MCAT: Turbulent Transition #2
Edited by Tannertexaslady, thanks Sherry!!!!
Characters: Chris and OFC, Vin and OFC, all the others of the seven, Orrin Travis, OC's
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of Magnificent seven and never will, sigh... I also don't own a lot of the OC's in this story, they are owned by Tannertexaslady. I do own some of the OC's, amongst which, again, someone I wouldn't want to own at all and that's the villain. Oh, and all mistakes are mine as well, sigh. I want to state for the record that I've tried my best, but I have no medical knowledge whatsoever. The story is written purely for entertainment and no money has been made.
Warnings: In this story the boys are involved in heterosexual relationships. It also contains violence, some of which might upset sensitive readers.
Acknowledgements: To Sherry who created this universe and her enormous enthusiasm during this whole process, to Wendy who gave her great advice and to my truly wonderful beta, Tracey, who once again made this story readable!!!
This story is part of the MCAT series and plays in the wonderful new AU created by Tannertexaslady. She put down the ground lines in the first story written for this AU, Transitions.
For those who would like to have some information about this new AU at hand, here is a brief description:
MCAT is set after the wonderful ATF AU that Mog created. Team seven is disbanded and Chris Larabee is asked to lead a whole new type of law enforcement unit, MCAT (Major Crimes and Acts of Terrorism), a totally independent unit that has the authority to act outside all the existing boundaries within law enforcement and politics and also overrules these other agencies. He accepts and along with him the others of team seven decide to become a part of this unit as well. Chris, as the unit commander, only has to answer to Orrin Travis and has Vin as his squad captain and Buck as his number three man.
In the first story, Transitions, new agents become a part of this team as well:
Samuel Reed, Caucasian, ex-military, ex-navy SEALs and ex-CIA, sharpshooter, 34 years old
Pamela Walton, Native American, computer genius who worked for the Justice Department, 30 years old
Katrina Santos, Latina, certified medic, coming from the Taos Police Department and the DEA, 31 years old
Kelli Coulter, Caucasian, from Texas, degree in criminology/criminal justice, worked with New Orleans PD, the Texas State Task Force and the DEA, sharpshooter, 27 years old
Justin Michaels, Caucasian, homicide detective with Denver PD and after that with the State Police investigations in Colorado, 43 years old
Mark Westin, Caucasian, excelled at the Police Academy, worked LAPD and California Highway Patrols, 26 years old
Paul Roberts, African American, Atlanta Metro police departments with excellent records, 31 years old
Ross Anderson, African American, Detroit Metro police departments, career until then focused on inner city crime, 34 years old.
Family life has changed as well for the seven, as they have moved on. Josiah has married Mallory, 43 years old, once leader of ATF team six. When most of the ATF was disbanded and MCAT formed, she was pregnant of their second child and decided to quit working. They have a two year old, Joanne and at the end of Transitions, just before this story starts, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Adam.
Buck and Inez are married and have two lovely daughters, Sarah (2) and Maria (1). Nathan and Rain are married as well, with Rain pregnant and the same is true for JD and Casey. They are married, with Casey pregnant and they live with Nettie Wells on her farm. The seven and their spouses have formed a real family now and have pooled their resources in the horse ranch Larabee 7, hoping that one day, when law enforcement becomes too much, this ranch will provide their income.
Chris still lives in the ranch house, the gathering point of the whole family, while Vin lives on the property as well in a smaller house built nearby. Ezra still lives in his townhouse in the city, owns the Standish Tavern where Inez works and in his spare time has become a lawyer as well, something the whole family gratefully uses.
In Transitions Ezra, Chris and Vin are still single and alone, but both Chris and Vin fall in love. Chris has fallen in love with a new neighbor, Linda Dubois, who has bought the land bordering on Larabee 7 for her Southern Breeze Horse Ranch. She comes from a family well known for the race horses they breed. Vin now is married with their new MCAT colleague Kelli Coulter and the two Texans live in his house on the Larabee 7 property. The Wilmingtons have built their home there too and The Jackson are building one there as well. Josiah and Mallory live in their home on adjoining property.
Size: Approx. 460 K
Chapter 1 - 3 | Chapter 4 - 6 |
Chapter 7 - 10 |
Chapter 11 - 13
Chapter 14 - 16 | Chapter 17 - 19 | Chapter 20 - 22
He stood leaning against the building, looking at all the shops and outdoor cafes around him in the Street Mall. His lips curled when he took in all the fine displays and fancy buildings. All the people walking around as if they were safe, completely safe. It made him smile. He could pick out any one of them, any one....
Looking down the street he saw the mountains that surrounded this city on one side and could be seen from almost everywhere, from almost any street.
Denver, the mile high city....
He took a deep breath and nodded to himself. Yes, he had been right to come here; this was a good place, a very good place to hunt.
He had a really good feeling about it.
Fingering the bowie knife in the large pocket of his overcoat, he smiled again, looking at all those insignificant people passing him by. Should he start the hunt? Should he start the hunt right here? Or should he wait and roam the streets a little longer, go to the more seedy parts of the city first and see what he could find there?
No, not the seedy parts, he never found what he wanted in the seedy parts of a town. He liked his prey strong and used to a good life. The battered ones, they gave a good fight, but they always had a look that said, I know that this is how life is, life's a bitch and actually I don't really mind leaving it. He wanted his victims to mind, to mind a lot when he carved their precious life away from them. He wanted to see the surprise of his victims, when suddenly they realized that life wasn't easy and clean cut anymore. He wanted to see the hopelessness in their eyes when they finally understood he wasn't going to let them live.
A shock of blond hair caught his attention. That hair.... The body wasn't right though, fat, too fat.
He pushed himself away from the wall and with his hand still on the knife in his pocket he started walking. And looking.
Yes, it was time, time to start the hunt!
Linda rolled over and stretched herself luxuriously. She reveled in the feel of the sun on her naked body, but she didn't open her eyes, not yet. She wanted to enjoy the memories of last night for a little while longer.
A smile played around her lips when she remembered how it was to be with Chris again, finally, after that long week in which they hadn't seen each other at all. They had made slow, lingering love, despite the fact that Chris was bushed after a grueling case, the first case of his new unit, MCAT.
The memory that made her smile the most though was seeing Chris in the hospital hall with Adam, the newborn son of Mallory and Josiah, in his arms. He had looked so right with that small baby in his arms, a look of pure wonder on his face. It had made her heart constrict seeing him like that and it had been all she could do to keep her tears at bay.
God, she loved that man to pieces. She had never felt like this about anyone before in her life and last week had made her realize just how much she loved him. How much she missed him if he wasn't there.
Suddenly she realized she didn't feel his presence beside her. Hastily she opened her eyes and looked at Chris' side of the bed.
No one was there.
Didn't that man know how to sleep in? That was one thing she was going to teach him! She loved long hours in bed in the morning. One of the first things she had established with Rob, her ranch foreman, was that he took the early morning chores. Even then sleeping in wasn't something she could do too often, so when the chance was there, she took it.
"And so will you, Larabee," she grinned, grabbing a shirt of Chris' that she saw laying around and slipping it over her head. "Starting right now! I'm going to drag you back to bed and show you how good sleeping in can be, especially when you're not sleeping!"
She hurried to the kitchen, the place she expected to find her lover. Yes, she was right, she already smelled the coffee. Mmm, maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to wait until she'd had a cup before she dragged Chris back with her.
When she reached the kitchen Linda stopped and just looked.
Chris was standing at the kitchen sink, dressed in a pair of those tight black jeans that showed off his body so well and an old grey t-shirt. He was putting something in the cupboard and Linda admired the view of that lean, muscled body stretched out to reach one of the higher boards. Two mugs of coffee were standing on the table, one half empty and obviously Chris' and one full and steaming. Linda smiled. Somehow Chris had known she was coming. Grabbing the mug on her way over to her lover she took a sip of the hot liquid.
"Ehw!" With a grimace of distaste she spat it right back in the mug again.
Chris had whirled around with the first sound. "Linda, what...?" When he saw the disgusted look on her face and the mug she held in her hand he started to laugh.
"Don't tell me you just took a sip of that? Do you have any idea how much sugar Vin wants in his coffee?"
"Its horrible," Linda gasped, spitting the last of what was in her mouth in the mug as well. Then the words registered. "Vin?"
"Yeah, he's on his way over to discuss what we need to change in our supply orders with all the new foals around, before we go and take care of the horses." Chris took the mug out of her hand, put it behind him in the kitchen sink and took Linda in his arms. He kissed her tenderly. "We both wanted to have that out of the way. We wanted to have the rest of the day off to do... other... things." Soft and lingering kisses made it clear what some of those other things would be if Chris had any say in it.
"So you had coffee ready for him."
Another kiss, this one trailing her earlobe. Linda shivered.
"And if you don't want him to see you like this," a hand sneaked up her bare ass under the shirt, "you better leave, because he's coming right about now."
"What?" Anxiously Linda looked at the door that led to the deck and the yard beyond. She saw no one. "Don't frighten me," she huffed, slapping Chris lightly on the chest.
At that moment the doorknob moved. "Oh no!" Linda moaned and bolted to the hallway. No way was she going to be on display like this for anyone else but Chris! She heard Vin's laughter coming from the kitchen. Curiously she stopped. She would have sworn he hadn't seen her.
"She did? And then spit it out? No, don't start Lar'bee, I drink my coffee just fine!"
No, it was about his coffee. Strange, Linda was sure that Chris hadn't said anything to Vin. She would have heard it if he had. Suddenly a lot less happy she walked back towards the bedroom. There it had been again, the way Chris was in tune with Vin Tanner. Having coffee ready for him, knowing exactly when Vin would arrive. Things he didn't know or feel from her.
Vin answering something Chris hadn't said.
She had felt so good last night. But this strange... connection... between her lover and his best friend, where did that leave her in Chris' life?
+ + + + + + +
Chris handed Vin another mug of coffee. "You can add the sugar yourself now, I had just put the stuff back in the cupboard. I'm gonna take Linda another mug, black, the only way to drink coffee."
"It is when you make dishwater instead of coffee," Vin grinned.
"You always add that much sugar, Tanner, no matter how weak or strong the coffee is." Chris hurried out of the kitchen with the coffee and a bowl of whole wheat cereal with some yogurt. He didn't know what had happened, but he was fairly certain that Linda had been upset when she left. He wanted to make sure that she would stay at least until after the horses had been fed. He had hoped they would spend the day together after having been separated for almost a week.
When he entered the bedroom he saw that he was right. Linda was upset. He could see it in the way she was gathering her clothes and kept pushing her blond hair behind her ears angrily.
Damn, what was going on? He didn't understand!
"I hoped you would stay in bed," Chris said softly, looking at the beautiful, slim woman before him, who was almost jumping through his bedroom. One of the things he liked about Linda was the spirited way with which she tackled everything. She was one hell of an energetic lady!
Especially when she was upset, he was beginning to find out.
"I hoped that I could take care of business real fast and dive right back into bed again where you would be waiting for me. Here, I brought you some good coffee and some breakfast." He held the mug and bowl out to her, not really sure what she would do.
Linda looked at the offerings and shrugged. "Why did you get up in the first place? Because of Tanner?"
"Tanner? I don't understand. We have some business to attend to and the horses to feed, so yeah, I got out to do that. You were sleeping and frankly, I had expected that you'd still be asleep when I came back. It had gotten pretty late last night." She didn't answer his grin. He looked at her wistfully. "Had already planned how I was going to wake you up," he added softly.
That made her sigh for some reason. Then she smiled, bringing a sparkle to her green eyes and Chris knew things were back to being all right.
+ + + + + + +
First that grin, then that soft, wistful voice.... Linda knew she was lost again. How could she ever resist that?
She sighed, suddenly feeling like a complete idiot. What was she thinking? Chris and Vin had just made an appointment about the ranch work, no more. So of course Chris had expected Vin. Maybe Vin had called, or Chris had called Vin. In the mean time she had been asleep, fast asleep. No wonder that Chris hadn't expected her.
As for Vin answering Chris while Chris hadn't said anything, she probably just hadn't heard her lover because she had been too busy making an ass of herself. All because Kelli had told her that there was some strange telepathic connection between Chris and Vin.
Yeah, right, telepathic, sure!
"Alright," she smiled mischievously. "I'll dive right back into bed! It's the best place to be when you're expecting a lover." She pouted her lips enticingly.
Chris immediately got the hint and leaned in. The kiss they shared was soft. It sent goose bumps all over her body.
Finally Chris let go and stepped back. His eyes were bright. "Gotta go, Vin is getting impatient. He's got someone of his own waiting for him as you know. I'll be back real soon!" He stroked her cheek one last time, softly, and ran off.
There it had been again, Linda thought, shivering a little. Vin is getting impatient. Not Vin might be getting impatient or I think Vin is getting impatient, no, it had been a statement: Vin is getting impatient.
As if he knew it, like Vin was in the room with them.
Chris didn't even seem to be aware of what he was doing.
It was... creepy....
All thoughts about creepy were forgotten though, when Chris came back almost before she had finished her coffee and cereal. When he came bouncing through the door, tearing off his t-shirt and announcing with a huge grin that Vin had offered to feed the horses alone, Linda could only stare at him, mesmerized.
Oh, she was going to enjoy this morning!!!
+ + + + + + +
He was going to enjoy this morning! She was perfect, just perfect. The golden blond hair cascading down her back, her body lithe and supple and very enticing in that tight t-shirt and short skirt and her eyes...her eyes were green. Not blue as he had to settle for some of the times in the past, but green, really green!
Yes, she was perfect and all he now had to do was get to know her. A hunter should always get to know his prey.
Fingering the bowie knife in his pocket he started to follow her, determined not to lose her.
He licked his lips. Oh yes, he was going to enjoy this morning and the rest of the day!
A last, lingering kiss and Chris got out of bed. Linda pouted prettily, but this time he wasn't going to budge and he shook his head with determination. She pouted even more, looked at him from under her lashes in a very appealing way and asked in her most winsome voice, "Please?"
"Damn, Linda, it's almost noon! I'm gonna take a shower."
"Shower!" Linda was out of bed in no time. "That's a great idea, Chris! Let's take a long, HOT shower!"
"Come on, Chris!" She looked back at him from the door, licking her lips. "I want to soap you up completely!"
Chris groaned. "Miss Dubois, you are insatiable!" he called after her.
"Your own fault for looking way too good!" her voice floated back to him from the bathroom. When he entered she had already turned on the tap and was standing bent over to check the water temperature.
The sight made Chris stop right in his tracks. God, she was so beautiful... and she was with him. He still couldn't quite believe it. This blond goddess with the most beautifully sparkling green eyes, a warm and caring heart hidden behind the wildest ideas and with a delicious sense of humor had decided she wanted to share her life with him.
With him and all his demons.
The object of his undivided attention looked at him over her shoulder and smiled. That did it. Chris hurried towards her and pulled her up, so he could hold her tight in his arms and start kissing her all over again.
The kiss left them both breathless.
"Water... is... running," Linda managed to get out.
All Chris could reply was a worthless growl. He just grabbed her and lifted her into the bathtub, following her immediately. Impatiently he shut the shower door and switched the tap knob. While the water cascaded over their bodies he started to kiss her again.
The shower took a long time and in the end they had to hurry rinsing off all the soap and shampoo, because the water was getting decidedly colder. After having dried each other and finally having put on some clothes, they made their way to the kitchen.
There Chris again took his lover in his arms. He stared into those mesmerizing green eyes, filled with little brown and yellow specks and tenderly he kissed them again, first one, then the other.
"Linda, let's go riding," he asked her softly. "We both love horses, but we hardly seem to find a moment to go riding together. And this time I want us to go for a really long ride, not those short ones we sometimes manage to sneak in between things. I want to show you the back parts of the ranch, where it's all mountains, valleys and hidden springs."
"I don't have my horse here, Chris. Actually, I don't have any transportation. Inez and Buck picked me up at my ranch on their way to the hospital. I'm still stunned that they thought about including me. They didn't even ask, they just showed up like it was the most natural thing that I would come as well, to be there for Adam's birth."
"It is the most natural thing. You're with me and that makes you part of the family for them."
"Well, I like it. And I like your family, Chris. I guess there is something to be said for a family of your own choosing."
"Oh yes, there is! But Linda, you don't say that because you have problems with your own family, do you? When you talk about them they sound alright, you sound alright. Well, except of course for the fact you lost your dad so recently."
He smoothed her hair back from her face, tucking it behind her ear. "I wish I could have known him, to thank him for raising such a great daughter."
"Oh Chris, I wish he could have known you. And no, there is nothing wrong, I have a great family. I love all my brothers. We're not as close as your ragtag bunch, but we keep in touch and if I really needed them, they would be here for me! No, I was thinking about Kelli. About how her parents abandoned her just like that when she was a little kid! She doesn't remember, but it's obvious she was hurt bad as a child. Some family that turned out to be!"
Chris nodded, his good mood gone for the moment. He knew how badly Kelli had been hurt as a little girl. He had seen the doctors reports Vin had managed to get his hands on. He had also been the one Vin had talked to when he needed to get the anger and frustration off his chest about what had been done to his wife.
What he heard had made Chris feel sick to the stomach. How could people treat children like that?
What if it had been Adam? What if he and Sarah hadn't been there to protect Adam? Not that he'd really protected his son or his wife, not by a long shot.
"Even if she's been hurt by someone else, I still blame her parents," Linda was saying. "How could they leave her to get hurt when they should have loved her, protected her! Chris? Chris, are you alright?"
leave her to get hurt... left them and they got hurt, killed....
He closed his eyes.
"Chris? What?" Suddenly she realized what she'd said. "Chris, don't! You didn't abandon your family. You were working, that's not the same!"
"No, I just didn't protect them, left them to die," he spat. He turned around to leave, needing to be alone for a moment like always when the grief of losing his family overtook him. Linda wouldn't let him though, suddenly she was all over him, hugging him, kissing him, murmuring sweet meaningless words.
Chris just clung to Linda, to this new woman in his life who made him feel so much again, who was awakening so many emotions that he had thought were lost forever from inside him.
Like love, deep and real.
God, it felt so good to be held again.
He hugged her right back, with all the love he was feeling inside.
Some time later they were tucked together in one of the lounge chairs. Linda was sitting between Chris' legs, resting against his chest and both held a cup of coffee.
"You're really protective of Kelli, aren't you?" Chris said softly. He put his coffee down and rested his chin on the blond hair before him. "How did you two ever meet up anyway? I know you go back a long way together and met at the police academy. But you are about six years older then Kelli."
Linda grinned. "That's because Kelli went to the academy as soon as she was eighteen, while she was at Louisiana State University. Me, I had already been in college, law, can you believe it? I thought it would be a great career, I got these dreams about courtroom drama's like in the movies. Turned out things were quite boring and finally I didn't even finish. I hung around at the ranch after that, but there is nothing like a father and four brothers trying to protect you as their little one, to get your hair standing up! At least, for me there isn't. I felt smothered and the police academy, well, I guess a lot of my desire to go there was rebellion against all those protective men. Choosing a dangerous job was just the thing to do!"
"Yeah?" Chris smiled, tightening his grip around the lithe body before him. "And now you're right back in the arms of an older man who wants to do just the same! Protect you in every way." He started to nibble her neck.
"Chris, that tickles! You know, I think I can bear your protectiveness a lot better than my brother's. But if you get too bad, I'm old enough now to take revenge, Larabee!" Her hand sneaked behind her and started to tickle Chris in the side. He yelped and Linda grinned with satisfaction.
"Anyway, Kelli and I hit it off immediately. She wasn't as fickle as the other younger girls. Later I found out she had had such a hard life that she was a lot more mature than other girls her age. Actually, she's a lot more mature then I am as well." Linda smiled, thinking back. "She hated it in the students' dorm and we decided to become roommates." Her eyes clouded for a moment. "I love her Chris, she's my best friend and yes, after the life she's had you bet I'm very protective of her."
Chris kissed her softly. "Good for you," he told her. Linda tilted her head and their kiss became really serious when a booming voice and running feet disturbed them. Buck came around the corner of the house, preceded by Sarah and Maria. Maria stopped when she saw the blond woman in her uncle's arms, stepping back towards her father. She didn't know Linda very well yet and that made her shy. Sarah didn't let anything come between her and her favorite uncle though. Squealing and trusting implicitly that strong arms would catch her she threw herself at Chris.
Linda barely managed to duck away in time to miss waving arms and feet. Chris grunted, but he had to laugh as well.
"Sarah! Hey, munchkin, look out! You almost kicked Linda!"
"Not a munchkin!" Sarah yelled happily, giving Chris a wet, sloppy kiss. Then she turned around and wormed herself between Chris and Linda, to settle herself firmly in Chris' lap. "Sorry," she mumbled at Linda, not looking contrite at all.
"Sarah!" Buck said, scandalized. "I'm sorry Linda, she hasn't got any manners at all. I blame Chris, he's always spoiling her!"
Linda laughed while she stood up from the chair, rooted out by the two year old. Sarah only settled herself even more on her uncle's lap. Maria now came over as well, happily clambering on Chris' legs. More voices could be heard and Chris heaved a deep sigh.
"Is there a reason why we're all suddenly having lunch together, Buck?" he asked, resigned.
Buck smiled. "You didn't really expect that the birth of a new baby would go unnoticed, Chris? Nope, the ladies decided that it would be good to have lunch together and celebrate a bit. Besides, Mallory has to stay in the hospital 'til Monday, to her great anger and we wanted to work out a schedule for the visits, so there will always be someone as the hospital with her and Adam. Well, as much as the hospital will allow of course."
Before Chris could answer Inez and Rain came around the house, arms filled with food. They were talking animatedly.
"Nate and Rain arrived at the same time as we did," Buck smiled. "The rest will be here soon. Josiah too, he's spent the morning with Joanne and he'll bring her so she can spend the rest of the day with her favorite uncle. It will be her first night sleeping over and for Ezra too. I can't wait to hear how that will go!"
"Good. I thought for a moment that you all had decided she would stay here."
Buck's eyes twinkled. "Would you want that, stud? We thought that maybe you wanted to spend your time with Linda, but plans can be changed."
"Don't you dare!" Chris groused, trying to save his coffee from Maria, who had decided she wanted to try the dark brown drink all the adults always wanted. Maria didn't agree with her uncle's attempt to take the cup from her and Buck was only just in time to save them all from a douse of coffee.
Chris looked over at Linda, trying to let her know that he was sorry. She was leaning on the porch rail, laughter in her eyes. Before long though, Rain and Inez had discovered her and soon blocked Chris' view of his lady. He sighed and then he thought about Vin, hard, sending a warning.
Vin felt disgruntled, to put it mildly. He seemed occupied with something else. Chris smirked. If he had to take it, so had Vin. The rest of the family would just barge into his house, dragging him and Kelli out. There was a distinct sense of resignation from Vin, but he couldn't be entirely sure, because Maria had decided to start dancing on his legs.
"OUCH! Maria, stop!" The little girl didn't seem to hear him, she was laughing too hard. Grabbing her proved impossible with Sarah leaning against him.
Buck grinned and came to get his wayward youngest. "Come here, spitfire! How 'bout we go and get yer uncle Vin?"
"NO!" Chris said hastily, pretty sure what had Vin occupied. "No, don't Buck. They're on their way! Don't think you want to barge in right now with a little kid."
Buck laughed and threw Maria in the air, to the squealing delight of his youngest. "Nope, guess she's too young for that picture."
"You know Buck, you should've called. It's the kind of picture you can get here now as well."
Buck managed to look contrite. "Sorry, stud. I guess we have to get used to that." He threw Maria in the air again. "Still, it would be worth it just to see you blush!"
Chris didn't have much chance to berate his long time friend any further. Sarah was clambering all over him, crying out "Me too, me too!" With a grin Chris stood up and threw her in the air as well. Soon he was flying her around.
"Are you two being careful?" Inez called out to them worriedly. Squeals of delight from four kids were her only answer. Shaking her head she went into the kitchen with Rain.
No one saw the strained look on Linda's face. She had been observing Chris with the two little girls. There was something about seeing Chris with children that she just loved. Then suddenly he had seemed a bit less focused, followed by a huge grin that she saw no reason for. But the worst was when he'd warned Buck that he'd better not go to Vin. Buck hadn't questioned it, he had just taken Chris' word for it that Vin and Kelli were coming and better not be disturbed right now.
Only... Chris had no way of knowing. She had been with him all the time and he had had no contact with Vin at all.
+ + + + + + +
As usual the gathering with the Larabee 7 clique had been a rowdy affair. Josiah had been beaming and hadn't stayed long. He was anxious to get back to the hospital to see Mallory and little Adam.
"She's furious that the doctors want to keep her for the weekend, just to be sure that everything really is alright," he told them all. "You know what she told them? 'As if you can't walk away healthy from having a baby at my age! You all seem to think something has to be wrong with me or Adam, just because I'm 43. Idiots!'"
"Idiots? She called the doctors idiots?" Casey gasped.
"She sure did," Josiah said proudly. "What a woman. Besides, she's right. She and Adam are in perfect health. I want them home."
Soon after that, he left with Ezra and Joanne. Once Joanne had seen her mother and little brother again, she would go with her favorite uncle and spend the night. Ezra looked a bit haggard when he left with them, to the delight of everyone else.
Visiting schedules were worked out and Chris was adamant that he and Linda would go this afternoon. Some of the ladies protested that they wanted to go first, but Chris just raised his eyebrow and said, "He's my son's namesake."
When the rest of the schedule was to everyone's satisfaction and nobody could eat another bite, Vin and Chris exchanged a long, serious look. Then Vin grinned and gave a piercing whistle.
"All of ya, go home or get to my place! Let's give these love birds some space!" He ignored Kelli's suffering look and shepherded everyone over to his place. Well, to his deck, the group was too big to fit comfortably inside.
Finally alone again, Chris took Linda in his arms and kissed her soundly. She was a bit withdrawn, but he put that up to the sudden invasion. "Sorry 'bout that," he whispered in her ear. "I promise it won't be the same every weekend. They'll learn that we want some privacy as well."
"But it's inevitable that they'll be here a lot."
Chris pulled back a little. "Linda, this is the place where we all gather. Plus they all put money in Larabee 7, so I feel they have a right to be here when they need to. My team has always been welcome here when any of them needed to be. But if you have a problem with all the visits, we'll work something out."
"Oh Chris!" She kissed him soundly. "Thank you for wanting to do that for me, it means a lot. But don't. I love having lots of people around me, the festivity of it. Haven't you guessed yet that I'm a regular party animal? It's just a good thing Kelli didn't end up with you, she would've hated it!"
Chris grinned. "Vin will protect her! He wants his cabin up in the mountains ready to live in as soon as possible. That way they have all the privacy they want. But this place, I'm afraid it will be swamped lots of the time."
"Don't worry, I love playing hostess!"
"Uh oh, now I AM worried!"
"Oh you!" She jumped up and Chris caught her deftly, swirling her around. Still holding her up he kissed her for the hundredth time this day alone and he still couldn't get enough of kissing her.
"Do you mind that I wanted to visit Adam again? I know I should have asked you first, but sometimes, with this bunch, you just have to push things through with force immediately."
"No, I'd love to see him and to speak with Mallory. I like her a lot, you know."
"Good, let's go! And Linda, let's get out of here afterwards. Not just for a ride like we first planned, but let's get the horses and go camping!"
"Oh Chris, I would love that!"
"Good, let's arrange that! Vin won't mind taking care of business here. He thinks Kelli won't mind either, says since they were able to see each other last week, they think we deserve the break more. After we come back from the hospital I'll leave you at your place and you can get your horse. Let's meet at the gate and leave this afternoon, alright? I want to be out there as long as possible, but I do want to be back for the family lunch at Sunday. We can go visit Mallory and Adam afterwards."
"Chris, how can you say that Vin won't mind? When did you talk about this?"
"Oh I just did. It really is okay, Linda. You did arrange for the weekend to be here, didn't you? And Vin and Kelli won't mind going to your place when it's necessary. Please, let's just get away from it all."
Linda hadn't seen or heard Chris and Vin talk it over, but that didn't mean they hadn't. Chris would have talked it over with Vin first, making sure that the ranch would be looked after. The people who worked at Larabee 7 were free on the weekends, except when Chris and Vin were away on a case, so it would have to be alright with Vin first for Chris to go.
Damn it, Linda thought dismayed, she was getting paranoid about this!
"Let's do it!" Suddenly she couldn't wait for them to go. "Let's go out there, just the two of us!"
Chris looked in her eyes and she saw the happiness in his. "Good! I promise it will be great, Linda!"
"I don't doubt it, loverboy. I don't doubt it for a minute. Come here! I want one last kiss before we get busy!"
With a warm, soft smile that sent goose bumps all over her body, he complied.
+ + + + + + +
He had been able to follow his prey all the way to her den and had enjoyed observing her this whole day. What he had seen had confirmed it for him. Yes, she was indeed perfect!
He curled his lips in disdain. Oh, she certainly was the type of girl who had every need taken care of. Pampered, spoiled. It would be a pleasure showing her the futility of her life.
She also seemed spirited, head strung, the type that would fight. That brought a grin of anticipation to his face. He loved it when they fought, when they squirmed and tried to get him off them. Just thinking about it excited him.
The door opened and there she came, dressed in a robe that clung to her beautiful body in all the right places. It was time, he decided. Time to go in for the kill and make sure he would have her for the weekend. The whole weekend, with just the two of them!
Oh yes, definitely time to go in for the kill.
The weekend had been great, Chris decided. He put his feet on the deck rail and balanced his chair precariously on two wobbly legs. The sun was rising in front of him and the morning was beautiful. It was made even more beautiful because he had woken up with a woman beside him, a woman he wanted to share his life with. That was something he'd thought would never happen again.
Yes, he reflected, sipping from his coffee, it had been a really amazing weekend. Two days and two nights out there in the mountains he loved, with the woman he loved and with nights warm enough that they hadn't needed a tent. Riding and talking during the day, drinking in the scenery, making love under the stars at night.... Life couldn't get much better.
Footsteps from around the corner of the house made him let the chair fall back on all four legs. Who would that be? He knew it wasn't Vin. They would meet soon to feed the horses, but right now the Texan was at his own place.
It was Kelli. She smiled hesitantly.
"Kel? Something wrong?"
All he got from Tanner was peace and happiness, so there couldn't be something wrong, could there? Damn, he worried too much, too soon.
"No, no, nothing wrong. I... eh... Chris? I wanted to ask you something." The normally so straightforward young woman suddenly seemed a bit shy. Chris frowned.
"Just spit it out, Kel, what is it?"
"Its... I wanted to ask you something, but I don't know if I should."
"Just ask and we'll see. If there is anything I can do to help, you know I will do it, don't you? You're family."
That brought a small smile on the redhead's pretty face.
"I know Chris and thank you for that. It's just... Chris, I would like to write to Walter Andrews, the cop who has stayed on my case. I want to thank him for doing that, for not forgetting me.... But his address is private, so I couldn't ask you to give it to me, I guess."
"No, no that's alright, Kelli. I'll e-mail him and ask him if I can give it to you, is that okay?"
A smile lit up her face. "Yeah, thanks Chris!"
"You want some coffee?"
"Some real coffee you mean, not that bitter tar Vin makes? Great! Don't get up, I know where to find it!"
Soon she made herself comfortable in one of the lounge chairs and Chris went back to putting his feet on the rail and balancing. A comfortable silence set in, almost as comfortable as Chris knew with Vin. Chris looked at the small woman beside him. Something about her appealed to him, something that made her feel familiar somehow. He knew one thing, he liked her, a lot. And he was glad that Vin had found her, had found a woman that made him happy. The laconic sharpshooter deserved it.
He smiled, thinking back at the meal they had shared Sunday evening, just the four of them, Vin, Kelli, Linda and him. It had been the perfect ending of the weekend.
Yes, it had been the best weekend in ages.
+ + + + + + +
The weekend had been great, he thought with satisfaction, leaning against the wall and looking at the knife in his hand. He wiped some of the blood off the blade with his finger, put the finger in his mouth and sucked it off. A moan from the corner of the cellar he was in brought his attention back to her, to his prey.
Not so pretty now, he thought with satisfaction.
She begged real sweet though.
He stood up and walked to the corner. The bloody form didn't even try to shy away from him anymore. She had been very satisfying, but now the fight was gone and the fun was over. He kneeled down beside her and stroked her face, the only part of her that was still as beautiful and unblemished as it had been before. Not even her beautifully long golden hair had escaped what they had done this weekend. It had become filthy and matted. A real shame, but unavoidable he had learned over the years.
Brandishing the knife against the soft, vulnerable throat he bent down and kissed those beautiful lips.
"Please...," she whispered.
He smiled. "And thus a great weekend ends," he told her, pushing the knife against her throat. Her eyes widened and in them he read the knowledge that she would die after all, even after having done what he asked her in the end.
"N... no...," she whispered.
Yes, there was the look, the look he needed, that utter moment of fear and defeat. She was giving it to him as a last gift.
"Thank you," he whispered and slit her throat.
He rose up. Morning was already there and he still had to get rid of the body. Fast.
+ + + + + + +
Damn, he was late, really late! Chris looked at his watch in dismay and hurried out of the elevator. If only Linda hadn't been awake when he came back from taking care of the horses! No, he wasn't going to regret that, he decided, smiling when he thought back to what had happened to make him late.
He wasn't going to regret that at all.
"First he lets Standish be late all the time and now he starts as well! I thought we were supposed to be evaluating our first case right about now?"
Chris stopped before entering the central office, his good mood going down a few notches. Sam Reed again. He was getting very tired of that man.
"I still don't get it that we cracked the first case. That was one piece of luck, that Larabee thought about it being a woman. Probably all the man thinks about and then he's right as well. One hell of a lucky shot."
"You call what we did a lucky shot? You got some nerve!" JD answered Reed angrily.
"What would you call it? Nothing pointed at a woman, nothing at all! Shit, he's still not here. Some way to run an outfit, being late. You should never be late when you're the boss! It's that kind of sloppiness I'm beginning to resent."
Kelli had had enough. She walked over and leaned on Reed's desk. "What the hell do you know!" she grated. "While you were tucked away nicely at home, Larabee has been here from morning 'til night running this case and you are whining that he's a little late this morning?"
"Yeah, you would defend him, wouldn't you, Coulter? The truth is that there is hardly any discipline in this outfit and you're one of the proofs of that! You managed to marry the captain and Larabee still let you stay. He even partnered with you on this case! It's disgusting, all of it!"
Now JD and Buck were storming to Reed's desk as well. Chris smiled a thin smile while he leaned comfortably against the doorpost, taking it all in. Suddenly a harsh voice called out.
"What the hell y'all think you're doin'? Do I look like I'm running a tea party here for nagging old ladies? You got nothing better ta do, I'll get y'all some work! Hi Chris."
All eyes turned to the door.
"Oh eh, hi Chris," JD said lamely. "You standing there long?"
Even Reed blanched.
Chris stood up straight from his slouch against the doorpost. "Before we go to the conference room and evaluate our first case, I think I'll have a word with Reed. Reed, my office."
"Yes Chris," the man said, standing up slowly, with an air of defiance.
"Did I give you permission to call me by my first name?"
Reed looked at Chris with an incredulous look on his face. "What is this? The others call you that!"
"Only those who've deserved it. You aren't one of them, Reed. My office, now." Chris' eyes had gone cold and all defiance suddenly left the man. He hurried off.
"Vin, can you get everything ready for the evaluation?"
Chris went to his office, trying to keep his anger in check. Sam Reed had been a nuisance almost from the first week, trying to undermine Vin's and his authority and Chris was getting tired of it. Most of the time it was Vin or Buck who reined the man in, but he knew what was going on and he didn't like it. Frankly, he had his suspicions about the man and when he had his own evaluation meeting with Orrin Travis this afternoon, he was going to try and see if he could get some answers.
He closed the door to his private office behind him and walked around Reed to get behind his desk. Once there he didn't sit down, just stared at the man until Reed started to fidget.
"Well?" he finally asked.
Reed looked confused. "I'm sorry Chri... eh, Commander, what is the question?"
Chris raised his eyebrow.
"I didn't do anything wrong," Reed blurted out. "I just wondered why you were late."
"Wondered why you were late, sir."
"I didn't know this unit had turned into an army..., sir." The last word was said with definite disdain.
"You wanted more discipline and I agree, Reed. From now on you will follow protocol to the letter, or I'll slap you down so hard you won't know what hit you. I'm also going to put a bad mark on your record for the less than satisfactory way in which you have conducted yourself during our first case. Getting in a bar fight on the first day was not what I would call good and DISCIPLINED police work. Dismissed."
"Wh... what?" Reed gaped at him.
"You really want a reprimand as well, Reed? Because you are that close to getting one."
"You... you can't do this. You can't treat me different than the others."
"Oh, the way I see it you asked for it. You wanted discipline and now you got it. I guess you want a disciplinary mark on your record as well?"
Reed blanched and stalked out of the office.
Before he could get through the door, Chris called after him. "Oh, and Reed? I'm under obligation to keep you for your full first six months on this team before I can request a transfer, but I'm not obliged in those six months to send you out on a case and have you goof up again. There is plenty of work to be done behind a desk."
Reed had been too frightened to slam the door, but his anger was radiating from the stiff way he held himself. Tanner almost immediately entered after he had left.
"Reed seems to have been taken down a couple of pegs," he smiled with satisfaction.
"Yeah, well, he's getting on my nerves."
"So, what did ya do?"
"Blot his record with bad marks and confine him to his desk. You just make sure that he gets the worst of the paper work."
"God, Chris, you're really mad, ain't ya?"
"Yeah, Vin, I am. You didn't hear what he said to Kelli, that was way below the mark. No, don't, I've already disciplined him and I've let him know he'll be out of here after his six months. Oh, and Vin? Make sure that he doesn't see any sensitive material."
"Why? You afraid he'll take advantage?"
"No, it's a hunch I have. A hunch I don't like at all. I want to ask Travis some things first to see if I'm thinking in the right direction. If I am, we better discuss it."
Vin nodded. Then he made a move with his head to the door. "Guess we just go on with the evaluation then?"
"Yeah, guess we do. Damn it, Vin, I wish I was back in the mountains with Linda!"
Vin smiled mischievously.
That good, Cowboy?
Yes, THAT good!
I'm glad! It's about time!
Damn you Vin, you keep yourself occupied with your own lady!
"Sensitive chap, ain't ya?" Vin grinned. "Come on, we got us some evaluatin' ta do!"
+ + + + + + +
"Chris, come in."
"Hi Orrin." Chris put the papers he'd brought on the desk and sat down. "You wanted an evaluation?"
"I think the unit did a great job and I'm not the only one, Chris. The Attorney General already wanted me to let you know he's more than happy with this first case. It proves that MCAT will be the solution they were looking for higher up. Still, I would like to evaluate how every agent was doing on this new team."
Chris' eyes narrowed. "I don't mind doing an evaluation with you Orrin, but you do know that my agents are my business, don't you? I'm not going to change that one bit. Everything concerning them goes through me."
Orrin sighed. "Chris, I know you have always acted as a buffer between your men and the ones higher up, but you must see that it's different with this new unit. All eyes are on it and the people who started it want to know what's going on." He shook his head ruefully. "I have to tell you Chris, not everyone was pleased with the idea to give this new unit to you and your men. But they couldn't get past the results you and your team were getting, so the ones in favor won. And it's this kind of attitude and the rogue way some say Team Seven always operated that accounted for those negative voices. There are still a lot of people up there who want you out of the picture. They see the value of your team, but they don't like how you ignored every rule possible as a Senior Agent."
Now Orrin had to smile. "Of course that was one of the main reasons that the ones in favor of you wanted you brought in and believe me, that was the majority. Because in essence that independent way of acting is exactly what this unit is all about. Still, it won't hurt to be a bit more tactful in the future Chris, at least to those in favor of MCAT."
Chris looked at Travis and took it all in, but he didn't answer. Travis frowned. "Will you at least think about what I said?"
Now Chris smirked. "Sure Orrin, I'll think about it. Just as long as I can do what I need to do. It's still true that I only answer to you, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is. But this is the starting stage and this it the point where we need to make changes if necessary, like in your team. So it's not that strange that we should evaluate them. Are they right for this unit? Do they function?"
"Most do," Chris said cautiously.
"I don't see Samuel Reed making it until the end."
"Samuel Reed? That surprises me. He came with the highest recommendations!"
"From where, Orrin? Who recommended him? And why is most of his record classified?"
Orrin Travis' eyes narrowed. He was a shrewd man who knew his way around not only in the world of crime fighting and the legal system, but also in the political arena, an arena where MCAT had first been thought out to try and appease the critics after 9/11. A unit that should be able to work through all the red tape and get results where other crime fighters got bogged down.
"He came recommended from fairly high up, Chris. I can assure you he has a very expressive record. All of us who were part of founding this unit as an answer to the threat of terrorism and the extraordinary crimes we see happening more and more nowadays had agents we recommended."
"Can you give me the information who exactly got Reed on the team?"
"I don't know if I should do that Chris. Why do you want to know this? I don't like what you are implying here. Are you saying Reed is sent as some kind of spy?"
"Orrin, I'm not saying anything, it's just something I don't feel good about and I would really like to know."
"I'll think about it. Now, I know you are very protective of your men, but I think you would want to evaluate the responses of the FBI, police force and other units you had to work with on this case. How did things go with them? Did they listen?
Chris' eyes grew cold. "Oh, they listened," he informed Travis.
It made Orrin Travis hide a smile. That was one of the reasons he had fought to get Larabee for this job, the man wasn't intimidated by anyone or anything, in fact, he was intimidating as hell himself. It was exactly what this first MCAT unit needed to keep others from killing it before it had really started.
"Do tell me more, Chris," he asked mildly.
The next half hour was used to talk about the various responses and help MCAT had received from the sources they needed.
"So far, so good," Travis agreed afterwards. "And equipment?"
"We got what we needed. Speaking of which...," Chris hesitated. He collected his papers and kept staring pensively at his Deputy Director.
"What?" Travis finally asked.
"Cassie? Who's that? She isn't one of your agents, is she? I don't recognize the name."
"Not who, what! CASSIE is some damn computer information system." Chris looked at some note. "Collaborative Analysis System for Sensitive Information Engineering. That's what JD calls her. Anyway, he showed me some of what it can do before I came here. Orrin, he and Pam can get virtually any information pulled up from any agency they want with that system. More, it practically pulls all that information up independently, on its own. That's the latest state of the art!"
"It is, Chris. It was felt that this task force should have the latest available."
"I know. The latest in weapons, in other equipment, hell, we can order a private jet if we think we need to. But this system, it's something else, Orrin. As I said, it can get into anything."
"Chris, is there a problem?"
"Problem? Hell no, not with us. I just think it had better never get into the wrong hands. You know we can even access the witness protection program if JD sets his mind to it? Don't worry, I've had some words to say about that to him when he told me and he's changing some... eh... whatever, he's changing that right now, make that stuff damn hard to get to. Anyway, are we done?" Chris started putting his files back in his briefcase.
"Just one more thing. Some of the FBI higher ups are coming here tomorrow to talk to you about the case, about Lady Ice."
Chris sighed, thinking back on the lady sniper who had tried to kill Orrin and the Governor of Colorado last week. It had been the first assignment of his new team and they had apprehended her before she could finish her objective.
"She's gonna walk, isn't she? She's gonna buy herself out with all she knows about her employers."
"I'm afraid so."
"Chris, you and your team did good. You saved two lives. And if those explosives hadn't been found...."
Chris nodded. He stood up abruptly. "What time tomorrow?"
"Just like that?" Travis raised an eyebrow. "I thought you'd be protesting this."
"Some things need to be done."
"Yes, that's true. Chris, you are telling me everything I need to know, aren't you?"
"Yeah, everything you need to know, Orrin." If the Deputy Director heard the slight emphasis on the word need, he didn't let on.
Chris gave Travis a tight smile and left. Orrin sighed. He rubbed his fingers over his temples. Why couldn't things ever be easy with Chris Larabee? With his whole damn team for that matter?
He briefly wondered if the new agents would get just as bad as the original seven and he had the sneaking suspicion that they would. More independently acting, obnoxious agents, it gave him a headache just thinking about it.
+ + + + + + +
The meal was good, very good. The meat was rare and very bloody, just the way he liked it and it was a joy to use his own sharp bowie knife to cut it. Blood red wine was standing before him.
Yes, a very fine meal, one he deserved after all the hunting and the killing.
He took his glass of wine and held it against the light. Sparkles of light could be seen inside the dark red color.
"And a river runs through it," he whispered softly. Oh yes, a river. Most towns and cities didn't disappoint him and Denver, the mile high city, had been no exception. Many of those rivers went at least partially through the underbelly of a city. The Platte River running through Denver did as well, even though the City Council tried to make it all look nice at the moment.
Not long probably before she would be found, not long at all. In fact, the police might already be swarming all over her body, taking pictures, investigating the scene, whatever policemen did. He curled his lips in disdain. Police... what was the police worth at all? They didn't have what it takes to catch him anyway.
It didn't matter. Tomorrow he would hunt for number two and by the time she was found, he would already have spotted number three.
Never more then three, ever. And never quite the same MO, ever.
He smiled and took a long draught of the excellent wine. This time it wouldn't be any different from all the other times, all the other towns. He would leave, never to return and no one would ever know what he had done, again.
They were just too plain stupid....