To Catch A Thief
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em or the show they rode in on. No profit made from this.
Summary: Maybe belonging to Chris wouldn't be THAT bad.
Challenge: The "just do it / no excuses" challenge - Cowboy Dreams '04 Reed Challenge answer.
Completed: 2 November 2004
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His fingers were curled and contorted with tension and effort as he hunched over the wiring. The hands were steady, he prided himself on that. But his arms thrummed and shook from the elbows up through the shoulders, rattling his form. Scratchy sighs huffed from between his gnawed raw lips, lips that had held a grimace for so long that his face seemed frozen. Green eyes were pale and eerily sparking against his washed out flesh, face bone-white.
"You stupid, ignorant fool! Try again!" Norm's voice was rough and demanding, laced with fury that pierced the stark room.
Ezra's teeth ground together as he held his silence and twisted at the wires once more. The mess of copper and steel lines, sheaths of foolishly florescent-colored rubber coatings adding only confusion, refused to be ordered or separated. Normally, the small thief and hacker had no trouble jury-rigging jump-in connects, but tonight it seemed as if the gods were against him. Norm wasn't forgiving and sounded ready to kill. Literally.
Standish snaked one fine hand through the jungle of mesh and grasped the single gray line amongst the rainbow hued lines. This must be it! It had to be. He bared his teeth in a savage grin and ripped the wire out of its anchor.
Instantly, an alarm screamed all around the two criminals. Norm, a large man, sprung back from their semi-hidden position at the rear of the main frame. He drew his weapon and scuttled back to stand against the wall beside the only door. Lights were coming up now, others flashing. Bells and sirens had joined the endlessly repeating, screaming alarm.
Ezra sagged back on his heels. Wrong. It had been the wrong line. It had been a sucker bet and he'd snapped at it. He sighed and closed his eyes, slumping over to lean against the huge steel girder that held up the ceiling and separated part of the white on white room. His body formed a small black comma to the shadowless space.
Ezra felt very calm. He had already expended all the energy he had for panic. His body had been strung nerve-tight for so many hours that it was a painful relief to let the muscles relax. Cramps flared and flitted along his arms, his thighs and his hands.
The door, no longer locked thanks to Ezra's delicate picks, smashed open and the sounds of alarm redoubled as the corridor's warnings shrilled and spilled into the confined space of the room. Norm Shoemaker spun out to face whoever was behind the door. He hooked his index finger on his semi-automatic and started firing.
The rattle burst of shots was countered with three sharp booms and Norman Shoemaker's lifeless body spun and fell in a heap, the weapon in its hands still stuttering and spraying a wavering arc across the room. Two of the bullets struck glancing blows to the cowering small shape half-hidden behind the mainframe computer console. The two soft grunts went unheard in the mêlée that continued to assault the ears.
JD poked his head over Larabee's shoulder. "You get 'em, Chris?"
Larabee ignored his young protégé and moved silently and swiftly into the room. The big shooter that he'd offed was sprawled on the floor, gun still clicking on a now empty clip. He left the dead man to his senior partner, Buck Wilmington, to check. Placing feet with a feline grace, Chris wove his way over to the other intruder.
Wilmington tapped Dunne on the shoulder and signaled for him to step aside. The tall man moved quickly past and bent at the corpse's side, fingers finding the place where a pulse no longer beat, confirming the death. Buck's eyes never shifted down, flicking around the room, seeking any threats to his older partner who was standing now over the second intruder.
"Chris?" Wilmington didn't like the way Larabee stood. The man seemed to rise up stiffer and taller than normal. Something going on there.
Then someone turned off all the alarms and it was silent, except for the clicking of the dead man's gun.
A beat. Then two. And Larabee's shoulders dropped ever so slightly and he looked over his shoulder to meet Buck Wilmington's eyes.
"This one is still alive. He's young."
Buck could hear the resignation in that tone. He stood up, dusting off his hands automatically. He watched JD kneel down on one knee and remove the weapon from the dead man's hand. The clicking stopped when the finger no longer jammed against the trigger. That was a relief.
The rest of the team was easing into the room now. Vin Tanner glanced around, taking in the scene and dismissing much of it. He strode over to his boss' side and looked down. "Still breathing, huh?"
Larabee nodded and suddenly dropped down into a crouch in front of the huddled form.
Josiah Sanchez and Nathan Jackson slipped into the room, both warding off any of the other security guards from following them inside. Room couldn't hold them all and Larabee's team preferred to work independently, anyway. Sanchez dragged in a subdued look-out, the third intruder.
Chris reached out and put a knuckle under the younger man's chin, then forced the man to lift his head and face him. Greeny hazel eyes stared into pale green ones full of exhaustion and resignation. Chris blinked.
A flush started at the younger man's collar and flowed up across the pale features, leaving the man with a nearly scarlet blush. He cast his eyes downward, away from that piercing look.
"Ezra? What the hell?" Larabee grabbed the man's sweater and yanked pulling the man up as Chris surged to his feet. "Ezra!" he gritted out as he began to shake the bleeding form.
Vin was startled by Larabee's actions and words. Clearly Chris knew this guy and wasn't happy about it. Vin grabbed onto one of Larabee's wrists but it was like gripping a steel cable. "Chris, let up. You'll shake his brain loose."
Larabee, who seemed oblivious to the attempted interference, growled and shrugged Tanner off before astounding his friend even more by sweeping the little thief up into his arms. Spinning on his heel, Chris sought out his medic. "Nate. This one's bleeding."
Jackson rose up from confirming Buck's call on the big intruder. Dead. He met his boss in two long strides and peered at the man draped across Larabee's arms.
"Can't see much with him like this, Larabee. You have to put him down." Nathan was already shrugging out of his NIA jacket and tossing it to the floor. Beneath, he wore a flat backpack with essential first aid equipment. Mission required.
Chris looked down at his armful, the limp form barely there. A flash of color and laughter and a sharp heat at his groin reflected his memories of the last time he'd been with Ezra. What had the little fool gotten himself into? He nodded at Jackson and lowered Ezra to the floor.
"Good, now back off and I can examine him." Nathan had no time for whatever bug was biting his friend and boss. With efficient hands, he quickly checked the crook. Not too bad. "Likely got caught by some ricochets. One bullet's just barely penetrated his left calf." Jackson manipulated the limb to reveal the slow bleeding lower leg, trouser now torn open. He ignored the grunt of pain from the perpetrator. Dropping the leg, he pushed the man down again and pulled back the stretchy neck of the black sweater. "Here," he pointed to a bullet burn near one point of the clavicle, "looks like this one grazed him."
Jackson looked up at Larabee who still stood over him. "He'll need to get medical treatment."
Chris gave a single nod and then stepped away, his thoughts whirling, face blank. A second check from Tanner had him nodding and snapping back into focus. He'd have to figure this out later.
Hours later, sitting in the recovery room of their own Agency's clinic, the team waited with their boss. Larabee had insisted that he needed to be there. Be there when the thief emerged from the anesthetic after the minor surgery to remove the bullet in his leg.
Tanner and Wilmington had been comparing notes and were now watching Larabee with incredulous eyes. Sanchez seemed simply sleepy after the all night raid and clean up, Dunne pounded away at his laptop, helping Jackson complete after action reports. He'd already done ones for Buck and Vin and Josiah. His own would be easy to do after all of theirs.
"This one is special, Vin, he hasn't ever acted this way before." Buck rubbed at the back of his neck, long form draped out over the molded plastic chair, legs a mile out front.
Tanner nodded, watching his best friend seated beside the patient on the recovery gurney. Without taking his eyes from the pair, he said, "Reckon this answers where Chris gets off to when he disappears every once and a while."
Buck squinted at the pale face of the young criminal, still unconscious. "A fancy boy?"
Tanner nodded again. "Yep, what I figure." He inched even closer to the edge of his own seat, weary. "Not sure how he got mixed up with the Shoemaker boys, but seems he's got a few 'talents'."
Jackson, who had wandered over having finished his session with JD, spoke quietly. "Not sure I'd call 'em 'talents' but seems that he was recruited 'cause he can hack into high-grade systems and work hardwire."
Buck stood up, stretching mightily. "Ooww." He rubbed at the small of his back and yawned. "So, he was their digital monkey, eh?" He threw the last back at Jackson who'd taken time, with Josiah, to interrogate the third perp.
Nathan frowned. "Yeah." He stared pointedly at his boss, still hovering over the d-m.
JD wandered over to join the group. "He's pretty young."
"It's the youngest that work the d-m angle," Buck shook his head and leaned on his half-brother's shoulder. "Lucky for us you decided to stay on the right side of the line." He grinned sleepily and ruffled JD's dark hair.
Dunne shrugged and sunk into one of the chairs, pitching Wilmington off balance for a moment. Buck let himself fall back on another of the seats, grunting half-heartedly.
Larabee, who'd heard all this, continued his watch over Ezra. Dammit all. Why couldn't you just stay put in the birdcage? Gonna get your wings clipped now and not much I can do to save you. Finally giving in to temptation, he leaned closer and picked up one of the fine, sweetly muscled hands, toying with the slender fingers between his own longer, thicker, more calloused ones. Why did you get involved in this, Ezra? He closed his eyes and let his head drop to rest against the thief's.
His men behind him were silent now. No more secrets, he decided, his actions would tell them enough.
Ezra chanced a peek. He had been waking for a while now, smelling the smells of a medical facility, feeling the burn of injury. Memory slowly seeped back and with it, repressed panic. Looking out through his lashes, he nearly jumped. Chris Larabee's face was just above his own. The hand holding his must be Chris'. In a flash, he recalled seeing Chris among the agents charging into the room as Norm began firing. Then Chris was right there, standing over him. And then darkness.
I'm not getting out of this one. Ezra closed his eyes again and hid, listen and wait, maybe discover an opportunity to escape. He nearly sighed. Hopeless. Chris knows me.
Somehow, Chris sensed that Ezra was conscious again. He pulled back and sat up, watching closely. The telltale flutter of eyelashes and change in breathing gave the other man away. "Ezra, I know you're awake." He gently touched fingertips to Ezra face, tracing a path down one cheek to cup and guide the stubborn chin in his direction. "Open up."
Big green eyes peeled open and stared back. Ezra was still silent.
"Not even one of your patented 'hellos' for me?" Chris chided quietly, a half-smile on his face.
Ezra eyed the blond but didn't speak immediately. Turning his head slightly, he let his eyes pan the rest of the room. They had an attentive audience, likely Chris' fellow agents. In fact, Ezra recognized at least two of the men from the bust. He swung his head back to look up at Larabee who was sitting there now waiting. Wordlessly, Ezra contemplated the beautiful blond.
He could still remember the first time Chris had come to Sigmund's Birdcage. All in black leather, his greenish hazel eyes wickedly harsh, face set in unremitting lines of anger. His entire body had vibrated with that anger. Sig had waved Ezra over from where he'd been lounging on a fainting couch. Ezra had felt those eyes like acid, burning away his silk catsuit, stripping him. Dismissing him. He felt challenged by the disregard and preened, slunk up close to the tall, lean stranger, and purred. It was one of his best devices and worked as always. The glare had whipped down and locked on his eyes. Ezra would never forget the thrill of that instant attraction, mutual attraction.
They'd gone to one of the small lower rooms, merely a cell large enough for a double bed and a sink. Of course, Sig made sure that each of the small ground floor rooms was attractive as well as serviceable, plush bedding, piles of pillows, a wall rack with towels and lubes. Toys.
The next time Chris had come, they'd gone upstairs to one of the small suites. And Chris had become one of Ezra's regulars.
"This wasn't very smart." Larabee's voice was soft, just above a whisper.
Ezra hung his head. "No," the whisper barely a breath of air. He looked up through his lashes, meeting Larabee's now patient eyes. "I'm sorry." He turned his head away. As if that could ever help.
Chris switched his focus to his team. "Can we make Ezra disappear?"
That got their attention. All five men were on their feet and staring back at their boss and friend. "You have GOT to be kidding!" Nathan spoke before the rest.
Before Chris could answer, Vin spoke. "No, don't think so, Nate." He gave a small head shake. "This one belongs to Chris."
"We'll make it happen, buddy." Buck grasped JD by the backs of his shoulders and steered him over towards his abandoned laptop.
"But then what, Chris?" Josiah folded his arms. "We can't just let him walk away."
"And we can't send him back to his birdcage." Vin watched the others react to this.
"He's a ---?" Nathan's eyes widened. Josiah frowned and cocked his head, looking over at where Ezra still lay beside Larabee. Buck grinned over his shoulder and then turned back to his younger sibling whose raised eyebrows dropped again as the duo put their heads together over the computer screen.
Chris stood up, facing his men. "I'm taking him home with me."
"Now just a minute." Ezra sat up on the gurney. This could be a very bad idea.
Chris kept talking. "Time I settled down."
"Settled down?" Ezra's voice rose to an astonished squeak.
"Vin? He'll need some clothes."
Tanner walked closer, clearly taking eye-measurements of the embattled birdie.
"Clothes? From that Neanderthal? He demonstrably has the taste of a dustbunny!!"
Vin hid his grin as he pointedly brushed his sleeves before turning to head out the door. "Be back in about an hour, Cowboy."
Larabee met Sanchez's eyes. "I'll need closed transport and a clear hall."
Josiah rubbed his hands together and chuckled. "Will do."
Nathan stood, mouth still open, watching the dispersal of his teammates.
"Nate?" Chris wasn't worried. His straight-laced medic would come around. How could he not with a heart as big as the whole outdoors? "Get what Ezra will need for his recovery, will you?"
Jackson's mouth snapped shut and he gave a single speculative glance at Ezra before turning on his heel and heading off without further comment.
"Chris! You can't just kidnap me!"
Larabee, content that he soldiered his team into action, turned back to face his shocked bird. "Yeah, Ezra, I can." He touched the man's nose tip lightly. "Catching you like we did pretty much lets us do whatever we want, I want." He let his mouth quirk up at the ends. "I OWN you now, Ezra."
Standish, enraged at this arrogance, pushed himself off the gurney, dragging the simple sheet off and around his hips. He unwisely stood. The world spun and began to darken. And then he was in Chris' arms. Well, maybe belonging to Chris wouldn't be THAT bad.
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