Relative Absurdity 2: Wrangling

by Marns
aka Bumpkin

Disclaimer: Not mine...
Description: Maude and Naomi attempt to talk some sense into their offspring while other similarities Ezra shares with Blair surface. Plus a member of Team 7 finds out that he and Jim have a lot in common.
Rated: PG-13
Author's Notes: Beta'ed by the stunning Mostcrazylady and Karieflybabe and Strangevisitor7, all three who have done their best to point me in the direction of readability - any remaining errors or incongruities are, of course, mine. Many thanks girls!

Back to: Relative Absurdity

Ezra Standish grinned wickedly as he hit 'send' on the email he had painstakingly composed for his mother catching her up on the news about him and his cousin, Blair. It had been a couple of years since he and Blair had run into each other in that Cascade police station, and a lot of things had changed. Too bad he had a feeling that she wasn't going to like their news. He only wished he could be a fly on the wall when she got his email so he could personally see Maude's reaction when she read what he'd sent. He had a feeling it would be quite the show - pity he was going to miss it.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Maude started scrambling in her 'emergency bag' for the 'family' phone as she read the latest email her son had sent her. She could almost see the sly smirk on his lips and the wicked light dancing in his green eyes at the news he had imparted to her via the message.

'No! It just couldn't be,' she thought. 'Bad enough my own darlin' boy went and joined the ranks of the dreary civil servants, but my darlin' nephew too?' She just couldn't countenance such a thing. It just wasn't- 'kosher'. Not with her sister, Naomi the perennial flower child, as his mother anyway.

Finally her hand closed around the matte plastic casing of the phone and she quickly pulled it out. Dialing the programmed in number with three short jabs, Maude impatiently waited for the other end to be picked up.

Then, finally, it was.


Her younger sister's voice sounded disgruntled, Maude didn't care. This was something they couldn't afford to let the petty squabbling between the two of them interfere with.

"Naomi, it's Maude-"

~"Maude? What on Earth would prompt you to call me? On this phone no less - you know very well it's for emergencies only. After all, it was you that made that fact very clear the last time we talked and told me in no uncertain terms that the only things you would even consider enough of an emergency to rate using this phone to call me about were an imminent nuclear strike - or... if something happened to one of the boys. Wait, no - oh no, don't tell me..."~

Maude felt like rolling her eyes. The daft girl hadn't changed a whit, she was still way too emotional and jumping to conclusions at the drop of a hat. Best to cut this off before Naomi had both their sons dead and buried.

"Well, if you let me get a word in edgewise, my dear sister, I would be able to tell you what it is exactly that I am calling you about, wouldn't I?" Maude snapped, but then continued in a gentler tone, "Don't worry, darlin', they are both fine for the moment, inasmuch as they ever are as far as I know, but you're right that the boys *are* the reason for this call."

Maude paused for a moment and tried to gather her thoughts, 'ah hell with this, it's a secure line and she's my sister - she'll understand no matter what I sound like.'

"Naomi, when did Blair change his thesis topic? I mean, I never heard anything about it - did you? And do you have any idea of what ever it was that possessed the boy to choose the police as his secondary topic? Was it because he already intended to take a job with them after he defended and got his doctorate? Hell, darlin', is any of this as much a surprise to you as it was to me?"

Naomi spluttered on the other end of the line for a bit. Then she finally managed to say with her own shock very evident in her voice,

~"What? He what? What do you mean he changed- uh, or chose? Wait, intended? Defended? Oh Goddess, Maude, you have me at a loss here. I mean I knew he was having some difficulty finding any subjects for his thesis on enhanced senses, but that he actually ditched it and went with a full out dissertation on the police? No, I had no idea. I thought the cop thing was just a stopgap measure, a series of papers to tide him over while he still looked for a subject, you know?"~

Naomi ceased babbling and her older sister could hear her audibly draw in a breath. Maude could almost see her younger sister start to say one of those silly mantras she was so fond of. Then when Naomi seemed to have herself back under control, she spoke again, calmly.

~"I mean, obviously I knew about his riding with Jim, the cop I guess he did his final paper on. Even met the man - nice enough guy for a pig. So's Simon, Jim's Captain. But, Maudie, even though they seemed to respect and value Blair, I didn't get the feeling that they took him all that seriously. Certainly not enough that I thought they would have offered him a permanent position with them. At least I didn't think so..."~

Naomi's voice trailed off and Maude sighed. So, most of this was news to Blair's mother as well. It shouldn't surprise her that their sons had kept the two of them in the dark until it was pretty much a done deal - it was always easier to apologize than ask permission. She and Naomi both had taught their boys that lesson after all - for different reasons - but it was a lesson the mischievous twosome had taken to heart like ducks take to water. Maude smiled wryly. Perhaps it wasn't the smartest thing the two sisters had ever taught their boys, but in the long run that didn't matter did it? Not if it was a habit that would help them survive, especially in the professions they seemed to have chosen for themselves.

Besides, this was hardly the first time the sisters had caught the backlash from this particular lesson and she was sure it wouldn't be the last. Again - not really a bother, but it did get Maude thinking about things Naomi talked about all too often. Things like destiny and fate. Things that Maude hadn't believed in at all until maybe recently. And only then because otherwise she might have to face up to some things she really didn't want to see.

"Nae," Maude finally ventured, "Do you think that we know our sons at all? Or that some other force could be at work here?"

~"What do you mean?"~

Naomi sounded like she really didn't understand the question and so Maude clarified what she was thinking aloud.

"Well, think about it for a moment, darlin'. I'm the premier confidence woman in the world and my son, using everything I'd ever taught him about connin', went to work undercover in law enforcement. First for the FBI and then when that soured, with the ATF. You, Naomi, are a perennial flower child and hippie to the core, right down to never finding a bleeding heart cause you couldn't get behind or protest you wouldn't participate in. And your son, despite being raised on countless communes and retreats around the world where he was indoctrinated with pacifist and liberal teachings out the wazoo and having an education many would envy, still went to work for the police! The two of them have chosen careers that are polar opposites to how we raised them. Either something else is at work or they are just contrary little buggers."

A half chuckle, half groan came over the line. Maude smiled rather ironically herself as Naomi said a bit fatalistically,

~"Gods. Laying it all out like that makes things sound really clear doesn't it? When really it's as clear as mud. I don't know, Maudie, if there is some outside influence manipulating things. But it does seem very paradoxical that the children raised by two unique women, both single mothers on their own and using ways that could only be called unconventional for the times, would both end up joining the very establishment their mothers shunned. It just doesn't feel right, but then again, knowing our sons, it could be just the two of them being, as you said, contrary.."~

"Yes, I suppose that sums up exactly what was bothering me about it all. Nae, as usual, you managed to find the golden points amidst the dross of details." Then after a brief pause, Maude continued. "Listen, we have to talk to the boys right? We are agreed on that much aren't we?"

Naomi ya-hmmed a confirmation to that and so Maude kept going.

"Well I have an informant about the goin'-ons in Ezra's 'Team'. One of his teammates is a bit sweet on me and I can use that to find out if there is any time in the near future that Ezra's schedule will permit us to find some way to nab him and drag him to where Blair is, or vice versa. What do you think?"

~"I think that I should let you go so that you can start whatever it is that you need to do to get the information we need. And I think I will do some of my own calling around amongst Blair's circle of associates, maybe I'll be able to shake something loose from that end. Bye, Maude, I'll get in touch the minute I know anything."~

"That sounds good, Naomi. I'll do the same. Bye now."

And the two sisters hung up with no more fanfare than that - they knew nothing more was needed.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Two weeks after the insolent little gloating email from Ezra, Maude found out that fortune was smiling on Naomi and herself. There was going to be some kind of awards ceremony slash law conference thing in two months time and both Blair and Ezra were going to be in attendance with their respective teams. So instead of having to drag one or the other to each other, the two cousins were going to be in close enough quarters that cornering them both at the same time would be more than feasible.

Maude called Naomi and they made all the pertinent plans they needed before they again hung up with no fanfare. They were saving the drama for their sons. Considering how the boys had rejected everything the two women had raised them with, this talk between the four of them was long overdue.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Two months passed and, unsuspecting of who else was going to be joining them later on, the two groups of seven met each other in the lobby of the hotel pre-arranged for the conference. They had no idea what was about to descend on them and so the members of the ATF Team 7 out of Denver and the Major Crime Unit from Cascade greeted each other boisterously. They were in good spirits and it was a loud meeting for the two elite units. Very loud. One of the two groups alone was enough to keep most places hopping, the two together... well, those that knew them only hoped the building hosting them would still be standing by the time this conference was over and done with.

Two members, one from either group, held back preferring to observe rather than participate. If they also threw each other commiserating looks for what they had to deal with, that was their prerogative as family understanding each other's woes. In the meantime their respective teams were greeting each other in a time honored competitive manner - with choice insults and jibes.

"Hey!" H called out exuberantly, "Fancy seeing you clowns here."

"Yeah," Rafe chimed in, "I thought this was a gathering of the 'best of the best' type shindig only."

Buck snorted and snarked back, "Well boys, seeing as we have been dubbed the 'Magnificent' Seven of the ATF, our invitation was a given." He paused for a beat then with a wicked grin added, "Leaving of course the question of how *you* lot got in here."

"Oh, Buck, zing, direct hit!" JD crowed as a chorus of mock pained groans was heard from some of the Cascade contingent.

Megan wasn't going down that easily though. "Oh, mate, we don't need to puff ourselves up with fancy monikers like 'Magnificent' anything. We are simply 'elite'."

"Ooooh..." Buck clutched his chest like he had been shot. "The pain! The agony..."

"The really bad overacting..." Nathan said in a pained tone. "Jeez, Buck, you really need to take some lessons from Ez sometime. He could at least show you what it looks like when done right."

Buck deflated as everyone laughed.

"Man, no one has any respect for a clown anymore," he muttered dejectedly.

As they all began to head to the front desk to check in, Chris moved up to a place beside him and said, "Sure they do, Bucklin, the clown just needs to have some talent to start with."

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The fourteen sat together near one of the exits at the back of the room while the conference part of the whole gathering was proceeding at the pace they always seemed to take - what Ezra called with a sly grin - 'ponderously protracted to the point of pain'. At least they had each other to talk to during the snoozefest since they had made a point of sticking together after booking in. They'd had a feeling there was safety in numbers, even if it was only protection from the sheer boredom these gatherings always seemed to engender.

Time dragged. The whole room was filled with restless and fidgeting men. They had two days of the learning portion to endure before they hit the two days of the awards where things promised to be a bit more interesting, if only for the embarrassment factor. At the moment though, the two teams were still stuck sitting with a whole bunch of other pained looking officials in one of the most boring lectures they had ever had the misfortune to attend. It was so boring the two teams had come to a gentlemen's agreement amongst themselves - to keep each other awake with discreet nudges applied by pointed elbows.

It was Blair's turn to nudge the dozing Jim and Ezra sitting to either side of him when he saw them. Unfortunately this resulted in his gentle elbow nudges turning into something resembling rib cracking jabs. Angry looks were aimed his way by the two unfortunate recipients, but he never noticed. His attention was fixed unwaveringly into the distance as he uttered in a low tone,

"Oh my God." He said it low and slow, the dread in his voice almost palpable. The two teams started to scrabble around as they unobtrusively tried to see what had freaked out the anthropologist-turned-cop so much. Ezra was the first who seemed to spot whatever it was - and when he did he promptly froze too.




"Jeez, get off!"

"Man, move!"


"What's he lookin' at?"

"I dunno, but Brother Ezra is looking just as spooked."


"Mate, your hand better be there by accident..."



"I said I was sorry!"

"Hey look! It's Ez's Ma and she's with another lady - a pretty redhead." JD said ingeniously.

"Good God, it's Naomi." Simon said with dread. "And Maude, together." Chris added, his own voice low and filled with foreboding. They understood now why Blair, and Standish too for that matter, had frozen. Both of their mothers were here and working in concert. Simon shared a speaking look with Chris Larabee. This wasn't good. One of the sisters alone was worthy of being likened to a natural disaster when they blew into town, what kind of havoc would the two of them actively acting as a team be capable of?

"Blair, sweetie!" Naomi smiled sweetly and waved in their direction. Her sister standing beside her gave a small half wave and smiled as well, but on her the effect was a bit more predatory. Her call of "Ezra, my darlin' boy!" was delivered smoothly but for some reason all the men in the room felt chills run up their spines.

It seemed they were going to find out...

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

"Oh hell, what are they doing here?" Ezra muttered as he sank as low as he could in his seat. Blair answered him as he did the same.

"I don't know, but them reconciled *and* working together - it's unprecedented, it's-"

"Horrifyin'? Unnatural? The worst thing that could evah happen on this earth while it still orbits the heavenly body of Sol, our sun?" Ezra thoughtfully supplied for Blair who laughed and said sardonically,

"Yeah, and it might very well be the harbinger of Armageddon too."

Ezra didn't respond to his cousin's sally beyond making a rough agreeing sound. Snickering, Ezra and Blair edged closer together and then were shoved a bit closer even as Vin and Jim closed in from their other sides. The cousins started to glare at their respective ex-rangers and then stopped when they realized it hadn't been their fault - Simon and Chris had displaced whoever had been sitting on either side of Jim and Vin, flanking them. The crowding had been merely a result of that jostling.

The rest of their teammates were discretely displacing people willy-nilly as they fell into a protective formation around the six in the middle. The cousins appreciated what their co-workers were trying to do, really they did, but they knew it was futile. Nothing would hinder Maude and Naomi once they were set on a course. They were juggernaughts. Unstoppable. Ezra and Blair shared a speaking look and sighed. Then they began to wiggle out of the phalanx of bodies hemming them in.

"Where do you think you're going?" Jim asked his guide and partner as Blair wiggled past him.

"Umm, to talk to my mom?"

"Do you think that is wise?" Chris asked the both of them after sharing an equally speaking glance with Simon. Ezra answered for both himself and his cousin,

"That depends, for everyone else who might get caught in the backlash if we don't head them off? Yes. For us, heading into the fray to do the heading off? No. But we have been dealing with these ladies all our lives, we will manage. Don't worry." That said, Ezra and Blair grinned wryly at each other and went to meet their mothers while their teammates watched with trepidation.

Then, with no other recourse left to them, the remaining members of their respective teams settled back down to finish listening to the droning idiot who Maude and Naomi's arrival had interrupted. There was nothing else they could do.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The two women led their sons from the area, Maude muttering some under her breath about how so many representatives of the law in one place were enough to give her hives. And if they didn't because of their profession their appalling choice in apparel was going to do her in. Let alone their abysmal choices in foodstuffs, toiletries, and other sundry irritants. Naomi freely giggled at her sister's sarcasm and ranting. Ezra and Blair, trying to be loyal to their profession and friends fought their amusement at first but as Maude's diatribe continued, eventually succumbed.

Hitting the pavement outside caused old childhood conditioning to surface for both Blair and Ezra. They smoothly moved up from trailing behind their mothers to gallantly offer each woman an escorting arm, which of course was accepted by the ladies in question and they started to walk again. They were well on their way to a much higher end hotel still within walking distance of the original hotel when Ezra cleared his throat and said, "Mother, you do realize that you are disparaging your darlin' nephew and myself when you make comments about the law profession like you did back there, don't you?"

Maude didn't turn her head, she just glanced up archly at her son and then gave him a saucy little wink as she said, "Why yes, that had occurred to me - your point?" Ezra spluttered, and then he glowered. Maude was pushing the envelope a tad with her disapproving attitude and the situation was starting to degenerate.

Blair, ever the voice of reason in this family group, stepped forward with Naomi at his side. He said in a placid, non-confrontational tone, "I think what Ezra was trying to say, Aunt Maude, was that perhaps you weren't being very -considerate- of other's feelings, or respectful either, most especially ours when you were saying those things? That both of us wouldn't mind a little respect and understanding perhaps for what we have chosen as our life's work."

Maude dropped Ezra's arm and spun to face Blair fully. She poked him hard in the chest as she said sharply, "But that is just it my darlin' nephew, we don't. We don't respect or understand why our sons are throwing their lives away on, on," words failed her for a moment as she struggled to vocalize what she thought of Blair and Ezra's choices. Finally she just threw her hands up with an inarticulate sound and turned in order to resume walking to their original destination, fuming the entire time.

The remaining three trailed after her, not wanting any more of their family business aired on the street. It was more than a bit uncomfortable and tense for the remainder of the walk - but appeared civil at least to any who didn't know them. Still, it was an uncomfortably silent quartet who entered the hotel suite the sisters had chosen for their private battleground. It was only then with the door shutting the world out, that Maude turned and addressed the other three again.

"Now as I was saying before," Maude's gaze flitted between Ezra and Blair as she bit her words out. "You said that you think we should respect and understand what the both of you have chosen for your life's work - but we don't! We don't respect or understand why our sons are throwing their lives away on the very establishments that we, as your mothers, taught you were wrong headed and backwards."

Naomi who had drifted up to her side chimed in, "Yes, as your mothers, we tried to show you the world - and you choose instead to tie yourselves to people and places that will *never* understand you or fully accept you! We know, remember?" Her gaze was reproachful.

Maude nodded in agreement with what her sister had said and finished what they thought with, "It's like a slap in the face to the both of us. I don't see how either of you could ever think it would be anything but, and yet you want us to just accept and be happy for you? It's not in the cards boys, we want better for the two of you. We always have."

Ezra and Blair stared at their mothers for a moment, just trying to take in everything they had said. It took them a bit, this wasn't exactly something they had been expecting - they had known that their moms weren't going to be happy with their career choices, but this was a bit more than not happy. This was more like an unnecessary intervention, one that had to be nipped in the bud before the two women decided to get creative. The two cousins shared a long look and Blair nodded, Ezra could take this one. He had the far sharper tongue.

Ezra rounded on the two women, eyes narrow and tone biting. "You say you want what's best for us? That you always have? That you don't understand why we have chosen as we have when you both gave us so much - the world even - so that we might prosper beyond even your dreams?"

"Yes, Ezra, that is exactly what we are saying," Maude said impatiently.

Ezra's lips tightened for a moment but then his face smoothed over again into a mask that didn't let anyone watching know what he was thinking. "Ah, I see. Then you admit that our childhoods devoid of any meaningful and steady friendships or any other kind of relationships with others, were part and parcel of what you intended. That our always feeling like outcasts no matter where we were, feeling disconnected from the rest of humanity because we had no common ground with anyone - these all were giving us what was 'best' for us?"

Naomi made a strangled little sound in the back of her throat while Maude blinked at the new viewpoint. Ezra, seeing that he had them off balance, decided that he should keep the heat on. He shifted his attention to rest solely on his Aunt to continue.

"Naomi, who were you really helping when you allowed Blair to become Rainier's resident wunderkind at 16 years of age? Sure he was academically advanced enough to be in the university or he never would have been accepted, but he was ostracized by the student body. He was too young to connect with any of his peers and you just left him there to fend for himself - how is that, in any shape or form, doing your best for him?"

Naomi gasped and turned tearful eyes towards her son, it was obvious she hadn't thought of her actions in quite that way before. Blair just shook his head and shrugged. What Ezra had said had been true enough. Ezra turned his attention back to his own mother.

"And my darling mother dearest, just who were you looking out for when you enrolled me in countless boarding schools world over under near as many names? It certainly wasn't me. Because let me tell you, no child wants to be the eternal 'new' kid - it leaves you too much at the mercy of those already established. And mother if that is what you called 'giving me the world' then I am sorry to tell you that it was hardly the enriching experience that you wanted it to be."

Maude flinched back for a second but then protested hotly, "I hardly think that we did so badly for the two of you as that - don't you think you are being too harsh? After all, we were children raising children of our own - single mothers in an era that didn't have aids in place to help us and we could only muddle through as best we could."

Ezra's eyes narrowed again and he opened his mouth to blast his mother when Blair laid a hand on his back, checking him before he said anything he might regret. Blair said quietly to his cousin, "I'll take over from here." Ezra nodded and let Blair handle the rebuttal.

Blair faced their mothers and smiled sweetly. He said, "Muddle, yes. That is exactly the point. You were, as you said, children with children of your own - no help, no real clue - but you managed. In fact, you succeeded beyond your wildest dreams in many ways, for us and yourselves. But that doesn't change that many errors were also made and I think this clash we are having at the moment might be one of them."

Blair looked to see if his words were being received better now than they had been before on the street. They seemed to be as he had the undivided attention of both Maude and Naomi. He continued, "You both chose not to stay with the men that you married to get out of your parent's home, the marriages which Ezra and I are the result of - Naomi, don't bother with the denials, there are advantages to the jobs Ezra and I chose - and followed your own hearts. Why are you denying that our own dreams are less valid than yours? We found jobs and people that make us feel good, make us feel needed and wanted, that we like and enjoy - how is any of that bad? We aren't asking you to drop your dreams and join us in ours, why would we? Your dreams aren't ours. I guess that is the point, we recognize that your dreams are your own and that we have no say over them, now we want to know why you won't extend us the same consideration?"

Both Maude and Naomi shifted uncomfortably. It was a good point, one that they couldn't argue against. Finally Naomi offered up her thoughts, "I guess it was just that with what you boys chose to do that it seemed like you were rejecting everything that Maude and I thought important, that you were rejecting everything we stand for and hence, in essence, you were rejecting... us."

It was Blair and Ezra's turn to blink blankly, trying to process the twisted logic behind their mother's actions and reactions.



Finally Blair ventured, "Well then, if that's the main issue we are dealing with - how about we reassure you that we still love you, no matter what, and that we are in no way rejecting either of you. That said, do you think that you can find your way into respecting and being happy for what we have chosen for our respective careers?"

Maude and Naomi shared a speaking look and Maude scowled. She didn't seem to want to let it go. Naomi leaned over and whispered furiously in her ear for a few seconds then stood straight again. Maude still didn't look happy, but there was a begrudging acceptance beginning on her face. Ezra saw it and decided to tip things a bit more in their favor, or at least clue his mother into reality as he and Blair saw it.

"Just think, Mother, you and Naomi left your parents behind when they wouldn't listen to you - why wouldn't those genetics breed true? It's *your* choice to see that history doesn't repeat."

Maude's eyes widened, that certainly put things in a new perspective for her. Be happy with what she had or to do without entirely. She made up her mind.

"Well darlin', seeing as you put it that way, I believe that I can see my way clear to acceptin' your choice after all."

"Me too!" Naomi agreed with a little wave.

Both Ezra and Blair relaxed and sat back to enjoy the rest of their surprise visit from their mothers, relieved that they had done it. They had managed to convince their respective mothers that they needed to back off and let their sons live their own lives. Never again would they push like they had today for their sons to change careers. Of course this wouldn't stop the normal games the family played with each other - the sly digs, coy hinting, and the brazen suggestions the two women would still employ to try and encourage their sons away from their chosen professions - but nothing again as direct or hard hitting as they had been today. The family dynamics had been restored, the status quo was back - this was a good thing.

Now, all that was left was getting the women to leave without falling victim to the disasters that normally followed in their respective wakes... Yeah, great fun.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

"You know what they are here about right?" Jim asked the room in general later on. He got a general consensus of agreement from all present. They had been freed from the interminable rounds of lectures and seminars they were compelled to attend for the duration of the conference for the moment and were lounging in the sitting room of one of the the large multi-bedroomed suites that Ezra and Blair had finagled for them. Well almost all of them, Buck, JD, Rafe and Brown were out trying their luck with some of the fairer sex attending the gathering.

Chris answered Jim's query dryly, "Well if Naomi's opinion on law enforcement is anything like her sister's, then I think we can all bet that they are trying to talk them out of working with us."

Simon chuckled as he said, "No bet, Chris. That would be a sucker-bet for sure, although from what you all have told us about Ezra's mother I think the reasons might be vastly different."

Megan half-heartedly glared around the room at them as she said with a hint of worry in her voice, "It doesn't matter what the reasons are, I just hope that Ez and Sandy are able to withstand their mothers when they are united and working together."

Joel agreed with her, "Yeah, I would hate for us to lose the two of them."

Josiah broke up the gloomy mood that had been descending as he added, "Especially not now - we just got them all trained up right and broken in."

Most in the room laughed as Josiah intended with the wisecrack and he smiled genially around. But Jim was getting tense, all this talk of his guide being talked into leaving was starting to get to him. He didn't like it. Blair couldn't leave, he had to stay. Jim wouldn't be able to handle things if Blair left... Jim got up and began to pace. He needed an outlet for the stress he was feeling while his guide wasn't there.

"You okay, Jim?" Nathan asked sounding concerned. "You're looking a bit stressed there. Anything I can do to help?"

Jim shook his head, nothing but his guide being there in the flesh would help him now, but smiled his thanks to the medic anyway. Nathan nodded and shrugged, obviously he couldn't give aid where none was wanted. It was no skin off his nose that Jim didn't want any help.

Jim was fading back into himself and his own obsessive worries so he almost didn't hear it when Nathan addressed Vin next, or Vin's answers, but when he did he came back to reality in a hurry. Nathan's asking Vin, "Hey, Vin, what's hurting you?" and Vin's quiet reply of "What's not? Damn room's too bright, too loud, stinks, and I think I might be allergic to whatever they use to wash the bedding here cause I am getting a wicked rash coming up." made Jim's eyes widen and seek out both Megan's and Simon's in turn. This wasn't good.

While Jim was having his private little crisis, Nathan was asking Vin more detailed questions about how and what he was feeling. Things like "How long?" and "Did it just start or did it build up over a time?", the stuff you expected a medic to ask. Vin snarled at the other man, but answered as well as he was able to at the moment.

"Jeez, Nathan, I dunno. I guess I would say it was gradual-like and it's been steadily gettin' worse since Ez and Blair left with their Ma's." Vin's answers were very illuminating to those in the 'know' and Jim felt his own stress lessen as he listened. This could change things. True, in a good way, but he wasn't going to know until after everything was said and done.

Jim gazed around the room and took in who was there. He winced. He knew what he had to do but this was going to open one hell of a can of worms. Too many who knew both him and Vin were going to be asking some really difficult questions after this. But Vin had to be talked down to close to normal before he really started to spike and lose any control he might have left. He sighed and thought, 'Damn, well here goes' and moved forward to help the younger man regain some vestige of conscious control.

"Vin? Hey, listen I'm pretty sure I know what's bothering you and how to cope with it but it's going to take something Blair calls 'guided imagery' - you game?"

Vin shot him a pained look but just said, "If'n it helps I'm willin' to try just about anything."

"Yeah, I remember those days." Jim said with a twist to his lips that spoke volumes to those who knew him. He guided the younger man to lie down on one of the room's couches and crouched beside him, sheltering him from the view of the others in the room. Speaking softly in a measured cadence that he normally heard from Blair he said, "Alright, what you have to do is find something that you can relate to that works like a valve or a volume knob, something you can adjust in increments. I use a dial like from an old radio, dates me I know but it gives you an idea of what I am talking about." Jim fell silent and waited as Vin's eyes fell closed as he thought about it.

Vin nodded keeping his eyes closed, and said, "Okay got it."

And Jim smiled while he said, "Okay good, now try to breathe as evenly as you can and look inwards. Picture in your mind five of whatever you chose and label them, one for each sense - sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. Let me know when you can see- what are you using if you don't mind me asking?"

Vin shot Jim a sly grin, or as much of one as he could muster at the moment, and answered, "Why mess with what works, Old man? B'sides, I happen to like antique-type things so the old radio dials work just fine for me too."

"Funny guy, real laugh a minute aren't you?" Jim said dryly while he clamped down on the grin that wanted to escape. "Anyway, now that you have the dials and labeled them, let yourself see where each sense is sitting at. Let me know when you get it."

Vin grunted after only a few seconds had passed and Jim almost felt jealous with the ease the younger man seemed to have grasped the concept and put it to use. Then Vin began rhyming off numbers in conjunction with each sense.

"Eyes are about '8', ears are goin' between '6' an' '9', nose seems to be holding steady at about '7', and skin is at '6'." He paused and stumbled slightly in his recitation before stating, "Mouth is strange, it's set dead on at '4' but it's faded out like I'm not supposed to touch it or somethin'."

Jim blinked, he had no idea what that meant but that didn't really matter at the moment, it wasn't bothering him now and so it was something he could talk about with Blair later. He focused on the other numbers Vin had said. "Okay, Vin, what you need to do is pick one of the dials and mentally grip it, then when you have a good grip start notching it down to '5' or wherever feels most comfortable to you." He stopped talking and backed off, waiting for Vin to indicate if he needed any other help.

Vin's breathing stuttered a bit as he broke into a light sweat with the effort he was expending, but then he evened it out again and relaxed after only a few more minutes. He managed to open his eyes without wincing and held a hand out to Jim to help him up from where he'd been lying on the couch. Jim pulled him up from his supine position but pushed him to stay seated. Vin grumbled but went along with it. Of course now that the crisis was over and things appeared to be back under control they had no more excuses to avoid the curious faces of their friends and teammates that they knew would be staring at them and wanting answers.

Gingerly Jim looked up... Yep, just as he thought, they were all there and looking rather inquisitive. 'Splainy time. "Umm, yeah, I guess you are all wondering what that was about and how I knew how to help Vin out, huh?"

Everyone aside from Megan and Simon shared speaking looks. But the only person to speak was Josiah. He rumbled out with a dry undercurrent of humor, "Yes, that would be a fair assessment indeed."

Jim sat down beside Vin on the couch, a place that was rapidly beginning to feel like the proverbial hotseat of interrogation hell, and tried to figure out the best way to explain things. If there ever was a time he wished to have Sandburg's gift of gab it would be now. Or better yet, Sandburg in person to do the explaining. Biting the bullet, Jim started to talk.

"Well, I knew how to help Vin because..."

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Ezra opened the door leading to the living room part of the suite he and Blair had secured for their teams and ushered his cousin in brusquely, vaguely hearing a voice taper off as he did so. Their mothers were gone, thank the lord, and he wasn't in a good mood. Dealing with either of his or his cousin's mother always tended to have that effect on him for some reason. He didn't have to wonder why - the two of them together were nothing less than a nightmare, one that he hoped fervently to not have to deal with again in the near future. A sentiment he knew Blair sincerely echoed him on. And now that they had managed to deal with the she-dragons and send them packing, all he wanted to do was get back to his team, find a quiet spot amongst them to settle in and just relax.

So he really wasn't prepared when he'd finally gotten to where he thought of as 'safe' territory to walk into the ramrod stiff back of his cousin who had frozen just a few steps in from the door. "What in the world? Blair?"

Ezra peered over his cousin's shoulder to see what was upsetting the younger man. He didn't see anything that would have made Blair stop dead and freeze like he had, but then again Blair had preceded him into the room and who knew what they had interrupted. Trying to figure out what was going on Ezra looked over everyone in the room carefully. Starting with Blair's compatriots, Ezra assessed that Simon and Megan looked fine if a bit strained around the edges. He shifted his attention to Joel and saw that the older man seemed more surprised than anything else, something he seemed to share with Mssrs. Jackson and Larabee.

The last three were the most interesting, and the most informative of the bunch. Vin looked like he had been in pain, but now it was easing. Mister Sanchez looked fascinated as he looked in between Blair and Jim, as well as between Vin and Ezra now too. Jim just looked irritated and his next words confirmed it.

"Well, Chief, becoming a detective hasn't helped your sense of timing any, it's still absolutely lousy."

"What the hell?" Blair burst out indignantly. Ezra didn't blame him. He began to edge towards where Vin was curled up on the couch, something in him wanting to make sure the other man was actually okay.

Jim scowled, but something in his expression must have clued Blair in that he really wasn't that upset because Blair relaxed. Jim said gruffly, "I could have used your help about an hour and a half ago." He pointed to a much better looking Vin now that Ezra was standing next to him with a hand lightly resting on his shoulder. "Or should I say Ezra's since it was Vin who needed the help."

"What? Why?" Blair asked sounding very confused.

Jim smirked and said, "Well, I guess you're going to have to get that grant to find out how being a guide is genetic since it seems that my theory about guides being born is just as true as your theory about how Sentinels are."

Blair gaped. "Jim! What are you-"

Jim cut him off, "Oh relax, Chief, as it turns out Junior over there and I have more in common than some time spent in the Rangers and Black Ops. His senses came online just under two hours ago-" Blair's face took on an enlightened cast as Jim spoke, "-and yes, everybody here was in the room at the time so they wanted explanations by the time I had Vin stable. And, Chief, do I have to say how funny I think it is that it seems your mothers unifying qualify was enough of a traumatic event to trigger a latent Sentinel?"

Blair made a face at Jim, but he couldn't argue - not now that it seemed to have become a proven fact. His irritation at Jim notwithstanding, Blair was soon bouncing on the balls of his feet in excitement as he asked Jim about the more important stuff in his mind, "So you explained to them about Sentinels? You told them the history?" At Jim's negative head shake and quick gesture, Blair's face fell and his bounce diminished. Ezra guessed that he understood then that Jim had only explained how the phenomenon had pertained to him personally, but then his face brightened again and his bounce came back just as springy as it had been before.

Jim groaned, dropping his face into his hands and Ezra gave up on any modicum of dignity as he climbed over the back of the couch to sit beside Vin. He knew his cousin and how well his cousin could talk, especially when it came to a subject that was near and dear to his heart like 'Sentinels' were. An old obsession of Blair's, they were something Ezra had heard chapter and verse about many times before. This could take a while.

"Sentinels, or Watchmen, were a very important part of tribal life..."


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