The Tooth Shall Set You Free

by Brate

ATF Universe

Disclaimer: I own none of the characters; I just use them for a bit of fun.

Notes: Thanks, Gemini, for the beta.

Part One: To Tell the Tooth
Team Seven had finished their last mission with little trouble, and even less fanfare. The only thing that Vin Tanner wanted to do at the moment was enjoy a sugar rush. He reached into his "snack drawer" and brought out a dark chocolate Dove bar. He bit into it, relishing the creamy texture and very unwholesome goodness. When the Texan took another bite, an immense bolt of pain shot through his mouth and into his jaw.

The sharpshooter grasped his head, barely containing a groan, and cringed. He'd been having some trouble with one of his back teeth, but hadn't realized it was so bad. Looking around, hoping no one noticed, Vin saw his irate leader storm over from the break room.

"Dammit, Tanner!" the blond yelled. "You don't have the sense God gave the warthog. Just go to the damn dentist," Chris Larabee ordered, bringing the sharpshooter's predicament to the attention of the rest of the team.

"I ain't going," Vin responded.

"Why?" asked JD, coming to watch the fireworks as the two friends argued.

"Don't like the dentist's office."

"C'mon, Vin," Buck chimed in. "No one likes the dentist."

"Never said I don't like the dentist, just don't like his office."

The rest of the team arrived at Vin's desk, their curiosity sparked. "Why don't you like the office?" asked Nathan.

"It smells."

Laughter erupted from the undercover agent. "You must be joking!"

"I'm serious. Those places smell really weird and it makes me sick." Tanner didn't like all the attention thrust his way, and was looking for a way to extricate himself when the profiler spoke up. "I might have a solution." All eyes turned to him as Josiah continued, "I go to a more natural dentist, and his office smells like the incense he burns. I've never had a problem with him."

Chris watched his sharpshooter mull this over. "It's your choice, Vin. You will make a dentist appointment today, or you will be assigned desk duty."

"Oh, like that's a choice. Maybe you should gouge out m'eyes 'cause I need to see the optometrist."

"Get on the phone... now!" Chris tossed out before stalking away.

Josiah retrieved the number and Vin made the call. Because of a cancellation, the long-haired Texan was given an immediate appointment. His friends offered to chauffeur, but were turned down; Vin assured them that he could manage the drive all by himself.

He pulled up to the office, noting it looked like a normal office on the outside. When he entered, it seemed more like someone's living room. There were two couches serving as the waiting area, potted plants spread throughout the room, and seascapes adorned the walls. The Texan inhaled deeply, but smelled only the scent of the vanilla candle burning on the desk. He walked past the couches, and informed the receptionist of his arrival.

She ushered him back into a room, outfitted in a jungle motif, with a dentist's chair painted in camouflage in the center. While he waited for the dentist, he looked at the silly pictures hung on the walls, instead of the usual "Don't let this happen to your teeth!" posters. In a few minutes the doctor arrived, introducing himself as David, and began to check the agent over. After learning how long it had been since Vin's last dental appointment, he immediately took x- rays of Vin's teeth.

"So are we gonna do some 'natural' medicine?" he asked the dentist.

"No, I'm afraid that I use pretty much the same treatments as the others do, I just like to practice in a more comfortable atmosphere."

"So ya won't be chantin' and dancin' around to fix m'teeth?"

David chuckled, "Not unless I get to charge you extra for it."

"Fair 'nuff."

A thorough cleaning was performed with a stern reminder to floss every day. Then the doctor left to go check the pictures of Vin's teeth, soon returning with the news.

"Mr. Tanner, I'm afraid you have a very badly decayed rear molar and it will have to be removed."

"Cain't ya jest put a fillin' in?" asked the sharpshooter.

"If you would've come to me sooner, yes," the dentist responded with a pointed look. "But now the damage is too extensive." Seeing the worried expression of the man in his chair, David hurried to reassure his patient. "It's really no problem. We put you under for about twenty minutes, perform the extraction, and its absence won't be noticeable because it's the furthest back."

"I guess if that's m'only option..."

"You'll need to arrange for a ride; you won't be fit to drive for at least eight hours after the drug is administered."

"No problem. I'm sure I can get a volunteer. Can I use yer phone?"

A few moments later, Vin returned to his place in the chair, nodding at the nurse now in the room. "Ride's all set, let's get to it, Doc."

The dentist motioned the hygienist forward. She held a syringe. "Now this is going to make you relaxed and a bit drowsy, Mr. Tanner," she said of the drug.

He nodded in understanding and began counting backwards as instructed. "Twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen... sixteen... fifteen... fourte..."

+ + + + + + +

"Chris, we got a problem," informed Buck.

Larabee clutched the phone receiver tight as he responded, "What?"

"Vin's not here."

"Where is he?" the leader demanded.

"They don't know."

"What do you mean 'They don't know?' He was in their care!"

"He told the dentist he had a ride coming and sat down for about ten minutes to wait. When he got up and left, they just assumed his ride was here."

"Where could he have gone?" Chris mused aloud.

"Anywhere," Buck said, unknowingly echoing his leader's thoughts.

"You and JD stay put, we're on the way."

+ + + + + + +

After verifying Vin's jeep was still in the parking lot, the six men spread out to the surrounding area to search for their missing friend. Three hours later, the frustrated men returned to their office, after having failed to turn up any leads on their friend's disappearance.

"What if he was recognized from one of his assignments? He could be in real danger."

"Don't you think I know that, Buck?" the blond snapped. "I'm putting an APB out on him," he told the others. "We'll get some police support to find him." He went into his office, and as he rounded the desk, the phone rang. "Larabee," he barked.

"Um, hello. Do you know a Vin Tanner?" asked the woman on the line.

"Yes!" Chris practically shouted, bringing everyone to the door of his office. "Do you know where he is?"

"Well, my name is Karen and he's here at Franklin Terminal. I found a badge in his pocket and the main desk connected me to you."

"Is he all right?" The other team members heard the question and began to motion for information. "Bus station," Chris mouthed silently, as he heard the woman answer in the affirmative.

"What the...?" Nathan started.

JD asked, "Is he going somewhere?"

Chris made shushing gestures at the men as Karen continued.

"He wandered in a couple hours ago and has been sleeping on one of the benches here. He really doesn't want to wake up, and he didn't look like a bum, so I thought he might need some help."

"Vin just had a tooth pulled today. Thank you so much for calling. We'll be there in five minutes."

"I'll keep an eye on him."

Chris hung up the phone. "Let's go, boys."

+ + + + + + +

Five men looked down at their teammate, curled up on a bench, softly snoring.

"Look at him," chuckled Buck. "Junior looks so peaceful when he's sleeping."

Chris arrived back with his men in time to hear the comment. "I thanked Karen. Let's get Sleeping Beauty home."

As they lifted him up for transport, Vin began to rouse. "Hey, guys," he grinned happily, rubbing his eyes with his palms. "Wanna see m'tooth?"

"Nice," commented Chris after being shown the bloody molar. He placed one of Vin's arms over his shoulder to guide the drugged sharpshooter as Ezra grabbed the other side.

"If we're lucky that's his sweet tooth," Buck teased from behind.

"Then I better put it back in," Vin replied seriously.

Stopping his friend from his attempt to replace the tooth, Ezra said, "Might I suggest you put it under your pillow where you may receive compensation from the Tooth Fairy?"

"Good idea. Thanks, Ez." The Texan tightened his hold on the precious treasure and allowed himself to be led to the parking lot.

Once they got Tanner settled in Chris' Ram, he passed out again, snuggling down into the window.

"I'll take him home with me to sleep it off," Chris said. "You guys stop over later for dinner."

"Can we mess with him?" Buck asked, smiling in anticipation.

"It would be a nice change to get the prankster for once," Josiah agreed.

"No," Chris stated in a voice that brokered no argument, as he walked to the other side of his vehicle. "He's vulnerable now, and he trusts me to watch his back." He looked at all the downcast faces as he got in his truck. "But if I'm in the other room, he's all yours," he told his crew.

Pulling away from the parking lot, Larabee glanced in the rearview mirror to see the men already making plans.

Part Two: And Nothing But the Tooth

Chris Larabee helped maneuver his best friend onto the couch. He had brought him back to the ranch, and with very little help from the sharpshooter, into the house. Vin was still feeling some effects from the medication he'd been given to have his tooth pulled. Chris looked down at the sleeping agent. "You're too much damn trouble, Cowboy," he muttered. But worth it, he added internally. He pulled a blanket over Vin, and ambled into his kitchen.

He'd promised the others dinner, and knew better than to renege with his team. Searching the kitchen, he discovered enough hamburger and extras; he figured they could grill out on the barbeque. That way the mess would be kept to a minimum, since the leader was certain he would be cleaning up alone.

The blond had managed to make a couple dozen patties by the time he heard the approaching vehicles. Glancing in on the Texan, he saw the slumbering man turn over and resume his snoring. Chris smiled. There was no way his friends were going to let this opportunity pass; he just wondered what they would come up with. Looking around his home, he hoped it was nothing too destructive. He went to open the door, and warn the team of the sleeping man before the boisterous group burst in.

When he opened the door and saw the first arrivals, he couldn't stop the chuckle that burst forth. On the porch were Buck and JD, only not dressed as they usually were. The ladies' man was wearing an expensive suit, tie, and Italian shoes. "Good evening to you, Mr. Larabee," Buck drawled in a false, albeit good, Southern accent. "And what delightful provisions are available for our consumption?"

Speechless, Chris turned, as he was addressed by the youngest member of his team, now clad in a sport coat and khakis, habitually worn by the medic in the group. "How's Vin? Is he resting? He should be resting after the surgery he went through today; his body needs time to heal."

Retrieving the ability of communication, Chris spoke without inflection, "You guys are nasty."

"I assure you, I have no idea to what you are referring, Mr. Larabee. Mr. Jackson and I have arrived, per your invitation, to dinner. Were we required to bring refreshments?"

JD stood next to his partner in crime, grinning, as another vehicle rolled up the drive.

Ezra exited Nathan's Explorer; followed by the last two team members. Standish was in a flannel shirt and jeans. "Brothers, why are we all standing around out here? Are we enjoying the beauty of nature with which God has blessed us?"

Josiah answered the question, "C'mon guys," he fairly gushed. "Are we gonna eat or what? I'm starving." He looked enormously out of place in jeans, Foo Fighters tee shirt, and a newsboy cap on his head.

Last came Nathan. "I jest want y'all to know I'm giving up a chance at heaven tonight; I had to say no to Becky," he grinned mischievously. The healer was outfitted in a Hawaiian shirt and tight blue jeans. "She done near cried her eyes out."

"He's in on the couch, sleeping," announced Chris after the men finished showing off for themselves. "And you are on your own. I'll be in the back tending the grill."

As Chris took the meat patties out back, the five men trooped into the living room and stared down at their fellow agent. "Mr. Dunne," quietly called out the real Ezra. "Go get us some beers, and one empty beer can."

"Why do you want an empty one?" the youngest questioned.

"Just do it."

Grumbling, JD complied as the others found their seats and Josiah made a move to turn on the TV before Standish stopped him. "Wait just a minute, Mr. Sanchez. I don't want our comrade to wake up quite yet."

The preacher held the remote in his hand, waiting for whatever plan Ezra came up with. When JD returned with the beers, he passed one out to each man, while Ezra took the empty one, wrapping Vin's hand around it. "Now, JD," he said. "Remember what Nathan would think of Vin drinking beer in his condition." JD grinned as Ezra sat down in the chair, nodding to Josiah. The large man turned on the basketball game and the men began cheering loudly, as if they'd been watching for a while.

Vin started awake and looked around, blinking his eyes. Once he focused on the group in the room with him, he noticed something was off. "What're y'all doin' here?" he asked.

"Why, Mr. Tanner," Buck replied, "we were invited to watch the game and eat dinner, don't you recall?"

"Buck?" Vin questioned.

"Yeah," Nathan answered. "What's up, Junior?"

The sharpshooter turned to look at the healer and realized what he was wearing. "Why are ya dressed like that, Nate?"

"Why shouldn't I be wearing this?" JD asked. "It's what I normally wear."

Tanner looked over at the young agent and blinked his eyes again.

"You okay, Vin? Want me to go get Chris?" Josiah eagerly asked. "I can go get him."

"Would you like another beer, Brother?" Ezra inquired, all trace of his accent gone.

Vin shook his head in confusion. He noticed the can in his hand and placed it on the table next to him, before rubbing his hands over his eyes. He looked around the room once more. "How long y'all been here?"

"Not long, 'bout an hour. Are you okay?" asked Nathan.

"It's that beer, isn't it?" JD demanded. "I told you not to drink it while ya still had the dentist's drugs in your system, and ya went ahead anyway. You guys never listen when I give ya good advice."

"My dear Mr. Jackson," Buck drawled, "it's not that we don't listen, it's that you give so much advice that we cannot possibly accept it all."

Josiah asked again, "Should I get Chris?"

"No, I think I jest need some air," Vin responded. "Where is he?"

"Should be cooking the burgers," Nathan told his friend. "Chris is sure to burn 'em. Why don't you check on him?"

Vin nodded and retreated out the rear of the house. Once he left the room, the five men launched into action, racing out front to the Explorer, and changed into their duplicate set of clothes stashed in the back. They had bought two sets of each outfit, in the two sizes to fit each of the men wearing them. Once everyone was back in their proper attire, they hid the other clothes in the rear of the vehicle, and resumed their places in the living room. Just as they sat down, they heard their two friends returning from the grill.

"I'm tellin' ya Chris, I think they're nuts. They'se all wearing weird outfits and talkin' funny."

JD had to smother his laughter as he heard the Texan trying to convince Chris of their insanity. The other men quickly hid their grins as the sharpshooter led his leader into the room.

Stopping short at the entrance, Tanner looked around at the men seated on the furniture. "What the hell's goin' on?

Buck looked up, surprised. "We done told you, Junior. We're watching the game and waiting for Chris to get done killing our burgers."

" was...I mean..." The flabbergasted agent wasn't sure which way to turn.

Chris stood behind him, with a slight smirk on his face. He shook it off and turned his friend around. "Everything looks fine to me, Vin. Why don't you go wash up, maybe splash some water on your face?"

The Texan nodded and left the room. The six men waited a few moments before breaking out in laughter.

"I wish I had a video camera," cackled Nathan with tears streaming down his face.

JD was having a hard time catching his breath. Buck was doubled over on the floor and Josiah sat grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

"Did you see the look on his face?" asked Ezra through the laughing.

Team Seven managed to get themselves under control prior to Vin's reentry, but just barely. The subdued sharpshooter merely asked when the meal would be ready, and reported he was going for a walk.

Josiah looked around at his associates. "So, who gets to explain this to Brother Vin at work tomorrow?"

All eyes turned toward Chris. The leader raised his hands up in surrender. "No way! This was all your idea."

"Maybe we should we draw straws?" the youngest asked.

Part Three: Tooth, Justice, and the Texan Way

Vin Tanner walked out the front door of Chris' ranch house and stood on the porch. He was furious. When he went to wash his face, he'd come back to hear all his friends laughing at him, unable to contain their glee. Knowing he'd been tricked, he played it cool until he could come up with a plan.

He spotted the two vehicles parked in the drive and went to the first one. He found nothing in Buck's truck, so he peered through the window of Nate's Explorer. There in the back lay a heap of very familiar clothing. Gotcha! he thought.

Of course, they had gotten him first. And now there had to be some kind of payback. He hated the fact that they'd fooled him, but he reluctantly admired they way they'd done it. He wondered who had come up with the plan. But in his own defense, he had been drugged earlier this afternoon, and it was in poor taste to take advantage of the infirmed. Drugged... that gave him an idea. The sharpshooter scanned the area for a suitable position. His mouth spread wide into a grin as his eyes landed on the stable.

It should be high enough.

+ + + + + + +

JD glanced at the clock again. "It's been a while; shouldn't Vin be back by now?"

The men finished patting each other on the back and relating to Chris exactly what happened while he was grilling the burgers. "He's probably trying to find his right mind." Buck laughed.

"JD's right," agreed Nathan. "Where do you think he is?"

Chris turned to look out the window. "I'm going to go look for him," the leader stated, walking out the front door, followed quickly by his team members.

It was a dark night; only a partial moon lit the grounds. After looking around the vicinity, none of the men were able to spot the missing man. Chris was getting frustrated. "Vin!" he called out. There was no response. The others joined in with their shouts.

"Mr. Tanner!"



"Brother Vin!"

"Where the hell are you, Cowboy?" yelled Chris.

As the last cry died, a voice drifted down from above, "Shut up! Ya'll scare her away."

Turning toward the sound of the voice, six men glanced upward, and saw that their sharpshooter had taken up residence on top of the horse barn.

"What are you doing up there, Vin?" hollered JD.

"I'm tryin' to wait fer her," Vin answered. He was sitting cross- legged at the apex of the roof, a couple feet back from the edge.

"Wait for who?"

"The Tooth Fairy."

Chris and the others exchanged startled glances. A concerned conference took place.

"Do you think he's flipped?" asked Buck.

Josiah offered a more reasonable solution. "Maybe our brother is having a reaction to the medication from earlier today."

"Either that, or the many years of snack food has drained his brain."

"Can it!" Larabee ordered. "Nathan, what do you think?"

"I'm not sure. Ezra did mention the Tooth Fairy earlier, so maybe he's having an allergic flashback of some sort."

All eyes turned toward the Southerner. He held up his hands to ward off the accusatory glares. "Now, I was merely joking with the man, I had no idea..."

"It's not Ez's fault," Nathan said, coming to the conman's rescue. "For once." Ezra scowled as the medic continued, "I believe Vin may possibly be susceptible to suggestion at this point."

"This could be fun," posed the ladies' man.

"Knock it off, Buck," snapped the blond.

"How 'bout we suggest he come down?" JD offered.

"We could try," Nathan agreed.

Chris hesitated. "Are you sure there's nothing else we should be doing?"

"Unless you want to try to climb up there and drag him down, I'd advise trying to get him to come down the way he went up."

"Okay, here goes." Chris took a deep breath and spun around to face his best friend forty feet above him. "Hey, Vin," he called. "I think you're supposed to put your tooth under a pillow and wait inside for her. Why not come down and we'll wait together?"

Vin scoffed, "Ain't never seen her inside; I gotta see her when she arrives. Now go 'way before y'all scare her off."

Chris looked back at his friends for help. "Any ideas?"

"How about we go and get the extension ladder?" Josiah proposed.

Larabee vetoed the idea. "Not tall enough."

"Call the fire department?" JD offered.

"And tell 'em what? Our sharpshooter is stuck in a tree?" Buck slapped the younger agent on the head. "He ain't a cat, JD."

Any more suggestions were rendered moot as the Texan raised himself up and stepped forward toward the edge of the roof. "I think I see her."

Team Seven looked around, but saw nothing. "Where is she, Vin?"

Vin pointed to a spot in the distance. "Right there."

Still unable to see anything, except for the apparently deranged ranting of a drugged sharpshooter, the men looked at each other for clues of what to do.

Nathan shrugged. "I'm at a loss."

"She wants me ta come with her," floated down from above.

"What?" Chris began to panic as he saw his best friend lean out over open air. "No, no, she doesn't, Vin. She takes the tooth, leaves money, and moves on to the next house."

Vin stared down at his teammate. "How do you know that?"

"Everyone knows about the Tooth Fairy, right, guys?"

"Oh, yes," Josiah spoke.

Ezra added, "I concur with Mr. Larabee."

"Yeah, Vin," agreed JD. "She always did that when she came to my house."

"All right," the sharpshooter relented. He gazed out over the pasture. "…but I think flyin' with her would be more fun." With that he leapt from the roof of the barn.

Six men watched in horror as their misguided friend plummeted toward the earth, only to stop short, with a grunt, six feet up.

"Shit!" the flying Texan cursed. "I didn't think that would hurt so much."

Team Seven's eyes tracked the bungee-corded body harness from their swinging friend, up the rope, to where it was attached to the overhang of the roof. They'd been too preoccupied to notice the rig.

"You son of a bitch!" Larabee roared. "Don't you have any sense of self-preservation?"

Grinning madly, Tanner continued to sway back and forth as he hung suspended from the roof. "You shoulda seen y'all's faces. It was priceless!" He cackled as he dangled, seeing his enraged friends' expressions. "And when did y'all start b'lievin' in the Tooth Fairy, anyway?"

"I say we use him as a piñata," Buck grumbled, grabbing the sharpshooter by the leg and swinging him around.

"We could, but if he busts, I doubt there's anything worthwhile inside," the healer responded in disgust. "Certainly no brains."

"Hey, you guys, can ya let me down now?"

"See you in the morning, Vin," said Chris as he began strolling to the house.

"Ya cain't leave me here," Tanner called after his friend.

"Want to bet?" snapped Ezra as he and the rest of the team trailed behind their leader.

The Texan watched all his friends disappear into the ranch house. "Guys?...Guys?!?"

The End

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