Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters. I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. Yeah, that's it, typing practice. Originally published in Sensory Net #2 from Neon RainBow Press under the title "Bare Back". Based on characters and situations from the TV shows The Sentinel and The Magnificent Seven.

Got Your Back

Susan M. M.

The Sentinel/Magnificent Seven (ATF AU)

"I know that witness didn't tell us all she knew," Detective Blair Sandburg complained. In his late twenties or early thirties, he had wavy, dark brown hair and blue eyes. "Maybe we didn't ask the right questions. Maybe –"

Blair stopped in mid-sentence when he realized his partner wasn't paying attention to him. Jim Ellison wasn't zoning out; Blair knew the signs of that all too well. Nor did he seem to be simply tuning Blair out, the way he did when Blair indulged his sesquipedalian tendencies. No, Jim seemed to be listening to something else, something too faint or far away for anyone else to hear.

Slowly, Blair rose from his chair, walked to Jim's desk, and gently laid his hand on Jim's shoulder. Sometimes the touch of his guide's hand could prevent the sentinel from zoning out. "What is it, Jim?"

Jim didn't reply. The big detective stood. He strode toward the bullpen door like an avenging Fury. "C'mon," he called over his shoulder to Blair.

Shaking his head, Blair followed his partner, a wry half-smile on his face. He was used to it, but still, it would be nice to be asked instead of ordered occasionally.

They reached the door just as Detectives Henri Brown and Brian Rafe were coming in. Rafe and Henri were escorting three men in handcuffs. Two were big, beefy blonds, with enough facial resemblance that they were probably brothers or cousins. The third was a smaller man, of medium height and build, with dark hair and angry green eyes.

"Hey, Rafe, H," Blair greeted the two detectives. "Who you got there?"

Before they could say a word, Jim snarled, "Fitzgerald."

"You know this guy?" Henri asked.

"I busted his sorry ass a year ago. Damn smart-aleck attorney got the case thrown out on a technicality." Jim glared down at the smaller man, his blue eyes ice cold.

"I've never seen you before in my life," the dark-haired man lied. He spoke in a thick southern accent.

Jim turned to Rafe and Henri. "Do me a favor. Let me question this one." He looked down at his partner. "Blair, go get a cup of coffee or something. I can handle this weasel by myself."

"No way, man," Blair objected. "The last time I got a cup of coffee while you questioned a suspect alone, you wound up in trouble with IA."

"He's right, Jimbo," Rafe played along. "The captain said if you get one more brutality charge, he's gonna put you back on meter-maid duty. You wanna question him, fine. But make sure Blair goes with you."

Jim frog-marched the prisoner to an interrogation room. As soon as they were inside and the door was shut, he reached for his keys and unlocked the handcuffs. "Good to see you again, Ez."

"Ez?" Blair repeated.

"Blair, meet Special Agent Ezra Standish. Ezra, my partner, Blair Sandburg," Jim introduced them. "Hope we didn't blow some major FBI undercover operation."

Ezra rubbed his wrists to restore circulation. "Charmed to meet you, Mr. Sandburg … although I wish it had been under different circumstances. And it's ATF these days, not FBI. I transferred a few years ago." He still spoke with a southern accent, but it was much lighter now. "Your quick thinking managed to maintain my cover. It would be exceedingly inconvenient to be revealed as a federal agent at this point in time."

"Does that mean we're gonna have to let you and your buddies go?"

"I assure you, Jim, they are no buddies of mine. The Andersen brothers are louts, ignoramuses whom I would not trust to wash my dog. However, as much as I dislike their company, my assignment is not yet complete," Ezra said woefully. "If it can be arranged, it would be better in the long run if the three of us could be released. They're minnows. I'm after a great white shark."

"I'll talk to the captain, see what I can do," Jim promised.

"In the mean time, can I impose upon you for a favor or two?"

"What do you need?"

"First, to call my supervisor, and update him. Being able to call when I know I won't be eavesdropped upon is a rare luxury when I am undercover. Second, some sustenance. The Andersens' idea of haut cuisine is Col. Sanders."

Blair laughed. "What would you prefer? Thai? Mexican? Or there's a deli across the street that does great sandwiches."

"I don't suppose there are any French restaurants close to the precinct house?" Ezra asked hopefully.

Blair shook his head. "None that deliver."

"Thai, then. And some cappuccino. It's ridiculous," Ezra stated, "to be in Washington, yet reduced to drinking instant Folger's coffee."

Blair and Jim chuckled at his dismay.

"So who are these guys? Anything we can help you with?" Jim asked.

Blair looked at Jim carefully. Normally, his partner disliked working with federal agents.

"I'd call them swine, but that would be insulting pigs. Survivalists. Racial purity fanatics. For some reason," Ezra thickened his accent, "they seem to think Ah agree with their antiquated antebellum beliefs."

"I wonder why, Rhett Butler," Jim teased.

"Ted, Officer Ellison. Mah name is Ted Fitzgerald," Ezra corrected, his green eyes twinkling. Resuming his normal voice, he continued, "Their attitudes are their own business and their own problem. It's their boss' habit of buying Uzis and AK-47s as his patriotic way of showing support for the Second Amendment that concerns the ATF."

"And he's the shark you're after?" Blair asked.

Ezra nodded. "I'd planned to look up you and Steven when all this mess was over, perhaps get together for dinner." He glanced around the interrogation room. "This wasn't quite what I had in mind."

"You know Steven?" Blair asked. Jim and his brother moved in different social circles; usually their friends didn't overlap. "You two must go way back, then?"

"Sorry, I really didn't introduce you properly," Jim apologized. "Ezra is my brother."

"Your brother?" Blair repeated, suddenly more anthropologist than police detective. "I didn't know you and Steven had another brother. Does he share your gi-"

Jim shook his head, trying to cut off his guide before he said too much.

"Stepbrother, Jim should have said. Technically, ex-stepbrother," Ezra clarified. "And no, I don't share his gifts. Although your press conference a few years ago did explain away some oddities of our childhood."

Blair blushed. "Oh, you saw that, did you?"

"You were very lucky that that plane crashed outside Chicago the day after the press conference," Ezra stated. "It pushed you off the front page."

"Not lucky for the people on the plane," Jim said quietly.

"So how are you two related, or ex-related?" Blair quickly changed the subject. Jim didn't like to think about that plane crash, even though he was grateful for the way it had taken attention off of him. "Did your mom marry his dad, or the other way around?"

"My mother was Mrs. Ellison for about a year. Then she moved on to greener pastures," Ezra explained.

Jim nodded. "She was disappointed when she realized Dad was more interested in earning money than spending it. How is Maude?"

"Doing well, according to her last e-mail. She is an indifferent correspondent at best. She's on husband number seven or eight now, I believe."

"Sheesh, she's worse than Mickey Rooney," Jim said.

"Mother goes through husbands the way Imelda Marcos buys shoes," Ezra agreed. "As much as I'd enjoy the chance to catch up with you, I must contact Mr. Larabee. We'll get together when this is all over?"

"Count on it, Ez. You're not leaving this station till I've got your e'dress and phone number," Jim told him.

"I appreciate you not only helping to maintain, but strengthening my cover," Ezra said.

"Hey, you know what the Vikings said," Jim reminded him.

"I do indeed," Ezra agreed.

"We'll give you some privacy to call your boss. Just dial 9 first for an outside number. I'll go update the captain on what's happening, so he can find a loophole to make it look legit when we release you and your pals." Jim added, "And see about your lunch."

"I am indebted to you, sir."

Jim nodded, then led Blair out of the room.

"Uh, Jim? What was that about the Vikings?" Blair asked.

Jim raised on eyebrow. "With your background, I would've expected you to know. Old Viking proverb: bare is back without brother."

Author's Note: I've been requested to write a longer story around this snippet, but frankly, I don't know when I'll have time. I'm already working on several other projects: Master/A-Team, Battlestar Galactica/Planet of the Apes, Richard Sharpe, Master/Airwolf, etc. But it's not impossible. Just don't expect anything in the near future.