by Sammy Girl
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: Betaed by Kerry.
Back to: Only For Me
Josiah flinched as yet another bullet pinged into the car he was sheltering behind. Like anyone who works with guns he knew a car offered little or no protection from a rifle bullet unless it was at terminal velocity. He had hunkered down behind the front wheel, at least the wheels and the engine offered some protection, but it wasn't easy. To keep his head and torso out of danger he had to scrunch up in a tortuous position. JD wasn't much better off as he crouched beside him, and had no engine for protection. Worse, he was right next to the petrol tank.
The younger man risked poking his head up, only for a shot to slam into the trunk and exit inches from his shoulder.
"Will you keep your head down, if the gas tank blows we're all toast!" Sanchez warned, yet again.
"But," JD all but pleaded.
"I know, but getting us killed won't help. Vin?"
Tanner was sheltering behind a tree that was barely wide enough to protect him, if it had been Josiah he'd have had chunks shot off him by now.
Vin took out his cell phone held it out briefly, took a picture and then pulled it back and looked at the image.
Another shot, this one aimed at Vin.
"Shit on a stick!" Vin exclaimed.
"You hit?" Josiah asked.
"Damn fucking splinters, I swear he's trying to cut the tree down around me. Buck still hasn't moved."
Cribbs Creek had once been a series of high brick warehouses, now long gone. Now it was a complex of light industrial units, workshops and wholesalers. One of the units had been empty for a while, so when the landlord received an enquiry about it, they sent an agent around to see that the place was presentable.
What she found was that during the winter the roof had leaked, water had run down one wall and caused the plywood panelling to warp and peel. Because she wanted to be sure how much damage there was, she pulled back the wood some more. What she found was not black mould but C4 plastic explosives. Showing considerable presence of mind, the young woman left the building, locked it and drove away at a normal speed. Only when she was well clear did she call 911. The police called the ATF.
While the others investigated the previous tenant and the prospective tenant, Buck, JD, Josiah and Vin were dispatched to replace the C4 with dummy explosives and install covert surveillance cameras.
"I haven't done this since I was in college." Buck got out of the van and stretched.
"What does that mean?" JD asked.
"I used to be an exterminator, mostly rats, while I was in college."
"Yeah right," JD commented sarcastically.
"No really, pays much better than waiting tables, you get to work nights, it's less stressful too. Half the hours of casino work. Mind you, you do need to take a real long and a good hot shower after a shift!"
"I'll bet," Josiah commented.
"And you don't tell a date what you do."
"You told me you never lie about yourself," JD challenged.
Buck looked at him, and shook his head. "I don't, told them I worked in public health."
"Are we gonna jaw all day or work?" Vin asked, already unlocking the door.
It took them more than two hours. Vin and Josiah located all the explosives, replaced them and put the panelling back so that it looked as if it had never been touched. Buck and JD installed the cameras. Finally they were done.
"Time to go eat," Vin declared.
Buck shook his head. "I swear Tanner, you've got a tape worm!"
"Do not, it's gone twelve, that's time for lunch in my book. 'Sides there ain't no place around here serves even half way decent food, so we need t' get some place good."
"We could go to Billy Jean's, that only half an hour from here," JD suggested.
"That's right, they have the best meatloaf there," Vin agreed.
"I swear those two know the location and menu of every diner in the city," Josiah told Buck as they stepped out into the sunshine.
"Too right preacher, man don't like to be too far from his fuel supply," Vin explained before Buck could answer. "Hey Bucklin."
"Take a look." Vin was pointing across the street.
Diagonally across the road was a workshop repairing and restoring classic cars, bikes and trucks. In the front there was a showroom, with gleaming examples of their work.
"Wanna take a look?" Vin asked.
"I thought you wanted to eat?"
"I can wait. Let me put this stuff away." He indicated the tools he was carrying.
Buck nodded and started to cross the street.
Josiah and JD looked at each other and shrugged a 'if you can't beat them join them' shrug. Tossing their equipment into the van after Vin's and locking it, they too, crossed the street.
Since it was Saturday, and the summer noonday sun was fierce, the streets in this industrial area were all but deserted. Buck had reached the far side. Crossing diagonally, Vin was only a few feet across, parallel with a rather sickly looking tree. Josiah and JD hadn't even stepped off the sidewalk when the first shot rang out. Buck dropped as if pole-axed, falling face forward on to the sidewalk just in front of the showroom. JD and Josiah both ducked behind a lone parked car, as more shots rang out. Vin was left with the only other cover, the thin tree. Several more shots pinned them down.
"Vin, you okay?" Josiah called.
A shot thudded into the tree.
"Can you see Buck?"
Vin tried to look around the tree and almost lost his head. "He's down!" Vin shouted back.
"Where's the shooter?" Josiah asked.
"Not sure, in the building next door to the showroom I reckon." Vin looked over at JD who was speaking on his cell phone. "When's the cavalry coming?" he asked.
"Soon as they can." JD tried to look over the car for Buck, until Josiah told him not to.
Just as Vin was about to call Chris himself, a second gunman opened up on them. Shots peppered the ground at Josiah's feet, causing him to pull them in.
"Shit," he exclaimed.
"Second gunman, up high," Vin informed them. "You guys keep yer feet in."
Unaware of the drama that was about to envelope their team mates, the remainder of the team worked on discovering all they could about the previous and possible future tenant of the building. The previous tenant had been a firm of interior designers. It was run by two sisters, they closed when one of them was diagnosed with terminal cancer. They seemed unlikely to be involved in the illegal trade in plastic explosives. The company enquiring about the property were plumbers, they seemed to be just plumbers, a small firm owned by a hard working, working class man, who learned his trade in the army.
"I can find nothing on Mr Kawasaki and his employees," Ezra confessed as he sat back and looked at Nathan.
"I've checked, but I really can't believe that two middle aged ladies, decorating other people's homes, were also selling C4," Jackson confessed.
"Who had the property before them?"
Nathan consulted his notes. "Someone called 'Patrick Sligo' he was an artist, did welded sculptures, apparently."
"Then I suggest we look into Mr Sligo."
Before either could really start Chris burst out of his office. "They're under attack!" he called without stopping as he headed for the door.
"What?" Ezra exclaimed as he shot to his feet, hitting his thigh on the desk in the process.
Nathan had already grabbed his medical bag as the two of them raced to catch up with Larabee at the elevators.
"What do you mean 'under attack'?" Ezra demanded as they stepped onto the car.
A man tried to join them in the elevator car, only to back off the moment he got a look at the other three men. The doors closed.
"What do you mean?" Ezra asked again.
"JD said they were under attack from across the street and were pinned down, DPD are on their way, with a SWAT team."
"Anyone hurt?" Nathan asked.
Larabee didn't respond.
It was almost painful to watch the colour drain from Ezra's face.
"Down? Down as in…?" he managed to ask.
"That's all I know, they were still under fire, JD didn't have time to talk."
"But is he…?"
"Ezra I don't know, I just told you that, asking me again isn't going to change the answer!" Larabee snapped.
"Chris," Nathan warned softly.
"I'm sorr…" Just then the elevator reached the basement and all three bolted towards Chris' Ram.
The local Denver PD patrol cars were on scene in minutes, they were able to secure both ends of the street, but the SWAT team had to come from across the city. As soon as the rooftop gunman saw the black and whites, he began sending rounds their way, while the original shooter kept Vin and the other two pinned down.
Ezra had kept his composure as he exited the Ram, he had put on his poker face and he was playing the part of a professional agent. Then he saw Buck, lying face down in the street, exposed and unmoving, he began to lose it.
"There's no way to get to him."
Ezra was half listening to Chris and the uniformed captain of the SWAT team who had arrived at almost at the same time as them. They were sheltering behind the bulletproof SWAT van. Any movement was greeted with more shots. Stone chips thrown up by the shots had already injured one patrolman.
"What the fuck does that mean?" Chris demanded.
"We can get the others out, we can get an armour plated vehicle between them and the shooters, but there is no room to get between him and them. I'm not risking my men on someone who is, sadly, probably already dead."
Ezra tore is eyes away from his beloved, to see Chris grab the man by the throat. "You don't know that!" he snarled.
Just then, as one of the other SWAT officers moved on Chris, Nathan pulled him away.
"I assume you're talking about an APT?" he asked the captain, even before Nathan let him go.
"Yeah, it's on its way."
"If you go in there with that thing, they may open up on Buck," Nathan pointed out.
Ezra's stomach gave another hideous lurch.
Chris shook himself free from Nathan, and pulled out his cell phone. "Vin?…You three safe for now?…Okay. Cops want to take their APT in and get you three out…Yeah we know." As Ezra watched, Chris frowned, then risked looking down the street briefly. "I see it, I'll get back to you."
"Buck's bleeding, there's blood running down the street," Chris announced.
Ezra stifled a gasp.
"The dead don't bleed, right Nate?"
Nathan nodded. "If your hearts stops, blood stops flowing. Buck's hurt but he's not dead."
Not dead, not dead, not dead, not dead, not dead, not dead, Ezra repeated it like a mantra.
"Vin says they're okay for now. We are not risking getting Buck killed. You got that?"
If the captain was considering arguing he thought better of it. "Well what do you suggest 'Special Agent' Larabee? There is no way to get to any position were we can get a shot at them without being seen. In case you haven't noticed, they have the highest rooftop around here."
"Look here 'Captain Ponting'," Chris began.
"Well, since we have the perimeter surrounded, maybe we should try talking to them?" Nathan suggested, before he had to separate the two men again. "Buck's not dead, which means for now at least, they're not murders."
For now? What does that mean? For now. Oh God, I have to get him out of there before it's too late!
Ezra began to walk toward the end of the van, he'd reached it and stepped out into the firing line before anyone saw him. It was sheer luck that Nathan looked up, just as shots began to pepper the ground around Ezra. It was the luck of God knew what, that none hit him as Chris, alerted by Nathan, dashed out, grabbed Ezra by the collar and pulled him back, all but flinging him to the ground behind the back wheel of the SWAT van.
"Let me go!" Ezra snarled, as Chris used his weight and SEAL's training to keep Ezra - who matched him in strength - down.
"No," Chris snarled, low enough to ensure only the two of them could hear, hoping Nathan was keeping the other police back far enough to ensure their privacy. "You listen to me Standish and you listen good. I know how you feel, I know you need to get to him. Damn it, I need to get Vin out, but getting ourselves killed isn't going to help anything. You have to detach, this is the only way we can do this. This is how it has to be. Look at this place, there are black and whites all over the place as well as SWAT. Before you know it we'll have more ATF, fire and rescue, ambulances, paramedics and - God help us - TV here. What we have works because we make it work, the seven of us. If Travis knows or suspects, he's playing 'don't ask, don't tell', but if you start acting like a distraught lover all that is shot to hell, you got me? Buck and Vin and the others are gonna make it out of this and they are gonna be fine, don't shoot it all to hell now. You're an actor at heart Ezra, so start acting, play the part, professional agent and friend, nothing more. Can you do that?"
Ezra stared up at Chris, green eyes fixed on him. Finally he nodded. With that Chris let him go. Slowly Ezra pulled himself to his feet. He was pale and visibly shaking, but he no longer had the mad desperate look he had had when Chris pushed him to the ground.
"What the hell was all that about?" the SWAT captain asked Nathan.
"What it was about is private," Nathan informed him, in a tone that told him there would be no further discussion on the matter.
A now more composed Ezra walked back to them with Chris. "My I make a suggestion?" he asked.
"I'll take any suggestions," the captain told him.
"Josiah is an exceptional negotiator. Surely there is some way to link his cell phone to some kind of amplification. If you have no technical expert, JD is but a phone call away."
Chris fixed the man with a look that said. 'I'm this far from taking command of this operation so do this or else!'
"Yeah, I'm sure we can do that," he assured.
"Nate, help them," Chris instructed.
"I have had another thought," Ezra cut in. Somehow, now Chris had forced him to act like an agent, he was thinking like one again. "Just what are they doing? The gunmen, why did they open fire on Buck? By the look of it, he was crossing the street to look at the showroom, you agree?" He looked at Chris, who nodded. "So why would two men next door open fire on him?"
"Because they thought he was coming to them?" Nathan suggested.
"Right, so why didn't they just make a break for it? If they had, then all they had to face was three men? Why not just make their escape to the rear, why wait to be surrounded? What are they protecting and do they have another way out?"
Chris was silently thankful that Ezra really was a good actor. This was what made his team the best in the business, lateral thinking under pressure.
"Nate, stay on the link up with Josiah, at least if we get them talking we may buy ourselves some time. Ezra and me 'll check on some stuff." Chris turned to the captain, who seemed not to mind that Chris was effectively in command now, or so it seemed. "You got access to city plans, services, land use, shit like that?"
"Yeah, in the back up van, on the computer. Over there." He pointed to the second black van. "Tell Sargent Aims I sent you and to give you full access."
Sargent Aims turned out to be a young woman, with long blonde hair and blue-grey eyes.
"Who are you and what do you want?" she demanded.
"We're the ATF, those are our guys down there and your Captain told us we could use your computer," Chris explained.
Ezra showed her his badge.
"Okay, come on in, but you better tell me what you need, my system only talks to me."
"We need to get you together with JD," Chris muttered.
"What do you need?"
"I need the current street plan overlaid with the services map," Chris explained.
"I've already done that, see?" She clicked on an icon at the bottom of the computer screen. "There's nothing under that unit but regular power, water and gas. Nothing you can get more than a rat through."
"What about before it was developed, do you have an old plan, with the original warehouse and streets on it?" Ezra asked.
Aims didn't comment, she just began searching her database. "Okay, is this what you mean?"
A third overlay came up. The street where Buck and the others were trapped hadn't changed, its route was the same as it had been when the original warehouses were built over a hundred years ago.
"What about underground services?" Ezra asked.
"You have that, there," Aims pointed to the screen at the multi-coloured lines snaked along the street and branching out to each building.
"No delete that, the services map from before the re-development."
"Well I'll look, I'm not sure that's been scanned into the system."
Chris pulled Ezra away for a moment while Aims looked. "What are you looking for?"
"Something I half remember from some place," he admitted.
"Found it." Aims exclaimed. "Who'd have guessed. Here we go. Wow, what is that?"
The men gathered around the screen. There, clearly marked, was what appeared to be a tunnel running under the buildings, right under the building the shooters were defending.
"The owners of the old warehouses often owned several buildings in different locations close to the rail yards, they sometimes connected them with tunnels so they could move goods easily in the winter," Ezra explained.
"You're a genius!" Chris exclaimed slapping him on the back. "Now where the hell does it go?"
At one end the tunnel appeared to terminate under a building that was inside the current police cordon. At the other, it ran under another modern industrial building and terminated under an old warehouse still awaiting development. This was some way outside the area currently surrounded by the police.
"Larabee?" Chris turned around to find Mike Brearley, the vastly experienced leader of Team Six, standing by the door. "What can we do?" he asked.
"I thought you guys were up in Montana?" Chris asked.
"Nope, me and Fred had to testify yesterday."
Chris looked over to see young Andy 'Fred' Flintoff, a bear of a man with close cropped, fair hair, and a personality reminiscent of a young, or even not so young, Buck Wilmington.
Chris jumped down from the van and shook hands with Brearley. "Good to have you guys here, come with us."
Vin felt his cell phone vibrate in his palm, he flipped it open and raised it to his ear. The brief appearance of his elbow drew another shot in his direction.
"God damn it! I'm only answering the phone!" he griped as he got the phone safely to his ear.
"Hey there Cowboy, you got it all figured out yet?" he greeted his lover.
The humour and cheerfulness in his voice were so forced, it was almost painful to listen to.
"We may do, you guys okay for now?"
"Yeah, I guess, so long as we keep our cotton tails down."
"You do that, 'cause it's such a cute tail, I'd hate to find holes in it."
Chris could almost hear Vin smiling. "Don't worry I'll take good care of it. You really got something figured out? 'Cause I don't think…"
"We'll get you out," Chris cut in hastily, he'd heard a quality in Vin's voice he'd only ever heard once before, and it scared him.
"No, that's not what I meant. Buck, I don't think he can hold on much longer. He's not bleeding anymore."
Chris took a breath, he forced himself to do what he'd forced Ezra do. He detached, at least as far as Vin was concerned. Much as he loved him, he loved Buck like a brother and he had to be the first priority.
"I took a picture a while ago and another one just now, the blood stain's the same."
"We'll get to him, we'll get you out, all of you."
"There's more than two of them you know."
Despite the soft, easy delivery, Chris could tell this was something Vin had only just worked out, thought he wasn't sure how.
"You sure? Can you see them?"
"Nope, but there has to be, they're as accurate now as they were when all this started. No one can keep watch that long or stay that accurate without a break, especially up on that roof in this heat, there has to be at least three of them. They're spelling each other. But I guess you and the SWAT guys worked that out already."
"Like heck we did, and I want to know why. SWAT should have worked that out damn it! That's their job."
"See, you need me."
Chris closed the phone and let his head rest back on the van.
"Are they okay? Is Buck…?" Ezra asked anxiously.
"Nothing's changed," he lied.
Chris looked over at Ezra. He wasn't about to tell him Buck might be dead, the man was barely holding it together as it was. But that wasn't his only concern and damn it, he wanted someone, anyone, to understand how he felt, just for once he didn't want pretend he was okay when he wasn't. He so wasn't okay with any of this. He'd sent four men on what was meant to be a simple, safe, surveillance set up. He'd sent them out with only personal weapons, no Kevlar vests, and no back up. Now it had all gone to hell, his men were trapped. The man he loved, the man who had made his life whole again was just a hundred yards away, trapped and in danger and he couldn't get to him. What if Buck was dead, if he was they could just drive in there and get the others, he could get Vin out, now, no risk, he could… Stop it! He's your best friend! He's not dead.
"Chris?" Ezra prompted worriedly.
"Vin's hurt," he finally admitted.
"What? How bad, where?"
Chris took a deep breath. "I don't know, he didn't say. You know Vin." Ezra nodded. "But I can hear it in his voice."
With great difficulty, Vin got the phone closed. There was nothing he wanted more than to sit down, to slide down the damn tree, what was left of it, and rest. He just wanted to get the weight of his legs. Something was hurting, something, probably a splinter, has hit his calf and it hurt, throbbing and aching. He'd been forced to transfer most of his weight to his other leg. The trouble was that was putting the kind of strain on his back that sent shooting pains up his spine and across his shoulders. Normally, when that happened, Chris would give him a massage. He'd strip off, put one of Chris's huge, fluffy, dark grey towels on the bed and lie face down. Chris would pour some of the muscle rub lotion Nathan had given him on to his back. Then he'd start to work it in. He could almost feel those strong fingers on the small of his back, thumbs pressing down on his spine, just hard enough to be effective but not hurt. He tried to remember what it felt like when the lotion warmed up, which was usually just as Chris started to work on his shoulders with his palms, letting the fingers move down to the side to slip over the edge of his ribs. Having the side of his chest massaged was a real turn on for Vin. He used to think he was weird, he'd never heard of anyone else who had an erogenous zone on the side of their ribs, but Chris loved it and never failed to pleasure him there.
The trouble was Chris wasn't there and he couldn't sit down. If he did, he'd be exposed and being exposed was likely to be painful if not fatal.
"Vin?" Josiah called.
What ever had hit his leg was on the far side to his friends, for which he was grateful. There was nothing they could do and he didn't want to answer all the 'how are you doing?' questions.
"Yeah. Chris says they may have a plan."
"So this is gonna be over soon," JD confidently predicted.
That JD hero-worshipped Chris was a given, but Josiah couldn't help but find it comforting. He looked over at his young friend, it was clear he was scared, they were all scared, and that he was worried about Buck, as were they all; but JD was closer to Buck than he was to any of the rest of them. In those first few years he'd relied on Buck to teach him and protect him. Buck had been his mentor, protector and brother. JD wasn't a boy now, he didn't need a protector, he didn't need a mentor, but he still needed a brother.
As if he was reading Josiah's mind, JD said. "Buck 'll be okay, Chris'll get us out and he'll be okay - right."
Josiah knew he wasn't asking a question, it was a statement, a statement of utter faith. No disciple ever had more faith in his chosen deity than JD Dunne had in Chris Larabee at that moment.
"Right," he confirmed, desperately trying to make himself believe it.
It was an anonymous looking convoy of vehicles that approached the old warehouse from three different directions. Chris' Ram, Brearley's Explorer and a DPD unmarked car with tinted windows, carrying three SWAT officers in plain clothes. It didn't take long for Flintoff's keen young eyes to spot an anonymous looking van parked in the empty warehouse, the rear doors were open.
"Anyone see any lookouts?" Chris asked over the radio.
"We can't see anyone, sir," the SWAT officers reported.
"No one," Brearley confirmed.
"They don't have enough men," Ezra speculated.
Chris nodded. "They're bugging out in a hurry. Come on."
In a classic pincer manoeuvre, Chris and Ezra edged in through the front door, moving in standard cover formation. To the left, Brearley and Flintoff moved in from the side door. To the right the SWAT officers gained access via a window and were taking up positions in what had once been the warehouse's first floor office, giving them a perfect overview of everything.
Via their radios, the SWAT officers told the ATF men on the ground that the van was backed up the ramp which led down, presumably to the tunnel.
"Okay, everyone heads up, this is the way we are gonna do it," Chris told them over the radio. "Mike, you and Fred go left, me and Ezra'll take right, we go in quiet, I don't want to give them any chance of alerting their friends at the other end. We don't know what kind of communication they have, so let's be ready to move fast when we need too. SWAT keep everything covered a long as you can and be ready for any jackrabbits coming out of the hole."
The ramp wasn't that steep, but it was clear that the ceiling of the room below was too low for the van. They found no one at the base of the ramp, there was a flat expanse of floor and ahead of them the yellow glow of electric lights picked out the entrance to anther ramp. Creeping forward, they were able to hear movement below them. Something was coming toward them, something on wheels with an engine. Chris signalled to the other three to move back so they were behind the ramp entrance, guns at the ready. He stayed in the shadows just in front of the entrance. The sound got closer, there was a change in the pitch, whatever it was had to work harder to get up the slope. Then it emerged, it proved to be the kind of small utility car based on a petrol golf buggy, of the kind grounds keepers use. Two men were driving it, there were boxes in the back and at least one on the lap of the passenger.
Brearley went to the left, his young team mate to the right; Ezra remained where he was as Chris announced his presence. "ATF FREEZE!"
Gun at the ready, he stepped out into the limited light, right into the path of the buggy. The man driving reacted instinctively, he braked. The agents surrounding them closed in.
"Keep your hands were I can see them. You with the boxes!" Chris shouted. "Get out, slowly."
By now Flintoff had closed the distance and had his gun just a yard from the man's head.
"Very slowly," he warned.
The man did as he was told. He exited the buggy and followed the orders he was given to the letter, putting down the boxes, stepping away from them and turning his back to be cuffed.
"Now you!" Chris fixed the man with a drop-dead glare.
Both men looked terrified, neither put up any kind of resistance. Once they were secured Ezra took a look in the boxes.
"Well?" Chris asked.
"Drugs, not sure what, my guess would be ecstasy. But this one…" He pointed to the box the man had been holding on his lap, "appears to contain laboratory equipment."
While the SWAT officers secured the scene and called in back up to process the men they had captured and leaving Brearley and Flintoff to follow on foot as fast as they could, Chris and Ezra took the buggy and headed down the tunnel.
They couldn't see much of the tunnel, but it appeared to be constructed of brick, and ran fairly straight and level. They past a blocked off side passage, then, after about ten minutes at the buggy's top speed of about fourteen miles an hour, the tunnel opened up into what had clearly been a large cellar. Chris cut the lights as they approached. There was a hole in the ceiling. This was no neat up ramp, this was a hole no more than two yards square, with ragged edges. A heap of rubble just beyond it was testament to how recently this access hole had been made. Light spilled down from this hole and a ladder leaned against the edge.
Chris killed the engine.
"Where the hell have you two dweebs been?" Someone called from above them.
Proper protocol would have been to wait for back up, to have waited for the two agents running down the tunnel behind them. But then again proper back up was a lot more than two out of breath agents. Of course protocol was not to work on the same team as your domestic partner.
They both kept well back in the shadows.
"Sorry." Ezra called up in the best version he could muster of the voice of one of their prisoners.
"Yeah, well, just get the hell on with it. Damn feds have some wise ass talking to us, it's getting on my nerves."
All but holding their breath, Chris and Ezra waited for the man's footsteps to move away. Then, while Chris covered him as best he could, Ezra climbed the ladder. Within seconds he had ascertained that there was no one in the room. Silently he beckoned Chris on. The room was a laboratory, sacks of white tablets sat close to the hole, along with boxes of equipment. Looking more closely, it was clear that the lab equipment was in the process of being dismantled. Suddenly there was a volley of shots from above them.
Several shots peppered the car Josiah and JD were sheltering behind.
"Don't reckon they 'ppreciate your words of wisdom, 'siah," Vin commented.
"Some people just won't be helped," Sanchez observed. "JD?" he looked over at his young comrade.
"You've been very quiet lately, you still doing okay?"
JD shrugged. "I just hate being so helpless."
"I know, we all do, we just have to have faith in the others, they'll get us out."
JD shifted, trying to get some life back into his knees. "I know that and I do," he retorted. "That's the problem. I was thinking about Chris and Ezra, mostly Ezra. Trying to think about how I'd feel if it was Casey lying out there and I was on the outside. I mean, it's bad enough for me that I'm here and Buck's out there, but I don't love him the way Ezra does. He must be going crazy."
Josiah looked over at Vin. "Yeah, he must be."
Ezra was playing a part, the same part Chris was playing, ATF agent, professional, detached. It was a veneer, a pretence that was barely covering and holding back the distraught lover. He and Ezra crept out of the lab. They came to a hallway, above them they could hear more shots, but also knew that there was at least one gunman on the ground, positioned between the building they were in the workshop next to it. There were only the two of them, sure Brearley and Flintoff were coming, somewhere behind them cops were coming, but did Buck have that long, did Vin? That tone in Vin's voice, that little intonation that spoke to him and him alone. It said 'I'm hurting here Cowboy'.
"I'll take the roof, you take the guy outside," Chris instructed, as he re checked his earpiece. "Let me know when you're in position."
Ezra nodded grimly and started moving toward the side door he could see standing open just beyond the stairs.
Chris climbed to the next floor, all he found was an empty corridor, there was no sign of anyone. He took the next staircase up. This lead to a large empty room, at the back a door stood open, daylight spreading across the floor at the base of the steps. Keeping an eye on the stairs behind him, Chris edged toward the roof, as he reached the door at the top of the stairs he got his first glimpse of their quarry.
"Ezra you read me?" he whispered into his wrist microphone.
"I'm in position, but I only have one gunman."
"If Vin's right, there's another one somewhere."
"Do we have time to wait?"
"No, just stay alert for him."
Chris tried to raise the men in the tunnel but failed, then he called up the SWAT commander at the end of the road, warning him and his men to be ready.
"Larabee just wait, you need more men there," Ponting warned.
"We're going now, be ready - out." Chris switched back to the frequency he and Ezra were using.
"Okay Ez, we're set. On three?"
"Three!" they said together.
Chris stepped out on to the flat roof, the gunman was at the far end. He was prone, his gun, a top of the range fully semi automatic sniper's rifle on a central floating head mounted tripod. This gave him a stable platform to sweep the whole area with minimum adjustment. Vin was right, these guys knew what they were doing.
Bracing himself, double handed grip on his Glock, Chris yelled. "ATF FREEZE!"
For a second he thought the man was going to try and spin the gun around to draw a bead on him.
"Don't even think about it, you're not that good," Chris warned him darkly. "Face down, hands behind your back, now!"
Ezra's stance mirrored Chris' as he positioned himself behind the gunman, who was leaning against the wall, bracing one arm on a windowsill.
"If you move one inch I'll be your last," he drawled almost in the man's ear, even as he said it Chris' shouted orders on the roof could be heard. "Guess I don't need to tell you who I am then, do I?"
The man hadn't moved.
"Take your right hand off the trigger and place it on your head, there's a good fellow."
The man did as he was bid.
"Now lower the gun and rest it on the wall. Good, now place that other hand on your head."
With the gun safely on the ground and keeping the man covered, Ezra pulled out his handcuffs and deftly cuffed the man without ever lowering his own gun. Only when the man was safely restrained did Ezra put his gun back in its holster and spin the man around, pushing his back up against the wall.
"Where is he? Where's the other one?" he demanded; as desperately as he wanted to run to Buck, until he knew all the gunmen were accounted for he couldn't risk it. His prisoner just smirked at him. "Where is he?" Ezra gave a flick of his wrist, sending the man's head back to impact with the wall.
"Right here." The voice was female and laced with ice.
The shout was so sudden and so familiar that Ezra acted on pure instinct, he ducked and looked to his side. He was just in time to see Buck come to life, he rolled, drew his gun and fired in one moved. The woman behind Ezra cried out and dropped.
Ezra took just long enough to kick her gun away then he ran to Buck, who was lying on his back now breathing heavily, his eyes closed.
"Buck? Are you okay? Please speak to me," he pleaded as he knelt over Buck.
"Damn, my head hurts," Buck muttered, still not opening his eyes.
With great care Ezra pushed back some of the blood-matted hair from the side of Buck's forehead. From what he could see, Buck had a huge gash along the side of his head.
"It looks like the bullet grazed your skull, just lay still, Nathan will be here momentarily."
"Err," Buck responded. "The others?"
"Fine. So just how long were you playing possum?" Ezra asked softly.
"Too damn long." Buck risked opening his eyes, the sunlight all but blinded him, but he squinted long enough to take in Ezra's worried face. 'Love you' he mouthed.
'You too, Beloved,' Ezra mouthed back.
Just then Chris came running out of the building. "Cavalry arrived," he explained as he looked down at Buck, who waved a hand at him feebly. "More coming."
Ezra looked up to see Fred Flintoff holding the man Ezra had cuffed and looking down at the woman Buck had shot. Chris began to move toward them.
"We're fine," Ezra assured him. "Go to Vin."
When Chris' shouts weren't followed by any shots, bar one, Vin risked peeking around the tree, to see Ezra sprinting toward Buck, who seemed to have come to life. With relief he let his legs relax and he slid down the tree, just as Josiah and JD stood up. Chris paused just long enough to check that Josiah and JD were okay before sprinting to Vin.
"Hey there Cowboy," Vin greeted as Chris knelt beside him. "My cotton tail's still in one piece."
Chris smiled. "Glad to hear it. What about the rest of you?"
Vin looked down at his calf, Chris followed his gaze, seeing the faded denim stained dark red. "Ah hell," he cursed.
"'S not as bad a it looks, just stings like the devil."
Chris could sense, as much as see, Josiah and JD hovering close by. "He's okay," he assured them. With that they stepped back to give them a little privacy before the whole circus descended on them.
Vin relaxed back into the mountain of pillows behind him. His left calf was propped up on more pillows, swathed in a fresh white bandage, now minus the six inch splinter that had impaled it, but with the addition of nineteen stitches. Beside him on the nightstand was cold beer and resting on his stomach a half-eaten plate of chocolate brownies. Chris walked in to the bedroom, carrying his own beer.
"Got everything you need?" he asked.
"'Sept you." Vin gave him his best come one look.
"You're not up to it," Chris told him, as he climbed into bed.
Chris was tempted, but reminded himself that, with painkillers and beer in his system, Vin was 'flying' somewhat. He contented himself with a nuzzling kiss to his lover's neck.
"I aim to, in the morning," he murmured into Vin's ear.
It was a measure of how tired Vin was, that he didn't protest.
"Tell me something." Vin suddenly said after eating another brownie.
"Are there any bad guys in Denver you or Buck haven't pissed off, at some time or another?"
Chris shrugged. "What can I say, we've always be thorough."
The woman Buck had shot, though not killed, turned out to be Elsa Miller, she had once been married to a chemist, who was supplementing his income making ecstasy. Elsa got rather fond of the good life and wanted more. When her husband began to balk at her ever-greater demands, she left him and went into business for herself. A former shooting champion, she only hired men who could shoot as well as she could to protect her production centre and her chemists. One of these men was former Marine, called Franco Del-Marco. Franco had only recently been released from the Federal Penitentiary; he'd been put there by one Detective Buck Wilmington, of the Denver police department. When he'd seen Buck walking toward the building he was guarding, he'd panicked. Little did he know Buck had no interest in the apparently legitimate 'catering' company, all he had wanted to do was look at the classic cars and bikes. The C4 had nothing to do with it, it was just bad luck.
Chris took another long pull on his own beer then thought a moment. "Mind you, I'm not sure I could do that again," he admitted.
"Do what?" Vin asked.
"Pretend that you're just another member of the team, pretend that we're just friends. Ezra nearly lost it when he saw Buck lying there."
"If it had been you, don't reckon I could have held it together," Vin admitted. He lifted the plate off his body and placed it beside the beer. Then he turned as much as he could comfortable manage, to look Chris in the eye. "Makes you wonder if we're doing the right thing, working on the same team, being - together. I mean, if I had to choose between us and the job, well it's a no-brainer, we win every time, trouble is I love my job. It's the only thing I ever wanted to do that I'm really good at." Finding his position uncomfortable, he rested his head back down on the pillows. "I mean, it's alright for Buck, he's got Ezra and Ezra's rich. So if they had to give up work…"
Chris frowned. "Who's talking about anyone giving up? Besides, I'm not exactly a pauper you know?"
Vin looked at him sceptically, he knew Chris had some money put by, and had inherited some from his late father, but Ezra was rolling in money.
"Just how much do you think this place is worth?" Chris asked. Vin had never really thought about it. "Three and a half million, according to the insurers, mind you that was a few years ago."
Chris nodded. "But that's not the point is it? Sure we could sell this place, buy some place more remote and live off the profit, but we don't want to, anymore than Buck and Ezra want to live off Ezra's money. Like you say we're good at our jobs, we like our jobs."
"We're good 'cause the team's good," Vin commented wisely.
"I know it, I just…"
"Ya hate the lying and hiding?"
"Yeah, but…" Vin stretched out his hand and ran his fingertips down Chris' cheek. "if we want to keep everything we love, that's what we have to do - right?"
Chris covered Vin's hand with his own, then leaned over and kissed him. "Yeah, I guess," he admitted when he pulled back.
Ezra sat on the hard hospital chair and watched Buck sleep, he'd been there for hours. As Ezra had surmised, Buck had had a narrow escape, the bullet had grazed along the side of his skull. He'd suffered a serious laceration to the scalp and a concussion, but no fracture. He'd needed surgery to close the wound and would be in hospital for at least two days, longer if any inter-cranial bleeding developed. The loss of blood from the wound had been considerable, enough to require a transfusion. He smiled to himself, the serious scalp wound was totally hidden in Buck's thick hair, he'd expected it to have been shaved off, but the plastic surgeon told them he only needed to shave small strip either side of the sutures. The more superficial wounds however, where he'd hit his face on the tarmac when he fell, were colouring. These would be the only injures anyone besides him, and possibly Nathan, would ever see. To the casual observer he'd escaped with little more than a grazed cheek and a black eye. Buck chose this moment to wake up.
"H'llo," he said groggily.
"Hello." Ezra stood up and lent over the bed to brush a gentle kiss to Buck's forehead.
"What time is it?"
Ezra looked at his watch. "About eight o'clock."
Buck glanced at the window, in order to determine weather it was AM or PM; it was dark outside.
"Go home," he told Ezra.
"I'm fine, all I'm gonna do is sleep. Go home, before folks start talking."
"So let them talk."
"Ezra," Buck warned. "Don't rock the boat."
"We don't need the boat."
"Yeah we do."
Ezra gazed into the deep blue eyes he loved so much, and saw the truth in them. Finally he nodded, maybe later, when Buck was stronger they'd talk about what had happened, but not now, not yet. For now they would go on playing the game. He gently brushed a stray lock of hair back from Buck's battered face. "I'll see you in the morning," he promised.
"I love you so much."
Ezra just bent his head and kissed him softly.
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