Notes: Rules and Regulations can be a real Pain!
Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven belongs to Mirisch
Entertainment Inc., with all rights and privileges thereof. This work is
a work of fanfiction, for the amusement of the author and fandom who have
nothing else to do since they aren't making any more episodes of the show.
No money or other renumeration has exchanged hands, this is just for fun,
Note: Thank you to all of you who kept emailing me
about the series and this story in particular. It's taken a long time to
get it done. I appreciate the comments and suggestions very much even though
Mundane life and specific problems have not rendered me able to respond to
the emails I've received.
Some lines from the series script, Pilot/The Ghosts of the Confederacy
And now Ezra, Finally. The last Deep Breath before the Plunge.
Atlanta, F.B.I. Department of Missing Persons, July 1998, Parking
Ezra P. Standish sighed. Peter Collier was waiting beside the elevator with
a grim expression on his face. The man was at least a foot shorter than Ezra
who was barely 'normal' height, but the determined look on his face made
him seem seven feet tall.
"What the Hell are you doing here, Ezra?" Collier demanded.
It was going to be one of those kind of days. Maybe he shouldn't have gotten
out of bed today, but he had to come in and work, no matter what Little Peter
thought of it. The task had to be finished no matter what the personal cost.
However, sometimes he wished that he could have spent more time in the relative
luxury of the hospital bed he'd left that morning.
Denver, Rout Federal Building, Eleventh Floor, RMETF Seven office, Office
JD leaned back in his chair, tipping it dangerously and asked "What asks
no questions but demands an answer?" He looked around. Josiah was busy on
the computer, studiously ignoring
him. Nathan shook his head and kept reading his in-box notes. Buck was shooting
paperclips across the room at their newest member, Vin Tanner. Tanner was
grinning in a way that boded no good for Buck. Vin had only been on the team
a short while but they'd found that he was an incredible practical joker.
"I'll give, Kid." Buck sighed. "What is it?"
" A Doorbell." JD had to laugh as all of the other members of his team groaned
Chris Larabee came out of his office and gave a slight head shake at the
idleness of his team. He wasn't fooled by Josiah and his computer, the older
man was busy reading some online comic that he'd grown fond of. Sometimes
Larabee wished that he'd never detailed JD to teach Josiah to use the Web.
The Federal Government tracked all the sites accessed by every agent to make
sure that they were using Government time well. Josiah's choices had raised
some eyebrows, but the wily older man had given them a rambling explanation
involving at least three major watchwords and half a dozen concepts that
the IT trackers had no clue about.
The profiler's wanderings no longer raised eyebrows, but Larabee knew damn
well that they'd been snowed and snowed well.
Nathan's constant distractions set Larabee off on a different tangent. If
Josiah was his mistake as Buck so often warned, Nathan was Buck's. There
were days when Chris was glad to have Nathan on his team. Certainly his team
was the only one in the new RMETF that had it's own medic. Larabee wasn't
sure that was a good sign. But Nathan had an attitude that he always had
to have the Moral high ground. Chris often wondered if he should transfer
Nathan to the lab or somewhere else that his self perceived superiority wouldn't
cause major conflicts. Already he'd had to field complaints from five different
department heads about Nathan's behavior.
It was really odd. Most days Nathan was amusing to be around, but when he
felt wronged the medic was a powerfully annoying man. It was almost like
dealing with two people in one body. The one, gentle and caring, the other
a real pain in the ass.
The two that should have been mistakes, Vin Tanner and JD Dunne were fitting
in like they'd never belonged anywhere else. Larabee watched over both
protectively. He'd backed off Appley from IT about JD's systems and forced
a degree of freedom for Vin that he'd never have done for anyone else. JD
needed a place to be needed, and Tanner, well Vin, was more than a good agent,
he was Chris's chosen successor. The younger man had all the abilities that
Chris could wish for, in spite of his odd handwriting. He had gifts, and
Chris wasn't sure if he could nurture them, but at least he could protect
the younger man.
Larabee worried that in protecting Tanner as he did, that his oldest friend
Buck was feeling alienated. He tried to spend time with Buck separate from
the team, but it was hard. Vin had many different gifts, some Gifts
and some needs. Chris knew that without a safe haven those talents might
be lost and need would drive Tanner into something he couldn't come back
Heaven knew that Chris Larabee had seen enough of his kind destroyed without
being slain. Vin Tanner wasn't going to be one of them.
Stapleton Airport, Denver, next day
Chris watched Vin's unease. He'd made sure that Buck was okay before he'd
given the order to have the Team's sharpshooter accompany him on this expedition.
However he hadn't explained it to Vin to see if the younger man could connect
the dots. For all Buck's laize-faire attitudes, Chris trusted him to keep
the Team on an even keel until it's C-O was back in the office. Unless there
was a woman involved, Buck Wilmington was as steady as anyone could ask for.
"Chris, are you sure that this is a great idea?" Vin asked, unsure. For some
reason he'd been detailed to go with Larabee to investigate a possible new
agent, the all-important missing undercover agent. Wouldn't Buck have been
a better choice?
Vin felt Chris watching him, he didn't have to look. His Leader was amused
by his reactions. Okay, Tanner, calm down. Larabee was a cunning thing, well
suited to his role in the food chain. What was he testing Vin for now? Oh
yes, this was a test. There was a certain droop to Larabee's left eyelid
that said he was watching without being obvious. It was scary how well he
could read this man. Old Grey Fox had known what he was doing when he pushed
them together. This was truly where he belonged, at Larabee's side.
Vin worried a little about Buck Wilmington. He knew the two men were close,
and department scuttlebutt had been precise about how close they were. No
one on the team mentioned Sarah Larabee. What agony Chris had to have been
under to lose both mate and child. Vin had gotten one of the helpful secretaries
to leave the cabinets alone for a little while. Picking the lock had been
easy; Larabee's file had been hard. So much pain all written down in black
and white. How the others had found out, Vin didn't know and didn't really
care as long as no one added to the pain his Team Leader carried.
A couple of weeks ago there had been a disruption in Vin's New World. A man
had arrived and been greeted as Captain Phillips, but Vin knew quite well
that that wasn't his real name. Old memories had been dredged up, memories
of the last place that he'd thought was Home and how it had been taken away.
The so- called Captain had been a good man, and Vin was sure that he hadn't
come to endanger Larabee but it was hard to see him.
Tanner had kept to himself in the man's company, even after they'd gone to
the Saloon to have dinner and drinks. 'Phillips' had acknowledged Vin's scrutiny
with a gesture that said he was on the job. Why Senior Military and NSA wanted
Chris Larabee to take on an undercover agent was a little beyond Vin's scope.
He wasn't sure what was toward in this matter, but was willing to take the
world with a bag of salt if that's what it took. The Captain who wasn't a
Captain had never been treacherous in the old days, but Vin worried about
the RMETF being drawn into the Game.
Most of the conversation surrounded shared memories and an old friend who'd
transferred to NIS, now NCIS. Some Marine that Buck swore had drunk both
Chris and himself under the table. The war stories had been pretty bizarre.
Who in the world built a boat in a basement without a door? And all the tales
about red-heads... Vin had laughed hard and long. But there was some uneasiness
that Vin read as the Marine having a similar reason to Chris's reasons for
joining the RMETF. Too many soft targets taken, Vin sighed to himself. It
was always the innocent who died and left the survivors in a long-term agony.
Leaving aside both the issue of why they were being directed to this particular
undercover agent and Larabee's old friend Gibbs, Vin considered the man watching
him. Larabee was testing him. Trying to see if he could figure the situation
out. So, Why not Buck?
Atlanta, Department of Missing Persons, Same Day
Ezra Standish hid his amusement. It was a black humor and his Superiors wouldn't
get the joke even though they were the joke. He'd been screamed at in front
of all of the agents on duty by old Montague, the Area Director. His direct
boss, James Westerfield had been more restrained, but there was a desperation
there. Neither man knew what Standish would do. Both were dirty and almost
everyone in the department was either involved or aware. No one acted, no
one except this stubbornly determined man who wasn't even sure who he was
Westerfield had not re-assigned him to Andy Duart's tender mercies. Ezra
mentally shivered, giving no outward sign of his abhorrence for his assigned
partner. It was enough that his boss was still furious that Ezra had refused
to reveal the information he wanted without dragging his psychopath of a
partner further into this. They'd tortured Ezra for days, and Westerfield
didn't dare have any other injuries occur that might show to a non-bribable
Senior Agent that Standish's recent hospital stay had nothing to do with
any of the active cases in the Division. Not even for the fortune that their
Patron showered upon them would James Westerfield push the issue to where
it could all come out. His fear of exposure was compounded by Montague's
failure to realize how close to the edge they'd pushed the situation already.
Standish ignored both men with a coldness only an emotionless mask would
permit. The hours were clicking down. Soon this Division would be cleaned
up and Ezra Standish's oldest enemy would be one more group of allies short.
It had taken years but the steps were in place. Soon this assignment would
be over and he'd go back to being himself, whoever that was. Peter was right,
it was time he took some time off, at least to grieve.
The ghosts of the men he'd commanded and failed never left him. Westerfield
and Montague thought that there was little harm in selling anything for the
right price. A price that had been too high for far too long. There was a
Reckoning and it would come soon.
+ + + + + + +
Westerfield was watching him with worry and not a little fear, Standish noticed.
They thought that he had it in his hand to bring them under investigation
which would disrupt their agreements for a time. Neither of the local power
brokers had any idea that he'd been brought to Atlanta by their Treason,
nor did they have any idea who he really was. If they had, they'd have never
risked touching him.
They'd only seen a stumbling block, something to be broken, by force if required.
There was no force that these men could apply that would have bent Ezra to
their will, but they didn't know that. Hell, these were the stupidest bunch
of traitors he'd ever hunted down. His file, before Westerfield had the bright
idea of modifying it to show him as a dirty agent, was full of errors in
his existing cover. Those errors, if examined would have led to the
identification of Ezra P. Standish's real identity. After all, there was
only one person to survive the Hell on Earth that had been Three Rivers.
That one man had several other names, several identities, and all of them
+ + + + + + +
Green eyes narrowed in a pale face that was so expressionless that it could
have been carved of stone. Westerfield was going to dance around the elephant.
Every agent in the room and most of the agents in this division were well
aware of what had been done and why.
All of them had agreed, actively or passively, to what had been done. Now
they were reaping a harvest of uncertainty. Why was he here in the office
acting as if nothing had happened? Acting as if the men who had beaten, damaged,
cut, and burned him were nothing to him at all. Cadiz had whispered the idea
that Standish had amnesia, that he didn't remember.
By afternoon, it was the prevailing theory. They were fools thinking that.
Ezra P. Standish of the many names remembered every second.
+ + + + + + +
Westerfield had been trying to figure out what to do. His worry had increased
instead of lessened. He'd overridden Montague's attempt to hand Standish
back over to Duart. The enormity of their danger was pressing on him. Ezra
Standish, son of an arrogant con-woman, had seemed like a good prospect to
turn. Never wanting to get his hands dirty. They'd never dreamed that the
annoying little bastard was granite, and as hard to break as a diamond.
He wasn't going to push it any further. Sufficient to his purpose was to
try to load Ezra with problems and make it look like the man was dirty or
incompetent. He'd primed the Division with rumors, but most agents knew the
score. They'd responded beautifully with harassment, rumor-mongering, and
damage. It should have destroyed anyone completely...
Still Standish stood, alone, but unbroken and unbowed.
Atlanta Airport Terminal, Same Day
Arriving in Atlanta had been slightly rough. Apparently Vin Tanner had a
problem with being in closed in spaces for a long period of time. Chris Larabee
ruefully added extreme claustrophobia to his listing of things to know about
his sharpshooter. It was becoming a very long list.
Chasing Tanner was not something that Chris was willing to do right now.
Sending the stir-crazy man to the luggage carousels to pick up their bags,
Larabee arraigned for a taxi. Giving himself a moment to stretch, Chris found
himself a little ill at ease. Captain Phillips was a member of his father's
staff and he'd known him for his whole life. There was never a time when
Phillips wasn't a part of it. All of that background gave Larabee an edge
in reading the man. Phillips really wanted this, really wanted to have Chris
take on this specific undercover agent.
It was unusual for the military to be so interested in a Federal Agent,
especially the Undercover kind. F.B.I rarely worked out of the country, and
this Standish was part of the Bureau. Though reading through the polite fictions
in the file Phillips had given him, Standish's background seemed a little
more interesting than the average Agent's jacket ran. The large amount
of blacked out pages hinted at more than one reason for a senior General
assigned to NSA to take an interest in one lone agent.
Standish, the name rang a faint bell in Larabee's mind. Something, long
forgotten, hovered in the back chambers of his brain like an itch that he
couldn't scratch. Oh well. He didn't feel like Standish was a negative memory
so he'd go with it.
Vin came back with their bags and all but loaded the taxi for the driver.
Chris watched him pace like he had the proverbial ants in the pants. Tanner
was definitely stir-crazy maybe just plain crazy. A smirk slipped out and
quirked up one corner of Larabee's mouth.
Tanner glared back.
+ + + + + + +
The taxi ride was uneventful, both agents watching the scenery go by without
much interest. Passing by the fair avenues of Atlanta, both men felt
uncharacteristically somber. It was a mood that had been growing on them
since the airport. They felt disturbed in some way that they couldn't name.
"If'n you're done smirkin' Boss-man. I got a question." Tanner spoke quietly
to avoid the Taxi driver hearing him.
"What's up, Cowboy?" Chris retorted, they'd reached a compromise. If Tanner
called him any form of Boss-man Larabee could respond with Cowboy. It was
getting to be quite a gag, but woe betide anyone else who attempted to use
"Jist this," Vin said, his Texas accent coming to the fore. "Why would Mispers
need an undercover agent?"
Chris laughed softly, but it fell flat without any real humor in it.. There
was a lot more to this mission to Atlanta than even Vin knew.
+ + + + + + +
For some reason the Atlanta Federal Station set Chris's nerves on alert from
the moment he saw it. Vin seemed to be feeling the same way. Both men were
battle ready without any obvious reason for what they were feeling.
Odd things stood out almost as soon as they entered the Missing Persons Division.
Some of the agents had the standard Federal swagger, the one that meant that
the agent in question was an idiot but was prepared to roll all over you
to prove his superiority, other agents saw them and seemed to withdraw. Chris's
instincts went to an even higher alert when several agents couldn't meet
his gaze without dropping their own. Perhaps in shame? What was going on?
This place was wrong, somehow poisonous.
He felt rather than saw Vin ready to back any play he might make. The tension
was like a heavy blanket smothering them. There was nothing that Larabee
could put his finger on, but this place was very very bad. He'd been more
at ease in the middle of a twenty-man shoot out with the most sadistic drug
dealers in Denver and that was helping those idiots in DEA. As much as he
hated to be under another department's lead, he'd rather be there right now
than in this noxious environment.
+ + + + + + +
Meeting Standish's boss, James Westerfield didn't lessen the venomous atmosphere
at all. Westerfield was a heavy set older man with petty time server stamped
all over him. Normally that kind of oily bureaucrat only made Chris annoyed.
At the moment he really wanted to pull his gun and shoot the man outright.
The feelings were overwhelming. Why did he hate this man immediately?
Beside him he could sense Tanner's shuffling. Vin didn't seem to like this
man any more than Larabee did. Chris' defensive hackles raised, but he couldn't
see an immediate cause. Listening to such warnings, however, was second nature.
Treat this as enemy territory, he told himself and knew that Vin was doing
+ + + + + + +
James Westerfield just about had a heart-attack on the spot. Larabee, Chris
Larabee, that wacko from Denver had just arrived in his office with patent
orders permitting him to ask Standish to transfer to Denver. Did he know?
Had Standish somehow set this up?
Was Larabee aware of Westerfield's double-dealing? Chris Larabee was one
man that Westerfield was terrified of finding out his indiscretions. The
rumor mill had come east with SAC Taylor, now stationed in Washington D.C.
and Larabee was known to be a dangerous man. Besides, wasn't he General Larabee's
Swearing viciously, but silently, Westerfield tried to figure out how to
convince them not to take his problem child, at least not until he'd broken
and destroyed Standish.
+ + + + + + +
After listening to forty minutes of Westerfield trying to tell Larabee what
to do, Tanner's attention had wandered. The fat greasy man in front of them
was sweating like a marathon runner. Vin wondered what the man wanted to
keep under wraps. He'd done a stint in the Marshals and was familiar with
middle mangers that had screwed up. To amuse himself, Tanner began staring
at the man, cataloguing the details of the expensive outfit Westerfield wore.
It was something to do.
Besides a man with the ego to wear a belt with a buckle that would make most
bronco jocks stare was food for a little upset. Gazing at the man with a
blank expression seemed to enhance Westerfield's unease. Good. The older
man began twisting the ends of his grey mustache. He was sweating literal
buckets, the signs showing on the jacket of his light linen suit. Tanner
began staring at the fancy belt buckle with it's swooping W and the delicate
Art Deco background. The thousand-mile stare made Westerfield even more nervous.
Nervous enough to make a mistake. Not able to find a way around the stare
and the glare, James Westerfield had his secretary call Agent Standish into
+ + + + + + +
Agent Standish was not exactly what Vin was expecting. A closed cold face
with green eyes that seemed to burn with a fire that was unquenchable. This
was no mere undercover agent. Power crackled all around him and Tanner shivered
feeling a suppressed rage that weighted the air like being underwater. Standish
was not a man to be trifled with and he was very angry.
Vin hesitated to bring that wrath down on himself and Chris. This was no
small thing that they were asking of a man who was already pushed beyond
his limits. Watching Standish closely he could see the tale tell signs of
exhaustion. Fatigue didn't seem to have slowed the man down, but this undercover
agent was at the end of his rope and it was fraying fast. The fat idiot of
a middle manager was droning on and on not even explaining what the two RMETF
agents were doing there.
Again Vin asked himself what F.B.I. Missing Persons needed with an undercover
+ + + + + + +
Westerfield mumbled something about having a later meeting with Ezra Standish
as he had work that his undercover agent needed to complete first. Standish
turned and looked at his boss with a face so impassive that the Senior Agent
flinched. The rumor mill might have decided that Standish was too afraid
or had amnesia, but Westerfield had seen worse than his death in that
non-expression and he was terrified. Somehow this had to be controlled before
it got completely out of hand. Before Standish told Larabee what was happening
to him in Atlanta. Before the world turned inside out.
The senior Agent hadn't counted on this when he'd decided to make a little
extra cash by letting some unimportant information go. He'd not counted on
the other 'sales' until he was in too deep to get out and his partners let
him see all of their available wares. It was too late to be horrified by
the depth of the depravity his fellow entrepreneurs had sunk to. There was
no way out. They were hanging on the edge and there was no place to go but
They should never have touched Standish, not in a million years. Too bad
he'd ignored his own intuition and let Montague and Andy have free reign.
+ + + + + + +
Chris Larabee didn't like what he was seeing. The younger Agent, Standish,
was almost militarily correct in his posture, but his body was almost ready
to give out on him. He could feel the palpable Fear that the man kept hidden
behind his unchanging expression. The overwhelming terror and the heavy burden
of suppressed fury had come as an unwelcome surprise to Larabee. He'd come
to find an agent, but this man was in danger. Every sense that Larabee had
was screaming to get him out of there.
Although he wanted to grab Standish and just get out, he had to take his
cue from the younger man. The emotions were suppressed because there was
something undone, something not finished. Larabee swore a blue streak in
his own mind, not willing to give voice to his own anger when Standish was
struggling so hard to keep his own in check.
Westerfield had better have asbestos underwear, because when this was over,
Chris was going to kick his ass though the Doleful Gates. 'All hope abandon'
was going to be the idiotic bureaucrat's motto when Larabee finished with
+ + + + + + +
James Westerfield tried not to shiver as he kept the conversation inane.
Larabee was watching him with a predator's gaze, almost as cold as Standish's
own. Making foolish excuses he tried to redirect the conversation. Somehow
he knew that the younger SAC was not impressed and not fooled by his actions.
There was going to be Hell to pay for the Division's secrets. If he could
just keep Larabee out of the loop...
Interruption came from an unexpected source as Nichols from NSA requested
that he come upstairs for a meeting. He ordered Standish to resume his duties
and told the visiting agents that they'd have to return tomorrow. Westerfield
never saw the very slight movement on Standish's face that might have been
the shadow of a smirk, he was too worried about what NSA wanted. After all,
Montague had some men in Operations, some in Mispers, some in Accounting,
and some in OPR, but NSA was not only clean it was a major threat. If the
fact that Montague was siphoning off official secrets out of the NSA's office
by the back door was found out, what had been done to Standish would be mild
compared to what would happen if NSA's SAC, Mackenzie, got a hold of them.
Almost shoving Standish back toward his desk, Westerfield just about ran
over Peter Collier, the NSA clerk. He brushed past him, headed for the NSA
bullpen, not noticing the look that passed between his problem child and
the unassuming four-foot and a half foot tall clerk.
+ + + + + + +
Standish looked at the two agents abandoned in Westerfield's wake. They were
unsure of the situation, and Standish didn't know what to make of them. He
hadn't even been introduced. The tall younger agent had long brown hair,
far beyond regulation, and wore a buckskin jacket with tribal designs. Sioux,
Comanche, and Kiowa, if he didn't miss his guess. The face with it's bright
blue eyes seemed familiar but he couldn't place it.
More remarkable was the other man, dressed all in black. Ezra P. Standish
knew who he was, there was no way that he could avoid knowing. Did Christopher
Larabee know who Ezra was? Did the older Agent remember? No that wasn't possible,
that was another life. Still Larabee looked at him with concern and worry.
Could he possibly remember?
For the first time a very demanding life, Ezra P. Standish felt uncertain.
+ + + + + + +
Penhall, one of Westerfield's toadies came up to break up any chance of
conversation between Standish and the two men. Both of them took it with
an ill grace that told Standish that if his assignment hadn't been about
to end, spectacularly, these two men would create the same effect without
the official clearances. Oh joy, it was going to be a fireworks show. Whose
were going to be the brightest? Ezra wondered. Peter Collier was looking
at the men with curiosity on his open appearing face. A wink, cued for Peter's
eyes only, told the smaller man that his commander knew what he was doing
and that these men were not to be considered part of the situation. Heaven
only knew how many innocents were going to be caught up in this sting.
Neither Penhall, nor any of Westerfield's other cronies could prevent Larabee
from pulling out his card. With a commanding look, Larabee handed Standish
the rectangle of cardboard.
"No matter what's going on here, you don't have to put up with this. Think
about it. I always answer the phone." Larabee's hazel eyes were the only
soft things in his expression. Apparently the great Stone face was an ability
that they both shared.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra's duty, as he watched Penhall try to bully Larabee out of the office,
was to stay quiet for just a little while longer. That was the official line,
but he rather thought that Akins and his man, Mackenzie would be screaming
bloody murder when they found out just what had happened to him. Little Peter
was only keeping his mouth shut because Ezra had ordered it. There were reasons
for the silence that even Peter Collier didn't know. The waiting was almost
over, in more ways than one.
Sometimes the Duty and the Obligation were an absolute bitch. And sometimes
they were Heaven's greatest gift. Which would this one be?
+ + + + + + +
Larabee did not like what he'd seen in Atlanta. The pathetic attempts of
Westerfield's agent to intimidate him would have made him laugh in other
circumstances. Agent Penbrain or was that Peabrain had tried to force Standish
to relinquish Chris' card, but Standish had side stepped the whole thing.
Penhall? Whoever the thickheaded idiot was, he had taken the card, but from
Standish's look, Chris knew that the man had memorized the phone numbers.
If the man wanted rescue he'd get it. The stink of wrongness was shrieking
in Larabee's mind and both he and Vin were reacting to it. All that garbage
in the personnel file that Westerfield had shown him didn't match the jacket
Captain Phillips had given him. Someone wanted the agent to stay in Atlanta.
Chris Larabee wasn't about to let that happen.
+ + + + + + +
There had been little the two agents could do since Westerfield's boss, Area
Director Montague had withdrawn the so- called friendly welcome because his
agents were busy. Larabee had given the older man a steady glare and was
rewarded with shock and fear.
What the Hell was wrong with Atlanta?
He'd checked himself and Tanner into a local hotel. They had dinner in the
hotel restaurant rather than wander in town. If there was something going
on, and he was sure that there was, then it might not be particularly safe
for the two of them in a city they didn't know.
At least the room had two beds. The last time he'd had to do an out of town
he'd had to take JD with him to Albuquerque, and there had been only one
bed. Dunne wiggled like a two-year-old on a candy high.
At least there was no one asking how one got a mouse to smile or some other
+ + + + + + +
Chris tossed in an endless nightmare, things were happening that weren't
true. His men weren't dead. Nothing made any sense. All he could remember
was a pair of bright green eyes in a pale stone face and the hidden pain
behind it. Everything was confusion.
The light clicked on and brought him to full awareness.
"Chris?" Vin Tanner asked, his voice soft but full of concern.
"I'm okay." Chris roused himself enough to respond. "Just a nightmare.
"Okay." Vin said, but then he added. "If you hire Baker to work with us,
Cowboy, I'll shoot you myself."
Chris sat up and stared at the younger man. Tanner's eyebrow quirked up in
response almost like Mr. Spock on Star Trek. "What the Hell are you talking
"I hate to tell you this, Larabee, but you talk in your sleep. A body can't
get much rest with you saying that everybody's dead and that Baker took the
team out. It must have been one hell of a nightmare."
"It was." Larabee shivered.
Even as he dealt with the aftermath of the terror his dream engendered, he
kept feeling that overwhelming Fear that didn't belong there. Standish might
not have shown it in an open way but the man was terrified, he stank of that
fright but hadn't openly shown his emotions.
The smell of that terror was like a goad in Larabee's side. He'd already
looked up Standish in the phone book trying to find a number. The phone number
listed in the man's jacket was a voice mail only. Someone had gone to a lot
of trouble to keep this man isolated. That spelled conspiracy to him and
he hated conspiracies even when they were benign
This one was not benign, every one of his senses told him that.
+ + + + + + +
The next morning they'd reappeared and brushed off Westerfield's inept attempts
to prevent them speaking to Standish. Larabee had rehearsed the whole thing
in his mind for most of the night. He'd been unable to return to sleep after
the fifth round of nightmares and he wasn't about to leave this man behind.
Little sleep had made him extremely short tempered. It had been a help when
dealing with Westerfield's tries to get them to leave.
Standish had heard him out with a maddeningly passive expression.
"Come with us." Larabee had said as a parting shot. He waived the file
Westerfield had foisted off on him. A completely different jacket than the
one that the Captain had given him "You have no where to go except with us."
"I'll give you my answer shortly, gentlemen. I do have a couple of cases
that I must complete." With that Standish bowed himself out of Westerfield's
office, trying to contain his emotions.
+ + + + + + +
Westerfield insisted that Larabee have lunch with him, a last attempt to
try to convince the determined Coloradan to leave Standish in Atlanta. Tanner
begged off, claiming as Larabee had requested, that he had a case of jet-lag
and would return to the hotel and come back later. Instead, Tanner went to
the men's room and put on his suit, tying his long brown hair back so it
would give the impression of being shorter. He tucked it into his collar,
removed his visitor pass, and picked up the files that Larabee had given
him as cover.
For a while he wandered around like he belonged to this station. He learned
a lot that he didn't like. There was internal conflict, beyond anything either
of them had considered. Vin used all of his trained abilities to pretend
to be something other than he was. If Larabee hadn't settled on Standish,
Tanner might have ended up with the undercover position, even though Chris
had hired him because he was a great shot.
The little fellow from yesterday, Peter Collier, was headed down out of the
regular offices. For a moment, Tanner was unsure, but his gut said to follow
him. Collier wandered out of the building to a nearby restaurant. It was
a strange looking place, part pub, part sports bar and very loud. Vin slipped
along through the crowd, using every technique that he'd learned from Cyrne
when he'd served the Triana.
After a while he couldn't find Collier and was considering his options. He'd
learned enough to satisfy Chris for the moment. Larabee's insatiable curiosity
was something that his team never joked about or took for granted. He was
glad that he didn't have to sit through Fat-brained Westerfield's attempt
to get Chris to back off.
Not a chance in Hell, Vin laughed to himself, Good thing JD wasn't here.
He'd have some sort of joke for the occasion. Good luck trying to get Larabee
to relinquish his hold on what was 'his'. Tanner wasn't sure why Chris was
so certain about demanding Standish, but he damn sure wasn't going to get
in the way. Besides, Standish seemed like a good man in a bad place.
Vin ordered lunch, wanting to get something in his stomach before he had
to report. The jet-lag thing wasn't much of a lie anyway. Finding a little
closet away from the milling crowd cheering at the monitors, he slipped in
and soon had finished his lunch. Not long after his exhaustion took him and
he drifted off.
+ + + + + + +
He wasn't sure what had awakened him but something did. Every one of his
senses geared up, ready for fight or flight. He wasn't as skilled as his
team leader was, but he wasn't far behind him. All that military training
wasn't wasted in either case. The lights flipped up and he found that he
was in a side nook of a much larger room.
Just his luck, Vin grinned. Cyrne used to say that if he didn't have bad
luck that Vin Tanner would have no luck at all. Perhaps the Triana had been
right. In the room, the little man, Peter Collier, was joined by five others.
Vin's Good luck seemed to be holding an uneasy cease-fire with the bad side
of it. Just as he was about to make himself known, Ezra Standish entered
Tanner never noticed the reflection in the cracked glass mirror behind the
nearby side bar. An aged, dusty version of himself dressed in old fashioned
buckskins, mouth twisted in bitterness and a patch covering most of a long
scar over one eye. The reflection raised a whisky glass in salute to the
+ + + + + + +
The Ops room was full tonight. Ezra sighed. Sometimes all he wanted to do
was curl up and get some sleep. He'd sleep when the duty was done. Willing
his body not to shake with the exhaustion that he was feeling, Standish took
Nodding at Peter, he said "Report" and listened as his agents began to reel
off the final evidence that would bring down a division.
+ + + + + + +
Vin listened in growing horror as the men revealed the depth of the Atlanta
Station's fall. If even a fraction of what they were saying was true, he'd
lobby for full sentence on greasy Westerfield and the rest of his men. Treason
was still an executable offense and Vin Tanner would offer to do the shooting.
Whatever Chris had said earlier about Ezra Standish having no where to go
was nonsense. The man was in charge here. The way the other agents differed
to him said so. Wasn't the little guy supposed to be NSA? How deep did this
investigation go and were he and Chris a problem for them?
+ + + + + + +
"Who are those men bugging Westerfield?" one of the Agents demanded. "He's
in a real swivet. Vel thinks that they're part of it."
"Not a chance." Ezra said firmly. "The men are Special Agent in Charge, RMETF
Seven, Christopher Larabee and his companion is Tanner. I didn't get the
whole name, the man's very quiet. They've come all the way from Denver to
offer me a job." Ezra smirked. "As I have no where to go."
The Agents were incredulous for a moment, then burst out laughing. Peter
was doubled over.
Ezra's facial expression was one of gentle amusement, but not at Larabee's
"You're going, aren't you?" Peter said and all the laughter stopped.
"I'm told that Colorado is an excellent location." Ezra gave him a wide grin.
"I seem to recall that you are very fond of snow. Atlanta is going to be
hot for some time. I could use a change of scene."
"What about Bowling?" Collier asked.
"Too many memories." Ezra said. "Daniel was right. I do need to find some
place not full of painful recollection."
"What's the real reason?" Peter Collier demanded.
"Isn't that enough?"
"I've known you too long. If you wanted to escape your memories and Heaven
knows that you have far too many to escape from, I'd be behind it all the
way. But this...some strange agent just turns up... A RMETF? What the heck
is that anyway? And you're just going to go. What's really going on Ezra?"
"Regional Mobile Enactment Task Force." Ezra said.
"Thank you, smart ass. That explains so much. This guy Larabee just shows
up and you're going to go?"
The other agents were glued to the conversation and almost didn't see the
man as he arrived. Only Ezra wasn't surprised.
"I don't usually catch you boys out." The man grinned. He didn't get a response
from the unnerved agents and turned to look at Ezra. "Problems?"
"No, cousin. It's good to see you." Ezra said with a laugh.
"Now I know that something's up. Want to fill me in?"
"Hello Mercury." Peter said sullenly. "Nothing much. We've gotten sloppy.
We're so close and we're getting sloppy just letting you in here. You could
be anyone. Ezra's decided to move to Colorado."
The man, Mercury, whose other name was Philomel Sanderson, blinked his bright
green eyes and looked at Ezra. "Colorado?" In the cubby Vin choked on his
gasp, he knew the man from Denver, one of the Marshals, the one who was so
worried about Deborah Rinaldi's safety and well-being..
"An excellent location, I'm told." Ezra said deadpan. Mercury turned to Peter
"Some guy named Larabee turned up and now Ezra wants to drop everything.
He's just out of the hospital, not even one freaking day out of the hospital,
and he's not only back to work, then two days later he's transferring on
the say so of some guy from the RMETF and his buddy named Tanner, who Ezra
doesn't know any thing else about!" Peter raved for a moment and stomped
off to a nearby table. He stomped back almost immediately. "Colorado. Larabee.
"Larabee?" Mercury asked. "Chris Larabee?"
"Do you know him?" Peter asked, a little more calmly. "You're stationed in
Denver, Mercury, after all."
"Yes, I know who Chris Larabee is." Mercury said uncertainly.
"Then what the..." Peter started and then looked at both cousins. "What is
it?" he demanded.
"Larabee?" Mercury asked again, hesitantly.
"Christopher Matthew Larabee." Ezra said with a laugh as if the whole situation
was absurd. "He came to get me because I have no where to go."
"But, Ezra." Mercury began.
"Enough." Ezra said firmly. "This is a summons that I can not deny. Not and
remain myself." He looked gently at Peter Collier. "Take my word for it.
Chris Larabee is a worthy leader, Peter." Standish paused again. "This is
something I must do."
"Ezra!" Peter Collier said in exasperation.
"The Duty and the Obligation require it."
The odd statement shut both men up.
Ezra gave them both a tenuous look. "It must be." He paused and gave a wide
smile at odds with the exhaustion in his face. "I don't suppose that you
can think of any place that is open for tenancy immediately?"
Mercury seemed stunned and then after taking a deep breath, he looked at
his smirking cousin. "I know of a townhouse in Arvada that's up for sale.
I'll call Mandy."
"Thank you." Ezra said with a soft relief. Mercury looked back at him. There
was a world of concern in his face. "Don't worry. I have no fear of this
new ..."He paused. "Assignment. Chris Larabee is an honorable man."
Mercury seemed to shake off his concern and went to the phone. Peter Collier
threw up his hands and stalked off mumbling.
Vin hunkered down even further into the shadows. He didn't want to upset
the apple cart, but whatever Standish was involved in was big. Why would
the man transfer to the RMETF, obviously he had places to go? And what the
heck was the Duty and Obligation. Something nagged at the back of Tanner's
memory, but he couldn't place it.
"Tanner?" Mercury said softly attracting Vin's attention at the sound of
his own name.
"Vin Tanner." Ezra said seriously, watching as Peter began to roughly shift
papers across the room.
"Damn." Mercury said. "You going to be alright?"
"I'm actually honored." Ezra said gently. "These are worthy men. It will
be an amazing beginning."
"It's always an amazing beginning, Ezra. No matter how many hundreds of years.
It's always an amazing beginning, But that's not what I'm worried about."
"What then cousin?" Ezra looked at Mercury seriously, all trace of humor
gone from his face.
"It's the ending I'm concerned about." Mercury said.
"Let it be." Ezra said gently. "Let it be. Things must be as they must be.
It's hard to see a future if all you know is the past." He added, looking
directly at his cousin, "This summons I can't deny, ever. Even if I know
what will come of it, even if it means my death. I must obey." Softly he
declared. "The Seven must Stand, if they are to ever do so they must do so
now. In this time. Let it be, cousin. Let what must happen, happen." Standish
moved his hand and worried a little at a gold band set with a ruby. "What
must be, must be."
"Right now," Ezra Standish added, calmly, finally. "We have a roof to bring
+ + + + + + +
Vin remained hidden, hardly daring to breathe as the agents went about their
tasks. Finally they cleared up and began to leave, one by one. At last the
agents were gone. Tanner waited a little longer and then slipped out of the
room. As Cyrne had said, he had the strangest luck.
Trying to piece together what he had overheard into an understandable pattern,
Vin returned to the Federal building to meet up with Chris. Larabee was sure
to be in a foul mood after his business lunch. He ignored the hostile
and fearful stares of the other agents in the Mispers department.
Standish was not there at his desk but his overcoat showed that he'd returned
to the building. The grey jacket was draped over the chair in a precise fashion.
Vin studied the desk with its lack of personal items and crisp organization.
Military style, Vin figured. There wasn't any sign of that in either of
Standish's personnel files. Captain Phillips hadn't mentioned it, at least
not in Vin's hearing, but that was not necessarily the complete story. He
might have told Chris when the others weren't privy to the conversation.
Vin let his eyes wander over the desk, trying to get a feel for what sort
of man they were bringing home with them. He had no doubt that Standish would
be joining them. He found himself visually tracing the stitching on the grey
coat. Suddenly he straightened up as if struck by an electric shock. The
Mispers around him stared for a moment and then went back to their work.
Ezra's coat was a stunner. Grey not the traditional Black.. And he'd wasted
so much time hoping and given up on that wish. After all of that... Vin had
to laugh at himself. He'd left the Marshals to hunt bounty because he'd been
driven out by politics. He'd joined the Marshals because he couldn't stay
in the Army. He'd left the Army because he wouldn't work for the crooked
Colonel Oliver, and hadn't wanted to die. He'd been assigned to Oliver because
the man had forcibly stolen him from Cyrne's command over the objections
of both Cyrne and the High Command. He'd been unwilling to give the loyalty
that he'd given the Triana to a slime ball like Oliver, so here he was finally
settled into RMETF Seven and following Chris Larabee. He'd given up hope
of ever serving a Triana again and found some measure of peace with that.
Now here it was in the overcoat of Ezra Standish. It was a Kybern coat. A
cut most peculiar. Only one group of people wore such a coat. Triana.
Ezra Standish was a Triana.
Vin studied the cadence marks on the coat. Ezra Standish wasn't only a Triana,
he was a Full Triana, not a Triana Phvey, not a Triana Vi, not any of the
rest of it. He was a Full Triana.
Headstrong, stubborn, needing help to interface with the 'real' world. Standish
was going to be a handful. Vin tried not to rub his hands together in extreme
glee. Triana were a great deal of fun, depending on their personalities,
and he was hoping to find some of the camaraderie that he'd had when he'd
made his home among them. But he knew that he'd have his work cut out for
him. A Triana had odd vulnerabilities, things that he could never discuss
with Chris. That Classified information had been drummed into his head. The
members of the Trianen were officially and unofficially not to be discussed.
At least he knew what he was dealing with, if only in generalities. Triana
were difficult to categorize. He definitely knew more than Chris did or probably
ever would, but the oaths he'd taken as a Ranger prevented him from telling
anything. His Leader would be commanding a Triana with no idea of what to
do with one. Or what to watch out for. It was interesting that Standish was
willing to come at all. Individual Triana bowed to very few and followed
none. Their will was strong and they did not deal well with being ordered
Larabee and Standish. Oh, Vin almost burst out laughing, this could get
+ + + + + + +
Larabee returned with Westerfield and gave his friend a pained glance while
continuing a strained conversation. It obviously hadn't been a good lunch.
Tanner tried not to laugh. Standish, as a Triana, would heed only authority
that he recognized. There was no way that thick middle manager had any chance
of ruling a Triana.
But why was a Triana here? They were valuable assets and few. There were
maybe 30 Full Triana in the whole of the US. Why waste one on investigating
this division? The horrors that they'd mentioned in the briefing he'd overheard
were huge but why send a Triana to deal with them? Triana were some of the
most deadly warriors in the world. Only the Morro-Trained Assassins came
close to being more skilled.
Far more deadly than SEALs or Rangers. Why waste one in this place? Each
Triana had to be protected both from the world at large and their own frightening
skills. Where were the other members of his Tau? He'd seen the other agents
in the Ops Room and none of them were the type of men assigned to deal with
a Triana. There weren't any of the usual group assigned to Standish.
That could be very dangerous. Triana had to be handled carefully because
their training was conditioned responses. They were survivors of a horrific
Experiment when they were children and as a result had been conditioned so
thoroughly that their actions were pure instinct. It also meant that they
had peculiar mental tripwires that could lead to deadly violence. Each Triana
was assigned someone to run interference for them.
He'd thought that Chris was a Triana and Buck his Keeper for the first little
while. It was the standard relationship. But Chris, for all his leashed in
violence was not explosive the way a Triana whose tripwires had been sprung
was. It was the relationship in intensity between a firecracker and an atomic
There wasn't anyone playing protector for this man as far as Vin could tell.
Standish walked into the room and started using the copier. When he finished,
he walked past Vin and sat at his desk. If he noticed Tanner's intense scrutiny
he made no sign.
An unintentional movement Standish made drew his sleeve down revealing his
wrist. Vin almost gasped seeing the black bruising. For all their fearsome
skill, Triana had weaknesses that could be exploited if you knew how to do
so. The stiffness of Standish's movement also clued Vin in. Someone had used
this Triana as a punching bag or worse.
+ + + + + + +
Forcing down his outrage, Vin noticed that Standish was looking at him with
an unreadable expression. He ducked his head, not wanting to offend the man
by staring or to reveal that he knew some of the betrayal that the agent
had endured here in Atlanta. Still he boiled with anger in silence.
It was a rule of reality. No matter how fierce the warrior, someone could
always take them down. A Triana could be taken down, but it was hard and
required extreme treachery to do it. The medic Charlie Rogers had done it,
handing over his commander, John Grendal, to the enemy at Three Rivers. That
Rogers had killed Grendal's entire team in the man's sight was a nightmare
not to be spoken of. How Rogers could even do such a thing was something
that Vin couldn't even fathom.
Putting aside the fact that such a betrayal was High Treason against the
United States, the Triana teams were not just teams, they were family, The
Trianen, even stronger than Pack. Even beyond what RMETF Seven was
trying to become. How Rogers could do that, drug his leader and poison the
rest of the team with a smile on his face just was beyond Vin's understanding.
Ezra was alone because he had no Tau, Solus was the Triana term. But he was
also Resalk, without his Tau and not performing usual duties. It was a dangerous
place for a Triana to be. Alone and at threat. Vin only hoped that he and
Chris together could get the man out of here safely. He'd seen the results
of failure and it was hard for him to take. Painful even to think on.
It would be his job to look out for Ezra P. Standish. No Triana was ever
meant to be alone, unaccompanied. He swore to himself, as he'd sworn to Cyrne.
This man would not be undefended in his weaknesses or unaided when his strengths
+ + + + + + +
Memory tore at Vin, forcing images of the sacrifices of the past. Things
that he'd tried to push away, but could never forget. It had been Vin's last
mission with Cyrne's team. The head of the Trianen, Grendal, had been tortured
for weeks before the strike team led by Cyrne had rescued him. He could remember
watching from the second chopper as Cyrne and Pulver had lifted Grendal's
shattered body aboard the other one. Later he'd heard of the extent of the
injuries that the Senior Triana had suffered.
It made him want to go find Charlie Rogers and kill him again. The medic
hadn't made the money he'd demanded for his treachery. He'd sold out his
country and his treason had been repaid by the men he'd sold it to. They'd
left his broken body as a warning of the wages of disloyalty.
Grendal lay in a hospital somewhere bound in a coma to allow his savaged
body to heal. The damage done by the situation was still being felt. He could
remember the anger and grieving, not just the whole Trianen but Pack
Now another Triana was at threat and damn it all, Vin Tanner wasn't going
to allow another guardian to fall.
+ + + + + + +
Chris Larabee wondered what Vin was thinking. He was getting the strangest
feelings across their tentative link. When he knew Vin a little better, it
would be clearer. The only things that Chris could tell for sure were that
Vin was very angry and that he was willing to back whatever Chris had to
do to get Standish out of here. Denver might not be the place for the man,
but he damn well was going to get him out of this Hell.
The second meeting with Standish had revealed more of the uneasy feeling,
but little other facts. Standish was on edge, it was hidden well, but on
edge. He had a shyness that instinct told Larabee was foreign to his nature.
It reminded Chris of a horse he once had, one that had to be handled
carefully...because he'd been abused.
Larabee had watched Standish carefully during the meeting and felt even more
strongly that he had to get the man out of here.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra Standish amused himself, again without showing his cards, by watching
the two Agents from Denver. Chris Larabee, he knew all too well, but it was
definite that the man had no recollection of him. That he'd made certain
of. The other, Vin Tanner, raised an odd sensation in him. Didn't Cyrne have
a blue eyed sharpshooter, one that was mostly Native American in heritage?
Tallman? No, Tanner, It was Tanner. Maybe that was why the man was looking
at him so oddly. Both of them were ready to jump to his defense.
That startled him. Ezra Standish, no matter what name he was wearing, was
used to being the defender, not the defended. However, something in him was
urging him to let these men protect him, just for a while.
Sometimes the weight of Secrets was just too much to bear.
+ + + + + + +
Larabee was at his wits end. Montague and Westerfield were both trying to
push him about leaving Standish behind. That wasn't going to happen even
if he had to kidnap the man.
The ensuing conversation had drawn in several other department leaders most
notably Larry Atkins and his second Ron Mackenzie from NSA. Both Montague
and Westerfield looked like idiots and Chris wondered, not for the first
time, what they were hiding. It took a powerful lot of wrongdoing for a Senior
Agent who was a political wanna-be to make himself look like this much of
an idiot in public. For two of them to be doing it? What the Hell was wrong
Vin had told him that there was information he needed to share from his snooping,
but there really hadn't been any time. Once they got back to their hotel,
he'd had to deal with a hundred crises from Denver by long distance. The
Sharpshooter had been very uneasy and that still radiated across their new
Still Larabee had to wonder, watching the political firestorm his presence
had ignited, What the Hell was wrong with Atlanta?
+ + + + + + +
Vin caught sight of the man, Sanderson, from yesterday while wandering the
building again. He was seemingly at ease here in Atlanta. It was odd for
a Marshal to be assigned to multiple stations that were across the country
from each other. Following the man that they'd called Mercury, he found himself
near the Marshal's office. Looking in but not making himself known, Vin saw
several people that he himself had worked with. The REALLY big guns in the
Marshals Service. Conner and Arwen, Thomas Lee, Kelly Niven, and one that
surely had to be the Iceblock. C. A. ...Standish? Wonder if it was any relation?
C. A. Standish was a cold man well known for his intensity. Rather like Larabee
except the Iceblock was more likely to take you out with little feeling unlike
the rage that Larabee would use to bring you down. He shivered as he wondered
what this gathering was about. The local Marshals looked to be being called
on the carpet. It was never good to be around when a dirty house was being
Taking that as a cue, Vin got out of there, not noticing the half smirk Mercury
7 P.M. Ops Room, Melo's Sports Bar
Ezra was amused, this was almost a nest of Triana. He ran the secondary
computations for the strike. All was prepared. The only unknown variables
were Larabee and Tanner. Giving little Peter a cocky grin, he set up the
first phase of the operation. It was time. Atkins and Mackenzie were just
arriving in the Ops Room as his group prepared.
He ran the extra computations on Shatterstalk and Firefall. Neither was viable
at this point, but Ezra was used to things bitting him in the rear and planned
accordingly. All operations had built to this climax. Everything was ready
to go. Every agent in place. He just had to give the word and it would be
done. He'd played the dart game and now it was time to bring the roof down.
Giving Peter a second smile that his manager would positively take amiss,
he stretched, stood up, and left the Ops Room. On the way out past the Bar,
he took down his Ace of Spades from the dart board, it would be needed tonight.
Melo gave him a slight encouraging smile. He shook his head, Melo was such
an optimist, but maybe there was a reason for hope.
There was a meeting that he needed to have.
+ + + + + + +
Chris was furious and Vin knew his Leader's temper well enough at this point
not to add to Larabee's anger. He'd been able to explain some of what he'd
witnessed and watched the famous Man in Black's temper blow. They'd gone
to a sandwich shop for dinner. It had been interesting explaining Larabee's
furious outburst to the staff. Not an experience that Vin would like to repeat.
The rest of the day had been extremely frustrating. They had been stuck dealing
with the various Senior Agents all day. Petty Power Politics. The 3 P's.
Vin hated them, but he was a little better at navigating them than Chris
was when he'd been denied what was 'his'.
Tanner had no doubt that Larabee would prevail in the long run, but how long
that might take... no idea. He was so involved in his own thoughts that he
failed to realize that Chris had stopped in the doorframe of their hotel
room. So Vin bumped into him, just like in the movies.
"Cowboy?" he asked softly.
Chris said nothing, just yanked him into the room and shut the door. Vin
was a bit startled until he noticed that the room was not unoccupied.
Sitting on a chair in the middle of the room was Ezra Standish. It was a
Standish that none of his fellow agents in Atlanta would recognize. The grey
Kybern coat and full Cadence marks weren't necessary as all of Standish's
body language proclaimed what he was. A Full Triana, even more dangerous
than Larabee who was deadly in his own right.
"Perhaps a little more caution in future?" Standish quipped. "I could have
killed both of you several times over." The dull pallor of Standish's face
was not the same controlled rage as his mask of yesterday. Something had
changed and Vin figured that Atlanta was going to be rocking soon enough.
"You okay?" Larabee asked. Standish raised an elegant eyebrow. He drew a
pack of cards from some hidden pocket in his coat and began shuffling them.
Vin tensed. Triana cards were not the simple pasteboard they appeared to
"You came all the way from Denver to find me...." Standish asked, "To ask
"No. I came to get you. Phillips was right. You need out of here."
"Phillips? Captain Philips?" Ezra's face did not change expression.
"Yes. Do you know him?"
"I'm familiar with Captain Philips." Ezra said non- committaly. He measured
Chris with a gaze. "You came because Captain Philips told you to?"
"You need out of there, Ezra. I'm not sure what the Hell is going on, but
I'm not leaving you here to be injured by those idiots." Larabee's possessiveness
was heavy in his voice. Standish allowed one corner of his mouth to turn
up in a very slight smirk.
"I'm already injured." Standish admitted. Larabee moved toward him. "Don't
touch." He hissed.
"I don't deal well with invasions of my personal space."
Vin grinned. That was a understatement of Global proportions. The Triana
were not easily touched, even by their Tau. He wilted a little as Standish
poured the full force of his gaze on him. Tanner knew better, but the Triana's
gaze poured over him like molten lava. It was something that Vin had been
glad to forget happened around the Trianen. The feeling shut off after a
moment, but Vin felt that he'd been measured and had failed somehow.
He only hoped that it wouldn't damage Larabee's chances to recruit this Triana
for Team Seven.
"You want me to join your RMETF?" Standish returned to watching Larabee with
a cool expression. "To relocate to Denver and investigate Cold Cases?" Standish
poured his rich Southern accent into his voice
"You need us." Chris said.
"There's some debate on that matter." Ezra laughed elegantly, but the subtle
menace was there in the subtext. "By the way, Agent Tanner. Little Peter
was most impressed by your infiltration of our Ops room. I'd watch my back
for a while." He smirked. "Peter likes his security deadly. Just a note of
"I can well understand it." Tanner replied solemnly. "Cyrne thought the same
way. I wouldn't have wanted to cross Willows on the matter."
"So you ARE the sharpshooter that Oliver stole from Cyrne's Tau." Ezra's
eyes narrowed in speculation.
"I didn't serve him. I left the army as soon as I could get out...There weren't
no way I was going to hook up with that kind o thing..."Vin's protests faded
at a gesture from the Triana.
"One only has to look at you to know that, Agent Tanner." Ezra said gently,
shifting his persona from a threat to a guardian. It was rare for a Triana
to strip away his masks even with the members of his Tau. Vin looked up and
caught an expression of approval in the face of the man they'd come so far
"I'm not sure what all of that was about, but Vin's a good man and a good
Agent." Chris entered the conversation with all the finesse of a mother Grizzly
bear. Ezra Standish threw back his head and laughed hard and deep.
Chris had the disconcerting feeling that he'd met this man before,
somewhere...The green eyes from his dream. That was it. As the realization
struck him, he found himself the subject of Standish's incredulous look.
"So, it is to be." the man said cryptically. "I am willing to come with you,
but you will need to accept all of me, all that I am. I dance to many tunes
piped by many masters."
"I gathered that."Larabee said dryly holding up both copies of Standish's
personnel file. The one from Philips and the doctored one from Westerfield.
"I need an undercover agent, but you'll need to be on task. I won't risk
"I will be on task." Ezra said seriously. "However, to dance the dance, I
have to take some protective cover with me. Do you yell, Agent Larabee?"
"It would be better if it appeared that you had no idea what I am other than
an undercover agent." Standish lifted his hand to brush away a errant lock
of hair. The black bruising that Vin had seen yesterday was plainly visible.
Larabee made an angry noise that could have been a growl. He started for
Ezra, intent on tending the injury and checking for others.
"Don't" Ezra's voice made him stop. "I am harmed. That much is plain to see
right now. You can't protect me. You won't ever be able to do so. What I
hold and what I am decree that. That is something that you must accept if
I am to follow you to Denver."
"That I can't protect you? That you have too many enemies?" Chris bit out.
"Can you accept that my part in this Nation's defense requires a greater
level of danger than you would find ...." Standish laughed bitterly.
"Does that mean that you have to be a punching bag?" Larabee demanded.
"Sometimes." Ezra looked at him carefully. Larabee felt a tug in the hidden
spaces of his heart. The pull of what he had denied himself from becoming
was great, the gifts and powers seeking active use. Ruthlessly Chris slammed
the lid on that part of himself that felt the power in this man. He knew
that he needed Standish, needed to get him out of here. He didn't want to
think about anything else.
The protective instincts that had surged in Homer's Corner when he met Vin
were nothing to the demands his own self were placing on him now.
"I won't like it and I will interfere if I can, but I know that you have
a duty to fulfil."Chris said stubbornly. Vin was astonished hearing the
traditional commentary of the Keeper coming out of his Leader's mouth.
"A Duty" Vin added. "I would be assigned to you as your partner. We have
three pairs and this hard-head." Tanner was grasping at humor to ease the
"You would be my partner?" Standish's voice was low.
"I know I ain't the best or what you'd want, but I know what's what." Vin
said softly. Chris bristled to hear the self loathing.
"You are more than acceptable, Vincent Richard Tanner." Ezra said. "You weren't
denied the training in the Tau because you were unworthy of it." Vin's head
snapped up to look Standish in the eyes. "Your gift is not in line with what
the training would offer. Cyrne was wiser to match the training to the man,
rather than force the man to the training."
Vin's mind flew back to the bitter disappointment that he'd felt at being
unable to do more than be a shooter in the Tau. Cyrne had sent him often
to liaison with Pack Damn. Had that been what that was all about?
"A wise man knows his strengths and his limitations, and he will maximize
the one and eliminate the other." Standish said cooly. Vin looked at him.
"No false self doubt. You've been poisoning yourself with it for years."
Vin nodded sharply, recognizing that the despair that he'd been feeling had
originated at that time. All the depression that had led him to Homer's Corner
slipped away under that recognition.
Chris was startled as he felt shock go through the bond he had with Vin.
Apparently their soon to be new undercover had pegged something for his friend.
He felt the man's gaze rake over him but refused to be drawn into an argument.
Larabee's hotel room only had two chairs so he sat down with a heavy plunk
on the nearest bed.
"So are you coming or what?" He demanded without preamble.
Ezra laughed again, this time more musically than bitterly. "I will come
since you ask it. But if anyone asks, you had to drag me all the way."
Chris laughed. "This means that I get to ball you out?"
"Oh yes. And argue over expenses." Chris snorted, and Ezra laughed again.
"And debate policy, and anything else that you can think of. I take it you
read both files."
"Neither of them are complete." Chris haurmphed. "No where near complete."
"I would rather doubt it."Ezra said with amusement. "Now I have to arrange
to have my lodgings packed up and shipped to Denver including my car."
"What do you drive?" Chris asked curiously.
"Obviously, it wasn't in the file. The current set of rumors make much of
my car. It's a Jaguar XLS. This year's model." Tanner whistled and Ezra gave
him a smirk.
"How did you get enough cash for that?" Vin said with a little envy.
"I have cash to spare, believe me." Ezra said causing Larabee to snort again.
"But if you want to know, I own the Jaguar because I bought it at a seized
property auction in Maryland. The people who don't think that I was bribed
with it, believe that my 'loving' Mother gave it to me." The bitterness on
his emphasis on the word loving raised both men's hackles.
"Family Problem?" Chris asked. Vin was startled, Triana usually didn't have
real blood family.
"A rather large one. Especially for Denver." Standish answered honestly.
"My mother has two sides. Both are dangerous. Maude is deadly to underestimate.
That's her power."
"Mother is an agent, Larabee. She works for the NID." Vin's eyes widened
with the implications. NID was responsible for so much heartache. They had
been some of the secret backers that had created the Experiment in the first
place. If Ezra's mother was NID that meant that she'd.... It was all Vin
could do to keep from vomiting. She'd willingly surrendered her child to
be experimented on!
Ezra acknowledged Vin's understanding even as he searched for information
that would put Larabee on guard without revealing too much Classified
information. "Mother was recruited at the tender age of fifteen. She was
the daughter of a household of, well, the nearest similar group would be
the 'Travelers', con men, thieves, petty criminals."
"No, not the Rom. Any Romany would make the sign for warding off evil if
they ran into any members of that side of the family. No, there really isn't
a term for them. As I said, Maude was caught by the NID and found to be useful.
They created a Lady, diamond hard and determined, one that they use to bankrupt
rich men to increase their coffers. Make no mistake, my Mother is deadly.
She'll kill to get what she wants. She has... a twin, and the soap opera
cliche fits. One good, one evil and both go by Maude."
"Fun" Chris said looking at Vin. Both men knew that there was more to the
"The NID have interests near Denver that might bring her there. She will
behave like a spoiled society dame, but she's all the more deadly for that."
"How many kills?" Vin asked, knowing that he wasn't joking.
"58 confirmed that I know about." Ezra said softly. "My father was one."
Chris's eyes widened.
"Still want Ezra P. Standish on your Team, Agent Larabee?"
"You are coming with us, even if I have to tie you up in a sack to do it."
"Might be interesting going through airport security."Ezra quipped. "I will
meet you later, I have an operation to finish."
"We'll come along. We won't get in the way."Chris said fiercely.
"Are you trying to give Little Peter a heart attack now and spare yourself
the trouble later?" Ezra's grin was wide across his face.
"We aren't letting them get at you again, Standish" Chris said firmly.
"I walk a crooked trail so that others may have the safer road." Ezra quoted
softly. "You do not belong on that crooked trail tonight, Agent Larabee."
It was a contest of wills, and it ended with a draw. Larabee and Tanner waited
in the Ops Room all night watching the various Agents run around. Standish
disappeared shortly after they'd been formally introduced to 'Little' Peter
+ + + + + + +
Chris grimaced remembering what had been revealed during the operation. His
new agent needed a Large neon Billboard reading 'Warning, too many masters'.
After the hustle and bustle of the Ops room, leaving Atlanta had been
anticlimactic. Nothing from Standish or from above their pay grade, just
Peter Collier shaking them awake and handing them their packed and loaded
bags. His own suitcases stood beside them.
Peter Collier stood all of four foot six, but he had a grin like a highly
amused shark and the attitude to match.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra met them at the airport, fancy luggage in hand and neatly stacked behind
him. He was the perfect fop. Chris caught his smirk and thought of a favorite
book from childhood, 'The Scarlet Pimpernel'. Almost as if he knew what Larabee
was thinking, Standish grinned and gestured with his Starbuck's coffee cup.
"What kind is that?" Vin asked, stopping Larabee dead.
"Double mocha latte. Why? Would you like one, Agent Tanner?"
"Does it come with the half cream?"
"Yes, I believe that they have that." Standish smirked.
"But you don't like regular coffee" Chris started "It has to be that strong
stuff... You said so."
"No, Cowboy. Buck said so. And he dared me. I ain't no Texas caricature,
Boss-man. I like lots of different coffees. Period. But since Miz Rinaldi
works so hard to make it every morning, I'm surely going to drink it. She
don't make bad coffee, which is odd since she don't drink it."
Little Peter broke up laughing behind them.
"Miss Rinaldi?" Ezra questioned.
"Mrs. Rinaldi" Chris said. "She's my assistant and manages our office. We
probably could have gotten by with one coffee maker."
"No way, Chris." Vin exclaimed. "Have you ever tried to drink that stuff
Nate buys? Costco special with no flavor. And it's thin. I can't stand coffee
flavored water. Even Buck's Navy Bilge is better than that stuff. Now point
me to the Starbucks."
"Follow me." Ezra gestured with his briefcase. Chris gave him a once over.
The man was dressed in a wool suit, but it was definately Armani. The Movado
watch was the most expensive that Chris had ever seen, elegant in it's
simplicity. The shoes were hand made by a fine Italian shoemaker that Larabee
knew he couldn't even think of the name of. He looked like a prosperous
"Expense reports, Agent Larabee." Standish said softly.
"Chris. Not Agent Larabee."
"As you wish. Names are a dangerous thing to be generous with." Standish
looked at him curiously. "Though for some, that isn't an issue."
+ + + + + + +
Vin was loaded down with coffee and cheesecake when he came back to them.
The man claimed it was breakfast, but Chris knew better. Tanner was a health
food nut and very careful what he actually ate and drank most of the time.
Every so often he'd go a little crazy, but that was usually at Stacy's bakery
down the street from the 'Saloon'. It was something that wasn't shared with
the team, Nathan was sure that Vin would end up diabetic or something thinking
that he was another junk food junkie. Chris knew the truth because he'd been
watching Tanner's diet since they came back from Homer's Corner. Just like
JD, the money hadn't covered everything in the beginning. Food was an issue
there too. Somehow he didn't think it would be an issue with Standish.
+ + + + + + +
The plane wasn't crowded at this time of day, but Chris felt that prickle
between his shoulder blades that said he was being watched. Vin was in the
seat next to him dozing lightly. That was good, Tanner didn't like flying.
Standish, sitting next to the Texan on this DC-10 raised an eyebrow as Larabee
searched for the source of his unease.
"Vin doesn't like to fly." Chris said to cover himself. There was no threat
that he could perceive.
"He served Cyrne, that's a given." Standish laughed softly. Peter Collier
sat next to Standish and harumphed.
"Peter's bite is worse than his bark." Ezra said warningly. Chris was reminded
of a dog his parents once owned. The critter was only about the weight of
a tiny bag of flour and could fit in one hand, but damn that was the most
violent animal. Very fond of his mother, that dog was. He and his siblings
still had scars in various places from when their childish arguments had
gotten too close or too loud.
+ + + + + + +
Five rows down, four other agents that were part of Standish's strike team
buckled themselves in. Some of their team had already left for Denver and
others were headed there later. In the cockpit the usual pilots had been
replaced over the cockpit officers' objections. The new team were skilled
military pilots and this was a matter of National Security.
+ + + + + + +
Vin had napped for a little, but had been wakened by the stewardesses handing
out snacks and drinks. Larabee excused himself and headed to the lavatory.
Tanner shifted in his seat and bumped Ezra's arm. Ezra had folded his jacket
across his lap so it wouldn't be so wrinkled when they arrived in Denver,
so he was in shirt sleeves. It had to have hurt when Vin bumped him.
"Sorry." Vin apologized.
"No harm done." Ezra replied but Vin knew it wasn't the case. Gently he reached
for the man's arm. Standish eyed him curiously but did not pull away. Vin
looked at the dark bruising around the wrist that told him Ezra had been
forcibly restrained. He turned the wrist over and saw reddish marks on the
skin in the open area where the cuff buttoned. Carefully he unbuttoned the
cuff, watching Ezra warily. All Standish did was raise an elegant eyebrow
at him. There were ugly slices in the skin, full of medical sutures and a
"Take your antibiotics?" Vin asked, tone telling Ezra to answer or 'else'.
"Yes, though they don't work well."
"What did that?" Tanner asked, fearing the answer.
"My last partner." Ezra said quietly, surprising himself with the need to
be honest with this man. To distance himself a little, he concentrated on
re-buttoning his cuff. Vin had been among the Triana, served Cyrne, so there
was not likely to be any treachery in him. But Ezra was not used to being
so open. He hadn't been since Jack was his partner, so long ago now.
"Look at me Ezra." Vin demanded. Ezra obeyed because of the seriousness of
When he was certain that he had Ezra's attention, he said softly. "I swear
by all that I hold Sacred and Holy, I will never willingly cause you harm
and I will defend you with both Life and Soul for all the length of my life."
Standish looked like he'd been struck with a board. All the color left the
man's face and for a second Vin thought that Ezra was going to pass out.
Ezra shifted to look Vin directly in the face.
"Enough people have died for me, Vin Tanner. I do not want to add you to
that list." Ezra said quietly.
"My life, My choice." Vin replied. His words were not quite the traditional
ones spoken in the Tau, but he knew that Ezra was well aware of the truth
that he'd spoken. Ezra was his partner, and he'd defend him with his life.
Ezra wondered a little. Vin Tanner was going to be the only one in Denver
that knew what he was and what to do with it. Triana were territorial and
none were posted to Colorado at this time. Without a Tau there were be
difficulties in dealing with his gifts and talents. Tanner knew this and
had offered him the loyalty he would need. While Peter and the others were
not trained to the Tau, they were high ranking agents with some idea, but
it would be difficult for them to help him. Collier had been in Ezra's own
support services for his Tau before Three Rivers, but even Peter didn't have
a complete understanding of what Ezra had to deal with as a Triana. This
man did, and was willing to stand with him.
"My hand to defend you, My mind to protect you, My word to uphold you, and
all that I am for the sake of the Hope. By the Duty and Obligation, as well
as my own will. I accept you to stand by me and by that man in black that
we both serve. Your loyalty to both of us is your chosen burden. I shall
never willingly put that in jeopardy or in danger, for it was freely given
and freely granted." Ezra replied in the formal voice that he'd used with
Beside him he could tell that Peter wasn't asleep, and was fully aware of
what had just happened. The older man was shocked. Ezra had let no one close
to him since Charlie Rogers had murdered his Tau. Even Jack hadn't gotten
that far in. Grendal had always walked alone. Somehow this Tanner had gotten
through all of Standish's reserves in a very short amount of time. He'd been
told that Tanner had once served Cyrne and Peter knew that the bonds between
Ezra and Cyrne were tighter than most of the Triana had, Hell, most of the
full Trianen, but this was unprecedented.
+ + + + + + +
Vin was satisfied that Ezra knew that he'd protect him. There was no reason
for the Triana to be alone. He knew what sorts of problems the man would
face and his own gut told him not to leave Ezra to himself. If he'd been
alone anything could happen, usually bad. Just look what had happened to
John Grendal! Col. Oliver may have torn Vin away from Cyrne, but he couldn't
steal Vin's knowledge. Standish was alone and that meant at risk and the
Texan wouldn't allow that to continue. Someone needed to stand up with the
Triana, keep him safe. That would be his task, he promised himself and in
his mind he promised Cyrne.
He would protect him, even from Team Seven if need be. Speaking of the team,
Vin had better fill him in on the personalities that Ezra would be working
with. It was very hard to integrate a Triana in with people who didn't know
what to do with one. Vin ignored Larabee's return and began describing the
men of RMETF Seven.
+ + + + + + +
Arriving in Denver came as a relief to Chris. Vin seemed to think that Ezra
needed an in depth review of all of the Team's peccadilloes. Some of them
were amusing and some just embarrassing. Baker's unhappy meeting with the
Dead was the current topic. It was certain sure that Tanner enjoyed the story
even though he hadn't realized that the vindictive people in attendance were
the Dead. Or maybe not. Vin seemed to have a little problem with the idea
that people died and weren't here any more except for the ones on a mission.
For Tanner, everyday was filled with people, living, dead, and otherwise.
Standish seemed to have accepted this as well, with no reservations. Those
two fit like a glove and a fist. He looked over at Peter Collier and was
surprised when the taciturn little man gave him a commiserating smile.
Same Day, Arvada, Just after Four o'Clock
The realtor fainted. Buying the whole development would do that to a body.
She'd never thought that this group of Complexes would sell in a million
years. Then the whole thing at once. It was too much. Ezra had been his usual
charming self, much to his team's amusement. Once the paperwork was dealt
with, Vin had noticed Ezra droop a little, the man was exhausted and should
still be in a hospital. He positioned himself to keep even the people from
Atlanta a little at bay, so Ezra could lightly nap in the window seat. Vin
was so focused on his new 'teammate' that he didn't notice the amused, shocked,
and pleased looks the rest of Ezra's undercover team were throwing at him.
Chris had been called into the office to an emergency meeting, but he'd told
Vin to help Ezra find some place to live and to get him settled. It had made
Vin laugh, and he found himself quashing chuckles as he considered what Larabee's
reaction would have been had he been present during the Townhouse's sale.
Just watching the entire development fill up with Agents and personnel from
Standish's strike team had been amazing.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra's full team finally arrived shortly after nightfall with the completely
packed luggage and equipment. The townhouses were quickly portioned off to
the members of the unit. Whole cases of equipment arrived in U-Haul trucks,
but Vin could tell from the packaging that they were Military packed and
contained whole stations of supplies. Philomel Sanderson, Ezra's cousin better
known as Mercury, had come out to share his knowledge of Denver with the
agents and to help them get settled. Within hours they were setting up their
systems as well as the furniture. Ezra had scheduled meetings with General
Carpenter, the area commander, and General Hammond at the newly formed deep
space telemetry station out at N.O.R.A.D.
The Stargate Project worried Ezra, for reasons that he could not share with
anyone, not yet. But he acknowledged his orders to secure the area, keep
the NID out beyond the range if possible. Standish thought not, being as
familiar with Mayborne as he was. The three defense grids were quickly integrated
and he resumed the setups for ShatterStalk and Firefall.
It took some time, but Vin finally got Ezra to lie down on his bed for a
while. The others could set up the apartment, but Ezra needed some down time.
Vin covered him with one of the blankets he found, the room wasn't really
properly organized yet, and got Standish slightly comfortable. He waited
until the Triana had drifted off to sleep before withdrawing from the room.
Leaving the door open a crack, Vin sat down to listen for signs of Ezra feeling
restless. Tanner tagged a book at random out of one of the nearby boxes and
settled into read. What the heck was a Philosopher's stone?
Vin growled anytime any of the movers made un-necessary noise, not realizing
how much like a Keeper he was behaving. Ezra's team was more than amused,
they were astonished. Maybe this move to Denver was the right thing after
all. There was more life in the grieving John Grendal in the last couple
of days than anyone had seen for the last couple of years. Not since before
the betrayal that had led to Three Rivers. Tanner didn't notice the gestures
of respect that he was receiving.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra was still tired, but had regained some color and strength from his nap.
Leaving the continuing setup to his team, he chanced riding around the city
with Vin. Denver wasn't a bad location, especially after Tanner 'introduced'
him to some old friends of Ezra's that he'd thought lost forever. Fortunately
Vin liked Greek food. And there was lots of it to eat after that quiet reunion.
Monday would come soon enough.
Monday Morning, Rout Federal Building, elevator
Nathan Jackson stood in the elevator, patiently reviewing his personal research
materials in his mind. This would be a pleasant day. Maybe the new undercover
agent would be a good man and would fit in well. He didn't see the speaking
looks exchanged by the other two passengers.
"Larabee actually took on Standish?" one of them said to the other just loud
enough for Nathan to hear. "I still can't believe it. That sad bastard's
dirty. He's just too slippery to get caught."
"He still on the take?" the other chimed in, carefully watching for Nathan's
"How do you think that he affords those suits...much less that car. I know
I couldn't buy a Jag. Not and stay clean. Even on my salary." The two men
continued their conversation all the way to the eleventh floor. They pretended
not to notice when a furious Nathan Jackson stormed off the elevator. This
+ + + + + + +
Unaware of what had happened to Nathan in the elevator, Chris Larabee was
fairly pleased with the situation. He'd had a long talk with Ezra over lemon
meringue pie at Delan's on one of his few breaks from the situation at hand.
Delan's was nearby and so busy, most people wouldn't notice them. Not like
at J. Watson's Saloon where most of the clientele were Federal Agents. They'd
discussed his cover's foibles and faults. Standish was going to be late to
work most of the time. Between that and the expense reports, arguments should
look reasonable. It would need to be carefully crafted. First he'd have to
find a way to warn his team about what was going on.
He'd made motions, but there really hadn't been much time with the build
up to this emergency assignment. They'd come home to a crisis. Chris had
left Vin to help Ezra get settled while he'd come into the office and had
stayed there the whole weekend trying to solve this situation. It was way
out of control, and Larabee hated being stuck with someone else's leftover
Burying his head in a technical schematic, Larabee concentrated on trying
to keep his men alive.
+ + + + + + +
Meeting Team Seven was an experience that Ezra Standish would never forget
nor would they.
Buck Wilmington was a tall man with a lazy air, easily ignored, but Ezra's
appraising eye could tell that the hardness that he had learned in the SEALs
remained. He might seem jovial, but he wasn't someone to cross. Ezra looked
him in the eye, directly, putting a little, just a shade of what he was into
it. Wilmington's face was pretty well controlled but Standish could read
the surprise there.
Buck for his part, couldn't quite figure out the man who had arrived in their
bullpen, ever so nonchalantly, and turned it upside down without doing or
saying much of anything. This one might wear a fancy suit, but there was
steel in the man underneath it. The flippant Southern accent and attitude
were just that, attitude. Their new teammate was out to give an impression,
and it was surely false through and through.
Wilmington had seen Vin's reassuring grin. That Texan knew something. Whatever
this Ezra Standish was, it weren't no popinjay. Buck liked things to be
straightforward, but he knew Chris well and knew that there was more to this
story than it appeared.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra appraised JD Dunne carefully, liking what he saw. He might be young,
but there was both strength and skill there. Dunne pretended to childish
things, but the Triana's eye saw far more than appearances. Behind the boy
he could see the shadow of the Grey Major, and nodded an eye blink acknowledgment
to the Guardian Ghost. There remained the shadow of the blessings given in
Chicago at the Canadian Consulate. He remembered it well and could feel the
cords of the weaving binding him into this pattern. JD Dunne was the heart
of it, as ever.
JD Dunne was very satisfied with the new undercover for his part. Yes, the
man was flashy, but that was all show. It was a mask and he could tell it
was a well worn one. This was a man who could be comfortable anywhere and
with anyone. Few could see his heart or know his mind, though. That brought
him up short. He'd seen worn out undercovers at the NYPD and knew that it
was some of the most stressful work out there. Ezra Standish was like a raptor,
a hawk, JD decided. Wild and hard to hold onto, but willing to work in harness.
It was important to remember that such a creature was never domesticated
and that the hawk might take a chunk out of you as well as the prey or try
to escape at any time. With a hawk it was always an uneasy partnership. It
would be here as well. Hoping the man wouldn't keep them at bay as well as
the bad guys, JD decided to try to bring in this wild hawk and hope that
he filled the hole in the team. It just seemed right.
+ + + + + + +
The new Agent had arrived and Josiah was startled, the man looked like some
professional bureaucrat. Instinct told him this wasn't just an attempt to
impress them. There was something off in the behavior but Josiah couldn't
put a finger on it. It was plain that the man wanted them to perceive him
as a total pain in the ass, an upper class con-man.
Agent Standish might project that for all he was worth, but Josiah knew it
wasn't the reality. He kept a close eye on the younger man, noting the way
in which his body moved. There was a grace and assurance that didn't quite
square with the image he was trying to present. Chris would never have chosen
an idiot, that was for certain. Analyzing this man would be fun. No one Larabee
brought on to his team would be anything less than fascinating.
Ezra found it intriguing to let just the corner of the mask slip. Sanchez
was one of the few people who could unsettle him. Ruthlessly reminding himself
that Josiah Sanchez was not the person that he remembered, that he just looked
like the monster, allowed him to keep his composure.
But only just. Giving him an image within an image would keep the therapist
in Josiah Sanchez busy. At least until Ezra Standish could figure him out.
An elaborate game of chess.
Nathan hadn't returned to the bullpen yet, so Josiah showed the new Agent
around. Standish said nothing weighty, but kept the conversation light, but
not flippant. Southern manners, but hiding something else. He introduced
Standish to Deborah Rinaldi and was slightly surprised when the southerner
spoke so respectfully that an outsider would have thought that they had been
friends for years. Josiah caught an odd smirk on the face of a visiting Federal
Marshal, Simerson or Sanderson, Sanchez thought. That man always seemed to
be lurking around the office.
A phone rang in the bullpen and Josiah excused himself, realizing that it
was his phone that was ringing. Ezra nodded to his cousin Mercury over Deborah
Rinaldi's head. In the hallway behind Sanderson, he could see Peter Collier
walk by and give him a thumbs- up signal. Standish hid his smile. Operations
were up and running in Denver. He could feel the warmth of the pre-standing
grids as they were preparing to uplink to full power. The thrum of his hand
device indicated the status of the secondaries and the Firefall/ShatterStalk
Josiah's phone call had finished quickly and he returned to hover over Ezra
paternally. Standish could feel the man's overprotective personality like
a wave. It would be interesting to dodge him, but Ezra refrained for now.
There were other ways to hide in plain sight.
Following the older man back into the bullpen, Ezra saw but did not acknowledge
the large dreamcatcher that hung from the top of Josiah's cubicle. Beside
it, Josiah had stapled a printed copy of a newspaper piece announcing the
murder of Inspector D'Orsay of the RCMP. On the other side of the cubicle,
someone had posted a 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper with a crow and the
slashed circle. No Crows allowed. Standish hid his amusement. He looked at
Josiah with a raised eyebrow.
"Crows, a sign of Death. Probably mine." Josiah said, startling himself with
his honesty. It had taken a couple of months for him to talk with the others
about the visions that led him to Chris' team. He gave a goofy grin to back
up a little from such complete honesty with someone he didn't know. No use
having the man think that he was nuts.
"Well, well, a sense of humor. I look forward to many lively conversations."
Ezra replied with a enigmatic smirk, but his hand reached out surreptitiously
to touch the huge black feather woven into the dreamcatcher. It was a reverent
+ + + + + + +
"Why'd you sign on, Josiah? What is it you expect to gain? Most men of your
standing would be mostly retired and lecturing to blissfully dim-witted
students." Ezra asked the man as he was shown the break room facilities for
the third time. Apparently, he was rattling Sanchez just a little.
"It's the right place for me at this time. We can do a lot of good for people.
It can take a bit of a twist in the thinking to find out why people do the
evil things that they do. But I can usually figure it out. This is where
I belong." Josiah said. Ezra was amused. Sanchez might not pay any attention
to it, but he was ranked as one of the top profilers in the country. However,
Ezra P. Standish was better, but the Triana had gifts that brought that about.
The older man's talent was that earned by patient, long, and hard labor.
Josiah for his part found himself trying to hold back words with the Southerner.
But unbidden the words came to his lips. "I saw the birds of darkness in
a dream. When I woke up, a crow was sitting on my windowsill staring at me
like the devil himself." To his immense surprise, Standish only nodded.
" There are many places where you could be of great help. Why come here?"Ezra
Standish asked softly, but he knew that Josiah Sanchez heard him, and heard
what he did not say.
"If death's coming, I'd just as soon meet it head on. This is the place to
stand and fight." Josiah answered, seeing that odd look, a measuring gaze
so like that of another young man.
"Your name isn't on Death's list for a while, yet, Josiah Raul Sanchez. You
have things to do still. But carelessness can get it moved up. Watch yourself."
Ezra Standish said plainly, but firmly. He then walked away from the break
room and began shuffling things at his desk.
Josiah wondered when he'd told the other man his middle name.
+ + + + + + +
For Ezra the sequel was a bit of farce. He set out his belongings, firmly.
One gold pen, one iron paperweight. Buck and JD watched in fascination, but
Vin just smiled and shook his head. Ignoring his partner's amusement, he
shuffled the desk's assigned contents, In basket, mouse pad, pencil cup,
paperclip cup, and organizer. When everything was set out just so, he turned
on his computer. Setting the rudimentary passwords, he did not acknowledge
the arrival in the bullpen of the other member of Team Seven, Nathan Jackson.
Nathan had been fuming all the way up to the 20th floor and back as he'd
had to run paperwork all over the building. He hadn't been there when the
new undercover agent arrived. Having heard Ezra Standish's evil reputation
declared all over the building had set him off. Looking at the man made it
worse, why couldn't Chris have found a decent man to do this job? Maybe filth
was required in an undercover specialist but that didn't mean that Nathan
Jackson had to put up with him.
Ezra felt the anger before he saw the man. The raw fury was like a tide,
and unpalatable. No one was spared it, he noticed. Josiah grimaced, Buck
and JD ceased playing and just stared at the man. Vin half rose to protect
Ezra, but Standish signaled him not to interfere. Here was the confrontation
he'd been expecting. Right on schedule.
Grounding to a halt in front of the new agent's desk, Nathan stood firmly
rooted. He seemed larger than usual to the others, swollen by the rage that
he was feeling. The anger was palpable in the bullpen, forming waves like
a disturbed pond. JD was wide-eyed in startled amazement, but Buck just looked
resigned. Josiah was about to interrupt as was Vin when Ezra looked up from
his desk and raised a single eloquent eyebrow. Nathan Jackson felt the whole
weight of the Triana's measuring gaze.
It flowed over him like molten lava burning the rage away like little bits
of lint in a firestorm. Nathan sensed a sudden inrush of power and realized
the bonds that kept him enslaved were loosened. He understood that he was
bound to the Professor's will, something that he had never consciously known
before this moment.
Silently, he felt rather than heard words in his mind. I know that you
are bound and do not do this of your own will, echoed in his thoughts.
It was a gentle touch, careful and without the half remembered pain such
occurrences had brought in the past. You are enslaved, but one day you
will be free, the words continued. Hold on to yourself and be prepared
to choose freedom. I will help you, but the choice must be yours.
Nathan knew that he was in shock, but his mouth opened and vile, ugly words
came pouring out from something that was not him. He tried to communicate
with this strange man, but he couldn't control the raging filth that he was
saying. The new agent met his gaze, ignoring what he said, but looking at
Nathan directly as if he understood. It took Nathan a little to understand,
but the words he was hearing in his mind were coming from the man in front
A feeling of gentle warmth and support encompassed him, keeping the cold
slimy feeling that was a barrier between him and the body he inhabited away.
You will be free, Nathan Edward Jackson, he heard the words, but
it will be mostly your own doing. This prison that you dwell in was constructed
by one that you trusted. When the hour is right you will have to look at
what has been done and choose. Sadly that is not yet, but you are at least
aware now. Hold on, my friend, and all will be right.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra ignored the vile innuendos and other idiotic garbage that Nathan Jackson's
unconnected mouth was disgorging. The other agents were upset, he could tell,
but he was more interested in the real man in front of him. It would not
be time for a confrontation with Nathan's captor for some little while, but
at least he could give the man respite from the bindings imposed upon him.
However, no matter how great Ezra's powers, the only person who could free
Nathan Jackson was Nathan Jackson.
+ + + + + + +
Nathan's vile tirade had brought a startled Chris Larabee from his office.
The rude comments stopped as Nathan looked at Chris, but Larabee was
thunderstruck to see something not human in Nathan's eyes. Before he could
do more than register his shock, he heard a crash and the moment was lost.
Deborah Rinaldi had lost hold of a large stack of things meant for the briefing
scheduled later. Larabee wasn't certain if she'd done it on purpose, or if
she'd done it out of horror at the sick things that Nathan had said. He caught
her gaze as Buck and JD went to help her gather things up. It had been on
purpose. Chris gave her a little half nod as both reassurance and thanks.
His hackles were still up from seeing that thing in Nathan's gaze, but he
didn't have the first clue how to deal with it. Larabee didn't like not knowing
how to handle a situation and he was rattled. Vin was scandalized and angry,
he could tell that from Tanner's loud reverberations across the link. Buck
was resigned and a little irritated, Chris could read his body language still
as clearly as when they had been SEALs together. JD was covering, but he
knew something was wrong. Josiah was totally baffled and it showed. Normally
he would have been the first person to intervene or to help Deborah, but
the older man just sat there staring at Nathan as if he'd never seen anything
like him before.
Nathan's rage had just clicked off like a switch had been thrown and he went
to his desk. Sitting down, the medic behaved as if nothing had happened.
Chris shared a look of bewilderment with Vin and turned to apologize to their
new undercover, but Standish shook his head cutting off what Chris had been
going to say.
"No need" Standish said so softly that only Chris and Vin could hear him.
Larabee started realizing that Ezra knew more than he would be willing to
say and not just about Nathan.
+ + + + + + +
JD and Buck went downstairs after the introductions were finished. Both were
more than a little shaken by what had happened. However the rule that Chris
had required of them at the beginning held fast. You do not discuss the Team
outside of the Team without solid reason. Several people made comments about
the new Agent, but both JD and Buck refused to be drawn into anything. The
stories were repetitious and flat, giving the impression of being made up.
Buck was impressed, disgusted, but impressed. It took a lot of work on someone's
part to have this much garbage distributed around the building this quickly.
Chris had only brought the man here on the weekend. Most people shouldn't
even know that there was a new agent, given Chris' closed mouth tendencies.
Some one, somewhere, really had it in for Ezra P. Standish.
JD for his part was a little alarmed. Something similar had occurred when
he was NYPD. The accused officer had been totally innocent, but the set up
had taken time to be revealed. By the time it had been found out, it was
too late. The officer had killed himself. It wasn't going to happen here,
JD decided. Standish was not what they were saying. There was no possible
way that Chris would have taken him if he'd truly been bent. Making a decision,
he caught Buck's eye.
Wilmington was a little astonished at the Kid's move, but he knew to play
along. Taking a deep breath, he gave JD a wink in acknowledgment and then
said something stupid. JD responded just as they'd planned. Good. Buck could
see the shift from the stories being told about Standish to wondering what
they were arguing about. 'Lovely' Janey from accounting hung on every word.
Even better. He buried his dislike of the woman JD called the 'raging witch'
when he was being polite.
The argument grew louder, and Buck was pleased. JD had a knack for this sort
of thing. The Kid might be young but he was definitely not innocent, not
at all. He certainly wasn't the naive thing that most people took him for.
Finally the ersatz argument came around to money, just as they'd planned.
"You think you got me pegged, don't you Buck? Rich kid, had it all. Yeah,
I lived in a big mansion, sort of. We lived in the Servant's building so
we wouldn't share the same roof as the 'Master' and his family. My mother
was a chamber maid. Never knew my father. They made me a stable boy and I
taught myself how to ride, think, fight, and take care of things. When push
came to shove, it was my doing that kept us going. We didn't get one red
cent more than they had to give under the contracts, not one penny. I had
to sell almost every thing we ever owned to pay the debts. But they're settled.
Nobody had to take care of me or my mother. We did just fine." JD growled,
sounding for all the world like a touchy bratty kid.
Buck didn't smile, but he was very pleased. It sounded good and was playing
well. Chris would have questions later, but they would be private ones. Just
enough to play their parts and get through this assignment. Then there would
be time to figure out the Standish equation.
"In case you forgot, Mama died only a little while ago. She'd saved a little
money. Wanted me to go to get a Senior degree. It wasn't enough. And they
made sure that I couldn't have it, those Tofflers would have made me pay
back every penny of the money Mama earned. Hell, they would have stolen the
pennies from a dead man's eyes and thought they had the right to them." JD
continued his tirade about money while watching the crowd surreptitiously.
He was privy to Buck's plans, had to be to back up his partner, but even
so... it was dangerous to play too open a game. Maybe Standish could help
a little? If he wasn't part of the problem.
+ + + + + + +
Deborah Rinaldi listened to the rumors and lies with a serenity that only
she could possess. Agent Larabee was not the kind of man that you easily
fooled. No matter what the gossip was, Standish couldn't be all that bad.
Chris Larabee might bend things a little, but never ever out of true alignment
with Justice. No one that he chose for his team could be corrupt, Larabee
didn't work that way. All of these stories were junk anyway. She'd typed
up the new Personnel Jacket on Ezra P. Standish herself. The two different
file jackets let her know that more than one thing was being played. Especially
since the in-system Computer personnel file changed every few minutes, or
so it appeared. Besides, Agent Standish gave her a feeling very different
than Agent Baker. This man was a good one, but he played on the edge. She'd
have to find out what Chris wanted her to do to help to keep him from sliding
She smiled at Marshal Sanderson, knowing that he was worried about his cousin.
The file she had mentioned a lot of different people and she'd looked up
more information in the system and elsewhere. It hadn't come to her as a
surprise that Agent Standish came from such a large family. A great number
of the Standish family were involved with Law Enforcement of varying kinds.
She'd even looked the man up on the AltaVista search engine at home. Wow,
It was amazing to think about what she'd found out, but it was important
to keep it to herself.
Keeping her head down so that her smile was hidden, she watched as NSA Agent
Peter Collier came down the hallway again. He wasn't very obvious, but she'd
always kept a close eye out for trouble coming in to the bullpen. NSA's local
division had gone through some radical changes over the weekend and so, sadly
had the Office of Public Responsibility, OPR. Deborah knew when not to poke
at things, but she couldn't help feeling amused that they were trying to
hide so much in plain sight.
+ + + + + + +
The Grey Major tried not to laugh himself sick as he watched the battle lines
drawn. He hadn't had quite so much fun in years, though he felt a little
sorry for his heir. Ezra P. Standish of the many names was in for one very
wild ride. The Seven were beginning to merge into that group of heroes that
were needed. Hopefully this time they would be able to Stand.
He decided to continue his watch over both his charge and the rest of the
team. A raise in the ambient power levels indicated that the other Guardians
had focused their interest in Denver as well. Interesting. Fireworks were
all around them ready to blow. One could only hope, the Ghost thought to
himself, that this Seven would truly be Magnificent.
+ + + + + + +
Nathan was rattled. There were no two ways about it. His body was acting
on it's own, following pre-existing instructions. It scared the Hell out
of him. Just the fact that he had to have been betrayed by someone he trusted
so much was terrifying. Why had this been done to him? Why had he been enslaved?
Trying to keep his mind clear, he risked a glance at the new Agent. A vicious
rage filled him every time he looked at the Southerner. That was the worst
thing of all. There was no real reason to hate the man with such an intensity.
What was he going to do?
+ + + + + + +
Chris took a short break when Alex Welch, the RMETF co-ordinator called him
up to his office.
Taking Josiah with him, Larabee went up to finish clearing the reports on
the final team member of his Task Force.
When Chris handed Alex the personnel file, the man's eyes took in the name
on the tab and widened in surprise. "A Standish? Larabee are you sure? A
for real Damned Standish! Which one? Do you know his full name? Allen would
be great, Edward would be an incredible find...Hal? One of the Corwin twins?
Alex Welch almost fainted. "Ezra Standish? Ezra P. Standish? Oh hell Larabee
how did you do this? There's no way they'd let him wander! Ezra P. Standish."
Larabee nodded. "Damn Chris, you have all the Luck. There's no way I would
have thought that we could get any of that tribe, but Ezra P. Standish! Damn!"
"This is a good thing?" Josiah asked bewildered by Welch's excitement. "He
isn't real friendly. Prickly, hard to work with, not a team player."
"Friendly? Friendly doesn't matter. The Standishes are the best there are.
To get one of the lesser members of the tribe, but Ezra P. Standish...Damn."
Alex shook his head and looked at both men with a deadly serious expression.
"There are agencies out there who would give their entire operating budget
to have a chance to get any of that family. But Ezra P. Standish? Damn. Damn.
How the hell did you do it Chris? The Joint Chiefs and two Bureau Directors
couldn't move him, Hell, the President couldn't get him to change his mind.
Ezra P. Standish...Damn."
"Couldn't leave him behind. Atlanta was absolutely poisonous. I've never
seen or heard of the like." Larabee explained as much as he felt he could
about the situation he'd found Ezra in, surprising both Alex and Josiah.
"It was...I can't describe it. He had a strike team of his own, for all I
know they could be here. It doesn't matter. There are still problems, Agent
Collier told me that things were as he put it, unresolved. Whatever's wrong
he didn't deserve what he went through in Atlanta. There's more to it, a
lot more to it than even I know, but I don't know how to resolve it. I have
this bust to arrange, to salvage. But I know that Ezra is in trouble still.
There's fear there, in him, fear that no human being, no Gifted should face.
I know that he hasn't done anything wrong."
"What should we do?"Josiah asked, beyond astonished by the things that they'd
just been told.
"I don't know. I've got to get us through this situation before I can even
try to figure it out. The Nathan situation in particular. Alex warned us
that he'd have problems with a white undercover, but I certainly wasn't expecting
what happened in the bullpen. I've got complaints from departments that haven't
even had interaction with Ezra, people yowling all over the place. Hell,
even our 'esteemed' Area Director has weighed in. I don't care. We need him,
but he needs us too. It's the right placement and I can't explain that to
anyone. I knew that we'd need protective cover for him, but all of this goes
way beyond anything that I'd thought of."
"Is there anything that I can do to help?" Alex Welch asked, quietly.
"I just have to get us through the bust, through this day, then we can deal
with it. Then we can deal with it."
+ + + + + + +
"Get down!" The yell came. JD ducked trying to find both the source of the
shout and the danger it warned of. Something flew past his head, but he couldn't
tell what it was. The corridor was empty. When nothing more happened, JD
decided to look around a little. He'd left Buck worming his way into 'Lovely'
Janey's affections. As if that snake had any ability to have feelings. There
was a hole in the wall behind him. A bullet hole. If he hadn't ducked, he
might have been hit or killed.
Who was taking pot shots at people INSIDE the Federal Building?
+ + + + + + +
Judge Orrin Travis was fuming. How dare he! Larabee had collected a bunch
of misfits it was true, but this was too much. He stormed down the halls
to Team Seven's offices. His rage was not abating. Having been in conference
with the F.B.I. for the last hour and a half about the man, did nothing for
the Judge's serenity. There was no way that he was going to allow this...this
Storming through the Bullpen and into Chris' office, he'd demanded Larabee's
attention. He'd let the man know in no uncertain terms what he thought of
his latest acquisition. Chris had seemed surprised as he looked up from the
piles of schematics he'd been reviewing. The angry comments had been delivered
at a louder volume than Judge Travis would normally have used. He didn't
care, all of his usual calm and deliberation would not, could not, prevent
him giving voice to his extreme disappointment and anger.
It didn't matter to the Judge if everybody on the floor heard it.
+ + + + + + +
Vin Tanner was furious. He was about to give the Judge a piece of his mind
when Ezra waved him off. Up until this morning he'd have said that Travis
was a fair and just man. But the garbage that was coming out, garbage that
was audible not only in the bullpen but in the neighboring offices. There
was no reason for it, even if the Judge believed Ezra was corrupt.
Not that any Triana could be. Looking over at his partner and charge, Vin
could read the exhaustion and outright emotional pain that Standish's mask
hid from the rest of the world. He wouldn't have been able to read it if
he hadn't been so close to Cyrne.
Buck had returned and was tucking away some token, probably from some heartsick
female. He looked at Vin, baffled by the roars of anger coming from Travis.
Josiah looked shellshocked and not quite certain what to do. JD was still
out of the office and Nathan had addressed himself to his reports with an
The Judge hadn't let Larabee explain anything. He stormed out of Chris' office
almost more angry than he'd been when he entered. Raging over to Ezra's desk,
he bit out an angry statement.
"This is your Second Chance, Standish, your Last Chance. Don't screw it up.
You don't deserve it." Travis glared venomously and left the bullpen. He
almost bowled over JD as the young Agent returned to the office.
Everyone was a little too rattled to speak, shocked into silence by the Judge's
+ + + + + + +
A little careful breathing exercise brought his emotions under rigid control,
but Ezra knew that he'd have to deal with more than Judge Travis' enmity
just to survive long enough to fulfil his Duty. Just keep breathing, he told
+ + + + + + +
Chris didn't say anything about his superior's actions, but everyone could
tell that Larabee was infuriated with Judge Travis and more than a little
off balance with the state of affairs. No one made any comments or did any
of their usual joking. They had a bust to get to, something that another
team planned and that was stress enough. Somehow they'd have to work the
situation and let all of the rest of it slide until it was safe to look at
Somehow it didn't inspire trust on a first mission. But they went out to
grapple with it anyway.
Next:Echo of Judgement
It's rare for a Con to work without someone watching their back. I always
wondered if Ezra was really alone. I hope that you enjoyed it. More twists
and turns coming up.
Extra points if you found the Crossovers! They were really rather difficult