Richards - Johnathon Lapaglia
Dawson - Russell Crowe
Jacobs - Jason Robards

A Bleak Mourning
by: Suzy

DISCLAIMER:  The characters from the television program The Magnificent Seven are the property of Trilogy and The Mirisch Co. I am making no money from their use. This Story is created for entertainment purposes only, no infringement intended. Not to be copied without permission from the author.
RATINGS:  PG - violence, mild language
WARNING:  This Story contains an alternative Universe theme, if this type of story is not to your liking or will somehow offend you please do not read any further
NOTES:  Thanks to my wonderful beta readers Lyn, Dayna, Kat and Laura.  Thanks for putting up with me.

Chris would have been proud.  Josiah watched as the elegant teak coffin was lowered into the grave, reluctant to look away, needing to watch the burial of his friend through to its completion.  The cemetery was crowded with mourners, if only Chris had known in life how much he was truly needed.  It was almost as if they had lost their rudder, their guidance through the murky waters of life.  None mourned him more than the five men who stood together at the graveside, all dressed in sombre black suits, unashamed of the tears that stained their faces.  No that was a lie, Josiah thought wryly, one man did mourn him more, he stood behind the rest of the mourners, dressed identically to his brothers, unable to stay away yet unable to attend.  No-one blamed him but he was damning his own soul into eternity for taking the life of his team-mate and leader.

However, Chris’ fight was over, the fight for the rest of Team 7 was just beginning.  He felt the their leader’s passing as he would feel the loss of a younger brother or perhaps an eldest son, yet he knew that the loss of the team leader was going to destroy the team from the inside out.  Josiah passed his eyes over his friends.  In the three days since Chris’ death, the team had undergone a strange metamorphosis.  No longer was there the carefree friendly camaraderie in Team 7’s offices, a morose darkness filled the rooms, silence that was broken only by the shrill call of a telephone, and hushed murmured tones in answer.  Never again would they ever be the same men that they were.

JD, his face pale, and ravaged by days of tears had barely spoken since the doctors had come to them in the waiting room and pronounced Chris dead.  Not even his big brother could draw him from his grief induced silence.  Not that Buck would be any help to the kid, he could barely help himself.  The big man had become a shell of his former fun loving laid back self.  They both managed to find their way into the office each morning, the comedic banter they had shared, now absent form their morning routine.

It seemed to Josiah that Nathan and himself had become almost the spiritual crutch for their little family.  Nathan felt Chris’ passing deeply, it hurt him badly that he had lost the man that had given him this family he was now part of.  However, he also knew that he could no longer help his friend, he had to turn his assistance to the people who were left behind.  They both tried to draw their four companions back from the pain they were in.  Not one of the team had expected to lose any member, but Josiah had never expected the team to lose all sense of itself when Chris passed.  None felt his death greater than the two agents who held themselves responsible for his death.

Vin felt Josiah watching him, as he stood slightly apart from the other four men at the graveside, his eyes downcast, his twinkling blue orbs dull with his pain.  He felt Chris’ loss keenly, almost as if part of his soul was being lowered into the grave in front of him.  He couldn’t help but feel that his death was his fault.  If the damned fool hadn’t have stepped in front of him and took the bullet that was meant for him, they would both still be here today. The sting had been simple Ezra would shoot him as an offering to the sadistic gun running gang they were infiltrating, Vin was wearing his vest, there shouldn’t have been a problem.  He would play dead until Chris and Ezra completed the transaction and then assist in the arrest.  He would regret to his dying breath that they had not had a chance to tell Ezra of the plan or the vest he was wearing, and he would never know what had possessed Chris to step between him and the bullet, but he had and now they were burying part of their team long before his time.  He knew that the pain of losing his friend would be with him forever, Chris was like the other half of his soul and now he didn’t know how he was going to go through his life without the one person who had completely understood him.  A person who didn’t need words from him to know what he was saying.  A person whom he thought was going to be with him to the end.  Brothers in life and in death.

Ezra stood at the back of the crowd, unable to meet the eyes of any of his team, he knew that they all knew he was there, but he couldn’t go to them.  It was his fault that they were mourning, his fault that a life full of promise and light was snuffed out before its time, dammit his fault that team 7 was over.  Chris had meant everything to him, he was a man that had seen past the barriers that he had tried to build against these men and the things they made him feel.  Every time he closed his eyes he saw the look of pain in Chris’s blue eyes as he fell before him on the concrete floor.  Eyes that saw everything, yet gave away nothing every day of his life; yet in that moment told his leader so much.  Chris could see Ezra’s plea for forgiveness in that steady green gaze as he hit the floor unwavering until he sank into unconsciousness, his eyes never once leaving his team-mates face.  The team had quickly secured all hostile parties leaving Chris under Vin’s cover to fend for himself, but as soon as the last shot was fired Vin and Ezra both moved to his side only to find him dead.

In the depths of their sorrow, no-one noticed the man who watched them all, his elegant black suit almost identical to the men of Team 7, his head bowed respectfully, a lock of his jet black hair falling across his forehead, his intense grey eyes hidden behind black Raybans, his heart heavy with the pain he was witnessing.  He had known that they would hurt but he had never expected the depth of suffering he had been forced to watch for the past days waiting and watching as they mourned, knowing that their pain was just beginning.

Two Days Earlier

It seemed that every time they took on a case the criminal seemed to have more information about them than they had about the criminals, and Chris Larabee was getting tired of sitting by his men not knowing if they would live or die.  It wasn’t that his men were careless or clumsy, but somehow they were always compromised, there had to be a leak somewhere in the bureau, but he had only one way to flush out the problem.  He knew that it was going to be hard on his team but there appeared to be no other choice.

Vin poked his head through the door of his best friends office.
“You busy” he spoke softly
“Nah” he looked up at Vin and smiled at the suit he was wearing “You back from bodyguard duty?”
“Yeah” Vin answered as he walked in and sat in the visitor chair in front of the desk
“We’ve got a problem” Vin stated simply as he sat “Either we’ve been made or they’re getting antsy but they want to see the boss this afternoon, I’ve been sent to get you.” He explained
“What the hell for?” he cussed not happy with the downward spiral this case seemed to be taking.
“Dunno” Vin spoke “but something is up.  I know Ez can feel it too.  Something is going down that we don’t know about”
“I want you in your vest Vin” he spoke as he walked around his desk to the small cupboard where he kept his own Kevlar vest.  Unbuttoning his shirt he continued to speak “I don’t suppose there is any hope that Ez has his on?” he cursed under his breath as Vin shook his head.
Slipping his vest on, he also changed his shirt, tie and jacket, before turning to face his partner.
“Whatever goes down out there, follow my lead okay” Chris warned him, realising what the outcome of this case could be.  He realised that at any time he could be forced into putting his own plan into action and he didn’t want any heroics from his team to worry him if he did “And always remember no matter what I will be here for you”
“I’m not a kid Chris” he spoke firmly “I can read a situation well enough to get by” he spoke
“I don’t want to be sitting beside a hospital bed to see if you live or die tomorrow” he paused “Any of you!”
“We’ll be fine Chris” Vin tried to remain calm despite the fact that an icy fear had taken hold of his heart
“Lets get the show on the road” he spoke as he stood at the door waiting for Vin to pass him on his way out of the office.
It didn’t take the duo long to return to the warehouse where the rest of the team was located.  Chris looked slowly around the huge crate filled expanse as they walked quickly towards the small broken down office where they could already see Ezra and the goons that represented their latest Gun running nemesis.  He knew that the other four men were secreted in various positions around the large room, awaiting the need for assistance in the take down.

Chris realised that something was very wrong as soon as he saw his normally unflappable undercover agent.  As his calm blue eyes met the steady green gaze, he realised that he was seeing real fear in the usually unreadable eyes.  But fear for what Chris frowned, the slight quirk of his eyebrows enough to raise the question in the southerner, who answered with a tiny shake of his head.  A shake so slight that no-one other then his immediate team would have known it had even occurred.  The calm team leader knew then that it was time to put his own private plan into action.  As if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders, he stood a little straighter and faced the two large men who flanked his undercover agent.
“Any particular reason why I have been dragged here for a simple transaction” Chris pinned both men with a steely glare.
“Boss decided he needs a show of faith from your man here” he jerked his head towards Ezra
“And” Chris pinned him with his ice-cold gaze
“Boss doesn’t like him” he pointed towards Vin, whose eyes did not betray his nervous heart rate. “Wants him out of the picture”
“What are you waiting for Ezra?” Chris spoke nonchalantly, all the while trying to convey a message to the visibly nervous agent.  Sure his emotional turmoil wasn’t visible to an outsider but every man on the team knew exactly what this was doing to the undercover man and they all felt his pain.
“Do it” he spoke through gritted teeth, wishing there was some way to tell him that they were wearing vests and taking some of the turmoil from the blank green eyes that they all knew so well.

Ezra looked blankly at his team leader.  Was he crazy he thought to himself, Chris was actually encouraging him to shoot his best friend.  Even if Vin was wearing his vest, he didn’t want to shoot his friend.  Hell probably his best friend in the world.  His hands wrapped around the gun they pushed into his hands, noting almost absently the sleek feel of the Glock as it rest in his unusually damp palms, his nimble fingers wrapping around the butt, admiring the way the weapon rested in his hand, fitting him almost like an old glove.

He dragged his mind back to the present, looked into the calmly resigned blue eyes of his friend and back into the face of his team leader, seeing something in his eyes, something that for the life of him he couldn’t read.  The person who was supposed to be able to read the minds and souls of his quarry unable to see what it was his team mates were trying to tell him.  He knew it was a mistake to get close to these men, to get close made you vulnerable and he hated that feeling.

“What are you waiting for?” an evil sneer sounded in his ear as he heard the unmistakable click of a gun being cocked against his head.

He knew that if only his life was on the line he would gladly let the inhuman bastard behind him pull the trigger, Vin’s life was worth far more than his own, but with blinding clarity he knew that both Chris and Vin were probably unarmed and they would die almost as quickly as he would, he could not let that happen.  He lifted the weapon, his right hand shaking more than he could remember it ever shaking before.  Lifting his left hand he wrapped it around his hand and the butt of the gun trying to steady it enough to get a clear non fatal shot at his best friend.  Vin’s eyes met Ezra’s, knowing the torment that was plaguing the normally calm southerner, his clear blue pleading with Ezra’s glazed green not to torment himself over what had to be done.

As his finger slid around the trigger, Ezra did something he had never done before, he closed his eyes, not wanting to see the pain and the look of betrayal in his friends eyes as he took the impact of the bullet.  It took several seconds for him to realise it, but as his arm absorbed the recoil of the weapon in his hand, he was shoved to the side, his shoulder harshly impacting with the ground, as all hell broke loose in the warehouse.

Vin knew what was coming and was prepared for it, he hated being shot even with the protection of his vest, but there was no way he was going to stand here and watch Ezra’s brains being blown all over the warehouse, to see the light of challenge leave the bright green eyes that they all knew so well.  He could see the pain in his eyes and knew what he was feeling, he wasn’t sure that he would be able to do it himself, but he prayed that Ezra could.  He just didn’t have it in him to recover from seeing Ezra give his life because of loyalty to him. He watched Ez close his eyes and as if in slow motion watched his finger tighten around the trigger, knowing the pain that he would feel he swallowed tightly, but he wasn't prepared for the shove from Chris.  Chris pushed him out of way and took the bullet that was meant for Vin.

Chris knew that this was his only chance to find out what the hell was going on, he hated having to hurt his team, his family, but they would be watched too closely one slip up could mean the end of any or all of them.  With a resigned sigh he watched as Ezra squeezed reluctantly on the trigger and pushed Vin out of the way.  Feeling the impact of the bullet hit him low in the shoulder, he realised that the shell had pierced the Kevlar vest he wore and thanked the southerner’s loyalty for aiming high enough not to kill him outright.  Landing with a thud on the harsh concrete floor, he laid motionless waiting for the flurry of gunfire to cease, allowing his plan to slowly come to fruition.  His blood seeping slowly to the dirty floor beneath him, the last thing he became aware of was the slight weight of his partner trying to cover his body from stray gunfire.

As the smoke cleared, Ezra climbed slowly to his feet and took stock of the situation that surrounded him, checking the positions of the rest of his team before turning to see what he really didn’t want to look at.  He counted off the forms of his remaining four team mates moving quickly towards them, concern and pain clearly visible on their faces.  Turning, an icy hand of dread gripping his heart, his eyes widened in shock at what he saw.  Chris lay unmoving in his partners arms, the sparkling green  eyes that moments before had been full of life were open and sightless, his head bent back over the crook of Vin’s elbow as he rocked his partner gently in his arms soothing him, trying to coax back the man that he loved as a brother.

Moving quickly to Vin’s side, Ezra rested a gentle hand on his boss’ head his fingers gently stroking the blonde hair under his fingertips, his other hand on Vin’s shoulder trying to give him whatever support he could.  He could hear the sounds of sirens in the distance as Nathan knelt in front of Vin his hands quickly searching for any signs of life from the man cradled in the sharpshooter’s arms.

“Vin” Nathan spoke softly “Vin you’ve gotta let go of him so we can try to save him”
The tears in Vin’s eyes as he lifted his face to look at Nathan said more than words ever could he quickly relinquished his hold on Chris.  Standing shakily he made room for Josiah to slide into his place and try to help keep Chris alive.

Buck watched the scene unfold before him, he heard the strangled sob of his partner and flatmate, saw the tears on the face of Vin and did the only thing he could, he stalked forward and grabbed Ezra by the lapels of his jacket throwing him backwards into the wall.
“Are you happy now” he bellowed his face inches from the southerners, infuriated by the normally effusive man’s continued silence he banged him harder against the wall his feet off the ground, his head thumping painfully against the bearer in the wall, but offering no resistance to the bigger man, taking whatever punishment he was given.
“If you’ve killed him” Buck snarled into Ezra’s face “I swear to god there won’t be a rock you can hide under”
Buck froze at the sound of a gun being cocked behind him, but Ezra barely even blinked.
“Put him down Buck” Vin spoke softly but his voice filled with malicious intent “Put him down or I swear I will shoot you”

Buck released Ezra’s lapels and watched him slide down the wall “This isn’t over yet” he spoke through clenched teeth, turning his back on the distraught southerner he moved back to JD’s side watching Nathan and Josiah performing feverish CPR to try and keep their leader alive.  He didn’t care that two other teams that were there in back up had seen his outburst he just wanted his oldest friend back.

Vin’s movements had an almost dazed quality to them, almost like he had no control over his body.  He stood a little apart from where they worked on his partner and watched, the only thought in his mind, it should be me running over and over like a mantra inside his head.  The pistol hanging limply from his fingers, forgotten.

Ezra leaned against the wall as he watched the EMT’s arrive with a gurney, taking over from a weary Nathan and Josiah.  Every fibre of his being knew that Buck was right, he had killed Chris.  There was no doubt in his mind that he was already gone, he had seen the dull lifeless gaze, a hollow emptiness in his eyes.  He had no fear that any one of the men in the team would quite happily shoot him now.  If he had a gun he would seriously contemplate it himself.  He had taken the life of the first man in his life that had trusted him, how could he live with himself now.  How could he expect the other men to forgive him for committing such a heinous act if he couldn’t forgive himself?

He watched through sorrow filled eyes as his fallen comrade was transferred quickly and efficiently to the gurney and was being whisked away.  He watched as the others tried to decide who was going to go with him, until Nathan lifted the gun from Vin’s hand and after whispering softly into his ear pushed him to follow the men pushing the gurney.  Vin turned back to look at Ezra for a moment, almost as if, even in the depths of his own grief, he was worried about leaving him alone with the other men, then turned and ran after the EMT’s.

Buck lifted Chris’ vest from the ground and carried it with him, leading JD away from Chris’ blood that was still congealing on the ground, towards their car.  Intent only on getting to the hospital.  Nathan looked towards Ezra, not really looking at him, more looking through him, no hostility in his eyes, but no friendship either, then moved to follow the others to the hospital, Josiah looked back at Ezra a sympathetic grimace crossing his face as he ran to keep up with his partner.

Ezra wasn’t surprised, he always ended up alone, he knew in that instant, that he was no longer welcome as part of their team. In their eyes he had done the unthinkable, chosen his life over that of his team-mate, no more than that his friend.  Their actions alone had shown him that he was no longer welcome at their sides.  Didn’t they think that he knew that Chris’ life was worth a dozen of his, he would gladly have laid his life at their feet if that would just bring back his beloved team leader.  Ezra did something that he hadn’t done since he was a small boy, he sank down against the wall, rested his head on his knees and cried like a baby.

By the time the other four men arrived at the hospital, Vin, bloodstained and dishevelled was sitting alone in the waiting room, his head bowed, his hands under his thighs on the orange plastic chair, the scuffed toes of his boots scraping rhythmically across the tiled floor as he swung his feet back and forth, not even aware he was moving.  He looked so alone and distraught that the others knew to expect the worst. None of them were expecting the raw emotion in the tear laden crystal blue orbs of their teammate.  His lashes heavy with moisture his face stained with the tracks of his tears as he looked up into Josiah’s face and murmured two words.
“He’s gone” Each of the men had to strain to hear him speak, his words were murmured so softly, almost as if he was to speak them aloud was to admit their truth.
“No” Buck murmured softly unable to stop his tears, a suddenly indrawn breath from JD the only sign of him hearing as if it was possible his face grew even paler, fresh tears replacing those that had not yet dried.  Josiah and Nathan looked at each other, they both knew that, now, more than any other time in the teams existence, the rest of the team needed their strength, their solidity and their guidance.  They both knew how much the loss of Chris would destroy the younger men, somebody had to guide them through their pain.
“Where’s Ezra?” Vin asked softly his sorrow filled eyes turning with steely intent on Buck.
“Why the hell do you care?” Buck spat “He just killed your best friend”
“What would you know?” Vin launched himself with a growl at the bigger man “You judgmental bastard how the hell would you know?”
“I know what I saw” Buck spoke as he easily deflected the punches Vin was throwing in his sorrow driven anger.
“You don’t know anything” Vin growled back “He only did what he had to do”
Josiah grabbed Vin by the arms and pulled him back against his chest, allowing the smaller man to dissolve into his pain filled sobbing.

He turned him against his chest, his hand soothingly stroking his back trying to stop the hiccupping sobs that were captured against his broad chest as Vin vented some of his pain.  Caught in the depths of his own sorrow Buck gathered JD into his arms and hugged his partner, as they tried to come to terms with the loss of their leader.

The sound of a man clearing his throat dragged Nathan from his silent sorrow several minutes later. He looked up into Orrin Travis’ sad eyes.  Apparently word of Chris’s demise had travelled quickly.  A large man in a white lab coat stood to Orin’s left, Nathan’s eyes narrowed immediately.  This was not a doctor he was familiar with, especially unusual because it seemed that Team 7 spent almost as much time here as they did at the office.

Orin watched the man in front of him carefully, he knew exactly what was going on and he knew that if anyone was going to tweak to Chris’ plan it would be Nathan.
“Nathan, where is Ezra?” Orin had immediately missed the slick talking conman; something told him that he needed to establish the details of Larabee’s shooting but time was of the essence here.  The shrug from Nathan and his continuing silence told him something was amiss in the team.  He nodded for his companion to speak to the men that surrounded them, knowing that none of them would be happy until they had seen their leader one final time.

“Gentleman, AD Travis had advised me that you will wish to see Agent Larabee’s body before he is moved.” He spoke gently seeing the pain that enshrouded them.
At Josiah’s nod, he turned to lead them toward the room that they would be allowed to say their final words to Chris in.  As they moved to follow him the lift doors opened and a dishevelled Ezra stepped from the lift, he didn’t even have to ask when he saw the quiet entourage, he knew that he was correct in his previous assumptions.  He had killed Chris Larabee.
“Don’t even think about it Standish” Buck spoke wearily as Ezra would have followed them “You’ve hurt him enough”

Ezra flinched at the venom in his words but silently nodded his head and walked to the other end of the waiting room, unable to enter the room to say his goodbyes yet unable to leave.

Orin watched the men that Chris Larabee called family slowly falling to pieces before his eyes.  He knew that this day would hit them hard but he had never really understood just how hard.  Finally, he understood the reservations Chris had had with his plan.  He and Doctor Thompson were the only ones in the room that knew the real truth and they themselves were having difficulty keeping control of their own emotions.  These five strong, vital men stood around the bed containing the body of their friend and cried like babies, unable to cope with the loss of their team-mate, yet unashamed of showing their emotion for him.

One by one the men said their silent goodbyes and left the room, first JD his shattered emotions unable to cope with the loss of his hero or the emotional collapse of his friends.  Josiah left soon after, eager to find the boy and save him from his own emotions.  Nathan stood for a time looking at the pale waxy figure in the bed in front of him, knowing that he was witnessing the waste of a fine human life and shook his head in disgust leaving the room, his sorrow being overtaken by anger.  Vin and Buck stood on either side of the bed, each holding one of Chris’ cold lifeless hands.  Orin moved to stand behind them, trying to move them out of the room.
“Gentlemen” he spoke softly “I’ll be waiting for you outside”
Both nodded their heads as Orin left the room. Buck leaned forward and placed a kiss on his friends forehead “I’ll see you again some day pard” he murmured then turned and walked out of the room.
Vin rubbed his thumb across his best friends cold knuckles and leaned forward to kiss his cheek “Ride tall Cowboy” he leaned back “I’ll see you on the other side pard” he murmured before he turned and walked out of the room.  Pausing at the door, he turned to drink in his final glance of his best friend, and realised something.  A man who spent every day torturing himself over the death of his wife and child, never seemed to be at peace with himself.  Now, in death he seemed so much younger, and at peace, almost angelic.  Maybe in death, Vin thought, he will find the peace he so needs.

Walking out of the room he realised something else, if somebody didn’t do something fast the team would no longer exist and that was not acceptable to Vin.  The team would carry Chris’ memory with it, and it would continue to prosper, if nothing else mattered now the unity of the team did.  Chris would want it that way.

He lifted his head, and wiped his tears from his face, seeing Chris’ blood still on his hand, caused his eyes to fill with fresh tears, but he was not going to let his emotions stop him.  He moved past the rest of his team mates not sparing them a glance, intent on one person alone.  He watched the desolate agent seated at the other end of the waiting room as he walked.  Ezra may still be physically alive but Vin could see that his soul had died with Chris.  It hurt to see confident, self assured Ezra so alone, unsure and distraught.  Even when he had started with the team while he had been alone and guarded against them, he had hidden it all behind a cocky arrogant façade that the team had gradually chipped away at.  The man that sat in front of him, was neither cocky nor arrogant, he was just a man filled with sorrow, self loathing and guilt.  All things that Vin knew in his own mind Ezra did not deserve.

Kneeling in front of Ezra, he tilted his head to look into his empty green eyes.
“Ez” he spoke softly, his voice still thick with his tears “Ez talk to me” he continued
“I’m so sorry Vin” Ezra replied his voice flat “So sorry” he mumbled
“I don’t want to hear this” Vin spoke a little harshly “This was an accident Ezra”
“No” Ezra lifted his eyes to look over Vin’s head at the rest of the team “Ask them?” he spoke softly his voice full of the truth that he knew in his own mind
“I should have let him pull the trigger” Ezra completed what he knew the others were thinking
“They don’t matter” Vin dismissed them “I was there Ezra, I could see the look in his eyes, he would have shot you then killed Chris and I” Vin made sure his voice was loud enough to carry to the other agents “I don’t care how good the others are, once he shot you Chris and I had maybe 3 seconds before he dropped us” Vin’s voice was firm and strong “You made the right decision Ezra” he spoke softly, and rose to stand in front of him.
“Come on” Vin spoke “you need to say your goodbyes”
“No Mr Wilmington is correct” Ezra began to pull himself together “I have already hurt him enough”
“That’s bullshit Ezra” Vin spoke “You haven’t hurt him at all.” He stated “You need to say goodbye to him and you need to do it now” Vin spoke calmly watching as Ezra shook his head wildly.

Ezra frantically shook his head looking into the sad but calm eyes of Vin, didn’t he understand, if he actually went and said goodbye to Chris he would be admitting that he was gone, that he had killed him and he didn’t want to do that.  How could he.  If he admitted that, he would be acknowledging the fact that he had screwed up so badly that he had taken the life of a dear and trusted friend.  He leaned forward and pressed his hands against his eyes, trying to shut out the world around him.

Vin wasn’t going to take no for an answer, he knew that this was something that his friend would regret not doing for the rest of his life.  The animosity of the rest of the team wasn’t helping matters either.  Why could they not see the truth of what had happened.  Why was it as soon as Ezra was in question did the rest of the team suddenly doubt him.  It wasn’t right, and if he was going to keep this team together, it was going to stop right now.
“Ezra” he spoke firmly “Get your damn southern ass into that room now” he waited for Ezra to stand and walk with him towards the room that housed their leader.  He saw him flinch as he passed the hostile stares of Buck and Nathan, and pulled his own shoulders up, pinning each man with a hard biting glare, daring them to make one wrong move towards them and they would answer to him.  He watched as Ezra lifted a shaking hand to the door of the room and pushed the door open, entering silently.

Orin Travis watched from his position against the opposite wall.  A quick phone call to Team 6 had confirmed the circumstances regarding Chris’ shooting and his heart went out to the cocky southerner, but something was happening here that would make Chris proud.  He smiled wryly, it would be tough, sometimes the pain would seem insurmountable but together these men would make it through this.
Ezra leaned against the wall beside the door, not wanting to go any closer, but he knew that he had to do this.  One foot in front of the other, one step after another he slowly made his way to the side of the bed.  Lifting his glazed eyes to the face of his leader he knew one thing, he would never forgive himself for taking this man’s life.  Just as he knew that living the rest of his life in eternal damnation would not be adequate payment for the sins he had amassed in just this one day.  How did their lives go so to hell so quickly.  He lifted a hand and brushed a lock of soft blonde hair back from Chris’s forehead.
“I’m sorry Chris” he murmured, barely even aware he was speaking “I never meant for this to happen.  I made the wrong decision and I am sorry.  Sorry won’t bring you back, I know, but if I could trade places with you I would, the others need you with them.”  He paused, not hearing the door open gently behind him as he took Chris’s cold fingers in his hand “I’m sorry that you will never know just how much you did mean to me” he spoke through his tears “I love you Chris, You are the older brother I always wanted but never had, looking out for me even when I screw up, not because you had to, but because you wanted to” he paused drawing a deep shuddering breath “No-one has ever done that for me before” he spoke “You are the first one that ever trusted me, for that alone I will never forget you” he took a final long look at the face of the man who lay in the bed before turning to leave the room.  Looking up he saw Vin standing just inside the door.
“He did know Ez” Vin spoke around the lump in his throat “He knew believe me” Vin stated as he held the door open for the southerner.

Vin followed Ezra past the other members of Team 7, he had already arranged for AD Travis to take care of the funeral arrangements, now he was going home.
“Where the hell do you think you are going?” Buck spoke quietly, disbelief evident in his voice
“I need a drink” Vin spoke without looking at him  “You can come with us or you can stay the hell away, but I won’t take any of your shit Buck” he turned on the ladies man and pinned him with a steely glare.
Buck backed off and returned to his place at JD’s side, ready to take the kid home where they could grieve in peace.
Vin and Ezra walked out of the hospital in silence, Ezra handing the sharpshooter the keys to Chris’ car, he looked at him a little sadly.
“It was the only car they left for me” he spoke
“It’s  alright Ez” they climbed into the truck, both men pausing to collect their thoughts and emotions as the scents and reminders of their dead comrade assaulted them from all sides.  Vin started the car and  after a quick stop at the saloon, they were on their way to Chris’s ranch.  Vin wasn’t sure why he felt compelled to go to the ranch, he told himself that it was so that he could take care of the animals, but he knew deep down that he needed to be close to his brother one final night.

Stopping in Chris’ driveway he, climbed out of the truck and walked straight to the barn, laying feed and water in the troughs for the horses, he was dismayed to see Ezra still sitting in the truck when he returned.  Shaking his head, he moved to Ezra’s door and pulled it open
“Ez you’ve gotta snap out of this I can’t do this without you” he spoke, reaching over him to collect the bag of liquor from the floor.
“Dammit Ezra” he turned his face towards him “Come back to me Ezra” he spoke his face inches from the southerners.  This was so damn frustrating, it was almost like a light had gone off behind Ezra’s eyes, Vin unable to accept the sudden demise of his best friend as Ezra’s fault was formulating different scenarios in his mind but he needed Ezra’s sharp devious mind with him to help him with his ideas. Thus far, it appeared that the guilt and anguish that he felt was winning the battle over his mind and dragging him further away from his life.

Pulling him out of the truck, he half dragged him towards the house and using the key off his own keys he opened the door.  Turning on one of the small lamps on an end table he pushed his near catatonic companion into a sofa, then walked through to the kitchen, grabbing two shot glasses and returning to Ez’s side.

Pulling a coffee table closer to the sofa  Vin sat on the edge of the table and poured two shots of Black Label Jack Daniels.  Throwing back his own shot, he allowed the fiery liquid to scorch is way down to his empty belly before he turned his attention to the man in front of him.  Lifting Ez’s hand he wrapped his fingers around the shot glass and guided it towards his lips.
“C’mon Ez” he spoke gently, soothingly using the same tone he would use with a skittish horse. “Ezra I need you to come back to me” he murmured as he watched him swallow the fiery liquid without even flinching.  He poured him another shot, this time not needing to guide the glass to his mouth.
“How can you even bear to be near me?” he whispered so softly that Vin was not even sure that he had heard the words.  He looked into the familiar green eyes, gratified to see that they were no longer blank.  It dismayed him, however, to see the depth of pain displayed there.
“None of this is your fault Ezra” Vin spoke “I know that, Chris knew that” he paused “Hell even when Buck calms down he will realise it too”
“No” he replied sadly, no force in his voice, just silent resignation “It’s all my fault, the team is finished, I’ve stolen your brother from you and took the life of the first man who ever saw good in me”  he presented his glass to vin for refill
“I know the truth Ez” he spoke as he filled both glasses, then shrugged “Stop doing this to yourself. Lets just drink” he stated as he dropped his now empty glass onto the table.  Reaching into the bag he had dropped on the table he pulled out a second bottle of Jack Daniels.  Handing the open bottle to Ez he wound the cap off the second bottle and took a long swig from its neck.  Ezra looked at his friend, knowing that he had hurt the younger man badly today, yet still he stood by him, he wasn’t sure how or why, but he was grateful for his presence, maybe now the sight of Chris laying in a pool of blood in Vin’s arms would erase itself from his head.  Smiling wryly to himself he knew that would never happen, as he put the bottle to his mouth and let the hot liquid scorch its way to his empty belly.  All he wanted was to try to forget and if this bottle helped him achieve that for a few moments he would gratefully sink into it

Vin sat on the coffee table watching the emotion play through the eyes of his friend, he could see the pain and turmoil there but had no idea how to help him through it.  He didn’t know how to get himself through it, so far the only thing he could do was try not to think about the void that was now Chris’ place in  life, the great gaping hole that the older man had filled in his heart was more pain then he had thought he would ever feel.  The only thing holding him together at the moment was his desire to keep the team together, and try to decipher what it was about this whole thing that was bothering him.  Something just wasn’t right, and as soon as he or the bourbon had coaxed Ezra out of the silence he had taken refuge in they were going to work on it.

They drank in silence for what seemed like hours but Vin knew that it hadn’t been long at all, occasionally one or the other of them would reach out and touch the other, a gentle hand clasp, a pat on the knee.  The need for the physical contact there for both of them, missing the way that Chris with one touch of his hand had somehow been able to sooth them through their emotional torment every other time they had been hurting.  The confinement of the house became too much for Vin, he looked at Ezra closely, he didn’t want to leave him here alone and hurting but he had to get outside.  Standing he moved towards the door, realising that Ezra hadn’t even noticed him moving.  Perhaps he would be back before he missed him, he just needed to get out in fresh air.

Vin walked slowly down the stairs and onto the grassy expanse, walking aimlessly, his head filled with Images of Chris, slid down against a large tree and sat at its base.  Dammit Chris, what am I gonna do without you.  How the hell am I supposed  to keep this team together.  What the hell were you thinking jumping in front of me like that.  And what was that crap this morning about always being here for me.  How can you be here for me if you’re dead.  Vin let his tears overflow knowing that no matter how much he hurt, no matter what Chris’s death had done to him he had to be strong and keep the rest of the team from killing each other.  Rising to his feet he walked back onto the porch, looking up as he opened the door in front of him, his eyes widened with fear and his blood ran cold.  Ezra sat on the floor in front of the sofa a gun pressed against his temple, his face stained with the tracks of his tears.

“Ezra” he wailed “No!!!!”  He threw himself across the room managing to knock the gun as Ezra squeezed the trigger.  Only managing to draw breath again when he realized the bullet had lodged itself in the wall on the other side of the room.  Shaking the gun out of Ezra’s hand, he looked at the forlorn dismayed man in front of him.  A man who seemed truly upset that he still lived
“Let me go Vin” Ezra spoke “Just let me go” he sounded weary beyond his years “I don’t deserve to live, if I’m gone maybe they’ll stop”

Vin was shaken to the core by the site of Ezra about to take his own life, what could have happened had he returned two minutes later.  A shudder went through his body at the thought. He grabbed Ezra by the shoulders and shook him hard.
“Dammit Ezra” he continued to shake him “Get it through your thick skull”  he bundled  him into a tight embrace “It aint your fault Ezra” he spoke against Ezra’s head “Please come back to me Ez” he murmured almost to himself “I cant work this out on my own” he spoke softly “There’s something going on that’s not right I need you to help me figure it out”  Vin released him and lifting the gun from the table he carried it to the fireplace where he sat it on the mantle.  Then rested his head against his arms, feeling more defeated then he ever had before.

“What do you need me to do?” Ezra spoke from his seat on the couch, his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands.  Something Vin had said had made it past his grief and self-loathing.  He was going to help Vin any way he could, and then deal with his own emotions, maybe that way he would be able to get through this hellish day.

“What happened out there Ezra?” he murmured as he took a seat on the coffee table in front of him “What frightened you so much?” he couldn’t begin to imagine what would induce the level of fear he had seen in the normally unflappable man’s eyes when he had returned to the warehouse with Chris.

Ezra looked into his friends eyes knowing that he had to tell him, it hurt him to have to say the words that would shatter Vin’s perceptions of their little family but he was coming to realise that if they were going to stop the dastardly plot they had become unwittingly embroiled in.

Ezra reached into his pocket and extracted the small recording device he often took on his undercover meetings.  A device that as yet he had never relied on to confirm his own words.  Pressing the recorder into Vin’s hands, he looked up into Vin’s face “You’re not going to like this at all Vin”
“Well there hasn’t been a whole lot happen here today that I have liked Ezra” he paused laughing self depreciatingly “I dunno why this should be any different”
“I’m serious Vin” Ezra’s quiet voice cut through Vin’s words “You’re not going to like what you hear” he looked into Vin’s narrowed eyes “What you are about to hear is” he paused in confusion and disgust “the very idea is slanderous to me” he lowered his head to look once more at his feet “his voice even lower “and now I don’t know who I can trust” he murmured, before lifting his head an apology in his eyes for the friendship they shared.

Vin, himself confused by Ezra’s lack of composure, waited for a long moment before he pressed the play button on the small tape recorder.  Hearing his own voice he manipulated it until he heard himself farewelling the then cocky southerner.

Placing the device on the coffee table beside him, he listened intently, his concentration broken only when Ezra stood and moved out of the room,  Vin watched his friend move to sit on the porch step, still within his line of vision but far enough away not to hear the words flowing from the tape.  There were only two discernible voices on the tape, Ezra’s southern honeyed drawl and Richards’s indistinct abrasive accent.  Vin’s eyes were on Ezra as he sat on the step rocking gently, listening but not listening, the pain of hearing the threats and innuendo over again almost too much for his already struggling emotions to bear.

Vin listened to the silence broken only by the sound of his own retreating footsteps.
“Why was it necessary to send my associate away?” Ezra spoke calmly
“Because I am going to explain to you exactly what is going to happen” Richards sneered at him
“What would that be?” Ezra asked his voice almost bored
“You’re going to kill your partner AGENT Standish” he calmly revealed his vocal intonations emphasising Ezra’s real title
‘I assure you I have no clue what you are referring to” Ezra murmured
Vin looked at his friends back, others might not have heard it but he heard the catch in the words Ezra had just spoken on the tape and knew what it had cost him to remain calm.
“Ohhh I think you do Agent” Richards spoke curtly “You see the bureau is a little tired of the tiresome attitude of you and your team” he smiled realising that he now had Ezra’s complete attention
“One of your friends is a little tired of it all too” he smiled ferally “He is going to take care of a little housekeeping for us.  There are several bounties that he is going to collect on”

Vin’s eyes widened as he listened to the words.  Words that had been designed to hurt and confuse and casting another look at his friend he knew that they had found their mark.
“Astonish me?” Ezra spoke his voice had lost the cocky edge Vin was so used to hearing
“Now that would take away all the fun wouldn’t it” Richards laughed “I couldn’t tell you” his chuckle turned into a  full blown laugh “He has asked that I tell you of his intentions.  It seems that you have upset him a little too often, he wants to have some fun with you apparently” he paused “Personally I like the idea”
“Nobody on that team would betray the others” Ezra spoke his voice firm and full of conviction
“So nice to hear such faith” Richards laughed “It will be interesting to see how that faith holds up when they turn on you - you’re the weak link and you know it don’t you” he spoke softly
“I can assure you” Ezra spoke “Our little family has no weak links Richards” Vin was proud of the conviction he heard in Ezra’s voice.
“Oh I assure you Standish” Richards spoke, his voice louder than before “A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link” he laughed manically “You my dear man are about to become the downfall of the thing that you have fought so hard to find”
“Astonish me you stupid bastard” Ezra spoke and Vin could hear just in the tone of his voice that he was believing every word that was spoken to him “What would that be? And how am I going to destroy it?”
“Now now Agent Standish” Richards clicked his tongue at him “Anger that’s not like you at all” he laughed “You have fought so hard to be trusted and admitted to this band of misfits that for some ungodly reason works so well together” Vin could almost see him shaking his head “But with one bullet you are going to kill your leader’s best friend” his voice was smiling as he spoke “and before you get anything ideas about doing anything noble and self sacrificing let me assure you that they will both be dead before you hit the ground so you may as well play along” he paused planting another thought in the southerners mind “At least if you follow orders you will save one of them”
“I will not kill Vin” he spoke tightly
“Yes you will” Richards spoke “And before the week is out two other members of the team will be languishing in their graves as well.  Internal Affairs is going to find you guilty of cold bloodedly murdering Tanner and you will have lost everything that means anything to you” he laughed “Funny how life is so ironic isn’t it”
“I assure you I see no Irony” Vin heard the beginnings of despair in his friends tone.
“Really” he laughed again “Let me explain it to you.” He paused with a laugh “You all have one common enemy, one man whose only desire in life is to see you destroyed, to see you all lose what you have taken from him.”
“What would that be?” Ezra’s voice held none of its usual passion and conviction
“Your brothers” he sneered “You know I thought you would understand this more quickly
“Sorry to disappoint you” Ezra apologised flatly
“Of course some will be easier than  others to break.  The loss of Tanner should push Larabee back into the bottle or if we are lucky to suicide” he spoke matter of factly like he was reading from a script “Then of course when the boy is killed his big brother should be suitably mortified, especially since the boy will leave a note and place the blame squarely n one of his brothers.  Of course you will be the greatest prize, watching your spirit slowly broken will be his greatest achievement”
“How can you people do this?” Ezra breathed his voice full of disbelief
“Unfortunately for you it’s very easy” he spoke “The thing that is your greatest strength is also your biggest weakness”
“Why are you telling me this?” Vin’s eyes filled with sharp tears as he heard the unaccustomed desolation in his friends voice.
“Because after you kill Tanner today none of them will believe anything that comes from  your cocky wise cracking mouth.” He laughed “I’d be surprised if any of them even acknowledge you let alone listen to you”
“You will pay for anything that happens to those men I promise you” Ezra hissed over the sounds of approaching footsteps.  Unexpected tears flowed from Vin’s intense blue eyes as he heard the voice of  his friend and leader.  The sound of his voice bringing a sharp pang of loss to the heart of the younger man, a pain that he had not expected to feel.  He reached out with one trembling hand to stop the recording, he had already heard the rest and knew that it would be replayed over and over in his mind, he had no need to hear it on tape.  He sat for a moment, his eyes on the back of his friend.  For two years the other six men had struggled to bring the enigmatic southerner into their circle.  It was not that he wasn’t part of them, he gave of himself just as much if not more than the others, always willing to step into the breach and place himself between his friends and danger.  Over the last year he had lowered the walls that kept him apart from them and seemed to allow himself to become one of them in all parts of their lives, but in the space of one morning that year had been erased.

Vin knew that now in his mind Ezra believed that he was not worthy of being part of the team and suddenly he was the outsider again, unsure of the others trust in him and feeling like an outcast, he couldn’t turn to anybody with the knowledge that had been given to him with the express purpose of tormenting the noble soul that he so often hid, the reactions of the rest of the team confirming his thoughts.  Stretching lanky legs in front of him he grabbed the bourbon bottles and walked out onto the porch to try to regain the trust that he knew Ezra no longer believed.

Walking past his silent friend, he perched on the step in front of him and held one of the bottles up to him.  Waiting for Ezra to take a long pull from the bottle he spoke quietly.
“So who do you think it is?” he asked not sure if he wanted to hear the answer.  Merely asking the question implied that one of their brothers was a traitor.
“I can’t even think about it” Ezra spoke his voice flat “You should have just let me finish it Vin” he looked up “Maybe then this godawful cycle of death would be completed”
“Not like you fold against the odds Ez” Vin speculated
“Yeah well I don’t like betting against the well being of my family either” he spoke softly before he shook his head as if to clear his thoughts “What do you need me to help you with?”
Vin leaned back against the step, resting his head against the tread his eyes staring sightlessly at the stars above.
“Something doesn’t make sense?” he spoke softly
“What part?” Ezra laughed derisively “The fact that I killed your best friend or the part where one of our brothers is betraying us?”
“Both” Vin stated “Chris was acting really strange this morning, eerie really now that I think about it.  He told me he would always be there for me.  He ain’t never done that before”

They sat in silence for several minutes before Ezra spoke again, hope in his voice for the first time in hours.
“I know this is going to sound like I’m losing my mind but hear me out Vin” he asked softly
“What are you thinking Ez?” Vin turned to look at him
“What if Chris isn’t dead?” he spoke softly
“We’ve both seen his body Ezra” Vin sighed
“Vin” he shook his head “I hit him in the shoulder, it shouldn’t have been all that painful much less fatal” he eyes began to lose some of the painful glaze they had held for most of the day “What if he was trying to tell you something this morning”
“You know this will only hurt us more if we are wrong” Vin looked into his eyes waiting for acknowledgement.
“It’s a long shot but maybe he knew what was going on” Ezra murmured “Maybe he wanted to flush this out his own way”
“He’s Dead Ez we’ve both seen him, touched him” Vin shook his head wondering if his friend was becoming delusional
“I don’t think so Vin” he shook his head “Something is not right here” he glanced up to see the look in his friends eyes. “I haven’t’ lost my mind Vin.  I know exactly what I’m saying” he took a deep breath and continued  “You said yourself he wasn’t acting himself this morning.  What if he knew what was coming?  What if he was waiting for his chance?” he paused again “Imagine what her would do not knowing which of us he could trust”
“He would try to force our hand” Vin spoke softly first the first time actually giving credence to what Ezra was saying.
“Maybe he was trying to tell you something this morning” he searched Vin’s eyes “Maybe he was trying to tell you he trusted you”
“And if we are wrong?”
“Then I don’t know about you, but I am going to do my damndest to protect JD, regardless of what Buck says” Vin heard the determination in his voice, almost hiding the crack of pain that he tried to hide.
“He’ll come round Ezra” Vin spoke softly “Just give him some time you know what he’s like”
“I don’t think he will” Ezra shook his head “I’m afraid those bridges are burned now” Ezra spoke then changed the subject unwilling to broach the subject and cause further pain “Okay what do we have to do?” he frowned
“Uncover a bent Agent and find a traitor” he replied a grin in his voice to be back on familiar territory “All in a day’s work really” he smiled
“Who are your suspects?” Ezra asked
“I think we should start with the teams” he looked to Ezra to find him nodding “and the immediate staff, the ones we have contact with every day” he paused not wanting to finish his thought “As for the others we work with the assumption that it is not JD since they are planning to kill him next so that leaves three of them”
“I can’t even imagine one of them betraying us” Ezra murmured.
Vin stood and extended a hand to his ally “C’mon we’ve got work to do” he smiled “You fire up the computer and I’ll make the coffee.  This is gonna be a long night”

Buck leaned back in his ratty old recliner, watching JD sleep, if what he was getting could be called sleep.  He had watched over the younger man, watching his normal nervous energy sapped by the bone numbing grief that was consuming him.  JD had shrugged from the bigger man’s touch and huddled in the sofa, his fingers tracing idly across his badge, his tears flowing unchecked.  Buck had watched his pain unable to help him, not knowing what to do to ease his pain.  He had spoken in low and soothing tones until his own voice was hoarse, trying to sooth his partner and ‘little brother’.  The loss of Chris was hard on them all, and whilst he knew that a huge hole would be left in his heart, he also knew that one day he would grow to accept it and the circumstances of Chris’ death.  The big man moved to lift the throw rug from the back of the couch and tuck it gently around his housemate, squatting in front of the sofa, he pushed the limp bangs of dark hair back out of his pale face, allowing his hand to linger on his face, providing a little piece of comfort, and allowing himself the human contact he himself needed.    He was startled when the phone rang shrilly, recapturing his composure he moved quickly to the phone and lifted the receiver before it could ring again wake JD.
“Hello” he murmured, his face draining of colour as he listened to the response.
“My God” his voice was little more than a breath “What?” he shook his head, running his other hand over suddenly tear filled eyes “How?” his mind was awhirl “Why?” he stood silently listening to the words being spoken
“I’ll be there” he murmured as he ended the call.  Grabbing his jacket from the back of the seat he had been sitting on he cast a glance at JD.  Leaning down he scrawled a note on the pad on the coffee table and walked out of the room without another moments hesitation.

Vin woke  to the smell of fresh brewed coffee.  Lifting his head from the folder he had fallen into as exhaustion had claimed him.  The creases on the side of his face mirroring the edge of the book.
“Glad to see you back with me” Ezra spoke softly as he noticed his compatriot moving
“You should have woken me Ez” he murmured stretching is weary muscles as he spoke and Ezra placed a mug of coffee in front of him
“Nonsense” Ezra replied “One of us needs to keep a clear head”
“Find anything?” Vin asked not expecting to find any hope in their situation.
“Actually I believe I have uncovered our insider” he smiled “I could be wrong but there are two many coincidences”
“Are you gonna tell me or do I have to beat it out of you?”
“I believe our mole is your alter ego in Team 8” Ezra spoke waiting for Vin to make the connection
“Dawson?” Vin frowned thinking of the quiet, solitary man who filled the role of sharpshooter for Team 8.
“Seems at least three of us have had run ins with members of his family.” Ezra explained “You sent his father to prison, Chris put his eldest brother in a wheelchair and it seems that I have the dubious honour of killing his youngest brother.”
“How the hell did that get past his background check?”  Vin’s frown deepened as he scoured his mind for the case that involved Dawson’s brother
“Dawson apparently was separated from his family when he was a little tyke” Ezra explained “Placed in Foster care and adopted by the Dawson brood, you may know his brother by the correct family name” he paused “DeMichele”
Vin’s face paled as he remembered the case as clearly as if it only happened yesterday.  It had been his first case as a green young Marshall.  A convicted serial rapist and murderer had escaped custody and Vin had brought him in.  Julius DeMichele was currently languishing in a death row prison cell.  Vin sincerely hoped that he never saw the light of freedom again.  The horrors that he had recounted to him of the things that he had done and wanted to do, still lived in Vin’s mind.  That man had no place amongst civilised people.
“I see his father left an indelible impression on you as well” Ezra spoke
“Yep” he nodded “An evil bastard, likes to rape and butcher women, I sent him to death row.  Julius is not a nice man at all”
“Young Oskar wasn’t much better” he was dealing huge amounts of crack in Atlanta” Ezra spoke his voice flat “A bust went bad, he had already killed two hostages, he had his gun to the head of a pregnant woman, a passer-by when he had made us.  She and her four year old had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I did the only thing I could” he paused “I put a bullet in his skull” Ezra shrugged as if trying to forget the whole sordid mess “I can only imagine Chris had a similar experience with Papa DeMichele”
“That doesn’t tell us how the background checks screwed up” Vin spat
“Actually it does” Ezra frowned since he was adopted nobody bothered to check any other names “A little pre-emptive on their part but it appears that they considered such an outstanding police officer to be a good risk” he paused “In fact unless you were trying to link our past cases there probably would never have been a connection made between any of this” he shrugged again.
“Made any inroads with who is going to turn on us?”
“I’ve already made some calls, with some more unsavoury associates” he explained “Called in some favours, Dawson’s car should be fitted with a tracking device sometime within the next few hours” he shrugged wryly “I figure if we follow him, he’ll lead us to our own vagabond”
“You wanna get some rest?” Vin asked him seeing the dark rings under Ezra’s eyes and the lines of weariness on his face
“I can sleep when we sort this whole mess out” Ezra spoke softly he looked at his watch “I have an appointment in half an hour to pick up the tracking equipment and listening devices we need.  You coming?”
“Try to stop me” he grinned as he stood and followed Ezra out of Chris’s well equipped home office.
Lifting the car keys off the table where he had left them they walked out to Chris’ Ram and started the the journey that could be changing their lives forever.

Three hours later both men were seated in Chris’s truck watching, their hearts in their mouths as they watched their compatriot climb into Dawson’s car, grateful that Ezra’s underworld connections had thought to install a listening device into the car.
“You’re late?” Dawson’s irritatingly bland voice spoke a hint of anger simmering just below the surface
“Not a lot I can do about it? Buck’s voice answered him calmly “I had to make sure the kid didn’t follow me”
“That was quite convincing at the warehouse yesterday” Dawson spoke “I was quite convinced you were going to kill Standish”
“You know I can’t stand the sneaky bastard” Buck spat “You’re wasting my time Dawson what’s the plan”
“You know damn well what the plan is” Dawson spat “The Kid needs to die” he smiled knowing that this would be hard on the man who professed to hate everything about his team.  This if nothing else would prove his loyalty.
“I’m working on that as we speak” Vin and Ezra could almost hear the smile in his voice
“How can that bastard do that to JD?” Ezra frowned
“Shut up Ezra and listen” Vin hissed his mind completely fazed by what he had heard
“What do you have planned?” Dawson asked blandly
“A hit man after the funeral” Buck explained “they’ll find Josiah’s name written in his blood on the ground beside the body”  they heard a quiet chuckle “Quite poetic really”
“You may have to wait, one of the AD’s is disbanding Team 7” he laughed “He’s doing it at the cemetery.  It seems you lot haven’t made any friends” he waited for a comment from Buck but then continued
“You’ll get your money in three instalments” Dawson spoke softly “First instalment after Dunne’s death” he spoke “Second instalment after you kill Tanner” he added “And the final instalment after Standish is broken”
“Oh he’s already broken” Buck laughed “You should have seen him at the hospital it was pathetic”
Vin looked at Ezra’s face and realised that he had slipped back into the safety of his poker face, hiding the pain Buck’s cruel words inflicted.
“Meet me here after Dunne is dead and I’ll tell you where to find your first payment” Dawson spoke
“Dawson you are a sneaky bastard” Buck laughed as he slipped out of the car.
Vin was about to turn the receiver off when Ezra’s hand snaked out and caught his wrist “He’s making a phone call”
“Yeah” a familiar voice answered the call
“He’s agreed to the plan” Dawson spoke softly into the phone almost as if he was afraid of being overheard
“All of it?” Vin and Ezra looked at each other confused
“Don’t worry about it” Nathan’s deep rich voice was clear to them “I’ll take care of him after he’s served his purpose” the line clicked in closure.  Vin numbly reached forward and turned off the receiver
Both men sat there their eyes cloudy with the pain in their hearts, and the confusion in their minds.
“How the hell do we stop any of that?” Vin breathed many minutes later when he felt he had gained some control


Buck slipped through the doors of the CDC and held up his hands in surprise as he found two guns pointed at him.
“I’m the good guy remember” he smiled as he walked further into the room “He still asleep?”
“Yeah” Orrin spoke softly he’s exhausted
“I’m sorry we had to do this to him” the third man spoke running his hands through his shaggy black hair
“He’ll forgive you in the end Chris” Buck spoke, his eyes glowing with the pleasure of having his friend back.
“I had to do this to them Buck” he murmured “We couldn’t think of a way to catch him out without it”
Buck could see the pain this was causing his friend, but what’s done was done and now they had themselves a vengeful man to catch. “What’s done is done Chris” he spoke “its keeping the team alive and together” he shrugged watching JD stir on the sofa
“You’d better get out of here before he wakes up” he smiled at Chris as he took him into his arms for a huge Buck style bearhug “Good to have you back Chris” he patted his oldest friend on the back as he hugged him “You look like shit by the way.  You should be in hospital”
“Gee thanks Buck” Chris rolled his eyes back in his head in mock disgust “Could always count on you to make me feel better”
Buck turned serious as Chris walked towards the door “Watch your back Chris”
“You watch your’s and the Kid’s” Chris spoke as he opened the door wincing as he pulled too hard on his injured shoulder “You can’t let them know about me Buck, not one of them”
“I’m not stupid Chris, give me a little credit” he face turned serious “We haven’t seen Ez and Vin since last night, I was way too harsh with him at the warehouse”
“You didn’t know any better Buck” he shook his head as Buck would have interrupted “They’ll look after each other, besides I know where they are, they’ll be okay”
“Buck?” came a quiet call from the sofa, Orrin moved from the living area, where he had been waiting giving the two friends a moment of privacy before they left
“Time for us to leave Chris” he murmured
“Buck” Chris murmured looking at his friend pulling him into a tight embrace “be careful” he looked at his friend again and then slipped out the door.

Buck moved to the sofa to sit on the coffee table and watch his best little buddy waking, hoping he could draw him out of his despondency without alerting him of Chris’s revitalised condition.  How he didn’t know, but something had to draw him from the despair he had fallen into. He turned his eyes skyward and prayed for the ability to be able to carry this whole fiasco off, Chris had placed an awesome responsibility on his shoulders and the safety indeed the future of his team and family hinged on his ability to keep control and not lose his temper when faced with the men who would destroy them all.


Vin and Ezra followed  Dawson for the remainder of the day, but their hearts were no longer in the pursuit.  Their silence spoke volumes.  Neither willing to voice the words that would confirm the duplicity of two of their friends.  They had resigned themselves to losing  one brother but the loss of two was too much for them to bear thinking about.  Vin chanced a glance at Ezra and watched his reflection in the side window as the sun began to sink.  Both men were startled when Vin’s cell phone shrilled loudly.  Vin slipped the phone from his pocket as he drove and spoke softly into the phone before slipping it back into his pocket.
“Funeral is tomorrow” he spoke flatly “That was Orrin” he explained
“I’m not going” Ezra never even turned his head
“We are all expected to be there” Vin frowned listening to  Ezra’s voice
“I’m not going Vin” he spoke “there is no way I can go there and not let them know that I am aware of their actions”
”You” Vin whacked the steering wheel “The hot shot undercover agent and you can’t fool your own friends” he laughed “That’s priceless”
“Shut up Vin” Ezra spoke “They hate my guts”  he spoke his eyes glazed “They know what they are planning yet they still despise me - why is that so?” he asked quietly revealing the secondary reason for his requested inattendance.
“They need a scape goat Ez” he spoke softly “Your history makes you an easy target they don’t mean nothing by it”
“I can’t do the funeral Vin” he stated shaking his head
“You will go to the funeral Ezra” Vin spoke forcefully “Even if only to show Chris your respect.  I won’t let you back away from the others”
“This is all planned to happen after the ceremony” Ezra returned to looking out the window “How the hell do we keep JD safe”
“We’ll work a plan tonight” he spoke “Right now we need some sleep” Vin spoke You need it badly he added under his breath, hoping that once he had rested he would see a return of Ezra’s normal objectivity and optimism.  The made a quick stop at Ezra’s townhouse to collect a suit, swung by purgatorio to collect a similar suit for Vin and returned to Chris’ home for the evening.   Vin walked through to the kitchen when they arrived and  started preparations for an evening meal, happy to be busy, taking his thoughts away from the misery of the past two days.  Walking back through to the living room he found Ezra seated on the sofa in stockinged feet on the coffee table, his eyes closed in weary slumber.  Sinking into the recliner, he rested his own feet on the coffee table and soon joined Ezra in disturbed sleep.

Neither man heard the door at the rear of the house open, a tall dark figure slipping quietly into the house,  and stepping into the living room he stood silently watching his two friends, seeing the torment of his actions on their faces.  He knew that it would take a long time for them to forgive him for doing this to him, just as he knew he was taking a big risk coming to his home, but he had to see for himself.  He had known instinctively that this was where Vin would come to mourn.  He didn’t know why or how, he just knew.  Slipping silently into his office he glanced quickly over their notes and shook his head with a sly grin plastered across his face.  He should have known the two of them would work it out, they were like a dog with a bone when they set their minds to it.  Walking back through the house he frowned running his fingers over a bullet hole in his living room wall, then left the same way he had entered pausing only to turn off the heat under the food Vin had started to cook, before walking outside to jog down the driveway to where Orrin waited in the car.
“Satisfied now?” Orrin raised his eyebrow
“I did this to them.  I had to make sure they were okay?” Chris shrugged his shoulders as he settled into the passenger seat
“And are they?” Orrin asked
“I don’t think last night was a happy night for either of them but they are still in one piece” he smiled as he spoke “They seemed to have worked out who the mole is”
“Do you think they’ll get in the way?” Orrin grew serious thinking of the consequences of any outside actions on their tightly held plan.
“I don’t think so” he replied, but if he had been a betting man he would have put money on the fact that they would involve themselves somehow.  Now he could only hope that they didn’t get themselves hurt.


Vin opened his eyes slowly, his neck not cooperating with his movements, wondering why he felt so stiff and sore.  It took a moment to realise that he had fallen asleep in Chris’s favourite recliner his head resting on his shoulder his body slouched into the corner of the chair. He slid from the chair and stretched lithely, his limbs uncoiling like a big cat as he worked the kinks from them.  Looking at his companion he smiled.  The smooth undercover agent laid on his belly, his stockinged feet hanging over the arm of the sofa, his head turned to the side, his mouth opened and snoring gently, a throw pillow tucked under his arm as he slept.  Under any other circumstances Vin would have been amused but today was a day that promised to be filled with great sadness.

He moved to wake the gently snoring man, but decided instead to make a pot of coffee before he woke the southerner.  Walking into the kitchen he saw the food he had begun to prepare last night in pans on the stovetop.  Frowning as he realised that they had been turned off before they had burned, he shrugged his shoulders thinking that Ezra must have woken and saved the food from its funeral pyre.  Fixing the coffee he moved back to Ezra’s side and sat on the coffee table , shaking the shoulder of the snoring man, he smiled as Ezra batted his hand aside.  He watched as recognition dawned in the bleary emerald eyes, and he pulled himself into a seated position.
“Damn” he murmured “I was hoping that I would find this was all some sort of hellacious dream”  he took the cup from Vin’s hand, gratitude in the tight smile he gave him.
“Thanks for turning off the food on the stove” he smiled
“What food?” Ezra frowned not quite sure what Vin was talking about
“The supper I was making” he frowned deeply
“Last thing I remember is sitting on the sofa” Ezra murmured wiping a hand over his face to erase the weariness he felt
Vin didn’t pause he stood and walked to first the front and then the back door, kneeling at the door and  carefully checking the locking mechanisms.  Ezra met him at the back door, a frown marring his handsome features.
“I think you are right Ezra” Vin rose  “I think our big brother was here last night”  a wide grin crossed his face.
“Why would he come here?” Ezra spoke his own smile turning to a frown
“Well this is his home Ez” Vin laughed “Who knows maybe he wanted to check on us” he shrugged “but someone was sure as hell here and they had a key”
“C’mon” Vin spoke “we need to get ready for the funeral” he looked at his friend “You gonna be alright with going”
“Of course Mr Tanner” he grinned “I am the consummate performer after all” he bowed to his friend.
“we’ll sort out a plan on the way” he moved through the house with Ezra hot on his heels moving into Chris’ bedroom, he opened the wardrobe and lifted Chris’ two spare handguns from the top shelf.  He made sure that they were loaded and threw one to Ezra who caught it lithely
“Better take these just in case we find someone who needs them” he stated a sparkle of mischief in his blue eyes.
“Indeed Mr Tanner” he smiled as he almost caressed the gun as it sat in his hand “Indeed”
They went about showering and dressing and left the house with an hour to spare before the funeral.  Both men dressed in sartorially elegant suits, the sombre black set off only by the pale green of their silk ties. They arrived at the cemetery earlier then everyone else, both standing at the side of the hole that had been dug to accommodate their friends coffin.
“I hope to hell we are right” Vin spoke softly as he looked into the hole at their feet
“Nothing could leave a  greater hole in my heart than the realisation that our hopes are unfounded Mr Tanner” Ezra spoke sadly, his eyes fixed on the depths at his feet.
“Promise me something Ezra” Vin spoke softly
“Anything Mr Tanner” Ezra spoke sincerely, his voice soft but firm
“No matter what happens today” he murmured “And I do mean whatever happens, don’t let it change us”
“Vin” Ezra slid his glasses down his nose to cast clear green eyes on his friend “You have been a true friend, something it has taken me my whole life to find” he paused “I may be many things but I am not a fool.  Today, no matter what way the cards fall, will not change nor mar that relationship in my mind” he extended one arm to Vin who clasped it tightly before they turned and walked briskly from the graveside.  Waiting by their car for the funeral to begin., knowing that their lives would never be the same.

They stood by the side of the car leaning on it lightly, their stances almost identical , arms folded across their chests waiting for  the events of the day to unfold around them.  It had never occurred to either of them to attend the church service.  Neither of them able to stand the thought of hearing the eulogy, they waited patiently, wordlessly for the funeral procession to arrive.  Both men were grateful for the sunglasses they wore as bitter tears stung their eyes, watching the men who they had thought of as brothers slide the coffin from the hearse and lift it to their shoulders.  A role that they themselves should have been part of.  A role that if they were wrong in their assumptions, they would regret not fighting for for the rest of their lives.

Vin didn’t miss the glares of intense dislike even hate that Nathan and Buck fired at Ezra, he hoped that Ezra had missed the hostility there, but the tensing of his body told him that he had seen and felt their distaste at his attendance.  The only sign of friendship was from JD who gave him a weak but watery smile of greeting before dropping his gaze back to the ground in front of him. Vin watched Ezra drop his arms to his side and clench his fists in an effort to control the turbulent emotions.  Reaching down to grip his hand, he clasped it tightly before releasing it and beginning the walk towards the graveside.  Ezra stopped at the back of the gathered crowd, not feeling welcome even amongst casual acquaintances, Vin kept walking until he reached the side of the four remaining team members, shrugging off the comforting hand Josiah extended to him. Stepping a little to the side out of reach of his friends he stood his head bowed silently saying his own goodbyes to the man he had called his best friend for the last three years, just in case Chris wasn’t still with them.

The funeral passed quickly and quietly, Ezra’s eyes scanning the crowd, anything to stop from listening to the eulogy, the funeral had almost concluded when Ezra met the cold grey gaze of a stranger.  At least he thought it was a stranger but there was something eerily familiar about him.  Shiny jet black hair fell over his forehead and the grey eyes watched him shrewdly, almost as if they knew something he didn’t know.  Ezra couldn’t help but feel that he knew this person, the way he stood there in his expensive black suit, a subtle green striped tie a splash of colour against a stark white shirt, his feet slightly apart one hip cocked as if waiting and ready for action.  He frowned in confusion as the realisation dawned on him and his eyes flew back to the face that was watching him appraisingly.

Chris saw the recognition in the green eyes that had watched him, and he smiled a slight grin, the humour reaching his eyes for the first time in days.  He saw the relief and a myriad of other emotions cross the face of the undercover agent as he realised exactly who he was looking at.  He hoped that Ezra would not reveal him to the rest of the congregation. He watched as Ezra turned his head frantically hoping to attract Vin’s attention, he watched as Ezra’s eyes met Nathan’s and he saw Nathan give him a cold unseeing glare, almost as if he wasn’t even there.  Chris watched the younger man seem to deflate at the hostile glance, all joy in his discovery swallowed by his disdain at the opinions of the other men.  Chris wondered for the hundredth time if the team would ever recover from the emotional turmoil of the last few days.  Knowing that the bridges they had built to make Ezra feel he was part of their family had been well and truly burned.

Knowing that ‘his’ funeral was coming to an end, Chris slipped back, silently and quickly melting out of the people  gathered there and running lithely through the cemetery, he knew what was coming and was desperate to find a position to carry out his role in the duplicity that divided his team.  He had seen Dawson arrive at the funeral, smug grin pasted to his face, his joy at the demise of Team 7 far too evident.  Chris would have liked nothing more than to stand in front of him and feel his fists connecting with that smug smile.  But to allow himself that satisfaction would defeat the whole reason for his duplicity.

The men lingered at the graveside as the others mourners slowly dissipated, none of them wanting to leave.  To leave would be to pronounce their leader finally gone and none of them wanted that.  Ezra stood back with his newfound knowledge swelling his heart and filling him with a great sense of relief.  He watched as the others grappled with the burial of their leader and wished that he was able to share the knowledge with the youngest of their number at the very least.  He could see how grief for Chris had worn down his usually exuberant nature to make him a shadow of his fun loving self, but until they managed to sort this out, there was nothing that he could do about it.

The four men began to walk away from the grave, Vin lingered and waited until they were a reasonable distance away before, he turned to Ezra, who faced him with a grin splitting his face.
“What the hell has tickled you so much?” Vin murmured as Ezra reached his side
“He was here, and he knows that I know” he explained softly, seeing the slow smile that spread across Vin’s face he realised then that Vin hadn’t truly believed their supposition.
“Something is going down here” Ezra spoke “I don’t know what it is but I can feel it”
“Not much we can do but be here when it happens” Vin shrugged as they began to follow the other four men down the roadway to where their cars were parked.  Josiah leaned against the side of the black Ram waiting for Vin and Ezra to reach them
“Brothers” he nodded his head looking at each of them appraisingly “We have been requested to attend a meeting in AD Jacobs offices in 30 minutes time” he spoke “We are all expected to attend” he pushed off the car and started to walk back towards the car where the other three men waited.
“Josiah” Ezra called him and waited till he turned to face them “Thanks”
“Don’t thank me Brother Ezra” he paused then looked deeply into Ezra’s eyes “Word has it that you are about to be suspended”
“What the hell for?” Vin growled
“Accidental or not he did kill Chris Vin” Josiah held up his hands “It’s only understandable for them to question it”
“Leave it Vin” Ezra spoke his voice flat as he touched the arm of the angry man beside him “It’ll be okay” but even knowing that Chris wasn’t really dead , he couldn’t help but feel the lance of pain that shot through his heart at Josiah’s careless words.
“We’ll be there Mr Sanchez” Ezra smiled as he opened the door of the Ram, almost pushing Vin into the drivers seat as he spoke
Josiah turned back and continued his walk towards the other car, troubled by the feelings of the younger men, but knowing that he could do nothing to help them yet, he left them to seek the comfort they needed in each other.

Ezra moved to climb into the Ram and waited for Vin to start the vehicle.
“He didn’t mean it you know that don’t you?” Vin spoke watching the other car drive off
“I know that” Ezra answered “But it’s a moot point now anyway” his face split into a grin “Chris isn’t dead”
“We’ve got a meeting to attend” Vin smiled back at him starting the car and throwing it into gear, driving towards the ATF offices

They parked Chris’s car and walked together through the lobby, entering the elevators almost gratefully. Both men were well known around the building, everyone knew the members of Team 7.  Neither of them were prepared for the open hostility they met when they approached.  Ezra shook his head in disbelief
“Apparently I’m not a welcome man Mr Tanner” he breathed  a sigh of relief as the doors slid closed
“If looks could kill pard” he smiled ruefully “You would be a corpse now” Vin agreed with him
“Lets just get this over with” Ezra spoke as the doors slid open  and he walked out of the elevator
Vin followed and as they reached the outer sanctum of  AD Jacob’s offices, he grabbed Ezra’s forearm
“There’s something wrong with this picture Ezra” Vin murmured
“Like where is his charming young secretary” Ezra frowned
“Or any other staff for that matter” Vin spoke as the office door burst open
“Gentlemen please don’t dally” Dawson sneered at them as he was revealed in the open doorway
“The party won’t start until the party is complete”
“Go to hell Dawson” Vin spoke his voice flat and full of venom
“I’m sorry Mr Tanner” he sneered “You’ll be there long before I am” he laughed as he drew his gun and fired two rounds  casually into Vin’s right shoulder.
“God Dammit Dawson” Vin cussed as he fell to his knees on the floor his fingers pressing against the bleeding holes in his shoulder
Ezra knelt beside him, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket and pressing it against the blood that flowed from the bulletwounds
“What the hell do you want from us Dawson?” Ezra spoke from between clenched teeth
“I want to see you broken, all of you” he sneered “Give up your weapons boys” he walked behind them, kicking Ezra in the middle of the back as he did, Ezra fought not turn and fight the miserable son of a bitch, instead he turned his attention back to Vin and slipped his hand inside his jacket extracting the gun from his shoulder holster gripping it barrel first he placed it on the ground and shoved it across the floor.  He repeated the procedure with the gun in the small of his back and then with his own guns.
“Ankle guns too boys” Dawson sneered “I know you too well, I know that you wouldn’t come here undergunned” he laughed “Now give them up” he paused “NOW!” he bellowed.
Both men regretfully slipped their smaller yet just as deadly weapons from their ankle holsters
“Now boys” Dawson smiled evilly  “Time to join the party” he kicked Ezra again “Get up and get in there”
Ezra held a tight rein on the temper that simmered within him, he pulled Vin to his feet and they walked into the inner sanctum of AD Jacobs.  Both men were stunned at what they saw as they passed through the door.  Buck stood behind Jacobs desk looking out the window, his thoughts a mystery to all of them.  Josiah was seated on the leather lounge in the corner, a bleeding gash across his forehead.  The thing that shocked the both of them was the fact that JD lay on the matching sofa.  A gunshot wound to his right shoulder, Nathan’s caring hands  trying to stop the bleeding.  AD Jacobs sat in a leather chair in the corner of the room, a shot gun laying across his lap and a pistol in his hand, surveying the vengeance his nephew had wreaked.
“Nice of you to join us boys” Jacobs spoke laughing at the confusion on Ezra’s face
“We had to change our plans Standish” he sneered “You screwed everything up killing Larabee” he laughed as JD yelped in pain as Dawson pulled him from the sofa by his injured arm, holding a gun to his head.
“You see I know that you know who  your opponents are, but you have no idea where I fit in do you” Jacobs spoke
”I’m sure you are about to enlighten me” Ezra spoke calmly his mind trying to find a way to extricate them all from this mess, before any of them were hurt badly
“My birth name is Dimitri DeMichele” he spoke watching the recognition dawn in Vin and Ezra’s eyes.
So what the hell do you think you are going to do to us” Vin spoke from between clenched teeth
“Not a whole lot we have to do” Jacobs spoke “You’re managing to destroy the team on your own” he paused smiling around the room at them “Gratifying really” he murmured
“Get to the point Uncle” Dawson spoke glaring at the two men who still stood in the doorway
“Wilmington” he called “get over here and cuff these two”
Buck turned from his post at the window his face devoid of emotion as he walked around the desk, lifting two pairs of handcuffs from the desk, cuffing first Vin and then Ezra’s hands in front of them  His face never lifting from their hands, not able to even entertain the possibility of looking at the faces of his friends and seeing the betrayal he knew he would see.  He moved back to sit on the edge of the table, his eyes watching his hands.
“Your turn to suffer Wilmington” Dawson spoke, laughing as Buck’s eyes flew to his “Kill the kid” he yawned almost bored as pushed JD to arms length.
“For God’s sake Buck don’t do this” Ezra spoke
“Buck please” JD murmured fear glazing his eyes that were like saucers
“Bucklin” Vin spoke “You can’t do this”

Buck lifted the gun from his shoulder holster and ejected the clip, checking the number of rounds it held then levelled it at his young partner.  Nathan turned on Buck, his own gun raised, his back against the wall beside the sofa.
“I won’t let you do it Buck” Nathan levelled his weapon on the older man
“My my” Jacobs spoke “This just keeps getting better and better” he laughed  as he watched levelling the shotgun at Buck, the handgun at Nathan, watching as Dawson aimed his guns one at JD and one at Josiah
“Best you do as you are told Wilmington or you will lose two friends and then yourself.
Buck took a deep breath and tried to ignore the naked pain in JD’s eyes.
“I’m sorry JD” Buck murmured tears in his own eyes “I’m so sorry” he levelled the gun, the horror on the faces of the men of Team 7 apparent to all.  Buck cocked the gun and set in place a chain of events that he prayed they would all survive.

Ezra had been waiting for his opportunity, Chris’s gun was nestled in his trouser pocket, safely ensconced there waiting for an opportunity to use it, his hands  moving carefully towards his pocket while everyone’s attention was drawn to the battle of wills played out in the centre of the room.  He managed to slip the gun from his pocket and hide it in his palm as the tension in the room reached fever pitch.

As Buck tightened his finger on the trigger, the main office door swung open.  The room was filled weith the sound of gunfire, all intent on saving each other from the danger they were all in.  As the smoke cleared and they took stock of the carnage that they had created, all but two of them could not hide their surprise or excitement.
“Chris?” Josiah’s startled voice spoke not willing to take his eyes off the newcomer
“Yeah” he murmured as he crossed the room to take the trembling Buck into a warm brotherly embrace
“I’m sorry Buck” he shook his head “It’s over now” he lifted the gun from the shaken big man’s hand
“How did you know?” Nathan asked as he moved to JD’s  side “How did you do this?” he shook his head, watching similar movements from the rest of the team.  Chris cast his gaze across the room, seeing the bodies of the two men who were almost the downfall of his men and his team.

His eyes took in the bloodied forms of three of his men and the complete confusion shrouding the faces of the six of them, he knew he had some explaining to do, but firstly he had to make sure they were safe.  Orrin Travis stood at the door of the bullet scarred office, casting his eyes over the men that were scattered about the room.  He moved aside to let the EMT’s in and then watched as JD, Ezra and Vin were bundled, under duress onto stretchers and taken to hospital.  Their complaints ringing down the halls as they were taken away.

“Has anyone got time to tell me what went on?” Orrin spoke
“I am not sure myself” Josiah shook his head “Nathan and I had been working on an angle that we thought would find the people responsible for the leaks within the building”
“We had tracked down Jacobs” Nathan continued
“We’re ashamed to say we thought Buck was on the take” Josiah spoke softly
“You were all supposed to” Buck spoke “Chris and I were working on Dawson, have been for a while” he replied
“How did JD get hit?” Chris asked
“He put up a fight when one of them said something about how much Ezra enjoyed killing you” Buck spoke pride in his voice as he remember the fight that JD put up arguing Ezra’s honour.
“Then when Ez and Vin got here things all went to hell” Josiah spoke calmly “Only one of them will be able to tell you what went on in the outer office but they shot Vin.”  He paused trying to clarify in his mind what had happened.
“They wanted me to kill JD” Buck spoke “I let them think I was going to and put a bullet in Dawson’s head”
“Dawson had a gun aimed at me” Josiah spoke “But when Buck shot him it misfired” he paused “Ezra stepped between me and the gun”
“Who shot Jacobs?” Orrin asked nodding his head astutely
“I turned on him and fired right after I fired at Dawson”
“I shot him as I came through the door” Chris added
“That’s three” Orrin spoke as he looked at the body of his fellow AD  “Where did the fourth come from?”
“Must have been Ezra?” Buck spoke  softly, he had a gun that he had somehow gotten past Dawson
“Gentlemen” Orrin spoke “You go see to your friends” he spoke “I’ll take care of things here”
The four remaining members of Team 7 all took advantage of the opportunity and made their way to the hospital to check on the condition of their youngest members.    They realised that none of their injuries were life threatening but the whole team felt a need to be together that none of them wanted to quash.

Two Days Later

Chris sat at their regular table  in the saloon, his hair washed to within an inch of its life, almost back to its normal dark blond.  The hated contact lens that had stained his deep green eyes grey were gone.  The after effects of the drug he had taken to fake his own death were finally over. The thing that caused a smile to crease his handsome face was the fact that his family was whole again.  He watched as the three injured members were herded into the bar by the rest of the team.  From the looks on the faces of the three youngest, Chris could tell they were already sick and tired of the attention they were gaining from their friends.

Things had been tense when the three men had first woken up after their respective surgeries, and whilst things weren’t as casual and easygoing as they had been before they were well on their way to the relationships they once had.  He smiled as he thought of  the ladies man who felt so badly about his part in this whole fiasco.  He had shared his time between Ezra and JD, determined to make it up to both of them, to the point where the both of them were ready to do him bodily harm.  He watched as Josiah helped Vin, Nathan helped Ezra and Buck helped JD to sit comfortably at the table they now shared with Chris  and settled down with a drink in front of all of them.  He couldn’t help but laugh as Nathan offered to put Ezra’s crutches out of the way of passing patrons, and Ezra told him in a sweet southern drawl exactly what he would like to do with the hated implements.

“You find something amusing Mr Larabee?” Ezra raised one eyebrow at him
“Nothing Ezra” he paused skimming his gaze over each smiling face at his table “Nothing at all.  Just happy to have my family together again”
“Here Here Mr Larabee”  Ezra affirmed watching the nods of assent from the others as they all lifted their glasses in toast.