Breaking Faith

by Wendj

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, I'm just having a lot of fun playin' with them, in the ATF world CBS, Trilogy and MGM own the rights, Lucky ********.

Warning: Swearing. Drug use and violence, eventually

Part One

"Have you got through to Vin yet?" Chris asked as he kept his eyes trained on Guido Fabrizio's family compound.

Buck shook his head, as he put the cell phone away. "Nope, but you didn't think I would did you? He asked for the day off, and you gave it to him. He's probably out on some dirt road, putting as much distances between him and the city as he can."

"Half his luck," a voice interrupted through the radio. "Hey,

Chris, can I ask for the day off starting --now?" JD chuckled down the airwaves.

"Listen Kid," Buck answered for their leader, "You just keep those peepers of yours on the front entrance and wait for further orders, or I will have to come down there and give you a reason for needing a day off. Ya hear me?"

"I hear ya." JD pouted, as he mumbled, "Grouch."

Buck frowned at Chris, "Did I hear him right? Did that little pip squeak just call me a GROUCH over a police radio?"

Chris continued to watch Guido as he sunned himself by the pool, trying to stop himself laughing at his friend’s small tirade. "I'm sure you misheard him," he jokingly defended the youngest agent.

"Bullshit! I have twenty/twenty hearing just like you do, Larabee, and we both heard the same thing. That boy is going to pay," Buck smiled as he thought of the many and varied punishments he had in mind. "Call me grouch will he."

+ + + + + + +

"I do believe, Mr. Dunne, that you are going to suffer greatly for that last remark." Ezra smiled as he watched the young man tap his head against the ground in frustration.

"I did say that, didn't I? I called Buck a grouch, and he heard me. Oh, shit! He is going to make me pay for that, isn't Ez?" He whined as he looked to his friend for comfort.

"As I stated before, my friend, yes, you will indeed suffer for that lapse of judgment." Ezra couldn't wait to see what Buck had in store for the young man; they never failed to entertain. The two agents continued their surveillance as they lay side by side on the hill. Standish's attention was soon distracted from the light-hearted conversation by a noise coming from down the road. "I think we are about to have company."

The motorbike roared up the road, its rider obscured by distance and dust.

Ezra caught a glimpse of light brunette hair, and he focused his glasses in closer. The unmistakable imprint of a buckskin jacket seared his eyes. "What in the Hades is going on?" He watched totally confused as their fellow agent waved to the guards as he rode his Harley in through the gateway like he owned the place. "Damn it!" He had thought he was the only one with dark side, more to the point how does he tell their leader.

"Ez? What's the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost." JD asked. Without the hindsight of binoculars he had no idea what had upset the older agent.

"Maybe I have, Mr. Dunne." Taking a deep breath, Ezra switched on the radio. "Chris, Fabrizio has a visitor, he has just entered the front gates."

"Could you see who it was?" Larabee's voice called back. There was silence as his leader waited for an answer then, Ezra closed his eyes as he heard Chris' anguished plea, "It can't be."

Chris watched eagerly as the new player exited the patio doors and made his way down to poolside. His mouth suddenly went dry as he stared in disbelief as his friend and fellow agent, stepped up to the mobster, only to be affectionately enfolded in the older man's arms.

"I'll be gone to hell!" Was all Buck could mutter, before his lips curled into a snarl of contempt. "Shit! That bastard! What do we do now?" He asked as his eyes stayed glued to the family scene below him. Hearing no answer, Buck turned away to see his friend's face had paled as the realization of what he had actually seen set in. His friend, the man he trusted most in this world, had lied to him.

"Chris? Chris!"

Gathering his thoughts, Larabee wiped at his lips with the back of his hand as he moved down the hill. "Call them all back." He ordered as he moved as quickly as he could away from the sight of a friend’s betrayal.

Part Two

The more Chris thought, the more he raged at the world for doing this to him. ‘Was it too much to ask for everything to go right, for just once in his life.’ He had found a deep friendship in Vin, one not based on time and words. It was born out of deeds and feelings and maybe that was the trouble. He had taken to the younger man too quickly, assumed too much on the guarantee of unspoken words and emotions.

Chris still didn't understand how the names Vin Tanner and Guido

Fabrizio had come to be spoken in the sentence. Fabrizio was one of the oldest and still breathing mobsters around and it was a rare thing to mention old and mobster in the same breath. As mobsters went, Guido had always seemed to be one of the less violent and more law abiding of the families, but that appeared to have changed in the last few months. The Fabrizio's controlled streets had become a bleeding ground of white powder and blood. All divisions of law enforcement had been put on alert, especially when raids failed, seemingly to high placed tip-offs and Larabee didn't like the way equation was adding up.

"HOW MANY COPS DO YOU KNOW, TAKE DAYS OFF TO VISIT MOBSTERS?" Buck's voice boomed through the walls of the office.

"Mr. Willmington, if you would like to keep your voice down. It would be nice if we gave Mr. Tanner the benefit of the doubt, at least till we hear his side. " Ezra attempted to calm the blustering agent.

"I'm giving him the benefit of doubt; I doubt the man has told us the truth since we met him." Buck snapped back.

The five men each pondered the ramifications of what they had seen that day.

"There are many truths Buck. We have seen but one of them. Josiah quietly stated. He too was struck by the insurmountable truth of the day, but held firm to the belief that all might not be what it seemed.

"Don't give me that turn the other cheek shit, Josiah. You wouldn't be part of this team if you believed that. We all ‘know’ what we saw. Our so-called friend and fellow agent ‘is’ in bed with the mob. He was practically kissing Guido's ring for Godsake!"

"The Godfather, Guido isn't." Nathan reasoned. "I happen to agree with Josiah. We should hear both sides before you string him up, Buck." He had to agree; Vin had saved his life more than once. He couldn't; he wouldn't believe that Tanner was a wolf in their midst.

"I can see why you'd think that, but did you ever think, Nathan, that it was all part of Tanner's plan to save you that day in the warehouse? Put him in real good with us, didn't it? We opened up our arms and said welcome without knowing a thing about him." Looking at his fellow agents, Buck jumped up from the desk and began to pace the room wildly. "Why am I the only one that sees what’s going on here."

"Enough Buck!" Chris commanded as he made his way out of his office to join his team. "You can be heard all over the office with that over jawing mouth of yours."

"You alright, brother?" Josiah asked, knowing of all the team,

Larabee had been hit the hardest, by the revelations of the day.

"I'm fine Josiah. Why shouldn't I be?" Ignoring the sick feeling in his gut, Chris turned his attention back to the group. "I know what you're all thinking, most likely, cause I have thought all the same things myself, and more. But it's unfair to attack Vin, not until we've heard his side of it."

"I don't have to, or I want to hear his side of it. I know what I saw. I need some air." Buck turned away in disgust and stalked down the hallway.

Part Three

Buck's angry departure had left the five remaining men in different positions of uncomfortable silence. J.D sat slouched in his chair, trying to fathom the complexities of life that were now twisting and turning his stomach. "Maybe one of us should go after him."

"Leave him be, kid. I've known Buck a long time. He's going to fester about this no matter what we do." Chris answered as he leaned back against the wall.

"What did you tell Travis about our surveillance?" Nathan asked, suddenly worried how their aborted assignment was going to read on paper.

"What could I tell him, Nathan?" he sighed, running his fingers through his hair. "I haven't told him shit, yet. I want to hear Vin's side first."

"You can't hold the AD off forever, brother." Josiah said as he walked up to Chris, placing a reassuring hand on his friend's shoulder.

"Tell me something I don't know, Josiah." Chris sighed again.

+ + + + + + +

Mario Fabrizio watched as his father and Vin Tanner stepped away from the poolside and started for their usual walk in the gardens.

"Look at that, always the same. This policeman comes here greeted like a long lost son. While I, Guido Fabrizio's only son, am ignored!" Mario slammed his fist against his chest. "He acts like this scarafaggio! cockroach is part of the family, not the enemy." he spat.

Armanno Gasale had watched his employer's son vent his rage at the disappearing figures of Guido and Tanner and tried to suppress the smile. The Fabrizio family had been too long in the wilderness of corporate business and the bank balances were showing the depletion of playing the legal game. Armanno had been nurtured on the stories 'of the generations the Fabrizio family code' and how no one could defy them. He was more than honored to be invited into the fold and become a soldier for the family. But his excitement was short-lived as his job became a gopher career; this was not what his father had brought him up to be.

"Mario," Gasale lowered his voice as he moved in closer to the angry young man. "What we have done and what we are planning to do," He nodded toward the area where the two walking figures had been. "We do these things and we can never go back."

"We can never go back anyway.” the young man shot back.

"We have been slowly undermining my father's 'good works' for months now. Every drug deal, every weapons shipment was ordered in my father's name. How long do you think it will be before he pulls his head out of his ass long enough to find out what I have done."

Mario wondered what the policeman and Guido had to talk about for so long. "Do you think Tanner has mentioned anything about the upsurge in movements on the street to the old man."

Moving away from the window, Mario walked over to the liquor cabinet and made himself a drink. "As far as I know they talk about personal business. Tanner has, supposedly, always left his badge at the gate and father-- well, he had nothing to hide, until now." A smile began to curl at corner of his lips "Anyway, I think our policeman friend is going to have a few problems of his own to contend with. I have it on good authority that Agent Tanner's team is watching his meeting with the great Guido as we speak."

Armanno's head jerked to the window, his eyes peering into the hills that surrounded the compound, looking for the eyes that looked backed. "You tipped them off?"

Walking over to join his friend, Mario followed Armanno's eyeline. "Lets say our 'ears and eyes' tipped them off. So, lets see how Tanner explains this and a few other little surprises I have in store."

Shaking his head, Armanno disagreed with the younger man's strategy. "All you've done is point them in our direction!"

The ice clinked as Mario pointed his hand that held the drink toward the garden. "I have pointed them in 'their' direction. By the time I'm finished, the names Vin Tanner and Guido Fabrizio will be nothing but a very bad memory.

Part Four

Guido and Vin started back from their walk. The younger man's less that talkative nature seemed more so today and had not gone unnoticed by the older man. "Vincenzio, speak to me. Tell me what bothers that deep thinking head of yours." Guido asked.

Only Guido was able to get away with calling him Vincenzio, "I ain't Italian, Guido, I'm a Texan. It's Vin remember?" The younger man laughed.

Lightly tapping Vin's cheek, Guido shook his head. "To me you're Vincenzio, what can I say-- and don't change the subject. What heavies your heart on such a fine day?"

Vin stopped walking and looked directly in to the eyes of the older man. "You know me so well." a smile faintly curved his mouth before disappearing just as quickly. "Have you ever felt you don't belong?"

Guido laughed out-loud as he slapped the surprised young man on his back. "More than once Vincenzio. Usually at the Chamber Of Commerce meetings. I swear they think if they disagree with me, they will end up in a barrel of acid buried in the desert somewhere. I'm afraid my earlier life, has more than preceded me." Becoming serious, Guido studied his young friend's face. "I have seen that look before, what is that really bothers you? Is it your job, your friends?"

Firing up Vin's eyes blazed. "Did I mention them?"

Guido chuckled as he continued to walk, pulling Vin along with him. "You didn't have to, I know you. Oh, how I remember those same blue eyes glaring at me, while you kicked me in the shins. I still have the bruise." He joked as he pretended to pull at his trouser leg.

"Jeez, Guido. I was only seven for Godsake! Give me a break, you ain't ever going to let me live that down are yah?" Vin drawled.

"A Fabrizio never forgets you know that," Guido explained as he continued on with the former conversation. "So, you like your friends, and life is good. So, you now wait for the other shoe to drop?"

With a half- hearted smile, Vin nodded. "Yeah, it always does and it usually on my head. I love my job--,"

"And your friends too?" Guido asked.

Vin's smiled broadened as he thought of the team; his family.

"I trust them, and they trust me and listen to what I have to say.

They're the closet thing I have had to a real family in a long time,"

Seeing the stung look in friend's eyes, Vin nudge at his arm. "You know what I mean."

The older man nudged back. "I know what you mean. Since you chose this life, we are now in two different worlds and can only exist in one time and place for a few short minutes. The price of friendship can be hard, Vincenzio." Guido answered sadly, before shrugging it off. "So, what? This is your problem? You are a good boy. Relax and enjoy. Breathe in the fresh air and bask in the sunshine. You, Vincenzio, worry far too much."

"And you Guido, don't worry enough, nor can you remember somebody's real name." Vin light-heartedly argued, as they continued to walk back to the house.

+ + + + + + +

Vin felt somehow better after talking to Guido, but then again he always did. He was right, ever since he had become an officer of the law, their time together was relatively cut short. Though policeman or no policeman, Vin refused to cut the mobster off completely, he owed him too much for that. As he saw it, it shouldn't matter anyway, Guido had long given up the life of crime for the respectable role of businessman.

Making his way up to his apartment his thoughts were interrupted by running feet. A mop of long black hair was tossed about as the little body flung herself into her hero's waiting arms.

"You're back!" she squealed as she buried herself in the safety of his arms.

Vin smiled as he hugged her tightly to his chest. "Of course I am back. Where else would I be, than with my little Spanish flower. Beso kiss?"

Planting a kiss on Vin's cheek, she pulled herself away so she looked into his eyes.

For the first time, Vin noticed that she had been crying, "What are these Lora, tears?" He asked as he wiped gently at them with his thumb. "Why would such a pretty little thing like you need to cry?"

"Eneas is gone." she sobbed, as her small fist rubbed at her eyes.

"Gone? How long has he been gone sweetheart?" Vin asked as rubbed her back, trying to soothe her.

A hiccup was released at the same time as she wiped at her nose with the back of her hand. Then holding three fingers down she held up two fingers in triumph.

Vin smiled, "You are becoming a clever little girl. Eneas has not been home for Dos domirs two sleeps?"

"Uhuh." she agreed as she clung to Vin again. "Mama cries all the time. She is so sad. Will you find my brother for me, Mr. Vin?" she cried into his neck.

Feeling the tiny body shaking in his arms, he ran his had through her long hair. "I will, my little Spanish flower. I will."

Pulling herself back, Lora placed her tiny hands on each side of Vin's face and searching his eyes she asked solemnly. "You promise?"

Vin looked back at the dark brown eyes, rimmed with the longest lashes he'd ever seen and he could refuse her nothing. "I promise, my Lora."

A smile lit up her face as she grabbed his neck and kissed him on the cheek again. "Put me down, Mr. Vin. I have to tell Momma that you will find Eneas for us." she giggled as she wriggled from his arms. Starting to run down the hallway she suddenly stopped and whirled around. "Oops, forgot. There's a man in your room. Bye, Mr. Vin." she waved happily.

"Chris." Vin smiled. It had to be him. The kids wouldn't let anyone else into his room. Watching Lora skip away, he sighed, the magnitude of the promise he had made the child, just hitting home.

Part Five

Eneas was still close to Vin's thoughts as he opened the door to his room, but scanning the room and finding Chris, he put his worries aside for the moment.

"Hey Cowboy. What brings you to this neck of the ghetto?" He smiled as he took off his coat and threw it on the coffee table. "Want somethin', or have you already made yourself at home?" he asked as he walked over to the fridge to get a drink.

A slight shake of the head was the only answer that the younger man received, and Vin was suddenly very worried. "Chris? Did somethin' happen today? Is everyone alright?" Vin tried to keep the rising panic from his voice.

Larabee had been waiting in his friend's apartment for over half an hour. He had practiced his words, what he was going to say and how to say it, but now, when it was time to say them out-loud, they seemed too much like accusations. "No, everyone's fine." Chris whispered.

"What then," Vin frowned as he walked toward his friend. "Come on Cowboy, you're scarin' me, and you know I don't scare that easy." Everything had been fine yesterday. What could have happened in such a short space of time to cause so much the pain on his friend's face?

Chris bailed for the first time in his life; he ran. "Sorry Vin, just tired that's all. Had a hard day." He forced a smile as he turned and stared into the face of-- innocence? "So, I hope you put your day off to good use." he casually bantered, his stomach rolling at his deceit.

For the first time since he had met Larabee, the younger man couldn't read what was going on in his friend's head, and it scared him a little. Thinking maybe his boss needed some time, Vin answered while he continued to try and read between the lines. "You know me Cowboy, I went to where I could see the sky without having to peer through smog and apartment buildings. I swear in another life it was just me, my horse and stars; but no guitar." he cautiously grinned as he eyed Chris's reactions.

"Makes for a lonely day."

"I did some visitin' as well. Didn't know when I'd be getting another chance."

"I thought, apart from the kids and the team, you didn't have anyone else."

Whoa! Where did they come from?

Vin was taken aback. That was not casual question. Chris was getting at something, but he was just taking the long way about getting there. "What?" Vin retorted a some what harsher than he meant, "I can't have other friends? Or is it that you think I don't warrant any?"

"No, that's not want I meant." ‘Shit! It was going all wrong.’ Chris sighed as he tried to say what he had to without putting his other foot in his mouth. "Vin, I--"

"I find it easy just to say it. Never been any secrets between us Chris; I sure as hell don't want ya to start now." He sounded so sure of himself, yet the younger man was shaking in his boots, waiting to hear what his friend had to say.

"You're right, I owe you the truth, as you do me. We were on a stakeout today. One that had been on the board for a long time, but the order only came down this morning, so you hadn't heard about it, anyway, it was your day off."

Vin's heart began to beat a little faster. "I was right, something went down, and it's one of the guys."

"No, I said they were fine, Vin." Chris repeated.

The younger man's patience was running out. "For Christ sake Chris! Shoot me or tell me. Either way, I can't take much more of this!"

"The Fabrizio's compound," Chris said quietly. "That was our stake out. By all rights I shouldn't even be telling you this, but I needed to see you."

Vin's face paled, not because his relationship with Guido had been revealed, but the realization of what Chris had been asking him. All the defenses he had let down went up as he glared at the person he considered his friend. "Why? Am I under investigation?" he snapped.

Suddenly faced with the younger man's growing fury, Chris tried to lessen the impact of his words. "Of course not, Vin. No one even knows you were there except the team, and we haven't said anything."

"I see," Vin nodded, "but ya wanna know what I was doing there," he asked as he stepped closer to Chris. "I was taking a bribe. I was selling my soul and all my 'friends' for seven pieces of silver."

"Damn it Vin! I'm only looking out for you." Chris shot back.

Vin's eyes were cold as he started to see his new life slipping from his grasp. ‘What could you expect Tanner. Ya know what ya have been and what ya will always be’ his inner voice spoke to him. Vin opened up his fingers and let his new life slip away. "I don't need anyone to look out for me, Larabee, certainty not my so called ‘friends’. I have done fine on my own all my life and I can do it again. Now if you wouldn't mind gettin' the FUCK OUT of my apartment."

"Vin please, we have to talk." Chris argued.


THE FUCK OUT NOW!!" Vin demanded as he turned away.

Part Six

"Damn them!" Vin fumed as he threw his drink against the wall. "Damn them," he voice becoming distant as his world collapsed around him. He had gotten Chris to leave after threatening to get his gun shoot either one of them to get some peace. Larabee had begrudgingly left, but had promised he would be back to work this problem out and that he wasn't giving up on their friendship without a fight.

"Too late Larabee, ya just gave it away." the despondent man spoke to the silent room.

Chris hadn't come right out and accused him, he wouldn't do that, but Vin knew he must have been thinking it to come to his apartment and stumble over his words like he did. And if Chris had doubts, the other five must be ready to lynch him. ‘The price of friendship can be hard Vincenzio’ Guido voice came back to haunt him. "Tell me something I don't know." Vin whispered as he ran his hand through his hair.

His thoughts were interrupted by the trill ring of the phone. Wanting nothing more to yank it from the wall, Vin instead gave in and answered it. "Tanner!" he said coldly.


"Yeah, this is Vin Tanner, who's this?"


"Eneas? Is that you?" Vin called a little more urgently

down the phone. "What is it? What's wrong?"

"Need help Vin."

"Where are you? I'll be right there?"

"Help me Vin?"

"I will, just tell me where?"

+ + + + + + +

The phone call had ended abruptly, but not before Vin had gotten the address. Moving quickly through the back alley's of the streets he had grown up in, he was soon at his destination. Parking his bike one street down, Vin made his way toward the derelict house. The hair on his back of his neck was rising, but as he looked around the streets he could see nothing what would cause his apprehension. Deciding the back way was the best way to assault the building, Vin vaulted the back fence and crept silently toward the house.

Pressing his back against the weather beaten boards, he pulled his gun from his belt, as he slipped a finger into the screen door handle. Inching the first door open, he was relieved that no squeaks gave away his entry. Taking a deep breath, he pushed at the inner door and slowly made his entrance into the house. With the day starting to draw to a close, the light in the rooms was dimming, making Vin's steps even more cautious as he made his way carefully through the decrepit kitchen, into the hallway.

Vin carefully stepped up to each room, holding his gun ready, as his eyes would search each darkened space. "Eneas, where the hell are ya?" he whispered, as he continued to look.

At the last room on the bottom floor, Vin found what he was searching for a bloodied teenager lay sprawled among the paper and debris in the middle of the room. Vin's breath caught in his throat, as he quickly scanned the room, and pushing his gun back into his belt, he rushed to the seventeen-year old boy’s side.

"Eneas?" Vin called into the unfocused eyes of the young boy. "Yer goin’ to be all right, ya hear me?" Too much blood he thought as, the red liquid bubbled and flowed freely from the wound in the kid's stomach. "Don't die on me, Eneas!" the agent demanded, as he put applied pressure to the dark red wound.

Pained eyes begged for help, as Eneas' moaned and convulsed, spraying blood from opened mouth.

"Damn it Eneas! I promised Lora. I promised I would brin’ ya home. DAMN IT! DON"T DO THIS" he pleaded. Got to get help Reaching for his mobile, he remembered it was on the bike saddles. Shit! Gently taking the boys chin in his hand he made eye contact. "I'm goin’ to get help, ya hold on. Ya hear Eneas? YA HOLD ON!"

Lost in the desperate battle to save the young boys life, Vin jumped up, just in time to met with a body tackle. The sudden attack sent him tripping over Eneas' body, causing him to land awkwardly on the floor with the assailant’s weight still holding him down.

Having already lost the advantage, Vin was attempting to reach for his gun, when a pain hit in the side of the head, stunning him.

Dazed, Vin suddenly realized the weight was gone and as he swung his arms about he realized he was alone. Still stunned, Vin shakingly crawled over to Eneas. "Still with me?" he croaked as his bloody fingers felt for a pulse. Feeling the faint vibration under the sticky liquid, he smiled. "Good, now stay that way." He ordered as he struggled to his feet.

Taking a second his breath, Vin stumbled through the now spinning house. Letting the door frame support him, he tried to focus his blurred vision on the front door, but his head hurt and his body parts suddenly refused to obey him.

A sound suddenly broke through his haze of pain and he smiled as he recognized a police siren. "Ya'll be all right no--" Vin never finished as he slid down the wall and let darkness claim him.

Part Seven

Waking from the darkness that had enveloped him, Vin's first thought was of Eneas and the second was not to move his head so fast next time. Forcing his eyes open, he squinted at the bright lights that attacked his sight. His first attempt to sit up was thwarted, when his head rebelled sending waves of dizziness and nausea through his body. Through blurred sight he could see he was he was in a hospital. Damn it, not again. Though it was some relief that if he was here then Eneas was being seen to as well.

"I wouldn't try that again, if I was you." a voice called from somewhere in the room.

"Eneas? I need to find out--" Vin groaned, as he again tried to sit up before breathlessly falling back to the pillow.

"I warned you. Anyway Lopez isn't going anywhere and either are you." the voice laughed. "I have been waiting a long time for this, Tanner."

Pain and confusion were making Vin's head spin as he tried to focus and find the face to the voice. "Who are you?"

"I wanted to be the first thing you saw when you woke up," the voice answered. "Patience is a virtue so I was told and now, I am living proof of it."

Through the pounding in his head, Vin could hear the voice becoming louder as the footsteps tapping on the linoleum floor came closer. Trying to clear his vision, the agent, squinted a few more times and as he eyes opened again the face came into view. "Michaels!" Vin spat the name.

"Nice to see you too, Tanner. Long time no see, but then again I don't suppose you spent much time down in Los Almos," he frowned as he grabbed a chair and took a seat.

"What are you doing here?" Vin asked coldly.

The smiling man placed a briefcase down on the floor beside him as he pulled a tape recorder from his jacket and placed it in the bedside table. "Oh we are going to see a lot of each other, Tanner. You see I am with IA now." Noting Vin's shocked expression, Michaels smiled as he went on to explain. "Your buddy Larabee thought he got rid of me, well he thought wrong. My father did serve another term and was owed some favors, which he called on to get me reinstated. Oh, your boss, got me locked out all right, but not out of everywhere. Now, I'm not making this personal Vin. May I call you Vin?"

"When hell freezes over." Vin sneered.

"Okay, Tanner, as you wish. As I said, I'm not making this investigation personal, after all, I am a professional."

"Yeah, professional asshole." Vin glared. "What does IA want with me anyway?" his eyes narrowed in contempt of his company.

"We have some questions. Understand you are not under arrest at this time and you can refuse and ask for a lawyer to be present." Michaels asked.

"A lawyer? What is this about, Michaels?" Vin snarled.

Reaching into his suitcase, Michaels retrieved a file, a small grin of satisfaction spreading on his face as he opened it and threw its contents on the hospital bed. "It's about these. Explain."

As Vin reached for the pictures that littered his bed, he grimaced as his head reminded him why he was here.

"Here let me help you." Michaels offered his voice dripping with spite as he held one of the pictures up for Vin to see.

Vin looked at the picture of he and Guido walking in the garden at the Fabrizio compound and snatched from the gloating


"Where'd you get this?" Vin demanded.

"Don't recognize the work? Then maybe this will give you a clue." Michaels' eyes glowed with gratification as he handed over the envelope the photos had been sent in.

Vin read the return address and closed his eyes.

"That's right, one of your friends thought that much of you but you know that is the least of your problems Tanner. When the ballistics get back on the gun that murdered the Lopez boy,"

Vin's eyes flew open, "Eneas is dead?"

"Oops! Did I forget to mention that little detail."

The first and last thing Vin would remember would be lunging for the smiling bastard's neck.

Part Eight

"What the HELL is going on here?" the furious doctor demanded. He had come to check his patient, only to find him seemingly unconscious on the floor with a well-dressed man pinned beneath him. Spotting an hospital attendant passing the doorway, the doctor called out. "Orderly! In here. Help me get the patient back into the bed."

"Who the hell are you? And what do you think you are doing in here?" the doctor grunted at the stranger, as he and the orderly lifted his unaware patient on to the bed.

Michaels picked himself up from the floor and dusted himself off as he looked disdainfully at the man in the bed. Reaching into his jacket he pulled out his badge, proudly waving it at the two hospital personal. "I am Agent Emerson Michaels, Internal affairs and I am here to interview the patient."

The doctor ignored the badge as he turned back to his patient. "Unless your god himself --Agent Michaels? You don't come into my patient's room without my permission. So, pick up this mess and take your handy dandy little recorder there and shove it," the doctor appeared about to say something, but changed his mind," in your briefcase and get out of this room, NOW!" he ordered. Checking Vin over, the doctor was relieved to find no further damage to his patient, but his concussion was a severe one and the patient could ill afford anymore upsets.

Having been dismissed from the room, Michaels hurriedly picked up the papers and grabbed his recorder and briefcase and scooting out the doorway. Still mumbling to himself, he wasn't watching where he was going, as he crashed into his senior partner, sending everything he had been holding crashing to the floor.

"What the hell?" Davis growled, as he looked from his now stooped and flustered partner to the inside of Vin's room. "What were you doing in Tanner's room?" the older man demanded of his new agent.

Looking up, as he tried to gather everything together, Michaels tried to find an excuse. "I...I,"

"You idiot! What are trying to do? This investigation will be run by the book. Do you hear me? I know all about you and your history with Tanner and ATF boys, I don't think there is anyone on the force that hasn't heard the story and agreed with what Larabee did to you." Bending down to help Michaels pick up the last of the papers, Davis held onto the last photo making the younger agent look him in the face. "And like Larabee, I don't give a rat's ass who your father is. What I do care about, is the law and that no one is above it, including one of his boys. Now, have I made myself clear or would you like to patrol border in Alaska for your next assignment?"

"YES SIR!" Michaels huffed.

Standing up, Davis shook his head. "Davis will do, Micheals, we're not in the army." Why me? he asked himself. Stepping to the doorway of Tanner's room, the elder agent cleared his throat to get the doctors attention. "Doctor, I'm Agent Davis, I was wondering if we would be able to talk to the patient now?"

Clipping his stethoscope around his neck, the doctor walked over to join the agents' at the doorway. "I'm sorry, no." Holding his hands up to bar their way. "Mr. Tanner has severe a concussion." he glared. " Now, I don't know what your 'friend' was attempting to do in here, but my patient will not be answering any questions until I say so.

Turning his head to scowl at Michaels, Davis turned back to the doctor and nodded. "I understand. Thank you doctor," Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a card and handed it to the physician. "I apologize for my inexperienced partner. Please call me when he is well enough to be interviewed, and please remember it's for his benefit as well that we get to talk to him as soon as possible."

+ + + + + + +

Armanno knocked at Mario's office door. No answer. Knocking louder, he didn't wait for permission, instead he pushed open the door and walked in. Damn it!

The younger Fabrizio was hunched over his desk, holding one side of his nose, while he snorted the fine white powder up the other through a gold straw.

"And you wonder why your father does not listen to you?" Armanno spat with disgust. "A man who risks millions and plays with life, cannot be ruled by another."

Wiping the fine traces of powder from his nose, Mario sniffed as he took offence at his employees attitude. "I am ruled by no one, nor am I controlled by anything or anyone, including you," he contested as he put the evidence of his habit away in the draw. "So, what news?" he asked dismissing the last subject.

Knowing his was never going to win the argument, especially with Mario wasted, Armanno decided to do what he always did and ignore it and got on with business. "We lost a valued employee today." he smiled.

"Everything went as planned?" Mario sniffed.

"It did. So with that and the photographic evidence that, just happened to find its way into Internal Affairs hands. Mr. Tanner should be finding himself a little crowded at this very moment."

"Good. I want Tanner's last days to be the most miserable of his life." Mario crowed.

Part Nine

Chris wasn't surprised to find Vin's desk empty; disappointed yes, but he was not surprised. The only thing that had surprised him was that there was no request for transfer or resignation lying on his desk.


Leaning back in his chair, Chris closed his eyes, as the spent man shook his head. "Not now Buck, I don't want to hear it."

Buck hated seeing his old friend like this, and he wasn't about to stand by and let Tanner get away with it. "What am I supposed to do, huh? Do you really think I'm going stand by and watch him do this to you--to the team?"

Chris jumped up from his seat, his chair rolling violently back against the wall as he failed to hold his temper any longer. "He ‘is’ one of the team. Damn it, Buck!" he seethed. "Would you expect me to turn on you so easy?"

"If I was guilty," Buck's eyes darkened. " You betcha I would."

"You said it Buck, IF you were guilty. " Chris threw his friend's words back at him, "I want to know what the hell is going on, just like you and the others, but we have to trust each other."

"Your word," Buck volleyed back. "Trust! And I want proof before I let Tanner stand behind me again."

"I'm not going to do this Buck. I refuse to stand and trade shots with you."

A discreet cough interrupted the two friends verbal parries.

Looking somewhat embarrassed to intrude, J.D stood at the doorway. "Sorry Chris. Josiah sent me to get you. You better get out here." he frowned.

"This isn't over Buck!" Chris whispered through clenched teeth, as he headed to the doorway.

"Not by a long shot, it ain't. " Buck answered, as he followed Chris from the office.

Buck arrived to see the others standing around watching as two men seemingly ransacking Vin's desk.

"What the hell is going on here?" Chris demanded, his glare sharpening as his gaze fell on the suited figure of Michaels going through Vin's things. "And what the F**k are you doing here?" he hissed as he took a step toward.

Josiah quickly had his hand pressed to Chris' chest, restraining him as he waved a paper in front of the leader. "They have a warrant brother."

Chris' green eyes shot fire at Michaels, as he watched the simpering agent puffed up with his own self-importance. Forcing himself to look away, he snatched the paper from Josiah's hand. Scanning the form, Chris' frowned deepened as he nodded a silent thank you to Josiah who knew it was now safe to step back. Ignoring Michaels, the leader turned and spoke to instead to the agent with him. "So you have a warrant, what's this all about?"

"Davis, Agent Davis." The agent offered his hand.

Chris disregarded the extended hand as his eyes narrowed in contempt. "Agent Davis, I did ask you a question."

"Okay, that's fine with me, I'm not here to be your friend Larabee. We are here to gather any evidence that may throw some light on Agent Tanner's activity's, or relationship with one Guido Frabizio."

Snapping his head around, Chris scowled at Buck to keep quiet, before turning back to Davis. "Well, why don't you just ask, Agent Tanner yourself?" Chris' voiced dripped with spite.

"I will, when he wakes up. In fact I thought as part of his team you would be at his side, or don't you trust him either." Davis smirked.

"What the hell are you talking about Davis?" Chris demanded, as the hairs on the back of neck began to stir.

"I thought you would have heard by now. Your office grapevine is slipping.

"So will my hands around your throat," he threatened.

Davis flashed a superior grin, "Tanner was found unconscious near the body of a young Latino gang member. We are just waiting on ballistics, but your friend might be in more trouble than we first thought."

Chris wanted to punch that sneer of Davis' face, but he needed to see Vin first. "Where?"

"An old house over..."

"The hospital asshole!" Chris spat.

"County General." Davis demised the subject as he went back to searching Vin's desk.

Chris was stalking to the doorway when Josiah called after him; knowing their leader was in no condition to drive. "Wait for me brother. I'll do the honors." he pulled his keys from his pocket.

"Well Hurry!" Chris' voice strained.

"Wait up, I'm coming too," Nathan turned to Ezra, who had Michaels in his frigid gaze. "Ezra?"

"Thank you Nathan, but I believe I will remain and ensure that Agent Tanner gets quittance for everything that is removed from his office." Ezra nodded, his eyes never faltering from there focus.

"Buck, J.D?" Nathan asked.

The youngest member watched as Buck turned away, mumbling something about work he had to catch up on. J.D was in two minds, he wanted to make sure, Vin was all right, but Buck was making his opinion clear. He didn't want to choose sides not between friends.

"J.D?" Nathan called impatiently.

Buck turned back to J.D and nodded to the door. "Go, I know you’re worried about him." Smiling, he nodded to the two IA agents. "I'll help Ez keep an eye on these two fella's. Go boy!"

"Hey Kid," Michaels called after the now running young agent, his voice taking an air of superiority. "Tell Tanner to get his answers straight, I don't like riddles."

"And I abhor asinine buttock inhalers." Ezra scowled.

Part Ten

No one in the car had said a word as Josiah zigged in and out of traffic on the way to the hospital. Each man in the car was at a loss as what to say that would make any of them feel better about the whole situation. Their worry for Vin's health was only equaled to the questions that still shadowed their thoughts. Chris' aggravation at seeing Michaels again was overshadowed by the rage he felt as he watched the ass-sucking weasel going through Vin's desk.

Michaels had nearly gotten Vin killed when he jumped the gun on the ATF's operation; now he was back to bury the sharpshooter for good, and no matter what was going on with Vin, Chris wasn't about to let that happen. ‘Damn, I thought I buried him so deep he would need to dig for ten years to get out. I'll just have make sure the hole's a lot deeper next time’

Arriving at the hospital, the remaining men quickly made their way through the familiar corridors; so familiar it was scary. At one time or another, each of the seven had partaken of the hospital's hospitality, but Vin more so. He had an annoying habit of trying to be everyone's savior and had more than once thrown himself in the line of fire to protect one of them. That's why this situation hurt like nothing they had felt before. Vin that had risked so much for them, now he seemed to have risked their faith, and they had failed the test.

Having already ascertained Vin's room number, they were surprised to find the doctor and a security guard talking in his empty room.

"What do you mean? He just walked right passed you and you didn't see him?"

"I never saw him, honest Doc."

"Are you talking about Vin Tanner?" Chris interrupted.

The doctor turned to see four men crowding the doorway.

"And you are?"

Chris stepped forward his arm outstretched, "Sorry Doctor, I'm Agent Chris Larabee, " nodding back to his friends, he introduced them as a group, "These are some of my team, and Vin Tanner is another."

The doctor shook Chris' hand and nodded to the men standing behind him. "Well, I'm Mr. Tanner's doctor, Miles Sanders, and your agent has gone, Mr. Larabee."

+ + + + + + +

Slipping past the security guard had been easy; he could do that in sleep, but getting back to Purgatorio was a different matter all together. He had been lucky to find his clothes and money still hidden in his boots, but moving about was like shaking his brain. Vin was sure his head was going to split open every time he had a thought.

"You all right buddy?" the taxi driver asked as he pulled up at the address his passenger had given him. "You don't look too good." he offered his personal, medical opinion.

Handing over the money, Vin wiped at the sweat that beaded

his forehead. "I'm fine. Thanks for askin' anyway." he answered as he stumbled from the cab.

"No skin of my nose fella," he snorted as he drove off.

‘Please let the lift be workin'’ Vin silently prayed as he slowly made his way to the building.

Short of breath, Vin closed his aching eyes as he leaned his head against wall of his destination. Stretching his fingers along the rough surface of the wall, he felt for the elevator button. He expelled a relieved sigh as he heard the clank of the lift machinery going into motion. So intent on the trying to block out the pain that threatened to send him crashing to his knees, Vin didn't feel the menace until it was too late.

Strong hands gripped at his arms and swung him around so that the back of his head slammed hard against the wall. Fighting to see through the spots that were dancing erratically in his field of vision,

Vin struggled to stay standing.

"You dare to come back here—‘amigo’ or should I say enemigo?" a voice snarled, as spit hit his face.

Part Eleven

The force of the blow to the back of his head had weakened the agent, and if it wasn't for the hands that held him firmly to the wall, he would have fallen. As his vision started to clear, Vin was able to confirm the faces that went with the voices. It was three of Eneas's friends, and the hatred that stared back at the injured man was proof they believed they had found the person to blame for their friend's death.

"We know you were there." Tajo Ramirez snarled, tightening his grip on Vin's right arm.

"We trusted you, ATF man!" Alano Garcia spat as he held firmly to Vin's other arm.

"More than that, you were one of us, ;cerdo’pig You betrayed us; you betrayed Eneas." Rafael, Alano's elder brother, menaced. "De sangre venirs sangreFrom blood comes blood," Rafael vowed as he produced a flick knife from behind his back and lunged at Vin.

Vin tried to get his body to move, to defend itself in some way, but all he could manage was to allow the knife's entry into his side and not his stomach as was its primary aim. "Por que?why" Vin panted breathlessly.

"De sangre venirs sangreFrom blood comes blood," Rafael repeated with venom. He watched with some surprise as a head wound left a bloody trail down the wall of the building as Vin slumped to the floor.

"Dios!God" A voice called out. "What have you done?" Father Chavez demanded as stalked toward them.

"For Eneas!" Rafael announced proudly as he pointed the bloody knife toward the now slumped and groaning agent.

"Eneas was a junkie and fool!" The six foot priest growled, "And you more so for taking your pain out on a innocent friend.


"We heard, he was there. Even his own people believe--"

Moving to stand in front of Vin's fallen form, the priest glared at the three men. "’We are his people.’ What went down last night, Eneas has only himself to blame and will answer to God for it. Now if you intend to use that again," Father Chavez focused on Rafael and the knife, "get to it or leave."

Rafael pulled his bandanna from his belt and wiped at the knife before flicking it and putting it in his pocket. Taking one more look at Vin, he spat defiantly at the injured man. "He is not worth it."

Watching to make sure that they had given up, the priest stooped down to his injured friend. "How is it?" he asked trying to pry Vin's bloody hand from the wound.

"H-hurts," Vin managed to gasp.

Noticing the bloody trail down the wall, Father Chavez reached for Vin's head.

"Oh God, don't!" Vin begged as he tried to push the priest's hand away from the agony that hammered at his head

"Damn them!" The priest cursed, before crossing himself. "I am going to have to call the paramedics, amigo. I cannot look after these wounds."

"I can." a voice spoke up behind him.

The Priest leapt to his feet, standing protectively in front of Vin. "Why should I trust him to you? It is your fault this has happened." he demanded.

Guido had been worried about his young friend and when he had heard about the attack, he had tracked the young agent down. "My fault?" he asked.

"It is your drugs and guns on streets. Eneas was working for you and that is why Vin got hurt," he scowled as he stepped closer to Fabrizio.

Two of Guido's guards stepped forward at the same time, but Fabrizio waved them off and re-focused on the defiant priest; he liked him. "I do not know this Eneas you speak of, nor do I any longer deal in drugs or weapons. But if you say that someone is dealing under my name, I will find them and I deal with it. I promise you. But at the moment our young friend could be bleeding to death."

"G-Guido?" Vin struggled to get up.

Concerned, both the priest and Guido moved quickly do his side.

"Vin, Fabrizio wants to take you with him. If I let this happen, you know what people will think?" Father Chavez argued. "They will believe the lie."

Holding tightly to his side, Vin used the two men to push himself to his knees. "T-they already--do," He paused to catch his breath, "I can't change-- what they believe-- I can-- find out who did this and why."

Searching Vin's eyes, the priest sighed and nodded to Guido. "You trust this man?"

"With my life, Father." Vin vowed.

"I hope your faith is not misplaced, Vin. Go with God my friend, and I hope you find the answers you seek," He said making the sign of the cross before gently touching the wounded man's shoulder. Slipping a glance at Fabrizio, he frowned. "You look after my friend and you put a stop to the blood on our streets. If not, may God never give you a night's peace."

Guido waved to his men to come and help Vin. "Father, I can never atone for my past, but I promise you this, I'd give my life before for this boy, and I'll do what I have to find out who is using my name to kill your streets," he pledged.

"Then God go with you." Father Chavez signed.

"Father?" Vin moaned as Guido's men tried to gently lift him up.

"What is it Vin?" The Father asked.

Vin couldn't believe he was going to ask. "If you-- see-- Chris-- tell him -- faith was all I asked."

"Faith, Vin?" The priest frowned.

"In --me." Vin whispered.

Part Twelve

Leaning heavily on Guido's bodyguards, Vin allowed himself to be lead out in to the streets of Purgtorio. He could feel the eyes of it's people boring into him as they watched him leave with a man none of them understood.

Leading the way, Guido glanced back, concerned by the pale features of his young friend, "Vincenzo?"

Suddenly attacked from behind, Vin closed his eyes as a small voice yelled at him. "YOU PROMISED! I HATE YOU. I HATE YOU. YOU PROMISED!" He heard Lora sob behind him as her small fists flailed at his back. Faltering, Vin's chin quivered as he restrained himself and without looking back allowed himself to be led away.

"I'm alright," Vin nodded, "Just get me outta here Guido-- please," he pleaded as he struggled to control his emotions.

Opening the door to his converted Lincoln, Guido helped Roberto make Vin comfortable, "Tito, call Doctor Hanson, have

him met us at the compound."

"I'll call him, Mr. Fabrizio," Roberto offered as he pulled out his mobile phone.

More concerned with Vin, than who made the phone call, Guido nodded as he waved him his man off. "Whatever," then remembering what Father Chavez had told him, he called after his bodyguard. "Roberto, call my son and tell Mario, I would meet with him in an hour." the old man ordered.

"As you wish sir." Roberto answered as he closed the door.

Guido turned his attention back to Vin, watching as the young man look sadly out the window at the little girl who was now being held in her mother's arms.

"I'm sorry Vincenzo, I know that hurt. She does not understand. She is only a child." Guido offered his sympathy.

"And them," he barely nodded as his fell back against the leather-head rest. "What's their excuse? Why are they so quick to believe? I grew up here Guido. I thought they knew me."

"Is it those out there that worry you, or is it your team, and what they believe that stabs at your heart?"

"Aw hell, Guido, I expected them, of all people--,"

"What, to be perfect? Infallible to the insecurities that makes us human?" He disputed as he pulled a clean cloth from his pocket.

Grimacing, he pulled Vin's hand away and pressed the cloth on to the bloody hole in the young man's side. "Vincenzo, they are your friends. What you see as their lack of faith could just be another way for them to show you that they are worried for you."

Hissing as Guido applied pressure on his wound, Vin closed his eyes. "Gotta a funny way of showin' it." he sighed.

Guido smiled. "Families are like that."

+ + + + + + +

Michaels was enjoying the power of being able to rifle Tanner's desk, while Standish and Wilmington could nothing but watch. Larabee getting him kicked out was the best thing that ever happened to him. Internal affairs had been the perfect place for him. Everyone feared him, even when they had nothing to hide they feared IA. It was just were he belonged.

"So Wilmington, I noticed you weren't to eager to jump on the bandwagon and go rushing to your fallen team mate's side. A little conflict in the squad is there?" Micheals harassed as he continued his search.

Ezra watched as Buck's eyes darkened. He swore he even saw the hairs on Wilmington's mustache rise as he glared at the self absorbed IA agent, but he said nothing.

"Do either of you know anything about these? " Davis asked as he stepped forward to show them the envelope and pictures of Vin with Fabrizio to the two agents.

Ezra noted the envelopes inner memo stamp and knew that it had only come from their office, but none of them had been taking photos that day. "I do not, nor do I believe that they came from our office. Mr. Wilmington?" Ezra asked as he passed the pictures on.

Buck flinched when he saw the photos, a action that had not gone unnoticed. Shaking his head, Wilmington passed them back. "Nothin' to do with us."

"That is your group's inner memo stamp is it not?" Davis pushed, as he pointed out the insignia on the envelope.

"Has our Mr. Tanner seen these?" Ezra asked, ignoring agent Davis' question.

"Yes he has," Micheals smirked. "and I must say he wasn't too happy that one of his so called friends, thought so little of him. Was it you Wilmington? I mean he's a dirty cop. There is no disgrace in owing up to wanting to get rid of a rotten apple."

That was all Buck could stand. "Why you contemptuous little weasel!!" Buck flew at Michaels, grabbing him by the shirt and shoving him hard against the wall. "Vin Tanner is ten times the man you'll ever be, and I would trust him with my life. I wouldn't trust you to walk my dog's fleas, you little pissant!"

"AGENT WILMINGTON! Put my agent down!" Davis ordered.

Letting Michaels slide down the wall, Buck leaned into the terrified man's face. "Don't get in my face again Michaels!" he warned as he let the man go.

"Did you see that?" Michaels whined as he straightened his jacket. "I want charges--"

"You'll get nothing," Davis ordered.

"But, you saw,"

"I saw nothing." Davis snarled for silence before turning his attention back to Buck, "I don't condone your actions Agent Wilmington, but this man would try the patience of a saint." He sighed. "Look I have a job to do, if that means bringing your friend down, make no mistakes, I will do it. But if there is something else going on here, unlike my little 'gonad' there, I want to find out that too. Now, if you say none of you sent these pictures, I suggest you find out who had access and let me know. Fair enough?"

Ezra stepped forward to shake agent Davis' hand. "Indeed sir, more than equitable. I believe that at the end of this ordeal, you will find ‘our’ friend, " He glanced at Buck, "to be the most virtuous and indeed the finest man to have watching your back."

"I hope you're right agent Standish-- I hope you're right." He said as he walked back to have a word with his speechless partner.

"You're right," Buck agreed, "Sometimes I just need to be reminded." Moving closer to Ezra, Buck whispered behind his hand. "Can't believe I have that little ass-crack to thank for joltin' my senses."

"Well, Mr. Wilmington, sometimes it takes a dead piece of lumber to get through to that dense gray matter, you call a brain," Ezra joked. "And 'agent' Michaels is a dead as they come. Now I suggest we take agent Davis' advice and attempt to help clear our friend of this unfortunate situation he finds himself in."

"I still want an explanation from Vin." Buck added.

"And if Mr. Tanner is willing to give us his side of the story," Ezra agreed, "we shall listen, and if he is not, it will not change my conception of him. We are still a team."

"Well team mate," Buck said swinging arm over Ezra's shoulder, "Let's go and ask a few questions around the office. I'll take the women."

"Of course, you will," Ez smiled, "but adhere to business, Mr. Wilmington."