Characters: Vin Tanner, Martin Fitzgerald
Crossover "Without a Trace"
Summary: While Danny takes Elena to Denver for a ski trip, Ezra goes to New York to visit Maude. But what happens when Danny meets Vin and Ezra meets Martin?
Author's Note: Thanks to PJ in NH and Toni for help beta reading this fic. Their feedback was invaluable!
New York City
10:45 a.m. EST
“Try not to have too much fun,” Jack Malone said with a hint of a smirk. “We do need you back, eventually.”
“Don’t worry,” Danny Taylor insisted. “We’ll be back in a week.”
“Sophie’s in a play at school next weekend and she made Danny promise he’d be there,” Elena Delgado smiled at her boss. Her daughter had Danny wrapped around her little finger.
The two were taking some much needed R&R time and Danny insisted on introducing her to the best skiing locales in the country. Their flight for Denver left in a couple hours, and they decided to stop by the office for one last farewell after dropping Sophie off at Elena’s mother’s apartment.
“Don’t let him get into too much trouble out there, unsupervised,” Martin Fitzgerald said, taking a jab at his partner.
Danny’s only response was to snort indignantly.
“If you children are quite through,” interrupted Vivian Johnson, “I believe they have a plane to catch.”
One last round of goodbyes and Danny and Elena were on their way to Denver, Colorado via American Airlines Flight 317 out of LaGuardia.
Denver International Airport
12 noon MST
“I thank you for the ride, Mr. Sanchez,” said Ezra Standish, getting out of his teammate’s ancient Suburban.
“It’s no problem, Ezra,” replied Josiah. “Are you sure you don’t want some company?”
Ezra grabbed his carry-on and garment bag from Josiah’s backseat. The former was on his way to visit his mother in New York, the latest of Maude Standish’s residences. It was a visit he wasn’t looking forward to.
“No, thank you,” the undercover agent said. “A visit with Maude is best prepared for in solitude, but I appreciate the offer.”
“You know to call us if you need anything.”
“That I do, Josiah. Please be sure the remainder of our companions refrain from igniting the wrath of our auspicious leader.”
Josiah chuckled, “Don’t worry, Ezra. I’ll make sure Chris doesn’t kill them.”
Ezra gave the profiler a two-fingered salute before closing the car door and turned for the airport entrance. Josiah shook his head as Ezra slung the garment bag over his shoulder and sauntered up to the ticket counter, no doubt confirming his first-class seat. With one last chuckle at the fancy southerner, Josiah shifted the SUV into gear and headed to the office.
As Ezra headed for the concourse, he accidentally bumped into a Hispanic gentleman and his girlfriend headed for the baggage claim area.
“Excuse me, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going,” he said reaching for the lady’s dropped bag.
“It’s no problem,” she responded with a smile.
He tipped an imaginary hat to the couple and continued on.
New York City
3:45 p.m. EST
Martin had just finished his paperwork for their latest case when he heard a voice that sent chills down his spine. He wouldn’t let anyone know it, but Victor Fitzgerald scared the crap out of him. It wasn’t just his intimidating nature, but there was an underlying shadow which had no scruples when it came to removing those who opposed him. Martin wasn’t naïve; he knew there was more to the deputy director’s rise to power than met the eye. He had seen glimpses of it in just his first year in the Missing Persons’ Unit, in both “Bull” Carver’s case and the OPR investigation of Anwar Samir’s case.
Martin inwardly flinched as he looked up to face his father.
“Dad,” he said, staying in his chair. He wouldn’t pay Victor the dignity of rising to greet him.
“Your mother and I are in town for a few days. I have some business here to take care of. We’re having dinner at Le Bon Vie. We’ll see you there at eight.” With that, Victor turned and walked off.
“Doesn’t leave much room for argument, does he?” Samantha Spade said, coming over to Martin. Things had gotten better between them over the past few months, especially since he had come to terms with his drug problem.
“No, he doesn’t.”
“Want some moral support?” she offered.
He shot her a surprised look. “I’d never subject you to that, even on our worst day.”
“If you’re sure.”
“I’m sure,” Martin smiled. “Besides, the unit can only afford to lose one agent to the fire from on high. I’ll be fine.”
Le Bon Vie
7:45 p.m. EST
Ezra followed themaître d' to Maude’s table, noting the absence of said mother. He sipped his bourbon while watching the door. It was almost eight o’clock when he saw Victor Fitzgerald walk in with a woman he presumed to be the Deputy Director’s wife. Ezra quickly looked away, not wanting to be seen by his former superior, considering that the last time the two had encountered each other, it had ended on less than friendly terms.
Ezra spotted Maude as soon as she walked in, but the man entering behind her was the one who caught his eye. He shook his head to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. Dread was his first reaction; ‘Good lord, there are two of them!’ was his first thought. But he studied the young gentleman and noticed that there were subtle differences: less muscle, shorter hair, etc. His eyes followed him to Victor Fitzgerald’s table, where he joined the couple.
By then, Maude had reached him. If she noticed his distraction, she didn’t react to it.
“Ezra, dear,” Maude greeted.
Ezra managed to be civil during dinner, listening to tales of Maude’s latest divorce. Before he knew it, two hours had passed, and Ezra jumped at the opportunity to leave.
“If you’ll excuse me, Mother, I’ll head back to my hotel,” he said, rising. “I assume we’re still on for breakfast?”
“Of course, dear,” she replied in her soft southern drawl. “I’ll see you in the mornin’.”
Ezra made his escape just as the young man from the Fitzgerald table made his own. As they waited at the valet stand for their cars, Ezra started up a conversation.
“It appears to me that your meal was about as enjoyable as my own,” he said, tugging on his sleeve.
“You have no idea,” the young man grimaced.
“Actually, I may have a better one than you think,” Ezra countered. “My own mother is not so different from the illustrious Victor Fitzgerald.”
“You know my dad?” the younger Fitzgerald asked, finally looking at Ezra.
“I worked for the FBI until about three years ago. I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with the Deputy Director. I pity your misfortune at being his son.”
“Yeah, he’s kinda hard to forget,” he agreed. “Martin Fitzgerald, FBI Missing Persons Unit.”
“Ezra Standish, Denver ATF,” Ezra introduced himself, taking the other man’s offered hand. “Perhaps we can meet later to commiserate our ill-fated lineages?” Ezra simply wanted to get to know this Vin Tanner look-alike he had stumbled upon.
“Sure,” Martin agreed. “There’s this little deli near the Federal Building that some of us go to for lunch. Why don’t you stop by the office about eleven thirty and we can head over from there?”
“That sounds like an ideal plan. It will give me ample reason to bow out of breakfast. Mother can be a bit long-winded. Here’s my card, in case something comes up,” Ezra said, handing Martin a card with his number on it.
“Wow,” said Martin, admiring the embossed lettering. “I don’t have anything this fancy, but here’s my number in case you need it.”
Ezra took down Martin’s number, already thinking of ways to get information out of him the next day.
The Standish Tavern
6:30 p.m. MST
Elena tried not to laugh as Danny gingerly slid into the opposite side of the booth. He simply glared at her.
“I’m sorry Danny, but it was funny,” she giggled.
“Well, I’m glad you think so,” he pouted. “I could have broken my neck.”
What had Elena so tickled was Danny, a self-proclaimed master of the slopes, taking a fairly big tumble while “helping” her—on the bunny hill.
“Oh, poor baby. Do I need to kiss it and make it all better?”
Danny would have responded, except that a group of men had just walked in the door, one bearing a striking resemblance to Martin.
“Elena, see those guys who just walked in?” Danny asked.
“Yeah, what about them?”
“See the guy in the brown leather jacket on the far right, next to the man in black?”
“Oh, my gosh.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
“He looks just like-”
“Martin,” Danny finished.
“You think they could be related?” Elena wondered.
Elena looked back at Danny in time to catch that familiar glint in his eyes. “Danny? What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking, ‘why don’t we find out?’” he replied, giving her the signature Taylor smirk.
“Now I know why Martin said to keep him out of trouble,” Elena muttered, as Danny approached the six men across the room.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” Danny started, but stopped short when silence enveloped the table and twelve eyes locked onto him. He cleared his throat. “Um, this is going to probably sound strange, but do you have any relatives back east?” he directed the latter part at Martin’s twin.
The other man studied Danny through narrow eyes. “Who’s askin’?”
“FBI Agent Danny Taylor,” he said quickly. By the looks of this group, he definitely didn’t want to come across as a threat. “Oh, it’s nothing official. It’s just that you look exactly like one of my teammates back in New York.”
Danny fished out his wallet, removing a picture from its slipcover and handing across the table. “That’s him on the left, next to the blonde.”
The other man stared at the picture, taking in the faces. The people in it seemed to be enjoying themselves, all of them laughing and smiling.
“That was taken a few weeks ago,” Danny said. “We had just finished up our latest missing persons case. It was late, and we ordered a pizza to go with the remaining paperwork. One thing led to another, Martin slipped an ice cube down the back of Sam’s shirt, and things went downhill from there. Have no clue who took that picture, only that it was emailed to me the next morning.”
“Name’s Vin Tanner, Agent Taylor,” the other man said. “I may have some answers for you. How long you gonna be in town?”
“My girlfriend and I are heading back to New York day after tomorrow,” Danny said, somewhat surprised that he had been so close to the mark. He pulled a business card from his wallet and scribbled down his cell number and handed it to Vin.
“A’ight, I’ll call ya when I get somethin’,” Vin said.
Danny nodded, excusing himself, and returned to his table.
“Do I have to put you on a leash?” Elena asked as he sat back down.
“You’re never going to believe this,” Danny said.
New York City
11:45 a.m. EST
Ezra fingered the visitor’s pass that was clipped to his jacket, grimacing at his current locale. It had been three years since he had set foot in an FBI office, at least without his Team 7 brothers, and it made him slightly uncomfortable to be there now. It was with a sigh of relief that he saw Martin walk up.
“Sorry about having to postpone,” Martin said, already calling up the elevator. “People always seem to disappear when you have plans. At least it gave me a reason to avoid Dad until he went home this morning.”
“No problem,” Ezra shrugged as they rode the elevator down to street level. “Gunrunners are usually similar in their timing.”
In short order they had arrived at the café and were seated. Once they had placed their orders and had their drinks, Martin started the conversation.
“So why did you leave the FBI?”
Ezra sat there for a moment before answering. “I was at the Atlanta office. Several cases had gone badly, and the superiors needed a scapegoat, so they set out to find one. Some of the agents seemed to think I had nefarious means of income, fueled by my wardrobe of Italian suits. This belief spread to the SAC and the witch hunt began. After six months, I had had enough of their childishness, so I resigned. Fortunately, as I was leaving the building, Chris Larabee was walking in, looking for me. He offered me a position in the ATF on a team he was constructing, and I have been there ever since.
“What about you, my dear sir? May I assume your father’s position in the FBI has something to do with your career choice?”
Martin snorted. “Yeah, I did it to spite him. Dad wanted me in politics. You know, congressman, senator, governor, president. I didn’t want it. I felt I could make a bigger difference in the FBI. Up until about five years ago, I was in White Collar, but I asked for a transfer to Missing Persons, and moved here from Seattle. Took a little getting used to, but I eventually made a place for myself here, and I love it.”
The conversation drifted here and there for a little while. The food came, and conversation was set on the back burner for the moment. Once lunch was finished and a waitress cleared the plates away, Ezra pulled out his Blackberry, and stared at the picture that was set as the background. Gathering himself for the point of this lunch, at least from his perspective, he looked back at Martin.
“Do you have any family in Texas by any chance?” he asked, trying not to be too direct.
Martin shook his head, “I don’t think so. Dad’s family is from the D.C. area, and Mom’s is from Pennsylvania. Why?”
Ezra handed him the device. “Third gentleman from the left, with the long hair.”
Martin took in the picture. Seven men stood in suits, apparently at some formal function. But the face that stood out the most was his own. Third from the left, where Ezra had pointed out, was his reflection.
“Who is this?” he asked, his voice shaking.
“Agent Vin Tanner,” Ezra replied. “As you can see, the resemblance is uncanny, and quite honestly, too strong to be a coincidence.”
“I don’t know. I was honestly hoping you had an idea. Perhaps my teammate may be able to shed some light on the situation.”
Right then, Martin’s cell rang. He checked the ID and saw that it was Danny calling. “Hey man, how are the slopes?”
“Okay. Listen, you are never going to believe who I met, last night,” Danny said hurriedly.
“Elvis?” Martin smirked.
“That’s Memphis, not Denver,” the Cuban said dryly. “I met your long lost twin.”
Martin froze. “What’s his name?”
“Vin Tanner,” Danny said, noticing the change in Martin’s tone. “What’s up, man?”
“I’m having lunch with one of his teammates, Ezra Standish.” Martin paused, thinking that if this was a coincidence, it was the biggest one he’d ever seen.
“Wow, that’s a bit freaky,” Danny muttered. “I met him last night at a bar. He was with five other men, and it looked like you really didn’t want to mess with them. He said he might know something about you.”
“Well, see if you can get in touch with him again,” Martin directed, slipping into business mode. “I’m having lunch with his teammate, but I think it’s going to come down to the two of us having to meet.”
Danny wished Martin luck, and the two ended the call. Martin sat staring at his phone for a minute, wondering how a simple lunch had turned his world on end.
“My partner is in Denver with his girlfriend, on vacation,” Martin said, looking back up at Ezra. “Apparently, he met Tanner and five other men, last night. Your team, I’m guessing?”
“I don’t think Mr. Tanner would go out with any other five men. It seems the two of you are destined to cross paths. Between your partner and myself, I’m sure we can arrange something.”
“Yeah, I think I need to meet this guy.”
7:15 p.m. MST
“Here it is,” Vin said, pulling out a manila envelope from the box sitting on his lap.
He sat in Chris Larabee’s den, going through what few belongings he had left of his mother’s. The older man sat across the couch from him, giving the younger man some space, while still offering his support.
Chris looked at the pages in Vin’s hand. They looked like birth certificates. He read the names listed.
“Vincent Michael Tanner. Martin Elijah Tanner. Twins?” Chris asked. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?”
“No reason to,” Vin said quietly. “After Mama died, we spent a year in an orphanage together. Then one day, he was gone. One of the ladies told me someone had adopted him. I didn’t understand, I jus’ knew m’ best friend was gone. Next day, I’s shifted to a foster home. I tried lookin’ when I was with the Marshals, but the place had shut down just a few years after we were there. All the records were given to DSS, but they were so far buried, no one would look. I just kinda gave up on ever findin’ him.”
“Well, now you have,” Chris said. “That Agent Taylor has probably called home and told Martin about you. And right now, it seems you’re the one with all the answers that he’s lookin’ for.”
Vin nodded. “I guess I’ll call Taylor an’-”
The ringing of Vin’s cell cut him off. It was Elmer Bernstein’s “Magnificent Seven” theme that JD had programmed into their cell phones, indicating one of the brothers calling. Glancing to see which one, Vin flipped open the phone.
“Hey, Ez! How’s New York?”
“Not completely unbearable,” the southerner replied. “Mr. Tanner, do you have a brother we were unaware of?” he asked, coming straight to the point.
“Yeah, how’d ya…?”
“I believe I have met him. His name is Martin Fitzgerald, an agent in the FBI’s Missing Persons Unit here in New York.”
“The ‘Martin’ part sounds right.”
“He wants to meet you,” Ezra stated quietly.
Vin sighed. He had never thought he would actually find his brother. Now he had practically been handed to him, and he wasn’t sure how to handle it.
“All right,” Vin decided. “I’ll be headin’ to New York tomorrow.”
Chris gave him a pointed look.
“With Mother Hen,” Vin amended.
Ezra chuckled, knowing full well the look Larabee was giving the Texan.
“Shall I inform Mr. Fitzgerald of your arrival?” he asked.
“Yeah, don’t want him havin’ a heart attack when he sees me. I’ll call ya when we get the flight info.”
“Very well. I’ll arrange accommodations for you on this end.”
After clearing a few more details, Vin flipped the phone shut. He sighed, looking up at Chris. He knew the older man was concerned.
Don’t worry, brother. I wanna do this.
If you’re sure.
Vin shook his head and grinned. You worry too much.
“With you, I have to worry,” Chris growled, a teasing glint in his eyes. “You take care of the tickets. I’ll start dinner.”
New York City
9:45 p.m. EST
Martin stared at the television, but he wasn’t watching the image on the screen. All day, his mind had been filled with thoughts of a long lost brother, but he wasn’t even sure how that was possible. His thoughts were interrupted when his cell phone rang.
“Mr. Fitzgerald, this is Ezra Standish,” said the voice on the other end. “I thought you may want to know that Vin Tanner is coming to New York, tomorrow. He believes you may indeed be brothers.”
Martin froze. Speculation was now confirmation, and he wasn’t sure how to handle this new information.
“Yeah, Ezra, I’m here,” Martin stuttered.
“Mr. Tanner will be arriving with our team leader, tomorrow,” Ezra continued. “I will meet them at the airport, but you should know that Mr. Tanner will want to meet with you as soon as possible.”
“All right,” Martin said, regaining his composure. “Just let me know when.”
“Of course. Good night, Mr. Fitzgerald.”
Martin snapped the phone shut. His brother was coming. He had no clue what he was going to do.
LaGuardia International Airport
2:45 p.m. EST
Vin relaxed once he reached the terminal. He had never liked flying, only doing it when necessary. He paused, realizing Chris was still in the mass of people exiting the plane into the terminal.
“Anxious much?” Chris joked when he caught up.
“If men were meant to fly, God woulda given ‘em wings,” Vin stated.
“Well, come on. Ezra’s waitin’ for us at baggage claim.”
Vin looked down at their one carry-on duffel each and shrugged. He didn’t understand why Ezra carried so much stuff with him. Vin learned in his days as a bounty hunter for the U.S. Marshalls that lighter was better.
They met Ezra, who led them to his car. Vin looked at the rented Jag and shook his head.
“I didn’t think folks drove in New York, Ez.”
“Most do not, but I will not level myself to ride in a public taxi which has been filled with goodness knows what,” Ezra said as he pulled into traffic.
Chris rolled his eyes. “So when are we meeting this Fitzgerald guy?”
“This evening. We’re convening in the hotel bar at seven.”
Chris glanced at Vin in the back seat. The younger man seemed calm, but that didn’t fool Chris, who could feel the waves of tension radiate from his friend.
Still not too late to turn back, Chris reminded Vin.
I’ll be fine… eventually.
6:00 p.m. EST
“Hey, man, you miss me?” Danny said, going up to Martin’s desk, snapping the latter out of his daze.
“What are you doing here?” Martin asked.
“We got back this afternoon. I just had to grab a few things from my desk. Where were you just now?”
“Hampton Hotel Bar,” Martin said simply.
Danny straightened from where he stood bent over his desk and turned back to Martin. “Martin? You okay, man?”
“I don’t know, Danny.” Martin met Danny’s gaze. “You know that guy you met in Denver?”
“The one who looks like you? Don’t think I’ll forget him anytime soon. Why?”
Martin took a deep breath. “I’m meeting him there in an hour.”
“What? Vin Tanner’s here?” Martin nodded. Danny walked over and leaned on Martin’s desk. “Want some backup?”
Martin looked up at Danny, but seeing only genuine concern, nodded.
“All right, then. Let’s get this show on the road.”
7:00 p.m. EST
Martin stood at the bar, nervously fidgeting, as he shifted his glass from one hand to the other. Danny almost laughed at him.
“Relax, man. You’re the one who wanted to do this.”
“Yeah, and now I’m second guessing that decision,” Martin muttered.
Right then, Ezra, Chris, and Vin walked in. Danny spotted them, still not believing how much Vin and Martin looked alike.
“Well it’s too late now,” he said. “Here they are.”
Martin looked up, meeting Vin’s gaze, and he knew. He didn’t need to see what Vin carried in the envelope. He knew this was his brother.
“Hey, Ezra,” Martin said, as the trio joined them. “This is Danny Taylor, my partner.”
“Mr. Taylor,” Ezra greeted, shaking Danny’s hand.
Chris shook his head, introducing himself to Martin, “Chris Larabee, ATF Team 7 leader.”
Martin nodded, accepting Chris’s offered hand. “Martin Fitzgerald, FBI Missing Persons Unit. Though I guess you already knew that.”
Martin looked to Chris’s right, and met his own eyes. “Vin Tanner.”
“Martin,” Vin nodded. “I know ya got questions, but I can’t answer all of ‘em. I can tell ya where ya come from, but that’s about it.”
Martin nodded. “I’ll take whatever you can give me.”
“All right. I jus’ wanted ya to know I ain’t got all the answers. We got rooms upstairs if ya’d rather do this more privately.”
Martin nodded, grateful for the offer. Ezra led them up to a lush suite that Martin could tell made his brother uncomfortable.
Don’ care much for fancy stuff.
Martin froze when he heard Vin’s voice in his head. What the…?
Vin almost laughed at the deer-in-the-headlights look on Martin’s face. “Sorry ‘bout that. Didn’t mean to startle ya.”
“Oh dear lord,” Ezra moaned. “It’s bad enough to have to put up with your silent communications with Mr. Larabee. Now there’s a third in the mix!”
Danny looked confusedly between Martin and Vin. “What did I miss?”
“Vin and I have a way of communicating without words,” Chris spoke up. “I’m not sure you would call it telepathy, but we can definitely sense the other. I’m guessing Martin has it, too.”
Ya get used to it after a while, Vin thought.
I certainly hope so, thought Martin, giving his head a light shake.
“Shall we?” Ezra said, motioning to the sitting area, furnished with a couch, coffee table, and several armchairs.
Vin sat on the couch with Martin, Danny and Chris taking the chairs on either side. Ezra quietly retreated to his room, recognizing that his presence would only crowd Martin.
Vin emptied the contents of the envelope onto the coffee table. Along with the birth certificates Chris had seen earlier were several pictures. Chris recognized Rebecca Tanner from a picture Vin had in his apartment.
Martin picked up a picture; three smiling faces faced the camera, the twins laughing as their mother’s arms grabbed them from behind. He held it gingerly in his hand, as if afraid it would disappear.
“That was taken just before she got sick,” Vin said quietly. “Before she was diagnosed, actually.”
Martin looked up at Vin, the question on his lips but unable to come out.
“Ovarian cancer,” Vin said quietly. “She never knew she was sick ‘til it was too late. She died six months later.”
Martin didn’t know what to say. On the one hand, he felt sorry for Vin, growing up without a mother, and yet, he felt a twinge of sadness at the thought that he would never know the woman who gave birth to him.
“What… what happened?” Martin asked. “After she died, I mean.”
“We were wards of the state, sent to an orphanage. We were there for a year ‘fore you were adopted. After that, I was passed on to several foster homes.”
Chris noticed Vin didn’t mention his time spent on the streets. He guessed Vin didn’t want Martin to feel sorry for him.
“Why just me?” Martin murmured quietly. Vin looked at him curiously. “Why did my parents take just me? They had to know there were two of us.”
Vin shrugged. “I cain’t answer that. The place closed a few years after we were there, and all their records are so far buried in DSS storage that no one’ll even look.”
The more Martin thought about it, it didn’t make sense. Finances had never been a problem for his parents, so that couldn’t have been the reason for leaving Vin behind. Katherine Fitzgerald would have loved two boys, so that couldn’t have been the reason, either. Victor…
“Oh no, he didn’t,” Martin growled out, anger at his father beginning to boil.
Danny saw the look in Martin’s eyes, and figured it out as well. Chris and Vin, however, were still out of the loop.
“Victor didn’t want Vin,” Danny said quietly, his own anger towards the Deputy Director forming.
“I can’t believe he left you behind,” Martin said quietly, but Danny could see the rage burning behind his eyes. “How could even he do something so heartless as splitting us up?”
Vin’s eyes moved to the floor as he finally replied, barely above a whisper. “He prob’ly didn’ want a son with problems, seein’s how I’s dyslexic an’ all.”
Now Martin understood. Vin’s dyslexia must have been evident when they were kids. Victor Fitzgerald would not want a child with a learning disability to mar the family name, so he took Martin, only.
By now, Martin’s blood had begun to boil, furious at the man who didn’t deserve the respect of being called his father. He stood and began pacing the room.
“When Ezra said the man was a heartless bastard, he wasn’t kidding,” Chris said quietly.
Danny shrugged. “That may be putting too fine a point on it, but yeah.”
“You know, all my life, I’ve always felt like I had to prove myself to him,” Martin muttered. “Now I know why. I was never his to begin with.”
“Martin, now’s not the time to start letting him get to you,” Danny said, standing and walking over to him, placing a hand on his arm.
“When is the time, Danny?” Martin fumed, whirling to face him. “Was it when I was six and my dog got hit by a car and he told me to suck it up? Or how about the time I failed a test in high school and he dressed me down in front of my girlfriend? What about when I came home early from college for Thanksgiving and caught him screwing his twenty-three year old secretary? What about when he tried to get Jack fired? When do I finally put my foot down? When is enough enough? Tell me, Danny, ‘cause in my mind, this takes the cake.”
Martin’s voice had steadily increased in volume as he recounted just a few of his father’s past transgressions. Danny simply stood there, letting Martin’s anger roll over him in waves.
“I’m not saying you shouldn’t be mad,” Danny said quietly, once Martin had calmed a little. “You have every right to be. But you don’t need to go off half-cocked. Take a step back.”
“You can come back to Denver with us,” Chris suggested. “Give you a few days to cool off, and you and Vin can get to know each other.”
“Jus’ need to be sure we tell the boys to be gentle, s’all,” Vin smirked. “Ya know how excited they can get.”
“Perfect,” Danny said. “Go to Denver. Clear your head. Then you can come back and punch Victor Fitzgerald’s lights out, and please let me be there to see it.”
Danny said this last bit with a teasing look of mischief in his eyes, but Martin knew his friend only meant the best. He looked over at Vin, meeting his brother’s eyes.
It’s up to you. The boys can get a little rowdy, but they’d be happy to have ya, Vin’s thick Texan accent drawled in his head.
“If you say so,” Martin shrugged, already more comfortable with the mental link he shared with Vin. “Guess I’m going to Denver then.”
LaGuardia International Airport
7:15 a.m. EST
“What do you want me to tell everyone?” Danny asked.
“Just tell them I’m taking a few personal days,” Martin shrugged. “That’s what I told Jack.”
Danny nodded silently, glancing up as Chris and Vin walked up, a bleary-eyed Ezra bringing up the rear.
“All set?” Vin asked, handing Martin a cup of coffee. “I took a wild guess.”
Martin took a sip, and his eyebrows shot up. “Not bad.”
Danny groaned, looking at Vin. “Great, you drink battery acid, too?”
Chris chuckled. “We have to keep two pots at the office if we want drinkable coffee.”
“Hey, ain’t my fault all y’all can handle’s that dishwater,” Vin scoffed indignantly.
The initial boarding call was issued, and Danny bid his farewell. Chris and Ezra went ahead to the gate while Vin lagged behind with Martin.
“Ready to go?” Vin asked.
“Little late to be asking that, isn’t it?” Martin replied, grinning, picking up his carry-on.
Vin ceded this point, following his brother through the gate.
11:00 a.m. MST
Chris reached to unlock the door while Martin helped Vin unload Chris’s truck, but he found the door already unlocked. He quietly eased the door open, pulling his gun out. Vin noticed his alarm and was stealthily approaching the door as well. Martin stayed back, being in unfamiliar territory.
They slipped through the entryway, each moving silently into the house. Chris went down the hallway, while Vin moved towards the den. Martin made his way into the house behind them, grabbing an umbrella if for no other reason than to have some semblance of a weapon, since his gun was still in his suitcase.
He heard some shuffling as he neared the kitchen. Peering around the corner, he saw someone leaning into the fridge. Martin pressed the tip of the umbrella into the man’s back, hoping the shape closely enough resembled the barrel of a gun.
“Hands on your head,” he said in a low voice.
The man straightened, standing to several inches above Martin. He heaved his shoulders in a heavy sigh.
“I hope you have something other than an umbrella to take me with,” he said.
Crap. Vin! Martin mentally called out to his brother.
Where are ya, Martin? Came Vin’s reply.
What’s he look like?
Big guy with a Wyatt Earp mustache.
The big man turned around, gaping for a moment when he first saw Martin’s face. “Holy crap, there are two!”
“Buck?!” Vin yelled from outside the kitchen. He came in with his gun pointed at the floor and Chris not far behind him.
“Wilmington, why do you always have to cause trouble?” Chris sighed, holstering his gun.
“Me?” Buck said indignantly. “How about ya’ll not tellin’ us you’re comin’ home with Junior’s double?” he asked, pointing at Martin.
“How about the thousand times I’ve told you to lock the front door?” Chris said pointedly, silencing his opponent.
“Forgive him,” Vin said, putting away his own piece. “We’re still tryin’ to teach him some manners. Martin Fitzgerald, Buck Wilmington.”
“Don’t listen to a word they say ‘bout me,” Buck grinned, taking Martin’s offered hand. “Lies, every single one of them.”
“So you’re not the best explosives expert this side of the Mississippi who’s slept with every woman in a twenty-mile radius?” Martin asked, parroting what he had been told on the plane ride.
“Maybe not every word…,” Buck trailed off, already liking Martin. Here was a man who would give as good as he got.
“When’re they comin’?” Vin asked, knowing that the rest of the gang was sure to arrive at some point.
“Josiah an’ Nate’re getting back this afternoon, and JD’s finishin’ that report after takin’ Casey to lunch. They’ll be here by dinner time. What about Ez?”
“Probably back home asleep,” Chris said, opening his refrigerator. “He’ll be the last one draggin’ in. Let me see what kind of a state my fridge is in,” he sighed. He didn’t mind his house being the unofficial base for Team 7, no matter what he said, even if it meant he spent as much or more on food than he did on gas for his Ram.
While Chris made a grocery list, Vin showed Martin to his bedroom. The ranch house originally had four bedrooms, but the constant presence of any or all of the seven had called for additions to be built. Each man had claimed a room for his own, complete with a chest-of-drawers stocked with clothes, even if he was only in it a couple nights a month.
Martin walked into the bedroom and realized that it was distinctly Vin Tanner’s. It was fairly plain, nothing overly personal, but it was his, nonetheless. The walls were wood panels, as were most of the bedrooms, and the hardwood floor had an area rug by the bed. Several prints hung on the walls - images of the Old West with cowboys, Indians, and plenty of horses. The bed, nightstand and chest were both made of rough-hewn wood, with burned images their only adornment. On the nightstand lay a copy of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.
“Never read the book, but the movie was good,” Martin said, indicating the volume next to the bed.
“I’ll let ya borrow it,” Vin said, setting Martin’s bag on the bed. “I’d let ya stay with me, but it ain’t ‘zactly in the best part a’ town an’ I don’t got a lotta room, what with the kids in an’ out all the time.”
On the plane, Vin had told Martin about his work with the kids in Purgatorio, the neighborhood he lived in. Martin liked the idea of giving the kids a safe place to go to, and knew Danny would love it.
“It’s fine with me, as long as Chris is okay with it,” Martin said, pulling out his phone charger and plugging it into the outlet next to the nightstand.
“That ol’ dog?” Buck asked, sauntering into the room. “You’ll be lucky if you get more’n a dozen words outta him a day.”
Martin could believe that. Chris had been silent most of the flight to Denver, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable or unsocial silence. More like, there simply was nothing for him to say, and he was content to let the brothers carry the brunt of the conversation.
“I’ve gotten so used to Danny rattling off in my ear, the silence will either be welcomed or drive me to insanity,” Martin smirked.
Buck chuckled. “Sorry ‘bout before, kid. I wasn’t expectin’ to see two of ya.”
“It wasn’t the worst,” Martin said. “Danny looked like a fish out of water when he saw me and Vin next to each other.”
“Well, Chris’s insisting on makin’ sure the office is still intact after leavin’ me in charge for a whoppin’ two days,” Buck told Vin. “After that, we’re headin’ to the store, so it’ll be a couple hours. The animals have been taken care of, but Peso’s been a little stir crazy. You might wanna take him out before he tears down the barn. I know Moe would like to get out,” Buck added of his own horse.
Neither one really hungry, Vin decided to show Martin around the ranch. In the stable, Vin introduced each of the seven horses, even though there were name plates on the stalls. Chris’s Pony; JD’s Dancer; Ezra’s Chaucer; Josiah’s Revere; Nathan’s Tennessee; Buck’s “Moe” Mohawk; and Vin’s Peso.
“How’d he get a name like ‘Mohawk’?” Martin asked, brushing the shavings out of the grey’s coat.
Vin grinned. “’parently when Buck first got him, his mane had been chewed almost all off by one of the other horses he’d been kept with. Barely had any hair, and what he did have stood straight up. No one’d buy him ‘cause of it, but Buck laughed. Thought it gave him personality. ‘Course we all call him ‘Moe.’”
“Looks like it fits him,” Martin laughed as Moe tried to crane his neck around to nip at Martin’s sleeve.
The horses saddled, Vin led Peso out of the barn, Martin and Moe following. Vin adjusted the stirrups and turned back to Martin.
“So, how well ya ride?” he asked.
“You mount on the left side, right?” Martin asked.
Vin nodded, and Martin deftly swung into the saddle. Vin watched in amusement as Martin nudged Moe into a canter and rode to the other side of the enclosure and back.
“Something like that?”
Vin laughed and swung atop Peso. He led Martin out past the snow-dotted north pasture. Conversation was minimal, each man enjoying the tranquility of the moment. After riding in silence for a bit, Vin dismounted and motioned for Martin to do the same. Leaving to horses to graze, Vin led Martin to a precipice. From there the ranch spread out below them.
“Wow,” Martin breathed. “It’s beautiful up here.”
Vin nodded. “I love comin’ up here to think. It’s like life stays down there and cain’t bother ya.”
The brothers sat in silence for a while, neither one wanting to break the serene silence surrounding them. Finally, it was Martin who spoke up.
“How much do you remember of her?”
Vin knew he was speaking of their mother, and took a moment before answering.
“Less than I’d like. I remember she baked a lot, always smelled of vanilla. All she’d have to do is smile, and ever’thin’ would be alright. She smiled a lot, even after she found out she was sick. The pictures I got don’t do her justice.”
“I don’t remember anything,” Martin said softly, and Vin could hear the sadness in his voice. “Nothing. The only parents I remember are the Fitzgeralds.”
“That ain’t nothin’ to be ‘shamed of,” Vin responded gently. “Seems to me, your ma did a right good job raisin’ ya, even if she didn’t birth ya.”
Martin nodded, still feeling guilty for the actions of his parents, but knowing that despite his parents, he had found his brother.
4:30 p.m. MST
Chris went to Vin’s room to tell Martin that the boys had started arriving. Martin stood before the bed, toweling off his wet hair from his shower, trying to decide on a shirt. Martin had apparently not heard him walk up, so Chris stood back, noting the differences that he now saw in the twins.
Vin was more compact, and had more muscle mass than Martin, who was more lithe. Whereas Vin’s skin was marred with scars from everything from knives to AK47s, Martin’s was smooth, excepting the GSW scars he had gained over a year before, Chris remembered. Martin also appeared to be more of a clothes horse, like Ezra, and unlike Vin, who cared very little about what he wore as long as he was comfortable.
Martin appeared to decide on a cobalt blue button-down shirt, pulling it off its hanger and placing the others back in the closet. Chris cleared his throat, announcing his arrival, finally.
“The boys are filterin’ in. You ready for this?”
Martin took a deep breath and nodded. “Ready as I’ll ever be, I guess.”
“Well, come on out when you’re ready,” Chris said, turning to walk out.
Martin buttoned his shirt and ran a little gel through his mostly-dry hair. He headed down the hall and took one last look in the bathroom mirror. Satisfied with his appearance, he headed into the main room where he could hear loud voices.
“JD, whatever ya do, please don’t tell any jokes,” Martin recognized Buck’s voice.
“Oh come on, my jokes are gold!” he assumed the young JD Dunne replied.
“Mebbe, since they sink pretty well,” drawled Vin’s soft Texas accent.
“You guys just don’t know a good joke when you hear one,” JD complained as Martin entered the room.
JD’s back was to Martin, and Buck had not yet noticed him, but Vin’s eyes immediately met his, and a mischievous glint appeared.
Wanna have some fun? Vin thought to Martin.
I think I’m beginning to see why they avoid you like the plague on April Fool’s Day, Martin thought, a smirk finding its way to his face. What do you have in mind?
Meet me in the kitchen, Vin thought.
Martin obediently backed out and made his way to the kitchen. He had an idea what Vin had in mind, so he waited for his brother to join him. He was not disappointed. Vin walked in with a Cheshire Cat smile on his face. He leaned into the fridge and grabbed a beer and a coke.
“Take off your shirt,” Vin commanded.
“What?” Martin asked, astonished, as Vin pulled his t-shirt over his head.
“Take off your shirt an’ put on mine,” Vin repeated, holding out the garment.
Martin figured it out, and unbuttoned his shirt and traded it for Vin’s Dallas Cowboys shirt. Slipping it over his head, Vin told him which drink went to which person. Martin nodded, and, adopting Vin’s casual saunter, re-entered the den.
Martin handed Buck the beer, and Buck’s eyes grew huge, but he stayed quiet, giving JD a quick glance. Martin then handed JD the coke and returned to Vin’s previous seat.
“So how much longer’s your brother gonna be?” JD asked, still apparently oblivious to the switch.
“Oh, you know what them fancy easterners’re like,” Martin replied, doing a fair job imitating Vin’s Texan drawl, “always fussin’ over what they look like. Appearences’re everythin’.”
“Sounds like Ezra,” JD commented. “Won’t wear anything less than Armani.”
“I don’t know ‘bout that,” Buck countered. “We’ve worn down his standards a bit since he’s been with us.”
“Yeah, so he buys the Armani in the States instead of Italy,” JD said.
Martin had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. He could not believe the kid was this oblivious. They were quickly distracted, though, by a large SUV pulling up in front of the house. Two men got out; a tall, graying man stepped out from behind the wheel, while a slightly taller, black man got out of the passenger side. They grabbed several bags from the back seat and made their way up to the door.
“Hey, JD, go grab the door for Nate’n Josiah,” Buck said, sending a quick wink to Martin.
JD got up and hurried to the door, and Martin took the chance while he was distracted and scurried back to the kitchen. He and Vin once again switched shirts quickly, and Vin made his way back to the others. Martin just finished buttoning his shirt when Josiah and Nathan arrived, setting the bags containing various cuts of meat on the counter.
“Can I help with anything?” Martin asked, not bothering to tuck his shirt back in.
Josiah finally turned to look at him, eyes growing when he saw Martin. Nathan’s reaction was similar to Buck’s.
“There are two of ‘em!”
“Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot of that today,” Martin shrugged. He offered his hand to Nathan. “Martin Fitzgerald. I’m Vin’s brother.”
Nathan took Martin’s hand, then Josiah, who had regained his composure somewhat.
“Josiah Sanchez,” he introduced himself. “This here is-”
“Nathan Jackson,” Martin interrupted, taking Nathan’s hand. “So no one knew that I was coming? I thought they would have warned you.”
“Naw, I guess it slipped their minds,” Nathan said. “Chris just said Vin had found a long lost brother in New York. No one said anythin’ ‘bout twins.”
Martin shook his head, wondering at the devious crowd he had been thrown in with. Seemed even bad-ass Larabee had a mischievous streak.
“I assume there is a long story behind this that you probably only want to tell once, so why don’t we rejoin the others?” Josiah suggested.
Martin agreed, and they returned to the den, where Vin’s smirk indicated JD was still oblivious to the switch. JD’s back was once again to him, so Martin decided to “finally” make his appearance.
“So, JD, think we look alike?” Martin asked.
JD turned to the new arrival, and almost fell to the floor. He had been expecting a familial similarity, but not twins! Why didn’t anyone tell him these things?
“Why do people keep saying that?” Martin asked Vin, feigning a confused look. He walked over to the couch and sat next to JD.
“Why do…?” JD asked incredulous. “Have you guys looked in a mirror?”
“C’mon, JD, we’s jus’ pickin’ on ya,” Vin said, laughing finally.
“And they got you good, kid,” Buck chimed in, unable to remain silent. “You never even blinked when those two switched on ya.”
JD looked back and forth, confused.
“So, whaddya think of a fancy easterner like me?” Martin asked, slipping into Vin’s drawl.
“You’ve gotta be friggin’ kiddin’ me,” JD muttered.
“’fraid not, JD,” Vin laughed.
The youngest of the seven was saved from further embarrassment by Chris coming to tell Josiah that the grill was ready. At this point, the eight men moved to the back deck, and Martin was treated to tales of Team 7’s exploits, tales that continued into dinner.
“So you really didn’t notice?” Martin asked JD when the eight men had returned to the great room after dinner. He still couldn’t believe JD was that oblivious. JD reddened, and Buck burst out into laughter.
“Gentlemen, should we not dispense with tormenting our young compatriot?” Ezra said, having finally arrived just before dinner. “I believe Mr. Dunne would appreciate our ceasing to point out his lapse in attention.”
JD smiled his thanks to Ezra, who simply raised his brandy in response.
“Okay, you’ve left us in the dark long enough,” said Nathan, whose curiosity had finally gotten the better of his patience.
“All I know is what Vin’s told me,” Martin shrugged. “When our mom died, we were put in a state home. That’s where we got split up, courtesy of Victor Fitzgerald.”
“The Deputy Director of the FBI?” Buck asked.
Martin nodded, “Imagine my joy at finding out I’m not actually related to him. Anyway, Vin was left and I was taken to DC and raised as a Fitzgerald. I don’t know how long it took me to forget. Maybe I didn’t. Maybe memories of those first few years are still in there somewhere,” he said, tapping a finger on his temple.
That sobered the group, but only temporarily, until JD asked Martin about what he did in the FBI. That picked up the mood somewhat, as Martin depicted his duties on the Missing Persons Unit. The evening progressed much like that, Martin telling of his life in Seattle and New York--Vin noticed he left out his life in the Fitzgerald household--as Vin told stories that the seven had all heard or lived of his life as a bounty hunter for the US Marshalls and, subsequently, his time in Denver.
6:30 a.m. MST
Martin stood in Chris’ den, watching the sunrise from the warmth of the house. The past few days had been great. The seven men had welcomed him with open arms, and Martin had grown fully accustomed to Vin’s constant presence and occasional voice in his head. But there was still one thing weighing on his mind.
He sighed as he heard Chris walk in. He had come to respect Chris over the past few days. He had grown fond of the entire team that had accepted him as one of their own. He knew that if he ever decided to leave New York, Denver would adopt him in a heartbeat.
The blonde handed him a coffee cup, and Martin gratefully accepted. He took a sip, only to look over at Chris.
“Hey, if you want any of that drain cleaner you and your brother love so much, you’ll have to wait for Vin to get here,” Chris explained. “I only make coffee that normal people can drink.”
Martin shrugged, taking another sip of the brew that, in his mind, was too weak.
“You ready to head back?” Chris asked.
“Got everything packed,” Martin replied.
“That’s not what I meant.”
Martin paused. He knew Chris was asking about Victor.
“He spends most of his time in DC, so I probably won’t see him for a while, which suits me fine.”
“I’m sure you’ll manage when you do. But if you want any backup, I’m sure Vin would be there in a heartbeat. And then there’s that partner of yours, Danny.”
Martin smiled. “If I ever had to kill someone, Danny wouldn’t just cover for me, he’d help me bury the body.”
“Sounds like Buck,” Chris mumbled.
“Yeah, Buck and Danny would get along great,” Martin chuckled. “I’ll have to bring him out here sometime.”
They stood there quietly, watching from the warmth of the house as the sun peeked over the horizon. Little time had passed before Vin’s old Jeep could be seen pulling up the long drive to the ranch house.
Vin walked in, carrying a thermos. “I thought ya might like some real coffee,” he said, taking the lid off and releasing the bold aroma.
Chris shook his head as Martin replaced the weaker brew with what Vin had brought.
“Ya ready?” Vin asked, standing next to Martin in front of the window.
“Now, yes,” Martin said. “If I get asked that many more times I may say no.”
Vin chuckled softly, and they stood watching the sun rise over the trees. Finally, it was Martin who spoke the inevitable.
“We’d better get going if I wanna have plenty of time at the airport.”
He grabbed his bags, said a final farewell to Chris--who promised to pass it on to the rest--and got in Vin’s Jeep. Martin felt a brief twang of sorrow as he watched the ranch house disappear around a bend in the long drive.
“Manhattan’ll probably drive me crazy after this,” he muttered. “Denver’s slower, somehow, less rushed.”
“Welcome ta stay,” Vin offered.
“No, I need to go back,” Martin said. “My place is still in New York. But if I ever leave, I’m headin’ straight back here.”
Vin cocked his head. He wasn’t sure, but it sounded as if Martin was leaving with a bit of Vin’s Texan twang. Get’s much thicker, an’ no one’ll tell us apart.
“I heard that!” Martin exclaimed. “I’d better not be drawlin’ like you. Danny’d never let me live it down.” He stopped as he realized what he had heard. “Crap.”
Vin full-out laughed at that, dodging Martin’s hand as his brother swatted him. They were both in a good mood, despite Martin’s imminent departure. They both knew that there was no way to keep them apart, now that they’d found each other, no matter what anyone could do.
New York City
La Guardia International Airport
3:45 p.m. EST
Martin grabbed his suitcase off the baggage carousel and headed for the exit. Danny had said he would be there to pick him up.
“Fitzy, how was your impromptu vacation?” the Cuban asked, leading Martin out to the car.
“Not bad. You’d like those fellas.”
“‘Fellas’?” Danny asked. “Since when do you say ‘fellas’?”
“Crap,” Martin groaned.
“Sounds like your Lone Star brother’s accent has rubbed off on you,” Danny grinned.
“I told Vin this would happen. I’m never gonna hear the end of it now!”
Danny laughed, starting the car engine. Martin leaned back in his seat, watching the familiar sights pass by. Danny asked a few questions about Denver, enough to pass the time. Once back at Martin’s apartment, Danny asked what he had avoided in the car.
“What are you going to do about Victor?”
Martin paused. “Honestly, I don’t know. I could confront him about it, but it wouldn’t do any good. I mean, nothing can change what he did. I guess all I want is for him to admit that he screwed up.”
“Good luck with that,” Danny scoffed. “Listen, I gotta go. I’m going to Elena’s for dinner.”
“All right, thanks for pickin’ me up. See ya in the mornin’.”
Danny simply grinned at Martin’s new twang, and bid his farewell.
Martin went about cleaning up, having not left his apartment in the best of conditions, but it was mechanical. His mind was still on Victor. He knew he couldn’t leave it for long, otherwise it would fester.
But, boy, did he dread that conversation.
10:30 a.m. EST
Martin simply nodded to the secretary and kept on walking, ignoring her protests. He entered the office, closing the door behind him a bit more forcefully than was needed.
“Martin, what is the meaning of this?” Victor Fitzgerald asked, put off by his son’s abrupt entrance.
“I’ll tell you,” Martin said, squaring off on the opposite side of the Deputy Director’s desk. “I’ve had it. I thought you were just a critical S.O.B. who enjoyed ruling my life, but now I know why.”
“Martin, what are you talking about?” Victor asked, slightly concerned about his son’s current state.
“You didn’t tell me,” Martin growled. “You didn’t tell me, and you left Vin behind. Not telling me is bad enough, but that you would just take me and leave Vin... What kind of heartless bastard are you?”
“Martin, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Who’s Vin?”
“My brother!” Martin all but yelled. “I was six when you adopted me, and I have a twin brother. Don’t say you didn’t know about him, ‘cause I know you do.”
Victor stiffened. How did Martin find out? “The social worker assigned to your case said you had a twin brother that was most likely special needs. I saw no reason to burden the family with that.”
“Did they happen to mention the ‘special need’ was because he’s dyslexic?” Martin fumed. “Even that’s not a good enough reason. You know what? I’ve had it. I’m through with you.”
Martin left the office before Victor could say anything else.
On the commuter flight back to New York, Martin checked his voicemail. There was one new message.
“Hi, Martin, it’s Hank Peters, the attorney. Listen, I just wanted to let you know that everything went through without a hitch. The judge signed the petition, and you are now well on your way to being Martin Elijah Tanner. You can come by my office whenever to pick up the papers. You’re welcome.”
Continues in Discovery