Disclaimer: 'The Magnificent Seven TV series is the property of MGM, Trilogy and the Mirisch Company. The characters from the show and named herein, belong to the Name of Copyright Holder. No infringements of these copyrights are intended, and they are used here without permission. Thank you to Mog for creating the ATF:AU. This work of fan fiction was written purely for my own entertainment, and not for any type of commercial gain.
This is a sequel to Rhiannons short story, The Highest Bid, and will not make any sense whatsoever unless youve read her piece first. Rhiannon - many thanks for letting me run with my idea following your story. Im also grateful for the few suggestions you made, which make my fluffy little piece read that much better.
English spellings have been used in this story.
Chris looked up from the report hed been reading as Vin tapped lightly on the doorframe, and then strode into the senior agents office without waiting for an invitation. The scowling rebuke for the interruption died on Larabees lips, when he noticed that not only had his friend closed the door behind him, but was also pacing the room in a well, Chris could only call it a nervous manner. That astonishing thought instantly put the blond on the alert, so he dropped the case-file onto his desk and gave the perturbed-looking sharpshooter his undivided attention.
Whats wrong, Vin?
Tanner had finally come to a halt at the inner partition wall, and was staring unseeingly through the glass at his colleagues in the bullpen. Chris frowned when Vin didnt reply or move, so he craned his neck around to try and see what was causing his friends strange behaviour. The entire team was currently involved with desk-bound duties, and the other five men appeared to be engrossed in their work. That probably meant they were catching up on the usual Monday morning influx of emails and inter-Bureau communiqués. Whatever occupied the remainder of his squad, they looked to be taking no notice of what was going on in their leaders office. So everything seemed to be normal to Chris eyes.
The blond tried again. Vin! Whats on your mind?
That barked out question seemed to break the spell, and the younger agents head snapped up, although he avoided making eye to eye contact with the other man. Chris, Ive got.
Vin turned away, his voice trailing off, although hed spoken so softly, Chris wasnt even sure what his friend had said. Not that he needed words to tell him that something was badly amiss. Larabees mind was suddenly whirling, as he tried to fathom out why his colleague was acting so out of character. Theyd all had a good weekend mostly spent together, as was their general practice - the highlight of which was the celebrations for Vins birthday. Nothing had marred that happy gathering as far as Chris was aware. It was only midway through Monday morning, and no one else had been into Team Sevens office as yet, so there shouldnt be any problem this early in the working day. But there was.
Without wasting any more time, Chris decided to get straight to the point. Vin, you came to me, when Id specifically asked you all to leave me in peace with this complex report from the AD, the older man gestured to the discarded document so Im guessing you want to talk about somethin important. Sit, take a load off and start at the beginning! he ordered briskly.
There was the briefest of nods from Vin, but he averted his eyes when he saw Ezra Standish wander across the office to use the copier that sat close to Chris office door. Without saying a word to Larabee, the sharpshooter tugged on the cord in front of him, and pulled down the slatted blinds to cover the see-through wall partitions. Once he was sure the pair had some privacy, Vin came and sat on the seat in front of his boss desk.
Saturday was somethin else I appreciate what you an the fellas done fer me. I also wanted tthank ya for the saddle, Vin began hesitantly, although he seemed more interested in fiddling with a stray paperclip hed found lurking behind Chris PC monitor, than talking to his friend.
Leaning forward and resting his arms on his desk, Chris regarded the other man intently. Yep, I think we all had a good time the other night, and youve already thanked me for the saddle several times. Lets cut to the chase, Vin. Whats put a burr up your ass?
I I gotta real tricky problem, Chris, an an I dont know what tdo about it.
Chris pursed his lips, wondering what on earth it was that caused such uncertainty and yes, it was definitely anxiety fear almost that the older man detected in Vins voice and body language. Undeterred, Larabee reached out and placed his hand on Vins forearm. Just spit it out, Vin. A problem shared is a problem halved, you know? he said with a reassuring smile.
Reckon but this uns probly gonna double in size when ya hear it!
I doubt it. Things can sometimes grow out of proportion in our own minds, but thrashing them through with a friend can often solve issues amazingly fast. Just tell me whats worrying you.
Chris, you know I aint one fer fer swindling folk. It jes aint in mnature tbe underhanded or sly, cause mma always told me to be a good honest man, an ta remember Is a Tanner.
No way are you sly, Vin! And who the hells accused you of swindling? Larabee demanded angrily. His piercing hazel eyes were now locked on the closed blinds, as if he could pick out the slanderous culprit through the tightly drawn shutters. There was no need to put the pairs unique mental telepathy into play - the astute senior agent had a sneaky suspicion he knew who Vin was referring to.
Aw heck, not one of the fellas, Chris!
Me, Vin responded in a small voice.
Larabee blinked several times, shaking his head, like hed completely lost the thread of the conversation. No, he must have misheard. Vin Tanner was the straightest and most honest man he knew, and nothing anyone including his friend himself told him would make him change his mind about that given fact.
Taking a deep breath, Chris attempted to drag the details from his friend. Let me get this straight. Youve swindled someone out of what for Christs sake? A chocolate covered doughnut? Or did the vending machine spit out two candy bars instead of one this morning? No dont tell me you forgot to pay for a beer at Inezs? Oh, well, shell probably take payment in kind or somethin! A warm kiss for a cold beer sounds like a reasonable settlement, the blond remarked blithely, waggling his eyebrows in a suggestive fashion.
Tanner shook his head vigorously in denial, but still said nothing.
When it became clear that the sharpshooter wasnt going to elaborate, or readily talk about what was tearing him up inside, Chris tried another angle. Okay then, this must be about money. You found a nickel, but werent able to discover who dropped it? he surmised, knowing how aptly the Teams teasing sobriquet of Robin Hood applied to his generous colleague.
A look of guilt flitted across Vins expressive features, as Chris said money. Jesus! Hed hit the jackpot! The older agents eyes widened in utter disbelief and he sat up straighter in his chair, when the other man hung his head in shame. Clearly this was a serious matter, otherwise his normally unflappable friend wouldnt be looking so wretched. Youve swindled . Cheated someone out of money? Damn! How much money are we talking about, pard? And who did you cheat that its got you wound up like a rattler about to strike? Chris wanted to know.
I didnt mean to cheat, but I still feel like a hustler anyhow, the sharpshooter murmured unhappily.
That vague explanation piqued Larabees curiosity even further. Are we talking about a prank thats gone wrong? Or have you set someone up for ?
The senior agent stopped when he saw the raw hurt in Vins eyes. He hated it when the Texan was in full emoting, little boy lost mode. God, no one neither man, woman or beast - could resist Tanner when those killer blue eyes went into action! Taking another calming breath to gather his equilibrium, Chris leaned forward in his seat and took up the posture of a caring and understanding confidante. Tell me precisely whats troubling you, and maybe I can help fix it.
First off, this aint one of my pranks, Chris, Vin muttered. This is bout me takin money actual greenbacks from someone under false pretences.
Getting meaningful information from the reticent sharpshooter was as painful as extracting teeth, and Chris was starting to lose patience. Who did you con, Vin? Just spit the goddamned name out, for pitys sake! he requested tersely.
Ezra, Vin replied miserably.
That was the clincher for Larabee, as it was the last thing hed expected to hear after his friends diffident comments. Pushing himself back in his chair, the blond suddenly roared with laughter. He just couldnt contain his reaction - which was relief more than anything - and tears streamed, unchecked, down his face. Nearly half a minute ticked by, and Chris held onto his stomach as he shook with unrestrained mirth.
Vin slapped the palm of his hand on the desk. It aint funny, Chris! he snarled angrily.
Wiping moisture from his eyes, Chris gazed at his friend, his humour quickly dissipating when he saw the look of indignation coupled with anguish on the others features. Im sorry, Vin. It just struck me as funny. I guess if youd said that youd conned anyone other than Standish, Id have been a bit more sympathetic. You just made my week!
Trrific! Im mighty pleased to hear I gave ya a laugh not! the Texan growled sarcastically.
Okay, okay! Dont lose your shirt! Tell me the impressive tale of how you managed to con our resident conman.
Ya know the present Ezra gave me on Saturday? Well that was mine.
Chris cocked his head in puzzlement. Of course it was yours, Vin. He got it for your birthday. Thats what friends do when they celebrate together.
No, that aint what Im sayin. It was mine to begin with. I I sold it to to aw, damn, what did he call hisself? Umm . Verbal diarrhoea or some such handle. I didnt know who I was sellin it to.
Now Larabee was truly confused, and floundering in a muddy pond. You sold your own birthday present to to Ezra in the first instance? he enquired.
Tanners chin dipped in affirmation, and he squirmed uneasily on the chair. But Chris ignored this as he continued to prise what he could from the reluctant man. So, if Im hearing this correctly Ezra bought a rare, souvenir program for your birthday, but didnt realise that you were the mystery seller? the older man guessed.
Yeah. Ysee, I had two programs from the Cowboys 78 Super Bowl win. One of em belonged to mdad, an I still got that. Its real special ta me, an Id never sell it. He was at the game an met all the players afterwards, cause he was involved in coaching kids at a local football club. The one I kept has his name on it written, then signed by the winning team.
And you sold the other one the one that Ezra purchased - to a local dealer?
Not exactly, Vin answered cagily, with a pained grin that was born from embarrassment. I put it on eBay. That one belonged to my uncle. He had no family ceptin me, so when he was killed in Afghanistan, I got it along with his other personal stuff. I was planning to send the money from the sale to the orphanage where mdad worked, but I dont reckon itd be right now, seeing as whats happened.
Why ever not? Chris asked in astonishment.
Aw, come on, Chris! When Ezra finds out what I did, hes gonna be moping an sulking, an using them high-falootin words til mheads explodin from hearin it. Nah, its not on. That souvenir programs his by rights. I have tcome clean an tell im I fleeced him fer $158.
You didnt deliberately fleece him, Vin, and its not like hes going to quibble about a few dollars. Hell, thats pocket money to Standish! But its not about the cash. He went to a lot of trouble to get you something suitable as a gift, and I think hed be pretty upset if you gave him back his money. Or worse still, tried to return the program to him.
Vin scanned his friends face and eyes, easily seeing the honest conviction behind Chris words. He did look kinda pleased wit hisself, didnt he? Though I was also thinkin he had some kinda scam goin wit Buck an JD.
You noticed that too? Ive been meaning to ask Buck what that was all about. Chris chuckled as he recalled their party on Saturday night. Nothing had been said, but the rest of the Team had noticed the stunned and incredulous looks Wilmington and Dunne had exchanged on seeing Ezras birthday gift to Vin.
Im not sure I want tknow. They were cookin somethin up between em all right!
It certainly looked that way. Are we done now?
The younger man puffed out a stuttering breath as he debated the best course of action. He still felt like a complete jerk, but could see the wisdom in Larabees statement. Ezra would be wounded, mortified, if he ever found out what had happened, and Vin couldnt bear the thought of knowingly upsetting his friend. That would only compound the problem. With his mind now made up, Tanner nodded his agreement. Ill send the money to the kids home like I wanted to, but Ill ask em to treat it as a donation from Ezra. Chris .
You dont have to ask, Vin, the blond interrupted. Our conversation stays in this office. Now quit worrying about it.
Vin rubbed his chin as a thought occurred to him. Damn! If I donate to charity on behalf of someone else, then they cant declare it as tax-allowable to the IRS!
Well, honours are even, Vin, cause neither can you!
That remark seemed to set the seal of approval on proceedings for Vin, as it was fitting that hed gained no more benefit than Ezra would. His eyes locked with Chris, and the pair smiled in satisfaction. A chuckle escaped the sharpshooters lips and, as Chris began to chortle, Vins giggle turned into a full belly laugh. The younger man had finally seen the funny side of receiving back, as a gift, an item that hed originally owned and disposed of. In more ways than one, this years birthday would be one hed remember for some time to come.