Disclaimer: These men are not owned by me or mine, they are simply borrowed.
Notes: AU, set in different present. Number six in Haven series.
Thanks to Gemini, Heidi, and Jennye for helping immeasurably with this story.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Baines." The young, comely brunette sashayed into the Guild leader's sparsely decorated office.
Upon seeing her, Paul Baines made no move to stand; courtesy was not a concern for him. "Miss Perkins," He greeted his visitor with a smile that didn't quite reach his cold eyes, and then motioned to a chair.
"Louisa, please." She sat in the offered seat, smoothing her expensive skirt.
"And what may I do for you, my dear?" The Guild leader steepled his hands together and gazed across at Louisa.
The young woman smiled blankly at the flattering tone. "As I'm sure you are aware, Senator Hopewell would like the Travis situation taken care of as soon as possible. There could be repercussions if it succeeds."
"I, of all people, know exactly what would happen. You can tell Clayton I'm on top of it."
"The senator would be very disappointed if it were not handled properly."
Baines' false smile faded slightly. "I assure you it is being 'handled' as we speak."
"Wonderful." Miss Perkins stood up. "If you will excuse me, I have other matters to attend to. We'll be in touch."
"I can't wait." Baines lifted an eyebrow at the woman's exit. He shook his head in pity. As if I care what that two-bit senator wants, he thought. He reached for his phone and quickly dialed a number. The egotistic man hated having to use an outsider, but Lucius Stutz had served him well before.
"I have a job for you."
"Whatever you need."
"Done. I want the problem taken care of immediately," Baines said. "There will be a file for you with information at the usual place." At his listener's grunt, he continued, "This cannot be traced back to me under any condition, do you understand me?"
"Where ya headed?"
Chris Larabee paused with his hand on the door. "Out."
Chris sighed in resignation. There went his chance at escaping the loony bin unnoticed. Damn Tanner. "Yes."
"Now," Vin drawled heavily, accentuating his accent and raising his voice for his audience, "didn't I jest get an ass-chewin' for 'goin' solo' a couple o' weeks ago?" He stretched out, placing his lean legs on Nathan's lap, which the healer promptly pushed off.
"And now yer off by yerself?"
"That ain't the way ta rally the troops. S'posed ta lead by example."
The blond glanced around the trailer. Buck and JD were in the front mindlessly flicking through the channels on the television. Josiah was napping in the back bunk, his snoring almost drowning out the TV. Nathan sat next to Ezra at the table, eating a sandwich, and Vin was sitting on the couch beside them.
"Fine," Chris said. "I'll take Buck." He instinctively and unknowingly closed his thoughts, mentally cutting off his best friend.
Vin's smile didn't fade, but his blue eyes seemed to lose some of their snap. "Okay, then," the telepath said quietly. He moved away from Nathan to sit in Buck's vacated chair next to JD.
Chris looked puzzled at Vin's withdrawal, but was quickly distracted by Buck describing the many women they'd pick up while on their mysterious errand.
The two sentients walked up to the park bench where their meet was scheduled to take place. They saw the blonde woman sitting, already waiting for them.
Chris smiled slightly as she stood to greet them. "Mary."
"Chris," Mary answered. She looked at the telekinetic, but didn't move to touch him. "Thanks for coming."
"Miz Travis, you are looking fine as always." The ladies' man pushed past his friend, staring at her appreciatively as he kissed her hand.
"Thank you, Buck." She smiled at the attention.
Chris rolled his eyes at his old friend's behavior -- same as always. He pulled Buck away, and he and Mary sat down on the bench while Buck kept watch. "Why the urgent meeting?" the green-eyed sentient asked. Normally Mary Travis would not put herself or them at risk by requesting a public meeting.
"Orrin's in trouble," she said. "I'd like you to help him."
"You and your group may be the only ones able to keep him alive." She paused, drawing a deep breath. "Confidentially, the rumor is they're going to rescind the PCCA within the week," she stated, referring to the Psionic Control and Containment Act.
Buck whistled from his post behind them. "Baines won't let that happen."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Mary responded.
"Remember, stud, it's our duty to save the world," Wilmington drawled.
Larabee rolled his eyes.
The beautiful blonde smiled, but it quickly faded. "Please, Chris, he's family. I couldn't stand it if something were to happen to him." She saw the telekinetic wavering and added, "Billy would be crushed if his grandfather was hurt."
Chris and Buck exchanged a glance over the reporter's head. "Okay," Larabee relented. "I'll see what the others have to say about it."
Mary's relief was palpable. "Thank you so much. Here's his home address, and his private office number. Now if he tries to brush you off, don't pay any attention to him; he's stubborn."
"Look who's talking." Chris smirked at Mary's 'glare.'
"I really do appreciate this," she said.
Buck stepped around the bench and gave the beautiful woman a quick hug, ignoring his friend's intense glare at the action.
With a final wave, Mary walked to her car and drove away.
Chris watched until her car could no longer be seen. He turned at Buck's chuckle. "What?"
"I was just wonderin' how she can hold her finger up with you wrapped so tight around it."
Back at the trailer, Buck and Chris explained the situation to the rest of their team.
"So you want us to go to DC? Isn´t that kind of dangerous, getting' that close to Guild headquarters?" Nathan asked.
Buck nodded. "But I figure it's worth that chance if we can help the PCCA get revoked."
"I'll be the only one traveling into Washington," Larabee said. "The rest of you will meet up and go to Silver Spring, Maryland, to his residence."
"Ooh, nice area." Ezra smiled, showing off his gold tooth. "Plenty of wealth."
"I'm going to try to convince the Judge to stay in Maryland for the duration."
"Good luck. That man is near on as stubborn as you." Buck chuckled at the solitary finger directed his way.
"I think it will be a most auspicious venture for us, having the favor of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I vote we go."
"Aw, hell, Ez." Vin smirked. "You just wanna ditch the trailer again."
"True. Seeing as how we are going to forego the horrid conditions of this traveling monstrosity," Ezra waved his hands, encompassing the trailer with his gesture, "I believe we should leave today."
"Mary's always helped us out when she could," Josiah said. "I think it's time to return the favor."
"I agree," Nathan said.
"I'm ready for some action." JD grinned.
"Well?" Chris asked Vin since Buck had already decided to go.
Vin didn't respond for a moment and Chris looked at him in question.
//Can't get too close,// the telepath sent. //Still a price on my head.//
//We'll be there to watch your back.//
Tanner nodded, but it was still a few moments before he quietly said, "I'm in."
"How are we going to get there?"
"Fly. We'll have to take separate flights to the surrounding region and pick up some new cars." Chris glanced at Standish. "And we'll ditch the trailer."
"Thank the Lord for His favors," Ezra said, raising his arms to heaven.
"Amen, Brother," Josiah responded with a wide grin.
Nathan laughed. "Ezra, you're the one that bought the thing."
"At the time of its purchase, I didn't know that I'd be spending the remainder of my life within its narrow confines."
"Okay, okay," Chris said, settling the team down. "Ezra, why don't you work your magic and get some flights booked. We'll go out in pairs; I'll fly into Dulles."
The six men were together again. Ezra and Buck had flown into Virginia and made their way into Maryland. JD and Josiah were sent to Baltimore, and Nathan and Vin set down in Philadelphia. Cars were already arranged for the men. They met at a motel outside Montgomery County and drove in caravan formation to the Travis Estate.
The three vehicles pulled up to the front gates and the sentients got out, looking at the enormous mansion tucked back on the property. It was a two-story, sprawling red-brick Victorian. They stood outside the gates next to the call box and tried to decide on a course of action.
"Does she know we're coming?"
"I think Mary told her."
"Buzz the house, JD."
"You look innocent."
"Do it, I dare ya."
"I'm not a child."
"But I'm afraid our dear Mr. Tanner is. At least he's a juvenile delinquent."
"Least I ain't a show-off."
"I betcha Josiah could talk his way in with that sweet voice o' his."
"Maybe Nathan's purty smile would do some damage."
"If you keep up with that smart mouth, I'll do some damage."
"I'll bet your dimpled smile would open a door or two."
"Gentlemen," came a woman's voice through the speaker. "If you are through with your performance, why don't you come up to the house?"
Six red-faced men watched as the gates swung open, embarrassed to have been caught bickering like children. Belatedly, they saw the discreetly placed camera hidden in a nearby tree, letting them know that the person saw them.
Chris took a cab from the airport to the federal building. He walked straight through the lobby and, using his telekinesis --TK, he pushed through the turnstile, managing to distract the guard at the same time to allow his easy entrance. It was lucky for him, but the blond didn't want it to be this simple for anyone else to get inside to reach Travis.
He strolled through the corridors, trying to remain inconspicuous until he reached Travis' door. Larabee walked past a few law clerks and straight into the private office. One clerk followed behind, trying in vain to stop the man in black.
Travis looked up from his desk at the commotion. "Mr. Larabee."
"That's Chief Justice Travis to you." The clerk was aghast. "I'm calling Security to have you removed. I'm sorry, sir," he said to Travis.
Larabee barely spared a glance -- he wasn't even worth a glare -- at the underling.
"It's all right, Michael," Travis told his assistant as he shooed him to the outer office. He closed the door behind him, leaving the justice alone with Chris.
Chris gave a slight grin and sat down in the visitor's chair placing his feet up on the justice's desk. "So, Judge, I hear someone's after your hide."
Orrin returned to his seat behind his desk with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I think Mary's overreacting."
"You aren't worried?"
"Mr. Larabee, a man in my position has power. For that reason, I have enemies. There's nothing new about that."
Larabee let his feet fall to the floor and leaned forward. "I think this time it might be different. If you go ahead and annul the PCCA, Paul Baines is going to lose his influence."
"I know all about Baines. Once the Guild is abolished, he won't have a leg to stand on."
"Which is why he will use every resource available, both legal and not, to make sure that doesn't happen." By Orrin's expression, Chris could see the chief justice thought the warnings unnecessary.
"How do you plan to protect me?" Orrin asked.
"My team is already at your house."
"What?" That got the justice's attention. "I never said yes."
"What harm could there be in letting us stick around for a while?"
Travis shook his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose, keeping his eyes closed. "Harboring fugitives comes to mind."
"Hey, think of it this way: if your opinion goes through, we'd no longer be fugitives." Chris shot the older man an ironic smile.
"How comforting," Travis said wryly. "I know Mary trusts you and you've never shown me anything but good faith." He sighed in acceptance. "I'll let you stay, but please try not to disrupt my life any more than necessary."
"We aren't the ones planning on disrupting anything, Your Honor. We hope to prevent it."
Evelyn Travis set out a tray with tea and desserts. The men already assured her they didn't need anything, but being the consummate hostess, she couldn't resist. Marriage to a federal judge and then a justice had taught her the importance of good manners. Nathan, Josiah, and JD remained inside to stay with the older woman while Buck, Vin, and Ezra went outside to check the grounds.
Mrs. Travis remarked, "I appreciate you coming to protect my Orrin. Mary said you were good boys."
JD flushed at the praise, quickly snatching a scone to hide his embarrassment.
"It's our pleasure, ma'am," Josiah said, helping himself to the food.
Ezra was walking near the back of the yard when he received a psionic flash. A man with a rifle shooting through the sitting room window. Mrs. Travis lying on the floor, bleeding. Eyes darting around, he spotted the man in a tree along the edge of the property. When the shooter saw he'd been spotted, he redirected the gun, aiming it toward the clairvoyant. Standish swiftly flipped his wrist-mounted pistol out and shot the gunman.
Hearing the gunshot, Vin and Buck raced over to where Standish now stood over the fallen intruder. Vin sent a mental message to the rest of the team. //Nate, we need you and JD out by the northeast corner. Josiah, stay with Miz Travis.//
"How did you know?" Buck asked the chestnut-haired sentient.
"I sensed the shooter precognitively."
"That's awful handy, Ez," Vin commented. The other men came running up behind them. Nathan checked the man over, confirming that he was, in fact, dead.
"Why don't you touch this guy and see who sent him, JD?" Buck asked, waving at the body.
"It never works with people. You know that," the dark-haired psychometrist protested. "I can only do it with inanimate objects."
"He's pretty damn inanimate now," Vin countered.
JD looked at his fellow teammates and nodded. The young sentient was a bit queasy around the corpse, but he knew his team was counting on him. He knelt down beside the dead assassin, let down his shields, and gently touched the man's face. Many visuals passed by, the most prominent was the call from Paul Baines just a few hours prior. Pulling back, he reported, "He was sent by Baines."
"I knew it!"
"We all knew it, Buckley. Problem is, there ain't no 'psychic court,' so it don't help us," Vin said. "Anything else?" he asked the psychometrist.
"Nothing. It all was just a quick flash burst. I could barely pick out that much."
Since they couldn't call the police about the attempted assassination, the ladies' man picked up the body in a fireman's carry to go "take care of it." Looking over at the edge of the clearing, Buck noticed the assailant's dropped rifle. "Hey, JD, couldn't you've touched that and gotten the same info?" the pyrokinetic pointed at the weapon.
JD tracked his friend's gaze and saw the rifle. "Yes!" The psychometrist was noticeably upset. "Why didn't you ask me that before I had to touch the dead guy?"
Buck refused to admit he didn't think of it. He shrugged and gave Dunne a smirk. "Body was closer."
"I can't believe you did that, Buck. I touched a dead guy!"
"Stop your whining, kid, it's unbecoming." Wilmington carried the dead assassin away.
JD followed behind, still protesting fiercely.
Ezra shook his head at the departure of the bickering friends. He turned to Vin and said, "We will need real proof if we are going to be able to defeat Mr. Baines. We'll need someone alive to testify against him."
"Then next time, just wound 'im," Vin admonished.
"I will try my utmost," Standish assured him. Looking over at Vin, Ezra said, "This one wasn't a sentient. But next time "
"I'll let Chris know," Vin said.
//Cowboy, bring the Judge home. There's trouble.//
//Understood,// Chris relayed and moved over to Orrin. "We have to leave, sir. Get enough work to last through the weekend."
"The weekend?" Travis questioned. "It's only Wednesday."
"And you won't be back before Monday."
"I can't just leave like that!"
"You need to be home now." Larabee didn't raise his voice, but tried to get the urgency across.
Apparently, Orrin got the message. Walking to the office door, he opened it and called into the reception area, "Todd, I want the Dottl, De Vries, and Rosewood files. I'll be taking the rest of the week off. Please reschedule all my appointments."
"Yes, sir." The aide went to accomplish his tasks as Travis returned to his desk and began to pack up his briefcase. "What happened?" the chief justice finally asked Larabee.
"There's been a problem at your house. I'm sure your wife is fine, but I think it would be best if everyone stayed together."
Larabee drove the judge home in Travis' car. The ride seemed interminable; Orrin was fidgeting with worry the entire trip, and the telekinetic had no words of comfort for him.
Buck met Chris at the door as Travis rushed past to make sure his wife was all right. He explained what'd happened while Chris was retrieving the justice.
"Dammit," Chris snapped. "I thought we'd have more time."
"Looks like time's run out," Buck said.
"We need to get Mrs. Travis out of here."
"Mary, too," Wilmington added. "Last thing we need is hostages."
"Agreed." Chris was surprised Tanner hadn't met him at the door. He glanced in the room. "Where's Vin?"
"He and everyone else are covering the grounds."
They walked into the main room to find Orrin on the couch comforting his wife. Larabee walked over and sat on the coffee table in front of the Travis couple. He leaned over and quietly said, "I think it would be best if Mrs. Travis leaves."
The woman in question indignantly answered, "I'll not be frightened out of my own home, young man."
Ezra and Buck chuckled.
Chris ignored his men's amusement, recalling when Miss Nettie had referred to him in the same way. "I was thinking more about your husband's safety, ma'am," Chris replied easily. "All seven of us came to protect you, but being together will make both of you easier targets. If we have to split up, that divides the odds a bit and not in our favor."
Evie Travis looked down at her husband's hand she clasped, and then back up at Chris. "That I can't permit," she stated evenly. "Where will I go?"
"We have a safe place you can stay. I'm going to tell -- I mean -- ask Mary and Billy to go along as well."
"You know my daughter-in-law well," Evie smiled. "She wouldn't take kindly to being ordered about."
"That she wouldn't," Chris agreed with a gentle smile. "But these people mean business and I doubt they would be above hurting women or children." The telekinetic hated to scare her but she needed to realize how dangerous a situation this was.
Evie stood up and extended her hand to Orrin. "I need help to pack." Her husband took her hand and they walked out of the room.
"Okay." Larabee breathed a sigh of relief. "The hard part's over. I'll call Nettie and see if she can help us out." There was no one else they'd trust to take care of the Travis family, and keep them safely hidden. Larabee borrowed Ezra's cellphone and went to make arrangements. Within a few minutes he'd returned.
"She's happy to help," he reported. "She and Casey will meet the Travises halfway, to make sure they aren't followed back to her farm." He looked between his men and said, "We'll need someone to escort them, just in case."
"JD'll be more'n happy to volunteer." Buck laughed. "That boy is beyond eager to see little Miss Casey again."
"An excellent idea," Ezra agreed. "His shields are sturdy and he can't be tracked easily."
"All right." Chris nodded. "Let him know, Buck."
Orrin Travis stood and watched as his wife gathered her things together.
He had been quiet throughout the previous conversation awaiting his wife's decision. He'd studied the sentients trying to get a better feel for them. Chris Larabee struck him as a fair man, and the fierce loyalty shown by his men demonstrated his excellent leadership. Ezra Standish came across as pretentious, but Orrin was adept at reading people below the surface. He saw the proud fire in the Southerner's eyes as he watched his teammates. Buck Wilmington tried to maintain an air of playfulness around him, but the older man could see the intelligence and seriousness of the supposed ladies' man. Travis hadn't yet met the rest of the team, but from what Mary'd told him and from what he had seen of the others, he felt he and his wife were in good hands.
Drawing his attention back to Evelyn, he watched her pack one last bag. She was still a beautiful woman; age hadn't stolen any of her grace -- or intellect. He'd noticed the small glances she was sending his way. Now he was waiting for her to start the inquiry.
It didn't take long.
Evie folded up another shirt. As she placed it into her bag she asked, "Do you trust these men?"
"I have no choice," he answered truthfully. "Mary seems to trust them."
"That she does. Well, she is a good judge of character she married our son, after all." She smiled when Orrin chuckled. Placing her final piece of clothing in the bag, she closed it and turned to face her husband. "I couldn't stand it if anything happened to you."
He moved forward, collecting her in his arms. "You know it's what has to be done."
Evie placed her head on his shoulder and sighed, her eyes welling up with unshed tears. "I know it's your duty, but I don't have to like it."
"I would be disappointed if you did." He tightened his embrace before releasing her.
"All right," she said, drawing away and wiping her eyes. "I have a trip to take with a handsome young man."
"You just keep your hands to yourself," ordered Orrin as he picked up her suitcase and led the way out.
Evie laughed in delight at the teasing. "I'm making no promises."
The assistant walked nervously into the office. He hated delivering bad news. "Mr. Baines?"
"What is it?" the Guild leader snapped.
"The call you were waiting for hasn't come through."
"Dammit!" Paul Baines ran a hand through his platinum blond hair. He thought it would be an easy enough assignment for the experienced shooter, taking out an old man. "Tell Marshal Spikes I want to see him."
"Right away, sir." The aide scurried out away, grateful to be out of the line of fire for now.
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