Warnings: PG-13, some bad language
Characters: Vin and the Seven
Vin fidgeted uncomfortably as he waited for the elevator to arrive. Next to him, Chris stood in a slight slouch, apparently unaffected by the nature of their upcoming meeting.
Damn I hate this, Tanner thought. How can he look so relaxed when we're about to have a private meetin' with the Director? It ain't normal. The briefest hint of a smile twitched across the man's face. But who ever said Larabee was normal? Shaking his head slightly at the blond who had somehow become his friend, Vin sighed.
"Nervous?" Chris asked him with a small smile. Vin would have reason to be. The last time they had been to one of these private meetings with the director, they had both almost ended up dead.
"No," Tanner responded flatly.
Larabee suppressed his own smile. Bull. "I'm surprised the Director was able to make time for us on such short notice."
"Hell, when you've got news 'bout a possible leak in the department, it's time t' talk t' the man in charge. Guess he knew that."
"I just hope he agrees to let us run the investigation. We've put in a helluva lot of work on this already."
"'M sure he'll do what he thinks best," Vin replied. Where the hell was that elevator?
"As long as it's the right decision, I won't have any complaints."
Tanner glared at the closed, shiny metal doors. "Open, already, damn it," he growled at them, and they did.
"Very impressive," Chris said, clapping the sniper lightly on the back as he stepped past him and into the interior of the car. "Well, come on. We can't keep the man waiting."
Vin rolled his eyes and stepped into the car.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
At least that's over. Tanner had had a few moments when he was sure the Director was going to be offended by Larabee's straightforward approach to the investigation they had been working on for months now, but Travis had been there to smooth over the rough spots for them.
At least they hadn't been dismissed out of hand, and they would know in a couple of days if they would be allowed to pursue the possible case against ATF Agents Mahoney and Keagan.
Walking to their rental car, the sniper noted how uncomfortable he felt in the suit he was wearing. It was worse than any uniform he had been forced to wear and he would be glad to get back to Denver where he could go back to the casual dress code Chris let him and the other members of Team Seven get away with.
"Where'd we leave the car?" Chris asked him, glancing around the parking garage.
"Ah hell, I don't know," Vin replied. "There," he said, waving in a random direction. "That's as good a place as any t' look."
Larabee started off in the direction, then smiled. "You're right! There it is."
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
The D.C. traffic was the usual tangle of congestion and insanity, so when Larabee finally maneuvered the rental into the Arlington suburbs, Tanner relaxed, glancing over at his unusually quiet companion. He could guess Chris's attention was buried in what came next on the case.
Stopping at a red light, they sat in silence, Tanner casually scanning the occupants of the cars parked on either side of the rental, then looked back to the light. Enough, he thought, we're goin' t' be late fer dinner, then mumbled aloud, "Change."
The red flicked to green.
Larabee looked up, a slightly surprised expression on his face. "You're getting good at that."
"What?" Vin asked him, confused.
"Commanding inanimate objects. What's your secret?"
Tanner's forehead wrinkled. What the hell was Larabee talking about? "You're actin' weird, Cowboy."
Larabee regarded the sniper for a moment. He doesn't realize what he's been doing. "Me weird? Look who's talking."
Tanner shook his head, staring back out at the rapidly approaching twilight.
Chris remained silent for several minutes as they traveled toward the secured condo where the other members of Team Seven were waiting for them. "Don't you think it's time to turn the lights on?" he asked Tanner casually.
Vin directed a confused expression at his companion. "'Cuse me?"
"The lights the street lights," Chris said with a grin. "Don't you think it's time to tell them to come on?"
Tanner's expression folded into one of disgusted dismissal. "Very funny. Y' know damn well I can't just say, 'on' an'" The row of streetlamps along the street sprang on, casting a pale glow across the leaf-littered asphalt.
Chris stifled a snort.
Vin paled. "They're on a damned timer, Larabee. That was just a coincidence."
"Anything you say "
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Safe at last in the large Virginia condo, the agents, except Vin, sat scattered around the living room, each with a copy of the same computer printout, as they discussed the pros and cons of each name listed there.
After checking in with the local police and the FBI agents providing additional security on the grounds of their safe-home-away-from-home, the sharpshooter retired to one of the overstuffed chairs in the living room to hear what the others had come up with.
A knock at the door forestalled the discussion. JD, being the closest, rose to answer it.
After checking the peephole, he gripped the brass knob, turned and pulled, but the humidity-swollen wood caught in its frame, refusing to open. He pulled harder and muttered under his breath, "Come on come on "
Seeing the problem, Tanner stood and walked over to join him. "That's our dinner out there," he muttered. "Open up, y' damned piece of"
The door opened.
JD turned a startled look on Tanner. "Uh, thanks, Vin," he said with a half-smile.
"At it again, Vin?" Chris asked as he passed behind Tanner's back.
The sniper's retort was stopped short when Orin Travis entered.
"Locals are doing an excellent job of security," he told Chris. "They stopped me four times before I got here."
"Glad to hear it," Larabee replied. "Come on in and have a seat. Would you like anything? Dinner should be arriving any time now."
"I'll take a cup of coffee, if there is any."
"We have a bottomless pot," Josiah replied, walking over to pour the man a cup.
Travis settled in the overstuffed chair Vin had vacated and glanced down at the reports spread out across the coffee table. "So, have you decided who you'll be targeting first?"
"I think we have," Larabee said. He gathered the pages together and handed them over to his immediate superior. "It looks like Mahoney and Keagan are both using the same accountant to launder their money off-shore. We'll go after him first, see if he'll rollover on them to save himself."
Travis read over the information and nodded. "Just let me know what you need. But let's do it in person, shall we? Too many ways for the phone and computers to be compromised."
"We think we've got a good way to make sure any meetings between you and Chris don't look too odd, too," Buck said with a grin. "As long as Mary's willing to play along."
"Mary?" Travis asked him, his expression turning worried.
"Yes, well, if Mr. Larabee were dating your daughter-in-law, it might not seem out of character if you spent more time with him," Ezra explained.
Travis grinned. "No, I suppose it wouldn't." He paused, glancing around at the men. "And if she's offered an exclusive on the story when it breaks, I think she'd be more than happy to play along. In fact, I think she'd insist."
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
The agents and Travis talked for almost an hour about how they might be able to bring down the two dirty agents. During that time their dinners arrived and they quickly dispatched the hearty meal.
"Is there any more coffee?" Travis asked when JD and Nathan had gathered up the empty plates and stacked them on the carts they had been delivered on.
"C'n make some up for y', sir," Vin offered, standing and heading into the kitchen.
Several minutes later, Vin still stood in the kitchenette, staring at the coffee pot, now dripping intermittently. He sighed impatiently.
JD walked in, asking, "Isn't that ready yet?"
"Enough already," Vin muttered under his breath, reaching out for the handle, intent on yanking the pot out and sticking a cup under the spastic flow so he could pour Travis a cup. The drip, however, stopped, one final drop clinging, but refusing to fall.
"Good work," the younger man said with smile. "I've tried that a few times, but it never seems to work for me. Guess you've got the touch."
"What touch?" Tanner asked suspiciously.
"The coffee," he said, nodding. "It must've heard you."
"Has Larabee been talkin' t' ya?" Vin asked suspiciously.
JD's forehead wrinkled. "About what?"
"Nothin'," Tanner said, shaking his head. He quickly filled the cup and then the carafe. "Think we'd better get back before they all come lookin' fer us."
"Sounds good to"
The high pitched hum of the alarm system sounded, cutting JD off. With Vin he moved into the living room, where Larabee reached for his radio and keyed the mike. "Report."
"Sir," came a voice, "we have a breach in sector three. We have someone checking it now. Just a second " The line went dead.
"Get down, sir!" Tanner commanded Travis, drawing his sidearm and starting for the window.
Ezra started to back up, but his coat caught on one corner of a luggage rack on wheels.
"Move, y' damned piece of" Tanner commanded as he forced his way between the couch and rack.
The rack obligingly rolled away.
Reaching the window, Tanner scanned the grounds, ready to offer the others what protection he could.
Ezra glanced down at the rack, his eyes wide with disbelief. "Uncanny," he muttered, getting himself free without doing damage to his suit coat.
The radio still clutched in Larabee's hand crackled back on. "False alarm, sir. It's just a kid. He's clean. Says he works for the golf course next door. He was out looking for lost balls."
There was a collective sigh of relief. "Good work. And thanks," Chris said into the radio. "Escort the boy off the grounds and give him our apologies."
"Yes, sir. He is a little rattled."
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
"I can't believe we're getting this kind of cooperation," Nathan said as he and the other agent entered their office back in Denver.
"Me either," Buck concurred. "But let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. The important thing is to get the goods on these guys."
"I'm just surprised the flight went so fast," JD said, walking to his desk. "They said it was supposed to be a little over four hours and we made it in three!"
Josiah nodded. "I think we have Vin to thank for that. He said he wanted to get home as soon as possible, and poof! there was a tail wind. Nice trick. Wish I could do that."
Tanner, his shoulders squared, marched past the group and over to his desk, trying to ignore them.
Then, after catching up on mail, e-mail, and phone messages, the team members headed out, stopping by their places before meeting up again at Chris's ranch for a brainstorming session.
The agents, except Ezra, who always took longer to change and get out to the ranch, gathered in the living room, each with a beer in hand, and found seats around the crackling fireplace. Virginia might have been hot and humid, but the Colorado climate was still damp and cool in the evenings.
Chris sighed and closed his eyes. "It's good to be home."
"I know what you mean," Nathan echoed. "Never really thought I'd get to thinkin' about Denver that way, but I have."
"It sort of grows on you," Buck told him with a grin.
"Maybe it's the company we keep," Josiah tossed in, his eyes pinched with humor.
"Or at least some of the company," JD added.
"Now all we have to do is nail Mahoney and Keagan and not get ourselves killed in the process," Larabee said. He glanced over at Tanner. "Of course, if Vin would just use his newfound talent"
"Damn it, Larabee, I thought y' said y'd lay off that shit," Tanner snapped and sighed, turning his attention from the crackling fire he sat tending.
"You have to admit, Vin," JD said, "it's looks pretty impressive from where we're sitting."
Tanner put on his best no-nonsense expression. "Kid, every one of those things was jus' a coincidence. And that's all they were. The elevator was already on the way, the stoplight would've changed anyway, the street lights were on timers, the door was just swelled shut, and"
"Maybe it has something to do with the spiritual work you're doing with Ko-Je," Josiah offered.
"Damn, J'siah, not you too? It was coincidence, that's all. Y' really think I have the power of the word, or whatever y' called it? That I c'n just say 'rain,' and it'll rain? Well, I can't, an' I'll prove it. Rain!" Tanner commanded.
Ezra walked into the room, stopping short at the unusual declaration issuing from the team's sniper. As he opened his mouth to ask what was going on, he was cut off by a deep, rumbling peel of thunder. "Well, Mr. Tanner," he said when the sound faded away, "I didn't know you could summon a rain storm. Is that a trick you learned from your time among the Indians, or did I miss the dance?"
"Ah hell!" Vin bellowed. " I give up!"
The echo of rain, splattering against the windows, accompanied their discussion
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Two hours later Tanner sat in his chair, staring forlornly out the window at the steady downpour that hadn't let up since he had started it.
No, that wasn't right. He hadn't started it. He did not have the power to command inanimate objects, and he sure as hell couldn't control the weather!
His name being called dragged him out of the fantasy-horror that was beginning to spin itself out in his mind. "Huh?" he asked, looking up.
JD hesitantly approached. "Uh, Vin?"
"Uh, Chris and the others are fighting a leak in the kitchen, and"
"Sure, I'll come help"
"Well, actually " He fidgeted, then took a deep breath, held it a moment and then said as sincerely as he possibly could, "Actually, I came in to ask you if you'd just tell it to stop."
The sniper's face clouded over darker than the storm outside. "Damn it, JD, I've had 'bout all 'a this I c'n take. It's all a load of sh"
"Come on, Vin!" JD implored. "I mean, what can it hurt?"
"I didn't start this, damn it!"
"That's not the way it looked to me."
"It ain't possible, JD!"
"Come on, Vin, just indulge me, okay? Look out the window and tell it to stop. If it doesn't, well, then we'll all know it was like you said a series of coincidences."
"An' if it stops?"
JD smiled. "I'm calling David Letterman first thing tomorrow."
Tanner snorted, but deep in his chest he felt a slight pinch of fear. "What if it does stop?" he asked again.
"Well, I suppose you could just call it just another coincidence," Josiah said, walking in to join them. "But, personally, I think God's having a helluva good laugh at your expense, brother."
"Y' ain't no help, J'siah."
The man flashed Tanner a toothy grin. "Go on, now, make the rain stop."
Vin turned back to look out the window again. The rain was still falling at the same steady drizzle that promised not to let up anytime soon. It's hopeless.
Tanner paused. Was he actually starting to hope that he could control the weather? Get a grip, he commanded himself.
The man's blue eyes searched out a particularly black cloud. He opened his mouth to speak, but couldn't.
"What're you waiting for?" JD asked him.
Tanner shifted uncomfortably. "Would y' mind goin' back t' the kitchen?"
"Absolutely not," Ezra replied for all of them.
Tanner met the man's twinkling green eyes. Damn you, Ezra, you're enjoyin' this!
"I feel fool 'nough already."
"Think of us as impartial scientific observers," Standish suggested.
"I'd like t' tell y' what I think of y' as "
"Excuse me?" Ezra said. "I couldn't quite hear that."
"Never mind!" Vin snapped, turning back to the task at hand. This ain't goin' t' work. I didn't start it t' begin with, so I sure as hell can't shut it off!
"Stop," he commanded softly, turning immediately to face the others. "There, y' see, I"
Josiah's face paled slightly and his mouth dropped open. JD's eyes took on a befuddled cast. Ezra gaped.
"Huh, thanks, Vin," JD said distractedly, then left, muttering to himself.
Confused, Tanner swung back to look out the window. The rain had stopped. He blanched and sat down.
A few minutes later the others returned to the living room.
Chris walked over to where Vin still sat, staring out at the clearing sky. "JD tells me you turned it off Thanks."
Tanner looked up at his best friend and boss. He opened his mouth, then closed it, then opened it again. "Ah hell," he muttered.
The others broke into peals of laughter.
Author's Note: This story first appeared in the Mag 7 zine, Let's Ride #4, published by Neon RainBow Press, Cinda Gillilan and Jody Norman, editors. When we all decided to post the stories that have appeared in the issues of Let's Ride that are more than two years old, we opted to use a generic pen name because, while Erica Michaels is the primary author of this story, she had so much help from the other folks writing for the press that it just made sense to consider the story to be written by the Neon RainBow Press Collective! Resistance was futile. So, thanks to the whole Neon Gang ? Sierra Chaves, Michelle Fortado, Patricia Grace, Erica Michaels, Nina Talbot, Kasey Tucker, and Lorin & Mary Fallon Zane. Story last edited 6-20-2005. The art is by Shiloh