Wall of Water
Crossover with The Sentinel
"You want us to what?" Chris Larabee crossed his arms across his chest and glared at AD Travis. "You know what happens to us every time we go on vacation."
Travis just shrugged. "It's not up to me, Chris. Your team needs some down time, and it's out of my hands. You've got two weeks; use it and try to come back in one piece."
Chris walked back down the hallway towards Team Seven's offices, his glare still firmly fixed to his face. There was a good reason why his team never took vacations. For some reason, they seemed to always get into more trouble on vacation than they did when working on a case. That was why they all dreaded time off so much, well except for JD. He always managed to have fun no matter what else happened.
Six heads shot up when Chris walked into their offices, but Vin was the only one to speak. "What'd Travis want, cowboy?"
Chris took a deep breath. "Well, boys, he's sending us on vacation." He held up his hands as the six men all started speaking at once. "There's nothing any of us can do about it except try to survive it. Travis has even rented us a cabin up in the woods to try to keep us out of trouble." He sent a pointed glance at the three youngest agents.
All three men bristled. "Mr. Larabee, it is neither my fault, nor is it Mr. Tanner's or Mr. Dunne's fault that unfortunate circumstances seem to linger near our presence. Trouble could just as easily be dogging yours or Mr. Wilmington's footsteps, you know."
Everyone turned to stare at Ezra who simply stared calmly right back. "Ez, we're not the ones that got kidnapped by those drug runners." Buck grinned when he saw Ezra's cheeks redden slightly.
"And what about that time the three of you got caught in that blizzard? Ya took ten years off my life with that stunt." While Chris was frowning, his eyes twinkled when he saw how uncomfortable the three youngest agents were looking.
"It ain't our fault, cowboy. Stuff like that just kinda happens."
Chris grinned. "And that, Vin, is why Travis rented us this cabin. Even you three shouldn't be able to get into trouble up there."
+ + + + + + +
"Captain, you've gotta be kidding me. Sandburg and I can't go on vacation. Have you forgotten what happened the last time?" Jim Ellison crossed his arms over his chest, trying to out-glare Simon.
"No, Jim, I haven't forgotten last time. But, the brass still want you and Sandburg on vacation for two weeks." Simon spread his hands over his desk. "There's nothing either of us can do about it except live with it. And that is what I expect you two to do. Is that clear, Detective?"
Jim sighed, but nodded. "Yeah, Simon, it's clear. But let's both hope I don't have to tell you I told you so."
Simon shook his head. "I always hope that, but it never helps." He held up a hand as Jim started to speak. "Look, Jim, there's a nice cabin down in the mountains in Colorado. I don't think even you and Sandburg can get into trouble down there. Go, do some fishing, and come back in one piece, please."
Jim grinned as he rose to his feet. "We'll try, Simon, but we make no promises." He walked out of Simon's office and headed for his desk, swatting Blair on the back of the head as he sat in his chair.
"Hey, man, what was that for?"
Jim just grinned. "That was for whatever you're gonna do to get us in trouble while we're on vacation."
Blair was only silent for a moment as what Jim had said finally registered. "Vacation? Why's Simon sending us on vacation? He knows what happens to us when we have time off."
"Chief, stuff doesn't happen to us, it happens to you. You attract trouble like no one else I've ever met." He grinned as Blair blushed.
"Hey, it's not my fault, Jim. Can I help it if trouble seems to like me?" He shook his head as Jim's grin widened. "Never mind, don't answer that."
"Face it, chief. We're just gonna have to survive this one vacation. How hard could it be?"
+ + + + + + +
The seven men walked into the large cabin, dumping their luggage in a heap by the door. They would sort it out later after they decided who was rooming where. A quick exploration of the cabin showed a total of five bedrooms, each with two single beds. It was pretty much a given that Buck and JD would share one, leaving the other five men trying to decide who else would be forced to share as well. The rather loud argument was interrupted by a piercing whistle.
"All right, ladies, no more arguing." Chris crossed his arms and grinned maliciously. "I'll settle this right now; Vin and Ez can share."
"Surely, Mr. Larabee, it would make more sense for yourself and Mr. Tanner to share accommodations. I do not share my space well."
Chris's grin just widened. "Then this'll be good practice for ya, Ez. I'm the Team Leader, so I get a room to myself. After everything you people put me through, I think I deserve it."
Vin smiled as he smacked Ezra's shoulder. "He's got a point, Ez. 'Sides, it won't be that bad sharin' a room with me. I'll be so quiet you'll never know I'm there." He suddenly leaned over and whispered something in the Southerner's ear.
Ezra suddenly smiled, his green eyes lighting up. "In that case, I shall be more than happy to abide with you while we are here, Mr. Tanner." He glanced slyly at the others as he and Vin reached for their bags.
Chris frowned at the two agents, dreading whatever they now had planned. He jerked his head up as he heard another vehicle pulling up in front of the cabin. He held one finger to his lips, signaling the others to stay quiet as he made his way slowly to one of the windows. Through the glass he could see two men exiting a pickup truck; one was tall with a military bearing while the other was shorter with dark curly hair. The shorter man was practically bouncing while the other man was standing nearly perfectly still, his eyes trained on the cabin. "We've got company, boys. Look alive, just in case."
While the rest of the team was reaching for their weapons, Ezra's attention was caught by a note sitting on the table by a lamp. He sighed as he read it, then turned to the other men. "That is unnecessary, gentlemen. It seems that the gentlemen out there are to be sharing our cabin for the duration of our vacation."
Chris turned away from the window and pinned Ezra with a cold glare. "What did you just say, Ezra?"
Ezra held up the note. "According to this, we will be sharing our humble lodgings with a Detective Jim Ellison and his partner Blair Sandburg for the next two weeks. Apparently both AD Travis and their captain made arrangements for the use of these facilities, and the owner neglected to tell them of the other."
Chris threw his hands up in the air as the door opened behind him. "That's just perfect. I have enough trouble dealing with the six of you jokers." He flashed a glare at the two newcomers behind him as he grabbed his bags and stalked toward his room. "Don't let them scare you and don't kill them." The door slammed behind him, leaving two men confused and six trying not to laugh.
"Don't mind ol' Chris. He's just mad cause we were all forced to go on vacation." Buck stuck out his hand. "I'm Buck Wilmington." He proceeded to introduce the others then pointed toward the closed bedroom door. "That was Chris Larabee, our team leader. I'd just steer clear of him cause he's gonna be in a bad mood the whole two weeks."
Blair frowned. "Why would he be in a bad mood? I thought you guys were on vacation?"
Buck grinned as he swatted JD on the back of the head. "That's all the reason ol' Chris needs. Our three youngest here just get into way too much trouble on vacations."
While the three ATF agents in question all glared at Buck, Jim laughed. "We've got the same problem with Blair here. He's just a trouble magnet."
Buck groaned theatrically. "Just what we needed, another boy to keep rescuein'. Wait till Chris hears this, he'll blow a gasket."
Ezra and Vin reached for their bags once more and headed for their room, turning back to the others when they reached the doorway. "Mr. Wilmington, if you continue to make these unfair accusations, Mr. Tanner and I shall be forced to seek revenge in a most unconventional manner."
Buck just laughed, partly at Ezra and partly at the expressions on Jim and Blair's faces. "Ya don't scare me with your fancy words, Ez. You and junior there will need to be rescued before the week's out, I guarantee it."
Vin and Ezra glanced at each other, their faces completely blank. Then as one they turned back to Buck and stuck their tongues out at him before retreating to their room, the rest of the team's laughter ringing out behind them.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra blinked slowly, trying to decide what had forced him awake. He raised his head, appalled to discover that the room he shared with Vin was still dark. He squinted at the clock by his bed and groaned when he saw that it was only four-thirty in the morning. He finally realized what had awakened him when he felt someone poking him in the back.
"Mr. Tanner, is there some reason why you felt it necessary to awaken me at this unholy hour of the morning?"
The Texan chuckled. "Yeah, Ez. I figured you'd wanna be somewhere else when the others wake up."
Ezra sat up, staring at Vin through narrowed eyes. "What have you done, Mr. Tanner, and why would our compatriots think that I was involved?"
Vin just grinned unrepentantly at the undercover agent. "Well, I might have hid all the coffee. And I might have snuck into Chris's room and taken all his black shirts." His grin widened at the shocked look on Ezra's normally impassive face. "And I might have replaced 'em with some of your fancy stuff."
Ezra took a deep breath, silently questioning the Texan's sanity. "Mr. Larabee was already in a horrid mood. Why did you take it upon yourself to make it worse, and to frame me in so doing?"
"Cause Chris needs ta lighten up a little. 'Sides, if'n we're not here to blame, Chris'll probably take it all out on Bucklin for startin' the whole thing yesterday." Vin kept looking at Ezra, his blue eyes wide and his lower lip almost stuck out in a pout. "Come on, Ez. Don't spoil all the fun."
Ezra sighed and rolled his eyes as he pulled himself out of bed. He grabbed a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and slipped them on, something telling him that he wouldn't want to be wearing anything nice for whatever Vin had planned. Once he was dressed, he stood facing the Texan with his hands on his hips. "All right, Mr. Tanner. What did you have in mind?"
Five minutes later, the two agents made their way silently into the main living area of the cabin. They froze when they saw Blair Sandburg sitting on the couch, typing on his laptop. He looked up and grinned when he saw the agents, each man carrying his shoes. "I didn't realize you guys had a curfew."
"Nope. We're just gettin' outa here before the fur starts ta fly. 'Sides, I hear there's a beautiul waterfall around here." Vin glanced towards Chris's closed door then back to the anthropologist. "You wanna come with us?"
Blair grinned and began to shut down the laptop. "Sure. Jim can do without me for one day. After all, it is vacation."
The three men headed out of the cabin after leaving a note on the kitchen table. As they disappeared into the thick woods, Jim Ellison opened the door to the bedroom he was sharing with Blair. He glanced at the note on the table, smiling as he read it. He turned his head, catching Chris's eyes as the blond walked out of his own bedroom, dressed only in a pair of jeans.
"Where'd the troublemakers head off to, Ellison?"
Jim smiled. "They went for a hike in the woods, looking for some waterfall. Says they'll be back before dark."
Chris crossed his arms, but a smile was twisting his lips. "Guess they decided to get out of the line of fire after they stole my clothes. I just hope we don't have to go rescue them before this trip's over."
Jim laughed. "You and me both, Larabee. You and me both."
+ + + + + + +
It took the three men over an hour of hiking to reach the river that fed the waterfall. The current was rapid and it was obvious that the river was quite deep. Vin knelt on the back and shivered when he stuck his hand in the freezing water. "Well, fellas, we found the river. Now we just gotta find a way down to the falls."
Ezra sighed. "Are you certain that all of this is necessary to escape Mr. Larabee's wrath?"
Vin and Blair both grinned at the Southerner. "Course it is, Ez. Sides, ya can't tell me ya ain't having fun."
Ezra opened his mouth to answer, but turned back to the woods they had just exited instead. "Did either of you gentlemen hear that noise?"
Blair frowned. "What noise, Ezra?"
A loud growling echoed from the trees, and the three men's eyes widened in fear. "That noise, Mr. Sandburg."
Vin began searching the riverbank as the growling grew closer, looking for somewhere to run. "Uh, fellas, I think we're in trouble. There's nowhere to go except in the river."
Suddenly, the choice of where to go was taken from them as a large tawny cougar leapt at them from the trees. There was a large splash as the men fell backwards into the river only a few scant inches shy of the cougar's claws. Vin quickly pulled himself through the water to the surface, panicking when he couldn't see either Ezra or Blair. As he was being swept downstream, he was relieved when two heads broke the surface nearby.
However, Vin's relief quickly turned to terror when he saw where the river was carrying them. He tried to swim towards the others but the current was too strong. Vin knew he was running out of time and took a deep breath to shout a warning to the other two men. "We're goin' over the falls!"
Almost the instant the words were out of his mouth, Vin felt the ground drop out from under him as he plummeted over the falls. The water pushed him back against the cliff-face and found its way into his mouth and nose, making it difficult for him to breathe. He felt the sharp rocks scraping his back until one struck his head, sending him into unconsciousness.
Ezra and Blair saw Vin disappear over the edge only a moment before they followed him over. Ezra somehow twisted in the air as he fell and he slammed into a large rock, cracking some of his ribs. The pain took his breath away as he fell, then dropped into a large pool behind the waterfall. He was only vaguely aware of Blair surfacing next to him. All his attention was focused on the form of the sharpshooter, lying face down in the water.
The undercover agent ignored the flaring pain in his ribs as he swam over to Vin and pulled his head out of the water. He glanced around, looking for some dry land to sit the sharpshooter on. He felt Blair swim up next to him, taking part of Vin's weight. They finally found the edge of the pool and dragged Vin up onto the rocks. The sharpshooter coughed up water, but remained unconscious.
Ezra pulled himself up next to Vin, wincing as his cracked ribs protested the movement. He finally took the time to look around, noticing for the first time that they were in a cave behind the waterfall. The only light came through the falling water, making everything shimmer.
Blair sat on the rocks next to Ezra, noticing how the agent had one arm pressed against his side. "Jim told me that something bad was gonna happen, but I didn't listen. Now he's gonna kill me."
Ezra shivered, his wet clothes and hair making him quite cold. "Well, you shall not be alone, Blair. I fear that Mr. Larabee is going to kill the two of us as well. Assuming that we make it out of here alive."
+ + + + + + +
Back at the cabin, Josiah and Nathan were both reading while Buck and JD were playing a board game that they had found in one of the closets. Jim and Chris were each sitting silently on the couch holding a steaming cup of coffee.
Buck glanced up from his game when he noticed the two men shivering. "You two feelin' okay? There's no way you can be cold in here."
Chris just glared at him. "Just shut your mouth, Bucklin. I'm freezing over here." He rose to his feet, determined to find a warmer shirt to wear. He nearly dropped his coffee mug when he felt the pain radiating from his side.
Nathan saw the blond wince and was on his feet in an instant. "What's wrong, Chris, and don't try to lie to me."
"Other than the fact that it feels like the arctic in here, I stood up and my side started throbbing." He frowned as Nathan helped him sit back down, keeping his arm tight against his side. "Feels almost like broken ribs, Nate."
Nathan pulled the blond's sweatshirt up and ran his hands gently across his sides. Even though Chris hissed in pain when he put pressure on his ribs, Nathan couldn't find any evidence of anything wrong. "I don't know what to tell you, Chris. Everything looks fine to me."
Chris batted the medic's hand away when he tried to check for a fever. "I'm not sick, Nate, I'm just freezing cold. Don't tell me you guys can't feel it." The glare on his face dared any of the others to argue.
JD ignored the unspoken warning. "It feels pretty warm in here to me, Chris." He just looked up innocently when Chris glared at him.
Jim turned an unbelieving look at the young agent. "You've got to be joking. Larabee's right; it's freezing in here." His attention shifted when he caught a glimpse of something dark and furry slinking around the room. He glanced back up, meeting Chris's wide green eyes. "You saw that too, didn't you?"
The other four agents looked from Jim to Chris in confusion as the blond slowly nodded. "Big, black cats, right?"
Jim started to nod, then caught himself. "Cats? Not just one?"
"Nope, Ellison. I saw two; one of 'em's behind the couch and the other's in the kitchen." Chris's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Now tell me why I'm seeing black panthers running around in here, Ellison."
Jim sighed and glanced around the room at the other agents. "None of the rest of you saw anything, did you?" He wasn't surprised when they all shook their heads. He launched into a quick explanation of Sentinels and Guides, trying to be brief while still covering all of the important facts. When he finished, everyone but Chris was staring at him like he had gone insane.
Chris just looked at Jim, a serious expression on his face. "They're in trouble, aren't they?"
"That would be a safe bet, Larabee." Jim shivered again and pulled his jacket tighter. "I've only seen the panther a couple of times before, and it was never good."
Chris was about to speak when he and Jim both looked up at the ceiling. A moment later, a crash of thunder sounded followed by the sound of large raindrops hitting the roof of the cabin. Chris could see both panthers becoming upset as they stalked into the living room and straight towards him and Jim. "I think we ought to hurry, Ellison."
Jim nodded as he rose to his feet. "Let's get some gear and get moving. Somehow, I don't think we have a lot of time."
Chris agreed, but the other four agents were still sitting silently, all of them staring at the two men like they were crazy. "Boys, ya don't question it when Vin gets one of his feelings. Well, I got one now." His green eyes narrowed. "Are you coming, or do Ellison and I have to rescue them ourselves?"
The four men looked at each other and all rose to their feet. "We're coming, Chris. Heaven knows our young brothers will probably need all the help they can get." Josiah just nodded at the smile Chris sent him.
"Well, ladies, let's move out. We've got friends to save."
+ + + + + + +
Ezra shivered violently as he slowly pulled off his wet t-shirt, wincing as the movement pulled on his broken ribs. He slid the wadded up shirt under Vin's head, trying to make the sharpshooter more comfortable. With the freezing water cascading over the opening to the small cave, very little heat could enter. He glanced at Blair who was sitting on the other side of Vin's prone body. The younger man had his arms wrapped around himself, trying to keep what little body heat he had left.
"You would be warmer if you removed your wet shirt, Mr. Sandburg."
Blair looked up, then glanced back down at himself with an embarrassed smile. "Guess you're right, Ezra. As often as I get into things like this, you'd think I'd remember something that basic." He quickly pulled off the two shirts he was wearing and offered them to Ezra. "They might make Vin more comfortable."
Ezra took the shirts and slid them under Vin's head along with his own. "Thank you, Mr. Sandburg."
Blair grinned even as he began shivering again. "Considering the trouble we've managed to get into, I think you can call me Blair."
Ezra smiled, trying to ignore the pain in his side. He looked down when he heard Vin moan. "Vin, can you hear me?"
Blue eyes blinked open for a moment, slowly focusing on Ezra. "Ez, what happened?"
"We went over the waterfall. Do you remember?"
Vin frowned before slowly nodding. "Yeah, I think so. Where are we?" He suddenly winced as the pain in his head sharpened.
Ezra carefully shifted the wet shirts under the Texan's head. "It seems that Lady Luck was not all together with us, as we are in a cave behind the waterfall." He paused, catching the faint sound of thunder over the crashing of the water. "And it seems that it is about to begin raining."
Vin snorted softly. "Guess they're right after all. When it rains it pours."
Ezra rolled his eyes. "Vin, you have been listening to far too many of Mr. Dunne's bad jokes. Please refrain from telling any more of them."
Vin suddenly began shivering, biting back a groan as even that small movement caused his aching head to pound even louder. "I'm cold, Ez."
"I know you are, Vin. We all are." The undercover agent sighed silently and eased himself down on the rock next to the Texan. Taking care to avoid jarring Vin's head, Ezra pulled the younger man back against his chest, trying to keep them both warm in the cave's chill air.
"We're not gonna get outa this one, are we, Ez?" Vin's voice was low and it shook with both the cold and a hint of fear.
Ezra closed his eyes for a moment, then glanced over the Texan to Blair. "We are indeed going to get out of this rather horrid predicament, Vin. Blair is going to swim out of here and retrieve aid."
Blair's mouth dropped open in shock. "You want me to what?" He shook his head violently. "I can't swim out of here. Why don't you go, Ezra?"
The undercover agent shifted on the ground, clenching his teeth when his ribs protested. "Blair, my ribs are broken, and I highly doubt that I could manage to extract myself from this cave. At least, not without drowning first." He moved closer to Vin in an attempt to provide the younger man a little more warmth. "I am afraid that it is all up to you, Blair."
Blair took a deep breath, trying to push the memories of Alex Barnes to the back of his mind. "All right, I'll go. But the two of you had better be here when I get back. I don't want Larabee to kill me."
Ezra flashed Blair a weak smile. "Rest assured, Blair. Vin and I shall indeed still be here when you return with help." He left unvoiced the thought that they might not be in quite the same condition as they were.
+ + + + + + +
Chris and Jim strode single-mindedly through the trees, completely ignoring the rain that was drenching them. The other four men tramped behind them, constantly brushing wet hair out of their eyes. They had been hiking for over an hour, but still had found no trace of the missing men. As yet another tree branch snapped back in his face, Buck finally stopped.
"Pard, do you have any idea where we're going?"
Chris and Jim both halted and the blond glanced around the forest, catching a glimpse of the black panther out of the corner of his eye. It was still leading them downhill and towards the sound of rushing water. "Yep."
Buck crossed his arms, frowning when he felt water dripping into his boots. "You're following big cats that the rest of us can't see, and they're gonna lead you to the young'uns?"
The ladies' man just threw his arms up in defeat. "Fine. Well, let's get going so we can find 'em before they somehow manage to get back to the cabin before we do."
Chris ignored Buck's complaining, suddenly shivering as another wave of cold hit him. His shivering sent a twinge through his side, but he paid it no attention as he noticed Jim struggling to breathe. "You okay, Ellison?"
Jim was bent over as if he had just finished running a marathon, his hands on his knees. He shook his head, not wanting to waste any air on speaking. He was only partially aware of Nathan hurrying to his side and telling him to try to breathe more slowly. After a few long moments, the pressure on his chest lessened and he could once more easily suck air into his lungs.
The detective looked up into five worried faces. "I'm fine now. I just couldn't breathe, almost like being under water."
Chris groaned. "Aw, hell. They said they were heading for the waterfall. I don't even want to think about what kinds of trouble they could have gotten into."
Both men jerked their heads up when they heard the panthers growling. They were so intent on the big cats that they didn't notice the looks of astonishment on the faces of the other four men. "I think they want us to hurry, Larabee."
As the two men began pushing their way through the trees once again, Buck turned to the other agents. "Did you fellas hear what I just heard?"
"You mean the imaginary cats growling?" Nathan nodded. "Yeah, we heard it, too. Looks like there's something to all this Sentinel stuff, after all."
The four agents hurried after the other two men, trying desperately to catch up. The sounds of the rushing water got continually louder as they headed closer to the river. When they finally broke from the trees, the four agents froze as they caught sight of the huge waterfall. Then Nathan's attention went to the two men kneeling by the banks of the river. When he realized that they were hovering over another man, he rushed over.
Jim glanced up as Nathan knelt next to a coughing Blair. "They went over the falls when a cougar attacked them. They wound up in a cave behind the falls, and the other two are still there."
"Not for long." Chris stood, quickly pulling off his shirt and boots.
Nathan grabbed the blond's arm before he could enter the water. "You sure you're up for this, Chris? That water's gonna be awfully cold."
Chris's green eyes were hard as he stared at Nathan. "I don't have a choice, Nate. Vin and Ez are back there, and I'm gonna go get them." He shrugged off the medic's arm and walked out into the freezing water until he was about waist deep. Then he took a deep breath and plunged beneath the surface, heading for the falls.
The frigid water closed over Chris's head as he swam towards the falls. Once he reached them, he broke the surface only long enough to gulp in a lungfull of air before diving back down under the murky water. When he was immediately under the falls, the pain in his side spiked sharply. He tried his best to ignore it, swimming faster to the other side.
Chris's lungs were burning by the time he reached the cave. The instant that his head was above water he began gasping for breath, trying to give his lungs the oxygen they were crying out for. Once he had managed to get his breathing under control, the blond looked around the cave for his missing men. In the dim light, he could just barely make out the outline of two bodies lying on the rocks.
For an instant Chris was afraid that he was too late. Then he heard a sound that nearly made his dripping hair stand on end. Over the noise of the rushing water and his own frantic breathing he could hear the faint but rhythmic beating of two hearts.
The blond pulled himself up onto the rocks next to his unconscious men and slid fingers shaking from both cold and fear to each of their throats. The steady pulses under his fingers exactly matched the ones echoing in his ears. He forced his attention away from the heartbeats that he shouldn't be able to hear when he noticed the shirts under Vin's head.
Chris gently ran his fingers through the sharpshooter's wet hair, wincing in sympathy when he felt the lump behind Vin's ear. When he tried to shift Vin away from Ezra, he was rewarded with a slight groan. Then a pair of pain-filled blue eyes blinked open and focused on his face.
"Hey, cowboy. Glad ya could make it."
Chris smiled. "We haven't even been here for two full days, pard. How do the two of you manage to get into so much trouble?"
"Ask the cougar. He is the vile miscreant who forced us to take the non-traditional route to the bottom of the falls."
At the sound of the undercover agent's thickened drawl Chris and Vin both smiled, relieved that he was awake. Ezra slowly sat up, wincing as pain flared in his ribs. His green eyes narrowed when he saw the blond's arm tight against his own side.
"Are you injured as well, Mr. Larabee?" The normally smooth voice shook as the Southerner shivered.
Chris shook his head automatically, then turned to stare at Ezra as the other man's words registered. "What do you mean, as well?"
Ezra glanced pointedly at the blond's arm. "You are exhibiting signs of pain in your side, and so I assumed that I was not the only unfortunate soul suffering from broken ribs." He shivered again, clenching his teeth as the movement caused only more pain.
As Ezra shivered, Chris could feel the pain in his own side escalate. He finally made the connection and quietly cursed. "Aw, hell." He ignored the confused look Vin sent him, instead concentrating on how to get them out of there. "Do either of you think you can swim outa here on your own?"
Ezra just stared at him blandly. "Mr. Larabee, if Vin and I could extricate ourselves from this predicament, do you not think that we would have already done so?"
"I guess that means no, huh, Ez?" Chris didn't wait for an answer, he simply moved around behind Vin and began slowly pulling the sharpshooter up until Vin was resting back against his chest. "I'll swim Vin out and then I'll come back for ya, okay Ez?"
Ezra nodded, wrapping his arms more securely around his body. "Do try to hurry, Mr. Larabee. I find myself beginning to suffer from a touch of claustrophobia."
Chris grinned, but worry was still evident in his eyes. "You won't even have time to miss me." He turned his attention back to Vin, easing them both back into the water. "Okay, Vin. Take a deep breath and let me do all the work." An instant later, both men disappeared beneath the water's surface, leaving Ezra alone in the cold.
+ + + + + + +
The six men on the riverbank were the picture of frustration. Jim was trying valiantly to get Blair warmer, but both men kept their eyes focused on the spot where they had lost sight of Chris. JD and Buck were pacing the bank while Josiah and Nathan tried to convince Buck not to swim after Chris. All six breathed a sigh of relief when the blond resurfaced with Vin in tow.
Chris swam as quickly as he could towards the shore with Vin gripping his waist. The sharpshooter was almost a dead weight, the pain in his head rendering him nearly immobile. As soon as he was able, Chris stood and swung Vin up over his shoulder. Nathan was waiting for them when they reached the bank and quickly took over looking after Vin.
The blond wasted no time in returning to the water. He absently heard Buck shouting at him to let one of the others retrieve Ezra but paid no attention. He dove under the water and a moment later was surfacing back in the cave. He smiled when he saw Ezra sitting on the edge of the rocks, his arms wrapped around his knees.
"Ya ready to get out of here, Ez?"
Ezra arched an eyebrow. "What do you think, Mr. Larabee?" He grimaced as he slid into the freezing water, only Chris's arm around his waist keeping him afloat. "Please, let us quit this dreary locale."
Chris pulled Ezra more securely against him and flashed him a quick smile. "Take a deep breath, Ez. This is gonna hurt."
Ezra filled his lungs with air only an instant before he was plunged underwater. He felt Chris's arm tighten as it slid upwards from his waist, putting pressure on his broken ribs. The pain forced a gasp through his lips, severely lessening the amount of air he had left. He felt something catch his foot, pulling him out of Chris's arms.
The instant he could no longer feel Chris, Ezra began to panic. The pain in his side merged with the burning in his lungs, leaving him dizzy. He thrashed almost frantically, finally catching hold of Chris's arm as his vision began to go black.
Chris had only barely managed to hold his own panic at bay when he couldn't find Ezra. The darkness combined with the murkiness of the water only allowed the blond to see a few feet in front of him. It was Ezra's struggling heartbeat that lead him to the undercover agent. He felt Ezra grip his arm before he went limp, sending Chris's heart into his throat. He grabbed the now unconscious man and rushed upwards.
Chris's relief when they broke the surface was short lived as he noticed that Ezra was no longer breathing. The blond swam for the shore, calling for Nathan the whole way. He pulled Ezra up into his arms as soon as he could stand in the water and began running. Nathan met him as he reached the bank, the others only staring in horror at the limp form in Chris's arms.
Nathan and Chris immediately began CPR, but Ezra never stirred. After a few minutes, Nathan sat back on his heels, tears stinging his eyes. "It's no use, Chris. He's gone."
Chris never felt the tears that were streaking down his cheeks. He leaned down and whispered in Ezra's ear. "Don't you dare run out on me now, Ez. If you don't come back, I'm just gonna have to go break down the gates of hell to bring you back. Please don't do this, Ez. We need you."
He closed his eyes, leaning his forehead against Ezra's. When he pulled back and opened his eyes, he saw a small wolf licking the Southerner's face. He heard a slight moan only a moment before Ezra rolled onto his side and began violently coughing up water. He never noticed the gasps of astonishment from the others. All of his attention was focused on Ezra as a pair of green eyes slowly blinked open.
"Chris, what happened?" Ezra's voice was rough and he was immediately sent into another fit of coughing.
Chris gently pulled Ezra up so that he could sit as the coughs slowed. "You drowned, Ez. We thought we'd lost you."
Ezra shivered both at what he'd heard and the cold that was still all through him. As Nathan moved closer to examine him the undercover agent glared, but there was no heat behind it. Suddenly, he could hear an echo of Chris's voice in his mind.
'We need you.'
He looked up at Chris, feeling a hint of a connection that hadn't been there before. "I heard you. Somehow, I heard you."
Chris turned to answer Ezra when he caught a glimpse of the black panther, now running through the trees with the wolf. A quick glance at wide green eyes told him that Ezra had seen the phantom animals as well. The blond turned to where Jim and Blair were sitting further back on the bank, lines of pain evident on both of their faces. "We need to talk, Ellison."
Jim glanced at Ezra, trying to push the memories of Alex Barnes back into the dark closet in his mind that they had come from. "Yeah, Larabee. We do."
+ + + + + + +
After a slow hike back to the cabin through the rain, the nine men were finally able to breath easy. Nathan immediately sat Ezra and Vin down to check out their injuries, having already decided that Blair had survived the adventure unscathed. The other men simply stared at Ezra as Nathan wrapped his broken ribs.
Ezra felt his face flushing slightly under the intense scrutiny. "Gentlemen, what is the meaning of all this attention you are paying to my person?"
The other agents all looked at each other, but it was JD who finally spoke. "We thought you were dead, Ez. We're just trying to make sure that you're really not."
The attention quickly focused on JD. One by one the agents began to smile. "Out of the mouths of babes."
JD blushed as he glared at Josiah. "I'm not that young, Josiah."
Chris just stood back and smiled, happy to have all of his men back together. He cocked his head as he heard Ezra's heartbeat for the first time since finding him underwater. He met the undercover agent's eyes and flicked his head in the direction of his bedroom.
Ezra nodded and slowly pulled himself to his feet. He smiled when he felt Chris's supporting arm around his shoulders. He let himself be led into the bedroom and waited silently as Chris made certain that he was comfortable. He glanced back towards the door as it closed, unsurprised to see Jim and Blair in the room as well.
Chris sat on the bed next to Ezra, looking up at Jim. "All right, Ellison. I don't care about the theory behind all this Sentinel stuff, I just want to know what I'm supposed to do now?"
Jim glanced over at Blair, motioning for the younger man to speak. "All five of your senses are enhanced, which is both good and bad. It's good cause you can do all these things that normal people can't. It's bad cause you can focus so much on one sense that you sort of get lost. That's part of what Guides are for."
When Ezra felt their eyes on him, he shifted uncomfortably. "I take it that I am to be Mr. Larabee's Guide?"
Chris chuckled, waiting for Ezra to look at him before he spoke. "Ez, I think under the circumstances you ought to call me Chris."
The Southerner took a deep breath and nodded. "As you wish, Chris."
"Look, guys, I know this is gonna take a lot of getting used to. Trust me, Jim's still not used to it all yet." Blair grinned and ducked as Jim swatted him on the back of the head. "When we get back to Cascade, I'll send you all the research I've done, but you're really just gonna have to find your own way to deal with everything."
Chris glanced down at the floor for a moment, Ezra's heartbeat still echoing pleasantly in his ears. "Is there anything else really important that we ought to know?"
"Yeah, there is one other thing. You might want to have Ezra move in with you, if he can." Jim grinned at the stunned looks on the agents' faces. "I'm serious. He's got to be nearby if you zone, and as much as I hate to admit it, it's easier to sleep when Blair's in the loft."
Chris and Ezra just stared at each other, then groaned simultaneously. Life just got a lot more complicated. They only hoped that they could survive it.
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