DISCLAIMER: These Characters do not belong to the author or me (but if it were our sandbox, wed let YOU play in it ) That said, this story was written purely for self entertainment (and the possible entertainment of me, thanks BMP!) and no money is being made, has changed hands, or has been paid out for the contents therein. The Author wishes to thank MOG for the ATF AU, she came up with it, and graciously lets other play there. Special thanks to GSister for Beta-ing, encouraging, and all around nagging. Without her patience and insistence, these stories would never have been.
~Constructive Criticism will be passed on to the author
~Flames will be used to toast marshmallows
Josiah Sanchez was in absolute glory. Priest, anthropologist, perpetual student of the human psyche, and profiler; it was as if every moment of his life had all led up to this singular moment in time.
Holding his morning cup of coffee happily in both hands, Josiah surveyed ATF Team Sevens bullpen with satisfaction and whispered a silent prayer of thanks to the Lord in all his many forms and guises. He regularly strove to remember to give thanks for the rain and for the sun, for the food hed eaten, and for the safety of the eclectic little family hed found in his team, but this, this was a wondrous gift indeed.
Ezra Standish had chosen this morning to make an irrational last stand. He stood blocking the door into the hall and was reciting, apparently, for it had become somewhat hard to hear him, a long litany of reasons why he was refusing to let the CPA from the Accounts Payable Office into the team bullpen. Something having to do with revenge, bureaucratic incompetence, niggardly bean counting, spite, and a dented fender. Josiah was quite certain he had heard the term impotent pass Ezras lips, but was entirely uncertain of the context. Nevertheless, he sincerely hoped, for Ezras sake, that Standish was referring to a briefly mentioned unfulfilled lust for power and not the carnal act.
Buck Wilmington passed between Josiahs desk and the door to the kitchenette, momentarily blocking Josiahs view of the teams ranting undercover agent and the hapless envoy from the APO. It was with some reluctance that Josiah pulled his eyes from the spectacle at the door and tuned into the spectacle parading by.
Wilmington was walking rather faster than usual and gesticulating at J.D. Dunne, who had been dogging his heels for the last ten minutes. Around the desk. Out the door. Down the hall. And here they were back again.
J.D., damn it, Buck roared from the kitchenette. Im busy.
Come on, Buck, Im serious, J.D. responded, nearly reduced to begging. I dont have the money to stay in a hotel this weekend.
Then stay at Caseys, Buck snapped back.
Josiah actually craned his neck to watch the blush creep up J.D.s neck. She lives in student housing, J.D. grated back, his voice dropping suddenly in volume. She has roommates.
Good God Almighty, boy, Buck cried, throwing his hands in the air. And just the look on his face told Josiah that there were about twenty life lessons that Wilmington was just itching to throw J.D.s way right now, right there in the team kitchenette, with an audience to boot. And that J.D. would flat out die of embarrassment if he did.
Buck reemerged with a cup of coffee in one hand, and a sugar dusted jelly donut in the other, still walking fast and swearing as he sloshed the hot brew over his hand. Sucking on his burned knuckle, the big man folded himself irritatedly into his swivel desk chair.
Then just stay at Chriss, he advised, scowling and still sucking on the injured digit.
The flash of white fear crossed J.D.s face so fast that Josiah wished he could replay it.
I cant, J.D. hissed, lowering his voice again.
Funny how flying bullets and careering car chases hardly fazed the boy anymore, but the thought of staying the weekend at Caseys with roommates present and the notion of staying the weekend at Chris Larabees ranch without teammates present both drove the boy to near panic, Josiah reflected.
Buck stared at the young agent as if he had two heads. Not a trace of comprehension. Or compassion either, for that matter. Why the hell not? the bigger agent burst out.
Just then, Bucks phone rang. He grabbed for it. And started scribbling on a pad of paper, while J.D. stood beside his desk, jiggling up and down and looking like he was going to explode right there all over the office.
I told you, came the thinly controlled voice of a man who was about to lose it all together. It was paid for on my Visa card, Nathan Jackson was trying to explain. He had the earpiece to his phone pressed up against his head and had the fingers of his other hand pressed up against his other ear. Glaring daggers at J.D. all the while he tried to explain. Yes, he said through his teeth. It was the Womens Yoga Weekend. No, I did not attend.
Once more around, Josiah thought. Thats not the point. The point is, you should have credited the account for the extra room. Instead you charged it a second time.
So far impressively calm. Rational. No doubt the innocent customer service rep on the other end had no idea what he or she was in for. Just as well that he or she was probably located in Texas or Alabama, or as things went these days, possibly the far-off subcontinent of India.
No, you charged my card again. No there was no credit. No. Wait. No I will not hold. I said I will NOT hold.
Apparently, Nathan Jackson was now on hold. That or he was giving the rep on the other end an impressive headache, slamming the received repeatedly on the desk top. He jerked his chair around toward Josiah and began to let out the latest installment in the lecture series Josiah had surreptitiously titled Why I will never let my fiancee use my credit card again.
It aint like it was her fault, Buck snapped from his desk.
Nathan rounded on Buck, as J.D. raised his voice in a plaintive effort to be heard.
God damn, stupid, mother the rest of it was lost in an incoherent Texas drawl that may have included a word or two of Spanish and Kiowa as well, a mix too tempting for any anthropologist to resist. Josiah turned his head away from Buck and Nathan to see Vin Tanner, team sniper, gripping his computer screen in both hands and shaking it furiously, all the while growling out an unbroken string of swear words so long and so impressive that Josiah felt that some sort of award should be in order.
Just this morning, the computer had come back from IT. Repaired, according to the work order receipt. Returned from the dead. Sorry could not recover your files. Have a nice day.
Now it had frozen up again. And, once again, Vins fourth round of the same report vanished into the electronic ether.
The problems not in the monitor, J.D. snapped at the sharpshooter. And for a second, Josiah was pretty sure Vin was visualizing the young technology experts throat between his hands.
Did you save? J.D. asked.
Josiah hid his whole face behind his cup of coffee as Vin leveled a finger at J.D. and snapped out, Yer the one whos gonna need saving in a minute.
Buck tried to intervene on J.D.s behalf.
Leave the kid out of it, he said, as if he thought that would be the end of it.
Vins returned threat was drowned out by the rising volume of a smooth Georgia accent, as Ezras voice rose over the noise. I will consider allowing you ingress as soon as you can give me a rational reason why the ATF will not pay for my dented fender, incurred, may I remind you, in the line of duty.
Josiah had no idea whether the man replied or not. But sure as shootin Ezra said, Fine, well both just stand here while you call your superior. I can wait.
god damn report some son of a
Howm I gonna stay at the ranch by myself?
Will you two hold it down! I want my account credited for the extra bill.
report-eating piece of crap
Eight hundred dollars worth of damage.
Jesus, kid, Chris aint gonna eat you.
Whos your manager? I want to speak to him now.
Screw the god damn report. They can watch the video tape.
Im not being belligerent. Im merely pointing out you have not credited my account.
What the hell are Chris and I going to talk about all weekend?
Talk? Hell, Chris dont say more than three words a day, right Junior.
The brass can stick their god damn hard drives up their god damn
Youre gonna break it!
Because your office wasnt open to authorize a loaner car.
J.D. get off my desk. Who bought this cherry filled crap?
Well then credit my god damn account and Ill god damn stop being god damn belligerent.
I am here to see Senior Agent Chris Larabee, the CPA hollered out over them all. Now let me by this instant!
Josiah held his breath in anticipation of the moment. It came.
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON OUT HERE? GET BACK TO WORK OR SO HELP ME ILL SHOOT EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU.
There was silence. Vin froze with the monitor in his hands, suspended over his trash can. Nathan stopped in mid sentence. The voice on the other end of the phone continued its long squeaking rant until Nathan pressed it suddenly against his shoulder. Buck froze, donut halfway to his mouth. And J.D.s expression displayed the fascinating tension of a man caught between saying I told you so and wanting to sink right through the floor.
None too pleasant on a good day, Senior Agent Chris Larabee let his searing hot glare make one round of his team and their bullpen before glimmering unpleasantly at the CPA. Saunders, I presume, he said icily.
The CPA nodded and glared self-righteously up at Ezra. It was short lived.
I was expecting you fifteen minutes ago, Larabee said coldly. I suggest you dont waste any more of my time.
It was Ezras turn to glare self-righteously down at Saunders.
I the man began to defend his impugned punctuality, but there was no one to defend it to, as Chris Larabee had already turned on his heel and stalked back into his office.
The CPA and the undercover agent glared at each other, until Chriss exasperated voice floated back to them.
If you want your damn $800, Ezra, then let him by. It was followed immediately by The rest of you get to work.
Ezra smirked and stepped out of the way.
The door shut firmly and loudly behind Agent Larabee, but not before they heard Chris start ripping into the unfortunate CPA from APO.
Josiah would bet Ezra had his check by close of business tomorrow.
Feeling completely justified now, fear splashed unconcealed across J.D.s face at the prospect of spending a whole weekend at the home of his infamously bad-tempered boss. Fumigation or no fumigation.
Buck, always helpful, laughed long and hard at his housemates expense, bragging about his own weekend plansuntil a blob of cherry jelly squeezed out the back end of the donut and deposited itself on his shirt.
Vin put the computer monitor back on his desk, took a deep cleansing breath and then called IT. Again.
Nathan, informed the person on the phone that he was a federal agent and would happily pursue a set of realistic sounding, bureaucratically termed, ambiguous charges that contained both the words fraud and usury. He got no further than the beginning of a phrase that started punishable by up to eight years in jail or , when someone appeared to have decided to approve the credit.
Ezras eyes flicked up and he smiled. Good man, he mouthed at Nathan, as proud as if he had said it himself.
And Josiah? In the sudden quiet, they all looked toward his desk. Scribbling furiously. Again. In an old green notebook he kept handy in his left hand drawer. Smiling a smile that looked inexplicably gleeful. Like he was telling himself secrets. They shrugged. Who could figure Josiah out anyway?
Lord God Almighty. You have answered an unworthy mans prayers, Josiah thought joyfully to himself, his pen racing across the paper, unaware of their eyes upon him. One of these days, Im gonna write that book.