Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em…damnit!
Thanks to Mog for ATF
Main Characters: JD, Vin
Ratings/Warnings: Some violence, and bad language.
Summary: The team is pinned down and far from help.
My sincere gratitude to Icehunter for the information on the weapons used by Team Seven.
To the rear of a warehouse, Chris hissed his frustration as another hail of bullets pushed his team flat to the floor. They were 'magged up', but ammo was too precious to waste. God himself was likely the only one who knew when this would end…or who would live through it.
Five men were still standing…well, squatting, barely protected by packing cases, and trapped in an area of an isolated warehouse. Two more teammates were in a corner, bleeding out; and it would seem their backup was officially logged as across the other side of town.
The odds against them were not good, but Chris had no intention of his team, or himself dying today; he was too eager to place the end of his H&K up the nose of the bastard who got them stuck here without backup, to lose now.
They had crossed each 't', dotted every 'i', and ensured every word correct before this bust. This particular arms dealer was also a cop killer. The first attempt to take the jerkass resulted in far more than mere disappointment. Three ATF agents died at his mob's hands, while two uniformed cops…family men…still lay critically injured in Denver General. Today, Team Seven had set out with grim determination. This guy was going down.
Ignoring stares from Nathan and Ezra, Chris bobbed up for a moment to fire off a few rounds. He needed to do something to remind this douche bag that Team Seven may be pinned down, but like any cornered living creature…that was when they were most dangerous.
After earlier sporadic return gunfire from his team, Chris insisted on silence. Shooting from the opposition informed them of some of their positions, while every shuffle, whisper, and scrape clued them in to where others were.
However, JD's condition was making their goal difficult, and the last thing the guys wanted was to gag him; but their lives depended on those clues, and so with tears in his eyes, Buck volunteered. It was soon all too apparent that being another man down wasn't practicable, so Vin…God bless him…despite his own agony, had taken over with JD, freeing Buck to get back into the fray.
Chris knew Buck wanted to be in two places at once, because he did, too, he wanted to make sure Vin was okay, as well as JD; but he also knew neither he nor Buck would abandon their duty at a time like this. For a split second their gazes met and Buck nodded…yeah, they were good.
Josiah covered Nathan as their resident EMT split himself between his charges and his team duties. The fear in Nathan's eyes spoke volumes; he needed assistance. While Josiah had no doubt Nathan was capable of dealing with Vin and JD, the look from the compassionate man told Josiah those boys needed help - now.
JD's confused and pain-filled cries were breaking Josiah's heart. Buck's, and now Vin's attempts to shush him was almost more than he could bear. Josiah dreaded how Buck and Chris must be feeling right now, seeing their two closest friends in such need, while the team, their friends, were fighting for their lives. If it was anything like himself and Nathan, and Ezra's ashen features suggested him too, it was - helpless.
Returning from his injured teammates, and scooting back down close to Josiah, Nathan glanced at his trembling, bloodstained hands. Just for a split-second he was prepared to stand up and wave what was left of his white tee in the air, and beg for medical assistance. But the moment passed.
One look at the other guys' faces, and his own rising desire to put a bullet in arms dealer Rick Celestine soon snapped Nathan back to the here and now. Only they could get themselves out of this, only the five functioning members of Team Seven could make a stand, take this jackass out and settle the score for the two injured friends, who had put their lives on the line in the name of justice and the protection of their teammates. It seemed unlikely anyone was coming to their aid, yet somehow Nathan knew that Celestine and his cronies were going down this day.
Ezra's planning on this bust had been meticulous, as always, so he wondered if someone had sold them out. He brushed imaginary lint from his Versace jacket, while choosing to ignore the crud from the cement warehouse floor that was clinging to it. He then wiped a shaky, manicured hand over his face as he thought back on prior events.
How had JD known they were in trouble? What clue reached his young teammate's finely tuned ear, or quick mind, that prompted JD to run at him and the others at that precise moment?
They were barely set up and unprepared when, mere seconds after their audio equipment failed, JD had raced from the surveillance van and straight into the line of fire. Vin was still climbing into position, and had no way to conceal himself as the others were able to, and so instinctively retaliated against the attack on JD, to then lay down cover for the rest of them. In such a precarious location, it didn't take long for Vin to get hit, also.
Like his friends, and in no particular order, Ezra wanted nothing more than to get his hands on whoever informed their backup of a change of venue; to take down Celestine; and to get their two youngest to a hospital. He just managed a quick glance toward the injured pair before another volley of gunfire assaulted them. It was becoming clear that, in his own world of pain, Vin's weakening state meant he was barely able to cling to a restless JD. Priorities were in place. They needed to get out of there…now!
Earlier, Buck pressed JD's bleeding head against his chest, while one hand clasped Chris's t-shirt to the bloody wound on the other side. He tried not to think about the sticky ooze leaking through the cotton and filtering through his fingers, or that the kid was restless and ranting; making no sense through the agony he was suffering.
With nothing more than Josiah's tee and Nathan's own shirt as bandages, and Chris's belt to secure them, Buck watched Nathan's gallant attempts to staunch the flow of blood from Vin's wounded thigh. The Texan was conscious, sweaty, and gritting his teeth in pain, but made it clear he was still functional. He was cradling his M24 close to his good leg when he offered to take JD from Buck.
Buck's eyes shimmered, his large hand intermittently covering JD's mouth in a desperate attempt to keep their assailants from learning too much. Despite his insensible state, JD was in a very real conversation with someone, and, regardless of the inconvenience, it was scaring the crap out of Buck. He knew head wounds could have serious complications, but Buck truly couldn't decide which was the worst of the two conditions JD had suffered, the stillness he first underwent, or this animated hell he was living now.
"Shhh, shhh…hush JD, c'mon son, rest easy now. Shhh." He felt hateful for trying so hard to silence someone in this much pain, but they had limited options right now.
"Uuhh…tell the Captain…they'll die…it's aahhh…it's a set-up." JD thrashed in Buck's arms, causing the brunet to cling even tighter to the youth. Buck's eyes closed in despair for an instant; but then all he could see was the moment JD ran at them yelling out to get down, and seconds before the side of his head seemingly exploded and he screamed out, staggered forward, and collapsed.
"Bucklin…they…need you. I'll take him."
Tanner's pain filled gaze flashed with determination and he released a tight smile when Buck finally nodded and passed JD over. Between them, they got the kid comfortable, and in a position where Vin could keep pressure on JD's wound, hold him still and silence him when necessary.
Both men knew, with JD's head resting against the Texan's chest, wound-side down, Vin would soon be soaked in the kid's blood, as well as his own, but they were out of options, and once Buck eased off his shirt and used his tee to replace the soaked ones under JD's head, they were out of bandages, too.
Securing his Kevlar, Buck slid back toward Chris just as a volley of bullets ricocheted around them. He made a positive and reassuring eye contact with the blond, and then settled into position. Glancing across at Josiah, he saw Nathan return, which would have eased his mind some, knowing Nathan felt comfortable leaving the injured pair, except the EMT's expression was not one of confidence. He threw Larabee a penetrating gaze, and the blond nodded.
Time to kick ass.
Vin fought the fire igniting in his thigh with gritty determination. He needed to stay alert; focused. JD's actions ensured the Team got a fighting chance of living through this. The sharpshooter had successfully taken out two goons before a bullet tore a hole in his leg, and left him bleeding and in agony. Vin decided that although he couldn't move much, he could still shoot. All he needed were targets.
"Uuhh…oh God…make it…stop…call…call 'em back…s…set…up……mmmmf…"
Vin clamped a hand over JD's mouth and pulled his restless body closer. "Easy, Kid…easy now. We'll get 'em, just rest."
In truth, the blood loss from his own wound was weakening Vin by the minute, but passing out was not an option. Through his heroic actions, JD's bullet to the skull had taken him out of the equation. Vin's own valiant measures and consequent injury would inevitably slow him down, but he was still in play, and that was as much as he dared hope for under the circumstances.
He glanced down at JD. The kid looked like hell. One side of his head and face was covered in blood, but it didn't conceal the gray pallor and oily sheen of cold sweat that coated his features. JD was babbling again and making no sense. Where in hell was his mind at? Vin pushed back his own damp wisps of hair, not really surprised at the heat radiating through him, and matching that of the shivering body pulled tight against him. Vin swallowed against the dryness in his throat. Damnit, he was thirsty now, too.
Suddenly Tanner went rigid. He gasped when pain spiked up through his thigh and straight to his brain, almost sending him into blessed oblivion; but he bit down on his lip until it bled. The coppery taste of blood sparked his mind back to the events in progress and he momentarily closed his eyes to catch his breath. A touch to his head forced them instantly open.
Chris was beside them, his other hand on JD's head, and the momentary compassion in their team leader's gaze was a remarkable sight. However, it was fleeting and quickly replaced by the intense determination of a man prepared to kill.
"Buck's got a bead on two of them. You in?"
"You need to ask?" Vin drawled, a hint of humor in his tone.
Chris squeezed his arm. "Good man."
JD groaned and tried to move as he once more struck up a confused conversation, and Chris looked down at him almost apologetically when Vin nodded and re-covered JD's mouth. Tanner understood only too well that, when all hell broke loose, the smallest sound from the opposition could be the difference between success and failure for Team Seven. One-handedly raising his rifle to a more accessible spot, Vin watched Chris scoot back into position and then mentally prepared to do battle.
JD tossed restlessly. It was happening again. He had to stop it! He groaned as images filled his throbbing mind.
"They're going the wrong way? What do you mean?"
As he stood in his Captain's office, JD stared at the man. "Sir, I've read the transcript in the report, I think the DEA guys are being led into a trap."
Captain O'Neill of the Boston PD stared at his newest recruit. This kid was sharp, and a whizz with the computer, but with little street experience so far. He was clearly agitated about the local DEA officers currently out on a bust, and while tempted to simply pat JD on the back and move on, something in the boy's expressive eyes warned the captain it was likely not a good idea.
JD nodded. "When I heard the Sarge send our backup team out to an address in West Roxbury I pulled up the transcript from when the DEA's undercover guy met with Paxton and his cronies. The next meeting was set for today, but in a warehouse in 'Roxbury'."
O'Neill stared at the boy as if he had two heads. "How could that be?"
The Captain snatched up a phone. "Larry, get in here."
Sergeant Larry Wilkes walked into the office. "Yes sir?"
"Where's the transcript from the report with which you directed backup operations for the Paxton bust?"
Thumbing to indicate that he would get it, Wilkes left, to return seconds later. "I received this copy from the DEA office yesterday."
He handed the case folder to his Captain, who quickly glanced over it. His expression was one of frustration. "JD, this clearly says Paxton said West Roxbury. I think you're letting your imagination run away from you, son."
JD reached for the folder. "May I?" Taking it, he read it and shook his head. "This isn't what I called up." He pointed. "This is dated two days ago; the one I read was on screen and dated six days ago, the day of the last meeting."
Noting the sarge's raised eyebrows, Captain O'Neill sighed, softly. "JD, you're clearly mistaken…" He stepped back in mild surprise when the young officer brushed him aside and started tapping on the keyboard of his computer.
"With all due respect, sir, you're wrong." It took a few minutes, by which time both officers were ready to take their new recruit to task until JD triumphantly straightened and turned the monitor toward his superiors.
"This is the original document. Someone tried real hard to erase it, but I got it back. If the DEA are working from the original transcript, they're heading for Roxbury, and if working from the most recent paperwork, our backup guys are on their way to West Roxbury."
With a knot forming in the pit of his stomach, O'Neill picked up his phone and dialed the DEA team's office. No one answered and it went to voicemail. "Shit! They must all have gone on the bust."
He called the AD and within minutes, he confirmed that the orders and instructions the DEA were working to was indeed from the original transcript. Someone had somehow switched the transcripts before the case folder arrived on Wilkes' desk; but that issue would have to wait for another day. Right now, officers from all over the city were being diverted to the initial address in Roxbury. Within the hour, however, it was confirmed all five DEA agents had lost their lives.
"Here we go."
Buck's distant voice dragged JD back from the images and caused him to frown. His head hurt something fierce, but despite the events in Boston being on the fringes of his memory, new events and images were taking control of his thoughts. Now he was dressed in jeans and a sweat top, and he could see himself speaking to vested up teammates as their surveillance van parked up.
"Here are your mics and headsets. I'll give you a sound check in…" they all checked their watches. "…Eight minutes."
Buck grinned. "Eight? You sure you don't wanna make it seven, Kid?"
"Buck…move." Chris was fitting his earpiece as he admonished his old friend, but it was in good humor. He scowled at JD when the youth grinned and again looked at his watch.
"Well, by the time you get your butt out of this van, Buck, it *will* be seven minutes."
Slinging his rifle case over one shoulder as he jumped out of the vehicle, Tanner laughed, softly. "Every time, Bucklin, every freakin' time."
Within five minutes, JD was ready and tuned into the police radio band to learn how far out their backup was, but all he got was static. He fiddled for some time, but nothing would clear it; and suddenly it was time to check the audio equipment. Sound check successfully completed, JD went back to clearing the interference on the police radio. Just about to use his cell to call in the issue, his skilled fingers worked their magic and a snatch of conversation came through before he lost it again.
The knot forming in his stomach turned into a ball of ice and a shudder went through him, as well as a bizarre feeling of déjà vu. He had only caught a snatch of the dialogue between dispatch and the team's backup, but it was enough to tell him they were heading toward the opposite side of town.
'Change of venue', was what control had said, before the start of an address nowhere near Team Seven's position.
He grabbed the mic and spoke. "Guys…aarrgghh!" The crackling in his ear almost deafened him, but he didn't have time to adjust. Yanking out his earpiece, and flinging back the van's side door, JD hit the ground running. He was a fair distance away and had barely got inside the warehouse when he began racing toward his team's position while yelling at the top of his lungs. "OUT! GET OUT! IT'S A SET UP…IT'S A…"
A single shot echoed. Something hard bounced off his skull and caused him to grasp at his head. JD didn't register the blood, or the few shaky steps he took before hitting the unyielding concrete with a thunk.
His vision fading, he could see Captain O'Neill standing over him, and smiling. "You did good, Kid…don't dwell on that it was too late, at least you gave us a fighting chance to save them…"
"Too late…sorry Captain…too late…mmmmf…"
Vin had relaxed a little, so JD's sudden agitation and rambling caught him off guard. He clamped his hand against JD's mouth.
"Shh…it's okay, just sleep JD…rest." Movement just ahead of their position had Vin's free fingers curling around his rifle, but he relaxed on seeing Nathan. The EMT touched a hand to JD's brow.
"Shoot, he's burning up." He did the same to Vin. "You're pretty hot too." Nathan was deeply frustrated that he had no way of offering either man the drink of water they needed right then. "We're going in five. I've come for JD's guns and clips." He took one Colt Defender from the holster clipped to the back of JD's jeans belt, and the other matching gun, from an ankle holster.
"Help me get over there with you, Nathan," Vin asked.
"What about JD?"
Wincing with the effort, Vin reached around his back and unhooked his cuffs from his belt. "I'm gonna cuff him to this here pipe, that way he can't wander off if he's got a mind to, and no one can take him without us knowin'."
Jackson checked Vin's 'bandages' and swallowed, nervously. "The bleeding's slowed some, but if you move…"
"Movin' won't make a whole lot of difference if we end up dead," Tanner stated.
With Nathan's assistance, JD was moved away from Vin, turned onto his stomach, and cuffed by his wrist to the pipe. Both young men shivered at the loss of warmth. JD's makeshift bandage was saturated, and was stuck to his head and face, so Nathan refrained from checking the wound, figuring it would be best to leave it for now. Ezra slid his jacket across to them, and Nathan balled it up and put it under JD's head. He turned to Vin.
Vin shook his head. "Nope, but we're goin' anyway." He pointed to a spot close to Ezra. "I can best lean on my good leg, there." Biting back the agony, the sharpshooter stayed as low as was possible with one useless leg. The pair made it back to the others, but Vin needed a minute to recover.
Chris stared at his friend, Vin's face was ashen, and etched with pain, and he feared the Texan might yet pass out and miss out on the finale. Vin's wink back made Chris smile.
The image of JD calling out a warning, to then take a headshot, flashed across Larabee's mind. It was quickly followed by the memory of the frantic dives for cover by his team, alongside the familiar sound of Vin's M24 barking out to protect them. Buck somehow managed to drag JD behind the packing cases with them just as Vin's luck ran out and a bullet sliced through his thigh.
Chris and Buck had laid down cover fire while Nathan checked JD, and Josiah and Ezra retrieved Vin. It was a miracle no one else was hit in the barrage of bullets that flew their way.
Chris raised himself up a little to look out over the cases. He checked his ammo clip, and once again glanced at Vin. True to form the plucky sharpshooter had rallied, and nodded to say so. The team was set.
Scratched in the dust on the ground was a crude plan of their assailants' positions that they had so far figured out, and alongside lines and initials depicting which man would take out which position. Using the barrel of his gun to point, the team's leader silently worked through it. He indicated that Vin would mop up any of the goons they hadn't accounted for.
Chris looked around at his men, and patted a comforting hand on Buck's arm as the brunet stared back at his currently unmoving best friend and surrogate sibling. Buck looked at his long time friend and team leader, his features showing he was fighting mad, and more than ready. Chris acknowledged each man. This was it. It was make the stand and get out of this mess.
Or die trying.
While checking his gun clip, gunrunner Rick Celestine glanced over toward his waiting BMW and driver. Normally, if there was gunplay he would be long gone, unwilling to dirty his hands with such things. And why should he? He paid good money to these lackeys to do the dirty work for him.
However, today was different. This fucking team had dogged him for far too long…had dared to march right into his office and threaten him in front of his own men. No one did that to Rick Celestine - no one.
To obtain the technical expertise needed to successfully intercept and misdirect this team's backup, and then effectively jam the police radio frequencies to slow down any possibility of being discovered, took considerable planning and a lot of money. His lip curled in a snarl at the now obvious failure of that particular person. That was one little shit who wouldn't live long enough to spend his remuneration.
Once Rick had seen, with his own eyes, that damned little runt run from the ATF surveillance van yelling that it was a set-up; it was obvious their so-called 'technical ace' had screwed up. That, or Celestine had seriously misjudged this Fed team's capabilities.
This was why he wanted to be in on their demise; and if he could take Larabee out personally, even better. It had been a bonus to see the kid going down so early, followed by the guy with the deadly rifle. Five more to go, and despite him losing two men already, Celestine felt confident of victory this day. Aside from the odd scrapes and murmurings from behind the packing cases, Larabee's boys had kept good counsel, but Rick had at least twice as many men…he wasn't worried.
He glanced across at one man whose focus remained on the wooden crates since Team Seven had taken cover there. Rick released a wry smile when the man made a slow and deliberate nodding gesture. Silently, Celestine mouthed the word 'go'.
Chris looked at Buck who nodded. He had two men in his sights. Vin's hand went up and showed three fingers, Ezra indicated he held bead on one, and Josiah, also one. Chris was about to call 'go', when a shot echoed from across the warehouse. Nathan cried out and grabbed his arm. Josiah's big hand clamped over the EMT's bloody fingers, but Nathan waved him off, hissing through clenched teeth.
Buck furiously fired off three shots. A satisfied smile graced his lips when both his targets went down. Moments later, he ducked the splinters from the disintegrating packing cases in front of him when a burst of gunfire ripped into them. Simultaneously, Ezra fired on his target and watched the man fall. He then stood, fired twice and hit one man, before executing an athletic drop and roll. Squatting at a new angle, he fired once more, at the same time as Josiah. Ezra didn't see anyone go down, but hearing two consecutive screams was immensely gratifying.
Amid the thunderous barrage of bullets, and flying cement chips and packing case splinters, Tanner fired on his three targets and watched two plummet to the concrete floor, while the other dove for cover. His steely blue gaze scanned for any breakaway movement, whilst firing one of JD's Colts to cover whenever his teammates changed positions.
All at once, two men slinked from out of the distant shadows and seconds later, Vin's M24 roared, eliminating the nearest body. He flashed a wink at Nathan when the EMT's Ruger P90 barked out and took down the second man. Despite his pain, Jackson returned the gesture with a satisfied nod moments before a shot rang out and the packing case next to him fractured.
Buck and Chris had purposefully bobbed up and around the cases, picking off any goons stupid enough to show themselves. The smooth movements demonstrated years of practice and ease with each other, though for the last minute or so, Buck's attention was intermittently drawn to the young agent cuffed to a pipe behind them. At first, JD hadn't so much as twitched, but now, the kid was animated and restless; but the worst of it, was that JD was calling out a name Buck didn't know. Where in hell was that boy's head?
As the patrol car cruised the streets of Roxbury JD shuddered. Sergeant Wilkes glanced across at him. They were close to where the DEA men had died. "Put it behind you, Dunne."
Larry Wilkes nudged his young partner. "I know I've said it already but, I'm real sorry about your mom."
JD nodded, his gaze fixed to a spot somewhere on the dash. His mother's recent death and funeral were still too painful to think about, let alone discuss. "Thanks."
"Are the rumors true?"
Finally looking at his 'partner for the day', JD frowned. "Rumors?"
"A little bird told me you applied for an interview for some new Fed team in Denver." He smiled at JD's surprise. "Don't blame Francine. I think she kinda likes you and was upset to learn you were thinking of moving on."
JD had trusted the pool secretary with his application. The only other person who knew was Captain O'Neill…or so he thought. He noted the Sarge's expression. "You think I'm crazy too, huh?"
Signaling to pull over, Larry turned to the young officer. "Kid, you have hardly any street experience, at least, not enough notched up to become a Fed. Hell, technically, you're still a rookie. Besides, you're too young for the ATF."
Shrugging, JD nodded. "I know, but…well, the application stated the new team would be different, innovative, with a need for technical expertise. I've got that."
Larry bobbed his head. Hell yeah, he had that all right. "Like I said, you're too young to be a Federal Officer. They won't even consider you."
"I know that's usually the case, but the Captain spoke to some guy called Travis and put in a good word for me. He said they had a placement for a trainee, and if the Team Leader liked me as a tech, he may be able to swing it."
"Who's the Team Leader?"
JD's face lit up. "Chris Larabee, *the* Chris Larabee."
Wilkes whistled through his teeth. "Larabee? Chris 'Hard Ass' Larabee? Kid, I hate to burst your bubble, but he'll tell you to go home the instant you walk in that door."
Straightening in his seat, JD flashed a look of defiance. "And I'll just tell him he should give me a chance."
Laughing, Larry ruffled the youth's hair. "Where do you want me to bury what's left of you?" He winced at JD's expression. "Damn, sorry Kid, that was insensitive of me."
JD shrugged. "Sir…Larry…aside from you, the Captain, and Francine, I don't connect with anyone here. Riding a desk right out of the academy has made the guys wary of me. They see it as a cop-out. The Captain says the FBI is just waiting for me to turn twenty-one so they can lock me in some computer center somewhere. And now with Mom…" He swallowed. "I need to get away. I need a fresh start. I wanna see some action. I could be a good cop, I just know it."
Before the Sarge could tell him he already was, a barrage of gunshots drew their attention. JD called it in as Wilkes jumped out of the car and drew his gun. Noting one man lying on the ground at the mouth of an alley, and two running away in opposite directions, he sent JD to the downed man and he took off after one of the assailants, seemingly oblivious to his partner's question about waiting for backup.
JD checked the injured man was unarmed and still alive. He had just placed him in the recovery position when distant gunshots sent his heart racing. Dunne grabbed a female onlooker from the gathering crowd. "Wait with him for the ambulance!"
Not allowing her the opportunity to say no, JD drew his gun and tore off into the litter-strewn alleys and their numerous derelict buildings in search of his partner.
"Sarge?" Glancing up and down the area and calling as he ran, JD almost missed it. He skidded to a halt and backpedalled to the mouth of a small yard. "Oh God…no…"
Shakily approaching the downed officer, JD failed to determine if the sergeant was dead or alive before a booming sound penetrated the near silence, and something hot seared his scalp just above his left ear. His knees buckled with the onslaught of pain and dizziness, and JD collapsed next to Larry. As he lay there, he vaguely recalled more gunfire and blurry images of other cops around him, before he finally passed out.
In his agitation, JD began tugging on the cuffs holding him, as his confused mind believed he was back in that Boston alley and under fire. He was frantic and no one was in a position to ease his alarm.
Once again crouched behind the packing cases, Chris studied his team. Buck was glancing between a fretful JD and their hidden opposition, and showing signs of losing it. Chris knew that to get JD and the others out of there, Buck would do whatever it took and if pushed, would even go it alone. Larabee understood that mindset, because it was no less than he would do.
Vin was fading, with Nathan faring little better. Those two and JD needed medical attention…now. The team were dirty, disheveled, and spackled with cuts and blood spatters from the fragments of wood and concrete being thrown up from ricocheting bullets. He made eye contact with each man, his gaze leaving them in no doubt what they would be doing next.
Waiting for a lull, and confident many of Celestine's men were no longer in the battle, Larabee stood, stepped out from behind the cases, and while hollering out a warning, he walked toward their enemy firing his H&K and one of JD's Defenders at anything that moved.
A millisecond behind Chris, Buck caught Vin's Sig when the sharpshooter tossed it to him and came out into the open with that, and his own Glock, blazing. He was not in the least surprised to hear Ezra's Walther P99 and Derringer LM5 barking out to his left, and Josiah's Browning to his right. Nathan and his Ruger brought up the rear, while Vin ensured anyone from the opposition showing their head risked a slug between the eyes from his rifle.
Teetering on the brink of consciousness, JD's exhausted body settled down and his eyes opened. In a moment of clarity, he turned his throbbing head toward the sound of gunfire. In what appeared as slow motion, he watched five familiar men seemingly tall as giants, stride through a haze of bullets and blue smoke while streaks of orange flared from their booming armory.
Tilting his head back a little, he blinked slowly to further clear his vision, and could now see Vin, perched awkwardly, but firing his rifle with a gritty and deadly determination. Between the blinding pain in JD's head from the movements, and exhaustion from his recent anxiety, what little consciousness mustered quickly diminished, and with a soft groan, he let go to the sounds of distant sirens and a sudden, eerie silence from a break in the shooting.
Assistant Director Orin Travis rarely got involved in field operations these days, but when his most successful team was missing and there was irrefutable evidence of foul play, he was not about to sit around and wait for news. The moment it became apparent something was wrong, all available members of the DPD, DEA, and ATF had rallied to scour the city and its outlying areas to find them. Never had Orin been more proud of his fellow law enforcement colleagues.
He knew there was rivalry between the teams, mostly good-natured, although some retained archaic attitudes to Larabee's choice of teammates and their collective approach to getting the job done. However, one thing stood out like a flare in the night sky…the respect that Team Seven commanded. Their intelligence, honesty, bravery, fair-mindedness, and passion for justice, neatly balanced their radical and nonconformist approach to their assignments, which most of their colleagues and superiors found refreshing.
Add to that their likeability factor, even if few openly admitted to actually liking them; and Orin's thoughts had come full circle. Anyone available was willing to help because everyone knew, in a reversed situation; those seven men would be first in line to help them.
Within half an hour, and due to the officers of the DPD's remarkable knowledge of their city, they had narrowed the search area to two possibilities. Orin and several ATF teams hovered between the two locations, while the remaining officers split the hunt. Five minutes later, a chopper crew confirmed the position, and anyone close headed in en masse. All Travis could hope for was that they were not too late.
Stepping over bodies, the five men of Team Seven savored watching Rick Celestine cowering before them. He and his six remaining men had eagerly surrendered and were quickly rounded up. The team then secured the area, and methodically checked for strays. Larabee did a quick assessment of his men, relieved to find all were present and correct, even if they were a little worse for wear. When a swarm of agents followed a hollering SWAT team into the building, neither of the teammates batted an eyelid, they simply ensured their ID chains were visible over their vests. Chris pointed as Travis and the OIC approached.
"Mister Celestine and his cohorts have graciously agreed to accompany us to the Federal Building." His tone became earnest. "We need urgent medical assistance." With Chris's words barely uttered, four men turned and, helping an ailing Nathan, hurried back to their injured teammates.
Tanner was slumped against a packing case and barely conscious. Chris dropped down next to him, swept back damp tendrils of hair, and held the heated body close until a paramedic took over. "Good job, Pard."
Before going limp, Vin wearily looked up at Chris. "Back at ya."
Josiah and Ezra eased Nathan down onto one of the few remaining packing cases that were intact. The EMT was drained, and gray, but he waved them off. "It's just a gash. I'll live."
"No doubt," Ezra grinned. "But allow us the indulgence of a second opinion on said wound, would you?"
Josiah chuckled. "Time to take a little of your own advice, my friend."
Nathan acknowledged the approaching Paramedic. "I hear you, old man." He glanced between them both. "Thanks, guys."
Unlocking the steel bracelet around JD's bloody wrist, and the one around the pipe he was attached to, Buck crouched down and cradled his best friend's shivering form to his chest; more than a little unnerved at JD's slack form. The youth, like Tanner, was hot, and drenched in sweat, but all Buck could think about was that, when he awoke, whether JD's mind would be back from wherever the bullet that gouged his skull had taken him. Reluctant to give up the contact, but grateful that a paramedic was there; Buck relinquished his hold, and watched the EMT work his magic.
Suddenly very tired, Chris left Vin to the paramedics' ministrations to join Orin just beyond their original line of defense. The latter smiled.
"I would say, 'lucky break', but I know you, and this team, and I am sure luck played no part in this event."
Larabee glanced around his team with pride. "Damn straight." They both watched Celestine being Mirandized, and then hauled away. "The death penalty's too good for him," Chris hissed.
Travis nodded. "One of the two cops in the hospital died a few hours ago." Hearing the soft 'damn', Orin squeezed Chris's shoulder before speaking, and then walking away. "You and the boys did the citizens and the law enforcement officers of Denver proud today, Chris."
Larabee first watched Travis leave, and then his three injured men being taken to the waiting ambulances, Larabee's eyes shimmered. "Yet I still feel like shit."
The following twenty-four hours had been an intense period for Team Seven. Aside from those uninjured spending a few hours at the office for a debriefing, Nathan received stitches in his now supported arm, while Vin and JD were taken to surgery and x-ray respectively. The rest of the time, the five men had maintained a vigil over their two sleeping friends in the three-bed room JD and Vin occupied. While they waited until both men were awake and coherent, some catnapped in chairs, and others took turns on the spare bed.
Awake, but sluggish due to the pain meds, Vin had awoken and eaten a small meal before JD even stirred. A little later, JD had dipped in and out of consciousness, and each time he awoke, he became more alert. Buck was staring at the hair poking out of the bandages on the youth's head, when he noticed JD looking at him.
"You okay, Buck?" JD rasped out. "You look like hell."
"Fighting the bad guys will do that to you, Kid." He smiled, watching a range of thoughts and emotions cross JD's face until recall halted him and his eyes widened.
For the first time since being admitted to the hospital, the images of Vin laying in the bed next to him with his leg elevated, Nathan sitting nearby with his arm strapped, and the spatters of small cuts and bruises on his friends' faces, filtered through JD's fuzzy mind. "Set-up," he breathed.
"Yeah, it was," Chris agreed, leaning forward in his chair. "Thank God you worked it out so quickly."
It took JD a full minute to piece together his intermittent recall, and it wasn't much, but one thing he did remember. "Someone was interfering with our links to each other and to Dispatch."
"And you cleared it?" Buck asked.
JD struggled to stay awake, frowning as he tried to remember. "Just enough to figure it out."
Chris nodded and patted the young agent's shoulder. "Good enough." Buck watched JD give up the fight and go back to sleep.
"Does anyone know who the 'Captain and Sarge' that he kept yellin' for are?" Vin asked.
Josiah nodded. "I think so. While at the office, and going on JD's limited field experience, I played a hunch and called Boston PD. A few months before JD joined us, he was injured on duty, and so was his partner, Sergeant Larry Wilkes." Sanchez's face saddened. "Actually, Wilkes was killed in the line of duty."
The others bar Chris were shocked. Buck was more than a little surprised. JD had never mentioned being hurt prior to coming to Denver. "How was JD injured?"
Josiah continued. "That's the thing…not unlike how he was this time, but not as badly."
Nathan nodded his agreement with Ezra's comment. He glanced at Buck. "Don't push him on it, Buck. Let JD remember it all in his own time. Maybe something about the other day triggered the memories from back then." In truth, there was a good chance JD may not ever remember what he was reliving that day.
They all turned to Vin when he hissed in pain, and he glared at their concerned expressions.
"Get me the hell outta here. My ass is numb and I'm gonna go crazy lyin' here lookin' at this fuckin' leg all day." The six men looked around at each other, glancing toward JD as they did so. During their stand against Celestine, they were pinned down in a corner for several hours, and yet suddenly the hospital room felt very claustrophobic.
Chris nodded. "I hear you. I'll see what I can do."
It took another three days before JD and Vin were released from the hospital and taken to Chris's ranch to recuperate. It was decided that one of the team would stay with them in turn, while the others wrapped up the Celestine case. Just as in their preparations for the bust, every detail was meticulously checked, double checked, and triple checked. This was one man not about to walk away on a technicality.
Several weeks later and one afternoon, all of Team Seven were at DPD headquarters to go over their depositions, and hand over their completed case files in preparation for Celestine's impending trial. JD's took no time at all as, apart from his initial involvement with the case, on the day of the bust and after he had raised the alarm, he was insentient for most of the confrontation. Alone and with no idea how long his teammates would be, he went in search of food.
He made his choices and carrying a tray, JD walked through the precinct's cafeteria. The second cop shot by Celestine's mob was a long-serving officer, who once served with the motorcycle division. The officer died a week ago, on the day Team Seven brought Celestine down, and today, the cafeteria was teeming with detectives, and officers in uniform. That morning, they had honored their fallen colleague by attending his funeral, eventually drifting back to the precinct after the wake in a subconscious need to be together. Team Seven were also present at the funeral, but had since discarded their black suit jackets and ties before meeting with the DA.
Approaching a table, the youth smiled at the man in uniform sitting there.
"Do you mind?"
The man gestured to an empty seat. "Help yourself." He watched in fascination as the youth got settled before he sprinkled salt on his fries, squirted a large blob of ketchup onto his plate, and punctured his milk carton with a straw. Taking a long draw of milk, he then dipped some fries into the ketchup and sprinkled them under the top bun, before neatening his burger and taking a big bite. Clearly enjoying it, JD chewed and swallowed, wiped his mouth with a napkin, and grinned at the man.
"State Trooper, huh?" He ignored the 'well, duh' expression from the officer.
The trooper looked around, wondering which of the other cops the boy could be here with. "Yes, son, I am. You interested in joining up?"
Spluttering on his milk at the realization that this man thought he was a civilian, JD reached for another napkin, and composed himself before answering. "Naw…I already have a job, thanks." He took another bite of his burger.
"Pay and benefits are good. What are you, seventeen, eighteen? In a couple of years, you can apply. All you need is a high school diploma or GED certificate. Do you have any qualifications yet?"
Swallowing the bite, JD nodded. He took another drink of milk before answering. "Uh huh. A Masters degree in Computer Science…"
Now the Trooper was spluttering on *his* drink, and stared at the boy who seemed far too young for a Masters degree. "Really?"
"…and one in Applied Mathematics." JD continued, snatching up a few fries. He licked his lips and looked at the officer. "Going for my Doctorate now, as a distance student." He smiled. "So, you drive a bike."
Still recovering from the revelation, and with his coffee mug poised between the table and his lips, the officer replied. "Uh, yeah, a Harley."
Dunne nodded his approval. "Cool. One of my teammates has a vintage Harley," he sighed, "Maybe I'll get to ride it someday." He leaned in and whispered. "He's real overprotective about his bike. Now his jeep," JD laughed, "that's a whole other matter."
The trooper was confused. "Wait…did you just say 'teammates'?"
Murmurings around the cafeteria caused the two men to look up. JD grinned and stood to greet the group of six men approaching him. "At last! What took you guys so long?"
Buck made to swipe at his head, and JD semi-ducked. Not that he needed to, Buck was still wary of the injury the young agent had suffered recently. "Tanner tried to escape, but he kept falling off his crutches." Buck chuckled at the glare from the Texan, and then pointed to JD's half-eaten meal.
"Why are you feeding your face? We're supposed to be going out for dinner."
JD shrugged. "I was hungry."
Vin nodded his understanding as he swiped the remainder of JD's fries and devoured them with relish. Chris interrupted. "Yeah, well so am I, let's go."
As Team Seven turned to leave, the cops filling the precinct's cafeteria stood and applauded them. A little overwhelmed, the seven nodded their thanks as they left the cafeteria.
When things settled down, the State Trooper leaned over to the officers on the next table. "That kid I was talking to…and those men…who are they?"
"That was JD," one cop answered, nodding after the departing men. "And the guys with him are the team he works with, ATF Team Seven. They recently took out Rick Celestine and his mob."
The Trooper stared after them. Dear God…that kid, those men…they were the infamous Magnificent Seven? He couldn't help but be impressed, their reputation stretched before them and yet they had seemed so…modest…normal. And he'd tried to recruit one of them. He laughed to himself as he finished his coffee. Holy crap!
Later that night, at the CDC, JD had gone on to bed. He was still tiring quicker than usual, but the headaches had all but disappeared now. About to turn in for the night, on hearing a noise, Buck halted just outside JD's door. Knocking and peeking in, he was surprised to see JD awake and still with his bedside lamp on. "You okay? Do you need a pill?"
Sitting up, JD shook his head. "No, I'm fine." He could see Buck about to leave. "Buck?"
"Yeah?" The brunet entered the room and sat down on the edge of the bed.
"What do you reckon the odds of getting hit twice in the head by a bullet, and surviving, are?"
Buck smiled. "I reckon Ezra's the man to answer that one." He leaned closer. "Is this about you?"
The kid nodded. "There's something I'd like to tell you about."
Unable to hold back his grin, Buck nodded. "How about tomorrow? We got a rest day, remember?"
"Sure, that works for me," JD smiled. "Uh…"
"That day in the warehouse, while I was unconscious I had this crazy dream. I saw you all walking away from me and firing into a hail of bullets and smoke." He watched Buck's reaction.
"It wasn't a dream, was it?"
Standing, Buck squeezed JD's shoulder. "No less a crazy dream than seeing a twenty year old tech-slash-agent running into a warehouse to warn his friends they were about to get gunned down in cold blood."
The pair stared at each other for a long few moments before JD grinned and scooted down in the bed. "Point taken. 'Night."
Exiting JD's room, a sound caught Buck's attention. He turned, tilted his head, and listened. With a grin, he headed back toward the front door. He peeked through the spy hole and laughed softly as he slipped the locks. Chris was outside and leaning against the doorjamb. He held up a bottle of whiskey.
"Nightcap?" He followed the grinning brunet into the apartment.
"Couldn't sleep, huh?"
"No problem sleeping," Chris replied. He opened the bottle's seal and spun the cap as Buck produced two glasses. "Just don't particularly like the dreams sleep brings right now."
Taking up seats out on the deck, the pair looked out over the illuminated Denver skyline and savored the rich, warming, smoky liquid. "I hear you," Buck said, softly.
Two old friends sat in quiet contemplation. Because of Celestine, friends had been hurt, cops killed and buried, and their families devastated. Despite the reactions from their fellow cops, the team didn't feel particularly 'Magnificent' right now.
However, both these men knew, setting injuries and nightmares aside, that they were all passionate about what they did, and soon all seven of them would move through the ache in their hearts to meet the next challenge and anticipated frustration in their pursuit for justice with a fervor they had once thought beyond them.
And the good citizens of Denver could take that to the bank.
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