by Megan

Disclaimer: Magnificent Seven doesn’t belong to me, they belong to Mirisch, CBS and others.

Size: Approx. 315K

Chapter 1-2 | Chapter 3-4 | Chapter 5-7 | Chapter 8-10 | Chapter 11-13

Chapter 1
Buck was late. He couldn’t believe it. It was the one day he needed to get to the office on time for a huge meeting, one for which Chris said to make sure that everyone was there on time. Buck still didn’t know how his alarm got set two hours later than normal. Lucky for him when he woke he, saw the time, and got out of bed. What was weird, though he didn’t dwell on it, was that Chris hadn't called him to yell at him for being late. Now, thanks to a bad accident and lousy weather, he was finally arriving at the ATF.

Slamming on his brakes, he put his car in park, turned the engine off, and headed through the doors after showing his ID. Making his way to the elevators, he noticed the out of service signs on them- all of them. Wanting to scream, he slammed open the stairwell doors and climbed to the seventh floor. Getting there, he stormed into the office. Hoping against hope that he could calm Chris down and come up with a good explanation of why he missed the meeting.

Entering, he stopped. There wasn’t anyone there. It was empty. Shaking his head, he hurried to the conference room. He paused outside them. Hearing the low tones of people talking inside, he opened one door and stepped in, glad the room was dark. Before he shut it, he drew his head up. He stopped. He looked at the man giving the talk. He scanned the screen and the pictures. Taking it all in at one glance, he took a step back out the door. Slamming it shut, he took off to the nearest bathroom.

He didn’t hear one voice in the background exclaim, “what the... shoot." Buck left the area and barely made it to there in time to throw up.

Kneeling in the stall, he allowed the cool porcelain to cool him. “How could this day get worse?” Buck thought. He ignored that notion, for other opinions, much darker, fought for supremacy in his mind; mainly, “Why now?”

No one knew about that case, not even Chris. It happen during the year he and Chris had disappeared from each other’s life. Now it had come back. Even worse, this was kept from him and he’d now found out about it anyway.

Buck sat up. He had to get out of there, now. He didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t want any of his teammates to come and ask if he wanted to discuss it or say they understood what happen to him. A bark of laughter came at that thought, like they could ever understand, ha! Leaving the restroom, he headed to his truck. Then, thinking it was better for him not to be driving in the state of mind he was in, he locked the vehicle and headed out into the rain, hoping a walk would allow him to forget the day.

Silence reigned in the conference room. The men were shocked. The ‘what the… shoot.’ still hung in the air, as well as the slam of the door. No one in the place moved. All of them were in stun from the quick entrance and exit of Buck. No one wanted to break the stillness that had settled there. Chris was the first one to break the spell; he sat back down, still staring at the door.

Chris couldn’t believe how this had all gone wrong. They had tried to make sure Buck would miss this meeting. They made it seem like an accident: Buck’s alarm was set to go off two hours late, thanks to JD; the elevators were out, so Buck would have had to climb the stairs; and even moving the conference room. Buck still found them. Chris rubbed a hand through his hair, how could this day get worse? After a few moments, he lifted his head, made eye contact with Vin. Vin nodded and got up. He quickly left the area in search of Buck.

Chris needed something or someone to focus on, so he wasn’t thinking about what or where Buck was. He turned and glared at the speaker. The lecturer, for his part, wasn’t even paying attention to Chris or anyone else. He was totally focused on the door that Buck had entered. Suddenly, as if his strings were cut, the talker fell into a chair. He sat there numbly, still watching the door.

Chris watched this for a few seconds. Looking at the lecturer. The man was around 5’7, with ash blond hair and gray eyes. He had a trim build and he was slightly younger than Buck. Chris shifted his gaze for a second to check out the portal. When the entryway didn’t open, he turned back to the vistor. Tiring of the silence, he spoke to man. “So, what about the bust and why did you look like you were going to faint when Buck came into the room?”

The lecturer turned and slowly looked a Chris. He blinked once, took a deep breath and started to talk. “I was on the task force. I left about a month before the raid. My wife was pregnant and she was having problems with the pregnancy. The team felt I should be with her and not dealing with the case. So, at their insistence, I left to help her.”

At this point, the speaker got a distant look in his eyes. “I saw them all the day or so before the foray. My son had been born a week earlier. They all had come to see him and congratulate me. That was the last time I saw any of them alive. After the bust, I tired to see Buck, but they wouldn’t let me. They kept trying to find out how the raid could have gone wrong. Almost the entire task force was killed. I... I... tried to contact him during those days. But the security was too tight. Nothing was getting in. They finally moved me to a different office and I was forced to move away. They wouldn’t allow me to talk to him. They wouldn’t even let me attend the funerals for the other agents.”

After speaking, the lecturer slumped back in the chair, looking down towards his feet. The rest of the group was still.

Finally, before Chris could break the silence, Ezra spoke up. “Mr. Perreault, while this is all fascinating, what actually happened at the raid?”

Jack Perreault took a deep breath. Letting it out slowly, he responded, “No one is completely sure what materialized. The only survivor, that saw anything, was Buck. Buck, though, didn’t say what befell What we could determine was that the FBI liaison was a mole planted there by the person that they were taking down… beyond that, not much else. We are we certain that the only one alive, who saw the person, is Buck. And all we can recollect is that he escaped the bomb that was placed for him. We don’t have a grasp of exactly what he saw. He's never talked about it as far as I‘ve been told."

The rest of the team was silent. They didn’t be certain of what to say. It was hard to believe what the man was telling them. Finally, Nathan looked up at Jack. “What was the name of the suspect they were trying to take down?”

Jack shrugged his shoulders. “We don’t have a real designation for him. All we realize is that people call him 'The Dragon'.”

“The dragon? Isn’t that a little comic bookish?” Ezra asked with a disbelieving look in his eye.

Jack shook his head slowly. “I wish it were. It would have saved us a lot of trouble. But he is real. The only label we ever found out about was the name Dragon. And that term was what the task force determined. What else they figured out, no one recognized. Most of the notes, papers, and computer records the group had were burned in a fire in their headquarters the same day that they died. The only things we could find were some handwritten files composed in Buck’s shorthand. No one as been ever able to figure out what type of stenography it is penned in.”

The others in the room nodded. They all, at one time or other, had tried to interpret Buck’s handwriting and found it impossible understand. Before they could ask Jack another question, the door opened. All of their eyes turned to portal.

Vin opened the barrier door and walked through. Stepping into the gathering and looking at Chris, his voice broke the stillness that had descended into the room. “Buck isn’t in the building and his truck is still in the garage.”

While the rest were learning about the case, Vin had left the meeting at Chris’s nod to go find Buck. Slipping quietly out of the room, he headed to the nearest restroom, thinking he would find Buck there. He entered, only to find it empty. Puzzled, he looked around the area to see if Buck had been there. His trained eye picked up on the wet paper towels in the trash. Nodding to himself, Vin turned around and vacated. As he left he looked at the stairwell. Wandering over to it, he opened the door and started to head down. As he reached bottom, he entered into the lobby area. Looking around, he noticed the security guard by the door. Wandering over to him, he asked. “George, did you see Buck coming this way a few minutes ago?”

George looked at Vin and answered. “Yeah. I saw Buck. He came racing out of the stairwell towards his truck. Didn’t even bother to say hi.”

Vin nodded. Thanking George for his help, he went out the doors and went towards where the team parked their cars. Getting there, he noticed that Buck’s vehicle was still in the lot. Swearing under his breath, he rushed to the sidewalk. Looking down both streets, he didn’t see Buck.

Cursing even more, he stalked back into the building and went to Team’s seven office to make sure Buck hadn’t doubled back. Not seeing him there. Vin cursed and almost hit his hand against the wall. Chris wasn’t going to be happy. Vin made his way back to the conference room. He didn’t want to tell Chris that Buck had wandered off into this weather. Pausing outside entryway to the conference room, he stopped and stared at wall. Chris was going to mad. Taking a deep breath he opened up the door and stepped in.

“Buck isn’t in the structure and his truck is still in the garage.” Those words hung in the air for a second before it sunk into anyone’s head. Buck wasn’t there. “Where has he gone?” wandered through everyone’s mind.

Chris took a look around. Taking a deep breath, he was about to issue an order when his cell phone rang.

Everyone in the room was startled. The loud ring of Magnificent Seven music shattered the moment. Chris reached into his pocket and opened it up. He growled into it, “What?”

Chris nodded, listening for another minute, then said, “Inez, could you just keep an eye on him. We’ll be there shortly. No, just leave him alone. We’ll get him.”

With that he hung up his phone. Glancing at the rest of the table, his team was about to leave to get Buck when Chris stopped them with one question. Looking at Jack, Chris asked, “What does this all have to do with Buck now?”

Jack looked at Chris and said, “There are reports that the dragon wants to reopen his shop in Denver. Already several of his people have showed up here. Buck is the only one who can ID him. Buck is a loose end. The Dragon doesn’t like loose ends. Buck’s life is in danger. The word is Dragon wants Buck dead. And what Dragon wants, he usually gets."

With that being said, the group left the conference room, leaving Jack behind in their rush to the saloon. The group piled into two of their automobiles, and drove to the bar. As they all reached the building and got out of the cars, they stopped at the door. Chris looked at them all, nodding to them he entered the structure with them right behind him.

Invading the dark interior of the saloon, they allowed their eyes to adjust before they started to look for Buck. Inez, seeing them, pointed them towards the corner where Buck was sitting, staring at an unopened whiskey bottle. The six men paused and stared, Buck looked horrible.

He was still soaking wet from the rain, water steadily dripped off him making pools of water on the floor and the table where he sat. His countenance was expressionless as he stared blankly at the vessel of drink. His hand kept running up and down the side of the glass, jerking away from the cap on top of it. Buck hadn’t even looked up when the rest of the team came through the door. The lines around his face that one didn’t notice usually were deeper than normal and his visage had paled to a bleached white, making Buck look like he had aged ten years. The group moved forward until they were standing across from him. No one wanted to move or speak; they were unused to seeing Buck so still.

Sharing worried glances among each other, the unit headed towards the missing person, Chris giving a quick nod to Inez. Stopping at the table, the team sat down in chairs, quietly staring at Buck hoping he would be the first to break the stillness. They were bound to be disappointed. The squad sat there in silence, waiting for a move, a glance even a nod from Buck. They didn’t get anything.

Finally, after fifteen minutes of silence, "Why not? You didn’t seem to want me at the meeting and I sure didn’t want to stay there.”

“You shouldn’t have wander out of the building.” Chris repeated, growling a little as he said it.

Buck just looked up from where he had been staring at the whiskey bottle. At first he was going to reply with an angry retort, but that stopped at his tongue as he looked at Chris. Instead Buck replied, “Why? What’s wrong?”

Chris blinked in surprised before he could stop it, he blurted out, “Dragon wants to kill you.”

The reaction from Buck was not what the team was expecting. The fear and disbelief that quickly splashed across Buck’s face and was quickly hidden again scared them all. “What do you mean, Dragon wants to kill me? I don’t even now anyone by that name,” Buck said, acting stupid, trying to hide how much the name scared him.

“It isn’t going to work, Brother Buck. We know that you know, playing dumb isn’t going to work. We are certain you remember the name,” Josiah said as he gazed at Buck.

Buck slowly shook his head, muttering to himself “no, no, no.” The other six looked at each other. They didn’t really realize what to do. Buck was the one who usually comforted them all or gave the positive reinforcement. They never realized how hard it was for someone else to give that. One thing they all knew was that they needed to get out of the saloon and back to the office where they could talk about the case. But first, they had to get Buck listen to them.

Chris’s gaze kept shifting around the room, never quite landing on anyone spot. Finally, with a deep sigh, Chris spoke to Buck. Catching Buck’s eyes to make sure that Buck was listening, Chris spoke up, “Buck we were asked to keep you out of the meeting. We didn’t know why, but we knew if we told you not to come that you would find a way to come and sit in on it. That is why I told JD to change your alarm. We figured that if you just accidentally missed it you wouldn’t think anything of it. We were going to tell you later, in private, but, well, that didn’t work.”

Buck just looked at oldest friend. He didn’t remove his eyes from the blond as he stared into Chris’s seeing the truth in the green orbs. Bowing his head, Buck broke the contact and slumped into his chair. Not knowing what to do, Chris just kept looking from one team member to another.

Finally, Josiah spoke up, “Brother Buck,” at this Buck looked up at Josiah, “we need to get back to the ATF. We need to share information in a more secure environment than the saloon.“

Buck nodded slightly but he didn’t get up right away. The whiskey bottle had caught his attention again. The rest of the team just looked at each other. Chris finally cleared his throat and said, “ You all head back to the office and see what you can dig up on the case. I will meet you there with Buck.”

The group nodded. JD was about to say something when a quick glare from Chris shut him up. He meekly headed to the cars with the rest of the unit. When the team had left the saloon. Chris turned back towards Buck.

Buck though wasn’t paying attention. A speck on the wall had caught his gaze or at least that was what it looked like. Chris, feeling a bit uncomfortable, started speaking again trying to gain Buck’s concentration. “Buck, we have to go, the rest of the team will be waiting for us.”

Buck still didn’t move. Chris sighed. This was going to be harder than that he thought. Clearing his throat again, he reached out and grabbed Buck’s chin. Forcing Buck to look at him, Chris slowly said, “We have to leave.”

Buck absently nodded. Growling softly to himself, Chris rose from the table and headed to the door. Stopping a couple feet away, he waited for Buck to follow. It took a few minutes, but Buck finally got up and took after Chris. Chris nodded to Inez again as he passed her and opened entryway. Buck came out after Chris. Just as Buck and Chris were reaching Chris’s car, Chris turned and tackled Buck. A loud bang followed.

In the car, heading for the ATF building, the rest of the seven were sitting quietly. No one wanted to say anything. They were each lost in their own thoughts. They didn’t want to admit that Buck’s reaction at the saloon hadn’t spooked them at all. So lost in thoughts, everyone in the van jumped slightly when Nathan’s cell phone went off. It startled all, including Nathan, who didn’t realize someone had changed his normal ring to an ambulance wail. Grabbing the cell phone and opening it, Nathan spoke into it. The others strained their ears trying to hear what was said, but they had no luck. They could only listen to Nathan’s responses.

“Hello? What! Are they okay? We will be there soon. Don’t let them go anywhere until we get there.” With that, Nathan shut his phone. Looking over at Josiah, Nathan said, “Josiah, we need to turn around. There were shots fired at the saloon."

Nathan held up his hand to keep everyone quiet. “Guys, I don’t know much. A friend who is a paramedic called me. He doesn’t have any information on how Buck or Chris are. All he knew was that there were shots fired. He called me to let me know.“

The five in the van were quiet. They had just left the two of them at the saloon. How could this attack happen so fast? They just learned about the threat less the an hour ago. Worry for their missing comrades raced through their minds. All of them hoped though, that the teammates would be fine.

In a lavish penthouse suite, across town from the saloon, a phone rang. A manicured hand attached to a silk clad arm picked it up. A cultured voice said into the phone, “Yes?” A frown quickly appeared on the face. After several minutes, the person started to speak.

“What do you mean? He failed, kill him. I didn’t want him dead yet. Now they will be guarding him and it will be harder to kill him. Make the sniper an example. I don’t care. I want it to be made clear that failure isn’t a option.”

The phone was dropped onto its cradle with a loud 'thunk'. The frown remained on the visage, this wasn’t in the plan.

Josiah’s van screeched to a halt outside of the saloon. Everyone scrambled out of the van and rushed to the front of the building where the police stopped them. They all reached for their badges. Showing them to the law enforcers, Josiah, in a calm voice, explained why they needed to get past them. The police officer nodded once he heard the story and allowed the team through.

The unit bent under the police tape and headed into the thick of personnel and people. They were desperately trying to find Chris and Buck. Vin, with his keen eyes, was the first person to spot the two. Chris and Buck were sitting on the edge of an ambulance being check out by the paramedics. The squad, almost as one, turned and started to walk towards the two, ignoring the all the chaos around them. As they got closer they could hear Chris complain to the paramedics.

The first glance the team saw of them were of a very much, mud covered Buck and Chris. The paramedics were checking both of them out for any injures. Everyone in the group let out a breath that they seemed to have been holding since they heard the news that Chris and Buck had been shot at. They all walked over to the ambulance to check to make sure that both of them were all right.

At closer glance they could see that it looked like they both rolled around in the mud. There were leaves and sticks stuck to the two of them. Vin was the first to reach them with JD right behind him. All of them stopped a couple of feet away from the two of them. Chris looked up at all of them. Seeing the worried looks directed at Buck and himself, he spoke. “We are fine, the sniper missed us. Broke my window but missed us. Nate could you tell them we’re fine and have them leave us alone, we are just muddy. We need to go and take a shower.” Chris turned back and glared at the paramedics.

Nathan sighed. Looking back at medics, Nathan walked over to where they were checking out Buck and started to talk to them. As Nathan talked to them , the rest of the team started to talk to Chris.

“So, Cowboy, what happened?” Vin asked concern coloring his voice.

Chris looked up at the worried eyes of the team. “I don’t know, we were coming out of the saloon, I saw a glint of sunlight off some metal, then I tackled Buck, then the shot. Beyond that, I have no clue what happened after that.”

“What about Buck, did he see anything?” JD asked as he kept glancing at Buck who seemed to be staring at the ground lost in thought.

Chris shook his head. “I don’t even think he knew he was outside until he hit the ground.” At this Chris glanced over at Buck and then back to the group. “Look, we need to get back to the office and talk about this case, and we can’t do this while we stuck here.”

They all nodded in agreement except for Ezra who replied, “Mr. Larabee, you also might wish to partake in a shower.”

Chris looked down at himself, noticing for the first time how muddy he was. “You are properly right, Ezra.”

Nathan finally came back to the group after checking out Buck who didn’t make a single protest as he was looked over. “The paramedics said you can go. The police though, will want your statements, then you can go.”

Chris nodded. Looking around quickly, he started to give orders. “JD, find a cop we can give our statement to. The rest of you talk to the people around here and see if they saw anything. I want to know if the cops have found anything out." The group nodded and, with one last glance at Buck, started doing the jobs Chris assigned them.

Twenty minutes later with statements giving to the police, Chris and Buck sat waiting in Josiah’s van for the rest of the team. Chris kept glancing over at Buck. Buck, for his part, was not paying attention. He was still trying to grapple with the news that the Dragon was back in town. The whole incident with the sniper, the mud, and even rain hadn’t even dawned on him yet.

Chris was worried. Buck was silent and hardly moving. It was so out of character of Buck that Chris had to keep pushing the fear he had for Buck away from himself so he could concatenate on keeping Buck safe. Chris was relieved when he saw that the rest of the seven were coming towards Josiah’s van. Taking a deep breath and letting it go, he tried to hold his patience for the group to reach him. When they did, he held up his hand. The team stopped in front of him.

“Guys, before we talk about what you found out, Buck and I need to shower. We also shouldn’t talk about this case around here. We don’t know who is listening, so let’s get back to the ATF building. Buck and I will take a shower. We will grab some lunch and then talk about the shooting and the case.”

Everyone agreed. They all piled into Josiah’s van and pulled away returning to the ATF. Everyone was happy when the drive to the building was over. The enclosed space of the van amplified the worry and tension the team had. The convert glances to Buck scared them all. They all piled out of the van except for Buck who just slowly get out of the van. Worried glances exchanged, Chris started towards the building basement where the gym was located. He needed to get out of these clothes and into something dry, even if it was his sweats. Buck started to follow Chris, not even paying attention to the others in the group.

JD had run over to Buck’s truck and pulled out Buck’s set of extra clothes. JD ran up to Buck and tried to hand them over, thinking that Buck would take them. Buck though didn’t even bother to grab them. The clothes fell onto the floor of the garage with a loud thud. Chris twirled around and looked at Buck. Buck didn’t even flinch; he just stood there, staring at the ground. Chris sighed. He looked at the rest of the team. This wasn’t good. They needed for Buck to be normal. Without his normal presence, the team seemed off balance, wrong. Shaking his head, Chris looked at the team one more time. Clearing his throat, he started to throw out orders.

“Vin, take JD and go grab some lunch for us. Josiah, see what you can pull up about this Dragon or the case. Nathan, call the forensic team at police headquarters and see what they have about the sniper. Ezra, see if you can find Jake, we need to talk to him. We will meet back in the offices in twenty minutes.”

The group nodded at Chris, but didn’t move, they were all still staring at Buck with concern looks. Chris cleared his throat and glared at the unit. Everyone broke up at that point to do their various tasks. Chris watched for a minute to make sure everyone was doing their task, then grabbed Buck’s duffel and headed to the showers with Buck trailing behind him.

Getting to the shower room, Chris quickly took off his clothes, grabbed his towel and soap, and headed for the showers. Half way to the showers he stopped and checked on Buck. Buck was still just standing looking lost. Chris turned around and headed back to Buck. Shaking him gently, Buck looked up at Chris with a distant look in his eye. Chris shook his head. Grabbing Buck’s chin gently, he looked into his eyes and said, “Buck, you need to get undressed and take a shower.”

Buck looked at Chris for a minute, then nodded. Chris went back to the shower stall, making sure that Buck was getting undressed.

Finally undressed, Buck headed for a shower stall near Chris. Still lost in denial, he turned the water on automatically. Adjusting the temperature, he stood under the water, letting it wash all of the dirt and mud off his hard, muscular, lanky body. Slowly the hot water started to work its way to warming his cold body. Buck started to come out of his funk. He blinked, then blinked again. Shaking his head slightly, he looked around. Muttering to himself, he wondered how he got into one of the shower stalls in the ATF building and why. Closing his eyes for a second, he let his mind wander back to this morning.

He had arrived late for the meeting, opened the door and then had seen Jake. Buck snapped his eyes open. Jack Perreault… He hadn’t seen him since before the bust. Trying to remember what happen after that, Buck couldn’t. It all started to get hazy. Getting to the restroom he remembered, then needing to go for a walk, then after that it got even more vague in his mind. He thought he was at the saloon at one point and then on the ground in the mud with Chris? Buck shook his head, which couldn’t be right. Why would he be in the mud with Chris?

Thinking for some minutes, he looked at himself. He could see the faint signs of mud on his arms. Shaking his head, he decided the mud part must be true.

Grabbing the soap, he started to wash off the rest of the mud. As he let the water remove the residue of soap on him, he leaned against the tiled wall for a second. He needed to get his head together. What if someone got hurt when he was out of it? He couldn’t let what happen to the task force happen to this team.

Buck shut off the water. Finding the smoothing patter of the water against his body annoying rather than relaxing as it had been. He reached for the towel that was hanging over the stall door and started to dry himself. Finishing the drying, he open the stall doors and headed towards the locker room.

Chris was already there, almost dressed. He stopped pulling the shirt on when he noticed Buck coming from the shower.

Buck almost stopped when he saw the look on Chris’s face. Stopping for a minute, he struggled and put a smile and a slight jaunt onto his walk. Coming up near Chris, Buck took a deep breath and said, “Hi, Chris, how is it going?”

Chris, for his part, was stunned. This couldn’t be the same Buck that had hardly registered anything this morning. “Ummm… what’s wrong?”

“Why nothing, Chris, so what been going on?”

“Buck? What is going on? Before the shower you were hardly aware of your surroundings and now you are acting as if the last four hours nothing had happen.”

Buck’s fake smile and the air he put on slowly deflated as it dawned on him how long it had been and how worried Chris was. “No, no, it couldn’t have been four hours, Chris’. You’re lying, I couldn’t have been out of it for that long.” Buck rambled under his breath trying to wrap his mind around how long he was out of it.

Chris quickly put on his shirt and started calling Buck’s name. After several minutes, Buck looked up at Chris. “What, Chris?”

“Pal, you left us for a minute. Are you with us now?”

“Sure, Chris. What’s going on? Why am I in the shower room?”

“You don’t remember the sniper? The saloon? The mud?”

Buck looked at Chris and almost swore. He thought that to be a dream. Taking a deep breath, he asked, “You mean that happened? It wasn’t a dream? It wasn’t some vague memory from the past?”

Chris shook his head.

Buck wanted to punch something. Instead he looked at Chris. “Sorry, I... I must have been in shock. I thought it all might have been a bad dream. I guess it isn’t.”

Chris looked at Buck. Patting his friend on the shoulder, Chris shook his head. “I’m afraid not. Now, why don’t you get dressed and we will head up to the office and talk about the case?”

Buck nodded.

Chris, seeing this, returned to dressing. Buck shook his head and got up from the bench. Slowly grabbing his clothes and putting them on, one thought kept running through his head, how he wished it was a dream, because reality would soon to be to hard to bear. Finishing dressing, Buck turned and followed Chris up to the offices.

Buck and Chris arrived at the office. Hearing voices from the conference room, both men headed towards the room. Chris, arriving there first, opened the door and entered, stopping just inside the door. Buck came up behind Chris and before he entered the room, he stopped and stared. They both blinked wondering how the one table in the room could hold that much food and not collapse. Chris looked at JD and Vin, both of whom had several piles of sandwiches and donuts in front of them.

“JD? Vin? I said get us lunch, not buy out the deli.”

JD and Vin looked up at Chris from behind their stash. Vin smiled at Chris and replied, “We were hungry and you didn’t tell us what you wanted and well, we wanted to get what you liked so we just grabbed some of everything.”

JD nodded in agreement with Vin. His mouth full of one of the sandwiches they had gotten.

Chris just shook his head. Taking another step in he was about to say something back to Vin when Buck stepped into the room.

The joking around stopped, all eyes, filled with concern, turned to Buck. Buck shifted his weight, being uncomfortable being stared out. Clearing his throat he strode into the room saying “Hi, guys, sorry about running out earlier. Needed some air.”

“Buck are you okay? You seemed to be out of it for a while?” JD asked in a concerned and worried voice.

Buck just looked at JD for a second then spoke, “I am fine, just needed some air.”

The rest of the Seven just looked at him with disbelieving eyes. Buck started to fidget from all of the attention that was on him. Reaching out, he grabbed a sandwich and a soda, from the table. Nathan, seeing this, quickly reached out and replaced the soda with some warm calming peppermint tea. Buck looked at Nathan, smiling a little he said, “Nate, I don’t need tea, I’m fine.”

“Buck, drink it. You were wet and cold for several hours. Drink the tea.”

Buck looked at Nate and then the tea, then back at Nate. With a finger, he moved the tea away from him and towards Chris. Nathan shook his head, reached, and put the mug in front of Buck again. Staring at him sternly, Nate spoke, “Drink the tea. Don’t worry about Chris, he has some of his own.”

Chris was about to protest when he saw Nathan glaring at him. Clearing his throat he swung his gaze to Ezra and said, “Where is Jack?”

Ezra straightened up in his seat and brought his gaze back to Chris. “I have the unfortunate duty to inform you that my former compatriots deemed it necessary to take the man into protective custody.”

Chris looked at Ezra, “You mean the FBI took Jack to protective him?”

Ezra nodded. Chris slumped into his chair. “That is just great. They took him. He's the only one besides Buck with any information we could use.” Glancing over at Buck who wasn’t paying attention, but staring into his tea, Chris sighed. Looking over at Nathan, he asked, “Nathan? Did you find out anything about the sniper?”

Nathan slowly shook his head. “Nope, they haven’t finished going over all of the evidence yet. They said that I should have a report on it tomorrow.”

Chris nodded then looked at the rest of the team. All of them but Buck looked at back. Buck seemed to be enthralled with the tea that Nathan had him drinking. Gazing at Buck, Chris announced to the team, “Until this case is solved one of us will be with Buck, constantly guarding him. He is the only witness to live who knows what the dragon looks like. Dragon will probably continue to try to kill Buck.”

The rest of the team nodded. Not for the first time today, did the group realize how much in danger they were in. Buck, who hadn’t been listening to the group, suddenly looked up. “Chris I don’t need protection.”

Chris shook his head. “Buck, you don’t remember the sniper?”

Buck shook his head slightly. “Yeah, but he missed. Beside who said he was aiming at me.”

The team blinked, worry and puzzlement swimming in all of their eyes. They all turned their questioning gazes at Buck. Buck started to shift uncomfortably again. Vin spoke up. “He was aiming for you. Chris hasn’t gotten anyone that mad lately.”

Buck looked at the floor, not wanting to acknowledge the worry and concern of his teammates.

JD, not liking the tense atmosphere, tried to lighten up the room. “Good thing he was a bad sniper, and not someone like Vin.”

Vin nodded and the rest of the room agreed, except for Buck who quietly murmured to himself, “Maybe he should have been.”

With a growl, Chris grabbed Buck by the shirt and slammed him against the wall, holding him several inches off the floor. Chris started to speak softly. “Don’t you dare say that! I don’t want you to say that. You are my brother in every way. I couldn’t lose you. I won’t let you die. I won’t let anyone hurt you even if I have to protect you from yourself.”

Buck looked down at Chris. When Chris had first slammed him against the wall, anger rose in him, then as Chris talked, Buck started to feel ashamed of the words he had said.

Chris searched Buck’s eyes and finally, seeing something other than defeat and depression, nodded and let Buck go. Buck staggered as his feet hit the ground. Chris reached out and helped steady Buck. When Buck had found his balance, Chris let go, both turning and heading to their seats. A strained quiet had settled over the room. No one really wanted to break it.

Ezra finally cleared his throat. “As touching as the last scene was, I think we need to get back to the matter on hand. We still haven’t discussed how we are to find the person who is after Buck.”

The group nodded, and settled deeper into the chairs. When they were set, they all looked to Chris to start the discussion.

Chris, for his part, was ready to start giving out jobs. Standing up he started to talk. “Okay, we need to get the report on the sniper. Nathan and Vin, you two work on that. See if you can get it before you leave tonight. Josiah, how is the profile going?”

“Not well, I need more information on this person.”

“Did you get any of Buck’s old notes?”

Josiah shook his head as Ezra spoke up. “It seems that our friends at the FBI will not turn over Buck’s notes.”

Chris started to growl. “What do you mean they won’t give us the file?”

Before Ezra could answer Chris, Buck spoke up. “Doesn’t matter.”

“What do you mean it doesn’t matter?” Chris demanded.

“I have copies of all of my notes at the apartment. The notes the FBI have aren’t all of them.”

“What?” Chris asked, staring at Buck. Buck ignored the interruption and continued to talk as he stared at the table. “They didn’t get all of my notes. The notes that I have at the CDC are safely hidden. No one knew about them, and I forgot about them until I came across them cleaning.” With that said, Buck fell into quiet again. Not waiting or wanting to see the team’s reaction.

Chris nodded, looking at the rest of the team and his watch. He started speaking again. “Buck will stay with me tonight. We will stop at the CDC and pick up some clothes for Buck and the notes.”

“They’re not there.”

Chris growled a little. “Where are they then?”

“They're in a bank safety deposit box.”

Chris nodded. “ We will bring them in with us tomorrow. The rest of you can go home and get a good night sleep, and we'll attack the case in the morning.”

JD, hearing that Buck was going to stay at Chris’s place, waited till Chris finished and said, “Chris, Buck can stay with me at the apartment. Nothing will happen to him.”

JD looked at Buck who hadn’t moved from staring at the table. Chris could see the worry and fear for Buck in JD’s eyes. “JD. Instead, Buck and I will head out to the ranch. You can join us there, after you grab some clothes for yourself and Buck.”

JD nodded, feeling more anxious than before about letting Buck out of his sight. Seeing JD’s agreement, Chris looked over at the rest of the group. “The rest of you, head home, get a good night sleep and we will tackle this in the morning.”

The team nodded. Chris sat back down. Before JD and Vin could get up to leave, Chris pegged them with a glare. “Before

you two leave, please clean up the table and put away all thee extra food.”

“Umm… Cowboy?” Vin said quietly. “There isn’t any extra food.”

Chris looked down at the table. Noticing that all it held were empty wrappers and packages. Chris, turning faintly green, amended, “Then clean up the rest of it, before you go.”

Vin and JD both nodded and started to clean up. Chris got up and looked over to Buck, and worried.

After the couple of sentences that Buck had uttered about his notes being in a local Bank’s safe deposit box, he hadn’t said anything since. Looking at Buck, Chris sighed. Buck was sitting in his chair his arms folded in front of him, staring down at the table. The strangest thing that stuck out to Chris was that Buck was still. He wasn’t fidgeting or moving, or even watching the room. He was just still. Chris thought for a moment, trying to come up to when the last time he saw Buck so still and couldn’t place it. Feeling the worry for Buck that had been trying to crawl up his spine all day grow bigger, Chris walked over to Buck. Unaware that Vin and JD were watching him, he went over to Buck and put a hand on his shoulder. Turning Buck’s chair to face him he kneeled so he could look into Buck’s eyes. Catching Buck’s eyes, Chris spoke softly, so that only Buck could hear him. “Buck, you ready to head out?”

Buck nodded.

Chris sighed. Chris stood up and helped Buck up. They both walked through the conference room door and headed towards the elevator to Buck’s truck. Getting to Buck’s truck, Chris fished Buck’s keys out of Buck’s coat pocket and unlocked the doors. Settling Buck in the truck, Chris turned it on, put it in drive, and headed out towards his ranch as the sun started to set.

Buck stared out the window.

Chapter 2

Chris pulled up to his house and turned off the engine . He looked over towards Buck who had been silent the entire drive. All he had done was look out the window, ignoring everything around him including Chris. Taking a deep breath, Chris unbuckled his seat belt and opened the door of the car. Chris was surprised when Buck mirrored the actions on the other side of the car. Shaking his head slightly, Chris locked the car and headed for the house. Buck got out of the car and followed Chris. Ignoring Chris’s concern gazed, Buck headed to the couch and fell into it, lying on it, staring at the ceiling.

Chris just sighed. Uncomfortable with the quiet for once, Chris moved towards Buck until he was leaning over him and blocking the view of the ceiling. “Buck, you hungry? I noticed you didn’t eat the sandwich you grabbed at work.” Buck said nothing, just continued to stare Chris wanted to growl, throw something, anything to get the frustration, concern, and worry released. Shaking his head, he continued to talk as he made his way into the kitchen. “Buck, I am going to make some steaks for dinner. That okay with you?”

Chris stopped to listen, nothing from Buck. Shaking his head again, he started to get the ingredients he would need for dinner when he heard a motorcycle pull up into the driveway. Going towards the front door, he pulled his gun out and waited. Watching intently, he waited until he saw the driver. Seeing that it was JD, he opened the door and walked out to him.

“Hi, Chris, How is Buck? I got some clothes and stuff for both of us. So how was the drive? Is Buck feeling better?”

Chris shook his head. “JD, slow down. He is the same he has been since the meeting - quiet and ignoring everyone.”

JD sighed. Nodding to Chris, he went to place their bags into the spare bedrooms. Chris watched JD slowly make his way to the room. Shaking his head, he headed back into the kitchen where JD joined him to finish making dinner.

Just as Chris and JD finished making dinner, they both heard another car pull into the driveway. Looking at each other, they both pulled their weapons and headed to the front door so they could see who had pulled in. Both of them crouched behind the front windows and waited for the person to show themselves. Slowly the person got out of the jeep they were driving. Before the person took a step towards the door he called out. “Hey, Cowboy, how you doing?”

“Vin? What the heck are you doing here? You are supposed to be at your place getting a good night sleep.”

Vin saunter up to the porch and stopped in front of Chris, who had come out to the porch when he realized it was Vin. Smiling,

Vin replied, “Couldn’t sleep.”

“Vin, you couldn’t even possibly have been home to sleep and considering that it is only 8:30, I highly doubt you even tried.”

Vin just smiled and walked into the house to place his duffel in his usual room. Chris just shook his head and headed back into the kitchen to cook another steak... or four. Just as the last steak was cooked and ready to be put on the table, the group of Vin, JD, and Chris heard the sound of three other cars coming up the roadway. Chris just shook his head, grabbed his gun, and started to walk to the front door. Not even bothering to check who it could be, he wandered onto the porch and waited for the rest of the team to pile out of their cars.

Not to be disappointed, the other three members of the team, grabbed their bags from their car and headed towards the door. Chris smirked at the group, and asked, “So, you guys couldn’t sleep?”

Josiah smiled, “No, I just felt that with Buck and JD here you might need some help.”

Chris just shook his head and turned to Nathan. “And you?”

“I forgot to give you some more peppermint tea for Buck, and I felt that I should bring it up," Nathan said as he showed Chris the bag with the tea.

Ezra, who was walking behind Nathan, looked up and said, “I seemed to be unable to fall asleep.”

Vin, from behind Chris, yelled out, “Already used that one.”

Chris just glared at Vin. He walked back into the house, glaring at the group of them. Muttering to himself about teammates and not listing to the person in charge he stomped his way into the kitchen.

Buck, for his part, hadn’t moved from the couch except to turn on the t.v and flip through the channels. He ignored the rest of the group coming into the house and even ignored them when the rest of the team sat down in the room.

The team saw this and worried. The behavior was so unlike Buck that it unnerved them all. Finally, after what seemed like years to everyone watching t.v, Chris called that supper was ready.

They all marched into the dining room and took their usual seats. Once they were all seated, they noticed that one seat was empty. It was Buck’s. Chris, shaking his head, headed towards the couch where Buck was resting. Standing next to it, he looked down at Buck, who was staring at the t.v. Shaking his head, Chris placed his hand on Buck’s shoulder and shook it slightly.

Buck’s eyes and face moved and looked at Chris.

“Time to eat, Buck.”

Buck nodded and followed Chris into the dinning room. He took his seat. When Buck took his seat, the rest of the team started to pass the food around the table. Buck reached for his glass to take a drink and found a mug of tea there. Looking at the mug with a distasteful expression on his face, he looked at Nathan.

Nathan saw the look smiled and said, “Drink the tea. You need it. No arguments or anything.”

Buck looked at Nathan with his best puppy dog eyes. Nathan just shook his head and pointed at the tea. Buck sighed, slumped down in his chair, and stared at the tea.

During this little scene, the rest of the team watched the interaction between Nathan and Buck and tried to hide their smiles. When it was over the team dug in and ate.

After dinner Buck mumbled something about going to bed and slowly walked to his bedroom, ignoring the concerned looks of the rest of the team. The team, for their part waited until after Buck had left the room and they heard the door shut before they started to talk in hushed voices.

Nathan was the first to speak. “Chris, Buck hardly ate his meal. I don’t know if he even touched it. It looks like he just moved it all around his plate. Buck also didn’t even eat the sandwich at lunch. He just stared at the tea.”

Chris nodded, and looked at the rest of the team. JD who couldn’t deal with the silence anymore piped up. “What is wrong with Buck? I have never seen him like this.”

“I agree, Mr. Dunne. He has acted more like Mr. Larabee today than himself. Which is very worrisome.”

Chris shrugged, “I don’t know. He won’t talk about it. “

”Well, brothers, we won’t know what is bothering brother Buck, until he talks about it. Until he does, we just have to make sure he knows we are here and support him.”

The rest of the Seven took Josiah’s words to heart. The tension and worry slightly depleted in the room. After several minutes, Chris broke the now lighter silence. “Well, if you all are going to be staying here for the night, then you can share the job of guarding Buck. Nathan and I will take the first watch, JD and Ezra can take the middle and Vin and Josiah the last. Also, since I cooked the dinner, the rest of you get to clean up.”

“Mr. Larabee, I am sure that you only need four people to clean up. Since I would hate to delve into menial labor like this, I will retire to the living room.”

“Ezra, help clean up. It won’t kill ya,” Chris ordered, reinforcing the order with a glare.

Ezra sighed, “Fine.”

Chris nodded, got up from the table and headed for the door to go to the barn. “I am going to do a quick patrol around the house.”

The group nodded and started to clean up the dishes and dinning room.
It was hot.

Buck could feel the sweat drip off of him. He had one of the windows cracked slightly, hoping it would let some air in. He wiped the sweat off his forehead. Looking closer at the t.v. monitors, he slipped the headphones back on. Sitting in his chair, he started to check on his teammates. He looked for the leader and sighed with relief as he saw him. Clicking the comm link open, he spoke . “All set in the warehouse, we are just waiting for Dragon to show.”

Clicking the link off, he waited for the confirming click. Buck waited… several minutes past. During each of those minutes , the tension, worry and stress rose in the van. Finally, when Buck was about to check back in, the leader moved. Someone rolled him over. Buck was looking into the dead eyes and blood soaked body of the team leader.

Buck quickly went to the monitors and checked his other teammates well being, as he frantically called each of them. He looked at each team member, each one was ether slumped over in a puddle of blood, their head twisted backwards on their body, or covered in blood. Buck was in shock. His team was dead. He didn’t even see the assailants. Almost in a panic, Buck ripped off the headphones, throwing them at the monitors.

“No, no!” Buck repeated to himself, the no getting louder ever second. Running to the back doors of the van, he tried to open the doors. They were locked. Buck frantically banged against the doors, trying to open them with brute force. After several minutes of trying to get out, he looked back at the monitors. He saw movement.

Buck raced to the headphones he had discarded. Putting them on, he opened up the link. “You there, are you alright, are you alive?”

The voice that came out of the comm link wasn’t one of his teammates. It was cold, evil, and a harsh laugh. The laughter froze Buck’s blood. “Oh, your teammates are gone. Gone to the dark and you did nothing. But don’t worry, you will soon join them.”

Buck suddenly jolted up, a scream caught in his throat. The sudden shot of adrenal had left as soon as it had come, leaving him with ragged breathing and a shaking body. He lay tangled in his sheets. He was oblivious to it. He kept mumbling to himself it was only a dream… only a dream. Knowing that the dream could have been true. Buck struggled out of his twisted damp sheets. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Buck ran his hand through his hair, trying to wipe the images from his dream, knowing that it was useless. Glancing at the clock, he sighed. It was only 3:00am. Shaking his head, he knew he wouldn’t get anymore sleep that night, so he got up to flick on the light switch.

Quietly, he dressed, putting on his shoes, he shut the light off and slipped out of the bedroom. Checking around the corners of the hallway and quietly slipping pass Ezra and out the back door. He headed for the barn. Opening the door, Buck walked down to his horse’s stall. His horse greeted him with a soft snort. Buck open the door to the stall and slipped in.

Reaching out, he grabbed a brush and started to brush his horse. Allowing the smooth, repetitive motion to help him shake the last vintage of the dream. Slowly, ever so slowly, Buck stared to relax. It had only been a dream. It hadn’t happened again. Not yet and it wouldn’t if he had anything to say about it.

Buck stopped brushing and leaned his head against his horse, allowing the warmth of the horse to help banish the sudden chill he had.

So wrapped in thoughts he didn’t hear JD come back or Vin come in and get Peso. Neither of them saw him, as he was deep in the shadows of the stall and not moving. His breathing was covered up by the other horses.

After a time, he didn’t know how long it was, he didn’t really care. He moved to the head of his horse and allowed the horse to lay its head over his shoulder. He slowly started to pet Beau's neck. After awhile the warmth of the horse relaxed him enough that he started to talk. “God, why is this happening now? I thought I dealt with this or at least put it behind me.”

Buck’s horse huffed slightly as if he was saying “Ya, right,!”

Buck leaned more into the horse for warmth and strength . Also, maybe some understanding.

“I can’t lose another team. Chris and the guys don’t understand what the Dragon can and will do. I don’t want them to get hurt for something that they never knew about till yesterday. A thing that happen before I knew most of them. I don’t think I could tell them about what happened to the team. I know they want to know what Dragon looks like but how can I give them information that I don’t want to give them. All the information will do for them is get the team in danger. It is safer if they didn’t know. I can’t have the team trying to protect me and get hurt or killed while doing it. I am not that important to the team for them to risk their lives like that. I got myself into this situation by surviving something I shouldn’t have. I can’t have the team paying for it. "

Buck suddenly stopped talking as he heard the neighing of a horse. Buck jerk his head up and turned to the door. Buck jumped backwards into his horse as Vin came into his line of sight. Vin was coming slowly, checking every inch of the barn with two guns out in his hands. For a minute, Buck looked at Vin and his guns and then finally spoke, “Good Morning to you, Vin.”

Vin stopped and looked at Buck suspiciously. He looked around the barn for a second more, then looked back at Buck. Slowly, he put one of his guns away, the other, he lowered, but kept it at the ready. “Who ya talking to?”

“My horse," Buck replied as he turned his back to Vin to continue petting his horse. Vin shook his head, “Kay, then what can’t you have us pay for?”

Panic and fear danced across Buck’s face, he searched desperately to give Vin an answer praying Vin didn’t hear the lie in his voice as he stated, “Well, I didn’t want you to pay for a new… saddle for the horse.”

A puzzled expression dawned on Vin’s face, then, one of suspicion. Buck was an awful liar sometimes and this was one of the times. Glaring at him, he watched as Buck shifted from foot to foot, refusing to turn his eyes to meet Vin’s. Vin shook his head, they would have to find out what Buck was trying to protect them from. “Sure, now you better come in or I’ll tell Nate that you are out here without a coat.”

Buck laughed slightly; Vin was relieved to get a chuckle from him.

“You wouldn’t tell Nathan about me being out here all night in the cold without a coat, would you?”

“Yep,” was all Vin said as he turned and started to walk back to the house. Buck relaxed for a second, then, when what Vin had said sunk in, Buck hurried after Vin calling to him. “Vin, hey, Vin, you really wouldn’t do that to me. You wouldn’t tell Nathan that I been out here all night. You wouldn’t... You would. Please, Vin, I can’t take anymore of Nathan making me drink his tea’s. Please don’t tell him. Come on be a pal.”

Vin turned back to Buck and just looked at him. Buck started to worry. He didn’t like the look in Vin’s eye. “Come on, Vin, what would it take for me to do so you won’t tell Nate.”

Vin just stared and shrugged his shoulders before turning back towards the house. Buck stood still for a minute and chewed his lip. He really didn’t want to deal with Nate right now. Sighing slightly, Buck looked up at Vin. "Fine, what do you want to know, so you won’t tell Nate about my outside excursion.

Vin smiled, ”Well, tell us about Dragon and why he has ya running scared?”

Buck’s faced paled at that name. He couldn’t tell the team about Dragon. He wasn’t sure about the whole incident himself. All he knew is when that name was spoken his entire world seem to disappear and feelings with no memory would appear. Shaking slightly, he couldn't make himself to answer Vin.

Vin, for his part, was worried. He didn’t think that the name alone would get such a reaction from Buck. Dropping his one gun, he raced back to Buck. Gently grabbing Buck’s shoulder, he shook slightly while calling Buck’s name. “Buck, Buck!” Worry and concern could be heard coloring Vin’s voice. Buck finally looked up at Vin.

Shaking his head a bit, Buck asked, “What?”

“You okay? You zoned out for a minute.”

“Yea, I am fine… Look, Vin, I’ll tell ya all at the office about Dra... Drag.... Dragon. I just can’t do it right now. Please.”

Buck looked up at Vin, pleading with his eyes to let it rest till they get to the office. Vin looked at Buck’s eyes for a moment. Debating within himself, Vin finally nodded. Buck released a sigh of relief. “Bucklin, you will tell us at the office about this bad guy.”

Buck nodded, Vin nodded and headed into Chris’s house for breakfast with Buck trailing behind him. Before Vin entered the house, he turned to look at Buck. “You do realize that I am going to tell Nate that you were outside all night.” With a mischievous smirk, Vin raced into the house. One could hear Buck calling after him. “VIN!”

Josiah shook his head. It seemed like Buck had regained some of his normal self this morning. He was talking at least; of course, after the discourse Nathan gave him, after Nathan learned on how Buck spent his night. Josiah shook his head. Never thought he would see Nathan get that evil of a grin on his face before. Made breakfast interesting though. Nathan, consistently trying to feed tea to Buck and trying to check his temp. While Buck alternated between glaring at Vin and telling Nathan he is fine. Josiah shook his head, grabbing his coffee, he went to refill it before Chris came back with Ezra to give them an assignments.

Settling back at the table with a fresh cup of coffee, he watched as Chris almost dragged in Ezra who seem to be barely awake. JD came in soon after bouncing into the room. Josiah shook his head, he wondered if JD ever stopped bouncing. Settling back in his chair, he watched as Nathan, JD and Chris started to gang up on Buck, to force him to eat his breakfast and drink his tea. Josiah couldn’t help but smirk slightly. Buck was stubborn when he didn’t want something. Taking a sip of his coffee, Josiah pondered the situation the team was in.

Out of all of the team, Josiah would guess that Buck would be one of the last people to have such a tragic episode in his past. The fun loving rogue wouldn't have something like this happen to him, then join another team. To be willing to expose oneself to that possibility again was quiet amazing. Josiah was happy in one way that something like that had never happened to him. Watching a team that you work with, murdered. On another side of the issue, he was sorry that it had to happen to one of his teammates… brothers. Hopefully though, their stubborn brother would listen to them and take the support that they offered, instead of leaving them in the dark. Also, hopefully Buck, with their help, could work through this case and not fall into the depression and fear from yesterday.

Josiah was brought out of his pondering by Chris.

“Alright, when we get to the office, we need Buck,” Chris looking at Buck, who, after been bullied to eat and drink the tea was staring at the table, refusing to meet Chris eyes. Shaking his head Chris continued. “To tell us about the task force and what info they had about the Dragon.”

The slight flinch, was not missed by Josiah’s eye. Josiah made a metal note to talk to Buck about Dragon and why he always feared hearing that name.

Chris continue talking, “I'm going to be driving Buck in, we'll be stopping at the bank then coming to the office. The rest of you, I want you to see if you can find out about the sniper from the police. Also, see if you can get any info from the FBI about Dragon."

They all nodded. Everyone got up and left except for Josiah who looked at the bottom of his empty cup for a second. Getting up and grabbing his cup, he looked outside at the sunny day, murmuring to himself, “At least I don’t see crows.” Josiah turned and went to place his mug onto the counter. When he turned his back to the window he missed the single crow that landed in front of the window.