Chris's Ranch Sunday 6.45am
'Vin was on form yesterday. Seems tired though.' Mary
and Chris were cuddled up in Chris's bed. Billy had finally fallen asleep
on the couch and Chris had put him in Adam's room, Vin was already in possession
of the spare bedroom off the kitchen.
'He's been getting up before dawn to go watch the sunrise
on the mountain.' Chris stopped, contemplating whether to continue. He decided
to go ahead since he knew Mary wouldn't say anything and he needed to tell
someone. 'He's met someone. He won't give me any details - says he's not
ready but I guess he's smitten since he arrived back that morning looking
like he'd been hit by lightening. I'm happy for him - I just hope it turns
out like he wants.'
'Smitten? Chris what a word! Sounds like something my
grandmother would have
.' Mary broke off as she was suddenly struck
by a thought. It couldn't be. Snatches of several conversations came back
.perfect for JD
.Chris live near
up at dawn
'Oh my God!'
'It's Angel.' Seeing the doubt on his face she went on
'I know you think I'm crazy but I saw Angel on Friday. She had a smug look
and admitted she'd met someone - said she'd be spending the weekend admiring
the sunrises and maybe sunsets.'
'Mary that doesn't mean it's her. This is a local girl.
He met her riding. We think she may have moved into the Daniels place on
. Why are you shaking your head?'
'Angel bought the Daniels place with her inheritance
from Mum and Dad, she got it when she turned 21. She rides a white horse
called Highho. Tell me now I'm not right.'
'They don't know.' Chris started to smile. This was too
good to be true. They could sit back and watch while the two danced around
each other and he could get revenge for both his humiliation at being caught
naked by Angel and for all the practical jokes Vin pulled. Perfect.
'Should we tell them?'
'No, we'll let them find out and watch them squirm as
they figure out how to tell us.' They smiled at each other and cuddled back
under the blankets.
Warehouse District - November Wednesday 8pm
The buyers were getting antsy. Edgar Seavers was trying
to placate them.
'Gentlemen. I suggest we bring our transaction to a mutually
satisfactory conclusion and retire to warmer climes. I will sincerely pray
never to partake of another Colorado Winter. Who selected this draughty mausoleum
as a rendezvous anyway?' The Southern drawl was heavily pronounced and everyone
seemed to relax slightly at the thinly veiled disgust in the fancy dressed
man's voice. It was only November. Soft southern wuss.
After checking with his assistant, Gomez stepped forward
and handed the briefcase to the mustasched bodyguard. 'We are satisfied that
the weapons are present in both quality and quantity. Thank you for your
time Mr Seavers.' To his own bodyguards 'Boys.' They began to withdraw into
'Pleasure to be of service to you Mr Gomez.' At the signal
' Buck and Ezra were already diving for
cover as the arms dealer turned to them. 'You fucking asshole you sold me
out. I'll kill you.' Raising his gun toward the undercover agent Gomez's
finger tightened on the trigger just as the top of his head disintegrated.
He fell to the floor in a heap but not before getting off a shot.
'EZ, EZ, speak to me.'
Gomez's goons were already laying down their arms and
being subdued by the rest of Team 7.
'Dammit Ezra. Why didn't you answer?' This from an irate
'I was shot in the chest Mr Larabee and my eloquence
escaped hand in hand with my ability to respirate. However I am once more
able to benefit my colleagues with my extended vocabulary and dulcet tones.
SHIT BUCK THAT HURT.'
'You hit? Ezra?' Nathan.
'S'OK Nate he was wearing a vest.' Buck
EZ was wearing a vest? Rolling onto his back, Tanner
breathed again. Thank God. He'd got the shooter only to see the dead man's
hand tighten on his weapon. He couldn't have done anything else, or perhaps
he could have been quicker? He was assailed with self-doubt as he heard Chris
telling him to get back to the ground.
Team 3 came in to clean up as 7 made their way wearily
to the vehicles. It had been a stop, go, stop, go scenario for 3 weeks and
they were wrung out.
Chris caught up with Vin by the van. 'Wasn't your fault
Vin, He'd moved behind the car. No planning can foresee temporary obstacles.
Ez is fine. Can you believe him? He never wears that 'unsightly garment'.
No wonder we never beat him at poker, he has the luck of the Irish.'
Vin smiled at him, partly mollified. Chris grinned back.
Maybe. Gotta call.
How's it going?
'Those conversations are getting way too interesting.
Who do you think she is?' Nathan and Josiah were watching the boss and the
sharpshooter from the front seat of Nathan's Cherokee.
'I don't know Brother but she seems good for him.'
The Boys had finally witnessed enough silent exchanges
to know a woman was involved. The increasing frequency of the looks had annoyed
Buck enough to joke they were probably talking about a woman and Vin's blush
had given him away. It had taken Chris a morning of 'quiet words' to put
a stop to the constant teasing. It still happened, but only for as much as
the quiet man was able to take. Chris had been concerned that someone might
get shot and he did not want that kind of headache.
Nah. Think I'll surprise her.
They arrived back at the ATF building and they all split
up and headed home. Celebratory drinks for a successful sting would be Friday.
Angel's Cabin 9.30pm
He shut off the motor on the Harley as he cruised up
the driveway in silence. Pulling up he quietly let himself in with his key.
Treading softly towards the living area he marvelled anew at the soft wood,
gold and copper tones that was all the furnishings. Arabian Tribal rugs covered
the floor and a huge footstool and battered brown sofa faced the picture
windows along the outside wall. Somewhere he could hear a stereo playing
the first few notes of 'Desperado'. It felt homey.
Noting that the only source of light was the unattended
fireplace he scanned the empty room. She couldn't have gone far. Turning
to retrace his steps he found himself facing the business end of a .45. Vin
thought his heart might have stopped.
'Jesus Vin. Warn me will you? I could have shot you!'
The hand holding the gun fell to her side.
'Where the fuck did ya get that?'
He was furious and Angel took a step back. What was this
He snatched the gun from her hands and she let it go.
'Didn't anyone tell ya not to have a gun unless ya know how to use it? Are
ya crazy? Don't scare me like that.' He grabbed her round the waist and pulled
her to him in a fierce hug.
'Were you worried about me, Vin?' He didn't let go. 'Vin?
Vin, what happened?'
today... I nearly lost a friend, a brother,
because of a handgun. Sorry. Seeing ya with that was just
shouldn'ta thought ya didn't know how
.' He looked at the gun over her
shoulder as he spoke and suddenly started yelling again. 'The fuckin' safety's
on! Angel, aintcha got any sense? I could'a shot ya myself before you'da
gotten a round in the chamber.' He raked his hand through his hair and went
back to the living room expertly removing the cartridge from the handle and
making the weapon safe without even looking at it. Angel watched as he dropped
onto the couch.
'Don't. Just don't. Oh Shit. Angel, I know ya hate to
talk about work but I gotta tell ya, I'm an ATF Agent and I see people shot,
my friends shot, all the time. Hell I even get shot myself occasionally.
I know how much it hurts and I don't want ta see ya go through that. Please
don't ever mess with the gun again OK? Promise me.'
Angel was stunned speechless. She'd watched him dismantle
the gun and wondered if perhaps he was a cop. They'd never spoken about their
work since she'd brought him home from their rock. But ATF? She was going
to have to ask him to take his clothes off in her office. She nearly swallowed
'Angel? Promise me.'
'I can't.' It came out as a whisper as she sank onto
his lap. Putting her arms around him she braced herself for the anticipated
explosion. Vin opened his mouth to berate her again but stopped when she
looked up and her eyes turned a shade of moss green as they filled. 'Vin
I want to but I can't. Don't look at me like that. I'm ATF too. It's part
of my job. I can tell you that I rarely carry it. I spend most of my time
at HQ and only take it for undercover
'Shit ya go undercover?' Then, 'How come I've never seen
ya at the office?'
'I don't go under often, usually when they need an unknown
dumb blonde to play somebody's girlfriend. I'm normally so scantily clad
that there's nowhere to hide the damn gun anyway.' Vin's eyes widened at
this admission. ATF? Undercover? Scantily clad? Scantily clad. 'Ya strut
around with traffickers and dealers half dressed? I s'pose every Agent in
the city's seen ya in that black Band-Aid ya wore last Saturday?'
Unsure at the unexpected direction of the conversation
Angel looked into his eyes and sighed. 'I thought you liked that dress?'
'I'm a man Angel, course I liked it. When I'm with ya.
When everyone kin see yer with me. Not...not... flauntin' it fer some other
'It doesn't mean anything Vin. Hell, I played a Lingerie
model on a catwalk once. No-one knew where to put the wire. But I never have
to take an assignment, they are all purely optional since I'm technically
stationed in the office. I haven't done any undercover work since coming
to Denver. And I won't if it makes you uncomfortable.'
'No I'm sorry. I have no right to ask ya to give up part
of your job just 'cause I'm having a problem with all the guys I work with
droolin' over m' girl. What kinda comments do ya get after? Judging by my
team ya'd never have a minute's peace.'
'Actually that's the beauty of the real part of my job.
It only takes one public set down and all the others fall into line.' She
waited and he rose to the bait.
'I'm the MD. No one is willing to upset the one woman
who has held every male Agent's most precious jewels and told him to cough!'
Vin's mouth fell open. 'I can't believe ya said that.
Wait a minute. Does that mean that you
Aw Hell!' Vin could
FEEL the blush spreading across his cheeks.
'Don't panic Vin, I can always ask the nurse to take
over in special circumstances. Course you'd have to make it worth my while
Who knows, by the time your Phys comes round perhaps you'll be resigned to
the idea.' She wiggled her eyebrows at him in a parody of the look he usually
shot at her.
This sounded promising. They'd spent a lot of down time
together but mostly talked and gone riding. It had been three months and
he hadn't got past first base.
'Angel.' His voice was low and he brushed his lips on
hers. Hmmm. Nice. Angel was enjoying the calloused hand creeping up under
her sweater until something else occurred to her.
'Get a grip hotshot, which team?'
Shit. 'I've met your boss. Larabee right? In fact, last
time I saw him I saw more than I needed to!'
'Ya KNOW Chris?'
'I'm Mary's sister.'
The penny dropped. Oh God. 'Ya reckon they know?' She
thought for a bit. 'Probably.'
'I'm gonna shoot him. Ya told her much?'
'Not really. Chris?'
'No specifics. What did ya mean when ya said 'more than
ya needed to?'
She told him about meeting Chris and he laughed till
he cried. No wonder Chris had been embarrassed when they asked him about
Mary's sister. At least he didn't know they were on to them. This could be
useful. 'We have ta work on an angle.'
'Did you come on the bike?' At his nod, 'we have plenty
of time then. It's snowing. You'll have to stay and drive in with me in the
morning, we can stop at your place on the way.'
'Ya askin' me to spend the night with ya?' He met her
'I'll fix you some food. I know you're always hungry.
While you eat I'll make up the spare. No trouble.' She added before he could
use that argument.
Disappointment and resignation warred in his eyes. 'Angel,
why? I mean, aside from ya bein' a lady an' all and ya know I'll never push
ya into anythin', but... Why?' It wasn't exactly a coherent sentence but
she knew what he was asking.
She looked into the blue eyes and saw no pressure, just
questions. Loose hair fell over her face as she debated what to say. Finally,
'Vin, what we have is special and I don't want to mess that up.' Vin looked
'Why would ya think...'
Taking a deep breath she rushed out
'This is the
first time I've ever really wanted to
Shit, never mind.' At the amazed look on his
face she escaped toward the kitchen and started banging pots and pans.
24 and she'd never
. Vin was speechless. And smug.
A few minutes later Vin followed her into the kitchen.
He slouched against the door jamb and watched her for a minute, her back
toward him and a telltale colour across the cheek he could see.
'Better now?' She nodded, mute, seemingly engrossed in
'I never woulda guessed a woman who could threaten ta
bust the balls of the whole ATF in one breath could get so embarrassed in
the next.' He walked up to where she stood at the stove and wrapped his arms
around her from behind. Hugging her against his chest as she tossed his omelette
he pressed a kiss against her ear and whispered. 'No-one's ever given me
a gift as precious as that Angel-eyes, remind me to thank ya when the time
comes.' She snorted and he grinned into her hair. 'Don't fight it Sweetheart
it's inevitable, but I kin wait. Just holler when yer ready.'
Angel pushed him over to the table and set the fluffy
omelette down, still mute and still not looking at him. Turning away to fix
his room she heard him murmur, 'hear they always got spaces at the nuthouse
for anyone driven completely over the edge.' Grinning she smoothed down the
Early December Monday 8.30am
'JD, my office.' Chris strode through the Bullpen ignoring
the garlands, snowpeople, plastic santas and fake snow that adorned every
surface. With the exception of Ezra's area, which displayed a token Bavarian
nutcracker (there was a message there), the entire office had been 'Vinned'
during the weekend. Dodging the paper snowballs flying through the air he
unlocked the door to his haven. At least it had been a haven when he left
on Friday. Today it was Santa's Grotto complete with life sized blow-up women
in Elf costumes. He'd kill Tanner. Was nothing sacred?
'Here Chris. Wow! Do I get to sit on your knee and make
'No JD. I get to choose the wish I'm going to grant you
and here it is. You get first crack at the new MD. You have an appointment
with Dr MacCoole at 11am for your annual medical. No excuses.'
'Holy Shit. Buck's going to have a cow.' Chris smiled
at the youngsters' enthusiasm. 'You won't let him 'escort' me there will
you?' Chris shook his head and smiled. The kid had Buck's number.
JD left calling 'Buck you're not going to believe this,
Santa came early!'
Moving to the doorway Chris watched his team as the news
was delivered. Buck's reaction was just as JD had anticipated and he growled
when Chris shook his head. Nathan and Josiah both asked to have a full report
on their desks on his return, complete with photos. Ezra wasn't in yet and
Vin, leaning in the doorway of the break room, nursing his coffee, just smiled.
Angel had warned him while they decorated the office. 'Way to go JD. Maybe
you can win the pot.'
'Who can win the pot, how, and why didn't I know about
it?' Ezra, immaculate as usual, stopped short, ankle deep in fake snow. 'What
is this and to whom should I apply for recompense for my shoes?'
'JD's got to see the MD. You weren't here. Snow. Vin.'
Buck answered all the questions.
Shooting the mischievous sharpshooter a speaking look
Ezra pointed out, 'he has to arrange an assignation first, and attend it.'
'From what I hear anyone getting a date would have to
be dead NOT to keep it.'
'Ah, but young Mr Dunne would be forced to dissimulate
to the fair Miss Casey and I do not think he would be willing to perjure
himself. Mr Dunne?'
'Maybe she wouldn't know
'JD they always know, they're women.' Nathan.
'Well Buck sometimes
'Don't take that road Brother Dunne, it is built on the
wretched souls of the misleaders.'
By the time JD's appointment arrived he was wound tight.
Chris had noticed that Vin reacted completely in character, with quiet comments
and support. He still didn't know.
Chris called Mary to tell her. They had begun to think,
judging by the embarrassing details they had been force to listen to over
the past 3 weeks, that they were being wound up. She insisted it was time
both Vin and Angel were given a 'sex and morality' talk and he was badgered
into agreeing. Birds and bees with Vin. Oh, Joy.
When JD returned he seemed to have recovered his equilibrium.
He did give Vin a long look and a nod but that could have been thanks for
his support. JD was regaling his partner on the beauty that was the new MD
and Chris moved out to listen, joining the crowd in the break room. During
a lull in the interrogation JD glanced at his watch and said, 'Lunchtime.
Vin you want to shop with me? Still a few things I need to get.' Vin nodded
and picked up his jacket. The two left to cries of 'spoilsport' and 'did
you at least get her number?'
Sitting in Vin's jeep JD started to laugh. 'God Vin you're
a dark horse. Evil too. When Chris finds out what you're up to
' He laughed again. They had agreed to tell the team members
individually, slowly letting them in on the torment they were dealing out
to Chris and Mary. 'Am I the first to know?'
'Nah, Ez and Nathan both know and Josiah keeps hinting.
He'll be next. She tell ya what happened when she met Chris?' JD nearly wet
himself he laughed so hard. 'Yeah, right when she told me to cough. I was
laughing so much I couldn't but she said she had enough
' catching Vin's
look JD stopped. 'Sorry Vin, no disrespect. She's a nice lady.'
'S'OK Kid, she is a Doctor, though I gotta tell ya it
took some gettin' used ta
' They exchanged smiles.
'So, what's the plan?' They headed into MacDonalds as
Vin filled him in.
Angel's Cabin December 20 10.45pm
It had been a tough day. Not a single bad guy in sight,
just mountains of end-of-year paperwork. Vin loathed the annual shutdown,
which required a review of their cases prior to performance assessments in
January. He'd spent the better part of the week moaning about it to anyone
unlucky enough to come within whining distance. As usual with administrative
tasks he'd been the last to finish and had finally stormed out of the office
at 10pm. He'd flung his completed report on Chris's desk in a final gesture
of defiance before hitting the lights and heading out.
The ride up to the cabin had done something towards restoring
his humor and he felt the familiar thrum of anticipation in his chest as
he pulled into Angel's driveway. Fingering the box in his jeans pocket, he
leapt out of the jeep and headed into the warm living room. He stopped dead
at the sight that greeted him.
There must have been close to a hundred white church
candles casting a flickering light over every surface. The wooden floor gleamed
and the fat snowflakes drifting down outside the window appeared to dance
to the soft strains of the Christmas music coming from the stereo in the
corner. But what held Vin's attention was the slumbering form stretched out
on the rug in front of the fire.
She was gift-wrapped.
He must have stood motionless for a full five minutes
as he took in every detail. She was loosely cocooned in an enormous white
sheet, turned slightly on her side with her left arm bare and draped over
a wide red ribbon tied into a floppy bow on her belly. Her blonde hair was
unbound and pooled around her head, while a few stray tendrils over her face
moved up and down with the rhythm of her breathing. The planes of her face
were softened in sleep but her lips turned up at each corner and he wondered
what she was dreaming about. Finally his eyes settled on the large white
luggage tag slightly hidden under the bow.
Discarding his jacket and toeing off his boots, he knelt
down beside the still form and eased out the label turning it over to read
To my Cowboy, Hero, Hot Shot and Personal Pain in
I love you.
He looked up to find her watching him shyly. 'I wanted
to surprise you' her voice was husky with the traces of sleep. He swallowed.
'Ya did that Angel-eyes.' He gazed at her. 'Say it'
She didn't pretend not to understand. 'I love you, Vin
He pulled her into his arms, crushing the carefully tied
bow and whispered against her lips. 'I love ya more, Sweetheart.'
Minutes later Vin was reaching for the ends of the bow
just as she said 'This is going to sound like a cliché, Cowboy, but
just what have you got in your pocket?'
Vin froze. He'd forgotten in the heat of the moment.
'Aw, well, ya see
I wanted to surprise y'n'all.'
Setting her down he fumbled in the pocket of his jeans.
Sitting back on his knees he withdrew a small black box and flipped open
the lid. Nestled in the padded interior was a beautiful square-cut emerald
ring. Angel gasped and looked up at the blushing sharpshooter. He squirmed
'Reminded me o'your eyes but iffen ya don't like it we
can change it for a diamond, I checked. 'Course ya gotta say 'yes' first.'
He stared down at the ring, rubbing the stone with a calloused forefinger,
not daring to look for the answer in her eyes.
There was silence for a minute and finally she put her
free hand under his chin to lift his gaze. 'I didn't hear a question, Vin.'
'Aw hell.' Taking a deep breath he rushed out 'I love
ya, Angel-eyes, will ya marry me?'
She grinned at his discomfiture. 'That wasn't so hard
now was it?'
'What Vin?' She had to chuckle at his exasperation but
decided she'd tortured him enough. 'Yes Cowboy, I'll marry you and it's perfect.'
Grinning, he slipped the ring onto her finger and threw
the empty box over his shoulder. Time to open his present. He reached for
the end of the ribbon and pulled.
December 21st - Metropolitan Hotel Ballroom 10.50pm
Vin tugged again at the uncomfortable Tux. God he hated
Agency events, even for Christmas. He glanced around team 7's table, checking
on his family.
Nathan and Rain sat directly across from him, heads together,
discussing some new medical procedure. Ezra was chatting to his date, Eliza,
as he refilled her glass. Josiah and his escort had their chairs turned round
and were deep into some philosophical discussion with the next table's profiler
although Vin did catch the words 'Swing' and 'Hole' over the general crowd
noises. JD and Casey's chairs were empty. They had set off for the dance
floor and were pounding up and down while the other dancers tried to stay
out of their way. Buck was necking a buxom redhead whose name Vin couldn't
remember. He wondered if Buck could.
The other three chairs were also empty. Searching the
room he found Chris and Mary chatting by the bar with AD Travis. As he watched
they took their leave and started back to their seats. The last chair had
been assigned to his partner and had remained vacant. He'd seen Mary and
Chris exchange a look even as he'd listened to Buck's lament on his lack
of skill in acquiring a date.
JD and Casey arrived back breathless, hot on the heels
of Chris and Mary. Vin tugged again at the collar of the tux. Ezra noticed
his friend's discomfort and receiving an almost imperceptible nod said loudly
to the table in general 'Well Ladies, Gentlemen, now we are all together
again I think it's time for some announcements.' Everyone looked at him
expectantly but he only raised his eyebrow and stood. 'If you will excuse
me,' He lifted Eliza's hand and, bowing, kissed her knuckles. Making his
way to the MC's podium he signalled the DJ for quiet.
It took a couple of attempts but he finally gained everyone's
'Ladies and Gentlemen, I have an announcement to make.
But first let me wish you all a Happy and ER free Christmas.' This was met
by cheers and a cry of 'your team spends more time there than anyone else!'
Ezra frowned at the heckler and continued, 'Thank you
for that Mr Kelly. As you are all aware, I have, over the past few months,
been in possession of a 'book'', more murmurs growing louder, Ezra raised
his hand for quiet, 'the current value of which is, taking into account $20
per wager and a list of 57 participants, $1,140.' Whistles and catcalls met
this announcement with many looks being cast in the direction of the Medical
'I have been given permission to divulge the nature of
the wager for the benefit of anyone not acquainted with the details. They
are as follows; The winner of the pot is deemed to be the Agent who provides
confirmation of a romantic assignation with our esteemed new physician, Agent
At table 7 Mary's mouth dropped open as she turned and
glared at Chris, 'did you know about this?' He, in turn, had the grace to
look chastened. 'It wasn't malicious, Mary and Angel knew
' Mary gave
him a 'I'll speak to you later' look and turned back toward the podium. Vin
fought to keep his face straight.
Angel for her part ignored the looks she was getting
and kept her eyes fixed on Ezra. 'Gentlemen, the bounty has been claimed,'
(uproar) 'with confirmation provided by the lady herself.' This was shouted
over the din as everyone turned to look at the MD table. Angel didn't move.
'Agent MacCoole, as befitting a gentle lady, has determined not to 'kiss
and tell' and, as a Gentleman, I have agreed to hold my own counsel.' Aside
in a lower voice, 'I can, however, be found at table 7 for the remainder
of the evening and my pocketbook is always open to donations
Ezra winked at Angel who smiled back and mouthed 'I trust you!'
Chris and Mary were looking at Vin who returned the look
with an innocent one of his own and a shrug. 'Don't look at me Pard, I ain't
been introduced ta the new MD. Buck? Ya holdin' out on us?'
Buck was spluttering. 'I didn't even get a shot, hell,
if that little lady had just had a whiff of my animal magnetism
Ezra was also fielding a good deal of questions as he
made his way from the microphone. He was stopped at the bottom of the podium
stairs by the MC who handed him a piece of paper. Glancing at it he turned
and climbed back to his position behind the console. Tapping the microphone
to gain attention, he cleared his throat.
'Ladies and Gentlemen, I have the honour of being selected
to promulgate another joyous revelation.'
Josiah stood. 'He's got another announcement to make.'
Josiah sat down as everyone laughed.
'Hell, Standish, speak English!' From somewhere in the
Flashing his gold tooth, 'It seems that two of our fellow
Agents became engaged last night.' Cheers. 'If I may request you all ensure
you have your glasses filled in preparation for a toast to the happy couple.'
He paused, signalling to the bar for a glass. At a sign from the Maitre'D
waiters dashed from table to table, replenishing drinks.
At table 7 speculation was growing as to the identity
of the Agents in question. JD got his camera out and switched it to standby.
Nathan was whispering to Rain who started to laugh. Vin looked bored and
pulled at his tie. Mary was berating Chris about the wagering on her sister.
'But Mary, I couldn't have stopped it, and it would have looked strange if
I tried. You did say she could handle herself
'Is everyone in possession of a full glass?' Ezra glanced
around the room. 'Excellent.' 'If I may then prevail upon the groom's best
friend and the bride's sister to come to the podium to make the toast
'Mr Larabee? Mrs Travis?'
Chris suddenly resembled a landed fish gasping for air
and Mary looked ready to faint. JD flashed his camera to capture the moment
and Team 7's table roared with laughter at their stunned expressions.
'You all KNEW about this?' Chris was on his feet glaring
individually at each of his 'boys'. Nearly everyone nodded except
Buck's 'What? Who? NO WAY! JUNIOR?' Led to another round
of hysterical laughter and another click of the camera.
Vin was killing himself but managed to gasp, 'Gotcha
good this time Cowboy!' Chris turned his glare on him. 'Will ya be m'Best
man?' Chris reached over and squeezed the back of Vi
's neck, hard. 'You are a dead man, Tanner! It would
be my pleasure.'
Yep. You OK with this?
YEP. Congratulations Cowboy.
'Mr Larabee? Mrs Travis?' Ezra called them again.
'Mary?' He held out his arm and with Mary giving Vin
a smile they threaded their way to the stage, the Groom inconspicuously made
his way across to collect his fiancee.
Chris and Mary took over from Ezra who made his way back
to the table as Chris spoke.
Seeing Vin nearing the MD table, Chris raised his glass
to the Audience, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, To the Bride and Groom, Angelina
MacCoole and Vin Tanner!'
The response from the crowd in the ballroom was varied.
Everyone raised their glasses repeating the toast almost automatically, but
there was also gasps and wails from more than one female ATF employee.
Vin and Angel came hand in hand to stand with Chris and
Mary, exchanging kisses and receiving words of congratulations from the older
couple. At least it looked that way. Mary was saying 'I have some choice
words to share with you, little brother,' to Vin and as Chris kissed Angel's
cheek he murmured 'Payback's a bitch, Doc, watch yourself.' Angel just grinned
The comments behind them were getting more ribald and
personal. Vin winked at Angel and she looked at him questioningly. Moving
to the microphone he called for quiet.
'If any o' you boys feel like givin' me 'n' ma girl a
hard time about this just remember y'all will be in her office eventually.
Y'all just think about yer comments when she says them two important words.'
He made as if to leave when someone voiced the question
everyone was thinking, 'What words?'
Vin grinned and held his hand out to Angel who approached
There was a moment of stunned silence followed by lots
of laughter, groans and creaking of chairs as many of the men squirmed in
With that parting shot the members of 'The Magnificent
Seven', each escorting a beautiful woman, swept out of the banqueting hall
into the night.
Chris's Ranch - Labor Day Weekend, Saturday 10pm
From his position in the overstuffed armchair, Chris
surveyed the bodies languishing all over his living room. JD, Casey and Buck
were sprawled on the floor watching Ezra and Nettie Welles battling their
ninjas on the playstation hooked up to the big screen TV. Nettie was winning,
to the amusement of everyone but Ezra. Nathan and Rain were cuddled up on
one end of the couch with Josiah taking up the other end.
Vin was moving the old rocker he was sitting in by pushing
his bare foot against the coffee table. He held a beer in one hand and was
stroking Angel's back with the other as she lay curled up asleep against
his chest. Chris could hear Mary moving around in the kitchen. His family
were all accounted for and he was content.
Nettie killed Ezra's ninja just as Mary came back with
more snacks. Everyone seemed to come to life and the prettily arranged hors
d'oeuvres soon resembled the remnants of a kid's birthday party.
'Hey let's tell jokes, everyone has to have a turn. I'll
'No JD, please, have mercy.'
'Come on it's a good one. There was this three legged
Things went rapidly downhill. Finally it was Angel's
'I don't know any jokes.'
'Come now Mrs Tanner, you must surely know one humorous
She sat for a moment fingering the hair at the back of
Vin's neck, making him shiver. 'OK but it's really not funny.'
There was a chorus of 'We'll laugh anyway' and 'Come
on, you're never lost for words'
'OK, if you insist. What do you get if you cross a Lady
with a Cowboy?'
'A not so easy rider?'
'I must congratulate you on that inspired amalgamation
Chris gazed at the wife of his best friend for a minute
and then said quietly, 'Why don't we let Angel tell us in her own words?'
Catching his look, Angel saw the gleam of understanding. She returned the
gentle smile and looked up at her husband of four months.
'A boy or a girl.'
There was a silence as Vin looked steadily into eyes
he knew as well as his own. 'You're right. If that's a joke it ain't funny.
Angel? Ya tryin' ta tell me somethin'?'
At the shy nod he let out a yell and started raining
little kisses all over her face.
The others took this as a sign to move in and started
crowding around congratulating the young couple.
Mary went over to Chris and sank down on the arm of his
chair. There were tears in her eyes and Chris took her hand in his, turning
it and kissing the inside of her wrist. Getting up and moving to the kitchen
he returned with four bottles of champagne. At the questioning look from
his sharpshooter he announced he'd been keeping them handy since he was never
caught out twice.
Correctly assuming this was a reference to the Christmas
surprise engagement, Vin pointed out that he'd been caught out more than
once before and relayed again the scene in Mary's apartment for everyone's
enjoyment. Chris grinned sheepishly at the teasing and Mary blushed scarlet,
her eyes promising retribution to her loose-tongued sister.
Vin deftly removed the champagne glass from Angel's hand
and replaced it with a soda. 'VIN!'
'Ya can't drink. It ain't good fer the baby.'
'I've unleashed a demon. Who's the Doctor here MISTER
'Nate? Back me up here pard.'
'No way, Vin, I don't do domestic disputes. Josiah?'
'Thank you for that hot potato, Brother Nathan. Only
fools rush in where agents fear to tread.'
'A cleverly manipulated misquote Mr Sanchez, but I think
we all comprehended your meaning. You are on your own Mr Tanner.'
'Come on fellas. What happened ta brotherhood and back
'None of us are going to shoot your wife Vin. How about
you allow her half a glass now and fight it out between you later?'
' Angel spluttered.
'Good thinkin' Cowboy. Just a sip Sweetheart, please,
'Have you been taking puppy dog lessons from JD husband?
OK I'll let you dictate this once but only if you promise to come to the
Obs clinic with me on Wednesday and listen to the instructions from the ObGyn.
'A women's clinic? Aw hell, Angel!' Seeing the grinning
faces of his brothers, all standing round waiting to make a toast, he relented,
if only to get away from the subject. He had three days to get out of it.
'OK fine. Ya have ta stick ta sodas though.'
Angel wasn't letting go. 'Deal?' She held out her hand
and sighing he took it in his calloused one and shook. No escape, but he
was a trained professional killer, he could handle it.
Chris raised his champagne flute, 'And then there were
eight.' Everyone raised their glasses. 'Eight.'
Vin hugged his wife and she whispered, 'unless it's twins'
and laughed at his expression of horror. Life was good.
...To Part 2: Fight