Disclaimer & Notes: The Magnificent Seven is owned by MGM and The Sentinel is owned by Pet Fly Productions. No profit made and only respect intended. Photo credits: Puma cub photographed by Albright Images. Fox kit photographed by The Wild. This story references the murder of a child, and while not graphic may be difficult for some people to read. This is a re-edited version of the third story in the Cub & Kit AU. It follows The Cub and the Kit and Just the Facts. I would like to thank Angela for her efforts as beta. Any remaining mistakes are mine.


Prologue

"He told me. I should have listened," gasped JD, the color leeching from his face. He rose out of his seat and stumbled away from the table, turning his back on the others in the room.

"JD, don't!" Chris also rose; trying to halt the anguish he knew would come.

"He trusted me to protect him. I should have gotten there faster!" JD muttered.

Chris couldn't tell if JD spoke to the room or himself. He wasn't even sure if JD realized he had spoken out loud. When he placed a hand on JD's arm, JD jerked and then rounded to push him away. Chris pushed right back, grabbing his arms and pinning him to the wall. "You were on the other side of town. They were gone in a matter of minutes. There was no way humanly possible for you to reach them in time." JD shook his head, his grief forcing him to deny any comfort. Chris slammed JD back against the wall in frustration. "Listen to me!" Finally, JD's dark eyes met his. Chris dropped his voice to a harsh murmur only JD should hear. Chris knew Vin and Jim were both more than capable of listening in, but Chris hoped Jim would get the hint and aim his ears elsewhere, or whatever the Sentinel did to avoid others' personal problems, which were none of his damned business.

"Remember the time you were assigned your first deep cover operation? Adam didn't get to see you for weeks. He just about drove me crazy with questions: 'Are you certain JD's really safe?' 'Isn't JD lonely working by himself?' 'Could you check up on JD one more time to be sure he's okay?'" Chris could hear Adam's voice in his head even as he repeated the boy's words. "I promised him over and over again, I would keep you safe and happy. It was the only way we could get him to sleep at night. You were one of the most important people in his life. He wanted you to be safe; enjoying your life, not spending what is left of it blaming yourself for something you couldn't have prevented."

"You don't know," JD whispered in denial.

"I know you weren't the only one Adam told his nightmares to. Sarah and I both assumed they were just bad dreams," Chris pointed out. "If you're going to blame yourself for not piecing together what might happen, then you have to blame me as well." JD shook his head knowing his boss already carried too much guilt regarding the deaths of his family. "Or you could let me keep my last promise to my son," Chris offered. "With Fowler dead and the investigation cold I can't give Adam or Sarah justice. Let me look out for you the way I promised Adam I would. Don't allow their deaths to destroy the person Adam loved." Chris knew his words were little more than emotional blackmail. If evoking Adam's memory became the only way to get JD to listen, Chris wouldn't apologize.

JD's tear streaked face personified regretful acceptance. "I just wish," JD trailed off. They both understood what he wished for.

Chris noted the discussion between his team and the Major Crimes detectives for the first time. He was far from pleased with the realization Buck and Josiah distracted the others from JD by telling the story of his family's deaths. He was inclined to take the two men to task for setting his personal grief on display for strangers, but the revelation of Ezra's fears of failing Vin stayed any such action. He couldn't overlook the possibility that hearing Adam's story could prevent Ezra and Vin from repeating a similar tragedy. Love for his sons encouraged Chris to nod for Josiah to continue, despite his private preferences. He listened to Josiah describe Adam's prophetic dreams preceding his death. Jim's declaration that JD must have been Adam's Guide felt almost expected. Probably the most unexpected part of the conversation involved Simon's offer to review the Larabee case files.

Chris never liked to share his past. Even letting his team investigate his family life caused an indefinable ache. Only knowing they share his loss made the situation bearable. Turning the files over to strangers felt unthinkable, yet he knew Simon sought only to offer aid. For the sakes of Vin, Ezra and even JD he needed to start building bridges instead of burning them. Chris scrutinized Simon for several seconds before saying, "Only Major Crimes."

"Of course," Simon easily agreed. "We'll be ready whenever you can get the files to us."


JD drained the last of the milk from his glass. It calmed the turning of his stomach, but did little to ease the turmoil of his mind. The clock on the microwave read 2:43 am. If he didn't get at least a little rest soon he would be a liability at work.

"Is there some particular reason you're banging around the kitchen at this time of night?" asked Buck from the stairs leading to his room.

"Just thirsty," JD lied. He considered retreating to his bedroom, knowing Buck wouldn't follow, but in truth he felt just as unwilling to face his dark room as confront Buck.

Buck continued down the stairs to join JD in the kitchen. Grabbing the milk jug off the counter, Buck poured a glass for himself and then refilled JD's. He studied his smaller roommate for a moment. "You're having nightmares again aren't you?"

JD desperately grabbed at the counter to steady his shaky frame; visions of fire and horribly familiar screams assaulted him. "God Buck, could we please not do this now!"

Buck forced himself not to reach out, knowing in JD's current state of mind he would only push Buck away. Still, it would not stop him from trying to reach JD. "If I thought for a second leaving you be would help then I would, but we both know that method has only failed in the past." Once his words seemed to have sunk in Buck continued, "Was it the same dream as usual?"

JD reached for his refilled glass of milk and gulped the liquid down the way Chris so often did with whiskey. Sniffing, he swiped at his eyes before turning to face Buck. "It . . . it was pretty much the same as always. I guess I should have expected this," admitted JD. "What with Major Crimes looking into the cold case, and Simon asking me questions about the night Sarah and Adam died, unpleasant memories were bound to be stirred up. I'll be fine Buck, really." His words didn't sound very convincing to either of them.

Part of becoming a federal agent involved learning how to pick up on small details. "You said 'pretty much the same'. What was different?" he gently interrogated.

JD turned back to the counter, setting his glass down before taking a white knuckled grip the counter's edge. "When I drove to the ranch, trying to get to Adam and Sarah before they . . ." JD's voice broke and he took a few seconds to regain his composure, "as I drove Adam suddenly appeared in the passenger seat beside me. He kept telling me to give up, as if I didn't already know how badly I'd failed him." The recriminations mixed with JD's already potent grief.

Buck's grim face flashed with helpless anger. "Now I know your mind is messing with you. You can't honestly think for a second Adam would blame you for what happened!" demanded Buck.

"Of course he wouldn't," protested JD. "That's not what I said. Adam didn't say he blamed me, he just . . . he kept asking me to let them die." JD dropped his head shaking it hopelessly. "I know it's just a dream, but in the dream they're still alive; I still have time to save them. How could Adam appear only to ask me that? How could he ask me to not even try to save them?" JD's voice sounded hoarse with pain and confusion.

"JD, sit with me for a minute," Buck instructed. He took JD's elbow and led his roommate to the sofa. Then he sat on the coffee table directly across from JD. "I never told you how my mother died, did I?" asked Buck. JD just shook his head surprised by the change of subject. "You know what she did to earn a living," Buck said. JD nodded, remembering when Buck revealed his mother's career as a prostitute. "She died after being beaten by one of her former Pimps; the Pimp just happened to be my biological father." JD's eyes went wide with shock. "He always acted the part of a nasty bastard, getting his kicks off of hurting women. Mama went to a lot of trouble to keep me away from him, and make sure he didn't get the chance to teach me his brand of evil. Before she died she made me promise I'd never turn out like him. The police were able to tie him to her death pretty easily, and he went down for murder one. I suppose it should have made me feel better, but the truth, is all the psycho-babble about closure don't mean squat if a person ain't ready to let go of what's happened. I felt so angry she was gone, so guilty I still lived; I turned all my rage inward, rivaling Chris on some of his worst days after Sarah and Adam." Buck grinned lopsidedly at JD's utter speechlessness. "Months later, I don't even remember where I was driving to, but suddenly the song 'Brown Eyed Girl' came on the radio. Mama loved that song. Every time it came on she would drop everything to start dancing around the room. Her joy could be so damned infectious; soon everyone else would be doing the same. When I heard her song it felt like something crumbled inside of me. I pulled off to the side of the road and sobbed like a baby. After a while I noticed I'd parked the car right next to a patch of wild lilies: Mama's favorite flower. I believe . . . No; I know this life is only one step in our existence. Who a person is doesn't end when they die. Nor do they stop caring about the ones they've left behind. I think, when they can, they try to help us along. That day Mama let me know me I needed to stop focusing on how much I hated the way she died and try to remember what I loved about how she lived."

In the following silence JD finally murmured, "That's pretty incredible Buck, but I don't see how it relates to me."

Buck set a hand on JD's shoulder to both offer support and prevent escape. "JD, what did Adam say to you in the dream?"

"I don't remember exactly what he said," denied JD.

"That's crap!" Buck called him on his failed deception. "Tell me what Adam said to you."


JD raced down the street, obliterating the back road's speed limit. Glancing at the clock JD felt a surge of hope. He could make it this time, he just new he could.

"You can't keep doing this," declared a boy in the front passenger seat.

"It's going to be okay," insisted JD. "I can save you this time. It won't be like before."

The boy with his mother's brown hair and his father's green eyes shook his head sadly. "Stop torturing yourself, JD," he pleaded.

"Shut up, Adam!" JD spoke uncharacteristically harshly to the child. "I'm going to make everything right this time. I'm going to protect you."

"It's already too late. Just let it go."

(Line break)

"I can't do it Buck. I can't just let go and forget what happened to Adam. What I could have prevented." The guilt swelled up again. If only JD had listened when Adam's nightmares first started. If only he woke sooner, alerted the authorities quicker, driven the car faster.

"You don't know you could have prevented anything even if you had been there. Against three armed men it's just as likely you'd have ended up dead right along with Sarah and Adam," countered Buck. "Do you think Adam likes to see all the guilt you're carrying even after two years?" JD shook his head as silent tears streamed down his face. "Sounds to me like Adam wants you to stop blaming yourself for something you couldn't stop."

"But I don't know how else to hold on to what I have left of him." JD felt lost so deep in his grief, he couldn't imagine another way to remember Adam.

Buck grasped JD around the neck, pulling his head to Buck's shoulder. "Hell kid, think about his wicked curve ball, his uncanny aim with a water pistol, even his horrible treasure trove of puns. Anything but how he died." Buck could feel JD's tears seeping into his light robe. "I know we all vowed on their graves to catch the ones responsible, but Adam and Sarah, they wouldn't want us to stop living just to avenge their deaths. Please, JD, just try to let go of some of your guilt. Adam loves you too much to want to see you in this kind of pain." Buck didn't get a response from JD, but as the younger man cried himself into an exhausted sleep Buck tried to take it as a good sign. Settling his roommate on the couch under a blanket, Buck rose and spoke into the darkness, "I hope we got through to him this time, Adam."

In the space between worlds a green-eyed boy hoped so too.


Simon entered Interview-three to find four of his detectives already hard at work on their new cold case. Jim, Blair, Rafe and Henry spread the case file out over the conference table. A free flow of voices tossed ideas back and forth while reviewing the case. Rafe took position next to a white board, listing priorities to be investigated first. Recognizing these people were here off the clock, donating their free time to work a case which didn't even belong to their department reminded Simon again of how proud he felt to be leading the best detectives in Cascade. Even Joel called a few minutes ago to let Simon know he and Connor were still processing a suspect and would be a little late.

Simon was just about closed the door when someone called his name. He immediately recognized the ATF profiler, Josiah Sanchez. "Agent Sanchez, I didn't expect to see you today."

"Chris mentioned he'd turned over the case file for Sarah and Adam's murders. There are several personal notes I never included in the official file that you might find useful." Josiah walked forward offering a folder.

Simon accepted it, stepping back to invite Josiah into the room. "We were actually just starting to look over the case if you want to join us?"

"I have some time before I'm expected at the shelter." Josiah moved through the doorway. Nodding a greeting to the detectives he took a seat a bit away from the others. He would be happy to help if they thought up any questions, but first he wanted to see what kind of investigators they were.

Simon started things by asking Jim to summarize the case. Jim gave a concise and detached description of the discovery of Sarah and Adam's bodies. Then he detailed the arrest of John Blackfox, which led to the trail of Cletus Fowler, the man in charge of the Larabee executions. There the case file essentially ended, because Fowler committed suicide rather than reveal the name of the person who hired him. Locating Fowler's financials quickly became the top priority with the hope a money trail would lead to Fowler's employer. Henry also pointed out the need to look into Larabee's former cases, since the nature of the attack made it look like revenge might be a motive. Even Sarah's past needed to be examined.

Josiah noted the differing styles of the detectives. Jim and Simon were both fairly methodical about their approach to the case, while Blair easily jumped from one idea to the next. Henry examined the personalities of the criminals Larabee had been testifying against trying to determine the likely hood of them being behind such a risky attack. Rafe focused on the small details of the case quickly making some rather obscure connections that took Team Seven weeks to ferret out.

"Why wasn't the Pendleton Savings and Loan in New Mexico examined more closely? It says here you found witnesses who claimed Fowler did business there under an assumed name," Rafe queried Josiah.

"You'll notice that particular bit of information came from my personal file," Josiah pointed out. "By that time the case was already a year old and we weren't officially working it anymore. Honestly, we probably never should have worked it in the first place due to our personal involvement, but you may have noticed; it's hard to say no to Chris Larabee. Though, between Chris and JD, we spent as much time trying to pick up the pieces as we did investigating the case. Most often Nathan and I investigated while Buck tried to keep the two of them from self-destructing. By the time JD stumbled across our witness, our supervisor's patience had become exhausted. He told Chris he would have to drop the investigation or leave the ATF."

"Chris backed down?" Jim found it hard to believe Larabee would cave to such an ultimatum.

"Actually, Chris, Buck and JD all submitted resignations. They decided they could open up an investigative agency and still find time to work the case on their own. They agreed to stay for six months, so they would be able to wrap up several of the cases we were working and hand off those that could not be closed," explained Josiah. "Then while trying to wrap up one of those cases we stumbled across two boys in need. When Chris decided to pursue custody of the boys he knew a judge would look much better on a man with a steady, secure job than someone with a struggling, new business who apparently still obsessed about his dead wife and child. Ezra and Vin managed in a few short days to do what a year of grieving and even the federal government couldn't do: They gave Chris something other than revenge to live for."

"So basically the case hasn't been worked on for about a year?" verified Henry.

"I know JD pulls the file out every so often to re-examine it and run searches, but otherwise, little has changed in the past year. Our witness dropped off the radar so we could never justify a subpoena for the Saving & Loan to a judge," admitted Josiah.

"Maybe we could talk to JD about the case," suggested Blair.

"I did yesterday," admitted Simon. "He also gave me some of his personal notes on the case and talked me through the events of the night in question." The discussion and JD's description of that night disturbed Simon more than he liked to admit.


Simon welcomed JD into his office, accepting and paging through the Larabee murder files the young agent brought with him. Noting JD alerted authorities to the crimes at the Larabee ranch he asked, "Could you tell me what you remember about the night of Adam's and Sarah's deaths?"

"It started with a dream," began JD. "a nightmare really. At first I could only hear these strange sounds, like a screeching bird and a hissing, yowling wildcat. Then there were figures coming at me, hulking shadows with no faces. Pain radiated through my right arm, my head and lower back. I could hear Adam screaming, Sarah begging, pleading with them to stop. Cruel humor echoed back from the shadows. They were dragged outside across the gravel driveway and the damp ground, thrown down onto cold cement, trapped in a box. Then came the heat and the smoke, lungs being starved of oxygen as the fire grew. The last thing Adam ever felt was his mother wrapping her arms around him, trying to protect him from the flames." JD swallowed some of his grief to continue. "I woke up screaming, trying to tell myself it was just a dream. I called the ranch but the line had been disconnected. So I hopped in my car and broke every speed limit trying to get there, calling Nathan and Josiah to send help. There were already some police on the scene when I turned into the drive. Officers and deputies were searching the house and calling in an Amber Alert. But I saw the smoldering ruins of the old shed and I knew I was too late." JD looked Simon straight in the eye and offered, "You wouldn't be the first person to think I'd imagined things about that night."

Part of Simon wanted to take the escape JD offered him, but the pain in JD's eyes forced him to admit the truth, "Just because I don't want to hear it doesn't mean it didn't happen." JD left soon after, but Simon could not forget how fragile the young man seemed as he walked away.


As Simon finished reciting the conversation, the conference-room door opened admitting Joel and Megan. With their arrival Josiah excused himself saying he promised to help out at the Open Hand Shelter. The detectives continued to discuss the case, eventually making lists and dividing up the required tasks. A big part of reviewing a cold case involved backtracking over previously covered ground; a tedious but necessary part of the job. Simon just hoped they could find a break in the case. Chris deserved to know the truth behind his family's deaths and a boy and his mother deserved a bit of justice.


Chris took another sip of iced tea as he checked on Vin and Ezra. Vin finished working on the last of his history report, while Ezra typed away on Sarah's old laptop constructing his 'new story'. Chris didn't know the plot of Ezra's newest endeavor, but he felt relieved Ezra finally found something beyond cards and betting to be passionate about. Vin seemed to know the topic of Ezra's story. On more than one occasion he saw Ezra consult Vin over some of the text. Chris didn't take offence at being left out of the loop. Ezra said he wanted Chris to read his story upon its completion and not before. He did know Ezra joined some Internet novel writing challenge which required his son to write fifty thousand words by the end of the month. The teenager placed himself on a demanding schedule of seventeen hundred written words a day to meet his goal. Hell, Chris didn't voluntarily speak so many words in a month if he could help it, but if anyone could meet such a challenge it would be Ezra.

A flash of light through the window reminded Chris they had company coming. It looked like the Major Crimes contingent would arrive first. A peek through the blinds revealed Blair, Jim and Rafe getting out of the truck. That meant they only needed to wait for JD to begin the first official Sentinel training seminar. Vin, having heard the car pull in, packed up his schoolwork. Ezra typed faster than ever muttering, "Just a eighty-five more words."

Blair suggested he and Jim get together with Ezra and Vin to help the boys learn to deal with Vin's Sentinel abilities. Chris agreed under the condition he and JD were present for any training. Ezra wanted JD there to serve as a back-up guide and he thought it would be good for JD, especially when he noticed the young agent's glum mood. Buck pulled him aside to let him know JD's nightmares were returning, something Chris sadly expected. Learning everything behind the instant bond JD shared with his son Adam would inevitably stir up mixed emotions. Chris never had been one for talking problems out. When discussion became necessary Sarah had always been the one to lead the way. He much preferred taking action. He hoped training with the boys would be enough to help JD work though the residual doubts and guilt still lingering from Adam and Sarah's deaths. When he had included JD, Blair asked if they could bring Rafe as well. Something Chris easily agreed to since Rafe played a significant part in saving Ezra's life just a week before.

Chris opened his door to the three detectives. They moved through the entrance quickly, trying to minimize the amount of cold drizzle that came in. Chris didn't close the door completely because he noticed JD car pull into the drive. "Looks like everyone made it."

Jim shivered when he took off his jacket, hanging it on a peg. "Better not keep that door open too long. The temperature in here is dropping quickly," he advised.

"I've got the fireplace going," Chris pointed out. "It won't take too long to warm up again." The leader stepped back to let JD in before shutting the door soundly. "Ezra, we've got company," Chris reminded unnecessarily.

"Just two more minutes," assured the teen, his fingers flying across the keyboard.

Catching Blair's curious gaze, Chris explained, "My son's a budding novelist."

"Awesome," Blair grinned. "What genre?"

"Actually, I don't know," admitted Chris. "Ezra wants me to read it when it's finished, 'without preconceptions'.

Blair nodded. To him Ezra's wish made perfect sense. "So I've got a few topics listed to discuss, but I wanted to know if there seemed to be any one area of Vin's Sentinel abilities you thought we needed to work on?"

"Chief!" hissed Jim in dismay.

Blair looked back at his partner's suddenly harsh tone. Jim hunched over the fireplace, rubbing his hands vigorously, but even so his lips took on an almost bluish tint. "Jim are you alright? You look more than just a little chilled."

"I think I got a little bit of the rainwater down my collar, which explains why I'm shivering, but doesn't explain why you're discussing 'sensitive' issues in front of Vin and Ezra's friend."

"Friend?" Blair squeaked. He immediately scanned the room but couldn't see any children beyond Vin and Ezra.

Jim sighed in exasperation. "The boy with the brown hair and green eyes, reading the computer screen over Ezra's shoulder."

"Um, Jim, there's no one there man," murmured Rafe nervously. Learning he apparently possessed the potential to be a Guide like Blair had been a shock, but Rafe thought he coped with it well so far. When Simon called him into his office to warn Rafe about all of the strange, weird and downright bizarre things that happened to Sentinels and Guides, Rafe wrote most of it off as over exaggeration. Now with his first lesson on how to Guide apparently being hijacked by a boy who wasn't there, he began to wonder if he had made his assumption in haste.

"I forgot Jim could see you too," Vin said to the unidentified boy. As soon as Vin said those words Jim realized the third boy in the room must be a spirit, and he wasn't the only one to realize it.

"Do not tell me the house I just moved my family into is haunted," growled Chris.

"It's not haunted," insisted Vin. "It's just . . . it's . . ."

"It's Adam," JD spoke for the first time.

"Adam?" Chris's voice cracked as his eyes flew from Jim to JD to Vin.

"The boy with brown hair and green eyes," repeated JD. "Remember how Vin told us he'd been sent to you by someone else? But we could never get him to tell us who. Just like we could never get him to explain how he found your ranch." JD's eyes drifted into the empty space behind Ezra. "Adam saw another Sentinel and Guide in need and he sent them to you because he knew you would protect them."

Chris shuttered; stunned with disbelief. They couldn't really be saying his dead son stood here in the room with them. It simply wasn't possible. Which meant this had to be someone's idea of a sick joke. Instantly Chris turned, ready to vent all of his rage on Jim, his most acceptable target.

"I'm sorry, Dad," said Vin before Chris could say a word. "I didn't mean to lie to you, but Adam said it would only hurt you if you learned about him too soon." Vin stood next to Ezra's chair, shifting nervously from one foot to the other.

All of Chris's anger drained away. From the first time Chris spoke with the boys he always knew if either were lying, much to Ezra's dismay. Right now Vin was telling the truth as he understood it. Chris struggled to comprehend a reality where his lost son stood just a few feet away, yet he couldn't see him, couldn't hear his voice, or take him in his arms the way he longed to.

JD slipped forward. "Nobody here is mad at you Vin. Not for keeping Adam's secret." JD stopped on the other side of Ezra.

Ezra, who finished typing during the discussion, remained seated uncertain how to deal with the tension in the room. More than a year ago Ezra too wondered if perhaps Vin made things up when he talked about Adam. Vin described the spirit as a boy who wanted to help them. Who knew of a place and some people with whom they would be safe. Ezra's doubts relented a bit after a warning from Adam saved him and Vin from capture by Humboldt's mercenaries. Then Ezra's gunshot wound became infected and he actually saw Adam (along with a plethora of spirit animals) in the midst of his fevered dreams. It felt like he spent a lot of time in Adam's company, yet he remembered little of what Adam said to him beyond he should trust Chris and JD as well as the rest of their chosen family.

JD paid close attention to the area Vin talked to. Every hair on the back of his neck stood on end, an electric charge filled the room unlike anything he felt before. Following his gut JD reached out to the empty space behind Ezra's chair. First he felt a cold spot. Then he saw Adam, small fingers reaching back towards his. When their fingers should have met they passed, just a bit, through each other, but JD didn't care because he could feel Adam. All of Adam's courage and humor and even the nasty temper he'd inherited from his father were all there pulsing beneath his hand, and JD could barely breathe for the wonder of it. He had Adam back!

"I can't stay like this for long," warned Adam as if reading his thoughts.

"Adam?" Chris crossed the room silently, eyes locked on the apparition that was his first-born son. Adam looked so much like the child he remembered, yet this child looked more real and solid then any of his fading memories, despite the transparent form. Chris considered reaching out but didn't think he could cope with meeting an empty vapor. So instead he anchored to Vin and Ezra, grasping the shoulders of both boys.

Adam seemed to understand, meeting his father's gaze with the same look of love and trust Chris saw a million times before. Then he turned his eyes back to JD. "You haven't been listening in the dream, so maybe you'll listen now. You are not in any way responsible for what happened to us, and what's more you couldn't have prevented it. It was time for me to leave. I simply wasn't meant to stay long in this world." Adam wanted to communicate more, but words were hopelessly inadequate. "Please, JD. Please stop clinging to all of this grief and anger. You need to let go and move on."

Just like in the nightmare JD felt a rush of anger. With his palm meeting Adam's ethereal one, JD felt whole for the first time in years. How could Adam ask him to give that up? Yet even he knew they couldn't stay in this moment forever. "I have listened to you. Now you need to listen to me. I can't let go of anything until we've caught the person who hired Fowler and ordered your deaths. I know it won't bring you back, but it might prevent it from happening to someone else, like Ezra and Vin." JD spoke the greatest fear of every member of the team; that the person who signed Sarah and Adam's death order would again take revenge on Chris through his new family.

Adam stared at JD for a long moment, an ageless child gauging his ally's resolve. "I can't tell you where the journey ends, but I can show you where the trail begins." Adam raised his other hand to touch JD's temple. At the moment of contact JD's eyes glazed over providing a show only he could see. Then his body swayed and Chris barely managed to catch him as he fell.

"JD? Come on JD, tell me you're all right," encouraged Chris, setting the young agent as gently as possible on the carpet.

"He's probably just overloaded by the experience," offered Blair when JD remained unconscious. Blair refused to believe Adam would have done anything to hurt JD, and he didn't think Chris believed such nonsense either.

Adam's form crouched down next to Chris and JD. The boy's sad eyes met his father's, and Chris knew instinctively what his son needed. "Of course, I'll look out for JD." Adam's eyes shot towards Vin and Ezra. "And your little brothers too," added Chris.

Chris's words were met by Adam's most brilliant smile, expressing all of the faith and admiration he held for his father. "Love you, Dad." The apparition faded from view.

"Love you too, Adam," Chris responded to the vacant spot where Adam had been. Chris closed his eyes, trying to steel himself against the pain of losing Adam a second time.

"Dad?" Vin's hesitant voice announced his fear he somehow helped to hurt his father.

"I'm okay," Chris assured in a fairly steady voice, though the tears slipping down his face belied his words. Tossing aside his pain in favor of action Chris said, "Let's move JD somewhere a little more comfortable."

Jim helped Chris carry the unconscious agent into the master bedroom, removing his shoulder holster and boots before leaving the ATF men alone. Blair came in a moment later with an extra blanket and a sports drink. "I thought he might like this when he woke up," Blair suggest of the bottle.

"You think he's going to be alright though?" asked Chris. JD seemed to be in a deep sleep, but what just happened far exceeded Chris's realm of experience.

"Yeah, I think he'll be fine," said Blair. "I've seen others who needed a bit of recovery time after an intense spiritual experience." There was nothing quite like spending years traveling the world, studying primitive cultures, to give you all sorts of esoteric knowledge.

Chris nodded. "I should go check on the boys." Yet he clearly felt hesitant to leave JD alone.

"Well, they seemed to be doing okay when I left," offered Blair. "Jim talked to them about some of the times he encountered those who have passed on. Vin seemed to be relieved it wasn't just him." JD shifted and sighed as he started to claw his way out of unconsciousness. "I'll let the others know JD seems to be doing better," declared Blair. "Just give a shout if you need anything."

Chris barely noticed Blair's departure, focusing instead on JD's slowly opening eyes. Confusion and then sorrow were the first things to pass across JD's face. "Just a dream," he murmured in despair.

"No, JD, not a dream. I'm pretty sure everyone in the family room saw Adam." When JD only responded with stunned silence, Chris continued, "In fact, the whole incident got me thinking. I can remember a couple times over the past year when I felt Sarah and Adam were still around, still a part of our family. Now I'm wondering if maybe it was more than just wishful thinking."

JD cleared his throat. "Adam showed me things at the end," started JD. "Things that didn't match up with what Fowler told us. Fowler said he'd been looking to kill you and settled for Sarah and Adam as a consolation prize. But from what he said to Sarah and his hired guns, Sarah and Adam were the target all along. And Chris, it wasn't a man who hired Fowler, it was a woman."

Chris stored away JD's information. Too much happened for him to question its truth. "What about you? How do you feel?" Chris wondered.

"Good," replied JD moving to sit up. "Better than I've felt in quite a while actually. There was this moment after Adam showed me what Fowler said. It's hard to explain, but for a moment I touched the place where Adam is now. There wasn't any pain or anger, just this overwhelming love and acceptance, this understanding that everything is unfolded the way it's supposed to." JD shook his head. "I'm probably not making any sense." It was strange to feel something so intensely, but not understand why you were feeling it.

Chris didn't think he could ever come to the place where he could accept Sarah and Adam were supposed to die, but if JD managed to get some measure of peace out of the experience, he would not contradict it. "The way I figure it, this is one of those things that doesn't have to make sense." Assessing JD's recovery, he asked, "So do you think you're ready to go back and join the others? After this, the rest of Blair's Sentinel/Guide training ought to be downright boring."

JD chuckled. "Right now, boring sounds pretty darned good."


Feedback and reviews are always appreciated. Series will be continued in Finding Home.