A Man Walks into a Bar…

by BMP

DISCLAIMER: These Characters do not belong to the author or me (but if it were our sandbox, we’d let YOU play in it…) That said, this story was written purely for self entertainment (and the possible entertainment of me, thanks BMP!) and no money is being made, has changed hands, or has been paid out for the contents therein. The Author wishes to thank MOG for the ATF AU, she came up with it, and graciously lets other play there. Special thanks to GSister for Beta-ing, encouraging, and all around nagging. Without her patience and insistence, these stories would never have been.

Author's Note: J.D.'s jokes are not mine.

~Constructive Criticism will be passed on to the author
~Flames will be used to toast marshmallows

It might have been simply the relief of successfully ending a grueling two month long investigation. It might have been the simple fact that they were all here and no one was hurt. It might have been the sudden increase in blood sugar, after two months of stress and anxiety tightening his stomach. It wasn’t the alcohol. That was sure. Denver ATF Team Leader Chris Larabee was still working on his first beer. Whatever it was, he surely didn’t see it coming until it was too late to stop.

Agent J.D. Dunne, Team Seven’s youngest agent, a technology expert, and if rumors were to be believed, a computer genius, was proudly regaling the rest of his team about the very moment he had cracked the case wide open for them, proud as a peacock that it had been done through good old-fashioned investigation, too, not through high-flying, wired-up, satellite-linked computer technology. Wits. Brains. Instincts.

As if the rest of them had not been there. As if they had not set up the sting. As if they had not planted his identity and his butt on the end of the bar in that dingy little tap room. As if they had not wired the men’s room—something which still made Agent Dunne blush furiously.

Perhaps it was the blush that finally did Chris Larabee in. He didn’t know. All he knew was he was watching his other agents, all eyes on Dunne, anticipating each moment of the story, grinning to match the youthful enthusiasm on J.D.’s face, and feeling himself grinning right along with them. When the urge overtook him, he didn’t even know until it was too late.

It was the climactic moment of the story. Excited, hands doing half the talking for him, J.D. said in his best dramatic Buck-Wilmington-borrowed narrative tone, “Then this guy comes walking into the bar, and he says…”

The words inserted themselves into J.D.’s suspenseful pause. Deadpan.

“Why the long face?”

There was silence, as six pairs of eyes rolled toward Chris Larabee, who, at that moment realizing he had spoken out loud, struggled to keep his poker face. He fought the flush of embarrassment that started to creep up his neck and returned the young agent’s accusatory stare with a look of nearly wide-eyed innocence.

Forcing himself not to flinch, not to move, not to change his facial expression one iota, Chris hoped, really hoped, that the moment would just pass without comment, that no one, but no one would understand what he had just said. For a moment it seemed likely, until a barely-concealed snort from Buck Wilmington on his left told him he was wrong. Buck ducked his face down quickly, but the shaking of his shoulders was unmistakable. Damn him.

Damn Vin, too, on Chris’s right, as the sharpshooter pulled his baseball hat down over his eyes and turned away in the other direction.

Chris cleared his throat. He maintained his poker face—despite the two giggling idiots on either side of him—and fought hard not to choke as he said calmly, “I’m sorry, J.D. Go on.”

Reassured, the young agent resumed with great dignity, as if there had been no interruption, as if Buck Wilmington were not seated on his right, looking like he was trying to hide a parakeet in his mouth.

J.D. spoke a little louder, “So the man comes into the bar and he says…”

The comment fairly exploded out of Buck before J.D. got another word out. “Why not? I’m a fungi!”

Laughing at his own joke, the explosives specialist was now leaning helplessly against Chris, holding his middle.

“And he says…” J.D. repeated valiantly.

“It’s the nuts. They’re complimentary!” chortled the sharpshooter, from under his hat, drawing a chuckle from the team medic across the table, as he began to understand.

Now Vin was slumped face down on the table, arms around his ribs, his whole wiry frame shaking, making the table quake. At that moment, Chris really wanted to reach out and clunk Buck’s and Vin’s heads together. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t move, glare, or even shift his eyes or he would lose the poker face all together.

J.D. tried to glare at him but it was more imploring than anything else.

Chris ignored the chuckles from the other side of the table and the hooting and guffawing on either side of him. But he could not help J.D. He could not speak for fear of laughing.

But he knew it was a disaster when J.D. began again hesitantly, with a look on his young face that said he already knew he would be sorry.

“The guy came into the bar, and says…”

The smooth, southern drawl from across the table was unexpected, to say the least, deftly intoning like a cheap western gunslinger, “I’m lookin’ for the man who shot my paw.”

It destroyed Chris’s pretense completely.

The team’s undercover agent’s eyes glittered with undisguised pride as J.D. Dunne’s face turned his way, aghast, and Larabee’s poker face collapsed as he fell back against the back of the booth. Buck, wheezing, collapsed against his shoulder. Chris fairly roared with laughter.

J.D. slammed his hat on the table, which set them all off again.

“Is anyone listening to me?” he groused out.

“Frayed knot,” Nathan Jackson shot back.

Vin, laughing even harder now, was too afraid to let go of his ribs with his arms, so he lifted one foot and high-fived the team medic with the sole of his boot.

“I didn’t ask to be the guy in the bar, you know,” J.D. said petulantly. He was fighting hard to stay that way, too.

He missed the gleam in Josiah Sanchez’s eye. But not the predatory grin that spread across the large profiler’s face as he uttered in the benignly pleasant voice of the priest he once was, “And I didn’t wish for a twelve-inch pianist.”

Chris had to wipe the tears out of his eyes to see Vin slump right out of his chair down onto the floor.

At that J.D. gave up. Not like he had much choice as he joined his friends and teammates in laughing at his expense.

Buck was trying hard to regain his breath, gasping and wiping the ends of his mustache.

Jackson and Standish leaned against each other and the table. Standish’s eyes gleamed as his shoulders shook in his silent mirth.

Josiah grinned smugly as if someone had set a very large present in front of him.

Moments later, in a miraculous pause, where every man seemed to try to catch his breath at once, Vin peeled himself up off the floor and excused himself to go “see a man about a dog.” Buck and Chris accidentally caught each other’s eyes and muttered in unison, “Eats, shoots and leaves.”

The other patrons of the bar and restaurant affectionately nicknamed the Saloon eyed Team Seven’s table at the unusual amount of noise from the Denver office’s most hard-nosed team and its most merciless team leader. Howling. Horse-laughing. Guffawing.

They looked to the proprietor for an explanation. Inez Rezcillos shrugged at her patrons and chuckled to herself at Team Seven’s expense.

Above it all, J.D. Dunne’s voice said brightly, “Hey guys, if you liked those, wait ‘til you hear my collection of light bulb jokes!”