A Light to Guide Me
Crossover with The Sentinel
Ezra sighed as he looked around his very crowded living room. He hadn't wanted the rest of the team to come to his townhouse for their monthly poker game, but he had been unable to find a way out of it. After six weeks undercover, all he wanted was some sleep and aspirin for his headache. He groaned aloud when he heard the phone ringing and seriously considered just throwing it against the wall. It was only habit that made him answer it.
The others looked at him as the undercover agent suddenly paled and sank down into the nearest chair.
"What do you mean, he's gone? Who took him?" He raked a shaky hand through his hair. "What does his dissertation have to do with his kidnapping? He didn't actually find...?" Ezra bit his lip and glanced around the now silent room, his worried green eyes settling on Chris. "And you need me to come up there and help his partner? What can I do?" His eyes widened and he flung himself out of the chair and began pacing furiously. "You think I'm...?" He sighed, then turned to look back at Chris. "Let me ask."
Before Ezra could speak, Chris held up a hand. "Do whatever you need to do, Ezra. You're due some vacation time anyway. You just take care of whatever this is."
Ezra's lips curved up into a sincere smile. "Thank you, Mr. Larabee." He quickly turned his attention back to the person on the phone. "I'll be there within twenty-four hours. I'll call you back as soon as I know when the flight is. We'll get him back, Naomi. I promise." He hung up the phone and sat back in the chair, his head propped in his hands.
The others glanced at each other, and it was Vin who finally spoke. "What happened, Ez?"
"My half-brother has been kidnapped."
That simple statement brought chaos to the room. The six men were pelting questions at their seventh until finally Chris put two fingers in his mouth and whistled shrilly. When the others turned to him in shock, Ezra sent him a grateful smile. "One at a time, ladies. He can't hear you if you all talk at once." He turned back to Ezra. "Now, since when have you had a half-brother, and why didn't we know about him?"
"Gentlemen, perhaps you had better make yourselves comfortable. This little tale may take awhile." While the others shifted positions or went to grab a beer, Ezra slipped into the kitchen to refill his mug of tea. Once everyone was settled, he began to talk.
"Shortly after I was born, my father began cheating on my mother. Sometime after the other woman learned that she was pregnant she also learned that my father was married. She went to see my mother and that is when we left. However, we did not leave alone. Naomi, the other woman, came with us." He smiled. "It turned out that she and my mother got along very well, and they became the best of friends. I didn't get to see my younger brother very much since Naomi had the urge to move around almost as much as Mother did. They soon went their separate ways, but we always stayed in contact."
"How long has it been since you saw him, Ez?"
Ezra glanced at Vin and was amazed by the sincere concern he saw in his eyes. "It has been nearly four years since we saw each other. He was preparing for a trip to some small island out in the Pacific somewhere whose name I cannot presently recall." He frowned. "I've never heard Naomi so frantic before. She sounded almost terrified."
"Ezra." Chris waited until he had his undercover agent's full attention. "You're not going alone. Vin and I both have more vacation time stored up than we need, so we're going with you."
Ezra started to protest, but decided against it. "Thank you, Mr. Larabee. I would welcome your and Mr. Tanner's company."
"Good, that's settled. The rest of you, go home. You're gonna have to hold down the fort till we get back. Vin and I have to pack, then I've gotta have a talk with the Judge." Chris suddenly stopped and turned back to Ezra. "Ez, where are we going anyway?"
* * *
The next afternoon the three men were striding through the Cascade airport. All of them turned when they heard a feminine voice calling out for Ezra. Ezra smiled as the small red-haired woman rushed into his arms. "Hello, Naomi."
When she finally pulled back, she glanced over Ezra's shoulder. "Are they with you, Ezra?"
"How rude of me. Naomi, these are two of my friends, Vin Tanner and Chris Larabee." He smirked when he saw the surprise on the two men's faces. "Gentlemen, this is Naomi Sandburg."
Naomi shook both of their hands, then turned back to Ezra. "Did you explain everything to them?"
Ezra nodded, pinching the bridge of his nose. "As well as I could. The whole thing still confuses me, Naomi. What makes you think that I can help Detective Ellison? I have no idea what I'm doing."
"Neither did Blair when he started. If you have the ability to be a Guide, then hopefully your instincts will kick in." She shrugged. "You're the only hope we've got. Jim's been getting worse ever since Blair disappeared."
Ezra raked a hand through his hair and pulled a pair of fancy sunglasses out of his coat pocket. Before he could slide them on, Vin grabbed his arm and turned him around. The undercover agent's normally vibrant green eyes were obviously tired and bloodshot.
"You feelin' okay, Ez? You don't look too good."
He nodded as he hid his eyes behind the dark shades. "I am fine, Mr. Tanner. I just have a slight headache. It's nothing to be concerned about."
"If you're sure, Ez." Vin glanced back at Chris, seeing his concern for the undercover agent mirrored in the team leader's green eyes. They would both watch and make sure that Ezra didn't push himself too far.
Their concern was warranted as the four of them got closer to Ellison's loft. Ezra's headache had escalated to the point where even he could no longer hide the pain. He was sitting in the backseat of the car, slumped against Chris. His eyes were squeezed shut and his fists were clenched. Chris could see the faint sheen of sweat on Ezra's face and feel the fever radiating off of him. When Vin glanced back at them, he just shook his head.
By the time they reached the loft, Ezra was nearly unconscious from the pain. Chris glanced over at Naomi as she stopped the car. "Are you sure we shouldn't be taking him to a hospital?"
She nodded. "If I thought it would do any good at all, I'd have him there in a heartbeat. But there is a very good chance that this is a direct result of his abilities. Doctors wouldn't be able to help him. We can just hope that Jim can."
Chris and Vin tried to carry Ezra between them, but Ezra just flinched away from Vin. Chris flashed his friend a puzzled frown as he simply scooped the undercover agent into his arms and strode toward the elevator. Vin followed them with the luggage, his lips twisted into a frown and a distant look in his eyes.
When they reached the third floor, Ezra suddenly began mumbling and twisting in Chris's arms. "No, please. Make it stop. It hurts. Please, make it stop." Vin eased closer to Ezra, but his mumbling only grew worse and fevered green eyes opened, but they were blank. "Please stop. You're hurting me."
Chris and Vin looked at each other in shock, but said nothing as the door to Detective Ellison's loft was flung open. Vin instantly stepped in front of Chris and Ezra, a low growl coming from his throat. A matching growl sounded from the tall man in the doorway with the icy blue eyes. The staring contest was broken by Ezra's soft whimper of pain.
"Please, make it stop."
Both men turned back to Chris and the burden in his arms. The other man stepped forward. "Sorry about that. I haven't been quite myself lately. I'm Jim Ellison, and I'm guessing that this is Blair's brother Ezra. What's wrong with him?"
Chris glared at him. "We don't know what's wrong. He's been getting worse since we got here. I still think he needs medical attention."
Jim shook his head. "I would be able to tell if there was a medical problem. It has something to do with his Guide abilities." He frowned. "I just haven't seen anything like this before. Blair never had problems like this."
Chris's glare darkened. "Well, in case you hadn't noticed, Ezra isn't Blair. He is my agent, and he needs a bed. Now you can show me one, or I can just go around you and find one myself."
Jim bristled, but calmed when he heard Ezra moan. "This way. He can have Blair's room, and I assume that the two of you will be staying also."
Chris nodded as they were led to the bedroom. "I'll just take the floor with Ezra. Vin can have the couch." He pinned the detective with another cold glare. "If I find out that you did this to him, you will live to regret it."
* * *
The tension between the ATF agents and Ellison continued to escalate. Chris stayed in the bedroom with Ezra, only pausing in his watch over his agent to glare out the door at Ellison. Vin merely paced around the loft, alternately shoving his hands in his pockets and running them through his hair. Naomi had left earlier, unable to stand the tense silence any longer.
Ezra continued to toss and turn in the bed, still mumbling quietly. Chris sat on the edge of the bed, one hand on the undercover agent's forehead. He was startled when feverish green eyes suddenly opened and focused on him. "Ez, how are you feeling?"
Ezra blinked and licked his lips. "The noise won't stop. Please make it stop, Chris. It hurts."
Chris frowned at him in puzzlement. "What noise, Ez?"
Ezra was about to answer when both Vin and Jim burst into the room. He suddenly squeezed his eyes shut in pain and his breath hissed through his clenched teeth. "Please stop. It hurts." The words had barely passed his lips when he lost consciousness again.
Chris glared at Jim. "This has something to do with you. He was doing better until you came barging in here. My agent is in pain, and it is your fault."
Jim just glared back. "Now just hold it for a minute, cowboy. I'm not the only one who came in here just now. Did you ever think it might be your friend here?"
"Did you just call me cowboy?" His voice was calm but his eyes were icy. "I am not a cowboy, and this is not Vin's fault. None of this started until we got here to Cascade." Chris was about to continue when Vin interrupted.
"He may be right, pard." When Chris swung his head around to face him, Vin looked down. "It's not just Detective Ellison. Ez's been flinching away from me, too."
Chris sighed, rubbing his hands over his face. "All right, fine. How about both of you stay out of here for a while. That way no one feels excluded." He turned back to Jim. "Are there any clues on who took Ezra's brother?"
Jim shook his head. "No, and we've covered just about everything. The only thing left is his research. Some other Sentinel may have taken him to control their senses. We just don't know." He sighed. "That's one of the reasons Naomi wanted to bring Ezra out here. She thought that maybe with his help I could track Blair. Now he's the one who needs help."
Chris glanced at the two apologetic men. "Look, it's getting late. Let's all get some sleep and maybe things will be clearer in the morning." As Vin and Jim turned to leave the room, Chris called out once more. "And, Vin, whatever you do, don't make the coffee in the morning. I don't want to have to explain to the Cascade PD why we killed one of their detectives."
His joke had the desired effect as Vin finally smiled. "Cowboy, what's wrong with my coffee?"
"Nothing, if you don't mind being able to stand spoons up in it. Now, go get to bed. I got a feeling that we're all gonna need sleep for tomorrow."
* * *
Ezra opened his eyes and glanced around, startled to discover that he was no longer in the bedroom. Instead, he was surrounded by very tall trees encased in a light mist. Then he looked down and was even more surprised to see that he wasn't quite himself. He was inhabiting the body of a small red fox.
His head jerked up as he heard loud snarling coming from somewhere very nearby. He raised himself to his feet and began slowly making his way through the brush until he came upon a clearing. In the middle of the clearing a large black panther and a tawny cougar were rolling on the ground, fangs and claws extended.
As the growls and snarls pierced the air, Ezra slowly slid back further into the brush. He continued backing until he backed into something warm and furry. He yelped and turned around, baring his teeth. He faltered when he saw the wolf, somehow recognizing him. He inched closer, extending his nose as the wolf did the same. As their noses touched, recognition flared and both howled in excitement.
The wolf slid one paw around the body of the fox and pulled him into a furry embrace. He only released him when he felt the fox stiffen and heard the snarling coming from the clearing. When he heard the unmistakable howling of the panther, he nodded in understanding. He pulled the fox further down into the brush and began quietly growling at him.
Ezra listened, occasionally nodding his head. When the wolf finished speaking, he let out an affirmative yip. He glanced skyward as the wolf trotted away, then turned back to face him. The wolf nodded and both of them took off running towards each other. The instant they collided, they merged and everything went black.
* * *
The next morning Chris awoke to the smell of coffee brewing. He stretched, feeling a slight twinge in his back from sleeping on the floor. As he rose to his feet, he glanced over at Ezra. The undercover agent seemed to be sleeping comfortably, so Chris left the bedroom in search of the coffee.
He found Vin and Jim sitting on opposite sides of the table, glaring at each other over their cups. Chris sighed, but remained silent as he poured his coffee. He frowned when both of the other men suddenly turned their heads toward the room where Ezra slept. His frown deepened when Ezra suddenly appeared, heading straight for the coffee pot. All three men silently watched the undercover agent take a large gulp of the coffee and smile. When he finally looked up at them, Chris and Vin were stunned. His normally emerald green eyes were now a strange mix of green and blue.
"Ez, how are you feeling?" Chris's voice was hesitant and he shivered when the strange eyes focused on him.
Ezra finished gulping his coffee before he answered. "Much better." He headed back into the living room and straight for Blair's backpack. He started rummaging in it while he spoke. "Once we figured out what was going on, it was really no problem to fix it. Unfortunately, now we only have two days left and time is wasting."
The three men in the kitchen looked at each other in puzzlement. "Uh, what we, Ez?"
"Blair and I. It all makes sense when you stop to think about it." Ezra was about to continue when Jim interrupted him.
"Blair's running around in your head somehow, isn't he? That's why your eyes look funny."
Ezra strode back into the kitchen, an unfamiliar grin on his face and a stack of papers in his arms. "Glad to see someone's paying attention, for once. You do realize that none of this would have been necessary if the two of you hadn't been snarling at each other since we got off the plane. The noise was about to drive me completely crazy."
Chris glanced between the embarrassed sharpshooter and detective. "Both of them were hurting you, Ez? They were causing the noise you were talking about?"
He nodded. "Having two Sentinels both trying to work with you at the same time has a tendency to tear your brain apart. Especially when they're both so possessive and stubborn."
The three men only heard the first part of Ezra's statement. "Wait a minute." Vin's blue eyes were suddenly panicked and he began to hyperventilate. "You mean I'm a Sentinel, too?"
Ezra quickly moved to stand behind Vin's chair, both of his hands resting on Vin's shoulders. When the sharpshooter's rapid breathing eased, Ezra smiled. "All of your senses aren't online yet, but they will be. And the reason that you were so aggressive with Jim is that I'm your Guide. So you got a little possessive." When he was sure that Vin was all right, he moved back to the papers he had dumped on the table. "I'd really love to talk about this some more, but we only have two days to get to Blair."
Jim finally spoke. "Why only two days, Ezra?"
"Because after two days, this link I have with him disappears. And right now, that and these papers is all we have to go on." Ezra sat in the empty chair, flipping through the stack of papers. "I know he's not in Cascade anymore, and wherever he is feels incredibly familiar, but I can't tell where it is."
Chris and Vin just stared at the altered Ezra for a moment, unsure of what to do. "All right, Ez. What do we need to do?"
Without looking up, Ezra slid part of the stack over to Chris. "Look through these. Blair had requested some information on something, and he think that was what got him in trouble."
Chris passed part of his stack over to Vin. "What exactly are we looking for anyway?"
"I don't know. When we find it, I'll tell you."
The search had been going on for an hour when Ezra suddenly groaned and dropped his head to the tabletop with a loud crack. "Why didn't I think of that? It makes so much sense. I really am an idiot."
He continued banging his head against the table until Vin reached over and slid his hand between Ezra's forehead and the table. "What did you find, pard?"
"Blair's location felt so familiar because they took him to Denver. We have to go back."
* * *
The four men had managed to get a flight back to Denver that night. In the middle of the flight, Ezra suddenly raised his head from the papers he had been reading, a wide grin on his face. "I found it. I know who took Blair."
Three pairs of eyes turned toward the undercover agent, but only Jim spoke. "Who?"
Ezra pulled a file out of the stack he held and handed it to Jim. "In Blair's research, he came across a group that was trying to synthesize Sentinel abilities using drugs. They were fairly close to succeeding, and they were based in Denver."
"What do you mean, they were? Where are they now?"
Ezra's lips curled up in a familiar smirk. "Almost all of them are in jail, thanks to the ATF. About a month ago, we raided their warehouse and arrested almost the entire organization. We just couldn't find the ringleader."
Chris growled. "You mean that Davenport has your brother, Ez?"
He nodded, then pinched the bridge of his nose. "Unfortunately, that is correct. Blair has not been harmed, but he fears that Davenport is going to use him as a guinea pig for the drugs."
While Jim just glared out the window of the plane, Vin reached for Ezra's shoulder. "You feelin' all right, pard?"
"I fear that my headache is coming back." He ran a hand through his hair then glanced over at Vin, his eyes still a strange mix of green and blue. "Blair is under the impression that once we land in Denver your senses will come completely online. And judging by my headache, I fear he may be right. Also, the link is fading faster than we had hoped."
"What can I do to help ya, Ez?"
Ezra just shook his head. "There is nothing you can do, Vin. Once we get Blair back, everything should work itself out." His voice dropped, but Vin could still pick up the words he whispered. "I hope."
* * *
Ezra's prediction proved to be true. By the time the plane landed in Denver, Vin was trying desperately to keep his senses under control and Ezra's pain was so great that he was dependent on Chris to simply walk. "Okay, Ez, what do we do now?"
Ezra tried to make his blurry eyes focus on Chris. "Get everyone to the ranch. We need to keep things as quiet as possible, for both mine and Vin's sakes."
Chris nodded as they reached the Ram. He started to slide Ezra into the passenger seat, but Ezra balked.
"Put me in the back with Vin. It will at least make him more comfortable."
Chris frowned, but did as Ezra requested. By the time they reached the ranch, Vin's senses were more controlled. However, Ezra was nearly unconscious again from the pain. Chris started to pull him out of the Ram, but froze when he heard Vin growling angrily at him. He allowed Jim to lead him a few feet away from the car as Vin gently pulled Ezra into his arms.
"It would probably be a good idea for you and the rest of your team to stay away from Ezra for a little while. Vin's going to be somewhat possessive until they get the Sentinel-Guide relationship all worked out."
Chris glanced from Jim to Vin and back. "You might be right, Ellison. Tell me, does this get any easier?"
Jim smiled. "Nope. My captain's still trying to figure out all the unwritten rules, and he's already found enough to fill a book."
Vin had just gotten Ezra inside the ranch when the rest of Team Seven started arriving. "Ellison, what do I tell the rest of the team about all this?"
"Tell them the truth. They're gonna need to know if they're going to continue working together." Jim's eyes lost some of their focus. "Secrets only hurt the team. Trust me on this."
Chris was quickly surrounded by the rest of his team. "Well, boys, we've really got it this time. Come on in, but keep it quiet and stay away from Vin and Ez."
Buck frowned. "Why, pard? And who's this?"
Chris just sighed. "This is Blair's partner, Detective Jim Ellison. As for everything else, we'll explain inside. At least, we'll try to."
As soon as everyone was inside, Chris headed for the bedroom to check on Ezra and Vin, unaware that Buck was following him. He poked his head in the room, then turned around when he heard a low whistle from behind him.
Ezra was lying on his back on the bed, still unconscious. Vin was curled up next to him, one arm thrown across Ezra's chest. His normally warm blue eyes were icy as he snarled at the two men. When he was certain that they posed no threat, he relaxed slightly and pulled Ezra closer, tucking the undercover agent's head under his chin.
Buck allowed Chris to pull him back to the living room before he spoke. "Pard, what the hell was going on in there?"
Chris rubbed a hand over his eyes and turned to Jim. "You want to explain this, Ellison? You've got a much better grip on things than I do."
Half an hour later, the agents were still confused. Jim sighed and held up his hands, trying to halt any further questions. "You're just going to have to go with the flow on this. A lot of this can't really be explained; you have to see it." He turned to Nathan, who had risen from his seat and started toward the bedroom. "I wouldn't bother them if I were you."
"Look, I've gotta make sure that Ezra is all right. It's part of my job."
Jim shrugged. "Okay, but you won't get very far."
Nathan made his way to the bedroom, but didn't even make it inside the doorway when he heard Vin growling. He took a deep breath and entered, only to be pinned by the fierce look in Vin's eyes. "Easy, Vin. I just wanna check on Ezra."
Vin gave no indication that he had heard. He rose from the bed and stalked almost soundlessly toward Nathan, snarls still emanating from his throat.
Nathan backed up against the wall, his hands raised. "I'm not gonna hurt Ezra, Vin. I just want to help."
Vin was almost nose to nose with Nathan when he suddenly froze and cocked his head. He turned back toward Ezra, who was now moaning in pain. He flashed Nathan one last icy glare and strode back to the bed. He gently curled up next to the undercover agent and pulled him against his chest. The growling turned to a soft purring and Ezra relaxed.
Nathan simply stared for a moment before quietly making his way back out to the others. He blushed at the knowing look Jim sent him. "Guess you were right, Detective. Vin's not going to let anyone else near him."
Chris pushed himself out of his chair and began to pace around the room. "Since there's not anything we can do for Ezra and Vin, I suggest that we put all our effort into finding Blair. JD, I want you to find everything on Davenport that we've got. We need to find out where he might be hiding. Once you get the information, the rest of us will help you go through it." He ran a hand through his hair. "We need to finish this, and soon. For everybody's sake."
* * *
Vin slowly awoke and stretched, then realized that he wasn't in the bedroom anymore. He glanced down and was shocked to see furry paws where he had expected to see hands. He heard a quiet growling coming from the ground next to him. He looked down and saw a small red fox that he somehow immediately recognized as Ezra.
When he heard someone else coming through the brush, Vin pushed Ezra behind him and growled, his fangs extended. The instant the gray wolf appeared, Vin heard Ezra yip and felt him trying to move around him. He glared at the wolf for a moment, then realized that it was Blair. He moved out of Ezra's way and ducked his head in apology.
The wolf just growled good-naturedly. He touched noses with Ezra and began growling, outlining his plan. Ezra nodded, then looked over to where Vin was sitting. When the cougar nodded, Ezra and Blair once again trotted away from each other, then turned around and ran. The instant they collided, the fox disappeared, leaving only the cougar and the wolf.
* * *
In a deserted warehouse, Blair Sandburg opened emerald green eyes. He glanced down at his chained hands, then around the room where he was being held. He spotted a window high up on the wall, and through it he could see the roof where he knew Vin had been perched during the Davenport raid. He smirked, then slid back against the wall, unconscious once more.
* * *
The five ATF agents and one Cascade detective had just started to sort through the huge pile of information that JD had found when Ezra strode out of the bedroom, followed closely by Vin. Everyone but Chris and Jim gasped at Ezra's oddly colored eyes.
"We have to go, now."
Chris frowned. "Go where, Ezra?"
"To get Blair." He shrugged into a jacket, then crossed his arms when no one moved. "Davenport is keeping him in the warehouse that we raided, but I don't know how long he'll be there. We have to go now."
That was enough for Jim. He quickly rose to his feet and headed for the door. "Well, what are you waiting for? Let's go, people."
The others looked over at Chris, who just shrugged. "It's their show, guys. We're just along for the ride."
Within half and hour the men were a block away from Davenport's warehouse. As Jim exited the Ram, he cocked his head, listening for any indication that Blair was nearby. His eyes widened and he glanced back at where Ezra was standing with one hand on Vin's shoulder. "I can hear Blair's heartbeat, but it's in perfect rhythm with yours."
"I know. Is anyone else in there with him?"
Jim continued listening, trying to filter out the sounds caused by the other men with him. He felt the beginnings of a zone out, but pulled back when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Even though he knew it was Ezra, he could still feel an echo of Blair. "There's two people in there besides Blair, but neither one of them is in the same room. If we're lucky, we might be able to sneak in and get him before they realize we're here."
Chris sighed and turned to the others. "All right, I want JD, Buck, and Nathan to stay out here in case anyone tries to run. Josiah and I will go in and try to find the bad guys while Vin, Ezra, and Ellison look for Sandburg. Everybody clear?" When they all nodded, Chris smiled grimly. "Then get to it."
The men split up; Chris and Josiah going in the back while the other three slipped in the front. Ezra quickly located the window that Blair had seen and glanced across the room. He saw his brother slumped against the wall and hurried over, with the two Sentinels close behind. He knelt and began picking the locks that held Blair chained to the wall, as Jim lightly ran his hands over his Guide's body searching for any injuries.
The instant Ezra finished picking the locks, Blair's eyes opened. They remained the same bizarre mix of green and blue as Ezra's for a moment, then flared as they returned to their normal blue. "Good to see you, Izzy."
Ezra smirked as he helped Blair to his feet. "It's good to see you too, Indy. Now, shouldn't we get out of here before those miscreants realize that you are missing?"
"It's too late for that, Agent Standish. Much too late."
The four men looked up and saw Davenport standing on a catwalk above them. He pressed a button on the small remote he held and suddenly a high pitched whine filled the warehouse. Jim and Vin both fell to their knees with their hands over their ears, moaning in pain. As Ezra and Blair tried to help them block out the noise, Davenport smiled.
"Well, well. Two for the price of one. This is my lucky day."
"That's what you think, Davenport. No one hurts my friends and gets away with it." Chris stood on the catwalk behind Davenport, his gun trained on the middle of the man's back. "Turn it off and put your hands up."
"As you wish, Agent Larabee." Davenport raised the hand with the remote as he pushed another button. The silence that filled the warehouse was broken by the sound of gunshots.
Chris saw the gun in Davenport's other hand and fired, striking the man directly in the heart. After Chris checked the body, he glanced down and was dismayed to see Ezra sprawled on the ground, a red stain spreading on his chest.
Vin was nearly in hysterics as Nathan came charging into the warehouse, alerted by the gunshots. As the medic knelt to check on the Southerner, Jim and Blair pulled Vin far enough away so that Nathan could work. Blair immediately fell back into his role as Guide, trying to calm his brother's Sentinel.
"Izzy'll be fine. He's tough. He'll be fine." As Blair stared at the pale features of his brother, his eyes reflected the two words he wouldn't say. 'I hope.'
* * *
The first thing Ezra was aware of was the pain in his chest. The second was the death grip that someone had on his hand. He slowly opened his eyes and forced them to focus on the person that sat slumped in the chair next to his hospital bed. When he realized that it was Vin, he relaxed and sank further into his pillow, too tired to remain awake any longer.
The next time that Ezra awoke, his room was filled with quite a few more people than hospital policy allowed. Chris and Josiah were both asleep in chairs, JD and Buck were stretched out on the floor, Nathan was reading his chart, Blair was slumped in a chair next to the bed with Jim on the floor behind him and Vin still had a death grip on his hand. He tried to shift positions and bit back a groan as the muscles in his chest protested.
Vin heard the slight sounds of pain and snapped awake, relief pouring through him when he realized that Ezra's eyes were open. "You had me worried, pard. I don't think I've ever been that scared."
"It's part of the bond. I've been calling it the 'mother hen from hell' mode." Blair smiled as he stretched. "You'll get used to it, but you'll never enjoy it."
The others began to wake up and pull themselves to their feet from their various sprawled positions. Once Buck, JD and Nathan were sure that Ezra was going to be okay, they left to get some real sleep.
Chris leaned one hip against the bed, a dark scowl on his face. "Ezra, I have one thing to say to you." He paused, then his lips turned up in a smile. "Try not to get shot anymore. I'm getting sick and tired of having to sleep in these chairs waiting for you to wake up."
"I will certainly do what I can to remedy that situation, Chris. However, I can make no promises." He smiled at Chris, real gratitude shining in his eyes. "Thank you."
Chris frowned. "For what, Ezra?"
"Everything." The smile evolved into a smirk when Chris just shook his head before he walked out of the hospital room with Josiah close behind him. As soon as the blond leader was gone, Ezra grimaced and rubbed the hand that wasn't restrained by the IV across his eyes.
Vin was instantly concerned. "You still got that headache, Ez? I thought once Blair got back safe that was gonna go away."
Blair began biting his lower lip as he pushed himself out of his chair and began to pace the room. "It could be that because you've had to help both Jim and Vin, that your Guide wires got a little crossed. Even though Jim doesn't need you anymore, you can't quite focus on Vin yet." He glanced up apologetically. "There's just no real way to know since no one's ever come across this problem before. I wish there was more I could do to help."
"You've done plenty, Blair." Vin glanced over at Jim. "Ya both have. We can figure this out on our own." He brushed Ezra's hair back from his forehead as the undercover agent began to blink tiredly. "Ya need some more sleep, Ez. I'm not going anywhere, so just rest. We'll figure everything out in the morning."
Ezra smiled as his eyes began to slide closed. Right before he fell asleep, he thought he saw something small and furry in the corner of the room. He mentally shrugged as he fell into a warm darkness.
* * *
Ezra snapped his eyes open and growled when he realized that he was back in the forest in the body of the fox. He suddenly sensed something behind him and whirled with his teeth bared. He relaxed when he saw that it was the cougar.
The cougar turned him around with his nose, then gently used his teeth to pick Ezra up by the scruff of the neck. The cougar picked his way through the brush, ignoring Ezra's indignant squeaks. When they reached a sunlit clearing, the cougar dropped Ezra to the ground and lazily stretched out beside him.
Ezra simply sat there for a moment before relaxing against the cougar's furry body. Suddenly, senses that he hadn't even realized were mixed up straightened. He let out a contented yip as he heard the purring of the big cat behind him. Out in the distance, he could hear the triumphant roar of the black panther, followed by the howl of the wolf. Ezra closed his eyes, somehow knowing that everything was going to be just fine.
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