Independence Ain't What It's Cracked Up to Be

by Kati

Part of the New Agent Series

Characters: Chris, Ezra and my own charecter

Note: As usual, thanks for all the feedback from everybody. I hope this story meets your expectations.

Buck’s little song is from Cheeseburger in Paradise by Jimmy Buffet, one of my favorite songs.

The Midnight Madness Dance Club was one of the hottest places in Denver. Its dance floor, and great bands made the building the number one spot on most young partygoers Friday night lists. It was the last place that JD Dunne had expected to find his fellow employee and friend, Sidney Marks. She had sworn a long time ago that the Denver nightlife was not for her. But she was sitting down next to him, fitting in just fine. He had to admit that she looked extremely attractive. She had traded her usual boring work attire for something a little more “hip.”

Her black sweater and tight jeans made her athletic figure very obvious. She must have used one of those iron things that Casey had, because her usually wavy hair was perfectly straight. His girlfriend was sitting next to him sipping a Pina Colada. She kicked him under the table.

“Oww! What was that for?" he asked, shaking out the pain in his shin. She gave him a look that said he had better know why she had kicked him. She turned her attention to Sidney.

“So are you enjoying yourself yet?" the older girl asked

“I feel a little awkward,” Sidney answered honestly. “My Friday nights are not usually spent with men my own age.”

“Well it’s about time that we get you out from Chris Larabee’s wing,” Casey laughed. “No girl should spend every weekend watching westerns and eating junk food.”

“Hey, we go riding a lot too,” JD answered defensively.

“A girl needs some help when her only female companion has four legs and eats grass,” Casey said. “No offense Sid," she added.

“None taken. I know I’m pathetic,” Sidney replied. “I used to go out every Friday night like every normal person, but ever since Cody died…” She didn’t continue her sentence. She didn’t need too.

JD was taken back to a warehouse almost a year before. Cody Richards, Sidney fiancé, had been brutally murdered in a routine drug bust that had gone terribly wrong. The past few months were hard on the girl, but she was slowly recovering. Hanging out with people her own age and finding dates had been the hardest thing for her to do. She preferred the over protectiveness of her Team Seven family. All the men would have been glad to keep that way too.

Casey, bless her heart, had decided that enough was enough. It was time to turn the hiding caterpillar into the social butterfly. She took hold of Sidney’s hand.

“Cody would want you to get out and enjoy yourself Sid. If you absorb yourself in work the way you currently are, your end up like Chris Larabee.”

“Don’t let him hear you say that,” JD snorted into his drink. Sidney saw Casey’s face light into a huge smile. She had her back turned to the cause of the older girl’s smile.

“What?" she asked attempting to turn around and see.

“Don’t look!” Casey scolded quietly. “It’s best to play hard to get.”

“Casey, what are you talking about?” Sidney asked, growing slightly annoyed.

“That good looking black haired guy that you’ve been eyeing all night is coming over to talk to you!”

“I haven’t been eying anyone tonight,” Sidney said defensibly, shifting uneasily in her chair.

“Yeah right,” Casey rolled her eyes. “Nobody has to go the bathroom three times in a half in hour Sidney. The table where he was sitting is on the way, isn’t it?”

JD rolled his eyes. The two of them sounded just like high school girls.

“Casey there’s no way he’d be interested in me. He was sitting at a table with three beautiful blonds. I’m lucky if…”

“Is this seat taken?” A deep baritone voice asked. Sidney spun in her seat to look into a pair of deep blue eyes.

“Hasn’t been since I sat down,” Sidney answered. The man sat down and called for the bartender. The band started to play a Green Day song.

“Come on JD, I want to dance,” Casey pulled on her boyfriend’s shirt. JD had no plans on going anywhere. He had every intention of watching how this little meeting played out.

“Now, JD!” Casey demanded. JD sighed and got up. He had no idea where the girl’s power over him came from.
“So I’ve never seen you around here before," the man said to Sidney.

“That’s because it’s my first time here. My job keeps me busy on weekends.” It was only partially a lie. She did have to work on some weekends.

“I know what you mean. I would be at practice right now with the rest of team if it wasn’t for this stupid shoulder.”

“Team?" she asked confused. The man sighed. Sidney recognized the fact that he didn’t want to clarify.

“You don’t have to answer. Being nosy is just one of my bad habits," she said quickly. JD was attempting to listen to their conversation. She saw the head of dark hair twitch out of the corner of her eye.

‘No, I asked for it. I’m Ryan Borban," he sighed as if embarrassed by his name. Sidney jumped a little. She had defiantly heard the name before. She realized that she had seen his face before during a Sunday football game. Ryan Borban was the number one draft choice wide receiver for the Denver Broncos. He was the rising star of the team until he had been slammed to the ground, injuring his shoulder. She calmed down immediately when she saw how awkward he felt.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Ryan," she answered coolly. Now it was Ryan’s turn to be surprised. It was not the answer he was expecting.

“I grew up in Wisconsin," she answered. “My loyalties have been and always will be with the Green Bay Packers.”

Ryan laughed. “Well, now that we’ve got that out of the way, how about you tell me your name?”

“Sidney Marks," she answered shaking the young man’s offered hand.

“Can I buy you a drink?" he asked.

“Are you sure you are not breaking some unwritten Bronco rule or something like that?" she asked.

“Probably, but I could give a damn about my stupid football team. All I’m interested in right now is getting to know the pretty, seemingly intelligent girl sitting next to me.” Sidney tried hard not to blush.

“Are you this charming to everyone you meet?" she asked. Her eyes strayed to table of petite blonds that were glaring at her.

“Only the ones that I think I think I can enjoy a quality conversation from. You’d be surprised how many girls latch on to me just because I’m a football player.”

“I can think of other reasons,” Sidney thought as she looked him over. “I don’t usually go for the big dumb football types," she answered

“Football players are a lot smarter than the old stereotype makes them out to be,” Ryan answered with a laugh.

“Prove it to me," she answered. Casey shook her head and sighed.

“What?” JD asked.

“She ends up with the hottest guy in the place and what does she end up doing? Arguing with the poor guy,” Casey answered.

“I thought I was the hottest guy here,” JD answered pretending to be hurt.

“You are in my eyes. I’d rather have a computer hacker over a football lock any day.” She laughed.

Two loud beeping noises echoed throughout the room. The beeps were followed by three groans by Sidney, JD and Casey. JD and Sidney both reached for their pagers.

“Sorry Casey,” JD said. “Chris needs us.” He walked over to Sidney’s barstool.

“What is that all about?” Ryan asked confused. “Who just paged you?”

“Him,” Sidney sighed. “My boss hates it whenever I have any fun. It appears like we have to save the world once again.” She took the leather jacket that JD was handing to her.

“Are you guys firefighters or something?’ Ryan asked still not understanding.

“ATF agents,” JD corrected. The football player looked at Sidney in surprise.

“Really?" he asked. Sidney nodded her head.

“I usually don’t tell people about that until the second date. Well it has been really nice talking to you Ryan, but I’ve got to go. Good luck with physical therapy.”

“That’s it? No let’s meet again or I’ll give you a call?” Ryan asked. Sidney looked into the man’s eyes trying to find a sincere look.

“Casey, I just thought of something. How are you going to get home? I need to use the truck,” JD stated.

“I can give you a ride home.” Ryan offered. “I’m on my way out anyway.”

“That’s awful nice of you, but…” JD started to say, putting a protective arm around Casey.

“And I will gladly accept. Honestly JD, I can take care of myself,” Casey answered. “I have some things that I want to talk to you about Ryan.”

Sidney sighed recognizing the determined look in her friend’s eyes. Obviously, Casey saw a budding relationship here and she wasn’t going to let it go.

“You can get my number from Casey, if you feel like giving me a call," she told Ryan. “Let’s go JD.” She headed to the door without looking back. JD gave Casey a quick kiss then followed Sidney.

+ + + + + + + +

JD and Sidney walked into the ATF office to find the bullpen completely empty. Sidney felt something soft rub against her legs. She bent down to stroke the black and white tabby. The cat purred loudly.

“Hey Cuervo," she said. “Sorry to interrupt your downtime.” The cat stuck his head in her coat and came out with a dog treat that Sidney always kept in there. Riley, her dog, wouldn’t eat them so she brought him for the office stay.

“That cat loves you,” JD smiled.

“He makes good company when all of you guys are pissed off.”

“Is anyone here?” JD called.

“In here guys!” Josiah’s voice echoed from the conference room. The two quickly shed their coats and tossed them on their desks. They walked into largest room in the office. The smell of fresh paint greeted them before they could anyone else could say anything. Sidney wrinkled up her nose.

“I don’t think its safe to be in here," she said. “The fumes are going to make me sick.”

“Sit down and shut up Sid, you are holding things up,” a voice growled behind her. Sidney turned to see Chris stalk into the room and walked to the front of the table. She opened her mouth to say something, but Vin covered her mouth with his hand.

“Let it go Sidney, don’t piss him off more than he is already," he whispered. Sidney sighed and sat down in her usual spot between Vin and Ezra. Chris glanced at the clock and scowled.

“ What took you so long?" he asked his two youngest agents.

“Unlike you, I actually decided to go out like normal people on a Friday night,” Sidney commented. She didn’t care how angry Chris was. She was more pissed off than he was. There was no need to arrange a meeting this late. They had finished all their open cases, and weren’t going to open up another one until later next week.

“I ordered all of you to stay within contact this weekend. Something important might come up. I am tempted to put you on report," he growled at her.

“You’ve been telling us to stay put every single weekend for the last two months and never gave us any hint on what it was. I got sick and tired of waiting in my apartment for a stupid phone call! Ezra shows up late everyday and you never say a word. I am a couple minutes late and you are ready to put me on desk duty?" she yelled so loud the windows shook.

“I would prefer to not be brought up in this,” Ezra said quietly, rubbing his temples.

“It’s my fault Chris, I was the one that convinced her to go out to the club tonight,” JD said guilty.

“It’s not your fault!” The two of them said at the same time. JD cowered in his seat. Vin would have laughed if the situation had been so serious.

:”You’re not the one that made her meet that football player…”

Sidney had opened her mouth to say some smart-ass response, but shut it fast. She stared at Chris in utter disbelief.

“How do you know about Ryan?" she asked. Chris didn’t say anything. He just lowered his eyes, knowing that he had been caught. Sidney thought a moment. She felt her anger rise higher than she ever thought possible.

“You were following me!” She gasped. “You were at that club somewhere weren’t you?” Chris didn’t answer. Sidney turned on JD. “Did you know about this too?" she cried.

“I honestly had no idea Sidney,” JD answered in disbelief and amazement. Sidney turned her attention back to Chris.

“Why?" she asked.

“It was for your own good, I don’t want you caught up in a bad relationship right now. It’s the last thing I need.”

“You have no control over my personal life!” She screamed.

“I am your boss, and I have the power to stop anything that will damage your responsibility to this team!” The volume of his voice matched hers.

“Fine, then I quit!” She cried and threw her badge down on the table. She jumped out of her chair, knocking it over. She ran out of the room, slamming the door behind her. Ironically, the impact knocked her framed Team Seven contact to the ground. The glass shattered the second it hit the floor.

There was complete silence in the conference room. Everyone stared at Chris in utter disbelief.

‘You really screwed up big time Pard, I wouldn’t have blamed her if she would have pulled her gun out on you,” Buck said with iron in his voice. Chris slunk into his chair.

“I don’t need any of your shit now Buck,” Chris answered. Anger flashed in Buck’s eyes. He stood up and walked over to the chair next to Chris.

“I think you need to hear all the shit that I can give you, Boss. What the hell were you thinking?”

“I don’t want to see her hurt again,” Chris said quietly.

Buck’s voice softened a little bit. “We all love that girl just as much as you. The last thing we want to do is see her hurt again, but she’s not a little girl, Chris. You can’t lock her in her room every time she wants to go out and have fun.”

“She does have fun with us,” Chris answered, but he knew how stupid the answer was.

“She would be the first one to tell you that statement is true, but hanging out with a bunch of old men isn’t healthy for her.” Buck said. “She’s a smart girl and can take her of herself. She had enough trust in you to come to you if she needed help.” He stopped. “But now I’m not so sure. You might have just shattered that trust, just like the glass in that frame. Chris closed his eyes and sighed.

“Somebody better go get her, before she does something stupid,” Nathan said.

“She won’t get very far. I’ve got the keys,” JD answered. Vin stood up.

“I’ve got this one,” Vin said standing up. He fished the paper out of the broken glass and walked out of the door.

“We’ll leave you alone Pard,” Buck said. “I suggest you think of what you are going to say to Sidney if Vin convinces her to come back up here.” Buck motioned for the others to follow him. They all settled down at their desks. JD started to play with the yellow Matchbox car on his desk. Ezra picked up a pencil and started to tap it on the edge of his black keyboard.

There was a knock on the door. Nathan got up and answered it. A short, balding man in a grey three-piece suit was standing in the doorway.

“It’s almost midnight Sir, we are closed.” Nathan answered, shutting the door. The man placed his foot in front of the door.

“I don’t think you realize who I am. My name is Mark Brady from the CIA. He held up his badge. My department had been working with Assistant Director Travis on a case for a long time. Director Travis told your captain to keep the team on standby for this meeting.”

Nathan sighed and opened the door to let the man in.

+ + + + + + + +

Vin searched the entire building for Sidney with no success. He was beginning to worry that she wasn’t anywhere near the building. He walked outside the parking lot. He heard the sound of shattering glass near their usual parking spots. He took at a dead sprint.

He stopped when he saw Sidney pull her hand out Chris’s truck window. There were glass pieces laying everywhere. He winced with her when he saw he bloody knuckles. He coughed to let her know that he was there.

“I don’t want to hear it Vin," she said. “He screwed this one up. I’m not letting you convince me to go back up there so he can feel better.”

“I could give a damn what Chris Larabee feels like right now,” Vin said. “But I do care about you and what you are about to throw away. He pulled opened up the bed of the Ram and jumped up on the back. He motioned for Sidney to come and sit beside him.

“I just want to talk to for a little while, then you can decide if you still want to leave. Hell, I’ll even help you hotwire this truck. You already did the hard part of breaking in.”

Sidney sighed and jumped up on the bed next to him.

“You remember how hard you worked to graduate from the Academy?" he asked.

“Nobody wanted me there. I had to work ten times harder than all the guys," she answered.

“I probably never would have gotten a job if Chris hadn’t..." She stopped realizing what she was about to say. “

“How about the time Ella Gaines kidnapped the two of you?” Vin continued. The memory chilled the girl to the bone. She shuddered.

“Or the time you guys played the vampire joke on Buck or the time...”

“I get the picture Vin.” She answered with frustration in her voice.

“Good, then you see how much he really cares about you Sid. All he really wants to do is protect you.”

“It still doesn’t give him the right to me like I’m his five year old kid.” She shot back.

“No it doesn’t, but he thinks of you as his kid Sid. Every time you get hurt, he feels it just as much as you do. He didn’t want to see you get hurt again with another boy. That’s why he followed you tonight.” Vin answered patiently. He could see the anger in Sidney’s eyes slowly diminishing.

“It doesn’t make sense. The last thing Cody wanted to do was hurt me. It wasn’t his fault he got shot. Ryan is a professional football player. Ezra wouldn’t even bet on the odds of that relationship. It just doesn’t add up Vin.”

“Not to any of us, but in Chris’s mind it does.” He pulled the contract out of his pocket. Sidney took it out of his hands.

“Are you really ready to throw all of this away? Can you just walk out of here and leave it all behind on account of a boss who feels his responsibility to act like an overprotective father?” Vin stopped talking to let Sidney think. Vin didn’t rush her. He simply let her work the things out in her mind. She looked up at him.

“Five minutes ago, I was going to tell Chris Larabee to go to hell and disappear for good, but I remembered how I tried to leave all this behind after Cody died and couldn’t do it. There are worse situations a girl can get herself into than having an overprotective dad.”

Vin put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer to him.

“Next time you want to go out on a date, just tell us and we’ll tie him to a chair.”

“He’s gotten out of that before," she laughed.

“Then we’ll drug him so he sleeps through the entire thing,” Vin suggested. “Think you are ready to head back up there?” Sidney nodded her head and followed Vin up the ramp steps and back into the office.

“Hey Sid,” Vin said before he opened the door.


“Don’t sell yourself so short. If you really like this guy, then don’t let him go so easily.”

Nathan was sitting on his desk and Buck was on top of it when the two agents entered. Both of their faces lit up into huge smiles. The smile on Nathan’s face quickly disappeared. Like a bee attracted to honey, he spotted Sidney’s bloody hand.

“You are gone for fifteen minutes and you still manage to get yourself in trouble. You need to stay here girl or you’ll end up killing yourself. What did you do?”

:”She got into a little fight with Chris’s window. She won the battle, but the glass put up a good fight,” Vin laughed. Sidney blushed. Nathan went to the break room to fetch the first aid kit. He was muttering something under his breath.

“Where is everybody?” Vin asked. “Nobody left did they?”

“No, they’re all still here. It seems like Chris did have a legit reason to call us all here tonight. That thing that he couldn’t tell us about has something to do with the CIA. They sent an agent from Langley up here to talk to us. He seems like an old prude to me.”

Nathan returned a few seconds later with a large red box. He washed out the wounds with the antiseptic.

“Shit, that hurts Nathan,” Sidney whined.

“Oh hush, you baby. It’s supposed to be painless. I bought a bottle of this stuff because I got sick of hearing all of you whine” He wrapped some gauze around the cuts.

“Now keep these covered for a while, unless you want them to get infected.”

“Well I think we shout what the big shot in there wants,” Buck sighed getting up.

“Maybe he’s giving us all a nice relaxing vacation, because of all our hard work,” Sidney suggested hopefully.

“You can dream squirt, you can dream,” Buck sighed. He opened the door and walked in. The other three followed him. Chris caught Sidney’s eye as she sat down. She smiled at him, letting him know that things were gong to be okay. He smiled back with a nod of his head. The little exchange was all the two of them needed. No words needed to be exchanged.

“These are my other two agents, Vin Tanner and Sidney Marks. This is Senior Agent Mark Brady from the CIA.”

“I told your director that I wanted your whole team present when I requested this meeting.” Brady said. It had occurred to Chris that their visitor was a snob.

“My team does not answer directly to the CIA, Agent Brady. My agents had some very important matters to attend to first. We are all here now and are ready to what your superiors want us to know,” Chris snarled. Brady took an involuntary step backwards. The members of Team Seven smiled. They were proud of the fear that their boss created, even in his superiors. Brady coughed and began his narrative.

“The CIA has been following a drug dealer of by the name of Thomas Robinson for almost two years.

“He’s that Canadian guy right? We know all about that son of a bitch,” Vin said. Brady frowned at the agent. Apparently he didn’t like being interrupted.

“I am well aware of the fact that you have dealt with Robinson’s inferior workers before, but I seriously doubt that you know the extent of his powers or actions across the world. He has workers in most major cities in the US and Europe. So far local agencies have had troubles apprehending him.” Brady stopped and opened up a file. “Unless I am mistaken, you are the ones who let him slip through your fingers in Denver a few weeks ago.”

Chris fought the urge to knock the gloating smile of the man’s face. He opened his mouth to talk, but Ezra got to it first.

“If you consider Robinson’s own son an inferior worker, then fine. Mr. Larabee took him out easily. We were so close to catching Robinson Sr. that Mr. Tanner was viewing him through a rifle scope. Our plan was terminated when a ‘supposed’ better department intervened and claimed that Robinson had diplomatic immunity. It appears that five missing supplies of illegal narcotics and four murders have been attributed to the notorious criminal since our plan was demised. I do believe that it was the department under your command that received a formal complaint for the incident,” Ezra answered with a smirk on his face

Agent Brady’s smirk turned into a frown. Josiah saw the situation was going to get ugly. The others were rising out of their chairs, ready to protect Ezra if they needed too. Josiah wanted to take a crack at Brady just a much as everyone else, but decided that the wrath of Travis wasn’t worth it.

“There is a reason you are here, isn’t there Agent Brady?” Brady stood up and tossed two huge folders to Chris and Ezra.

“Robinson has dealings with other crime lords and drug dealers across the world. We could never find out about them soon enough to nail him. Three days ago, an Ekaterina Belousov showed up in the New York office. You should recognize her last name.”

“Adrian Belousov,” JD whispered quietly. “He used to be a KGB operative. His guns and bombs have been found in terrorist attacks all over Europe.”

“The girl is his daughter. Robinson and Belousov have been planning an exchange for the last few months. Belousov is planning to retire after and hand over his entire operation to his daughter. She had a sudden inspiration to do the right thing and turned herself in. She told us everything. Right now, she’s in Witness Protection. Her father and his ring were quickly apprehended. He’s being hidden until we catch Robinson.”

“So where does my team fit into all this?” Chris asked. “ You are the only team throughout law enforcement that knows everything about Robinson. We need to send people inside and catch him in the middle of the exchange in his compound in Alaska. We have to nail him in the act on US soil. Otherwise he will be turned over to the Canadian Justice System. That’s the last thing we need.”

“I’m not following,” Chris eyed the man suspiciously.

“Robinson has never seen or talked to Belousov personally before. You will be impersonating Adrian Belousov, Agent Larabee. Standish will be his brother and second hand man, Boris. You are the only agents that we could find that know Robinson and speak an adequate amount of Russian. Everything you need to know about these men can be found in your files.” Brady let the information settle in. None of them commented.

“I take it you accept this mission?” Brady asked after a while.

“We really don’t have a choice,” Chris answered.

“You will leave on a private jet tomorrow morning. CIA Agent Linda Reed from New York will be joining you on the plane. He tossed another file onto the table. This is her profile.” Ezra picked up the file and started to go through it.

“Why do we need another agent?” Chris asked.

“Somebody has to play the role of Ekaterina,” Brady answered. Buck took the file from Ezra and started flipping through the pages.

“Why can’t we send out our own agent?” Buck asked eying Sidney.

“You only have one person that meets the main gender requirement and she can’t handle this.” The strain in the room intensified. The men became very defensive.

“Why not?” Nathan asked.

“What’s the word you cowboys out here use? Oh yeah. She’s still a greenhorn. She only has been out in the field for a year and a half. Reed has been doing this kind of stuff for ten years.”

“Have you looked at her record?” Buck asked. “She had been undercover in ten different assignments. She had been commended for actions by ATF and the President of the United States himself.”

“Not all of those missions were successful were they though, Agent Marks?” Brady turned to look at the girl with an evil grin on his face. “Your screw-up cost a good agent his life didn’t it?”

Sidney knew the comment was intentionally meant to hurt her, but it didn’t lesson the sting. Vin was all the way out of his seat, but Kate put a hand on his arm.

“Don’t Vin, it’s not worth it," she whispered.

“The death of Agent Richardson was unfortunate, but a thorough investigation has ruled that Agent Marks had nothing to due with it,” Ezra said. He didn’t mention that Sidney had blamed herself for Cody’s death and ordered the investigation herself.

“Please forgive me, my mistake,” Brady answered with mock sincerity. “But that doesn’t change the fact that your agent isn’t qualified for the job.” The file of Linda Reed had been passed along to Josiah.

“Ekaterina Belousov is supposed to be twenty three years old. Sidney is twenty-one. She’s closer in age. Agent Reed is thirty one.” He said.

“Agent Reed looks incredibly young for age.” Agent Marks shot back.

“Ms. Belousov had light brown hair, extremely close to our agent’s own hair color. Reed is blond.”

“That can easily be fixed with hair dye,” Marks said, growing incredibly uneasy under the older man’s hard gaze.

“Agent Reed specifies herself that she can speak very little Russian; Sidney is pretty much fluent in Russian and German.” Josiah had hit the pinnacle of his argument.

“Where did you learn to speak Russian?” Brady turned to the girl.

“My mother spent almost ten years of her life in Russia. She taught me Russian along with English when I was learning to talk,” Sidney answered.

“Oh Yes.” The evil smile reappeared on Brady’s face. He had seen another perfect opportunity to take another stab at the girl.

“Your mother. She’s the psychopath that killed your father and kidnapped your boss isn’t she? Well, I always say, like mother like daughter…”

Before Brady knew what happened, He felt himself slammed into the wall with a strong hand around his neck. He was staring into the livid face of Chris Larabee.

“Say another word to her and I will squeeze," he growled. Brady’s face paled. Chris took his hand away and Brady fell to the ground. He stood up immediately and stared at Chris.

“Either you replace your agent with Sidney Marks or you we will refuse to participate in the CIA’s mission,” Chris said, sitting down in the chair as if nothing had happened.

“You are already being reported for assaulting a federal Agent Larabee. Don’t dig yourself into a bigger grave.”

“If you press charges, then you can explain to your superiors why you were taunting my agent.” Chris answered calmly. Brady paled.

“And I do believe that our own superior officer can refuse a case suggested by a different department of law enforcement. AD Orrin Travis is quite fond of Ms. Marks and will not take kindly to your appalling comments,” Ezra supplied.

“And then you can explain why Travis turned down the case,” Nathan finished with a smirk on his face. Brady stared at them all with pure hatred.

“If you make one little slipup during this, I will personally make sure that none of you ever work in public service again,” Brady growled without nearly the same effect as the ATF Captain.

“Well, I did see that our local Wal-Mart is hiring,” Buck answered. “I’ll admit that the benefits aren’t that great, but it’s a great way to pick up chicks.”

Brady picked up his stuff and was halfway out of the room when he fell flat on his face. His papers went flying everywhere. JD slid his leg back under the table.

“You ought to watch where you’re going Agent Brady. None of us want to see you get hurt.” JD said with mock sincerity. Brady looked as if he might punch JD in the face, but thought better of it. He quickly got to his feet. They all heard a large rip from the back of his pants. Brady’s face turned bright red. The entire conference room erupted in laughter.

“I see that your clothes are not quite up to par Agent Brady. I can recommend an excellent tailor for your services,” Ezra managed to say before breaking into another fit of laughter.

Brady picked himself off the floor and ran for the open conference room with his back to the wall. They all heard the office door slam. The laugher kept going for another five minutes. Finally they managed to stop, because of the lack of oxygen.

“You guys shouldn’t have done that,” Sidney said. “You know that he’s going to get us into deep shit with Travis.”

“”It was worth it just to see that look on that jerk’s face,” Vin answered. “Besides we weren’t just going to stand by and let him insult you like that.”

“We will never stand by and let anybody insult you!” JD said with a noble tone. Sidney glanced at him with raised eyebrows.

“Well, anybody outside this team does,” JD clarified. “We reserve the right to say whatever we want.”

“Thanks JD,” Sidney answered rolling her eyes.

“Hey, a little constructive criticism keeps a person honest,” Buck answered. Josiah handed her the file.

“I suggest you take a look at this Sidney. You’ve got to memorize the entire lifetime of a person by tomorrow afternoon.” Sidney sighed and took the folder.

“It’s school all over again," she answered.

“Sidney, Ezra, you guys go home and read those files. Then try and get some sleep. One of us will come and get you in the morning,” Chris ordered.

“You’re heading home too, Chris,” Buck demanded. “You got a whole lot of shit to learn too and you need some sleep too. Don’t try to argue with me.”

“Fine, somebody needs to stay behind and go over details. See if we can’t get a camera into the Robinson’s compound,” Chris sighed knowing that he was fighting a loosing battle.

“I think JD’s already on that one,” Nathan laughed looking over at the younger agent. JD was flipping through the pages of a notebook and making notes. JD lifted his head.

“What?" he asked.

“Nothing, just go back to doodling,” Buck answered.

“I’m not doodling. I’m making some very important diagrams and notes,” JD said.

“You call that chicken scratch notes Kid? Nobody can read them,” Buck answered trying to provoke his roommate.

“Nobody needs to read them but me! I don’t want you reading this stuff, because you would manage to screw it up somehow.”

“On that note gentlemen, I believe I will take my leave,” Ezra said standing up. “May I offer you a ride home Ms. Marks?”

“Sure Ezra, thanks” Sidney got up too. “See you guys tomorrow," she yawned. She followed Ezra out of the door.

“Somebody call me around seven tomorrow to make sure I’m up,” Chris ordered following his two agents out of the door.

He got down to the parking lot just as Sidney was getting into Ezra’s car. He took on look at his broken window and face turned red.

“What the hell happened?" he growled. He didn’t get an answer. Ezra watched the Jag tear out of the parking lot. He pulled out his cell phone and called Vin.

“Just get a look at your window Pard?” Vin answered.

“You know what happened?” Chris asked dumbfounded.

“Sidney needed something to take her anger out on,” Vin answered. “Don’t say a word about it Chris. You’re lucky that the worse you got out of this was a broken window.”

Chris was going to argue, but he knew that Vin had a point.

“What did she use to break it?”

“Her fist," Vin stated as if this sort of thing happened everyday.

“Her fist?” Chris couldn’t believe it.

“Seems those boxing lessons I’m giving her are paying off,” Vin answered.

“I got another job for you Vin,” Chris said.

“What’ that?”
“Since you were the one that taught her how to punch out my window, you can get you ass down here and clean up this mess!” He growled. Chris hung up the phone and waited patiently for Vin to enter the parking lot

+ + + + + + + +

Sidney heard a loud knock on her door and groaned. She rolled over and tried to cover her ears with the pillow. A key was placed in the lock and the door creaked open. She cursed herself for giving her teammates entrance into her apartment.

. “Rise and Shine, Kiddo!” Buck’s voice echoed throughout the entire apartment. Riley, Sidney’s golden retriever started to bark like crazy and rushed out of the bedroom. He jumped up onto Buck’s shoulder. The man scratched the dog behind the ears.

"Hey Pup, I brought you a little treat.” He pulled a slice of bacon out of his pocket.

“Don’t you dare give him anything to eat, Buck! He’s fact enough as it is, without you spoiling him.” Sidney called from the bedroom.

“He’s a dog Sidney; He can afford to me fat”

“Fine, but just let me sleep!” She groaned. Buck gave the dog the bacon and walked into the bedroom. All he saw was a lump hidden under the covers of the bed.

“Last call squirt, otherwise I might have to resort to desperate measures!” There was a muffled reply from under the covers. Sidney made no attempt to move.

“Fine, don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Buck said. “JD bring in the radio," he called. JD walked into the room carrying the CD Player. He pushed the play button.

Buck started to sing,

“Cheeseburger is paradise, Heaven on earth with an onion slice Not too particular not too precise I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise”

Sidney threw back the covers and sat up. There were stands flying all over the place from her ponytail.

“Cheater," she growled, covering her ears. JD turned off the CD player.

“Good morning beautiful,” JD laughed. Sidney picked up a pillow and threw it at him. JD ducked and it ended up hitting Buck in the face. He jumped up on the bed and grabbed Sidney. He put her in a headlock

“Free shot JD, smack her.” JD moved closer and seemed like he was going to wind up and punch her in the face. He started to tickle her. Sidney squirmed as she started to giggle. Riley ran around the three of them in circles barking.

“Hey kids, what’s going on in here?” Vin was standing in the doorway with a smile on his face.

“Help!” Sidney gasped.

“I was never one to leave a lady in distress,” Vin answered. Sidney looked at him gratefully, but since I am not seeing any of them here right now, I think I’m going to go and get myself some breakfast.”

“Traitor!” She cried.

“Well when you put it that way,” Vin stopped then ran into the room knocking JD to the ground.

Nathan walked into the room. Ezra was close on his heels. They both watched the trained ATF agents wrestle on the ground like a group of ten year olds.

“If any of you hurt Ms. Marks before we leave this afternoon, Our esteemed leader will personally have your head on a silver platter,” Ezra said.

Nathan clapped his hands, “All right kids, recess time is over," he called. They four kids stopped and looked at him. Vin was still sitting on top of JD’s stomach and Buck was pinning Sidney to the bed.

“Ten more minutes please, Mr. Jackson,” JD whined.

“Maybe tomorrow if you guys are good, but Sidney’s got a test now.”

“Test?” the girl asked

“Have to see how much you studied last night,” Nathan said with a smile. “But we will do it at the restaurant. You guys aren’t leaving till two, so we got time to get a decent breakfast.”

“McDonalds is having a buy one get one free thing on their egg Mcmuffins,” JD supplied as he pushed Vin off of him.

“Are you aware how they make their eggs?” Ezra asked with disgust. “They pour the batter out of a carton then add water.”

“So?” JD asked.

“Where are Chris and Josiah?” Buck asked.

“Josiah went to get Chris. There’s no reason for him to leave keep his truck in town. They’re meeting us down at Perkins in a half an hour.”

+ + + + + + + +

“What is your name?” Josiah asked.

“Ekaterina Belousova, but please call me Katia,” Sidney answered with a thick accent.

“Why did you add an A to the end of your name?” JD asked curiously.

“It’s part of Russian grammar,” Sidney explained. “All women do.” She took a bite of her French toast.

“Where were you born in Russia?” Josiah continued the quizzing

“I was not really born in Russia at all. I was born at a hospital on the Romanian border,”

Ezra and Chris were being tested too. This case was different than their usual undercover work. Playing the roles of real people was a lot more dangerous. Their chance of being found out increased tremendously. Chris glanced at his watch

“It’s almost one o clock," he stated.

“We’ve been here for four hours?” Nathan asked in disbelief.

“Time does fly when you are having fun,” Ezra answered as he stood up and grabbed his coat, He glared at JD who was laughing into his coffee cup.

“Oh please Mr. Dunne, my name is not that funny.”

“Yeah it is, Sidney and Ezra get cool names like Adrian and Katia, and you get to be called Boris,”

“One of the famous czars of Russia was named Boris. It is really quite an honorable name.”

“So was the bad guy from Rocky and Bullwinkle,’ Vin supplied. They all looked at him in surprise. “Don’t any of you ever watch cartoons?" he asked. By this time, the entire team had stood up and was putting on their jackets.

“I grew out of them at the age of twelve,” Buck answered.

“Didn’t watch much TV as I was growing,” Josiah answered. “I was usually living in places that didn’t have a set.

“I can proudly say that I never felt the need to watch animated characters on the television set, even at a young age.” Ezra watched as entire team headed for the door.

“Be a pal and pay the bill,” Buck said with a smirk. He headed out the door.

“I’m the one who’s putting my life on the line in a short time, and I still end up paying for everybody’s meal," he grumbled. He dropped a tip down and paid the waitress standing at the cashier. He walked outside. All the vehicles were gone except for Vin’s old jeep. He had ridden over in Nathan’s truck, seeing no need to take his Jag out of the garage. He regretted the decision now.

Vin laid on the horn and JD stuck his head out of the window.

“Come on Pokey, We got to get you to the airport on time!” Ezra sighed and got into the back seat.

“I not appreciate being referred to as a clay horse Mr. Dunne”

I knew it Ezra!” Vin yelled triumphantly "You just admitted that you have watched Gumby. No kid can resist cartoons, not even you.”

“Gumby is not a cartoon Mr. Tanner. It is an excellent show about the wonders of claymation… The airport is the other way.”

“I know that,” Vin answered disgusted. “We’re just making a slight detour to get some lunch.”

“You just finished eating a huge meal twenty minutes ago!”

“That was breakfast, now we need lunch.’ JD stated.

“Dare I ask where we are going?” Ezra asked shaking his head.

“Taco Bell,” they both answered.

“”The quality of meat is given a letter rating; A is the being the best. The dog food that Riley eats is grade C. I have learned that the meat Taco Bell uses had achieved a grade D rating.”

“So?” JD and Vin asked.

“The meat you are about to eat is worse than... Oh never mind,”

Ezra thought they would never reach the airport. An attendant waved them through to a private strip. A small jet was waiting there. Ezra had seen this jet several times before. It belonged to the CIA, except the usual red and blue stripes had been painted over with a broad black line.

Vin parked the jeep and they all piled out. They walked over to where the rest of the team had gathered. AD Travis was talking to Chris. The Captain pointed to his watch when he saw Ezra.

“My sincere apologies Captain Larabee, my driver felt the need to stop and refuel his stomach.”

“Agents, I am here to wish you good luck and success on this mission.” Travis said sternly. “I do not need to warn you about the danger that Robinson poses. I am under the impression that the three of you will be going in there all alone, so don’t expect any outside help from the rest of your team.” Travis finished. He sighed in relief. “Now that I got those damn formalities in.” He turned to JD, “What do you have for them?” JD smiled and pulled a laptop out of the backpack he was carrying.

“I equipped the C drive with a microchip that has a tracking device in it. As long as any of you have the computer with you, we will be able to track you back here. Hopefully, we will be able to get a good idea where Robinson’s compound is.” They all stared and JD appreciably.

“I think I should take it,” Sidney said. “Adrian and Boris like to run their operations the old fashioned way. They probably wouldn’t be carrying laptops with them. Ekaterina is taking several computer classes. She would know how to use one.”

JD looked at Chris who nodded his head. JD handed the computer to the girl. At that moment, a man in a blue suit and a coffee cup in hand came walking up.

“This is your pilot Robert,” Travis said.

“I work for the CIA and am here to brief you further on your mission when you are ready to leave.” He said. “I don’t want to be rude, but we have to leave in ten minutes and I have to do some preflight checks.” With a polite nod of his head, he walked up the steps the cockpit.

“I am ordering you all to be careful,” Travis said with concern in his eyes.

“We always are Sir,” Sidney answered. Travis smiled.

“The CIA may screw up on a lot of things, but they did manage to get the best damn agents for the job. If any of you get yourselves killed, I will not turn a blind eye to what happened with Brady” They all looked at him in surprise. “Well, I best be getting back to the office.” He took an envelop out of his pocket and handed it to Buck. “Don’t open this until the plane is gone.” Travis nodded his head. Then walked over to where his black sedan was waiting.

“He is sure one hard to read guy, one minute he’s yelling his head off at your for breaking one little rule and the next he’s giving you the medal of honor,” Nathan said, shaking his head.

“We are just about ready to go.” Robert called from the cockpit. “You guys should take your seat now.”

Sidney felt herself wrapped up in a hug.

“I am not there to protect you. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Buck squeezed her tight and then let her go.

Vin turned his head to Ezra, “I’d give you a hug too, but I don’t think that would look very good.”

“You assumed correctly,” Ezra answered taking a step back. He ended up walking straight into Buck.

“Aw come on sugar, you can give us all a hug,” Buck said wrapping his arms around Ezra.

They all laughed at Ezra’s facial expression.

“Are you nervous Chris?” JD asked.

“Nervous? Hell this is going to be like a vacation,” Chris said shaking his head.

+ + + + + + + +

Fifteen minutes later, they all watched as the jet slowly disappeared from the sky. Josiah saw the nervous look on JD’s face

“They’ll be fine JD, they always are.” Josiah said.

“Hey Buck, what’s in that envelope that Travis gave you? Vin asked. Buck pulled out the envelope and opened it. He pulled out a letter and read it out loud.

Dear Team,

I know better then expect any work out of you until you're back together. There are five plane tickets waiting for you. Use them for what you want. Don’t relax too much, because I have seven different cases that will require attention on your return,

Orrin Travis

Buck folded up the letter with a smile. “Get that signal up JD. It’s getting a little to warm around here. I think I could use a little snow. How about you guys?”