Not Again

by Phyllis Loafman

Crossover The Sentinel

Size: Approx 155K

Jim checked the pile of camping equipment for the third time. 'I know I'm forgetting something' he thought to himself.

"Chief? You got all your stuff out here yet?" The detective called out.

Blair Sandburg spoke softly from behind the French doors of his room, knowing the other man would easily hear. "Almost. I still have to throw some toiletries in my backpack. Oh, and grab the first-aid kit."

"I'll get that, Chief." Jim headed to the bathroom and retrieved the kit, taking it back to the front room and adding it to the stack of equipment. "Dinner's almost done."

"I'll be right there."

Jim finished setting the table and brought the serving dishes to the table as the guide came out and joined him.

"I am 'so' ready to go on this trip. Five days and no tests or appointments or classes or.."

"..or suspects or court appearances or reports." The two men laughed as they served the food and began to eat. They discussed the trip and all they planned on 'not' doing.

"Don't forget, we need to stop and get some bottled water in the morning." Blair told the larger man. "I thought we had some more, but I was definitely wrong. We've gone through case of water. Are you going to do some climbing?" Blair asked between bites.

"I don't think so, not this time, fishing mainly. We can do some hiking and exploring. There are some excellent caves I know you will like. If I remember correctly, there are picture... thingys on the walls."

Blair stopped the fork halfway to his mouth and cocked his head. "Picture thingys?"

Jim shrugged his shoulders, a smile playing on his lips. Blair chuckled.

Jim studied the man across from him. Sandburg looked tired. The past three weeks had been hard. He was teaching as well as helping Jim at the station. He had been on stakeouts with members of Major Crimes. The young man needed rest and Ellison had arranged for just that in this week off. He had threatened to just disappear if Simon Banks had not given him time off.


"Simon, he's tired and that will cause him to make mistakes. Those mistakes could cost him. He could get hurt or worse. Or I could zone and he couldn't help. I'm not really concerned about myself, but Blair is not a police officer and I think that we're asking too much of him."

Simon chewed on the end of his cigar. Finally, he nodded. "You're right, Jim. The kid looks wiped out. But why do you have to have five days? We got a lot of cases hanging around here. I could.."

Simon's statement had been halted by Jim's raised hand. "Blair and I have cleared all of the cases we were assigned. We're leaving Friday morning and will be back Monday week. Not this next Monday, but the following Monday"

Simon studied his detective's face and decided that he would not win this agreement. Nodding, he waved toward the door. "OK, Jim. I'll give you a week."

The Sentinel smiled slightly and left the captain's office before he could change his mind and insist that the two men remain. Jim knew that he could not ignore a direct order, therefore, he would not give his superior the opportunity to issue one.

That had been on Tuesday. Jim could see a difference in the young man already. He was more relaxed and the energy he expended seemed less chaotic in nature. Blair was one of those 'all or nothing' personalities. When he was involved in a project, he gave it everything he had. He could and would go until he literally finished or dropped, and sometimes, it was both. Jim had never known anyone so committed to his work, friends, even his hobbies.

Jim had come to him Tuesday evening and told him to make arrangements for the few classes he had starting Friday and through the following week. He had a project Blair needed to be in on. The guide frowned at the words. 'Project?' he had asked. 'What kind of project and for who?'

Jim had smiled and told him they were going to study the fish up north for a couple of days and then check into some century-old drawings on the caves the national park. Blair's eyes had widened. Then had he whooped with delight. Ellison could hear the wheels turning inside the shaggy head. He had watched as the younger man danced around the room, plans bubbling from his mouth as fast as his head formed them.

"Jim? Hey, man, you with me here, big guy?" Jim was pulled from his memories by Blair's voice. The young man was waving a hand in front of his face. "Zoning on me over there?" Blair asked as Jim's eyes focused on him.

"Oh. Sorry, Chief. I was just thinking." Jim shook his head and smiled. "What were you saying?"

"I was asking what time you wanted to leave in the morning."

"Early. How's six sound?"

The grad student rolled his eyes. "Early. That's how it sounds. Is that leaving time or breakfast?"

"Leaving. We can eat on the road. We can stop at that diner that you like just outside of town.."

"Ahh. That's a good idea. We can save time by not having to clean up after.." Blair stopped talking when he saw Jim tilt his head. He was apparently listening to something only he could hear. "Jim?"

"Hang on a minute, Chief. Someone came to the door, but they're just standing there."

Cautiously, Jim rose and approached the entrance, picking up his gun as he went. He stood, listening for a moment, then quietly opened the door. He aimed the gun at the slight figure standing at the elevator doors.

"It only works half of the time." Jim stated.

The young man spun around and, dropping the motorcycle helmet, threw his arms up. Jim's brow furrowed as he looked at the dark haired boy.

"Don't I know you?" he asked. He felt Sandburg at his shoulder, as he watched the boy swallow and nod his head.

"JD? It's JD, right?" Blair questioned. Again, the boy nodded. "Jim, you remember. He works with Vin Tanner and Josiah Sanchez. He's ATF."

Jim lowered the gun and looked down the hallway. "Yeah. Sorry, kid. Slick here, too?"

JD took a deep breath and stooped to retrieve his helmet. "No, sir. He and the others are in Denver. I just...well, I was..just in the area and remembered the address."

Jim continued to stand in the doorway, so Blair took him by the shoulder and pulled him back. "Come on in, JD."

The boy hesitated before he finally walked into the apartment.

"I don't mean to intrude or anything. I'm on vacation and ended up here, so I thought I'd come by."

Blair smiled. 'Kid is nervous' he thought to himself.

Jim was also thinking. 'Something not right here. Can't put my finger on it, but something isn't right with this kid' he surmised. He told himself to call Tanner later and find out what was going on.

Blair gestured to the table. "We were just about finished eating, but there's more, if you're hungry."

JD waved his hands. "Oh, no thanks, I've already eaten." He glanced around the room and his eyes stopped on the pile of camping equipment just to the side of the door. "Oh, ya'll going camping? I'm sorry, I shouldn't have just shown up like this. I'll be going." And he turned, reaching for the doorknob.

Blair glared at Jim. He received a shrug of the shoulders in response.

Blair quickly crossed and placed a hand on the slender shoulder. "There's no need to leave. We're not leaving until tomorrow. Sit down and relax for a while."

JD did not move for a moment. When he did turn, Jim looked at the large hazel eyes and saw the pain and conflict. 'Hell, kid looks like he's lost his best friend.'

"How about a beer, JD? You are old enough to drink?" Jim looked at the kid and saw the first glimmer of a smile.

"Yes, sir, Detective Ellison. I'm half way to twenty-two."

"I don't think eleven is drinking age.?"

Blair and JD both laughed at the quip. "No, sir. Sorry. I'm twenty-one as of five months ago."

Jim took three beers from the refrigerator and walked back to the front room. Handing a beer to the others, he gestured for them to sit. JD sat on the couch and placed his helmet on the floor next to his feet. Jim noticed that the boy sat on the very edge of the couch, as if poised for flight. Blair seemed to notice also, as he reclined back and opened the beer.

"So, how is Josiah these days?" the grad student asked.

"He's good. We just finished a case that, actually, he broke for us. He’s really good at profiling. We practically had a picture of the guy before we even started looking." JD smiled and relaxed some. "He is amazing. I don't know how he does it. It's like he gets into their heads. Makes me think of that movie 'Being John Malkovich'. It's like he sees through their eyes."

Blair's eyes lit up with pride. He had known Josiah many years ago. Even then, the man could read you like a book. He always knew what to say to make you do the right thing.

"Yeah, he is pretty amazing. He still helping out at the shelters?"

"Yeah. He had us all down there at Christmas. It was so cool, seeing the kids and helping them have a good Christmas. It was great." JD's voice faded away with the last statement.

Both men noticed. Blair looked away and took a drink to fill the silence.

Jim looked at the young man and decided he was there for a reason. You don't just go on vacation without some kind of plan. He saw JD glance at Blair and away as he pulled on the bottle label.

"Hey, Chief, why don't you show JD the view of the bay from the balcony, while I clear the table. JD, you should stay the night. No need to get a room when we have a perfectly good couch. You don't have a room yet, do you?" Jim figured that coming to Cascade was a spur of the moment decision for the young man. He had probably driven straight to the loft when he got to town.

JD opened his mouth to protest, when Blair chimed in. "Hey, yeah, that'd be great, JD. We can trade stories about Tree.. ah, I mean Josiah. Besides, it's illegal to drink and drive. You know that."

JD chuckled. "I don't really think that one beer will make me drunk." He looked at one man and then, the other. "I appreciate the offer. It would be nice to sleep under a roof. I've been on the road since Monday."

Jim stood. "Good. Then it's settled. Why don't you go get your stuff off the bike and Blair will round up some bedding, while I clear the table?"

The young man stood and headed to the door. He paused, his hand on the knob, and looked over at the two men standing behind him.

"Thanks, guys." His voice had a sad quality to it. JD quickly left the loft, closing the door behind him.

Blair turned to Jim, his mouth open to say something. Jim held up his hands.

"I know, Sandburg. Kid is too quiet. Something's happened. I think he needs someone to talk to and that's why he's here." Blair nodded in agreement.

"Jim? He said he was on vacation. Why don't we take him with us? If he needs to talk, it’ll be easier if he’s relaxed."

Jim shook his head and Blair started to argue his point. Ellison gripped the smaller man's shoulders. "I was shaking my head at the fact that we're beginning to think alike. I was going to suggest the same thing to you."

"That's a scary thought-you and me thinking alike."

Jim cuffed him on the head. The detective turned. "Blair, go get some bedding for the kid. I'll clear up."

The two men had finished their chores when there was a light knock at the door and the young ATF agent reentered the loft.

JD put his duffel bag down near the couch, as Blair came down the stairs.

"Hey, JD, we're going to go camping and fishing for a few days. If you don't have definite plans, why don't you come with us?"

JD started shaking his head. Jim walked up and lay a hand on the slender shoulder.

"I wish you would go. After about two days, I'm ready to toss his ass in the water and leave him out there." Jim pointed over at the gap-mouthed grad student. "It's only a for a few days and you haven't lived until you've tasted fish like Blair cooks over a open fire."

"I would like to, but you guys were.."

Blair rubbed his hands together. "All right. He says he'd like to go. The rest of the sentence does not matter. We really would enjoy the company. You can catch us up on Josiah and Vin. Jim's a great guy, but not much of a conversationalist. It will be nice to have someone to talk to while he's out fishing."

JD studied the pair. What he saw convinced him they were sincere in wanting him to accompany them. He smiled and nodded.

"Well, good. We leave at six, so we had better hit the showers. JD? You want to go first?"

The hazel eyes rounded. "There's a subtle hint." A sniff of his shirt drew a frown from the young man. "Man. Yeah, I best go first. Thanks."

He grabbed his bag and headed for the bathroom. When the door closed, Jim told Blair, "I'm going upstairs and call Tanner. You keep him occupied if he comes out."

"Sure thing, Jim. Ask Vin to tell Josiah 'hi' for me."

Jim smiled as he headed up the stairs to his bedroom.



"Hey Slick. How are you doing?"

"Capt'n? Is that you?"

Jim chuckled. "Yeah, Vin. And call me Jim."

"I keep trying, but I can't seem make myself do it. And I'm doing fine." Vin told the older man. "So, how are you?"

"Good. Good. I was worried about calling this late. I didn't wake you did I?"

"No. I'm still at work. We just finished a case and got back just a few minutes ago."

"So, everything go okay?"

Vin frowned as the conversation drew out. "Yeah, we got the bad guys and the goods and nobody got hurt."

Jim hesitated as he tried to figure out how to phrase his next question.

Vin solved his problem. "Capt'n, I'm glad to hear from ya, but I got a feeling you didn't call to talk about our cases. So, is everything alright? You okay? Blair?"

"Yeah, we're fine, Slick. Thanks for asking. In fact, we're leaving on a camping trip first thing in the morning." Jim listened to the background noise over the phone line. He could hear the other team members talking and moving around.

"Capt'n Ellison? Hello?"

"Oh, damn. Sorry, Slick. I got distracted. The reason I called is to see if everything is okay down know, with the team." Jim stumbled over his words. He hated to interfere in someone else's business.

Vin Tanner frowned again. He saw Chris Larabee watching and waved him off. Chris turned and entered his office. Vin turned his attention back to the phone. "Everything is fine here. We're all healthy. The cases are all working good. Is there something I should know?"

"No. I.. I told you Blair and I are going camping tomorrow. Well, we have an extra person going with us. JD showed up at the door a while ago."

Tanner's feet hit the floor as he sat up straight. He glanced around to see who was around. He found Chris' eyes on him and waved him over. "Is he okay?"

Jim frowned at the worry evident in Tanner's voice. "He's fine, Vin. He told us he was on vacation. Is he in some kind of trouble? Do you need to come up here?"

The last thing Jim wanted was to end up in the middle of some type of investigation with a rouge ATF agent.

"No, he's not, Capt'n. Sorry I gave ya that impression. Can you hang on for a minute?" Vin asked. Chris had arrived at his desk and stood with an inquiring look on his face.

"No problem, Slick." Jim waited. He listened to Vin as he spoke to Larabee.

Vin held the phone away as he talked to the team leader. "Chris, this is Jim Ellison. He says JD just showed up at his place in Cascade."

Chris straightened. "Is he alright?"

Vin nodded his head, as Jim wondered why everyone was worried by the boy's well-being.

"Jim's wanting to know what's going on. He knows something is wrong."

Chris extended his hand. "You mind if I talk to him?"

"Sure, Chris. Hang on a sec." Vin brought the phone back up. "Cap, you still there?"

"Yeah, Vin, I'm here. Let me talk to Chris."

Vin smiled. He figured that Ellison had been listening. "Here ya go, Chris" he stated as he handed cell phone to Chris.

"Detective Ellison, thanks for calling." Chris said.

"Please, call me Jim. Blair and I got the feeling that JD was upset, nervous. Just wanted to make sure things were all right." Jim informed the other man.

"Well, first, let me just state that JD is in no trouble. His worry stems from personal problems. I really don't feel that I can talk about it without his permission. I have to say, though, that since he showed up there, he must want to talk. I know that he spoke with Josiah after he left here."

"Blair and I got that impression. As I was telling Slick, we're headed to the mountains tomorrow for some vacation time of our own. We've invited him to go with us. I'm thinking that he's wanting to talk to Sandburg, especially if he talked to Sanchez before he headed here."

"That's the same thing I was thinking. JD talked about Blair after we met last year. I know that he was really impressed with him, with his ability to adapt to his situation."

Jim had to chuckle. "Sandburg definitely can adapt. He's had a lot to adapt to since I've met him. He hasn't lost any of his zest for life, though."

"Yes, we noticed that. He's a good man. I believe JD is that type of man, but his world is.. well, he's on shaky ground right now. Could be he's looking to get some advice from Blair."

Jim agreed. "Sandburg is a good choice. He's smart and a good talker, but he's also an excellent listener. I didn't tell JD that I was calling, so I 'll just pretend that I haven't talked to you. We'll be leaving tomorrow morning, early. How about I give you a call when we get back? Maybe, by then the boy will ready to come home."

"I'll look forward to that call. Thanks, Jim. It's a good thing you and Blair are doing foe the boy. He's a good kid. I'd hate to lose him."

After talking a few minutes more, the two men hang up. Jim heard Blair talking to JD. He headed down the stairs.

"About time for you boys to get to bed. I'm leaving at six whether you two are ready or not."

The two younger men looked at him and then at each other. They burst out laughing, but headed for their respective beds. Jim nodded and killed the lights. As he headed back up the stairs, he called out a 'good night'. From below, he heard a call from behind the French doors.

"Good night, Dad."

A giggle rose from the living room couch. Jim simply ignored them and went to bed.

In Denver, Chris turned and found himself looking at the five remaining members of the team.

"JD's fine. He's going fishing."

Buck turned and started for the door. Chris' voice stopped him before he got there.

"Buck." The tall man turned toward his oldest friend. "He's fine, Buck. He needs time."

Buck turned away as he spoke. "I need to see him, talk to him." He did not hear Chris as he approached and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"He'll be back, Buck."

Chris felt a small shudder under his hand as Buck whispered. "How can you be sure, Chris?"

"Because I know JD."

"I hope you're right."

Larabee smiled as Buck turned to him. "Well, if I'm not, we'll go get him."

Buck, for the first time that week, smiled. The rest of the team gathered round in a show of support. Their eyes expressed that support even though no one spoke. They were a team of seven and they would fight hard to keep that team intact.

+ + + + + + +

Jim opened his eyes and listened. Something woke him-a sound. He cocked his head. He heard mumbling from below. Rising, he looked over the balcony and watched the young ATF agent as he tossed and turned on the small couch, obviously caught up in a nightmare.

JD knocked on the doorframe. "Chris, you got a minute?"

Larabee glanced up at the young agent. "Sure, JD. Come on in. I’ll just be a minute." Chris looked back down at the report he was reading. His head came up at the sound of the door clicking shut.

JD stood, his hands jammed into his pockets and his eyes roving around the room. He became aware of the team leader watching him and blushed. "Sorry, Chris"

Larabee had sat back in the chair, his fingers interlaced across his stomach. He wore a frown. "What’s the problem, JD?"

The young man approached the desk. "Chris , I.. ahh..well.." he stammered. JD closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Chris, I have a problem. It’s Buck."

Chris sat up. The two men were best friends and any problem they had ever had, they had worked out between them. Chris couldn’t imagine anything that they could not work out together. His hands indicated the chair and the boy fell into it heavily.

"Chris, he told me it wasn’t any of my business, but he’s my partner and friend. I can’t just ignore it."

Chris watched as the agent struggled with his dilemma. Finally, JD looked up and spoke.

"Chris, Buck has a mole on his back that’s been bleeding for over a week. I’ve asked, begged, everything I could think of to get him to have it looked at. He says that it irritated by his holster, but I don’t think that’s it. I thought, maybe, since ya’ll been friends for so long, you could talk to him." JD paused as Chris lifted the receiver of the phone and dialed an extension.

"Can you come in here for a moment?"

JD looked at Chris, his eyes widened. The door opened and he relaxed when he saw Nathan walk in.

"What’s up, Chris?" the team medic asked. He patted JD on the shoulder as he walked to the corner of the big desk.

"JD, you want to tell him?"

JD cleared his throat and told Nathan the same thing he had told Larabee.

"What do ya think, Nate?"

Nathan shook his head. "Sounds like it needs to looked at and now, Chris. I’m sure we’re all thinking the same thing. It could be skin cancer. Sooner it’s looked at, the better."

JD jumped out of his chair. "And that is exactly what I been trying to tell him."

Chris nodded. "Was Buck at his desk when you came in Nathan?"

The tall black man nodded. Larabee stood and headed to the door.

JD shook his head. "He ain’t going to like this, Chris. He’s going to think we’re ganging up on him."

"And he’ll be right." Larabee growled. Opening the door, he yelled, "Buck. My office, now."

He turned, not waiting for a response, and sat back down.

Wilmington opened the door and leaned in. He knew what was coming and he didn’t like it at all. "Yeah?’

Chris motioned him to come in. Buck threw a glare at his roommate.

"Buck, you got something you want to tell me?"


"Buck," Nathan said as he glanced at Chris. "You need to have it looked at."

Wilmington decided to play dumb and shrugged his shoulders. "What?"

Chris folded his arms across his chest. "Buck."

"Dammit, Chris. It ain’t nobody’s business but mine. The kid had no right to bring you into this."

JD’s face burned. "No right? I’m your friend, Buck. And friends look out for each other."

Buck stepped up the smaller man and glared down at him. "I told you I’d take care of it. But, no, you got to go running to Chris and get him all worried about nothing."

"And how do you know it’s nothing? You have it checked? No! Cause you’re scared what they’ll say, so you wait. And that’s the worst thing you can do, cause it’ll just get worse. It’s not going to just go away, Buck. You need to get it checked "

"And you need to mind your own business and stay the hell out of mine." Buck leaned over the shorter man trying to intimidate him with his taller frame. "You ain’t my keeper, kid."

"No, I ain’t. But you need one. Cause you’ll keep putting off going to the doctor and then it’ll reach a point where you can’t ignore it anymore and you’ll have to go. Only, by then, it’ll be too late. If it is cancer, it’ll have spread and there won’t be anything they can do. And who’ll be around to help? Me. I’ll be the one driving ya to the doctor. And I’ll be the one sitting with you through treatments and holding your head while you throw up, cleaning up when you don’t make it to the bathroom." JD’s voice rose in volume as he went on. "Yeah, and how will that animal magnetism work when you get skinny as a rail with skin hanging off your bones and your hair falling out? How do you think you’ll do then, Mr. ‘Ladies Man’?"

Buck stared at the young man in front of him. Nathan hung his head. Chris was silent. He knew it took a lot to get through to Buck sometimes. The normally jovial boy being upset with him might be enough to shake the big man from his complacent attitude.

The boy continued. "Who do you think is going to be paying the bills and filling out forms while you’re laid up in bed, too sick and tired to do anything? You think the laundry and shopping will just do themselves? That the house won’t need cleaning because you’re sick? Who’s going to be the one holding your hand and wiping your face as you try to catch your breath after a coughing spell, sweat pouring off ya from simply trying to breathe?"

JD was wound up and, suddenly, Chris could see the crash coming. He rose and stepped around the desk to the boy’s shoulder, but he didn’t react fast enough.

"Who’s the one that’s going to be sitting with you as you finally give up, telling you that it’s okay and it’s time to rest and that I’ll always love ya, Mama…" JD’s voice caught in his throat as he realized what he had said. The hazel eyes grew wide and the pale skin paled even more.

He swallowed. His words came out as a whisper. "I won’t do it. Not again. I won’t, I can’t. Not again. No." JD staggered back.

Buck had stood, silent and unmoving. "JD, I.." He reached out to the boy he looked on as a kid brother. How could he have not seen what the boy was thinking, what he was going through.

But JD was beyond reasonable thought. The words that he had spoken slammed around in his head. He had to get away. He slapped the offered hand away. "No" he whispered. "You’re right. I’m not your keeper, or your son or brother or father. I’m just this guy that rents a room from you, that watches your back when we go out on cases. Anyone can do that."

The stricken boy turned to the team leader. "I’ve got two weeks personal time. I’ll be taking those now." Not waiting, he headed for the door.

Chris had to get a handle on the situation before JD walked out.

"You can’t just tell me you’re taking off without some notice, Dunne." JD never slowed. He grabbed the door handle and yanked the door open. He wasn’t surprised to see the three remaining members of Team Seven standing there. They were gathered close to the closed door and jumped as it was torn open by the youngest member of the team.

"JD. Don’t you walk out of here." Chris was angry with Buck, but he turned that anger toward the young man walking away from him. "You leave without approval and you don’t need to come back." As the words left Larabee’s mouth, he knew that he made a mistake. The youth spun around and stormed back to the blond.

"Really? Well, that’s just fine with me. I’m tired of being treated like some stupid kid. I’m young, not a kid. I do my job. If that’s not enough, too bad. Or, maybe, what you want IS a ‘kid’. Well, then, here ya go." JD walked over to his desk and, with one swipe of his arm, cleared it of everything but his computer. He then reached back and, removing his gun and ATF ID case, he placed them on the now clear desk. "You can do whatever you want with these and that junk" indicating the items that now littered the floor. "I don’t need them or want them." He once again headed for the door.

He found his path blocked by Larabee. "Son, I .."

"I ain’t your son" he snarled. And the young agent stepped around Larabee and flung the door open. He didn’t stop at the elevator, but made for the stairs. Once in the stairwell, he started to run, not slowing until he reached the garage and his motorcycle. He jammed the helmet onto his head and fastened it. The engine roared to life with the push of a button and he tore off through the garage. As he reached the exit, in the mirror he caught sight of Buck Wilmington as he exited the elevator and scanned the underground parking area. The mustached man’s head turned as the motorcycle reached the exit and the electronic arm rose. JD saw him wave his arms and yell, but never heard the words as he glanced both ways and pulled out, roaring down the street and away from the life he had known for the last eighteen months.

Jim watched as the boy settled down and fell into a deep slumber. He shook his head and went back to bed. Hopefully, Sandburg would be able to help the kid with whatever problem was bothering him.

+ + + + + + +

Jim rose the next morning to the smell of coffee brewing. He got up and dressed and then headed down the stairs. He found JD sitting at the table, reading the paper and drinking from a quart of milk. The young man looked up as the detective approached.

"Morning, detective."

"Morning, agent." Jim replied.

JD smiled, blushing. "Good morning, Jim."

"JD." Jim entered the kitchen and poured some coffee. "Sandburg make an appearance yet?"

"No, I haven't heard a sound from his room. I hope you don't mind that I made coffee. I figured since there was no milk, you were planning on coffee this morning. I did borrow your keys and go get some milk and the paper from home." JD looked down and then took a big gulp of milk.

"Nuh, that's fine. We usually have milk, but since we're going to be gone, we didn't get any after breakfast yesterday." Jim walked over to the French doors and knocked-loudly. "Sandburg! Up and at 'em, or me and JD are leaving without you in twenty-five minutes."

Jim strolled over to the table and joined the young ATF agent. "So, anything happening in Denver?"

JD flipped back to the front page, "Let's see. City council is arguing over the planning of a new park. The school board wants to build a new high school, but the teachers want a raise. The zoo had a new baby gorilla-picture on 7c." He flipped through the paper reading headlines as he went. He paused at the headline on the second front page the paper featured. Jim heard the young heart increase in speed as the breathing caught in the young throat.

"Something wrong, JD?"

The boy looked up at the Sentinel. "Oh, sorry. No, just this headline. 'ATF agent killed in plane crash.' Not anyone I know. He was vacationing and he and a friend apparently crashed in the mountains. Sad. He was only trying to relax and he gets killed." The boy looked up with tears in his young eyes. Those eyes had seen a lot of pain in their few years, much as Blair had seen in his short time with Jim. Yet both of them remained gentle and open souls, willing to believe the best in everyone and everything. It made Ellison glad that the pain had not worn away those gentle souls that he knew dwelled in the bodies of the young men.

"I never think about something happening on vacation; even though it has-to all of us. Just doesn't seem fair somehow."

"Not much fair about life. You have to make the most of the good and get over the bad. I'm just getting around to realizing that. "

"And it's only taken two years of hard work to get him to open up to this revelation." Blair Sandburg tossed out as he entered the room. Blair smiled at JD as he walked to the bathroom.

"Fifteen minutes, Chief!"

Sandburg flipped a hand over his shoulder. "Yeah, yeah, right. I heard you.."

JD wore a bittersweet smile as he listened to the banter of the two roommates. He missed the morning arguments that he and Buck had. His eyes turned back to the paper and the article that caught his attention. What if something happened to Buck, or any of the guys? He couldn't stand it if something happened and he wasn't there. But, neither could he stand by and watch Buck go through what his mom had endured. He didn't have the strength; or maybe it was a lack of courage. 'Give me a prep with a gun any day' JD thought to himself.

Ellison caught the look on the young agent's face. He wondered again what had brought the young man to their door. He hoped that Blair would be able to help the boy. Jim knew his guide well and felt confident in his ability to do just that.

Blair ran out of the bathroom and back to his room as Jim and JD cleaned up the front room. JD had repacked his sleeping bag and personal items. There wasn't much to pack as traveling by motorcycle limited the amount you could carry. Then the two carried the camping down to the truck. Jim moved around the room checking locks, thermostat, turning the water heater down. JD had gathered the garbage and carried it chute at the end of the hall. He returned to find Jim hefting a large backpack onto his shoulder.

"Chief, six o'clock. Let's go." Jim winked at JD as they heard the grad student banging around in his room. His voice floated into the front room.

"All right, all right. I'm coming." Blair stumbled out of the room. He turned and kicked a pair of sweatpants back into the room and pulled the doors closed. He turned to the two men standing at the door. "I have three minutes to six. You said six."

"Your clock must be slow, Chief. We can correct that when we get back." Jim reached for the doorknob as Blair started across the room. He was halfway to the door when he noticed the motorcycle sitting on a tarp in the corner. Jim paused at the door. He saw Blair look at the motorcycle. Ellison threw up one hand.

"What? We can't leave it in the street for five days." He entered the hallway.

JD shrugged his shoulders. "I told him it would be okay for a while."

Blair clasped the young man's shoulder, shaking his head. "If he didn't want to do it, he wouldn't have offered."

JD nodded as they headed out the door. They joined the tall man who waited impatiently at the elevator door. "Are you children ready? I'm getting hungry."

The two younger men laughed as they all entered the elevator and left for their five day vacation.


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