bond Jim and I have made it possible.” He smiled at Jim and Jim knew he probably looked like a sap, as he grinned happily back at his lover, but he didn’t care.
The get-together started winding down, with Nathan giving the highlights of his vacation with Raine, and Chris and Vin recounting going camping. Finally, Chris declared it a night.
“It’s closing time. We’ll meet tomorrow at District Court, at seven in the morning. Uh, Ellison do you know where the Denver City and County building is located? If you stay here for the night we’ll go in together.” He smirked at them. “I invested in a good set of earplugs for when JD and Buck stay over, so I won’t hear any goings-on.
Buck started to snicker. “Blair, you’re one for rituals and such. I’ve got one in mind that’s a time-honored western way of acknowledging a couple getting hitched.”
JD stood up and grabbed at Buck’s hand, pulling him up. “Time for us to go before Buck inflicts a shiveree on Jim and Blair. C’mon, partner, let’s go home.” Buck protested mildly as his half-formed plan to serenade Jim and Blair with off-key singing and banging pots and pans outside their window was derailed, but he went out to his truck with JD peacefully enough. It looked like that sentinel had his guide under control.
Jim glanced over at his own guide, who probably would never be under anybody’s control, let alone his sentinel’s and beckoned him to come over from where he was looking again at the book on old western ghost towns that had been one of their wedding presents.
Blair obliged him, and -- apparently reading his mind -- said, “I vote that we stay here for the night, but if you want to go into Denver and get a motel, we need to get moving.”
Jim pulled Blair down next to him and whispered in his ear. “We’ll sleep here. But I’d like to go for a walk with you, before we head to bed. I’ll flip you to see who bends over the hay bales in the barn.”
“Umm… okay, Cowpoke. I guess Chris won’t need his earplugs then.”
Jim licked the edge of Blair’s ear, making his guide start to pump out pheromones. He purred, “I didn’t say he wouldn’t need them, Chief. You make our goodbyes to the rest of the guys and I’ll go and get some supplies and meet you on the path to the barn. Want me to pounce on you in the dark?” Blair loved to play hide and seek, adult style. It really pushed his libido into overdrive.
Blair swallowed, his eyes starting to dilate. Then he wiggled away from Jim and stood up. “Get moving, Ellison. I’ve got some folks to say goodnight to for you and me.” He shot Jim a seductive, mischievous grin. “And you can try to jump me. But I’ve been working on feeling you through our bond and if I catch you before you catch me, then I get to choose which of us is the pitcher tonight, agreed?”
Jim felt a wave of contentment swell up within him. “You bet, Chief.”
Conference room, Denver City and County Building, Denver, Colorado
Tuesday, early morning, September 11th, 2001
Chris decided he’d have to award Ezra a gold star this morning. The assistant DA had requested that Team Seven, and Ellison and Sandburg, meet with her before District Court started at eight, so that she could make sure their testimony was going to go off without a hitch. As a return favor, she’d managed to get the preliminary hearings for all the men arrested during Greer’s case listed first on the docket for court.
Ezra had been right on time, here before seven am, even if he was half asleep.
Of course, Assistant District Attorney Shelly Peterson was a strikingly beautiful brunette. Sandburg had taken the opportunity to tease Ezra about that as soon as the woman had left them to get a forgotten file from her office.
Jim was agreeing with Josiah that the woman was thorough, since he and Blair had already had one meeting with her yesterday.
Vin had stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts shop, and Buck and JD had practically swarmed him when he came in carrying the pastries.
Shelly came running back into the conference room, face pale. “Oh my God, there’s been a terrible accident in New York. A plane has flown into the World Trade Center. It’s on TV right this minute.” She left hurriedly and the group of men followed her to an office where a few people were watching live coverage of the tragedy.
They watched, mesmerized by the smoke billowing out from the tall building and the replay of the film coverage. Then the unthinkable happened a few moments later. A second plane flew into the other tall tower. His team exchanged glances, as they realized that this couldn’t be an accident. Not with two planes crashing into New York buildings like that. This was a terrorist attack, and the ATF would be involved in the investigation. One of their National Response Teams would be dispatched to examine the evidence and provide forensic assistance for the investigation. They had done it for earlier terrorist attacks.
Chris felt anger rising up in him like magma rising rapidly to the earth’s surface. All those people trapped in those two buildings. All those lives lost because some terrorist group had hi-jacked those two planes. All those families, who had now lost loved ones. His grief about Sarah and Adam, the anger that he had never really resolved, burned hot and bright in him again, re-lit by the agony he knew those families would suffer.
He glanced at the shocked faces of his team, some struggling to hide their emotions, others letting their own grief and pain at this attack on their homeland be visible.
JD and Buck were holding hands. Ellison’s face had hardened into granite and he was gripping Blair’s arm.
Josiah was saying a prayer for the souls of those lost to this attack and for their families. Nathan added his own for the first responders to the devastation, firemen and policemen and volunteers who would try to save those in peril, regardless of the danger to themselves.
Chris was their team leader. They needed him calm and thinking.
“Shelly – get hold of the judge and see if court can be postponed. We may be at war, and all of us need to be ready to move.”
Ellison had moved to an office phone and was punching numbers. Blair spoke for him. “He’s calling Simon Banks, our captain in Major Crime.”
“I’m going to check in with Orrin Travis.” Vin placed a phone in his hand and he dialed Orrin’s number, wondering if he would be the first to break the news of the attacks to the Assistant Director.
So quickly can things change. One day he was a man with a family, the next day a man bereft. Earlier this morning their country was at peace; this afternoon, they might be at war. And all a man could do was hold tight to those he loved and do his best to protect them.
Ellison and Sandburg apartment. Cascade, Washington
Tuesday, late afternoon, October 2nd, 2001
Blair stirred the ostrich chili and turned the burner off. No sense in scorching their dinner while he meditated. He could sorely use some contemplation; the weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had been hectic and stressful. They had been stuck in Denver after the attacks for several days until the airlines were allowed to resume air service. But they had finally been able to testify at the preliminary hearings for the men the team had arrested in the Greer case.
Because of the ATF’s bust of Greer and Furakawa, his buyer, there was now a joint investigation with the RCMP because Furakawa and the Yakuza had made their new home in Canada, the Yakuza being one of the growing number of Asian crime gangs shuttling drugs south of the border. Greer had swapped the arms shipment for cash, Ecstasy, and cocaine that had been flown in from the Saskatchewan border. He’d already had a buyer lined up to meet with him after leaving the airstrip, intending to smuggle the drugs in the two cars outfitted with false compartments that had accompanied the semi Blair had driven to Kiowa county.
Blair took Sandalwood candles out of the kitchen drawer and arranged them in a circle on the floor. He started lighting them, their pleasing scent wafting around the room.
At least not all of the recent stress was for negative reasons. He was now Dr. Sandburg, having successfully defended his dissertation two weeks ago. Now he had some decisions to make regarding his work, and he hoped that meditating would allow his path to become clear. He could work full-time at the PD or continue his part-time position there and teach a few classes. Or perhaps there was a new direction his life should take.
He turned off the lights and arranged himself in the center of the candles, relaxing upon a small rug.
He wasn’t looking forward to tomorrow. He and Jim had to report to the recruiting station down on Waterfront Lane and do medical tests, since it had been thirty days since the Army had been notified of their bond. He had known it was inevitable, but he didn’t relish jumping through the Army’s hoops.
The medical tests would confirm that they had a physical bond, and later tomorrow, he and Jim would be taken to Fort Lewis, south of Seattle, to undergo the mandatory two weeks of testing. He had no real qualms about going. He knew that their bond was rock-solid and they could pass anything that was thrown at them.
Jim had been quiet, though, ever since they’d witnessed the terrorist attacks on the television, and that did worry Blair. That was the main reason he wanted to meditate tonight, before Jim returned. He had the feeling that Jim was not fully sharing his emotions lately. Jim denied that, of course. He was attentive and Blair had no doubts about his love. But something was off about his sentinel, and as a guide, it was his job to figure out what it was and help his sentinel to re-achieve the balance he had to have to function to his full potential. Besides, he wanted Jim to be happy.
He started to breathe deeply and center himself. Maybe Jim’s problem was more work related. The whole country was under severe stress, and as one of the men charged with protecting the public, maybe Jim was feeling that pressure.
He’d do anything to help his lover be okay.
He took a deep breath of the Sandalwood and visualized Jim. Then he visualized Jim naked and smiled; Sandalwood was also supposed to have an aphrodisiac quality. He worked a little harder at gaining his center and felt himself slipping into the calm, out-of-body state induced by his brain producing Theta waves.
Floating, mind and body relaxing, compassion and empathy for his bonded mate suffused his spirit. Effortlessly he allowed his observations of Jim’s behavior and body language to gather; he explored his sense of their bond for the last month.
He was pulled out his meditation by his awareness that Jim had opened the loft door and come into the living room. He felt his brain resuming alpha waves and beta waves and decided he needed to meditate more this week since he’d come to no particular conclusion about what was bothering Jim.
Jim, who was watching him with a hungry look on his face. For him, he knew.
But… also probably for the chili.
He rose gracefully from the floor and stepped over the candles and went to his lover’s arms. He tightened his hug into a hard embrace, telling Jim non-verbally that he was there to stick with him, through thick or thin.
They kissed, and he released Jim and went to blow out his candles.
Maybe he’d take a few upstairs later, when they went to bed. He was a scientist; maybe he should set up some experiments that would test the Sandalwood as Viagra theory.
“What are you chuckling about, Chief?” Jim had re-lit the stove and was stirring the chili around with a big wooden spoon.
“Oh, just another one of my little tests I thought I’d get you to help me with.” Blair returned to the kitchen and leaned against the counter, smiling innocently at his lover.
“Sandburg, I know you’re up to something. Just promise me I’ll enjoy it, okay? There isn’t the equivalent of drinking spoiled milk in whatever scheme you’re hatching, is there?”
“Nope, just trust me, Jim.”
Jim answered him lightly, but Blair could tell he was serious under the teasing note of his words. “I may not know why you do the things you do, but I trust you, Chief. I know you’re only looking out for me.” He turned off the chili and Blair got out crackers and bowls and grated cheese.
He gave Jim a quick peck on the lips, and handed him his bowl. This would be their last night at home for a while, and he intended to make it a good night for them both.
Federal Building, Denver, Colorado
Tuesday, mid morning, October 23, 2001
Ezra had been late again for the weekly staff meeting, which surprised Chris not at all. As a penalty for his misdemeanor, he’d been sent to get the mail from the main office downstairs and until he returned everybody was just shooting the breeze.
JD and Buck were talking about when they would be eligible to give blood again, as they had donated the day after the Twin Towers had collapsed.
Chris, Vin, and Josiah were discussing some of the rumors they’d heard that the ATF might be transferred from the Treasury Department to the Justice Department, as part of suggested changes to tighten up the country’s security.
Nathan was taking advantage of the lull by talking to Rain on the phone.
Nobody was really paying attention when Ezra returned, except Chris. Ezra dumped the mail on the desk Chris was using, but retained one letter. As Chris grabbed Buck’s chicken and held it up, to signal that it was time to get rolling on their meeting, Ezra strolled back to his desk and made himself comfortable, slitting the envelope with his elegant letter opener.
Chris began to read an official memo on tightening up their inspections of warehouses that stored materials that could be used by terrorists to make bombs, but a shocked sound from Ezra caught everyone's attention.
Chris looked pointedly at his team member who had interrupted the meeting. Ezra held up the letter. “Mr. Larabee. Sir. This letter is from Blair and it’s addressed to our whole team. It’s… it’s important.”
Chris walked over behind Ezra and dumped the chicken on his desk, and laid his hands on Ezra’s shoulders. “What’s it say?”
Ezra looked around at the rest of the team. “The Army tested Blair and Jim recently at Fort Lewis, in Washington. Blair wrote to let us know… they didn’t pass the tests for having a stable sentinel and guide bond. They’ve been drafted.”
Pandemonium broke out. Ezra passed the short note over to Nathan, and it made the rounds, team members reading Blair’s words for themselves.
As he picked up the envelope the letter had come in, Chris overheard snatches of conversation regarding this news. Buck and JD were adamant that there was some mistake, because Blair wouldn’t have let Jim fail any tests. This was Blair, who had told them when they were last together that his and Jim’s bond was firm.
Chris noticed, though, that there was another, smaller piece of paper still in the envelope. He plucked it out and read it, then he closed his eyes and sighed.
His action wasn’t lost on Ezra. “What else did you learn, Chris?” he asked softly.
For an answer, Chris asked everybody to pipe down.
“There was a second note in that envelope. I’ll just read it out loud. Jim says, ’Guys. I know Blair wrote and told you we didn’t pass the tests. I’m sticking this note in with his letter before I mail it for him. He hasn’t admitted it to me, but I’m pretty sure he threw the tests on purpose. I don’t know why he would do that. It goes against everything he believes in. The only good news is that we have five years to serve, instead of ten. The Army is cutting us a break because of my previous service. Write to Blair, would you? This is going to be tough on him. Jim.’”
JD spoke up, breaking the silence that had fallen after Chris had dropped Jim’s note on the desk. “I think I know why Blair messed up the tests. I know that I’ve been feeling a strong pull to protect my ‘tribe’ since the attacks happened. But I know that working here, with our team is the best way for me to contribute. Maybe Jim was having similar feelings. Maybe Blair picked up on them. Maybe he thought Jim wanted to go back into the service, but wouldn’t because of him.”
“So he blew the tests for Jim’s sake?” Nathan asked.
Buck spoke slowly. “It’s just a guess, but I do believe JD is right. We spent a lot of time with Blair. He loves Jim something fierce and if he thought this was something Jim needed to do, well then, he’d sacrifice what he wanted in a heartbeat.”
Five years, thought Chris. Five war-time years. As a sentinel and guide pair, they’d be deployed to the front lines.
Josiah said, “I’d like us all to take a moment of silence for Jim and Blair. Pray, if you feel so moved. Ask a higher power for their guidance or send good karma thoughts out to them.”
Seven heads bowed for several long moments, each man responding according to his own beliefs, but united in their concern for the two men who had become their friends.
Chris raised his head, took a deep breath and said, “I have a memo to read to you from Assistant Director Travis regarding some changes in the inspection of materials that could be used by terrorists to make bombs.”
Later, he would encourage his team to be with someone they loved tonight – as friends, if not lovers. Maybe he would see if anybody wanted to come out to his place and have a cookout. Play a little poker. Tell tall tales.
And toast absent friends.