Acknowledgments: Thanks for inventing the ATF Mog, you’ve opened SO MANY doors for fiction;) The general idea came from an episode of Starsky and Hutch; don’t know the title of the episode.
Synopsis: The guys are planning a surprise party for Chris, but a botched operation almost costs him his life. Near death won’t stop these guys from having a party though!
Webmaster Note: This fic was previously hosted at another website and was moved to blackraptor in September 2012.
They had been planning the party for weeks; a surprise party for Chris Larabee to celebrate his birthday. Vin hadn’t been certain that Chris would appreciate either the surprise or the fuss, but Buck had insisted that beneath the gruff and grim exterior was a veritable party animal. He began recounting tales of ‘keggers’ and ‘bar crawls’ from the past until Vin threw up his hands in surrender. Of course once Buck got going, JD grew more and more excited, practically bouncing off the walls at the thought of what might happen. Nathan and Ezra were neutral on the topic, but Josiah agreed with Buck that it would be good to get their friend and leader to relax a bit.
As it turned out, they very nearly had to plan Larabee’s funeral instead.
The operation was supposed to be a simple one. Ezra, as usual, had laid the ground work under the guise of ‘Elias Crinshaw’, a middle-management type in a fledgling cartel. Crinshaw was looking for someone who could supply guns, muscle and drugs locally. Joey Cyan had the potential to fill that bill, and the slow-witted hood had jumped at the chance.
After Elias paved the way, Curtis Leon, Elias’ superior, would come to sanction the agreement. They had all agreed that Chris looked more menacing than ever. With his blond hair gelled tight to his head, a neat, pencil-thin mustache, and expensive suit, the ATF team leader looked every inch a Mafioso. At the same time, in the black suit and shirt, complimented with a deep crimson tie and handkerchief, he looked like a GQ model.
“Damn pard!” Vin hooted as Chris emerged from his office. The sharpshooter’s comment was followed by a variety of wolf whistles and cat-calls from the other team members. The good natured ribbing ended with the appearance of the ‘Larabee Glare.’
Chris looked over his team. Always immaculate, Ezra was groomed and manicured to fit his identity as Elias Crinshaw in a rust colored suit, cream silk shirt and an abstract design tie in muted colors. As their driver/bodyguard, Buck looked no less menacingly handsome as his friend and boss. His deep gray suit and tie along with the deep blue silk shirt made him look at once an enforcer and a matinee idol. Wilmington had done nothing to stop the remarks his fellow agents had made; in fact he had encouraged them to continue.
The others, who would be ‘behind the scenes’ as it were, looked as they did every other day. Chris mused that, next time, he’d find a reason to put Vin in a suit and tie. The sharpshooter wouldn’t be so quick to tease then. With a wicked grin that he didn’t bother to explain, Larabee said, “let’s roll boys and girls.”
Things went sour almost immediately. For some reason, Cyan took a dislike to ‘Leone’ and began backing away from the deal. Chris, only too well aware of his limits, stepped back and allowed Ezra to lead. The smooth-talking agent’s voice dripped with honey-coated tones as he tried to preserve the integrity of the operation. But no matter what tact he took, Joey Cyan wasn’t interested in following through on the deal. The more he was pressed, the more ‘squirrelly’ Joey became. Larabee was just about to signal an end to the meeting when Cyan took a big leap over the edge and started shooting.
It took Vin less than a minute to take the raving lunatic down, and even less than that for them to take down Joey’s men. But in that brief span of time, the crazed man found his mark. Chris Larabee, caught off guard, went down...three bullets ripping through his body.
None of the men actually saw the blond get hit, but Vin saw him crumble to the ground as the last bad guy fell. With a single, guttural yell, he monkeyed down from his vantage point and sped to his best friend’s side. “Chris!” he cried out, reaching out a trembling hand to check for a pulse. He flashed a quicksilver smile when hazel eyes, glazed and unfocused, fluttered open. “Hey cowboy. Looks like they scratched y’.”
Larabee smiled wanly; hearing the fear in the man’s voice he reached out, placing his hand on Tanner’s arm. The pain was too great to allow him to speak, but he needed to reassure the young agent that he wasn’t licked yet. He also craved the Texan’s reassurance as well. It was quick in coming, as Vin took the cold, clammy hand in both of his.
“Hang on pard, y’ hear me? Ain’t no way I’m lettin’ yoy check out by the likes of that worthless horse turd. You just hang on.”
Chris tried to smile at Vin’s choice of words, but then gasped as a shudder of pain ripped through him. As if he were observing from a distance, he registered that his body arched until he was like a taut bowstring. His grip on Tanner’s hand tightened, then went slack as he passed out. The last thing he heard was Buck.
“Ambulance is on its way. Chris, just hang on buddy. Hang on...”
Vin and Buck sat vigil at the hospital over the course of the days to come, taking turns hovering over the ICU bed and sprawling out on the waiting room couches. The others were in and out, dividing their time between the mountainous volume of paperwork that followed the botched operation, and the hospital. JD brought the two men daily changes of clothing and fast food. Nathan dragged them off every evening for one decent meal a day. Josiah brought them books and games to keep them occupied during the long stretches of time that saw them banned from Larabee’s side. He also prayed and recited quotations meant to inspire them and keep hope alive.
By the fourth day, the two agents were at once closer than they had ever been, and sick of the sight of one another. Neither was apt to go home, however, so the best they could do was cope. They had each staked out an area – Vin near the windows and Buck near the door – and maintained their vigil alone much of the time. They took comfort in one another’s presence and stood shoulder to shoulder as they listened to the doctor’s report or talked to the others when they came to check in.
The fifth day was just beginning when one of the nurses entered the quiet room and motioned to them. hearts pounding as they tried to read her face, Vin and Buck followed her into the hall.
“Jenny? How is he?” Buck asked hopefully.
“He came around just now, while I was changing his dressings,” she reported, holding up a hand to stop the anxious men before they rushed around her and into the little ICU cubicle. “He’s still very disoriented and weak. The doctor’s just finishing up with him now. As soon as he’s done, you can go see him. For a few minutes,” she said with a tone of finality.
“All right darlin’,” Buck cooed sweetly. “We’ll wait here and be good boys. We won’t move an inch til y’ tell us we can go in.”
The blond snorted with laughter as she moved away. she had dealt with these men and their teammates often enough to know that they would always at least try to do whatever they wanted to do. It was almost like supervising a group of small boys.
“Hey stud,” Buck said softly. He reached out and touched the man’s shoulder. It was one of the few places he could reach through the maze of tubes, wires and machinery.
Chris managed to open his eyes, smiling tiredly at the big man.
“You’re lookin’ a bit better, pard,” Vin said from the other side of the narrow bed. He smiled as they watched Chris track from Buck’s face to Tanner’s. “Of course with you, any change would be an improvement to your looks.”
A twinkle lighted Larabee’s eyes, and he managed a dry, raspy, “ha...ha.”
Producing a Styrofoam cup and plastic utensil, Wilmington slowly spooned some ice chips into his friend’s mouth. “Doc says you ain’t gonna be ready for much of anything else til tomorrow.” He ladled a little more in as Chris opened his mouth.
“How long?” The blond’s voice held a shade more volume.
The other two men looked at one another, trying to decide how truthful they should be. Finally Buck said, “Couple days.”
Turning to Vin, he stared long enough to get his meaning across. The truth was the only thing that had better come from the younger man’s mouth.
“Five days, cowboy,” Vin said softly, trying to dodge Buck’s look.
Chris sighed, his eyes fluttering closed. “What happened?” He wanted a report.
The other men knew they’d more than likely have to repeat everything later, when Chris had recovered. Wilmington put the most information into the fewest words to satisfy their boss. “Cyan went squirrelly. Vin took ‘m down, but he managed t’ get you first. We took down his boys as well.”
The brief explanation rummaged through Larabee’s mind but, when it settled, it seemed to satisfy him. He nodded and closed his eyes. Within seconds he was once again asleep.
“Okay, you two,” Jenny’s voice came from the doorway. “Get outta here. I’ll let you know when he wakes up again.”
“Thanks, darlin’,” Wilmington cooed as he walked past her. “You get a break soon? Maybe we could get some coffee – “
“Gees, Buck,” Tanner hissed as he pushed the bigger man out the door. “Give it a rest, will y’? Dang horn dog.” Pausing, he gave the pretty nurse a bashful smile. “Sorry Jenny.”
Laughing, the young woman said, “as often as we see you boys around here, I’m used to his BS.”
Chuckling, the sharpshooter jogged lightly after the ladies man, who was now feigning injury by the nurse’s words. “C’mon Bucklin, let’s get us some coffee, then call the others.”
Although the team leader’s awakening gave them all hope, he was still not out of the woods. Twice he gave them cause for concern, his vitals crashing without warning. The first time it happened, Vin was with him. They were talking when, suddenly, Chris gasped. His eyes rolled back in his head and his body went rigid. As the medical staff responded, they had to forcibly move Tanner. He held his friend’s hand tightly as he cried out to him.
“Goddamn it cowboy! Don’t you dare do this. Don’t you leave us pard... don’t you leave me. Chris!” he had fought the medicos briefly, his need to be with his best friend superseding the rational thought that he was impeding their resuscitation efforts. Finally he stumbled from the little room and into Josiah Sanchez.
The big man had heard the code called as he exited the elevator, and had hurried toward the room. As Tanner came crashing into him, he steeled for the worst and prayed for the best. “Vin? What is it son?”
Blue eyes looking bigger than ever, the young man tried to speak. Finally, after several tries, he simply shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.
Josiah wrapped his arms around the younger man and pulled him far enough down the hall that they were out of the way, but close enough to be back in the room in a heartbeat. Pulling away from him, Vin slid to the floor, wrapping his arms around his legs and dropping his head to his knees. Sanchez squatted beside him, gently massaging the trembling shoulders. They sat like that until the emergency equipment and personnel filed quietly from the room. The doctor came to where they sat
“We got him back. His vitals have stabilized. We’ll be keeping a close eye on him for a few hours, just in case.”
Tanner turned red-rimmed eyes toward the man. “Can I see ‘im a minute, Doc? I won’t try and wake ‘im up or nothin’...” he let the words trail off.
With a sympathetic smile, the man said “for just a minute.”
Managing a smile of thanks, the young man stretched to his feet and hurried toward the room, Josiah right behind him. The older man stopped at the door, allowing Tanner a private moment.
The next time Chris almost gave up the fight, Buck was alone in the room with him. It was the early morning, and the code echoed loudly through the hall. As if in a dream, he dropped Larabee’s hand gently and drifted from the room. The medical staff moved past him as if he weren’t there, leaving the big man standing in a corner, his arms wrapped tightly around himself.
When the crisis had passed, the pretty blond nurse that he had been flirting with for days came to deliver the news to the dark-haired agent. “He’s back Buck, and stabilized. Wen they’re all done, why don’t you go see for yourself? Then perhaps we could go get that cup of coffee.”
Managing a pale imitation of his usual smile, Wilmington nodded. When the emergency staff had cleared out, he walked with hesitant steps back into the room. Looking down at the far-too-pale face, he released a trembling sigh. “Damn stud, y’ scared me out of a year’s growth! Best y’ not be doin’ that again. Don’t reckon ol’ Buck could take another scare like that.” Then he sobered, scrubbing a hand across his face. “I don’t think you can take another spell like that, either. Damn it hoss, y’ can’t be checkin’ out on us yet. We need y’ here.” He squeezed the injured man’s hand gently, a smile spreading across his face as the hand in his squeezed back.
If was two weeks before Chris Larabee was completely out of the woods. Josiah, Nathan, Ezra and JD came to the hospital together, intent on dragging Buck and Vin away by force. They were all at the end of their ropes and in dire need of a release, but Buck and Vin had been hit the worst of all. Two weeks of worry, concern, little sleep and close quarters had the two men worn out.
When the four agents entered the ICU waiting room which was beginning to look more like Vin and Buck’s homes, they found the two men tossing a nerf ball back and forth, joking with one another.
“Well gentlemen,” Ezra said from where he leaned against the door jamb, “Either our compatriots have slipped on that slippery slope toward insanity, or our esteemed leader’s health has improved.”
“Hey fellas!” Vin called cheerfully as he tossed the foam rubber ball to JD.
“They’re gettin’ ready to move Chris to a regular room,” Buck informed them. “They even got a private room for him.”
“Must be ‘cause he’s so damned ‘cheerful’ when he starts feelin’ better,” Tanner laughed.
“Either that or they know one of us is always sneaking in after hours,” JD contributed.
“Reckon they just know us too well,” Buck sighed. “Only problem now is, how am I gonna keep workin’ on Jenny if Chris isn’t in ICU?”
“Ah hell, Buck,” Vin teased. “Y’ know she’s got a thing for Chris. We both saw how flushed lookin’ she was after she gave ‘im a sponge bath and shave the other day. Sure didn’t see her lookin’ like that after she left the other rooms.”
Five of the six men laughed heartily as the sixth sputtered an argument. They set to, cleaning up the scattered belongings of the two men. JD and Josiah carried the things down to Josiah’s car, as the others waited for word that Larabee was settled into his new room.
A short time later, Chris opened his eyes to the sound of his six team members and friends stealthily entering the room. “Damn, thought this was a private room,” he joked.
“Ah hell, Chris, y’ know them,” Buck indicated his companions. “None of ‘m would go without seein’ where they stuck y’.”
Rolling his eyes, Vin stepped up next to the bed. “We ain’t gonna stay long, pard. Just wanted t’ check in on y’ ‘fore we go home.”
“About time you two got out of here,” The blond sighed. “You both look like shit.”
“Well thanks a heap!” Tanner growled, a grin belying any anger he tried to project.
Chuckling, the blond reached out and clasped the younger man’s arm. His gaze took in all of his friends, but settled most intently on Vin and Buck. He tried to put into words how he felt about their concern and friendship. A thousand things were brought up and discarded as too inadequate. Finally, he said simply, “Thanks, guys.”
Vin was drunk. Very drunk. He tried to remember a time when he had been this drunk, but couldn’t. Of course he was also having some trouble remembering the name of the men beside him. He knew them, because their faces looked familiar. All four of them... or was it eight? Maybe three... two? Hell, he gave up, he wasn’t sure it mattered anyway.
Buck was drunk. Incredibly drunk. He had been drunk before, but this had to be the most drunk he had been in years. He knew he was riding in the back seat of a cab with Vin and JD, but he wasn’t certain just where they were going. He was holding a bag that smelled really good, like the kitchen at Inez’s. He wasn’t certain what was in it, though, or why he was carrying it.
JD was drunk. Stupifyingly drunk. Of course he had been drunk like this. Many times. Hadn’t he? He was a man. Wasn’t he? He was crammed in between two men on the roller coaster. They were on a roller coaster. Weren’t they? His stomach felt like it. If the ride wasn’t over soon, they’d have to hose the car out. And that smell. Like they had a deli near the ride. What a stupid place to put a deli. Why had he gotten on this ride anyway? Where was his face? He’d had it with him earlier, but he couldn’t feel it any longer.
“JD, qwit sa-lappin’ yer f-face!” Buck mumbled as he pulled the younger man’s hands from his face and cuffed him across the back of the head.
Some three blocks behind them drove another cab. Josiah and Nathan were in the back seat, while Ezra shared the front seat with the driver. They were... buzzed, tipsy, slightly inebriated. But none of them were confused as to their identity or destination. They were also rather frustrated. The three men they were pursuing had managed to give them the slip at Inez’s Bar, and were intent on making fools of themselves at the hospital. None of the three had any doubt that Denver General was the destination of the other cab.
All six men had gone out to celebrate Chris Larabee’s recovery. After Buck and Vin had gone home and slept away most of 48 hours, they had gone to unwind. As usual, they had ended up at Inez’s Bar, and all six had quietly handed over their keys to the beautiful young bar owner. They next ten hours had them running up a bar tab that would take a serious bite out of their next paycheck. Wisely, the young woman had kept bowls of chips and salsa filled on their table. She also placed sandwiches there when it became clear that they weren’t going to order dinner. They had simply smiled their thanks, devoured the food, and returned to their drinks. Of course Standish had his cards, and poker had begun almost as soon as they sat down. Between the arguments that ensued during the course of the card game, and the country music that Vin played, dropping quarters in the jukebox with a frequency that began to drive the others crazy, the bar was a very lively place throughout the evening.
Around midnight, Buck slapped his forehead and groaned, “ah hell!”
“Your hand that lousy Bucklin?” Vin teased.
“Y’all realize what today is?”
“Tuesday,” JD said, smiling drunkenly that he had been the one to solve the riddle.
“Yeah, but what Tuesday?”
“Oh no,” Josiah sighed over his bottle of beer.
“”Xactly,” Wilmington said, slapping the table hard enough to make the chips jump. “It’s Chris’ birthday!”
“Shit,” Vin sighed. “Forgot all ‘bout it. Well, reckon we could hold off on the celebratin’ til he’s on ‘is feet.”
“Reckon,” Buck sighed, “but don’t seem right not doin’ somethin’ t’ recognize th’ day.”
“Yeah, but Buck, it’s only just now his birthday. We’ve got the whole day yet.”
“Yeah, but...well, seems like we ought’a do somethin’ real special this year. I mean, we could be havin’ a wake here...” he cut himself off as his words sank in.
Clapping a reassuring hand on the younger man, Josiah said, “we’ll make it the most special birthday possible, but we’ll have to wait til Chris is home and able to handle a celebration.”
Slouching down in his chair, Wilmington continued to muse over the thought that they needed to do something for Chris. Then he smiled, and seemed to have sorted it all out. He left the table and walked toward where Inez was cleaning up behind the bar.
“Looks like Buck’s on the prowl again,” Vin chuckled. Then he tilted his head and watched with interest as the big man disappeared into the kitchen with the pretty woman. “Hell, looks like he might’a finally wore her down.”
JD looked after his friend and roommate curiously. “That’s impossible, unless...”
“Less what?” Vin prompted.
“Unless it’s a pity thing...she knows how worried he’s been lately.”
With a lopsided grin, the team sharpshooter staggered to his feet. “Nah, ain’t ‘bout t’ happen. C’mon JD, let’s go see what’s goin’ on.”
The two youngest members of the team stumbled off, leaving the other three agents to watch after them. Ezra shook his head and tossed his cards to the table. “Looks like we’ll be closing the game for a while.”
The three men had waited for at least fifteen minutes, but there was no sign that the other trio would be returning anytime soon. Finally the young bar owner returned to the bar, asking if they wanted anything more.
“What did you do with our friends, Inez, lock them in the cooler?”
She looked at them quizzically. “I thought they had already told you. They went to take Chris one of those special burritos he likes me to fix. They took a cab,” she reassured them.
They looked at one another, not really surprised at this turn of events. At least they others hadn’t tried to drive. Finishing their own drinks quickly, they said their good nights to the young woman and left to hail their own taxi. They would have to get to Buck, Vin and JD before they got into trouble with the medical staff of Denver General.
Chris Larabee sighed, flipping through the channels for a third time in as many minutes. He was feeling a lot better than the nurses and doctors would give him credit for, and he was bored. He wanted to get up... go home... do something that would make him feel like an adult human being rather than a pin cushion. He had just suffered yet another shot, this one a pain-killer...
Well, at least it was working, he mused. The monstrous pain he had too often endured since being shot was going away again. He began to relax as the drug worked its way through his body, leaving him in a comfortable fog. He leaned back into the pillow and sighed, staring at the screen, vaguely realizing that he had stopped his channel surfing on one of those home shopping shows. He wondered if he actually needed to order a double-sized jar of hair removal gel, or if he could live without it. Then a sound distracted him from his thoughts and he turned toward the door.
Buck slipped into the dimly lit room, staggering as he crossed the threshold. Close behind him came Vin, the typically sure-footed young man falling against the bigger man as Wilmington stopped suddenly.
“Damn it Buck!” Vin hissed in a stage whisper, “Wha’ th’ ‘ell y’ do’n?”
“Shhhh!” The bigger man hissed back, “shuddup ‘fore y’ git us bussdud.”
“You’re drunk,” the blond said from the bed.
“Aaaaaay, cowboy!” Vin called out as he walked across the room. His gait was rather like that of a man crossing a ship’s deck during a hurricane. “Da-am,” he hiccuped, “wassss rong wittha room?”
“JD?” Buck looked around him, seeking out their youngest member. He peered out the door like a spy in a fifties ‘B’ movie, then dropped to the floor, peering beneath Chris’ bed. “Where th’ hell did th’ squirt go?”
“Heeeee’s downstairs...’member?” Vin said, his head bobbing like a toy dog in the back window of a Pontiac. “Heeeeee’s keep’n th’ gu-ard bizzy so’s we could come seeeeeeee Cris.”
“You left him down there alone?” Larabee said sternly. “Thought we had a rule that we never left one of our own.”
“Hey Chris!” Tanner said happily, as if he had only just spotted the blond. “We come t’ sa-ay Ha...Ha...” he looked at Buck, confusion plain on his handsome young face.
“We came t’ say Happy Birthday, Chris,” Wilmington said, quite pleased with himself. Lumbering to his feet, the man handed Larabee the bag he had brought from Inez’s. It had only been partially smashed in his bid to find Dunne beneath the hospital bed. “This’iz fer you, stud.”
“Smells good,” the blond smiled. He had been craving food that didn’t come from a bag or in an indescribable mush of bland tastes and textures. It smelled like the contents of the bag would fit the bill, although he might have to scrape them off the brown paper. “From Inez’s?”
“Yup,” Tanner said, as he fell into chair. “Was gonna git’cha somethin’ else –“
“SHHHH!” Wilmington ordered, trying to glare at the younger man. “Y’ain’ s’pos’d ‘a say nuthin’ ‘bout that.”
“About what, Buck?” Chris asked, an evil glint coming to his eyes.
“”Bout th’ s’prise pardy we bin plannin’.”
Larabee chuckled as Buck continued to stare at Tanner, unaware of the fact that he had divulged the very secret he had been trying to keep Vin from telling. Shaking his head, he peeled open the bag to find one of the special burritos that Inez made for him. It was slightly damaged, but for the most part it was edible. “Wish I had something to drink with this,” he said wistfully.
“Know’d we fergot somethin’,” Vin said. He was sprawled in the chair now, barely conscious. “Was gon’ bring y’ some Jack...wasn’t we Buck?”
“Yup, but Inez said it’d cause probl’ms...don’t mix with all them drugs they been pumpin’ int’ y’.”
“Well, it’s the thought that counts I guess,” Chris sighed.
“I c’n go git’cha a soda,” Buck said, nodding. “Ain’ th’ same, but it’s better’n nuthin’.” Not waiting for Larabee to answer, the big man shuffled from the room, again looking in each direction before he opened the door completely.
Watching his old friend disappear, Chris shook his head, then looked over to where Vin sat. Tanner looked ready to fall from the chair. “Hey Vin, you awake?”
The younger man’s head jerked up, and he glared at the man in the bed. Finally realizing that he was looking at Chris, he settled back in the chair. “Hey Chris!” He said once more.
Laughing now, holding his side as he did, the team leader said, “hey Vin. You look mighty tired. Why don’t you go lay down? Pass out?”
Tanner turned the words over in his mind, slowly sorting through them to decipher their meaning. When he made some semblance of meaning of the string, he said, “reckon I awwwwddda.” With that he pushed himself to his feet, looking around him.
“Where’s what pard?”
“Ah hell, Tanner, you’re bed’s at your apartment. You’re in the hospital.”
“Haaus-biddle? Whadda my do’n inna haaaausspiddle?” With that he simply crawled into the bed next to his friend, boots and all.
“What the hell are you doing?” Larabee said, barely edging away from one narrow elbow before it found its way into his still healing abdomen. With a sound that was half groan and half sigh, he pulled the blanket over the other man. “Comfortable?”
“Yup,” Tanner mumbled.
“Want part of my burrito?”
“I’m gonna eat it then.”
Chris began eating the heavily spiced food, vaguely wondering what it was going to do to him in the morning. Deciding he really didn’t care at this point, he continued eating. Putting the now unconscious sharpshooter to good use, he rested his somewhat stiff left arm on the man’s chest. A short time later, the door again slipped open. He watched Buck slip in once more, this time followed by JD Dunne. The bigger man was dragging the smaller behind him. JD looked like he too was ready to pass out.
“Damn, Buck, how long have you boys been drinking?” Larabee asked around a mouth full of food.
“Drink’n? Who said we bin drinkin’?” The big man said.
“Me. How long?”
“Mmmm...dunno. ‘Member go’n int’ Inezzzz’ssss ‘bout two I think.”
“Two? In the afternoon?”
Shaking his head, Chris turned to where JD was slumped in the chair Vin had only recently abandoned. The kid looked about as green as he could ever recall seeing a man. “Buck, think you better get someone a wastebasket.”
“Ah, hell,” Wilmington grumbled. Finally locating the receptacle, he handed it to Dunne, who promptly put it to use. “Damn, boy. Y’ can’t hold yer liquor...hey! Where’s Vin?”
Shaking his head, the blond pulled down the blanket to reveal the lean body in bed next to him. Somehow the younger agent had managed to slide completely beneath the blankets. “He fell asleep.”
“Boy, git yer ass up outta that bed!” Buck ordered.
“Mister Wilmington, it may behoove you to lower your voice.” Ezra Standish said from the door.
“Damn it son!” Wilmington cursed. “Y’ ‘bout scared me outta m’ britches!”
“Well, if it had been a woman, there wouldn’t be any scare about it, on your part anyway.” Josiah said as he nudged Standish into the room and followed him. “Sorry about this Chris, they got away from us.”
Tilting the can of soda Buck had finally handed him, the team leader said, “not a problem. Just get them out of here before the staff finds them.”
Leaning in toward the blond, Josiah said, “they already know. Nathan’s down there now, making certain no one comes in for a few minutes. We explained that it’s your birthday, and these three had been doin’ a bit too much celebratin’. They’re not happy, but as long as we get them out of here pretty quick, it’ll be okay.” Moving away from the bed, he said a little louder, “we’d better make this fast, boys. I saw a couple of unhappy orderlies comin’ this way.”
“Ah, hell,” Buck said with a pout. “Ain’t fair, we can’t cel’brate yer birthday Chris.”
“Time enough for that later,” Larabee said. “I ain’t going anywhere.”
Even Vin and JD responded to that remark in some way. The thought that their leader would be back to work, riding herd over them soon, was one that had made this day as happy as it was.
While Ezra gingerly took the wastebasket away from JD and deposited it behind the closed door of the bathroom, Buck grabbed the young man under one arm and pulled him to his feet.
“Wha-“ Dunne mumbled.
“C’mon JD, it’s time t’ go home.”
“Izza pardy over?”
Laughing, the dark-haired man said, “yeah kid, the party’s over.” Turning to his old friend, he said, “Happy birthday stud. Glad you’re here t’ share ‘t with us.”
“Thanks Buck... me too.”
Josiah, having spotted the young sharpshooter, pulled the blanket away and gently slapped the finely chiseled face. “Come on Vin, time to wake up.”
“Time to wake up.”
“No,” Tanner grumbled, trying to use Chris’ shoulder as a pillow.
Grimacing as the man jostled his still healing body, the blond nudged him. “Come on Vin. It ain’t that I don’t think you’re good looking and all, but you ain’t my type.”
“Wha...hmmm?” Tanner mumbled in confusion.
“I believe Mister Larabee would prefer that you leave his bed, and go home to your own.” Ezra explained as he stood at the foot of the bed.
Managing to peel one eye open, the young sharpshooter tried to focus on where he was and who was talking to him. Nothing made sense, and he tried to go back to sleep.
“Oh no you don’t,” Josiah pulled the smaller man up and slung him over his shoulder.
“Hey!” Vin yelped.
“Good night Vin,” Chris said with a smile. Ezra came around and helped him ease into a more comfortable position.
Lifting his shaggy head up enough to find the source of the voice that had spoken to him, Vin brightened. “Hey Chris!”
Shaking his head, Larabee said, “Hey Vin.”
“Whaddam I...” he swiveled around and said, “hey Josiah!”
“Hey Vin,” the big man said fondly.
“Where’m I goin’?”
“Home to sleep it off brother,” Sanchez answered.
“Oh...’kay,” his head started to drop back down, but he suddenly remembered something. Craning his neck to find his best friend as Josiah headed for the door, he called out, “Chris!”
“What?” Larabee feigned irritation.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY PARD!”
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