Sihn's Empire
The Reluctant Sentinel
by dina

Josiah looked up just in time to watch the sharpshooter snap off six quick rounds.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

Bulls-eye. Bulls-eye. Bulls-eye. Bulls-eye. Bulls-eye. Bulls-eye.

The older man went back to his reading. The dissertation that he had stumbled across on the web seemed more and more relevant. True, it was only a master's thesis and the recent newspaper articles had trumpeted the author's denials, but the research seemed sound. And the need for training existed. It was worth the risk.

"Ellison, Sandburg, get in here!" The two detectives looked at each other, exchanging shrugs, neither one knowing the reason for the summons.

"We have a request from an ATF team for assistance. Seems they are quite the hotshots. People call them the Magnificent Seven." Simon Banks handed each of his men a file.

"If they are so magnificent, what do they need us for?" Jim Ellison had yet to meet a federal agent he liked and he didn't expect to meet anyone soon that would change that opinion.

"Oh, man, I've read about some of the cases these guys have worked on!" With his trademark bouncing, Blair Sandburg radiated excitement at the thought of studi - uh, working with such an unusual group. "They are really something. Threw out the book and rewrote it to suit themselves!"

At that, Simon sent mental condolences to the head of the ATF team. He was all too familiar with the problems of controlling a team that rewrote the book. And the dissatisfied look on the face of one of those authors indicated that another trying time was approaching.

"Simon, this file tells us exactly nothing. What do they want from us?" asked Jim.

"You know everything I know," Simon replied. "They are coming in today and you can ask them the whys and wherefores yourself."

Jim and Blair got to the airport just in time to meet the plane. Only five of the team were on this flight but Chris Larabee, the leader, was one of the five and the Cascade detectives hoped to get some answers from him. They easily spotted the five they were looking for. A young man was being hit on the head by an older man, who was at the same time complaining about his lack of success with the stewardess to the angel of death - at least that was what the glaring man dressed in black appeared to be to Blair. Following the threesome, but somehow part of the same group, was an older man chatting amicably with a good looking black man.

Blair and Jim exchanged 'this should be interesting' looks and went to meet the team.

After introductions were made, the seven men headed out the door. Blair found himself appropriated by Josiah Sanchez, the profiler for the ATF. With his background in Anthropology, Blair had no trouble making conversation with Josiah, but couldn't shake the feeling of being cut out of the herd.

"So Sentinels don't exist?"

The question shocked Blair. Several yards in front of him, he could see Jim tense and start to turn around. The dark clad leader of the ATF team cut the Sentinel off. 'Probably the only one that could stop Jim,' Blair thought, as he prepared himself to lie once again.

"No, they don't and I would really prefer not to discuss the matter. You've obviously heard about the press conference and I said it all then."

Not in the least discouraged by the reaction, Josiah continued, "Then I guess you have no interest in helping me learn to be a Guide."

Blair stopped in his tracks and stared.

"I'd better explain," continued Josiah. "I'm sure that you've heard that there are seven members of our team. Our sharpshooter, Vin Tanner, has amazing abilities, can see way beyond the norm, practically feels the wind direction, giving him amazing aim. I happened to be reading your master's thesis and it occurred to me that Vin might be a sentinel. And I think that he needs help. Something seems to be bothering him recently. He and Ezra Standish, our undercover specialist, were on a lengthy assignment together and both of them ended up isolated in a mountain cabin for three days before we found them."

Josiah didn't go into details about the exact condition of the two men when rescued, but Blair could tell that it hadn't been good.

"Both of them were really shook up. Ezra seems to have recovered, but he is one closed mouth man..." Josiah caught himself. It wasn't his place to reveal Ezra's secrets. He was only telling Blair about Vin because he needed Blair's help; no need to discuss Ezra. "Anyway, I happened to be watching Vin at the target range as I was reading your thesis and it all came together. That's why I convinced Chris to leave Vin behind with Ezra until I got a chance to talk to you. The two of them will be coming in later."

At that point Blair and Josiah were joined by the other men. Blair took one look at Jim's face and realized that the Sentinel had heard Josiah's explanation.

The five ATF agents watched as an entire conversation took place between Sentinel and Guide without a word being said.

'Guess Chris and Vin got some competition on mind reading,' thought Buck. He knew the real purpose of the trip to Cascade but didn't believe Josiah and his talk of sentinels and guides. Sure, Vin had great vision but he wasn't the only one of the team with sharp senses. 'Hell, Chris can hear a pin drop in the next room, particularly if a bad guy is droppin' it! Maybe, he's the sentinel! Right!' Buck couldn't help but smile at the thought of his old friend being a throwback to a caveman. Chris Larabee was more like a lawman in the old West than a prehistoric policeman.

A decision having been made, Jim turned to the ATF agents and said, "Let's take this back to our place. When do your other two come in?"

"In about four hours," Josiah said.

"Plenty of time."

Three hours and fifty five minutes later, all seven men had a good idea of what was going on. Josiah had convinced the two Cascadians of his need. Blair, keeping in mind all he had read about this most unusual band of feds, had convinced Jim that they could be trusted. So Jim and Blair commenced to give the ATF agents a crash course in the history of sentinels and guides while Jim and Blair, in turn, learned all about Vin and Josiah's conviction that they were dealing with a new Sentinel. Now, they were back at the airport, waiting for Vin and Ezra to get off the plane that had just landed.

As they waited, Jim began to pace. And pace with an expression that scared off all who accidentally came near him. Blair, being the brave - or foolish - sort, as well as a devoted guide, walked up to Jim and put his hand on his Sentinel's shoulder. Much to the Guide's surprise, his hand was shrugged off.

Jim seemed to come out of his funk when he saw the look on Blair's face. Underneath the surprise, the Sentinel detected hurt and he knew that he had hurt his guide to many times.

"Sorry. But I feel so..." Then he realized. "Blair, I haven't felt this way since Alex Barnes was in Cascade!"

"WHAT!" Blair couldn't believe that she could be back. Then the two realized what was happening. "Maybe Vin is a sentinel after all, Jim."

"Maybe," was the distracted reply.

"Can you control it?" Blair didn't want a repeat of ANYTHING that had happened when Alex was in town. And despite the questioning looks of the ATF agents, he wasn't about to offer any explanations.

"There they are," said Nathan.

"Is there a problem?" Josiah asked.

With a quick look at Jim, Blair replied, "It does seem that Vin might a sentinel and he's in Jim's territory. That's rough on Jim."

"Would it help to keep them apart?" asked Buck.

Josiah and Blair looked at him, surprised at the intrusion. Until then, Josiah had seemed to be the only one of the ATF agents truly believing in sentinels.

"Good idea, Buck. Why don't we go meet them and..." began Josiah.

Buck interrupted him. "I'll get Ezra and you stay with Vin."

"OK," said Josiah to Buck's back, then went to meet the sharpshooter.

Blair turned his attention back to Jim. "We'll try and keep Vin far away enough for you to be comfortable, OK, Jim?"

But the Sentinel seemed to be worse rather than better. Blair threw a glance over his shoulder. Josiah was standing with Vin while Buck headed back to the group with a stylishly dressed man who must be Ezra.

"We'll send Vin and Josiah," began Blair, only to stop mid-sentence as he saw Jim square off as though to face down an adversary. Chris, Nathan and JD, who up to then had been quietly observing, moved to intercept Jim before he could make a move toward Vin. Chris was also motioning to Josiah to get Vin further away.

Jim's senses were spiking and the feeling of trespass was only just tolerable. Luckily, it didn't begin to compare to the time of Alex Barnes. Then, it was an invasion of immense proportions. Knowing that this Sentinel was not a threat to his tribe, Jim was just able to keep himself under control. Ignoring the others, he stalked up to the other and said, "Behave yourself in my city," and then stalked away.

Ezra Standish turned to Buck, and asked, "What just happened here?"

It had been a bad month for the undercover agent. Actually, when he stopped and thought about it, the year had been none too great. Everything seemed to be annoying him, particularly since the blow up of the last assignment. Ezra did not allow himself to dwell on that; it was too painful. But since those better un-recalled days in isolation in a remote cabin with no one but the laconic sharpshooter for company, Ezra had felt out of control. Clothes he had once loved, were now unbearable and unwearable. Food was either over spiced or so bland that no taste could be detected. And that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Not that he would let anyone know. The only sign that he permitted himself to show was an increase in the acerbic wit for which the undercover agent was famous. After all, the last thing that he needed was the smothering of the six mother hens he worked with. Well, maybe five, considering the shape that Mr. Tanner was in. He knew they would attribute it all to that god awful, thrice damned Hammond affair, and while partially correct, it was hardly the entire truth. Rather than explain, Ezra chose to isolate himself, particularly since the end of that last dreadful assignment. He had willingly stayed in the hospital, allowing the visiting hours to limit his contact with others. At least, he had stayed until his team mates got so upset at his unnatural behavior that they began to pick his psyche apart to determine its cause. And while the disturbing atmosphere of the hospital was preferable to those attentions, there was certainly no reason to endure both.

Another tactic was needed and Ezra was an expert in deflecting attention. All had recognized that something was also bothering the sharpshooter and Ezra had used that to his advantage. By focusing his team mates on the suffering of another, the undercover agent had gained some semblance of privacy. There was an unexpected consequence of that maneuver - Ezra found that he actually felt better in the company of the team, so long as he was not the object of attention. So, in defiance of doctor's orders but quite in his usual style, Ezra came back to work early. It not only served to reassure his 'mother hens' but had an additional, unexpected benefit. Somehow, being in the office with the team was more steadying than being home alone. It was not a fact that Ezra was happy with, but he saw no point in cutting off his nose (though recently that had sounded rather attractive, given some of the smells he had been subjected to) to spite his face.

Of course, that meant he had to accompany the team on this quixotic quest of Josiah's, whatever it was. Ezra hadn't really paid any attention to the detail and had no desire to as he really hadn't wanted to leave Denver. His reluctance was entirely justified when he realized that traveling in the company of Vin Tanner did not have the calming effect that Ezra had experienced amongst the group in the ATF offices. Maybe because Ezra was not able to hide himself as one of several, though it would hardly be fair to say that Vin had been bothering Ezra. In fact, the laconic man had not said more then ten words the entire time. Nonetheless the trip had been an unmitigated hell and all the southerner wanted was to collapse into a bed with a drink in one hand and a bottle in the other.

However, the crowning touch in what was already a thoroughly miserable day awaited him. 'A Neanderthal stalks up to me, looking like a big cat ready to pounce, and delivers his ultimatum. *Behave yourself in my city.* Behave yourself in my city - what the hell does that mean?'

"What just happened here?"

The question struck the others dumb. Between Josiah's certainty that Vin was a sentinel coming into his powers and Blair's certainty that Jim's behavior was proof that another sentinel was in fact coming to Cascade, all eyes had been focused on Vin. Chris, Buck, Nathan and JD had formed a protective screen in front of Vin while Josiah and Blair tried to corral Jim. The detective's unexpected move towards the southerner had caught them all by surprise. But surprise was too mild a word for the incredulity that Jim's comment invoked.

"By god, it's Ezra!" Josiah couldn't believe he had been so wrong.

"What's Ezra?" the man himself demanded. He knew that Josiah had some idiotic theory about the sharpshooter, but Ezra had been too absorbed in his own problems to pay more than superficial attention to the profiler's ramblings.

Chris Larabee stepped between the two and ended the conversation with a quiet, "Let's get out of here. This is not a subject for public discussion."

With that the nine men headed towards the exit.

The trip to the loft was spent by Blair and Josiah in discussing the surprising revelation of Ezra as a sentinel. All worked to keep Jim as far apart from Ezra as possible. Blair stuck to Jim like super glue, using touch to keep his Sentinel grounded and under control.

Ezra suffered in silence. He still had no idea what was going on, though Chris made the mistake of trying to explain it to him. While not ending the suffering, the sketchy explanations did serve to end the silence.

"A throw back to caveman! You must be mistaken. Do I look like a throwback? Now, Mr. Tanner could easily be classified as a throw back. Surely he is the one."

Chris broke into his agent's lament. "Nope. Josiah thought Vin might be, but Jim Ellison is the real thing and the only one that he reacted to was you. So you're elected."

With a wickedly sly grin, Chris finished, "Guess you are a throw back, Ezra. Better get that old ragged coat of Vin's. You'll need it."

The others broke up at the appalled look on the southerner's face.

When the group had reformed in the loft, Josiah formally introduced Blair to Ezra. As Ezra reached out to shake hands, he started as he heard a sound that could only be the growl of a big cat.

"Jim, calm down," instructed Blair. "He isn't trying to steal your guide!"

Jim tried to reign in his territorial instincts when it came to his guide. 'This isn't Alex,' was his mantra.

Ezra was too astonished at the black panther placidly standing by Ellison to say a word. And, unless he was losing his mind, which was becoming more of a possibility every second, there was a wolf sitting by Blair, sniffing the hand Ezra still held out towards the other. Ezra quickly remedied that by pulling his hand back to safety.

Recovering the power of speech, Ezra tried to calmly inquire as to why everyone was so unconcerned about the unusual pets of their hosts. "How long have you had those animals and don't they find it a bit cramped in here?"

The looks on the faces of his team mates indicated that he was the only one with eyes to see, but Ezra couldn't believe that he was hallucinating. "Surely you gentlemen see that glorious panther and that wonderful wolf."

The only ones more astonished than the ATF agents were the Sentinel and Guide. Together, they said, "You SEE them?!?"

Vin spoke for the ATF when he said in an aggravated tone, "See what? No beasts in here, Ez."

"And I suppose you don't see the cheetah and his canine companion either," responded Ezra. Jim and Blair turned towards the figures that Ezra indicated and, sure enough, there grinning at the proceedings was a cheetah. Standing next to the cheetah was a beautiful husky with more than a touch of wolf in him.

"Must be his guide's spirit dog," whispered Jim. "The cheetah's just got to be Ezra's. Same damn look of disdain."

"I think it also means that his guide is on his team which should make things easier. It would be nice if he would let us know which one it was." Blair squinted at the animals, trying to decide who belonged to whom. 'Jim's right. The cheetah has got to be Ezra." The elegance of the big cat was somehow a mirror of the elegance of the undercover agent.

Despite the surprise of Ezra's ability to see spirit guides, Blair never let himself completely forget his true role; Guide to his Sentinel. He was constantly monitoring a very agitated Jim. Blair could see that Jim was trying to control his territorial instincts, and tried to assist by remaining close to the Sentinel. Blair reinforced this with little touches to Jim's arm or his back or just about any damn place that Blair could reach when he thought his friend needed the contact.

So it was even more surprising to Blair when, all of a sudden, Jim just relaxed. A quick check of Jim's face showed nothing out of the ordinary; in fact, Jim seemed highly amused by something. Blair glanced over to see what Jim was watching and found himself smiling and relaxing as well.

It seemed the panther and wolf had found some new friends. A four way grooming party was going on in the corner of the loft and the sounds of contented animals filled the air - at least for those who had ears to hear them.

Apparently the ATF team did not. Though Blair doubted that anything could be heard over the noise Ezra's teammates were making. Confused and scared by Ezra's claims to see wild cats in the apartment, the five men were all trying to speak at once. Though one of the five paused when he thought he caught a flash of a plumed tail out of the corner of his eye. 'Nah, wasn't a cat anyway!'

"What are you talking about, Ezra?" Chris' command voice cut through the babble like a knife through soft butter. "There is no one and nothing here but the nine of us!"

But Ezra failed to respond. He just stood there gripping his head between his hands, the noise hitting his eardrums in a calliope of sound. He felt himself falling into it as though it were a whirlpool over which he had no control.

"Sandburg! He's zoned!" Jim's cry had Blair running to Ezra's side to see if he could bring the new Sentinel out of the zone.

Only Josiah recognized the term, and the other ATF men looked to him for an explanation.

"As I understand it, Ezra has concentrated on one sense to the exclusion of all others and he's trapped in that sense. Blair is trying to get him to connect to another sense to bring him out of it." With that, Josiah went over to join Blair in an effort to reach Ezra.

Blair spoke gently to the statute of a man, using comforting pats to try and ground him. The Guide kept one eye on his Sentinel, just to make sure Jim was really all right with his guide helping another but Jim seemed more concerned with the zone than with the one trying to break it. 'Of course, it helps that his panther is over there trying to wake up the cheetah,' thought Blair, relieved to know that he had one less matter to worry about.

Josiah was also trying to reach Ezra but to no avail. After watching for five long minutes, Jim came to the only possible conclusion.

"You're not the guide."

"Are you sure?" Josiah couldn't believe how disappointed he was.

"If you were the guide, he would be out of it by now."

"But I am pretty sure one of you is," said Blair. "I know you can't see them but there are four spirit guides here; mine, Jim's, Ezra's and Ezra's spirit guide. I don't think he would be here if Ezra's guide wasn't someone that Ezra has already met and bonded with. And from what Josiah has told me, the best guess is one of you."

"Vin, you've always been mighty close to Ezra. Give it a try," said Chris.

Following directions whispered by Blair, Vin went to the southerner's side and tried to rouse him from the stupor he was in. When Vin's actions showed no sign of success, the rest of the team began to get nervous and scared. It came out as impatience. They began to argue over who should try what, voices getting louder and louder, until finally one said, "This is ridiculous. Dammit, Ezra, snap out of it!"


The single syllable silenced them all.


The single syllable silenced them all.

For Ezra, the miasma that had surrounded him was pierced by the feeling of someone grabbing him and the lifeline of a familiar voice. A familiar, soothing voice that pierced the cloud of sound enveloping him and he grabbed onto it, using it to bring himself back under control. When he finally felt able, he looked up into the eyes of his savior and repeated, "What? What did you say, Buck?"

Still no response. It was all too much for the other ATF agents to absorb. Blair motioned Jim to silence as the pair watched another Sentinel - Guide team form. Buck had frozen for a moment when Ezra first spoke, but the ladies' man soon recovered and approached the shaken southerner. Remembering the instructions that Blair had given Vin, Buck reached out and laid his hand on Ezra's shoulder, stroking it gently as he softly spoke to - to his Sentinel.

For Buck, the whole spiel about Sentinels had been unimportant. All he knew was that his friend was in distress. Nothing that Josiah said had really sunk in. While Jim Ellison certainly had impressive talents, Buck didn't see how that affected him and his. Vin and Ezra were not recovering from the Hammond affair the way they should and that was what the team should been focusing on. Not this Sentinel thing.

'Guess I'm gonna have to learn about this stuff, even if I still think it's mostly hooey.' But watching the effect that his words were having on Ezra, Buck had to believe a little.

"You doing better now, Ezra?" Buck thought that the lines of pain on Ezra's face were a bit less intense.

"Yes." Ezra paused, taking stock. "Yes, actually, much better. Thank you, Mr. Wilmington, for your assistance."

Turning to Jim and Blair, Ezra continued, "I am afraid that I have not been paying the attention that I should to Mr. Sanchez's theories. Would you be kind enough to explain in greater detail just what happened."

Once again, Jim and Blair found themselves beginning the short version of the life and times of a modern day Sentinel and Guide.

Ezra surprised them all however when he interrupted with, "I am already familiar with the works of Sir Richard Burton and his watchman. Are you implying that I am one of those?"

While everyone smiled at the appalled expression on Ezra's face, Blair addressed the panic he sensed under the question. "Yes, you are. And your senses are probably out of control. Jim experienced both sensory spikes and times when his senses were dead." Seeing Ezra nod in agreement, Blair continued, "The Sentinel had someone to help guard his back, to guide him. That's me for Jim and it appears Buck for you. Buck will have to learn to help you control your senses and to keep you from focusing too strongly on one. When a sentinel does that, he gets caught in the sense and can't get out. He zones. Before, you were zoning. Buck touched you, thereby directing some of your attention to another sense, touch. That brought you out of the zone." Turning to Buck, Blair added, "I have a ton of stuff that I can give you on this!"

Blair's excitement was matched by Buck's dismay. "Are you sure it's me. I mean, Josiah or Nathan, they'd be....."

Josiah cut in. "Wasn't me or Nathan that got through to Ezra. It was you, Buck. We'll all help but you are the one he needs."

"If you aren't able to commit to this, Buck, it's best to make that decision now. He will need all the help he can get, particularly in the beginning." Throwing an affectionate glance at Blair, Jim continued, "I know I did. And I still do."

Blair smiled at that. Never being completely sure of his place since the time of Alex and the fountain, it comforted him to hear his Sentinel confirm that Blair was still needed - at least for now. Trying not to think about it, Blair turned his attention back to Buck.

"I'll help you all I can, Buck. Jim and I have worked through a lot of things already and I've done some testing."

Jim groaned at that. "Some, Chief?? Be glad you missed out on that, Ezra. Those tests are enough to drive a man around the bend."

Laughter rang out, though Blair managed to maintain an indignant look. "But it helped, Jim, it helped. And it isn't like you were the most cooperative of men."

Blair turned to Ezra with a speculative look in his eye, but before he had a chance to say a word, Ezra looked him straight in the eye and said, "No."

"Are you sure? Just a couple..."

"Not if the torments of hell would otherwise be visited on me would I consent to become your laboratory project."

"You know, Jim," said Blair. "Maybe you weren't that bad after all."

With that the group settled down to business. Jim and Ezra sat in one corner to compare notes on senses, while the rest of the ATF team gathered around Blair to learn more about guides.

"You don't have to yell; he can hear you even if you whisper."

"Shit. We better be careful what we say." Two smug smiles appeared on sentinel faces.

"What about turning them down? I sometimes feel that my head is on the verge of exploding."

"Use the dials."

"Be careful of what he wears. His skin will reaction to any additives."

"Must be why Ezra likes his fancy clothes so much."

"It'd also explain the coffee."

"Don't let Sandburg hear this, but meditation helps."

"What is the relationship with the spirit animals?"

"How come I haven't seen my spirit guide?"

"It takes time."

"But you see yours, don't you?"

"Yes, but it took time." The very brevity of the answer made Blair the center of attention. Carefully avoiding Jim's eyes, Blair said, "I died before I saw him."

Jim visibly flinched and abruptly ended his conversation with Ezra. "No need to go there, Chief."

None of the others pressed the matter. The awkwardness between Guide and Sentinel put a damper on the proceedings and soon thereafter, the ATF agents left the loft.

The seven ATF agents headed back to their hotel, each absorbed in his own thoughts. It had been quite an eventful day and required a lot of processing, especially for Ezra and Buck. Though Ezra was feeling better than he had in sometime.

They arrived at the hotel and went to check in. "Buck, you and Ezra take one room. JD, you share with Vin," directed Chris.

The new Sentinel and Guide looked at each other and nodded. It was going to be a long night for they had a lot to discuss.

The nine men reconvened for breakfast the next day. Josiah took one look at the Cascadian detectives and whispered to Nathan, "They look almost as bad as Ezra and Buck."

"What do you think Blair meant about dying?"

"JD did a little research for me last night. I thought it would help keep his mind off of Buck." Josiah glanced over at the youngest member of the team to check on him, but JD seemed to be happy, telling his new friend, Blair, all about his romance with Casey Wells. "Seems that our young friend was attacked when he was a graduate student and police observer."

"Before he joined the police department?"

"Yes, and Jim was on the trail of a convict. A woman named Alex Barnes. She came after Blair and drowned him in a fountain at the University."

"You mean almost drowned him?"

"No, Nate, not according to some of the reports that JD got his hands on last night. I don't expect that the full story showed up in the reports and judging from Jim's reaction last night, I am not going to ask him about it. You?"

"My Momma didn't raise no fools, Josiah," replied Nathan. "Don't know who has the worst glare, him or Chris. And he sure don't look very approachable today."

The object of their scrutiny looked tired and drawn and totally focused on his Guide. Jim watched JD and Blair as they talked, gestured and laughed, relaxing moment by moment as he realized that once again he had dodged the missile of talking about Blair's .... death. 'Maybe if I practice saying it to myself I can one day discuss it with him.'

Ezra and Buck just sat quietly and ate their breakfasts. 'Or to be more accurate,' Chris thought, 'Buck is eating and Ezra is drinking coffee.' Not that Ezra ever ate a large breakfast, but usually he had a roll or croissant, preferring the Continental breakfast to the American style. 'Not that much affects Buck's appetite but I sure don't like the way he looks.'

Buck sat, eating steadily but automatically. He watched JD. His roommate and friend. His younger brother. How was all of this going to affect JD? 'Not that he seems too concerned,' thought Buck, watching his friend laugh with Blair. 'Maybe I'm the one seeing shadows where there are none.'

He turned his attention to Ezra. His Sentinel. His friend. Not that the undercover agent let any one too close to him, but Buck knew that the ATF was closer to Ezra than his family, even Maude. Of course, none of others, Buck included, really understood the relationship between Ezra and his mother. Buck wasn't sure he wanted to - some things are best left unexplained.

But now, if what Blair and Jim had said held true, Buck's relationship with Ezra HAD to change. Ezra would be relying on Buck to keep his senses in order and to ground him. 'Makes me feel like some kind of lighting rod, grounding him. And Ezra is already one difficult son of a bitch to handle. This isn't going to be easy.' The more Buck thought about it, the more depressed he got. His mood did not go unnoticed.

"I think the waitress has her eye on you, Buck," said Chris. If anything could make his old friend feel better, it would be the thought of a woman interested in him.

Buck merely nodded and continued eating.

Blair decided that it was time to enter into the game and let his fellow guide know that it wasn't the end of the world. "You know," he whispered in Buck's ear, "if you play your cards right, you can use Ezra's senses to help you in a situation like this."

Jim, eavesdropping shamelessly, smothered a smile as he listened to the tales of Blair and Sentinel senses. 'Not a word of truth (OK, barely a word of truth) but at least Buck is looking better.' Jim wished he could make as much progress helping Ezra. But the new Sentinel seemed to be almost as repressed as the old. 'Maybe it is part of the genetic make up. Sentinel - repressed; Guide - outgoing. Not that most people would think Ezra repressed, but he sure manages to hide behind words.'

"You know, Ezra, any questions you have or any help I can give, all you have to do is ask. Here is my card. I wrote my home phone number and cell number on it and it has my email address, too."

"Thank you, Mr. Ellison. I will use it as required."

Jim sat back, feeling he had done all he could. The rest was up to Ezra.

While proud and a royal pain in the ass, Ezra wasn't stupid. He used the card, more often than he expected. Buck kept in close contact with Blair, relying on the younger man to guide the Guide. In fact, all seven agents called upon the resources of Jim and Blair to help understand what Ezra and Buck were going through as they worked to become a Sentinel - Guide team within an ATF team.

Nine months to the day after that first tumultuous meeting, Blair picked up the mail and immediately went to open an ornate envelope that was obviously an invitation.


"Look at this, Jim! Casey and JD are taking the plunge!"

"Great. When's the big day?"

"In two months. Think we can get the time off?"

"I don't see any reason why not. Besides, I'm curious to see how Ezra is doing." Despite all the contact, he hadn't actually seen Ezra since the initial visit to Cascade. "And you and Buck can catch up as well. That's if either of you can stop chasing the ladies long enough to have a chance to talk." The edge in Jim's voice was completely missed by Blair, who was too busy thinking of the topics he wanted to cover with the only other guide Blair knew.

"Yeah, email and phones just aren't the same. The way that Ezra works, I just bet that he had to come up with new stuff. Maybe he has some ideas for handling the senses that I haven't thought of. And this is really great for Buck! I know he was worried about JD, with him spending so much time with Ezra. I think that they might be moving in together. Maybe..."

With a smile, Jim began to lock up the loft, listening to Blair babble on and thinking about the damage his enthusiastic Guide could inflect upon a city. "Then it's a done deal. Denver better watch out because here we come."

The End - for now

Please send feedback to dina
Story posted to Mag 7/Sentinel Playroom