Notes & Disclaimers: The Cub & Kit Universe is open to all. It is a Magnificent Seven/Sentinel crossover universe where Ezra and Vin are not quite teens. I have re-edited and hopefully improved this story. The Magnificent Seven is owned by MGM and The Sentinel is owned by Pet Fly Productions. No money has been made from this so please don't sue me. Photo credits: Puma cub photographed by Albright Images. Fox kit photographed by The Wild.
"Ezra," Chris called to the young teen brushing dust off his sleeve, "Why don't you and Vin climb into the cab. Josiah and I can load the last couple of boxes."
The thirteen year old didn't bother to hide his relief. "Come Vin, our servitude is finally over." He opened the truck's door motioning for his friend to take the back seat.
"'Our servitude' is only over until we get to Cascade. Then we got to help unpack. And I ain't climbing into the back seat, Ezra. I already called shotgun." The blue-eyed eleven-year-old crossed his arms in stubborn determination.
"How about we flip for it?" Ezra held up a silver coin while giving his best gold-toothed grin.
Vin quickly started digging in his own pocket. "If we're flipping, we're using my coin and you're going to call it in the air." A second later a gold dollar flashed against a blue sky.
"Tails!" shouted Ezra. The coin hit the dirt with a thud. A single glance down made Vin snicker.
Ezra didn't bend down to confirm his loss. Instead he forced out another grin and offered, "The best two out of three?"
"Just get in the back, Ezra. You can ride up front tomorrow. Not like it's not going to take us a while to get there." Vin picked up his worn backpack full of things to entertain him on the trip.
"You should have more respect for your elders," Ezra muttered sullenly as he settled in the back.
"It takes more than two years difference to make someone your elder," replied Vin. The slam of the truck door muffled the rest of their conversation.
Chris met Josiah's eyes with a grin. Both men were happy to hear the boys acting like boys. It seemed only a short time ago a desperate twelve-year-old Ezra offered surprisingly detailed information about the arms dealer Humboldt in exchange for protection, protection for him and his 'brother'. The following months had been on odyssey of heartache, fear, unforeseeable changes and eventually joy, the strength of which Chris honestly hadn't believed he could ever feel again.
Life finally leveled out. Vin Tanner became the legal the son of Chris Larabee. While Maude refused to give up her rights to Ezra, Judge Travis saw though her dramatic oaths of motherly love and devotion and awarded Chris full custody. Maude presence in the Colorado Women's Penitentiary serving out a six-month term for fraud certainly worked in his favor.
Chris feared when Maude happened to be paroled she would immediately try to regain custody. But Ezra calmly assured him her interest in her child only went as far as it did to impress others. She would vanish the moment the parole board released her. Then they could claim abandonment and proceed with the adoption, if Chris still wanted to. The vulnerability in Ezra's face as he spoke those words brought Chris to his knees. Kneeling before the child and staring directly into his green eyes Chris swore, "It doesn't matter what the law says. I'll always want you as my son. I'll always love you as my son." Seconds later the air squeezed out of his lungs thanks to two slender arms.
Perhaps a moment passed before the two were joined by Vin who added his own oath, "We're going to be family forever." His arms wound around Chris and Ezra.
"Forever," vowed Chris. Even though he knew better than most just how easily life could shatter such promises. Still death hadn't been able to stop him from loving Sarah and Adam, and nothing would stop him from loving these two boys. For a moment Chris imagined he could feel Sarah and Adam's presence, sharing his love for Ezra and Vin. Then Chris felt the ghost of fingers against his side and the intense embrace degenerated into a tickle war leaving all three panting in happy exhaustion.
"It must be a good place," declared Josiah. When Chris's only response involved a puzzled look Josiah clarified, "The place your mind wandered off to the last minute or so."
"A real good place," Chris agreed. The smile on his face slipped a bit. "I hope I'm not making a mistake by moving them so far."
"Nonsense," insisted Josiah. "Their happiness and safety doesn't come from living in Denver. It comes from being with you, their father. And don't start worrying about moving the team again either. Nathan and Rain have been out in Cascade for three weeks now. They're already settled into their new house and according to Nathan; Rain loves her new job at Children's Hospital. You know Buck can be happy anywhere there is a viable female population," Chris chuckled his agreement, "and JD was so busy lusting after the new computer systems we'd have he hardly noticed the change of states. Finally, Cascade is only 48 miles from the Sisters of Saint Agnes Convent, which means I will be able to visit my sister almost anytime I want instead of just once or twice a year. All that's left is for you to get the boys settled into their new home. Now are you sure you don't want me to ride with you to share the driving?"
"No," insisted Larabee. "I promised the boys a trip with just the three of us; a little sightseeing, a little camping. Even taking our time we should arrive in Cascade by the end of the week."
"I guess that means I get to sample the pleasures of first class airfare." Josiah's grin became ripe with anticipation.
"Enjoy your flight," encouraged Chris with a slap on the back. Josiah headed back to his Suburban and with a final wave drove off. Chris looked back towards the ranch one last time. This place held a lot of memories for him, both good and bad. But in the end memories could be made anywhere. Chris had no doubt his boys would make a lot of incredible new memories in Cascade. Securing the back of the truck, Chris circled around front. Climbing in he asked, "You boys ready to hit the road?"
"I've been ready for hours," claimed Vin. Ezra silently nodded as his headphones played.
Chris started up the engine and shifted into gear. "Then let's ride."
Word spread throughout the precinct: Avoid Major Crimes at all costs. Detective Ellison was in a downright sadistic mood and no one would be spared. Most members of the police community took the warning very seriously.
If Detective James Ellison noticed others avoiding him like the proverbial plague he gave no indication. He just continued to grumble into his paperwork, slamming drawers and tossing paper, while snarling at anyone who dared venture too close to his desk.
Detective Blair Sandburg studiously ignored his partner. He intended to finish his reports, sit through a meeting with the newest local Feds and head straight home. Not that he expected much peace and quiet there. With his partner also his roommate Blair remained on the receiving end of the 'Ellison attitude' twenty-four hours a day. Jim had been only somewhat relaxed at home. Oddly enough, instead of venting at Blair, he hovered around him. The last forty-eight hours were full of homemade meals Jim insisted on fixing. Last night Jim practically tucked Blair into bed, declaring the importance of a good night's sleep. Yet twice during the night Blair woke to the creaking of floors as Jim stalked the loft waiting for some unknown foe.
Blair's one attempt to suggest maybe Jim's mood was sentinel related had been met with a short, "Not everything in my life has to do with my senses, Sandburg."
The other members of Major Crimes had, up until now, found reasons to be away from the bullpen. Only Captain Simon Banks' decree requiring everyone be present for the liaison meeting with the new ATF team dragged the various detectives back.
Jim knew his actions were alienating his coworkers and worrying his friends but he couldn't seem to shake the feeling that things were about to get very bad. A continuous tingling persisted in the back of his mind warning him. He just didn't know what the warning regarded. Realizing he had written a bunch of nonsense on his report Jim cursed and tore it up before grabbing another form.
Glancing around the bullpen a shimmering image drew his attention. At the floor at Rafe's feet prowled a puma cub. The young wildcat possessed golden yellow fur broken by brown spots and a white belly. Its ears and paws looked too big for its pint-sized body. Its face mostly brown with a white mouth and a trace of black markings around two startling blue eyes. The cub batted at an invisible barrier while letting out small growls of fear and frustration. On the other side of the glass two animals were struggling. A rather dirty, sick looking raccoon pinned down and tried to bite a small, red fox kit. The kit squirmed wildly to avoid the rabid animal's jaws. For a second it looked directly at Jim with pleading green eyes. With a clarity which seldom accompanied one of his visions, Jim knew what it meant.
"Jim?" Blair's voice brought Jim to the realization that he now stood at his desk, having knocked over his chair and drawn everyone's attention.
The animals were gone but their meaning was not. "Blair, I've been an idiot."
"If you're expecting me to disagree, it's not going to happen, man," snorted Blair. When his partner didn't respond, he tried to recapture his attention. "Jim, are you okay?"
Jim surveyed the people in the bullpen. Most were friends as well as coworkers. Simon and Megan both knew the whole 'Sentinel' story. When Blair finally moved up to Detective the two decided to start using Jim's abilities more openly around the Detectives they trusted. Joel, Henry and Rafe all seemed to accept Jim used a slightly different method of gathering evidence. Instead of the 'How do you do that?' they'd been expecting, they heard 'Is there anything we can do to help?' By Jim's standard you could not ask for a better show of friendship. If Jim's vision meant what he thought it did, then he and Blair were going to need help. Jim stepped back to close and lock the door beside his desk. "Megan could you lock the other door?" she nodded and followed his lead.
"People, I hope locking the doors isn't some vain attempt to avoid our visiting ATF agents. Because we do have to meet them," declared Simon as he left his office to join those in the bullpen.
Jim took a deep breath, trying to enjoy the last quiet seconds before he unleashed the whirlwind. When he finally spoke his voice sounded clear and unhesitant. "I think there's another sentinel in Cascade."
Simon became momentarily stunned into a jaw-dropped silence. Megan cursed profusely. Joel gave a surprised, "You can sense that?" While Rafe wanted to know, "Why is another sentinel a bad thing?"
"Do you think another Alex Barnes would be a good thing?" snapped Megan.
"Alex Barnes, she was a sentinel?" asked Henry. "But she tried to kill Blair."
"Because Sandy wouldn't help her once he found out she was a crook," insisted Megan.
"Does that mean Blair is in danger?" asked Henry.
Jim met Blair's studying gaze. "No, Alex hooked up with Blair because she needed someone to teach her how to control her abilities. This new sentinel has a guide. In fact, I think it's the guide who's in danger."
The scientist in Blair leapt forward. "Okay, start from the beginning. Tell me what you saw and don't leave anything out."
Jim hesitated. It was one thing to admit he had finally figured out what was bugging him; to warn his coworkers about a potential threat to their city. Discussing visions and spirit animals became something else entirely.
Blair read his indecision and insisted. "You said someone was in danger. You can't just ignore this."
Acknowledging Blair's point, Jim plunged forward, trying to pretend he could not imagine Simon's reaction to what he was about to say. "The puma cub paced the floor…"
"Puma?" whispered Megan.
"A mountain lion," explained Joel. Both fell silent when Blair shot them a dirty look.
"I'm sorry," interrupted Rafe, "but you're describing spirit animals, right?" At Jim's nod he asked, "So if you saw a cub, does that mean we're talking about a child?"
"It makes sense," agreed Blair. "You're abilities are genetic. You were able to use them for at least part of your childhood."
Jim tested their idea against the memory of his vision. "I think you're right. Not a real little kid but maybe someone just reaching their teens. Anyway the cub prowled back and forth, every so often batting at a glass wall holding it back."
"So it was trapped?" asked Rafe trying to create an image of what Jim witnessed.
"No, more like it was on the outside trying to get in," explained Jim. "On the other side a kit, which is a baby fox, tried to get out from under a raccoon. The raccoon was full grown but it looked sickly; maybe rabid or diseased."
"So what you're telling us," summarized Simon. "Is we've got two kids somewhere in Cascade. One of whom is going to be attacked by some sick, possibly deranged person. And we have no idea who they are or where to find them."
"There must be something else," insisted Blair. "Jim, did you see this in the blue jungle? Was there anything in their surroundings to indicate where they were?"
"No. No jungle. They were right here in the bullpen," replied Jim. He stepped forward to the spot he had seen them. "The raccoon and kit were here. And the cub paced right next to Rafe.
Instantly all eyes in the room were on Rafe. "But I don't know any kid who can do the things Ellison can do."
"Gentlemen please, I can understand your wanting to help, and I'm not saying you can't pursue possible investigative avenues. But, Jim, until you can come up with something a bit more concrete, we need to focus on protecting our city." Simon's words brought everyone back to reality. "Right now that means getting ready for our meeting with Larabee and his ATF boys. So get your stuff together and get moving to interview-3. I also think it might be a good idea to show a little hospitality, and maybe for once start our relations with the Feds on the right foot. Do I have any volunteers to run to Sally's for food?"
"Sure," offered Rafe, "I could give my legs a stretch."
The detectives scattered to their various missions, leaving Jim gazing at the space his vision once occupied. A hand rested gently on his shoulder. "We'll figure this out Jim, I promise." swore Blair.
"I know, Chief," said Jim. "I just hope it's in time.
"Here's your mocha latte," offered the hurried cashier. Ezra accepted the drink with thanks and sampled the brew.
Several feet away Vin and JD stood waiting on their sandwich order. Vin noticed Ezra did not immediately return to their group, but he tried not to get offended. Ezra had to be getting sick and tired of the way Vin clung to him. Heck, Vin was tired of it. Yet every time Ezra moved more than twenty feet from him, Vin felt overwhelmed with the panicked certainty something or someone would steal Ezra away."
When Chris and Ezra each individually asked Vin what was wrong, he had no explanation beyond, "I've got a bad feeling." Buck and JD both tried to distract Vin from his worries. While Josiah and Nathan opted to talk the problem out, each believing the true source of Vin's anxiety must be the move to Cascade. Vin did not think Cascade was the problem. He actually liked the idea of living near both the ocean and the mountains. And he figured if he could survive Denver blizzards then Cascade rain should be easy. If he could just figure out what the threat to Ezra, then hopefully he could work out a solution. Maybe he should ask JD to verify whether Maude Standish still resided in jail.
JD shifted closer to Vin to let several other customers by. At that moment, Vin inhaled a strong whiff of gun oil and powder. He glanced at JD knowingly, "You cleaned your gun this morning."
"Last night, actually," corrected JD. Buck always harped on gun safety and the proper maintenance of ones weapons.
Vin frowned, "But I smell a lot of gun oil."
JD shifted his focus from the cooks preparing their meals to scan the crowd. It didn't occur to him to dismiss Vin. The boy might be young, but he was also uncommonly honest and mature for his age. If he smelled gun oil then there was gun oil. It made sense after all. This deli-restaurant was right across the street from the city's major police headquarters. There were probably couple officers in here right now. Several feet to JD's right he noticed a telltale bulge under a man's jacket. Only the man with the bulge didn't look like a cop; not even an undercover or vice cop. He twitched, his eyes darting to and fro in a paranoid fashion. His hand shifted back and forth under the jacket as if the man were caressing his gun.
"Ezra!" JD called to the teen, motioning for him to join them. Ezra appeared ready to make a comment about leaving before he received his food, but he must have recognized the urgency on JD's face because he closed his mouth and began to work his way through the lunchtime crowd.
JD's own hand moved under his jacket to unsnap a strap on his shoulder harness, making it easier to draw his firearm.
Continuing to watch the nervous stranger JD noticed he kept looking at the same person. This man, a little to JD's left, stood no taller than JD, but thin enough to look anorexic beneath his loose jacket. He paused close enough for JD to see his dilated pupils; a sure indication he was high on something. An altered mental state probably caused these geniuses to think robbing a deli across the street from police headquarters, in broad daylight, during the lunchtime rush equated a good idea.
"Vin, I want you to take Ezra and get the hell out of here," whispered JD. He could not see any uniformed officers to assist him if things went bad. The two suspicious men moved so they could cover much of the room. The first thief, who JD now thought of as Twitch, glanced towards the door. Shit! A third stringy haired man guarded the entrance. Ezra tried to make his way past a group of people while JD calculated they were running out of time.
Adrenalin pulsed through JD's system in preparation for the coming threat. When the three men pulled out their weapons JD registered their actions in slow motion. "Ezra, drop!" shouted JD as he pushed Vin to the ground and covered him partially with his own body. A part of JD's mind wanted him to greet these felons with his own guns blazing, but their numbers and positioning made it suicide. At best he could take out one or two before they filled him with lead. There also remained a strong chance his actions could trigger a massacre.
The three men shouted for everyone to get down and shut up, while they waved their guns menacingly. Twitch collected money from one of the cashiers. Criminal number two paced back and forth while shouting for quiet. So JD assigned him the nickname Pacer. Criminal number three lounged calmly near the door smirking at the frightened crowd. He struck JD as a man on a power trip and JD mentally tagged him Smug.
JD searched for Ezra, finding him a few feet away crouching behind the condiments counter. Certain both of his charges were at least momentarily okay; JD used his prone position to retrieve his back up twenty-two from an ankle holster. Between the twenty-two and his forty caliber he would have a gun in each hand and more than a dozen rounds of ammunition. JD hoped to God the situation didn't disintegrate into a firefight, but as Mama always said, 'Hope for the best, while you prepare for the worst'.
A commotion by the door drew JD's attention. Smug ordered the people around him to give up their valuables. Twitch continued to shout at the cashiers for money while Pacer paced, aiming his pistol at anyone unlucky enough to draw his attention. 'Hurry up' thought JD. He knew the longer the armed robbers remained in the deli, the greater the chance of bloodshed. Finally, Twitch took his backpack heavy with cash and headed for the door.
"Come on, let's get out of here," said Twitch as he joined Smug. Pacer just kept pacing on the far side of the room, apparently unaware his accomplices were preparing to leave.
"Relax, we've got time to snag a few more things," assured Smug. JD silently cursed the man's greed. Glancing back at Pacer, JD wished he would join his friends by the door. He would be better able to cover them if all three thieves were close to each other.
"No, please don't take my ring," begged a twenty something brunette. Smug didn't give the woman a chance to realize the foolishness of arguing with an armed man. He simply pulled the trigger.
The gunshot blast erased all alternatives to a gunfight. JD rose fluidly to one knee, bringing both weapons to bear. Firing simultaneously JD hit Smug with three rounds of his forty caliber right in the chest. Twitch received the same treatment from the twenty-two. Twitch managed to fire off a couple of ineffective rounds despite his wounds, so JD shot him again until the man went down. His training told him to verify the gunmen were disabled. While a louder voice shouted Pacer could be pointing a gun at his back. Following his instincts JD rolled and spun. His movements jolted a stunned Pacer out of his shock and into action. Pacer dove behind the condiments counter in a vain attempt to hide from JD.
"I'm a federal agent and I am ordering you to come out with your hands raised!" shouted JD in his most commanding voice. "Drop your gun and come out! Don't make me come after you!" Even as JD spoke he angled to circle the counter and get a clear view. He had not forgotten Ezra sought refuge behind that same counter.
"Back off!" Came a shout from behind the counter. "You back off, or I'm going to kill this kid." A few seconds later Pacer appeared with Ezra as his human shield. The gun held to the boy's head demanded compliance. "Now, you're going to put your gun down, and let us walk out of here," insisted Pacer with false bravado.
"That's not going to happen," countered JD. TV might show cops surrendering their weapons in hostage situations, but the cold hard truth said four out of five cops who surrendered their guns in real life ended up shot. Many were shot with their own weapons and too few were able to survive their encounters. JD was smart enough to know he could not help Ezra if he died. "Right now you're just making things harder for yourself. You need to let the boy go before someone else gets hurt."
"Before someone else gets hurt? You killed my friends and now you're trying to kill me!" The panicked gunman dragged Ezra towards the door.
JD shadowed their movements the whole way. He could feel Vin standing beside him, but focused all of his attention and both of his guns on Pacer. He noticed twice now Pacer let the gun drop a bit before bringing it back up to Ezra's temple. JD decided if the gun dropped enough to put Ezra out of range he would try to take Pacer out with a kill shot. Forcing his voice to a calm reasonable level, JD said, "I didn't want this fight. I was completely ready to let you and your friends take the money and run. Your friends wrecked that when they started shooting hostages."
"This is all Joe's fault," Pacer declared. He looked down at his fallen companions and became upset again. "Hey, I ain't leaving here with nothing. I want the backpack full of money."
"I'd be happy to trade the money for the boy," suggested JD. Looking through the glass door behind Pacer, JD could see the gunfire had drawn attention. What looked like a police detective and several uniform cops were clearing the sidewalk and street. They probably didn't want to charge the building because of the risk to civilians. But if JD could maneuver Pacer into going outside he would be overwhelmed and forced to surrender. Ezra's best chance for survival lay outside.
"No way," countered Pacer. "I'll let go of the kid when I get to my car. Now give me the money!" Pacer's hold tightened, making Ezra wince.
Since his primary goal centered on how to get Pacer out of the deli and onto the street where law enforcement could better control the scene, JD decided to placate the man. "Vin, I want you to pick up the backpack and hand it over." Vin did as instructed all the while being careful to stay out of JD's line of fire. It was amazing how much a child could learn about tactics from a couple games of water wars; especially when the water fights were being played with two former Seals, a retired Ranger and a former Marine medic.
When Vin held the bag out to Pacer the man realized he couldn't take the money without letting go of either his gun or his hostage. "Take the bag," he ordered Ezra. Ezra did so, meeting Vin's eyes for a long silent second. JD wasn't sure what passed between the boys, but whatever they communicated seemed to reassure Ezra a bit. Pacer also relaxed. He had a gun, a hostage, and the money. He decided all of his troubles would be over as soon as he got out the door. "Don't follow us," Pacer instructed. Pacer walked backwards towards the exit, pulling Ezra with him. JD held his position and hoped the police outside were ready. Pacer backed out the door and started to turn when a hand sprung out and forced Pacer's gun up, away from Ezra. JD leapt forward to help.
Rafe stopped for a moment and enjoyed the warm sunshine. His pocket held a list of what everyone in Major Crimes wanted as well as half a dozen extra sandwiches for the visiting ATF team. Rafe couldn't help but think about the things Jim revealed just minutes ago. He figured Jim too private to ever openly discuss his uncommon gifts. Jim showed a lot of trust when relaxed enough to just do what he could and not hide what he was. Especially for a man who had once been betrayed by his commanding officer and left to die in the jungle. Jim's visions and ability to see spirit animals was also a revelation. The man seemed so straight it was hard to believe. Then Rafe remember another case where Jim admitted he thought he saw a ghost. Rafe, as well as Henry and Joel all teased Jim quite a bit. Rafe decided he should apologize later.
A burst of firecracker like pops pulled Rafe out of his musings. Identifying the source Rafe bolted across the street. As he neared the deli he crouched low below the windows. Hearing a break in the gunfire Rafe peered over the windowsill. He saw a young man aiming two guns at someone behind a condiments counter. "I'm a federal agent and I am ordering you to come out with your hands raised!" Rafe didn't hear any response. "Drop your gun and come out! Don't make me come after you!" A few seconds later Rafe saw a thin man of medium height rise from behind the counter. A teenage boy pinned to his chest with a gun to his head.
"What's the status?" asked a uniformed cop who crept up next to Rafe.
"We've got a hostage situation: One perp holding a gun to a boy's head. There's a Fed in there trying to back him down. If he can't, we need containment. Cover all exits to this building, clear the street and get us some backup." The officer nodded and took off. Rafe pulled out his cellular phone and dialed Blair's number.
Blair had almost finished up some last minute notes when someone stopped next to his desk. "Excuse me. Could you tell me where Captain Banks is?" asked a tall blonde man. There was a definite air of command to him, which made Blair wonder if he might be part of the new ATF team, maybe even its leader. The typical suit most Feds wore appeared noticeable absent. Instead the blonde wore fitted black pants, a dark green dress shirt and a black vest. No suit jacket. No tie.
Before Blair could answer Simon stepped forward, "Is there something I can help you with?"
"I'm Chris Larabee. I'll be taking over ATF operations for Cascade and the surrounding area." Chris offered his hand. "I know this is short notice but I've got a favor to ask before our meeting gets started." When Simon raised an eyebrow in silent inquiry Chris continued. "I was planning on leaving my two boys with a sitter since I figured I'd be pulling an all-nighter this evening. But when the woman the domestic agency recommended showed up, she reeked of marijuana."
"You're joking." Simon felt amazed someone would be stupid enough to show up to any law enforcement officer's home smelling like an illegal substance.
"Needless to say I'm not willing to trust anyone else the domestic agency recommends," continued Chris. "The boys are 11 and 13, which puts them at an age where they really don't need a babysitter much. But the move to Cascade has been hard on them, especially Vin. I'm not willing to leave them alone in a strange city just yet."
"Not a problem," assured Simon. "I used to bring my own son here on occasion. In fact, I know I've got at least one of his old computer games in my desk drawer. Where are your boys now?"
"I sent them with one of my agents on a food run to the deli across the street. I figured a good meal might help contribute to everyone's ability to cooperate," Chris explained.
Simon chuckled. "Great minds must think alike. I sent one of my detectives down to Sally's with the exact same thought in mind. How about I introduce you to some of my people while we're waiting on our food?"
As Simon and Chris moved across the bullpen towards Joel, Blair's cell phone rang. Recognizing Rafe's number Blair answered, "I wanted the turkey on rye, Brian."
"Blair, I think I've found the child guide in danger," Rafe's words rushed out.
Blair picked up a desk paperweight and slammed it down hard twice, gathering the attention of everyone in the bullpen. "I'm listening Rafe, go on." Jim moved closer to hear Rafe and relay what he said to the others.
"I'm just outside Sally's Deli, where there have been shots fired, looking at more than 20 hostages and three bodies, maybe dead. One body looks like a victim, another looks like a Perp. Can't see enough of the third to tell which it is. There's a man who identified himself as a Federal Agent, in a faceoff with another Perp. I don't recognize the Fed. He could be ATF. The Perp is holding the Fed off with a gun to the head of a teen-age boy. The Perp is also acting wired and erratic. I'm pretty sure he's high on something. He'd likely kill the kid if we rushed him."
After Jim relayed the last bit, Agent Larabee moved forward. "Does the boy have short red-brown hair and a red jacket?" Chris asked.
Blair's eyes snapped from his partner to Larabee, as he passed the question to Rafe. When Blair nodded yes a second later the agent's only noticeable reaction was to clinch his jaw.
"One of your sons," Simon guessed.
"Ezra," confirmed Chris. "Vin's been tense the last couple of days. Said he felt Ezra was in some sort of danger." With that, Chris turned for the door. He needed to get to his boys.
Jim and Simon shared a look as both considered the odds that Larabee's sons could be the sentinel and guide they'd been discussing moments before.
"Joel, I want you and Conner to stay here. Pass on the situation when Larabee's team arrives. Brown you're with us," ordered Simon.
Jim led the detectives out of the bullpen. Noticing an impatient Larabee waiting for the elevator, he shouted, "The stairs!" The five men moved down the stairwell. They just reached the last flight when they heard Blair assure Rafe, "I'm still listening." Several seconds later Jim broke from their quick jog to a flat-out run. Blair announced, "The hostage taker is going for the exit!"
Jim slammed the stairwell doors open. Simon roared, "Clear a path!" As people moved out of the way Chris shifted into a sprint. He prayed he wouldn't, once again, arrive too late to save a son.
Rafe was glad to know the others were on the way. Then he saw the Perp drag the boy towards the door, and knew his time had run out. He spared a second to tell Blair and tucked away his cell phone. A quick hand signal warned the growing number of police on the street that the situation had changed. Rafe realized with amazement the Perp never looked out the window to see if the earlier gunfire had drawn attention. Whether due to drugs or stupidity, Rafe intended to exploit the lapse and use the error to his advantage. As the door swung open, the normally busy street became so unnaturally quiet the whoosh of the door was all Rafe heard. Rafe sprung forward and wound his fingers around the Perp's gun hand pulling it up sharply before it could be fired. Rafe's other arm wrapped around the thin neck. He yanked the Perp's head back and ordered, "Release the boy and drop your weapon!"
"No, no!" shouted the Perp. "It's my money!" He held his prisoner tight.
Rafe felt the young teen struggling to free himself. He also heard the thunder of feet as other officers rushed to his aid. With a sudden jerk the boy vanished. Then a new body entered the fray, knocking all three to the ground. The Perp's curse of, "Fucking Fed" told Rafe the identity of the new combatant.
"I'm gonna kill you!" declared the Perp. He fought Rafe's grip, bringing the weapon to bare on the Fed. Realizing he couldn't stop the Perp from firing, Rafe adjusted his grip. He grunted when the gun's firing pin slammed into the muscle and flesh between his thumb and index finger. Feeling other officers join the struggle, Rafe shouted, "Get the gun!" The firing pin hammered into his hand two more times before being yanked away. Tearing more than a bit of skin in the process. The suspect continued to struggle, but with several officers to assist they easily turned on to his stomach and restrained.
Rafe moved back to let others take over the situation. He wrapped a handkerchief around his bloody and throbbing hand. Then he searched for the boy hostage. He found the boy in the tight embrace of the young Federal Agent and another boy. The second boy possessed wavy light brown hair, alert blue eyes and a worn leather jacket which had clearly seen better days.
The Fed spoke with Sergeant McGuire over the heads of the boys. "I shot two other thieves after they shot a woman. I didn't get a chance to check their condition." Rafe's glance at the deli showed a good number of cops already inside with a strong concentration around where he noted the bodies.
"I hope everyone is alright," Rafe offered as he stepped forward with a reassuring smile. "I'm Detective Brian Rafe."
JD recognized the man who restrained Pacer and allowed him to free Ezra. He shook the man's hand eagerly. "JD Dunne, ATF. Thank you for your help." The words were simple but heartfelt.
"I'm just glad I arrived when I did," Rafe replied.
"So am I. This is Vin Tanner Larabee and Ezra Standish," said JD giving the boys a squeeze. Ezra let out a small moan. JD and Vin both pulled back to give Ezra a closer look. "Hell! I dislocated your shoulder again when I pulled you away from that idiot," JD realized.
"No! I… You… He had a gun. He could have killed you. But you didn't let him take me." Ezra's voice held shaky disbelief.
JD turned to look Ezra directly in the eyes. "You're family now Ezra. I will never let anything or anyone take you from us. Not if I can stop it." JD leaned forward to rest his forehead against Ezra's. "That's a promise." Ezra accepted the words in silence. His tremors seemed to ease a bit. Rafe felt embarrassingly like a voyeur as he watched the intensely emotional exchange.
"Ezra!" The shout came from across the street from a tall blonde dressed in black.
"Let him through, he's ATF!" shouted Simon when a few foolhardy officers tried to block his access to the crime scene.
Vin suddenly stiffened and stepped in front of Ezra. "You can't take Ezra," he whispered.
It took Rafe a second to realize Vin had responded not to the blonde, but Jim Ellison who followed half a step behind. He must have heard the boy's whisper because Jim skidded to a stop and raised his hands in a gesture of surrender.
JD felt relieved to see his boss and reunite the boys with their father. "Be careful," warned JD. "I was a bit too rough when I freed Ezra. I may have separated his shoulder."
Chris adjusted to appropriately cautious movements when he took his son into his arms. "We'll find Nathan and have him take a look." Chris looked at his youngest agent and said, "Thank you, JD. Thank you for protecting my boys."
JD both blushed and preened at his hero's words. "I can't take all the credit. Detective Rafe, here, gave me the opening I needed."
Chris examined the dressy, if somewhat disheveled, detective. "If you ever need a favor," Chris left the offer open ended.
"Thank you, sir. But I'm afraid I may need your favor sooner than you expect." Rafe stepped around Larabee to Vin who still watched Jim nervously. "He not here to hurt you or take Ezra away. Jim's a friend," Rafe tried to reassure the boy.
"You know him?" asked Vin.
"Yes, Detective Ellison works with me in Major Crimes. He's one of the best cops this city has. I trust him with my life," Rafe asserted. "The short curly haired guy next to him is Blair Sandburg, his partner." As he spoke Rafe's own partner as well as his captain came up beside him.
"What's wrong Vin?" asked Chris. He noticed Vin's protective stance, but took it to be a delayed reaction to the hostage situation.
Vin looked from Rafe, who just help save Ezra, to Ellison, the man who made the buzzing in his head louder than ever. "Nothing, I guess. He can come closer if he wants." The last words were said grudgingly.
Jim and Blair walked over slowly. As police continued to flow in and out of the deli no one seemed to notice the tension in the group. Jim decided he needed to be the one to take the first step. "I bet the tingling in your head has been driving you crazy the last couple of days. I know it's been bugging me." Vin remained silent, though his stance seemed a bit more considering. "The last time I had this feeling I crossed paths with a lady very intent on breaking the law and hurting a lot of people. So I guess I'll just ask you outright. Are you planning on stealing any toxic nerve gas?"
Vin found the question so absurd his only response consisted of a snort.
"No? What about breaking into a high tech laboratory?" Jim questioned.
"And get grounded for the rest of my life?" countered the 11-year-old.
"Beyond grounded," asserted Chris.
"Work with terrorists?" Jim continued.
"Hell no," said Vin.
"Hurt my partner?" Jim inquired.
"She did all of those things?" asked Vin. At Jim's nod Vin said, "I've got no desire to hook up with that sort of trouble. There's already too much hurt in the world."
"In that case, I'd like to welcome you and your family to Cascade." Jim offered his hand, waiting patiently while Vin considered it. When their hands touch both Sentinels felt the tingling and buzzing in their heads cease.
The moment broke when Chris stepped between the two. "I'd like you to explain your connection to Vin is now." Larabee's voice remained quiet, but everyone felt the ice in his tone.
Jim found himself pleased with Larabee's protective actions. Both boys were going to need strong protectors until they were old enough to take care of themselves; especially if Ezra became as much of a trouble magnet as Blair. "We should talk somewhere private. We also need to get Rafe's hand and Ezra's shoulder looked at. Why don't we call Joel and Conner? Let them know the crisis has been handled and ask them to shut off the security devices in Interview Three. The topic of our meeting has drastically changed."
Everyone seemed willing to agree, so the members of Major Crimes, ATF Team 7 and two boys headed for the precinct.
"It's gone isn't it?" asked Blair. "I bet your bad feeling disappeared the instant you shook hands. Jim, do you realize the implications?"
"Save your theories for the meeting," Jim attempted to direct Blair's attention. He had no doubt his partner would be in seventh heaven with a brand new audience to explain his knowledge and ideas to. Watching the boys walk ahead of him, Vin's hand steady on Ezra's back, Jim felt a sudden compulsion. "Welcome to my tribe, young sentinel and guide." The quick smiling glance Vin sent over his shoulder showed the boy had heard.
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