A New Alliance

by Nadine

ATF AU Crossover The Sentinel

This is the sequel to New Direction. In this story Vin is a sentinel and Ezra is his guide. Both newly come online and learning about their new abilities. Some of the subject matter may be unsettling to more sensitive readers. Child abuse has occurred but not described in detail.

For those of you who know the Sentinel TV series, this story is set in the time line after TS by BS. In this AU Blair is a cop and has been Jim's partner on Cascade's police department for the last two years. His name has been cleared of fraud.

Size: Approx 140K

The two warriors scowled at each other across the clearing. Each had his tribe's members safely behind him, protected from the danger of the unknown sentinel. Uncertainty and hostility filled the morning air to a point it almost crackled. Even though thirty feet separated Jim Ellison and Vin Tanner from each other, they had shoved their guides behind them, determined to defend what was theirs from danger. And an unknown Sentinel was just that.

"All right you two cut it out you're giving Ezra a headache." Blair Sandburg told the pair of Sentinels glowering at each other. They ignored him as they continued their staring match.

Blair put his hand on Jim's back to calm the Cascade Sentinel. Across the clearing Ezra Standish's guide to the Denver's Sentinel did the same as he spoke calmly to Vin. What ever he said worked for Vin dropped his defensive stance and relaxed under his guide's soft words. No longer needing to be on guard, Jim started to relax as well.

"Jim, stand down." Ordered Police Captain Simon Banks, friend and boss of the Cascade Sentinel and Guide as he stepped around the pair. As prearranged, he and the boss of the Denver pair would meet first and formally introduce the Sentinel and Guide pairing to each other, hopefully avoiding any territorial reactions on the Sentinels part.

Neither sentinel was in his home territory. Yellowstone National Park was far too big for any one sentinel to feel territorial or hemmed in. Both should relax after boundaries were declared and each realized that there was no threat to their guides.

Chris Larabee also stepped around Vin and Ezra. These two men were under his command as ATF agents stationed in Denver, they were also his friends. He only hoped that this meeting would give Vin some peace of mind and Ezra the reassurance he needed to be taking on the responsibility of being Vin's guide.

The two men walked out to meet each other as their Sentinels watched.

+ + + + + + +

While Vin, Ezra and Chris were in the high country of Yosemite National Park, the rest of their tribe-Team Seven- was settling into one of the log cabins that were for rent in the area. Thanks to Assistant Director Orin Travis'connections, they where able to obtain the use of a three-bedroom cabin for the week.

Buck and Josiah were both stocking the kitchen in an attempt to strike a balance between junk food and health food. JD was out gathering pamphlets on the activities in the park, their real purpose for being there was to be close at hand if their friends needed them. But sitting around the cabin would be suspicious as well as boring. Chris'parting words had been to keep a low profile.

Josiah found Nathan sitting at JD's laptop swearing as he hunted through Vin's medical history for the types of drugs given him during each of his hospital stays. The ex-Army medic was matching Vin's reactions to each of those drugs. Nathan kept his own records of each member of the team's medical history in case they were hospitalized away from home. JD had downloaded all this information onto a disc for easier access as well as keeping it safe from prying eyes. Each agent's name was coded against anyone opening a file without Nathan's authorization.

Nathan was swearing at the screen, he stopped when Josiah handed him a cup of coffee. "Why didn't I ever think of comparing the effect of drugs he was being exposed to in regard to his allergies?" Nathan had studied the information the Cascade's guide had sent to help them understand a sentinel's extreme reaction to certain drugs and other chemicals. He had pulled out his notes on Vin's allergies and started to realize that what the doctors had been treating (the allergic reactions) were really a sentinel's hypersensitivitys.

"I could have allowed him to be killed." Nathan said.

"Nathan you didn't know about any of the difficulties that went with being a sentinel. The fact Vin is still alive and well proves that you did a good job of taking care of him." Josiah stood by his friend and tried to make him understand. "The fact he hasn't died from something he was exposed to bears that out. You have kept the doctors from doing anything wrong as well. How many times have you had to remind them Vin is allergic to penicillin? Or that he has trouble waking up from sedatives and needs one of us by his side to help him wake up."

"Well. . . it has only been luck so far. . . " Nathan started to say but Josiah interrupted him.

"You've got good instincts and you let that rule your head when it comes to keeping us alive when we get hurt, even if it means fighting with the doctors when you don't agree with something they want to do. We, all of us, trust your judgement over any of the doctors." Josiah grinned at the look on Nathan's face. "Even if we do fight you every step of the way to getting well. Especially if it means staying in bed."

"Hell yes, it's boring." Buck came in with his own cup of coffee and a plate of cinnamon rolls. "Ez and Vin act as if you're trying to trap a wild animal in a cage. All they want is out and if they've got to chew off their leg to do it, they will." A door slammed and JD walked into the room his hands full of pamphlets. He sat down next to Buck and took half of his cinnamon rolls. JD had let Nathan use his laptop instead of getting the information on the park online. The healer had wanted to get a clearer understanding of Vin's medical history and going through his files was his main concern. It had also been a good excuse for JD to go out and be on his own for a little while.

"That program working out all right for you Nathan?" JD asked.

"Yes, too good, I'm not liking everything I'm learning."


"It's explaining what's behind Vin's so called allergies. But it will make treating him both easier and harder."

"Care to clarify that Nathan?" asked Josiah, they were all interested in hearing the answer to that question.

"I now know what not to let the doctors give him, or at least not as much of a particular drug, but what do they use in its place? That's a question I need to work on."

"Maybe Rain can help you out there. We are going to need a doctor we can trust knowing about Vin's condition to treat him. That is if you and Vin feel comfortable with her knowing." Josiah said. "JD, what do you think?"

JD smiled, the others were trying to include him in the decision making more often. It was a nice change, too long in coming. "Run every thing past Vin and Ezra first, they won't like surprises. Both of them like Rain and I think they'd be willing to trust her after they get used to the idea of her knowing. Have you thought of using natural cures?"

Nathan smiled as he thought of his wife who was a doctor at Denver Hospital where the team was sent when injured. "That might be the way to go for the everyday stuff and Rain has been looking into the natural medications for a while. Josiah has been helping her with it."

"She's an exemplary student. She's already learned everything I know about it and is searching for more information online."

"You're a lucky man Nathan, Rain loves you and puts up with us," added Buck.

"And I know it," agreed Nathan who loved his doctor wife a great deal. Their careers kept them apart more than they liked. But each understood the need of the other to make a difference in their chosen vocations.

"She's been looking for a way to help Ezra with his migraines without using drugs that would make him lethargic."

"That's easy. Keep him away from Chris when he comes back from meetings upstairs with the brass," said JD.

"Explain that one JD, I don't get it," Buck said.

"Haven't you notice that Ezra usually gets one of his migraines after Chris comes back from one of those meetings?" JD asked. "Its not like we all aren't affected by his anger. He's usually so livid that the paint curls off the walls. Vin's been getting Ezra out of the office before Chris gets back."

"Tension and stress can bring on a migraine," Nathan added not thinking much about it.

"Good Lord!" Said Josiah as he suddenly dropped into a chair. The chair complained of the abrupt weight but didn't collapse under him. Not that Josiah would have noticed if he had found himself setting on the floor in a pile of wood splinters. He had just had a revelation about Ezra's migraines.

+ + + + + + +

They made camp in the high country of Yellowstone far off any of the marked trails. There was little chance of meeting anyone else out this way. Not too far from where they planned to pitch their tents the sound of a stream could be heard. It didn't take long before they had a fire going and their tents up. Chris raised an eyebrow that Ezra was coping so well outside his natural environment. Catching Chris watching him, Ezra explained.

"Vin's been tutoring me in the basics."

"Not an outside kind of guy?" asked Blair as the pair fixed supper.

"Inexperienced, the first camping trip Ah was ever on was after Ah joined the ATF." Chris winced, that trip had been disastrous. Not only had he made Ezra go, none of them realized that Ezra had never been camping before, nor did they take into account that the man had no idea on how to cope or what to do while camping. It wasn't tried again, but maybe it was time to invite the undercover agent along on the next trip. Ezra seemed to know what he was doing and was enjoying himself; Vin must be a good teacher. But then Vin got along better with Ezra than any of them with the Southerner, other than Josiah. It was Vin with Josiah's help, who really brought Ezra into their ATF family. The young men worked well together anticipating each other's moves both on the job and off. Infuriatingly, the pair could also come up with some of the most outrageous practical jokes; it was a strong friendship.

It was a lot like the friendship between himself and Vin but different somehow. Chris always seemed to know what the younger man was thinking and vise-versa. The others call it doing their silent communication thing. Chris sat upright, as a bolt of jealousy shot through him. Vin was his friend first, his brother, the other piece of his soul that had been missing for so long. Ezra had no right getting between that friendship.

Wait a minute. Where did that come from, Chris asked himself. He had no right to be thinking that way. Chris loved Vin like a brother yes, from the first time he had met the Texan he felt an instant connection to the man, as if he had known Vin for years. But Chris didn't own him or want to. Vin had helped him want to come back to the land of the living, challenging him not to give into his black moods. Hell, Vin even got him and Mary to start dating. Chris and Vin spent a lot of time together on the job and their mutual love for horses and the outdoors had Vin out on Chris'ranch on most weekends taking care of that mule of a horse of his. Vin had no trouble going head to head with him either, never backing down if he thought Chris was in the wrong. He trusted Vin with his life, more importantly he trusted Vin with the lives of his team.

Then another thought hit Chris. Hell, he owed Buck an apology for pushing him aside after he met Vin. Was this how Buck felt when Vin joined the team? Buck was his oldest friend and had always been there for him. He had kept Chris from self-destructing after his wife and son had died; picking him up and taking him home when he got too drunk to stand, let alone drive. Chris had never questioned how he got home after his weekend drunks, Buck was always there taking care of things and Chris realized he took a lot for granted with Buck. It was time he had a long talk with his oldest friend and said thanks.

+ + + + + + +

If Simon hadn't known of Jim's skills as a ex-Army Ranger he would had been worried about getting lost when they left the trail and headed up the mountain. Tanner knew his stuff too, trained as an Army Ranger same as Jim though not in Black Ops. At least Simon hoped not, it was hard enough at times putting up with Jim's attitude of I know how to kill you in a hundred different ways and no one will ever find the body. When Blair had asked him to come along to this meeting out here in the middle of no where, he had demanded to know the details of why and who before agreeing to come. He wouldn't tell his detectives, but once he knew they were going to meet another sentinel, there was no way he was not going. There would not be another incident like the one with that bitch Alex Barnes, not on his watch.

Simon kept an eye on Tanner, he seemed normal enough. But so did Barnes till she killed Blair and stole that nerve gas. That woman had been pure evil. Simon took note of the way Tanner kept watching out for his guide and boss on the trail. That's the difference Simon told himself, Tanner has a guide and a guide keeps his sentinel sane. Simon smiled; Standish was just as outspoken as Blair and didn't hesitate to give his opinion on anything. He demanded to stop every few miles for a rest period with Blair backing him up. These two had no problem admitting to being tired. Simon was thankful; he tried to stay in shape by working out at the gym twice a week. But that hadn't helped with hiking up a damn mountain, too many muscles in his legs hurt. Simon looked across the fire at Chris Larabee and saw him shifting around. The ATF agent worked behind a desk too and somehow, knowing that his legs hurt as well, made Simon feel a little better.

+ + + + + + +

Chris saw Banks looking over at him and smiled to himself. Banks wasn't in any better shape than he was and somehow that make Chris feel better. Taking care of his ranch and running after his team he thought he was in better shape than this. But damn it his legs hurt from all the hiking. For once he was thankful for Ezra's mouth. The Southerner had no problems with asking them to stop even when Vin and Ellison obviously wanted to keep going.

Sandburg, Chris chuckled to himself, was a match for Ezra in the talking division. Hell, he could give JD a run for the money in that department. Was running off at the mouth a requirement to being a guide? If so, it was a good thing it was Ezra and not he that was Vin's guide. Buck and the others often accused him of not saying more than ten words in a day. He'd never be able to keep Vin from zoning, Chris shuddered at the memory of Vin zoning and not being able to get his friend out of it. He had asked Vin to show him how far he could see and they went out back with a pair of binoculars. There was an eagle's nest with a pair of fledglings in the trees behind Chris'barn just beyond the back pasture. It had to be at least a half-mile away. Vin described what he saw as Chris looked through the binoculars at them. There was a rainbow behind the nest that caught Vin's attention, Chris didn't notice as Vin's voice faded away as he was being drawn in by the colors. It took Chris a few minutes to grasp what had happen and it scared him shitless when he couldn't bring Vin out of it. It had taken Ezra only a few minutes to bring the Texan back. But it was a lesson learned, one that made him wonder how this was going to work on the job. Chris hoped for a chance to talk to Simon Banks about that; how having a man who had zone outs was able to stay safe and do his job in the dangerous profession of law enforcement.

Thinking about Banks, Chris turned to look at the big man again. Banks had been watching Vin a lot today and Chris wondered why. Ezra had told them before they left Denver that the Cascade pair had run afoul of a rogue and guileless sentinel. It had nearly destroyed them and was the reason for the camping trip. They needed to meet and get to know one another before either had to trespass on the other's territory as well as to get some pointers on how to deal with the sentinel stuff. But still, Vin was one of the most trustworthy people Chris knew. There was no reason to be suspicious of Vin on Banks'part. The next few days were going to be interesting, Chris wasn't sure how it was going to work out but he'd be there for his friends no matter what.

After a hard day hiking, a hot meal and an early bedtime sounded good; soon the six men were fast asleep.

+ + + + + + +

Just below the timberline stood an old building with its back to the mountain. A long time ago someone had painted it to blend into it's surroundings of rocks and trees. On one side of the building, concealed under camouflage netting, a luxurious tent sat off the ground on a raised platform. On the other side were three more large tents, Army surplus but still serviceable, they too sat under camouflage nets. In the still of the morning the sound of children's voices could be heard; tired and frightened voices.

Geri (short for Geraldine) drank her coffee as she looked over her workers as they went about their duties. There had been twenty of them at the start of summer, there were eighteen left; teenage boys and girls from the right side of the tracks. Their dear parents had sent them to a boot camp in order to strengthen their self-esteem and straighten them out. That usually meant to get them away from drugs or friends whom Mommy and Daddy didn't approve of.

What Mommy and Daddy didn't know or bother to find out was that the Get Strong Camp for teens was a front for a crystal meth lab hidden in the high country of the Rocky Mountains. The closest thing to civilization were the campgrounds at Yellowstone Park. Miles of wilderness stretched between here and there and the kids had no idea where here was, having been drugged before being tightly packed into the private helicopter Geri's partner flew. The same copter brought in supplies when needed and flew the drugs out.

At first Geri and Anne thought to use poor or street children. But recruiting them would have to many do-gooder groups wanting in on the action or looking over their shoulders wanting details. Street kids were wise to a con and might see through their story. Living on the streets made them too independent for Geri's liking, she wanted children whom she could scare into doing her bidding. That left the well pampered children of the upper classes.

Anne Webster, Geri's partner was the front person for Get Strong Camp. She sold the camp as both a learning center and as a survival training camp. But only for the select elite who had to meet certain requirements. Anne was looking for parents who would be out of the country for the summer or who's contact number was a third party, usually not a family member--a lawyer or housekeeper. Parents who made no qualms about wanting their children's problems taken care of but not wanting to participate in the unpleasant task themselves.

She lied and she lied well. Parents thought their children would come back off drugs and with a new attitude that would keep them away from the wrong kinds of people. Anne showed them pictures of a state of the art camp in Wyoming. That camp was real but it wasn't the one she was taking their children to. Get Strong Camp was in reality an abandoned weather station build in the early fifties. Abandoned long ago and forgotten, the dirt road that once lead there had grown over, the tree line was unbroken from the surrounding forest. Anne and Geri had stumbled across the weather station when Anne's helicopter had developed engine trouble while running drugs out of Canada and needed to set down. The flat space by the building was once a parking area and the only flat space they could find in a hurry to land. Geri had gone exploring while Anne fixed the copter. She came back with a plan, one that would make them more money than running drugs for someone else. With a little work the remaining building could be made into a meth lab, she even had a plan on how to get a work force to do the labor and the money to set up the scheme.

The Get Strong Camp was born, parents paid to send their children away for the summer with the expectation that all their children's problems would be solved when they returned. Anne made them believe that their offspring would be kept safe and nurtured, so that they, the parents, could go off about their summer plans without the need to check on their darlings. In fact, doing so might be a step back in their training.

Most of the children made it back. Those that did couldn't tell where they'd been, having been drugged to and from the camp. They woke up to find themselves in the closest park to their homes. The police had little to go on as the teens couldn't tell them anything useful, other than tales of horror of the treatment they received there. They had been treated as slaves doing the dangerous work of making crystal meth. The police didn't have much to go on and what information they did have never got shared with other agencies. No one made the connection between the missing children and the scheme Geri and Anne ran. Anne changed her appearance and approach with each con job. She never used the same name twice and moved the operation to find a new workforce to a different state each year.

They had started out small with a group of ten children in the beginning with only Thomas and Geri guarding them. It had all worked too well. A few of the children died from exposure to the forest and the toxic chemicals of the lab, but the remaining kids still made a lot of good crack. They were easy to control and they weren't going to be paid. Geri and Anne made a great deal of money from selling the drugs made that summer and found buyers wanting more. When they realized no one had made the connection to the children and abandoned weather station, they tried it again the next summer, with more children to make more crystal meth. They had to add more guards, but the perks Geri offered made up for the summer of isolation and being sedated on the flight out to the lab and back. Overhead was low and profits were high

Geri looked over her workers, ages running from thirteen to seventeen. The guards kept the older ones under control till their spirit broke from the hard work and lack of food. Gerri fed her workers just enough to keep them working, but not enough to have the strength to run far from the station. She had the guards bring back the bodies of those who did try to walk out, showing what would happen if they attempted to leave. Exposure, exhaustion or the local wildlife claimed the young lives of those who tried to run for freedom. Geri also promised to return them to their families at the end of the summer if they did as they were told. Anything they were told to do by her or the guards, anything. Geri ran her eyes over the bodies of two of the seventeen year olds carrying supplies into the lab. Very nice, she was bored with her present play toy; one of them could be the replacement plaything for as long as they could survive her gentle touch. Geri Beauvoir was the reason there was a 'b'in the word bitch.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra woke to the smell of coffee. He cracked one eyelid open and peered out at a pink and blue sky. Moaning, he turned over and tried to bury his head back into his pillow ignoring the laughter of one Vin Tanner.

"Come on Ez we let you sleep late as it is, you're burning daylight."

"If the heavens were aflame then we wouldn't be having this conversation," said Ezra as he reluctantly left the warmth of his sleeping bag, knowing he wouldn't be allowed to slumber any longer. Vin handed him a cup of hot coffee to encourage him to move. Ezra sat up and wrapped his hands around the cup for warmth, the morning air still had a chill to it. The sun was only now just passing the mountain tops surrounding them.

Ezra looked around their camp and noticed Blair sitting beside the fire eating breakfast. He didn't look any more awake than Ezra felt. The other three members of their little collection were missing.

"Where are Misters Larabee, Banks and Ellison?"

It was Blair that answered. "Chris and Simon have gone fishing, Jim is sort of following along to made sure they get to the stream without problems."

"Sort of?"

"They don't know he's following them."


"Jim's a bigger mother hen than Chris is," smiled Vin. He was secretly glad someone was watching over his friend. They were miles from anywhere or anybody, if they needed help they were on their own. Even if they got a call out on their cell phones, it could be hours if not days before help could get there.

"If Mr. Ellison wasn't trailing our friends, wouldn't you be doing the same thing?" asked Ezra of Vin.

Vin didn't answer. He just shrugged his shoulders and smiled into his coffee.

Ezra looked over at Blair.  Are they all like that?" he said, nodding his head at Vin.

"Like what? Do they all have a need to be in control at all times? To make sure that the people in their charge are safe and taken care of? Will they drive you nuts in order to conceal it and not say a single word more than needed to express themselves?"

"Be careful how you answer that Chief" said Jim as he stepped out of the trees and rejoined his guide by the fire, sitting down and accepting a cup of coffee Blair handed him.

"Yes they are," he answered, ducking to avoid the playful smack he knew was coming from his sentinel.

Ezra had dressed as they were talking and rolled up his sleeping bag, making sure the tent was in order before leaving it to join the others at the fire. When he had finished his breakfast he asked. "What's on the agenda today?"

Blair nudged Jim in the side.

"Thought Vin and I could go for a hike and talk or something." Mumbled Jim. Jim hated to talk about anything personal and Blair knew that. But his shaman had insisted that he talk to the younger sentinel and try to answer some of his questions. Hell, Jim wouldn't admit to it but he wished there had been someone with hyper senses he could have talked to when his had first come online. Instead he had thought he was going out of his mind till he met Blair. Even then there were some things that even his guide couldn't understand, as they weren't happening to him.

Ezra looked over to Vin to see if he had caught Ellison's discomfort. He hoped that Vin would make the first move. Ezra wanted this trip to help settle Vin's mind that he wasn't going insane, that there were others like him and that he wasn't some kind of a freak.

But it was Blair who broke the silence. "It would give me and Ezra a chance to talk about stuff." Ezra looked over at Blair, what stuff he wondered. Hadn't he and Blair covered most of the guide's duties in Cascade when they first met? His teammates kept telling him he was Vin's guide. Did the more experienced guide find him inadequate and wanted to tell him in private that they needed to find Vin a better person to guide him? Ezra bit the inside of his mouth not to yell out that he and he alone was Vin's guide. Of course, he wasn't good enough to be Vin's guide. Why had he allowed himself to imagine he was? Vin needed the best individual there was to be his guide and that wasn't him. He would step aside, it would kill him, but he'd do it for Vin.

Vin listened to Ezra's heartbeat, it had speeded up as if something Ez was thinking about disturbed him. Then his heart settled down as if he had made up his mind. Vin hoped whatever Blair wanted to talk to Ezra about made him feel better about being his guide. He didn't want Ezra to feel obligated or forced into being his guide and would find some way to free Ezra from the responsibility if he didn't want the job. It would kill him but he'd do it for Ezra.

Two sets of eyes were watching the new sentinel and his guide, it was as if they were seeing the same mistakes about to be made all over again. Hopefully, before they returned to Denver, Vin and Ezra would be sharing their insecurities with each other. The men from Cascade had found out the hard way what secrets did to a friendship between a sentinel and his guide. It wouldn't happen to Vin and Ezra if they could help it.

As Jim stood up he picked up an insulated bag Blair had packed with a lunch. Walking away from the fire he called out to Vin. "Come on kid, lets take a walk."

"Don't call me kid, old man." Vin told him as he followed Jim into the trees.

+ + + + + + +

By the building that once housed weather equipment, Frances Jean Quinn was stacking the broken wooden boxes the supplies came in. Frances was small for

her age. She didn't look sixteen unless she dressed up and put makeup on; a fact she hadn't enjoyed or benefited from till now. Being small had allowed her to be assigned to less dangerous jobs outside of the meth lab. Bigger kids were getting burned or sick from making the drugs inside the building. The Hell Queen who ran this place hadn't noticed her and the guards so far had overlooked her. Frances tried to make herself seem even smaller, stooping over, never standing straight. She kept herself dirty as well in order to make herself less desirable to the guards who liked their entertainment young. This had worked all summer. Perhaps it was why she forgot and stood up, stretching the muscles in her back thinking she was alone in back of the old building.

She wasn't, Roger Jomax had been to the outhouse and seen one of the workers behind the building on his way back. He decided he better check on whoever it was. This was a good job. Madam, as the guards called their boss, paid well and the guards were allowed to play with the work force as long as they weren't hurt to the point where they couldn't keep working. But you didn't want to cross Madam. Amongst the many reasons why it was better to stay on her good side was the fact she controlled the way in and out of this place. Her partner flew the guards in at the beginning of summer and out in the autumn before the first snow fell. You had to be willing to be drugged before take off. Madam didn't want anyone to learn where the lab was, especially the guards. Get on her bad side and you'd wake up on top of a glacier or a mountain never to be seen again.

Roger made his way closer to the worker piling the broken pieces of the heavy wooden boxes. So who was this behind the building? Hey, I thought she was one of the younger kids here. With one swift move he grabbed a handful of dirty hair before Frances could move away. Yanking her close to him gave him a clear view of her face.

"You don't look half bad do ya kid? I bet once ya get cleaned up you look pretty good." Roger scowled down at her. "I wouldn't mind doing the clean up on you, could be fun. You and me having a little party in the shower." Frances didn't think, she shoved the wooden spike in her hands into the groin of the man holding her. Roger screamed and let go of her. Frances ran and kept running not looking back not caring where she was going as long as she was getting away.

The other children were sent to the tents by the guards at the first sound of the scream. The guards found Roger on the ground curled up into a ball. They made way for Madam as she joined them.

"What happened here?"

"Sorry Madam, she took me by surprise" gasped Roger who was bent over holding his groin, trying to ignore the snickers from the other guards. "I'll go after her myself and bring her back."

"No, I don't want you to waste any of my time looking for her. If no one is chasing her she won't run far. Wait the usual two days than go find her and bring her back if she's still alive. She'll be put back to work after I teach her the folly of running away. If she's dead her body will act as a lesson to the others. Now get those kids back to work." Geri dismissed the guards and turned around heading for her tent. Damn, this will make a dent in her work force. The other workers will have to work harder to make up for her absence.

"You sure you don't want me to go after her now Geri?"

The question made her turn around and brought a smile to her face. Thomas Keirnan was a mercenary, able to take care of business be it in the wilderness or the city's slums. He was loyal to her as long as she paid him, and she paid him well. Geri and Anne had known Thomas for years and he was the first person Geri thought of when she needed a guard. Now he was the head of security. He kept the other four guards in line, and from getting ideas. He was the only one in camp who knew her full name and the only person who was allowed to address her by her first name

"No Thomas, the workers will be restless tonight and tomorrow. I want you to keep a close eye on things till they settle down. The worst she looks when you bring her back, the better." Looking out on the endless expansion of trees she asked him. "Where do they think they're running to? There's nothing out there but trees for miles in any direction."

"They don't know that for a fact and fear will carry you far before reason sets in. Though I'll bet she's not more than a mile away, a little thing like that's not going to get far." Thomas sounded hopeful.

"And I bet you'd like to do a little hunting while you're out there too." Geri said to him. Thomas liked to hunt be it four footed or two foot prey.

"Fresh meat would go a long way in settling down the troops. A full belly makes for a slow runner."

"Tomorrow, You can do a little hunting and take your time looking for the little fool. I like the sound of a little fresh meat myself, the canned stuff is getting old." Geri started to walk away then stopped, turning back to Thomas. "Tell Jomax he can have the girl after I'm finished with her but I will expect her to be able to put in a full days work the next day."

"Yes Madam." Thomas replied.

+ + + + + + +

Blair and Ezra cleaned up around the camp making sure the fire was extinguished and there was no food left out. Only their lunch had been left out and it was packed in Blair's backpack. Neither one of them wanted to attract any wildlife into camp. The warning they gave out at the gates about feeding the bears wasn't so they could scare the tourists. Jim and Vin had hung a rope from a tree branch to store their food when they set up camp last night. Their food supplies were high over head out of reach of any bears or anything else that might want an easy meal.

Ezra had put off the discussion long enough, he was ready to face whatever Blair had to say to him. No matter that he didn't want to hear it.

"Alright Mr. Sandburg what is it you want to tell me?"

Blair took a good look at Ezra; the man stood as if he was expecting a blow. Blair didn't know what Ezra was thinking but it couldn't be good. "It's Blair not Mr. Sandburg. From what I've observed you and Vin are handling the Sentinel abilities. It will get better as Vin gains more control over his senses. Is there something happening that you are not telling me about?" Blair raised one eyebrow and asked "Don't you want to be Vin's guide?" Ezra stared at Blair in relief. "Ah thought, Ah thought you didn't think Ah was good enough and wanted to replace me with someone bettah."

So that was it, Ezra was afraid he was going to be replaced. Blair could understand that all to well. He sat down pulling Ezra down beside him and started talking.

"I know it's all pretty overwhelming at first. I was scared to death that I'd do something that would get Jim hurt or he'd zone and I wouldn't be there to help or I wouldn't be able to get him out of a zone. My worst fear was that I was pushing him too hard to learn how to use his senses and that one day he would wake up and wouldn't want me as his guide anymore. That there has to be someone out there better at this than I was, who could do a better job then I was doing." Ezra stared at the man sitting beside him, it was as if Blair had been reading his mind. "You were afraid? But you're so composed, so organized. You're teaching me how to do this for Godsakes" Ezra paused, "How did you know what Ah'm thinking?"

"Been there, done that." Blair said flippantly, then more seriously added, "I still have some of those fears but I have learned I can only do the best I can. We all make mistakes but the idea is to learn from them and go on. Even our Sentinels are not perfect, even if they want us to believe they are." Blair closed his eyes before continuing, some of the memories of those times were still painful. "Jim and I didn't talk to each other about our fears and it almost destroyed us. If you and Vin only learn one thing from this week, learn to talk to each other; there can't be any secrets between you. He is as scared as you are and will push you away if he thinks you don't really want to be his guide or to keep you safe. To him, your happiness and safety is more important than his sanity."

"Maybe he'd be better off with someone else." Ezra said more to him self than Blair.

Blair waved his arm and hand in the air as if to dismiss the idea completely. "Not just anyone can be a guide. Like a sentinel, I believe a guide's abilities are also genetic. You were preprogrammed to be a guide, you only had to meet your sentinel to come online."

"Ma sentinel?"

"Yep, one guide to one sentinel. I can teach others how to be a guide or give instructions on how a sentinel can control his senses, but I will never be a guide to anyone other than Jim. Nor would Jim be able to take another person as his guide. Though I have got most of the team at Major Crime trained to recognize a zone and what to do to bring him out of it. If you trust your teammates at the ATF they can learn too." Blair was throwing at lot at Ezra, he knew he was running off at the mouth but he had to make Ezra see he wasn't alone or a bad person for having doubts.

"Jim and I have been at this for six years, you and Vin are just starting. There will be good times and bad but that's life. We both made mistakes that cost us dearly, I hope you and Vin can keep from making some of those same mistakes, with our help. Jim and I have changed, we are not the same people we were six years ago, that's growth."

Blair paused for breath. At least Ezra didn't look shell-shocked. As an ATF agent, Ezra was used to processing large amounts of information in his job. Hopefully, he hadn't reached his limit, there was a lot more Blair had to say.

"You both have your own lives to live, you're not going to be joined at the hip. You do not have to be together 24/7. Jim and I do spend a lot of time together both on the job and off; we enjoy each other's company. But still, I do things Jim has no interest in and I like to date the ladies. I hope to find Miss Right some day and start a family. The same goes for Jim. I do live next door to my sentinel and we wouldn't feel comfortable living far apart from each other. That part of all this is not going to change, the need to feel connected, to be able to reach out and touch each other. The bond between sentinel and guide is not to be taken lightly, it will be the center of your lives from now on. Neither of you will ever be alone again, unless you want to be." Ezra thought about that; he had been alone a lot growing up. He had always wanted a brother, someone to count on to be there, to be there for. Team Seven was the closest he'd ever been to having a family. His Mother had always been in the picture, but she had always been busy with business matters that left little time for him. Still he didn't want to give up his independence completely, he wasn't used to depending on anyone. Not until he became a member of Team Seven did he have anyone he could depend on, and at times he was still uneasy about it. There was so much to learn and do. Blair was still talking to him.

"Remember we have been at this for a while and a lot of training has gone on in that time. Jim hasn't zoned in almost a year. He has gained that much control in the use of his senses, Vin will too. I'd say experience is the key there. Jim says it's because he knows I'm there beside him, he feels safe using his senses fully. I still say it's because I have tried to teach Jim what to do when exposed to something new or different. He has learned what to do when something starts to overwhelm his senses and stops the zone from happening at least ninety percent of the time. But I still make him practice his controls every chance we get. You're going to have to help Vin learn how to do it too and be there when he can't. When I went to the police academy the sound of my voice over the phone could bring Jim out of a zone, much to Simon's relief."

Blair stopped. "That's enough for now, we've got all week and there is a quiet spot calling our names that has some nice flat boulders for us to sit on. It's out in the sunshine so it should be warm enough even for me not to get cold. Jim showed me before Simon and Chris left to go fishing. You can ask me anything you want or just think about everything that I've thrown at you this morning. Or you can catch a nap if you want. I'd like to show you how to meditate, it will help with your migraines." Blair picked up his backpack and stood up, he waited for Ezra to rise. "Come on, lets get going before they get back and want to be fed."

"How did we get elected the chefs of this expedition?" asked Ezra.

"Because I'm a better cook than either Jim or Simon." Blair told him. "I like to eat well and as often as I can, I like to eat healthy. So I don't mind doing the cooking." Ezra gained his feet. "You mentioned my migraines. Am Ah to understand you have a hypothesis on how to cure those as well?"

"Yes Ezra I do." Blair threw his arm around Ezra's shoulders. "What do you know about empathy?"